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Beyond Your Imagination with Chris Martin
66 minutes | Jul 15, 2021
“All Hail! The Cinematic Experience” with Dan Wyatt & Richard Beer (BYI15)
Deep in the heart of downtown Vancouver, Washington, on Main Street, you’ll find the Kiggins Theatre, run by a small team of film lovers, including today’s guests, Dan Wyatt and Richard Beer. From storytelling and searching for meaning to the changing nature of audiences and the cinematic experience, our conversation weaves between a multitude of topics. There’s a lot here about the struggles and triumphs of running an independent theater in an industry owned by giant corporations. You’ll get a glimpse into community building and grassroots marketing at its finest. Not to mention a healthy list of films to watch after you listen to the show. About Dan & Richard of Kiggins Theatre Dan Wyatt is the owner of Kiggins Theater, an independent theater in Vancouver, WA. Richard Beer is the Director of Programming and Marketing. Along with a small team of film lovers, they program a mix of independent films, community-oriented shows, classic films, and live events. You can learn more about the extensive history of the theater on the Kiggins website. Kiggins Theatre Show Notes Pierre Étaix Jacques Tati Buster Keaton Spoor (2017) A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica (1992) Terry Gilliam Manhattan (1979) Blue Velvet (1986) Nomadland (2020) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) Frances McDormand Martin McDonagh Avengers: Infinity War (2018) Avengers: Endgame (2019) Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) As Good as It Gets (1997) Before Sunrise (1995) Before Sunset (2004) Before Midnight (2013) Richard Linklater In Bruges (2008) No Country for Old Men (2007) Lethal Weapon (1987) Die Hard (1988) Action Jackson (1988) Predator (1987) Hollywood Shuffle (1987) The Dark Divide (2020) The Columbian Neither Wolf Nor Dog (2016) Steven Lewis Simpson on Twitter Back to the Future (1985) Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain (2021) Pop Octopus Werewolves Within (2021) Grease (1978) The Denton Delinquents Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008) The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) Shock Treatment (1981) Little Shop of Horrors (1986) Beetlejuice (1988) William Castle 12 Monkeys (1995) Contagion (2011) Outbreak (1995) The Stand by Stephen King Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation (2020) Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (2021) The Green Knight (2021) Murder in the Front Row: The San Francisco Bay Area Thrash Metal Story (2019) Black Sawn (2010) Se7en (1995) Wishmaster (1997) Darren Aronofsky Mother! (2017) Spy (2015) Promising Young Woman (2020) A Quiet Place Part II (2020) John Krasinski Marshall McLuhan Ghostbusters (1984) Kate & Leopold (2001) The Evil Dead (1981) Evil Dead II (1987) Sam Raimi The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) Eraserhead (1977) Quentin Tarantino Bringing Up Baby (1938) Carole Lombard Night of the Comet (1984) Maximum Overdrive (1986) Cinema Paradiso (1988) Columbo (1971-2003) Sherlock Jr. (1924) Kiss Me Deadly (1955) Tangerine (2015) BANFF Centre for Arts and Creativity The Trail Running Film Festival Wolfwalkers (2020) The Secret of Kells (2009) The Third Man (1949) Photo by Manos Gkikas on Unsplash
42 minutes | Jul 1, 2021
“Scores & Storytelling” with Ian Honeyman (BYI14)
There is something magical about music and how it brings a film to life. From a melody that finds an emotional and psychological connection to characters to the unique soul of instruments, music goes deeper than other storytelling mediums faster. Ian Honeyman is a composer, music producer, and multi-instrumentalist with over 60 feature film and TV credits. In this conversation, he talks about how he comes up with ideas, his interest in unique instruments from around the world, and the secret to creating music and telling stories. He also has a lot of great advice for directors on how they can work with composers. About Ian Honeyman “Ian Honeyman is a composer, music producer and multi-instrumentalist with over 60 feature film and TV credits. Ian believes in making films with as much imagination as possible, pushing characters’ journeys as far as they can go and giving audiences the most meaningful experience possible. He is a creative partner to filmmakers, enhancing films by using music to grow a deeper psychological connection between the characters and the audience. He creates each score to build a personality for the film on another level, to give the audience a unique language to identify with the film.” – IanHoneyman.com Ian Honeyman Ian Honeyman’s filmography on IMDb Ian Honeyman on Spotify Into Darkness Yaybahar Show Notes Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977) Benford’s law Dream Theater – The Dance of Eternity Beatbox Cover Odd Time Signature Examples with Mike Portnoy Cloud Atlas (2012) Cloud Atlas End Title John Williams Cured (2020)
48 minutes | Jun 17, 2021
“Unbridled Imagination” with Kyle Shold (BYI13)
When I think about people who love movies, my friend and today’s guest Kyle Shold instantly comes to mind. An illustrator by trade, who created the fantastic poster for this podcast, he uses his passion for film and storytelling tools—from cinematography to scores—to influence his work. In this conversation, we cover a lot of ground, from his first cinematic memory that sparked his imagination to the score that fuels his creativity. We also talk about how movies shift through time, the differences between physical and streaming media, and why quality and control are crucial elements in curating your film library. About Kyle Shold Freshwater Bay Creative is an independent illustration and graphic design studio located in Vancouver, Washington. Freshwater Bay is owned by Kyle Shold, a creative professional with over twenty years of experience working in everything from video games, magazine art direction, trade show graphics, comic books and craft beer labeling. Freshwater Bay Creative Freshwater Bay Creative on Instagram Show Notes The Train (1964) The Train (Special Edition) from Kino Lorber Christopher McQuarrie on Twitter Stuntman!: My Car-Crashing, Plane-Jumping, Bone-Breaking, Death-Defying Hollywood Life by Hal Needham Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018) John Wick (2014) John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019) Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977) George Lucas Steven Spielberg John Carpenter Martin Scorsese Interstellar (2014) The Black Hole (1979) Forbidden Planet (1956) 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Batman (1989) The Criterion Collection Shout! Factory Kino Lorber Gone with the Wind (1939) King Kong (1933) The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) His Girl Friday (1940) Walter Murch Blue Underground The Final Countdown (1980) Jerry Goldsmith on Spotify Conan the Barbarian (Prometheus Edition 2010) Sleepaway Camp (1983) The Blob (1988) The Thing (1982) Critters (1986) Halloween (1978) Black Christmas (2006) Transcript Full transcript coming soon.
47 minutes | Jun 3, 2021
“Flipping the Script” with Kanani Koster (BYI12)
How do you reclaim and redefine the stories and American iconography present in films? Kanani Koster is a filmmaker from Portland, Oregon, flipping the script and telling stories that explore race, power, and privilege with violence, gore, and brutality, without feeding collective trauma. From her early days in Seattle meeting amazing mentors to the community atmosphere and punk vibe of Portland, Oregon, Kanani brings her imagination to life by collaborating and ensuring that her team challenges and checks one another’s perceptions and ideas. About Kanani Koster Kanani Koster is a writer, director, and producer from Portland, Oregon. Kanani Koster _ikanani_ on Instagram Cherry Street Films Show Notes Megan Griffiths Nomadland (2020) Chloé Zhao The Rider (2017) Jasmine Karcey Dawn Jones Redstone Carolyn Hall Ron Harris-White Scott Braucht – Dear Doris Photo by Bulb Creative on Unsplash Transcript Full transcript coming soon.
41 minutes | May 10, 2021
“The Life-Changing Impact of Film Festivals” with Dr. Rebekah Louisa Smith (BYI11)
With over 8,000 and counting film festivals worldwide, how will you make sure your film gets into the right festivals? Dr. Rebekah Louisa Smith is the founder of The Film Festival Doctor, a company that helps filmmakers create a focused film festival strategy, including planning, organization, logistics, and support. Suppose you are a filmmaker who hasn’t considered the life-changing impact of film festivals. Rebekah is adamant that you’ll discover community and new voices, not to mention the chance to polish your film’s vision. About Dr. Rebekah Louisa Smith “Dr. Rebekah Louisa Smith (aka Rebekah Film Dr) was born in Worcestershire, United Kingdom. From humble beginnings working as a Personal Assistant at lots of corporate companies, she worked her way up to become an award-winning consultant and media personality who now has more than 10 years of film festival strategy consulting experience. After choosing not to pursue a career in Academia teaching film studies, Rebekah began her film industry career in 2009, working as one of the producers of Wales’ most successful national horror film festival; the Abertoir Horror Festival, and during that time began to develop a great knowledge of the film festival business. Which led her to become inspired to start her own innovative company in an industry she loved. Rebekah and the hard-working team behind her company The Film Festival Doctor are creators of success and are committed to nurturing filmmakers in order to help them secure film festival screenings, win awards, and a positive recognition within the film industry. Currently, her company has won more than 900 awards for their clients and one Oscar nomination. Her team has supported nearly 850 creatives across the world, enlightening and inspiring their journey towards achieving their goals and following their filmmaking dreams.” – Bio from TheFilmFestivalDoctor.com The Film Festival Doctor The Film Festival Doctor Shop Show Notes Abertoir – The International Horror Festival of Wales Whiplash (2014) Damian Chazelle The Gesture and The Word (2020) The Gesture and The Word Trailer The Gesture and The Word on Instagram I’m an Electric Lampshade (2021) I’m an Electric Lampshade Trailer Harlem Dance Club FilmFreeway Sedona International Film Festival Tribeca Festival Show Low Film Festival Photo by Isaac E. Quezada on Unsplash Transcript Full transcript coming soon.
42 minutes | Apr 26, 2021
“Exploration in Absurdity” with Karl Jahnke (BYI10)
Never before in the entire history of cinema has animation been more crucial to film and television production. Not to mention technologically possible and affordable for artists around the world. From his early days programming draw functions in computers to currently teaching students rotoscoping and animation, Karl Jahnke has been exploring stories and the surreal much of his life. In this conversation, he shares the significant influences in his early career, his approach to storytelling, why he created the Mobile Animation Film Festival, and his prediction for the future of animation. About Karl Jahnke Karl Jahnke is an animator, professor at University of South Alabama, and founder of the Mobile Animation Film Festival. Karl Jahnke Karl on Instagram Mobile Animation Film Festival Mobile Animation Film Festival on Instagram Show Notes Intaglio (printmaking) Stieg Hedlund Der Ring des Nibelungen The Heroic Journey – a Jungian Perspective Terry Gilliam Reveals the Secrets of Monty Python Animations: A 1974 How-To Guide Vaporwave BEEPLE (mike winkelmann) a-ha – Take On Me The Last Dragon (1985) The Last Dragon (1985) – Leroy and Shogun Ending Battle JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (2012– ) Attack on Titan (2013– ) Bane (born into it, molded by it) meme Photo by Alex Perez on Unsplash Transcript Full transcript coming soon.
54 minutes | Apr 5, 2021
“Make Friends, Not Fans” with Taylor Morden (BYI09)
What does it take to build and connect with an audience in the digital age of independent film? Taylor Morden of Pop Motion Pictures discovered the answer in his early musician days: make friends, not fans. The transition from music to film was natural as the do-it-yourself punk rock work ethic made sense in the world of documentary film. Learn whatever you need to learn, do what you need to do, and always build your community. From his first documentary about the band, The Refreshments, to his films about ska music and the last Blockbuster Video store in Bend, Oregon, Taylor brings movies to life that matter to both him and his audience. On top of that, he makes sure to have a good time. About Taylor Morden From IMDb: “Taylor Morden is a director and producer, known for The Last Blockbuster (2020), Pick It Up! – Ska in the ’90s (2019) and Here’s to Life: The Story of The Refreshments (2017).” Pop Motion Pictures Taylor’s Filmography on IMDb Here’s to Life: The Story of The Refreshments Pick It Up! Ska in the ’90s The Last Blockbuster Project 88: Back to the Future Too Cooped Up on Vimeo Show Notes A Fat Wreck: The Punk-u-mentary DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Transcript Full transcript coming soon.
47 minutes | Feb 22, 2021
“Building a Sound Career and a Meaningful Life” with Robb Mills (BYI08)
I’m always fascinated with stories of how people have built long-lasting and sustainable careers. But what happens when someone burns out doing something they love, decides to learn a new trade, and ends up not only rebuilding a career but creates a more meaningful life in the process? That is the story of Robb Mills, an independent audio contractor for over 20 years, working on films and video games as a sound designer and music composer. From the hustle and grind of his early days to resetting his life with yoga therapy, Robb candidly shares story after story of honing his craft around his love for sound and music while serving and sharing life with others. About Robb Mills From RobbMills.com: “I’ve been professionally involved in audio production for over 20 years. Currently, I’m an Independent Audio Contractor working remotely on a wide variety of projects and game titles from beautiful Bend, Oregon. I provide game audio production services to individuals and companies of all sizes. I have a degree in music from Ball State University’s Music Technology program. I hold a IAYT Certification in Yoga Therapy, am a Deschutes County Search & Rescue volunteer, and strive to make everyday just a little bit better than the one before.” Robb Mills Show Notes Heather Crank Pop Motion Pictures Taylor Morden Hunger Ward (2020) Skye Fitzgerald Kyle Predki Jordan Rudess’ Haken Continuum Peculiarium Photo by Matéo Burles on Unsplash Transcript Full transcript coming soon.
49 minutes | Feb 8, 2021
“The Battle Against Time & Ego” with Benjamin Ironside Koppin (BYI07)
I met Benjamin Ironside Koppin in 2013 on the set of his indie horror feature, Made Me Do It, where I ruined a long handheld take by dropping the camera into my lap. Fortunately, he was cool about it, and we went on to collaborate on several other projects throughout the years. The philosophy of his production company, Ironside Films, is simple: tell the stories we want to tell in the way we want to do it. Partnering with his wife Kristin, they work together to bust through limitations and manage expectations to make one feature film a year. About Benjamin Ironside Koppin From BenjaminKoppin.com: “Benjamin Ironside Koppin is an award winning writer and director. He has a passion for finding honesty and truth within the medium of film. He loves collaborating with actors, pushing each other to find what is authentic within each moment. Since graduating from Biola University with a degree in Cinema & Media Arts, he has directed seven feature films (3 Documentaries and 4 Narratives). His documentary work informs how he approaches narrative features – often shooting his own work in order to have a more intimate relationship with his actors, pursuing beautiful mistakes instead of manufactured moments.” Benjamin Ironside Koppin Benjamin’s Filmography on IMDb Ironside Films Ironside Films on Facebook Show Notes Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) Room 104 (2017-2020) Jaws (1975) Apocalypse Now (1979) Suicide Squad (2016) Quentin Tarantino Michael Bay The Mandalorian (2019- ) Steven Spielberg Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) Avengers: Endgame (2019) My Dinner with Andre (1981) Tangerine (2015) Rebel without a Crew: Or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker With $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player by Robert Rodriguez Robert Rodriguez Roger Corman Jason Blum Raging Bull (1980) Rocky (1976) Creed (2015) Warrior (2011) Good Time (2017) George A. Romero Simulation Theory (2019) The Mighty Ducks (1992) D2: The Mighty Ducks (1994) Heavyweights (1995) Signs (2002) Chariots of Fire (1981) Moonlight (2016) Transcript Benjamin Ironside Koppin (BIK): My name is Benjamin Ironside Koppin. Uh, I have a production company called Ironside Films and basically we do, uh, started out doing commercials, uh, documentary work, that kind of stuff. And we’ve gradually moved into making indie features. And so we just try to pump them out. Uh, we kind of use the, the commercial side to pay our bills and then we just make these little small indie movies and we’re able to kind of tell the stories we want to tell and the way that we want to do it as opposed to relying on someone else to, to fund them or help make them, we just make small character pieces and that’s kind of our goal. Chris Martin (CM): That’s awesome. And I love that goal so much because that seems to be the, the model of most independent companies right now, of using commercial work to fund everything else that they want to do. BIK: Absolutely. And it’s one of these things that like, I don’t know, you’re seeing, like you hear the, the, the whole thing where it’s, you’re either making a Marvel movie at this point that’s, you know, a couple hundred million dollars or you’re making like the low budget, no budget films. There’s nothing in the middle these days, you know what I mean? CM: And, and what do you do with that as, as a, as a producer because as someone who loves film, you know, you, you want to hope that there’s some upward trajectory that your career is progressing to without having to, like, “Indiana Jones” the chasm to find the grail. BIK: Right, exactly. I feel like, uh, my wife, uh, who’s my producing partner, she said to me one time, uh, you know, we’ve, we’ve been busting out these features, the goal is to do, uh, to basically make one feature film a year. And that could be a small one. I mean, it could be shot on iPhone, or it could be shot on a red. It could be big crew, small crew, but one feature film a year. Uh, and my wife said to me, one time, she’s like, “well, what if we never break in? Like, what if we never like get there?” Uh, and I told her, I was like, well, I think, I think we’re looking at the wrong way, the fact that like, we’re making one film a year and we’re able to do it, however we want to do it, like, that’s getting there, like that’s breaking in. And it’s like, yeah, you need to be a little more careful with the stories you tell. But, but sometimes taking inventory of the friends that you have that’ll work for free or for cheap and the locations of resources you have for free or cheap. And then building the story from that, kind of like, I always say, like build the sandbox first out of what you have and then find the stories that interest you within that sandbox of what you have, because it’s, it’s endless, man. You could have a whole, like, what is it, the Duplass brothers, I think have a show called, it’s like, Room 104 or something like that. CM: Yeah. Something like that. BIK: Yeah. It all takes place in a hotel room and it’s just different stories in one hotel room. And so some are sci-fi, some are drama, some are romance, all the stories you can tell in a hotel room, it’s just, it’s incredible. You know? So that’s kinda my mentality. CM: That’s a great mentality and all the stories that you don’t want to tell in a hotel room as well. BIK: Yeah, yeah, exactly. A hundred percent, a hundred percent, man. CM: There’s something to be said, too, about limitations because in the absence of big budget, you know, the limitations almost become ever more present and ever more real. And that’s where creativity really kicks in, I think. BIK: Dude, a hundred percent, I always go back to, uh, like, two of my favorite movies are like Jaws and Apocalypse Now. And it’s, like, those movies were a disaster. Like, when making them, do you know what I mean? It’s like, they were absolutely a disaster and they turned out to be like two of the great, in my opinion, two of the greatest movies of all time. And I’m constantly on our films being, like, okay, the shark is not working. What is the other angle that we go for it at? You know? And even if we just, uh, you know, we shot a film, we were hoping to raise like $250,000 to make it, um, it’s called Pastor’s Kid and we did not raise, uh, close to that. And so we had this scene that we shot that was supposed to kind of be this little mini stunt, right, and since we didn’t have a stunt double, couldn’t afford a stunt team, uh, you know, we’re just, we’re trying to make it work as best we can, uh, we, we do the best we can with this little stunt. I get back to editing, I’m just like, shoot, dude. Like this is not working. And, and you could tell, you know what I mean? It’s like, I’d say the movie as a whole was at like a 7 or an 8 out of 10? And then you get to the scene and you’re like 2, you know, 2 out of 10, it’s bad, it’s bringing it down. And so we rewrote the scene and went back and shot a different way where it wasn’t a stunt. It was something different just with a different location that we had. Cause it was like, you know, we’re in post and we’re like, okay, the movie is great. And then this, this bit happens and it takes it down. We need to change the story or tweak the scene to be something else and just, dude, just having open hands and just being open-minded to, to things like that. That’s like, Oh, if this little thing that I was really stuck on, when writing it, we couldn’t afford to do, let’s not do it. And let’s, let’s make something that’s going to look better and up to production value. So it’s like, you know, don’t be trying to make Lord of the Rings on a $10 budget. Right. You know, so. CM: Exactly that’s already been done, both the $10 budget and the $10 billion. BIK: Yeah, exactly. Oh man. But dude, even I’ve been, no joke, I’ve been rewatching Lord of the Rings, uh, just with everything going on in the world, I needed some hope. And uh, and, dude, when you study The Two Towers and The Return of the King, they like miss so much when they originally went to film and had to go back so many times to reshoot things and those films are amazing. You would never know it. You know what I mean? CM: Well, like reshoots, aren’t the death knell of a, of a production. It just means that, you know, you got more to get, unless they really tanked it. That’s, that’s a whole nother topic, a whole nother conversation. BIK: Unless you’re Suicide Squad or something like that. CM: I’m laughing as you’re describing this reshoot and, and kind of reframing how you come at the scene because I’m, I’m flashing back to a moment when you were filming, Made Me Do It, and there was the, the axe blow to the chest, a practical effect. And I remember just, you know, all of the, the plastic goes down on the ground to protect everything, the camera’s protected, you know, you’re like “live axe on set” and you’re doing all this stuff. And then, then I just remember the thud of the axe hitting the ground and you feel it. And then you just hear “hit it again, hit it again” because it didn’t have the effect that you wanted it. I just, that, that moment to me just kind of sums up what you’re talking about and just like you have these expectations and it doesn’t work out like you want it to. BIK: Dude, it never does. You know what I mean? It’s like, what you have in your head is, unless you have a ton of money to do it. But I would say even still that way, it’s like the goal of collaboration, too, is like, that’ll hopefully be better. But then you get those moments with an axe where you’re just like, okay, that didn’t do what we needed to do. We need to like capture more, you know what I mean? And it’s, it’s almost like, what do they say? They say shooting a film or being on set, it’s a battle against time. And that’s where it’s like, in that time, you need to get as much as you can, because I found like when you get into the editing room, that one take that you’re like, “Oh, that was the one, that was the one I know it was”, and then you watch through it or you’re building a scene, you’re like, “Oh, shoot, we needed that to be bigger or we need that to be subtler”. And so that’s why it’s like when collecting on set, being able to improvise and, kind of, kind of play and not being afraid, that’s like, “This is the exact way I needed it to be this exact way”, but being like, “Hey, let’s capture three or four different versions of this because in the editing room we might need it to do something else”. So it’s kind of like a, it’s a battle with ego sometimes where you’re just like, like no joke, we just shot a feature, uh, this year, it actually during Covid. CM: Wow. BIK: And I had the actor down to walk through some of the takes. And I remember we filmed kind of this last moment of desperation for him. And he did these two takes that were like really, really big, right. Uh, kind of like punched a wall and screaming and mad and angry. And I was, as I was filming and I was like, you need to internalize, it needs to be more internal. And so he, like, he did a last take that was more subtle. And I was like, “for sure, that take is the take”. And then as you’re watching through the footage sure enough, I was like, “I don’t think that last subtle one is it because it doesn’t show the desperation as much as the more physical take showed”. Um, and so that has to be me being like, okay, like he brought something that I wasn’t seeing. And thankfully he was willing to do an option my way, but I’m so glad I have both of those options to play with in post. CM: Yeah. Well, and what a great learning opportunity as the director to, to expand for the next time, when do you come into a scene and you’re like, you know, should this be small or big? And, and you kind of have that, that freedom to try both. BIK: Yep. And I think like something, I feel like I’ve been learning is, you know, the actor and this is going to sound so silly maybe, but the actor is 95% always right when it comes to, seriously, cause they have mulled over these scenes so much as a character to try to feel like how, how to make it honest and how to make it work. And so it’s that collaboration of like being willing to like, get rid of your ego and say, let’s try it your way and let’s try it my way. Let’s, let’s play with it on both sides or listen to them. I, a good example on Pastor’s Kid, we had this one moment where, uh, where our character, it was a very simple, small interaction within the film and we lit it. We spent like a couple hours lighting this, like, garage where she’s dropping off, she’s like delivering drugs, right? CM: Like the pastor’s kids do. BIK: There you go, as pastor’s kids do. And, uh, and so she like knocks on this garage door and opens up. She goes in and delivers the drugs and I’m talking with my gaffer and we’re like, okay, if the garage door is down, right, like, then they can have this conversation. We can light it well, it’s going to look better, let’s do it. So, so we spend a couple of hours lighting this garage to make it look good. We start doing the scene and the energy in the scene just feels awful. It just feels so stunted. Um, we knew where we’re supposed to be in the film, it’s supposed to be a little more quick pace and it just felt slow. And just, I don’t know, the relationships weren’t working. And so I came up to the actors and I was like, what do we do, what’s going wrong here? What are we not feeling? And she’s like, “I just don’t think I’d like, come in and sit down and have a conversation. It would be like, I come in, drop off the drugs, we have a little quick convo and ditch”. And I’m like, okay, well, let’s lift the garage halfway up and just shoot it with the garage door light instead of using all these lights that we have. So we simply lift the garage door halfway up and we turn off all these lights we spent hours setting up and we shoot the scene and she leaves and it’s perfect. And you’re just over here, like, man, I just wasted half a day or whatever, trying to light the stupid garage to do the scene this way, where I should have, I should have collaborated with them in the first place and been like what, energy feels right for what you need to deliver here. So it’s a, it’s a tricky balance, but, dude, the more that you can collaborate with the actors, I feel like the better products turn out in the end. CM: And does collaboration come naturally to you? Or is it something that you constantly have to learn, like in that moment with, in the garage? BIK: Yeah, dude, I think it’s a complete learning process. I know, I feel like you see younger, and I, I work as a cinematographer a lot on commercials and you’ll work with these younger directors who think they’re the next, like, Quentin Tarantino or Michael Bay. And they’re like, like no joke, I have horror stories of people being like, “don’t roll until I tell you to roll, don’t talk to the actor, don’t blah blah blah!” And it’s like, “sir, I’m just trying to tell them where their mark is”, but it’s like, uh, it’s insecurity, you know, it’s this insecurity that’s like, I’m the dictator director, I’m the one who says how the ship goes, and there’s very little, you know, what angle would be the best for this or as an actor, where do you feel like falling would feel real and honest. And so I think that’s a big thing, it’s constantly a fight against ego. I always tell my actors and everyone we work with that we’re going, it’s play–when we go shoot a movie, it’s going back to play. And how when you were a little kid, you had action figures and you had Wolverine fighting Superman. It’s back to that kind of play. Like when I was a kid with my brother with the VHS camera and there was no expectations and you’re just goofing around in the backyard. It’s like, you have to get back to that kind of mentality instead of it being, I need to get these shots to make a bazillion dollars and make the next Transformers. You know what I mean? CM: That’s interesting too, because I love that you kind of rewind the tape to the days of when you’re making films with your brother and the VHS camera. Cause it, it speaks to not only the simpler time, but just the, where the origin story of you, the director comes from. BIK: Yeah, dude, a hundred percent. It was basically, I found my dad’s VHS camera, he’d shoot Christmas and stuff on it. And then, uh, we were going through our closet, his closet or something, and we found this old lambskin jacket. And uh, and we created this character secret mailman. It was kind of an Austin Powers rip off. And it was me rolling around in my underwear, uh, with this lambskin jacket. And there you go. That’s the beginning of filmmaking, but dude, dude, do you remember, like, the way you would edit back in the day was you’d like hook the camera up, to like a VCR and every cut would be like stopping and recording on the VCR. Like the footage you taped. Do you remember that? CM: I do. Yeah. When I went to art school and we learned, uh, video editing, we had the two decks and you had the control track and you know, it was linear editing and that was a pain. BIK: Dude, these little young, little jerks, these little filmmaker jerks who can shoot a movie on their iPhone and then they airdrop it to their computer instantly and can edit it. It’s like, dude, do you remember having to rewind the tape? You’d have to rewind it and then import the whole thing. Just playing straight, right? CM: Like FireWire, Mini DV capture. BIK: So bad. So bad. So if you shot five hours, you were importing for five hours. It’s just crazy. CM: And hoping it was in sync still. BIK: Exactly, all the frame rate stuff. Anyway, we could nerd out. It was awful. Awful, but great, good learning experience. CM: Yeah. So where, where do you, like, who were your heroes that said, this is the way forward, this the way in “Mandalorian speak”? BIK: Dude, I don’t know. I did this little, um, homework assignment, just this last, uh, last summer where I, I don’t know. I had never heard anyone say to do it, but I wanted to write down, like if I was stranded on an island, what were 10 movies that I would want to have? Yeah, that would be the only movies I could watch for the rest of my life. I just kind of wanted to see what would shake out and dude, a lot of early Spielberg, like Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, and, sorta like, uh, like Star Wars in there, those classics. Dude, Indiana Jones, I know it was it for me where I was like, I’m going to be an archeologist and punch a Nazi when I grow up. Like, that was the goal. And then I learned that archeologists don’t actually get to punch Nazis. So I was like, well, who made the movie of the archeologist punching the Nazis? I want to do that. And, uh, that was the main inspiration, dude, but uh, early Spielberg, it’s crazy how many of his were on my list. They just forget, like, I don’t know how he churned these things, like I just don’t know. I such a young filmmaker, he had the hand of blessing on him or something, man, cause it’s amazing. CM: What’s interesting about that as is, it’s always fun going back and looking at the early careers of, of mega stars like Spielberg, because you do see, not only that hand of blessing, but I think you also see just how devoted to the crafty one and how driven he was to tell these stories. And also the collaborators that he had. BIK: Yeah, I always go back to, Jaws is one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s like top, top two, three on my list. And uh, and I always go back to that scene of, of all three of them in the middle of the boat. And they tell the, the Indianapolis story about the sharks attacking Quinn. And, dude, when you do your homework on that, it’s phenomenal where like, I guess he was drunk the first day when doing it and so he was all over the place. And so he came to Spielberg and he’s, the next day, and he’s like, “can we please run that scene again–I’m straight, not drunk anymore. And I want to, like, run the lines.” And so they did it that way. And the final film is a mixture of the drunk version and the real version. And so just, I mean, do you know what I mean, just to be able to be like, okay, I’m going to pivot and just own this like drunk guy, like rambling. It’s exactly what we need for the scene. And that scene in that movie is still like one of my favorite scenes of all time. And for that to be in this like, “B level”, like, monster movie is just insane, it elevates the whole thing. CM: It speaks to his willingness to say, “yeah, let’s run it again”. BIK: Yup. Yup. And trusting that he was going to go back in and do it. It’s just every time you go back, I just rewatched Jaws again this summer with a friend and you, and you’re just like, this does not look like a movie that had so much production trouble, you know what I mean? And that, I think just shows the caliber of filmmaker Steven Spielberg was where he, he could find ways to pivot and fill time that felt like they were supposed to be there and not just, you know, made up, improvised on the spot. CM: One of the things that fascinates me and, and I would probably lump Spielberg into this category, but people who can see the finished film in their head and they’re constantly moving toward that vision that they have. Is that something that you possess? BIK: I want to say yes, but, uh, but I feel like every time I do that, I’m, like, let down when we’re in production by it, like, not living up to what was in my head. And so a process for me has been just releasing and being like, you know, let’s go collect what we want to collect. Almost the, um, like, Apocalypse Now, like citing that reference where it’s like, let’s go collect and, and I’ve heard this phrase where it’s, uh, was it turning your face to the divine light, uh, where it’s like, you’re seeking this divine light you’re seeking when, when the actors are on point, when the camera’s on point, when everything feels honest and true, it’s like, I’m more interested in seeking that on the day on a set instead of being, like, uh, Oh, this is exactly how the camera needs to be with exact lighting and exact push because, and even, dude, even with lines on a script, like sometimes the actor saying the lines, how you wrote them is wrong for the scene. It’s not the most honest thing for the scene. And so you have to be willing to say, okay, like let’s, let’s do it. Yeah, like my whole strategy is let’s do it a couple ways how it’s written and then let’s throw everything out the window. And so it’s like that way we have the beats that we need, the actors–it gives them time to kind of run through and be like, okay, my character starts at this point, then goes here and then leaves this way. And so then when you just say, throw it out the window, improvise it, they know the, the, the flow of the scene and they can figure out what feels honest to them instead of, you know what I mean? I, I think sometimes, uh, oh my gosh, I talked to a director one time who was a little more arrogant and he writes his films. I mean, I’m not saying I’m not arrogant–I’m sure I am in my own way. CM: We all are. BIK: Yes, a little more entitled in some degrees, and, uh, he said he was working with actors and he’s like, “and they were, they were saying the lines, it just didn’t feel real. And I turned to him and just said, can you just sound like a real person? Is it that hard?” And I’m just like, well, bro, like, I don’t know if your words sound like a robot that you’ve written then yeah, it’s hard for them to do that. And so that’s where, and I’m sure I’ve done it absolutely, and I will probably continue to do the exact same thing in certain ways. But when I heard that, I was like, Oh man, that’s I got to get rid of that ego and, and help them find the honesty in the scene because no actor wants to give a bad performance. No actor wants to go to a premiere of their movie and they look like a B-level, you know, Hallmark actor, like, you know, they want to feel like, they want, they want to find the truth in the moment. And so that’s more what I’m seeking than a perfect, a perfect product in the end, I guess. CM: I like that a lot. I like the search for the perfect moment and I’m laughing cause I kind of think about that David Lynch meme of do it again, but do it better. And it’s just like, you know, as, as a director, you know, how do you really bring out the best of the person that you’re with? It’s whatever they need in that moment. BIK: Yup. Yup, exactly. And, like, even before we jump into a shoot, I usually do a FaceTime or meet with our actors and talk through like, Hey, if we’re running a scene and it doesn’t feel right, I’m going to yell cut. And I even tell them don’t be offended if I do that. But if we’re running a scene and it’s not feeling honest to you, you let me know, too. I was like, because there’s no point in us wasting a time when it’s a battle against time on a set if it’s not feeling truthful to us. Um, and so I try to really empower them that, uh, that we’re searching for truth. And I think especially in the indie film world, I think what stands out to me is performance over, over cinematography, over story, like performance and character are number one, um, over plot. And, uh, and that may sound a little silly, but, uh, but there’s so many friends of mine and people that I know that I’ll go to their screenings of their movies. And, uh, and you know, I always say, you know within the first five minutes what you’re in for and, uh, and you can have a really awesome opening, it looks great. And then the first time the actor speaks, you go, Oh, okay, this isn’t, this isn’t that–this is a Lifetime movie. And, and not that there’s anything, I’m not, I’m not trying to badmouth Lifetime movies. I think every film has a genre and a purpose and an audience. I’m not trying to badmouth those at all. But when you know that a director is trying to go for something deeper or more honest, and, uh, and you can just tell that it’s like, Oh, so, okay, so this is the level to set the film at for the rest of the film. And again, not that that’s, uh, not that that’s a bad thing. I’m just saying that’s not what I am seeking to tell. And so, you know, it’s like trying to figure out how to avoid some of those stumbling blocks, which I, I feel like on Made Me Do It, there were areas that I fell into that, uh, my first feature as well. So I hope no one feels like I’m badmouthing anything cause I, I definitely fall into these things all the time. CM: Well, I, I don’t think it’s, uh, badmouthing anything. I think it’s just, is it we’re confusing where we need to learn and we’re confusing where we’re at. So thinking that we need to deliver at three levels above where we actually are as opposed to doing your best in the moment and pushing yourself when applicable. BIK: Yeah, and I always say like, this is what’s nuts, and I just heard a Soderbergh quote that was actually very similar. Um, but I always say every movie comes back to two people sitting in a room, having a conversation in some degree, and it can be the biggest superhero franchises of all time. I remember we went to go see Avengers: Endgame. And, uh, the first act of that films is after they’re, you know, they’re grieving all their friends and all this stuff, spoilers, sorry, everybody. But, uh, but there’s a moment where Captain America and Black Widow literally just, like, stand and have a conversation for a long while about their grieving and what they’re going through. And I was just like, sure enough, there it is guys. Like every movie comes back to two people having a conversation. And so, like, you know, we’ve had a couple of interns and that’s something I’ve actually told them. I was, I was like, stop trying to make John Wick 4 and get two people sitting in a room, having a conversation and make it feel real and authentic and honest because once you get that down, then you can figure out and play with the bigger stuff. But until you’ve got that, like, honesty of two people just having conversation, I feel like you’re going to struggle with performance. CM: Try to make My Dinner with Andre as opposed to John Wick 4. BIK: Yeah. Or even like, I go back to was it Tangerine shot on the iPhone, it’s like, you know, not really much plot, not really much story, but character and performance and try it. It’s more like a feel and a mood that they were capturing. And I feel like that’s the area that’s better to error on than, you know, trying to pull off something big and then everything feels weak cause you don’t have, honestly, you don’t have time to really dig into the performances because you’re trying to get, you know, the action sequence or the stunt, like what we had, you know. CM: It’s interesting. I love the idea that your, your goal is to make one feature a year. How do you bring in the whole concept of leveling up as, as a director, as a collaborator, as a storyteller? BIK: Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t, I honestly, like, I’ve had some friends be like, do you want to try to get, uh, you know, some B-level actors in this one or some TV actors and what’s hard is, I don’t know the moment you start to do that, there’s all these, uh, like when you study SAG rules and some of this other stuff. My wife, Kristen is great at all that, but there starts to become, you see this little tiny budget that you have all of a sudden balloon into this big thing where it’s like, Oh, now we need a trailer, now we needed this, now we need–they want their own makeup artist who’s this amount by day, you know? And so for me, I’ve just tried to be good about keeping things small and being okay to kind of like live in that sandbox. And I hope my best film is still ahead of me. That’s kind of, one of my goals is, you know, to keep making these things that if you would look at my films, you could easily see me growing as a filmmaker. And I just trust that at some point, if we continue to produce these films in this way, uh, hopefully someone will like them and we’ll be able to level up, uh, at that point when we can have a bigger budget, you know, it’s like we’re dealing in the, uh, the less than a hundred thousand dollar, you know, arena. And some of them, like, we just shot this feature last year, that was this boxing film, this boxing kind of crime thriller. And it, and it all happened because we’d worked with this actor on two films, and he’s amazing. And I kept keeping him in my mind and then I got on Instagram and he was part of this stunt gym up in L.A. where they owned this like boxing ring and all this stunt stuff, right? CM: Cool. BIK: And I messaged him and was like, dude, when are we doing a boxing movie? And, uh, and he messaged back and he’s like, he’s like, man, I’m down to do a short or anything, whenever you wanna do it. And I’m like, no, not a short, like a feature. And so for about six months, we kind of collaborated on ideas and then finally he messaged me and he was like, Hey, like we’re switching locations so we’re only going to have this location for like a couple more weeks, you know, are we going to do this or not? And so I just showed up, we filmed for one night and shot some footage. And then, uh, and then we develop the story a little bit more. Then a couple of months later, he’s like, Hey, I’m living in this house, I’ve got a roommate who’s an actor. This is when Covid had hit. I have this, you know, roommate, who’s also an actor. Can we just shoot in this house? He’s like, I’m leaving in a couple of months. I’m moving out of this house so let’s shoot it out. And so, sure enough, like we, we, we wrote an outline for it. And then I worked through and, like, wrote pages for those scenes and developed the characters and then I would just go up and we would, we’d shoot out the whole movie, like basically be like, okay, in this house, we need you guys to go through this kind of relationship. And so we’d film all those beats and then know that we have these other little, you know, tick marks on our outline that we need to hit, uh, down the line at other locations. So it’s, it was constantly like, Hey, we have this location, let’s do it. We have this location, let’s do it. And then as you start to incorporate, people are like, man, we need a warehouse, like shoot this like boxing scene. Right. You know, cause since we lost the gym and the new actors, like, dude, I work for company that hasn’t warehouse. I could ask if we can use it for free. And so we literally shot this feature for something like $2,000, if not a little bit less, like it was like food for actors, gas. And that was, that was about it. CM: Wow. I’m, I’m flashing back to, what was it, Rebel with the Crew, Rodriguez’s first book. BIK: One hundred percent, man, I love like Rodriguez’s mindset. I love, like, I worked in horror for like, uh, like five or six years. So like Roger Corman, uh, his whole way of like, they would have a castle set and they would be shooting one movie during the daytime and one movie all at night time. And it’d be two different movies shooting in the same castle set, you know, because he’s busting out these films or even like, um, what is it like Blumhouse, Blumhouse pictures. Like, I feel like they’re kind of the new Roger Corman. They bust things out and that’s kind of, my mentality is like, you know, don’t have ego with it, build the story in editing–we’re going to shift things anyways. I always say like budget, like three days of pickups just in case you’re editing and you find that you miss something, that’s the way we kind of go about it. CM: That’s awesome. And, and visually speaking, I mean, let’s take the idea of a boxing film. Do you have what’s been done in the past, in your mind, are you thinking about things that you’ve seen like at Raging Bull or are you thinking about new ways to tell this story? BIK: That was the thing is I feel like going into it, uh we’re like we don’t want to redo Rocky because Rocky has been done. Uh, we can’t redo Creed cause Creed was amazing. You know, it’s like, you kind of go through all these–Warrior, we really liked the tone of Warrior, but we didn’t want to copy that. Um, so we kinda like, our pitch was kind of like, I would say a mixture of, like, Good Time and probably Warrior was kind of the balance we were trying to create where there’s a little bit of like action thriller in there. Um, but then we had the Black Lives Matter protests happen, uh, you know, all throughout the country and the city and everything going on with that. And we had originally talked about, like, there are these characters from the south that are basically like hiding in L.A. after they did something bad. And uh, and so we developed like, how do we kind of, like with the things that we’re feeling and what we’re going through, put some of that into the story and discuss some of this racial stuff, especially with these characters coming from the south, you know, what can we, can we play with and discuss? And that, that we didn’t want to be like the racial boxing movie, but we’re like, Oh, Hey, if there could be some of these undertones that we’re all feeling right now because the film takes place during like Covid and everything that’s been going down last year, I was like, I feel like we need to mention it. And so we were able to develop some of these relationships and uh, in a way that revealed maybe some of these racist roots within their family and them trying to overcome some of that. So that’s kind of like a way that like, as we’re working on it, the actor, Sam and I, we had many phone calls where we’re just, like, dude, we’re feeling this, like we’re feeling what’s going on this year. And we want to like, you know, not that, like, our little boxing movie is going to change the world, but how do we, how do we address it in the art that we’re creating in a way that doesn’t feel forced or like, we’re, we’re trying to use it in any way, but just to have a little subtle conversation, I don’t know. Hopefully it speaks to people and doesn’t feel like, uh, like it’s forced, but yeah, as a being, a kind of growing thing as we’re going, that’s where I hope it kind of finds its own voice, I guess. CM: I like how you described that, too, because that’s the power of movies is to speak into the times. So, you know, you mentioned Apocalypse Now, you know, and even, you know, Star Wars and those things, those are those in a way are commentaries on what was going on in the time that they were made and what they were railing against in terms of societal ills and studio things and, and all that stuff. So it’s like, that is the power of film beyond just making billions of dollars, you know, to allow us to escape into a whole nother realm of our imagination. BIK: Or even feel it kind of have this, like I always go back to, was it, uh, George Romero and the Night of the Living Dead series where you had Night, Dawn and Day and you know, basically each decade and he’s commentating on what’s going on in the world, you know, through these films. Uh, and I feel like that’s kind of like, even, dude, we have a thriller we shot, uh, probably a year ago, two years ago, something like that, called Killer Prophet. And, uh, it’s basically this Black author that, uh, that is writing this book about the end of days and he starts having visions of it, you know? And, uh, and there’s these scenes where he’s kind of like, um, we filmed it in my garage, funny enough. And he’s like, he’s handcuffed and it’s black and white and kind of grimy and nasty. And, uh, and dude, after, uh, after some of the shootings that happened, I was working on the sound mix and I was watching through it and I’m just like, dude, this hurts, like this feels like a punch in the gut. And, and again, for me, I hope that that film, uh, it deals kind of with, I don’t want to spoil too much, but with people trying to take advantage of people with different gifts that happens to be this person with these gifts, you know, is a, is a Black character. And so something that like wasn’t intended to necessarily speak to that discussion now, all of a sudden it feels very relevant with what’s going on. So I, I hope that it speaks that even, dude, it’s crazy, like in the film, you know, it’s dealing with kind of this, this, uh, this outbreak that happens that takes down half of the world. No, seriously, it was, it was crazy. And I’m doing the score, you know, giving notes on score just at like in March when Covid is happening and then into Black Lives Matter happening. And you’re just like, this is crazy, that the fact that movie is about like a prophet seeing the future, and then all this is happening. I’m just like, this is bonkers, man. But, uh, but that’s where I hope that it can speak into some that without it exploiting those topics, you know what I’m saying? CM: I do. And it reminds me, I love it when art that is produced before a moment in time happens ends up speaking into that moment. I’m thinking of the concert film by the band, Muse, it’s called Simulation Theory. And it’s, it’s all about this virus in a sense. And it’s in 2019 that they did this and I’m, we’re watching, uh, my wife and I, we were watching this film and we’re just like, wow, you know, like how, you know, it’s affecting the world and how people are responding. I’m like, when did this come out? And it’s, it’s just amazing what art can do. BIK: A hundred percent man. And I think even like for me, a big thing for us, like as we’ve been seeing all this stuff happen is it’s a very simple thing, but trying to tell stories of people of color and just being intentional about, you know, a character, you don’t need to write it as like a Black character or a white character or a Hispanic character. It’s like, write characters how you write characters and then just open up instead of saying, Oh, this character has to be a white dude or this dude, it’s like open it up and find who is the most talented and be seeking people that, you know, people of color to be in, in your projects and films. Because I guess for me, I feel like representation is such a huge thing. Like my son’s favorite superhero is Spider-Man, Miles Morales, and I’m just, like, it took way too long to get us like a Spider-Man of color. It took way too long for Black Panther to come out. And the small role, I feel like I can play, I’m not going to change the world, but the small role that I can play is just being intentional about like, Oh my gosh, I’ve, I’ve had so many, like, Hispanic actor friends say the only roles I get offered are the gang member, you know, or, you know, the same with like a Black character is, you know, the basketball guy, you know, it’s just like all these, like, very, um, I don’t know, cliche roles for these actors. And it’s like, well, how do we, how do we be intentional about just creating diversity within our films? So it’s, I just think it’s a very simple thing that can be done. That makes a big impact when a kid or someone can sit and watch a movie and see someone that looks like them. CM: For sure. And one of the things that I appreciate about that is like, I think recently I read, instead of trying to change the world, start with yourself. And I think when, when you’re able to bring in these characters and, and show even like your son a different way, and your son sees these things, you’re creating that new world in, in your family, in yourself. BIK: Dude, right, a hundred percent. I, and I go back to, like, I was adding it up and I’m, like, my son, my white blonde haired, blue eyed son, right, he’s got Han solo, he’s got Luke Skywalker, he’s got Batman, he’s got Superman, he’s got Woody, he’s got Buzz, he’s got the Incredibles, you know? It’s like, you can list off all of these characters that he can look up to and see himself on the screen and it just is sad. I feel like when you look at the opposites, um, that there just isn’t as much like where, and not that you need to make the Black Indiana Jones, but I’m just saying like where are those characters that how I was inspired by Indiana Jones, why are we not just making an effort to try to diversify in again, in a very simple, subtle way. I think it can make a lot of, a lot of difference. CM: Diversity is interesting because I’ve been watching a lot of 80s and 90s films and it, it seems like you go back and you watch 80s and 90s films and like the diversity is striking. BIK: Yeah. CM: There’s so much diversity then. I mean, what do you think happened? BIK: I have no idea. Dude, I was watching, uh, when I edit sometimes, I just put on movies in the background, I watched through Mighty Ducks, all three of the old movies. And, dude, the diversity within that cast, or even like, uh, like Heavyweights back in the day. It’s like, there were these movies that like, as a kid, I was looking up to these, like these Black and Hispanic characters in these, like, sports movies, you know what I mean? Um, even, like, what is it that, there’s the Asian kid in the second one who was like the really fast skater and I don’t know, he does the twirls and all that stuff and I thought he was like the coolest kid in the entire world. Uh, I don’t know, man. I don’t know. It’s, it’s kinda sad to see, like, I feel like it’s gotten worse in, what, the early 2000s to now it’s, it’s become this thing where instead of it just being normal to have a diverse cast, it’s either not diverse or like really pushing like that side of an agenda in some way instead of, like, I don’t know, like even talking to our lead actor on Killer Prophet, it’s like, you don’t need to write a Black character, like, speaking, this is gonna sound really silly, but like speaking, like, Ebonics or whatever it’s like or saying in a certain way. You can write a Black character how you would write any character. You can write a Hispanic character how you would write any character. I don’t know, as a white writer and as a white person, even just talking to other friends of mine who are white that are in the industry, I think there’s this fear of, like, well, if I write a character of color, I don’t want to offend that group by messing it up so I’m just not going to do it, I’m not going to touch it instead of trying to, like, educate yourself or simply just say, I’m going to leave the race blank and whoever’s the best actor will fit into that because it doesn’t have to matter in this case. CM: It’s almost like you’re able to trace the outline of what it can be and let the actor fill in the important details that you as a white writer never could. BIK: Exactly, exactly. It’s just being open-handed with that. I think it goes back to that collaboration aspect is like, let them, exactly, let them fill in the blanks how they feel like they need to fill in the blanks. Like, what’s interesting too, is like with Killer Prophet, as I was writing it, the way we broke up the movie shooting was very, very interesting. It was, we shot like this post-apocalyptic kind of flash forward stuff. Um, my parents were looking at selling their house in Indiana, the house I was raised in and they had like an acre of woods in the back and they were talking about selling it. And so me and my family actually went back for Christmas and we stayed a month and I was like, well, if you guys are thinking about selling the house, I’ve always wanted to shoot a movie here so could I shoot a movie? And they said, yes and so, uh, so we, we cast some Indiana actors and shot this post-apocalyptic stuff, uh, kind of in our house and, you know, taped up the, you know, all the plastic hanging and all this stuff as if it was like a quarantined kind of home. And we basically shot all of these kind of flash forwards, uh, in the film that this, this, you know, prophet is basically seeing. And so we shot that stuff and then I edited those, then built the rest of the story around them ’cause I, I didn’t know what we were doing. And, and so we basically built a story around that. And then we shot for a week in Joshua Tree out here with just a handful of actors and basically filled in the rest of the pieces. But yeah, man, it was one of those things that like we had actors, the best actors that audition in Indiana happened to be Black actors and, uh, and so that set the tone for the rest of the film, um, because then you’re dealing with the younger versions of those characters essentially. CM: Wow. That’s super cool. BIK: Dude, it’s fun, man. CM: One of the interesting things about you is that you produce films with your wife. What’s that like? BIK: Dude, it’s one of those things it’s like, it’s pretty amazing. It’s, it’s pretty great. I feel like, uh, you know, we, we were in film school together and I used to get like, so, uh “attitudy” before a shoot, I used to get all like uptight and irritable and uh, and she basically just flat out, said like, Hey, if this, if this attitude doesn’t change, like I’m not going to be on your sets anymore. And I’m like, I’m like, Oh, okay. And so that was just really helpful in like, I feel like she is constantly like helping battle the ego and not worry about stuff. Like, even as far as like, you know, we shot a film, I say probably two years ago now that we’ve been, we’re wrapping up sound on at this point. But, uh, I was like, Aw, man, like if I could just get like three or four more shooting days, I feel like I could fix this little section. And she’s like, Nope, she’s like you get two days or a day and a half and then finish it up and get it out the door. She’s like do better on the next one. And I’m like, okay. And like, that’s it like, is this thing that’s like, because she is more of the like, uh, you know, kind of numbers person and very factual, she’s not the creative type. She’s able to be like, dude, we shot this. It is what it is. You had this amount of days, get it out the door, quit, quit griping about it. And, uh, it’s very helpful I think, to, to battle some of that, those insecurities, that pop up as a filmmaker. She co-wrote Pastor’s Kid with me. It’s a, uh, it’s a story of a female pastor’s kid. And, uh, and kind of her growing up with a lot of hypocrisy in her life, uh, basically alcoholic mother and then this little, you know, she had an alcoholic mother, she had to basically raise her little brother herself and her, her mom becomes a Christian and then becomes a pastor. And so everyone praises her mom as being this a redemption story, you know and, uh, and no one’s like seeing her pain and what she went through as a kid. So now you have this mom that, you know, was like out all hours of the night, coming home drunk telling their high school daughter, Hey, you can’t go out past six. You know? And just the struggle that happens is based on a true story of a friend of mine that actually I worked at a church with, and, uh, and just her struggle of, of kind of diving deep into pushing away family, pushing away God, pushing away everybody. And, uh, as you’re writing it, I am well aware that I am not a girl and I’m not a female that can speak into that voice, a woman, sorry, I’m not a woman. And so I would do a draft of the script and she’d go through and work on the dialogue with me. And she’s like, yeah, she sounds really mean here and this sounds like how a dude would talk and she would help, like, as we’d go, it was really developing the character and who this, who this lady was and what she was going through and what she was feeling. It honestly spoke so much into it even as like a producer on set, I love that she’ll come up to me ’cause I usually shoot my own films, I’m the cinematographer on my own films so she’ll be on the monitor and she’ll come up to me and be like, Hey, did you feel like you got this, maybe hit that one one more time. And she’s just kind of a, a great second pair of eyes that I can trust that she’s going to be. She’s going to be critical, but also help find solutions. CM: I like the way that you described her as almost the counterbalance to you and, and what you would naturally do. And she kind of provides the limits that you need imposed upon you. BIK: No, a hundred percent dude. That’s I feel like her role, even in preproduction, she handles all the sag stuff. She handles all the budgeting. And so, you know, I go out with these crazy ideas and she’ll be like, we need to whittle these areas down to fit into what we’re doing. CM: Oh, that’s cool. BIK: It’s just so helpful as a collaborator, man. It’s I always talk about like, and I think, you know, early on, I struggled with this, I think every creative does is they’re trying to find their voice, but it’s, you’ve got to really protect the creative team that you allow into your process because everyone has an agenda and everybody has their own ego and everyone has a goal of what they want to do. And so that can sometimes like taint the project a bit if you’re allowing voices into the project and listening to them, because sometimes you don’t know who to listen to, right? Sometimes you don’t know like, Hey, am I seeing this wrong? Is my gut incorrect? Or do I fight this battle and continue in this direction? Um, and so you want to trust the people that you allow into that creative circle. And she’s one of those that like, you know, the, the way that Pastor’s Kid happened is essentially like, I’ve been so tired of Christian movies sucking and I’m so tired, like, and you know, some are okay, I know they have a place just how everything has a place, but I’m so tired of any story of faith feels be so cliche. Um, it just feels kind of hokey, it’s usually the Christian is the hero and the atheist is the evil villain, you know, that looks like the devil. And, uh, and it just, isn’t honest and true. And, and so my whole life I’ve really wrestled with that because I’ve been a Christian for essentially my whole life. And not that movies need to be blunt, but I, I don’t know. I look back to even movies like Signs back in the day or Chariots of Fire or these movies that had elements of faith that, like, it wasn’t about trying to convert or push an agenda. It would just, Oh, character happened to have faith and that was part of the story. I remember my wife and I, we sat down and we watched the movie Moonlight, the best picture winner a few years ago. And what I loved about Moonlight was it’s the story of this gay Black kid from Florida that couldn’t be any more, you know, poor kid that couldn’t be any more different than me, right, as like a white kid, middle-class kid raised in the Midwest, like very different. And yet, somehow I connected with that character. I felt everything they were feeling and I never felt like, you know, it’s him coming to terms with his sexuality or learning his sexuality and owning it in a way. And I was like, this is a film about a homosexual kid finding a sexual identity. And in no way, did I feel like it was propaganda. No way did I ever feel like it was pushing an agenda or trying to convert anyone’s way of thinking. It was simply, this is this kid’s story and we’re in it. And we’re following him through, through his journey and it’s going to be as honest as possible. And when I saw that, I was like, this is what we need to do for a film about faith, is like, we need to take this as a blueprint is it’s not about converting people. It’s not about, you know, trying to push an agenda. It’s about telling it in this honest way. And we actually met with some Christian producers that had done some, some pretty decent stuff and I pitched it to them and, uh, and they go, Oh, that’ll never work. That’ll never work. They’re like, you need to sell a book with it, it needs to be PG, it needs to have, like, every, basically everything against what I just said, it needs to be, you know, have a movement behind it, whether it’s like anti-abortion or pro-marriage or whatever–they had all these things they listed off. And I walked away so discouraged. And, uh, and I called up my wife actually right after the meeting and I said, what do we do? Like, do we just sell out and like, make one of these films because they wanted to work with me as a director. And she goes, no, she’s like, no, we’re gonna do it our way. We’re not, we’re not gonna worry about them. We’re gonna forget about them and we’re going to do it our way. And, uh, and that’s been something that this whole project to kind of making just an honest film about faith. I don’t even like to call it a Christian film, but you know, you could label that if that’s how you want to do it. Um, but just something honest about faith the whole time she has spearheaded, like do it your way and if it fails that at least we did the way we felt like we need to do it. And yeah, I call it the Christian film nobody wants. Dude, it’s crazy because my whole, my whole pitch an idea is like everyone in this country, I would argue has had a bad run in with a Christian in some regards, you know? And that’s, that’s the truth. And so, uh, at least I believe it is. And so I think our film can hopefully speak into that, of this girl who has, you know, kind of this hypocritical upbringing and faith and her trying to find what she believes on her own. CM: That’s awesome. BIKL: It was a long winded answer. Sorry, buddy. CM: Long-winded answers are the best, but uh, where can people learn more about your films, what you’re working on, find links to buy them? BIK: Ironside films. What are we? Ironside films.tv, I believe is our website. And then if you just look up, uh, Ironside films on Facebook, that’s where we post a lot of our stuff. We have four films, uh, that we’re in final sound mix on right now. And so my hope is to release them all this year. But, uh, but we’ll see. It’s, it’s crazy. It’s a crazy world we live in so we’ll see what gets done.
46 minutes | Jan 25, 2021
“Putting Good Into the World” with Maggie Hart and Brittany Zampella (BYI06)
A statement on their website is boldly simple yet deeply profound: “We only make Good things.” That’s Good With a capital G! The founders of Farsighted Creative, Maggie Hart and Brittany Zampella, are here to talk about what it means to not only create media that’s good but also put good into the world. They also share how their creative partnership’s power propelled them forward to create short films, write music, launch two podcasts, and work with ethically sourced clients. It’s refreshing to talk with two passionate professionals who are doing work that truly matters to themselves and the world. About Farsighted Creative From FarsightedCreative.com: “Everywhere you look today you can find something wrong with the world. Pandemics. Racism. Climate change. Conflict. Divisiveness. The list goes on, and it’s depressing. Sometimes we don’t need any more reminders of what’s wrong with the world – we need a vision for what can be. ‘Good’ content highlights better ways to love another, take care of our planet, fight injustice, and recognize the dignity of every human being. Whether it’s films, music, podcasts, or commercial work, our content is the antidote for the wrongs we see in the world.” Farsighted Creative Farsighted Creative on YouTube Ghost Story: A Modern Fairy Tale (Short Film) Show Notes Beauty and the Beast (2017) Jurassic Park (1993) Sleeping At Last Joe Swanberg Duplass Brothers Netflix’s Most Popular Show Is an Overnight Success That Took 30 Years to Make McMillions Transcript Maggie Hart (MH): Yeah. So I am Maggie, I have been a filmmaker… I don’t know, since I was like five years old, but I’ve been working in film for the last dozen years or so. Doing a lot of production, post production, writing all kinds of features, short films, working commercials and whatnot. And most recently, Brittany and I have founded our production company called Farsighted Creative, which does all kinds of film, podcasts, music, you name it. Chris Martin (CM): Brittany, how about you? Brittany Zampella (BZ): I am very new to the filmmaking kind of world of things. I’ve been doing music and creative stuff in that avenue for off and on for about 10 years, but Maggie and I met at the beginning of 2019. And around that time, I started to kind of fall in love with the entertainment industry and telling stories through that medium, all sorts of stuff related to that. And we just clicked and started to have ideas and jumped into creating a short film together that kind of sealed the deal on my love for filmmaking. So I’m very much a newbie, but love it, and with Farsighted I do kind of our marketing, Instagram page, content creation there and Maggie and I, kind of, tag team different projects that we’re working on. So yeah, it’s a blast. CM: Oh, that’s really cool. I’m curious what was it about filmmaking that drew you in? BZ: This is kind of a funny story. I, of all movies, was watching the live action Beauty and the Beast, and I know it’s not the best movie of all time, but for whatever reason there was something about that movie, particularly, the set design and just seeing one of my favorite Disney movies brought to life, which was wonderful, but there was something about the craft of that film that caused me to really want to do a deep dive into the behind the scenes workings of it. And I was kind of getting into interviews and panels and behind the scenes for all sorts of other things and slowly but surely just started to meet people in the industry. And it all started from really wanting to be an ally for people in the entertainment industry. I didn’t see myself being really hands-on, but as I got to know people, and then when I met Maggie, I was like, “This is the exact kind of person that I’d want to do projects with.” And then we just ended up doing stuff together. So it surprised me in a very fun way. CM: So Maggie, the bar has been set with Brittany saying, you know, the live action remake of Beauty and the Beast. For you, wat was the film that was like, I want that? MH: Well, I said I’ve been making films since I was five due to watching Jurassic Park when I was way too young. I don’t know why my parents let me watch it. Yeah, I remember the only way they’d let me watch it, is if they sat me down and they said, you can watch this just so you know it’s not real like the dinosaurs aren’t real. And my mom who had done some acting kind of explain the process of filmmaking and storytelling. And she was like, “It’s a fun story, but it’s not. You don’t have to be scared.” And I just remember wanting to make dinosaurs come to life. And I made all of these really terrible home movies with my dad’s video camera and that’s… yeah, that just kind of sealed the deal for me. I was making terrible videos in high school and then I went to film school and just kind of been doing it since then. CM: I love the story of people discovering the video camera that their parents buy that they’re obviously not using except for special occasions. MH: Right. CM: And it’s just… there’s something so exciting about just that mystery of… I know for my mom, her video camera was in this almost like a suitcase. And it was the allure of that blue suitcase. What was in there? Then you open it up and it has like the eyepiece and for me it was VHS and you’re just like, “What is this thing?” MH: I remember I would do tape to tape little edits of my stuff. And then my family won one of those colorful IMAX that had the first version of iMovie on it. And I just remember being so excited to actually edit what I was filming. So that was… yeah. Just kind of learning about the whole process was really exciting. CM: So was your dream to work in a studio or create your own studio? MH: I have always wanted to create my own content and I shot a feature when I was in film school and it was very much just, “We have a weekend and this guy has a camera and this guy has some lights and my cousin is willing to act for me.” So we all just got together. So I always wanted to shoot my own content. And then I did spend some time in L.A. trying to work for a studio or get things picked up. I think the benefit of having a studio is the money aspect. I did get hired to write some scripts and I just didn’t like writing somebody else’s stories. I worked with some producers that I really meshed with, and that was really fun. And then I worked with others where they were sort of looking over my shoulder and just telling me which keys to press. And that’s part of the reason why meeting Brittany and kind of cultivating that love for telling her own stories and telling stories that we think will inspire people, really wanting to create those, made me really want to just create this production company and tell our own stories. Maybe, hopefully, someday allow other people to tell the stories that they really want to tell as well. CM: One of the things that I really appreciate about Farsighted Creative and what you’re doing is, I like that it’s all about Good stories, but not only that, but you did “shift G” like “capital G”. MH: Yes. CM: And to me that says it’s not just a good story. It’s an objectively good story. MH: Yeah, it was. And not just something where someone’s like, “Oh, that was good.” But something that’s really putting good into the world. CM: Was that something that you were thinking before you met Brittany or was it the collaboration and partnership of working together where you really discovered that mission? MH: Because I’ve been doing film and like every filmmaker doing wedding videos and that sort of thing, Farsighted Films was my production name for tax reasons since about 2011. And I had that idea, kind of, it was sort of the idea of being Farsighted and seeing into the future and making something that’s going to last past kind of all the content that’s floating around today. But it really was meeting Brittany, when I told her the idea she just lit up and was so supportive and it was kind of… it was in at a time in my life when I had just moved out of L.A. and I was a little kind of disillusioned by trying to work in the studio and trying to figure out where I fit in and all of this. And she was just very excited about the idea. And I was doing documentary work at a nonprofit where we worked and she would come in and just say, “Okay, I have an idea.” And so we ended up just talking and we’re like, “We should make some of this stuff, we should do this.” So it was kind of like the jolt of life that I needed in my life. CM: And, Brittany, from your perspective, when someone’s disillusioned, you can kind of feel that energy. And so for you coming in with this new perspective, what were you seeing that maybe Maggie couldn’t at that time? BZ: I remember that moment When Maggie told me about what Farsighted Films is and that whole vision, and I think what stood out to me the most was this idea of creating content that’s an antidote for the wrongs we see in the world. And what I was really drawn to is Maggie has a knack for writing rom-coms and that’s kind of what first got me interested because she writes rom-coms because she hates rom-coms, which we could talk more about. But it’s this idea that she saw the messages being told in our culture about love, about relationships that maybe aren’t always the healthiest things. And she wanted to write stories of love and relationships and authentic connection that gave people a way forward towards healthy relationships, which is the whole Farsighted vision of being able to look ahead and say, what’s the kind of the world we want to live in, what are the kinds of relationships you want to have? So I’m going to create content that steers people in that direction and hopefully inspires them to be more empathetic towards each other, to be more real and be more human. I hadn’t met anyone with that kind of drive yet. I personally really just dabbled in songwriting when it comes to the arts. And for me, I wanted to write songs that did the same thing, specifically, even like love songs or songs about relationships and family and connection, because I was seeing all of these toxic messages in our culture. So I felt very much a synergy and wanted to come alongside and say, hey, let’s make your stories happen because stories are the things that shape our understanding the most. So it just was like a shoo-in when I heard her explain all of that. CM: Maggie, when you’re getting this level of energy from someone, what’s going on in your mind about… Is it an immediate kind of like, “Oh, wow, whoo! I can kind of heal from this disillusionment” or did it take a little bit to get into it? MH: It was kind of a little bit of both. It was a little bit of getting a first shock of energy like, “Oh, I can still tell stories. I can still tell the stories that I want to tell.” But still kind of healing and slowly getting to the point where I was ready to sort of make the jump to actually kind of pursuing all of these types of things especially, as like a full-time job. It’s definitely quite the jump. But yeah, it’s interesting because I was wanting to really make a difference in the world. After doing some work in L.A., I pivoted to doing like documentary content and wanting to just really be focused on what’s the most direct path to making change. It was a great reminder that stories are such powerful agents of change and a great way to reach people and really move people and develop that empathy and connection. And so it was definitely just this breath of fresh air that made me feel like I was allowed to write and to work on those stories. CM: It’s interesting how you go from… and I don’t think you’re alone in this, you go from the hopeful L.A. transplant to where you want to make change, you want to get hired, you want to be a part of this system and then you are exposed to it. And then the pendulum goes to documentary as a force of change because there is a lot of power in documentary. But I love how you went back and you’re like, “But rom-coms.” And movies with characters like Ghost Story, for example, where you’re telling a really good story, but it’s not a documentary it’s a short film narrative. And I love that because it allows you to almost go back to who you are, not just focusing just on an industry or a cause. MH: Right. I mean, the thing that happened the second I moved to L.A., and I don’t want to bash L.A. because I met some wonderful people there. I’m still working with a lot of great people there, but the thing that happens is, the first second you arrive, they ask you what your brand is. And it made me feel like I had to pick, like I have to be a writer or I have to be a: this, that, or the other thing. And I think creating Farsighted and working with Brittany and hearing she want to do music. And I was like, “Well, I would love to do music and I also want to write books and I also want to make podcasts.” And so it was kind of just giving ourselves the permission to really create whatever we want to create. So we’re developing documentaries, podcasts, music videos, short films, feature films, just… but we realized that it’s all, our “brand” would be this really wanting to put good into the world. And I think figuring that out was huge for me personally, and the work that I do. CM: Yeah, because what’s interesting is looking at your website, not only is it about the end result of the product, but also what goes into the product and the people you work with. MH: Mm-hmm. CM: Was that something that you talked about together in order to really make it the entire thing as opposed to just the story that you’re telling? BZ: When we were creating our website and doing all of the official things you do and you’re about to kind of go public, we sat down and really wanted to flesh out what do we really mean by good content. And then we kind of just brainstormed what values were important to us and also reflected on what has been motivating us because even by the time our website went up and we went live on social media, we had already been doing some work and we already had a rhythm and some things that just kind of naturally happened in our working dynamics so it was almost like putting language to what was already there and reflecting and seeing, okay, what kind of things our company values and what are things that we want to do in the future? Like, next time we’re on set we want to have zero plastic waste and when we’re casting we want to have representation and all of those things. So it was kind of a fun way to really see what’s Farsighted’s DNA and to look back and go, okay like just who we are and what are we already doing, and then what do we want to continue to do and just kind of put pen to paper to verbalize that. CM: That’s really cool and what I appreciate about that is the thing about values. And correct me if I’m speaking into something that I’m not maybe getting. When you’re setting your values together, is it a hundred percent in both of you or are there some of these values where one or both of you need to rise up and aspire to? MH: I think we ultimately both really agree on what the values are. I think that we work really well because we’re so similar and we have this vision together. I think it’s fun what we both bring as far as I’m sort of the … for, as just a small example, I was sort of the environmentally conscious one. Brittany is also, but I was the one I was like, “We got to have green sets and it’s got to be environmentally friendly.” And I’m big on… I don’t know whether this’s kind of that sort of activism. And then Brittany is amazing at, she’s really thoughtful about, sort of, creating that connection and what our content says and really focusing on people and that sort of thing. It was fun when we were brainstorming, we’re both sharing these values and I would be like, “Yeah, we should have green sets.” And she’s like, “Oh, that’s a great idea.” And then she’s like, “We’ll do this.” And so it’s cool that we both kind of have these anchors that we both share. BZ: Yeah. I would echo that. I think one of the cool things about our working dynamic is we are very, very similar, but we do have, we call it our yin and yang. We have our things that are very distinct to us, but we’re very supportive of those differences as well. So it’s not, say a chore for me to say, “Oh god, let’s just have zero plastic ways.” And she’s like, “Oh yeah.” I naturally don’t think about those things so that’s really amazing. And it allows, I feel like both of us to grow in the way we value each other and our individual values. And they kind of come together through Farsighted in a very respectful and honorable way towards each other and kind of creating the backbone of what we both do through the company. CM: I like how you described your working dynamic and I’m curious since you both have such different kind of central passions. Brittany, you being in music and storytelling and Maggie, like visual storytelling and anti rom-coms and things like that. How does that working dynamic together kind of start to shift your thinking about the things that maybe you’re not great at, but you want to be better at? BZ: One of the things I appreciate about her values for being green and stuff like that, it helps me see the value for them in my own life. I think it challenges me in a really sweet way. It’s not a shaming kind of way, it’s not an obligation or anything like that, but I really try to take a disposition of teachability and openness to see what can I learn from this person in general, just as a life principle. When it comes especially to people that I love and care about who are in my close sphere in life, it allows me to kind of see where areas that are lacking in my own life and how can I begin incorporating this in my own life and not in the same way, because we’re each, we have our own expressions of that, but it at least causes me to ask the question of in my unique wiring and my lifestyle, how can I incorporate some of these values that this person has and what does that look like for me? And it allows me to care about things that I may not have cared about before. Which I think even with the content we want to create, that’s part of the goal as well, as we want to put things out there that maybe people haven’t thought about or hadn’t valued, or hadn’t analyzed in their head and present it in a way that’s inspiring and gets them excited about pursuing some of these, whether it’s a social justice initiative or something from history or just relationships, we want them to get excited about how they can engage with that. And that’s kind of been my experience with what Maggie brings to the table specifically. MH: For me, the thing that comes to mind is I think it’s so great to have a partner who can sort of manage expectations and, yeah. I mean, the way that we like to work is we, every so often we’ll just brainstorm what kind of projects we want to do, what would we like to do? And we like to pretend we’re the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “This is Phase One, what we’re doing.” And then we finish that. “Okay, what’s phase two.” And I am just always… I’m such a doer. I’m like, “Let’s make three features, five podcasts, let’s write two books.” Just go way over the top. And I was definitely such a … I used to just run myself ragged, like, drive with a case of red bull in the car kind of person, and then subsequently just completely burned out. So it ended up being a wash because I would work really hard for a month. And then I would burn out for three months. And one thing that’s amazing about Brittany and just having kind of that accountability, but also her sensibility of saying let’s just do these three things, we’ll do them really well. And one thing that she always tells me is, there’s no hands on the clock. We’re going to give them the time that they need. And what’s also great is we’re both so driven that I never worry about us getting lazy. So that’s really nice. And it’s something that’s in our values that we wanted to continue when we work with people on set, when we work with freelancers and stuff, is the idea of like, we’re not going to run people ragged. And really treat people with respect. And it really starts with us. And it’s a lot of Brittany telling me that I don’t have to finish everything in the next two hours, which has really been nice. CM: I love the picture that you’re painting of collaboration because it’s incredibly healthy. Because I think, speaking for myself, sometimes collaboration is scary. It’s something that you want, but don’t want, at least for me. And so I’m curious, were you looking for a collaboration or did you just kind of stumble into it? MH: For me in general, I’m a highly collaborative person. I love sharing scripts with people. I love bringing people into things, but it’s funny because we always joke that, when we met, I was sort of in transition doing some documentary work. I was finishing up some scripts for people. So I wasn’t super… it’s not like I was looking to find a partner to do this with. And in fact, when I was doing documentary work, it was sort of like a… it’s kind of a temporary thing and Brittany and I were kind of both talking about moving and being transient and stuff like that. And when I moved there, I was like, “What am I going to do? Make friends?” And yeah, it just happened really naturally. It was a very natural, just sort of chatting about things and sharing ideas and it’s just kind of… Here we are. BZ: There’s two things that come to mind with that. One is just, there’s a moment when we were at our previous job and we’re just talking and sharing ideas back and forth and having this kind of inspirational moment. And someone says, “Oh, you guys should just record yourselves having conversations.” And Maggie says, “That’s called podcast.” It’s like one, just as an example of how naturally in our conversation and having similar interests and kind of enjoying learning about each other, it just played out. And then it really was just… I remember a specific day when we were sitting down and talking about our dream job, so to speak. And Maggie asked me, “What would you do if you could do anything?” And I just literally described Farsighted. I said, “I want to write music and I want to do movie stuff with you and podcasts and books.” And she was like, “Well, sounds like we just need a production company that does all those things.” And I was like, “Okay.” And then we just did it. It kind of just… Again, it’s an example of stuff just playing out naturally. And I don’t know if we know either of us thought…well, I’m pretty sure either of us didn’t think we would just start a company together when we first started to become friends, but it’s really a testimony to, yeah, just our connection and willingness to support each other and help us accomplish both our individual dreams and our kind of collective vision, too. So there wasn’t like a specific moment where we’re like, “Let’s have a sit-down or whatever.” It just kind of played out over time. CM: That’s cool. One of the short films that you have available is called Ghost Story. And I laughed many times throughout that short film, it was so well done. I think when Empathy Elf shows up I lost it. I thought that’s the funniest thing I’ve seen, but where did the collaboration begin with that project? MH: So that one’s fun. That was the first short that we shot together. And it was one of those things we were… The DP who shot that, Chris Commons, basically, just said we should shoot a short. And he was like, “Do you have any scripts? ” And I had a little sketch basically, the first scene was a little sketch that I had written like 10 years ago or something. So I filled out the script and then I showed it to Brittany and she gave me some notes and we just kind of decided to shoot it. I sent Chris the script and before I knew it, he had all of the crew and a bunch of suggestions for the cast. And I was like, “Well, I guess we’re making this thing.” And then it was amazing because we had everyone on the crew except for an assistant director. And I asked Brittany, I was like, “Just come and be my assistant director.” And it was her first time ever on a set. CM: Oh, wow. MH: And she crushed it. Because I had seen, having worked with her a little bit, just she had really great sensibilities and was very on top of things. And I was like, “I think she would make an amazing assistant director.” And yeah. So that brought her in to do that and now we just want to be on set all the time. BZ: Yeah. CM: That’s cool. Brittany, from your experience, what was going through your head when you’re brought in to do something you’ve never done before? BZ: I mean, all the things: shock, terror, excitement. I remember getting the texts from Maggie when she was like, “Chris wants to do a short in six weeks” and I was like, “Okay.” And I remember asking Maggie several times, clarifying, “Are you sure you want me to be an assistant director because I have never done this before, which of course she knew. And it really was, I think, the perfect way to do that for the first time, because Maggie having so much experience in both directing and AD-ing and stuff before, essentially took me under her wing and helped to a lot with the pre-production. And it was a really great learning experience from that vantage point. I was definitely the… I was so nervous on their first day of shooting because I just had no idea what to expect, I didn’t know. And I’m naturally like kind of a warm people person, but I can tap into what I call my Jersey side. I’m originally from New Jersey and if you’ve been to the Northeast, you know there’s like a certain energy about getting things done. So I discovered I just had to like tap into that a bit and then it was fun and allowed me to be a bit more assertive and time crunchy. So I think why I was amazed about overall was, one, how exhilarating it is being on set. That’s where like I mentioned earlier, I really fell in love with being on set. That feeling of we worked 12 hours and I still have like that buzz and want to keep doing it. And it was just a fun script and story. So we had a blast every day of shooting, even the stressful times, there was such a lightness and a joy kind of in the air that was also important for us to create the atmosphere onset. But then also just seeing that… I don’t know, I was surprised at how many of my other skills just kind of translated into being an AD because I was doing more administrative stuff and kind of project managing at the time. So it was cool to see the overlap and that, “Oh, it’s just like project managing and keeping everyone in line”, which I’m kind of already doing. So I was surprised that in some ways it was easier than I expected and just got me excited to be able to do that again in the future. CM: Yeah. Oh, that’s cool. I love hearing stories of that because it’s a good testament to what it takes to continue growing and you need those initial moments of putting yourself in a position that you’ve never done before. And I’m curious what do you have planned for Maggie to step into something she hasn’t done before? BZ: Oh, that’s a great question. I mean, that’s hard because there’s not much Maggie hasn’t done, to be honest. I definitely, one of my goals for the years to write some more original songs. She’s been the camera operator and we’ve done a couple of the music video things that she’s done. Yeah. I mean, other than just like ideas for different music videos, truly, there’s not much she hasn’t already done. So I don’t know what I can throw her way. MH: I was really worried you were going to say something like background vocals or a duet. BZ: I mean, I could. We can get you a little djembe or something and just… MH: I’ll do tambourine, I’ll do a little tambourine, little kazoo, something like that. BZ: Yeah. So we’ll get the triangle for you. You know what I’ll do is, I’ll do… I don’t know if you’re familiar with Sleeping At Last, Chris? CM: Mm-mm (negative). BZ: But he’s a singer/songwriter. And he puts this things in his songs called fingerprints, which are like little recordings of, that family and friends sent into his life that he layers really deeply within his stuff so you can’t… it might be someone like going for a walk and you hear their footsteps and you can’t hear them doing footsteps in the song, but they’re like layered within the music and the very fun, it’s a way he like incorporates the people in his life and his music. CM: Yeah, that’s cool. BZ: So I’ll just we’ll put some Maggie fingerprints… MH: Yeah, just use my fingerprints–that’ll be great. BZ: Yeah. CM: Words of wisdom. MH: There you go. CM: At the subconscious level. BZ: Perfect. Maggie’s going to do spoken word on that first EP… MH: Great. BZ: Start practicing. CM: That’s so awesome. And what I appreciate about, I get a sense of your bantering and what you do back and forth in maybe a collaborative spirit. That’s cool. MH: We have a good time. BZ: Lots of laughter. MH: Yes. CM: That’s good. One of the things that I’m constantly thinking about as I’m sure you are, is the business model of media and independent film moving forward into the age of tech and free content. Is this something that you think a lot about and what is the business model of telling good stories? MH: We want to be mindful. We want to make sure we’re making money and making a living and whatnot. I think as far as our business model, one of our values is ethically sourced clients. So we do some work for some advertising and that sort of thing, but it’s all… we want to do it for companies that have the same vision that we do, are putting something good into the world themselves. So whether they’re nonprofits or cool companies that are making great products. We do a lot of ads for a company that’s making amazing wellness products for women that’s like very body positive and female forward and that sort of thing. So, that’s part of our model as well. I think as far as we would love, we’re working on getting funding and that sort of thing for some of our more narrative projects. If I would have to name our business model, I like to call it the Joe Swanberg, Duplass Brothers business model. I don’t know if you’re familiar with them. They’re indie filmmakers. They started the Mumblecore Movement in the early 2000s. Joe Swanberg did like Drinking Buddies and Happy Christmas, and the Duplass Brothers have done a whole slew of independent films. They had an HBO series. They’re big producers now because they were so successful at making tiny indie films. But all that to say, Joe Swanberg said that his model was, he was just going to keep making films until somebody noticed that he was making films. CM: I love that. MH: Yeah. He’s from Chicago and Drinking Buddies I think was the first… he got a lot of notoriety from Drinking Buddies and he said a lot of people think it’s his first film. And he said, it’s actually my 15th film. And he was just making films until people noticed. He has a Netflix show now. We really just want to make the projects that allow us to provide us income that allow us to keep doing this. And then also really just… what do we really want to make and hopefully somebody notices at some point. CM: I love that clarity because sometimes it can get really discouraging looking at maybe how things used to be. And I’m always searching for a new way to do it a new way to approach it. And the more we can learn from one another, the more hope I feel for myself. And I think more people feel that sense of hope to keep making because it’s hard to make stuff. MH: Yeah. BZ: Mm-hmm. MH: There’s so many people making stuff too. CM: Mm-hmm. BZ: One thing too, that I think Maggie mentioned it earlier, is one of the things we say is, there’s no hands on the clock when it comes to making our plans. And we both have a really big desire to have impact. We want thousands and millions of people to see our stuff because we want them to be impacted with good stories and messages and all that stuff. And it can feel really intimidating because we’re like, “We just want to get this out there.” But it takes time and reminding ourselves that there truly are no hands on the clock. Our culture somehow says you have to arrive by 25 years old, which is just preposterous. So when we hear stories like the filmmakers who worked for years and years maybe. I’ve just read something about the creator of Queens Gambit and how they… it was 20 or 30 years that they pitched this film and they reworked it several times and now it’s one of the top series on Netflix in this last year. And those kind of stories are really encouraging to us because it reminds us to take a breath, that we just have to be diligent with what we have. Keep pumping stuff out, keep doing it. And to know that there’s another phrase: it takes 20 years to become an overnight success. Things really take time and just being at peace with what we have now is easier said than done, but I think remembering that nothing is wasted and it’s all playing into whenever we do have something that maybe gets more notoriety, we’ll hopefully be able to handle that with humility and just wisdom because we’ve put in the time and really had respect and love for our little baby projects. So just remembering that: there’s no hands on the clock, we’ve all got time, everything will be okay. Those little things, as cliche as they could sound, really do help us keep things in perspective and, and play the long game. CM: I love that so much because it speaks to not only the need for that positive internal self-talk, but also phrases like that are almost like the external manifestation of positive self-talk. MH: Yeah. Exactly. BZ: Yeah. CM: That’s definitely something I need to do here today. Thank you. BZ: Yeah. We do it to ourselves every day. MH: Yeah. What Brittany just said, I have her tell me every morning. BZ: I mean, we… what’s the phrase… we basically ping-pong back and forth when it comes to encouragement for each other. So there are days where one of us is super inspired and confident about what we’re doing and the other is just down and “I want to give up on everything” and Maggie is like, “No, here’s all these things.” So again, it’s, whether it’s a business partner or a friend or family or podcasts like yours, just having these verbal reminders from a community in some way is so important because that’s another key I think to creating anything is: it takes a village. CM: What I like, it’s not only how do you remind yourself of the positive messages that you need to hear, but how do you channel all of the emotions that you feel on a daily basis into your art? So how do you channel your anger, how do you channel your sadness, how do you channel your joy and happiness into the art that you’re making? MH: That’s a great question. BZ: It’s a great question. CM: I don’t have an answer to it myself. I’m hoping you do. MH: I think for me, it’s a couple of things. It kind of depends on what we’re doing, but I think realizing that art can be a channel for those things allows me to be really honest when I’m writing things. I’m writing a script now where the character is very much like me and sort of very frustrated by the things that I am also frustrated by in the world. And being able to incorporate that and say those things, for me, it’s really cathartic that I can put that into some sort of art as opposed to just posting it on Instagram or something like that. CM: Yeah. MH: And that was something that came up a lot. It was very comforting to me this past few months with the election and everything going on in our country. We had done a podcast about the Women’s Suffrage movement for the 100 year centennial. And that ended up bringing up a lot of themes about what it means to be in a democracy and what voting is and the rights of people to vote and that sort of thing. And it was such a comfort to me to have, to be putting out something, almost, I was passionate about it, but it was insane to me how relevant it became as we were releasing it to have something that was addressing those issues. Again, instead of just sort of posting it on social media or something like that. So, yeah, I take comfort in being able to put content out there that speaks to the things that I care about. CM: And I think what’s so powerful about the model that you’re choosing to use and I’m totally biased here because it’s the model that I’m trying to do as well, that when you’re not getting traction in one area, say short films, you can move to feature films or you can move to podcasts. You can move around and channel that energy in different ways. And I think that’s going to be more and more the model of the future as opposed to one track. You’re going to see multiple tracks of content being produced by people. BZ: I think that was one of the things that amazed me when Maggie just said, “Let’s just create a company that does that.” I didn’t know that was possible. CM: That’s awesome. MH: Neither did I. CM: Yes! BZ: It’s a struggle. I always had what I felt like were different interests. And I think a lot of people might be in that same boat of maybe they want to do a podcast or they care about this issue or they like this art form. So it is really empowering to see that come out more and more, to see like-minded people want to kind of diversify their talent and also just find a home for all their different passions. That’s definitely been, I think, both of our experiences with the Farsighted and it’s really neat crossing paths with other people who are just so talented and have so much to offer and don’t have to be limited to one specific thing. And sometimes that does happen for people and that’s just as wonderful, but just not as common, but it’s becoming more common to see what they call, kind of, the slash career or the multi-hyphenated career. So it’s really neat. MH: Well, I think it’s important, too, to really pay attention to what’s happening in the industry or all of those industries. And we want to be independent and do our own thing, but we also don’t want to just be completely deaf to trends or what, kind of, what people want to see. I had an idea for a book that I’m actually going to turn into a narrative podcast because podcasting is such a big thing right now, especially, I know a lot of filmmakers who are pivoting to podcasts considering nobody can film anything right now. CM: Exactly. MH: So it’s great to be able to kind of move around and figure out what’s best for the content that you want to make. CM: Well, and too, I think the first show that I remember watching recently was McMillions, the documentary about the monopoly fraud at McDonald’s back in the day. And that was like the first show that I remember clearly: “learn more, go behind the scenes in the podcast by the creators of the series”. So there was a lot of, I guess, synergy is the only word that comes up in my mind, how you can create symbiotic content that fuels that desire to learn more about something. BZ: Yeah. That’s a good way to put that, it’s symbiotic. CM: Yeah. Symbiosis sounds much better than synergy. BZ: Sure. Yeah. CM: Let’s drop business jargon. Let’s go for it. MH: Yeah, there we go. BZ: Yeah. Why not. CM: So if you were to… I don’t know if “encourage” someone’s the right word because I feel you’ve been doing that the whole episode, but what advice would you give to someone who wants to tell their own good stories, but maybe are scared or not sure where to start? BZ: Well, first comes to mind is really just to start doing it. It sounds really simple, but to just start doing it and even start putting yourself and your content out there with a peace and willingness for it to not be perfect. It’s really difficult to do that, but when you know that everybody’s in the same boat, everyone is just trying, everyone is creating, no one has arrived and also remembering that everyone has imposter syndrome. Everyone thinks that they’re not qualified or good enough. And there’s a real comfort that I find in that–that even the most accomplished creatives and people in the industry still have a hard time with their own work. We’re just, it reminds us of our humanity I think. So when you know we’re all in this together and we’re all just trying, I think that really helps. And then even just hearing that the world really does need what you specifically have to bring because I think it was C.S Lewis or someone who said that, if you… the story could have already been told, I’m very much paraphrasing, but he could have already told the story. So many people are telling the same kind of “story” but if you do it in your own way, it will inevitably be unique and creative because of who you are, which we see all the time. So just remembering, I think your unique voice and what you have to bring, it really is going to be different. And just getting over that hump of taking the first step. Yeah, nothing’s wasted and it’ll all lead you to whatever you end up doing next. MH: I would completely agree with all of that. I think the only other thing that would be helpful in that, is that you’re not alone in the process and finding like-minded people, whether it’s people from a class you’re taking or, there’s tons of, especially these days, we just did an online networking event with female filmmakers last night and it was so cool. It’s really life-giving to meet people who share the same passions that you do. And whether you are fully collaborating with them or just bouncing ideas off of them or if they’re just someone who’s like, “I love that! Keep going.” I don’t think that creating is something that you can do completely alone. And I love finding people who can encourage you and support you and give you notes and help you learn humility and also support you as you create your own stuff. It’s super important. CM: That’s awesome. Where can people go to learn more about Farsighted Creative and see the awesome work that you do? MH: Our website is farsightedcreative.com. So that has a lot of information about us, our philosophy. We have two podcasts. We have our Farsighted Creative Podcast that is the two of us talking about our projects, our philosophy, and that sort of thing. That’s the Farsighted Creative Podcast. And then our podcast about the Women’s Suffrage Movement is called Waiting for Liberty. And both of those you can find on iTunes and Spotify. We’re also on YouTube and our Instagram is farsighted.creative so any one of the, we’re around, you can find us. BZ: Yeah.
58 minutes | Jan 18, 2021
“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 Jhanvi Motla (JM): So my name is Jhanvi Motla. I am a filmmaker based in Los Angeles and at the moment I work as a freelancer, a freelance producer. And when I’m not doing that, I’m usually writing or figuring out my next project. Chris Martin (CM): Nice. That’s awesome. And I liked the way that you said freelance, cause you said it with kind of a smile and a laugh to it because it feels like the whole world is freelance right now. JM: Honestly, I think it was such a, like, in retrospect, such a good decision to do that because it really prepared me for like all the fits of, you know, unemployment. CM: Yeah. JM: Cause I think people got really scared with good reason, you know, when Covid happened. But I was like, Oh, this is just my life. Like I go through months where I don’t get work. Um, so yeah, it was kind of funny. CM: How do you handle those months where there isn’t much work. Does that inspire you to be more creative or are you like me where you kind of get down and paralyzed and can’t work? JM: You know, it’s probably a mixture of the two. I think when Covid first happened, I was actually not even in the country. I was with my boyfriend’s parents down in Mexico. I mean, this was like when the lockdowns went into effect and you know, we, you know, back then, we were so naive, we were like, Oh, like, you know, this will be over in like a couple of weeks. Like, it’ll be fine. And um, next thing, you know, like there was just, all our jobs went away, the one remote job we had went away and it was kind of scary in the beginning, but you know, I’m very fortunate that, you know, my, my partner was like, Hey, don’t worry. Like we’re going to be okay, no matter what, like this is going to be fine. You know, I came to the US with a really big dream and wanting to be independent, especially financially independent. That was like a pretty big goal. So it, it did feel very debilitating in the beginning, to just be, hands tied, no opportunities. I think the only thing that gave me comfort weirdly enough was that it wasn’t just me that was experiencing that. Like there was across the board, so many friends, family that, you know, came together to just be like, it’s going to be okay. Like we’re all in this together, pretty much. So yeah, I think in the beginning, I, I didn’t do much because I kind of was like, you know, I just need to go easy. Not, not stress myself out. There’s already enough going on in the world, but then I think one month in, I was like, I can’t just not do anything. Like, I’m going crazy. Like how much can I like, you know, just like listen to music and watch movies and eat good food. Like, it sounds such a champagne problem, but after a while, I just felt like I didn’t have any purpose to the day. So I think that’s when I just was, like, talking to my mom and she was like, just have a routine, uh, and, and that should help you get sort of, you know, going, and, and I think the big game changer was probably working out every day. That really helped deal with a lot of the anxiety because you’re getting so much, you know, natural, sort of, pheromones that are making you feel good. And then I started, uh, doing, I was, I was, I mean, you know, Julia Cameron would be so proud. I was doing my morning, morning pages regularly. Uh, I was like, so, like, committed to the artist’s way and then, and then actually, you know, some part of–it’s so funny that I thought of this, but like some part of me when we were going to Mexico, I was like, Johnny, just in case you can’t come back on time, take one project, like video project that you can work on. So I actually had the travel, drive for my documentary that I’ve been working on. So I actually, it’s funny, like, I don’t know how to explain this other than, like, all my projects give me immense anxiety. It’s so weird. Like when I have to edit something, I get scared. So, for so long, I just hadn’t touched my project. But then eventually I was like, this is all I have. So then I would basically, like, I would just plan my days where I would wake up, work out, do my pages, eat, do a little bit of editing, have lunch, write for a couple hours. And honestly, that’s, that’s how I got through it, honestly, like until I came back. So from, I would say from April to June, so like I was in Mexico from like March to June. CM: Wow. JM: Yeah. So the, the, the last two, two and a half months were, like, probably the most disciplined I’ve ever been in my life, like, in terms of getting work done. I probably wrote the version of my pilot that now, people when they read it, you know, for so long, they were like, I don’t get what you’re trying to do. And now everybody’s like, Oh my God, I really like your protagonist. And that, that is so hard to do. So, you know, we got that. I mean, we got attention from a manager. I wrote out the outline for my feature. That’s when I actually fell in love with writing because it showed me that, like, I can just go live in this alternate universe as, as a coping mechanism. I mean, you know, I was way away from, I mean, yes, I was, it’s funny because now my boyfriend and I–we we’re married so he’s my husband now. So I was with family, for sure. Like his family is like my own, but you know, I think after a while, no matter how close you are, no matter how much you love each other, being trapped in the same space is going to affect your dynamics. CM: Yes. JM: So I think having a place to go, even though that was a place in my mind, it was just so nice. And I think everybody in the house, like, found a way to do that. So, like, my partner, my husband now I guess, was doing this project where he could help his father test how much water was in their reserve tanks because they had, they had just moved to Mexico and, you know, in the US they always had water, but in Mexico, their tanks would be filled up every alternate day. And they were not used to having so many people in the house. So he was building this sensor for his dad using a little raspberry Pi computer ’cause he’s really into technology. And then his, uh, older brother who was also with us and kind of runs a production company I worked for, uh, he’s also a painter. So he was just painting new stuff every single day that he could and, like, meditating. And it’s, like, everybody just had, like, found something to do. And, like, it’s so hard because it was just too painful otherwise. Like not, like, what do you talk about, right, like, if you don’t do anything in the day, there’s just nothing to discuss. So I think the navigation was pretty much, like, didn’t do much for a while, but then eventually, like, wasn’t feeling good about not doing anything, and then eventually just found kind of a routine. And I mean, yeah, it was a lot, it was definitely a lot to be away from LA when all of this stuff that happened over the summer was going on, too. So I definitely really needed to write to just stay focused. CM: Yeah. What I love about what you just said is that, you know, when you came here, you had independence on your mind and I’m curious what that meant versus some of the independence that you’re talking about now. I mean, building sensors so that you can understand that the level of the reserve tanks, that’s a form of independence. And, and so like, how has your view of independence, where did it start, and how has it changed? JM: I think my view of independence in the big way that it changed is that it’s okay to lean on people because I don’t think I let myself do that, you know, in the past. So I moved to the US when I was 18, like I shared, moved countries. And you know, again, I’m not alone in this, thousands of people do it every year. I actually think there’s a lot of people who do it with a lot less help than I had. I mean, I had like a minimum wage job in freshman year in Boston. I was making eight bucks an hour and I was so proud of myself. Like, that’s how I bought my camera because I didn’t want to ask, my dad was already helping me with school, so I didn’t want to keep asking for more. So I guess I’ve always kind of been that person who was very, like, industrious. Like, I was the first immigrant across my little international group who had her social security number, you know, and, and it was a pain to get it, but I remember being so excited to get it. And as time has gone on, the real shift happened when I moved to LA after college. I worked as an assistant to a writer/producer right out of college. Like I was so unqualified for that job. I was not ready for that job at all. And I was actually let go from that job very unceremoniously. And I think, you know, that, that’s what really made me think about everything because that job was going to sponsor me to stay here. And three weeks before my sponsorship was due, they said, we don’t want you to work here anymore. So I was like, wow, okay. I have no money. I have no visa. I have no job prospects. Like, what am I going to do? And it’s funny, you know, you wouldn’t normally see that somebody going back to school is somebody thinking they need help. But actually that’s exactly what that was, like, I went to graduate school, which is where I met Nathan and that’s how I met you. And I remember at the time it was just a way for me to keep staying here in the US because I definitely just wasn’t ready to go back home. I felt like I hadn’t done what I had set out to do. But then I went to school and I realized, like, I actually don’t know how to make a movie. Like, I can talk about movies endlessly. I can watch them. I can critique them. But like, how do you actually make one? And how do you keep doing it consistently? How do you do it with less money? Because no matter how much money you have, it’s never enough. We all know this. That was like the first time where I was like, wow, I really needed the support. I really needed all of this guidance. And all of these people, like I was, I was, I think I was one of the youngest kids there–I was 23 when I went in or 22, not even, and everybody around me, like, you know, there were filmmakers that had gone to Tribeca, to Sundance, people who had shot features, like people who were, like very, very far along in their careers. And then there was me. But, but I think I really like enjoyed the experience of, you know, I mean, in hindsight, I think I got to learn a lot in a way that I don’t think any job could have taught me because I think if I had the freedom to fail, like I had the freedom to like fail really badly. And like, nobody was gonna fire me. Nobody was going to tell me to leave. So I think that was like the first big shift. And then after AFI was like, really, when I was like, you just need to take all the help you can get, like, stop being stupid and, like, saying no to people who want to help you. Because, you know, I finished school, I had this whole plan of how I was going to, like, work as an assistant at this management company that I had interned for, and I can’t tell you how many job interviews I walked out of and they were like, you’re too qualified for this. I’m like, wow. So four years ago I was not qualified. And now you’re telling me I have too many qualifications. And then it came down to, like, really taking any job that I could find. You know, initially I was, like, no, I’m only gonna do this and nothing else. And my partner was like, “that’s, like, suicide for freelance–you can’t do that, especially when you’re starting out, you really can’t do that”. And I was, like, no, I have a plan. Like, you don’t know what I’m doing. And he was like, “fine. Like, I’ve been doing this for three years, but do what you will”. And then eventually, you know what, I think I kind of did just suck it up and kind of do whatever came my way. But you know, I’m really grateful. I did that because now, you know, knock on wood, like, I don’t have to look too far to find the jobs. You’ve done this long enough to know that, I think, all your jobs beget new jobs. So I think that phase of really just taking on anything that came my way, no matter what, like 16-hour days, sure. Like, I’ll do it. I don’t care. And it really paid off. And I think in that phase, too, you know, yes, I was taking whatever job I could, but that didn’t necessarily mean I was getting paid the right amount of money. So I really had to just kind of, you know, own up to, like, my partner and be like, Hey, listen, like I’m doing this, but I’m not making enough money. And he’s like, “yeah, no shit”. And so he, and he was like, “don’t worry, like, just do what you need to do, get your visa” because, you know, this is the other thing on, on top of like just kind of making it in the industry, is like, as an immigrant, I was also always trying to like find a way to stay here, which is exceptionally difficult, legally, to do. It requires money and time and yes, I’m not making enough money. And then I have to pony up, like, a couple thousand dollars to a lawyer at the end of the year. CM: Oh my gosh. JM: You know, like, forget paying my bills. I just was like, so, like, I was living this insane life where, like, I had, uh, you know, I would take any job. And then, like, 60% of my income would be saved. CM: Wow. JM: And, like, I would just, like, not go out. And it was, yeah, it was a weird time, but hey, I got the visa. Like, I managed to stay here, uh, I’ve been here three years now on the visa. And you know, it was all, like, a mixture of, you know, just kind of learning from your own mistakes. I think Tyler the Creator has a really good line in his album that he put out–Igor–last year. It’s just in between songs where he’s, like, exactly what you think you don’t want to be and you spend your life running away from is what you become. And I spent so much of my adult life being like, I don’t need help. I can do this. CM: Wow. JM: Like, I can do this by myself and the truth is you can’t. It takes a village to succeed in any area of life. So yeah, that was, like, the big sort of lesson and learning about, you know, ’cause, I, I don’t know if you’ve ever felt this, but, like, I’ve always grown up with an immense amount of privilege and that really forced me to be, like, okay, like, you can’t take this lightly. Everything you do has to be worth it. And also it made me very, like, averse to taking any help from my parents unless I absolutely needed it. And this sounds, like, so like, I feel, like, I sound so silly saying this ’cause you know, I, I’m aware of how much harder people have it. So I think that motivated me, like, all my friends around me who were, like, you know, trying to pay back student debt and, like, really hustling. I was, like, no, Jhanvi, there’s people who have it harder than you so if you have the help take it. Like I had so many friends who: “really, dude, like, don’t be stupid, just take the help, it’s fine”. So yeah, it was a lot of, like, friends just kind of reiterating that I was kind of digging a hole for myself if I wasn’t gonna take this help. ‘Cause yeah, sure. I don’t have student debt, but you know, I have to ensure my legal status has never jeopardized. I have to always maintain that and find money to do that. So that’s, like, its own sort of problem. And yeah, all of that together really helped me learn that independence is great, but you’re not going anywhere without support. CM: Right. What you’re speaking to as well as like the sense of resilience that you’ve developed along the way, because not only do you need a tremendous amount of resilience to be a filmmaker and to pursue making movies, but you have the added struggle of maintaining your legal status, which, it sounds like the emotions of that alone is, is almost like an exponentially multiplier on, on filmmaking. JM: And then on top of that to doing that, you know, under the Trump administration. CM: Right. JM: Oh my gosh, I can’t tell you, I can’t believe that, A, I got approved under the Trump administration. Although my lawyer does tell me that my timing was impeccable, that if I would have applied any later, the rules they’ve been introducing would have probably made me ineligible. CM: Interesting. JM: Like they’re making it really hard unless you have a ton of money is what she was telling me. And, you know, yes, I’ll, like, you know, I, I, it’s not like I don’t have a family that could help me, but also my family doesn’t have just have, like, a magical money tree. There’s like 13 people that we support. So, like, yeah, it was, it was agonizing. And I think more than anything, I heard this the other day and I was like, this is what life feels like: I always felt like I was on borrowed time. I have until this date to succeed, I have until this date to prove that I can do it. And the date was being set by whichever officer was deciding how long I would get to stay here. So, I mean, you know, obviously now that I’m getting married, some of that is going to be alleviated because, um, that makes me eligible for permanent residence here. But, you know, again, getting that permanent residence does, it’s not cheap, costs a lot of money. So hopefully this is, you know, the end of the road for, you know, trying to be able to stay here and not, kind of, be restricted by the piece of paper that tells you what to do ’cause the visa that I had is very restrictive. So, like, if I didn’t have a job, uh, for example, right now, if I can’t get a job in the entertainment industry, I can’t just wake up and go to Starbucks and be like, Hey, can I work here? Like, that would jeopardize my legal status. Or if anything is a little too tangential from my field that I’m told that I’m in working in, that could make me ineligible. So like, it’s just, it’s like, you have to be careful that you’re not stepping on landmines, kind, of wherever you go. CM: To look at it in a different way, too, it’s like what a fantastic way to make you really think about your niche as a human being, too, as opposed to I can do everything. And if this doesn’t work out, I’ll go over here. Whereas you’re like, no, this is the very specific thing that I have to do. I mean, that’s interesting, JM: You know, I will say, Chris, that like all my friends that are immigrants, at least majority of them, ’cause like, you know, at AFI, we had a good chunk of us that were from other countries. And as soon as you finish, it’s like a race to see who will get approved for the O-1 because that’s the visa all of us try to go for, and then also who’s going to materialize a job and I kid you not, but all the kids that were immigrants did exceedingly well because we had all this added pressure on top of us. So yes, it is infuriating, but also it motivates you to work that much harder. Like, a lot of people, when they meet me, they’re like, oh wow, like you’ve done so much and you’re only 28 or whatever. And I’m like, well, I didn’t have a choice. CM: Yeah. JM: Like, in order to stay here, I had to prove that I was really good at what I do. You know? So it’s like a double-edged sword in many ways. CM: Yeah, for sure. I’m curious what stories, as you were growing up, you internalize that not only, you know, directed your desire to make movies, but help you now. JM: Mmmm. Yeah, it’s interesting that you say that ’cause last year during the pandemic, I, somebody emailed me saying, Hey, the Women In Film Mentoring Program is reopened–do you want to apply? And uh, their question was, like, why did you become a filmmaker? Like, what about your life has framed sort of your experience? And it’s funny, I had to rewrite that a couple of times. And I think the one thing I landed on that felt really appropriate was that I think as a young girl, I really wasn’t told that I had a voice that was important very explicitly. CM: Wow. JM: Like, it was just, like, your, your upbringing was just so gendered. Like, my brothers were getting, like, hot wheels and I was getting, like, a kitchen set. And, like, when I was 9 or 10, I was expected to go help my mother in the kitchen. And, you know, I mean, of course, like, the boys had to do stuff, like, lay the table and pick up the stuff. And, like, there were certain things that we all had to do, but there was definitely stuff that I was pushed to do more than my brothers. And, you know, listen, it’s been, like, a journey to understand that my parents were really just doing what they thought was best for me. They’re, they’re not malicious. They love me to pieces. They would do anything for me. But, um, you know, I held this against them for a really long time, but it’s, like, you know, they grew up in India in the sixties, like, what was I really expecting? Like, they’re going to be, like, you know, and my father had to, had to, like, the way that he had to take over his business was just so, like, sudden, like my dad was 27 or 28 when his dad passed away. CM: Wow. JM: And, you know, his dad left him a business and we’re a big family. So, like, my father has spent the bulk of his life, kind of, building wealth to make sure we all are okay and we can finish our schooling and have jobs. And then my mother, like, really made sure to just run the house in a way that my dad would never have to worry about anything. So, like, taking us to school and feeding us, taking care of grandma, like, all of that. So, you know, they’re lovely human beings, but I feel like they were just trying to teach me what they knew, which was that when I grow up, I’m going to have to support the family in this way. And I think that’s what motivated me to leave. CM: Makes sense. JM: Like, I was, like, I don’t want this for myself. And, and I don’t even think it was so much my parents, I think a lot of it was the extended family. I think my parents, like, really tried to, at the end of the day, my parents were like, good values: just be nice to people, like, do your thing, but, like, don’t hurt other people in the process. Like, that was really important to them was, like, just being nice to the people around you because India is so community driven. So they wanted to make sure wherever I went, I was able to build one for myself. And I, I’m really grateful that they taught me that. CM: Yeah. JM: But yeah, like, I definitely had, like, extended family members who would be, like, Oh my God, you’re so fat. You’re never going to find a guy. CM: Oh! JM: What, are you talking, like, to my face? CM: Wow. JM: And, like, or like, you know, I still remember an uncle of mine being, like, at night I had like come back from college and you know, I did, like, the bottle neck tour of, like, going to meet all my relatives when I came back. And then he was like, I don’t know what you’re, what you’re doing over there. And I was, like, what do you mean? I was like, I’m going to school. Like, I’m going to be filmmaker. And he’s, like, yeah, but, like, at 30, you’re just gonna, like, be pregnant and live off your husband, like, what’s the point of spending all this money? And I’m, like, Oh, wow. Like, forget that you’re viewing my education as an expense. I think it’s shocking to me that you think that a person raising a child should not be educated, you know, to me like, that’s the connection that I made. CM: Yeah. JM: Is that there’s such a disconnect here, like raising a child isn’t easy. I think it’s the hardest thing that people do. CM: Yeah. JM: So, so stuff like that really kind of emboldened me to be like, Jhanvi, don’t come back here to, like. More than anything, I think there’s a lot of room and space in India to grow, but I just felt like I was just going to fight with my family if I stayed there. So for my own sanity and their sanity, I was, like, I got to go do this in a different place. And you know, when I came to film school also again, Chris, like, I, I hate to say that I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker; I did not, okay. CM: Nice. That’s awesome. JM: Like, I was, like, film sounds cool. Like, I want to try it. And the only reason I did that was because my, my college counselor told me that the whole advantage of going to the US was that number one, you could transfer, you can change your major. And there’s a lot of flexibility there. And she was, like, you want to do arts and communications so just go to a school that offers all those things in one year and if you don’t like it, you can just change. And I was, like, Oh, this is great so that’s kind of what really attracted me to the US, is that it was far more flexible and open than a lot of the other schooling systems that I was kind of looking at. So when I came here, I remember, like, somebody was talking about Citizen Kane and I was, like, what is that? And they were like, what are you doing here? It was, it was so funny, like, I didn’t know. I just, my film history and, like, all of that was just not that great. I think I’ve had to play catch up for, like, a lot of my life. I still haven’t seen a lot of great classics for sure. But I think, I definitely know now that, you know, I actually want to be a filmmaker because I think like you said, you have to be really resilient. There’s so much you have to deal with if you want to make movies and I enjoy it, I thrive on that sort of, um, environment where, you know, problem solving and, like, really, you know, making sure you’re doing everything you can to get the story right. Especially, you know, I’ve had the privilege of doing all the roles. CM: Yeah. JM: Like, I’ve worked as director, I’ve done producer, I’ve done writer in film school, I did like sound, I did scripting, I did camera’s assistant. So I did it all. And I was, like, man, this is so cool. Like, 30 people just come together and, like, make this thing happen. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen in my life. And I really enjoy that because you get to meet different people on every project. So I think, yeah, like a lot of the things in my childhood that made me feel, like, I wasn’t important or all I was going to do was, you know, kind of get married and have childre–that really motivated me to leave. And then I think film school really helped me realize that, like, no what I have to say can impact someone. I think it just kind of empowered me to do what I always wanted to do, which is speak up. CM: Yeah. JM: Because whenever I spoke up at home, it was always seen as, like, oh, like you’re being loud–you’re being, you’re, you’re talking too much. Um, like my mother told me that apparently at some family dinner, when I was, like, 10 or, like, 8, I can’t even remember this, but my uncle, like in the middle of dinner turned on the news and I was like, why are you watching TV? Like, we’re all talking here. Why are you watching the news? And my mom was, like, holding a hand, being, like, keep quiet, like, just let him do what he wants to do. And I was, like, no, like, you need to turn that off right now, like, it’s rude. ‘Cause my parents, at home, were like, it’s really rude to have the TV on at dinner. And he was like, no, I’m going to watch it and if you turn it off, I’m going to leave. I’m, like, sure leave. And I turned it off and he left and it caused this huge stink in my family. So I think all the things that I was, like, berated for as a kid were really celebrated at film school, like speaking up saying the uncomfortable thing, showing the things that nobody really wants to talk about are rewarded. Rightfully so. Cause you want to shine a light on stories that haven’t been shown before. So I think, yeah, like that combination really kind of helped me figure out that that’s, that filmmaking is kind of the place I want to be. CM: So fascinating that journey. And what, what I’m interested in right now is, like, how do you go from being someone who’s told that your voice is better not spoken, that in a way you’re better to be not seen than seen. How do you then step into the power of your own voice? JM: That is, that is a great question. Um, you know, it’s funny, like, I tell my friends this all the time that even though I was told all the time to be a specific way, it never sat well with me. It’s funny that we’re talking about all this–a lot of this is part of the documentary that I’m working on. And, like, a lot of my documentary is actually introspecting my childhood to understand sort of why things happened a certain way. And I think it was a lot of it had to do with the school my parents sent me to. So my mother was obsessed with sending us to really good schools because, you know, she, my mother comes from a very, like, humble middle income, like, family in India, two hours outside of Mumbai. Like, she comes from a very small town. Like, they still don’t have traffic lights there, you know. CM: Oh wow. JM: But lovely, I mean, I love going there. I love my family, but I think I realized when I grew up in the city and then I went there that, like, my mom probably didn’t grow up with the same things that I did. And I think she recognized that and she was, like, no, man, I have to take advantage of this. If I’m in the city, my kids have to, you know, just have the best possible resources so when I was about 8 or 9, they moved me to the school called the Bombay International School. I mean, if you look it up, it’s probably one of the best rated schools in the city. And the school, at least at the time, was unique in that up until eighth grade, they didn’t follow a traditional Indian curriculum. All our textbooks were from America and Europe and England. And uh, you know, we were learning about the crusades by enacting them. CM: Oh wow. JM: We would, like, like we would, we would, like, have religion class and then, like, the way we would learn about, like, Islam was they would take us to the mosque and then all the Muslim kids’ moms would feed us the food. And like, it was this very, like, Bohemian way of education, if I might add. And, um, a big part of it was, kind of, learning about how just through research, you kind of learn about the opportunity that people in the West have and then movies, like American movies. I was like, man, look at these girls wearing their shorts and tank tops and, like, just roaming around, like, nobody’s gonna do anything to them. That looks awesome. CM: Yeah. JM: Like I, I, I do think watching movies had a lot to do with it, too, because my parents, they, they were, like, she really loves watching the TV, I guess. But what I was really doing was, you know, I was watching, like, American Beauty and, like, Black Swan and, like, these really amazing movies that were, like, making me feel all sorts of things. And I was like, man, like, this is amazing. Like this, I bet Darren Aronofsky did not think that some girl in India is going to watch this under her blanket, like, at midnight, and think, oh, I can do this too, but that’s really, I think those movies were, like, such a great escape. And then I think once the internet came around, because everything was kind of slow to come to India, I would look up these filmmakers and then all of their journeys were the same: I was bullied, I was, my family didn’t understand me. And um, so then when I, kind of, moved to LA, then I worked in the industry and I was, like, okay, cool, like, I guess all you need to do is, kind of, take that leap and then hopefully things will, kind of, fall into place. I mean, obviously it took 10 years for things to fall into place, but, um, I think that initial leap was really sort of motivated by definitely just watching all these movies about how things were in the West. And then also, you know, meeting a lot of the kids that had studied abroad and then seeing how different they were from the people I was hanging out with at home. They just felt like they were more aware of things that were going on and I, I really wanted to be that person. And I was, like, if I’m away from home, there’s not much they can do about, sort of, what I’m doing, what I’m thinking, what I’m wearing, what I’m saying. CM: Right. JM: And so I just wanted to try that out. I think literally it was all about just get out of here, see what happens if you get out of here. And then I think it was too addictive to not be, uh, I think to not be held back. And so I think that’s why I fought really hard to stay here and then not go home. CM: You know, you hear stories when representation of, you know, your race or gender is on screen, you can see yourselves in them. I mean, was that a factor in play or was it just, the, what you wanted was the representation point? JM: I had the lucky sort of opportunity of growing up in India that has a very robust industry. So I never felt like I wasn’t represented because I had a whole industry to look at. But obviously now, being older, I understand that that industry is fraught with its own problems. You know, there’s a lot of colorism, a lot of ignoring the caste system. Like a lot of, like, things that, you know, they really need to address, I think, but for, like, the 8-year-old kid who could see that girls with my skin color were on camera, at least ever so often or women that look like my mother were there. I personally didn’t feel like I wasn’t represented, but there was this real cloud of negativity around the film industry in India, rightfully so. I have friends who are actresses and I hear things that, like, you really shouldn’t hear from people in any industry. CM: Yeah. JM: So I think there was a lot of, like, discouragement of ever even being part of the industry because of that. But as far as, you know, the West went because we were so far away from it, you didn’t really hear about the problems in those industries. And, you know, I think, I think India has a big, like, imperialist issue where, like, everything American or British at, at a certain point in time, it was always viewed as superior, I guess, anything that wasn’t Indian, anything that came from elsewhere because we were, you know, colonized for, like, 400 years by the British. We were told by them that we’re inferior and they’re better than us and I’m sure that has trickled down into our psyche a little bit. So I think my parents were more comfortable with me doing it outside of the country actually. And so I just took that bait and I was like, I don’t care if I even ever end up writing a movie. I just want to see what this experience, experience is, is like. Like, I had no frame of reference to know what it was like, right? Because my family was so far removed from entertainment. And so I don’t think I was ever driven by the lack of representation, mostly because actually, Chris, when I came here, I came with this very interesting notion of what a filmmaker was. Like, I thought I’ll go to film school and then I’ll work at a studio as a studio executive because filmmakers are, like, this one sounds stupid, but I used to think, like, filmmakers, they’re just born to do that. Like, they just know that, like, they wake up and they’re, like, okay, I’m going to go make movies now. And I don’t know need any, any training or any practice and it’s just going to be great, like, in my brain, that’s how it worked. And then obviously going to school and seeing how, you know, you really have to train and practice and try and fail to get there. That’s, that’s sort of when things started moving a little bit in my head, but I still didn’t think that I was creative enough or smart enough to write something. Like, I remember a screenwriting class when I was an undergrad was agonizing for me because I think I was still carrying those voices in my head that my voice didn’t matter. You know, it’s funny that we’re talking, we’re talking about this together because Raksha was the first time I wrote something. CM: Wow. JM: And it was all driven by, you know, the pressure of, actually we, we started writing it because both me and Vidhya were being pressured by our families to get married at the time. And obviously, neither of us were ready to do it. So we just started writing out of frustration, that’s all. I mean, and she was a screenwriter so she’d been writing a while. It was me who was, like, who kept talking about it and she’s, like, dude, you should just write about this. Like, we should, we should just do this together so that it gets on paper and it’s not in your head. And, and I think that’s when I finally gave myself permission to do it. Like, for a long time, I didn’t even let myself think that I could write or direct or produce. I was, like, no, I have to work within the studio system: I’ll have a job and there will be, like, a schedule and, like, they’ll tell me what to do. Like, it was all still very much, like, framed by sort of what I had been raised with of, like, what was a good thing to do or what was a good job to have, et cetera. But as I’m seeing like the process of, kind of, unlearning that was definitely very interesting. CM: Yeah. At what point do you go from, I can just pour my anger and frustration into a short film, transitioned to, Hey, I’m going to tackle a feature documentary. JM: You know, that was kind of similar to, so, so I remember I started dating Alan, like, the end of AFI and, um, you know, obviously, like, when you’re in an intimate relationship, you’re going to talk about things that are really personal to you. And one thing that kept coming up for me was, like, I was, like, you know, it really, like, one thing that really drove me crazy was that my mom itself was kind of indoctrinating me with a lot of patriarchal values and I couldn’t understand why she was doing that. And, you know, Alan was, like, Jhanvi, like, this is how she was raised, like, you can’t hold that against her, you know better so just ignore what you don’t want to necessarily follow and, and, and just don’t fight about it, but I just couldn’t shut up about it. And I was, like, no, it’s not just my mom, it’s my aunt, but I, I feel like, I feel like they all wanted to do so much. And I wonder if they’re like resentful of me because I’m doing all these things that they didn’t get to do. And he was, like, okay, okay, you might have a point. Like, he’s, like, what if you talked to them about it? What if you, like, shoot, shoot them on camera, talking about it–maybe you’ll find something there. And it all started very, like, innocently. Like, we went to India mostly because I wanted him to meet my family. And we took the 5D with us and some gear CM: Nice. JM: And we interviewed my mom and two of her friends. And, you know, my mom’s interview was interesting because my mom was, like, yeah, I’m very proud of everything I’ve done: my kids are so successful and I know that I had a big role in that, et cetera, et cetera. And then the interview comes to an end and I, and, and, you know, I asked the one cheesy question that every, like, like, amateur doc filmmaker asks their subject, which is, if you could choose anything differently in life, like, would you? Like if, if you had a chance to live life all over again, what would you do differently? And my mother said, I would never get married at 20 years old. I was like, whoa, this woman, I’m 21 and she’s telling me to get married, but here she is on camera saying that she would never get married at 20 years old. There’s something here–I’d hit a nerve and I need to explore that. CM: Yeah. JM: You know, since then, I’ve, I actually took a month to go film in India last year, funding, no, no, wow, my memories of the year is so faded. 2019, I went India, uh, the last year, it just feels like a blur. CM: Yes, it does. JM: So 2019, I actually took Alan with me to India for a month. And the way that I did that was actually moved out of my apartment so that I wouldn’t have to pay rent. And that’s how I funded the movie, uh, ’cause we were gonna move in together and, uh, I was like, well, why don’t we just move out sooner so that we don’t have to pay rent? And he was, like, oh my god, that’s a genius idea. And so that’s what we did. CM: Makes sense to me. JM: And you know, it’s funny, like, I thought I was shooting the movie, but it was agonizing because I wasn’t getting what I wanted. Like, I was so close to what I wanted, but I wasn’t quite there yet. And I think what I personally love about this documentary is basically I realized that for a really long time, I had, kind of, thought of my mother as not sort of the important parent in my childhood. I always viewed my father as, like, my hero, you know, because I, I, you know, I mean, and it’s obviously cultural: like, the men are viewed as the people that keep the family, sort, of going because they’re earning the money so there’s more importance placed on that versus my mother, who was definitely doing the important stuff of, like, you know, keeping me clean, feeding me. I mean, we didn’t grow up, like, super wealthy so, like, we didn’t have washing machines. Like, my mother would wash five people’s clothes by hand, she would cook all the food, she would take, like, there was only one car between me, my family, and my dad’s brother’s family and it was, like, 12 of us. So, like, a lot of the times there was no car to pick us up from school so she would, like, walk to school, bring us back. CM: Wow. JM: Like, like my mother was a hustler, but for so long, I didn’t give her that respect in many ways, I guess. And then here I am making this movie trying to understand my mom and I guess it led me down this path of kind of exploring homemakers and sort of how they have played into everybody’s upbringing. And whenever I would talk to people about it, they would be, like, oh my god, yeah, like, you know, my mom was a stay-at-home mom, but, like, it’s really impossible to imagine that life would turn out this way if she wouldn’t have done that, or my mom had to work a job and she had to take care of me, you know, there’s a lot of people who had to do that. I mean, granted, my mom was raising three kids–I don’t think she could have physically had a job and done all the work at home. I think that’s precisely why she didn’t try to pursue a job outside because there was just so much work to do in the house that she didn’t have time. And actually, my research, like, once I started looking this up, like, I just started Googling, like, homemakers, like, what are people saying about this? CM: Yeah. JM: And I actually discovered that there are these economists, mostly women, out there who for years have been saying that women like my mother, millions of women are people that are intentionally left out of the economy. You know, when we’re talking about unemployment in India, specifically, it’s mostly women, but these women are not NOT doing anything. If it’s in the case of my mother, she was looking after the kids. If you’re going to a village, more likely the women are, you know, traveling really far to get water, firewood, making food, they’re doing all this unpaid work that keeps us alive. And so then I was faced with a conundrum of, like, oh, is it not work because they don’t get paid, but you know, at the same time would I be alive if she didn’t do that work? Would my dad be able to do his job if my mother didn’t do that work, you know? Yes, my father is going out there earning money for his kids and his family, but who’s taking care of his family? It’s my mother. This is interesting: this is me kind of reconciling with my own stuff, but also realizing that everybody, kind of, has it wrong. Like, somebody who’s a stay-at-home mom or a stay-at-home dad is actually really vital to our economy and to our lives. And so what I essentially realized is that I was trying to make a movie that follows my own internal journey, but is really talking about a bigger issue, which is that the way that our economics is set up, it’s not really healthy, A, and it always makes us feel like we have to choose, like, we have to choose between family and work when those things are actually super interlinked together. CM: Yeah. JM: So yeah, I’m basically making a case in my movie to include this work in the, kind of, you know, quote unquote, “GDP of a country”. And people have been doing this for years, like, big economists have talked about it, but, you know, obviously it kind of makes us very, like, jargon-heavy and kind of esoteric as we all know. So that’s what I’m trying to do: I’m trying to figure out how can I use my personal story to really bring this to the masses that may not necessarily be interested in picking up a textbook and reading it ’cause, you know, I’ve had to do a lot of research to even be articulate enough. CM: Yeah. JM: It took me two or three times of reading those books to even understand what was going on. So, I was, like, this is a lost cause: nobody’s going to read the book, but if I show them a movie with an emotional story and then somehow connect it to all these things, it could be really cool. And the movie is still very much in production stage where, and I think it’s, it’s going to go on for a while because a lot of this is going to be influenced by personal moments between me and my mother and you can’t rush that. CM: No. JM: And then I’m also not there, so, like, how, you know, and I can’t be there right now because of all the restrictions. So what I’m doing is I’m mostly, kind of, interviewing myself, doing my research, kind of, really exploring why I had this narrative, what are the things that influenced me, can we explore those. But I think the only reason I took this on was because it was really interesting to just learn about myself and really deal with my past, really acknowledge that maybe I was wrong in the way that I thought–maybe there’s something here, whether this is going to be done anytime soon, I can’t tell you, but it’s very much in progress, it’s going on. And, um, I have the, I have, like, incredible support because my partner happens to be a cinematographer so, um, you know. CM: Perfect! JM: I have a good setup, for sure, and, um, yeah, and it’s empowered me to do so much more, like, I’ve learned how to edit because of it, I’ve learned how to, like, really shoot with a camera and actually be able to record something useful, uh, ’cause you know, I don’t think anybody can just pick up and shoot something that’s useful. Like it’s, it’s uh, it’s an art in its own to realize what you need. CM: Yes, it is. JM: So it’s, it’s my own education, I think that’s what it is: it’s, like, me really learning how to actually tell a story when there’s no script, which is the trickiest part of a documentary. CM: What’s interesting, too, is, I mean you’re highly educated and yet you’re saying that this is, this is your education. And, and I love that because you can learn everything in the world in school, but until you actually pick up a camera and start speaking with your voice, do you really learn what you have to say and what really matters? JM: Absolutely. And, um, you know, I mean I went to a school that focused exclusively on narrative filmmaking. Uh, we did not focus on documentary and documentary is its own beast. Like, uh, um, it’s, uh, it’s agonizing because I’ll go shoot for, like, two weeks and I’ll be, like, I can’t use any of that, you know what I mean? CM: Yeah. JM: So unlike film, which is, like, so calculated, and you know, like, agonizing over the script and they’re like, great: it works on paper, now let’s make sure everything goes okay on the day of, and, like, you really have a plan when you’re shooting narrative. And yes, of course you have some kind of a plan when you’re shooting doc, like, I think the easiest docs to make are probably, like, those crime documentaries ’cause there’s, like a, there’s, like, a villain, there’s a victim, there’s the law enforcement, there’s, like, the society, the community, right versus this: I’m exploring myself and my mother and our relationship to figure out how I can tell a story through that. So I like the challenge and I think that’s why I was, like, I need to do things that terrify me–that’s the only way I’ve ever grown is when I’ve thrown myself into the deep end and done something that I don’t think I can do is the only way I’ve learned. So I think this is just keeping in trend with that of, like, just always have one project that just scares you so bad that it’ll, it’ll force you to grow. It’ll force you to do the things you’re afraid to do. CM: Yeah. Love that. I love that so much. And speaking of things that terrify you, do you think about, like, the big picture about releasing it and about the business model of the film or are you so, like, not wanting to think about that? JM: No, I think it’s so far out to even think about that, you know, it’s so far away, like, you know, and I, and I think that, actually, I’ve had that approach in the past and that approach has been so detrimental to me. And it’s funny because it’s counter-intuitive to think this way, that’s the problem, like the smart person or the right, I think personally when I started out, the right thing to do was, like, okay, I have this, this idea I’m writing. I need to know which network is going to be on. I need to know which manager is going to want it. And I’m, like, great, but, like, is the actual script good? CM: Yeah. JM: Like, don’t, don’t even worry about that other stuff. Is the script good? And I’ll just tell you the story of my pilot and that’s what really helped me understand. So I started writing my pilot “Spinsterhood” forever ago. You designed a poster for the short film and then, you know, it went through so many iterations, so many iterations. And then about 2018, halfway through 2018, we were, like, we’re not really loving this and we’re like, why? Because it felt too safe. It felt like we were very aware of, like, who was the audience, who, which network we thought it was going to be on, which actors we think would be good for it, but we weren’t necessarily focused on the story. And we’re, like, let’s forget about all that. What’s the story we want to tell, what do we want to talk about? And I kid you not, other than the names, nothing has stayed the same. CM: Wow. JM: It’s all so different. Like, like Sarah lives in Texas, she lives out of a storage unit. You know, she ran away from the alter, like, there’s all this stuff that, like, we, we would have never dreamed of putting in because we’re, like, that’s too out there. And funnily enough, when we did all the things that we thought were too out there is when people started really loving the script. CM: Interesting. JM: And they were, like, oh, she’s, like, making, like, terrible decisions, but she’s all driven by her art and, like, what she wants to do. And, like, the parents have their own drama, the brother has his own drama: like, everybody, kind of, became more dynamic because we weren’t as afraid to push them as people on the page. CM: Yeah. JM: And, so, we’re, like, great, and then I kid you not, like, the minute we wrote that version, like, people were, like, “oh, you want me to send this to my manager” or, like, I met someone through my mentorship at Hillman Grad and he was, like, “oh, like, dude, like, you don’t have a rep, like, you should meet this manager, like, she’s looking for people like you”. Like, I didn’t even have to look for it–it came to me. It was so weird and so that’s what I realized is, like, just focus on the work, just do the work, just write every day. Just get it, get it to the place where you have given it your absolute best and you can’t give it yourself anymore and you need other people to come in and, kind of, work with you on it because that’s truly how I think scripts work. I think, you know, you’re working in a void as a writer so there’s only so far you can go. There’s only so far your brain will allow you to go, and then, but I think it has to be kind of rock solid as far as your input goes. And, I think, you know, that’s what happened. We met–I met a manager, she read it and she was, like, “this is great, like, why haven’t you sent this to me sooner?” I’m like, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. And, you know, she’s excited, like, she put me up for a show. I mean, we’re not, like, she’s not my manager, but, like, she’s already thinking of things I would be good for. CM: Oh, that’s cool. JM: And I’m, like, that’s great. Like, this is all I needed. So, so, after that happened, I deleted Facebook off my phone, I deleted Instagram off my phone and, um, all my news notifications are turned off and I’m really trying to just be, like: you need to write every single day, you need to edit as much as you can, you need to read as much as you can. Just focus on making yourself as knowledgeable as, like, work as much as you can, because this is how you build your craft. Like, if you don’t build your craft, then I don’t think, why should anybody take a chance on me if I’m not willing to give it my absolute best? I think, that’s what you don’t register for a really long time because you’re so focused on trying to get it out. And I don’t think it’s a bad intention to have. I think it’s good and noble to feel, like, no I’m working towards something, but I think it can almost be detrimental because then you’re focused on the wrong things sometimes. So, yeah, I, I actually try to steer clear of all the business model stuff, if possible. And, like, I’ve definitely just become that person where I’m, like, you know, I’m just going to save aggressively every month and fund my own stuff so I don’t have to wait around for people. CM: Nice. JM: Literally. That’s, that’s who I’ve become. I’m, like, yeah, like, I have this short film idea and if I just save, like, this much for the whole year, I’ll be able to make it. CM: Yeah. Brilliant. JM: And I honestly feel, like, that’s such, uh, I mean, you know, that’s a privilege, again, to be in that position where I don’t have to, like, pay for something else. But I think if, you know, you, you change your habits and I think Covid has certainly helped because I’m not going to bars, I’m not going out. I’m not spending any of that money that I would normally spend so I’m, like, okay, well, how can I use this to, like, just make the stuff I want? Even if it doesn’t go anywhere, I just need to keep practicing as a filmmaker so that I understand: okay, how can I better communicate my vision because I don’t think people tell you enough how much work that takes. Like, I mean, unless you were born in the film industry and just kind of knew the ins and outs. I think it takes a couple of movies to get it right. I mean, maybe that’s just me, maybe that’s just me, but I think I’ve heard so many filmmakers be, like, please don’t go watch my first movie–it’s so bad. So that’s my long-winded answer as to why I don’t think about, sort of where, it’s going to go. CM: Brilliant. I think it’s brilliant. And, so, this has been such an awesome conversation. I have learned so much. JM. Thank you. CM: And, uh, can you share where people can learn more about what you do, where, where they can keep up with the work that you do in the future? JM: Yeah, um, everything can be found on my website. My website is just my name, it’s www.jhanvimotla.com. I try to do a good job of updating that. And then on Instagram, I’ll go and update my work. That’s really what I’ve only allowed myself to do is when I absolutely have to post something, I go there, but my website is probably more reliable. I do that more regularly.
71 minutes | Dec 15, 2020
“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 | Nov 30, 2020
“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 | Nov 16, 2020
“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 | Nov 2, 2020
“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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