Film Courage: We’re going to start with some questions that we got from Youtube. This one is from Kay Puta and Kay writes “How were you able to juggle a production company through high school and University and still be a comedy legend?”
Todd Berger, Co-Writer of The Happytime Murders: Wow? That’s all news to me.
Film Courage: Thank you, Kay.
Todd: Comedy legend? When I was a kid I started my first production company when I was nine or ten Boy of Destiny Productions. It was making movies, making little videos with my friends, it was my hobby. Like when other kids were playing soccer or kissing girls, I was making little movies with friends. And as I got older and got out of high school I found fellow friends who wanted to make movies and we formed a production company. We made a feature in high school, I made three features by the time we went to college over the summers. And from a young age I knew that I wanted to work in creative entertainment fields and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
So starting as a company that began as a goof and then actually Johnny Voodoo productions which I started as a goof in high school and it now my actual LLC production company that I used to make stuff (I’ve just maintained it ever since). I guess I’ve just always kept that going because I have jobs to make money but also for fun or for a creative artistic outlet there is this stuff I do over here and luckily we live in an industry, we work in an industry where you can sometimes make those things overlap. I don’t know if that answered your question at all?
Film Courage: I think I does…it was actually Kay’s question but I think that does. You’ve talked about how you grew up in…sorry Nawlins’?
Todd: It’s New Orleans. We don’t like ‘Nawlins. When you spell it Nawlins…no.
Film Courage: Sorry…just trying to be cool. See it backfired. So you were born and raised in New Orleans?
Todd: Born and raised in New Orleans on the Bayou…not really. But I grew up on the other side of the Mississippi River like from the French Quarter and growing up in New Orleans I didn’t realize how unique it was while I was growing up because I just thought every city was like this. It’s like “Every city is super old and you have Mardi Gras, right?” I didn’t realize, I just didn’t understand it’s uniqueness until I left and I was like “Oh, that’s a pretty cool place.” And the whole city has a vibe of creative energy and really supporting creativity and I love it.
Film Courage: And there’s like a supernatural, mediumship undercurrent?
Todd: Oh yeah, there’s a lot of voodoo. There’s a lot of ghosts. Everything is haunted. Everywhere you go there is some spirit doing something.
Film Courage: Nice. Hopefully behaving?
Todd: Usually pretty good. Well, the cool thing about New Orleans is every where you go it’s like “See that house over there, it’s like a 180 years old and a bunch of people died in that house.” And you’re like “Oh, okay cool.” But now it’s a dentist’s office.
Film Courage: Yeah, sure. Now he does root canals. Okay, so now we have another question from the Youtube channel Nate’s Film Tutorials “How did you go about starting your own production company and what advice would you give to those who are starting out? (I’m 19 and decided not to go to film school, but to learn myself). So we kind of talked about that?
Todd: Yes, all you have to do is start a production company is register it with the city and then you have a company and then you actually have to go do stuff, you have to make stuff. I live in Los Angeles and no matter where you live you find the creative people in your city and you kind of hang out with them and get to know them and become friends with them. It’s amazing because even going to a barbecue, like it’s a friend’s birthday barbecue and you go and you start talking to people and you’re like “So what do you do?” “I’m a composer.” “Oh, cool? I’ve actually have been looking for a composer.” And then you get their card and you get their information and the next time you need a composer, you met that person at a barbecue.
They often say in the movie business It’s Who You Know but that doesn’t mean your family connections. It’s who you know socially in life because you went to a barbecue and met a composer and then part of having a production company or making stuff is knowing people in all fields. As a writer I sit at home working on my laptop by myself. But if you want to actually produce stuff and have a production company, you need to know people in all fields. You need to know sound people, you need to know composers, you need to know craft services people, you have to just get out and be introduced to people in the fields so that when it comes time to make something if you have a production company, you need to be able to call anyone in any position and if someone is like “Hey, do you have a transpo guy? Someone who drives trucks?” You’re like “Yeah, I know three. I know three people I can call right now.” And that is really helpful.
Film Courage: Do you have to force yourself to get out sometimes?
Todd: Oh yeah. I can be an isolationist often. But also just trying to get on set in any capacity. When I was younger I was just a PA on set and you just meet everybody. You meet the craft services person, you meet the transpo guys, you meet the hair and make-up people and you become friendly with them. So much of production is just referrals, the DP is working on a new project and that project needs a craft services and he’s like “Oh, well I know a person I met on my last thing. Here…why don’t you call them?”
I love being on set. I love directing and being on set. That’s so much fun that to me that’s almost like networking right? Is just being on a set meeting everybody. Some directors will go on set and not talk to anybody but their AD or the actors. But I’m someone who on the first day I try to introduce myself to everybody. I want to know who the transpo guys are, I want to know every art department person. What’s their name and get to know them all and become Facebook friends with them because maybe we’ll work together? Maybe I’ll need you or you’ll need me? Who knows?
Question For The Viewers: Do you have a production company? What is its name?
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