I haven’t had the pleasure of soaking in knowledge from an entertainment industry veteran since interviewing Leslie Jordan. As someone who is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when it comes to covering the entertainment industry, I was overjoyed to hear that Bruce Reisman of FourTwoFive Films wanted to sit down and talk to me. As you’ll read, Bruce has an extensive resume, is not afraid to tell it like it is, and fighting to regain a foothold in the new face of Hollywood that’s filled with reality tv celebrities and younger faces.
Bruce Reisman and his FourTwoFive Films partner, Kris Black, recently completed the thriller, The House That Jack Built, featuring Joe Mantegna and Gail O’Grady; which Bruce directed and co-wrote with Kris. It had its world premiere at the ArcLight Theatre in Hollywood on July 14, 2009 (see also “Interview with…Kris Black…“). Their current film projects include Five Good Years (see also “…Kris Black photo shoot…“) in tandem with recently announced Boarding School 3-D (see also- “Ifelicious Exclusive: FourTwoFive Films Moves Forward On Boarding School 3-D“).
Pull up a chair, grab a pen and paper and take it in…
Ifelicious: I read that you do not audition people when casting. Is that true?
Bruce: I never audition people. To me it’s a waste of time just like I think acting classes are a waste of time…There’s nothing wrong with acting workshops where actors can go and do scenes and perform and flex their muscles, but you can’t teach someone how to be an actor. It’s a God given talent. I was an actor myself. I got away with it. I got hired. I just wasn’t very good.
Ifelicious: How do you know that a person’s got it?
Bruce: I’ll tell ya. I’ve been doing this for 40 years. I’ve been doing it since I was 12 years old.
Ifelicious: Since you were a baby? (I say with a smile)
Bruce: Since I was a baby (laughs). Over 40 years, and I directed a lot of plays. I’ve directed films. I’ve been a producer of television series, and everybody knows, it’s a little club secret…It doesn’t matter what he [or she] does… They walk in, there’s something that the director sees in their eyes and goes, “That’s who I want to play that part!” That’s how people get cast 90 percent of the time. I don’t use a casting director. I use a lawyer to make the deals. I skip all that time. I don’t think it’s necessary. I cast on my own. I could look at you and go yes or no.
Ifelicious: Do you think your approach as you’ve defined it is different than what most people are doing in the industry now?
Bruce: I’ll give you a perfect example. Look at Judd Apatow’s movies. He uses all the same people. He knows what he’s going to get. Also, there’s a new crop of Hollywood. You’re going to get letters. I’m very outspoken about this…The bar has been lowered as far as talent. You don’t have to be good to be famous anymore.
Ifelicious: Oh, I know. Thanks to reality tv.
Bruce: Reality tv, but even in LA, in Hollywood you don’t have to have a theatrical resume…I would not book any actor that’s never done a play…They will never be in any of my movies because that’s the real test.
Ifelicious: What about it makes it the real test for you?
Bruce: You have to go through the rehearsal process, it’s unglamorous, you put your own makeup on, you rehearse for five weeks, you have to get to the theater at 6:30, you have to do a performance from beginning to end, and the audience lets you know. It’s the true testament of the actor…I do a lot of lectures. I go back to my alma mater Cal State Northridge, and I talk to the actors, and the first thing I say…is, “I think all of you should go home because the chances of you being successful as an actor or actress in Hollywood is next to nothing.”
Ifelicious: Yes, but everybody dreams the same way they dream about basketball.
Bruce: They do, but it’s not fair because there isn’t enough work. That’s number one, and these acting teachers charge them an enormous amounts of money, and I’ve gone to be a guest at acting classes where you’d see people perform, and they’re awful, and the acting coach would say, “Bravo! Oh, you’re fantastic!” Well, the reason they do that, if they tell them they’re bad, they’ll quit the class and they won’t pay them a monthly fee.
Ifelicious: (jokingly) Ok, Simon Cowell! You’re going to tell it to them straight.
Bruce: I would tell it to them straight. Absolutely, but it’s my opinion. I could be wrong. I mean, not everybody agrees with me. It’s ok, but if I’m making my own movies, I make decisions about who’s going to be in my movie, and that’s how I cast, but I have a whole feeling about the motion picture industry now, and some of it is based on bitterness. You know, I’ve faced ageism. It’s a detriment to have my resume. You have to be young and hip and all that instead which is why I took on a young partner.
Ifelicious: That was one of the things we talked about before offline. I was floored that this is the case in Hollywood. I would think someone with your experience would be sharp enough to sit in a cafe and listen to conversation to stay current.
Bruce: It’s not about knowing. They’re going to hire their friends. They’re going to hire their own age group. We did it, too. I know writers that can’t get a job that have written 500 hours, literally, of television. They can’t get a job writing a screenplay because they’re over 50.
Bruce: I’m 58. I’m considered a dinosaur. That’s why I formed my own company. I would never work in LA if I didn’t form my own company. I’d rather do it anyway. I get to punch my own clock. I have no bosses, and we’re going to be successful. We’ve been successful. We’ve done one movie. We’ll do another one. Most people believe the way I do about actors and the new Hollywood. They just won’t say it. I’ll say it because I can’t get hurt.
Ifelicious: Right, this is your own company.
Bruce: This is my company, and I’m not saying anything that’s really bad, but by the same token, there are people who have never acted before that they have the magic and they’re great.
Ifelicious: That’s talent.
Bruce: It’s talent, yes. I went to a party a few months ago, and there was karaoke, and this girl gets up, not professional in any way and sings like Judy Garland. Like a bird….She could be like a major star. She doesn’t want to be. She’s a lawyer! Inside of everybody, in some people not everybody, is that gift.
Ifelicious: I think that everybody has a gift.
Ifelicious: It’s more finding out what it is and whether or not you discover it in your lifetime.
Bruce: I wanted to be an actor so bad, and I’ve had experience on the stage. I got hired a lot when I was in my twenties, but I stunk. I was not good, and that’s why I quit. I was bad.
Ifelicious: It’s amazing that you’re willing to be that honest.
Bruce: I knew I was bad because I felt it when I was acting. First of all, I’d walk into an audition and I’d be trembling. I’d have to take tranquilizers before I went into an audition. It wasn’t natural for me. This is natural. As you can see, I won’t shut up.
Ifelicious: No, no! I completely understand and relate to by finding what’s natural. So you say to yourself, “I can’t act,” then what?
Bruce: I started as a writer…I wrote my first script for Lost In Space when I was 12, the original tv series, and I wrote scripts on and off. I was doing my own plays, directing my own plays, producing my own plays in my early twenties and I was working as a producer/writer on Chips when I was 23…I went to school with Larry Wilcox who played Baker, blond guy on Chips. He knew I was a writer and he asked me if I would write a script with him, and I did and we sold it, and so I came on board with him as a writer. Then from there I went and worked on The Fall Guy, Lee Major’s show. I was a contract writer at 20th Century Fox for Glen Larson who taught me a lot. He was genius at production and writing…He created Quincy. He created Knight Rider. That’s how famous he was… After my term at 20th Century Fox, I went over to Columbia where I worked on TJ Hooker with William Shatner, and then I went from there over to a series in the late eighties early nineties called Tour of Duty which was a Vietnam show. I was very proud to be a part of that, and I was mentored on the show by an Academy Award winning producer named Ronald L. Schwary. He produced the movie Ordinary People. He was my boss and he taught me everything there was to know about producing and writing and directing. He now does Medium…Then after that, it started to dry up in the mid nineties and I started script doctoring work. I sold some movies of the week for Lifetime, and then heading into 2000 it really dried up, and that’s when I decided to write a novel and I wrote a novel.
Ifelicious: You did?
Ifelicious: Now that I didn’t know at all, so tell me more about that.
Bruce: You want to know about my novel? That’s a whole other conversation.
Ifelicious: Well, at least give me the name.
Bruce: It’s called The Absence of Quinn and it covers a young man’s life from the day he’s conceived to his 32nd birthday.
Ifelicious: Well, that’s on my reading list now.
Bruce: It’s not out. I’d have to give it to you to read.
Ifelicious: Wait, you said you stopped and wrote a book, but you didn’t publish it?
Bruce: I didn’t publish it.
Bruce: Well, nobody wanted to publish it…It takes years to go up the ladder of a publishing company, and we got close and then they’d get lazy on it. People like it, but it’s very hard to get a book published unless you’re a celebrity. I think what we’re planning on doing is after a couple of movies are done…I’m going to film it…and then the novel will come out after the movie.
Ifelicious: Any advice to other independent filmmakers out there that are aspiring to get to your place?
Bruce: Control the money, and make sure if you have a bank account that you have two signatures required, and I mean that because the money can disappear. You must have at least two signatures on your motion picture account, have good accounting, have a great lawyer- a really good lawyer, and trust no one, totally. I mean it sounds cynical.
Ifelicious: I know! I thought you would end your advice with “Go for your dreams!”
Bruce: I would tell most people that haven’t done it before and don’t have the experience, try to pick something else because it’s a really hard life, but if it’s in your heart, if it’s all you can do. Stick with it. That’s what I did. I have a father to this day, 85 years old says to me “When are you going to get a real job?” and I literally see him all the time, God love him because he sees the trials and tribulations that I still go through. He did not want me to be a writer. He did not want me to go into show business but that’s all I wanted to do.
Ifelicious: Now, that’s good advice, too.
Bruce: Never give up, but there’s going to come a time if you’re young, if you don’t get a gig. If you’re an actor and you come out here when you’re 22, and at 35 you’re still waiting tables and you want to be a leading man or leading lady. It’s not going to happen.
Ifelicious: Any other advice?
Bruce: Anyone out for a lot of money in this business whether they’re actors, writers, directors, producers, remember it is a gift and a blessing every time any one of us gets to walk on a set and gets any kind of a paycheck.
- FourTwoFive Films Bruce Reisman talks about film “Five Good Years.” Taryn Manning and Jerry Ferrara to join cast.
- FourTwoFive Films Bruce Reisman speaks out on why Jason Wahler is no longer on cast of Five Good Years
- FourTwoFive Films looks to cast Kathy Bates in Five Good Years
- Behind the scenes look at Kris Black photo shoot for Men’s Health