Jon Favreau Interview (Full Episode) | The Tim Ferriss Show (Podcast) | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "Jon Favreau Interview (Full Episode) | The Tim Ferriss Show (Podcast)".


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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, I want to see my perfect time. What if I give the opposite? I'm a cybernetic organism living tissue over a metal endoskeleton. The Tim Ferriss Show The Tim Ferriss Show is brought to you by Onnit. I have used Onnit products for years. If you look in my kitchen, in my garage, you will find Alpha Brain, chewable melatonin for resetting my clock when I'm traveling, kettlebells, battle ropes, maces, steel clubs. It sounds like a torture chamber and it kind of is. It's a torture chamber for self-improvement. And you can see all of my favorite gear at That's O-N-N-I-T dot com forward slash Tim. You can also get a discount on any supplements, food products. I like Hemp Force. I like Alpha Brain. Check it all out. The Tim Ferriss Show is also brought to you by 99 Designs. 99 Designs is your one-stop shop for anything graphic design related. You need a logo, you need a website, you need a business card or anything else. You get an original design from designers around the world who submit drafts for you to review. You are happy or you get your money back. And I have used 99 Designs for book cover ideas, for the 4-Hour Body which went to number one New York Times, for banner ads. And you can check out some of my actual competitions at You can also get a free $99 upgrade if you want to give it a shot. That's Hello ladies and gents. This is Tim Ferriss and welcome to another episode of The Tim Ferriss Show where I deconstruct world-class performers to figure out what makes them tick. And moreover, what are the tools, tricks, tactics, routines, books, whatever, secret snacks that you can replicate, that you can actually use in your daily life or in your career or in your personal endeavors and your journey into life itself. Wow, that was profound. Anyway, my guest for this episode is just a tremendous, tremendous man. He is an actor, writer, director and producer. His name is Jon Favreau. I've been hugely impressed by Jon and we've had an opportunity to spend some time together. He is a man of many talents. He burst onto the acting scene with his role in Rudy. Then he established himself as a writer with the iconic cult hit Swingers in which he starred. And many of you have seen it. We have a lot of stories about Swingers, which I was surprised by. And I had done a lot of homework. Then Favreau made his feature film directorial debut with Made, which he also wrote and produced. His other directing credits include Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Cowboys and Aliens, Elf. And that was a real turning point for him. So we dig into that. And I did not know that he was involved with Elf before I really dug into it. Zathura and Chef, which he wrote, produced, directed and starred in. And the way he approached making Chef was very, very fascinating. And as someone who's trying to create myself in more than one way, I suppose, I'm creating books and podcasts and now TV shows. And I have news coming related to that. I was very, very interested in how he approached doing Chef, which I fell in love with. And that's actually how we ended up connecting. It was through Chef and I went on Twitter and then we connected, had a short exchange on Twitter and we also ended up investing in a couple of startup companies together. OK, so lots of commas. This guy does everything. Some of his recent acting credits include The Wolf of Wall Street and Identity Thief. And he's done much, much more. He is currently directing the live action feature film that I'm dying to see because I'm obsessed with The Jungle Book. This is Disney's adaptation, which is set to be released in April 2016. So without further ado, I invite you into the mind and story, some of which are very funny, the stories of Jon Favreau. Jon, welcome to the show. Thank you. Thank you so much for taking the time.

Jon Favreau'S Personal Interests And Early Life

Jon's favorite high school albums (04:17)

I've really been looking forward to this. Oh, good. And I suppose we could start perhaps at the beginning. And one of these questions that I like to sometimes ask is what albums or bands you listened to in high school. What were your go to? What was your go to music? Let's see. I liked the earliest music I listened to. That I can remember actually having an album of was I remember the Animal House soundtrack, all the old music, like the 60s music. And then Billy Joel. I grew up in New York. So Billy Joel. My first rock album I ever bought was Led Zeppelin. I was in high school already. And then I was I was in high school in the 80s. So then you had like the Ramones around in New York and Queens where I'm from. So it was an interesting time. And then I was a little bit of overlap with CBGBs as I got older in high school. But that was more for the scene because it was cool rather than the music itself, which I don't find myself listening to too much. I ended up getting into Billy Joel myself. I was always a Metallica sort of heavy metal head. And I got into Billy Joel because I was a busboy and waited on him at one point. Oh, really? On Long Island. And he was the coolest guy I'd ever met. He would buy a cup of coffee and give me a 20 as a tip, which was a lot of money. That's great. Yeah, that's a big that's a good thing to remember. It was a big deal, by the way. Yeah, that's that's pretty good. That's not you know, in the greatest game of things, you could probably afford it. But it made it made a big difference. Look at that. Huge impression. You made a fan out of you. I still remember it to this day. Now, we may not have the same exact frame of reference. I'm 48 years old. So I'm 10 behind roughly. I'm 37 right now. So that was a golden oldie. You were listening to me. All right. Right. Right. I was he was still recording when I was when I was listening to him. Yeah, he was still I mean, everyone. The hush came over all the waitstaff when he came in. Yes. And Long Island, especially. Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Out by Montauk. And the I remember the waiter's name, Gavin. He was supposed to wait the table and he said, all right, I'm going to do you a favor today, Ferris. I'm going to give you that table because he knew you get brought out so hard. Yeah, exactly.

My High School Experience (06:38)

What was your experience in high school? What was it like? Can you paint a picture? High school was let's see. I was I had just gone to Bronx High School of Science, which was a public school that you had to take a test for in New York. It was a very good school. It had been around for a while. And the New York public school system was was very good at the time. I think it still is. If you're if you do well, you will never outgrow the public school system. There's always room for people who are who are, you know, have you know, who require different education needs on in every way. And I know my dad was public school teacher. And, you know, I feel pretty strongly about that system and especially having lived in other cities, too. I really grew to appreciate it. And the Bronx School of Science was was one of the flagship schools for that Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech. You know, all of these free schools. But I did have to commute all the way from Queens to the Bronx. It was about an hour and a half each way. But I was around other people who were more academically inclined. But I also met people from every different borough and all different walks of life, because the you know, the one thing that unified us was that we all passed this test. And you have a lot of different socioeconomic backgrounds because, again, it was a free school. And so I had the good fortune of meeting the brightest from every community. So everybody that I met, if I met a kid from Harlem, he was he was a really smart kid from Harlem. I met someone from Brooklyn, from Riverdale, you know, so you really had all walks of life. I didn't realize it at the time because I grew up in New York. So diversity was just something you grew up with, especially as you traveled through different boroughs. You know, you just knew people from all over the place. Or if you worked in the city, you met people from everywhere. And, you know, that was a I mean, that was a good experience, too. You learn a little bit. I know you're you like to speak a lot of languages. You get to know how to curse in every language. I try. That's usually what you pick up first. Greek and in Spanish. So but it was a lot of great kids, but they were kind of nerdy kids. They weren't big on sports teams, things like that. The long commute time, a lot of a lot of homework. So I early on, the first thing from high school that I got into through that crowd was Dungeons and Dragons. That was something I was really into. Then I kind of outgrew that a bit more socially than anything. But I always liked fantasy. I always like that swords and sorcery stuff and science fiction. And then then I moved more into because remember, I graduated 84. So it was the early 80s. That's when also punk rock was was kind of its heyday. And and there were a lot of clubs downtown that were going strong that you could go to. So and we were from all the different boroughs, so we were very comfortable going into Manhattan. That was kind of the central point for us. This was still in high school. Still in high school. Never really was a the kids from the city, from Manhattan, were more the a little bit more socially advanced and could actually get into these clubs. A little bit of cheer. Yeah. You know, we're we're from the you know, we're the bridge and tunnel crowd. So we didn't really end up in the nightlife too much. But but you were exposed to it and you were going down to Greenwich Village and hanging out in Washington Square Park. And and also that was a lot of when I got introduced to cinema because it was pre VCR. The only way you'd see a movie is it was in the movie theater if it was on television. And so I remember going to a lot of the revival houses first with my dad when I was younger. And then and then, you know, when I was in high school going on my own down to like the cinema village all around all around NYU down there, there were a lot of great revival houses and seeing the films of like Kurosawa, Scorsese and just being introduced to a lot of stuff I would not otherwise have access to.

Getting into the Film Business (10:32)

Was there any particular film that was the inflection point for you wanting to focus on that craft yourself? I didn't want to do it till much later. It was never a realistic option for me. So all the way through high school, college, it was never something that I thought I would do. It wasn't till I was 22 that I actually decided to try and earnest to to get into entertainment. But I always enjoyed acting and I was love movies. And I was an usher actually during high school at an old ex vaudeville house, the Archaeo Keiths and Flushing. And and as a as an usher, you got to see, you know, movies over and over again. And it was still the architecture, the projection room, all of it really felt like something out of a time machine. So I was exposed to that side of the movie business first. And and it was, you know, it was really cool. I liked it. I like movies. It was an old rundown theater. It's not there anymore. But it was really wonderful seeing the kind of could see the history of it. If you look behind the curtain, because first it was an old vaudeville palace and then it started showing films and then and then eventually it got broken up into a triplex. So you had this beautiful, elegant, Moorish style. Just again, the movie palaces of the of the vaudeville era and the post vaudeville era broken down into the multiplexes that didn't have a lot of personality back in the 80s. I guess the 70s started that. But it still had some of the gloss of it and some of the beauty. And but, you know, of course, they were still the dressing rooms from the vaudeville days and there were sub basements and he went behind the screen and the big theater and you saw, you know, all the ropes and rigging from its live theater days. So it was kind of it was kind of nice and there was a sense of nostalgia, but it was also just overrun by mice and it wasn't just it wasn't well maintained. So there was a sadness to it. So there was I have a nostalgic feel towards the movie business, even from, you know, even from before I was around because I was exposed to all that stuff. And of course, all movies keep keep the legacy alive as well. And that was part of the fun part about coming out here. Even when I was just auditioning for the first time for bit parts, you would audition on the lot, you would go you get a drive on and you'd be walking around like the Fox lot, see the New York streets or Warner Brothers and see all the back lots as you're walking from your parking to the appointment. And you just felt so lucky to be in the business. You know, you were like, I'm, you know, I'm somehow connected to this industry. And even though we were just like the guy sweeping up after the parade, we still were, you know, what and give up showbiz. You know, even the guy shoveling after the elephant, it feels like he's part of the show. And I and I was that guy.

The Rates of Real Life (13:28)

And you you dropped out of college. Is that right? I did. Yeah, it was well misleading because I took I took you took my left to go to I got a job offer. We got a job offer to work on Wall Street. Got it for a friend's dad who need to hire an assistant. And I worked there for a year and it wasn't a great fit for me. But I had not been a great student in college. I'd gone to a very academically oriented high school, as I said. And then I was on the waiting list for Cooper Union to go to school for engineering. Cooper Union is a great school in Greenwich Village. That is, it's all scholarship. It would have been a great it would have been a great fit for me. And again, my family was, you know, my dad was a teacher. So there wasn't a lot. We have a lot of dough for a private education. But the idea of Cooper Union, I would have gotten a great a great opportunity. Waiting list never got called up. I ended up going to Queens College, which was a city school. Good school, too. And but never really found my footing. What I wanted to do was more interested in the what was going on socially at school rather than academically. I didn't really have a major. I didn't find myself excelling. I got by. But but I didn't excel. And then after I worked for a year and went back to school, then I got Dean's List straight A's because that that year of working in the real world really seasoned me a bit. And I got me, I think, matured me a bit. And then and then after I was back in school and back on the Dean's List, that's when I went cross country. And that's when I discovered people doing improvisation in Chicago and decided I wanted to join that circus. And that's when I dropped out. Got it. And the when you came back and were more seasoned and hit the Dean's List, was that because of the structure of working in the adult world? Or was it because you saw the benefits of focus rewarded and say a company or what? Well, kind of the opposite. I felt that that you you at school, if you worked at all, you got it got recognized. There's ever once a while an asshole teacher that, you know, busting my ass and the guy still giving me bad grades. Like, but that's like a rarity. Usually if you're working, usually if you're not doing good in school, you don't like the teacher. You're not you're not coming halfway. You're not doing your job. But if you do your work, you'll get an A. And there's something real, you know, really egalitarian about that. Whereas in the workspace, you you're expected to bust your ass. And rarely do you get recognized for the work you do because somebody else is either they're either oblivious because they're so hung up on what they're dealing with, your boss or somebody else's. You know, there's weird office politics or you're just it's just expected of you to do your work. So it felt like a whiff of reality of the real world where it's not revolving around you. Whereas in school, even if you're part of a big lecture hall, at the end of the day, it's about you. You're that you're paying money to be there. They're going to give you a grade based on the work you do. And it's focused around how you absorb and fit the work and how you fit into the system. In the workplace, workspace, you're a cog and you can figure out how to move your way up, but it's not incumbent upon them to recognize you. You have to make your own way. So it felt like a very much. It felt like I was going back to a kinder, gentler situation when I went back to school where I put in the same work I would have it. Yet, you know, on Wall Street and then I was getting straight A's. So it felt good. But I also felt in another way that it let some of the air out of the balloon that I got a whiff of what real life was. What was waiting in the wings. It was kind of scary. That was like, OK, I'm going to work 50 weeks a year to get two weeks off and I'm going to live in those two weeks because pretty much everything happening during the week. You're either recovering over the weekends or you're, you know, you just, everything's about getting ready for work. I just came home from work decompressing and just getting back on the horse the next day. And especially in Manhattan where I was commuting from the boroughs also. And then I had gone cross country and seen how everybody was living.

People Person (17:49)

What sparked that cross country trip? I think it was that I had worked for a year. Right? And I had saved up enough money for a motorcycle. And that was sort of a fantasy to go. You watch Easy Rider. That's the thing. Oh, man. You know. And so I went cross country and there was a motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota that happened to be lining up with when I wasn't in school or something. I don't even remember if it was still in school. It's going back many years now. In the 80s. But I remember saying, "Oh, let me go check this out." And then once I was all the way in South Dakota, a girl I was dating at the time was in San Francisco and I looked close on the map and I was like, "Let me just… I'll never be closer." And that's back when, you know, I was just thinking about this the other day. It was back before you could just go online and get a map. Like, you had to belong to like the AAA and Triptych something where they would send you maps with highlighter showing you the route. So you had this map that was like folded up in your saddle bag and you would look at it. It really was like the Old West and you're like on horseback going cross country and it was such a long, harrowing trip. And I remember how many people in the country look like they weren't enjoying themselves the way they live the way… And some people were having a great time. But like there seemed to be a lot of variety in the way people lived and the lifestyles people had. And I think also having grown up in a big city, I didn't realize what rural America was like and really how big the country was and how much variety there was. And also the other thing was how personable people are. And here I was on a motorcycle and I was young and I wasn't, you know, I was not user friendly. I didn't have the, you know, Buckminster Fuller banker look. I was, you know, a guy climbing, you know, covered with dust and young and New York plates on my bike. And people were really cool to me. Like people really, when if I broke down, people helped me out. I helped other people out. You know, you sort of develop a sense of how you fit into the world and how it's not about you. You're one little piece of the whole thing. And you start to appreciate how big the world is and that you have to figure out how to fit into that. Whereas I think your whole life, especially the way I was brought up, it's more about how does it fit into my world. So it's that perspective that, you know, I think we all continue to struggle with as we get older. How we fit into this whole thing. How this whole it's not fair feeling is one that you feel a lot more when you're young than when you're older.

The thrill of motorcycles (20:45)

There's something magical about motorcycles too. Being part of the environment as opposed to inside the bubble that is the chassis of the car. Yeah. Would not recommend it, by the way. Very dangerous. I'm not. My buddy is in a wheelchair now who introduced me to it. It fits in really well with your sense of invulnerability that comes at that age. Not something I would do. I would thought if I could afford one I would. So let me just say to the people listening out there, I don't want to turn this into something where I'm proselytizing for it. Because it's not something that I do anymore. But it was definitely a bit of a transcendent experience that you're flying. And you're so vulnerable and so much, you know, you're just taking it in a much different way. It's like a ride. So I'm going to love to ask you about Chicago. The motorcycle also just as a side note for folks, I totaled the bike and at that point sold it because I had a friend get a fantastic rider. Had a car run a red light, hit him at an intersection, cut off one of his legs. And when your body is the bumper, my mom actually calls motorcycles donor cycles because she's been a PT for 30 plus years. Brain injuries with perfect organs. And it's not the rider, it's the people around you. And under the right circumstances it's great. But the way I'm very fortunate that I made it out intact because it's bad odds. You're playing slots. It's not the best game.

The stigma of runts and gaming (22:24)

It has nothing to do with how good you are as a rider like you said. So dialing back the clock a little ways, and I won't spend too much time on this, but I was a runt up until about 6th grade. Got the living hell beat out of me all the time. And D&D was my refuge. So I still have all of my modules. I'm one of those guys. I'm completely self conscious about the fact that I played. It takes a lot for me to talk freely like this about it. But I feel like... I feel a weird shame for some reason. Why do you feel shame about it? I don't know. Because I feel this... I kind of wear it as a badge of honor in a way because I run into so many people who also had that shared experience. Well, I think I've grown into it. I think I'm accepting of it now. But it was such a way I had been defined myself for the first few years, for a freshman and sophomore year in high school. And that was like what... And then when I didn't do it anymore, you're so quick to say... Because I find that there's nothing more embarrassing than whatever the last phase you just went through was. I continue to feel that way. Thank God my life is not... All the things, the ways you embarrass yourself, all the haircuts you've had, the ways that you dress, the music you listen to... I used to have a rat tail growing up for years. Exactly. And now I'm of the age where... For the children's generation of this age, that's all going to be well documented and very hard to escape. Right. Every single Facebook picture you put up will be there on some level. So, but I... You're right. I think that there was tremendous value in it. I have an affection for it. I remember too much of it. It really took up a lot of my brain space when I was around that age, whatever, 15 or 14. I forget what age I was playing. But it also created a set of... I think it encouraged a set of skills that is not that unlike filmmaking. Because you're telling a story and the people who are experiencing that story, especially if you're like a dungeon master, you're telling the story in a way that... Where the people who are participating, who've signed on, are experiencing it in a very subjective way. And there appears to be a certain level of spontaneity or free will, and there is built into it. But you're creating a context and a world and an experience that's very specifically curated. So you're guaranteeing a sort of experience regardless of what they do within it. I think when you're watching movies, the illusion is that you're subjectively experiencing the film as an individual. And you're kind of making those decisions in a de facto way through the character that you're following the film through. If a character in a film ever makes a decision that the audience doesn't feel that they agree with, it changes the experience. It becomes like a horror movie where, "Don't go in that room!" It becomes a much different type of experience. Or if you're watching a character that's not... You're watching because they're an anti-hero. When you're watching Travis Bickle, it's a different experience than most films because most films you're going to walk through it, experience the things that the characters do. They're going to do a smarter version usually of something you would have done, and they're going to be facing a lot of consequences. And you're rooting for them because you and them are kind of riding next to you. You're the co-pilot of the protagonist. And in role-playing games, it's a similar experience but a different medium. Did you have a particular race of preference? Were you a dwarf? An elf? I liked all those. I didn't like the elves so much. I liked the dwarves. I liked the hobbits. I was always a gray elf. Were you? That makes sense for you. I don't remember what's the gray. Is the gray different from... I liked the... Those wood ones? Yeah, they're also... I think it was the dro elf. Those were the dark elves. The dark ones. I remember more from the Tolkien stuff now. It sort of replaced it because I was introduced to that. They do blend together. They do. Well, yeah, we're very close. But I liked the hobbits because I read the book The Hobbit before I ever played the game. It was an important book to me. And I always liked... I kind of relate to that character because he just wants to be comfortable and living in the nice environment. But then is drawn out into the adventure and then returns. It's very Joseph Campbell. That reluctant hero. And I think that that's a good metaphor for what I've experienced is that I've never jumped into the stuff... I guess maybe there's been a little bit of boredom or unrest earlier in my life. But generally I like things kind of boring. But then every once in a while there's a little bit of that adventure blood in me that forces me out of it. I think we're different people from reading... You have more self-preservation instinct. Is it that? Or it's complacency or something. But I do it kind of in spite of who I am as opposed to because I have this wanderlust and I can't sit still. I just get bored sometimes and I want variety or I get... Something captures my fancy and I get really curious and want to try something new. I'm an only child. I tend to do it more for me, I find, than to show other people. I tend to be very solitary. What is the itch that you're scratching that novelty satisfies, do you think?

From a second generation list, his growing interest in sculpting (28:10)

I don't know. I think it's different as I get older because now it becomes about what impressions I had from younger in life and things on that checklist of... You know how people buy the car that they never could afford later or they date the girl they couldn't date. There's a sense of somehow working on your scorecard. But for me it's like... As I get older especially, it's like I wanted to try to sculpt. And I started sculpting. Sculpting literally. Yeah, literally sculpting. I'm lucky that I work with such talented people of all different diverse skill sets in the movie business. That when I want to sculpt, I talk to somebody who's an expert sculptor and they put together a little package for me and a list of tools I need. And next thing you know, without a lot of wasted time, I'm sculpting. I always drew. And I always would sculpt a little bit here and there or whatever if I was in a class or playing with the kids, Play-Doh. And Daddy was always good at making... Step aside, kid. I wish I had done. Oh yeah, you get a lot of... When you go parent-teacher day or whatever the kids would bring Dad to school, whatever that thing is. Daddy could make something cool out of Play-Doh. You get respect around the school yard. So what material were you or are you using? Now Chavant, something called Chavant, which is one of those... I think it's petroleum-based or wax-based clays that doesn't dry. And you have to heat up to get it to be viable. And you have to have some kind of blocks that look kind of like plastic explosives, I guess. Yeah, kind of. I know what you're talking about. And it was developed, I think, for the automotive industry so you get some really nice textures out of it. And it's just fun to do because you're doing better than you thought you could. Now why sculpture as opposed to... I wanted to be a comic book penciler for about 10 years so I did a lot of illustration. Why sculpture as opposed to something else like watercolors? Because I don't know. There's something fun. I did it because you could give it to people. Yeah. Okay. It's like a substantial thing that you have or you could display or you could give or cast into a metal. I don't know. It just seemed kind of cool. I was messing around on the set of Jungle Book. We had blocks of wax because there's a sequence where we have big beehives that we had to cast and we had to cast it out of wax so it interacted in a way that was realistic. And so we had blocks and blocks of beeswax around. And so while I was on the set, on the many hours sitting in the director's chair, I had a block of wax sitting there for about a month. And then next thing you know, I asked for something to carve it with. And I got some little carving tools and next thing you know, I was carving a bear. And next thing you know, it's like I pull over all these artists that are working on it. So how should I – well, the bear, the ears are a little far back. Move this a little – and so I was getting pointers and everybody who would pass by, "Oh, it looks like a bear." So it's a little bit of what a good boy am I and something to see at this age. Honestly, it's like I'm very happy to be working in the field that I am. I feel like I'm learning constantly. But I understand why I think Nick Nolte I heard loves glassblowing. I get it. I get why that's exactly the type of thing to be doing.

The meditative quality of cooking, now a passion and (fun) alchemical pursuit (31:38)

And I did – actually, my experience was with cooking. I read your book, by the way. I know I've told you this, but let me tell you this on the podcast. I appreciate that. The Four-Hour Chef. When I was preparing to do Chef, I always loved watching – Which blew my mind. I've said it to you and I've said it on the internets, but we're going to dig into that. It was a lovely movie. Thank you. It was a great movie and important film for me because it just – it allowed me to deal with themes that I felt were important, but also it gave me the excuse to learn from great chefs and work in the kitchens of great chefs to prepare for acting in the film. And I loved cooking. I never – Roy Choi, the chef who really was my partner in this, as he was preparing me when we first started, he said, "You'll – a chef, when a chef –" because he was telling me these things to teach me, but also to understand insight as I told the story to make the film one that he and the community would like. He said, "When a chef sees a bag of shallots, they get excited because they're going to get to peel all the shallots." And – which I thought was – it was confusing at first, but then after going through the culinary training and everything, there's some – it's true. There's something very meditative about preparing your mise en place because you're dealing with sharp implements and you have to get it perfect and you can't hurt yourself. And you can't really do anything but this thing, but it doesn't require all of your brain at the same time. And so you get into this really cool zone where you – everything's so thoughtful that you're doing. And by the time you actually prepare a meal with all of this mise that you prepare, that you get ready, there's a tendency to be very tuned in to what you're tasting or what you're presenting to your guests because they know the work. They've been watching you put work into it and so the mindfulness that it implies and demands in its preparation, but it also asks of the people who you're sharing it with, it creates a nexus point of all the people where you're all sharing a common experience at one moment, which is something I've grown to appreciate and is a very elusive dynamic. As a dad, it's very – being very present as you spend time with your kids, making sure you're not checking your emails when you're tucking the kids in. And with friends and as a husband, it's not something I did effortlessly a decade ago and it's something that I've grown into and I find that people, as they mature, they start to value that more. And so everything I look to do, whether it's sculpture or I would be a glassblower, I would love to play with that, it seems fascinating, or any of these hobby type things or the cooking is all about being very present in that moment and it's a good counterbalance to the intensity with which I approach the work that I do. I think the word mindfulness is so appropriate for cooking and I found that what used to create so much stress, such a stretch response in me, which was preparing food, has now become, like you said, almost this meditative practice where I could meditate in the mornings and I tend to do that, but I also find that if I just make food, make dinner two or three times a week and you have these knives, so you have to be present state aware, it has a tremendous decompressing effect. Are there any particular ingredients that you're playing with these days? Ever since I made Chef and met Aaron Franklin down in Austin, I've been over and over again refining my smoked brisket, the Central Texas style smoked brisket. And to me that's like alchemy. There's a certain amount of technique in the trimming and in the way you... But mostly it's about leaving alone. It's almost like baking in that way, like it's chemistry and changing little factors, but it's taking whatever it is, 14 hours to see how it turns out. There's something really rewarding about that and it's also a flavor that people don't get anywhere else, so when you do it right and people get to taste it, it's kind of a fun thing to share because it's special. And it's only good for a short amount of time too. It's like coffee. And then it kind of goes away. And then I like that. I like simple pasta dishes, very simple ones. There's a pasta, the restaurant Scarpetta makes a really good pasta that's just in a tomato sauce that you could find online the recipe for. But making the pasta from scratch, infusing the oil, starting the tomato sauce from Roma tomatoes that you blanch and peel and slow cook and mash down into a sauce, and then mixing it with the infused olive oil, and then cooking that with the pasta water and getting the right texture. And again, it's amazing, but it's only good for just a few minutes.

The benefits of cooking. (37:02)

And then with the pasta dishes, it's great because you pull together a group of people who are interested in doing it. It's a great thing to do if the family's all vacation someplace or you're over at a relative's house, especially because I have less and less things to talk about because my context is so different from everybody else's. That, you know, if we talk about movies, it's not, you know, I'm thinking about the other things than the people talking to me were thinking about. And, you know, there's so little overlap with most people that I meet that cooking is great because it creates this context where everybody is on equal footing and everybody has a different skill set. And it becomes a real task that you have to be interdependent with. I find I have endless patience to spend time with people that I don't know very well if you're working on a really exciting cooking project. And then at the end, we all serve it together and we really feel like we fought a war together. It's a great bonding thing. I'm working on a kitchen in my house that's geared towards having groups of people cook that feels more like a restaurant style. Big table tops. Yeah, and all like open shelving and, you know, everything that you'd see, you know, beautiful in a way a restaurant's beautiful. Not beautiful for a house, but the people who like to cook, it's like the perfect, like a lab. And it's fun because, you know, you're all gathered around. And I did it, my experience, the first time I did it like that was at the Skywalker Ranch, which is where we mix the sound for a few movies. I've been working with them, I think, since Iron Man. But for those of you who don't know, it's a 5,000 acre ranch in Northern California in Marin that George Lucas put together and oversaw the architecture for. And it started off as just a sound facility. Very high, it looks very low tech. It looks like a winery almost, but beautiful rolling hills with cattle grazing, Victorian house on the hill that he's that where he does his editing and where he uses his home base and other technical buildings that have cropped up around it. And it's state of the art mixing facility, sound facility, recording stages. So it's this very strange and in a bunkhouse with themed rooms for the people who work there because you stay there when you work there because it's so remote. And so each room is themed for either a director or writer. And so you have like the John Ford room that's Western themed, the Akira Kurosawa room, Dorothy Parker room. And so you stay there. And during the day, there are restaurants that are open on the facility at night. Everything closes down, but there's a commercial kitchen in the common area and a walk-in fridge. And so as we were making Chef, you know, you're looking at these scenes over and over and listening to the crackling of the, you know, the frying food and the pasta and the olive oil and the garlic simmering and your mouth's watering all day. And each night we would pick another recipe from the movie and all of us, me and the editors, the sound crew, we'd all get together and we cook together at night. And we cook all the dishes from the movie. And it was so much fun because here we were in the middle of, you know, in the middle of nowhere, really in a very remote spot. And just together, you know, the fireplace going, all of us cooking together. And then you sit down for the meal and you sleep good and then we hit it the next morning and we would do the next reel. Sounds like a hell of a hell of a routine. It was great. It was really wonderful. So that's what I want to try to see if I capture some of that at home. Yeah. The one thing that's always struck me about a well-designed kitchen is just the elegance and the economy of movement that it provides for a Chef where they're never reaching too far for anything. I mean, you have everything in its place, right? The mise en place. And how quickly a good line cook or Chef can work if they have all their items in the right place. Yeah, it's true. It's interesting because part of the training I did was working… First, I went to some pretty accelerated culinary training that Roy sent me to off with a French Chef to get a context before I ever entered a professional kitchen. And so I went through all my mother's sauces and my knife cuts and basically an overview of what the first-year culinary students would deal with.

Baking, the bartender version of cooking. (41:31)

Then I got to come into his kitchens. He has a few different restaurants and food trucks too. And I spent time floating from restaurant to restaurant. First, they let me prep cook. So I was picking parsley and you know what I mean? I've done that. Micro basil. Yeah. They're like, "You're holding up my station, Ferris." I'm like, "Oh, God." Because it's all they'll trust you with. And it's so labor-intensive. And so you finally do that. And then eventually I worked my way up to the hotline. And on the hotline, then I started working. And then I worked the… About midway through, I started working on one of his Kogi trucks. And it reminded me… Because there you're in tight quarters too. It reminded me very much of bartending, which is what I did to make a living in college. And after college, when I moved to Chicago, I was a bartender. And there's that dynamic of getting in the weeds. It's kind of halfway between being a chef and being a server. Because you're preparing things, but you're also dealing with the public. And you're not doing anything that complicated. So you don't have the… There's not the elegance of being a chef. At least the type of bartender I was. I wasn't like a mixologist like you see now. But you do get into the weeds, and you have to do this dance with the people in a very small space. And I found that that rhythm was coming back to me as I was working, especially on that truck. Where you know how to get out of the way. You pop in, you pop out. You reach around on somebody's left, on their right, you're behind them. You're not crashing into each other, and you're helping each other out. And you become like this big octopus together. And when you're working on the hotline, it's even more that way. Because there's behind you, there's hot food coming through, people are speaking different languages. You're being asked to do things. You're being instructed to. That's the other weird thing. It's not like they prepare you ahead of time and say, "Here's how you make everything. Let's train."

\u201cNow you\u2019re ready to make the movie.\u201d (43:32)

Maybe when you first open a restaurant, it's that way. But when you're working in an established kitchen, they basically just throw you on the line. And then the rush comes. And then they show you once how to do something, and then you just copy them, and maybe they show it to you again. And then the chef's watching you from a distance and saying, "Hey, you only put mayo on one side of the bun. It goes on both." There's a certain quality control aspect that the chef's job is, is overseeing other people doing the work and keeping the standards to a certain consistency. And so there I was working. And little by little, first I'm just doing the popcorn at A-Frame. And then next thing you know, I'm pulling the burgers out or assembling some sandwiches. And next thing you know, I'm plating. And so by the end of the Saturday dinner rush, there's a half dozen plates I'm helping with. And you start to appreciate how good these other people are. The people who work the broiler or the sautee cook. The grill station. Just nailing them. Making it perfect and timing it just right. And then the one that I remarked at the most was the busboy who just went to walk up to you with that deli container full of ice water. And it's the best water you've ever had. I didn't even know I was thirsty. And then this guy hands me this 16 ounce. The quart size. You get wonton soup in that clear container. So those are all over kitchens, right? Those deli containers. And they'll give you one full of ice water and you'll drink it in like one sip and it's the best thing you've ever had in your life. And as I was mentioning that to Roy, he says, "Now you're ready to make the movie. Now you've had that experience is how I know you're ready." So speaking of moments, when did you decide to write Chef? I'd love to talk a little bit about the writing process.

Transitioning Into The Film Industry

Bringing Swingers to life in less than 2 weeks. (45:25)

Chef was, okay, so remember it's kind of hard to add a context with what the Swinger's experience was. Sure. Well, let's talk about both. With Swinger's it was that I had not known I was going to be a writer. I had received from my dad Final Draft, which was a program that is pretty user friendly and formats your writing to look like a screenplay. And for people who are writers or want to be writers, a lot of it is there are subtle things that, much like a resume for a job, there are certain standards by how you're going to put that together so that when somebody receives that resume it looks professional. The formatting. The formatting, all that stuff. I don't know that much about just regular jobs, but I know a lot of effort goes into the resume, a headshot for an actor. For a screenplay, as people receive the script, they're making a lot of little subconscious calculations and decisions about you based on what they're seeing. And a screenplay that's not formatted properly is something that's completely dismissed. And what was fun was when I received the program, I just typed a little bit, and next thing I know it looked just like a real screenplay. And I've read enough of them from being an actor. And this was after I had already done Rudy, I had moved to Los Angeles, I thought that was going to be my big break. But things weren't really popping for me. But I had read enough scripts and knew enough about acting to feel comfortable tapping away at a screenplay, never thinking anything was going to happen with it. More to show my friends. And you type for a half hour, an hour, two hours, and next thing you know you've got a stack of eight pages. And it feels like you've got a piece of a screenplay there. So then it becomes like, I just want to try this. It kind of goes back to the earlier conversation we're having about why do you do things. For you it's that you can't sit still. And you're super curious and you've got a lot of energy and you kind of hunger for it. I think with me it's a little bit more erratic than that where I just get something bites me in the ass and I want to try something. Like I'm just curious about something, if I could do something. But it's much subtler and I just tap away at it and peck away at it and then it starts to look good. And as it looks better you start to build up, like with doing sculpture, like messing around a little bit. Next thing you know, it kind of looks like a bear. Well let me carve it a little bit better. Let me try a little bit more. Let's see how far I could take this thing. And so with the screenplay it was kind of like that. And showed it to some friends, showed it to the acting agent I had. People felt good about the swingers screenplay and then we… How long did it take you to get it to a first draft, let's just say? Very fast. Because there was no pressure. I didn't have any, I didn't have any, I would outline maybe a few pages ahead of where I was. I came from an improv background from Chicago. So it was really just characters talking to each other. The improv that I did was something called The Herald, which was Del Close had invented. It was a great improv teacher. The Herald. The Herald. Okay. Like the name. Okay, got it. And it was one of those things like, "What do you call it?" "Harold." You know, it was one of those, that's how it got its name. Like the Beatles haircut I think. Okay, got it. Had a name. I forget what the name was. But there's, it's long form. So you would start off and take one suggestion and do three different scenes with different characters that were unrelated. All inspired by this one suggestion. And then you would have three beats of those scenes and by the end they would all interweave and connect. And come to some greater statement about the suggestion than just a short form joke oriented improvisational skit would. So it's looking to bring improv into revealing as a higher form to reveal greater truths about the suggestion by forming a group mind with a team of improvisers who are used to working with one another. That was the aspiration for that. But it did give me a set of skills having done that in Chicago for a while that you know, you're self-editing, you're knowing when each scene should end, you're bringing the next scene to begin maybe after some time has passed or with a plot point that had occurred. You're learning story. You're learning story the hard way. You're learning story in front of a bar full of people who paid four dollars to be in there and they want to be entertained and laugh. But the laughter doesn't last if there's no story. Story is the king and you think it's about the last but really it's about investing in the story being drawn in. And so I guess I had enough skills from that and also read enough screenplays and maybe the Dungeons and Dragons and stuff and being a storyteller knowing how to create a little bit of a world that you know, here I was unfolding the story about this group of friends in Hollywood. Set in the same world I lived in. I had broken up or been broken up with at the time about a year earlier. So I was still that was fresh in my mind. So that was one of the characters dilemmas and you know, although it wasn't really autobiographical there were enough things I could draw from. You know, what's the expression from Glengarry Glen Ross? Always tell the truth. It's the easiest thing to remember. Yeah. Draw upon, you know, if you're going to talk about neighborhood talk about the neighborhood you grew up and talk about the neighborhood, you know, even if it's not you. But you're going to have a more consistent world that you're developing than if you're putting them on Mars and you don't understand Mars. So, you know, a lot of things got slugged in and I wrote it fairly quickly about two weeks. Two weeks. It was very quick. And it didn't change really that much after that. Did not change. Did not. But I had written my sketches and things. Did you write it start to fit? Yeah. Did you write it, you wrote it from the beginning to the end? From the beginning to the end. A few things changed. Not much. Ten percent. Got it. Over time. And that was in final draft. Yeah. Yeah. It was a good. Was Chef the same way that you did it start to finish?

Making a documentary on a movie set? No small task. (51:30)

So, Chef I didn't, you know, I'd written Made after that a few years later. And then I had been hired as a writer based on swingers to do script doctoring and things. And that's where it gets tough because when you start getting paid to do something that you used to do for fun, you don't want to do it for fun as much. And what was nice about it is that you can make a living enough to, you know, for a single dude to be able to buy a house over a few years. And, you know, drive a new car, you know, or newish car. But you can make a living just being a writer for hire because they're always looking for people with fresh takes and new ideas in the writing area. Because the very established writers are all, you know, they're busy. You know, you get hired to do one thing that could keep you busy for a year. So, there's always room for another writer once you kind of make that list. Unfortunately, if you're not on the list, you can't get in the door. And swingers put you on the list. Swingers put me on that list.

How Kevins connections as an actor became useful in the film industry. (52:26)

So, I went from an actor and also people kind of knew me for my acting from Rudy. And so, there's a bit of a novelty of being an actor that they recognize and know and you're already used to being in those rooms. You're already, people know who you are. You know who they are. You already have representation. So, it's easier to get into that system. So, that was a bit of a, I wouldn't say it's a life hack, but it's, am I using that term properly? I think that you could… I'm trying to sound like I fit on your podcast here. Oh, you already fit on the podcast. You're doing great. I think the, it seems like you gave yourself sort of more tickets in the raffle, so to speak, than a lot of people. Because you had the writing, acting, directing, irons in the fire. Not all necessarily at that point. Eventually. But in the beginning, remember, I'm trying to break into another field. Right. Right? So, I'm like seeing how far I could take this thing. And the acting thing got me more raffle tickets in that sense. But it was an interesting way into writing. And much like how acting was a really interesting way into directing. Because in directing, one of the disadvantages that most people other than me had, was that if you're going to direct, the only way you can show people you're a director is by directing. There's no apprenticeship per se in directing. It's not like assistant directors. There's an apprenticeship. You could work your way up from a PA, work your way up to second second, second AD to first AD. You will hit the top of the food chain by learning from other people who are better than you. There's no room on the set for another. The director's assistant is not another director.

How pretending to be an artist can make you one. (54:13)

The director's assistant is somebody who was a PA, somebody who worked in development, somebody who's, you know, most. I don't think I've ever met a director whose assistant was a director in training. And even then, you're not getting that experience. But as an actor, I got to have front row seats for every director that I worked with. So by the time I ever directed, I already, you know, there were a half a dozen directors that I thought were great and half a dozen I thought weren't great. And I emulated the ones that were great. And being an actor, you're kind of modeling yourself, imitating what the people you respect do. And that's kind of what musicians do too, right? If you, you know, everybody practices Hendrix licks first and then they come up with their own style. But there is a, there is this mimicking phase of learning. And it's tough to get those 10,000 hours under your belt just by going to film school. Now maybe it's different because now people can literally take a camera, go out, film something, edit it, put it up, get feedback. See if people like it or they don't. And they could hit the drawing board again. It does not cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. They can, they can do that thanks to technology. But time I was coming up, that wasn't, that wasn't even an option. Swingers was done as cheaply as you possibly could for that quality of a film. And that was almost $200,000. And Clerks had been done even cheaper than the budget was $200,000. $175,000, something like that. But Clerks had been done for I think $10,000 or something ridiculous like that. And that's a, you know. That's a feat. Oh yeah. Because it was done at a time when it wasn't quite that straightforward. It was very inspiring to us. It was before we had done it and we were like, "Why can't we just do it?" Because instead of trying to sell Swingers, we ended up making ourselves. So by the time I had done Chef, it was like I had been wanting to do something. Everything I was developing, I was trying to work as a chef into. Because I wanted to be something I wanted to learn about. So if I was working on a TV pilot or working on a, developing something for, producing something for somebody else. It was like, "What about a restaurant? What about a chef?" Because it seemed like it was a very, from watching Top Chef and following chefs, reading chefs' biographies, reading Kitchen Confidential, which is the first one that I read by Bourdain. Great book. Great book. And it seemed like there's something here. But it didn't seem like something that warranted its own, I couldn't see the way to make it into its own thing. So that was kind of bubbling around my head. And then something about, by doing something about being a dad, being, we were talking about mindfulness, about mindfulness in parenting. About how a few simple, overseeing a few important things in your life over the course of many years can ruin your life if you don't invest enough into the things that are important but not pressing. So if you put everything into your career and not into the things that won't, things that aren't the squeaky wheel but are important but not in the short term, over time you'll find yourself in a situation that you don't even understand how you got into. When you see it a lot in the chef world, you see it a lot in the movie world, a lot of families where it doesn't work out. And a lot of it's because the career demands so much time, so much effort, and creating that balance, which fortunately I've done, the older I get, the better I get at it. And now things are, I think, well balanced for me, but I want to make something about somebody where they weren't well balanced. What if I had made different decisions in my life early on? And then looking at it through the idea of the culinary world and having really stories about growth spurts. It's about coming of age. I mentioned Joseph Campbell before. The monomyth. Huh? Sorry? Oh no, I was saying just the monomyth. I find, you know, just get... The mono? Well, he talks about, I've become fascinated by Joseph Campbell in the last few years, also how these archetypes translate across all cultures and indigenous tribal... The hero of the thousand faces. Mythology, exactly. You ever see, speaking of Skywalker, I think the first time I ever saw the Skywalker ranch was on the Power of Myth, which Joseph Campbell's interviewed by Bill Moyers. Oh, I haven't seen that. I haven't. That's one of the first, when video first came out, that was one of the first things that was available in that realm, and it still holds up. It's great. I'm sure it's easy to get your hands on the Power of Myth.

The Hero (58:46)

And he's in, sitting in the library at the Skywalker ranch being interviewed of everything back from Adam and Eve and earlier all the way through Star Wars. And it's like a four-part or six-part series from PBS, I think. And it was great. That was my introduction to Joseph Campbell. And then there's books about relating that archetype, Rise of the Hero storytelling to screenplays and how there's less variation than you might think. And the more you stick to it, the better. It just is... Those are great instruments to fly with. And with Jungle Book, I really am going back and doubling down on that, on just going back to the old myths. And it works so well for Lucas.

The Writer's Journey (59:32)

Oh yeah. I mean, I'm fascinated by screenwriting, and I haven't spent a lot of time looking at the format, but I took the story seminar by McKee and have read a handful of books. That's pretty intense. That is intense. Even that book is... I don't know if I've ever gotten all the way through. I found it very dense. I found it difficult. There are a handful of others like Save the Cat that I found very helpful for me personally, just to think about the storytelling mechanisms. There's one called, if I may... Oh, of course. The Writer's Journey. The Writer's Journey. The Writer's Journey. And I'm sorry, I'm at a loss. I could look it up while we're talking here. Oh, I'll put it in the show notes as well. Okay, you'll put it in? Yeah. Because what it does is it takes Joseph Campbell and refines it down from the perspective of somebody who I think was a story executive at Disney, and breaks apart what those archetypes are and how they apply to movies that you would have seen. And breaking down movies using that and also talking about the three-act structure as it pertains to the mythic structure that Campbell talked about, with the calling, the refusal of the call, the entering into the extraordinary world, the entering the inmost cave, the killing the dragon, taking the elixir, going back and healing the land. Even back when I even looked... I had already read the book by the time I had done Swingers and looked at Swingers. Oh, The Writer's Journey. So it's been around for a while. The Writer's Journey. It's been around for a while. And I remember reading that book and seeing if I was structurally correct with Swingers, and I was satisfied that I was. But the trick, I think, is not to use it as a map to write, because you have to write... I think you just have to brain dump when you write. I don't think you could try to control your writing too much. For me, some people are very different. People who come out of, you know, where they're creating series arcs for a television show, it becomes, you know, you have to develop a group mind and you use the dry erase board and you plot things out. It may change, but it's very well thought through. And I find that people that have come from that background tend to like to outline a lot. And then there are other people who just come from prose and creative writing or, you know, short story writers where they just want to... You know, the routine has more to do with what time of day they write, how much coffee they have before they do. You know, getting into that, getting into the creative routine, that's where their structure is. There's always some form of structure. Sometimes the structure is in the writing, sometimes the structure is in the writing, the act of writing. But I find that for me, I like to do, I like to outline a little bit. I like to... First I do... So here's, getting back to Chef. So with Chef, those two thoughts of wanting to write something about the Chef world and wanting to do something about mindfulness and parenting, both crashed into each other. And I got the idea, the epiphany hit me that this could all come together in a project.

Evolution And Challenges In Film Making

Nothing beats the composition notebook (01:02:56)

Let me write this thing. And I took out, I like composition. I know you like the minutia. I do. I love the minutia. So composition, mead composition notebooks, you know, the black and white flecked cover, cardboard, sewn spine. Looks kind of like a zebra, the black and white on the cover. Exactly. I like those because I find... I think it's from my drawing days when I used to get like a really nice leather bound drawing paper sketchbook. I'd be so reluctant to defile it. Yeah. Like is this drawing good enough for my... Because it was always felt like a showpiece. Whereas the notebooks seem like because everybody grew up with them, like is their first notebook, that there's a freedom in marking it up. But you can't rip pages out. Right. So you can't self edit because if you do, the book falls apart. So it's not like a spiral. You can't use a spiral. For me, you can't use a spiral. So I have for everything I've done and there's a lot of incomplete projects. I'll get a composition notebook. I'll date it, title it, and then just start filling it with sometimes stream of consciousness, sometimes a list of movies that I want to look at that relate to this, a book, image, something. And it becomes my... You know, that's where I just brain dump. And so for Chef, I was actually meditating. I was meditating and the two things hit each other. And usually if I'm meditating, which I try to do at least once a day, although I don't always, but I find that in part of the distraction of meditating, creative thoughts might pop into my head, but that seems to be a distraction. So I have to push past those. It's kind of like on the highway entrance. First you have everything you're worried about hit you. Then you start to have creative thoughts that are interesting and inspiring, but those will trick you into not meditating too. So these are all obstacles that you have to kind of pass by. And then you get into the good part if there's such a thing. I know you're not supposed to judge it or think about it. But you get into that brainwave or whatever that thing is that seems to be the experience that when you meditate that you seek that kind of baseline thoughtless, mindful thoughtlessness. The void, floating in the void. I don't know if I get as far as the void. For me that's how I feel. Yeah, that's good. I don't know if I'm that good. How do you meditate? What type of meditation? Just, you know... Do you focus on your breath?

Backpacking meditation techniques (01:05:31)

Do you focus on something else? That TM or breath or... I try different things. But now, honestly, it's like I don't even... It's more of like an exercise now. Like I know how to get to... I think it might be a brainwave pattern. I don't know. But it's a state of mind that I could hit without really tricks. I kind of just need to... It takes me about five or six minutes and I could get there. Do you sit in a chair with your feet on the floor or are you like scolded? I try to lay down as you fall asleep. Right? Yeah. But I try to do that. I used to do it... I haven't found a place... It's nice when you can do it at the same time every day. I just switch from production to post-production on this so I haven't gotten into my routine. I haven't been doing it as much as I should. Or as I'd like to. But in the middle of it I got the idea for Chef hit me and I let myself stop. Which I don't usually do. And I took out a pad and I just scribbled out like eight pages of ideas and thoughts. And left it alone. And then read it and it had... If I look back on it and read those pages it really had 80% of a heavy lifting done. As far as what it was about. Who was in it. Who the characters were. What other movies to look at. What the tone is. What music I would have in it. What type of food he was doing. The idea of the food truck and the Cuban sandwiches and Cuban music. And he's from Miami. And so it all sort of grew out from that. And then I went ahead and I have enough half written screenplays that I just force myself to keep writing every day. And so this only took me a few weeks too to get the first draft. But the big thing was I was so scared of... It's like the Kublai Khan dream. The poem Kublai Khan. It wasn't the story that it was a dream and only part of it was written down because he forgot it all. The poet... I think I have that right. Going back to school I don't remember if I'm going to get the details right. But the idea that sometimes you feel like when you're writing a story or a screenplay. If you let enough time pass in the first draft you get off of that kind of creative... Get out of the zone. Yeah. Because I don't think it's something you control. I think it's something you access. And I don't think... Not to say it's from some other mystical place. But whatever that part of your brain that it comes from is not a part of your brain that you necessarily can force to do what you want. It's not fully domesticated. You got to kind of trick it into doing its thing.

Tricking your brain into building films (01:08:13)

And when you did the brain dump down into the composition notebook, do you take then... I'd imagine these are not necessarily in chronological order. It's just a full-on brain dump? It is. Some of it's chronological. Then you go back and hit another part of it and then run it through again. And so it does go on little tears. It's like a pitch session except you're alone. And when you said tone, what would be an example of tone for a movie? How would you write that down or describe that? I'd say like Eat, Drink, Man, Woman opening. Like that stuff, right? Fantastic movie. Big Night. A lot of it's movies. A lot of it is Buena Vista Social Club soundtrack. Food Truck. Cuban Sandwiches. Cuban Sandwiches. The Sun. There's a divorce. They've been separated, but they get along. Get along and he's stuck. There's a critic coming. This is Bratatouille. There's only so many cooking restaurant movies you can make. And the guy is preparing these. He goes to the farmer's market and brings his kid with him. So there's moments. There's vignettes. There's images. And some of them are sequences and some of them are movies. And sometimes it's movies that are in your memory and then when you see the movie it's not that. But it's the version in your head from what you remember of a movie. And then Kitchen Confidential. I remember referencing that a lot. And who the characters are. And I wanted a lot of Latino cast members. Because that's what was really... Kitchen Confidential I remember like that's really what kitchens were. And what I saw and what it was and never what was depicted. And how does that... How does the vibrance of that culture with the music playing in the kitchen... And then they're cooking food that's not that. And then in being re-inspired, he's inspired by that. Who the people that are surrounding him. The music he's listening to. And where he came from in Miami. And maybe that's the type of food he used to cook and now he's cooking very trendy... You know, user-friendly food that wasn't inspiring to him. And then being frustrated by not being inspired by... His art is no longer inspiring him. And he's hit an impasse. And also the impasse is affecting both his professional life.

Hitting an impasse: Chef (01:10:46)

But in a way he's not aware of his personal life too. He's stuck. Spiritually stuck.

'Going back to basics making and companies.' (01:10:52)

And on the show business side of things, this is something I know very little about. But in terms of the actual making, selling, distributing of the film. And feel free to correct me if I get this wrong. What I've heard you refer to, I think, making chef as going back to basics. And constraining the size or the budget so that you could do certain things. Like have the language you wanted to have in the movie, for instance. Be authentic. How did you make this movie? And I know that's a very novice question. But I've talked to people sort of indirectly who've gone through the big studio process. And have had a very rough time of it. What made chef different? How did you... Or swingers, you could comment on that. Different times. Again, I think it's all a matter of... It's all a matter of adjusting to what the environment is at any given moment. And adjusting in an art of war kind of way. I don't think about it in those terms. But acknowledge what the terrain is. And I think a lot of what seems like in my career in general as though I've had this vision for how my career was going to change. And things I would try to do and to get things accomplished was more a reaction to what the circumstances were. So, for example, I thought swingers would open a lot of doors for me acting-wise. It didn't. I got to do a little bit of stuff here and there. It was fun. But I was very sought after as a writer after that. And so the writer door opened up. The actor door was more of a small, cracked open door that occasionally I could poke my nose through. But it wasn't receiving me. But the writer door was wide open. So I started to do that. And I learned a lot about storytelling and interacting with executives and what the system was by being involved with projects. None of which ever got actually produced with the versions that I wrote. But I was part of a chain of writers on certain projects. So I was pretty good at adjusting to what path was available to me and finding something interesting about what was available. But without ever feeling I was compromising, but just trying to check out something that could be cool and not getting in my own way of saying, "Why shouldn't I be a writer on this? Why not pitch this take on a movie?" Even though I've never done a rewrite, why not go in there and talk to them about this? And so I think I've had enough confidence to not be scared to try something new. Which I think is something I get in a lot of people's ways. I think people get in their own way a lot. And there are certain things that I have been scared of. But for some reason career-wise, maybe it's my early upbringing. I don't know what, but I never feel intimidated when I'm in a room with people or if I'm on stage in front of people. Like I don't get that. My heart doesn't race in those situations. And that was even before the improv? Yeah. I've always been comfortable getting in front of people and talking. And I've been a bit of a ham when I was little. Like loving to jump up in front of the family and put on shows. I just think certain people wired, now that I have three kids, you're just kind of wired a certain way. And certain people are, you know, they kind of have certain things that they like and certain things that they're good at. And you could adjust them and change them. But you're kind of working with, you know, you're kind of handed. It's like poker. You get a delta hand. And you can play those cards well or poorly. But you're definitely working from, you know, you're definitely inheriting your properties in risk at the beginning of the game. You know what I mean? You're starting from a certain vantage point. And then what do you do with that? With a movie like "Swingers," for instance, and again, these are just things that I've heard quoted. So feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. It seems like everyone has seen "Swingers." I mean, it gets quoted all the time. The box office was around $6 million? If that. So it was considered, you know, so just to give you a perspective, we, you know, trying to get it made for a year, nobody gives us the money. Doug Liman is able to raise the money and we make it together. What is his director? He's the director of the film. But when I had met him, I was trying to set it up as a director. I was trying to direct it.

The story making "Swingers" somehow with $200k. (01:15:37)

And he had already done a film. He was just part of a circle of friends. I wasn't very close with him, but I knew him through somebody else. And he was somebody who had directed. And so I had bought him a cup of coffee. He talked me through lenses and was preparing me for when it was time for me to direct. And then in that process had said, "Look, I know you, you know, hopefully you will get to put this thing together. But I can raise the money." And so we agreed to creatively be partners on this thing and we made it a much smaller budget than I thought was possible. This was the 200K or so? This was the 200K that he was able to bring and figure out how to bring that movie to the screen with that budget, with the experience that he had had. So that, it happened. We tried to get into Sundance. And not to interrupt, but was he financing from some independently wealthy individuals or was it from companies? I think it was more like that. I think it was more the connections that he had from growing up in town and being involved with, you know, there were people that he knew that were willing to bet on him. Some of it was based on stuff he had done already and some of it was, you know, that he, you know, had passion about this thing. But he was able to get the, secure the financing. So the first experience was that then we made it and that was a real seat of the pants. And then we didn't get into Sundance, which was our goal, was to get in. That was the be all and end all for us. And I don't know if it was that it wasn't finished enough or we had just pulled it, you know, a cut together for them or it was screened on videotape versus a screening. Who knows what it was. It was incredibly disappointing to us. So it felt like all was lost. Then we put up after Sundance, that Sundance festival, when everybody had gotten back, we had done our own screening in Los Angeles for the cast and crew and invited some distributors to it as well. And it played extraordinarily well there. And then we had multiple buyers and, you know, you don't have to be in Hollywood to know what that means, you know, more than one person is interested. It's a whole different dynamic. And now there was a bit of a bidding war over it. It ended up selling for $5 million. And those are distribution rights, distribution rights. And so we were riding high. It was, you know, in all, everybody wanted to interview us and everybody wanted to feature us in their magazines. And we were like the next thing. And so in like the year between when it was acquired and when it came out, we were riding very high. Vince had, I think, gotten cast in the sequel to Jurassic Park, which is about as big as you can get. And everybody who was nobody was now had a seat at the table, had another shot, you know. And then by the time the movie came out, it opened, first weekend is in whatever, two theaters, four theaters, it was a huge box office. And then a few weeks later, nobody cared and it made $5 million. And it was considered a failure, box office-wise. Because you got to figure out one side of us was like Sling Blade that made $100 million and won Oscars. And the other side was Good Will Hunting that won Oscars and made like $100 million. So we were kind of the disappointing underperformer at Miramax at that point. And so all of it kind of ebbed away. But again, it was enough to get my foot in the door as a writer. And I had already, now I had not just been the guy who was in Rudy as a character actor, but now I had been in this movie that, as you said, everybody has seen. So thanks to video and later DVD and earlier on Laserdisc, everybody had seen this film. And it became part of our culture. And that's when I kind of learned that it's not always the movie that does the best, that has the most impact, or is the most rewarding. Or does the most for your career for that matter. Even though in the short term, success is celebrated here and failure is unforgivable. But over time, I think that it, that shifts a bit. And I know, for example, like Vince had gotten Jurassic Park on the heels of Swingers, he's far more recognized now from Swingers. That grossed one, you know, not even a tenth, maybe a hundredth of what that movie made. But for some reason, this one has had more impact on his career, even though far less people went to see it in the movie theater. So you never know what's going to, and I find in my own career the same thing. It's not always the things that make the most money, it's the things that, the performances or there's something about certain projects that stick in people's memories more. Yeah, the staying power. I mean, I was astonished as I started studying film more and looking at movies that had a huge impact on me.

What are the movies Jon watches? (01:20:34)

There were these landmark, iconic films among the high school and college males who were the majority of my friends. You know, Fight Club, for instance. And I was astonished that it wasn't some massive, massive hit. Raging Bull, you know, was, you know, all these movies that are sort of failures in the beginning, and where Rudy was my first experience with a movie coming out. It didn't do well at all. It didn't even do number one at the box office. It was considered also an underperformer, but now everybody knows it. It's a cultural, you know, it's a cultural point of reference. I hear the music everywhere. People refer to it constantly. So, like, those are the ones where you make the ripple, the cultural ripple, and that's honestly the thing that is most exciting, that's the most appealing to me, is how can you impact, how can you make that kind of impact and affect people and either touch them, entertain them, make them laugh, make them feel connected. You know, that's the part that's the most rewarding at this point in my career. And I am keeping an eye on the time. I know that you've been very generous with your time, and I'll only take a few more minutes. The, I would be remiss of me if I didn't mention that a number of my fans have said to thank you for Chef. They've rented it five to ten times just to show friends. So I think that that's, I think that's going to be one of the movies. That's what, that's really what, that was kind of the thing. I know within like the Chef community, they accepted it, the ones that I've met. So that was a big, scary part of it for me, because if everybody, if people had liked it who didn't know about that world, but then the people who were in the world didn't like it, it would have been a mixed, it wouldn't have felt good to me. But the fact that people are seeing it now, like I, I'm spending more time with my son after seeing the movie, or you know what, I'm going to try to open up my own business that I've been putting off forever. And that's when you feel really humbled and good and flattered because you feel like you're connecting. It's selfishly just a very good feeling to know that you're, that you're, you're, me being on this planet has changed somebody else's experience, like in a good way. And it feels, it feels, it feels, you feel connected to people, which I think is kind of part of the, the trip here. It's part, kind of part of the goal. Oh, for sure. Well, I think anything with a basis in storytelling at some point, I mean, you're making a lot of connections through this. I think there's, we are hardwired for this, this Joseph Campbell-like experience, even in our own lives. I'd love to ask just a couple of rapid fire questions.

Brad Pitt or Bill Gates (01:23:25)

Sure. The first is when you hear the word successful, who is the first person that comes to mind? Wow. Oh, I like listening to this on your show. I don't like answering it. Let's see. I guess. Just knee jerk. Knee jerk. Gates. Okay. Why? Because, because, not because of the richest guy, but because of his, because of how he shifted his, his priorities. Because he's now making tremendous impact with the hand he's been dealt or the pot that he's built up. That he's making, that there's one, there's like, there's like the Bill Gates from, there's the Microsoft Bill Gates and there's the post-Microsoft Bill Gates. And to me, there's something fascinating about that. And that he was able to be effective in what his goals were for the first chapter and then what his goals are now, which are very different. So he was able to shift his entire, shift his entire agenda and be effective, be completely effective. Yeah. Very similar metric driven hardcore approach. And I don't know a lot about, honestly, about this is purely layman's perspective of, hey, there's a lot of, this is how many lives have been saved by this or this is the, this many people have agreed to have charitable donations. But it's just, there's something that, that, that he's just the first name that popped into my head.

Directors Jon admires (01:25:06)

Any particular director who comes to mind? Director or writer in film? Yeah. There's a few, you know, and they're all different. Like I worked with Scorsese and I think that he's been, I think there's a certain, there must be, when I came up and what he represented and I got to meet him and see him work. And so he's inspired me as far as what his body of work and who he is as a person. But I also think of like the Coen brothers who've managed to tickle their own fancy and enjoy everything they're doing and have tremendous variety and entertain people as well. But seem to have maintained a certain balance, a healthy balance between their work and their private lives and they haven't dealt with them that much, but they seem like genuinely like well-adjusted, normal, nice people who happen to make really exciting, cool movies. And then Jim Cameron, who's sort of the other end of the spectrum, who's kind of the guy who's reinvented aspects of the industry over and over again with tremendous enthusiasm and, and, and also just a sharp intellect that's into solving problems and changing the way we do the magic tricks. And I'm sure I've certainly inherited a lot of what he, of the ground that he broke with Avatar, with Jungle Book, a lot of the same technology, a lot of the same people I'm working with. So there's a, you know, healthy respect. And then Walt Disney is another one who I had researched quite a bit back around the time of Iron Man 2 when we were referencing him in, in the Stark Expo and the Stark, the old Stark archives. But he was a bit of a techie at his time and a bit of a storyteller too. And so he was doing the, you know, what, what he was doing in his time is like, it seems like what Pixar is doing now. It's like cutting edge technology, great stories, great emotion, telling stories of the different set of tools that nobody ever had before. And there's something, there's something really to me, I think he was, he's one of those key, key figures. Oh, Total Hacker. They display a bunch of his old cobbled together MacGyver-like rigs at the Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. Up there by Presidio. Yeah, which is amazing. What is the book that you've gifted the most to other people?

Three most influential books (01:27:37)

Actually, The Writer's Journey was one of them. I've given your book. I've given Four-Hour Body to people too. Thank you for that. I've given that. Those are the biggies. I'm trying to think of anything else. Hmm. I did grow, when I first started off in acting, I gifted Grodin's book to my family. His first book, It Would Be So Nice If You Weren't Here, because it really told the story about how difficult it is when you're first starting off trying to be an actor. And he had such a great voice. Other than that, I can't, none are jumping, none are jumping to mind. That's three though.

Advice to a young Favreau (01:28:13)

That's plenty. Last question. Actually, they're pretty quick. The first is, what advice would you give to your 20-year-old self? Wow. Oh, he wouldn't listen. 30-year-old self. I think to not confuse how you feel about something with how that thing really is. I think you think you're being more objective than you really are. And you're colored by emotion more than you think you are. In positive ways and negative ways. But perspective is much more subjective than you think. You think you're a lot more objective than you are. To me, specifically at 30. And 20, I don't even know. I wasn't even a human being. What I would say at 20. Because part of it is just the ignorance of walking into the forest and not knowing where I was going. And whatever was getting me through it, thankfully I had enough. Something in the back of my mind told me to just take that road and walk, not knowing where it was going. And so that was, so I'm very grateful. I like where I am. I like what the experience of my life is. I like every year, I like better. I like who I am better. I like what my life is better. So I'm very reluctant to interfere with the way things were. But I think a lot of it is how I feel about things and what I do to how I balance things out in a way that I'm proud of, that I like.

Pop-up locations (01:30:06)

Well I love your work and thank you so much for the time. Where can people find out more about you, find you online? Well let's see. I don't know. I'm on Twitter and Facebook @John_Favro on Twitter. And then Facebook I think is just John Favro. And Instagram, John Favro. It's pretty consistent. I've been working so there's not a lot of stuff up there. I'm on there where we do pop-ups once in a while in Los Angeles. Maybe we'll do one up north from the food from Chef. So we've been doing that.

Food Adventures

Beignet adventures (01:30:43)

I've been dying to have not only Cuban but the grilled cheese sandwich. I'm sure you must hear about that a lot. Yes, I've cooked them. I cooked them for the crew of the movie. I cooked them for my kids. I cooked them here in the editing rooms. But I enjoy cooking. We've cooked together. We have. And can we reveal that? You and I have cooked beignets. Beignets. That was an amazing experience. That was for a soup roll party. That was so good. You had never done that before. I had. I was. That was what we were talking about. Here we were. We didn't really know each other that well. I read your stuff, you saw my stuff. And then lo and behold you put some hot oil there and the focus is no longer on one another. That's why I'm keeping your fingers out. Keeping all your fingers. Well John, thank you so much. There's tons more to explore. Everybody, I'll put links in the show notes to where you can find John. And thanks so much for your time. Great, great. And thank you too. I love the podcast. But you've, I know this is about me, not about you. But I got to know you through your writing. And I was very, you're very intriguing. I get pulled into your work. You make it very easy to read your stuff. It had been recommended, I think, for our body was recommended to me. And one of those things where you just pick a chapter here, chapter there, next thing you know you're reading the whole thing. And your approach to questioning things and curating research and fact based but not being, you know, it seems like there's always, you always are either dealing with a scientific method where something has to have been through a double blind study or completely anecdotal. There's no middle ground. And what's interesting about your stuff is you'll say, hey look, here's what I've experienced. Here's the sample that I've seen this experience with. It's not something that should be looked at scientifically. But there are certain indications that this is worth looking into more. And here's what I do and here's what I've done. And it makes it much more inviting than either the very walled off world of traditional academia. Academia and then also this, I don't know, science that's more based on anecdotal information that doesn't take science into consideration as much. But to acknowledge that science has an importance to it but also looking at how what has not yet gone through that machine might have some truth to it too. And giving full disclosure of your context and why makes it not intellectually offensive. It feels like you could be responsible intellectually, not flying in the face of science but you're also opening it up to new ways of thinking. And I think it relates to the way your context, the whole world that you're, the whole Northern California way of, ethos of looking at things and how to be more effective and efficient in approaching problems that we still face.


Closing remarks (01:33:36)

So I love looking at your stuff and like I said, the 4-Hour Chef was a great counterbalance to the other chef biographies that I was reading or autobiographies or cooking books and documentaries I was watching. And then here was a very concise version of a lot of the same information that was a really good counterbalance. Well I really appreciate it and I love watching your experiments. I love watching you do the huge blockbusters than do Chef. I can't wait to see what you do next. Well I guess I'm waiting to see. For Jungle Book. Jungle Book. It's going to be amazing. It's going to be something different and cool and just like everything else, doing one with this level of technology which I got a taste of here and there with Iron Man but to really throw the whole thing into, have the whole movie rely on that magic trick working is exhilarating. But if it all works as well as it looks like it will, it'll be something nobody had seen before. So it's exciting stuff. I can't wait to see it. Well John, to be continued, thank you so much for the time. Great, my pleasure. And this was fun. It was quick and easy. Quick and easy. Alright, thank you. Take care. The Tim Ferriss Show is brought to you by Onnit. I have used Onnit products for years. If you look in my kitchen, in my garage, you will find Alpha Brain, chewable melatonin for resetting my clock when I'm traveling, kettle bells, battle ropes, maces, steel clubs. It sounds like a torture chamber and it kind of is. It's a torture chamber for self improvement. And you can see all of my favorite gear at That's O-N-N-I-T dot com forward slash Tim. And you can also get a discount on any supplements, food products. I like Hemp Force. I like Alpha Brain. Check it all out. forward slash Tim. The Tim Ferriss Show is also brought to you by 99 Designs. 99 Designs is your one stop shop for anything graphic design related. You need a logo, you need a website, you need a business card or anything else. You get an original design from designers around the world who submit drafts for you to review. You are happy or you get your money back. And I have used 99 Designs for book cover ideas for the 4-hour body which went to number one New York Times for banner ads and you can check out some of my actual competitions at 99 designs dot com forward slash Tim. You can also get a free 99 dollar upgrade if you want to give it a shot. That's 99 designs dot com forward slash Tim. And until next time, thanks for listening. Bye.

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