EPISODE #1: Jeff Howard

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Ty Leisher 0:00 
We we heard about you in the intro, but I wanted to kind of just jump in and ask you a very writerly question. And that’s what is your favorite keyboard that you’ve ever written on?

Jeff Howard 0:20 
Oh, it’s the one now I was just, I’m lamenting it, my laptop is slowly dying. And now if I pull the plug on it at any for any amount of time over like 90 seconds, it crashes. So yeah, my, my, my symbiotic relationship with this laptop is coming to an end. And I already have the new one, like it’s sitting in a box in the house, but I just really don’t want to get there. It’s a MacBook Air. It’s like 2015, I think nice. So is it is that?

Ty Leisher 0:48 
Is that the butterfly keyboard? Or the the old like membrane keyboard? No. Is it super clicky and I tilt?

You should have wore pants though. You probably should. Sorry.

Jeff Howard 1:04 
jeffrey toobin has been not just a mentor.

Ty Leisher 1:09 
So you know this, this podcast is mostly for inspiration for helping people and writers learn what other writers go through and whatnot. And so we really want to start, you know, as early as you want to start when it comes to talking about your career and how you broke in. But the first question that I really have for you is, you know, your first film came out in 92. Right, permanent damage came out as a very strange way. That was a movie I made with a bunch of high school friends that said high school friends after it was distributed and video like four years after we made it then later added it to my IMDb.

Like, I don’t think it’s anything anybody could find. We did have one screening in Baltimore. So that was fun. But I mean, first credit as a writer, like, like, even even way back then. Yeah, sure. And so what was it? What was it shot on? Was it uh, it was shot on 35 I think, wow, I was, we raised I think we raised like, $125,000 or something.

Jeff Howard 2:06 
But it was just I don’t know, it was weird. I I wrote it and I wrote this, like, 120 page thing that got cut down to about 85 pages. And I think in some somehow in that translation, it stopped making sense in any kind of real way. But uh, it you know, it was fun. It was really just a bunch of, you know, a very young friends getting together and making a movie. It wasn’t like, yeah, it wasn’t that. It was just raising money to make little indies and they were selling them and stuff. And they we ultimately sold it to Blockbuster Video. Oh, no. Well, yeah. I’m gonna scare I’m gonna start scouring the interwebs. My friend Andre has a has a DVD. That’s he’s the only guy I know. The director, apparently paid to have a few DVDs like transferred at some point, but it was like a VHS. blockbuster release. And then I don’t know, it’s a bunch of European places, too, for some strange reason. But understood. The Internet never forgets. No, it doesn’t. We’ll get into that later. But a funny day to see that show up to like somebody pointed out to me like, hey, look at this weird time discrepancy. And I was like, I don’t know what you’re talking about. And I went to look, I was like, Oh, yeah, yeah, it certainly looks like a big career gap, like 21 years, when you weren’t doing much of anything. Well, I was serving. Speaking of like, Aries. Let’s unpack that a bit. Let’s let’s go into kind of what you were doing. When you were trying to first break in how were you making money? How are you surviving while you were just kind of specking? Yep, I was right out of college. I started coming to LA, my ex wife worked at an ad agency. And every couple of months, they would hire me to do like a local commercial. And so that was like how I made a living for a long time. And then I was a pastry chef for a long time. And then a pastry chef again in the early Flanagan days. Oh, yeah. You know, I my, my career started in a really weird way. I wrote a script when I was like, I was in my really, I was in my early 20s. And it was about the exchange of power in Hong Kong. And I gave it to a couple of friends who gave it to a couple of friends and it ended up going to a whole bunch of places and one of those places was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s agent. And they asked, they asked me to come out and meet him. And so the very first time that I came to LA was because I’ve written the script and I came out and I met shorts and Egger with the guy that I would script with Chris Bueller. And we went to the took James Cameron set, where he was shooting a terminator three, no Terminator 3d ride thing for sure. And like we’re standing there, and we’re just watching like Cameron to you know, and it’s, you know, it’s just so strange to be like, suddenly transported to this weird world where you’re like a James Cameron’s place in Santa Monica watching these people do stuff, and we’re in this totally green screen room, and there’s one shutter there, and like Edward Furlong is pressed up against it. And Cameron is standing off to the side and he goes q effect.

Like every single time, it’s like, it’s a shutter in a little green screen room, but it is like 44 times a kill effect. And it’s just meant for the guy to open and close the shutter. Because like, Wow, so strangely formal. Yeah. And then Titanic was in post print. I know something’s good. I think they were in post. And we just, you know, you sneak away and you wander around to like, snoop around as you do. And we found this back room just full of like Titanic stuff and Titanic models and everything. And we were looking at stuff and we were like, watch a movie about the Titanic. What a giant waste of time. So, I always had my attuned senses of box office capability, like really highly tuned at a very early age. Yeah. Well,

Eric Brodeur 5:46 
one question I have for you. So you sent it. You sent that script to some friends who sent it to us and friends and it gets to Schwarzenegger. Yeah. Did you have a you know, usually in those cases, it turns out that one of your friends you know, your artworks for agency or your your neighbor does? was any of that factored into how it got there was legitimately just luck that it wound up there

Jeff Howard 6:10 
that way. At the time I was the the the Nester to James Cameron’s Matt gates, I was living in his extra room. No, I’m just kidding. Now, back in Baltimore, I met the Maryland film Commissioner on the set of that indie thing that we did. So I guess it did matter for something. Hey, yeah, and other than launching some lifelong friendships, it didn’t matter for much. But except this one, and it was the Maryland film Commissioner, and I would just start showing him scripts and stuff. And you know, he would read them and tell me what he thought because, you know, I guess they’re just in charge of bringing productions to town and it reads a lot of stuff. And he used to work in the industry a little bit, and came home to do this job just like a really sweet guy. And but I used to go in there. And he had these two giant Rolodexes. And I just knew that they were all like Hollywood people, you know, like that. He knew producers and stuff. And so I just I just showed up enough times and pestered him until he he set me up with like a couple of people. And those were the people that I reached out to the first time and they said, Let me read something. And that’s what I sent it to. And then it turned into a huge lawsuit having nothing to do with shorts bigger whatsoever.

Ty Leisher 7:13 
selling the same as

Jeff Howard 7:15 
it was for a really large lawsuit. I was just talking about this earlier today. So weird. I didn’t know that this was about the beginnings of stuff that script, that script got bought by Swartz negar or how did that No, actually, the greatest part about the whole thing was we flew to town specifically to sit down with Schwarzenegger and talk about the whole thing. And they were so long on the set that day, and the next day that while we we hung around for like two days. And the only thing that would happen is like every six or seven hours he would walk by the script was called currency of fear. And he would walk by and go the currency guy. And it was like, but that was really the only thing that ever happened. But it was very sweet. I mean, just the idea that somebody so massive, would read something and go, you know, I you know, or his agents or whoever read it, you know, we’re like, oh, I don’t really like this. And so let you come over and hang out. Same thing happened on Ivan Reitman set to it was a lot of fun.

Ty Leisher 8:05 
That’s cool. So that script was that you’re like, how deep into writing? Were you at that point? How many scripts had you written? Clearly, you had to smash hit a permanent damage that had come out? And yeah, career but you know, how much more had you written since then?

Jeff Howard 8:18 
I probably wrote five or six, like little things that were all, you know, like, I knew even then that they were just sort of sketches and ideas and things to they were just a starting place that I would never really show anybody you know. And then like we would get into, like, at the time, you know, you’re like 819 was like 19 or 20. And it was like, you know, you get into these giant arguments over like, No, no, you know, he’s like, well, I want to have the character get shot. And it’s like, no, but it’s written for stabbing because it’s up close. And it’s personal. And you got to really want to do it this, like, you know, the things you care about when you’re like, Yeah, no, this is what it means. So yeah, you get over that fast.

Ty Leisher 8:58 
Yeah. And so what what happened after you had your running with swords nager, you know, what was the next script that you came out with? or How did you kind of transition that into into more success.

Jeff Howard 9:07 
So that script circulated to a bunch of people that sort of got around to where we met a manager, and the manager would like I, you know, we would fly into town, and we would stay for a week at that crazy, formerly Holiday Inn round building off of sunset, all the time. And which now every time I drive by and see it, it like gives me like weird shutter is just to, you know, just spent too much time there. We would come out and meet with people over the course of like a week and you know how it goes, like, half of the meetings would be canceled, and they’d say, can you go next week, and oh, my God, we’re flying on the Baltimore. So like you’d you’d come out intending to meet eight people and you’d be like three, but it would always feel okay. But one of those meetings was a guy Brad left who was just a great dude who worked at the time for Neil Moritz. And that was the place that sort of initiated getting the very first script sold sold. We went into a meeting with Brad loft. we pitched him on idea. He said, Great, you guys are going home, why don’t you like write an outline and send me the outline and we’ll figure it out from there. And we flew back to Baltimore like we, you know, we met them on a Monday and like the next Monday, we reconvened in our little Baltimore office. And we were like, okay, like, we don’t know what to do for an outline. Like, you know, when you first start, you know, you never outline anything, you never do any, you never do any of the stuff that actually helps you write a script, you just sort of sit down and go. So on a Monday morning, we started writing it, and we finished on Thursday. And nobody had it was like, right at the dawn of final draft, but most people weren’t, except, you know, you had to still meet Yeah, just so we FedEx the script, to our manager, and she read it and then messengered it to him, and he got it on like Friday afternoon. And he called, he called me Saturday night, it was like, this thing is really awesome. It’s hilarious. Like, let’s go do it. And then like, the next Saturday night, we got the call that the studio bought it. It was like, it was the weird, it was the end in my mind. I thought, Oh, that’s that’s the process. Like, that’s how it goes now. And like, just if you don’t, if you don’t write it in four days, and then sell it in three weeks, it’s useless and dead. Yeah, so that screwed us up for the next few years. You know,

Ty Leisher 11:10 
I mean, before before I wake you guys rotten for days, right? So that so

Jeff Howard 11:13 
yeah, look, that’s deceptive. Like, yes, the script was written in four days, but we’d had three months of conversations ahead of that and, and, you know, talked it out and worked out everything that we wanted to do, you know, and then you Goldman was so right when Goldman was so right with that one thing he’s like, how long does it take to write a script? He’s like, how about six months in 10 days? It’s like, you know,

Eric Brodeur 11:34 
how do you feel that process is today versus when you first went through that experience?

Jeff Howard 11:40 
It’s all situational. They’re all different, you know, it’s like, what do you buy your cousin’s for Christmas? It’s like, Well, my cousins are all radically different weirdos. You know, it’s like, I don’t know, every I’ve never, I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of two scripts that were done exactly the same way. Except that there was a place that Flanagan and I rented in Studio City, where we would check in on a Monday and check out on a Friday and we would just go in and we would we wrote Oculus. Before I wake which was called Samia, we wrote another script called scared airs that some friends of ours zone that has just always sat around and we wrote a script called relapse that we still own. That, you know, it’ll someday surface I’ve showed, you know, you show it to people every once in a while. Like, it’s one of those scripts that like, at one point, Paul Schrader was attached. And at one point, Jeff Bridges was thinking about it, but then he did that country music movie instead and won an Oscar. Oh, great job. Good choice. So, but, uh, yeah, it’s it’s a, it’s a, it’s just one that we just sort of set aside for the, for the future.

Eric Brodeur 12:40 
You know, at what point did you go from having these scripts being sold, and still having to work a regular day day job in which you’re able to sort of sunset one for the other?

Jeff Howard 12:52 
Yep. I stayed in Baltimore, after the first script sold, because I was like, Alright, fluke anomaly, like, what are the what are the odds that this ever happens again, and then waited there until the second one sold and then came out, but they were, you know, they were few and far between, it’s like, every 18 months or 24 months, it was definitely not like anything like a plan, you know, like, like something that you could count on. You know, that first script was really weird and funny, the one that sold so quickly, and it just got read by like a gazillion people. And we just people would call us in for meetings. And they just found the script so strange, that they would say, you know, like, the, what’s the Coppa since the people who produce seven, like they called us in one day. And you know, we were all excited to go in there, look at the posters in the lobby, and you’re like, Oh, my God, it’s like the height of Hollywood at the time. And they made seven, which was such a big deal. And then, you know, we went in and they were like, yeah, we just wanted to look at you, and just see what kind of people would write that. Like, oh, cool, that sounds that’s great. We really appreciate it. And then we got known for doing funny meetings. So people would have an interest as they wanted to see if we were funny, like they heard and

Ty Leisher 13:55 
when you say we,

Jeff Howard 13:58 
who’s we love this band? This guy Chris, my friend Chris Bueller, and I, the funniest person that I ever knew in my entire life. And the person they sold a bunch of first screenplays with a guy who’s so prone to malla props that he really almost got his drummed out of the industry several times by just really just terribly, horribly inappropriate turns of phrase is micro, very innocent. Really, just really just destructive. So it’s just, but just really one of the funniest dudes, like, we met on that permanent damage movie. And he like, he went on to lay like, he was a cowboy for a while and he toured in a band that opened for a bunch of like, really big bands that you know, and just like, just all this crazy stuff, like all the things that you think to yourself, wow. But you know, someday I’m gonna like play in a band. And someday I’m gonna be a cowboy for six months on a ranch. guy just decided to go do it. So it was very interesting.

Ty Leisher 14:52 
Were you writing on spec? Were you just kind of crossing your fingers that something would happen? Were you looking for open writing assignments? How did what was that point in time like for you?

Jeff Howard 15:01 
I my only understanding of the industry at the time was that you went to these meetings, and that sometimes something would happen. Like there wasn’t it was. So prior and I don’t know, it’s a, it was a different structure. When I first started, like now, I kind of admire the internet accessibility structure that you can do now where you can penetrate the entire place through Twitter. And I still, you know, as you know, still continued to do you know, I just still like, Yeah, I would I recommend to everybody have an interesting Twitter presence to reach out to people and get to know them, because it really does work. I just got offered a a really interesting job by this guy. And I just thought, Oh, nice Twitter guy. That’s so sweet. I’ll talk to him. And then we talked and I was like, Oh, those two movie stars are behind your project. It’s really intriguing. This is like, Wow, so yeah, it’s a it’s a good tool. So use everything available, but mostly what I was doing between selling the first script and that time was living off the proceeds of the lawsuit. So favor, that that helps. It was one of those, like, settle things. I don’t know. It’s been like, 20 years, you can’t imagine anybody cares anymore. But it’s like it was one of those settled things. And it was like, Yeah, whatever. Yeah. No, the people who want the most with the love, of course,

Eric Brodeur 16:17 
yeah, of course, towers. That’s always the way. So but is there one particular script that you would, or, you know, timeframe slash script you would associate with finally being able to call yourself a full time, screenwriter meeting full time, meaning, you know, you don’t have to fall back on other work. I,

Jeff Howard 16:35 
I’ve thought that twice or three times. I’ve been wrong twice. so far. We’ll see if I’m wrong a third time. I’m like, after all that stuff. And the comedies, I stopped working with Bueller and started doing different stuff. And I got the rights to a book that I loved. And I ended up getting it sold with Ron Howard attached to direct and you know, like, full on imagine and all that stuff. And it was like, and it was literally just like, Look, if you ever want to know how the charter things usually work, it was like, I met a guy in Maryland, who introduced me to a couple of people, those couple of people introduced me to a slightly wider net, out of that slightly wider net, I met a manager who we, you know, clicked with at the time. Very strange person. And then. And then out of those first couple of meetings that she sent this to, you know, sold something to a studio to Sony. And then out of that met, like 100 people. And out of that 100 people just got to know people that still around and work with today and a bunch of times, so it’s like, it just becomes this. I know using video for boys would have been the cascading separation of my hands, like the perfect punctuation is just like it you know, it widens, you get to meet people, and then it just keeps widening and widening. And then pretty soon, you know, like people come in with like a class of people, you know, not like caste system. I mean, the class like a like a annual class, and they kind of rise together. And then all of a sudden you look around and you go, Oh shit, the seven of my 24 friends who survived in the industry are now meaningful people, you know, like meaningful? Yeah, on long standing, we’re always meaningful people. But you know what I really mean?

Eric Brodeur 18:27 
So it’s interesting that you phrase it all that way? I have a very practical question, right. So when it comes to networking, it’s one of those things where you end up usually talking to the people who you have always gotten along with the best and stay in touch with but at the same time, there’s always that larger circle of people that you want to be meeting, or the relationships you want to further cultivate. And I think everyone sort of has their own, they’re always at odds with themselves as to how much time do do they spend, how, how do they structure that and organize that was that that is the networking side of it, something that you ever put a lot of thought or energy into, or had some specific structure and organization about how you did it, which is just kind of float within your circle of friends and colleagues and just let it go.

Jeff Howard 19:14 
A lot of thought, not much structure. And you know, but it is, it is definitely the it was the most important thing was to get out there. It’s like, once you have a manager or an agent, every once in a while you write a spec. And if you’re smart, you tell yourself there’s a 3.4% chance that the spec is going to sell for a bunch of money. But what it will do is generate the next like 40 people that I don’t know yet who have just skipped skipped into the industry and are doing their thing, you know, and then you go meet them, and it’s sort of freshens up. But if I was if I was starting now that’s exactly what I keep telling people that’s like everybody, everybody’s first question is how do I get an agent? Or how do I get a manager? It’s like, You what? The first thing that you should be focused on is how do I find a producer because producers know all those people and they will totally Take care of it for you, the minute they find something they like, they’re vastly more accessible. And a ton of their business depends on finding new people that they can get stuff for free for a while, so they could shop it around and see if they could make it work. You know, so it’s like this wonderfully, perfect symbiotic relationship between them. And they’re all they’re like, at the beginning of lockdown, just randomly tweeting something one day, I can’t. It was some I forget what it was, it was like one that went around for a while. And like, this producer, who I’ve always heard of, but never know, just kind of reached out. And then we ended up on a couple of zooms. And this like, it just turns out, he’s just the coolest guy. And it’s like, so you know, you just never you know, you’re always trolling, whether you think so or not, but always be you. Don’t ever worry about, you know, the worst ones that you read are people who are clearly presenting a certain type of image that they just want people to see. And it’s just like this pre fabricated,

Eric Brodeur 20:51 
you know, yeah, you’re right. I mean, I remember when I first started. So I, I transitioned out of the IT field and got into post. And I think we do when I first met, that was probably my second studio feature

Jeff Howard 21:05 
I’ve worked on, you see, like, accomplished, like, you really knew what was going on. I was like, he really does, like, I’m just gonna listen, because these you know, Eric, and Kenzie don’t really know what’s up here.

Eric Brodeur 21:17 
Well, thank you. Um, but up until that point, you know, I just worked on these smaller indie films. And so I was really active on Twitter, mostly just all about editorial. But then when I started to, when I finally was able to work on studio projects, then you’ve got the NDA as then you start being worried about what you can and can’t post. And so then my, my Twitter presence drops a lot at that point, I became more of a lurker than a poster. But and, and it’s, and I think it’s interesting to sort of see, depending upon what field that you work in, in entertainment, and what projects you work on, you know, kind of alters, you know, what you can post and and then you quickly do see that sometimes the people that post a lot, clearly aren’t working on certain things, because they’re just too busy posting, and then the ones that are super busy on projects you don’t necessarily hear from often. Well, no, I

Jeff Howard 22:17 
remember having a conversation with a close director collaborator one time. And we were talking about a mutual friend who was making a movie at the time and was just like tweeting, like, so consistently. And I caught him and I was like, could you tweet while making a movie like this? He’s like, not a good one. But uh, anyway, unnamed source. Yeah. So yeah, I look, I, I don’t know, if there’s a, I don’t know, if there’s an equivalent to work or you’re not working. I feel like I’m about the same. The only thing that’s affected my tweeting differently is the election, like in politics, like I just, I’m much more interested now. And just, you know, like, in that moment of anger, just saying something really mean and nasty than anything else. And project wise, you know, how things are to everything lags behind like, like the thing that happened on Friday? I can’t tell it you know, something, I don’t know what it’s like, in four or five months, they’ll be announcement by them. Yeah. Be Done left forgotten. Oh.

Eric Brodeur 23:19 
Yeah, that’s true. And then I guess as well, sort of finding that balance between one of the, the, the, the humble brags, right yeah, find the balance between wanting to make a meaningful contribution in your tweet versus just doing this flat?

Jeff Howard 23:33 
Yeah, kind of and but they all are at the end of the day, every single one of them if I everyone is just you know, like, but I mean, I just I don’t know I just I can’t stand my friends anymore. And so it’s like, I just got to save this shit to spend money so otherwise it would reverberate in my head You know?

Eric Brodeur 23:50 
And that’d be bad place to keep it

Jeff Howard 23:52 
I just let it go. You know, it’s out there. But it’s an interesting tool never stopped networking because there’s always new people and never ever ever ever look be genuine and be you if you’re just an ask that you are but don’t ever be a jerk to assistants everywhere you go like they’re the the assistant today is the studio VP in six months like they just some careers just take crazy trajectories my my first agent, my longest term agent, her first assistant when I signed with her is now like a senior VP at a studio and it’s like we’ve gone to the pitch him a few times. And it’s like, I’m so glad that I never asked for stupid thing. My first writing partner who I love like a brother, but man amongst his many bad tendencies was like we’d walk into a place and they’d be like, do anything to drink and like I don’t take a water like the only answer to Do you want anything kind of get us on the drink is I will take a water like anything else that you say, is annoying. And he would always say things like, chatty and like really fresh, really hot coffee. And they’ll be like, Oh, it’s a couple hours old. He’s like, would you mind putting some on just Like, oh, yeah, bye, bye. So I wouldn’t say one more thing, like when you’re breaking in, everybody gets so frustrated at managers and agents like just and people who work in the industry and all that stuff, it’s like, what you got to remember when you’re doing your thing is and you’re trying to get there is they are people with a job. And they pay their 99.997% of them report to somebody, you know, I’ve met like four people in this industry so far, who don’t report to somebody, you know, and like, they all report to somebody at the end of the day, and there’s marching orders about how things have to be. And it’s like, it’s not that they don’t want to take your script into their boss and drop it on the desk and say, This is a masterpiece, and it’s not that they don’t want to, you know, advance you in some way or how but it’s like they do, but it’s like, it’s not that that manager doesn’t want to actually sign you they might, but until there’s like, a deal in the offing that they can put on their bottom line roster sheet to, to then justify to their bosses, why they keep their job, they can’t just add you to the list like willy nilly. So it’s like you got to just be patient and understand, a lot of it just comes out of, if you just have the empathy of looking in the other person’s, you know, living in the other person’s shoes for a minute and realize what it’s like from that side of the industry, it gets a lot easier to deal with, because then you treat them like just regular human beings living out a job with their version of their Hollywood dream, you know. So it just, it just really helps. And it changes your relationship with them. And once you break the humanity barrier with people, they want to help you a lot more.

Ty Leisher 26:33 
How do you recommend people nowadays, aside from just you know, emailing or finding them on Twitter? How do you recommend people meet assistance? Call the call and say,

Jeff Howard 26:44 
yeah, today, it’s, we

Ty Leisher 26:45 
don’t want to talk to your boss, I don’t have anything for you. But I just want to get to know you, as a person feels like that’s a good way to get hung up on.

Jeff Howard 26:52 
It’s no, it’s actually I mean, actually reaching out like that and saying things like, Oh, I saw online that you work for blah, blah, I’m trying to work my way into the industry. And I just love to pick your brain sometime about what you’re doing. Like you never say that the poison pill death thing to say to somebody is helped me in, the thing that you want to say is, God, I so admire what you’ve done, let me pick your brain about how you did it. You know, it’s just it’s a, it’s a vastly different vibe and feeling from the other side, and it comes with no pressure. And what you get to do is, that’s your opportunity to get to know that person a little bit so that then by the second or third encounter, they then begin to care about you, and then they’ll do whatever you would have wanted to and the first time ask them very roughly Anyway,

Ty Leisher 27:35 
let’s let’s get back to you and where you were with your career, you sold a few films, you had a manager. And but When was the first time that you actually had something made? And come out? Yeah,

Jeff Howard 27:47 
that was uh, so I sold all the I sold five or six scripts in the studio system that would then just go off and die and development, you know, hack, or whatever, you know, development, you know, first season of loss, whatever it is, you want to call it. And they would like just die. And then you would just go look for the next job and the next job but always seem to come like three months after you’d gone completely broke for some reason, which always suck, you know, like you’d ever paced yourself out. Right? Which is why I tell people not to stack things like crazy. But then that’s how I met Flanagan, Mike Flanagan, Michael Quincy Flanagan, which is that his name? But I’ve, I’ve called him that so often that that was once written on a wedding invitation to him by someone who really thought that was his name, just because I said it so often. It’s like, you know, just a great dude. I think he was like, 20 when we met, and he was still in school or finishing just about to finish. He had made all of these short films and even feature films on video with his friends at school. And they were great. Like, they were terrible Dawson’s Creek episodes. But they were really technically executed just so amazingly well. Like, you could just tell looking at it like, this is an act. This is a director. This is like an editor like this guy actually knows what he’s doing. And the first night that I saw one at a screening back in in Baltimore, I I went up to him and I was like, dude, I look your stuff is great. If you ever want to talk, you know, I’d sold a couple of things at that time, like the first couple of things. And I was like, if you ever want to talk about ideas and stuff, like I would love to talk about it. And I think his answer was something like back to studio system. And I don’t like Hollywood, I’m gonna stay indie for the rest of my life. And I’m making movies with my friends and Well, you know what you mean, and all that stuff. And then like, but we kept in touch. And then like a couple of years later, I guess he just decided, you know, he decided like, oh, maybe it’s not so bad, like the whole, you know, like the whole studios thing or whatever. And we were both in LA so we would get together. We just started having lunch three times a week for a couple of months. And out of those first sit downs came the first like bathroom. have ideas and then the first script and then, you know, I started using the people that I had known had met to sort of, like, Get us out there and start meeting people. And, you know, as we started winding out, I would go, you know, it’s just, if you’re, if you ever want to know how awful the industry could be, and how annoying sometimes I would I had a manager, I would say to my manager, you got assigned Mike, like, this is the this is the most talented person I’ve ever met, like, this is, you know, this is somebody who in five years is everybody’s good boss. Like all this things, like, Yeah, I don’t know. I mean, I see it, I get, I don’t know, I don’t know, if I just break it direct, or, I don’t know, it’s like, you know, like all these. And I would go to meetings, and I like I couldn’t at that time, I would go to meetings, I would say, Look, I’ve started working with this guy, Mike Flanagan, and he says, bla bla bla, if he would just take, like you like a wall. Like I don’t, I don’t want to hear this. I don’t understand why we’re having this conversation. And then then he made absentia, which was a really smart move, because it showed people what the things look like, you know, on film. And he had the short for Oculus, which was just terrific. He wrote it with his friend, Jeff Seidman is a great guy. And they the short was basically like the history section from the feature. And the very end with the creepy mirror ghosts. You know, it was like those two bits, right? Right. at it, but it was really good. And it was just so well made. And it was like, let’s, you know, let’s, let’s go figure out like, let’s go shot this around and figure out how to make it a feature. And that was like a four year process. And what happened was like, I just I was so committed. I once Flanagan and I started doing stuff, right? For the very first script. I was like, we finished the first script we ever wrote, I was like, this is the best thing I’ve ever done. Like it was the best thing I’ve ever been a part of, like, let’s you know, let’s just keep doing this. And we kept doing it. And it took four years for anybody to give a shit like the entire industry, just completely. So I went back to being a pastry chef and Flannigan kept cutting reality TV, and we would get on the phone and talk story out. And I would type pages early in the morning, and he would type pages overnight. And like sometimes I would get like an email from him. Like, I’d wake up at like 515 in the morning. And he would have said pages like 503 on his way to bed, you know, that it was like somebody was always working on the page. It’s like, we would just trade stuff back and forth. And this first scripts, it was just obvious that it was much better and much more fun. And then we hit just a pure horror groove that you know, such his style for a while. That was just so you know, it was just so much fun. And I just knew this stuff was good. And it was worth it was hard to explain to my wife at the time, different life, obviously. But it was hard to explain to her at the time, but I was like, No, this stuff is too good to worry about trying to go do something else like but I’m just gonna stay focused on this. And then, you know,

I, Mike went on a general meeting with Trevor may see. And then, though, then everything changed. Like Trevor is one of those guys who, you know, I mean, we didn’t you know, all we knew about him at first was that he had just made this john cusec Edgar Allan Poe movie. And I remember being really excited and then going to see the Edgar Allan Poe movie and being like, shit. But, you know, it was just so much on Flanagan that it was great. And Trevor’s just like, there’s very, it’s very rare that you meet somebody in LA, in this in the industry, that is not just, you know, but it’s very strange to meet somebody in industry who just literally tells you all the time, what’s actually going on. You know, like, he was just always very straightforward, like, well, it’s like waiting for them to call Georgia. You know what I mean? Like he was very, he’s very deliberate about everything and never says anything until he knows what he’s talking about. So that was always appreciated. And like he, while we were making that first movie, he passed on the second script, which I thought was really funny, because we’ve just thought, Oh, of course, it’s going to continue. And then like, when the movie was being cut, and he was looking at it, he was like, let’s, let’s go find another one. What

Ty Leisher 33:58 
was the first one what what was the second script?

Jeff Howard 34:02 
The first one was Oculus. The second one was the script called sambia. Get it? They all got nice titles. And then they changed it, of course, to be to this to before I wake. Which I in my memory. I think that movie was in that movie was like in production Well, before Oculus was being distributed like before anybody, you know, it seemed to happen pretty quickly after and it was a bigger budget. And you know, it was a I you know, I love this those two scripts. So that original four that are sitting there were two of them are still in the vault. They’re really they’re very interesting stuff.

Ty Leisher 34:39 
I have some follow up questions on on those scripts and how you deal with you know, projects that you write that just kind of die but I think before we go any further, I have to I have to ask us I think this was early on and you and and Mike’s involvement together. Can you tell us a little bit about suddenly royal?

Jeff Howard 34:57 
Well, yeah, Sure, what would you like to know? So a long distant cousin of mine is the, the the Kate the, you know, the rightful hereditary king of the Isle of Man, this little island. That’s like equidistant between, you know, England, Ireland and Scotland basically. And it’s like the Cayman Islands of Western Europe. It’s like we’re all the banks are. And so it was a really controversial thing for these people to name him as the titular head because it’s been a protectorate of Queen Elizabeth and of the British Crown for like, 400 years. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So anyway, we he’s but he’s just a he’s just a goofy, he’s just like a silly, Goofy guy who’s very much like a like a young john Goodman, you know, just like a regular Joe sixpack legs, DC burbs, you know, funny guy. And so, uh, where are we, we were somewhere. I don’t know, flat finding it was somewhere and mentioned it just like as an offhanded thing to one of his ex employers. And then that guy loved it. And like we just and then we just started developing it. And then they sold it to TLC, and they went to shoot it. And we were just so convinced that it was like going to be this thing that was just going to run for season after season, because all those TLC shows do but apparently, there was some turmoil at that network at the time. And like everybody, I don’t know, somebody, something had gone wrong with a bunch of their stars. They were like, getting bad. I don’t think they’re getting bad press. And they were doing weird stuff. And so they just think the new regime came in and canceled everything. But it was a it was a strange, you know, we didn’t really have anything at all to do with the actual making of the show. But we got executive producer credits, because we brought the idea and the guy to the people who made the show. And it forever pissed off Flanagan because he’s Mike Flanagan that might go flat again, and it said Michael, into the credits. And I just know, it just ruined the entire experience for just getting that wrong credit just even more than dealing with my cousin on long, long separated cousin by many, many family.

Ty Leisher 37:12 
Well, let’s get back to it. Let’s get back to Oculus. And you don’t want to talk. I mean, we can watch

Jeff Howard 37:16 
episode six. Remember when they were doing that boat race, we

Ty Leisher 37:19 
could certainly dig in. I just just didn’t seem like something that you know, was

Jeff Howard 37:24 
stupid. And honestly, I’m so tired of people coming up to me on the street and asking me about something. Are you really it’s like you said it. I thought you were gonna ask about some horrible personal

Ty Leisher 37:36 
thing. No, no, that’s that’s about as horrible. But no, I want I think, you know, yeah, I didn’t uncover all the skeletons. That’s, that will save that for a future episode. But I do want to, you know, get back to Oculus and how that came about. How did you? You know, how was that film produced? So is just that you guys took the script to Trevor at intrepid. And it went from there.

Jeff Howard 38:00 
It was a it was the short. Trevor Flanagan went in for a general meeting. Where’s it Baltimore? And Flanagan went in for a general meeting with Trevor. And then pitched in that we wanted to do this thing and then left him the short. And then he watched the short and was like, Yeah, you’re a real director. Yes, exactly. Before that meets, we literally spent about four years like going around and pitching people and trying to come up with a version of that thing. And every version was always an anthology, because Flanagan didn’t want to like reshoot the the 29 minutes short, he wanted to just put the 29 minutes short in with other stuff, you know, and, and I just, I’ve just never been an anthology fan in any way, shape, or form, but it’s just always thought I just never did you know, it’s like, what are these other stories that we need to add? Didn’t seem to make sense. And then one day Yeah, one day we were talking and with the final pitch became it was just like, well, what if it was the same experience, except he just had it with some other sibling? Like, you know, like, the short is all about hinting that he had a childhood brushed up against the mirror himself. And it was like, Well, what if it wasn’t just him? You know, what if it was two of them, and they had radically different views on this experience? And then that’s fine. Okay. But it was a pitch to Trevor, who then commissioned the script.

Ty Leisher 39:14 
Nice. And and then with, before I wake, is that another thing where, you know, you guys revisited that with Trevor and he liked it, and went with it, or were you guys involved in making that project come to life at all?

Jeff Howard 39:29 
Uh, yeah. Well, before awake is something that once once they pay it, as for Oculus, we were like, let’s do it again. So we rented the same place. And we went in and we wrote this other idea that we had called Samia. And we really we were in that room for four days. And I think we spent the last two days just crying, like being diagnosed is very sad, like very cathartic experience. And like, I think to this day, Flanagan and I would each look at that script and I would go that’s me and he’ll go, that’s me. No, that’s me. That’s me, not about who wrote left just about who lives wide and like who’s been They were from life, you know. But we wrote that one specifically to capitalize on Oculus being made. And it went to Trevor and it went to a bunch of other people and a woman, Robin Marshall, who’s become a really good friend tried to buy it. When she and her partner Matt, were running Lions Gate, I think it was. And I think Matt was like a VP and Robin was his development person. And they just they loved the script, and they really wanted to get it done. And then the business affairs, like, though in the negotiations, they wouldn’t guarantee Flanagan would direct the movie, they like, wouldn’t rule it out. But they didn’t guarantee it. So we just so we said no, which was moderately ballsy, because it was decent money. And we held on to it. And then I think what happened was, I think some other people picked it up. And then Trevor joined in, like, after the fact, but you know, Trevor just has a particular gift for going to get things financed, just really knows how to get movies made.

Ty Leisher 41:02 
So speaking of getting things made, you’ve had a lot of projects that started where you wrote the script for it, and then they just kind of died on the vine like driver snapshot. 1988. And I know you did last summer,

Jeff Howard 41:13 
selling my mom. disappointment, you mean? Oh, yeah. Ah, your ratio is only 400.

Ty Leisher 41:25 
You know, my question is, how do you mentally deal with with that, where, you know, if you’re a novelist, read novel, it doesn’t get published. You self publish it? It’s so good out there. As a screenwriter, you’ve written the scripts, and now they’re just sitting in the drawer. Yeah. How do you mentally deal with that?

Jeff Howard 41:40 
Uh, just, you know, you get angry and sad, you cry, and you lash out at the people close to you in your life that you love, and you blame them? You know, all the regular No, no, oh, normal. No. No, you know, you just there’s nothing you can do. Like, I remember reading, like the William Goldman stuff in the very beginning, like everybody reads, and I really loved Goldman. And I love this stuff. And he’s like, look of all the scripts I’ve written, about half of them have gotten made, and half of them haven’t. And I don’t know the difference between the ones that did and didn’t snatch. I was the best group we ever wrote. I still I like, something. I mean, I didn’t print it and frame it, because I’m not a weirdo. But like, I like Jason bumps into, like, the nicest email after reading the script, just like about how, like, you know, it was really, really good. And like Joe Hill was like, wow, you know, like, you took that you took that world that schedule world and holy shit. It was just like, it was a it was the single most fulfilling script I’ve ever worked on. But legal shenanigans by grumpy co participants in the producing deal will prevent it from ever getting made. Yeah. Which just sucks. I know it did last summer was a giant failing on behalf of the studio. They they Flanagan and I wrote that script. For one very specific reason we had they caught we they they said they called him they said do you want to write I know he did last summer reboot. We said now they call it again. He said do you want to write and I know he did last summer reboot? We said no. And then they called they said, if you could do anything you want it. That would be and I Don’t Know What You Did Last Summer reboot? Would you be interested in doing that? And we were like, I let’s let’s have a meeting and talk about so we went and we talked to Neil Moritz is awesome. It was like he bought my first script. And you know, he brought us in on that. And working with him is great. He’s he was more involved than any Junior creative executive I’ve ever seen in a script. And when we were all done with it, we all loved it. But there’s an ending to it. That makes the whole thing matter. And they they just would not nobody, they just would not go with that ending. And once that ending was not once that ending wasn’t going to happen. The CO writer assumed director just lost all interest. as did his co writer friend Jeff. It was just like, without that it was very vanilla. But with the with the very ending. It was just like it was like a it was like a witness for the prosecution style. Twist. Like it was just like what it was like, if you’ve ever don’t listen for a minute, if you’ve never seen what this advice isn’t, but it’s like, at the end of witness for the prosecution. You go oh my god, that was Marlena Dietrich. I can’t believe it. It was like one of those like, it was like one of those endings and they were just totally afraid of it. And they they would Bandy words about like incest. And it’s a no it’s nothing to do with that. It’s just these people that you’re thinking or having an incestuous relationship already been related. So it was anyway, but it was it was a really good script. It just some of them just die in the system. And that’s a shame because the scares and it were great the character So much fun. The structure totally worked, it would have been a really interesting reboot.

Eric Brodeur 45:04 
No, it’s interesting, too, because when you look at all the films that are redone, you know, there’s some that you seemingly really just don’t want to touch. Like, I think there’s home alone, which seems like an odd thing to reboot just because of how Macaulay Culkin in that film was just so embedded in culture. But for I know she did last summer, despite the fact that it was popular at the time, Jennifer Love Hewitt, it is one that you could put other actors in, and it doesn’t change the original memory of it, you know?

Jeff Howard 45:34 
Yeah, I agree. It would have just been another thing like another, another own separate not reboot, you know, yeah, it was. It was it was a definite missed opportunity. I feel bad because there’s an alternate universe where Flanagan makes that movie and it’s a giant hit and

Ty Leisher 45:53 
and so I want to take a step back a little bit because you know, when you first started writing, I mean, on your IMDb Anyway, you had a lot of historical History Channel, biopic type of stories. How did those come about? And and when did you pivot away from that and more into horror.

Jeff Howard 46:14 
I didn’t really I had a friend, the guy that I worked with on the Ron Howard script, then started what became like a really big unscripted company, and moved to New York and started doing really well and then later sold it to the French for a giant amount of money. This makes me simultaneously giggle and want to cry. And it’s very funny for him. But uh, you know, he put all of his time and effort into this unscripted company. And it really grew into something big. And he just knew that I was, you know, he just knew me. And we worked on a historical script together. So from time to time, he would just call and say, I just need somebody who knows history who can tell me a bunch of about the ship by James W. A bunch about that. And, you know, he would hire me and I would do research for a couple of months and then come back and just present him a giant ball of wax. It Yeah, a lot of fun. I, I like doing those things. But anyway, it’s just, it just comes a time. Did you know sorry, you know, I have two kids now. And they just don’t pay as well as the other stuff does. But it was a lot of fun.

Ty Leisher 47:24 
Speaking of paying, I mean, when you’re first starting out, you’ll you take like, any job that any anyone will hire you for right. But do you think that that contributes to like to pigeon holing? As a

Jeff Howard 47:34 
Yeah, but if you don’t do it yourself, look, pigeon holing exists in the bell curve of the reality of the industry, some people break free of it, and some you know, but but the great preponderance of people do not. So pick yours for yourself before they decide on it for you. You know, no, that’s

Ty Leisher 47:52 
great advice. Speaking of, you know, in a previous interview said that Mike is the funniest one of the funniest guys that you know, and you hope that you guys can do a family movie or like an animated movie together. Is that ever gonna happen?

Jeff Howard 48:04 
Uh, I don’t know. I don’t know if we’ll ever get an arrow. It’s like, every time we ever finished anything, it’s like, Alright, I will see you next time. No, you know, there’s though everybody always some people always ask now, what kind of corporate papers digital make is like, I don’t know what you’re talking about. We never, you know, you do yours. And I’ll do mine. Yeah, I anticipate at some point that, you know, but but right now, he grew up wanting to be a director. And right now he’s in a flow of being able to be on a set as often as he wants and is in absolute heaven. And he should just enjoy that for as long as he totally wants to. And then someday, he’ll come back and kick up his feet, and we’ll go grab a laptop and do something. But until then, he should stay on every set humanly known to man and just keep making good stuff. Because there’s a real dearth of good stuff to watch. So,

Ty Leisher 49:03 
so to change gears a little bit, hunting of Hill House was your first kind of narrative series, right? You’ve done the History Channel stuff, but how did you approach writing episodic versus writing features, which is what you always did?

Jeff Howard 49:17 
Yep. Scared to death. I thought it was gonna be the worst thing in the world to go sit in a room with a bunch of people and just thought, you know what, it’s just such good money and such a good opportunity, just gonna have to go suffer through it. And then by like, the end of day two, it was like, Oh, this what is this addictive? Very charging wonderful experience, you know? So, yeah, it just worked out great. That was I’ve been in three rooms so far. And that one was just, it’s was spoiling a lot of ways because I did not realize at the time that it was just a collection of killers, you know, like, everybody in there was really fucking awesome. And I mean, not that every you know, I mean, it always you accepted, but that was the Like, now you go into a room and everybody’s awesome. But it’s like there’s two or three people who are breaking in for the first time, there’s two or three people who are doing a couple of shows at the same time. And there’s one or two people in the middle or, you know, kind of hold down the fort. And it’s like, with Hill House, it was just like seven people sort of in the same stage, just, you know, like a career, just I’ll sit at a room and lock it down and saying, let’s just, you know, for four and a half hours a day, let’s kick this thing’s as

Ty Leisher 50:26 
nice. When it comes to two new projects that you’re working on. Do you? I mean, number one, do you? Do you have a hand in producing those things? Or are you just more of a writer for hire on the projects that you have coming up?

Jeff Howard 50:41 
Yeah, it’s still right there in my mom territory. Yes, more. So now. I actually, I’m producing something with my friend Craig Flores, who did like crawl and 300 and a bunch of other things. So actually, like, attached to produce something and working on producing something for the first time, which has been a lot of fun. Like, we’re talking to directors now. It’s like, weird. What are we excited? I just want to give them all the job. Yeah, you got it. The first day, like seven people show up?

Ty Leisher 51:12 
Yeah. Because you know, what it feels like to be on the other side of that where it’s, you know,

Jeff Howard 51:15 
yeah, you just, you know, you know, and you know, the preparation and the nerves. Yes. You know, try to make it easy on people. I always try to debunk Flores in the meetings and say, you know, nasty things about him so that they’ll be nice.

Ty Leisher 51:27 
But when it comes to when it comes to new projects, I mean, I think that there’s a certain idea that people have that you could walk in any room, you know, with a studio and say, I want to make this and they would make it. But that’s not how the business works. Right? Do you find that now that you’ve, quote unquote, broken in? Do you think you have it any easier to get stuff off the ground?

Jeff Howard 51:50 
Yeah, but not, it’s not easy, but it’s easier. Like it like the 297 steps that it takes to get something done, they get to start on step 24. Now, instead of step one, you know, but it’s still there’s still 254 hurdles to get through before, don’t check. There’s still all those hurdles to get through. Just like everybody else, like when you read that Spielberg had trouble getting Lincoln financed, you know that everybody’s essentially in the same boat, and you’re only a couple of awful decisions away from not being able to get back in there and ask, but it doesn’t hurt your momentum that you can start higher up on the food chain. All those people along the food chain are great. They’re all living their own dream, but everybody needs to put their own imprint on stuff. And sometimes by the time you get through all the various steps, you’ve ended up with this sort of Frankenstein. Whereas everything I’ve ever been a part of that’s gotten made, started higher up in the food chain and didn’t become a Frankenstein. And everything that I’ve ever done the diet and the system, other than snapshot and I know it did last summer, I had that problem.

Ty Leisher 52:55 
I think another misconception that people have with with writers and this might get into a question that you may or may not want to answer, you can answer it in this vague way as you’d like, you know, we discussed

Jeff Howard 53:05 
I wasn’t there that night, I was not a part of the events. I know that there’s brief video seem to be in the surveillance stuff I do. I think that was like,

Ty Leisher 53:14 
Yes. You know, we talked about how you made money when you first starting out and how you say to flow, but now that you’re an established writer, you know, this is what you’re doing as your full time job. How? How do you make money? And I mean, that in that day? What What did Sony pay you? I mean, like, you know, open writing assignments, spec work, selling specs, that kind of stuff.

Jeff Howard 53:34 
Yep. All of it. I think if you’re not trying all its teeth, like I think everybody right now had better split their efforts. 5050 between TV and features, or your, you know, your suffering a lapse at some point, or potentially to, you know, a, one of the most shocking things you’ll discover is that after you start a corporation and have taxes and commissions that you end up like 44% of your money or something, if you’re lucky, which is always fun to remember, since I was, you know, anytime you join math, and those moments when you see something like, oh, oh, you know, and then if you’re a writing TV, split that in half, so it’s like one of the few ways that you can give yourself a raise if you’re working with somebody is to go off and do something else, you know. So, you know, that happens a lot. Yeah, it’s a specs are almost useless. Because it’s a tiny little Bullseye that you’re trying to hit. And to presuppose that like in the old days because nobody wants to develop anything anymore. That’s a spec like it’s either finished or it’s or it’s garbage, you know, to me, defied that rule on Friday, but talk about that for a while. So yeah, you know, you specs, TV, pilots, a TV, TV staff jobs, TV pilots, rewrite assignments, you know, you take All of them. Because, you know, you probably should like, it would be nice to sit like I mean the drink. You know, like sometimes you shoot yourself in your own foot because it’s like, I don’t know, sometimes your own standards can really mess you up. So sometimes it might be better for yourself if you had a slightly lesser standard and just went back to the same well over and over again. You know, like if when WWE called and said, do you want to do Oculus, too? You said yes. Instead of No, I would never tarnish that unity mean, it’s like, but that’s a feat. It’s like I, I don’t know, I look at Oculus and I’m like, No, I do not want to go make three VOD $3 million follow ups. But yeah, like, and nor should anybody I know you have the right to, but nobody should do that. So

Eric Brodeur 55:47 
your comment about spec scripts, though? If you’re a writer who’s starting out or trying to break in and hasn’t isn’t, no one’s going to be calling them to be staff. So therefore, oh, yeah, I met. But to start. Okay, gotcha.

Jeff Howard 56:01 
Yeah, that’s not for everybody, you have to do that. And, and you also, not only do you have to write a spec, but you have to be very loose with your spec and not be afraid to just hand it to anybody. Because even as somebody who, like I said, started, you know, with a crazy lawsuit, due to handing somebody a script, it’s like, you need to do it. Because how else does it happen? You know what I mean? It’s like, you can’t I bet some of these people who sit back and they’re like, you know, I’m gonna sit in my cocoon until I’m recognized, because I’m not going to get ripped off with my awesome stuff. It’s like, wow, I hope you enjoyed the cocoon because it don’t know who’s gonna come knocking like you have to go ask. Yeah, you know, you always have to, you have to make the

Ty Leisher 56:42 
ask. Yeah. And then

Eric Brodeur 56:44 
I think you had tweeted, maybe I’m not remembering correctly. But you were grateful that you finally went to the point where you could just go in and pitch a idea and a concept and not have to write a script in advance. Am I remember that

Jeff Howard 56:58 
correctly? Yeah. No, I don’t know. I mean, I guess I yeah, some things you do. Some things, you do it, because you just think it’s better to have it exist. But I would only do that with a producer. Now like I would develop something with somebody. It’s about developing something with somebody is how most of everything that has ever gotten done or bought that I’ve ever done happened not from a spec not from a job, it was just mostly you met somebody you like them, you kept in touch, you ran an idea by them, they said, I like that idea. You work on it together for a few months, and then they are as invested as you are and they get behind it. And then they don’t let it just slip and fall as opposed, you know, out of the out of sight as opposed to like a spec that they just get on a Thursday afternoon and read and they know there’s 29 other people who are looking at it, and they don’t have any personal commitment to it whatsoever. And they just like they’ll, of course, they’ll take a shot. Why not? What does it cost them to take a shot with it, and then they’ll take a shot, but they won’t really put anything behind it or push on it. So it’s like, you know, do a spec so that you can get to know a bunch of people once you know a bunch of people develop some stuff with them.

Ty Leisher 58:07 
Yeah, right. Right. If you had to pick one thing to attribute your success to thus far, what what would that one thing be in your career? is it doing that film permanent damage?

Jeff Howard 58:16 
I think it would be all those lunches. I bought Mike Flanagan

Ty Leisher 58:19 
they’re really paying off right about now.

Jeff Howard 58:21 
Yes. You mean, I mean, it went to the daily grill, you know, pizza, for sure. I used to live around the corner from that, this place whose whole advert thing was that they had the giant slices of pizza. And they were like giant, you know, they were like slices of pizza that are like an entire small pizza. And yeah, we would go there a lot and eat a lot of pizza. So and I one time, early in his life, you know, like while struggling with finances as people do in their 20s and had troubles and you know, sometimes 30s 40s and 50s. But, uh, as far as he was struggling with money, and I would go over things and I would look at his stuff with him. I was looking at his monthly and I was like, if you just like, went to Trader Joe’s and bought the $4 like organic cheese pizza, instead of ordering from Domino’s. like not even like a fancy but like from Domino’s, the $24 pizza, you would be like you would save, you know, like, you know, your rent. And I was like I remember one time the most unwanted advice I ever gave him was like, dude, I don’t know, maybe she cut back on you Stephen King memorabilia. And it was like, it was like I said to him, your child is on a jacket or something or like, you know, it’s sort of like, you know, like you have misshapen thumbs or something like the reaction of his face was like, how could I was like, no like, Yeah, but pizza if you know flat again or you know of him now these days, Flanagan like pizza and Stephen King memorabilia are definitely a big part of the psychic glue that holds it all together.

Eric Brodeur 59:51 
Well. I mean, that’s when I when we were working together on Weegee, every meal we had was pizza that I can recall and then I ran into Mike For a short while when I was working on the Bye bye, man, I think he was doing Gerald’s game. And, you know, Trevor and I and our team, we were sitting outside eat lunch and pizza. So every time I’ve seen Mike and we’ve eaten it’s always been pizza.

Jeff Howard 1:00:12 
Yes. And it’s always like industrial pizza. Oh, yeah. Not like the pizza that like,

Eric Brodeur 1:00:17 
yeah, yeah, regular pizza or fancy pizza. It’s just like cheese pizzas, the whatever the biggest. Normal blow great pizza.

Jeff Howard 1:00:26 
Yeah, he created such a a ruckus one day and the haunting of Hill House room, where like, we were all sitting there. And, you know, he came in, and it was the menu. And it was another shitty salad dump, you know, just like awful place with the pass of the thing around. And he looked at the menu. And he just said, he said, I really don’t want to do this. But is there any way I could get somebody to run a McDonald’s? And that like, and then he left and like, they all looked at me? And they’re like, really? Did he? Or is he really gonna eat that? Like, but today I love Let me get to because he goes on the kicks like so you know, sometimes you see him. And he’s 40 pounds up and smoking. And sometimes you see him and he’s 37 pounds down and eating celery. Ah, it’s all?

Ty Leisher 1:01:17 
Well, I’m glad to hear that you’re, you know, you’re starting to produce because clearly you have an eye for talent when it comes to like, you know, I don’t want to say you discovered Mike Flanagan. But if you want to tell him I said you discovered him. You’re allowed to say that? Yeah,

Jeff Howard 1:01:29 
he did it himself. He

Ty Leisher 1:01:30 
was fine. He would have been fine no matter what. But no, it’s good. I mean, it seems like you really have a good eye for talent. So I’m glad to hear that you’re producing

Jeff Howard 1:01:36 
I agree. And I’m working with some new people and some different things too, which is like, for the last few years, I’ve been finding sort of like young, younger, you know, different writers working their way up and people that I don’t know, and blah, blah, blah. And, yeah, it’s been a lot of fun. It’s like the I there’s a writer from DC who’s moved out here now and we hooked up to kick some stuff around a little bit. And then I got they asked me, you know, do you want to do a? I guess it doesn’t matter to say they’re like, do you want to do an underworld take for TV? It’s like, yes. So I called her and we put one together that was just like, ah, just like, it’s great. So we’ll see what you know, we’ll see what happens in a month. But this is like the, the Billy Wilder had this thing where he was like, with collaborators. He’s like, you know, when you have a, you can only strike the matchbook covers so many times before the match won’t light anymore. So it’s always fun to meet somebody we can bounce stuff around with and go, Oh, my God, you’re like, sparkling with electrical talents a

Ty Leisher 1:02:33 
breath of fresh air? What was the coolest, most holy shit? I’ve made it moment in your career?

Jeff Howard 1:02:38 
I mean, I hope there’s better ones. Uh, I enjoyed learning my dad. No, I think it was a, I, there was this thing recently, where about half recently, I’ve been working on this thing for a year and a half of Alexander Raja, you know, and he’s really great. And he’s so fun to work with. And so French, you know, it’s just like, some fun. And I just, every time we get off a zoom, I am personally this voice for three hours to my wife, working with Asha. But uh, we had this thing with these guys had this technology. And we had a pitch to go with it. And we were going around doing this pitch. And then we got the call that amblin wanted to do it. And then one of the producers wrote a physical letter to Spielberg. And then we got the call, like, oh, Spielberg wants to he’s buying the pitch. And the it was like, oh, wow, that’s crazy. And yeah, that was a weird one. It was just like, oh, wait a minute. And then so like, so like, a couple of weeks ago, we finished the second draft on a Friday. And they’re all I was like, man, Alex is really just so fucking uptight about this draft. Like what’s, you know, like, he wasn’t like this at the first draft. Like what see some nervous about like, we’re, we’re looking at every like, you know, MySpace thing and everything. And then he realized it’s like, oh, it’s Spielberg like Spielberg is gonna read this one on like an iPad. And it’s it’s a Choose Your Own Adventure thing. So it’s like, you know, choose your own adventure is trademarked. It is a company that has created some software that creates movies, where you get to pick things up anyway. And it’s better than the Netflix tech because it’s not like a video game. It’s like you die and you restart. It’s like the real consequences. And you know, we worked on this thing, and it was like, it’s like 344 pages long because of all the different branching and all this stuff and it’s just like, you really can go through and you get you get an iPad from these guys, the tech and you choose a little thing at the end which one you want to go into the script just automatically goes to that and the movie is the same way. It was like yeah, so about two weeks ago, I was like, oh shit Spielberg is gonna like have his own iPad with these guys goofy software attached and he’s gonna slip through this thing I just spent 18 months on like working sure to make sure these branches work and everything it’s like so yeah, I think that was the closest because Raiders Lost Ark i think is everybody knows is the greatest movie ever made. So it’s just like the idea that the guy who made Raiders The Lost Ark is gonna sit there and read this thing was a little mind blowing. So that was probably about Nice. Very cool.

Eric Brodeur 1:05:10 
Is there any particular film that is one of those guilty pleasure films or film that is hugely underrated that you think is awesome, something that’s just always kind of in the back of your mind? Just as you go through life? Yeah, my,

Jeff Howard 1:05:26 
my wife and I quote, back to school to each other several times a day. And we’ve watched it multiple times. And it’s like a very meaningful movie to our lives. So if you’ve ever seen back to school with Rodney Dangerfield, you should watch it immediately. Like sometimes my wife will go, what’s a bath without bubbles? Over here, and yeah, and then she you know, cuz it’s Los Angeles, right? We, you go to these little school kid, you know, like, playgroup thingies and stuff. And she became really good friends with this woman. And a little kids have bonded so much and over the last few years, they’ve become like sisters, and they’re crazy about each other. And she got we go over to their house back in the pre pandemic days. And I sit there like, Man, that all the Italian guy in the hat, who’s her dad, really, really looks like Bert young. You know, it’s like so strange. Like, I guess all old Italian men just look alike. You know? I was like, it was like, the third time I went over there that it really like, Oh, shit. That’s Bert. Yeah. Like this, like her dad. And like, you know, my wife would start coming home and she’d say things like, you know, oh, Uncle Bert and Uncle Bert. I’m like, Uncle burgers is like, Oh, my God. It’s like, and now they you know, I walk by the other day. And my wife’s on FaceTime. And it does Bert young. Like facetiming my wife. So yeah, you know, Los Angeles is a very strange place. But he’s in back to school, which I don’t know. Yeah. That’s why. That’s why the thoughts tied. It wasn’t a random we strayed on the back story about how I know one of the most famous I got

Ty Leisher 1:06:57 
obsessed. gotta figure out a way to

Jeff Howard 1:06:59 
work. Like, I don’t know, exactly like I my cache is so high, that I just, you know, had to work it in every meeting. The only thing that’s ever really gotten me is my friend Paul, who loves the rocky movies asked for an autograph. Nice.

Ty Leisher 1:07:17 
having a little fun question. What is a movie that came up before you were born that you wish you had written?

Jeff Howard 1:07:25 

Ty Leisher 1:07:28 
Like, myself,

Jeff Howard 1:07:30 
tried to skip years of my career. I mean, look, there’s a bunch, I, I just got the rights to my favorite novel of all time. And it’s about a guy who goes back to Golden Age Hollywood to derail the career of Ronald Reagan. But he ends up getting a job at a studio and he writes all the movies that he loved before they’re actually written like, it’s just like you write high noon and all these other movies. And I mean, look, Casablanca is the best. You know, the best dialogue and the best situations of all time would love to have done that. The original Batman movie is such a favorite Maltese Falcon, The Man Who Would Be King Jaws, but I would have liked to written the jaws that’s on the page on the screen, like the diversity they thought they were gonna make, like, I’d like to be good enough to actually write the movie they did make, which I guess nobody really did. Because they had to, like, you know, do so many things. Raiders. You know, eight men out. JFK, you know, godfather three. Obviously, it sucks. It’s like I forget who it was. Somebody said one time. It’s like the great thing about the Godfather set now is you have these two great movies that you buy on DVD and watch. And then you have another one that you can use as a nice, but yeah, there’s a bunch. I guess I just if I would have been able to be Billy Wilder, that would have been awesome. Like, I would love to do anything that Billy did. He was like, my total hero and like the only person I ever stocked in my entire life.

No matter what.

Eric Brodeur 1:09:07 
Yeah, I was gonna say.

Ty Leisher 1:09:09 
All right, Jeff. Well, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us today. You know, cool.

Jeff Howard 1:09:14 
So do you want to start recording? Ah,

Ty Leisher 1:09:16 
that’d be great. I thought you were recording, because I know how podcasts and next time we should record. Thank you. Thank you. Cool. Well, thank you for coming on.

Eric Brodeur 1:09:25 
Thank you for hanging out with us. Thank you for giving us so much of your time on a Saturday, especially.

Jeff Howard 1:09:31 
Good luck with your stuff. keep producing.

Eric Brodeur 1:09:32 
Yeah, thank you. Yeah, we got a bunch of stuff. We’re trying to get off the ground. So we’ll see. We’ll see what works good.


Co-founded by Eric Brodeur and Ty Leisher, Exit 44 Entertainment creates mind-bending horror stories that leave your head spinning as the credits roll. 

Eric Brodeur has a decade of experience in picture editorial on features such as Transformers: The Last Night, The Nun, The Grudge, Ouija, Sinister 2, and more working with studios such as Blumhouse, New Line, Sony, and Paramount. His experience collaborating with those directors, producers, and writers, provides intimate industry insight and a strong perspective on script to screen.

In addition to writing and directing their own projects, the duo also represents independent horror and thriller films for sale. They recently sold The Haunting of Mary Celeste, and Faith to Vertical Entertainment. Their supernatural horror film and feature debut, 11th Hour Cleaning, is in post-production and close to completion.