From Script to Screen: Interview with Jared Cohn, Author of ’50 Movies Made’

From Script to Screen Interview With Jared Cohn Author of 50 Movies Made
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Jared Cohn is an actor, writer, and director from Los Angeles, CA, who has directed over 50 films. He has worked on films in all genres – science fiction, romance, comedy, and horror- his extensive expertise and hard work have paid off. Major studios and production companies such as Hulu, Showtime, Netflix, SyFy, and Lifetime have distributed his films. Jared has been behind the camera, in front of it, and at any given stage of the movie-making process; he knows the ins and outs of the movie business…and it’s a tough one. 

Now, he hopes to share some of his wisdom with future moviemakers and those with dreams of making it in the business. His new book, 50 Movies Made: Lessons Learned on a Filmmaker’s Journey, details his life through what he calls “the Hollywood trenches” and offers some valuable and personal insight on making your cinematic dreams a reality. The book discusses all areas of the movie-making process, from screenwriting and preproduction to production, post-production, and distribution, all from the honest viewpoint of someone who’s been through it all.

Jared will release his new book and a new movie later this month. “The Getback” will make its premiere on Tubi on May 19th and features a hard-living bounty hunter (Theo Rossi, “Sons of Anarchy”) who finds and captures a dangerous criminal (Shane Paul McGhie, “Deputy”). Things become exceedingly more difficult when the two must work together to evade the crooked cops and heavily trained mercenaries trying to kill them both. It also stars “Scream 6’s” Dermot Mulroney.

Jared sat down recently to talk with Fiction Horizon. Here’s what he had to say.

Jared: Thank you so much for having me on! 

FH: Tell us about your new book, 50 Movies Made: Lessons Learned on a Filmmaker’s Journey.

This book is a culmination of experiences and advice to upcoming filmmakers, writers, directors, and producers. The book talks about the movies I’ve made, some of the wild things that happened during the shoots, and how I dealt with them. It is also my story from being a struggling actor to how I transitioned to writing and directing. There’s a lot of wisdom and a lot of things I wish I had known when I was getting started in the industry. 

Book Jacket 50 Movies Made

Why did you decide to write this?

As I was directing movies around movie 45 or 46, I just started telling people that I directed “like 50 movies.” The response people gave me was, “You directed 50 movies?1” It was almost like they didn’t believe me because I’m not an old guy. So, from that came the idea that it would be a good title for a book, and then I actually started thinking about what a book like that would look like. I love reading biographies from people in the industry. 

I read so many of those, as well as books on filmmaking (Tarantino’s book was excellent!), so I thought maybe I could contribute to the available literature from filmmakers. I am obsessed with any movie about Hollywood, and any books about Hollywood, so I thought people like me would potentially enjoy the read. 

You also have a new movie coming out this month, “The Getback” – tell us about that.

It was a big movie for me. We had Theo Rossi, Dermot Mulroney, Kim Coates, and Treach; the cast was incredible. It is a Tubi Original, and it comes out on May 19th, which is right after the book comes out on May 15th. It’s a fun, action movie with a heart. I was in Mississippi for a month or so making the movie, it was a great shoot, and I had an amazing crew.

The Getback Movie Poster

It’s about a bounty hunter who has to bring in a witness on the run to testify. People are trying to kill the witness while the bounty hunter is trying to keep him alive. There is a lot of action, and it was so fun to do car stunts and blow things up; I enjoy that aspect of movie making.

Sounds like a “blast!” What kind of books and films did you grow up with?

I grew up watching so many different types of movies, but I was definitely a movie theatergoer. I primarily watched studio movies as a kid. Only until I got into the film industry did I watch more independents, but when I was a kid, I would go to Blockbuster Video and always hit the New Releases. So, my style of movie-making subsequently is to go BIG. I want to make movies like the ones I grew up watching. 

When I was a kid, I was not a big reader. It wasn’t until I got into the industry that I dove in and read biography after biography. But in the beginning, when I started as an actor and screenwriter, I would devour “How to Write Scripts” books and “How to Succeed as an Actor” type books. I read them all. 

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What made you want to get into this business?

My mother is a professional painter, an artist, and I’ve always been into art, but not in a traditional way. I liked shooting videos right away when video cameras became accessible, but I had no exposure to the industry. That changed when I had a roommate who was an actor. 

He was auditioning, and I hadn’t seen anyone do anything like it, so I watched closely and took a play out of his playbook. I was 19 and in college, studying something I wasn’t interested in, so when I saw my roommate preparing for auditions and booking roles, that was exciting! It showed me a glimpse of something that wasn’t totally boring. Until then, I was uninspired. Then everything changed. I had a mission.

Do you have a favorite film?

I have many, but one film to me really stands the test of time — “Limitless,” by Neil Burger. The idea that a magic pill exists that can make you access 100% of your brain and think faster and better, and how the story is told, makes you want that pill so badly. Bradley Cooper delivered such a great performance, and I believe in the “dream come true” and wish fulfillment storylines a lot. 

I also love watching transformation films with rags-to-riches stories. “The Count of Monte Cristo” does this beautifully, plus adds a revenge element. I came from nothing, didn’t know anyone in the business, and now I’ve made over 50 movies, but sometimes I still want revenge for all my rejection and pain.

This is something I still battle with. There is an internal, everlasting rage that, when expressed like in “Monte Cristo,” becomes a beautiful message. I have a chip on my shoulder from so many things, rejection, failure, and the chip just grows, and when I see something that speaks to that, it resonates.

How about a favorite book?

I read many biographies, one of which I read recently was Matthew McConaughey’s Greenlights. It was a great book; his story and how he handles himself and pushes himself are amazing. I always liked him as an actor, but to hear it from him… the guy is a total beast. It’s impressive how he got to the highest level. It’s inspirational. Anything that inspires me, I’m into. 

Which director inspires you?

I will say Michael Bay for his technical understanding and use of all the latest toys in filmmaking. He actively seeks out the latest, greatest camera-moving equipment and makes a movie showing it off. He does this intentionally and crafts shots based on the newest gear available.

Then you go to the theater or watch the movie at home and see some shots that make you ask, “How the hell did they get that shot?” I love cinematography and cool shots, I watch all the “makings of” behind-the-scenes stuff, and that inspires me to be a director who pushes the envelope. 

Of course, you need mega bucks to do that stuff, but my goal is to always push. The script is always the most important thing; you can have all the cool shots in the movie, but if the script isn’t good, the movie won’t be good.

Many of our readers love science fiction and horror – do you have a favorite genre?

I’ve directed quite a few science fiction movies and horror movies. I did a movie called The Horde which was total horror. It had Sydney Sweeney in the cast as the lead right before she got her role in “Euphoria” and blew up. 

That was a great horror movie! Paul Logan was another lead, and he had to battle killer mutants; it was a total blast. I love making a good horror movie, something cool, scary, or just out there. That said, to me, a great movie is a great movie, and it doesn’t matter the genre. I love movies of all genres. A great script makes for a great movie. It could be “Cruella,” which was amazing, or “The Matrix,” which was amazing. I like good movies. 

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What has been your favorite project so far? And why?

I’ve done a lot of movies, but when I was first starting, way back about 15, 20 years ago, I was doing low-budget movies as an actor, and I would get really excited when I had a big part. I never really did anything that popped, but then I transitioned to directing and writing, and it was back to square one. 

I did some super low-budget movies that I financed, and then I finally got my first “real” movie, BORN BAD. That experience will always be special for me, it was the first time I had real stars in the cast and trucks and trailers, and I was directing. I was 28, young and excited. 

Who has been your favorite celebrity to work with?

It’s hard to say just one, but certainly Mike Tyson, William Shatner, and Bruce Willis. These were all just “wow” moments to me because these guys are super famous screen icons. I grew up watching them. I mean, everybody did that’s around my age, so that was huge! And I made sure to get selfies!

You’ve also done some acting. Do you prefer to be behind the camera or in front of it?

I grinded for years and years as an actor. I lived that life for years, and it was brutal as all hell. The auditions, the rejections, the trying to level up, it’s so hard. Some people have it lucky and break out quickly but not for me. It didn’t happen. 

I still act; I’m in a good movie next month in a supporting role. So, I never officially threw in the acting towel, but I am done with that lifestyle. Actors, it’s hard to make progress unless you are a star name and have clout.

Your book is full of advice about making movies, what would you tell someone trying to get into the business?

That is what the book is all about, but one thing I’ll say is to learn everything you can. You can no longer just do one thing, like simply direct. You need to be able to shoot, edit, etc., and you need to know how to connect with people. 

You need to be able to reach out, consider yourself a one-person business, you’re the producer, the filmmaker, and you need to bring things to the table for people to want to work with you. You have to immerse yourself in the industry, and if you think you can just make a short and blow it up unless you get into Sundance, you’ve got a reality check coming. 

You’ve got to storm the industry, ram your flag poles into the dirt, shove scripts down people’s throats and burn the boats because if you want to flee due to the excruciating mental pain of years of idleness, you will flee. This business is not easy. It’s not even hard. It’s damn near impossible. My book gets further into it. 

What would be your dream movie to direct? Which actors do you hope to work with one day?

Denzel Washington in an “Equalizer,” “Training Day” type movie, or a script that’s some sort of wish fulfillment. I have a project. It’s about a longevity experiment gone bad. Denzel or Leonardo DiCaprio would be the ultimate apex of stardom. Those two guys are Hollywood’s elite; I’d love to be sitting at that table working with them. 

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What are you working on now?

I’m gearing up to do two movies. One is an action thriller, possibly shooting in the Dominican Republic, and then “Lord of the Streets 2,” which is a gritty fight movie. I’m rewriting the script, getting studio notes, and then implementing them. It’s a process! It never ends.

For more information about Jared Cohn and his upcoming works, please visit: 

  1. www.JaredCohn.com
  2. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1714788/
  3. @jaredcohn1
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