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tv   Overheard With Evan Smith  PBS  August 20, 2016 4:30pm-5:01pm PDT

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- [voiceover] funding for overheard with evan smith is provided in part by mfi foundation, improving the quality of life within our community. also, by hillco partners, a texas government affairs consultancy, and by the alice kleberg reynolds foundation. - i'm evan smith. he's an independent film icon, and five time academy award nominee, whose credits include boyhood, slacker, dazed and confused, bernie, and school of rock. his latest film, everybody wants some, has just opened. he's richard linklater. this is overheard. (exciting music) (applause) (evan talking) (people laughing) (exciting music)
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(applause) - rick linklater, welcome. - always great to be here. - thank you very much for being here. congratulations. you know i love this movie. i've seen it so many times. i'm the most prepared i've ever been for an interview. - that's amazing. - it's great. but, you know, i think, actually, so generationally, we're not the same age, but we're close enough. this spoke to me as i suspect it spoke to you, and came from you, because this is the story of our lives at that point. - college. you know, i made a high school movie a long time ago, so the idea of making a college movie hit me probably in like 2002. it took a while for that desire to kick in, there, but once i started thinking about that, i just started thinking about, okay, what was college like? - and what was your freshmen year? you were in college in what? - it's very much like this movie. i went off to college actually '79, '80, but i'm kind of keeping the chronology of dazed. this movie is sort of, i call it the spiritual sequel to dazed, and i always did that just to kind of orient people
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toward it, because if you think of mitch, wiley wiggins character, in dazed, there's a little sequence in there where he's pitching in a pony league game. if you, four years later, he's going into high school. if he had kept playing ball, and was good enough, and went off to college on a scholarship. - he becomes blake jenner. - yeah, he becomes blake jenner, jake's character, so to me it's a sequel. wiley's like 38 years old now. he couldn't do it, but. (chuckling) had i done it four years later. - he probably would have enjoyed the call to come back and do that. you say spiritual sequel. it is not a literal sequel, in the sense that none of the characters recur, it's not the same story line, none of the actors are in it. - yeah, but it's like, that was my high school, this is my college, and you could see where it is kind of the same. that was the end of high school. this is the beginning of college. i focused it on that weekend before classes start. like, you just literally get off the bus with your bag. in this case, he's driving off to college. it's one of those stories. yeah, his albums.
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- and his stereo. - very important. - period details. - yeah, so it's that new life you step into. you know, all the freedom. that was kind of the metaphor i was thinking. what do you do with all that freedom? you're in college, and, suddenly, you can stay out all night, you can just eat and drink whatever you want. you know, you don't have, there's no authority around you, so it was just all that freedom, and more so than that first weekend. i think we show up on a thursday. there's registration, or whatever on friday. then, you have that weekend. - before it all begins. - yeah, and this is pretty autobiographical. i went to sam houston state, on a baseball scholarship. i thought i was going to live in a dorm. the coach says, you know, over crowding in the dorm, the city donated us these two old houses off campus. - so, it's literally your story? - it is. it is. i will admit it. and, just suddenly, i was thrust into these two houses with 18 roommates all of a sudden, and they're my teammates and my roommates, but i don't know any of them, and so it was kind of like oh, so that was just a really interesting week, get to know you, moment.
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- and for the benefit of people who haven't seen the movie, literally that is the case. kid shows up. he's been a pitcher in high school. pretty good. second team all-state. - which becomes a joke. - which becomes a joke later. he drives in from his hometown, shows up, he's living in one of two houses, occupied by the baseball team at the school. - yeah, it's all these roommates, and, you know, how to maneuver through that, how to fit in, and, kind of keep. it can be an intimidating situation. all these upper classmen, and they seem like kind of men. you know, you're just out of high school. - and they're a little mean to him, but also, it becomes, really, a story about their friendship as it evolves over that weekend, and their relation. - it's about bonding, you know? especially in a team environment. you know, it's like that. they do kind of challenge you. athletes are like that. maybe the first thing they'll do is kind of check you. you know, just to see what you. - chin music. - yeah, a little bit. - in baseball. - just to like, hey, see what you come back with. - now, you've call this a college movie without college. - it's the best time, yeah. (laughing)
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- what you don't see is really the college experience beyond that weekend in the run-up. it's also kind of a baseball movie without baseball. (laughing) - it's true. there's one little scene. - but really, it's about these characters. now, what i love about. we visited about this on the way over here that these are not known actors. you didn't go out and cast every young, hot hollywood recognizable actor. these are largely unknowns. not people who haven't worked before, right? but largely unknowns. - right. i mean, we would be out together, and you'd see a group of girls with their cameras, wanting to get the picture of the guy from teen wolf, or step up, or glee. yeah, they're around, quite a few of them. a lot of them, it's their first movie, but, for the most part, i don't think they're, they're not household names yet, but they're great. - have you ever made a movie before that was an ensemble, and many of your movies are ensembles. have you ever made a movie that was an ensemble, where you didn't have at least one or two recognizable, you know, boyhood had ethan hawke and patricia arquette. - oh, certainly.
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- the before movies had ethan. - yeah, well, at the time, dazed and confused, that was the complaint by the studio. no, they were a bunch of unknowns. - so, even though it was renee zellweger, parker posey, ben affleck, they were all very early in their career. - yeah, a lot of early films. a lot of them, first film. you know, mcconaughey, and then a lot of them, like ben, had been a couple things, a tv thing, you know. - but nothing you would really be able to land. - yeah, nothing that you go, oh, that's that guy from. - now, of course, the interesting thing about this cast, is although they are unknowns, they're not people without interesting stories. there is a character in here who is the real life son of goldie hawn and curt russell. wyatt russell is in this movie. - yeah, he just met him on an audition. he's playing willoughby, who's kind of a different character. not to spoil it, but in the movie, you find out he's not maybe who he seems to be, and wyatt just had this just comedic ability, and just the coolest guy. - and he's a hockey player, but he had played baseball. - yeah, he had been a pro hockey player. all the guys had played sports. i really wanted to get that kind of youthful swagger
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that athletes have. our culture sort of elevates athletes to this degree, so you can't really fake that. i got to thinking about it. you could be like a prodigy, you know, violinist, or pianist, or a brilliant physicist, at a, you know, young age, and you can still be kind of bullied, and treated like a nerd. you can still have, but an athlete, you've been that way your whole life, and people kind of don't pick on you in the same way, people don't, you don't go through the same process of. they treat you like you're a big deal. you can have no redeeming qualities, outside of this one thing, and you'll have everybody'll be boosting you up, so, that all ends, of course, the second your career's over, when they can't, you know, you're not representing a school, or something, helping people in any way, so that ends, but i told the guys, well, "you don't know that yet. "you're still in that beautiful bubble of athletic entitlement." - there's a discussion of what should i study? what should my major be? - [rich] and they thought about it. - basically, you're a baseball player.
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- yeah, you're here to play baseball. - and your self-identity is, you're a baseball player. - yeah, when they ask what you major in, just say you're on the baseball team. don't even. (laughing) - and that's it. now, so wyatt russell has played hockey, but had played baseball. juston street is another character. in fact, wyatt russell and juston street play two transfers, who come to the team. they're a little bit older, but they transfer into the school. juston street is the brother of houston street, who is a professional baseball player, and the son of the late james street, who is a quarterback for the university of texas. these guys all look like they've played baseball before, and in many cases, they have. it's hard to fake that. you could fake being a pianist. they can cut away from your hands. - or cut to the closeup of the other cut. - right, or somebody else's hands, but in the baseball case, in the sequence that is in fact them on the sunday practice, the sort of voluntary, mandatory practice, you can see these guys have played baseball before. - yeah, i'm really happy about that in the movie. a lot of people say, "well, they're baseball players." you hear a lot about it. you see how competitive they are, but finally, toward, you know, the last part of the movie,
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we actually see them on the field, and you see how, kind of dialed in they are, how good they are, that they're taking it serious. as much as they're partying, and farting around, it's kind of the mentality of a team that wants to win a national championship, too. i wanted to show that, so i could only do that. on certain parts, i was like, okay, this guys has to be a baller. there's a confrontation in that practice between niles. you know, juston street's character, who's a pitcher, and the hitter, which tyler hoechlin played. mcreynolds, he's the best hitter on the team, so they have this little thing between them, and they both, you know, i needed my best hitter and my best pitcher, and juston, he had played for the longhorns. he had played a little pro ball. just an athlete, but an actor. he had been acting recently. he played his own dad in that wonderful movie, my-all american. - he played his own dad. - the freddie steinmark movie. - his dad had just died, right. - i know, it's a really touching story, but, you know, he had played football at westlake high school, so anyway, just a great, creative guy. - what a great group. it's amazing to me, watching this movie, which i enjoyed so much, just as a sort of,
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you know, diversion from, from the rest of the world, or the rest of your life, it's just fun to sit and watch this movie, that it was a movie that was hard to finance, hard to make, especially when you consider, - they all are. - that your last movie was boyhood. (laughing) could there have been a more celebrated, i mean, certainly deserving of all the awards it got, and all the attentions, you think, coming off of boyhood, i can do whatever i want, write my ticket next, and you can't even get financing for this movie. - well, no, this, i think this, i did get this movie made, probably because of boyhood. - so, as hard as it was, it would have even been harder, had it not been for boyhood. - well, i tried for a number of years. i almost made it in '09. the money fell out. a guy said he was going to finance it, then kind of pulled out. it's just, it's a hard movie to get made, because it doesn't have a lot of star parts, these big ensembles. there wasn't, and i called it the spiritual sequel to dazed, and they're like, "well, can mcconaughey play the coach, "or something?" (laughing) and it's like, there's a little scene. i said, "no. "that's not right." wooderson wouldn't be a college baseball coach. you know? so i couldn't.
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they just couldn't wrap their head around it, and it reads kind of funny, too. you know, it's the resolution. what happens at the end of the movie? you know, class starts. you know, it's not. (chuckling) my scripts often read like, eh, you know, i don't know what this is, and i go, well, it's got to be good, you know? (laughing) so i'm always up against that. - the view that hollywood has of you, has not markedly changed. you've been at this for a long time. you've been making movies for more than 25 years. you are celebrated, correctly, for boyhood. you've been nominated for a number of academy awards. this would have been the moment where you thought, okay, hollywood finally gets me, and i can now go to hollywood. my relationship with them changes. it sounds like it's not much different than it really was. - a little bit. i mean, i was lucky to get this film made. megan ellison liked boyhood a lot. she liked my other films, and she asked me, "well, what are you doing? "what do you want to do next?" and, hollywood sometimes asks you that,
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but they usually don't. no one cares what you want to do next. - they care what they want. - yeah. yeah. she liked the script. she goes, "the script's hilarious. "why hasn't it been made?" i just, what i just told you, like, and she goes, "well, i think it would throw it off "if you had one star apart. "it's such an ensemble. "it's such a conceptual piece. "it'll be kind of refreshing if, "if everyone, "if you feel like you're just in that world, "and no one's pulling you out of the movie," and i agree. i don't really like those kind of cameos that you're aware you're watching someone. i kind of like to put the viewer in that reality that you just believe it. - the fact that they there were people we didn't know made them and their characters more believable. - yeah, it really helps, i think. so, she came aboard, and then she partnered with paramount, who kind of controlled the script. i had written it for them a while back, so, you know, it just came together, but boyhood certainly helped that. - it's a film that you recognize as yours, though. the involvement of all these extra people, financiers and studios, the film that we see is the film you wanted to make. - yeah, but it always is. you know, i've always managed to wrangle that,
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no matter who's financing. - hasn't that been your hallmark has been the control that you've been able to maintain over your films. - yeah. - staying at austin, as opposed to being in los angeles, being the independent film guy, even if you're making a studio picture. what you've got out of that is control. - yeah, i always get the film, you know, i want made somehow. they might not like it, or, you know, who knows what happens with it, but i've always, you know, i've kind of worked my way up to like final cut director, but i haven't had bad experiences. i learned early on to kind of not make the film. once i see the train wreck coming, like, oh, they want the film to be this, and, you know, the wrong cast, and i just don't make the movie. - did you learn it by getting into something and realizing you needed to get out, and getting out in time, or did you make the mistake of doing something, and you thought, i'll never do it again? - i've been close to it going off the rails, and i felt i managed to get my movie out of the deal, somehow, but i could see where, and you learn from other people's mistakes, too. you know other filmmakers. you see how it works, and you just try to avoid.
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i've always had a good preservation instinct, i think, for that, but, i don't know. i get offered a lot of things. you know, like after the success of boyhood. i get offered a ton of things. - were you offered big budget stuff. - yeah, of course. i usually, i am kind of all the time. - anything you were attracted to, and maybe thought, i could go that way? it's sort of like the beginning of slacker. - a lot of different ways. - i could go that way or that way or that way. - every now and then, i come aboard something i think i'm right for, like, oh i can really. - batman verses superman. - i've got to think i'm the only guy who can do this. well, you know, you get, the strangest things float your direction, 'cause they never know. like, oh, they'll find out, like, oh, that's been my life's dream to make that movie. that's what they want to hear from a director, and if i can't tell them that, i'm not going to lie, but every now and then, there's a story, go, you know, i'm the right guy to do this, because of this, that, and the other. something like school of rock. you know, i was like, yeah, i know how to make that movie. - because that movie, that's an example of a movie that was quite commercial. in fact, it may have been the most successful movie you've done, commercially,
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of all the films over these years, and it was a movie that if you went in the front door and said this is a movie about a guy who's going to teach a bunch of kids rock and roll, and it's jack black, and everything else. you wouldn't have necessarily thought, that's a rick linklater movie. - [rich] no, definitely not. - but look what came from that. the movie, itself, had a lot of integrity. it was a much more interesting movie than if another person had made it, and the relationship with jack black, ultimately, probably made bernie happen the way it happened. - yeah, if i had not worked with him before, he wouldn't have risked what he risked, i think on bernie. he had to trust me, so we had that bond. and, i really know his abilities, too, so i'm a good director of him. - he's a significantly better, and more interesting actor than he might also appear to be at first glance, right? - oh, well, he's a very. i love jack, because he's got all that, he's like the most brilliant actor of like comedic ability. he has the biggest toolkit imaginable, but he's a trained actor. he wasn't like a stand-up comedian. you know, he's theater. he's a trained actor. - the people who come to him by way of tenacious d
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don't appreciate what happened before that, right? - yeah, no, but that's just one more amazing skill. you know, that voice. - he's the total package. so, this film, everybody wants some!! debuted at south by southwest. you're in austin. you're the place where you've lived and worked for many years, and at the same festival, a documentary about your career, also showed. i believe it debuted at sundance, and then it showed at this festival. it's interesting to look at your work laid out end to end, because as much as this film is your story, a number of these films have been your story. - yeah. - you're comfortable telling your story in different ways, going all the way back to slacker, which literally, from the very first scene, is your story. it's you. - i think i'm, i will admit, i'm one of the few who will admit, like, oh yeah, this was a point in my life, or this was me and my friends, or yeah, i met a girl in philadelphia, and we walked around all night. - that becomes three movies. - you know, the trilogy's kind of based on one night
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i had, so i'll talk about that. i think you're supposed to kind of say, "oh no, i just, you know, "make these things up," but i kind of like, i'll acknowledge it, just kind of like, you know, a lot of novelists kind of will admit, you know, oh, this was this point of my life, or a moment in time, so, i have no problem doing that, and i think it, you know, people you're working with, i think they kind of like that, 'cause it gives you a certain authority. it's like, no, this is exactly what happened. "no, trust me, he said this." (laughing) when anybody questions you, you're like, "no no. "here's what happened." - you mentioned the idea of a novelist, as opposed to a filmmaker, in the way that you can see the stories. you mentioned, last time we were together up here, you talked about boyhood, and the fact that boyhood really sprang from what you thought was going to be a novel. you sat down to write this novel, and you thought, no, here's how to tell the story. - here's how it'll work as a film. - cinematically. more like a novelist than a filmmaker, you seem comfortable playing with structure. boyhood is a great example of that.
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it was a story told in a little bit more than two hours over 12 years, as opposed to this film, which is a little bit under two hours, told over basically 48 hours, right? 72 hours. - three-and-a-half days. whatever. - you feel comfortable moving back and forth, and changing the parameters around what we all think of, conventionally, as storytelling on film. - yeah, i think in terms of time structures probably a little more than i do plot, 'cause those are very real. our own lives are very much about time. and plot is kind of usually a construct to try to move a story along, but i think if you have, if the time and the character, kind of the actors, through lines, story lines, i guess, to me, are plenty. that feels real. i'm trying to carve out a little bit of, you know, reality, in some strange way. - it's one of the things that makes your movies more interesting than the average person, i think, and that's a good thing. so, what happens now? you've made this film, you've always got a couple things working at the same time. what are the next couple things you're doing?
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- gosh. you know, i have nine scripts that i'm trying to get made. - all yours. - some i've developed with other writers, some i've written, some i've co-written. you know, all over the map. - some things that are different than the typical things you've done? - yeah, there's a, i'm just calling it the artist trilogy. it's three scripts i've been, you know, developing for quite a while, about, it's kind of like i did a film, me and orson welles, that was sort of a week in the life of a young orson welles. they're similar to that. they're little moments in time of artists' lives. you know, real subjects, real moments in time. a lot of other things. - you're pretty much in the position, at this point, i suspect, whether the financing is easy or not, and working with hollywood is easy or not, that you can, more or less, do what you want to do, and limit yourself to that. - i think on a lower budget, i can get a lot of these made, but, you know, for me, i don't know what that is. five or under, maybe? i'll find out soon, probably,
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what i can get. i have a couple, a thing i'm writing right now, about being a kid during the apollo program, like when they first walked on the moon. so yeah, it's a bigger film. - you grew up in that part of texas, and at that moment. - yeah, yeah, so i'm trying to kind of, coming up on the 50th anniversary of the, - the moon shot. - yeah, that i was like, oh, that was a pretty interesting time, so i'm trying to maybe recreate that, but that's a bigger, that's probably a $30 million film. i'll see if i can get it made. - think about how much fun it would be to recreate that period. one of the great things about, again, coming back to the current movie, is the perfect recreation of what it was like to be at that time, the clothes, the cars. - the music. - the music, and, in fact, i mentioned to you, again, before this, we sat down today, that there's a sequence at the beginning of the film, where a bunch of the people in the cast are singing along to rapper's delight. (chuckling) as they're driving from one of the houses to a party or to a,
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- to a bar. (laughing) - and it was immediately authentic, because i thought to myself, probably at that moment, at that point, in my dodge dart, driving around, i may have very well been, - yeah. - [rich] been doing the exact same thing. - i was in the back seat of that car, while that song was playing, and the guys in the front were, that notion of passing the mic to the next guy, that was new. you know, people like, oh wow, this thing we would come to know as hip hop, like what is this song? it has these kind of beats, the kind of discoey, but then it, it had this, it was just new. - and they were discovering it at the time, but it just, again, perfect period. - it had been out for a little while, but at that point, the guys in the car know the song pretty well. yeah, so it had been out for a little while, so everybody knew it, so they're singing along, and that scene is kind of. it sort of is the movie. it's about, you're in a couple minutes, and you're just in this car, with these young guys driving around, and i remember, i got the note quite a bit. you know, the movie's running a little long. it's like, well, you can cut that. you can cut that shorter. and i thought, well, just leave a little bit. i was like, no, it's so early in the movie,
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sometimes you just want to set the tone. - it establishes the tone of the movie. - if you don't like hanging out with these guys while they kind of do their thing, you're not going to like the movie. (laughing) you know, so, let's just get to it right now. (laughing) - what i loved about it was you had the main character, this freshman, who's just arrived. i mean, he's literally just a couple of hours from showing up on campus, and he is every bit as much a part of that sing-along as the older guys, and it shows his confidence, and the way that he's integrated himself immediately into this group. - yeah, and he's doing it correctly. his roommate, who they just ridicule the whole movie. he probably didn't go drinking with the guys, right off the bat. he's got the girlfriend at home. he didn't go out with them. - [evan] spends all his time on the phone. - yeah, he separated himself, and he's paying the price, for not bonding properly. - you learn a lot just in that five minutes. - you pick up on these things, it's like, hmm, i better, yeah okay, i don't want to, but i will go with you, to the, - to the thing. - [rich] it gets you in trouble. - we have a couple minutes left. i want to ask you about bernie. real-life bernie. not just the movie, but real-life bernie, with whom you have forged
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a strong personal relationship since that film. in fact, i believe you all are living in the same. - yeah, he lives, he has a garage apartment, - behind your house. - yeah, my part. - his trial is coming up. - yeah, april 1st. - as we sit here, it may, in fact, people may see this a little bit after, so talk, quickly, about his frame of mind, and his life right now. - he's doing pretty well. he's had this wonderful two years since he was let out. the da, danny buck davidson, who matthew mcconaughey plays in the movie, looking at new evidence. bernie got a lawyer, after the movie. jodie cole saw the movie, and got very curious about the case. she thought she smelled some stuff. they were like, wait, something's not right, here, and she got in, and started doing this incredible research, and found out some very key things. the biggest single thing she discovered that didn't come out in the first trial was his confession. this is where a lot of injustice happens. the coerced confession that's incorrect.
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when the person writes your confession for you, and forces you to sign it, 'cause they're blackmailing you, basically, that he admitted in the confession. it was written as it was a premeditated act, and once you do that, you can't ever really get over that, where it never made sense that it was premeditated, even, you know, i was just amateur, you know, reported there, i was like, well, if it was premeditated, usually you premeditate getting away with it. usually, you do a lot of things. (laughing) and, you know, he didn't. - but as you filmed it in the movie, it doesn't seem premeditated. - and it wasn't. it wasn't, but all they had to go on, was this course confession, and other circumstances in bernie's life, and about that relationship. - he's getting an opportunity to have a second. - yeah, so there's a new sentencing. the state agreed to have a new sentencing, so it's not a question of guilt or innocence. the guy served almost 17 years, so it's not a question of that.
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it's like, well, what was he guilty of? - you don't always bring your work home with you like this? - no. (laughing) i would never have predicted it. you make a movie. you never know what, what you hear back, what happens, and it's been a real, i felt so blessed, and kind of happy that my attention to that case, and i was just making a comedy. that movie isn't an activist movie. it's not the thin blue line, saying, "this guys innocent." it wasn't about that, but it did show a really sweet guy, like the nicest person imaginable, who did a horrible thing, that ruined a lot of people's lives, and at the outer complexity of that, and i think a lot of people don't want to ever deal with the "why" of things. - rick, it's never not interesting to talk about this stuff with you. congratulations on the movie. - great being here. good talking to you, always. - [evan] thank you, very much. - thanks, guys. (applause) - [voiceover] we'd love to have you join us in the studio. visit our website at
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to find invitations to interviews, q&a's with our audience of guests, and an archive of past episodes. - it's fun to take a subject that maybe you have mixed feelings about, and try to figure out what you, what you really feel, or by experiencing it through the making of a film, you do. whatever cathartic elements there are to art, i've definitely felt in a lot of different areas in my life. - [voiceover] funding for overheard with evan smith is provided in part by: mfi foundation, improving the quality of life within our community. also, by hillco partners, a texas government affairs consultancy, and by the alice kleberg reynolds foundation.
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