If You Want To Be In The Movie Business You Have To Get On Set – Brad Sykes

Film Courage: What was your first job in film and
television when you arrived in Los Angeles? Brad Sykes, Filmmaker: The first movie job I ever had was on
movie called KISS THE GIRLS which was this Paramount Pictures movie I worked on in 96
summer of 96 was between my third and fourth year film school and the director
that movies Gareth leader who’s from my hometown and I knew him and he also went
to Boston University where I went to film school so we had those two things
in common and I get an I had gotten in touch with Gary a little bit before that
just wrote him a letter saying I’m you know this young a film student the young
filmmaker from Virginia Beach now isn’t he actually gotten back to me and and
and been very encouraging and he actually told me I’m gonna be making
this movie you know this little movie with Morgan Freeman and would you like
to work on that so it was perfect timing because it was you know the summer and I
was able to work on that was essentially an internship for school but it was like
a real working internship because I got to see four I worked on it for about two
months two and a half months and just see the whole inner workings of a movie
in a big movie to you know a thirty-five million dollar movie and it was just it
was just a very cool experience and Gary was great to give me that opportunity
and I learned I learned a lot about I would say things that I think are good
and also bad in terms of the wastefulness sometimes the big studios
and you know the sort of the standing around and not not much going on but it
was just such an invaluable experience just to see like you know how the how
movies are made the Paramount a lot all of that so it was just a really cool and
I loved being on set that was something I learned I had made shorts and even
features with my friends on video up to that point but it was the first time
we’ve been on a professional movie set and I just loved the atmosphere the set
with the bustling crew and all the things that go on you know I enjoyed it
a lot I think I rented that movie a
blockbuster that was a hit movie yes we’re Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd
see them on the side yeah exactly I mean they were they were both really cool I’m
Brad to buy a birthday present for Morgan Freeman at one point they said go
go go birthday present for Morgan Freeman I said well what does he like he
likes boats big on boating so I bought him a book about boats and the other
thing I remembered about Ashley Judd and she was pretty new back then it was one
of her maybe her first big movie is she baked brownies for the PAS
she was super nice she brought it had somebody bring ice cream down one tell
like a cart like a haagen-dazs cart like just ice cream for everyone on the crew
I mean she was really cool and I mean in Frank it was a lot of cool people you
know it was a lot of cool people in the film and it was a great introduction to
LA for me because I had never even I mean I think I’d been out here once
prior to that just visiting a friend for like a week and every day you’re going
to a different location and it was kind of funny because my dad came out here
with me at first you know to help me move into this apartment I was like
renting a room in this apartment in the valley and he’s like I’m gonna we’ll go
we’ll go the location like you know because we got the call sheet you know
he’s like we’ll go through the location the day before so you know where to go
and how to get there he was just trying to help you know and we did go to the
location which was a hospital and an abandoned Hospital in downtown or
something well that was great for the first day or the second day but then we
had a company move and then we did another company so basically I was you
know I had a crash course in LA freeways and directions and music oh this is in
96 so you know no GPS you know using the Thomas guide and the call sheets and the
directions they would give you those little maps and sometimes I went you
know I messed up but I always made it to set every day on time group relatively
on time so because they couldn’t have started without me you know but it was
it was a real learning experience yeah how soon after that did you make a full
move or that room in that apartment was your full month that was no I was just
there for the summer in fact I should probably mention the other flip side of
that the other experience I had was I worked at scott-free productions Ridley
Scott’s company after kiss the girls that same summer I interned over there
as a script reader for about a month month and a half and that was
interesting it was like going from the state you know the set
work every day or a new location you’re in the woods you’re in wherever the
beach and then to being an office in Beverly Hills every day air-conditioned
with you know Kern’s nectars up there for everybody to take and you know I
have to say nice people really nice people I’ve learned a lot but I was so
much more fan of being on set that was something I discovered about
myself that summer for sure in terms of what direction I wanted to go in the
movie business I didn’t move out here until the following summer 97 and that
was right after graduation and I had a job lined up literally once again got a
call from another director to work on a movie which I was fortunate to to be
able to do so quickly you know so then once I moved out here in the summer of
97 I stayed and that’s been here ever since I think it’s such a valuable thing
for people at a young age to know either they’re not the office guy or they’re
not the I’m gonna be out there yeah seat of my pants trying to figure stuff
out yeah it was I mean it was just I’m because I my favorite part of filmmaking
is the shoot that’s never changed whether I was a teenager work now and
being in an office it was interesting to read scripts and I’m reading a lot of
scripts while I was there I read you know first time ever read a Tarantino
script on the on the page first I read a Kevin Williamson script first time I
read I don’t know they had a bunch of interesting things over there you know
and things they were not necessarily the things they were making because they
weren’t making as much stuff as they do now they’re making like a movie a year
back then now they’re like huge you know they’ve got TV shows and movies running
all the time but it was it was just yeah development was not really my thing not
because I I love reading and I love writing and I came into this into film
as a writer you know more than the director initially but I just enjoy the
set experience this sort of you know adventure of being unset more did you
have a car when you first came to LA I did yeah you had a car my dad and I
drove cross-country from Virginia oh that’s some
we drove what was it that was an adventure – you know we drove
cross-country kind of followed almost like the old route 66 at least for part
of it and it took about a week I think for us to drive at or maybe less than a
week I was like four days but anyway we we drove out here and I had a yeah I had
a car got out of a car you know especially on that on kiss the girls I
mean your you know driving – one day you’re driving the El Segundo and there
you’re driving to the Malibu one day you’re driving to you know Santa Clarita
right did it almost spoil things for you cuz you know how when you have a really
great first experience with something then you think everything else that’s
gonna be like that and in some sets are amazing and everybody gets along and
it’s like a very special experience yeah and then others it’s actually not that
way well I have to tell you the two movies I worked on after that were much
more special experiences for me and they were lower budget movies they
were more like in the million dollar range per movie because the first two
films I worked on out here was a movie called spoiler was a sci-fi action movie
and then the next movie was actually filmed in Romania and that was a kids
movie kind of kids horror movie and these were you know low-budget films
direct-to-video movies made you know mostly under one roof like I remember
the spoiler was filmed entirely in Burbank under in this stage used to be
an old warehouse or something and they shot three movies there in a row they
just switched out the walls repainted certain parts of it they shot three
movies in a row and our movie was the third movie and I’m ever when they had a
rap party they had a wrap party for all three producers the producers didn’t
feel like springing for three wrap parties so we just had one it was a big
wrap party there I met a lot of people with that wrap party and then the one in
Romania was even lower budget and it was like the most fun thing I’d ever most
fun I’ve ever had in my life you know so the big budget thing you know the
paramount thing was a great learning experience but it was and I didn’t have
that sense of fun and sense of creativity and I should also bring up
very importantly that on spoiler I was able to direct second unit as a you know
22 year old recent Film School grad I had it was given a designated DP AC and
35-millimeter Panavision camera and I was allowed to direct second unit on
this movie so you know that’s something that was that surely wouldn’t have
happened on kiss the girls and that was because of the director I was working
with and he was just a super nice guy Jeff Burr who took me under his wing and
you know brought me onto these films so I guess the lesson from that might be
that you know the lower budget movies you learn more you get to do more you
get to have more creative input sometimes into things and you get to
know everybody a bit more too because there’s not as many people working you
know there aren’t like maybe there’s 50 people working versus a hundred or 200
or something like that you know so all great experiences though you know
at what point did you say you were not done working on sets for other people
but you wanted to be driving your own film your own content you know I never
had a specific point where I stopped in fact the first directing writing
directing job I got was so low paid that I didn’t stop doing those those set jobs
it was a movie called scream queen and and I was thrilled to get the
opportunity to write and direct but you know almost immediately after that I
went back to doing I was doing special effects assistant work and production
assistant work and stuff like that so I kept doing that but and that kind of
went on a little bit like that for a year or two but you know what’s
interesting about that is on those bigger films that I was piaying on or
doing special effects I met a lot of people I met a lot of professional good
people effects artists and you know camera people and all this kind of thing
so that my movies when I start to get to direct more and more I was able to bring
them onto those stems or at least consult with them and they would like
say recommend an intern who was really good or something like that so I think
that was a really good thing and it’s something that I always I still believe
it now that peep should who want to get in the business
and you know everybody wants to direct and everybody can’t wait to direct but
it’s really really good to work on other positions you know in other departments
and learn from those departments and learn from that experience and see how
sets are run and see what works and what doesn’t work which you like and don’t
like and also you will meet people and and those people will be the people you
work with or you call favors from when you do direct a short or a feature so
that’s that’s kind of how it happened for me now scream queens that’s I
remember Rhonda Shear used to do the USAF all night and show like movies like
yeah it was some really just fascinating I know a lot of people who made those
movies I’m that’s that’s no I used to watch that show too it was okay well the
scream queen had this actress named Linea Quigley who’s okay so you know she
is well she was the star of our movie and once again I our movie wasn’t really
it was a very modest film but because I had worked on other stuff and I knew
other you know new people I was able to call in a favor at least my friend and
say hey would you you I know you know Linnea would you be willing to tell
Annie about this movie we’re trying to make and would she be willing to read
the script and that’s how we got the script to her and I met with her had a
great sit-down meeting with her and you know and she was she was in it was not a
huge time commitment for her and we also sort of repaid the favor by shooting a
music video for a song that she had done at the time she had a song called this
chainsaw is made for cuttin it was sort of the Nancy Sinatra like that so we did
the you know so she acted in her movie for a couple of days we did a music
video for her and you know we had fun doing it and of course for me it was
really cool to work with her but yes she was in a lot of those type of films she
is a scream queen she’s a major scream queen and that’s why she was in the
movie in the first place was it was sort of a self-referencing kind of a
Hollywood on Hollywood movie you know that was that was the idea with that one
so we were really it was really cool to have her in the film was a good start
for for me you

6 thoughts on “If You Want To Be In The Movie Business You Have To Get On Set – Brad Sykes

  1. Wonderful conversation. Thank you for sharing as always 💚 Hope you are well

  2. Asking a film student if they wanna work on set is like asking a drug addict if they want free drugs.

  3. Well it’s certainly motivating
    But people on set are often busy and don’t want to network
    It depends
    That said my first exposure to the business was as a PA
    And I worked production for three years and used it as a resume to get into an agency
    So yes it can help it did for me

    Working in the business is always better than not

  4. Sets & action can be fun and addictive with the right elements. I'd rather be on set than a office or hotel conference room for 8wks.

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