Ep29 – Brian Devine (Part 1)

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This is Tonya Pinkins and you are listening to my podcast; You Can’t Say That on the Broadway podcast network.

Tonya Pinkins: My next guest picked my chin off the floor after 10 weeks in post-production on my debut feature film “Red Pill,” which had taken 10 weeks to write and cast and get in the can. He told me that filmmaking was a boys club and that I had three strikes against me. One, I was black, two I was female. Three, I was over 50. But he wanted to help me. His honesty and forthrightness was so refreshing. Welcome Bryan Devine, co-founder of Gigantic Music and Gigantic Films.

Brian DEvine: Sorry, I started talked over.

Tonya Pinkins: That's okay. It doesn't matter. It's all good.

Brian DEvine: I was just trying to give your, add some in a world where peacebuildier both fierce and unstoppable.

Tonya Pinkins: Can you guess what my guests does? Can you guess what line of work he's in? His name is Brian DEvine and he is the founder, co-founder of a...

Brian DEvine: Movie studio??

Tonya Pinkins: Movie studio, Gigantic Pictures.

Brian DEvine: And Gigantic Studios and Gigantic Pictures, they are sister companies. I could go into that and again, I almost just want to do over, do over, but you can't.

Tonya Pinkins: They will edit everything. They will make it sound so good.

Brian DEvine: I know, but it's just, I’ve talked over you twice and I think there's three and then I get thrown out a window.

Tonya Pinkins: Everything we talk over; we'd let talk over happen. I have sometimes a multiple people and we talk. I'm very into sound. I'm a very aural person. In fact, most of the time when I'm watching things on streaming, I'm looking at a different screen. I'm really listening to things, I like, whatever they call L cuts, J cuts. I like sound to lead me to the next thing. I like sound to start before the next thing. How'd you get into sound, Brian?

Brian DEvine: I love the inside baseball on the [02:48 inaudible]. Well it’s interesting cause I’ve always been of two brains at once. I started on piano when I was forced on it when I was six. And so I had sounds in my head that I was trying to translate through instrumentation from a very young age. And then I found my dad's super eight camera in the basement when I was 11. Begged my mom for film and then just became the little Spielberg of the neighborhood for fun. And then got into the electric guitar when my parents would finally cave to my incessant asking for them around the age of 12. And that got me into becoming a recordist, a home recordist for songs that I would write. So I started as a, like a little rock and roll kid with a four track then an eight track and a 16 track then a 24 track. And finally ended up with, at the end of that long rainbow, having been in bands, long hair, short hair, you name the length of hair, did a whole run in my early life working in movies in LA and then being in bands at night on the sunset strip in my twenties. And then ended up in Greenwich village in the mid-nineties and started gigantic music division, which was a recording studio and a record label in 98-99. Around that time, and that was when sound became a professional thing where we were recording albums by passion pit and the Walkman and all these wonderful bands. And then the music business aid itself and music became something that you cannot independently market and every band really should just be their own company.

Tonya Pinkins: What do you mean by that, you are talking about 98?
We didn't have Napster yet, did we?
Brian Devine: No, no, no. I'm saying life moves very quickly. I've been in New York City now for 23 years and so I have lived and died many career in the city. But concurrent through all of that was the Gigantic Pictures and then Gigantic studios world. And so this is the most roundabout answer because how I got into sound is different than how I got into into sound is different from how I got into movies.

Tonya Pinkins: You had sounds in your head. I want to know about the sounds that were in your head. Were they songs in your head? What do you mean there were sounds in your head when you were five, six?

Brian DEvine: well, the furniture would talk to me and tell me.

Tonya Pinkins: I was believing.

Brian DEvine: Well, it's difficult to get music out when you're little, I guess. Some people have this sort of like, it all just flows. But for me, the piano was a stop gap, what I had in me I couldn't make it.

Tonya Pinkins: So it's like you were hearing orchestral things and the piano just didn't have enough. You needed to synthesize her already cause you were hearing more notes than you could make.

Brian DEvine: Yes. And no. To some degree. I had symphonic thoughts in my head, but I also so had melodies and things that my fingers weren't naturally relating to. And I always felt that my expressive instrument was the guitar. And then I finally got one and within six months I was better on the guitar than I was in nine years on the piano. So it was like one was not built for me and one was an extension of me. And because we have time, I'm going to take a little tangent and I'm still by the end of the podcast, I’ll answer your first question to the podcast, but and it's part of I think our spiritual connect. We're new friends here, but it happens sort of fast and furious and it's a delight here to be able to talk to you about our budding friendship. But it stems a lot from a spirituality or a sense that we are part of an organized organism or something greater than any of our individual aspirations. And one of the things that seems to me to be sort of a proof of that, God is a loaded term, but the existence of an organizing principle here is that the 12-note scale of music, it's very simple. It's very basic and all living creatures understand it. Animals react to it. Babies grow smarter in the womb; plants grow better in the presence of Mozart. It is, in my opinion, for lack of a better term, God's language. It's something understood by all living creatures. It's very simple. It translates to everyone. It doesn't matter your level of education, you can study it, but sometimes it just flows out of you almost as if you're a spigot or a conduit or a reflection. So these sort of decomposing carcasses that we've been handed with this limited timeframe are sort of gifted with the momentary loan of creativity. The sort of the mechanism from beyond.

Tonya Pinkins: I think of it as like, I'm a receiver. Like it's coming through me. You know what I mean? Like I have to sometimes just stop and like receive the information. Like, don't talk to me like it's coming down. I got to take notes.

Brian DEvine: Agreed. I just had eaten all the oxygen in the room talking nonstop for 20 minutes. Excuse me. That I was really happy to have you speak for a second.

Tonya Pinkins: He is got a bourbon over there. I want you to know. He wanted a cough drop, but he settled for bourbon.

Brian DEvine: Well, I'm very rock and roll man. I may be a movie studio by day rock and roller by night. But that became my expression that was despite my sort of Irish Blarney and nonstop word smithery, I could still be more articulate with my feelings, my heart voice if you will, through that instinct.

Tonya Pinkins: Did you bring us some music so we could play something with the guitar? Cause I’ve heard you're great and I did ask you to send us some guitar.

Brian DEvine: You did. I don't know if you're...

Tonya Pinkins: But you are going to send it so that we can post some.

Brian DEvine: [08:22 inaudible] I’ll send you an assortment and you can pick through any of it all. All stuff that I own. You don't have to worry about licensing.

Tonya Pinkins: You'll send us a release top.

Brian DEvine: I will, I’ll sign anything for you.

Tonya Pinkins: Checkbook, got a checkbook here.

Brian DEvine: You would not be excited if you saw what's in my checking account.

Tonya Pinkins: Savings account, stocks.

Brian DEvine: Stocks, bonds, bear Bonds. I travel almost exclusively and beanie babies. I think they're going to hold their value. It's my main currency.

Tonya Pinkins: I throw them away.

Brian DEvine: so that's, so that getting, so that language.

Tonya Pinkins: So tell me about your family seeing you suddenly they wanted you to be a piano player and you finally get this guitar at 12 and then you're playing. What was their response to that?

Brian DEvine: Well, it isn't a weird collision because my parents are mad cool, and they love rock and roll, and their musical tastes is fantastic. My dad still is like, you know, go into rock artsy, saw like Tom petty the week before he died, like first row. He's like one of those like bucket lists. Now I'm going to see, I'm going to, sit in Eddie Vedder's lap for the next one. Like, I have no idea, but he just is, they're absorbing great music. So my dad's record collection, when he would go to way to work was meticulously organized, alphabetized and all by year and release and everything.

Tonya Pinkins: And you fucked that up real quick.

Brian DEvine: Oh no, no. I was a clever little bastard. I noticed even at the age of six that where my dad in his OCD would pull an album out to listen to. He would pull the one before and after it alphabetically, a little bit out, like an inch out. So he would know to put it away just between those two records, nothing would ever leave place. So when he would go to way to work and I would have all that free time out came the Janice Joplin records and the Credence records and the Coltrane records and whatever I could get ahold of movies and music from the fifties and all this stuff became my food. And he never noticed once. I knew exactly how to put them all back. It was as if nothing happened and every once in a while, I'd scratch one and he would, how does this... But I was never caught. I was never, I was a too clever. I was far too clever. But that fed me and that was incredible, but there was also this convention of what in a proper society, one teaches one's child or whatever. And it was always in the fifties. It was like a sign of you made it when there's a piano in the house, and like classical piano was how to like build an intellect of a young man or a woman. And it was this understanding that rock and roll was the devil's music, even though that's all they listened to. But it was like somehow low class, long hair, smoking cigarettes behind the gym music. And if you wanted to like go to college, learn the piano. And I did go to college, but I really didn't do well at learning the piano. But I was like just had the rock and roll in my heart cause it was what I was feeding myself from my dad's own collection. It's his fault.

Tonya Pinkins: Did you tell him that ever before he died?

Brian DEvine: My father is still alive so, please.

Tonya Pinkins: Oh, I thought you said Tom Petty the day before he died.

Brian DEvine: Tom died. Tom is very dead. Top Petty died tragically of like opioid fuck up and it sad and my dad is checking off soon to be dead musicians off his bucket list as quick as possible. So Dad alive, hopefully as of this taping.

Tonya Pinkins: God, we didn't kill.

Brian DEvine: And his record collection is really to blame for all of my rock and roll tendencies even as if they were trying to like turn into the skid and teach me the piano.

Tonya Pinkins: Now one of the things you've talked about that's been on my mind a lot, it's been coming up for me. You talked a lot about we work, and they work. And that is a big thing for me because I like young people and I like to help young people. And when young people have projects and they ask me to participate in them, I usually just say yes, I just want to help you. If you think that having my name attached or something, I'm going to do it. I want to, that's the way I get to pay it forward.

Brian DEvine: A great policy that I would encourage.

Tonya Pinkins: It's just something I have done all the time I’ve been in this business and I now found these Gen Z; the American Gen Z cause I don't find it from anybody anywhere else. They have such a sense of entitlement and what they have a right and what they deserve before they've ever done anything. And I don't think they can understand the difference between an opportunity and a job, or we work, and they work.

Brian DEvine: Well that’s a great question. And or topic. And I have I will represent Gen Z the paper tiger argument first and then I will get to what I think of as the, we they pivot. There is a central thing to the sort of any creative act, and it's based around a world devoid of fear. We've talked about this in private about how you make a safe set era, a beautiful writing room or whatever it is, where you expect that that special gift of creativity blossom. So it's to create this beautiful
atmosphere you need a world that's like safe and free from fear. Now, young people right now have to have three side hustle jobs and eat from our fricking dumpster culturally speaking, because...

Tonya Pinkins: That is not new.

Brian DEvine: No, but it’s the shit flows down the stream. You start, pardon my okay boomer defense, but the boomer is natural conceit is to absorb in natural resources there. That's where all the billionaires are. They're absorbing in whatever it is, getting all the oil, all of the land rights, all of the whatever it is. It's all a taking of natural resources. And then you have my generation, our generation, Gen X, who were basically their bag men taking 10 cents on the dollar to protect their interests and starting our own fanzines and wishing Kurt Cobain was still alive. And then you have everyone that came after us, by the time what's left, there is nothing. There are no resources left. This first generation that's not as wealthy as the ones before it. Statistically speaking, it is heading in the wrong direction. So if you ask somebody to eat from a dumpster, get no health insurance and do all these other things and then create a world that is inherently fearful, they are going to have their egos enter into the play and to defend themselves they're going to say things that are objectively untrue but are in a defensive, the whole.

Tonya Pinkins: That's interesting. That's a good argument for them. I'm feeling of maybe a tiny bit more sympathy, but not much.

Brian DEvine: All right. Fair enough. Tiny is enough. And again, I said it was a straw man argument. I did it for the rhetorical joy of having to defend someone, not present to defend themselves. There are many things that are annoying

Tonya Pinkins: But I don't find it from people who are immigrants. I find that immigrants come here, and they think America is still the land of opportunity. They come here, they think that they can do anything, be anything and they are hustling and the kids who are here now things given to them and that's rare and they just feel like they can walk away from it. I've got four kids.

Brian DEvine: I have three and there is a, what they call helicopter parenting and that is where parents come flying in at those slightest little wrinkle to take care of any problems. Then if it were me and my kid sister, it's just like get back by dark, don't be dead. And then that's it. Like play with the sharp stick and the snake and they run in traffic and doesn't matter, no one's watching now. Like someone said something that upset the kid. Now they're getting fired and everybody's screaming,
meetings and my parents barely knew I existed. My mom was just going to get some food on the table. Dad worked a thousand hours a week, saw him 10 minutes, if I was lucky. Like different world. So helicopter parenting, it is a two-part process that takes two to do be the bad parent by overprotection and then there is the baby bird thing, which is I'm just going to chew it up and spit it into your mouth. You don't have to go get it. And so like that is also on, I would always blame parents for children's bad behavior.

Tonya Pinkins: I am a little guilty of that. I had to do a little tough parenting this week. My daughter got her electricity cut off and I was like, I'm not helping. I pay the rent for you. You got to do that yourself. And it was hard for me. I had to have a lot of talks with friends. It was really hard for me.

Brian DEvine: You did the right thing. If you don't feel the hot breath on the back of your neck to forces you to run, you will never learn how to run. You'd throw a bird out of a nest, not because you don't love the bird, but if it never learns to fly, what use is the bird. So you have to, you have to be a parent and know, and they get in harm's way and they have to learn how to deal with it. It is, and I'm telling you this as the fun dad, because my ex is the disciplinarian who's like, you are getting the good job, you get to buy crap and then I get to take it from them. You know, it's like, this is coming from someone who's an irrepressible child on the inside. And I look in the mirror, I'm like, who's that old man? I'm a child in this babe in the woods. But it is what it is. And so yeah you have to sort of split the Delta when it comes to disciplinary and fun person. They got to get both from you.

Tonya Pinkins: So you think these kids are like, they don't have an ability, they don't have the capacity.

Brian DEvine: They are soft. It’s not like us. They are soft.

Tonya Pinkins: They are, don't have the, there's too much fear to be able to invest in any we because they're like worried that they just don't cave and take care of I, no survival.

Brian DEvine: Eat from a dumpster for 10 minutes and you're going to be talking to Phantoms. Like it's just the way it is. And so I have great concern and empathy for the young people. Cause I also have three of them nipping at my buds. But like I have three perfect children. I mean they're unbelievable. I could sing the praises. My eldest was nominated for an Emmy his second year in the sound business, the sound designer for the fire festival doc and Netflix, the viral one. Literally
everyone watched. So that's my boy. I got to go to Sundance, my 22nd Sundance, his second, he's a sophomore. I'm an elder gray beard statesman. But I'm still like jamming on electric guitar with my kid in front of me. And we are roughly, he's slightly wiser than I am. I have tons more experience, but I'm a child. He's like kind of a cool 20-year-old maybe in his head, but he's 26 and I'm 52 and that's the way that go. Like he's half the distance to the goal line or whatever. But he's a man more than me. I just get to run the whole business.

Tonya Pinkins: And he's in sound too?

Brian DEvine: Well he is a sound designer for gigantic. I am primarily a filmmaker so I would consider myself, cause I have the production company outlasted the proposed production and post is both sound envisioned. So sound is but one feature to one part of my entire empire of creative endeavors.

Tonya Pinkins: So I was looking online, and I found a film that in the Google search it said was directed by Brian divine. But then when I went and looked at the film, Bryan Devine was nowhere on that film. Do you have any idea what film it is? It was a gigantic pictures film. Hands and feet or something.

Brian DEvine: Oh, Hands and Feet. I did not direct it. I am merely one of the producers of Hands and Feet.

Tonya Pinkins: You were listed as a director in the Google search.

Brian DEvine: Oh well that's a bonus for me. My directorial energies are, it is my great consternation that I formed a production company so that I would have producers to help me direct. And then in the 23 years I had those producers, I directed a comedy short slash pilot, a couple of music videos and some docu footage like that has ended up in documentaries.

Tonya Pinkins: So you still have this desire to be a director.

Brian DEvine: I have a burning desire to be a director and you as a newbie stepping up to the plate, that's one of the reasons why I feel like we were instinct kindred is that we are both staring into the grand maw of our future going, what are the things that we really need to accomplish and let's start checking them boxes. And I think that's what got us together. And I just want to throw a little, I love talking about myself. Believe me, you could have to shoot a tranq dart in my neck to stop this. But what's interesting about you is they often like throw about
this word gravitas, it's in Latin, it seems fancy and on and on. But whenever I think of gravitas, I always think of someone frowning, going I am so smart, and you're disappointing me with my gravitas over here. It is rarely that you meet a soul who's positive energy. It's a positive gravitas. Like you are so bright in the goodness that you produce, that it is gives one pause. Like you're like, Oh, she has like good gravitas. And so like, so it is an appealing energy. One that one wants to like sort of be in a salon at the feet of, pass around discussions around. And so the fact that the first words when you met me were, well, first of all, you're doing my podcast. Now let's start our friendship. I now I feel delighted that now here, and I’ll have, this is my podcast cherry. This is my first podcast.

Tonya Pinkins: We got a virgin here.

Brian DEvine: This is me and you. I have been a very reclusive, enigmatic public figure for 30 years. And so it is rarely that I get out in the sunlight to talk about myself. But again, when we talked about a world devoid of fear where our heart voices can speak, etc., you kind of shoot such light around you that it brings out everyone's hearts. And so that it means that you were preternaturally designed to be able to direct energy on a movie set that needs to be attuned to the positive. Any of that old energy, that predatory energy, the Scott Rudin throw the phone at the assistant energy. That shit doesn't fly, its bullshit. I don't even mean like someone idealistic, even though I am wildly idealistic, say I'm not. Say I was the crassest bottom line pragmatist. You still building backwards from a successful creative venture need to start in a place, devoid of fear to get the best result. To say I was madly defensive of the money and it was just a complete bean counter. I still would need that same starting point yet everything in entertainment starts from stress, ego and all of these things that delineate someone's superiority. When we are all ultimately a null set that disappears into forever. We are by definition equal. And so as long as we can just treat each other as a non-redundant communion of equals each serving the greater good, then we can lift each other up. And I feel there's so much of that bottled up inside you that the idea that you will be on hopefully more and more movie sets sharing that sort of fire hose power of a pressure of goodness, the good gravitas, if you will be a remarkable thing. So I just kind of want to come out of my cave and talk into this microphone to sort of endorse that part of your path because you're an esteemed actor, but you were taking a grand risk right now in your own career.

Tonya Pinkins: We have to tell them what we're talking about. We're talking about the fact that I, this year, after three years of shadowing television directors, and that's first of all, it's a privilege to get to do it. Most people have to get in one
of those programs and apply and compete with a thousand other people from around the world to get in the Sony or the Warner or the CBS program. But because I'm an actress, I had the ability to just call up showrunners and say, Hey, I want to shadow. And so they were like, great, you'd be a great director, come and shadow. But then you still have to be able to have the money to be able to fly yourself somewhere and put yourself up and not work for the three to four weeks of going through preproduction through edit of a show. So I'm a privileged person.

Brian DEvine: Fear the Walking dead is good, but it's not good.

Tonya Pinkins: But I'm a privileged person that I did that for three years and at the end of it, I didn't feel any closer to getting a job. Like, I knew I could do this job in my sleep, but asking and saying, okay, I'm ready. Can I get the job? It wasn't happening. So I decided to give the job to myself and I wrote, produced, directed, financed, started a feature film called Red Pill with Ruben Blades and Kathy Erbe and Cathy Curtin and Luba Mason and Adesola Osakalumi, Cathy Curtin and Colby Minifiee, which is going to come out any minute now.

Brian DEvine: And Cathy Curtin is so awesome, she got mentioned twice. She's a dear, dear friend of mine. I love Cathy Curtin

Tonya Pinkins: And she kill, she's just, she went up the scenery in this movie.

Brian DEvine: I she is another one of those ones where she's just a big old ball of talent. She is just a delight.

Tonya Pinkins: The other day we did a reshoot and I just put a camera on Kathy and just said, we need a shot of you eating bread. Bread plays a big part in this movie. And Kathy starts eating the bread.

Brian DEvine: No metaphors there.

Tonya Pinkins: And she starts eating the bread and I'm just like keep the camera going. And the things she begins to do with this bread, I'm going to find somewhere to put this in the movie because it was just like, it was just fabulous. I didn't write it, but what she did was so fabulous, we are going to find somewhere to put it in the movie.

Brian DEvine: And I'm just like basking the wonderful laughter, and this is when you access joy is what it sounds like. That sounded is someone accessing their joy
and it's really important. I mean there's a broader philosophies and so I will double back to the we they conversation cause that was what you posed at the beginning and then it was a great structure for a discussion. So, even though I have a tendency to wander and meander off the sidetracks. Returning to that, they often say in Hollywood, because Hollywood is this monolithic thing that has to move all this money around, billions of dollars have to sort of go around in a circle. And it is, empty theaters are showing you the kids don't consume this anymore. So there's a certain amount of business and transition that is already sort of a dinosaur. It's a very complex mindscape, which is why it is filled with fear, the deadliest ingredients. So the thing is, so then you talk about the we and they, oftentimes in order to make a living, you have to serve the machine. You have to go in, punch the clock and give into the grander demands of the business. Because at some overarching level, we are all at service to one another, inclusive of our business, our sector. So I want every movie to be a hit. Every popcorn movie. I don't, I'm not like here in my independent outskirts, although I do flip the bird to LA. I want every movie to be a masterpiece. I don't have a...

Tonya Pinkins: I don't want it to be a masterpiece. I want everybody to have a chance to have their vision be seen.

Brian DEvine: And so everybody has to sort of help. And so I'm more than happy to put my artists to work on anyone's grander vision. And it doesn't matter what part of the country it came from. I don't care, what network, what stream. We're here to serve. At the same level we all have our own dreams, our own visions, our own stories to tell. And so often we'll hear a big Hollywood star go, I’ll do one for us and one for them. And I always like, well, I want to be part of the us then because we is so much stronger than any other pronouns. It is the thing that we need to sort of aspire to is to always be part of a we. And so when you're playing an iron man or whatever, you're serving your brand, you're serving your bank account, you're serving your masters, you're serving a lot of other things. But like when you go do check-off on Broadway or whatever the heck it is, whatever it is, that's your true calling, the place where you really access your gift and your joy and the things that really send you, often that is harder to finance, harder to get done, harder to make the true artistic statements land. And that's why we lock arms. We become we, we float when together where we would sink alone. It's just physics. And so I, by setting my studio as far away from Hollywood with no one in any of that kind of mindset is that, I’ll have like a brilliant director like Ramin Bahrami go make a hundred-million-dollar movie for Netflix with big international cast has been four months in India and I will be blown away that he is doing that. And mad jealous that as a director that I'm nowhere near that. And then he'll come
running back to do a film in American sign language with all non-active deaf people. And I don't, we don't have a title. Untitled Ramin Bahrami , brilliant movie. And then a movie about rural healthcare. Two really important and interesting one and a completely 100% unrepresented group. The deaf are not representative at all. And the American sign language is the third most spoken language and yet is not representative film at all, 0%. Talk about a community that does not get representation. Everyone pause and think about the deaf. If you have a deaf family member, you know how fuck that is. Pardon my French. Are we allowed to curse on this thing?

Tonya Pinkins: You can say that. Yes you can. You can.

Brian DEvine: And so there's, so it's interesting and so when Ramin takes me aside and he is like, hey man, am I selling out to do the Bourne identity pilot for television I'm like you are not selling out like you are winning like you are doing one for them. That's very high level and then you're able to bring back all that juice and do ever escalating stuff for us. The we, the people, that are underrepresented, that live out here in the outskirts of independent land.

Tonya Pinkins: It's hard though. It can be very soul murdering during those days.

Brian DEvine: it's an interesting thing and so that's the us and them. I always want to be part of a, we, I always want to be part of a greater good. I always want to reach towards something that's bigger than myself. Malignant narcissism is a plague on our culture, and it has to go away. And so we cannot reward fame. We have to reward beauty.

Tonya Pinkins: That was part one of the conversation with co-founder of gigantic pictures, gigantic music. Brian Devine

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