Edward Norton — On Creative Process and Struggle, and Motherless Brooklyn | The Tim Ferriss Show | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "Edward Norton — On Creative Process and Struggle, and Motherless Brooklyn | The Tim Ferriss Show".


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Introduction To Edward

Intro (00:00)

At this altitude I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking. Can I answer your personal question? No, it is the only perfect time. What if I did the opposite? I'm a cybernetic organism, living tissue over a metal endoskeleton. Lead to Paris show. This episode is brought to you by Zapier. New sponsor, but not new to me as a service. We'll get to my personal story. But if you run your own business, think about all of the hours and hours you spend moving information from one software program to another. Or one window to another. One social media platform to another. Copy and pasting, blah blah blah. All because those things don't easily work together. They're not connected. With Zapier, now they do. Automatically. My team and I have been using Zapier for years, which helps us with tons of stuff. Such as, just to take one example, connecting Facebook ad campaigns to our email platform. And you could also, as I do, automate publishing things that you put on Instagram to other social media platforms. Saving us hundreds of hours. My team has also raved about Zapier's support, this is super important to me. Which in their words, "is in a class of its own." And that is not paid placement. We test all of these things and have used Zapier as full paying retail customers. That is not because we got any type of freebie. So, there are tons of examples. Now why are there tons of examples? There are tons of examples because Zapier supports more than 1500 business applications. And the possibilities are virtually endless. For automating processes, for getting shit done. And you may know, if you read the 4 hour work week, that the third step is automation. In other words, not adding headcount to a messy process to fix problems. But automating as much as possible. You want to eliminate, then automate, and only then delegate. And Zapier is one of the best automating softwares, if you can use the plural. One of the best pieces of automation software I've ever come across. It is the easiest way to automate a ton of your work. So check it out. If you want to try it out or just learn more, go to zapier.com/tim. That's z-a-p-i-e-r dot com slash tim. Connect the apps you use the most and let Zapier take it from there. You can do a million things. I'll give you one more example. You could, for instance, instantly engage with leads for your business. Send them to a CRM or spreadsheet and then notify your team so they can act fast on every opportunity. And here's the really beautiful part and perhaps the gem to really highlight. It's easy to build an exact solution that you need in minutes without writing code or asking a developer for help. So as a non-technical person, you can piece these different programs together in a way that is customized for your needs and your business and what is important to you. So you can get the hell back to focusing on the stuff that you're good at. Okay, so that's it. Join more than four and a half million people who are saving an average of 40 hours per month by using Zapier now. And for a limited time for my listeners, try Zapier for free by going to our special link, Zapier dot com slash tim. That's z-a-p-i-e-r dot com slash tim for your free 14 day trial. I use this program all the time. My team uses this program all the time. Zapier dot com slash tim. Hey, just one thing, Tim. This is Michael from Zapier. It's pronounced Zapier like happier. So that's Zapier dot com slash tip. This episode is brought to you by super fat nut butters. I've got two boxes of them actually sitting within 15 feet of me in a cabinet. These little beauties are great. I've been using them as quick mini breakfasts. That's one use and as on the go fuel for a few months now. I was pretty slammed this afternoon. I had a wifi debacle and I was preparing to record a podcast so I didn't have time to make something to eat or buy something to eat. But these saved my ass. That's a great use case. They're 200 to 300 calories each depending on which ingredient cocktail you eat because they're a bunch of different types. MCT meaning medium chain triglycerides, protein, macadamia, caffeine, etc. 3 to 5 grams of net carbs per pouch. They're keto and paleo friendly. And they are really easy to transport. You can throw them in a backpack or a pocket. I love these things. The first time I tried super fat, however, be forewarned, I finished the entire box in maybe 2 or 3 days. So watch your portion control. And pro tip, the way you eat them, you have to unscrew the top. You get about 90% out of it that way. And then you tear the pouch, tear it diagonally, not straight across, and that will get you the last 10% or so. I suggest ordering the variety box. You can try that way all 5 super fat flavors in one box. And you'll get 2 pouches of each flavor that way. You can also get 15% off your order by going to superfat.com/tim. That's superfat.com/tim for 15% off. When you go to one more time, superfat.com/tim. Hello boys and girls, ladies and germs, this is Tim Ferriss and welcome to another episode of The Tim Ferriss Show where it is my job to interview and attempt to deconstruct world class performers.

Edward'S Journey, Inspirations And Strategic Approaches

Edward's in 30 seconds (05:39)

To tease out the habits, routines, and so on that make them tick, make them good at what they do. My guest this episode is none other than Edward Norton. You can find him on Twitter @edwardnorton. He is one of the most celebrated actors of his generation and has starred in, produced, written, or directed more than 30 films. He's been nominated for 3 Academy Awards for his performances. His most recent film, Motherless Brooklyn, which he wrote, directed, produced, and stars in, will be released on November 1st. I've seen it and I do not say this lightly, it is spectacular. It's based on one of my favorite books and we dig into that and get into a lot related to creative process, creative struggle, and so on in this episode. People mostly know Edward for his acting, but he has a substantial parallel career as an entrepreneur, investor, and activist in both technology and environmental sustainability ventures. He has hit a lot of home runs. We don't cover that in depth in this episode, but we talk about it here and there. As one example, in 2010, Norton co-founded and was chairman of Crowdrise, a charitable crowdfunding platform which raised more than $500 million for US nonprofit organizations before being acquired by GoFundMe, the largest social fundraising platform in the world, for which Norton now serves on the board. He also co-founded EDO, which applies advanced data science and machine learning to the analysis of audience engagement signals for the media and advertising industries. EDOs, data, and software are used by every major film studio in their media rotation planning, and virtually every major television network now includes EDO data alongside Nielsen data within their pricing metrics. He is the founding board member of the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, an award-winning Kenyan conservation and community development organization, and in 2010, he was appointed the first United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity. Edward really seems to do it all, and in this wide-ranging conversation, we explore how he does that, why he does that, why he feels able to change chapters in his life. We go deep into, as I mentioned, creative process, creative struggles, both inside and outside of film. If you'd like more Edward after this episode, you can listen to my 2016 interview with him, which is very, very different, at tim.blog/edward, and take my word for it, go check out Motherless Brooklyn in theaters, if just for the music alone. It's absolutely outstanding. So, with that said, without further ado, please enjoy a very wide-ranging, and for me, super fun conversation with Edward Norton. Edward, welcome back to the show. Love being here. You know I love our conversations. Yeah, man. And we have a lot to talk about, and I want to start with going back in time to 1999.

The origin of Edward Nortons love for Motherless Brooklyn. (08:46)

And this is an interview where I'm going to ask you questions, but I want to share some autobiographical sketch from my own life. So, in 1999, my mom recommends a book to me, and my mom is—I would go so far as to say a book snob in the best way possible. She recommends me perhaps one book every two or three years. And in the span of two weeks, my brother, who is exactly the same, recommends the same book, which was Motherless Brooklyn. And it became a favorite book. I read it multiple times. And for ages, I thought to myself, why hasn't a movie, a film adaptation of some type, been made? And I want to know how you came across Motherless Brooklyn in, I believe, '99 or thereabouts, and what impact it had or why it grabbed your attention. Sure. So, I was living in New York. I was like a New York actor. I started working in films, but I would always split back home to New York. And I came up with a lot of people in theater and people who were writers and people who were artists. And there's kind of that—the thing I love about New York is the density of it. It's not like a company town like L.A. is. Right. Right. Or one—and I think I was at a party in the Village and someone I knew who knew Jonathan Leatham, we were talking, and she said, "You know Jonathan Leatham?" And I said, "Sure, sure. Yeah, he's that Brooklyn writer who did this and that." And she said, "Yeah, he's a friend of mine and he's got this new book coming out about a heretic detective who has obsessive compulsive disorder also and is trying to solve the murder of his boss in Brooklyn." And I literally was like, "Stop. You had me at heretic." I was like—I literally said, "Heretic? I was in heretic detective? I'm salivating. I have to read it." And so I somehow got connected to Jonathan and I persuaded— I got the book in galley form. It hadn't been published yet. And revealing our age, it was a Xerox. I got a Xerox with a clip binder on it. And for those on the podcast who are young nerdy tech geeks who don't know what Xerox is, before PDF, you actually had to print something on a paper, on a copier. And so I had a paper bound Xeroxed copy of it and I read it in one go. And it's funny because when I really think about why did it grab me so much, it's very similar to the experience I had reading Catcher in the Rye for the first time. Lionel, the character in Motherless Brooklyn, has many of the same emotional hooks that I think Holden Caulfield does. By the end of page one, you're on his side. You're sort of—because he's narrating his own story to you, because from the first sentence he's telling you, "This is how my head works." And you can hear the calm, rational mind at the center of the story when he describes this chaotic condition that he has, that he has to spend his life navigating. Jonathan Latham, he pulls off the thing that we all try to do in books, in art, in music, which is the end of page one, you're emotionally bought in, you're hooked, you relate to this character, you feel for him, you have empathy, but you're laughing, you're sympathetic, you're impressed. It's a zero to sixty emotional buy-in that's very, very rare. You relate in the most reductive sense. And then from there it becomes this study of the mind and how it works. And the fact that his condition is extreme, that he has the physical twitches of Tourette's, the mental obsessive compulsive components of it, the vocalizations that he can't control, that are both hilarious and painful and awkward and make life difficult for him. We don't all have Tourette's, but I think what Jonathan achieves is everybody sees themselves in it, because we all are constantly in a conversation with our own minds. We all have a rational center that deals with our behavior and our noisy voices that tell us to do things we know we don't want to do. We all relate to being essentially in an argument with ourself and with the impulses that we wish we could control better. So Tourette's becomes this sort of heat and lionel, they become a proxy for us and the difficulty we have navigating ourselves. And that just nailed me. I was completely entranced by it. And honestly, as an actor, I just was greedy. I was like, I want that gig. I want the part. No, I want to because not because it was like, oh, this is instantly showy. It was more this is just hard. How would you do this? How do you? It presents all the meatiest challenges for an actor. It's paradoxical. It's actually physically demanding. You have to see the humanity of the character underneath it. And it just was like, this would be a field day. I would really like to play the role.

Why Ed wanted to play Lionel Essrog so badly. (15:30)

Okay, so let me hop in for a second here because I really want to underscore a few things that you said that struck me about the book and also about the film. And if I'm misquoting you here, I'm going to quote you quoting someone else. But in one of the interviews I read in prep for this, even though we know each other, I found you referencing a C.S. Lewis line from Shadowlands. We read to know we're not alone. And I think that, as you said, Lionel on one hand is such an unusual character, but on the other is very usual in that he represents this schism that we sometimes feel about our outer and inner worlds or perhaps even dueling inner worlds. And I'm not going to give any spoilers in this, but he even references parts of himself as Bailey. And that we kept in the film. It's one of the details of the book that's really marvelous where his condition, the part of his head that has the lack of inhibition and the impulse control problems and literally fights his conscious self, fights the attempts to restrain it and calls him Bailey. So it's such a schism that when he yells, sometimes the voice in his head yells at him and names him Bailey. You think about the ways we talk in our head, you think about the number of times that you've said quietly in your head, "You're such a fucking idiot." Think about the critical voice in your head aimed at yourself. It's literally right out of you being a meditator, the noisy mind. It's like the noisy mind literally given name, given form, given voice. It's not just that we can't stop our thoughts, it's that we actually have a piece of our head that criticizes the actions that another part of our head is implementing. It's amazing. It's an amazing thing that we live with and that most people don't discuss as openly or actively as a phenomenon.

When Edward took a well-deserved break from film work (18:21)

It's also "it" meaning the film. I'll be honest, initially, even though I know how skilled you are, I was very nervous to see the advanced screening because this book is so dear to me. It's on top of that, in some ways, a very hard film to pull off. You not only pulled it off, and we'll certainly spend some time on creative process, which I want to get to in a second, but you made some decisions that I think strengthened not just the main characters, but the humanity, the drama, the tension, and everything that goes into the storyline itself. To zoom in on the creative process, which I really know very little about, I don't know the backstory, but if we look at 1999, then we jump forward 10 years, 2009, 10 additional years, 2019, when we're recording this. When did this catch for you? When did it actually start to happen? Because you, I just want to point out to people, wrote, produced, directed, and starred in this film. That's a lot of concentrated effort. So what did making this film look like? It went in phases, and in some total, there's no question it's the most work I've ever put into a film. It's one of the deepest dives and longest climbs, whatever metaphor you want to use. I've worked on this one longer and deeper than any creative piece I've worked on. The initial hook, as I said, was character. I was then busy for a while. I had a lot of other projects that I knew were literally going to take me a couple of years before I had the bandwidth to really seriously contemplate it. But much like, you know, as a function of what we're discussing, the brain works on things. You're busy doing other things, but I was noodling on it. It was rattling around in my head. I would reread the book. I would think about the character, even when I wasn't actively trying to write it. I even started to sort of try to imagine the physicality of it. How do you take something that's an interior monologue in a book and reduce it down and select pieces of it? What are the best pieces of Lionel? My brain was kind of cooking on that for years. But when I got around to saying to myself, "All right." Actually, what happened was in about 2003, in 2002, sorry, I did a run of work. I did a big film. I did Red Dragon with a bunch of great actors. And then I did Spike Lee's The 25th Hour. And then I did a play in New York for the rest of the year. I did a Lanford Wilson's Burn This. And it was such a, the whole, the year was, it was an amazing year. It was a very notably vital and satisfying year of creative work for me. I worked with amazing people. I worked with heroes of mine like Spike Lee. I did two films in a row with Phil Hoffman. And then we did plays next door to each other and we'd come up together and that was really gratifying. And I kind of got to the end of that year and I felt something very rare for me, which is I sort of felt satiated. I actually felt like, I spent the whole year working in a gear that I'd wanted to work in for a long time and I felt like I'd run a marathon very successfully. And it was sort of like, why run another five miles until it hurts? I feel good. What am I going to do? Do I want to just like keep going until something goes badly? You know, and I kind of got this moment of clarity where I was like, I need to take a break. I really want to take a substantial break. And in 2003, I just, I stopped working entirely and I focused on getting my pilot's license. And I, I did that for like six or seven months, just trained, did aviation training and got my pilot's license and it was, it was great. It really cleared my head. It really, it emptied it out and I sort of got to the end of that and I thought I'm ready to work on Motherless Brooklyn. So I, I, I had this nice sort of clean slate kind of feeling. And when I sat down to look at it again, I realized there were some issues with turning it into a film because it's this very interior monologue. The whole book is kind of this interior narration and it has a plot, but really it's like Lionel in his head. Edward, could I ask you to pause for one second? You taking that break and we're going to come right back to where you left off, but I would imagine that there were people who said, this is not the time to take a break. You're red hot. This is when you should commit to ABCD or E perhaps not, but there are many people who fantasize about taking such a break, but never do. They can't shift out of sixth gear. Was that hard for you? It was a little bit. It was a little bit, but I, I've had good examples in my life. My, you know, my dad is like an incredibly accomplished person in multiple dimensions. You know, he's a scholar and a Marine veteran and a lawyer. He was a corporate litigator. He was a U S attorney. He was, you know, federal prosecutor for Maryland. He was an environmental litigator. He was an environmental organization builder. He's worked at a private equity firm. It's like he's really, he's had a remarkably rich tapestry in his career. There's a connectivity through all of it. There's an intellectual connectivity. There's a values mission driven kind of thread to everything he's done, but I've really watched my dad over the years. Very fearlessly pull the video game cartridge out and put another one in. He really had, you remember when we were kids and you had your Atari cartridges. Oh, I remember for sure. Am I going to play tanks or am I going to play like, um, you know, what was it? Combat. It was called combat, right? Or are you, are you going to play pong or whatever? Um, he, he, I've seen him have what I would call the pleasures of staying very feeling, uh, challenged, fresh, um, invigorated about what he was doing through phases of his adult life. And, and I kind of learned to view those changes as, as not as risky, but as like refreshing, you know what I mean? Like I saw, even as a kid, you absorb, you absorb when your parent is turned on by what they're doing. You know, and I, I, I literally remember the new spring in his step, his enthusiasm, him being charged up and it, I think as you get older and you have kids yourself, you, you forget almost how important it is, how much a child perceives about whether their parents are happy. You know what I mean? It sounds like the most obvious thing in the world, but I, I had an awareness that my dad's happiness was often pegged to making, you know, bold shifts in the way he was spending his time. And I, I felt like I'm one of the luckiest people in the world cause I get to work, I get to do, you know, work or make a livelihood out of something that is play for me. It's, it's, and the last thing I wanted to do when I kind of meditated on it was why do I want to, why do I want to turn this into a career? You know what I mean? Why would I turn this into something where it's exhausting me or it's, you know, what am I, what am I chasing? Like if I'm satiated or if I've just achieved like the things I wanted to, what, what a waste it would be if I, if I, if I make myself like a careerist copper top, you know what I mean? Right. And, and, uh, and what a waste if I don't seize while I'm 30 years old on the freedom to, you know, the, the freedom to, that comes with this gig, the, the freedom to like, uh, get a pilot's license. You know what I mean? And, uh, those were dreams I had too. I, I dreamed my whole life of getting my pilot's license and I was like, I've got the money now, I've got the time. What's my reason for not doing it? I don't have one. So, um, it, and then we get back to the voices in the head cause voices come in the head, voices of insecurity, voices of competitiveness, voices of, um, aspiration, uh, ambition, maybe more than aspiration, like ambition to, for ongoing plaudits, affirmation, applause. You know, like the, the, the hunger for, for achievement. Um, it, they come in the head and not to mention the, there's the voices from outside, but really the truth is like the ones that master you are the ones inside. They're the ones that are saying like, you know, you're gonna, you know, you need to get more of this or, and, and I think, um, it comes, it comes in, but piloting was really good for me. It was really good to not, um, take a break and just kind of like go on vacation or lounge around because I replaced the consumption in my work with like the consumption in learning, like in my brain.

Why Edward sees piloting as a kind of reset, mindset, and calibration (29:06)

And piloting was like one of the hardest things I ever took on, you know, it was like, it made, it honestly made the work I'd been doing feel kind of like play, play acting, which weirdly it is, it is, you know, like it's like, Oh, making up stories and playing dress up for a living or like hurling myself into the sky by myself in a plane with, you know, ultimate consequences to screwing it up. I mean, it's like, it's like create creative risk and risk of botching a landing or not, or not actually equivalent. And it's like a great perspective too. You know what I mean?

The power of piloting for focus and meditation. (29:46)

Um, cause I've always found I get some of my, my best sort of for me, like I get them, I think we talked about this the first time I did your show. I think we talked about like the things that are meditative that are not sitting with your legs crossed trying to clear your mind. You know what I mean? We did because we were sitting on a pier looking at surfers and we're talking about the role that's played in your life. So you know, piloting is a great meditation for me. It absolutely eradicates everything, but the present moment is very, very, very difficult to be out of the present moment. Um, and there's a function in it that's really interesting, which is takeoff and landing in particular. I'm sure there's a metaphor in this somewhere, but taking off and landing are extremely, extremely focused things, even for a modern airline pilot in a plane that basically flies itself. You are seriously on deck when you're taking off and landing that plane. And I think that experience is so intense. It's almost like this. It almost does what sometimes it takes me 45 minutes of meditation to get anywhere near, which is it obliterates, atomizes distraction, right? Because you, you must deal with that moment and in which there's very little margin for error if something goes wrong and it sort of atomizes your distraction. Then you get yourself up into the sky and you're floating. And somehow that atomization sustains. I don't find myself stressing once I'm on autopilot and I'm floating along. I look down at the landscape going by, I think about, it's real Daniel Kahneman thinking fast, thinking slow. Like once I'm up in the air and I'm kind of ahead of the plane, I get into a very slow gear and a very meditative gear just watching the landscape go by. And it's wonderful. It's like really, really, really wonderful for me. And I think, I get that surfing, I get that scuba diving, but it's amazing how quickly piloting kind of straightens you out, straightens your head out. So you, you finished this incredibly productive sprint with acting. You take this sabbatical of sorts to focus on piloting, which sounds very therapeutic and holding you in the present tense for much of the practice. You come out with a clear mind and you take another look at Marlerless Brooklyn and you're realizing there are some challenges. As you mentioned, one of them translating an internal dialogue in words on a page into something cinematic. What else were you pondering, turning over in your head as you reexamined Marlerless Brooklyn? Because it is not an easy book to turn into a film. No. Sometimes I think people don't even realize the degree to which the sound mix and the music are make or break. For a film, you can have a film that's cut. The same film that won the Academy Award for Best Picture with a bad sound mix will seem like pieces of shit. It is astonishing how important that layer of varnish is on the whole thing. And you can't adapt a book into a film. A book is not a film. It's just not. It functions in the mind of the reader in a totally different way because you are activating imagery in your head in a much, much more surreal way than when you're receiving the sensory being encompassed by visual and sound in a film. And you have to, you can't think about, I think faithful adaptations almost never work. If you're trying to literally transliterate the book into a verbatim, as close to a verbatim thing, those are the worst film adaptations. The very best ones, I think, are literally like, they're like transposing a piano concerto for guitar. You have to just completely change the waveform of it. And my favorites are ones where, like Out of Africa, which is a film by a truly great director, Sydney Pollack, with one of the great performances by an actress ever. And it really holds up. It really, really holds up when you watch it, not only technically, but also thematically in terms of being a film about loss and the desire to hold on to things and possess them and coming to an acceptance of loss and impermanence. It's a really, really, really beautiful film. And it's based on, in theory, Isaac Dinesen's memoirs, Out of Africa and Shadows on the Grass. There's none of the narrative plot that's in the film is embedded within the book. Those are memoirs, the whole romance, the things, these are all suppositional. They springboarded from the essence of her sort of spiritual observations and meditations on impermanence. And they created a story from whole cloth. And that's why it's a great film. They understood what the essence was, and they turned it into a narrative and cinematic experience that's totally its own thing. And Jonathan Latham not only loves films and is very erudite, he really holds that belief that it's better to springboard and create something new unto itself. So when I said to him, "Look, I think you've got to deal with certain structural challenges in this."

Strategic updates to the story of Motherless Brooklyn. (35:55)

One of them is that Motherless Brooklyn has a slightly surreal tone in the sense that it's about guys in the modern world who feel like they're living in a pocket of Brooklyn that has never moved from 1957. And they speak and act almost like Raymond Chandler's gumshoe detectives. But if you slap that onto the screen and have guys in fedoras talking that way with Priuses floating by, you have immediately put yourself in an ironic mode. You're essentially saying, "We're being tongue-in-cheek here. Nothing needs to be taken seriously." And if you go in that gear, then Lionel doesn't have to be taken seriously either. And his Tourette's is now a gag, not a complex person. It's a wink-wink kind of a gag because the rest of the thing is a wink-wink gag. And I didn't want to do Motherless Brooklyn like the Blues Brothers, which is a great movie. That's just not what I thought it had within it. I wanted to play Lionel straight, and I wanted him to be a rich, complex, sometimes poignant and affecting, and a human being whose loneliness is real, whose isolation is real alongside his humor and stuff. And if we played it ironically, that wasn't going to be there. And so I said to Jonathan, "In the book, people call him 'freak show.' Would people really even do that in 1999?" What this feels like is maybe let's set it in the hard-boiled world of the books you love, the films we love, and let it be a '50s thing." And amazingly, Jonathan was like, "I dig that idea." He really was. For one second, think about that. You write a book, people say they love it, and then someone comes along and says, "Hey, what if we were to transform it, literally set it in a different time, and therefore have to come up with a different mystery plot?" Because the book is about the yakuza and the Japanese sea urchin trade and zendos and all these things that are highly contemporary, even though there's an old-school feeling to the noir vernacular of it. And he was like, "I love it." He's like, "I love it. Let's treat him like Marlowe and send Lionel into another mystery." And he was like, "I get it. I think it's a cool idea." I can't really overstate how rare it is for someone to be that broad-minded about their own piece of work. When did you have that conversation with him, roughly? Was that…? Yeah, somewhere almost like five years after he published the book. I got it. So this would have been after you've revisited it, after the piloting, 2004, 2005 period. Yeah, and somewhere, honestly, somewhere flying around over Southern California, trying to do things, I had this kind of clarity that the way around what was feeling like a tone problem was just simply to set it in the 50s.

Robert Moses, The Power Broker, and New York. (39:16)

And once that thing sort of settled in me and I knew Jonathan was okay with it, then something really interesting happened, which is something else that I had been chewing on for a long time, totally unrelated to Motherless Brooklyn, was my fascination with what happened in New York in the mid-50s, this kind of really dark part of New York's social history that I was really, really interested in. And in one person in particular, this guy named Robert Moses. Robert Moses, yes. And I had always thought to myself, how do you approach that? How do you approach the density of what was going on? And I had sometimes thought it's kind of like the way that Chinatown is about stealing LA, being built on stolen water. I always thought like what happened in New York under Robert Moses is sort of its own original sin, its dark history in the 20th century, but yeah, it's too dense though. It's all this urban planning stuff and blah, blah, blah. And I had this moment where I suddenly went, that's what Lionel can be the conveyance into. Lionel can, we can take Jonathan's phenomenal detective and we can send him in a movie, which has to be bigger, has to have bigger scope, we can send him into this, he can become the conveyance into this very dense and complex thing that I was also interested in. And suddenly I had this mashup, this idea of mashing up these two things. So Robert Moses, for people we won't spend, we don't need to spend a ton of time on Robert Moses, but as I watched "Brotherless Brooklyn," I wondered, it had to be in a way, how could it not be a Robert Moses incarnate in this film played by Alec Baldwin? For those who might have some passing familiarity with the name, Robert Moses is the subject of a book called "The Power Broker," also very, very, very good book by Robert Caro. There's a whole chapter on him too in the Burns documentary called "New York." There's a big section, which was, that was my first encounter with the story of Moses, was in the documentary in New York. But yeah, he was, and he was, he was titularly, he was the Parks Commissioner, but secretly he was essentially Darth Vader of New York in the 20th century. He held an almost uncontested imperial power over New York City above any mayor, any governor. He ran New York City like an autocratic Caesar and made almost all of the significant decisions about how New York evolved from being a 19th century city into being a modern city. The whole physical landscape of New York's transformation in that era was directed by him.

How Edward got into directing Motherless Brooklyn (42:36)

Speaking of directing, as I mentioned earlier, you wrote, produced, directed, and starred in this film. Did you want to do from the outset all of those things, or was that a byproduct of challenges you ran into, or is there some other origin story? I'm just wondering how it came together. No, directing, I wanted to, like I said, I'm not really totally joking. I was kind of, it was a greedy actor impulse to grab a great role. I really thought this is a really memorable character and it's a great challenge. It's everything I love to try to take on. And it was like, I just want to play this part. Then I was turned on by the challenge of adapting it. And then I went through this process that we've talked about. And when suddenly I kind of had this, what was for me, exciting idea about the mashup and I had Jonathan's hall pass to be that sort of freewheeling in it. I'd spent a lot of time then researching and working on how to make kind of a literary mashup, not between books, but really just of Motherless Brooklyn, but conveying it into sort of a literary version of this history. And once I was finished that, which took me a long time, like many, a number of years, because I went through writer's block and I got hung up on the plotting and I got distracted by other projects. But when I finally got it done, it took a solid eight years, I would say, for me to get to where I was happy with it. Then I reached a point where I was in my own mind going to shop it around to directors that I admired, but someone did something good for me. A studio executive that I was friends with actually sat me down in a bar in New York on 12th Street and was like, "Dude, you need to direct this." And I was sort of like, "Oh, but the part is really challenging." And he literally said to me, "Look, think about the movies that we came up on that mattered to us. Do the Right Thing, Red's Warren Beatty's great film about American socialists, Dances with Wolves and Unforgiven." He kept citing all these examples of sometimes an actor is really right for a role, it's really in their wheelhouse, and they've come up with a story and they just do it. They take that big swing.

The power of obscure references: movies that mattered (45:17)

And he said to me, "Why wouldn't you do this? This mashup is yours. You don't want to sit over someone's shoulder." And he was just like, "You can do this." And I kind of did have that moment where I went, "Yeah, why wouldn't I?" I do love those films. They have meant a lot to me. Some of them were defining films for me. He urged me across the line into getting excited about just owning it. I don't mean to obsess on the timeline, but I'm so curious to get an idea of the timeline since this is such a longitudinal project. When did you have that meeting with this executive who gave you the talking to, related to directing the film? Normally what happens to me, and I'm sure it's happened to a lot of people, is they have this backburner set of projects. But by and large, in my case, I never come back to them. I'm fascinated by someone as busy as you are, and certainly not just with film. You have many, many hats that you wear, much like your dad in a sense, very multifaceted. How this remained a project? Roughly when did you have this conversation? I started actively writing it the summer of 2003, and I wrote like 60 or 70 pages of what became a 150 page script. They were good. They were the beginning of the movie as it is now. People really liked it. They were like, "This is really, really cool." And then I got horribly blocked. It wasn't like distractedness. I had it framed out, but I couldn't in my mind just sort of puzzle out a compelling way to get lost in the murk but emerge from it. I do. Especially with this, if I could call it genre, is the getting lost in the murk is important. The movie told me the first time that they have any idea what's going on until about 20 minutes before the end of the movie is lying. You have no idea what's going on in that movie. Zero. In fact, I've tracked it. There's a very specific scene where he's in the car with Faye Dunaway, where he finally narrates his read of what he thinks is going on. And there's only about 20 minutes left in the movie. And by the way, he's wrong. He thinks that what's going on is all about the water, and of course it's about incest. You know with these films that it's not about comprehension. That getting lost in deep convolution is actually part of the point, which is an important point, which is that it's hard to know what's taking place around you. It literally, existentially, noir at its best is about how difficult it is to see where the dangers are around you and where power is and who's got the power. So that's what they're thematically, I think, is their strength. They really do remind us there are things going on in the shadows that are antagonistic to us and that if we don't figure out what's going on, damage is going to get done.

Putting something on hold in order to tackle a new problem (49:15)

But I wanted the puzzle to make sense even, you know, you have to get lost, but you have to know underneath it what's really going on so that you can emerge from it or bring people out of it in a way that it all is satisfying and it does make sense in the end, to some degree. And so I got hung up and then I did that terrible thing, which is I put it in the drawer, right, to your point. I put it in the drawer and I was like, I just need a break. And then literally, I got sent a really weird, cool script called Down in the Valley and I decided I'm going to do that. I'll do it quick. I was like, I'm going to do that one really quick. It's a little independent film. I'm going to do that one quick and then I'm going to come right back to this, right? And then I did The Illusionist and then a film I had been working on for years to pull together came together, the Painted Vale. Naomi Watts got free and she wanted to do it and suddenly it was like, I'm making a film for six months in Prague and then I'm making a film for six months in China. And time just starts to roll by and your mind gets further and further from the thing you're working on. And it just one thing after another kept coming in. And then that thing in the drawer that you haven't figured out becomes more and more and more of a block of lead. It's just like, it's not an active thing. And I think the same person who later helped me embrace that I should direct it at a certain point called me and was like, hey, there's other people who are interested in this. I think maybe, you know, should we let someone else take a crack at it? And I don't even know if that was true. I have a feeling it might have just been sticking a fork in me, but it worked. And actually this friend of mine, he was the studio executive who at that time was running New Line. And he actually did something that I laugh at in retrospect, which is he cited a specific director to me who I think he knew the idea of giving up my project. And that person specifically was going to make my skin crawl. Whether it was conscious or not, he hit me with exactly the right piece of information for my resolve to get very, very strong again. And I took it out and he did kind of put a deadline on me. He was like, look, we've been sitting on this thing a long time and this person wants to do it. And I was like, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. And he was like, how about we just agree, how about we just agree, like, you'll get it done by Christmas or we'll start having a real conversation about like letting someone else take a crack at it. And it was great. I literally knuckled down and I pulled it out. I looked at it. I talked to some other writers with some focus who I respect, puzzled it out, cracked it and finished it really aggressively. I wrote my college thesis. I wrote the large bulk of the rest of it in like two or three weeks of long, deep nights of just powering it through. And then it was done. It's a very, very helpful friend, the anonymous executive. No, it's not anonymous. Toby Emmerich, he's the head of Warner Brothers now. Very, very clever. Maybe accidentally, but very helpful. Clever, helpful, but also like, you know, Hollywood and the business of movies is sort of like inside baseball. And honestly, I sometimes think it's probably very boring to most people. But I do think it's always good to highlight when there's exceptions to sort of the reductive cliche about something. And people in this day and age are constantly talking about how studios, you know, it's impossible to get original adult stuff made and everything. But I did not. I've had this champion. Toby Emmerich has been this incredible stalwart champion of my project for over a decade. Like a really long time encouraging me, pushing me along, helping me actually like get through these mental block moments. And then when I actually got it done, starting to try to figure out with me how to get it made. And he didn't have the collateral to get it made. And then we went through this next period, which was like five years of really struggling to, you know, it was like the produce-orial struggle. The writer struggle was over, but the produce-orial struggle was at least five years of both of us hammering on it and trying every equation of casting and financing and everything to get it made.

Managed expectations and people's reactions to business plans (54:14)

And all, you know, thwarted throughout. We were constantly thwarted. Let's dig into thwart for a second here, because I would imagine that many people listening on some level are thinking, "You're Edward fricking Norton. Like why on earth would you hit these roadblocks?" So what were the types of feedback or the pushback that you experienced? And I'm not saying that I doubt you had it. I just think it'd be helpful. And I'm curious to hear more about it. Honestly, I think no one can ever take for granted that someone should just hand you money to make a film. I never know. Like, I don't, it doesn't matter if you've been nominated for 10 Academy Awards or it doesn't matter. It's risky. It's risky. And when someone's coming at you with, "I'm going to do a big scale 1950s period film about like a dense kind of the Chinatown like story about New York City and its urban development. Oh, and at the middle of it is a guy with Tourette's syndrome and obsessive compulsive disorder. It's sort of, you know, Rain Man meets Chinatown." People's eyes just, people's eyes start crossing and you go, "Okay, not Chinatown, LA Confidential. That one was much more accessible." It's, you know what it is? It's not Rain Man. He's got full on autism. It's Forrest Gump meets LA Confidential. You start going, "It's not Rain Man meets Chinatown. That's too tough." Forrest Gump meets LA Confidential, the more accessible version of both things. But people's eyes are just like, "You got your chocolate in my peanut butter, my peanut butter in your chocolate." They don't, they're like, "What the hell are you talking about?" Like, you know, it's really, you're, you're definitely like describing something in the trade. It's like to say that it's execution dependent is a, is a, is an understatement. Mostly people are like, you know, "Please bring us the next one." You know what I mean? Like, it's, and when you're saying to people, "Will you give us me tens of millions of dollars to make this?" You can't like walk around in a huff like, "How can this be so tough?" Like, I understood why it was tough. I understood why it was tough. And also like, you know, I, the upsides of not pursuing, let's call it a careerist, you know, pursuing projects where my agenda was, "Will this be one of the biggest movies ever?" is that you can make a lot of really excellent films that you're proud of and that people end up not only loving, but seeing as maybe almost like essential zeitgeisty movies like Fight Club or 25th Hour or American History X. But those, none of those movies were financially successful. So it's not like I was walking around like, you know, like, like some actor on a run of, gigantic hits who's considered like, you know, "Oh, this guy's going to open the movie at 20 million, so we'll do anything he wants to do." You know what I mean? It's just, it's just not the same. And you can't, unfortunately, you can't, you can't collateralize artistic credibility into any kind of a, you know, any, any number. You just can't. You can, you can do it in some measure. And if I'd been willing to make, if I'd been able to make Motherless Brooklyn the way I wanted to, for 15 million bucks of budget, I could have, I could have done it the next day. You know what I mean? But I needed slightly more than that. And so it was tricky. It was just tricky.

The Start Of Writing, Achievements And Financing Strategies

The beginning of the writing journey. (58:05)

May I, may I, I want to continue on the, on the hunt for producers and production budget, but may I ask you a question about writing process? Yeah. So you pull out this dusty bound pile of paper that's been sitting in your desk. What is the first day of writing look like? I mean, do you just start spitting out anything that comes to mind in hopes that something good lands on the page? Or do you use a different strategy? I mean, I, as someone who has put stuff on the shelf and I find writing very, very difficult. Me too. And so if I, if I let something sit for a long time, I might be able to go back and edit what I've done very quickly. But the thing that struck fear in my heart, that murky part that I couldn't quite find my way through may have been turned into a mountain in the meantime, right? Like it's, it's, I've developed all these stories around why it was hard, how hard it was. What did the first day or the first few days of working on that look like and feel like for you? Well, the really interesting thing was that when I read what I had written, I forgot some of what I had written and I liked it. Like I was reading it as if someone else had written it and it was making me laugh. You know, I was, I kind of had this reinvigoration of, of the pleasure of it, ironically, because procrastination does a really weird thing to your head. You know, when you, when you push something off, it starts to become monolithic. You know, I, I don't know what that is, but it, it becomes monolithic and then it just intensifies your desire to avoid it. Um, and it was fast. It was, it was fascinating to read it and find and kind of have the sensation of like, this is, this is so much fun. Like this is such fun language, this character sickle. Why the, why did I put the, you know, why did I give up on this? And then in a funny way, I went back to my cards. Cause my issue wasn't a character issue. It wasn't a language. It was just a plotting issue. And I looked at my cards, cards, you mean literally index cards for scenes. Totally. Yeah. And I, and I sat down on a huge rug and I mapped them all out and I kind of looked at the node that was like, this was the problem. Um, and like I said, I, I had a couple of conversations. I brought some people in that I trust and I was like, really I'm hung up on this whole thing over this. I did kind of almost just some Rubik's cubing with some people. And it was like, I was like, Oh, wait a second. I'm overthinking this. This gets easily solved by just doing X. Right. And then suddenly it was like, Holy crap. Like that really wasn't that big a deal at all. I just needed, you know, I needed a few people in a room brainstorming and I did it with, um, Brian Koppelman and David Lee. Oh, nice. Yeah. Who were, you know, great pals, great writers wrote rounders, produced the illusionist and it was kind of like, it was kind of like, you know, I ran it and them through it. They're, they're obviously terrific on this stuff. And really just they, I let, they let me use them as a sounding board. I threw ideas around. I feel like I remember David Levine saying at some point, like I said something and David Lee goes, I don't wait, what's wrong with that? He was like, you just said it, like, what's wrong with it? Like what's wrong with that? That's great. You know? And I was kind of like, Oh, is it, that's, you know, is it that simple? You know, and, and, and it was like, it was, they helped me, they helped me, you know, crack my own, my own blockage in a way. Such good guys. Just to, just to take a second for that. They're, they're two really skilled and really, really just good human beings. Also co-creators along with Andrew Rusurkin of Billions. Billions. Yeah. Yeah. That's their, their show. And they're, they're great. Those guys, they, they're like serious trade craft pros. You know, they really are like, they, they, they're writers in the old school mode, you know, they, and, and they were great. Helped me. So, they helped me punch through it. And then I went and like I said, I wrote the rest of it in kind of almost like a blitz. And and it was great. You know, it's the funny thing. Like I was actually thinking about, as we've been talking about this, sometimes I think guys don't acknowledge men, especially maybe women experiences too.

On competitiveness. (01:03:01)

I don't, I don't know, but I certainly see it in a lot of my guy friends is like, it's so stupid to be competitive about some things. But, but in what we've been talking about, I can actually kind of recognize if I'm honest, that two things happened. One is that when Toby at one point said to me, I'm going to, I'm going to give someone else a crack at this. It really was actually like the flaring of a very like, you know, low, a very low kind of primitive kind of competitive agro sensation in me that galvanized me. You know, I kind of was like, you're not giving it to that guy. No, no way. No way. Like this is mine. And I'm going to like, give me a, you know, it was like it did kind of push me. Right. And that's not necessarily like a quality. That's a quality I would say in general that I try to deep de-emphasize or, or cultivate out of myself, like, like competitive, competitive, competitive attitude within creative work. It's really stupid. And I think it can be really counterproductive. I also think like around the culture of movies with award shows and all this shit, there's so much absurd, like, like construct of competitiveness that is beyond inauthentic to anything to do with this kind of work. You know what I mean? It's like, it's like, it's even more inauthentic to creative work than it is in figure skating, you know, where it's like subjectively scoring a figure skating routine. It's like the idea that, the idea that, that the culture would construct like a competitive matrix around any kind of a creative form with awards and all this stuff is really like sort of mortifying, you know, in some ways. And I think, but at the same time, like it, it galvanized me. And it's funny because we were talking about, we're talking about flying. There's an interesting kind of component of that too, which is say like, Oh, well your insecurities come in, I'm not working and you know, are people going to forget about me? Just stupid stuff comes in your head, but there's an interesting thing about doing something like getting good at flying or getting good at surfing, which is like, it drops through you into this kind of confidence. And there's a component of that that's competitive too, because in a weird way you go in your head as a guy, I think you sort of go, yeah, but I can do this. Right? It's like having a black belt. It's sort of like, it's like you're listening to someone blather on about something and in the back of your head going, can you take off a plane and land it? You know what I mean? It's like, I'm serious. Yeah, I get it. I get it. I totally get it. Well, you know, again, not the highest order of, of motivation, but it, it, when you say like a lot of people don't do that or a lot of people wouldn't take that break. Sometimes I think if what you're doing is you're sort of, I don't know, exercising your muscles or developing a musculature that you're proud of, right? If it's a, if it's like a component of yourself that you, it's almost like you have a secret, you have some secret skill or you have a thing. I think it, it's interesting the way that it, it's interesting the way that it, um, it dials down the volume on, on insecurities in general. You know what I mean? I do. Yeah. And it, I mean, it's really hinges, it seems to me on the stories you tell yourself, which create the lenses of your reality in the sense that they, they mold your perception of what you're doing.

Self-confidence from accomplishment (01:07:13)

Yeah. And don't, don't you, I mean, have you've done so like when you famously like with the, with the, you know, when you like were worked on kickboxing, you know what I mean? Yeah, yeah, for sure. Or when you do any of the things you've done to sort of demonstrate that with, that you can do things within body transformation or learning to speed read or anything, right? Don't, don't you on some met level, come away with it, come away from it saying, you know, I have a capability now that, that I carry within me, whether other people see it or not, that gives me like a kind of a, a confidence. 100%, 100%, which is why I often recommend to people, even if they never have the opportunity, hopefully never have the opportunity to use kickboxing or Brazilian jujitsu or some martial art outside of a practice environment that they should train because the way they will carry themselves through the world, male female doesn't matter. Age doesn't matter, will be different. And there will be a certain quiet confidence that I think can be built and added to with many different skills that demonstrate an ability, demonstrate to yourself an ability to learn, be self sufficient, survive, whatever it might be. So it makes perfect sense to me. And also the, the motivation that you're talking about or the motivations, be they good or bad, somewhere in between putting aside the value judgment, they are meaning they exist. And in, in the examples that you've, a few of the examples you've given, you've been able to utilize them, right? Harness them ultimately to it for, as, as one example, get the script done. Right. So it's, it's, it's, uh, it's, it's, I was, I was listening to, to someone not long ago talk about how they've shifted from looking at things on a value scale of good to bad as an experiment to one of beautiful or not beautiful.

Transmuting the drive to achieve (01:09:39)

Like how can you take whatever this motivation is, whatever this opportunity is and turn it into something beautiful. It doesn't mean you, you ignore morality or good or bad, but, but as a thought experiment, looking at things through that lens. So you're able to take what might be looked at as a base primitive urge, this drive and transmute it into, uh, oddly enough, I mean at the end product, like something that looks very deeply at impulses and human nature. Yeah, that's true. I, I also think, um, I don't know, there's, there's, um, frustration at not being able to achieve some, some goal is never pleasant, right? We don't associate it. It's just not a pleasant feeling cause you sort of want what you want and especially if you think you've got high, you know, high minded or only positive, um, motivations, you're sort of like, it's frustrating not to get to do this. And with this project, I definitely, you know, there was a period where it was, it was always hovering. It was, it had a kind of an albatrossy kind of effect on me in the sense that it was, I wanted to do it and I felt I had a good vision for it and that it could be unique. Um, and, and, and actually like be the kind of hypnotic movie experience that really reminds people this is why we go to movies. You know what I mean? Um, and I really had all that conviction, but then I was, I was like bending my life. It was like, it was like the shadow force. It was like a dark matter force in my life because it had this gravitational pull that would, it, it, it would affect my decisions. You know, I would sort of go, well, you know, I could take another year off or is it, you're going to point, you know, where you don't have kids and you're in a really great new relationship and you say, oh, well let's just take our surfboards and go. But it's like, oh, but this might, you know, I got to keep pressing on this cause it might happen this year. And it sort of, it throws like, like those old models of the universe where the black hole is, you know, taking the time space fabric and bending it, you know, that's how this was for me. It was, it was like bending the space time fabric of my life. Even though it was not happening. And it, and it, and it, and it, and there's this point where you, you have to kind of keep reassessing. It's like, how long am I going to like let this mirage, is this a mirage or is it a thing that I just have to persevere? And how long am I going to chase the mirage?

On uncertainty and disappointment during the audition process. (01:12:41)

You know, and, and when you were shopping, I'm not sure if that's the right term, but when you were engaging in the produce-orial, is that the word? Challenges and pursuing that at that point, were you confident that you could get it made and that it was going to get made or was it more of a test run to see or a fishing trip to see what type of feedback you would get? How can I guess how at that point, how convinced were you it would happen or how committed were you to sort of willing it to happen? I had many moments where I thought, this is not going to work out the way I want it to. I just don't have, I don't have the cards to win this hand. And I went through, I went through a couple things where I was like, well, maybe I will just direct this now and go to another actor, you know, who I think we can get this movie made instantly and I think would be really great. You know, but that kind of broke my heart a little bit selfishly. I really felt connected to this character of Lionel and I could kind of see my way into that, but I just, I just couldn't bite the bullet and make those phone calls. You know, I had a moment of, this all went on so long that, you know, Netflix became a big force in the, in the landscape of ways you could get this stuff done and I could have walked over to those guys who I think are awesome. And I think gotten this done in, in probably one conversation. And I didn't have, I wasn't negative on that. I, it was probably the thing I would have, but I, but I had a note. It was before they had really started making some commitments to putting things in the theater the way they did with Roma, the way they did, are doing with Noah Baumbach's terrific movie Marriage Story and others, you know, and I, I didn't want to get hung up on sort of the like, almost like the pretension of saying I want to see this in the theater, but I did. I did. I just, I wasn't quite willing at that point to surrender to the idea of, of making it only for a streaming presentation, you know, like they did with Roma. I've done it in a heartbeat, you know, like, and I think it's, I'm not one of the ones who's negative on the way they're approaching this stuff. I think it's really, I think there's a lot of really, really new and diverse voices are getting a platform to tell stories because of their model, you know. So I, but it was a timing thing and I felt very low about it at times. Yeah, very, very not defeated, but just very discouraged and thought that it might be one of those things I just, I just had to sort of sigh and make a big pivot on or let go of. And then, you know, a weird set of things started becoming emergent to me post 2016. Toby Emmerich became head of Warner and he said to me, like, look, I'm not going to have this job and not make a couple movies I would, I really want to make and it's Warner Brothers and we've got to make those movies. That's, that's part of our tradition. Yours is one of the ones I want to get done and I'm going to figure out the absolute best deal I can give you to get it done and you're going to have to find some of the money or a lot of the money, but we're going to, I will create a way that we can get this done, which is amazing. No, no, no. His, his, there's a lot of people who have that job who don't have, who don't say now that I've got this job, I'm not going to tighten up. You know what I mean? I'm not going to play to be here forever. I'm just going to, I'm going to use the position to do some of the things that made me want to get into this in the first place. And he did immediately, he did it with Bradley Cooper on Stars Born. And he did it with me. You know, he was like, he literally said like part of the tradition at Warner Brothers is we make like, you know, auteur driven stuff and all Clint Eastwood's films were done there and they made Ellie confidential and you know, and so that was a shift. And then also I got Bruce Willis stepped in and stepped up for the movie and that made a difference. And I found, I called in a lot of chips and figured out some very clever ways to pull together the co-financing alongside Warner Brothers that we needed and, and suddenly started to tumble. I have to, yeah, go ahead. I have a follow up question. The other thing was that post 2016 you've seen the film and even though I had written it essentially the way it is by 2012, there was a lot about what changed after 2016 that suddenly, you know, Toby was ringing me up and saying, man, a lot of what is embedded in this script is, is staggeringly on point. Right now in a way that it was not in 2014. And, and I think that maybe that was part of why when I was giving it to all these terrific actors and saying, I don't have any money for this. I have to have everybody like, you know, defer fees and just work for love of the project. But it felt toothy to people. It felt like of its moment more than it had a few years before. And, uh, and I think it, it exerted more of a gravitational pull on this incredible cast of actors. And that helped me get it made too.

On creative financing strategies and alliances. (01:19:03)

You have an incredibly star studded cast you have in front of the camera. You also have, I did a fair amount of research prior to our conversation. You also have a lot of talent behind the cameras and working on the film and other capacities who were involved. You talked about deferring fees or having actors willing to defer payment in some fashion. You used, I think the phrase creative co-financing or found creative ways to co-financing something along those lines. Feel free to not answer if, if that's the best move, but could you give even a hint as to what that means? What, because, uh, um, you can never, um, you really can't hedge off the risk of an individual film. Um, the only way you can do that is if like the way that Steven Soderbergh and, um, and Channing Tatum really brilliantly with Magic Mike realized, like we can make this film for like under 6 million bucks and we can pre-sell the foreign, um, for more than the budget. Um, and then we can own it. You know what I mean? So like we can, we can start shooting the film knowing that we're in the black on it and therefore literally finance it ourselves and own it. That you can, you can hedge off. You can literally de-risk a film if you can make it for less than what you can pre-sell the foreign on. That's the only way to, to literally hedge off all risk on a single film. Right? Um, which is why like most co-financing companies are the ones with big bank rolls, like legendary that can do big slate financing with the studio cause you're, you're, you're essentially playing the portfolio. Right? Um, and historically studio returns have delivered a return, like a positive return. Right? So if you're going to people and saying, "Hey, we put some money in my film." You can talk till you're blue in the face about why it's going to work. But the bottom line is the numbers don't lie. You, you, you're taking just a massive singular risk if you invest in one film. Right? Um, but I, I did a deal with some of my co-financers around, um, basically I had access to the secondary trading on a company, a technology company that I was an original investor in and strategic advisor to. And, um, I, I had a fund, a little boutique fund that was doing secondary trading in that company. And, um, and I, and I basically set up a situation where some of the investors in my film had been looking at acquiring that company through their private equity firm. And I, I, um, they couldn't, but I, I was able to essentially do a deal with where they could be. Um, my LP is in by, um, by a stake, uh, through secondary, a secondary deal in this company that they were very interested in. And we all felt that the, we all felt that the likely returns on that were, um, such a sure thing that, that they considered it. Uh, I basically told them, I'll get you access to this deal if you'll finance my film too. And so I set up like a pair trade. I set up sort of like a, a pair trade on my film and, um, a position in this company. And this is also a great example of where swapping cartridges in the top, the video game that is the timeline of your multifaceted career paid off in a really tangible way, right? Because you've been exercising other interests and developing other capabilities and knowledge in a seemingly completely unrelated sector that then allowed you in some ways to get done a project in what many people would view as your primary career over a period of 20 years to finally get it done. That's remarkable. No, there's no question that my kind of parallel life outside of my creative filmmaking life, um, this whole other dimension of my professional life that is, you know, it's not a public facing component of my life. Um, 100% the, that, that ended up, um, unlocking the way to, to get this passion project done. There's no, no doubt about it. Yeah. Wow. And I think I can say, um, that no film, no film has ever been financed off of the specific type of deal that we did for this one. And I don't, and I will never, it's not replicable either for me. It was a very, very, very unique situation. Um, and I, uh, I, um, I wouldn't even want to go through the headache of trying to replicate what we did on this because I think it was a little bit like Alex Honnold. I felt like I was, I felt like I was going up a pitch without a rope and that if I didn't get each and every handhold perfect, it was going to come, it was going to be a complete and utter, you know, um, it was going to be a complete fail. Like, like it was sort of like, I was either going to get to the top or the whole thing was going to crash and burn completely. There was no, there really was not, um, yeah, there was really wasn't an in between. It was like, it was like, and the bet paid off in every way. And, um, and the beautiful thing about it was actually in a funny way, the, the alliances I formed with people to get this done are, are thick now. You know, it's like, I really feel, I really feel like a deep kind of alliance with the people who helped me achieve this, this long held dream. And, uh, it's been, I've been able to reciprocate. There have been ripple effects to finally getting it done that were, that were as, as meaningful as, as the thing itself, which is great. How cool the, uh, the, I mean, the tour of duty that was put in to get it made is no joke. And you mentioned theatrical run and putting the film into theaters.

Music, Film Impact And Artistic Evolution

Why jazz was used in the soundtrack. (01:26:14)

And, uh, I, I could make an argument and I texted you this right after I saw the film that if even if the projector ceased to work and one were only able to listen to the movie through a proper sound system, like some of the sound systems and theaters, that it would be worth much more than the cost of admission. Could you, could you speak to the soundtrack and the music and anything that, that you think makes it noteworthy? Because I am not an audio file. I'm not a musician. I appreciate music. I enjoy it, but I don't know the first thing about music theory or sound quality or anything like that. And yet the, the audio experience was so different for this film compared to the last, let's just call it dozen films I've seen in theaters. Why is that? Well, I think that, I think that music and sound in many films is approached as what I would call, um, an emotional accelerator or just an emotional enhancement of what is already taking place, uh, within the text. So the moment is obviously dramatic and the music reflects that drama. It's violent and the music reflects the violence. It's, it's sad and the music reflects the sadness. Right. And sometimes you get what I would call a very reductive kind of mirroring effect. And, and what that does, I think is it makes the music disappear, right? It makes the music become a pad of embellishment underneath the other aspects of the film, as opposed to like a unique, a unique element in its own right that is almost taking on a primary role in communicating emotion or character or narrative or whatever. Right. And I think, um, a lot of my favorite films have, I think not even mine, everybody's favorite films usually have music that's more transcendent than that. And I don't mean transcendent literally that is transcends the text. It's not, it's not solely, um, there as kind of a subtle embellishment. It's, it's, it's kind of more boldly used as its, as its own, um, uh, primary piece of the experience of the hypnosis that the film's working on you. And I, I, you know, jazz was going to be a part of this film because of the era. It was also to me, if there's a, if there's a kind of music that's to retic, it's jazz in the era of, of Bob. It's completely a theoretic type of music, not just in its like sort of explosive sort of, um, but because literally it's about taking melodic forms and twisting them round and round and round and doing variations on a melody, variations on a melody, variations on a melody. And, um, and so I knew, I knew I wanted that a little bit. Um, and once, and on the jazz component of it, I, I went initially to basically a genius, Wynton Marsalis, who helped me curate and think through, um, some of the key music that was being played in a club in the film. Um, but I also wanted to weave in, I wanted to weave in on three, I don't know why I was so into mashups on this mashups of sort of like, you know, a to read a to read a character with a old fashioned noir. I wanted to mash up sort of jazz with Radiohead in a way, the things I love. And, um, I got Tom York to write a beautiful song for the film, um, that we, that we work into the film, not only in his performance of it, but also in a 50s style Miles Davis like arrangement of it. Um, and again, it was one of those things that a lot of people kind of looked at me a little bit cross-eyed. They were like this, you can't, you know, it's going to be, it's going to feel weird to bring his voicing into a film in that era or to try to bring a modernist sensibility of dissonance and electronic kind of components into a jazz score. But I didn't think that was true because I knew that Tom really like has an appreciation of jazz, especially like Charles Mingus and other jazz artists who explored the kind of dissonance that I think Tom has explored in his own music on records like Kid A and M.A. and his own solo stuff. And I knew there was more synergy than people were recognizing on paper. And I thought we can do something really interesting, mashing these things up. And, and we did. And I think this, this trifecta of Tom and Wynton Marsalis and this incredible, incredible young composer in London named Daniel Pemberton and everybody's been reacting to it. And I agree with you that, um, I've been working on this for like a number of years and I am still not tired of listening to the music on the film. I have the soundtrack. It actually, the soundtrack just came out this past Friday. We released the soundtrack and the score last week on the streaming services and they are beautiful. They are, they are just, they, you can listen to them without having seen a frame of the film. And it is really, really beautiful stuff. Really beautiful stuff.

A legendary filmmaker's review of Motherless Brooklyn. (01:32:27)

Kudos for the dance scene as well. We don't have to give any spoilers, but what a, what a fantastic, fantastic scene. People who watch it will know what I'm referring to. And I want to hop to a reference to, I dare call it a review, but I don't think review is quite the right word. So I've had Ken Burns on this podcast. He's one of the people who don't recognize the names or the name, one of the most legendary, if not the most legendary, well-respected documentarian of ever possibly in the United States. I mean, just a prolific prodigious talent and he wrote a piece. I mean, I would say, I would say he bent the genre. I'd say there's a, there's a, he redefined the genre. I think there was never, there was never long form. You know, you could even argue that the whole, the whole embrace of long form storytelling, that's now ubiquitous on Netflix, what we call binge TV watching started with the civil war. You know what I mean? Ken's film, the civil war was the most audacious long form film in American history at that time. And, and he basically said he was one of the first people to say people will not only sit for this, they will devour it. They want rich, nuanced, long stories about these seminal events in our history that are still defining who we are, you know, and, and he re he re invigorated reshaped the entire form of, of not just documentary, but I literally think of filmed storytelling. He did. He has, he has, and I'll, I'll probably get some of these numbers wrong, but since, since we're just doing a quick deep dive on Ken, there are, there are film effects named after Ken Burns, mostly related to his treatment of still photographs with embedded within and named after him in some of those popular software programs currently being used and the civil war one must keep in mind was on broadcast television and it was somewhere between 14 and 20 hours of total content. And at the time, I want to say within a year or so between 30 and 40 million people had watched the civil war. I mean, and if you just let that sink in for a second, considering that it's appointment viewing. I mean, it's, it's absolutely incredible. So he writes this piece on medium, which I, which I only very recently read, and I'm going to read the last paragraph. I mean, it's, it's, it's absolutely worth reading and I'll, I'll link to it in the show notes for people to check out Tim.blog/podcast and you can find Edward, just search Norton or Edward Norton and then we'll have a link to this, but the last paragraph is one that really strikes me. So if a lonely orphan burdened by society's heartless response to his Tourette's syndrome can rise above his daily struggles and battle against jaded Masters of the Universe types, then what excuse to the rest of us have for our own apathy? Motherless Brooklyn answers with a resounding none exclamation point. That's a hell of an ending to a hell of a piece about the film, about you, about society also.

How would David like the movie to impact the audience? (01:35:57)

We could talk about that, but the question I'd love to hear your thoughts on eventually is what would you hope this film to do? What, what effect, if any, do you want it to have on people or the, the sort of larger, larger picture, if any? I'm curious what, what you'd like the impact to be on individuals who watch it or otherwise? Well, I think to stick with Ken for, I mean, Ken's, Ken's affirmation of the film was just like it was about as meaningful a compliment as I've ever gotten on my own work. It's like he's, he's, he's one of the druids in, in my, you know, in my matrix of people who have really mattered in, in filmmaking. He's, he's one of the giants. And he, and he also in particular, he has clearly got this unparalleled commitment to dissecting kind of the American character. You know, he, he, he really, he's committed his whole creative career to the, to trying to understand who we are through the past. And, and it's, I can't, you know, I, I, I can't overstate my admiration for the work he's done. So it's, it's to have him kind of actually take the time to write this piece that he wrote about the film was, was, you know, I, I had tears in my eyes when I read it the first time. Can I, I'll just pause for a quick second. I'm sorry, because people may not realize just how effusive and direct his commentary is in this piece. I've never seen anything like it. So I'll, I'll just give one more quote, which is dot, dot, dot. So I'm not going to read the, the, the entire paragraph, but an instantly classic lead character in a career best performance by one of our finest actors, scene after scene of memorably smart and funny dialogue delivered by a brilliant ensemble cast gripping action with a gorgeous jazz score. That's the best I've heard in years. It's nothing less than a modern masterpiece. I mean, how did you, I know you just said it, it could bring a tear to your eye, but like, how did you feel after 20 years of hoping to make this to read something like that from none other than the legendary Ken Burns? I mean, what, what happened? Were you dumbstruck? Were you? Yeah, yeah, I, I, I mean, uh, it's a funny thing when you finish the thing, you go through, you go through these, uh, you start to sort of amass data points on how is it actually landing? You know, and you, um, show it to people you respect and you show it to some friends and you, you know, you, you, uh, I was starting to get a happy sense of slow, you know, confidence that it, that it was working as a film, that it, that it was doing what I wanted it to do. Um, and that people were at least engaged with the character in some measure of the way that I, that I had been engaged with him. Right. I, I think my first, my very, very, very, very first thing that I really was holding my breath on was in a way, did I do Lionel justice? You know, did I do Latham's great character, a basic honorable, um, you know, um, reinterpretation and that, that seemed to me to be working. Uh, and Jonathan, I was very, very nervous showing the film to Jonathan. And when he was really gloober about it, that, that set me into what I'd call, um, a kind of happy relief. Um, and, but I think that what can, what can get sat that's, it gets at a deeper level of satisfaction is that he, he, it's more what you read in the beginning. It, um, at a certain point you kind of, there's the, there's the, there's the hope that you can craft something, um, in a way that works a kind of magic on people just as a, as a piece of cinema, whatever. I think that my, the things that have meant the most to me as an audience member were things that had a transparency to them where I, where you could feel, you felt like it was really hitting the nerve of your own experience or even better, the collective experience. You know, so for me, like do the Spike Lee's do the right thing had a, had a seismic impact on me. It was this guy writing and directing and starring in his own film about his own neighborhood. Um, and it was wildly entertaining. It was visually original and dynamic and then it, but then it was about America. It was, it was about the toughest, thorniest questions about like race and, and how we deal with each other and what's the correct response to the tensions that we feel about living altogether. And it was just so, so rich, sophisticated, and most importantly, it, it put it so squarely in the audience's lap. It didn't give a cheap homily at the end. It didn't give a cheap redemptive reassurance in the end. It basically like insisted that you deal with, with the question yourself, you know, and I think a lot of us, it changed almost like the aspirational goal for like what you're going for. Um, what you can do with a movie and on some level, the thing I've had the most ambition to do is, is find things that, that in some way or another, um, instigate that same kind of like, um, activation, you know, in. We get so much stuff that's essentially engineered to make us passive. Like there's just so much in the culture that literally wants us to be a passive recipient of downloaded, um, cheap nutrition. Mostly I think, um, trying to put us in a mode where we're inclined to buy shit, you know what I mean? I think that, um, and I think, um, the stuff that activates people, the stuff that really gets them engaged is, is, is rare. And it's really cool when you feel it, when you, when you have that sensation that reminds you like that you can get actually provoked emotionally or provoked ethically or provoked in terms as a citizen, you know, it's, that's pretty cool. And I think it doesn't mean that it's gotta be, um, you know, um, a damic or intellectual or that, that it's going to be, um, I don't know what the right word is, a, a, a screed or a, um, it can be art. I mean, it's like Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan doesn't explain to you, he refused to explain to you what a lot of what he did was about, but you knew, you know, you knew, you know, people in his generation, they knew what he was writing about and they knew what he was getting at. And he didn't have to say it and it galvanized people, you know, it really galvanized people to, to participate, um, in, in their generations and, um, causes and all of it. And I think in some measure, that's the highest aspiration. It's, it's the, if you can, if you can get people to think about, um, their own participation in the world around them, that's pretty fantastic.

Romance for the idea of cynicism and nihilism in Motherless Brooklyn. (01:44:16)

I think you nailed it, man. I sent you a message right after walking out of the theater. I saw it here in Austin at the Violet Crown, really nice small theater, fantastic sound, good luminosity, which is a whole separate conversation, but they, they project properly. And it really does, it brings up a lot and it communicates a lot without doing it in a heavy handed, two on the nose, literal prescriptive way. And it's as, as you said, doesn't offer neat, pithy, unrealistic, simple solutions to complex situations. But it, in not doing that, in presenting the story and the characters and the universal struggles and challenges and desires in a very artful, powerful way, I think does a much greater service. It's a fun watch, but it's also a meaningful watch and that's, that's really hard to do. So thanks. I mean, I, I, um, it's funny. I, if I, you know, there's, um, there's the poet Rilke's, um, you know, who's, I w I love his poetry and his work, but there's that famous collection of letters that he wrote to a young poet. There's a bit in it that I think about a lot where he kind of says 10 years is nothing to an artist. Gestation is everything. And, um, it's kind of one of those things that you put over your desk when you're in college, you know, and you, because it just sounds, it, it, it sounds, it's sexy to think that you know what it means in a weird way. You know what I mean? You're sort of, it's the kind of, you, you look, you, I latched onto when I was young. Um, because I, you know, you imagine yourself with that, the romantic struggle of it, but then the reality of it is it's not so pleasant sometimes. You know what I mean? But I think that for me, the, the gestation on this affected what I wanted to say and my capacity to even understand what I wanted to say a lot. I think if I had been able to make this in 2003, a whole bunch of things wouldn't have happened. I think I would have at that time in my life sort of had more romance for the idea of like the cynicism that's in the noir genre. Right. I think I might've embraced in an almost like showy way that I could be as dark and cynical as any noir movie before, you know, um, at my age. And I think that's the phase of life I'm in with what I see going on in the country now. I really felt differently by the time I made this film. Like I did not want Faye Dunaway to end up with a bullet in the eye and the detective saying do as little as possible because I think that is not what this country needs right now. Um, and I am not super keen on, you know, things that are artistically rich, but ultimately really nihilistic. Like I don't think we need, um, I don't think we need nihilism romanced right now at all. I think we've got, we've got nihilistic, we've got nihilists walking into classrooms with AR-15s and blowing kids away like way, way, way too often to be casually putting a sexy stamp on the idea of nihilism.

Evolution and growth as an artist in the gestation of a film. (01:47:54)

And I think, um, and I wouldn't have felt that strongly about that if I had made this 10 years ago, let alone 20 years ago. You know, so it would have changed what Ken wrote about this and the sort of propulsive, you know, message of it. Or I wouldn't have been the person, you know, trying to put that message across if I'd made this before. And, um, and I, and so I'm glad in a way. Like I'm, I'm, I really am genuinely glad that it took a long time because I think I feel more, um, spiritually determined that, that it goes in the direction it goes in at the end instead of, um, into what I'd call like something that's sexy. It's funny cause Fight Club, some people say Fight Club is nihilistic and a lot of people say that, but I never felt that about that movie. I always felt one of the things I liked about it was the fincher for all his, um, you know, for all his crusty exterior. Like that's very much about what we're talking about. And I think it's about a person who wrote, goes into a romance with an nihilistic thing, but absolutely comes out of it, you know, like absolutely recognizes the destructive, the destructive freight train that he's set in motion and moves to derail it and moves to grab hands with a woman and, and say like no to that. And, and yes to linking up with another human being and, and, um, making a connection, you know what I mean? And I think, uh, the, the violence in that film is, uh, to, to reduce the film's message to the exploration of the nihilism is a pretty, um, weak sauce read of it in my view. Um, I think the, I think the, the message of evolution and growth in it is there. Um, and I, I kind of feel that way about this. I think that this Making Motherless Brooklyn now, um, it's, it's gotten more of what I'd want to say as a father even in it than, than I, than I would have been capable of earlier. Um, I also couldn't have made this movie in, with the budget that I had and on the schedule that I had to make it. If I hadn't worked with Spike Lee and Wes Anderson and Alejandro and Yuridu, um, the, the, I wouldn't have had the chops to do it. Um, those guys made me realize how much you, um, within limitations. And I think, I think marinating in their work with them had a really, really big impact on, on my capacity to do this logistically. Well, I've said it before, I'll say it again. Kudos to you, man. It's a great film and, uh, I wholeheartedly urge everyone to check it out. And I do not take saying that lightly because I recognize one careless recommendation and people are like, "Fuck that Tim Ferriss." So, uh, really, really interesting in talking about personal self transformation as an artistic benchmark. We don't trust him ever again. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, yep, yep. Exactly right. But I do feel comfortable recommending this. It's great. And, uh, Seed in the Theater, uh, that, that's definitely a recommendation. It'll be great when it comes out on other platforms, but it, it's, it's really one of those films you want to see in a proper environment.

Persevering with passion. (01:51:25)

And, uh, we have been talking for a while. I know you're a busy man these days and I think this is a good place to, to wrap up, but people can say hello on Twitter @edwardnorton, Instagram @edwardnorton, official Facebook official Edward Norton. I'll link to all these in the show notes. Everything we talked about, I'll link to in the show notes per usual at tim.blog/podcast. But Edward, is there anything else you'd like to say? Any parting comments, suggestions, anything else that I'm missing? No. Um, I, uh, it was interesting to talk through this like that cause I, um, it's one of the things I dig about your show. I think you, as you know, I, and as everybody knows, you hack the, um, you hack the process, you know, better than anybody. And I think, um, I think that, uh, I've been talking about, I've been talking about the thing itself in sort of reductive ways that are necessary when you become a cog in the marketing machinery, um, around your own project. But I do think it's, it's very interesting to actually think back through the process of a thing with actual consideration. Cause the truth is like, it's amazing how much you tell yourself. You start to discount, um, phases of it. You know what I mean? Like it's, it's amazing how much the, maybe this is why like the mind also like eliminates the pain of workout. You know what I mean? It's like you, if we, if you remembered pain viscerally, you might not ever do anything again. You know what I mean? But, but you, you, um, it's funny, isn't it? That the function of the head has a tendency to, um, I don't know, focus on the positive in some measure, you know, I think it's like, yeah, the selective remembrance. Yeah, the selective remembrance. Um, and it turns, it starts to turn things into a story and it's, I must say, I think, you know what I think I would say as a wrap up on it is when I was thinking about doing this, I talked to Warren Beatty one time about making Reds, which is his, his own incredible, you know, three hour long movie about American socialists. And, um, it's one of the really great films of that whole decade about America and about the American character. And it's also emotional and it's about relationships and all these things. It's, it's a masterwork. Um, and he told me it was, he told me that everyone told him that, that he was going to flush all his chips on that bet. And that, um, no one wanted to see a three hour movie about socialists with documentary footage from people who actually lived through the era, you know? And he, he just went and did it anyway. And the thing is that when you grow up on the film and then you see it got nominated for awards and it's affirmed and everything, you, you sort of, you, you discount the, the, the fact that in truth for him, it was a very, very, very, um, out on a limb experience. And probably felt very half baked a lot of the time. And I think it's good for people. It's good for people at any phase of life. Certainly I think it's good for young people to hear people who get a thing done say like, it doesn't feel good at many phases along the way. It feels entirely half baked. You feel entirely behind the eight ball and discouraged. And this is an intrinsic part of, it's an intrinsic part of it. It isn't all fun. Even when you're like already, like you were saying, you're like, well, but you've had success in this thing. This should be easier. It does. It doesn't get easier. It's, it's anything that's worth things. Got any actual merit in it is going to be hard. And the hard part isn't romantic, but it's hard. You know what I mean? It's later. It's romantic later, but when you, when you selectively remember it, it's romantic later. But it, it really doesn't feel good along the way. And I think sometimes it can, it's nice to be reminded that it's been hard for other people when they were getting things done that you admired because it maybe gives you that extra little bit of determination or patience to persevere a little more. Absolutely. And when in doubt, find a friend like Toby Emerick to call you up and threatened to give it to somebody else. I think people, people, your tribe, the people you trust, like sounding boards, it's like nobody gets anything like this done alone. It's just, it's, you know, it's almost like when in the back of your book, you see an author, they think things in its names. But when you really, when you look at it as a block and you realize what that really is, it's just, that's like a tribe, you know what I mean? Around an author, nobody, they just, what's more solitary than writing a book, right? But you look at the network that's around an author and it makes them feel compelled to say, I could not have gotten this done without these people, right? It's, it's, there's not many things that are, that are truly done in solitude. Agreed. And a lot of things worth doing, not in solitude also to have companions on the path. And I am, could not be happier for you and it means a lot to have you back on. Hope we get a chance to hang again soon. And thanks so much for the time. Thanks for another great conversation.

Fun Facts And Anecdotes

The all-dressed pizza was homemade! (01:56:52)

For sure. Hey guys, this is Tim again, just a few more things before you take off. Number one, this is Five Bullet Friday. Do you want to get a short email from me? Would you enjoy getting a short email from me every Friday that provides a little morsel of fun for the weekend? And Five Bullet Friday is a very short email where I share the coolest things I've found or that I've been pondering over the week that could include favorite new albums that I've discovered, it could include gizmos and gadgets and all sorts of weird shit that I've somehow dug up in the world of the esoteric as I do. It could include favorite articles that I've read and that I've shared with my close friends, for instance, and it's very short. It's just a little tiny bite of goodness before you head off for the weekend. So if you want to receive that, check it out. Just go to 4hourworkweek.com. That's 4hourworkweek.com all spelled out and just drop in your email and you will get the very next one. And if you sign up, I hope you enjoy it.

SuperFat Nut Butters. (01:57:56)

This episode is brought to you by Superfat Nut Butters. I've got two boxes of them actually sitting within 15 feet of me in a cabinet. These little beauties are great. I've been using them as quick mini breakfasts. That's one use. And as on the go fuel for a few months now, I was pretty slammed this afternoon. I had a Wi-Fi debacle and I was preparing to record a podcast, but didn't have time to make something to eat or buy something to eat. But these saved my ass. That's a great use case. They're 200 to 300 calories each, depending on which ingredient cocktail you eat because there are a bunch of different types. MCT, meaning medium chain triglycerides, protein, macadamia, caffeine, etc. 3 to 5 grams of net carbs per pouch. They're keto and paleo friendly. And they are really easy to transport. You can throw them in a backpack or a pocket. I love these things. The first time I tried Superfat, however, be forewarned, I finished the entire box in maybe two or three days. So watch your portion control. And pro tip, the way you eat them, you have to unscrew the top. You get about 90% out of it that way. And then you tear the pouch, tear it diagonally, not straight across, and that'll get you the last 10% or so. I suggest ordering the variety box. You can try that way, all five super fat flavors in one box, and you'll get two pouches of each flavor that way. You can also get 15% off your order by going to superfat.com/tim. That's superfat.com/tim for 15% off. When you go to one more time, superfat.com/tim.

Zapier (01:59:32)

This episode is brought to you by Zapier, new sponsor, but not new to me as a service. We'll get to my personal story. But if you run your own business, think about all of the hours and hours you spend moving information from one software program to another, or one window to another, one social media platform to another, copy and pasting, blah, blah, blah, all because those things don't easily work together. They're not connected. With Zapier, now they do automatically. My team and I have been using Zapier for years, which helps us with tons of stuff, such as just to take one example, connecting Facebook ad campaigns to our email platform. And you could also, as I do, automate publishing things that you put on Instagram to other social media platforms, saving us hundreds of hours. My team has also raved about Zapier support. This is super important to me, which in their words, quote, is in a class of its own, end quote. And that is not paid placement. We test all of these things and have used Zapier as full paying retail customers. That is not because we got any type of freebie. So there are tons of examples. Now, why are there tons of examples? There are tons of examples because Zapier sports more than 1500 business applications and the possibilities are virtually endless for automating processes, for getting shit done. And you may know if you read the 4-hour workweek, the third step is automation. In other words, not adding headcount to a messy process to fix problems, but automating as much as possible. You want to eliminate, then automate and only then delegate. And Zapier is one of the best automating softwares, if you can use the plural, one of the best pieces of automation software I've ever come across. It is the easiest way to automate a ton of your work. So check it out. If you want to try it out or just learn more, go to zapier.com/tim. That's zapier.com/tim. Connect the apps you use the most and let Zapier take it from there. You can do a million things. I'll give one more example. You could, for instance, instantly engage with leads for your business, send them to a CRM or spreadsheet and then notify your team so they can act fast on every opportunity.

Voice Acting Experience

[On his voice acting work] It is so much fun. (02:01:56)

And here's the really beautiful part and perhaps the gem to really highlight. It's easy to build an exact solution that you need in minutes without writing code or asking a developer for help. So as a non-technical person, you can piece these different programs together in a way that is customized for your needs and your business and what is important to you so you can get the hell back to focusing on the stuff that you're good at. Okay, so that's it. Join more than four and a half million people who are saving an average of 40 hours per month by using Zapier now and for a limited time for my listeners, try Zapier for free by going to our special link, zapier.com/tim. That's zapier.com/tim for your free 14-day trial. I use this program all the time. My team uses this program all the time. Zapier.com/tim. Hey, just one thing, Tim. This is Michael from Zapier. It's pronounced Zapier like happier. So that's Zapier.com/tim.

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