Exclusive Interview With Author "Jared Cohn"
Jared Cohn is a film/TV director, writer, and producer based in Los Angeles, CA. He has directed over 50 films that have been produced and distributed by major studios and production companies such as Netflix, Hulu, Showtime, SyFy, Lifetime and many more.
His works have been released theatrically and he has won numerous awards and has been featured in GQ, New York Times, LA times, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Deadline and many other major press outlets.
Born and raised in New York City, Jared received a B.F. A. in Communication Arts from New York Institute of Technology.
His new book, 50 Movies Made: Lessons Learned on a Filmmaker’s Journey, chronicles his life through the Hollywood trenches and how he achieved his lifelong dream on the other side. In the book, he discusses all areas of the moviemaking process, from screenwriting and preproduction to production, post-production and distribution.
Jared spoke to Writer’s Life recently, here’s what he shared with us.
You're an actor, director, producer and now an author. Tell us about this transitional journey.
I’ve been writing since I was a little kid -- stories, comic books and all sorts of things. I used to draw as well. Now I’ve been writing movies for 20 years, and have been fortunate to also direct those movies.
I have written a lot of screenplays, about 50 or so, and I read a good amount of books. I love reading biographies of people; mostly film people, old Hollywood stories. It really interests me to learn other people’s stories because the movie business is so weird, and why people get involved in it is usually fascinating. The things that go on behind the scenes are sometimes stranger than fiction. So, I wrote a book about my story because I figured if I knew someone like me I would maybe be interested in reading their story.
Tell us about your book, 50 Movies Made: Lessons Learned on a Filmmaker’s Journey.
This book is my story but I didn’t want to write a biography of myself, so it is my story in regards to my filmmaking career and my life in regards to film. That said, almost everything in my life is film related so I go into other aspects, such as mental health, my actual process of writing, directing. It’s a combination of my stories mixed with what I learned, or something that can be a useful takeaway. Useful takeaways are what this book is about. If someone can read it and takeaway something useful, then the book has done its job in the way I hoped.
Wow! 50 movies. Do you have one or two that stand out as your favorites?
Yes -- technically not the first movie I did, but the third. I call it my first “real” movie because it was the first with a real budget, with trailers and famous people. The movie was Born Bad and it was a made-for-TV Lifetime movie, but at the time that was a huge deal for me. At the time I had only directed microscopic budgeted movies with my friends and now I was directing a full crew with stars! It was such an amazing moment, the whole process of that movie and how it came about is in my book. That movie really put me on the map in terms of working steadily.
Another one was a movie script that I worked on for eight years called Reactor. I did everything I could to get this movie made for years and years. I pitched it all over town and rewrote the thing 100 times. I went to pitch fests and paid for all sorts of coverage/note reports to improve it and entered it into contests and it was like the white whale. I could not nail this thing down. Until finally, after eight years of grinding I got it into the right hands and got the movie made. So much happened over the course of so many years, and different people were involved at different times. This thing was a project to get it made. That movie, now called Deadlock, had Bruce Willis in it, and Quentin Tarantino saw it and gave it a shout out on a podcast and that was just the coolest thing ever because he is one of my favorite directors.
What is the layout of the book? Do you cover all 50 films?
Originally that was the plan! I structured it so each movie was a chapter and actually wrote out a monster of a book. That structure was way too long and it read somewhat like a Wikipedia page. That was the first of what would be many drafts. Some chapters are about single movies, but some are combinations of several movies and some are just things that happened that I thought would be interesting to share. For instance, when we got sued by the Lynyrd Skynyrd estate and the movie I just spent years working on was now banned until there was a trial in Federal Court, which thankfully we won.
The layout of the book is something I put a lot of thought into because I wanted it to be informative, yet entertaining. There are a million “how to direct” movie books, so this is not that. This is a story of a working director, and this book is about what goes on in the director’s life in regards to filmmaking and living. It covers all sort of things that might come up, professionally and personally. It includes tips and advice and uses stories to explain the nuts and bolts.
Film is a very hard business to get into. What advice would you give someone trying to break into the field, whether it is in front of, or behind the camera.
The best piece of advice I can give to anyone is to be born to someone famous. If you don’t follow that, like I didn’t, then you must work very, very hard. You must keep working hard, for what will probably be a very long time. It will be excruciatingly painful at times and you will probably want to quit many times. However, if you want to have any chance at even working at the lowest levels, you must work hard. To level up that’s a whole different story, you have to work hard and smart. There’s practical advice in the book.
This business is an extremely difficult nut to crack. The book covers many of the pitfalls and dangled carrots I fell for.
Who are some actors and/or directors you find inspiring?
Tarantino for knowing so much about film and the history of it, and for making beautiful films. Also filmmakers like George Miller who are super precise about their frames and meticulous in their preproduction and execution. I also admire the pop-culture action movies, like Michael Bay films, who move the camera in the coolest ways and get exciting coverage that is innovative. I like style but there also has to be a great story.
I like innovators, people who do something just a bit differently. There’s so many excellent filmmakers I admire and respect, as well as actors and producers I’d love to work with. It’s just as hard in many ways to be a successful producer and/or director as it is a successful actor. Everything is a challenge. Everything is hard.
Can you share a fun/funny story you have experienced along the way while directing?
It was the beginning of Covid, everything shut down. I get a call to do a shark movie in the middle of Florida, the only state not shut down and open to film. Nobody wanted to go, people were scared but I was bored after two weeks of the lock down so I went. We round up a brave crew, which was pretty challenging to do, many people didn’t want to leave the house let alone go across country to film a movie.
Day one, after coordinating with the town, the county, all that, we finally get permission to shoot on a section of beach. I decide to drive the production vehicles onto the beach so we could unload and didn’t think twice as I myself was driving one of the gear vans. Well, it turns out driving onto a beach was a big no-no, I got us kicked out and banned from the entire county. We lost every single location on day one. The cops showed up, people were taking photos -- it was a mess. This basically meant it was now a guerrilla movie and we were going to have to steal every shot, which is what we wound up doing. We had to do what we had to do.
Who did you write this book for?
This book is for people who want to work in the film business, people who already work in the film business and people who just like reading about the sort of whacky things that happen in this business. It contains a lot of practical advice that can be applied to life in general. I think anyone who reads it should gain something, hopefully.
What can we expect from you next?
I have a movie coming out May 19th called The Getback, it’s going to premiere for free on Tubi. It was a super fun shoot, and an action packed movie with a heart. We had a good budget and name actors in it. It was great. I was in Mississippi for a month, at the end of last year making it so I’m glad it’s coming out. I’ll also be working on another action movie, a sort of DEA Vs. The Cartel revenge type of story which is possibly shooting in the Dominican Republic. I’m also writing Lord of the Streets 2, the original is on Tubi. Lots of things going on, and lots of writing to do!
For more information, please visit: www.jaredcohn.com