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Beyond Your Imagination with Chris Martin
58 minutes | 4 days ago
“Speak Up and Step Into Your Voice” with Jhanvi Motla (BYI05)
How do you learn to speak up and step into the power of your voice? For filmmaker Jhanvi Motla, it started with a physical journey from Mumbai, India, to the United States to study filmmaking and bring stories to life that matter to her. In this engaging conversation, Jhanvi shares story after story about how she had to become resilient and disciplined to be independent while also learning to accept other people’s support. Throughout the conversation, the weight of family and culture is present as she steps into her voice to tell the story of herself, her mother, and the unacknowledged heroes of the home in her upcoming documentary feature, Household Heroes. About Jhanvi Jhanvi’s bio from JhanviMotla.com: “Jhanvi Motla is a Los Angeles based filmmaker that was born and raised in Mumbai, India. She moved to the US in 2011 for college at Emerson and went on to receive her MFA in Producing from the American Film Institute Conservatory in 2017. She has produced shorts that have premiered at Cleveland International Film Festival, Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, LA shorts, Rhode Island Flickers Fest, Asian American International Film Festival and many more. Motla has extensive experience producing Music Videos working with artists such as Jaden Smith, Sizzy Rocket, Mateo Arias and Theo Crocker. In 2017 she Associate Produced the G-Star Raw Commercial “Forces of Nature”. In Spring 2019, Jhanvi was selected as a Producing Fellow for Film Independent’s Project Involve as well as a mentee for Hillman Grad’s mentorship program. In Fall 2019, Jhanvi began principal photography on her feature documentary Household Heroes, that she is both Directing and Producing. It is currently in Post Production.” Jhanvi Motla Jhanvi’s Filmography on IMDb Five Towers Show Notes Julia Cameron AFI Conservatory Women in Film Hillman Grad Productions Mentor Labs Darren Aronofsky Photo by Andrew Ridley on Unsplash Transcript Full transcript coming soon.
71 minutes | a month ago
“In Service to the Story” with J. Blake Fichera (BYI04)
In this conversation with J. Blake Fichera, author of the Scored to Death books and host of the companion podcast, we explore his love for music and how it relates to the work he does as a film editor, podcaster, and blues musician. We talk in-depth about music as a language, the importance of rhythm and structure, and his work as a development editor for reality shows. He also shares about the growth he experienced writing his latest book, Scored to Death 2: More Conversations with Some of Horror’s Greatest Composers. About J. Blake Fichera In addition to writing the Scored to Death books and hosting its companion podcast, J. Blake Fichera has taught film studies at the State University of New York at Purchase, has been a professional film/television editor and producer since 2001, and has contributed as a writer and interviewer to several noteworthy film and music-related publications and websites, including Video Watchdog magazine, Rue Morgue magazine, Scream magazine, MovieMaker magazine, Fangoria.com and Dreadcentral.com. Blake has also written album liner notes for Cadabra Records and Mondo/Death Waltz Records. In 2018, he hosted the Damn Fine Network’s horror film music podcast, Cuts From the Crypt. He also cohosts the popular film-themed podcast Saturday Night Movie Sleepovers and has been a featured guest of such notable podcasts as Wrong Reel, F This Movie, Filmwax Radio, Damn Fine Cast, Hellbent For Horror and others. He is a gigging musician in the New York City area and a New York Blues Hall of Fame inductee. Scored to Death Books and Podcast Scored to Death on YouTube Saturday Night Movie Sleepovers Podcast Development Reel J. Blake – New York City Blues Show Notes In the Mouth of Madness (1995) John Carpenter Goblin Dario Argento Lucio Fulci Fabio Frizzi Max Martin John Harrison Mondo – Death Waltz Recording Co. Waxwork Records La-La Land Records ROB (Robin Coudert) Gretel & Hansel (2020) Disasterpeace Holly Amber Church Michael Abels Richard Band Joseph LoDuca Brad Fiedel Charlie Clouser Kôji Endô Bear McCreary Bob Cobert Burnt Offerings (1976) John Massari Photo by Rosie Fraser on Unsplash Chris Martin Studios Transcript J. Blake Fichera (JBF): My name is J. Blake Fichera. I am the author of the book, Score to Death: Conversations with Some of Horrors Greatest Composers, and its new sequel, Score to Death 2 More Conversations with Some of Horrors Greatest Composers. I also host the companion podcast, Scored to Death: The Podcast, and the co-host of the movie podcast, Saturday Night Movie Sleepovers. I’m a blues guitarist in New York City, and I also edit and sometimes produce television content. Chris Martin (CM): Where do you start with that background because you do everything! And I love talking to people that have all of these interests. And what’s great about you, Blake, is that you not only have the interests, but you have the proof to show that you’re a man of action. JBF: Yeah, I don’t know exactly how that started. And it’s funny because thinking about it now, because the new book is just out, and we’re taking, for the first time, taking a bit of a hiatus from the Saturday Night Movie Sleepovers podcast after six and a half years of doing it strictly, five and a half years or so, doing it every two weeks, never missed a week, sometimes more. And then we cut back in 2020 because of COVID to once a month. So now with the book done, the podcast on hiatus, it’s like I never realized just how busy I was, how busy I kept myself for the last six, seven years. It’s almost like a breath of fresh air to actually have a weekend where I’m not thinking about either the podcast or my podcasts or writing something. And it’s funny, because I never really thought of myself as someone who needs to be doing something. I always knew people that were like that. My mom is like that. She needs to be doing something. She can’t sit still. I never really thought of myself that way because I am happy to sit for two weeks on a couch and watch Saved by the Bell reruns and Price is Right and Let’s Make, whatever. I’m very content not doing anything. But sometime, something happened over the last decade or so, and I found myself just pursuing interests, more than a decade or so, but in the last, decade, seven years or so, because I started the first book about seven years ago, that’s when I just started piling everything on top of everything else. I just kept really busy. And I don’t really know why, or sometimes now I look back and I don’t know how I managed it for so long without completely breaking down. I think the key is to, if you surround yourself and you fill your schedule with things that you enjoy doing, it doesn’t seem so laborsome at the time. CM: As you’re going through this journey of being a blues musician, and editing, and producing, and writing these books, what was item number one? What was the first thing that you fell in love with of the things that you’re still doing? JBF: That’s a tough question because like the books, for instance, both books explore the craft of film music through interviews with film music composers. Now I started the first book in late-2013, but my love for that music started in the 90s. When I look back, it’s like really that journey started ’94 or so when I saw John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness for the first time. That’s when, film music in general was always, I wouldn’t say a passion, but part of my passion for music. I wasn’t specifically a film music fan, but to me film music was just an extension of my love for music and also my love for film. And I didn’t even realize until I really started writing the books and stuff that there were people that didn’t maybe think of film music that way, or think of film music at all, I should say. CM: Yeah. JBF: But when I saw In the Mouth of Madness and I heard that score, that’s when I started to fall in love specifically with horror movie scores, and then I got into the music of John Carpenter, and then in the late 90s, I fell in love with Italian horror, I fell in love with the music of Goblin who scored many Italian horror films especially for Dario Argento and then Fabio Frizzi who scored Lucio Fulci films. And then that’s where that obsession or passion for that music started. Full fledged, ’98, ’99, then 2013 is when I started the book. So in a way that music, that passion started then, and around that same time in the mid-90s, was when I started playing guitar and fell in love with the blues. So musically, all that stuff had started in my teens in the 90s. And also my love for film started then, and that’s why I ended up going to film school. And then out of film school is when I started editing professionally, because I don’t know, for some reason I guess I was too intimidated after learning how to make movies to then just jump into making movies. And so I’ve been editing professionally in various formats, whether it’s for television or educational videos, industrials, all kinds of things, independent films, ever since 2001. CM: What’s so unique about that journey is that A, I love the connection that you have with the music coming first and how, in a way, you’ve translated that into the craft of film editing itself. Because sometimes I know a lot of people who just come at editing from the pure visual sense or the pure storytelling sense, but I get the impression that you’re coming at it from a whole nother angle of just that connection through music. JBF: Well, editing in a lot of ways is about rhythm. And I tend to be good at things like development reels, which is what I’ve been working on most consistently for the last couple of years, for a few reasons. One of which was that I was working on a second book and I needed a job that, one, was steady, but two, had some leeway with a schedule. Because when you work on a series, you might only be on the series for six to eight weeks or whatever, or if you have do two episodes maybe longer, but it’s very strict. You have to get, there’s a rough cut that needs to get out to the people you’re working for, and then that rough cut has to go out to the networks, and then you have to address notes, and everything’s on a very strict schedule. And there’s just, you can’t take off, even if you’re sick, too bad, this has to get done. CM: Right. JBF: Whereas with development, it’s a lot of short projects, and depending on the reel itself, the deadlines are not as strict. I’ve been doing that pretty consistently for the last two years, although I’ve done it off and on forever. But I tend to be good at those things. Like a development role for instance, is somebody has an idea for a show, a series, and a production company then creates, one, the paperwork, an outline or something to sell the show to a network, but they also need a minute and a half to three-minute reel, almost a preview to give the networks a sense of who are the characters, what’s the story. Here in New York, I work mostly in what we call non-scripted television or reality television. And so even though, they’re, “real people,” they’re still like the characters of the show. But that short sales pitch, three minutes, a minute and a half to three minutes, it’s all about rhythm, it’s a pop song. And music is really important too. You have to be able to cut to the music and I’ve found out a little niche for myself doing that because I think musically, my background in music definitely helps with that. I feel like it’s sure you have to be able to do graphics and all that, and you have to be able to tell a story in a very … There are so many things that go into it, but I think part of my strength in that field is because I have a good musical ear and a good sense of rhythm, and that comes from being a musician, but also just loving music. And of course now learning so much about the craft of scoring stories, narrative, and movies and stuff, that’s definitely been a huge strength as well. CM: I love that connection to pop songs. And I’m glad you brought that up because it definitely sounds like being able to connect quickly, keep it in someone’s mind as they’re going through it like a good pop song does, it keeps you wanting to come back for more. But some of the best pop music has roots into the past, in history as well. So it’s not as … there’s some real depth to it if you choose to go there. JBF: Sure. And that’s also, when you think about pop music, of course, pop is short for popular, and so that definition changes. Like Sinatra was pop music for his era, and then, but it was popular as the time changed. And then all of a sudden, Sinatra still, he’s releasing an album with Antonio Carlos Jobim doing Bossa Nova tunes the same year Sgt. Pepper’s comes out. And they’re both fantastic records, but they’re so drastically different, but yeah, The Beatles were the pop of that era. So it just, I don’t know, it just triggered that thought when you mentioned that, because pop does change. There was a time when show tunes where the popular music of the day and what we think of pop now is not what we thought of pop when you and I were kids or when our parents were kids. But one of the things that does seem to be important, and I think it started because of vinyl and the idea of like a 45 single, was that they have to be short. Because you can only fit three minutes on a 45 or a single album. So then I think it started this thing that for the most part still stands today, which is they’re relatively short. They have to tell that story or get across that message, both lyrically, but also melodically and everything in a very short amount of time. And it’s a craft, it really is. I don’t listen to a lot of pop music these days because I don’t have time to do much of anything, but I will admit that in my 20s I was digging like Britney Spear’s stuff. Max, I forget what his name was now, but there was her producer for those first two albums, I always thought was like a genius in pop music. He knew how to craft an amazing pop song and he’d worked with a lot of people and it’s a skill, and it’s just creativity, but also having to sell it and having to do it with time constraints and all that. It’s just this whole interesting topic to me. CM: Absolutely, and I love the connection to development editing because in the same way you’re riding the trends of today as much as the pop music is riding the trends of today. JBF: Oh sure, yeah. And the music I need to use often has to be trendy. CM: Yeah. JBF: It depends on the reel. When you’re doing stuff where it’s guys or like manly men building trucks or driving through mud, AC/DC is always a good backing track for that. But when you’re getting into things that are more, I don’t know, like Bravo-oriented, we have to be able, I do check. It’s both the curse and the beautiful thing about development, is that because nobody is … it’s not going to ever air, that you don’t have to deal with copyrights and stuff. It’s never going to be going out for mass consumption, so you can use and do whatever you want. You can use any song you want because there’s no fear of having to buy the license for it because it’s never going to air. That’s great. But also in development, you’re starting from scratch and very rarely do you get a producer who’s working with you that will tell you stylistically what they’re looking for. Even though they do the interview with the person and maybe they’ll tell you, or you can read from their outline what the gist of the show is, and sometimes they’ll even write a script or transcribe what the interview says. They’ll give you certain things, but creatively, you can do whatever you want. That’s both great, but also really challenging and a bummer because exerting yourself creatively is tough. It’s not digging ditches or doing menial labor but it is strenuous in its own way. And when you’re exerting yourself 10 hours a day for somebody else creatively, it’s tough to have anything left in the tank to come home and do your own creative stuff. But to bring it back around to what we were talking about, I will go on The Billboard 100 and see what songs are popular, and I’ll listen to songs. And if something rhythmically catches my ear and I can feel that it’s going to work for what I need, I will find it and I’ll use it. And if I can find like a karaoke version, I’ll use it so that I’m not bound to having the lyrics there because it’s an interesting puzzle. That’s all really editing is, a puzzle, even when you’re editing long form, it’s like finding, I always say, it’s like you’re editing a puzzle where none of the pieces quite fit together perfectly, and you have to be resourceful and creative to find how they fit the best they can and make something that works out of it sometimes. CM: Yeah. What I love the pursuit that you’re going on of discovering music, discovering the sounds, because it’s really about the language of music. And every pop song is different. It’s a different verb, it’s a different noun, and it’s a different sound, it’s a different emotion, all of these things come together. And how much of it is the language of what you’re working on, but also the language of the producer that you’re working on and their understanding of what is required of the piece? JBF: It varies from project to project, it varies from producer to producer. When you’re working on a series, unless you’re doing the first couple of episodes, before it finds its stylistic way, that can be challenging and that you’re inventing the language of the show then. But once that’s established, as an editor, you’re just coming in and fitting into it and doing your best to match that style. And for the most part, creativity as an editor almost disappears. You often choose the music, but often that music gets rejected and you have to put more different music in. That’s why I think the development stuff is both interesting and also a bummer. Sometimes when you’re working on something and you’re into the subject matter, that’s cool. Like there was a horror related thing that I cut last year and it took me four days to do it because I was just way into it, and I totally understood what the show was, and I understood what music it needed to have, and I understood rhythmically what it needed to do. But then when you get a show that’s not anything that you personally would ever be interested in, it can difficult to find it. Because you either don’t watch that kind of thing, or maybe it’s something, it’s also because it doesn’t exist yet. And often in those cases producers very rarely, like I said, give you anything. They might send you a reel to a previous thing and say, “This is the feel we’re going for,” or if I’m really stuck, I might ask for that. But for the most part as a development editor, you are the main creative force behind that reel. You didn’t come up with the idea. You didn’t do the interviews with the people for instance, but you’re scouring the internet for B -roll. Like if you’re doing like a cooking competition show, you’re looking through YouTube, everything and scouring every piece of video you can find for those beautiful food hit, a steak heating in the grill shot. Because like I said, you don’t have to pay for any of that because it’s not commercially used at all. So you can, a lot of the first couple of days of getting to development reel, is just scouring YouTube and finding footage of things, with the prank show, looking at other prank shows and trying to pull moments from it. Like I said, with food, pulling those things or sometimes you just have to, sometimes I’ll message another editor and I’ll be like, “Hey, do you have anything? This is the moment, do you have anything that goes here?” Or like, “I’m really stuck on music, do you have… ” Because I’m old, I’m 42 now. I’ll go to a younger editor… CM: Oh crap, we’re old? No. JBF: For that world, we are. I’m like, “What’s a good song now?” That stuff is great, but it’s challenging. I’m not complaining, but like I said, when you have aspirations to do your own things, it can be really difficult to be bogged down with being creative for somebody else’s vision. And that’s one of the things that I find really interesting about these composers that I talk to for the books, because that’s all they do. They might do their own things on the side, but their whole job is helping somebody else fulfill their vision. And it’s a very unique position. And I was just talking to somebody else recently, and I was talking about how unbelievably kind and generous they all are, all the composers that I’ve met. And I thought a lot about this when I did the first book, and then when I was doing Scored To Death: The Podcast, and I came to the realization that they have to be because they … I don’t think you can be a film music composer and have an ego, because it’s not your music. You’re not doing it for yourself. You’re not writing something that you necessarily like. You’re doing something to … You’re in service to a story or in service to a film or in service to a director and a producer. And ultimately the goal is to produce something that you like that works and that everybody else likes, but unfortunately that’s not always the case. And I just don’t think, there’s not room to have an ego in that business. You have to be able to kill your darlings, and move on and do whatever you need. And it’s something that I definitely struggled with as an editor early on. And then at some point you get broken down and you have to realize that this isn’t yours. And just because you think this, in your mind, this is better. You’re not doing it for you. I always say to younger editors or younger story producers, I’d be like, “You’re not trying to make the best thing it can be, you’re trying to make it the right thing, for them.” And that’s something that is a struggle. And sometimes I always point to younger story producers and younger editors and they really get frustrated, they really work hard and me and another editor will, who’s more of my age or who has been in the business longer, we’ll talk about them and we’d be like, “Yeah, but they’re young. They still care.” They’re still trying to make their thing and unfortunately it’s not usually your thing. And like I said, sometimes you’re the right guy or gal or whoever. LIke I said, I did a horror-oriented reel last year and I was the right guy for it. And ultimately I could, in that case, I was able to fulfill my own creative enjoyment out of creating it because I knew what it needed to be, and I knew that what I thought it needed to be was going to be what everybody else is going to like. Because ultimately in the terms of development where it’s a little more relaxed in terms of, like I said, somebody giving you a direction or less strict than a series, if it works, it works. And that’s just times that I still do get frustrated because it’ll be like, when you think that something really works and somebody is like, “No, can you change it?” Even though I still don’t care anymore, of course I still do, because I just spent like two weeks doing it. And the music is something that I do get bugged about or they’d be like, “Could you change the music?” And I’d be like, “But that track works so well.” But it’s subjective. And then the problem is once you put in a new piece of music then it’s not like, you can just, “Okay, here’s, I’ll take out that minute of music, I put this minute of music.” Again everything changes about it. It’s like you, when you take out one piece of the puzzle, all the other pieces move. It’s like Jenga or Tetris or something. Once a new piece goes in and things aren’t hitting properly, moments aren’t playing out right and then you end up having to fix everything, I don’t know. I like puzzles and putting together models and weird things like that, so in a way, I think my mind is suited to be an editor, whether I like it or not. I think I’m just, my mind works that way. CM: I’d love to walk through your thinking because when I’ve taught editing to students that are getting into it, the first piece that I often try to explain to people, editing to beats, editing to, like you said, the rhythm of the piece, so where do you usually start? Is it four on the floor and you’re just cutting on two and four, clapping on one and three, or do you have a process that you follow or is it more of just where is the music landing? JBF: It’s changed over the years and obviously working on a series is different than working on a three-minute reel or working on something that’s narra- When I say a series I’m talking mostly like reality-type stuff, and a narrative, it’s very different because you’re following a script and the script has its own rhythm. And sometimes that translates and sometimes it doesn’t, depending on the footage and how they did it or sometimes when you see it, that rhythm doesn’t work and you have to find your own rhythm. When I first started cutting sizzle reels, these development reels to sell ideas for shows, I would try to pick the music first and then cut to it. And then after a while of just doing it over and over again, it changed, not intentionally, not like I was like, “I need to change this,” but just the nature of the work made me alter my strategy because you need to find the right moments. In the new book, the composer, John Harrison, who worked with George Romero, scored Creepshow and Day of the Dead, and he’s become a director in his own right. He directed, there’s a new movie on Hulu based on Clive Barker’s Books of Blood, but he did a movie a few years ago called Books of Blood. And he directed the movie Tales From The Dark Side: The Movie, and he produced and directed and wrote in the early 2000 Syfy channel had an adaptation of Dune. And he did that. And then he produced and wrote Children of Dune, which was the sequel of that. I was talking to him. I was like, “What’s a thing that you learned from George Romero?” Because he was also George’s assistant director on Creepshow and Day of the Dead, so he was on set and then he ended up scoring those films. And so I said, “What’s a thing that you learned from George Romero that when you’re on set now, it’s something you still do and you learn?” And he said, “One of George’s big things was like, you have to have the camera in the right place.” So you have to look at the scene, you have to figure out what the important moment of that scene is, or moments, and you have to make sure that the camera is in the right spot to capture that moment. Because if you miss that moment, that scene doesn’t work, and then maybe the rest of the film doesn’t work. So you really have to figure out, pick your moments and make sure the camera’s in the right place to capture those moments. And that’s true in editing too. You have to pull the lines that tell that story and you have to find the order for those lines. So it’s usually like, okay we’ll have an introductory section and then maybe a little character section where we get to know them and then this, and then we have to have the finale. So you have to find … The nature of my process changed because I started to just have to pick the moments first. Because once I can get those moments on the timeline in the editing program, then I can build everything around it, around those moments. And it’s how a lot of the composers I talk to work. Some of them don’t, some of them start from the beginning and go to the end. And that’s how I worked in the beginning, which is I picked the music and I would always try to get that 10, 15-second, maybe 20-second introduction. It’s funny, because that was strategic not in a creative way, but in a way of dealing with producers. Because I’d have to do something really flashy upfront right out of the gate so that they would leave me alone for the rest of the … Because if you’re just working on the whole thing and then you never have anything to show them until the end, because you haven’t finished one section, then they start to get antsy. Because they’re wondering what’s going on, I want to see something, so I used to do a really flashy opening. I’d find the perfect piece of music that really drove hard, and I’d find all the B-roll, and I’d do the graphics, and I’d show them … The first time, I was like, “I’m still working on the rest, but I have the first 20 seconds.” And they’d see that, they’re like, “Oh yeah. Okay, that’s really good.” And then that buys you time on the backend, because they’re just happy that they saw something. Once you got that out of the way, then it’s about finding the essence of the story you’re trying to tell. And it’s like being a writer or being a director and probably a cinematographer too, or even a composer. The music has to hit just right, here’s the crux of the story in this scene, what is the music? It can’t be in the way, I can’t get in the way, it can’t be distracting, or when the X fighters destroy the death star, you need to uplift everybody. That’s the moment where everybody, that whole orchestra comes in and everything is, because you’re trying to take the audience somewhere even further than the movie itself can bring you. And so it’s all about storytelling, whether you’re editing or composing or directing or anything. And I find editing is also all about rhythm and it’s about what feels right. And that’s the thing for me that you could put it all together, and if all the information is there, if it doesn’t feel right, then there’s something going on rhythmically and you have to figure out how to make it. Because it’s not something that’s… you can explain. So when you show it to somebody or a network executive who isn’t necessarily a creative person, they won’t know why it doesn’t work. And they can’t say, “Well, it doesn’t work because of this, but I can overlook that because I can see the show in it.” If something rubs them the wrong way, you lose them, and it’s a sales pitch really. And it’s the way a pop song is, if that hook doesn’t get you, the rest of the song is not going to work for you and it’s not going to be memorable to you, and you’re not going to be humming it the next day when you wake up in the morning, because it’s stuck in your head. So it’s all about rhythm. For me, editing is about rhythm and feel. And ultimately all of these things, whether you’re telling a narrative story or a reality-based television story, it is all just story. And so you have to figure out what the story is and what are the right elements and moments to tell that story in the best and most efficient way. CM: I love that you were describing the structure and how you think about the 10 to 15-second intro where we’re going to grab. You look at a pop song and it has a structure, it has the intro, it has the verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, out, or verse, chorus, bridge, out depending upon the artist. But what I love about that approach is that you can start analyzing things with structure in mind. As you were talking, I was thinking about my favorite prog albums and how that artist in particular has a structure that a lot of his albums have followed throughout his career. And so it’s almost like as an editor, as an artist, as a development producer, as a storyteller, you’re going to be drawn to certain structure over others. I’m more inclined to certain structures than maybe you are or someone else is, and that seems to be an important thing to understand. JBF: Yeah, and some of it is just formula, and in the way that some pop songs are just formula, at least like it used to be. There was verse-chorus and there was three chords, depending on the key. There was a certain formula to making a hit. And certainly guys like Phil Spector, they had a formula, they had their way. Like Berry Gordy in Motown, that was a Motown sound, and that was part of not just the band, obviously that was a huge part of it, but it was the structure, but also the emotional structure, how does it affect the listener? And in what I’m currently doing, which is, I’m harping on this development reel stuff, but that’s just what I happen to be working on these days. There’s a bit of a structure. You’d need an introduction just like an essay or a short story, unless you can get creative with structure and you can start with the end and then have flashbacks, and there’s ways to liven that up. But at the end of the day, when you have sometimes a minute and a half to tell that story and let somebody know who these people are, what’s their job, and why is this story interesting? Because sometimes you can’t get too creative with the structure. It has to be pretty clear and linear in a way, and so you have to introduce, yes, you get that big opening where it’s maybe a funny line. Maybe they slip up in the interview and they say something and then they laugh at it, those are the kinds of things that we consider character moments. Aside from what they’re talking about, you want to get a sense of who they are and whether they’re likable or not, because ultimately that’s what somebody is buying, is the person that you’re … When you’re talking about reality television, that’s really what they’re buying. That’s what gets, for me as an editor, frustrating about development because you either like these people or you don’t like these people. Anybody should be able to look at this and imagine. Say the show’s about fishermen, and they’ll be like, “Yeah, well, can’t you add this or add that or read this?” I’ll be like, “Look, they either like these guys or they don’t” and they’re in charge ultimately, they’re the network. So if you want these guys to not be fishing and run a bakery, then you can do it, you can do whatever you want. You can take these guys and have them do whatever you want. And yet, there’s like this whole song and dance that goes on. Ultimately you can make the show whatever you want. Why do we have to show it to you? I have this theory that, because ultimately you’re trying to please your boss, who’s trying to please his boss, who’s then trying to please someone at the network who works for the guy who can make the decision. You know what I mean? There’s like this hierarchy of hoops you have to jump through before the person that actually matters even sees it. And I’m always like, if that person who actually matters who owns that network, runs that network knew all the money wasted on making all these changes before he sees it, I wonder if the entire business would change, the entire industry would change. Because this guy just wasted $10,000 and he didn’t even know it before he gets to see it. Whereas if you say, “Look, these are the people. And we’re thinking about they build trucks, but what structure that truck building show’s going to take can be whatever you want.” I’m a strong proponent of, “Let’s just show it to the person who’s like decision matters.” And people, I’m old and I’m jaded, and so sometimes I get fresh. And some editors and story producers will find it crude and they’ll almost be offended, and I’ll just be like, look at the end of the day your opinion doesn’t matter, my opinion doesn’t matter, whether this works to us doesn’t matter because we’re not the ones that are going to put it on the air. It needs to go to John Doe at AMC or Bravo or whatever. And ultimately he’s the only one whose opinion matters here, so let’s just show it to him. CM: You can do that? JBF: Let’s just show it to him, and if he wants it changed, then let’s change it. But why do we have to change it for the person who’s third away? I worked on a cooking show for the Food Network. And the rough cut, whoever watched the final cut and gave the okay on the final cut was the head guy of that show at Food Network. But then he had two people. There was head someone under him and then there was someone under that person. So the rough cut would go to the third in line, and then we’d get all these notes. And then for some reason, the fine cut didn’t go to that person, it went to the next person in line. And then you’d get these notes from the person who has to just fine cut before it’s done, they would be like, “Why did you do this? How would you change this?” And I learned to just make sure I keep my older cuts, because a lot of the times they were having me change edits, change cuts to go how I had it before the person with the rough cut changed it. And then ultimately then it goes to the person whose actual decision matters. I don’t even know how he got on this train of thought here, but … CM: We were talking about structure. JBF: Yeah. Well, that’s the structure of hierarchy. CM: Exactly. Well, and you might feel like we’re in the weeds on this a little bit, but I don’t because whether you’re working for yourself or working for someone else, you need to understand whose voice really matters in fleshing out a story, in telling a story, in developing a story, and editing is really a crucial part of that, what do you show? What do you leave on the floor? JBF: Yeah, because ultimately, like I said earlier, all of these jobs are in service to the story, and the person who’s either going to put it to the air, who’s paying for it. Sometimes as a director in film, you get lucky enough that you end up not having to really answer to too many people. That happens with like Martin Scorsese who can put out a three and a half hour film, and nobody’s going to tell him like, “No, this needs to be an hour and a half.” But until you get there, it’s all about pleasing somebody else ultimately, even if it’s your story, you’re having to please somebody. It’s a really important lesson to learn early on, and that’s what I was getting at earlier with learning not to care. That’s a crude way of putting it and it’s not totally true, but it is to a certain extent. The idea of, yeah, you have to be able to kill your darlings. I remember it really early on, the first summer out of graduating film school. I got a job editing educational videos for an educational video company, and there was a show about the effects of marijuana and cancer. And I cut it like it was a documentary, and the comment was like, “This is too much like 60 Minutes or something.” And that was a rude awakening because it was like, “Okay, it’s not about making it good,” because that’s a huge compliment to me. CM: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you very much. JBF: Something like this would be on 60 Minutes, but they’re like, “No, this is 13-year-olds are watching this.” So I had to go back and change it all. And ultimately that was the lesson, I’m not trying to make the best version of this, I’m trying to make the right version of this. And I’m trying to please my boss who is more familiar with his audience than I am. CM: Yeah, so we’ve talked a lot about editing, your journey editing, leaving the ego at the door, at what point do you really approach Scored to Death and really allow yourself to pour your energy and passion into that project? JBF: Well, that started because of a love for that kind of music, specifically Goblin, the band Goblin, which was an Italian progressive rock band who got started scoring Italian films, and specifically Italian horror films in the 70s. They toured America for the first time or a version of that band toward America for the first time in 2013. And I went to see them live and it was a magical moment. It was one, that was something I never thought I would see. These guys were one of my favorite bands of all time and they didn’t necessarily get along and they had never toured America even at the height of their popularity. So to see them live was really special to me. And then I do remember it and it’s the preface to the first book. I recite it as one of the inspirations, which is, I was like, there was a song, they were playing the theme song to a movie called Phenomenon and they added this really rocking middle section to it. And while that was happening, I looked around and I saw everybody’s head bobbing up and down. And it was a sold-out crowd in Brooklyn, New York, and I realized that I wasn’t the only one that loved this kind of music. And that just got me very excited about that music again, with anything like, it comes in waves. I think you listen to one album 10 times in a row over two weeks and then you move on to the next one. And then a year later you hear a song from that album, “Oh yeah. I love that album.” And then you get ready to listen to the album again, a couple more times, you come back to it. And so that show started was like the tiny little snowball at the top of the mountain that then tumbled down the mountain and just grew into this giant boulder of a snowball down the hill. Ultimately what it did was it made me want to know more about Goblin. CM: That’s cool. JBF: And because I think most geeks of anything or fans, when you’re really into something, at least for me, and I think some people can relate to this, when you’re really into a band or a movie or a filmmaker or whatever your poison of an addiction is, you need to feed that addiction, you need to know everything you can find out about it. And seeing how the band was from Italy, there wasn’t a whole lot. Now there’s a whole book that was originally written in Italian, and since then it’s been translated into English. So you can buy an English language book now that tells you more about Goblin than you’ll ever want to know. But at the time, that didn’t exist here. When I couldn’t find the information that I wanted to find, I decided that I needed to be with the one, to find, go to the source. That’s how the inspiration of the book really started, and then it became, “Well, if I’m going to do it, who else do I want to interview? I would love to find out more about John Carpenter.” And it just became this quest for knowledge, really with the hopes that someday it would find a place that other people would read it. I don’t necessarily think of it as a particular obsession with film music, for instance. Since I’ve written the book, I’ve become part of the, “film music community.” And I see really passionate fans when it comes to film music. And like I said earlier, to me it was never, my passion wasn’t film music. My passion was music and my passion was film, and it was just part of that. Growing up, I would listen to John Williams and then turn it off, and when side A was done and if I didn’t want to go to side B, I’d put in Billy Joel and I’d listen to that. It was part of my listening and I never really thought of it as something separate than other music. But I do find creative people interesting, and I like to hear or read or discuss their process and their passions. So that’s really why the book started. One, because there was knowledge I wanted to learn. And two, the reason why it continued and why a podcast and then a second book came to fruition, is because after I did the first book, I realized just how much I loved talking to them, or with them, I should say. And learning, having them tell them their stories to me and learning about their creative processes or why they got into film music or what they were thinking when they did the score. Why did they choose those instruments? It just became something that I just found and still find endlessly interesting, and that’s why for the last, I’ve been on this journey now for seven years since the beginning of the first book, was yes, I love film music and I love horror film music, without a doubt. If I didn’t, in some way this would be a very big waste of time. But that wasn’t really what drove me, it was just wanting to know more about it, and then ultimately really enjoying the conversations that I had with these people. And that’s why I’ve been continuing it. CM: To bring it back to our earlier conversation of development, you’ve learned how to develop things and then create things on top of that. So I don’t know if you would have been able to really do this project if you hadn’t have had all this training on scouring the internet and researching and finding the things that you need, and when they weren’t there, what’d you do? You then created your own things that, I don’t know, I just see so many beneficial things from the past conversation and your past journey that made that possible. JBF: Yeah. Well, ultimately we’re all just like the culmination of our experiences. I also, before I started Scored to Death, for about three years, I wrote for a blues website because my passion musically was blues-oriented, and I was a blues musician, and so I would write reviews, but I would also interview blues musicians. And had I not done that, maybe I would have been too intimidated to try to do the book? But because I had some interviews under my belt, the idea of just reaching out to John Carpenter and saying, “Hey, can I talk to you for this potential book?” Didn’t seem that farfetched to me at the time. Had I not had that experience, maybe I would have been like too afraid or just not, or maybe the idea wouldn’t even occurred to me to do it. And I think the other thing that helps a lot, the interviewing process was, while I was in film school and we were focusing mostly on narrative, we had acting classes, and we learned things about talking with actors and I just got very good at communicating with people. I don’t know, good is relative and maybe I’m completely off base, but … CM: This is all about you, so you are absolutely on base, you are on point. JBF: I got comfortable with it at least, let’s put it that way, and communicating with people with something that …. But also, to be honest, now that I think about it, when I was in high school and even through college, one of the jobs I did, which was various ones, whether it was working at McDonald’s or Blimpie’s or whatever, everybody had jobs when they’re a teenager. But one of the jobs that I did do for a long time was I used to teach at a hockey school, hockey skills. I played hockey in high school and I taught kids from, they could barely stand up without skates on, let alone skates, to adults. This is the job that I had at night after school or on weekends or during the summer breaks. I did this for many years and my boss was very into, obviously it was his business, so he wanted you to be a good teacher. But during that process, he taught me how to communicate with people. And part of that was even reading, I don’t know if people remember this self-help guru, Tony Robbins, his first book, which came out in the 80s. My boss made me read that book because a lot of that book was just about communicating with people and how some people are visual and some people learn through sound. Depending on how you learn, I could either show you how to do it, or I could tell you how to do it, and everybody’s going to take, some people are going to learn in one way and some people will learn another way. So just thinking about communicating with people helped me with directing, which I just practiced in school. And then I think ultimately it helped me in the interviewing process. Being able to communicate with them, being comfortable with communicating with people. A lot of people have commented that my interviewing style for the books is very conversational, and that’s one of the reasons why the title of the book became Conversations with Some of Horrors Greatest Composers. Because even though ultimately I’m asking questions and they’re answering them, they really were conversations. And that all comes from all the experiences that led up to doing those books. It came from teaching hockey, and reading Tony Robbins, and then going to film school, and learning how to, and then interviewing Steve Cropper for a blues website or Leslie West. And then ultimately doing these hours long conversations with film music composers. Without all that experience leading up to those books, those books probably wouldn’t exist. And if they did, they would be very different than they are now. CM: And I’m glad that you mentioned conversations because as someone who loves to interview people and to talk with people, I love reading books that are collections of interviews, because you get a sense of the person’s style. And I like your style. I like the way that you approach it, because not only is it a conversation, but you go deep, you really dive deep into the person and their career, and I like that approach so much. JBF: Well, film composers are, they have a job that is as important, if not more important to the success of a film and how, and not even necessarily financial success, but creative success, the success of the story than anybody. And they really are still even with like the resurgence of the love of film music on vinyl with record labels like Mondo Death Waltz and Waxwork and La-La Land Records, and even though there’s like this market for it, and obviously there’s fans of it, they still really go underappreciated in my opinion. And it’s also the nature of the music. It’s like the nature of the job. In some ways you can argue, if you’re really listening to, if you’re hearing the music and movie, maybe they’re not doing their job right, because they’re supposed to be. In some cases, they are literally supposed to be invisible, no pun intended because it’s music, but music does so many things in a movie, so many things, more than maybe any other specific job, the actors, the camera work, the way it’s edited, more than any … Obviously, they all do their own thing and they’re all equally as important, but music does a lot of different things. And it depends on the movie, it depends about on the composer, it depends on the story being told, but it fills so many functions. Part of the reasons for the books after a while became also just to celebrate them and let them tell their story because it’s an important story to be told. And there are people that want to become film composers, the hope is that they will find these as useful tools. But it’s also just to celebrate these guys who do something wonderful and are straddling this line between mediums of visual storytelling, but also musical storytelling, because they’re very different things. But these are the guys that make that combination, in some ways it’s the popular classical music of today, and sometimes it’s electronic and sometimes it’s symphonic, but it’s a very special thing. And these people that do it are fascinating. And to me anyway, and I hope that when people read the books, that they will also find them fascinating. And I don’t know, I just think it’s important to give credit where credit’s due. And so the desire to dive deep into their, not just their lives, but also the creative process, comes out of the appreciation for what they do and wanting to help them tell their story so that people know about them in a way that maybe they didn’t earlier. CM: Yeah, that’s great. And as you approach the sequel, what kind of things were you looking for? Was it more of the same? Was it a continuation of the story or was it something different? Something deeper? JBF: Well, the intent was a continuation of the story. The first book, Scored to Death, came out and then when it didn’t look like another book was going to happen, I started the podcast because I wanted to continue that work. I wanted to continue talking to them and I wanted an outlet for it. And two years later after the first book came out and after a year of waiting and then a year of doing the podcast, then the idea of doing a second book became a reality. It seemed feasible, and my publisher was willing to go with it now. And so, the second book may not have happened if it wasn’t for the podcast, oddly enough. But when I started the podcast and then the second book, the intent was really just to do more of the same, but not even through editing the podcast, but actually editing the text of the book as I was doing them, transcribing the text and then editing the text. It became pretty clear to me that though the intent was to do more of the same, I wasn’t the same anymore. CM: I love that. Yes. JBF: It became different. It was all subconscious, and it only became in retrospect that I started to think about it and actually even talking about it with my editor after they read the initial manuscript for it, because I was like, “What do you think?” And he’s like, “I really like it.” And he’s like, “It feels really different from the first book.” And I said, “Yeah, it does, and I don’t know why.” And then I started to think about it, what is different? Because it’s a lot of the same questions. Some of the questions are not, each interview has their own specific questions. A lot of the questions that were similar in the first book for each interview, some of them got omitted for some reason. I was different, and looking at it, it was one, I think it was self-confidence, comfortability, the kinds of things that come with having done it already, having done 14 interviews with these guys. One, you settle into your own groove or your own rhythm in a certain way. But also you feel more comfortable doing it, more confident doing it. And then something else that happened with the first book that I think played a huge part, and this was definitely a discovery that I made really thinking about it. I had no idea it affected it while I was doing it, was that when I did the first book, I ended up becoming friends with some of these guys. CM: That’s awesome. JBF: And going out to California, I live in New York, but going out to California and having dinner with some of the composers from the first book. And the time between the first book and the podcast and then the second book was long enough that a real relationship formed with some of these guys. And so some of the interviews in the second book came out of being introduced to these composers by composers from the first book, which of course changes the relationship. When you’re a friend of a friend, and you’re introduced to them by somebody that they know and they trust, they react to you differently than you would if it was just like, “Hey, can I interview you?” And they don’t know who you are. That was different. But also I found going into the second book because there was like four or five composers from the first book that I had and still are genuinely close to, my demeanor changed because I think in some way I subconsciously felt like I was more on equal footing than I did in the first book, and less of just the fan that wants to know more, but more like … Because my publisher said that, he’s like, “Yeah, I don’t know what is exactly different,” but he’s like, “Not that the first book’s interviews were immature, but the new book’s, there’s a maturity in the new book, that the interviews have.” He’s like, “For instance, you talk about your own music with them, which you didn’t even mention in the first book.” CM: Wow. JBF: I think I came at the interviews in the second book more confident, more secure in myself, my own thoughts, my own abilities that made me a musician, and so relating to them as a musician, more than maybe I did in the first book. And so it ends up being a very different book, not just because of the people I interviewed, but the conversations feel very different. And I think it’s great. I love that it feels different because to me that’s success. It almost wishes that I did the first book now, but the first book … And I’m not to put the first book down because I think I’m very proud of the first book, and I think the things that I did and the first book are great, but it’s just one of those things where you’re just like, “Oh, if I knew then what I know now.” CM: But what’s so great about that is as you’re describing book two, I’m very excited for it because I’m excited to read the evolution of you. It sounds like you’ve learned so much and I’m excited for that because like I mentioned, book one was great, but I’m excited for this new version of you, and to read more about your music and that connection, I think that’s going to be really special. JBF: Yeah, I’m really proud of it. Once I really thought about what was, why things were different, I became even more proud of it, because it seemed like more of a personal success to me, the growth. There was growth between the two books. CM: Yeah. JBF: For instance, I interview a French composer named ROB. He scored the remake of a movie called Maniac, and he scored a movie called Revenge, which was a French film that appeared on Shudder here and became a little bit of, got some buzz around it. And most recently here in the States, he composed the music for a movie called Gretel & Hansel based on the Hansel and Gretel story. And in talking to him, he and I are about the same age. We were both born in 78. And even though he was in France and I was here on the East Coast of the United States, something I also discovered with Saturday Night Movie Sleepovers, which is a nostalgic movie podcast and when we talk a lot about movies in a nostalgic way, is that we all in a way, if you’re around the same age, no matter where you are, you’ve experienced, we have this collective childhood. The commercials we saw, the toys we played with, the movies that came out, the music that was popular at the time, and we all have these memories. And even though ROB was in France and I was here, there was this communal childhood experience. And a lot of that interview is about that. And I was hesitant to put it in the book because I was like, is this too much of a tangent, but it’s also it’s everything that formed his musical sensibility is also like going to the video store, and looking at this box, we talk about the importance of the pictures on the VHS tapes. CM: Yeah, absolutely. JBF: Because those were your first window into what that movie was when you saw it on the shelf. And there’s on the side spine of the videotape, there was always a tiny little picture that still frame with the title of the movie. And that was the first thing you saw of that movie. And so there’s conversations like that, that never would have happened in the first book. And some of it comes from that, the new book has a wider variety of people that are closer to my age than the first book did. But it just becomes about relating personal experience that I have with experience they have, connecting the dots between those things and forging a rapport and a relationship with the person you’re talking to. And that stuff happens more often in this book. And I think it makes, hopefully it makes for a fun and interesting read while also being very revealing about these artists, and their passion, and their craft, and their mastery of their craft. CM: How exciting. Who were some of the composers you talked to in book two? JBF: The way I approach the first book was, there’s three things. There was one, who do I want to talk to most? Whose music do I love? And putting together an eclectic variety of people, whether it’d be age, style, musical style, where they’re from, so there are Italian composers in the first book, American composers, people whose career started in the 70s, people whose career started in the 90s and the 2000s. So that was the goal for the first book. And the first book ended up being heavily weighted in people whose career started in the 70s and 80s, but there were more, “contemporary composers,” in there too. The same rules applied to the second book, but there was a new rule, which was, what ground can I cover that the first book didn’t cover? There were composers that came to prominence either right at the end when I was doing the first book or since the first book. And since the first book was heavily weighted in composers who got their starts in the 70s and 80s, I tried to make the new book more weighted in people whose careers started in the 2000s. In terms of the, “more contemporary composers,” we have Disasterpeace who scored up It Follows… CM: Okay. JBF: …ROB, who’s a French composer who I was just talking about, a female composer named Holly Amber Church, who works currently primarily in independent horror, but she’s fantastic. And I’m sure she will be scoring much bigger films at some point in the near future. Let’s say Michael Abels, who is older than me, but who came into the public eye as a film scorer with Get Out and Us. He survived in the classical music realm and various kinds of other musical industry before becoming a film composer for Jordan Peele’s first movie. He’s still new on the scene, even though he’s had a fantastic and a lengthy career in the music industry. I had to go back to some classics that I grew up with like Richard Band who scored Re-Animator and Puppet Master. John Harrison, who I mentioned earlier, who worked with George Romero and scored Creepshow and Day of the Dead. Joe LoDuca who scored the Evil Dead movies and that Ash vs Evil Dead series that came out a couple of years ago, as well as all kinds of stuff. These guys, I’m just naming a couple of these massive filmographies that these guys have had. Brad Fiedel who scored Terminator. CM: Okay. JBF: That’s exciting because Terminator is one of my favorite movies of all time. He also scored Fright Night. That was very exciting to talk to him. Charlie Clouser, who has scored all the Saw films, and a number of other films. He was also in the band, Nine Inch Nails, for almost a decade in the 90s and early 2000s. CM: Okay, that’s why the name sounds familiar. JBF: There’s 16 altogether, a couple of Japanese composers, Kôji Endô, who worked with the Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike and Kenji Kawai who did the original Japanese Ring movie. I’m sure there are some that are escaping me off the top of my head. It’s a wildly eclectic collection of, even more, it probably varied and eclectic than the first book, which I’m very proud of. And it leads to some fascinating conversations. Bear McCreary, who does The Walking Dead and who scored numerous television shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, but also tons of horror movies like the most recent Godzilla movie. It’s a wide variety of composers whose career spanned decades, whose musical styles are different and who have scored some of the not just the best horror films and television shows, but some of the best films and television shows ever made. And I can’t forget probably my favorite interview of all time, I got to interview a composer named Bob Cobert who scored the original Dark Shadows television show. And he was 95 when I interviewed him. And sadly he passed away in February. I think it was February of this year, 2020, at the age of 96. And that was just an amazing time. I’m so thankful and honored that I got to know him at the end of his life and was able to put together a two-hour interview retrospective of him telling me about his life and his career, because it was an amazing career. CM: Yeah. JBF: And he’s not a name that comes up often. Although some of his films, though he scored a movie called Burnt Offerings, which is a cult classic horror film, and Bob was just great. Getting to talk to these creative people is the joy and the point of it. And getting to help celebrate them and give them an avenue to tell their story so that the other people can learn about them and hopefully learn from them. It’s the goal, and so I’m very proud of the new book. And I love the lineup, John Massari who did Killer Klowns From Outer Space, who was a fascinating guy to talk to. I equate his interview to a masterclass in film scoring. We talked a lot about tricks of the trade, and he tells me about things that he learned, when he was working under more prominent composers, when he was young and the things that he learned from them. And so really that interview in particular is very educational for anybody who’s looking to score films. And so yeah, it’
53 minutes | 2 months ago
“The Foundations of Funny, Film, and Fart Jokes” with gough (BYI03)
How driven are you to create the work you see in your mind’s eye? Will you produce more excuses than scripts and films? Or push through adversity and rejection, doing whatever it takes? From the Gold Coast of Australia, today’s guest goes by the name of gough and is the director of Beernuts Productions, “a prolific producer of film, television, audio downloads, books and other forms of creative media.” And he happens to be legally blind. In the past three years, I’ve interviewed gough eight times on Getting Work To Work, and every time I do, I learn something new that could be a game-changer for my career. This conversation is no different. We dive into how he became blind and the rejection he faced because of his disability. He shares the journey from his early days in radio and audio production, stand-up comedy, and why he created Beernuts Productions. He also talks about various skills every filmmaker needs: from an understanding of business models and leadership to effective communication and why you should never use the word game-changer. About gough gough, is the first legally blind person to write, produce, edit, direct and star in a feature film unassisted. He was born in Sydney Australia and grew up on the Gold Coast where a love of writing and film was established early on in life. gough started his professional life as an audio producer in radio. A successful stint as a stand-up comedian followed, traveling through the UK, Canada and the USA. gough then moved back to the Gold Coast Australia where he decided it was time to start producing some of his written work through his newly formed production company Beernuts Productions pty ltd. Not allowing his disability to be a hindrance, instead gough embraces the challenge with great success as his work clearly demonstrates. Beernuts Productions I Will Not Go Quietly gough’s Filmography on IMDb gough on Getting Work To Work Show Notes UHF (1989) Frasier (1993-2004) 2.37 (2006) Photo by Felix Mooneeram on Unsplash Chris Martin Studios Transcript gough: Hi, my name is gough and I am a legally blind filmmaker from the Gold Coast in Australia. I run a production company called Beernuts Productions, and we’ve been going for over 10 years now. Chris Martin (CM): Wow. Over 10 years. I mean, I’ve talked to you so many times on the other show and what I, there’s several things that I realized that I neglected to talk to you about. And we’ll put my interviewer credentials aside for the moment, you know, like “basic stuff, Chris, come on, man.” Uh, but what’s interesting is legally blind filmmaker. Where does that begin? What is your origin story as gough, the filmmaker. gough: I suppose, if you want to go way back to when I was a kid, I used to love writing. That was my number one thing was like writing little books or plays or school projects. That sort of stuff was all about writing and telling stories through writing. So I was always writing scripts. And then as I got older, you know, I thought to myself, well, you know, why don’t we try making some of these scripts? You know? So I tried sending them off to networks and production companies and distribution companies and private investors and all that sort of stuff. But of course, when they found out, I couldn’t see, they sort of pulled the pin pretty quickly. So I was like, well, it looks like the only way I’m going to get stuff made is if I do it myself. So that’s when I started out Beernuts Productions and I started making my own projects started putting the scripts into, uh, into life. CM: Were you born blind? gough: No, I lost my eyesight when I was a few weeks old, so I’m one of those rare people who had a bad reaction to the whooping cough immunization. So I had a hemorrhagic stroke, which is sort of like a brain hemorrhage comes stroke. So it’s a bleed on the brain essentially. So there was a lot of health problems with that. So I was only, like I say, I think I was about 12 weeks old, so I can never remember having eyesight, obviously. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve been blind since birth because of, uh, yeah, I’ve never really experienced what normal eyesight is. I do have limited vision obviously. So I’ve got no vision in my right eye and very limited vision in my left eye. CM: Fascinating. So like when, when you’re experiencing film for the first time as a kid, is it TV? Is it the cinema? You know, what, what was it? gough: It’s funny, you should mention that because, uh, my parents were not great in a lot of ways. They would never take me to like the cinema and stuff like that. So I didn’t really go to the cinema until I was like 10, 11, 12 with my mates. And that’s when we would watch things like, you know, WAYNE’S WORLD and stuff like that was just coming out. And I was like, “Oh my God, what is this fantastic thing?” I mean, I had watched films before then. I remember when I was about six or seven, I won a competition and I forget even what the competition was, but the prize was a VHS copy of ET. And again, I hadn’t watched a lot of movies in my day, you know, I’m only six or seven and movies weren’t really a thing in my household. So I was watching this ET and I was like, “this is amazing.” And I watched it like on high rotation. I thought it was amazing. And it is, I mean, you watch it as an adult, it is a very good film, but, uh, yeah, as a, as a little kid, you know, thought it was just mind blowing. So I didn’t really have a huge introduction to film. It was more about the writing for me and writing stories. When I was a teenager, I sorta got heavily into, uh, like TV sketch comedy and all that sort of stuff, and that sort of influenced my writing a lot as well. And then I was like, well, I was writing a lot of sketches and scripts and things. And that’s when that sort of a script writing sorta took off, then it was about how do we get it made. I was 16 and sending scripts off to TV networks, thinking that they’d give me a TV show, because that’s what they would do. You know, I don’t regret doing it. I mean, I could only imagine the looks on their faces, but I got a couple of nice letters back. I mean, usually you get the usual standard, uh, responses where they haven’t even read your work. And it’s just the usual “Go Away” letter that they send you. But I got a couple of nice responses, and I think that all you need as a teenager, or even as an adult, I suppose, is a couple of people, you know, who actually do take the time to read your work or look at your work and they send you some form of encouragement and that sort of keeps you going and spurs you on. And I had a little bit of that here and there, and that sort of kept me going. And then when I became older and I was doing it more regularly, uh, as in sending work out, that was the frustration for me. So then I was having people read my scripts and go, “Oh, this is really fantastic. Let’s get it made.” And then when they found out the backstory that I couldn’t see, that’s when they sort of would pull the pin on me, because by then I wanted to direct the films as well then, because, uh, I had the thought, and it’s a good thought, why would I give my script to someone who doesn’t know anything about it, to direct it? They’re going to ruin my script because they don’t know the characters, like I know the characters, they don’t know how I want this to look like. I mean, when you, when you write it, you can see it in your brain. They don’t have that vision like I do. So why would I give it to someone else to direct? So I want to direct it, you know? So it’s made properly, you know, which is my way, because my way is properly. So, like I say, once I found out I couldn’t see, they, they didn’t really want to know. CM: Wow. So did you have a lot of that level of discouragement growing up, or did you have a lot of encouragement to write and to create? gough: No, probably a lot of discouragement. There was a couple of people that I had who were really, really encouraging. And I had a particular school teacher, actually, who was really fantastic. And I actually still talk to her from time to time, which makes me sound like a giant nerd, that I still talk to a school teacher. Yeah. She was a wonderful lady and she, uh, she really encouraged me. She was like in elementary school, as you guys would call it over there. When I was a young kid, she really encouraged the story writing and all that sort of stuff. And, uh, one thing that is very important for all blind and vision impaired people to learn is how to touch type. We need to know how to type, because handwriting isn’t really an option for us, so we need to know how to type. And so she was old school, cause this is back, we’re talking like in 1990, 90, 91. So she would old school secretary type and put like a tea towel over my hands and make me type, you know, so I couldn’t cheat and see the keyboard. And so to make the learning how to type fun, you know, I was allowed to type up stories and things like that, which was really cool. So it gave me a chance to, you know, type a little story up and learning how to type at the same time, which is very clever on her part. And then, you know, she, she would, yeah, be really encouraging with a lot of things in regards to me and my disability and my work and all that sort of stuff. So, so yeah, absolutely. CM: Yeah. That’s great. It’s nice when you can hear at least one example of someone who goes beyond the call of duty to encourage someone, instead of just, you know, like, like all the rejection that you got like, “Oh no, great. But we’re not going to hire you because you’re blind.” gough: That’s exactly right. You know, it’s kind of like I said earlier, you know, you only need those one or two people to give you that bit of a pat on the back, a bit of encouragement and go that little bit extra. Like I said, even when I was 16 and I’m sending stuff out to networks, I remember, see I can remember it so clearly. You remember things that are important, I think. And you know, I remember getting a letter back from Channel Seven, which is kind of like your NBC or CBS. We have Channel Seven. And uh, I got a, a letter back from the guy, John, I forget his last name, but I remember the man’s name. And uh, he said, I was only 16. And so obviously I didn’t have my age in the brief, so for all he knew I was in my twenties or whatever. And he wrote a really nice letter saying “I really enjoyed your script. And it was really funny and I really liked it. What we do is we don’t really go off scripts though. We need a more of a video tape submission with actual work, but we really liked the script. I read it all and I thought it was…” like, that was a really, for a 16 year old to get something like that from a program director of a major television network. That was really something that was really, you know, uplifting for me and gave me a real big boost, you know? And I’m like, wow, well, he liked it now I’ve got to try and figure out how to progress now, you know? So those sorts of things, keep you going, I think. CM: Yeah, absolutely. Cause you don’t strike me as someone who lacks ambition. So any, any bit of praise is probably just like, you know, catnip to a cat. gough: Yeah. And I think that’s a, that’s a fair assessment, Chris. Yes. I would say that is correct. CM: So when, when you get this encouragement, you’re 16 years old. At what point do you decide I’m gonna make my own movie? gough: Probably about 18. So, I’d written a script, it’s never been made, I’ve still got it on my computer actually. So I could make it one day, hopefully. It was like your standard sort of romantic comedy kind of a script, but obviously being a gough written script, it’s probably a little bit left of center of the romantic comedy genre, but that was the sort of genre that I was going for. I wanted to get funding for that. So I contacted a bunch of government agencies to get grants because that’s how a lot of films get made over in Australia is through grants. And that was my first experience of being rejected because of my disability pretty much. So I was 18 when I sent my first feature film script out to get made. So yeah, I was only young. Like I was doing other stuff at the same time, but that was like, I had that thought to do that back then. That’s when it sort of started. CM: That’s really interesting because most people are 18, they’re not making movies. They’re not trying to make movies. I mean, some people are, but for the most part, you know, when I was 18, I was an idiot. I didn’t know what I was. I was dumb. gough: Don’t get me wrong. I was drinking heavily and doing all sorts of shenanigans as well. But you know, you can do more than one thing at a time, just multitask. CM: You can? What? No one told me. gough: It’s a good thing I’m here then. CM: Exactly. You’re the voice of reason and my conscience. So you’re trying to get these films made, at what point do you go from writing to audio production? gough: When I finished high school, one of my first jobs was working in radio as a commercial and promo producer. So essentially making up their ads and their promos. So that sort of taught me how to edit. When I edit films now, I treat it like I’m editing a very long radio commercial. That’s my background, so I do it all by audio. So it’s the same sort of principle because when you’re editing audio, you got whatever computer program you’re using, you got multiple tracks, you know, one’s for your voiceover, one’s for your sound effects, one’s for your bed. You just make the ad and you put it all together, you mix it all together and bang, you’ve got your 30-second commercial. So I guess you need some level of creativity to do it, but the commercial dictates what you’re going to be making. So if it’s a commercial for Harry’s Plumbing Supplies and you get the, the DJ in and he reads the ad for Harry’s Plumbing Supplies, and then you find an appropriate music to go under it. And if you need a couple of sound effects, you stick them in. And all of a sudden you’ve got your, your 30-second ad. And it also, because a lot of the places, back then even, a lot of the radio stations were starting to cut back a lot, even back in the, what was it like 2000 to 2003, they were cutting back a lot on staff. So for example, one radio station I worked at would do ads for, cause there’s monopolies in Australia. So there were essentially three companies that ran the radio sorta stations around Australia. So like for example, the old stereo network had about 50 radio stations nationwide that they owned. And so the particular radio station I was working at for a short time, I would make ads for five of their stations. So I was I’m on the Gold Coast, but I was also making ads for the Sunshine Coast, for Cairns, for Shepparton, and for Toowoomba. So I was making ads for those places as well. So I’m directing voiceover talent as well, which is obviously a good lesson in how to direct actors, because, you know, obviously if the commercial needs to be presented in a certain way, then you know, you’ve got to tell the, the DJ or the voiceover talent, what the salesman will tell me that the client wants. And of course the worst one, the very worst one is when, uh, Harry from Harry’s Plumbing Supplies wants to voice the ad himself because he thinks he’s a star and he has absolutely no voiceover ability at all. And so you have to direct him. I mean, I remember there was one dude who ran a travel agency and he got in and to record his 30-second ad, took us two hours and we almost had to do it word by word and I had to stick it all together because he was atrocious yet. You know, it’s just ego with some people, what can you do? And it’s, I’m only 19-20 at the time, so I don’t have a vote, you know? So I just got to do as I’m told. So yeah, but I’ll never forget that dude, god, he was atrocious, but, um, yeah. And his ad sounded terrible, but I mean, it’s not my problem. So, but yeah, so essentially that’s audio editing was, uh, I guess to go back to your original question, I just wanted to do creative things like, you know, editing up film, audio, writing, it’s all creative, it’s all under the same umbrella. So I just figured that that was a good thing to do. It turned out I was right, because it taught me a lot of things, like editing and directing. CM: What’s interesting too, is you also learned the art of collaboration as well, because you had to collaborate, I’m assuming, with people who could run the computer, that could do the precision editing, right? gough: Well, no, I did all that. So yeah, no, no. There’s no collaboration. I don’t work well with others, Chris, you should know this by now. No, no, no. So I had a production manager and he gave me the ads or the salesmen would come into the studio. He’d say, there’s your ad. And then I’d make the ad. So yeah, there was no collaboration involved at all. So yeah, like I say, they were making cutbacks. So even back then they were making massive, massive cutbacks. So there was a staff of, I mean, at one of the radio stations, actually, I think most of the radio stations I worked at, there was only ever a staff of two doing all the audio production, the production manager who’d do all the bigger and more important stuff. And then me who’d do all the crappier stuff, so yeah. CM: Man, it sounds like you were working with Weird Al at UHF. gough: Well, I don’t know what that is, but I’ll say yes. CM: Yes. I dropped a reference that you don’t know, all right. That’s very rare. UHF, kind of one of those indie comedy films where Weird Al inherits, does he inherit or does he, I think he just ends up working at like this late night, uh, TV channel. That’s like low on the dial that so like all of them are making all these weird, obscure, uh, shorts and comedies bits and stuff. Hilarious, I think you’d like it. gough: You know what that means now, that means you have to, uh, in the show notes, you have to put a link to that particular IMDb page or YouTube channel. CM: Absolutely. So when you’re in that moment, you’re essentially, they essentially threw you into the pool to like, do this work, like what’s going on in your head? Like, are you worrying about it? Or are you driven to like prove to them that you can do this? gough: Well, no and no, really, because I’m not driven to prove anything to anybody because I don’t think that way, I just do what I do. And I’m not one of those people who cares what other people think. Um, I really don’t. As kind of funny, just to put it in context, I’ve got a friend of mine who I go to the gym with because I act like a, a bit of a dick, like a lot of the time. And so she said to me one day, cause I did something stupid, and she said to me, gough, you just walk around, like you’re starring in your own 30 minute sitcom, just trying to amuse yourself, don’t you? And I’m like, yeah, I really kind of, that’s how I live my life. I just, you know, I just do things just to try and amuse myself and hope that somebody else wants to come along for the ride. But I really don’t. Yeah. I’m not driven to prove anything to anybody, I’m really not. I want to do what I want to do. Like I want to make my entertainment and I want to entertain people. Obviously I want people to enjoy my work, but it’s not about proving anything. It’s just about entertaining them. And on the flip side, if people don’t enjoy what I do, that’s fine. That’s totally cool. I’m well aware that my work isn’t going to be everybody’s cup of tea and that’s totally fine. I’m not upset by that. I’m not, I’m not like Frasier Crane that has to be loved by everybody. That’s not who I am. My disability did come into it. I remember, uh, so I got hired to work at a radio so I can mention them because it’s in my documentary. I got hired to be a fill-in guy at Four BC, which is like a talkback station in Brisbane, which is about an hour away from where I live. And so the, uh, the production guy was going on holidays and they hired me to fill in for the week. And I remember on the Friday, the production manager came in and he said, gough, I need you to take all the commercials out of the Sydney because it was a nationwide computer that they had. You need to take all the commercials out of the Sydney computer with these particular codes and you need to put them onto our system to play through the weekend, which is fine. That’s fair enough. But the problem was because it wasn’t set up for somebody who’s blind or vision impaired. The screen was so small. I literally could not see the numbers properly and I’m trying my best. I really am because you know, it’s important. People paid thousands of dollars for their advertising to be played on the radio station and I’m trying my best, but I just, I couldn’t do it. I honestly couldn’t do it. And they, they never hired me again because obviously the blind guy can’t do it. Now, if they had a screen with a bigger screen or they wanted to be a little bit more cooperative, then that would have been nice, but they decided that wasn’t how they were going to roll. So, and it is true. Look, some of the tasks that I did, I could do very quickly and very easily, but some of the other tasks, not so much. So when, for example, you would hear on it. I mean, all of this is kind of old fashioned now because radio is really not a thing anymore. So your younger listeners probably won’t know anything that I’m talking about, but when you would have like the breakfast DJ’s obviously then between nine and 10. So they’re off the air at nine, between nine and 10, I have to now edit up a promo. That’s going to apply for the next 24 hours with the best part, the best 30 seconds of their show, put that into the computer and that will air. And you’ve only got an hour to do that. Now I can do it, but that sort of thing would take me a little bit of time. Cause I can’t, you know, reading time codes and that takes me a while cause I’ve really got to focus in, you know. So the producer of the show would call my office and say, Oh, there’s, there’s a funny part around 8:15, because that’s all you’d get. So now I’ve got to listen to like 10 past eight to 20 past eight and pick out what I assume was what they think is the funniest part. And if anybody’s listened to breakfast radio, none of it is the funniest part, but I’ve got to pick out what I think is the funniest part of that 10 minutes. I’ve got to quickly squeeze it into 20 seconds because you’ve got obviously the voiceover up top that you put in saying, you know, this is the best of, you know, Charlie in the morning. And then you put in your 20 seconds and then make sure you tune tomorrow at six for Charlie in the morning and you’ve got the bed underneath it obviously that goes in as well. So that kind of stuff where you’ve got to look at time codes and things like that, that takes me a while to do, you know. So I would usually only make that by like 9:59, it would be going into the computer. So whereas for somebody else, they knocked that over in 20 minutes, it would take me a lot longer. So there were some things that took me longer and I did struggle a little bit with, but I never, like, I never told the production manager or complained, like, I mean, things got done. That’s all that mattered. But yeah, it wasn’t about proving myself. It was just about doing the job. So, and I enjoyed it. I like, I mean, it’s editing, it’s being creative. I enjoyed doing it. It was a lot of fun. Like I said, it educated me a lot and helped me with what I’m doing now. So yeah, it was all good. CM: And how long were you doing that? Was, was it a few years? gough: Yeah. Yeah. So I reckon I worked one, two, three, and then bits and pieces at others. So mainly three different radio stations I was at and I was, uh, yeah, from 2000 to 2003, so three years I was doing it. So yeah, cause I left school in 1999. So I graduated in 99 and then yeah, 2000 to 2003 and then 2003 that’s when I went overseas, which was good. That was a good thing. CM: After radio, you go into a standup comedy, all of this is perfect groundwork for film production because you know, not only are you writing, but you know how to like make promos, you know, how to direct actors. And now you’re starting to get that foundation of funny, the foundation of humor that is gough and Beernuts Productions. gough: Yeah. Well, it’s funny you should mention that cause you’re quite right. It’s funny how things work out, isn’t it? Because looking back, like I never went to university, but I would suggest that what I did doing radio production and stand up comedy is kind of like my apprenticeship. That was my university education. Even though at the time, I didn’t know that, you know what I mean? It’s, it’s kind of funny how that kind of thing can happen. So yeah. CM: When you’re writing these promos, you have a very distinct sense of humor. Were you aware of your sense of humor then of what you have now? Or was it still kind of in its, you know… gough: No, I’ve always been me. So even as a little kid, I was like this, I was, you know, I was the same sort of, uh, odd, obnoxious kind of smart ass, kind of pain in the ass kind of kid, like even as a seven year old. So yeah, no, none of that has ever changed. I’ve always been me. Uh, so yeah, there was no, no development. There’s no, uh, there’s no light bulb a-ha low, but I can’t give you I’m afraid, Chris. And look, stand up comedy was great in regards to like, there’s a lot of life lessons learned doing that because obviously I’m on the road touring around. I got to fend for myself, I’ve got to do my own thing. You know, I’ve got to figure out how to get to the gigs. I’ve got to, I had merchandise that I used to sell. So you’ll like this actually Chris, I had two t-shirts cause one thing I learnt when I went to America was that every comic I was working with was flogging merchandise. And I mean like the kind of crap that they would sell and when people are drunk at concerts, they will buy anything. They will, I mean, I’ve done it, you’ve done it. We’ve all done it. Oh, there’s a merchandise tent. Let’s get into it. So, you know, so every comic was just selling just crap. And so I thought I’ll sell two t-shirts. So I had one t-shirt that I sold, which had a picture of a brick on it and written on the t-shirt was “I couldn’t get laid if I was a brick.” And then the second t-shirt, uh, had a picture of a Pogo stick on it. And it said “I’m as happy as a one legged lesbian on a Pogo stick.” CM: Which shirt sold more? gough: Uh, the Pogo stick five to one. CM: Wow. This is in the early 2000s, right? gough: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So, oh, because it’s not PC, is that what you’re getting at? Because that really doesn’t bother me, that’s not who I am either. That’s never been a concern to me, that sort of stuff. You’ve seen Beernuts Productions films. The last thing I’m thinking of is this PC, is that okay? It is what it is. If it’s funny, it’s funny. I saw a documentary once and there was a comedian on there and he said, and I agree with him. He said it, look, if it’s told with the funny bone, it’s funny. And something as a blind person that I can tell very quickly is, cause obviously I can’t see body language and stuff. So I go by people’s tones and inflections of their voice, uh, which is what I do when I direct my actors as well. But I can tell very, very quickly if someone’s being a jerk and if they’ve got malice and nasty intent, or if they’re just trying to be funny. Now they might do a joke about blind people. Now it might be a really funny joke and I might laugh and it could be great. They could do a joke about blind people. The joke’s not funny, it’s a terrible joke, but they weren’t meaning any harm. They were just trying to be funny and trying to break the ice in their own way. And so they’ve meant no disrespect or harm. So that’s cool as well. On the flip side, if they say something nasty or negative or malice intent about one people, then that’s different altogether, then that person is a jerk. It’s about tones and inflections. You know, I guess that’s what everybody’s mum used to say to them. It’s not what you say. It’s how you say it, which is, uh, uh, you know, that’s something that I think most parents would have told their kids, you know, it was one of those lessons when they’re a kid, you know, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. So yeah. CM: Yeah. Interesting. I like that a lot because so much of podcasting, for example, is tones and inflections. I mean, it’s very rare that I actually see the person that I’m talking to. And I mean, that has to be super refined for you at this point. gough: Oh yeah. Well, it is. It absolutely is. So when I’m directing the actors in my films, for example, you know, I’ve even been known, some of them again, some like it, some don’t and that’s fine. I’ve even been known to break them down into word by word, like, they’re getting that word wrong. You need to use this kind of a tone for that particular word. So when we’re doing the rehearsals, yeah. I’m really particular with how they deliver the lines because I always figure their facial expressions will, for the most part, take care of themselves. For example, if you’re yelling, then your face is going to be portraying someone who is yelling your face will contort in a way that you do when you’re yelling. So your facial expression will take care of itself. But if your voice isn’t right, then nothing’s going to be right. You know what I mean? So you got to get the voice down perfect. CM: It really speaks to your devotion to the craft, the storytelling, what you’re really trying to draw out. gough: A joke’s not funny if it’s not delivered correctly. And if a joke’s not funny, then people won’t laugh. And if people don’t laugh, they’re not going to download the film. But if they don’t download the film, then I don’t live in a house, and if I don’t live in a house, then I’m homeless. So, you know, it’s important to get the tones and inflections, right? Cause otherwise I’ll be homeless. CM: So when you’re traveling overseas, you’re doing standup comedy. When does a documentary film about you pop up into your mind? gough: So I traveled overseas. I did one year in the UK through 2003. And then I did 2004 and 2005 through America and Canada, all doing stand-up comedy. And then in 2006, I came back to Australia. I started up Beernuts Productions in 2006, not with the intention of producing my own work, but having mainly just started it up because I wanted people to take me seriously. I know that sounds ridiculous with a ridiculous name, but I’m a proprietary limited. So I’m a legitimate, proper business company so that when I was to send work out to people, it’s coming from a legitimate source. It’s not just, Charlie Johnson. You know what I mean? So I thought it was important to have some legitimacy and then they can read my, my fart jokes. Then I spent four years, you know, sending work out and getting rejected. Like I said, predominantly because of my eyesight. And then in 2010, just out of frustration, I was like, I need to do something because obviously doing the same thing over and over again, it doesn’t work. You’ve got to try something else. So that’s when I was like, okay, what can I do now? And then I thought, well, if I pull all my savings together, I’ll have enough to buy some basic equipment and I’ll be able to do a film. So what kind of film can I do that’s nice and cheap? And the obvious choice is a documentary because it’s talking heads and that doesn’t cost any money to do. There’s no stunts. There’s no actors. I’m the crew. So a documentary it is. So what am I going to do a documentary on? Well, what do I know? I know disability and I know mental health. Okay. That’ll be my subjects. Again, It’s not some light bulb moment, it’s out of, well, I guess it’s kind of necessity. This is what is now required. So how am I gonna do this? It’s about problem solving, I suppose, how am I going to do this? This is how I can make this work. CM: I like that story too, because it’s about problem solving. And I mean, you don’t pick easy topics, gough. I mean, making a film about disability and mental health. I mean, that’s hard. Did you bring comedy into that? gough: Yeah. Yeah. So you can still watch the film on the Beernuts Productions website. So if you go to BeernutsProductions.com, it’s a free download that film. So yeah, it’s a proper 90-minute documentary. It was important to put comedy into it. Otherwise it would be the world’s most depressing film. Also, people are going to respond better to serious facts, if they’re in a good mood and have had a bit of a laugh. Their ears are more open to taking on important information. So if you relax them and you give them a bit of a joke and then you give them a nice fact. On a similar note, that’s why Dr. Phil has been so successful because he’s able to put humor in with his seriousness. So people really like him and can respond to him well. Like he could be harsh, but also he does it with a level of humor and caring that makes people respond well to him. If he was just to walk up to someone and go, “Oh, your being an idiot for this reason,” they’re going to tell him to get stuffed. But if he goes up to them and you know, he has a bit of a joke with them and relaxes them and then he tells them they’re an idiot. They’re more likely to listen to him. Do you see what I’m saying? CM: I do, yeah. gough: So yeah, it was the same. It was the same with the documentary. If you’re going to put in heavy, serious facts, there needs to be an element of levity in there somehow so that people aren’t bogged down and want to kill themselves after they watch it, so yeah. CM: I appreciate that a lot. And I appreciate that you’re not giving me the a-ha moment, the light bulb moment, even though I’m hunting for it, I’m searching for it. But I like that it is not there because you literally just want to do what you want to do. You want to tell the jokes, you want to make the films, and you want to make a living. I mean, that is it. That to me is the a-ha moment, right there. gough: Yeah. Like I said, there’s no light bulb sort of thing here. There really isn’t, it’s just, I know what I want to do. And than it’s, “how am I going to do it?” And then you figure it out. It really is as simple as that. I think people make things a lot more difficult than what they need to be. You know, they, they probably, maybe they are looking for that light bulb moment or whatever. You know, the one thing that I hate is people who run around in circles pretending to be busy. I mean, everybody’s seen those people in their offices that, you know, dash from desk to desk and office to office, and yet they achieve nothing. You know what I mean? Like those sorts of people just don’t want to punch them all in the face. They’re just annoying, you know, just get it done, man. You know, I guess it’s about leadership in a way too. I’m a big football fan, right? And so I see the people who I consider to be good leaders. And they’re not the ones that are doing all the talking, they’re the ones that run up the field and take the hit first. They’re the good leaders because they’re the ones that are showing you how it needs to be done. You know, that’s what leadership is all about. It’s not, again, it’s one of those old phrases again, isn’t it, actions speak louder than words. CM: Well, and what’s great is when you go to the Beernuts Productions website, you have built a body of work, that you shouldn’t be ever ashamed that you’re not productive. gough: Yeah. So to date we’ve got, uh, 20 films, uh, we’ve done 14 audio downloads, which are like comedy sketches and five books. So yeah, in 10 years that’s what I’ve produced in 10 years of work, so yeah. CM: From a business model standpoint, does that pay the bills, all of that body of work and creating new films? gough: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Beernuts Productions is my full-time job. So that’s what I do. There is nothing else. When I first started, it was about punching out the work as quick as I could, because I need as many downloads as I can get. So I can keep punching out the work, which it is still about that as well. Obviously there was, you know, I don’t want to make it sound like the productions are rushed and so they’re bad. Obviously everything I did, I did with great care, but I wanted to get it done as quickly as I could get it done. So it can go up on the website and I’ve stayed with that sort of theory. But now I’m at a point where I can, like, I can focus more on other parts of the business, like marketing and stuff like that. Whereas I wasn’t focusing on that so heavily at the start, it was more about putting the content up and now that there’s content up, now I can tell people about it more. You know, now I can sort of focus on the marketing and the other stuff a little bit more heavily than I was, you know, seven, eight years ago, for example. CM: I like too that you talk a lot about leadership because a film director, a filmmaker, is a leader in a sense of you’re leading the crew, you’re leading the actors. And how have you learned to communicate the vision that you see distinctly in your head? I mean, you talked a little bit about tone and inflection and what they’re saying, but how do you know to deliver what’s up in your head? gough: Well, it’s not about so much that it’s about knowing the other people and how they best accept a message. For some people, for example, you might have to draw a diagram because that’s how they accept a message better. For other people, they might be more verbal. So you could just tell them. Other people, uh, there’s some actors that I work with where I deliver their lines for them and then they mimic what I do. So it’s about knowing who you’re communicating to and how they best receive a message because everybody’s got a different way of being. And so you need to know how they work best. So you need to know, okay, well that person they’re going to do what I say. If I tell them in this particular way. And this person’s going to understand the instruction better if I tell them in that particular way. So it’s about knowing how to deliver your message to certain people in certain ways, I think. CM: And was there a lot of trial and error in that at first? gough: Of course? Yeah, absolutely. That was so yeah, a hundred percent because I think another good thing about being blind is you kind of pick up on these things a lot quicker because again, I’m not distracted by body language and stuff like that. You kind of learn these lessons a lot quicker than if I’ve got eyesight and I’m looking at all other things, you know? So I think those lessons will, uh, probably a touch quicker. CM: One of the questions that kind of popped into my head as you’re talking is, I have a friend who’s completely blind, has no eyesight and he’s a fine woodworker. And he doesn’t want to be known as a blind woodworker. He just wants to be known as a woodworker. And is that the same for you when it comes to film, do you want to just be known as gough of Beernuts Productions.com? Or is being blind part of the package as well in terms of identity and wanting to be known? gough: No, no, no, I’m not. I’m exactly the same as your woodworker mate. You could probably answer this better than me, but, uh, when we chat about my films, uh, with the previous interviews we’ve done, you know, you’ve never once sort of asked me about my disability because you’re more interested in why I wrote what I wrote and what that actor was like to work with, and why I cast that person. You’re more interested in the content, which is great. That’s what I want you to be interested in. I want you to enjoy the work and go, “Oh, I wonder why he wrote this script.” Not, “Oh, he’s blind. Yeah. He, for him.” That’s really got nothing to do with it, you know. It is what it is. I mean, it kind of annoys me to a point when people say, “Oh, you’re such an inspiration.” And I go, I’m really not because I’m just doing my job and being a contributing member of society, which is the rules for being an adult. CM: Well said. I will say though, that I think you are an inspiration, not because you’re a blind filmmaker, but because you have built a media empire and you are fiercely independent. gough: See, I’ll take that, that I respect, because that’s about my work ethic and what I do and how I do it. So I take that, but I mean, a disability means nothing. I was having a chat to a friend of mine who I’ve known for a very, very long time. We were talking about my disability and people’s reactions to me, because obviously I get on and I live my life and I do my thing and people that accuse me of not being blind, they go, “Oh, you’re faking it. You’re not blind.” And my response to that is always, “well, I’m sorry, I don’t suit your negative stereotype of what blind people should be.” Like, “Oh, I’ll go and get a dog and a cane, sit on the couch and eat Cheetos.” I mean, is that what you would prefer me to, would that make you feel more comfortable? Is that what you would like? But that’s people’s perceptions because they’re just not educated in that sort of field. So, a disability really means nothing, you know. As an adult, you really have a responsibility to be a contributing member of society. But also more than that, you’ve got a responsibility to find out what your skills are. And you learn that as a teenager, what your skills are in life, whether it be a mechanic or a chef or a hairdresser, and then it’s your responsibility to take those skills and make them the best that you possibly can. And I figured it when I was a young lad, I thought that, uh, storytelling was my skill. And then it was my responsibility to figure out how I was going to make that skill into a thing. And, uh, that’s what Beernuts Productions has become. That’s how I’ve done it. CM: So where do you go from here as Beernuts Production? You know, like, the best compliment that I could pay you as you have more vision than most people that can fully see have. Like, and I mean that from a big picture, like you have a vision for the future. That is just amazing to me. So where are you headed? What else is in front of you? gough: Well, uh, we’ve just started up a podcast, which is new for me. So there’s now a Beernuts productions podcast. Which obviously Chris, you’re going to be a guest in the coming weeks, which I’ve no doubt you’re feverish in excitement and anticipation. CM: I am excited. gough: So yeah, we started up a podcast and that’s something new. Uh, there’ll be a few more films. Obviously we’ve got a film coming out. Uh, hopefully it’ll be coming out before December 31st. That’s the goal at least to get that done before the end of the year. Then next year, there’ll be, uh, more films and more work and more, more hilarity and nonsense from Beernuts Productions. So you just keep going onwards and upwards and pumping it out. And there’s still lots of, uh, scripts I want to make. And still lots of stories I want to tell. So the ideas bank is not dry up, not even close. There’s tons more of work that I want to do. CM: That’s awesome. Another question popped into my head as you were just describing, you know, the things that you’re making, the things that you’re producing. And I remembered a story with one of my favorite musicians and he found that in order to really make a good living as an artist, he had to produce two albums a year. And so is there like a number of films and content that you know that you have to produce each year? Or is it just whatever’s there? gough: No. Well, that, that’s a good point. So that’s been trial and error because like I say, I started in 2010 and so it’s been a real trial and error of what I should produce and how much I should produce. So that’s actually a really good point. So I found that I was making my projects too big and therefore they were costing too much money and I wasn’t able to produce enough content. So I had to, uh, pull it back, just a touch, in regards to what I was doing. Like, I mean, again, it’s not a quality thing it’s just, as in, instead of hiring 20 actors for a film, we’ll just pull it back down and we’ll do scripts that only require 10 actors for a film. You know, that sort of thing. That’s what I’m getting at, so that way I can produce a few more projects. And also again, like the last year that we’ve had with COVID, you know, has been, again, another learning experience where I was like, well, I’ve got to keep it going. So what am I going to do? We’ve got those audio pieces up on the website, the comedy audio sketches. So, okay, well, I’ve still got access to a recording studio, so I’ll punch out a whole bunch of them. And so we’ve actually done five of them this year. So we did five audio pieces where like in January I had no intention of doing five, maybe one or two audio pieces, but I ended up doing five because that’s what circumstances demanded I do. That’s a good point. It’s real trial and error to get that sort of balance right. Of how much content to produce, because you’ve got to keep it rolling as, as good as you can. CM: Yeah. And, and I always marvel in just how in tune you are with the financial side of things, like you, don’t shy away from, you know, the fact that it takes money to make money. And I appreciate that about you a lot, because a lot of people, you know, that I know are just like, “Oh, I’ll just make, you know, this passion project and put it on YouTube and cross my fingers that someone pays me money.” Whereas you’re like, “bam money right now to watch my stuff.” gough: Well, I’m of the opinion, whether this is arrogance or not, maybe you could tell me, but I’m of the opinion that my content is at a quality where it deserves to be paid for. I don’t believe that it’s crap that people should watch for free. I think it’s something that they would enjoy and therefore I deserve reimbursement for that. You know what I mean? I think that, you know, I pay my crew, I pay my actors, they get reimbursed for their work and they do great work. So ultimately I should also get reimbursed for my work. I’ve got a real thing about, there’s a lot of like filmmakers over here who do like short films and stuff, and they get actors to work for free. And I don’t, I won’t have that. Nobody on my sets have ever worked for free or been asked to work for free. I would never do that. Because again, it’s, it’s what your mum used to tell you, which is treat people how you would like to be treated. I think that my skills deserve money. So therefore I would never work for free. If somebody wanted to hire me to work on their film, I would require payment for my skills and my time. Therefore, I treat people reciprocally. I think that, you know, I need to pay them as well. CM: No, I appreciate that a lot because I think it’s a piece that sometimes gets forgotten when you’re in the earliest stages of filmmaking, where you don’t fully see the connection to the value and the financial aspect of filmmaking. gough: Well, I mean, you go to the cinema and you pay your 15 bucks or whatever it is to go and watch your movie. I mean, I know Netflix is a streaming service, but you’ve got to pay a monthly fee unless you’re one of those jerks that downloads things for free, you got to pay for your content, man. It’s only fair. I mean, I’ve got to earn a living. Well, I mean, put it this way. If people don’t download a film, then I get no money. I can’t make no more films. So everybody loses if that happens. So if you just buy it, if you download it, it’s only 5 bucks, I mean, it’s cheaper than a cup of coffee. So if you download a movie, then it means that I can make another movie and you can get more entertainment from my next movie. So everybody wins, you know what I mean? Like you gotta, it’s like you said, you’ve got to see the bigger picture, man, you know? CM: Yeah, absolutely. So if you could remake any film and make it the way you wanted to make it, what would it be? gough: Oh, that’s a very good question. It’s funny you should actually mention that. So there was an Australian film [Note: The film gough references in this section is 2.37] that was released, actually this is a light bulb moment for me. So yeah, you get your light bulb moment, Chris. CM: I get it, awesome. gough: You get it. There was a film that was made back in 2006 and Australian film, and it was made by a bunch of university students. And I remember going to the cinema and watching it and being deeply affected because it was a really heavy drama and it had a brilliant premise. And it’s like, it was really, the acting was phenomenally good. And it was made by like a 24 year old. And I’m like, in 2006, I’m like 24. And I’m like, well, shit, if he can do it, I can do it. I mean, what’s the difference, right? So that was kind of when I really started ramping up the Beernuts Productions and really started to go hard. And that film was a huge inspiration. Now on the flip side, there are, in my opinion, purely my opinion, there are some massive mistakes in that film. There’s some bad scriptwriting mistakes. And because it was only written by a young guy, he had no experience in film. It was just a, it was like a passion project, as you would say, and something that was inspired by a friend of him. And so he’d had no script writing experience. So just again, it’s purely my opinion. There’s some huge flaws in the script that require fixing. And there’s a couple of little flaws in the direction cause he directed it as well that need fixing. And I would love the chance to remake that film and just fix what I consider to be those few flaws, because the premise is so wonderful that if it was made properly well, again, I shouldn’t say properly because that’s disrespectful, but if it was made again my way, which again, sounds really bad. If I got the chance to do it my way, I think that I could turn that, what I think is a fantastic little indie film that nobody saw. I think I could turn it into just something amazing that people would, cause it really affected me. Like I actually felt really ill in the stomach when I left the cinema. Like it really, it turned my guts upside down. It really did. And so I just think if, if I was given the chance to remake that film, it would be something that, because it’s, it has a really deep message at its core. And I think it reached nobody cause no one went to go see it. And I think if I got the opportunity to make it, I think everybody would go see it. And it would, it would affect so many people and people would learn from it and it would be an amazing, awesome thing. CM: See, I’m surprised. I thought you were going to say PORKY’S. gough: Either that or NAKED GUN. Okay. We’ll go from something really serious, heavy drama to the NAKED GUN. I’d start with my remake of NAKED GUN by not hiring a double murderer. Though, in fairness back then he hadn’t killed anybody. CM: That’s right. They got their revenge, I think in the sequel where they, it was like where they pretty much put them in all the, the beat up scenarios throughout the film. gough: I guess that’s early karma, I suppose. CM: That’s right. Well on that note, gough as always, thank you for sharing your story. I am honored to hear the origin story of gough. And I appreciate just, again, the media empire that you’re building on the Gold Coast of Australia. gough: That’s right, I am in the empire business. It is true. So yeah, BeernutsProductions.com because we got to get that one last plug in for BeernutsProductions.com. Go and download stuff, it’ll change your life forever. In Australia, I don’t know about America, well, I assume it is because we copy everything you guys do because we have no original thoughts. But in Australian media, the go-to phrase at the moment is “game changer.” And I want to punch people that say that for, I hate it’s so bad. “It’s a game changer.” So just so I can fit into the landscape: Go to BeernutsProductions.com, it’s a game changer.
51 minutes | 2 months ago
“For a Force Bigger Than Myself” with Erica Taylor Davis (BYI02)
What do you do when you are going through a health crisis, and you are a filmmaker? You turn the experience into a film. When Erica Taylor Davis was diagnosed with uterine fibroids, a medical condition that 80% of African American women and 75% of Caucasian women suffer from, she saw a much larger story unfolding. In the midst of her own pain and struggle, she courageously pushed through to objectively tell her story, and the stories of countless women with the impact fibroids and endometriosis have had on their lives in a documentary called Red Alert: The Fight Against Fibroids. If you are currently struggling with gripping self-doubt as you tell your own story, I hope you find a glimmer of hope and encouragement in Erica’s story of courage, patience, and perseverance. About Erica Taylor Davis Supernova filmmaker and creator of Red Alert Movie, Erica Taylor Davis, is an experienced Producer and documentarian, with top credits in national television and radio. After producing network documentaries in Los Angeles, CA, Erica channeled her energy toward projects addressing health issues effecting women. Show Notes Red Alert: The Fight Against Fibroids Taylor Productions Erica’s Filmography on IMDb Header photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash Chris Martin Studios Transcript Erica Taylor Davis (ETD): Hi, I’m Erica Taylor Davis. I am a filmmaker and executive producer of Taylor Productions. I am also the director/producer of Red Alert: The Fight Against Fibroids documentary about women with uterine fibroids and endometriosis. I am extremely proud of that film and I’m looking forward to its release sometime next year. But the film truly hones in on the storytelling of women who are suffering from uterine fibroids and endometriosis. They’re both issues that are not talked about. And so, I would love to use this platform to try to help other women who have a lot of questions about their illnesses and their reproductive health and shed some light on those issues. Chris Martin (CM): That’s amazing. I’m curious, what got you interested in that subject? ETD: It actually was sparked from my own story. I have been suffering from fibroids for 11, almost 12 years now. CM: Wow! ETD: When I think about all of the pain and all of the issues that I’ve gone through, the surgeries, after doing research, I realized that there wasn’t very much information out there at all about this issue, but yet there are so many women. 80% of African American women and 75% of Caucasian women will suffer from fibroid tumors. CM: Wow! ETD: Yet there’s not very much information out there about the cause or the solutions that are available. There’s just not a lot out there. And so, I wondered why that was, and so I started digging. Because I’m a filmmaker and a producer, I said, “You know what? Let me just combine my talents and purpose and build something that can help other women answer the same questions that I had.” Once I had my own diagnosis and started to go through all of my health issues, I just decided that I’m going to go after this. The story gets much deeper than that. I’m sure you have more questions. But ultimately it was based upon my own journey, which is … And, Chris, let me tell you. It’s not an easy thing to do, to tell your own story, especially when you’re in your second film. Although I’m sure a lot of filmmakers will tell you it’s much easier to tell someone else’s story. So that’s a challenge in itself, in addition to trying to find and locate information that just wasn’t readily available out there in the medical industry, online, at the doctor’s office. This is information that just hasn’t been explored much. So I was dealing with a two-edged sword in that respect, telling my own story and then also dealing with the topic that’s just not widely recognized or widely discussed. CM: Yeah. Well, and I imagine too it was very challenging in that initial state, because when you’re making a documentary, you have two choices. You make a film about something else that maybe you’re connected to or not, but you’re focused on that other story and bringing that out, or you’re telling your personal story. At what point did you decide that it was going to be your story? ETD: Let me tell you what actually prompted this, and this information is on social media and it will also be told in more detail in the film. In 2019, I actually suffered a miscarriage in March. Prior to that, I had already had a fibroid surgery several years prior and I was told that I only had 0.1% chance of conceiving. CM: Wow! ETD: At the time I was told this, my fiance and I, we weren’t married yet. We just looked at each other like, “Okay, we’ve got to try to make this work.” We tried for a couple of years and nothing happened, and so, in my spirit, I gave up a bit. And so, fast forward to 2019 and I suffered a miscarriage that March, and it was a shock to me because I didn’t know I was pregnant. I just said to myself, “I’ve been through so much. How can I help other women who are going through the same thing that I’m going through?” because my miscarriage was as a result of fibroids. I just said to myself, “Okay.” I prayed about it, I said, “Okay. How do I help?” I’m going through this, but for myself and my own personality, whenever I’m going through something difficult, it makes me feel better to do something for other people. I said, “What can I do, considering what I’ve gone through? What can I do to help on a larger scale?” because this is clearly a problem. So I gave it some thought between March and, I would say, April or May, and it became definitive that I had to do this film, that I had to do something centered around what I’ve gone through so that I know my suffering wouldn’t be in vain, but also to help other women. And so, I began my fundraising efforts that June in Washington, DC. Once I opened up and started telling women who were in that same field about the film that I was doing, I wanted to tell them why I was doing it, the interest was so huge. When I started talking about my own health issues in a roomful of women that I just met, everyone seemed to open up all at the same time and say, “This is my issue as well. This is my problem, too,” and we all bonded over this health issue, which it’s bizarre. It’s sad and it’s bizarre, but it’s true. So, I said to myself, okay, so now that I know that there’s some pretty big interest here because so many women are going through this, I just kept going and I started fundraising more and started the pre-production process. Didn’t know how I was going to get this movie done, didn’t know where the money was going to come from. I knew this was an unpopular topic, Chris, and I just decided to just keep pushing forward. Well, fast forward to September of that same year, it’s almost like magic, I got pregnant again. Again, we weren’t expecting that. We weren’t “trying.” After that, I knew for sure, 100%, that I have to give this my all. So I set everything else down and gave everything to Red Alert. CM: Wow! And I imagine too, as you’re going through that initial stage of not only developing a film, I mean you’re entering a second world of emotions because not only do you have the emotions of fibroids itself and the miscarriage and all of the … I can’t even imagine what you’re going through emotionally and physically, but then, in a film, you have the emotions of making a film… ETD: Absolutely. CM: …and then the emotions of the people a part of the film. So it’s like, how do you manage all of that? ETD: I just keep it in my heart that I am doing this for a force that’s bigger than myself. CM: I like that. ETD: That’s what really keeps me going and pushing forward with the production process, because it is not for the faint of heart. I will definitely attest to that. This has not been an easy road because, like I said, it’s uncharted territory medically, but also this was my first film as a … This is my directorial debut. My first film on veganism in the Black community, I helped produce that film, but I was not the director. So I leaned on my production partner for encouragement and production assistance, but also I just have this determination to just keep pushing, keep moving, keep going. I’ve had countless setbacks not knowing what I would be doing this week or next week, but I knew I had to do something. So I knew that if I gave it my all, that eventually it’s going to pay off. Every time I might have thought that am I on the right path or just question what I was doing, there would always be something that would happen to say, “You’re on the right path,” whether it was an email from someone who came across our information on social media, saying, “This is my story, too. Thank you for doing this,” or something health-wise would happen with me. It was just the universe conspiring to just keep pushing me forward in this project. When I sit down with an individual who is telling their story for the film, which we just had to shoot a couple of days ago, and I sat down with people telling the most horrific stories about their bodies. I connect with them over the pain that they’ve experienced and how they’ve gotten over it and gotten to the other side, or we talk about the feelings that they had while they were going through it. As a producer, it’s not only a bonding experience for your talent in the chair, but it feels like your purpose just keeps getting bigger and bigger. So you’re telling a story, but you’re also telling somebody else’s story as well. So it’s just all of those factors together are what keeps me going in that. My husband and I are still on our same journey to conceive. The odds, medically, statistically, are not good, but like I told you before, I had a 0.1% chance of getting pregnant in 2019, and it happened twice. Albeit it didn’t result in a full birth, but we still beat the odds there. So I would say that just hope keeps us going. CM: Yeah. Oh my gosh. I mean as you’re describing the scenarios of sitting across from women, interviewing them about their experiences, I mean being able to communicate hope and connect through empathy seems like everything. ETD: Yeah, it’s a privilege. I look at it as a privilege because not only are these women taking out their time to talk to sometimes an absolute stranger about their health issue, I feel very blessed to have been chosen to tell this story, even though it’s birthed out of my own pain, anxiety and anguish and infertility and just medical issues. But I just feel really blessed to be in this position where I can help other women, even though it’s my story, too. CM: I imagine, when you’re in these moments, there’s a lot of loneliness. ETD: There is. It’s a seesaw effect. It’s like one minute you’re pumped up and you’re excited about the film and possibilities of where this could go and who this could help, but at the same time I still have to deal with my own medical reports, my own test results, my own issues and know that no matter what I do with this film, I still don’t know the end to my own story yet. We’re still in it. There is a lot of emotion built into that, and I have an amazing husband who helps me through that process. I have to pray for him as well because there is a man here involved in all this too, and he has emotions as well about it. So just the combination of all that can be very taxing emotionally. But I’m very grounded in prayer and meditation and spirituality, and that’s really what keeps me together during a lot of this. CM: Yeah, wow! ETD: But don’t get me wrong. I will tear up with my talent. We will share emotion together, but we get through it and get the material done, too. CM: Yeah, because if you didn’t have the emotion, it’s like you haven’t fully processed what you’ve gone through then, if you’re almost numb to it. ETD: Right, absolutely. I mean time and again you see stories out there about production and being the director and producer. One of the things that a lot of successful directors will tell you, I think I heard this from Ken Burns recently in MasterClass, is about connecting to the story. You really have to be able to make that personal connection to the story, and that’s how you’re able to bring out the best of whatever subject matter is that you’re doing. So you don’t want to just arbitrarily take on any random project for the money. Some directors may think they may just want to do it for fame or whatever other reason they may have. But if you don’t have a real connection to that story, it’s going to come across in your final project. It’s going to come across in your communication about that project, any written correspondence about that project. People aren’t going to really truly be able to connect with it, because when you truly connect with the story, then you’re able to enter in all those subtle nuances that make a film great. CM: I love that. I love that connection to the story, the personal connection to the story, because making an independent film is hard. It’s a struggle. ETD: It is. CM: And you have to be in it. There’s no second-guessing. There’s no doubt or… ETD: No, not at all. It’s 100%. You have to do it 100%. A lot of times, I think what happens is if you’re not truly dedicated to your topic, to your subject, and to your story, then what usually happens is the film either doesn’t get done or it gets done and it’s a mediocre response to it. But you can truly tell when someone really puts their all into something, and that really makes a difference in how the audience reacts to it. CM: Yeah. So when you were in the moment of going through the fibroid struggles initially, and the idea of making a film about this popped into your head, did you automatically go to feature-length documentary or did you think, “Well, maybe I’ll test the waters with something smaller”? ETD: Chris, I wasn’t sure where I was going to go with it. In my heart of hearts, I wanted to do a full-length feature because the first film I worked on, The Invisible Vegan, that was a full-length feature. And so, that’s all I knew. Then at the same time, I had produced a docuseries on the TV One network that was an hour long, and I knew that would be an easier thing for me to do because I knew the format, I knew how to make that work. But as I started to really develop the story, started to really do my research, I realized that it’s going to take more than a short. It’s going to take more than social media videos. Really, the story truly needs to be developed. Additionally, with my own story constantly developing, I’m realizing, wow, there’s a lot of material here. I went back and forth a little bit in the very beginning, but for the most part I knew I wanted to do a full-length feature film, and most importantly because there hasn’t been one truly done on this topic effectively, not in the manner in which I’m looking to do it in. I have so much inspiration out there with the streaming services namely Netflix, Amazon Prime, of great artistic films that can still educate. And so, those films really sparked my interest in doing something that was full-length. CM: Wow! That’s really cool. So you get the idea, you’re doing the research. At what point did it become something more than just your personal story? When was that first moment of, “Wow! This is someone else’s story, too”? ETD: Oh, it was definitely day one of production. I reached out to women all over. Specifically, I started with my own close circle, because this is an issue that is widespread among African American women and I am an African American woman. I look to just the people around me and I was able to find some women who wanted to share their stories. But even though I did the pre-interview I didn’t go into great detail about their story because I wanted to save it for the camera. So on day one of production, once I finally sat down with, I would say, my second or third individual, I realized this is so much bigger than me. It really is. The stories these women were telling were about these tumors that were just invading their bodies in really evasive ways. Granted I’ve had the same issues, but these tumors can vary in size and they can grow to a magnanimous size. I have a clip on our social media page of a woman who describes how her’s grew into … It was so large that it pushed up against her chest cavity. CM: Oh, wow! ETD: And this is a tumor in her uterus. CM: Wow! ETD: People don’t think that this is something that can actually happen or they think that it’s so far-fetched. It’s something that can only happen internationally or in a less developed country or something. No, this is happening right here to women that we all know. Listening to women tell these stories and how it affected their daily and their monthly lives and how it affected their relationships and their self-mirrors, their confidence. The story lines just go on and on, and the drama behind this issue is just… It’s almost ridiculous that we have to deal with this. And so, once I sat down with them, start to sit down with women, on day one of production, I was inspired. I just said I have to try to include as many women as I can in this to tell their story so people truly get the idea and they understand how serious this really is. CM: Yeah, wow! Wow! ETD: Yeah. It’s scary, but it’s true. It’s what a lot of women deal with on a regular basis. I spoke with a young lady on Friday, whose surgical procedure was botched, unfortunately. I’m going to save the strict details of that to the film, but she had great suffering behind that botched surgery. One of the other topics that we’ll be touching is medical care, because there’s a lot of physicians out there that dismiss this. You can even see it, if you do a Google search on this issue, the descriptions out there are very watered down. They’re not very detailed. And if they are detailed, then it’s something very clinical. But it’s written off a little bit, just to say, oh, this is a common problem and this is just what needs to happen. It’s really sad that the explanations are even like that. But there’s a great number of women out there suffering, like I said in the statistics. It’s true and it’s overwhelming that 80% of African American women will suffer from these by age 50. That’s burned into my brain and I truly want that to be at the top of mind for our medical experts out there, our gynecologists out there, our obstetricians out there. I want to bring this to the forefront because it’s out there, it’s true. CM: So as you connect with these women and tell their stories, how are they changing through the telling of their own story? ETD: Oh, my goodness. I think that the interviews are serving almost as a therapy session. I am, by no means, a licensed therapist, but sometimes I like to say, as producers, we are licensed therapist. CM: Yeah. ETD: We’ve done enough to deserve a license. But once we finish with our interview, typically there has been some tearing up. There have been emotional interviews. The women typically end and just say thank you. They say, “Thank you for letting me share my story, letting me get it out there.” It’s a cleansing, I think, for them to be able to get that out, because you’re in a bubble almost where you feel like no one cares what you’re going through, because if you feel like you’re alone, you feel like you’re the only person going through this, and you’re not. There’s a huge number of women going through these issues. But when you’re in the thick of it, it’s really easy to isolate yourself and say that you’re the only one that’s dealing with this and you feel like your body won’t do something that you’re asking it to do, that it was designed to do. There’s a loneliness about that. So once we’ve done the interview, hopefully have asked the appropriate questions, the women typically are feeling relieved. They’re feeling almost a little bit of honor even, I’ve been told, that they’ve been placed in that chair to tell their story and someone cares. It’s also inspired them to talk about it more in social media and be more active in the community of women that are suffering or have suffered from things that they’ve suffered from. Like I said, it’s a blessed place to be in. CM: Yeah. What a powerful place to be in too because this is just but one example where when you can empower the telling of someone’s story, that they open up, and beyond just the context of a film. I mean that is an important consideration for everyone to do, not just in the context of talking about making film but just the power of someone’s story. ETD: Absolutely. Storytelling, that term has blown up, I think, quite a bit over the past five years or so. As producers, we’ve been storytelling. I’ve been storytelling for almost 18 years. But storytelling is really how people connect to themselves and connect to one another. I think it’s one of the most powerful forces out there, because when we share with one another, we’re letting people know that they’re not the only ones who are going through something, but we’re also connecting people to something bigger than themselves and connecting them to stories that can be across the world, letting them know that the world is bigger than their own community or bigger than their own state or bigger than their own country. We’re connecting people around the world with stories. To me, that’s a really honorable place to be in. CM: Yeah. I’m ready to jump up and down over the description of storytelling. I was just like, “Yes!” That is amazing. That’s exactly the feeling when you watch something that really connects to that human need of connection. ETD: Absolutely, yeah. I mean if you do it carefully and do it right, I think that you can reach a larger audience. That’s always my philosophy when I’m telling a story is always remember what it’s like to be on the other side of the camera. Always remember that. CM: What’s interesting too is not only do you have the job of connecting to women who this is their story, but you’re also connecting to an audience as well. You mentioned a little bit about telling the story well in order to bring people in, but how else are you connecting to the larger audience for this film? ETD: I’m also doing outreach on social media, making sure that we present some facts about the issues out there to our social media audience, to our followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and LinkedIn as well, doing these podcasts. I’ve talked to people’s audiences about the film and about my own physical struggle and how I’ve overcome that and still overcoming that. Most recently, we have some information coming soon about teaming up with a fibroid treatment center that will serve as our title sponsor. CM: Oh, wow! ETD: And so, we’re going to be utilizing their platforms as well to be talking about the film and talking about fibroid treatment, and hopefully helping people on a larger scale that way. CM: That seems to be the biggest struggle right now when there are so many options out there for entertainment and even education. There’s so many options out there for our time and for our eyes and, in some instances, even for our hearts. And so, I love the approach that you’re taking of making sure that you’re telling the personal story, but also these are the facts. These are the things that people are struggling with. ETD: Absolutely. I appreciate that, Chris. Like I said, it’s not easy. Telling my own story means that I have to come out of my own shell and sometimes be seen on camera, which is something that I wasn’t necessarily thinking I was going to do. When I decided I wanted to become a producer, it was all about telling stories or telling someone else’s story. But telling my own story, that’s a whole different ball of wax. So I found a courage within to get myself out there and hopefully help people through that story and gotten over myself, so to speak, seeing myself on camera, and just know that it’s for a greater purpose. CM: Yeah. Well, I imagine too there might have been some why are you making a film about yourself? Are you that conceited? Are you that … Because sometimes that happens when we make something about us. Did it help overcome that, that it was something health related, something tremendously personal instead of just ego or identity? ETD: It’s funny. Thankfully, I’ve surrounded myself with people who never really questioned my intention when it came to telling that story. So I’m really thankful for that. I think if anyone would have asked that question of how dare you make something about yourself, it probably would have been me upfront… CM: Oh, wow! ETD: …asking myself that, just to do a self-check and say am I worth it? Am I worth telling this story? Does anybody really want to hear this? After I had some prayer about that and some meditation about that, over and over again, by the way, I also … Like I said, I have a production partner and she helps me push things along when I might get stifled by creativity or stifled by my own self-doubt. And so, having someone in my corner like her, and most certainly, first and foremost, my husband too, they are my biggest cheerleaders. They’ve encouraged me to keep pushing, keep telling my story. Eventually I got over that hump, the “how dare you” hump, and just decided that this is not just about me, but it’s a great way for me to use this to help other women as well. So it just fit and it just worked, because if I hadn’t gone through the fibroid journey, then I probably wouldn’t be doing this film and I probably would not truly understand what the women in the chairs were telling me when it came to their stories and their struggle. So I think that it’s one of those everything happens for a reason type deals. While you’ll be seeing my transition, you won’t be just directed towards that. You’ll have all this other information and all these other stories as well that are surrounding it to help emphasize the importance of the subject. CM: Because what’s interesting too is not only is having that personal story help in recruiting other stories, connecting with them, bringing out their stories, but I have to imagine it helps when you’re fundraising as well, when you have that personal connection to what you’re talking about. ETD: Oh, absolutely. I can speak more on this after the ink dries. But I have connected with the fibroid center, and they were very engrossed in my story and the fact that I had gone through this and I’m doing a movie about it. So it’s a package deal. They were very interested in myself as well as the film. So that part of it definitely made it more attractive for them to want to be drawn to a sponsorship for the film. And that was definitely not an easy get. I’ve been fundraising daily for over a year and a half now. You hope when you get these ideas and they start spewing out, and you want to go full speed ahead on your projects and there’s just no funding there. You’re like, “What in the world? Doesn’t everyone know how important this is? No, they don’t.” So the fundraising part of it, that was hands down the most difficult part about making this film. It wasn’t even storytelling. It was the fundraising. I had to put my own funds into it as well, of course, because for anything to be great, you have to have skin in the game. The fundraising part definitely… Especially for a topic that was unpopular, most of the organizations out there that are doing anything about women with fibroids, they’re organizations themselves are foundations. They’re 501c3s. They’re looking for money. They’re not necessarily looking to put money out there especially for film projects. So, yeah, it was tough. Definitely doable, but it was tough. CM: Yeah, because you can read all of the articles, all the books in the world about fundraising, and it’s not until you’re sitting across from someone, pitching the idea where it really comes to life. ETD: You just never know where that blessing is going to come from. My biggest advice to anyone who is really trying to make their film happen or make their project happen is just to keep pushing, just keep going. The more people that know about your project, know what you’re trying to do, you don’t have to give them all your ins and outs, but if people know that you’re doing something for a greater cause, there’s someone out there that’s going to want to help you with your cause. In whatever way, shape, form, or fashion that help comes in, it’s out there. I’ve had people come along and want to be a part of the team just for the experience or just because they believe in the cause. So sometimes that fundraising and that help may come in other ways other than just monies. It may actually come in the way of someone saying, “Hey, let me serve as your AP for a while,” or, “Let me be a production assistant on your set,” or something like that, which that has happened for people who just want the experience or they just want to be around this thing because it’s so huge and it’s so wonderful and because it’s helping other people. So I would just tell them to just keep pushing, keep giving yourself that exposure. Social media is a great platform. That’s definitely how I got my sponsors. CM: I think also an important thing too is the mindset that it’s a blessing. You’ve said this several times, and it strikes me just how important that mindset is, the funds, the relationship with these women, the audience. It’s, in a way, all a blessing to you. ETD: It really is. I mean there’s no other way to put it. It’s a blessing and I would say an honor as well. It’s not easy to be put in this position. This particular profession that I chose is not an easy one. Like I said before, it’s not for the faint of heart. But once you see the payoff, once you see the footage, once you see the emotion in someone’s eyes and the relief once they’ve told their story, or you’ve seen someone watching something that you’ve done and learning something, I mean there’s no bigger feeling. There’s no bigger blessing than seeing someone’s reaction, a positive reaction, to a story that you’ve told. It’s an honorable position to handle someone’s story carefully and present it to a large audience of people. There’s just no bigger blessing. There’s just not. CM: Yeah. How has your journey over the past, what, 18 years you said as a producer? ETD: Yes, nearly 18 years. CM: That’s amazing. How has this experience making Red Alert changed your relationship to what you’ve done for the past 18 years? ETD: Oh, my goodness. Well, my production career started in radio, national radio. CM: Oh, wow! ETD: And national radio is theater of the mind. You can tell a story audibly, but people don’t have the visual. So that’s where I learned to start telling stories was through radio. I was writing scripts for the host, I was writing feature bits for the host and coming up with our creative strategy basically on a daily and a weekly basis. So that prepared me and pushed me towards what I chose to do starting in 2011, which was storytelling visually. The transition from radio to television, I won’t say it was easy. Thankfully, I was in the same space, where the first show that I worked on for television was dealing with music artists, which were some of the same artists I was working with in radio. So that was a healthy transition there. But once I started to transition off to television and working on that docuseries, I got to spend more one-on-one time with my talent and developing the story more. So there is a lot more research that’s involved in doing the interviews and telling their stories about their lives and how they overcame their challenges. And so, I was able to find more human connection in that, in just doing the outlines and reading about their histories and in talking to them. Then once we sat down in the chair on set, then I was able to really roll through a timeline of their lives and I began to understand what storytelling meant on that level. It wasn’t just letting someone talk for hours. You have to really be able to take them from one point to another in their lives, because even though we are masters of ourselves, we still sometimes need structure to get from one point to another so that others can understand it. And so, transitioning from behind the mic to behind the camera, in that respect, I began to understand storytelling a lot more structurally. So then transforming that into film, and I’m bringing the same understanding of storytelling, but now I’m on an even wider scale and adding more time to that story. There’s even more components that are needed. So I’ve grown from one spectrum to another as a producer when it comes to understanding how a story is formed and how it can be developed and how it can be told. I continue learning. I believe that you have to stay curious. I hope to stay curious until the day I leave this earth. I stay curious about processes and how to make them better and how to make them easier. Hopefully I’ll just keep getting project after project and developing stories one after the other so that I can hone that skill even more the next time. CM: So the question in my mind this: when do you know the project’s done? ETD: That’s a really tough question for someone who’s a perfectionist. It’ll be done when I’m able to see it from beginning to end and not have any questions about a scene or an interview, or I feel like I have developed each point enough. I feel like a wide range of people can connect to it, even if they’ve never heard the word fibroid. Then as long as I know when I see the final project that those folks can connect with the story, then I would probably consider it done. When I feel like I’ve truly helped people understand how important this subject matter is, how important awareness is, then I’ll know my job is done. It’ll probably come after doing perhaps a screening with those folks who don’t have the issue or if I’m… I’ll put it this way: If a man can watch it from beginning to end and be okay with it, then I’ll probably know it’s probably about done. But, yeah, I’m my own worst critic, but I know that at some point I’ll have to walk away from it and say it’s done. I have a strong sneaking suspicion, Chris, that this story is going to develop with my own story. So I think that probably when I get to that “point”, whatever that point is in my life and in my own medical history, that it’ll be done. I think God will let me know when it’s time for the cameras to stop rolling and the edit bay to close out. I think he’ll let me know. CM: I love that the film is connected to your physical presence as well in a way that seems different than other films, since it’s so tied to your own personal journey. I love that connection so much because so much of media and stories often seem just ephemeral or outside of us. I just love that connection. ETD: If someone would have asked me if this is where I would be five years ago, I would have thought they were lying. I never would have pictured myself doing this at this moment. But, honestly, when I did decide to do it, there was no mistaking. There was no question in my mind that this is what I needed to do. Anytime I might have had any doubt just for a moment later on in the process, there would always be something reassuring me and saying, “You’re on the right path. Keep doing this. Keep doing what you’re doing.” I use that blessed reassurance to keep pushing forward. Even though I may not see where I’m going, I may not know where my resources were coming from, I just kept going, and I’m still going. We’re still going at it. Storytelling, making a documentary, especially when dealing with a medical subject matter, takes an incredible amount of patience. I have developed that over the past year because I’ve been so anxious about getting this done, getting this out, that it’s not on my timing. It’s definitely on God’s timing. And I don’t have access to that clock, not just yet. So it’s taken an incredible amount of patience for me to keep this thing going. I’ll have a shoot day in November of last year, but we didn’t have another shoot day until March of the following year. CM: Wow! ETD: That meant there was just more pre-production time in between. But when I was working in radio or when I was working in Los Angeles, in Hollywood, in television, everything happened all at once. You get a show, you plan your shoots to be a certain amount, a month or two or something like that, whatever it took. You have six shoot days, you get it done. This has taken over a year and a half and we’re still not done. So I’m planning for things to be done next spring. Thankfully, now that we have a sponsor, we can definitely stick to that schedule. But it has taken an incredible amount of patience to be okay with where we are in the story right now, and that’s okay. CM: Yeah. Oh, the whole topic of patience in filmmaking, especially the world of independent filmmaking, I mean if you aren’t patient, I imagine you just get wrecked pretty quick. ETD: Yeah, you can. You can go stir crazy with this. Then let’s throw in a pandemic in between them. Let’s make it so that you can’t even walk outside. Yeah, there’s an opportunity for madness in that recipe. So it really is just about patience. You can never stop learning. You can never stop researching, you can never stop thinking about different angles or seeking out people’s stories or thinking about different elements that you can add. So I just use that time to do just that, just to see how could I make this part better? How could I extend this part? How could I shorten this part? Would this be more interesting if I phrase this that way? There’s so many moving parts and so many components, and there was a lot of this that I was doing on my own. I also had to take out time to seek out assistance and seek out other people who could connect with the story and maybe get their feedback about something, because when you try to do something all on your own, it’s virtually impossible. So I just fill that time with those elements and it built patience within me. CM: It’s interesting. I didn’t fully think right away the whole idea of being able to distance yourself enough to be objective about what you’re doing. ETD: Yeah, that’s not necessarily easy, but I try to work really hard at doing that. One of the things I mentioned before is always remember what it’s like to be on the other side of the camera. So that’s one of the things that tries to keep me objective. It’s a documentary, so I want to make sure that my viewpoints are coming from all different directions. I want to make sure that I’m covering everything and not biased to one treatment or another, or biased to one story or another. So I want to make sure that I give equal time to different types of treatments and different women’s stories, because, say, for instance, I present the story of a woman who decided to have a hysterectomy and she felt like it was one of the best things she could have ever done. Well, then I might present the story of a woman who was still of childbearing age and was forced to have a hysterectomy. So I have both of those stories in there. They’re conflicting, so I want to make sure that I’m covering all my bases, especially when it comes to treatment. There’s also some conflicts around treatment. Some people may say having embolization is the way. Another doctor may say embolization is not the way. So I want to make sure that I present all those different viewpoints as well to make sure that I stay in an objective place with it. CM: Absolutely, because I would imagine, with something so personal to women, that if they heard just one angle, and maybe it was part of their journey and it didn’t work for them, what was once hope could become crushing despair if you weren’t objective. ETD: Yeah, it’s such a sensitive topic that you definitely want to keep some objectivity in there. Because it’s uncharted territory, you definitely want to keep things objective. Every woman is different. Every woman’s story is different. Not all women are as concerned about fertility as other women. So you definitely want to be sensitive to what women are going through. I know that because I have a personal interest in this story, I know the feelings that I’ve had about it. I know with my own health issues and the struggles that I’ve had with us trying to conceive for three years now with no full success, there are some sensitivities that I have as well. So I definitely want to make sure that this is something that is going to bring up the right emotions, the emotions that spark awareness, the emotions that spark change, not something that’s going to have people targeting in on one part of the story that might bring the wrong emotion. So I want to be careful and balance that, so that’s why I try to make sure that I have all the different types of stories in there. CM: Yeah, amazing. So as you move forward and you wrap up the film and you release it and continue the story, what do you hope that you never forget about this journey of making this film? ETD: Well, I’m hoping that, again, I can hold on to that patience and understanding that I can’t have everything I want all at once, which is something that I desire for my films and my projects, understanding that it takes time to develop the story. I hope I can hold on to all those feelings. But also the biggest thing, Chris, is that I want to hold on to the courage that it took for me to do this. It took courage for me to put myself out there to strangers. It’s taken courage for me to reach out to women and ask them to come and sit in a stranger’s chair and tell their most intimate stories. I want to make sure that I hold on to that courage. I want to make sure that I remember the purpose, that I remember why I did this, that I remember why it was important for me to shed any insecurities and do this. So I want to definitely carry that forward as a filmmaker. I want to make sure that I tell the story without fear. I think that it takes a certain fearlessness to be in this space, and this is truly helping me to shed any fears that I have about what people might think about my story or what people might think about me choosing this subject. I want to hold on to all of that. CM: Thank you so much for your courage. I know for myself I’m emboldened today by your courage to share and to create this film and share your personal story, because it’s not easy, but when you see other people doing it and you experience their genuine capacity and care for others, you can’t not be inspired to act courageously. So thank you for that. ETD: No problem. I am really honored and I appreciate you allowing me to be on your podcast and share this story with others. I hope even if just one person is inspired to keep going and to reach out for their dream, I’m satisfied. So I’m really thankful that you’ve allowed me to be on the show to talk about the film. I could probably talk about this film every day for the rest of my life and never get tired. CM: That’s a good sign of something that’s important to you. ETD: Yeah, absolutely. CM: So where can people learn more about you, your film, and help support the completion of it? ETD: You can go to our website, which is www.redalertmovie.com. There are options on there to give to the film. I also have sponsorships still available. So they can either go through the website for that to connect with me or we can connect on social media. Specifically, Instagram is a great way to connect. Our handle on Instagram is @redalertmovie. You can DM me there or my staff. They will get the message to me. If you’re a woman who’s suffering from fibroids, I’d love to hear from you, or endometriosis. I’d love to hear from you. With what we’ve got going on, hopefully they won’t have too much trouble finding me with our new ambassadorships that we have coming soon. On Twitter, we are @fibroidmovie. So we can be reached out there as well, and on Facebook. There’s Red Alert Movie on Facebook as well. Or if people just want to reach out to me personally on Facebook, I am @Soulglo76. So they can reach out to me on Instagram there as well. So yeah. CM: Amazing. Erica, thank you so much for taking time and sharing your story. It is an honor. ETD: It’s an honor to speak with you too, Chris. Best luck to you with your podcast. You’re doing great. I love the subject matter. And I can’t wait to hear more. I’ll stay tuned.
55 minutes | 3 months ago
“Filmmaking for Life” with Beth Harrington and Kelley Baker (BYI01)
The question at the heart of this conversation was inspired by a moment of brutal truth on a recent job: How does filmmaking change as you get older? As I scrambled to the top of a semi to get the shot, I stood there and thought, “I’m not getting any younger. One day, I won’t be able to do this.” I reached out to two filmmakers I madly respect, Beth Harrington and the Angry Filmmaker, Kelley Baker. We had a fun and engaging conversation about the changing nature of filmmaking as you get older. With over 40 years each into their careers, both continually move forward into the future, telling stories that matter to them, building supportive communities, remaining fiercely independent, and realizing that they are in this pursuit for life. About Beth Harrington Beth Harrington is an independent producer, director and writer, whose fervor for American history, music and culture has led to a series of award-winning and critically acclaimed films. Whether exploring the aftermath of the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, chronicling the history of the Aleutian Islands or drinking up the world of craft beer brewing, Beth seamlessly straddles the line between objective journalistic integrity and a passion for every subject. As a result, her films are both thought provoking and heartfelt. Beth’s most recent works, The Winding Stream – The Carters, The Cashes and The Course of Country Music and the Grammy-nominated Welcome to the Club – The Women of Rockabilly, reflect her long-standing love of music. A rock and roll singer and guitarist, she is most noted for her years as a member of Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers on the Warner Bros. Sire Records label. Beth’s Website Beth’s Filmography on IMDb About Kelley Baker, Angry Filmmaker I am the poster boy for bad decision making in the Independent Film World. I’ve written three books, made three features, eight short films, some documentaries, and a ton of corporate videos and commercials. I’ve worked on other people’s films as an editor and sound designer for the last 35 years. There are certain truths I have learned, and certain things and people I shouldn’t have listened to. I have messed up my life financially, emotionally, and probably physically and it’s all been for the love of movies. My movies. I was named the Angry Filmmaker by others. They watched my films and listened to me speak about the realities of the independent film scene. They came up with that name. I’ve embraced it. Kelley’s Website Kelley’s Filmography on IMDb Show Notes NW Film Center Women in Film Photo by Anika Mikkelson on Unsplash Chris Martin Studios Transcript Beth Harrington (BH): I’m Beth Harrington, I’ve been a filmmaker for 40-plus years now. I have always been in a world of art and media. My family was very art oriented and my dad was in advertising. Both my folks went to art school. So that’s something that’s been like an undercurrent of my life, all my life. So, it isn’t a huge leap that I became a documentary filmmaker, or a filmmaker in general. I would say that lately I’ve been looking at my life and looking at the times we’re living in and trying to figure out what about being a documentary filmmaker is different in the time of COVID, and I’ve finally decided that it’s not that different. It’s always been a struggle and it’s always been required that I be scrappy and get stuff done, and so, that’s kind of still where I am. So, I’ve been looking at my life lately a lot and thinking, “Well, how is this any different than before?” Kelley Baker (KB): I am Kelley Baker, I am known as the Angry Filmmaker, and like Beth, I’ve been doing this, I just thought about this about a week ago, I’ve been doing this for 40-plus years. You wake up one morning and you think, “What the hell happened?” Because, I’m 64 and I don’t feel at all… I still feel like I’m this young, dumb filmmaker trying to get something done. My background in my family had nothing to do with art. I was always the black sheep. I mean, my father sold used cars and my mother worked in a bank. And so, there’s that old saying, “Everybody wants a Van Gogh in their living room. Nobody wants their kid to be Van Gogh.” And I think my poor parents ended up with Van Gogh, to a certain extent. I mean, I just was not what they were expecting, and so my journey has always been really, really different because I didn’t have the background. I met people who had the background, like Beth. We’ve been friends for 20-something years I think. BH: Yeah. KB: But, for me it was just kind of like, in relationship to family, I’m boldly going where no one in my family ever went. And to end up, I went to USC’s film school which totally blew my mind back in the day. And so, like I said, my journey has been, I think, I don’t know if it’s different than some. I mean, it is my journey. A nd like Beth said, you hit a point and you start looking back and you’re thinking about what you’ve done or where you’re going to go. And one of the projects I’m currently working on, which I hate to even talk about, it’s a film I shot, did most the work on 30 years ago, and I’m editing it now, and I’m looking at the work of this kid and I’m really critical of myself. It’s like, “What a boy, I didn’t know shit back then.” And now I’m trying to save this thing. And maybe I’m being too hard on myself. I mean, I knew what I was doing, but I didn’t have the life experience that I have now. And so, obviously, I think the film is going to be a better film now than it would have if I would have finished it 30 years ago. Chris Martin (CM): Yeah, what’s interesting… Thank you both for sharing just a glimpse into your journey because I’m kind of, I would say, right in the middle for myself, where I’ve recently woken up, going, “Holy shit, it’s been 20 years.” And so as I think moving forward, I notice the shift and I’m curious when the shift happened for you. But recently I was climbing around in a truck documenting Christmas trees moving around, and I’m standing on top of this semi shooting down at all these trees coming in, and I literally said in my head, “I’m not going to be able to do this one day.” BH: Mm-hmm (affirmative). KB: Mm-hmm (affirmative). BH: Yeah. CM: And that was just a huge mind shift of, “Wow, you can still do this,” but it changes drastically. When was that moment for you? BH: It’s funny, I feel like I have had those moments, but it’s more that I’m trying to figure out when the place is to say, “Oh, yeah, I should stop doing that particular thing.” KB: Yeah. BH: Maybe it’s a gender thing, too, but I’ve noticed when I’m, in the last 10 years of my career, when I go out with crews on various shoots, it’s still true—especially when I have been working with Oregon Public Broadcasting all these years—that most of the crew are men and arguably some of them are stronger than me, physically. And I’ve noticed that there was a point where I was allowed to help move things, and always wanted to. As a producer and director I always felt you can’t be precious about the stuff, I will pick up a case and move it or I will help with sandbags or whatever it is. And there was a point where people were rushing over to stop me from doing things, and that’s when I started thinking, “Oh, wait a minute, there’s something going on perception-wise where they think I shouldn’t be doing this.” And then I had to say, “Well, should I or shouldn’t I?” Because I still go to the gym, I still lift weights, I still workout all the time, I walk a lot. I’m very healthy. So it’s like, “Should I be stopping?” So I still do it, and I have to fight a little bit to do it, some days. But I do understand that there’s a point where you look at things and go, “Yeah, maybe I shouldn’t be up on that ladder doing that thing.” Only because the consequences are so much different now. CM: Right. KB: Yeah, when we were younger we used to bounce- BH: Yes. KB: … when we’d fall. I don’t know, now, I think I splat. Or I crack, or something. I still don’t have that feeling I shouldn’t be doing this. BH: Mm-hmm (affirmative). KB: Like Beth, I work out too, and I walk, and I try to keep myself in decent shape. I did notice years ago that crews, when I’m directing stuff, they don’t want me moving stuff around either, but, as my gaffer explained to me, it’s a respect issue. BH: Right. KB: So maybe that’s what it is with you, too, Beth. It’s like- BH: Nah. It’s not… KB: Yeah. No, no. But that surprised me, too. It’s like, “You don’t have to do this,” because I was always first on set, last to leave. And any more it’s been, when we’re finished shooting, they’re all looking at me, like, “You can go now.” And I’m just like, “Yeah, but I need to be here in case you guys need any help with anything,” and they just look at me like, “We don’t need any help. We’re good.” And I still think I’m doing a lot of the stuff that I used to do with this pandemic going on. The thing that’s interesting for me is, I tour a lot and I’m on the road showing my work and all this other stuff, and I haven’t… My last tour was 2017, but I find myself missing the road, but I don’t know if I can do the road anymore. And I think that’s an age thing. BH: That gets old. Yeah. KB: Yeah, two months at a time in the van, me and the dog. But, I never thought about it in that way. I thought touring will always be a part of my filmmaker existence, but I’m realizing now that that’s probably going to be the first thing that actually goes. BH: The traveling involved with filmmaking, and in your case, also, touring, I did a bunch of touring with my last film, and, yeah, there is a point where you’re just driving yourself places and you’re tired, and you still have to be on in the destination you’re going to. KB: Absolutely. BH: That gets wearisome, and I don’t know if it’s just a question of pacing. I mean, I’m reminded today, today is the birthday of my friend Wanda Jackson who was in one of my music films- KB: Yes. BH: … and that Wanda is the queen of Rockabilly, for those who don’t know, and she’s 83 today. CM: Oh, wow. BH: And she just retired last year. And she’d been on the road since she was 17. Now, in the music business. But most of those years were extremely hard touring, and when I think about stopping doing what I’m doing, which almost seems out of the question all the time, and touring is a part of that, I think, “Yeah, but what about Wanda?” And Wanda just quit at the age of 82. So I think some of it is what you’re willing to do and what you’re willing to put yourself through, because she put herself through a lot. I think it’s an individual choice for us, but a lot of it is pacing and a lot of it is having some support around you when you do it. KB: Yes. Yes. Support, absolutely. BH: We’ve been doing this by ourselves. Kelley, you get in the car and drive by yourself. KB: Right. BH: And I was doing that for what I was doing. And that’s tough. KB: Yeah, especially, and I mean, I travel with my dog, but they can’t drive, they don’t have opposable thumbs. BH: No. No. Can he go into the burger place and get you a burger? KB: No, but what they can- BH: You can’t trust him to bring it back anyway… KB: I was going to say, but what they can do is they can take questions from the audience, because the audience always wants to pat the damn dog. They could care less about talking to me, so it’s like, “I need a break here. Pe t the dog. I’ll be back in 20 minutes. He’ll be fine.” BH: Well, that’s good. KB: Yeah. But, yeah, I think the whole… Why should we stop doing what we love? BH: I don’t want to stop. KB: Somebody asked me once, “What are you going to do when you retire?” And I thought, “Retire? What an interesting concept.” But I said, “If I were to retire I think I’d write books and I’ll make films.” Oh, shit. BH: Right. KB: I’ve been retired- CM: That’s what you’re doing now. KB: … since I was 24. BH: And there are also parts of my career, there were whole years that went by where I was like, “Oh, I didn’t get a lot of work this year. Maybe I am retired.” And that was when I was 50. So, I may have already retired a long time ago and not known it. KB: This is your second career. You’ve come back. You’ve come out of retirement like every good rock ‘n’ roll musician- BH: Like Cher. KB: Yeah. That’s right. BH: I’m the Cher of documentary filmmaking. CM: Please put that on your website. BH: I want the Bob Mackie outfit to go with it, though. KB: There we go. And soon there’s going to be a bunch of Beth impersonators out there. BH: Excellent. I look forward to that day. CM: I love the idea so much that you don’t think about retirement and that you would do this forever, because I think for a lot of people there is that dream of just like, “I’ll find massive success, I’ll have all the money in the bank, and then I can just let that go and do something else.” But, you’ve been at this for over 40 years, it’s who you are. BH: Yeah. KB: But the other thing, though, is define success. BH: Right. KB: Because I get that all the time. “Are you rich?” “Oh, hell, no. I’m still just getting by month-to-month.” I mean, truly, it wasn’t until a few years ago, thank you to the Obamacare, that I had health insurance. But, in my mind, I’ve been very successful because for 40-plus years I’ve done what I love to do. BH: Right. KB: The financial rewards, certainly. You have some, “One of these days I’m going to be a big success.” You know, hardly. But every day I get up and I can hardly wait to keep doing what I do. And to me, that’s certainly successful after 40 years, even if I have nothing to show for it, outwardly. BH: And that’s what people who do more traditional work in the world, have a nine-to-five job and work towards amassing money, which is not… Never been my goal- KB: Right. BH: … fortunately for me, because I’m in the same place you are, Kelley. My income has fluctuated wildly and has never been great. KB: Oh, yeah. BH: Even in its heyday it was never great, but, heyday was many years ago. KB: True. Right, absolutely. BH: But, I think a lot of people want to do when they retire, kick back, have time to do creative stuff, have time to write or paint or make a short film, or whatever it is, and travel. Those things have been a part of my life, like you say, for so long that retirement doesn’t seem to hold any allure for me because that landscape is already so much a part of my life. So, meeting people, going places, making things with a team, that’s been really fun. I think a lot of people want that in retirement, and frankly- KB: Maybe- BH: … it might be too late for some people. It might not happen for them, and I’ve been happy, too, that I kind of seize the… Carpe the diem, as they say. KB: There we go. Well, maybe for us when we retire we can go to work at Walmart or something, and have a real job. BH: That could happen, actually. Don’t you go kidding now. KB: You never know. BH: You never know. Oh, my God. Yeah. CM: One of the interesting things, Kelley… There’s the question that people like to ask, “What advice would you give to your younger self?” But I love that you share it, that you’re actually, in a way, working with your younger self. KB: Yeah. CM: And so, what are you learning about who you are today, as you explore the past? KB: One of the great things here at my advanced age is life experience. I realized doing this documentary that I could have made a very fine, perfectly boring, Ken Burns kind of movie 30 years ago, but I didn’t have the life experience to really make the movie that needs to be made. The advice that I’d give to other filmmakers, especially younger ones and to myself, is, first off, cut off that safety net. Get rid of it. If you have a plan B, you’re going to go to it when things get hard. Get rid of that plan. I mean, if this is really what you want to do, you, go full force. Go big or go home, and devote yourself to it. I mean, really, really learn all the stuff that you need to and experiment. But work your ass off, because I feel like I’ve worked my ass off my entire career, not just as a filmmaker but as a sound designer, as an editor, doing all the stuff within the business, and I’ve had amazing experiences. I’ve learned life lessons and I have stories to tell. That’s, I think, my advice to most people, is, go out and live and don’t wait to pursue, “I need to make X amount of dollars before I can go do this and do this.” Screw that. Throw caution to the wind. Now you’re looking at a guy who’s lost his house and I mean all this other shit over the years, but no regrets. I did what I wanted to do, I did what I felt like I needed to do. BH: Right. Yes. KB: And I would do it again. Except for that night in Mexico, but we’re not even going to go there. CM: Darn it, that was the next question I had. KB: You know, I still… I’m under gag order. Can’t do it. Beth, what about you? BH: Me? KB: Yeah. CM: Tell us about that night in Mexico, Beth. BH: You know, what happens in Mexico, stays in Mexico. KB: Absolutely. CM: That’s right. KB: And in the court system. BH: His name was Raoul. But that’s as far as I’m going. KB: There we go. There we go. BH: Raoul and I will never speak of this again. KB: Oh, you wait. BH: The tell-all is coming. I would agree with everything that Kelley says, especially the go big or go home part, because you just have to be all in or you might as well hang it up. There’s no half measures with this lifestyle or this kind of work. I would also say to my younger self that I feel like I was too obedient to the hierarchy coming up. And a lot of it… Things are very different. You couldn’t… As a 30-year-old filmmaker, I couldn’t put my hands on a cheap camera that I could operate all by myself and go out and start making my own little films and edit them on the laptop. That, of course, was not an option. So, I had to be part of a bigger system, and as a young woman filmmaker, I bided my time and waited for my moment and certainly tried to prove myself. But I could have used a sharper elbow, I think, when I was younger. Like, I have as much right to be here as anybody and I’ve got something to say, and eventually I did get to say it, but I think there were a number of years I certainly learned things and I certainly picked up on stuff, but I didn’t demand credits I should have had. I didn’t make my way to the front of the line, and that, I think, is partly being a woman of a certain generation and what was possible at the time. Some of the stuff just wasn’t possible. KB: Sure. Absolutely. BH: But I would tell myself to be a little more aggressive. I don’t regret any of it. I did, like I say, did learn a lot on the way. I could have just been doing more. More sooner. But that’s a minor regret in a career that has let me… I’ve been able to do all the things I wanted to do, largely, and I felt really good. CM: And I love, too, that you mentioned… You wish you would have been a little bit more aggressive, because when I see what you’re doing now, it’s like, you are serving that example to people today, through what you do and how you keep pushing for your vision and bringing it to life. And I think what you wish you were in the past, you actually are now. BH: Aw. Well, thanks, yeah, I- KB: I’m in total agreement with Chris on that one. BH: Aw, thank you. I mean, I feel like the joy of being an independent filmmaker, I’ve always stayed a little bit in the public television world, some of it a lot in the public television world, and then less so over time. But I feel I’ve been, as an independent, I’ve been able to work on my own terms, and that has a downside which is, it’s me, it’s all me. But it’s allowed me to say, “I’m running the show, and if you don’t like it, then move on.” And mostly people seem happy to be part of the show that I’m running. I feel good about that. CM: That’s really interesting, Beth, just in terms of pushing for what you want, being an example, and I think just telling the stories that matter to you. I think there’s a connection there as well. BH: All of us, and I know Kelley is doing this as well, we’ve done this over the years that, you tell a story that you think needs to be told and often the pushback you get is, “Why would anybody care about that story? It’s never been told.” KB: Right. Yeah. BH: There’s like… “Well, yeah. That’s kind of why I want to tell the story.” And so that’s always been a hurdle for any independent filmmaker, I think. And because I want to tell stories, I have told a lot of stories about women, women musicians and whatnot, or underrepresented people, there’s been more of a push there that I’ve had to make about, “Well, yeah, there’s a reason nobody’s told this story, and here’s why it’s cool.” And having to advocate for your own point of view has been tricky and often it means the powers that be don’t always support that. They don’t always give you the money you want and expedite what you’re trying to do. So that’s where the being committed to your vision comes in, because you have to figure out a way to do it whether the marketplace thinks it’s viable or not. And ironically, once you make it, the marketplace usually goes, “Oh, this is great.” KB: Why hasn’t somebody done this sooner? What a good scoop. No, and what you have to say, too, is, the funding is the stuff that always… It never seems to show up. BH: Quite. KB: I mean, you’re killing yourself trying to get these things made, and you can only ask for so many favors. I think I’m way overdrawn in the favor bank. BH: Aw… KB: Well, because the money isn’t there. BH: You’ve paid it forward many times. You paid it forward many times. I’m going to interrupt there. KB: Well, thank you. Thank you. We’re the mutual admiration society. BH: Yeah. That’s true. KB: It is funny, Chris, yeah, because, Beth and I are like… I like to think I’m one of her biggest cheerleaders and vice versa. I mean, I just love the work that she does. BH: Likewise. We have been each other’s fan club for a long time. KB: That’s right. And every now and again we will get together and have too much alcohol and just say, “Why the fuck are we doing this?” CM: But I think that brings a really good example, though, of what you need over time to really make it. You need, as you mentioned earlier, support. Not only support of the people to watch your work, but the support of fellow filmmakers. BH: Mm-hmm (affirmative). KB: And that always doesn’t come. Sometimes people can be really competitive in this business. Sometimes people don’t want to help, and then, there you meet those people who just bend over backwards for you. So, you never know who it’s going to be, you never know when it’s going to be, but you try to be the best person you can and hopefully when you need it, somebody shows up. BH: Right. I totally agree with that. And I feel like you build the community that understands- KB: That you want. BH: … where you’re coming from. That you want. That you build the one you need. And that involves doing things for other people. KB: Yeah. BH: That’s why when Kelley has been coy about… I want to tell a little anecdote on Kelley- KB: Oh, shit. CM: Please do. BH: … where, years ago, I thought he was kidding. I thought he was kidding. He did some favors for me on my film “Welcome to the Club: The Women of Rockability,” and you told me, “I’m going to do this for you but don’t tell people I did this,” or whatever… When the premiere in Portland happened, I got up and I had a thank you list, and I thanked a bunch of people publicly besides what the credits said, and I said, “And I really want to thank Kelley Baker.” BH: And I don’t think I said much more than that, and he came up to me afterwards, and he said, “I told you not to do that.” He’s like ridiculously quiet about his filmic philanthropy and support. KB: But the other half of the coin with that, and I want to defend myself for a moment, because at the time I had my own studio, I had gear, I had all sorts of stuff, and I was always getting hit on by people I didn’t even know wanting to come and use my stuff and use my… And on, and on, and on. And so, it was a defensive mechanism for me to tell everybody who I helped, absolutely, just like, “Don’t publicize it, please. Don’t let… You’re my friend. I’ll do anything for you,” but I don’t want all of these other people coming to me and say, “Well, you helped them.” I’m just like, “I don’t even know you.” BH: Right. Right. KB: And there was a time when, for me, anyway, it felt like it was really, really bad that I was getting bothered a lot trying to do my own stuff and, why won’t you help me? And so, I mean, that was a long time ago. Nobody ever calls me now. BH: Well, hey, I need a favor. No. CM: What I love about that story, too, though, is, there is the idea that when you’re younger you have a lot of maybe shallow relationships around you, and then as you get older your relationships either tighten up or they just drop away. And I think it’s so powerful to show the example of what that powerful relationship looks like that lasts time. BH: Yeah. Yeah. KB: Yeah. BH: I will say this. Our relationship, and I’ll tell another story on Kelley, our relationship started on a very weird footing- KB: Of course. BH: … where I was moving to the Portland area, for love, to be with my now husband, Andy Lockhart. And I had just finished a sort of a hybrid documentary, there was a personal documentary about something that happened to me, and I had- KB: Which I love. BH: … looked around… Thank you. Thank you. And I looked around and tried to see who in Portland was doing kind of similar work, and I fell upon Kelley Baker and his films that he had put himself in, and I thought, “Oh, here’s a kindred spirit.” And so I found his phone number and I called him up, and I was still in Boston, and I said, “Hey! Hi, Kelley, my name’s Beth Harrington.” And he just went, “I don’t have a job for you.” And I said, “No, I’m calling to be friends.” And he went, “Friends?” Like, what? And this is how he gets the rep of the Angry Filmmaker, by the way. We ended up having a really funny conversation and he invited me out for coffee when I came to Portland, and that was the beginning of our friendship. But it was very funny, like, “What?” You know, very curmudgeonly Kelley Baker. Like, “I… What do you… What are you calling me for?” “I want to be friends.” KB: See, but nobody ever did that. I mean, it was like you and John de Graaf ended up being, like I said, really close friends, really valued friends. But like I said, there was a time… And I also think a lot more public at a certain point in my life, because I was doing a lot of work with Gus Van Sant and some other people. And so, like I said, I felt like I was getting badgered, but Beth turned out to be a breath of fresh air. And like I said, I mean, 25? How long have you been here? You and Andy have been married for a long time. BH: I’ve just hit my 24th anniversary, October 12, here in the Northwest. Yeah. KB: Yeah. CM: Well we’re glad to have you in the Northwest. BH: Thank you. KB: Oh, hell, yes. Hell, yes. BH: I’ve lived in the Northwest longer than I’ve lived in Boston. Which is weird. I mean, in the city of Boston. I grew up in the suburbs, but, yeah, it’s the place I’ve lived the longest in my life now. KB: And you haven’t lost your accent. BH: They certainly tried to drive it out of me, but it’s definitely in there. KB: Don’t let them. BH: Well, in college they tried to… I wanted to be on the radio, and I was, eventually. KB: Right. BH: They tried to make me lose the accent for the radio, at the time, because that wasn’t done, then. You had to sound like Walter Cronkite or something. KB: Well, and you had a rock ‘n’ roll career, too. BH: I did. And that has certainly served me well as my hearing attests. CM: I think you touch on a really important topic, though, of how to build relationships, and I love that you just called Kelley to be friends. I think that’s such an understated thing to do, even today, just reach out to people and just to be friends with them, just to get to know them, just to… Not to get anything, but just to get to know them. I think that’s so powerful. KB: I’m afraid to say, I don’t think it happens all that often anymore. I mean, I do feel people want to contact others. They usually want something or they have… Maybe that’s my get off my lawn cynical, Angry Filmmaker thing, but I do believe that you meet certain people and you realize that the friendship is genuine. Unfortunately, that’s in the minority of the friendships that we have, and so much of it is, what can you do for me? BH: I agree with that. And I also think that there’s… Been an unfortunate mythologizing of independent filmmaking that we could probably… be it own podcast, but, or maybe an encyclopedia of stuff, but- KB: Right. CM: Yes. BH: … I think that there’s been this encouragement of the transactional, right? Like, get your film made at all costs. And that means, just getting what you need from whomever it is. That’s why you got those obnoxious phone calls from people saying, “I want you to give this to me.” It’s like, “I don’t even know you.” KB: Right. Right. BH: Get off my lawn! But if you’ve built community, if you’ve proven yourself, it doesn’t have to be tit for tat, but you told me pay it forward, in effect, when you did me favors, and I have tried to do that over the years. KB: Oh, absolutely you have. BH: You get a reputation for being the person who will do that, and then you build the community that you want when you need it. I don’t think a lot of people understand that, and I think part of that… we’re living in this age now enhanced by, or exacerbated by, COVID, where interpersonal, real-life, sit down and have coffee relationships are really getting buffeted about. You’re not really able to do that as much and it was on the wane before COVID hit. KB: Yes. BH: So, if I were going to give advice to people, I would say, “Work on building that community,” and the successful, independent filmmakers I know now that are younger than me, are doing that. They’re building community, they have their own cooperative, collective sort of approach to making films, and they get stuff done because they’re all working for each other. KB: If someone asked me for a favor and it’s someone I know within the community who is doing things for other people, I’m much more likely to help them out, than, especially if it’s somebody from out of town, or this or that. I mean, it’s just… It does, you pay it forward even with just being a nice person. BH: Yes. KB: You know what I mean? It doesn’t have to be a favor for a kind of a thing. And sometimes when we hear about other people’s struggles, there’s a couple of filmmakers that I love their work and they’ve had some real struggles, and I’ve said, sincerely, “If you need anything, let me know.” It’s like, I can’t come up with money, but I can come up with other things. I can help you with things because I like their work, I respect their work, and I can see that they’re struggling. They don’t have to ask me. I will volunteer for the folks that I believe in, even when they’re younger than I am. I mean, the ones that I don’t know so well, if I’ve seen their work and respect their work. CM: What you’re talking about is intriguing me, because if you’ve rewinded back to when you were starting, did you have this mentality then? Or is this something that you grew into and really embraced as you helped each other out? BH: You know, for me, there are two parts. One is, I’d already been in the world of music when I more seriously pursued filmmaking, and I knew that in music nobody was making any money and we’re all doing each other’s projects because that’s what we did. We were going to make records and we were going to do live performances and we were going to have big shows, and that was all about collaboration and cooperation. And then, as I got more serious about my filmmaking career, which came on the heels of leaving this one rock ‘n’ roll band, I joined Women In Film, and this is back in Boston. That was a really burgeoning organization with an amazing group of women who were scrappily figuring out how to do things, combined with some people who were actually in the structure of the WGBH public television world. And so, I quickly realized that, it wasn’t particularly like sisterhood is powerful or anything, it wasn’t very overtly feminist, but it was certainly a group of women that were doing things that I wanted to do and I could see them doing them and I could go to them and ask advice and figure out how to get things done. And so, I think the combination of the crazy, scrappy world of music and the crazy, scrappy world of film, in those days, in Boston, and Boston had a very cohesive indie-ish, certainly music and also film subculture, I guess, that made it, for me, easier to figure out how to build my own little community out of that. KB: And for me, it was totally opposite. When I started this, and when I started doing this stuff, filmmaker was not an occupation. I mean, people didn’t do that, and when I remember telling my parents, my poor parents, “I’m moving to LA and going to film school,” they went nuts, because nobody does that. I was in LA for five years and got bit by the independent bug and realized that if I stayed in LA I would just be a cog in a giant machine, and so I came back to Portland. And there was an old guard here. There were some people who were making a living, industrials and those kinds of things, commercials, and that kind of stuff. And for the first couple of years I did not feel welcome at all. I really had to scrape, and I got hired by one of the filmmakers here who was doing a feature, and the only reason I think that they brought me in at that point was, they needed my skills, but all these people used to say, “Well, you’re from LA. What are you doing here?” And it’s like, “I’m not from LA. I’m from here. I just was educated down there and I’ve come back.” And I felt a lot of doors closing on me, and I really felt… And there was nobody I could turn to. I mean, I really felt that, and if I would meet people who I thought, “We have a lot in common,” well, they’d already be part of some little group, and apparently there was no room. BH: Yeah. KB: And so, I spent a lot of years just struggling to find people to talk to. And I kept in touch with my friends in LA. I mean, that’s why for years and years and years I was bouncing back and forth between here and LA because I would get more work out of LA. I’d have to go down there and come back up. And it’s like, I’ve got these LA credits but nobody wants to hire me here? So, it became a real… Because I’ve always had to support myself. No trust fund, no… I’ve always had to work, and if I can’t work, I can’t pay bills, obviously. So, for me, like I said, I hope that Portland is changing, because that was the Portland of 35, 40 years ago. But, like I said, at the time, I did not feel welcome, and for years I did not feel a part of the Portland film community. BH: Yeah. Even 24 years ago, I felt it was kind of provincial and a little zero-sum game- KB: Kind of? I’m sorry. BH: Yeah. When we… and even, 10 years… but beyond that, right? KB: Right. Oh, yeah. BH: I think it’s a by-product of this only so much work, and especially in those days, it goes back to us saying about what film was actually like then. I mean, one of the reasons I didn’t pursue filmmaking, I had a communications degree, but when I went to college nobody told me independent filmmaking was an option. The only two independent filmmakers I knew about were Andy Warhol and John Cassavetes. And I didn’t really know anybody that was going off and making films until the early ’80s I started going, “Oh, yeah, I guess you could do that. I wonder what that would look like.” And that was in Boston where arguably there were more resources, but even when I came to Portland, I agree that there was a sort of, you’re not from here kind of thing. It should be that just being… There’s just only so much work- KB: And they did not want to share. BH: And, no… Yeah, people didn’t want to share, sure. Sure, I got mine. CM: It’s really interesting because the world of 35, 40 years ago that you’re describing, if the pendulum was there then, it is entirely shifted it seems all the way to the other side of, now filmmaker is like people are coming out of the womb with an iPhone in their hands- BH: Absolutely. CM: … thinking that they’re a documentary filmmaker, cinéma vérité, down their mom’s… BH: You know what. CM: But it speaks to this idea of, if everyone is a filmmaker, what does it mean to be a filmmaker? BH: And I remember early on in my career going to the party and people saying, “What do you do for a living?” And saying, “Oh, I’m a filmmaker,” and people going, “Oh, wow. Tell me about that.” CM: Yeah. BH: Doesn’t happen anymore. Please don’t tell me about that. KB: The problem with that, the last parties when we were able to go and be social, people would say, “What are you doing?” And you’d say, “Oh, I’m a filmmaker.” And it’s, “Oh, really? So am I.” BH: Right. KB: And then, I went to a party one night and I was so sick and tired of all that stuff, I kept telling everybody I was a truck driver, which is one of the things… I worked my way through college driving a beer truck, of course. Nobody would talk to me. It was great. BH: Right. KB: It was one of the most peaceful… Because they were all trying to meet people and move up the ladder. And I was there with a friend of mine who kept telling me, laughing and saying, “You are really awful.” I’m saying, “Yeah, but everybody’s buying it, so I’m good here. Can I get another beer?” Because I wasn’t in the mood. When I go out, the last thing for the most part I want to talk about is movies or work. I mean, you want to go out with your friends and Beth and I can talk about music. We can gossip. We can talk about… BH: Yeah. KB: We left that party that one night and what was it, all those protesters came storming past us- BH: It was the, yeah, the Northwest Film Center party we liked and went down to the Japanese place and drank beer while people were rioting in the street. So it was not… It was four years ago. It was after- KB: Oh, yeah. Yeah. It was after the- BH: You know who got elected. KB: Yeah, yeah. But I just remember you and I suddenly coming round this corner and there’s all these people marching towards us and there’s cops everywhere and stuff. It was like, “Okay, we better get down here and get a drink.” BH: Yes. Yes. KB: Let’s get off the streets here, just in case. BH: That was a good decision. KB: That’s always a good decision. BH: Absolutely. KB: Part of my problem here and this gets down to… because I do some teaching, too, is that everybody wants to call themselves a filmmaker, and I was probably doing this stuff for 10 years before I ever used that term for myself. BH: Ah, I am with you. I am with you. KB: You don’t just become this. BH: I’m with you. KB: You have to work. You have to learn. You have to earn it. And I think more and more people don’t want to take the time to really learn the craft. Because filmmaking is a craft, be it digital, be it… Because here they’re coming out with their iPhones and they’re doing all this other stuff, but it’s like, where is the lighting? Where’s the art? Where’s the performance if you’re doing dramatic stuff? They’re shooting a lot of stuff and sometimes there’s some good stuff, but there’s just so much bad stuff, and yet, people just throw that term around, filmmaker, and man, out of respect of the other people that I knew who were filmmakers, I would never use that term. And like I said, I’d probably made five or six films by the time I finally said, “Yeah, I guess I am a filmmaker.” BH: I agree. It took me forever to really own it, and it was because I felt I was green. I didn’t know everything there was to know, and I’d made a little film and I… Yay, but I wasn’t going to go around and advertise myself as a filmmaker at that point. It did take a while, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I think what’s happened is that in the current media culture, you have to brand yourself and you have to say, “I’m a perfume designer, and a filmmaker, and a super model, and…” People are pushed into defining themselves those ways, and often with not a lot behind it. KB: Right. And it’s because there is a craft to what we do, and there’s art, and there’s… I mean, there’s so much stuff to it. I want to get a job as an influencer. What the fuck is that? BH: Isn’t that great? KB: And I want people to sponsor me and give me… But, I’m bad, too, because I still get people who want to write for my website, and I know it’s just drivel, it’s content, it’s all this other shit, and I’m always saying, “No.” They’ll say, “We’ll give you these articles for free. I don’t want them.” People who come to my site expect a certain thing, expect a certain attitude. But I don’t sell or give away my email lists. I don’t let other people post shit on my site, and there’s no advertising, except for me, of course. But, I mean, people are too willing to give stuff away or to… They want looks, they want… If we get into the whole media thing, everybody wants information and I try really hard to, one, give out my own information, but not to take other people’s as far as, or allow other people to use my site in any way. CM: Well, I think that’s a really good point of… There’s information and then there’s action. So, as a teacher, Kelley, you’re like, “Here is all the information you need to be successful,” and yet, what’s the percentage of people who actually act upon it and do something with that? KB: Tiny. I mean, when I teach production classes, I can sit in the room for about an hour talking to people and I can tell you who’s still going to be doing this in two years and who’s still going to be doing this in five years or 10, and the numbers just keep getting smaller and smaller. People don’t realize how hard it is what we do. I mean, I probably shaved 10 years off of my life just from all the overnighters I’ve had to pull to make a deadline. Really. But it’s just like, we work hard and our deadlines are hard and fast. It’s like, I can’t… When I was doing some television work, even features, I can’t call up Columbia Pictures, and say, “You know that movie that’s coming out in a couple of weeks, that I’m doing the sound design on? Oh, how… Can you push it back?” BH: Right. Right. KB: “We had some stuff going on with my family, and…” I mean, that doesn’t happen. You’re up for the next seven days straight and you deliver this thing, and if it’s not good, you hear about it. BH: Absolutely. KB: And so I think a lot of people don’t want to put in the work that we do. They think this is fun, this is… I had a student once who we did this exercise and we shot all the stuff, and we’re done. And I was telling them, “Okay, put all the gear away now. You’ve got to pack it all up and we’re going to go.” And this one young person, I’ll say, “This has been so… How did we do?” And I said, “Okay.” So, “Well, are you going to compliment us?” And I said, “For what?” “For getting this done.” And I said, “No, I expected you to get it done. You have met expectations.” Now if you’d gotten… If you’d cured cancer while we were doing this, of course I’m going to congratulate you. BH: And document it. CM: That’s right. KB: Yeah. But I mean, everybody wants to know what a great job they’ve done when they’re just doing their job. And I’m just not on board with that. BH: Yeah, it’s interesting. I often get people who come to me and they pick your brain. Kelley and I could go on about this one. I will try to keep this short. But I want to talk to you, I want to pick your brain. It’s like… how many times has my brain been picked? CM: I apologize. I’ve picked your brain before. BH: You’re the example that Kelley was saying, two year, five year, beyond… you’re the beyond person. KB: Yes. BH: But… And we knew that about you, too. KB: Of course. BH: It’s interesting because the pick your brain conversations often are just like people wanting reassurance that it’s not as hard as it seems. And it’s like, “No, no, actually, it is that hard.” And it is that thankless, and it is that un-lucrative. It’s all of those things. It’s also gloriously fun, and when it’s great it’s great, it’s satisfying. There’s so much about my film life that has enriched my personal life, including… I met my husband that way. But, there’s just so much great stuff. A lot, for me, is about the human interaction. How many amazing people I’ve met, how many great relationships have moved past the film into my… Today’s Wanda Jackson’s birthday. Wanda and I talked the other day. That was 20 years ago that I made that. So, there’s just great stuff about the career that I do believe is appealing and I don’t want to deny that it exists, because I think sometimes I tend to just moan and groan, but the other piece of it is, that it is really hard and you can’t reassure somebody that they’re going to make money. And people often say to me, “How do I do what you do?” And I always think, “What is it you think I’m doing?” KB: Yeah. Yeah. CM: That’s a great question. BH: That, tell me what you think I’m doing? And then I’m going to address that. KB: Yeah. I had an instructor who used to… A close friend of mine who taught at Columbia in Chicago, and she used to say, “All of my students want to be you.” And my response to her was always, “Your students would absolutely freak out if they knew what it takes to be me.” BH: Right. KB: They wouldn’t want that because we do make sacrifices. But as Beth says, my life has been so enriched by the people and the experiences I’ve had. I have done things that most of my contemporaries never even thought of doing, or, I’ve worked with some of the most amazing people in this business and I’m grateful for all that, and I still get humbled when I’m around people whose work I admire and respect. CM: You both mentioned the relationships that you’ve built over the years. Is that how you would think about your legacy, as you move forward? KB: I don’t think about a legacy. At all. I keep moving forward. I have a lot of work I want to create. I’m writing a lot more. I’m doing short stories, I’m doing all sorts of other stuff. And I can honestly say, I don’t think about a legacy at all. I think I need to get this next book done. I need to make this next film. I need to make… I’ve got a pretty good career of not… I’ve made it a habit of not looking backwards and not thinking about those kind of things. BH: I’m with you on the moving forward completely. I’ve got three projects in different stages. I did my first virtual film shoot on Sunday in Upstate New York. I was the great and powerful Oz on the laptop interviewing somebody with the… Out in the middle, and outside, because I didn’t want the camera person to be in danger. So I still feel like there’s stuff out… I totally agree with Kelley. Stuff I’m doing, stuff I want to do. It drives me crazy that there’s this arbitrary sense of, I’ve hit a certain age, I’m supposed to be winding down, because I don’t feel that. When nature tells me I’m winding down, that’s when I want to wind down, but- KB: Yep. BH: … it’s not happening now. I’m perfectly healthy and active and busy and… But I will say, the only thing about legacy that I’ve considered is what the eff to do with my media? I’ve started to think… and a lot of it doesn’t mean much to anybody. I have a master tape I’ve got to figure where to put these masters, right? KB: Right. BH: Just last year I started looking through my two history-based music movies and saying, “Oh, shit, I’ve got stuff here of people who are gone. I’ve got stuff here that’s close to the last interview this person did. This needs to go somewhere.” So, I’ve actually started trying to figure out where to put media. I sent a bunch of stuff to an archives in Tennessee with all my Carter Family media, because it’s near where the Carter Family lived. It’s part of a school that has a Roots music program. And so, I just sent that stuff off and housed it and did all the paper work and everything. So, to the extent that I think about legacy, I think about that. But, otherwise, I just hope that people somehow, some of the stuff remains and especially this stuff about history at a time when I think we need a better grasp of history in all of its nuances. I’m just hoping I can figure out a place to put the media that tells those historical stories. KB: I guess I’m lucky in that. My poor, long-suffering daughter will have to deal with all that stuff when I’m gone. BH: There you go. There you go. Yeah. I don’t have kids, so if anybody’s going to do this, it’s got to be me, unfortunately. KB: You know, I think Fiona would volunteer for you, too, because she loves your work, too. BH: Oh, good. Oh, yeah, Fiona, I’m sure Fiona wants to deal with my so-called estate. KB: That’s right. Remember that I… When she first saw Welcome to the Club, I think you went up and I found that you gave her, I think, her own copy of VHS- BH: Oh, wow. KB: … because she loved the film so much, and you signed a VHS copy and gave it to her. BH: Well, I’ll have to give her a DVD then, at least. KB: Right. BH: It’s time to upgrade her collection. KB: You know, unfortunately… Well, not unfortunately, fortunately, she and her husband have the VHS machine, still. BH: Do they really? KB: Yeah, because I’ve got all the old Rocky and Bullwinkle tapes on that. So- BH: Oh. Yes. KB: … there we go. BH: And those are going to come in handy because you have a grandchild. KB: I have a granddaughter now, eight-months-old. BH: She needs to know Rocky and Bullwinkle. KB: Of course. We all need Rocky and Bullwinkle. BH: Now more than ever. KB: Yeah. CM: Well, Kelley, Beth, this has exceeded my expectations of conversation today. I feel enriched with your wisdom and inspired to keep moving forward. Thank you both so much. BH: Oh, thank you. KB: Wait a minute, wait a minute. You’re not going to promote our websites or anything? Come on, dude. We’re independent filmmakers, we’ve got to make a living. BH: Oh, my God. KB: Have you… Chris, have you learned nothing over this last hour? CM: I’ve learned so much. Apparently I missed that memo. Kelley, tell us about your website. KB: It’s funny you should ask. My website is angryfilmmaker.com, and that’s where people can buy my movies, my books. Hopefully a fifth book is coming out before Christmas, a new collection of short stories. All my stuff’s there. And Beth, what about you? BH: Mine’s bethharrington.com. Pretty simple. CM: Nice. I will definitely say that Road Dog, Kelley, is one of my favorite road books. KB: Oh, thank you. CM: I thoroughly enjoyed reading that book. I highly recommend people check that book out, and everything else you have to offer. KB: Thank you so much. That actually means a lot, that you like the book. CM: Well, thank you, both. Again, this has exceeded my expectations and I hope everyone listening to this will check out your websites, wink, wink, nudge, nudge. And, really, just take inspiration in what you’re doing beyond just that glorious feeling of inspiration, and do something with it.
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