Kevin is joined by Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey, powerhouse producers and founders of Temple Hill Entertainment.
Marty Bowen, Producer
Wyck Godfrey, Producer and Former Studio Head
Kevin Goetz is joined by two exceptional guests who have produced some of the most popular entertainment of recent years. Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey are the dynamic duo behind Temple Hill Entertainment. With a list of credits that includes blockbuster franchises like The Twilight Saga and The Maze Runner Trilogy, as well as critically acclaimed films like The Fault in Our Stars and First Man, these two industry powerhouses have left an indelible mark on the entertainment landscape. Their collaboration has yielded television hits such as FX's Dave, ABC's Revenge, and Hulu's Love, Victor.
Marty and Wyck’s background and early careers (3:12)
Wyck discusses his start in the film industry as an intern at New Line Cinema, his journey to becoming an executive, and his first project, National Lampoon's Spring Break. Marty talks about growing up in a small town in Texas, his international experiences, and the moment he decided to pursue a career in the movie business after watching Dances with Wolves.
Roommates and the beginning of a partnership (7:19)
Marty and Wyck reminisce about their early days as roommates, the excitement of pursuing their dreams in Hollywood, and the formation of their enduring partnership.
A surprising screening of The Fault in Our Stars (14:49)
Kevin recounts the surprisingly popular screening of The Fault in Our Stars. Godfrey shares how he tracked down John Green at a book signing, and how their shared love for Liverpool football led to their collaboration.
Running a studio (22:31)
Wyck shares his experience transitioning from being a producer to running the studio. He talks about the moment Jim Gianopulos offered him the opportunity and how he felt the need for a change. Marty Bowen reflects on Wyck's decision and compares it to his own transition from an agent to a producer.
Lessons from Paramount (24:48)
Kevin asks Wyck to share how his experience at Paramount helped the partnership when he returned to Temple Hill Entertainment. The discussion turns to the marketing of Smile and how the studio experience drove the distribution decisions.
Kevin asks Marty and Wyck to discuss the other’s superpower, and what follows is an insightful discussion of the production partnership, and why it has been so successful.
Tune in to hear Marty and Wyck discuss their partnership, their journey in the film industry, and their experiences working on various projects. The podcast episode also highlights their first projects, their partnership chemistry, and their mutual respect for each other's talents.
Host: Kevin Goetz
Guests: Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey
Producer: Kari Campano
For more information about Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen:
Temple Hill Entertainment: https://www.templehillent.com/
For more information about Kevin Goetz:
Audienceology Book: https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Audience-ology/Kevin-Goetz/9781982186678
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram: @KevinGoetz360
Linked In @Kevin Goetz
Screen Engine/ASI Website: www.ScreenEngineASI.com
Podcast: Don't Kill the Messenger with Movie Research Expert Kevin Goetz
Guest: Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey -- The dynamic duo behind Temple Hill Entertainment.
There's a little-known part of Hollywood that most people are not aware of known as the audience test preview. The recently released book, Audienceology, reveals this for the first time. Our podcast series, Don't Kill the Messenger, brings this book to life, taking a peek behind the curtain. And now, join author and entertainment research expert, Kevin Goetz.
Kevin Goetz (00:24):
You know how some things just go together, for example, Batman and Robin, Mario and Luigi, Ben and Jerry, bread and butter, ketchup and fries as well. Well, well in the film business, if you're in the film business, you know the names Wyck and Marty, they just go together. Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen who are here with me today have produced some of the most popular entertainment of recent years, including films such as The Twilight Saga, The Maze Runner Trilogy, The Fault in Our Stars, First Man, The Hate You Give, and most recently, Babylon, their television credits include FX’s Dave, ABC's Revenge, and Hulu's Love, Victor. They started their production company, Temple Hill Entertainment in 2006. In 2017, Wyck served as president of Paramount Motion Picture Group, but returned to producing with Marty at Temple Hill in 2020. Their latest releases include the horror movie hit, Smile, and they also produced Amazon's Emergency, and Paramount Plus’s On the Come Up, and Grease: Rise of The Pink Ladies. Wyck and Marty, bravo, and welcome to my podcast.
Wyck Godfrey (01:36):
<laugh>. I want to know who's peanut butter and who's jelly <laugh>.
Marty Bowen (01:40):
Well, we know who that is. Let's not say out loud.
Kevin Goetz (01:42):
Marty, who's peanut butter?
Marty Bowen (01:45):
Well, I have to be peanut butter because I'm not a fan of jelly.
Kevin Goetz (01:48):
Marty Bowen (01:49):
No, it's peanut butter and jam. Why jam? Because jelly don't shake like that. <laugh>.
Kevin Goetz (01:53):
Well, what I love is I wanted to sort of get that dynamic of how you work together. So basically Marty makes the decisions. Wyck, is that what's going on here?
Marty Bowen (02:01):
Wyck Godfrey (02:03):
Yeah, pretty much. And I was immediately going to say, well Marty, if you don't like jelly, then you're jelly.
Kevin Goetz (02:09):
<laugh>. Oh God, so when I was researching your history and the podcast for today, I realized how far we all go back with each other. New Line, Wyck. Marty, when you were an agent, what agency were you at again, Marty?
Marty Bowen (02:24):
God bless you for saying that. Uh, United Talent.
Kevin Goetz (02:27):
United Talent. And Wyck, you were a junior creative, right? You came up at New Line, and who was running it at the time?
Wyck Godfrey (02:35):
At the time I worked for first, Janet Grillo on the East Coast, and then, you know, Sarah Risher was running the group, and then Mike took over and I ended up moving out to Los Angeles and basically running around with him and doing whatever he told me to do for about two years.
Kevin Goetz (02:49):
And you guys are complete underachievers as we know. Both went to, well you didn't really, oh you did go to college. Let me see if I can pronounce it right, Harvard and Princeton.
Marty Bowen (03:01):
Kevin Goetz (03:02):
Harvard and Wyck, your son goes there if I remember on a plane ride or something recently.
Wyck Godfrey (03:08):
I have two. Yeah, I have my middle and younger sons. Both are there right now, but they're much smarter than me. They're science majors, engineering students and computer science students. They got their mom's brain.
Kevin Goetz (03:19):
Mary, right? Yes. I wasn't going there. Where I was going was you better get something else produced like immediately because I can imagine what those bills are. <laugh>. It's crazy.
Wyck Godfrey (03:29):
I try not to look.
Kevin Goetz (03:31):
Oh man. So Mary is the doctor of my co-author, Darlene Hayman. And she wanted to call out because she said ask Wyck who has the more stressful job?
Wyck Godfrey (03:44):
She does by far and she has a much more difficult and impressive job.
Kevin Goetz (03:50):
Wow. Well being a doctor, I'm sure, and particularly a doctor in Los Angeles with a lot of demanding clients. Would that be fair? <laugh>?
Wyck Godfrey (04:00):
I'm taking the fifth.
Kevin Goetz (04:01):
<laugh>. So Marty, I'm really impressed with the fact that I read some major credits of yours, but there are so many more. And the listeners really want to know, how did you guys meet? How did you form this partnership? Arguably one of the best that I've ever seen. And I've been in the business for 30, what, six years. It's an incredible partnership. I mean the likes of which, you know, I'm thinking of Bruckheimer and Simpson and you know, it doesn't happen that often. Tell me,
Marty Bowen (04:37):
Uh, what's our meet cute Wyck? It's interesting, I think we debate this, but I think we did meet at a premier, you know, you're young people in Hollywood back when you used to love to go to premieres. I think we met and people said like you guys would like each other. And I think we did, but we didn't really hang out together until we were both looking for roommates in houses that we were going to rent. John Goldstone and I had been roommates and friends from college, and we were looking for a third roommate in a house we found in West Hollywood, and we thought Wyck would be a great roommate. And then we saw that house and then Wyck said, well that, I mean this is a nice house, but you should come see the house we want to rent.
Kevin Goetz (05:21):
<laugh>. And did you end up renting the one Wyck found?
Wyck Godfrey (05:25):
I had a roommate named Don Winston who's a writer. And we had found a house that was a bigger house, but we needed four people. And so immediately, the three roommate thing wasn't going to work at Marty and John's house. We showed 'em this house that was, I think at the time Samantha Mathis and her friends were living there and they were moving out, and they were looking for somebody to take over the rent, and Marty and John saw it and they're like, oh crap, you're right. This is much better.
Marty Bowen (05:49):
Actually I was the first, John didn't see it first. I remember walking out in the backyard with my 500 pound cell phone and I called John and go, we're moving to Beachwood <laugh>.
Kevin Goetz (05:59):
Now, were you an agent yet Marty? And Wyck, were you an exec yet?
Wyck Godfrey (06:03):
Yeah, I was at New Line, and Marty was at UTA. And just the funny thing about all this, the fact that we're still partners and very good friends, we became roommates before we became friends and the friendship developed out of a couple years of living together and at the end of every day going home and sharing war stories. And what did you read today, and what happened to you today? And as we got drunker through the night, we'd be like, when we run this town, we are going to start a company together.
Kevin Goetz (06:29):
<laugh>, You just took the question right out of my mouth. That's exactly what does a Saturday night look like at the house? When you're talking about dreaming of big things, was there a moment when you said, why don't we just quit our jobs and do this together?
Wyck Godfrey (06:44):
Well, first of all, a Saturday night at our house, if you go back and look at Swingers, the party scene at Swingers was at our house. We threw that party and let them shoot the movie around us. That's true. Yeah.
Marty Bowen (06:55):
Which keg are you talking about? Because it was different in each place. There was a keg.
Kevin Goetz (07:00):
Oh, I love this.
Marty Bowen (07:01):
The truth is, you get four people all at the beginning of their careers getting to do something that you spent several years hoping you could do that you'd probably do for free. And now they're paying you to do it. And we all were bringing different things into the room, and we would listen to music and drink cocktails, and we always had a fire going, and it was just magical, you know, and someone would ultimately need to go to bed. And that was a lot of our time was just the excitement of getting to do the thing that we had wanted to do for forever.
Kevin Goetz (07:32):
Where did forever start, where are you both from?
Wyck Godfrey (07:36):
I grew up in East Tennessee. I was born in New Orleans, moved to Tennessee when I was seven, lived there until high school and then obviously went to college as an English major. I had no idea what the movie business was, frankly. Through college I graduated with an English degree and realized way too late. They're like, wait, what do you do with an English degree? And I knew I loved two things, movies and sports. So I moved with all my college roommates to New York who were smarter than me and had Wall Street jobs. And I just figured, well, in New York, I gotta be able to find a job in either the movie business or sports broadcasting and New Line Cinema.
Kevin Goetz (08:12):
Was that your first job?
Wyck Godfrey (08:13):
Yeah, they gave me an internship. So my first job was not a job, it was an internship. I worked for free for three months reading every script they would give me and writing probably, you know, overriding coverage and kind of doing whatever odd job they gave me. And then at the course of three months, I had managed to meet Bob Shaye and spend some time with him. And I think he told Jan, he was like, well how much would it take to keep him on after the three months? And she was like about $17,000 a year. <laugh>, which is, which was my first salary.
Marty Bowen (08:44):
You were an assistant?
Wyck Godfrey (08:45):
They didn't even make me an assistant. They were like, you're just a creative associate. Just meet with writers, go see plays, meet playwrights, try to find projects.
Kevin Goetz (08:55):
And what was the first one you found?
Wyck Godfrey (08:57):
Gosh, the first project I actually made as an executive was called National Lampoon’s Spring Break that Roger Kumble and Marlene King wrote. And Roger and I kind of went and worked on and it is the first thing on my resume, but not the one that comes up very often. So thanks for asking. <laugh>
Kevin Goetz (09:18):
And Roger. Let's do a call-out. Terrific guy. He's great.
Wyck Godfrey (09:22):
Oh my gosh. Great.
Marty Bowen (09:22):
Who was my client.
Kevin Goetz (09:25):
Wait a minute, Marty, let me get to you now. Where'd you come from?
Marty Bowen (09:28):
Well, I love it how Wyck says East Tennessee. So I'm going to say central Texas. The truth is we are both really big hicks and competitively so. I think I was born in a town of a thousand people.
Kevin Goetz (09:41):
How does a guy from a town of a thousand get to Harvard?
Marty Bowen (09:44):
Well, let's be clear…
Kevin Goetz (09:46):
Take the 405 <laugh>.
Marty Bowen (09:49):
I was born in a small town called Wortham. No one's ever heard of it. My father was in international finance, believe it or not. So I lived all over the world and would come back to Texas. And then finally settled in Fort Worth, Texas in seventh grade.
Kevin Goetz (10:02):
And Marty, what was your first big influence in terms of the movie business where you really said, that's what I want to do? You know, a lot of us have that moment.
Marty Bowen (10:13):
The actual moment I decided to make that move and keep in mind, like Wyck, I didn't get a good job outta college either. <laugh>. So all of my roommates were trying to get the investment jobs that Wyck's roommates had. And I remember going to see Dances with Wolves. Hmm. On the way there, all they were talking about were the interviews that they were going on. And I felt very much left out of that conversation. And on the way back after having seen Dances with Wolves, all I wanted to do was talk about the movie. And all they wanted to do was go back to the conversations about those interviews. And that night, true story, I got up and I wrote my Jerry McGuire manifesto, by the way I wrote it before Jerry McGuire. So I think Cameron Crow owes me a…
Kevin Goetz (10:59):
A debt of gratitude.
Marty Bowen (11:00):
A debt of gratitude. And I wrote a fan letter to Kevin Costner. Wow. And I sealed it up saying that I'm going to make this commitment, this is what I'm going to do, blah blah blah blah blah. And I found out the next day that my friend Meredith Salinger, who was in school with me, and Kevin Costner, shared an agent cause I wanted to get it to him, this guy William Morris. So I said, Meredith, I really want Kevin Costner to have this. It's the first and only one I've ever written. Will you give it to Bill? And she explained to me at that point that there was no thing.
Kevin Goetz (11:35):
I was saying Mr. Morris.
Marty Bowen (11:37):
<laugh> And I never sent the letter.
Kevin Goetz (11:40):
Oh God. Did you ever tell Kevin that story?
Marty Bowen (11:43):
Not only did he hear this story, he called me up.
Kevin Goetz (11:47):
Marty Bowen (11:48):
And he said, you know, look, I'd love to read the letter. And I said to him, I'm sorry, I can't give it to you. And he goes, what do you mean? I was like, well the contents of the letter aren't the thing that's important to me. What's important to me is the commitment to it. And I pretty much knew it was probably a shitty letter, let's be honest. Mm-hmm
Kevin Goetz (12:03):
What was your major in school by the way?
Marty Bowen (12:05):
History was my major, but if I'm being brutally honest, I didn't want to do a paper to graduate with honors. So I graduated general studies when I was a history major.
Kevin Goetz (12:19):
So your first job was?
Marty Bowen (12:22):
Kevin Goetz (12:24):
Unbelievable. You guys got right outta college and you stayed in kind of the field your entire careers.
Wyck Godfrey (12:29):
I owe a debt of gratitude to Richard LaGravenese because I moved to New York and I had never read a screenplay before. I'd only read books and plays and realizing I had an interview at New Line, I scrambled because I had met this woman, Jill Bach, who at the time was a literary scout. And I was just like, I need to read a screenplay even to know what they looked like. And she gave me The Fisher King. Oh. And the very first script I ever read was The Fisher King. And I'm like last page, totally moved to tears crying, realizing, I'm like, oh this is an art form, this is emotional experience as I've ever had reading a book.
Kevin Goetz (13:03):
I'm working with Richard right now and he is absolutely a delight and could not have been nicer. I think he was a little cynical going in and by the end he was like, I'm really digging this process. I'm talking about the test screening process. Of course guys, you of course everyone knows most of your work is centered around the YA audience. Is that by accident or how did you stumble into sort of owning that area?
Wyck Godfrey (13:33):
You want to start Marty?
Marty Bowen (13:34):
The truth is, we did kind of stumble into it.
Wyck Godfrey (13:36):
When we started the company, we both felt that we weren't seeing a ton of movies made for people in the middle of the country and we felt like we were emotionally connected to stories that were unapologetically uplifting, heroic, emotional, sort of heart on your sleeve movies. And we jokingly would say, we'd rather be corny than cynical. You know? And it started from that standpoint. I always really, alongside that, wanted to do as many book adaptations as possible. Because I still sort of had deep love for literature. And some of my favorite movies were adaptations of books that I love. So when I was with John Davis, I made I, Robot. He was one of my favorite science fiction authors. And so it was a little bit of a combo of those. And we were there right when young adult literature was just becoming a thing. And once you do one or two, then all of a sudden, people's authors speak to each other and they say, well this was a great experience with these guys. And so we would get more and more books. So between Nicholas Sparks and Marty was kind of in that relationship and Stephanie Meyer, I was in that relationship. And then eventually, John Green, we started to work with authors whose books we loved and it blossomed from there.
Kevin Goetz (14:49):
So fade in, fade out, we're in Thousand Oaks, California and I arrive at a screening, I probably, I think it was an 11 o'clock in the morning screening, something like that on a Saturday. And we did it on a Saturday because we needed young people to show up. And I arrive early and there's 200 young girls already lined up. The movie, of course, is The Fault in Our Stars. And I thought something was wrong. Like how could this be? We usually have 30 or 40 people at that hour. By the time the show started, we turned like 300 people away. You remember this? I know you do. Oh yeah. And I declared you both geniuses at that moment and I said, how the hell do they have this secret sauce? I never even heard of this. I knew, and it's a great lesson for everyone listening that, you know, we call them recruit ratios, right? How many invitations does it take to get one body into a theater, a recruit ratio. A moderate recruit ratio back then was probably a seven or eight to one. And this was, in essence a two or three to one. I knew there was lightning in a bottle. You had to because there was so much anticipation and there was not the social media we have today. Not by a long shot. Tell me about how did you know that that was going to be such a big property?
Wyck Godfrey (16:16):
It was sort of several year thing. The first time I had ever heard of John Green was when I was in Vancouver producing New Moon. And my sister's son had come to just sort of do a month internship and he was in high school and he was reading Looking for Alaska. And then he was reading Paper Towns, which were two of John Green's earlier books. I'm like, what are those? And he is like, oh my gosh, every girl in my high school loves these books. I've gotta read 'em just so maybe I can get one of them to date me. And so Isaac Klausner, who was my assistant at the time and now runs our film group, he read the books and he is like, these are really great. And we just kind of tracked John to see when his next book, you know, was coming out. John had had a difficult experience with Looking for Alaska in development. And so in this case, he wasn't going to give any advanced copies of the book out. The book got published, we read it that day. I called Elizabeth Gabler, and she had already read it to her credit because Elizabeth, you know, reads like nobody else.
Kevin Goetz (17:17):
She’s a savant. Yeah.
Wyck Godfrey (17:18):
And she's like, Wyck, it's so great, but how am I going to get Tom to make a movie about two kids with cancer and blah blah blah. And she remembers this to this day. I said, Elizabeth, stop. You remember like when you were a kid and you had a crush on someone and you called them on the phone and that feeling of like being on the phone and neither of you speaking, but no one hanging up. And she was like, oh my God, we have to do this <laugh>, we have to do this. Like literally, it was a reminder that it was about first love. Yes. And so then it became a pursuit of John because several people had read it and wanted it, and he was having a book reading downtown and we went down, he used to do these things with his brother where they would do a little bit of a, almost like a standup kind of show.
Wyck Godfrey (18:00):
And I went backstage to meet him, and I did my spiel of like the book and how important it is and what our experience was with Stephanie Meyer, blah blah blah. And he was, he was a little bit Uhhuh Uhhuh <affirmative>. And, and I, and I said, you know what? It's great to meet you. I gotta get home because I gotta wake up at 4:30 in the morning to watch Liverpool. And he goes, what? And I'm like, oh no, I'm just an obsessive English football. Liverpool's my team. And he was like, I'm a Liverpool fan. Oh my. And he was like, you know what? This feels good to me <laugh>.
Marty Bowen (18:27):
Wyck Godfrey (18:27):
So I would love to say that it was because of my genius analysis of his book. But I think it's just because we're both Liverpool fans, and full circle, last year I took him to Paris for the Liverpool Champions League game. So we've now been friends over these eight years.
Kevin Goetz (18:43):
Wyck Godfrey (18:44):
Yeah, we've made all of his books. You know, Turtles All the Way Down we just completed for New Line, and that'll come out next year. So it's been a great partnership, you know, and friendship.
Kevin Goetz (18:54):
Marty, do you think Fault In Our Stars or Paper Town could be theatrical today? Or has that now passed?
Marty Bowen (19:01):
We certainly hope so. We have Turtles All the Way Down and we are really excited to see what New Line Warner Brothers does with it. You know, it's a tricky time now for all the obvious reasons.
Kevin Goetz (19:11):
Exactly. But talk about what you go through thinking about that now because we know that, I've got a lot of data around this that Gen Zs are a group that particularly are so distracted and there's so much choice thrown at them. How do you cut through the noise, right? So what do you think?
Marty Bowen (19:33):
Well, let me just start by saying I think it's hard to be in a creative business where you're worried first about the distribution cycle. I think it's hard to decide if you love something, if you are too busy worried about where it's going to get shown. So we tend to be platform agnostic that way and just look for things that move us or excite us in some way, shape, or form. Having said that, I still love going to the movies with my family. Hopefully, I get to do it tonight with my family. And certainly, that problem isn't going to go away. I think it's going to be more and more challenging as far as how you get them to get into the theaters. I think it starts and ends with making sure that something is undeniable. They recognize, and we've all seen all the reports that the theatrical experience is going to be ultimately important financially. Mm-hmm <affirmative> because of all the windows and the staying power and the theory of the long tail.
Kevin Goetz (20:26):
And the zeitgeist element.
Marty Bowen (20:28):
So Smile is a great example. But that was a movie that was intended to be a streamer. And then they realized…
Kevin Goetz (20:37):
Who's they? Was it Marc Weinstock?
Wyck Godfrey (20:40):
Marc and Chris Aronson.
Kevin Goetz (20:43):
It was they saw it and said we think we can do something with this. It wasn't originally called Smile when we tested it. Was it?
Wyck Godfrey (20:50):
Yeah, it was Something's Wrong with Rose. I think you were at the test screening where it did I think much better than anyone expected. We basically took the same cut and I called Brian Pianko and Marc Weinstock, and Chris Aronson and said, please, let's just do one more screening and you guys come to it. We made it as easy as we could for them. We did it in Santa Monica <laugh>. So, and sure enough, we did it a week later. They went to it and it tested even better. The same cut. It was an even more great audience experience. And at that point, and Marty frankly had this idea early on, even when it was going to be streaming, he was like, I just think the title should be Smile. It was his idea. He kept kind of beating the drum. The one good idea. It was a great, but it was a great idea.
Kevin Goetz (21:35):
Marty, you have an idea a minute, your mind's always working. I really have respected you for that over the years watching it. I see it in the debriefs we do, et cetera. I gotta take a break. When we come back, I want to talk about what kind of influence, Wyck, Paramount had on you and then what you learned from that experience, essentially. We'll be back in a moment.
Get a glimpse into a secret part of Hollywood that few are aware of and that filmmakers rarely talk about in the new book Audienceology by Kevin Goetz. Each chapter is filled with never before revealed inside stories and interviews from famous studio chiefs, directors, producers, and movie stars, bringing the art and science of audienceology into focus. Audienceology, How Moviegoers Shape the Films We Love, from Tiller Press at Simon and Schuster. Available now.
Kevin Goetz (22:31):
So, we're back. Wyck, before the break I asked you about or I said I want to talk about Paramount. Let's talk about that. You go to the studio, that must have been sort of, I don't know, like you were shell-shocked, right? I mean like, how do you go from being a producer to running the studio? You know?
Wyck Godfrey (22:50):
I mean, first I will say that I was, I had an amazing partner in making this decision and Marty could not have been sort of more kind when I said at one point I said, you know Marty, you got to make an extraordinary career change going from being an agent to a producer. Well, when you did that, I had already been producing for seven years. Like, this is kind of what I'm feeling right now, that I need to shake things up a little bit. I need to try something different. I wanted to spend more time at home. And Jim Gianopulos called up right when I was feeling this kind of thing in the pit of my stomach that I wanted to change things up. And he said, have you ever thought about doing the studio thing? And over the years, I had instances where I'd been approached for certain jobs and had not wanted to do it because I was loving producing.
Wyck Godfrey (23:37):
And it was the first time I was like, you know what? Yeah, actually, you're catching me at a time where I am interested. And I kind of just off the cuff told him here's what I would look to do and what kind of slate I would want to build and whatnot. And within a couple of meetings, it was like, great, let's do this. So I was producing First Man in Atlanta and the news broke because I was not going to start for like another three months. And as I'm sure you know like the second that happened, the job starts the day the news breaks.
Kevin Goetz (24:03):
Marty you were on set as well?
Marty Bowen (24:05):
I was in Atlanta on a different set.
Kevin Goetz (24:07):
Oh my God. So Marty is thrust into two pictures at once. Yes.
Wyck Godfrey (24:11):
Well, well I got to finish up through Christmas on First Man, and so Marty could finish the movie he was on. We had The Hate You Give was shooting there, Uncle Drew was shooting there. I mean we, the whole company was living in Atlanta pretty much.
Kevin Goetz (24:24):
My lord, what a great story. Now you're at Paramount, you had to learn a ton. What did you learn though that you brought back when you rejoined Marty as a team? There has to be something because it's kind of a loaded question. Because I've asked people before who've been in the same position and they said it was the best thing for me as a producer to be in that seat.
Wyck Godfrey (24:48):
I think Marty can probably answer it from seeing the different me when I came back. But I will say that the Smile thing is a perfect example in that exactly. I knew the levers to pull the second that test screening ended. I would not have had the sort of awareness or knowledge to call Chris Aronson, to call Marc Weinstock to make sure that the head of creative came so that he could start thinking about a trailer and calling, you know, Dan Cohen, like the people at the studio that are in all of the departments that really have to monetize the film. That was something that I don't think I would've had the knowledge to do had I not been inside the halls of a studio and understood how these decisions are made.
Kevin Goetz (25:28):
You got more of the business element and Marty, you innately had that, I'm sure as also from the agent days. No?
Marty Bowen (25:36):
Here’s my question, Wyck, do you think, and this is the way this business works, so hopefully your listeners can appreciate this, but do you think had the regime not have changed at Paramount that we would've been able to have this released theatrically because it was a streaming thing under Paramount players? Do you think that that would've?
Wyck Godfrey (25:57):
I think it was a number of things that had to go perfectly. One, Paramount was on a run. All of the films of the spring and summer had worked and they were like six for six then and then two, they didn't have a movie for the fall. So you've got Mark Weinstock with an incredible marketing team that has nothing to do until Babylon. So having the cash flow from all the movies that were working, it was more that I think than whether it was Jim Gianopulos or Brian Robbins in the chair.
Kevin Goetz (26:27):
And Marty, what was going on with you when he went to Paramount? So for the first time in your production career, you're on your own. What did that feel like?
Marty Bowen (26:36):
Well, it felt like a husband that leaves his wife and children for his girlfriend.
Kevin Goetz (26:41):
Wow. I would imagine. <laugh>
Marty Bowen (26:43):
It didn't feel like that. Not at all.
Kevin Goetz (26:44):
I want, no listen, listen. Good Partnerships are marriages, period. End of story. And good partnerships are marriages, and when partnerships break up they're like divorces. But this was more of a trial separation, it sounds like.
Marty Bowen (26:57):
It wasn't even that. I mean, what take three minutes to discuss what the deal would look like if you switched over and if you came back. First of all, you gotta know our friendship is such that I was incredibly proud of him. Like I was truly thrilled that he got that opportunity.
Kevin Goetz (27:12):
It’s a rarefied, rarefied job.
Marty Bowen (27:14):
I really, I cared about it and by the way he's talking about a new experience. Running the company by myself was a new experience.
Kevin Goetz (27:21):
Mm. That's what I want to know.
Marty Bowen (27:23):
And so the fun of not having to deal with Wyck on a regular basis, <laugh> was also equally interesting and it all happened. But you know what Kevin, it all happened at right when we were, what were you, 50, right? At 50. Yeah. So it was happening, his experience was happening at 50 and my experience at 50 because there have been million times in my career, I, you know, if you asked me when we started at 35, 36, I saw five year horizon. Mm-hmm <affirmative> I saw maybe get a few movies made and maybe it would turn out and if it didn't, I moved back to Texas, Wyck would go do something else and it was all good. And at 50 he leaves. Which is exciting for him and exciting for us because it allows everybody else to sort of raise their game. And I found myself late night on First Man at like two or three o'clock in the morning going, you know what?
Marty Bowen (28:17):
I think I could, I kind of love doing what I'm doing and, and I, it's hard to explain to people unless you have another hour and a half. But when you realize at 50 that what you're doing, you want what you have and what you are doing you want to do for the rest of your life, it's kind of a liberating feeling. By the way, I'd seen my dad retire at 75 and I thought that was a terrible idea and in every one of my iterations, because I thought at one point I'd be a football coach and every one of my iterations I'd be like, well I'll make documentaries and every once in a while I'll do a little film and you realize you can't go backwards that way. I couldn't be a producer if I didn't have the team that we've assembled. We needed all of those toys and those brains to do it. And so I thought, well you know, if Wyck leaves and streaming is happening, we're not going to be able to make less movies. We have to make more movies and I certainly won't be able to do that and have a wife and kids. And so I was like, oh wait, I get to be a player and a coach.
Kevin Goetz (29:14):
It also couldn't have been too bad to know that your partner is now going to run a studio and that I will have probably preference and many, if not all of my projects and Wyck on the other side. You're probably like...
Marty Bowen (29:27):
Wait Wyck, how many of our movies did you make while you were at the studio?
Kevin Goetz (29:30):
Well that's why I wanted to start a little shit show here.
Marty Bowen (29:34):
So we, we have a lot, we we set up a lot. You set up a lot. You got a lot bought. Yeah we did. It's wild because you have to both respect the guy in the chair, but the guy in the chair is your best friend and your former business partner and you want to debate everything. And so it was really a challenge to know when to like lean on him and not, and I wanted to be respectful but also his friend and not use him.
Wyck Godfrey (29:57):
I passed on way more than Marty thought I should have passed on, put it that way.
Kevin Goetz (30:03):
Good for you Marty.
Wyck Godfrey (30:04):
And he never pushed me too hard.
Kevin Goetz (30:05):
Well, that's elegant, actually. When Bob Levin became my chief operating officer and president, he was someone I revered, someone I looked up to, and he really controlled the purse strings for NRG for huge accounts when he was at Disney, when then he was at Columbia then when he was at MGM. And so when he first came to Screen Engine/ASI, he would like sit across my desk and I'd have to say, you have to sit in this seat and I'd like have to exchange seats with him so he was behind the desk because it was too bizarre to me. You know, I had to show him that respect. So I do get that dynamic change. The life of a studio executive is not a long life typically. Did you know in advance that you were going to come back?
Wyck Godfrey (30:50):
I would say we would jokingly for sure and not jokingly, probably. Like Marty said, I'm not putting anything else in your office, like you're going to be back in three years. And I'm like, in my mind I would do it for five years and go back. I kind of wanted to have the complete experience of having not only all the films you start and try to figure out in your first three years but then watch them come out and then sort of have everything set up and in a good place and then step away. But because of, I mean for many reasons, but Covid hit at the end of my second year and all the movies, you know, we were just about to release Quiet Place 2, Top Gun, all these movies were done and in the can but we couldn't release them. And then over those six months, I would say the worst part of being a studio president was doing it during a pandemic when basically none of us knew what was going to happen. You weren't making movies, you weren't releasing movies, and there was no end in sight.
Kevin Goetz (31:48):
And boy, did you do a great job that was almost untenable and you so went with the flow and the times and taking some risks and then having to make tough decisions about offsetting or laying something off to a streamer. All of those things. I so respect you and respected you at the time so much because I'm thinking, what the heck could that even be like? You know Marty, I'm curious, what was the most sort of seminal moment in your career? When I say that the opening of Twilight or the like what was the thing that you said this is a new chapter for me, and this has elevated me, and I can see you have an answer.
Marty Bowen (32:30):
I have an anecdote for you. I was in Charleston, we were shooting Dear John and it was two weeks before the release of Twilight and the soundtrack had opened to number one on Billboard, and it only happened once on a Beatles movie, I think previously. And I remember going to the local bar, I think I drank Jack and Coke at the time, and I'm sitting there by myself just kind of trying to come to terms with that, and then one of our military consultants just randomly showed up there and I had to like share, and I'm really not that guy normally, I'm like we have the number one soundtrack <laugh>, we have the number one album in the country, and I was just blown away by it. Wow. So that was, that was a seminal moment.
Kevin Goetz (33:19):
Absolutely. And a great, great story. Wyck, what about you?
Wyck Godfrey (33:24):
I think for me it probably happened much earlier. Mostly for me, it was just the beginning of the company, and you know, we started the company with a movie that was immediately green-lit from the second we opened the doors to the company, which was Catherine Hardwicke was directing a movie called The Nativity Story. And literally my last day at Davis Entertainment, I got on a plane and went for a scout in Italy and Marty had already been there for a month, but Marty had never produced before and I think he was very much like, this is really hard, you take over, I'm going back to set up the office. And it just sort of hit me that I didn't have to call John to tell him what was going on on the scout. It was like, no, this is our company, and this is our movie. This is the first thing that we will have created. And so I almost, from day one, I was like, wow, okay, this is what we're doing. And I just remember sitting with Catherine in the van and being like, this is so cool. We're making this movie and it's Temple Hill’s movie.
Marty Bowen (34:25):
I remember Wyck was still doing his day job, the job at Davis and we had a production meeting, and we had our first schedule, and it was a colored schedule, and I'm pretty good at sort of figuring things out quickly in a room and faking it if I don't, and I looked at this thing.
Kevin Goetz (34:41):
And what is this thing?
Marty Bowen (34:42):
And all I could think was like, oh we're going to need Wyck really quickly because I can't even. If people think I'm responsible, we're in real trouble.
Kevin Goetz (34:51):
<laugh>, What'd you do when you saw your first hot cost or cost report, or those are also things that like, uh, take me through this. So Temple Hill sounds like a corner in downtown LA where the Taper Music Center is, no?
Wyck Godfrey (35:05):
It's very unoriginal. It's the street where we had our house where we were roommates up in Beachwood, Temple Hill.
Marty Bowen (35:12):
And incidentally, we both came up with the title separately.
Kevin Goetz (35:15):
Oh, I love that. Guys, before we break, I want to ask a question that I tend to ask of the person, but I'm going to ask each of you to describe the other's superpower. What is the essence, the strongest motif, the strongest driving force of the other? Marty, I'm going to start with you.
Marty Bowen (35:39):
It's an easy one for me. His capacity for work and his retention is truly staggering to me. He can read pretty much every draft of every script, every email, every set of notes, every cut. And I'm just not built that way. I just can't do it. So he will have read the projects that he's point on, then he will read all of my projects to make sure I didn't screw them up. And then everybody else’s, and he makes it look easy. There's a lot of people that are very successful at what they do and they make it look easy. Neal Moritz is always one of my favorite people to talk about. Cause anytime I email Neal or call Neal or I put something out there, he's always the first to respond to things, and clearly he's a very busy man.
Kevin Goetz (36:29):
That's so great, Marty. Wow. Wow.
Marty Bowen (36:33):
Would you say that's your superpower, Wyck? I am a firecracker always looking to blow up and Wyck is a suppressor that way. We'll get testy every now and then with each other, but we've never yelled. I almost kind of want to rip the band-aid and just start yelling so that we get it out. But I worried that if we do, we'll never stop. But we've never had really cross words.
Kevin Goetz (36:56):
And Wyck, you were so gracious when you were at Paramount, I mean as I knew you before, but it didn't change you. It was very interesting to see you were a fully formed adult and you were able to keep it in perspective, and I really admired that, man.
Wyck Godfrey (37:13):
Yeah, somehow, I don't know, there's like so much in the world, I've never worried about work too much. I kind of feel like just do it. Everything is going to be okay. Control the things you can control, and don't sweat the things you can't control, you know? I mean part of the beauty of making movies is it is an inexact science, so you can't try to control every aspect of it. Some of the best things happen when they're not the things that you thought would happen. And there's so many stories of filmmakers talking about like, oh you, you'll never believe how I got that shot. You know? So my thing for Marty is I would say his superpower for me is his big dreams, big ideas and boundless energy and pursuit of those. We wouldn't have this company if it weren't for Marty having had this insane idea.
Wyck Godfrey (37:59):
Well, he called me up at four in the morning in Hungary and said, all right, I just got us an overall deal to start a company. We hadn't talked about starting a company. He was just like, we should do this and now's the time, let's do it. And not only did he have the idea, he pursued it, he executed it, and then he was like, well, you pretty much have to say yes. I've kind of gotten it all done. And so same thing with Twilight, you know, when it first was brought to us as an idea to do, Marty talked to within seconds and called his niece who said, yeah, those books are great. You gotta do it. You need that other person in your life that when you're feeling like a little bit of a sag, kind of like pushes you to think more deeply and big about this. So, that's what's really helped me. I can be very focused and calm and like work-oriented, but the way we balance each other is Marty has big ideas, and so it's sort of like a good sort of balance.
Marty Bowen (38:53):
I make a mess.
Kevin Goetz (38:55):
Wyck cleans it up. <laugh>
Marty Bowen (38:57):
He fixes it. <laugh>.
Kevin Goetz (38:59):
Wow. Well guys, I have to tell you it's way too short to end this because I could talk with you for hours, and let me just say that I want to thank you both for entrusting me to work on, I think if not all, most all of your movies over these couple of decades.
Wyck Godfrey (39:15):
Well thank you. Thank you for the decades of friendship and you have to put out so many fires in your job put from people like us who, you know, need somebody to read the tea leaves for us, and you've always been so wonderful at it and a calming presence always at a time when most filmmakers are very stressed. So thank you for that, and thanks for having us on.
Marty Bowen (39:37):
You're too busy to be in the room half the time, but it's not the same when you're not.
Kevin Goetz (39:40):
Well that's a very kind thing to say.
Wyck Godfrey (39:43):
Kevin Goetz (39:44):
To our listeners, I hope you enjoyed our interview. I encourage you to check out some of Wyck and Marty's incredible projects, including the streaming series, Grease: Rise of The Pink Ladies, the movie Smile, and their upcoming film, the Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat. For other stories like this one, please check out my book, Audienceology at Amazon or wherever books are sold, or through my website at KevinGoetz360.com. You can also follow me on my social media at KevinGoetz360. Next time on Don't Kill the Messenger, I'll welcome two-time Emmy Award-nominated and record-breaking movie producer Will Packer. Until then, I'm Kevin Goetz, and to you, our listeners, I appreciate you being part of the movie-making process. Your opinions matter.
Host: Kevin Goetz
Guests: Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey
Producer: Kari Campano