Richard Bakewell, Writer-Director-Cinematographer-Episode #282

Feb 13, 2024 | 0 comments

“…people don’t come to your door and say, hey, I got a movie for you. Here’s a million dollars. Go make it. You have to do it yourself and find a way to make that project. And if you don’t do it, it’ll never happen. And then you’ll just be this person later in life who complains about, well, I could have done this if I had money, but you just have to find a way.”

Writer-director Richard Bakewell is a veteran cinematographer and television camera operator who has worked with major media figures like Gordon Ramsay and Oprah Winfrey, and on noted TV docuseries such as Cops, Last Chance U, and Cheer.

Richard has written and directed the feature film, Roswell Delirium, as a response to both his own journey back from PTSD and the global response to the 2020 pandemic.  The film stars 1980’s legends like Anthony Michael Hall, Lisa Whelchel, Dee Wallace, Reginald Vel Johnson, and Sam Jones. I’ve seen Roswell Delirium and can tell you it’s a complex story set in the 1980s that explores the emotional depths of a strong-willed young woman driven to uncover her own truth, even as she faces her own destruction.



Read the Podcast Transcript

Steve Cuden: On today’s StoryBeat:

Richard Bakewell: Don’t stop. I kind of got inspired by Stallone, you know, years ago, who made Rocky, and, you know, he fought to keep himself in the movie, to be the actor in the movie, and they wanted to put somebody else in the movie, and he wanted to do it himself. They wouldn’t let him do it at first, but he fought and he saw it through, but he wrote it, and he was the actor in the movie. And it really inspired me, and that’s why I have worked so hard to make my own projects, because people don’t come to your door and say, hey, I got a movie for you. Here’s a million dollars. Go make it. You have to do it yourself and find a way to make that project. And if you don’t do it, it’ll never happen. And then you’ll just be this person later in life who complains about, well, I could have done this if I had money, but you just have to find a way.

Announcer: This is StoryBeat with Steve Cuten, a podcast for the creative mind. StoryBeat explores how masters of creativity develop and produce brilliant works that people everywhere love and admire. So join us as we discover how. Talented creators find success in the worlds of imagination and entertainment. Here now is your host, Steve Cuden.

Steve Cuden: Thanks for joining us on StoryBeat. We’re coming to you from the Steel City, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My guest today, writer director Richard Blakewell, is a veteran cinematographer and television camera operator who’s worked with major media figures like Gordon Ramsay and Oprah Winfrey, and on noted tv docuseries such as cops. Last Chance, you and Cheer. Richard has written and directed the feature film Roswell Delirium as a response to both his own journey back from PTSD and the global response to the 2020 pandemic. The film stars 1980s legends like Anthony Michael Hall, Lisa Welchel D. Wallace, Reginald Vel Johnson, and Sam Jones. I’ve seen Roswell Delirium and can tell you it’s a complex story set in the 1980s that explores the emotional depths of a strong willed young woman driven to uncover her own truth even as she faces her own destruction. I highly recommend you check out Roswell delirium. So for all those reasons and many more, it’s a truly great pleasure for me to welcome the multitalented Richard Bakewell to StoryBeat today. Richard, welcome to the show.

Richard Bakewell: Great. Thank you for having me.

Steve Cuden: Oh, it’s a great pleasure to have you on board.

How old were you when you first started paying attention to moving images

So let’s go back in time just a little bit. How old were you when you first started paying attention to moving images,

Richard Bakewell: I would say, like, four or five. My dad took me to see Star wars, and I wasn’t really sure how things worked. I thought people were actually alive on the screen. I didn’t know there was just, like, a tv projector in the theater, so I thought those were real people the entire time, and I was just hooked. At four years old, I had every Star wars figure, and then it just kind of went on to Empire and back to the future, and I just knew that’s the kind of road I wanted to go down, that’s making movies and everything.

Steve Cuden: So you were mesmerized early on?

Richard Bakewell: Oh, very much so. I was the weird kid who always watched too much tv. My mom would be like, you watch way too much tv. I’m like, well, I think looking back, maybe. But I also was kind of, like, learning how things work, and that’s what I wanted. I was kind of, like, learning the craft at a very early age because when I was, like, 13, I was making home, movies and editing stuff that I put together. So I was already doing little projects at 1314. So I think I was always just kind of, like, absorbing what I was watching for later on.

Steve Cuden: Did you get training anywhere at some point?

Richard Bakewell: Yeah. So I went to Columbia college, in Chicago, and I went there for directing, but then realized quickly that people who had graduated were still, kind of doing the lowest job possible. Four years out of school, and I’m like, well, I can’t really, afford to live like that and be making $100 a day. So I decided to kind of go into cinematography and learn a trade. That way, I would have something to do until I got those directing jobs, because they don’t just hand you a directing job. You have to spend your time and earn your keep before you actually even get called upon to do that, unless you’re super rich. Yeah, you can buy your own, movie m or role that way. Yeah, exactly. But I am not. So I come from a very humble lifestyle.

You’ve also written and directed. But you started as a camera guy

Steve Cuden: so you became a camera guy. I mean, ultimately, you’ve also written and directed. We’ll talk about that in a bit. But you started as a camera guy or what sometimes are lovingly referred to as gearheads.

Richard Bakewell: oh, yes.

Steve Cuden: And so when did your fascination with cameras begin? It wasn’t at the same time.

Richard Bakewell: I think my friend had this weird old school camera called a PXL 2000. It shot black and white on a cassette tape, and it was this weird, like, $200 toy that they sold to kids and when I saw that, we just recorded everything and we would just watch it every day. And it’s always filming something. So I think about 1415. I was really just playing with all the cameras. And then when I graduated high school, my mom bought me a camera for my present. So I just started filming everything that I could possibly film. Any experience in the dorms that we were at. anytime we were out and about having a good time in a party, just filming that too. It’s always documenting everything.

Steve Cuden: So cinematography, as I don’t have to tell you, is all about light. And then what do you get in the frame and so on, and various other technical or chemical elements to it. What do you think about it that fascinated you? Was it the imagery itself or was it the technology what fascinated you the most?

Richard Bakewell: I think for me it was just the storytelling aspect. It’s like I have the power to tell a story, whether it’s someone doing something really stupid or something really funny or serious. And capturing that moment in time. It was amazing just to always have that to go back on and look at. So I think just the ability to tell a story, whether it was a moment in time with my friends or something that I was doing as like a little script that I wrote and wanted to film it, I think it just because video and movies, they’re there forever. They don’t go away. They’re always around. So it’s like that’s always a staple point in life.

Steve Cuden: I think you’re making a wonderful point, which is that I think many people think that other than the writer and director, no one else is a storyteller on the set, not even the actors or storytellers. It’s the director and the writer. But in fact, as a cinematographer, you are a storyteller, correct?

Richard Bakewell: Oh, you totally are. I mean, you see everything through your eyes. And it’s like, sure that you need the right lenses and cameras and lighting, but it’s also how you compress the images into the frame. It’s like, what are you showing the audience in that moment? I really learned doing, a lot of verte shooting in my younger days, how to tell a story and almost know when to go and pan over it and get the other shot. It’s like, oh, we had one time this person on cops who was, like, about 85 years old, and he was drunk driving and pulling, him out of the car. And I didn’t show it right away, but he was wearing a cheerleader outfit. But I didn’t reveal that at first. I just kept it very tight. So when he started walking away, I just kind of, like, zoomed in and tilted down to his skirt, and people just thought that was hilarious. But it’s like you really can just make people feel a certain way by how the camera moves all the time.

Steve Cuden: Well, how fascinating, because truthfully, what you just said was, it’s not always what you show, but frequently what you don’t show and then reveal.

Richard Bakewell: Exactly. Yeah, it’s like the reveal. The reveal is very important, too. A lot of times, it’s like you don’t always want to give things away. It’s like, it’s good to kind of lead up to something, and it’s like, well, I know this is going to be a good laugh somewhere, so I’m just going to wait, hold on until there’s the right moment, and then that’s when I zoomed in on them.

Steve Cuden: A lot of time has gone by in the making of movies over 100 years, and early on, people would show you what they meant to show you, unless it was violent or sexual, and then it would be off camera. So again, you’re leaving that to the imagination of the audience. But in fact, time has changed all that, where we now see most everything, don’t we?

Richard Bakewell: Oh, yeah, we sure do. So we get information way too fast nowadays, so I think we’ve become so numb to everything that we see anymore. It’s really crazy how the world’s changing.

You directed your first feature film about nine years ago

Steve Cuden: So how long did you work as a cinematographer before you felt like, yes, I really am good at this.

Richard Bakewell: I probably worked, as a cinematographer for, like, ten years, and then I directed my first feature film, like, about eight to nine years ago, and it’s still, to take on the reins of a feature film is very difficult because we had, like, police cars, we had gun effects, we had child actors and animals in the movie. So fake rain. So all the things that you shouldn’t do in a first movie. I was doing it all because I was like, well, if we’re going to fail, we might as well fail very big and maybe have a little fun.

Steve Cuden: At the same time.

Richard Bakewell: Oh, yeah, we had fun. We got, like, this crazy dog. And to do some amazing tricks in the movie. It’s like, wow. It’s like all these great moments you capture, and then you learn, okay, well, the dog is not responding to the actor, so we cannot do this close up shot with the actor. So we’re going to pull the actor out, take his shirt, and put it on the dog trainer, and then that way we’ll get those shots, because that’s the only way the dog is responding to the animal trainer. So it’s like you learn those little things pretty quick, and then you just start to really develop your acting, skills with your other fellow actors, how to really address everything and how to bring them along the journey.

Steve Cuden: Well, I’ve made one movie with a dog as a costar, and so I get it. I understand. And you really are depending on that trainer and how well trained that dog is.

Richard Bakewell: Oh, yeah. And for us, the dog was just so hyper, wouldn’t calm down. And I’m like, a scene that should have taken him like an hour, took like 3 hours. And I’m like, oh, boy, we’re losing so much time because this dog, he just couldn’t handle all the people. He just didn’t know how to adjust to all the people in the room. So then we had to pull everybody out. It’s all these things you just learn because it’s like no one tells you how to work with a dog. You have to figure it out yourself.

Steve Cuden: The dog that I had was the least complaining actor on set. That dog didn’t complain about anything.

Richard Bakewell: Right, exactly.

Let’s talk about your process as a DP for this period

Steve Cuden: So let’s go through a bit of your process as a DP. We’re going to get down the road here. We’re going to get to directing and writing. But let’s talk about cinematography for this period. When you receive a script or a documentary concept that you’re going to go shoot either of those, what is it that you start to do? Do you immediately form visuals in your head as you’re reading it, or where do you start?

Richard Bakewell: Well, I think after the first read, I start to visualize where this is going to take place, what are the locations, and then just kind of breaking down. Okay, maybe these read some good shots here, good shots there. really just a, full lighting plan, too. A lot of times when you’re doing a movie, you have to really, even though you have a director who might be great, a lot of times they don’t know how to tell the DP what they want, so they let you just figure it out. And it’s like, well, you’re not really collaborating with me. You’re just letting me do what I think I should do, but you’re not telling me what to do.

Steve Cuden: Which do you prefer? Do you prefer to be told what to do, or do you prefer to be left alone?

Richard Bakewell: I like to kind of be left alone, but also have an idea of where you want to go visually with lighting the look, I don’t want to have to depend on myself to make every decision as a DP. As a director, that’s fine. But as a DP, I need someone to kind of say, this is a reference. Look at this movie for that reference, or look at that lighting plan for this reference. This is what I am thinking, and then I can build on that. But if I don’t have a guideline, I can’t really do much with it, but do what I think.

Can you tell when you start to work with a director that perhaps their background is not extensive

Steve Cuden: Can you tell when you start to work with a director that perhaps their background is not, that deep in lighting and camera and that you’re going to have a little bit of a time getting that out of them?

Richard Bakewell: Well, I’ve had that before in the past where I’ve done some commercials and, other projects, music videos, and they just kind of, like, sat back at video village and didn’t really get much of an input. It’s like, oh, okay. So I guess whatever I’m doing is fine, but they’re not really telling me anything different. And I just kind of, like, started directing, even not getting the credit for it. But I was directing the set and the actors because they were just too busy staring at a monitor. And I’m like, well, you’re not really helping. You’re just kind of watching a live show I need you to be there with out there. But they just wanted to sit back and watch it all happen, so I don’t think they really knew what to do. And a lot of times people get thrown into that position, and then it’s like, you have to help them along the way because it also affects your job too.

Steve Cuden: Well, sure, because you don’t want to be, attached to a movie that doesn’t work at all.

Richard Bakewell: Yeah. And you have to really, a lot of times when you’re doing a smaller project, you have to really lift people up because a lot of times, people don’t have the experience or the knowledge. When you have time, kind of babysit them. And this is how you do things, even simple things like feeding the crew. It’s like, well, you have to make sure we break at a certain amount of hours. We can’t go 10 hours and not eat. We have to keep going. We have to be refueled. So there’s all these little things you have to tell people along the way.

Steve Cuden: Well, they’re relying on you because you’re experienced, and maybe they’re not so much right.

Richard Bakewell: And it’s like, it’s a fine dance, too, because you don’t want to be the difficult person on set because they don’t know a lot. And then you have to slowly say, hey, look, you kind of messed up yesterday when you told everybody we were done, and then we had to unpack everything and rebuild it again. It’s like, you can’t really keep doing that. That’s like, maybe one time ever. But you cannot do a false wrap. You have to really know when you’re done for the day.

Steve Cuden: That can be tricky, can’t it?

Richard Bakewell: Oh, yeah, it’s very tricky. And there’s a lot of situations and people who work in the business on the cruise side, we get very temperamental at times because we work so hard and we don’t sleep a lot. sometimes people can just overreact by having to move some lights around, and it’s like, because they don’t want to do it. Oh, the lights were already in place, so people have to really tread lightly on a production. It’s like there’s so many egos and things happening that aren’t always perfect, and you have to just try to help keep the ship going all the time.

Once a project is green light, what steps do you take to prepare

Steve Cuden: All right, so once you are on a project and it’s a full green light and you know you’re going into production, what are the steps that you start to take toward preparing for the shoot? Where do you begin? Is it breaking down the script first, or do you, start to gather people and equipment? Where do you begin?

Richard Bakewell: Well, for me, I start to break down the script. I kind of go scene by scene. I like to just kind of go through it all, figure out, okay, this is going to be a challenge. It might have some visual effects here. This might be something, where we have a lot of inserts to shoot, and we might have an actor for only a few hours. So we’ll just have someone else do the inserts with hands and use their wardrobe. There’s all these little things you start to worry about because you’re trying to also protect everybody on, set, the director, everybody. For me, it’s like, okay, what camera are we going to use? That’s very important. And then what lenses are we going to use, too? What kind of look do we want? Do we want something very vintage, very clean, very videoy? How do we want this movie to look or this project to look? So, for me, it’s like starting to kind of take an idea of how everything should look and what tools, and then from there, watch other previous commercials movies to get an idea of that is what I want to do. That’s the kind of, look, I want to achieve in this project.

Steve Cuden: So, that’s aided if a director has a vision already and says to you get XYZ movies or tv shows or whatever, and that gives you a clue as to what you need to do versus you having to figure it out on your own.

Richard Bakewell: Exactly. And hopefully, when you have a good director, it’s like, oh, my God, it’s amazing, because then they know what they want. Exactly. All you have to do is just work together, and then you just kind of offer ideas because a lot of times they know exactly what they want. It’s like, oh, this is how it should be. You have it all figured out in your head where a lot of people don’t. They just show up and figure it out there. And I’m like, that’s not really, a good plan because you’re losing time that way. You have to come in prepared beforehand. When I direct, I have shot lists, I have everything broken down. I have even the lens choices. I mean, I know everything I want based on the script. So it’s like a lot of people just walk in and it’s like, well, whatever you want to do. And I’m like, well, that’s not a good solution. You have to really be thoughtful and have a plan because you have to go from one scene to the next, and you don’t have the luxury of 13 to 18 hours. You have 12 hours, usually, to shoot something. That’s it.

Having an ad who knows the time schedule is very crucial for DP

Steve Cuden: Once you’re on set, the person I assume that you spend a lot of time interacting with beyond the director, which I assume that you spend plenty of time with them.

Richard Bakewell: Sure.

Steve Cuden: but would then be either your first AC, your first camera person and or the first assistant director. Those are the people you would mostly interact with, I would assume.

Richard Bakewell: Oh, yeah, like, the first know, very crucial. And having them just have all the gear and know how to build it, put it, know, and just really work with the second. Then, you know, always kind of knowing. I do a lot of shoots for Subaru as the DP, so having an ad who kind of knows the time schedule and always working with him be like, hey, how long do I have until you need us? What is my actual time frame and what is the wish list of how long I have? that’s very crucial. And also, the gaffer is so important because a lot of times you’re lighting celebrities, you’re lighting older people, and you have to really put up diffusion, certain lights, and it’s like you have to work closely with them to make sure that everything is balanced, and you’re not just wasting time and letting the gaffer do whatever he wants. It’s like, well, we’re never going to see that way. This is the way we’re going to look only so don’t worry about that world. Worry about this world. This little box right here. The gaffer is probably second to the ad as far as the importance level for me because we’re always working, talking together, even when I’m handling stuff with a camera. I’m going back to the gaffer and seeing how far they are to help the ad coordinate the whole day, more or less.

Steve Cuden: If you don’t plan out your day, you really run into trouble quickly, don’t you?

Richard Bakewell: Right then your day becomes like, okay, that shot’s gone. That shot’s gone. And that looks bad on you that you can’t make your day. And usually whenever I’ve worked on a project, we’ve always kind of gone, finished earlier or we added more shots that weren’t on the schedule. So I like to work fast and efficient, and I think that comes from my first few years doing reality tv. it made me really think quickly. It’s like you don’t have time to really think everything out. So there you just really rapid think over and over again. So I think that helped me a lot for doing narrative projects where I would already have everything mapped out. So when people ask me, there’s no pause. It’s like I already have a decision made up about what we’re going to do next.

Steve Cuden: So producers must love you then.

Richard Bakewell: Oh, they do, yes, they definitely love me. So you hire the best people to support you, make yourself look good, but also to make them look good too, because we’re not ever trying to work against each other. It’s like we’re trying to achieve the same goal and the same project together to have a success. We don’t want a failure. And sometimes you work hard and things don’t turn out, but you want it to be the best it possibly can.

Steve Cuden: The audience has no idea. There are 1000 people trying to pull together the one thing. And you’re really all trying to tell the same story, aren’t you?

Richard Bakewell: Right. We’re trying to tell the same story and try to do it in a timely fashion, too. It’s like we work so hard just to create, like, a false moment in time. And it’s so important to really capture it and to have the right tools and make it look the best it absolutely can.

A lot of producers are secretive about budget on motion picture productions

Steve Cuden: What is it that you want or need from producers. That would be helpful if every producer gave that to you.

Richard Bakewell: Well, I think a lot of times, they like to dance around the idea of the budget. It’s like, well, if you were just completely straightforward with me about how much money we could spend, that would allow me to pull favors and get you better shots. I could get a steady cam person here this day, or maybe that day. But they’re always so secretive about the budget. They always say, oh, we’re over budget. But I’m like, well, what production is not over budget? Of course you want to come under, but they never really are truthful about how much money we can really spend. It’s like, well, if you give us a couple of thousand more on this day, I can give you a jib. I know someone who can bring it in for a certain price, but they always wanted to keep that information secretive. So it really would be helpful if they would just be honest about, this is what we have, and we can work with you on, and this is what we can go over on.

Steve Cuden: Interesting. So it’s a question of whether everything has been laid out on the table for you or whether you have to sometimes fight for things, I assume, right?

Richard Bakewell: And sometimes you fight, but then you realize, wow, they had more money than we thought. Because I remember I was doing this one show last year. It was like a two person interview with Missy Elliott, and I’m like, oh, I fought to get all these other tools for this shoot because we had five cameras that we had to have together for, two close ups on each and a wide shot. And then you go inside to the, studio and you realize, look at all these producers that are here. People flew from all these different states to be here, but I had to fight to get a second monitor. It’s like, wow, okay. You see how it works? I’m like, so there is money, but you’re just not going to give it to us. We’re the ones who suffer.

Steve Cuden: You’re not saying that sometimes people on, motion picture productions are cheap, are you?

Richard Bakewell: Oh, I would never say that. No, but I will. Yeah, no. It seems like the crew side and the gears where they always try to shortchange everything. It’s like, well, I think just give us the tools because we’re going to make you look the best as you be. It’s like, if I don’t have a second monitor, I’m not going to be able to see all the other cameras.

Steve Cuden: How often, then does it happen where you’re dealing with people that just unfortunately don’t know what your job is and don’t understand what your needs are, so they don’t think of what it is that you need in the first place.

Richard Bakewell: Well, I think, that is probably like a 70 30. So 70% of the time, they don’t know.

Steve Cuden: They don’t understand what it is you do. So they can’t guess in advance what it is that you’ll need, because they don’t know what you need.

Richard Bakewell: No. And some people, I have some clients who will just throw money at something. They don’t know what to do, so they just throw money at it. And I’m like, well, that doesn’t really help. It’s like, you can let me get all the gear that I want, but I need the people to operate it. I have a, few productions where we might have multiple locations. And I’m like, well, here’s the thing. We need people to drive, like, minivans or vehicles for us. We can’t be worrying about our cars and going back and forth. We’re going to be going to four locations in a day. We need someone to transport us. It’s very important to have those tools in effect, like four pas for four cars to take us along the way so we’re not wasting time trying to find our car. So there’s, like, 40 cars going on a production instead of, like four or five. Instead.

Having multiple cameras really slows you down when shooting a movie or TV show

Steve Cuden: You already spoke, or mentioned a shot list. Or shot lists, right. which is something that you do with a director. I assume that most of the time it’s with the director.

Richard Bakewell: Sure.

Steve Cuden: So, for the listeners that don’t know, tell us, what is a shot list? What is its purpose?

Richard Bakewell: Well, the shot list is to basically break down each scene. So a lot of times when you watch a, scene in a movie or tv show, it’s like a few close ups and a wide shot. That’s pretty much what you see. And for the importance of the shot list is to kind of break down each scene. So then, you know, how many shots we are allowed to do per scene? It’s like, okay, well, this is a scene that takes 1 minute of time, screen time. So we’re only going to allow, like, four or five shots total. That’s it. And then we have to kind of make a marker of a wet shot. Can we lose if we’re about behind time? And really, it’s like telling, the director and myself, it’s like, okay, well, we need two close ups here. Maybe two takes on this one, maybe, only one take on this camera. And then maybe one this wide shot of the first two minutes of the scene. We were just kind of breaking down each scene as it happens. And then sometimes, for a shot list, you have other factors. Like you have multiple cameras going. You have to kind of factor in. Or you have a jib or steady cam. And so you have to really be efficient, with your time. But the shot list will help you kind of like build, your scene. And then so you’re not wasting all this time worrying about, oh, lighting. M moving things around. And it helps you really look at the perspective of like, okay, well, we’re going to start in the wide shot. And then we’re going to go close up, close up, close up. And then maybe if we have time, a dolly shot. And then inserts if we need them. So it really helps you kind of build the scene and the time frame.

Steve Cuden: Is it more complicated for you when you have multiple cameras to light it and to prepare it? Or is it actually more complicated to have a single camera set up?

Richard Bakewell: Single camera is easy because you’re only looking one way. And then when usually you’re having like two to five cameras, you’re kind of now going into a 180 world, or sometimes 270. So you’re seeing a whole lot more. And then you’re flagging off, so much light. And then you have to compensate and you’re losing. And then some lights have to be hung. And so no longer can they be on the ground. I mean, there’s just a lot of factors. Having multiple cameras really slows you down. It’s good for coverage, but also it really eats into time. Because you have to almost have a 180 all the time. So that way, you can do sometimes two people talking at the same time, having a conversation. And that just really eats, up a lot of lighting time. Because then it’s like, well, they look great, but they look terrible. So now it’s like, how do we fix that? And you’re always adjusting. Putting the floppy up or putting up some diffusion. But it’s complex. But you have to really work so close with your gaffer to achieve the multiple camera situation.

Steve Cuden: Explain for those who don’t know what you meant by 180.

Richard Bakewell: So, basically, 180 is like the line of filming. like you don’t break the one and 180 rule.

Steve Cuden: I always say it’s almost like the proceedium arch, right?

Richard Bakewell: So here’s this straight line. And that we see. It’s basically like half. We’re seeing half of. If there are four walls, we’re seeing half of that to break it down that way. when you’re multi camera, sometimes you’re seeing three out of four walls. So that really just eats into your lighting world because now you can’t hide things like you could before. So by giving up even this 180, like, you’re really just having to compress shots and really having to really fine tune the lighting and waste almost double the time to get multiple camera coverage.

Can you share with us an experience in which a director made your life easier

Steve Cuden: Can you share with us an experience in which a director made your life a lot easier? What do you want out of a director that makes your life better?

Richard Bakewell: I think for, like, I did, cheer a couple years ago, and I was basically flown down to do the big competition because a lot of us that were flown down had done last chance you for a few seasons. So the director, Greg Whitley, he basically had, another camera person film the rehearsals of their performances. And we basically had to watch the video over and over again and then figure out what our shots were going to be. So we were on some very long lenses, and I had like, 34 marks to hit in a two minute time span. So I had to go from this person across the stage, go back to the middle, find this person over here, stage left, and go back and forth. But I had to hit 34 marks in a two minute time span.

Steve Cuden: Wow.

Richard Bakewell: But he had it all broken down and it was really helpful. So for me, it was like, I watched the video, we talked about it over and over again. And then, having him be so prepared, it helped me learn the, routine and then keep it down to a dance. Like, here we are backstage. I would have this whole little thing in my head. I would just say out loud to myself when I was filming, because you’re snapping back and forth and grabbing a shot for three, 4 seconds and then going on to something else, someone jumping across stage and doing a flip. And he was just so prepared. And we had, I think, nine cameras on that. And it really just saved time because if we were out there filming by ourselves without any rehearsal, footage to look at, we would have never gotten the coverage that we did. It looks beautiful when you watch it all cut together because we hit every moment possible.

Steve Cuden: Nine cameras sounds like a sporting event.

Richard Bakewell: Well, it is. And that show and last chance you. When they film the verite, it’s like two cameras. But when you’re filming the sports aspect, they want every possible thing filmed. The audience, they want the families, other players. So the cameras being spread out and covering everything is really helpful to tell the story, because it is a pretty high value Netflix production, so they really want it to feel like you’re at the game and you’re at the competition. It’s so important to them for that. So they spend the budget on the sports days.

Steve Cuden: Is it impossible to do multiple takes in that circumstance?

Richard Bakewell: With cheer? It’s pretty much impossible, because they’re only allowed to come on stage for that competition moment. So they come on, they compete day one and then day two, and they have a timeline of everybody else coming through the schedule. So if we don’t get it, we miss it. And I remember one camera guy they brought in, he forgot to record, and he was in the pit with everybody, so they lost that shot, and we’re pretty upset about it. And as I was, I. It’s like, you should have said something to wait till it was over. He didn’t know where the button was. He got nervous, and I’m like, you should have said something.

Steve Cuden: He didn’t press the button because he didn’t know where it was. Wow.

Richard Bakewell: So it was a little heartbreaking. You have to speak up. You have to not be embarrassed. You have to say, huh? You know what? I’m sorry. I don’t know this camera as well as I should. Where is the button?

Steve Cuden: In cinema verite, you really don’t get second chances really too often.

Richard Bakewell: Oh, no. I remember doing this documentary years ago. it’s called before I die, with kids doing their bucket list, like a cancer documentary that’s still being filmed. And, I remember the first day I went to this little yurt in Denver, Colorado. The family was celebrating their son, who had died a year ago, and all their friends came out, and I spent, like, 4 hours filming, like, them and out there, and the mom was crying, and the families were crying. And then I put the camera down for, like, I think, ten minutes, and they start talking to me, and then one of the kids best friends goes, hey, last year. Remember what we were doing a year ago? And then they’re like, what? She goes, making tacos. And they all started bawling like crazy. It brought back this emotional moment, because when they were making tacos, he collapsed, and then they had to bring him to the hospital because he was going to not make it. And I missed his beautiful moment. And I’m, like. Because I was having a conversation, trying to get close to the family and attach, and I was like, wow. I never forgot that. I lost a fantastic moment that I’ll never get back.

As a documentarian, you kind of have to be ruthless

Steve Cuden: So as a documentarian, if that’s what, you want to classify yourself at that moment? You kind of almost have to be ruthless, don’t you?

Richard Bakewell: You do. You have to really be ruthless. You have to really stay in there. I mean, I remember, there were times when I filmed cops and, people would look at me and yell at m me to get the camera out of my face. And I’m like, well, I’m not going to back down. So I walked like four or five steps closer to them to be like, look, you’re not going to intimidate me. It’s like you can try to attack me. And some people would attack me and I’d have to fight them off and the cop would hit them, whatever. But it’s like, I’m not going to step down because of you. It’s like, I’m here to film and you’re going have to, to deal with it. You’re not going to tell me what to do out here. So you have to really hold your ground, and be ruthless and really just show your presence out there. Like even, doing other projects where I did intervention too, for a while. And you have to really be delicate when the families are there and they’re crying and upset and their son is an addict and almost has died himself. And yet to really be invisible, you can’t really ever show that you’re there. It’s like you have to be so quiet, like you’re just a fly on the wall. It’s so important. You can’t be even talking to anybody else. You’re just doing your job, filming for hours on end. And then it’s like you’re capturing these moments, but you’re really just a fly on the wall.

Steve Cuden: Do you need people to, sign off on their images that you’re shooting on the fly like that?

Richard Bakewell: Oh, yeah. So when I did cops, my job was kind of like the camera operator producer, because I had to figure out what was the story. And if I didn’t think it was a good story, I would just stop filming and say, we’re done, that’s it. Put the camera away, we’re not going to film this. And then when we get a good story that we think is going to be arable, it’s like the cop puts the guy in the back of the car or whatever, and then it’s like I have to go and talk to them and get the release. So it can take sometimes minutes or it can take quite a while. It’s like just to really work your relationship, you can’t just say, hey, I want your release. Sign this. You have to befriend them and talk to them like the person, because they are a human. They just made some bad mistakes. But you have to also work them and try to get them to want to be on the show. And you tell them, look, this may not make the air, but you’re helping me do my job, and maybe we can help you out a little bit, too.

Steve Cuden: Do you, ever bump into situations where they just won’t sign?

Richard Bakewell: There was a couple, that I won’t mention names, but there was a couple of times where I couldn’t get somebody to sign. They were just not going to let it happen. They were in a gang and they weren’t going to sign. And, the cop told me to walk away. And then when I walked away, I came back, and all of a sudden they wanted to sign. I don’t know what was said, but there was maybe some yelling happening in the background. But, sometimes they have to be convinced to sign.

Steve Cuden: They probably recognize that their fame and fortune was walking away from them.

Richard Bakewell: Exactly. But a lot of times, too, the cops would work with me. It’s like, okay, well, I had one girl who was very combatant, and she beat up her boyfriend, and she was drunk, and we put her in the back of the car, and she was so sad about going to jail. And I was like, well, she doesn’t want to talk to me. And she just keeps telling me to go away. And I said, is there anything that we can do to get her to want to sign this release? And the cop goes, well, I can just give her a citation and then send her home. But then she’d probably go to jail later. So I told her, I said, well, look, if you sign the release, you don’t go to jail tonight. You go home. So she signed it, and I’m sure she went to jail later. She probably did. But it’s like that night she went in her own bed. Part, of the deal is you work out with people, you just kind of make it happen. And it’s nothing like that doesn’t happen. I mean, it happens all the time. Like when you get a DUI, the cop will let you to go. He’ll tow the car away, but you can go home. However, when you go to the court, you’re probably going to go to jail at some point. So it’s like you’re not going to court then or not jail then, but you’re going to go to court later on and go to jail.

You’ve worked on a lot of productions where pressure was heavy

Steve Cuden: So you’ve obviously worked on a lot of productions where the pressure on you was heavy, that you have to deliver on a timely manner, maybe in a dangerous circumstance and all those things. Pressure. What do you do to handle pressure? How do you deflect it or deal with it?

Richard Bakewell: Well, I mean, there’s always pressure. I mean, I remember one, time in Vegas, we were on a standoff for, like, 5 hours. This lady had shot at her husband and tried to kill him because he was cheating on, you know, she kind of barricaded herself in the garage and kept pointing. In the beginning, she was pointing the gun at us. But they wouldn’t shoot her because I was filming it. And they could have easily killed her, but they wouldn’t kill her because I was filming everything, and they don’t want to have that on their hands. and we were on a standoff, and it just kept going on and on. And I’m like, it’s never going to stop. And my sound guy got so scared, I looked over after an hour and he left. He bailed on me.

Steve Cuden: Wow.

Richard Bakewell: I was like, oh, boy. and then it was like, a lot of pressure. More people kept coming, more squad cars, helicopters. And they started bringing, the beanbag gun so they can shoot her with beanbags instead of actual live rounds. And I just remember there was so much stress because that was my first standoff, but I was on my knees the entire time, so my legs had gone numb. So I forgot about the stress that I was under because I couldn’t feel my legs. So they were so numb, I couldn’t even move because she would, like, yell or do something as soon as people start moving out there. And I was like, I can’t even move right now because she’s going to see it or hear me. So I laid there for, like, a while with my legs just dead completely. So it kind of killed my stress level. And then once they shot her with a beanbag, I had to get up. And then I was, like, stumbling because my legs were dead asleep. but I learned to not, let the stress get to me. And that didn’t happen early on when I was doing cops the first two months, I would, like, pray every day and I would almost be nauseous because I thought this could be the day I get shot and killed out here. I didn’t know what was going to be the end result of my day. And I remember after six, seven weeks of being out there with the cops, and, we were on a step, like, kind of like we pulled somebody over with some guns in the car, and I just remember putting gum in my mouth and chewing gum like it was no big deal. I was like, the nerves kind of went away. I just learned to slowly put all that stress away and just focus on my shots.

Steve Cuden: You got used to it in a way.

Richard Bakewell: Yeah, I kind of got, normalized to. It became, like an everyday thing.

Did you then have a technique or something that you did when you went home

Steve Cuden: Did you then have a technique or something that you did at the end of the day when you went home? Did you decompress in some way?

Richard Bakewell: For me, it was like we were pretty spent after a day, so we would just go and look through the footage and submit stuff for stories. And, I usually would just kind of sometimes sit in the shower, for an hour and just let the water hit me and not even think or drive home in complete silence, because on a show like that, you really see the ugly side of the world. There’s so much abuse that happens to children out there in the field, like, things that we never would show, but it’s like. It’s so sad to see, and a lot of times, you don’t want to deal with it. You just don’t want to think about it. So you try to just do things to take your mind off of it. A lot of guys that I worked with, they would do a lot of drugs or drink a lot, but just tried to just clear the mind out, much as I could just take a shower, drive home, and quiet, just find something to silence all the thoughts in my head.

Steve Cuden: Sure. Well, there are all kinds of different methods, right. Yours is to actually decompress by shutting out what you’ve just been through and that helped you to get through it. I mean, obviously, there are people that meditate, as you say. There are people that use drugs or alcohol. there are people who will go to the gym. There’s all kinds of different ways. I find your way quite soothing. I think that you go home and go in the shower, but you kind of need to. Otherwise, you would probably pulling your hair out all the time.

Richard Bakewell: Yeah. I mean, for me, it’s like, I did that show for two years, and I didn’t realize what that show did to me mentally. It really gave me severe ptsd. I wasn’t a cop, but I was out there with them a lot of times and having to fight other people with them and fight off people. For me and, everything, I was very hypersensitive to every noise. Anybody I saw in a car, I looked like a bad person. I was really aware of everything, and it’s like out there. I probably saw like 1718 people died in my time on the streets and I remember one kid, we were in Arizona and he got hit by a car and his brain was coming out of the back of his head and he kept saying I have to get home, my mom’s going to kill me, she’s going to kill me. And he’s on a bike and hit by a car m and he collapsed in my arms and the cop goes just drop him. I’m like well I can’t drop him. He’s like dying in my arms. And I put him down and he went out and he was gone. And it’s like all those things kind of live with you and then you don’t realize how it affects you until like months later because it’s like you go to that call, you see somebody die and then you’re onto the next call. It’s like you have no time in the process.

Steve Cuden: It’s a form of combat photography.

Richard Bakewell: Oh it really is. And there’s no training for it too. It’s like we spent a week kind of watching videos and talking about things in Santa Monica before we went out in the field but there’s no really anything to help you along the way when you have to watch all this stuff and see a child trying to kill themselves because the stepfather is raping them every day. You don’t really have training for that so you’d have to deal with it on your own and figure out how to survive.

Steve Cuden: Well I think it’s phenomenal that you have survived it and you’re able to move on and have a creative life beyond it that it hasn’t wrecked you in some way, or at least nothing that’s obvious to the outsider. Sure.

Your first directing gig was a movie called Officer down

Let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about what was your very first directing gig? Not just directing action on a documentary but your actual narrative filmmaking career.

Richard Bakewell: My first directing gig was a movie called Officer down, and it was more or less a story that I wrote and directed based on the PTSD that I experienced out in the field. it’s a very complex story. It’s about a cop of survivor’s guilt who gets spared and then they decide that I don’t know why I’m still alive. And for me that’s how I fell out there when people that I knew had died, like cops that I knew and we had a couple of camera guys die of heart attacks because it’s a very stressful job and they died in their sleep in the hotel room. So for me, it was like a story about really just, why am I still here? And that was trying to really answer that myself. But, it’s also a way of therapy for me. It’s like really putting it out there. What I live through my thoughts, my feelings, and then putting into other characters.

Steve Cuden: Well, that’s what many artists do, is they work through their own personal issues, through the art form. Oh, yes, that’s what you were doing.

So what are the critical elements of a story that works for you

So what are the critical elements of a story that works for you? What are you looking for in a story? Is it conflict? Is it character? Is it plot? What are you mostly concerned with?

Richard Bakewell: Well, I think for me, the plot is very important. You need to have a direction where you want to go. Like, you need to have a start, middle and end. It’s very simple. The hero’s journey. It’s always important. I think for me, it’s like the character. You really have to have someone that people can love and laugh with, because if you don’t, they’re not going to cry for that person. I like the story of just the, evolving, where it’s like you’re watching a story and there’s humor, but then towards the end, it starts to build and, wow. Now it’s taken an emotional turn. Now it’s a lot different. And I feel that’s the kind of stories I like telling, where it’s like, it takes you on a journey where you’re not just, oh, it’s not a comedy throughout. There’s some humor, but it’s also a very emotional roller coaster as well. So I think having a main character to take you on that journey is very important.

So I noticed in Roswell, delirium that you’re not the cinematographer

Steve Cuden: So I noticed in Roswell, delirium, that you’re not the cinematographer. You have someone else working with you.

Richard Bakewell: Yes.

Steve Cuden: Is this someone that you knew prior to working on it, or was it somebody you met through the process of setting up Roswell delirium?

Richard Bakewell: Well, I had somebody lined up to go, to be the DP who had shot the last. Then, you know, he decided to quit a month before production started. And so I went on a fast shopping spree to find the best DP that I could, and I found this great DP named Carter Ross, just through looking up stuff on websites and everywhere, production hub, wherever. And I just really admired his work and his eye. He has a great know. He’s a young guy, and I’m like, he has a great eye for everything.

Steve Cuden: It looks great.

Richard Bakewell: Thank you. Yeah. And we met for lunch one day and he brought like a lookbook of, all how the movie should look, the colors, everything, the shots. Because I said, I really want to reference, like, et some of that warmth of et in the movie. I want that to be a thing in the movie. And he got it. We just clicked right away. And, even during the movie, it’s like he was so good that I didn’t have to worry about the camera department. I could actually go and work with the actors and some rehearsing, some blocking, and he would just run the camera department, the lighting, and I never had to get involved, ever. So it was like he really just knew what he was doing. And it saved me so much time because if he didn’t, I would have lost time and performances with the actors.

Steve Cuden: So despite your being a longtime cinematographer, you were able to release the feeling that you had to oversee that too. Yeah.

Richard Bakewell: Oh, yeah. I think when you have the right people, working for you, it’s easy to let go of control. It’s easy just to say, you got it. And for me, there’d be times where I say, actually, I’m not loving this. Can we just go in a little closer or go a little bit wider? But for 95% of the time he got it, we had a flow, and, it was very welcoming for a change to actually not have to be so involved with the camera side to let him do his thing. And that’s the way it should be. But, like, collaborating, it’s like, okay, here’s what we’re doing. But you got it. You have that world all to yourself.

Steve Cuden: Was that a big relief?

Richard Bakewell: Oh, yeah, because we didn’t have a lot of money to make this movie, and we had so many child actors, so we only had those kids for 8 hours a day. So we really don’t have the ability to make mistakes and to figure things out. Everything has to be thought out before. And it was just great for a change to actually say, wow, you have it. And I got more shots than I wanted. We added more stuff, where before you might have to cross some things off the list. We didn’t get that shot. Didn’t get that shot. But with him, I was able to get all the shots.

What made it easier for you to work with children on this movie

Steve Cuden: So we’ve already talked about two of what people considered be the most difficult things to do as a director direct. Animals and children. Those are the two. And what was it for you that made it easier for you to work with children? Was it the casting itself or was there something else?

Richard Bakewell: Well, it’s funny because, the casting was very hard because we couldn’t really get people to come out to do, like, in person casting again. It was hard to even get a casting director to come out, and they wouldn’t come out of their house. They were very scared because it’s still 2022. and luckily, we had a lot of brave parents who brought their kids to these in person audition, and there hadn’t been one in two years. We were, like, the first one ever to do it. And, I remember there was a girl who walked in named Kaden Tokarski, and she walked in the room, and she hadn’t been in an in person audition in two years, and she just nailed it. And I was like, you are becky the mean girl, without a doubt. And it was just, wow. Like, seeing that again, being in that room with the people and getting that energy, people like her and other kids, they were just very confident, and I was like, I don’t remember being that confident as a kid, where you could walk in a room, command it, and then just leave. And I knew with the kids that I found they were going to be great. And we did, like, a rehearsal day because I was worried about, like, they have a lot of dialogue, and they did a rehearsal, and they all knew the lines of everybody else. And I looked at the first ad and I said, we could have shot this today. They’re that good. They were so talented. They knew how to be funny when it was time to be funny, and they knew when to wait for their reaction and their dialogue. And, they were so polished to be like, twelve and 13 and be so with it. So it made my job easier, but I also really worked with them and connected just to keep the right tone going through the movie. And one little kid named Roman Smith, who plays Jeremiah, he hates to say he’s a good kid, but he hates to swear. But I would say, you have to say it like this. And then he’s like, s word, s word. He got all nervous, but I’m like, you got to say it like this. And he would just turn bright red and his cheeks were so rosy. And I’m like, it was fun. And that’s how I bonded with a lot of the kids. We just would make jokes and find a way to connect, and that’s how I got even better performances out of them.

Steve Cuden: Well, I think that, your performances out of the children in the movie, the underage people, I guess you’d say they’re not really children, they’re more, young adults. I thought they were very consistently good that there was no one in that group that was not up to snuff. And so I think that must have been very good for you to find it that way, not have it be.

Richard Bakewell: Ah. Oh, yeah. I mean, I was worried about, like, here’s all these kids, and I wanted to make my own 80s movie, but I’m like, it’s hard to put kids in a movie and, to have them do very well. But they were all just. Some had had a lot of experience. Kaden had played, like, a younger Julia Roberts on Gaslit. And, some of the other kids didn’t have much experience at all. They did Darman, this little YouTube show. So really, it was like, levels of experience. But when it came to just, they were spot on, perfect. And it really just made my life easier, because I was like, if things don’t work out, I got to start cutting scenes out of the movie. I have to really start cutting people out. And I didn’t have to. I kind of added stuff instead of cutting things out.

Steve Cuden: No, that was fortunate.

When working with celebrities, is your working with them different than when not famous

you mentioned et a little earlier. Well, you have one of the main stars of Et in Roswell, delirium, and that’s d. Wallace. And so I’m wondering, you also had Anthony Michael hall and Reginald Bell Johnson and Sam Jones. I’m just curious, when you’re working with someone who’s a known entity, a celebrity, a star, however you want to call it, is your working with them different than when you’re working with someone who’s not famous?

Richard Bakewell: For me, I always say you treat everybody the know, we had a pa on set named Kevin, and he had to do a lot of the work. And it’s like, on productions, people always kind of treat the pas very badly, but I always would check in with Kevin, make sure he’s okay. And that’s kind of how I am with the actors, no matter what level they are. If they’re like Anthony Michael hall or D. Wallace, or even like an unknown child actor, I really just treat them all the same. I try to treat them as friends first and foremost, and gain their friendship, but I don’t treat them any differently. I really try to treat them like a normal person because I think it’s very important to not say, hey, here’s a celebrity. Here’s d. Wallace, everybody. Here’s a celebrity. Everybody. Don’t say anything. Be careful. I just try to treat them all the same and equally. And I think it’s very important, because if you treat them like an icon, they’re just going to think you’re kissing their butt and not really that you’re a fake person, more or less. So it’s like I try to treat them like I would my friends out there on the set.

Did you ever have arguments between the director and the writer on set

Steve Cuden: So you’re also the writer of the movie. Did you ever have arguments between the director and the writer on set? Did you ever have to fight yourself on something?

Richard Bakewell: No. I mean, I think I had to dial things back here and there. There’s a lot of Easter eggs at the movie, a lot of 80s references. And I think at times I would just say, you know what? Don’t say that at all. Just cut that part out, because there’s just already so many Easter eggs. I just don’t want to fill the movie with too many Easter eggs. So I had to fight myself on that quite a bit. But Dee Wallace and I, we talked a lot before we even know her scenes. And I wrote it. I thought it was pretty perfect. And then she called me. She’s like, you know what? They’re going to hate my character. And I’m like, no, they’re not. Because I yell at the waitress and I lash out. I don’t really have a reason to lash out. And then she’s like, I need a reason to yell at her. And I’m like, well, let’s think about that. Then she goes, I got it. She’s like, I’ll say this happens wherever we go. We don’t get to get served. And then it just really helped rationalize her anger of the waitress in the movie, and that was her idea. And so then I kind of wrote that into the script, and we kind of made that part of the scene, and it kind of made it so, much better. And instead of just yelling at her for not serving them. And I think that input really helped me. And then with other actors who have ideas, and sometimes their ideas are like, well, it’s not very good, but thank you. I appreciate it. But that was a really solid point to make.

Steve Cuden: They’re playing characters that are actually good, warm hearted people who, in fact, have been pushed to the edge, and they can’t take it much longer. And so I think that that’s what you’re talking about, that she wanted it to not feel like I’m just a mean, angry person.

Richard Bakewell: Exactly. And it really gave her a heart, and it made people really get emotional. When she goes to space rock later and you see her up there and it’s like, because you really identify with her and you really care about her in that little moment at the diner, and even more so when she’s up there with the rabbit. And it’s like she made the character real. She brought a sense of realism to it just by adding that little moment of time. and that’s why I really wanted her from Et, because, sure, it’s the boy story, but she’s the heart of that movie. You watch those scenes. I mean, she has so much stuff where she’s so emotional and not even talking. It’s like the nonverbal acting. It’s like she’s so good at. And. And she told me some stories about her and Spielberg, where they were doing the first scene, the movie, with all the family and the kids. And then she walked over to the sink and started crying because she’s upset that the father left to be with another girl and took her to Mexico, and she’s upset about it. And then Steven Spielberg is like, why’d you walk away? We can’t see you. And then she goes to Steven. Well, that mother would never allow her kids to see her crying, so I had to walk away. So then Steven Spielberg built, like, a bigger set to show her upset by herself, away from the kids. And that’s how good she is. She’s so committed, and she really takes on the role and really feels it out. And what would this character really do? There’s more to it than just coming to the set for a day. She really puts her heart and soul into it.

Steve Cuden: Do you find that as a director, you’ve got to think psychologically, how to gear your direction to every individual actor, whoever they are?

Richard Bakewell: Oh, yeah. Because, like, days when there’s, like, emotional scenes, you got to deal with a lot of treading lightly moments. You have to tread lightly with your actors, and sometimes you have to tread lightly with egos. People are very vulnerable, when they’re going to be on camera. So you have to really treat people a certain way. And, if you don’t, I mean, you’re just going to clash. Like you’re really going to ruin the performance. And I try to give everybody a safe space. and the one girl, ash, in the movie plays the older version of Mayday. She’d go to me every time we do a take, and she goes, 10 seconds. Give me. I just need 10 seconds. And I’m like, you can have as long as you need. But that 10 seconds helped her get into the mindset for the character, and we’d always have the slate away from her face so it wouldn’t distract her, because I’m like, she had to do some pretty hard scenes, and it’s just very important to give the actors a safe space to do their work. And knowing that you have to deal with certain egos and other things too, it’s all a balance. It’s like everybody’s different. There are no two actors the same.

Steve Cuden: And that makes it a very, interesting and big time challenge for the director of the movie, who has to be the psychologist. And all roads lead through Rome, don’t they?

Richard Bakewell: Oh, yes. And then you also have to deal with the crew, too. And, you have a first ad who runs a set, but you’re still having to make sure everyone’s happy and they’re not, like, upset and having a hard time.

Steve Cuden: Sure.

You started writing in film school back in 1997

How long have you been writing?

Richard Bakewell: well, I started writing in film school back in 1997.

Steve Cuden: You didn’t come to it two years ago. You’ve known for a while?

Richard Bakewell: No. And for anything. I write sometimes I do multiple drafts, and then there are some stories that I’ve written that I find later. I’m like, wow, I gave up on it because I’m like, well, I don’t believe in the script. I can’t really keep working on this movie. I don’t feel like it’s a good script. You know, when you have a good story and sometimes you write stuff that’s like, well, I tried it, it didn’t work out, and I’ll just take some ideas for the next script, but I write all the time, and you have to really learn when your ideas are working and when they don’t work too, it’s really important.

Steve Cuden: Do you write pretty much every day?

Richard Bakewell: I don’t write every day, but even when I’m out and about, I just get ideas. I just kind of see things happening in the real world and I come home and write down some ideas from what I saw. So even if I’m not writing, I’m putting together thoughts about what might be a good story idea, a story point to happen in film.

Which is more fun for you, writing or being in production

Steve Cuden: Which is more fun for you, writing or being in production?

Richard Bakewell: I would say being in production because writing just takes so much time. I spent from start to finish, like three years writing a story and like 17 drafts. And I’m also a, ah, working DP director. So it’s like, to find the time to write a script when you’re working is pretty challenging, and you have to be in the right mindset, too, to write a script. You can’t just like, okay, I’m going to write for 4 hours. You have to be ready for it. You have to be able to sit down and just relax and, okay, now let’s do it.

Steve Cuden: I think the hardest thing to go through as a writer who also has other work and other things going on is finding that zone, that rhythm, being able to sort of piece it together and keep going, rather than trying to do it in little bits and pieces, which is really challenging to do.

Richard Bakewell: It is. And for me, it’s like I would start on ideas, and then I’m just so tired, I can’t write anymore, and I would stop. So you’re always stopping starting. So I think if I had the luxury of being a writer full time, it would be a lot easier, but,

Steve Cuden: Oh, no, it wouldn’t.

Richard Bakewell: Well, that’s what I think. Maybe it isn’t that way, but for me to like, okay, I’m going to come on for 2 hours and write, and now go to bed. But it’s like it’s.

Steve Cuden: You would find that you would still have the same issues. It’s just that you could piece things together in a little more of a smooth flow than when you’re distracted by all these other things. but the act of creation, I don’t think, no matter how long you’ve been at it, necessarily gets any easier. Maybe there are things, aspects of it that are a little easier over time, but coming up with something to fill that infamous blank screen or page, that never really goes away.

Richard Bakewell: Yeah. I mean, writing, it takes a lot of thought, a lot of time, where you have to realize, well, that is garbage that has to get tossed away.

Steve Cuden: Definitely.

Richard Bakewell: It’s hard to let go of things, but sometimes, you know, that has to go, otherwise it’s not going to work.

So sets are notoriously distracting places. What do you do to eliminate the distractions and focus

Steve Cuden: So sets are notoriously distracting places. There’s lots going on. It’s bad enough when you’re the cinematographer and you’ve got all those things going on, but it’s, even a higher level when you’re the director and you have to deal with all of the various departments and all of the psychologies that are going on. What do you do to eliminate the distractions and focus? Are you just a naturally good focuser, or is this something you need to do?

Richard Bakewell: Well, I’m pretty good at focusing. It’s funny, when I tell people about the behind the scenes of the movie afterwards and all the complications that we had, they’re like, I had no idea. And I’m like, and you shouldn’t. It’s not your job to know the things that were going wrong on the day. There was a day where we filmed a school bus scene, and they brought the wrong bus. It was like a 2015 CTa bus with a flat nose. And I’m like, that is not an 80s bus. And so it’s like we were on the phone calling other places to get there with a school bus that looked like an 80s bus. It’s like trying to keep your composure, to keep your calm. And that’s how I like to be on, set is very focused. I will handle the problems, but nobody else will know what those problems are except for the people who need to, like the first ad and other producers. Everybody else should be doing their thing, getting a makeup, wardrobe, lighting. It’s like they should have no idea what’s happening outside.

Steve Cuden: Does that philosophy of keeping people, who are into their own jobs, actors and so on, is the idea to keep that from them so that they don’t get caught up in that emotion?

Richard Bakewell: Well, yeah, because you lead by example. Like, if you start acting panicky and stress and yelling, that rubs off on everybody, actors, cast, crew, it rubs off. And I’ve seen it in my day. I don’t act that way. I will drive home and then I’ll be mad and angry or whatever, and I’ll deal with it then. But I don’t ever let anybody see my level of anger or frustration during the day. And I remember one time when I made my first feature, officer down. we were using this recorder device for the camera, and I found out that we lost 2 hours of footage that we filmed. Oh, my. So I had to tell everybody to go to lunch early, and I took a long walk down a dark alley for like 15 minutes. And I’m like, okay, what am I going to do? We lost all these performances. We had a ray machine, we had all this stuff. So it was a lot of stress. And I said, okay, what we’re going to do is we’re just going to pick those shots up tomorrow. I’m going to tell the actors that we need more coverage. I’m not going to tell them that we lost their entire performance because they’re not going to be happy and they’re not going to act the same tomorrow.

Steve Cuden: Did they ever find that out?

Richard Bakewell: they never found out, but for me, it was like, if I tell them that they lost that entire scene, they are going to lose their minds and their acting is going to be different. They’re going to be worried that we’re not capturing it at this time. Are we getting it? So I really had to dance around that. And it was very hard, and I.

Steve Cuden: Was, that’s a bigger and much more expensive proposition than the equivalent of writing for a day and then not saving and having the computer shut off and losing everything, that’s terrifying. But when you’re dealing with all that money and people, that’s really, not fun.

Richard Bakewell: Yeah, that was like a lesson to keep my cool on set. It’s like, don’t let people see your panicking. Even though it’s happening inside, don’t let them see it. You’ll eventually get that footage again. You’re going to get it a second time, but if they see you panicking, it’s going to rub off on everybody, and they’re all going to start being different, and then it’s going to just down the road.

Steve Cuden: Yeah.

My favorite moment with Dee Wallace came during a very serious scene

So I’ve been having, just the most fantastic conversation with Richard Bakewell, who is a cinematographer and also the writer director of Roswell Delirium. And you’ve clearly met and dealt with a lot of people in the industry. And I’m just wondering, are you able to share with us beyond the stories you’ve already told us, something that’s either weird, quirky, offbeat, odball strange, or just plain funny.

Richard Bakewell: My favorite, is with Dee Wallace. Actually, it was a recent one, and it’s just like, during the time, it wasn’t funny, but afterwards, I laughed so much about it. And she’s doing this very serious scene, up on side of the mountain. And of course, we’re fighting the time of the sun going down. So we have basically an hour. It’s becoming the golden hour time. You have less than an hour to go. So we’re only going to get about five or six takes. That’s all we’re going to be able to get. And it’s all on Steadicam. And of course, we slate, we start rolling, she starts to get into the scene, gets very emotional, and then out of nowhere, this giant freight train comes by, scraping the sides of the tracks. it just makes your ears hurt so loud. And she’s all like, tearful, emotional. She stands up and she goes, all right, fuck this, and walks away. I was like, oh, boy. She’s upset. She’s upset. I got to calm her down. And then when I went home, I laughed the whole way home about it. I thought it was the most, comical thing I’ve ever seen. To go from the emotions of crying and then just to be like, oh, screw this. She snapped out of that moment. It was just so funny. And I think about it every day. It’s such my favorite moments of the movie.

Steve Cuden: We sometimes forget that they are actually actors. Yes, that they’re acting. Exactly.

Richard Bakewell: But it was just, like, something that I find was pretty humorous. I’m like, it’s always good to laugh about that now. But during the day, I was like, oh, she’s upset. Oh, boy, I got to keep her happy and grounded. Now I’m like, oh, it’s not going to happen again. And it didn’t. But that was, like, the one time, it was the very first take. I’m like, of course it was a first take.

Steve Cuden: And she probably, I’m going to guess, felt like she was in it, that she had it.

Richard Bakewell: I could see the tears in her eyes. I mean, she was in it because I know. I think we did five takes, actually, but she didn’t want to even do, another take after a while because it was so draining. And I said, well, we’re going to look the other way and film the other actor, so you don’t have to do that performance again. She goes, yes, I do. It’s for the other actor. I have to give her something. And I was like, wow. And she showed me how invested she is and how she works. I mean, she doesn’t stop. It’s like, even when we filmed her in the diner, there’s a shot where her kids coughing, her grandson’s coughing, and she’s delivering the same performance, knowing that she’s not even on camera at all. She’s still getting upset and emotional. And I’m like, she cares that much. And there’s not many people out there who do like that.

Steve Cuden: That’s the mark of what I think of as a real pro.

Richard Bakewell: Yeah, extremely. Yeah.

Steve Cuden: Someone who’s giving back no matter whether they’re on camera or not.

Richard Stallone offers advice to budding filmmakers on how to make movies

So, last question for you today. Richard, you’ve already given us just an enormous amount of great, useful information and advice throughout the show, but I’m wondering if you have a solid piece of advice or a tip that you like to give those who are starting out in the business or maybe they’re in a little bit trying to get to the next level.

Richard Bakewell: Well, I would say for my advice, because people ask me a lot. It’s like, don’t stop. I kind of got inspired by stallone years ago, who made Rocky, and he fought to keep himself in the movie, to be the actor in the movie, and they wanted to put somebody else in the movie, and he wanted to do it himself. They wouldn’t let him do it at first, but he fought, and he saw it through where he wrote it, and he was the actor in the movie, and it really inspired me, and that’s why I have worked so hard to make my own projects, because people don’t come to your door and say, hey, I got a movie for you. Here’s a million dollars. Go make it. You have to do it yourself and find a way to make that project. And if you don’t do it, it’ll never happen. And then you’ll just be this person later in life who complains about, well, I could have done this if I had money, but you just have to find a way. You have to find a way to make your dreams come true. And that’s what I did. I asked favors of all my friends, like, hey, can you come do this movie with me for this little bit of money? And I promise you I’ll get you more work later. And they did, and it helped really, solidify the film. And I never gave up, even when money was an issue. It’s like you have to keep moving forward, and you can’t stop. And even if things are difficult and you want to be a filmmaker, it’s like, and you’re not getting the calls for work, you have to keep going because eventually the phone will start getting busy. You’ll get calls.

Steve Cuden: you’re sort of spoiling it for everyone who thinks that the world is just going to come crawling to them, saying, come on, you’ve got to make the movie. And here’s $25 million. It doesn’t happen that way.

Richard Bakewell: No. I talked to Ryan Johnson years ago, and he’s like, if I can tell you anything else, make your own movies, because eventually somebody’s going to want to buy it.

Steve Cuden: I think that that is really sound, solid advice. And by the way, pretty much the only way that you really learn how to do it is just going out and doing it.

Richard Bakewell: Exactly. You have to learn by your mistakes. And that’s something that I do. It’s like whenever I make a movie or a project, I always go home and think, what didn’t I do right today? It’s like, what can I do better tomorrow? And that’s how you should address it. Not just like, oh, I know everything. You shouldn’t always learn something from the day.

Steve Cuden: Also, really excellent advice is that you’re able to self analyze as to how you can grow from what you’ve done, rather than just sitting and resting on your laurels.

Richard Bakewell: Exactly.

This has been an absolutely wonderful hour on StoryBeat

Steve Cuden: Richard Bakewell. This has been an absolutely wonderful hour on StoryBeat, and I can’t thank you enough for your time and your wisdom and your energy and just for telling us all about you and your career and the stuff that you’ve done forever. So I thank you kindly.

Richard Bakewell: Thank you, Steve. Appreciate it. Thanks for having me.

Steve Cuden: And so we’ve come to the end of today’s StoryBeat. If you like this episode, won’t you please take a moment to give us a comment, rating, or review on whatever app or platform you’re listening to? Your support helps us bring more great StoryBeat episodes to you. StoryBeat is available on all major podcast apps and platforms, including Apple Podcasts, YouTube, Spotify, I heart Radio, Tunein, and many others. Until next time, I’m Steve Cuden, and may all your stories be, unforgettable.

Executive Producer: Steve Cuden, Producer: Casey Georgi, Announcer: Javier Grajeda
Social Media: Mina Hoffman, Design & Marketing: Holly Reed, Reed Creative Group


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