Shooting for the Mob: FBI Witness Relocation Interview with Boris “The Cinematographer”

Shooting for the Mob: FBI Witness Relocation Interview with Boris “The Cinematographer”


(techno music) – [Interviewer] Hey Boris. – [Boris] Yes my friend. – So you’ve read the book and you were, let’s take it back to the beginning. You were the reason why I wrote this book. You were the one that
kept hounding me for years to tell this story. And finally it came to the point where I could not argue with you anymore because you wanted me to
write a screenplay originally. And I said no I can’t write a screenplay. I don’t want to write a screenplay. It’s just not, I’m not
gonna go chase money. And then you said to me, well
why don’t you write a book? And I was like damn
it, I can write a book. And it’s your fault
that this is happening. (laughing) In the first place. – [Boris] Um, yes we do this. In Eastern Europe you know, where I come from, we read books. Books are a very important
part of your education and books are also something
that stays as a document for the history, for posterity. So having the book done,
it’s more than just like doing your own personal soul searching, or making the journey or re-experiencing everything you went through. But think about it, this is like something generations and generations
of aspiring film makers. Or if there’s any films or
something in the future, they might be doing something else. But they will be finding this
is very, very interesting, inspiring, amusing,
educational, informative and whatever else people
find in this book. – [Interviewer] Yes, it
was all that and then some, without question. So, you’ve read the book. I wanna ask you straight, is this book true to your experience? ‘Cause you were with me on this journey for about three months out of the year that I was involved with this project. What is your feelings on the
book’s truth, authenticity, and did I exaggerate anything? – [Boris] I don’t think
when it comes to altering situation, I don’t think there’s any little exaggeration in the book. I think that’s what the biggest I think, the real value of the book that there is really no exaggeration, it’s real. It’s all real and it’s
really 100% of the truth, what really happened. And that’s what I think
is gonna be the most intriguing aspect of the book. To me, I think it was really
interesting to read the book because not only that I was part of this for over several months
we spent together on it, but learning all the background stories. Learning about you, learning
how you get into this. And learning about some other people that I had chanced to interact
during our pre-production. So this has all combined together, gave me whole and new
perspective about the experience in back then. – [Interviewer] Right ’cause you didn’t know the whole story. You only knew of parts of
the story, and it was patchy, and then you only knew the
stories from your perspective. You never saw all the stuff that I went through behind the scenes. A lot of it before and after you left. – [Boris] Well that’s right. I mean we did our pre-production. We don’t have time much for chit-chat, although we did have a lot
of time later on down then. But at least you know, we ended up doing very, very interesting work with interesting group of people. Really smart people. And going back and thinking about it, I really wish we made this movie because aside from all the
experience that we went through, I still wish that story is told somehow. About Jimmy’s life and everything that’s– – [Interviewer] The story is
obviously about redemption. – [Boris] It’s all about redemption. – [Interviewer] There’s no question that the story is not about Jimmy, it’s all about redemption. – [Boris] No it was
always, from the beginning, all about redemption. – [Interviewer] Now, you
actually coined that phrase. You’re the one that
said redemption to him, and then from that moment on, apparently he looked up the word, and he started spouting that. And you turned to me, your like, I just told him that yesterday. – [Boris] Well, as we all know, Jimmy had this tendency because he’s a total newcomer
to the world of film. So he does not understand
really the language, the lingo that we use in the
business, in the industry. So I remember one of his favorite phrases was favored nation in the contract. Because many times he would get any kind of draft of the contract. Well favored nation is
a term used normally in a contract, in a legal language basically explaining
that everybody’s equal. It’s called favored nation. For me, when we have
these production meeting I still remember vividly he
would hold like a pep talk, pep rally and often wanted to hear how everybody was so exited
about the project of everybody. I remember a production meeting we had when Jimmy was so eager
to hear from everybody. Like what the first meeting was like, how great this whole film is going to be. And what we think about it, and for me, well it was kind of just
like, more what came out now. It’s about a redemption, because as much he was all eager about the project, he was very sensitive
not to make it obvious. So I think redemption was a perfect excuse for him to find a real catch-phrase that explained really
the meaning of the film. So it’s about redemption,
it’s not about him. But and then of course it was
all about him, as we know. – [Interviewer] Very much so, it was all about him without question. Now, a quick question before we continue. We obviously have blacked
out your face here and changed your voice
to protect your identity. I obviously cannot protect my identity because I am the author and
the subject of the book. Do you fear for yourself? Is that the reason why
you agreed to do this? Or I mean is it the reason why you wanted us to black out your
face and change your voice, you fear for your life in any way? – [Boris] Well I don’t fear for my life. Just to say I might be a little bit too much to say I fear for my life. But I think it’s better not to be too public about it, at least for me. Maybe one day I might say really who Boris is and everything,
but that remains to be seen. I think what is more important
that you tell the story because this is your story and
we are all just part of it. All that happened during the production. So I think at this
point, it’s still better for me to stay kind of in the shadow and not to attract too much attention. – [Interviewer] Literally in the shadows. – [Boris] Literally in the shadows. – [Interviewer] (laughing) Fair enough. One of the moments that
I loved in the book and that’s when we met, was
the espresso, cappuccino event. Can you refresh for people listening, because a lot of people
who are watching this have already read the book. Can you talk from your perspective about the cappuccino machine? – [Boris] Well, we can all come to… It’s very important, coffee is not just a drink that you get in the morning and get to get going, it
has more social meaning. We would sit, enjoy coffee while having meaningful conversation, or just you know, kind
of having a little chat. Just a warm up before
we really get serious about whatever we wanna do that day. So for me, having this
ritual is really essential. And I still keep this ritual
first thing in the morning, even at my walk here. I turn on my cappuccino machine and then gradually I embark upon the day and see what’s gonna happen. But I never drink coffee by
myself, it’s kind of boring. So coffee is social event, coffee is a part of a cultural ritual. And I wanted to bring this culture into the culture of our production. And I think I did it successfully. – [Interviewer] Yeah, you
actually if I may quote you said, “What are we, savages?
We will have cappuccino.” – [Boris] That’s exactly my point. You know, to be in production
office without coffeemaker. We are at least a little
bit more sophisticated. So a coffeemaker. After all, we have $20
million budget production. It has to be best, we cannot
just go for some whatever you know, Folgers. – [Interviewer] And let’s talk about that $20 million budget
which we never saw. The budget kept getting
dropped daily or weekly, and rescheduled and
all this kind of stuff. When you showed up to the
production offices the first day, what was your thought when you were dropped off at a race track? – [Boris] Well, from
even before I showed up on the race track in our production office I knew this was not gonna be your typical, normal production as we are used to. We knew there was already so many things. Just the way I was brought in, it was so out of the ordinary. Being hired without reading the script and just being brought because I said I like the script to read. And that was enough for me to be hired. That spoke the volume
that this ought to be very interesting, unusual journey. So for me, the fact that I
was picked up by the producer and his wife and a couple
of their assistants and brought to some
Italian kind of restaurant in South side of the city
and immediately presented with my key grip and a gaffer as people who are already hired. There’s a lot of things, I’m given big Lexus SUV to drive around. To me these are all signs out of something very much out of the charts. And then of course coming
to horse track race track, which I have never been in my life. It was yet another world that
I had to learn and experience, and I had no idea. It was quite and interesting experience. But then seeing the vastness
of production office. It was something that, I’ve been on a couple bigger and smaller productions but I’ve never seen anybody have a production office of this scope. – [Interviewer] For such
a you know, an unknown. – [Boris] Right, right . – [Interviewer] I’ve always
wanted to ask you this question. What did you think when they told you, oh it’s a first time director? And he’s a young guy and
all that kind of stuff. Because this was, I mean you had already been a cinematographer for a few years. Well not a few years, probably
about 10 years by that point. So you were an established
cinematographer you know, working your way up the ladder. What did you think when you
saw the trailer that I shot and everything like that in
general, before you even met me? – [Boris] Yeah, the truth
is yes I was by then, well I would say my career was nicely on steady rising direction. And yeah, as a cinematographer,
we always have to be open-minded about projects
that we are working on. And I always find it
exciting meeting new people, working with new people. Working with first time
director, that was not first time that I worked with a first time director. So for me was not something
out of the ordinary when it comes down to my approach to film. Usually working with first time director as a cinematographer
requires little bit more, I’ll say patience and time. Because the gap, as much as creatively you might have some great ideas and some ways how you see this film, it’s really cinematographer
who has to kind of bring it out to reality and facilitate it. And figure out how to
basically deliver the vision. And sometimes, if directors
have no experience, they might be dreaming big and way beyond what is really feasible and possible. But after seeing the trailer, the promo that you guys
shot before I came on board, I definitely recognized a talent. And to me it was like,
okay that’s someone who I think I can work with and
we will be able to create it. And you know, ’cause
when we started working, we started our pre-production
and everything else. We quickly established
our way of communication. As we all know and it’s really
well described in the book. I would say the gap that we had was just normal, natural gap. I mean already by then we had like maybe six, seven feature films and a bunch of other projects. So I felt it’s my duty to bring
you up to kind of the speed and take you out on a
possible like pitch force. Normally of course,
directors tends to get to. So and then of course I
enjoyed the fact that we could because we had a time we
could actually watch a movie. – [Interviewer] We watched many movies. – [Boris] Many, many movies. So for me it was kind of like having, getting eventually a
personal film history. Almost film history,
cinematography personal class. Just for you to be able to
find reference in something so we could give a little
show fence so it’s easy. Or if I say whatever, then of course whatever else being made with your help. Makes us also look
good, makes us look like we know what we’re talking about. – [Interviewer] ‘Cause
it’s all about redemption. – [Boris] Because it’s
all about redemption. – [Interviewer] Now, have you
ever been on before or since, a project that had been in
pre-production for nine months? – [Boris] Uh, no. That is such a very,
honestly when I think about, I was personally I think
about three months. It’s such a rarity unless
you really on a big movie. I’m sure on some big project
it’s normal the cinematographer would be part of pre-production
for several months. Traditionally in typical
Hollywood productions, cinematographer is always brought, well it depends on the project, four, six, maybe eight weeks. That’s only getting into
medium budget productions. And if you’re in any larger
size, well there is reason if you have a three months pre-production. That’s like, the scope of the film and the scope of the
pre-production is far bigger than having enough time
to, as we did, watch movies for two to three hours every
day, drink cappuccinos. And scout endlessly,
endlessly all over state. And that’s kind of luxury
which I never heard. – [Interviewer] When we were
traveling around Louisiana looking at all those locations,
I mean we must have had, how many locations did
we look at, hundreds? – [Boris] I don’t know, I stopped counting because I know after initials count, and initial visit of locations, we would go again and revisit it. And then again revisit them,
just to make sure that maybe something might change, or maybe
let’s check another prison. Or let’s check another strip bar. And um, or another house or whatever, I don’t even know how
many places we scouted. It was kind of just like
almost like daily thing. Wake in the morning, get
a coffee, get a breakfast, watch a movie and then
get in our Lexus 480 SUVs with navigation and a lady in the truck who will guide us to our desires. – [Interviewer] That was
space-age technology back then. – [Boris] Back then it was
unbelievable, it was like, what was more unbelievable was we had to return these SUVs every week. – [Interviewer] Because of the mileage. – [Boris] Because of the mileage. – [Interviewer] So can we talk
about that really quickly? We actually, we got a product placement for these Lexuses from a local dealership. Not from Lexus, but
from a local dealership. So then we could actually
return it after a hundred miles. – [Boris] I don’t know, but
it was a sort of cutoff number which we’re not allowed to
drive more than whatever. – [Interviewer] And we
would just replace the new– – [Boris] Right, because they can still sell them as new cars otherwise. – [Interviewer] Needless to say
this was a period piece film so there was no place for a 2001 Lexus. – [Boris] No. (interviewer laughs) No and I remember actually
when I asked Jimmy about it he said don’t worry, don’t worry. It’s gonna be all good,
we’re gonna put it maybe kind of deep in the background,
nobody’s gonna recognize. But I don’t remember even in the movie which ends up I think in 1990 was the final scene of the
film on the script at least, they had these kind of cars, SUVs. So I just didn’t want to argue here. Who would argue if somebody gives you, I have to say this was the
first and only time that I had such car as my vehicle to
drive around in production. That’s like, that’s really like, normally I could see director,
producer or something drive this, but not a DP. And there’s a lot of people
we had on the production. – [Interviewer] Yes, exactly. Our production designer,
our location scouts and our first AD, who was generally on the journey with us every time. – [Boris] Indeed, indeed. – [Interviewer] Now, you heard
of a lot of these stories of what Jimmy was doing, as far as yelling and threatening people and screaming. What was the once time that
you heard or saw something that sticks with you still to this day. – [Boris] Um, well I have to admit, having Jimmy around was always fun. Because he is the video of
these kind of characters you see like in these movies
about gangsters and mafia, you know he is. I think he was definitely
trying very hard to impersonate either Joe Pesci or one of these guys. I mean you have to admit,
these guys are always very charismatic, very
talkative, full of stories. Unpredictable on every moment, you never know what’s gonna happen. And that’s what kind
of adds little mystery to each of these guys. So with Jimmy, well I think he liked me right away from the beginning. I think he trusted me,
and that was a big deal. I mean on instinctive level, he felt that he could rely on me, which is fine. It’s actually a good place to be when you meet guys like this. But his impulsiveness is something that was interesting to me to observe. And I’d seen a couple
times in production office. I remember one occasion
that he was talking to the agent of one of
the prospective actors. And it was actually early on, I think we had somebody who was attached, but not really attached
but somebody who said that he’s interested
in reading the script. Well, if you are in the film business you understand somebody says, well I’m interested in reading
the script means nothing. It has no commitment,
it has no obligation. You know, I’m just gonna
read it when I have time. Well in his mind that
meant we get this guy. He’s reading the script, he’s interested, it means he’s gonna do the movie. And I think that was a basic like, starting point for him
to even pull the trigger, (mumbles) and get production. So that’s why he brought all
of us to start the production, because he is a guy who is interested. Then it was quite non-active. And I think I happened to be in the office when the agent of that particular talent, particular movie star
basically passed on the script. Passed on the project
because he couldn’t do it because of a schedule conflict or something was not really quite, as we say in Europe, kosher. So I think that’s what
created this rage in Jimmy and he was yelling and screaming
and cursing and threatening is he gonna break this guy’s knee cap next time he sees him,
and he slammed the phone. Not great, just like this whole, like there’s something in your head of big studio and you’re doing
some big movie for these, I think that’s how they
used to act, like probably. But not if you’re some unknown
who’s never done anything. And to me that was like, okay this is gonna be
very, very interesting. Of course I called my agent right away and I told her what happened and she said, well the word is out already that he is, she said a loose cannon
and nobody wants to commit to this project, no matter what. So she told me, hey just hang
in there as long as you can but I don’t think this movie
is ever gonna get made. – [Interviewer] Do you
think that Jimmy was the best thing and the worst
thing to try to get the movie? ‘Cause you would never have been able to crack the door into Hollywood
without Jimmy and his story. But because of Jimmy,
it will never get made. – [Boris] Here is the thing. One thing that I think
maybe when I told you that at some point what I realized
from all this experience is that maybe subconsciously, Jimmy never wanted to make a movie. And why he would not do that
well, it’s not about money. I don’t think he needed money. Well, it’s about a redemption,
not really, it’s about him. So the process of making,
being, acting as a producer, having people around you,
making him so important on daily basis, was what he needed. And in his mind, as long as he can live this life of importance,
feel he’s relevant, that’s what gives you
really, really like, kick. The moment the film is
made, well that’s it. He doesn’t have any other movie to make. This is his one only
trope, this is his story. It’s great story, but he cannot go and now start, you know,
another whatever, like no. Even if you made the movie. So for him, it was more important just to live the dream of
making it, and never making it. And as we can see, this
movie was never made. And I’m sure there’s the reason for it. – [Interviewer] While it was his dream, it was our nightmare. – [Boris] Well, it was a rollercoaster. It was your nightmare for sure, because you were invested in
the film far more than us. We were just kept as
you know, kind of like, what’s it called… – [Interviewer] Props?
– [Boris] No, not the props. We were just kind of like
a supporting, we are extras we are extras within like all this drama. And as much it was all
rollercoaster for me, I enjoyed every moment. I enjoyed being with you,
I enjoyed being with Jimmy and all other people that
actually became friend for life, which is great, this kind of
experience really bonds you. But one thing that I knew
right away from the beginning, especially right away after
that episode in his office, slamming the phone and
yelling and threatening, I knew this film was not going, I knew it doesn’t want to get made. So for me it was like okay,
why not just enjoy the ride? And it was a rollercoaster for sure. But if I think about anything
bad that happened to me, not really, nothing really happened. Actually I had a great
time when I think about it. I had the best of time, we would hang out, do the things that we want to do, except you know, we will
never make the movie. I feel in my mind you
remember I told you that. In my mind after we finish all the scouts, after we finish endless talks, discussions about the scenes and the shop listing and
story boarding and everything. Basically like I felt a
huge commitment for me this movie’s done, this
movie I already made it. Just matter of executing,
putting it in front of the lens, but I had every possible
detail worked out. What kind of light, where,
what lens, what movement. Everything was figured out and planned. So as far as I’m concerned,
anybody could shoot it. – [Interviewer] Now, you being there for the three months that you were, you caught me towards the
tail end of my journey. From your perspective, I wanted to ask you what you thought of me
and what you witnessed, in my day to day life then. Because you were pretty much the closest, you and the first AD were
the closest two people to me on the production, who
I leaned on the most. What was your take on, like your impression of
what I was going through, and kind of tell the audience that. – [Boris] Well, right away
from the moment when we met I realized that you were
under tremendous pressure. That’s like obvious,
that was really obvious. I mean I can completely
understand and relate. Where the pressure was coming
from, it was obvious too. I mean after two minutes in
production office, it’s clear who’s (laughs) frightening the group and pressuring everything. But you had different responsibilities than anybody else in the production. So obviously for you, the
pressure was far greater. And then later on, learning
about all this background story that you had prior to me stepping in. Was, obviously explains everything. So my take was okay, I can see he is under
pressure, how can I help? So, I was only focusing
mostly in creating, helping you to kind of think
in your own way from Jimmy. In showing Jimmy, and I
did it a couple times. I would say Jimmy don’t worry. He would ask me, hey can I do that, not to worry Jimmy, it’s fine, it’s okay. He would ask anybody, he
would question anybody. I’m sure he would even pressure
me occasionally, recounting. You know I can understand also, for Jimmy, he was also, he was probably reporting to some higher authority,
I don’t know fake or true. So he had somebody to report to. So he was giving money obviously. We are getting our bags and being paid and it was all nice and good. – [Interviewer] Cash, mostly. – [Boris] Cash yeah,
it’s good, cash is good. But for me really, going
back to our connection, really I think my main goal
was to ease the pressure. And get you really into the
world of what is important Even if this movie never gets made, I felt it would be great value for you to go through the process,
to prepare you at least. What’s the proper way, and then next time you get into any kind of
productions, that’s how we do it. This way, that way, that way. And not do it the other way and
I think we managed to do it. – [Interviewer] You basically
were my film school, a second film school
with this whole project. It is a film history class,
and also a production class on how to actually, between
you and the first AD, Frank, you two taught me how to make a movie. Like how to actually make a feature film. And I could have done that
if Jimmy wasn’t around. – [Boris] Yeah, well
Frank was a fantastic guy to have around, but you have to say, you have to really consider
you are so happy to have Frank, someone with that
knowledge and experience, and also the calmness. – [Interviewer] Yes. – [Boris] The way he was
handling any situation. Like really good seize
of the day that he would. There is nothing that could
take him out of his box, and that was the greatest thing to have. Anybody else I would say would freak out and run for his life,
but Frank is good guy. He know how to do it right way. For me he was really like
the role of a mentor. Which I do nowadays regularly
with other cinematographers. I enjoy doing that, I
enjoy sharing knowledge because I always find out
it’s the two way street. And working with somebody who does not have really that much experience, well the value of somebody who doesn’t have much
experience, is a freedom. You know, as much as
getting the knowledge, getting the education, learning the craft, learning what you do is great and gives you confidence
and knowledge and skill. But the other hand, little bit of naivety gives you far more freedom
to be unconventional. And I think for somebody who
gets a little bit seasoned, it’s always good to be
reminded that there is another, far less structured, approach
to do the same thing. So for me it was like, okay I can between your freedom in doing things and between my pragmatic,
logical way of planning, because in the end that’s
what cinematography is, I think we can find nice
balance and I think we did. Except in our (mumbles). – [Interviewer] So basically
you were the Spock to my Kirk. – [Boris] So to speak. (interviewer laughs) That we say back in Eastern Europe. – [Interviewer] Yes. What was the worst day you saw? First of all your worst
day and my worst day that you saw from your perspective. I’d loved it if you remember
anything specifically. – [Boris] Um, I think my worst day, it was not really
necessarily my worst day, but it was worst day for everybody. – [Interviewer] 9/11. – [Boris] Um, yes. Yes. That was the day when we knew
things will be different. And that definitely set the
tone for quite a lot of things. – [Interviewer] But you
weren’t on the production during 9/11 yet, you came after. – [Boris] I came after. – [Interviewer] Right,
so on actual production, on the actual production. – [Boris] What actual production? 9/11 was just– – [Interviewer] Like a week away. – [Boris] A week before I came. – [Interviewer] Yeah, it
happened a week before you came. So it was still in the air a bunch – [Boris] Yes but it
was very much present. I would say though, the worst I would say more like bringing down to reality day was the fact that when our
production designer went first to Jimmy’s office to ask to be raised to do some other project. And when Jimmy turned
and almost punched him for daring to ask such a thing. Because obviously Jimmy saw
this as a personal betrayal. And I guess in his mind, one
commitment and he holds you. That’s just how it is,
so basically I realized that he owns us, we are movie props. We are like extras in the drama in the world that he created for himself. To tell the story about well himself and redemption really. So that was the a thing like, okay that’s gonna be interesting,
how do I get out of this? – [Interviewer] Yeah ’cause
I think that was the moment that it dawned on you like, oh
wait a minute, I can’t leave. Like I was having fun but like, all of a sudden wait a minute, I have to figure out
how to get out of here. ‘Cause you’re in a different state. I mean it would have been,
you just can’t walk away you know, all that kind of stuff. So it must have been interesting for you. ‘Cause you and Frank were
the only two LA guys. – [Boris] Right. – [Interviewer] At the time,
everybody else was local. – [Boris] Right. – [Interviewer] So you guys
were in a unique situation. You were living out of a hotel, and you know, you were
making your sandwiches and bringing them in for lunch. ‘Cause there was no catering. – [Boris] No, no. Yeah, that was very interesting
routine how we headed back. To me it was very, yeah
it was me and Frank was the only two guys. And we’d been talking about it after that like, Frank what do we do? Frank was like, I really don’t know. I’m sure there must be
some kind of scenario. But we just have to find the moment that has to be perfect storm,
so to speak, of elements for Jimmy to be open for the idea. But seeing how he reacted to our production designer’s
request to let go and he barely managed to
get alive out of the office. To me that was a sign that
it was not going to be easy. And I was thinking about it,
because obviously I realize as much as fun we had, and we had fun. It was fun when we were doing things but okay that’s enough,
let’s close this chapter let’s move on. I have other projects lined up and affairs to take care of. And I cannot just hang out in beautiful– – [Interviewer] Louisiana. – [Boris] Suite. Suite on top of the hotel, in penthouse. I mean it’s all nice, I couldn’t complain, it was all great, I was
treated really well. Even the sandwiches I was making because I’m kind of tired of local food. Like why can’t I just
make my own sandwich. I have a nice knife and as
we do at home in Europe. – [Interviewer] Yes
you cut your sandwiches with a knife and fork. – [Boris] To be civilized. So that was a kind of all these elements. Until finally I got an idea
that Christmas was coming and that’s like, that’s the opportunity. That’s like a sign for me. At any day, in whole year,
if any opportunity can be perfect excuse to jump the
ship, it’s at Christmas. And that’s what I did,
I went to the office, tried to be as cool as I could imagine. Get Jimmy in a good mood
and chat chat and shit. And kind of in passing, mention it, you know that Christmas is coming, it would be so nice if I
could spend it with my family. And he looked at me, he was
like what are you telling me? Like, no I’m just thinking
what would happen. Like wouldn’t it be so nice
if I could maybe spend, but of course I’m committed to you. I’m a part of this, I’m
married to this project. And you know you can count on me. And he looked at me kind of
like, are you turning on me? I would never ever, you have my word. I’m committed to this,
but you can count on this that the moment you need
me, I’m there for you. And then he said, well if you really
wanna go see your family I’d understand it, but you
know go there and be back. I’m like, of course. And that was all it took. Of course I had everything
packed and ready just in case it works. I get in the car, drove, pick up my stuff and I was on the flight
like 12 hours later, ready. – [Interviewer] And Frank
was right behind you. – [Boris] Frank was right behind me, so I guess Frank realized,
oh that’s maybe the moment when Jimmy’s softened up, and
he really kind of used that as a same kind of like opening
for him, and it worked. – [Interviewer] I tell
you though, that was, I’ll never forget you
guys getting in the cab and driving away, I will never. I remember we were right
out front of the race track, and you guys got in the
car and you said to me, I’ll be back, don’t worry, I’ll be back. And I knew you were never coming back. I knew. And that was honestly the saddest day, out of all the craziness that happened, that to me was the saddest day. Because then I knew I was alone again. And I had no one to really
protect me or guide me or anything, to be a barrier
between me and Jimmy. It was the saddest day of my
existence on that project. – [Boris] I knew that, and I knew this was gonna probably happen. But we really didn’t feel like leaving you hanging out there then. We really hoped that
our leaving the project will help with the other, kind
of open the door really wide so that the flood of
people jumping the ship will really just happen. And then eventually Jimmy might decide to put everything on hold,
let you kind off the hook. We hoped for that. Because it was clearly obvious,
especially when you realize that $20 million became 15, then became 10 and a incredible shrinking budget started getting smaller and smaller. And then we realized well
there must be some issue there, but obviously the biggest issue was Jimmy. Which he would never realize. – [Interviewer] And what was the worst day that you saw in me, from your perspective? I’m really curious to hear that, if you remember any worst specific day. – [Boris] Well, I don’t know if there was really a specific day, but I think there are moments. You had the days coming,
and usually those days of hyped up expectations for you. I know that you did a, you did take trip to meet some big actor, and that looked– – [Interviewer] Multiple, multiple. – [Boris] Multiple, yes. So I could see that every
time you would come back from any of these trips meeting actors, that your spirit was broken, or more. And I could see that you
were realizing the dream that you’d been dreaming for
months and months and months is further, further away
of ever being realized. And I’m also realizing that you are basically trapped
without any way out. So to me, it’s not what
I meant but there’s been several events, and especially to do with you coming back from
those meetings with actors and realizing that they will not do it. – [Interviewer] Those were the, yeah those were tough times (laughs). – [Boris] Yep. – [Interviewer] And what was the one thing that you told me about moving to LA? – [Boris] I think I told you,
well if you really wanna, if you’re really serious
about making movies you have to come to Hollywood. – [Interviewer] And the one
thing you always told me was the biggest regret you will ever have is that you didn’t do it earlier. – [Boris] Yes, and that was
another thing I told you, yes I remember it, and you
better do it right away. Better do it right away because yes, you will have the biggest
regret if you don’t do this. You’ll have biggest regret not doing it. If you do it later, well you regret only not doing it earlier. But in the end I believe
that things always happen the way they are supposed to happen. There is a moment when you
have to act on your instinct or if something tells you this is thing to do then you do it. Doing it maybe too early,
can be also damaging as maybe more than not doing it at all. So I think you, you did the right thing. You evaluated everything and you came here when it was the right time in your life for you to be here and
do what you like to do. – [Interviewer] So reviewing everything that we’ve gone through, you’re one of my oldest and dearest friends. We went through war together. As these kind of relationships
are built up on locations, on productions, they’re pretty intense. Ours was probably one
of the more intense ones you’ve ever dealt with, with
another director in this sense. Looking back at it, at everything, what is the feeling that you have about the whole experience that really kind of just rings to you at this point? Looking back with the perspective
of almost 20 years back, I mean I can’t believe
we’re saying 20 years, but it’s almost 20 years. – [Boris] Yeah, 20 years. – [Interviewer] That we did this. What’s the thing that comes to your mind when you kind of look at
Jimmy and the experience and now the book and how this story is finally gonna get out there to people. What’s your feeling on it? – [Boris] Never fails to re-amaze me. When it comes down to film industry. The range of people that
this business attracts. That’s really to me,
it’s most fascinating. And that experience, what they
call experience on our film, was so much different than
anything I’ve ever experienced before or after. But proves my point
absolutely to the core. And really, it’s a case study of the madness, the mayhem,
but also determination. And I don’t think that any
business that I know of brings people with so much determination. And also I think it’s a following a dream. People follow dream about being anything, being chef, being I don’t know, pilot, being doctor, these are dreams. But the intensity of the dream that people in the film
business are dreaming, I would say it’s exponentially higher. So no business I think other than really the close experience when
it comes down to bonding. Just being in pre-film
production, pre-production, the level you see, what bonds
people I think is being, it’s really seeing best
and worst of everybody. Because the pressure creates environment that you cannot fool, you cannot cheat, you cannot lie, you are who you are. And the pressure really enables people to get to know each other
on much different level than you would normally do. And that’s why everybody says,
well that’s kind of closest when you are in the war,
when you are in the trenches. You really get to know
it because you rely. You’re part of the team. It’s not only you, it’s about everybody. So you know that if the person next to you does not trust you well, it can affect on everybody else and everything. So I think it’s about the
ultimate team building experience when you are in film production. That creates this unity,
it creates a connection. Especially when you come across people that are on the same
wavelength, so to speak and they are on some
different level, connected. That’s the biggest value that you get out of experiences like this. – [Interviewer] The one thing,
I mentioned this in the book, but I wanted to hear
from your point of view. When you came back to LA,
you would tell anybody who would listen about this story. And have been for the last 20 years. Is this true? – [Boris] Yes, this was
the best ever conversation best party conversation
I had for last 20 years. – [Interviewer] It’s still going. – [Boris] It’s still going
and then every time you know, we hang out with the film people, and everybody shares the
horror stores from the set and like, ah let me tell you my story. I’m gonna talk of this, absolutely nothing comes close to this one. And so far I mean, I never
heard anybody that talked to this story at any dinner
or party conversation. Because every time I mention
Jimmy and what we went through and what all happened, everyone,
oh that’s not possible. Well trust me, because if I tell them, yeah it’s real, it’s true. – [Interviewer] And now you actually are gonna be handing out
books to everybody (laughs). – [Boris] I cannot wait
to get the books and prove that what I told them at the party was actually there, and here it is. – [Interviewer] And it’s also true that any time I would show up
to one of these parties, your friends would find me, and would come to me and go, is it true? We thought Boris was
just joking, is it true? And I would have to sit there
and like, validate your story. – [Boris] That’s right, that’s right. And that brings even more like expression of confusion
and disbelief on everybody. So that really must be the truth, and then how is this possible? So yeah, I mean for sure
that’s a very, very. We ended up getting such a, we have quite a few
good things out of this. – [Interviewer] Oh no, there
was many, many good things that came out of this experience. Obviously a great
friendship over the years and it made me who I am
today, and it’s also made me the grizzled independent film maker that I am now because of it. And it was probably one of the reasons why I wanted to launch Indie Film Hustle. ‘Cause I wanted to help others not to do the same mistakes that I did. – [Boris] Yeah, I think this
will be perfect handbook for anybody who is in
the film hustle world. As well as anybody who enjoys it for sheer amusement
quality of the book itself, I think that’s gonna be just amazing. – [Interviewer] And
(laughs) without question. Please explain to people
who are listening, because a lot of people will like, oh this must happen all the time, or this situation can’t be this unique. You’ve been now, close to 30
years in the film business. – [Boris] Oh 20, let’s
say about yeah 20, yeah. – [Interviewer] 20 odd years, close to 30, let’s round it up, round it up. You’re a younger man sir, but
let’s just throw it out there. – [Boris] I started in kindergarten. – [Interviewer] In kindergarten
you started DP-ing. – [Boris] Yeah, with my first films. (interviewer laughs) You know, back in Eastern
Europe we do that, we make movies in kindergarten you know. And then in elementary
school and that’s why we have such a good
cinematographers, that’s the key. – [Interviewer] That’s
right, that’s right. But please explain to
the audience how unique and ridiculous, and that
this does not happen. – [Boris] Well, it’s
really hard to explain the ridiculousness of all this experience. I mean, every detail you
bring telling the story in my case just by saying
how I get the film. It’s already like, oh come on. I say, no but there is more. And I bring out the, oh no there’s no way. And when I say, oh yeah by the way, and, oh no that can’t be possible. So the level of ridiculousness
in this whole experience is something that is really hard to watch. And that’s why only us who
really lived that experience through this, can really, truly understand how this was possible. That we went through this and
then whatever happens to us. But I think for everybody
who reads the book, I’m sure there will be people
saying, oh that was oh no way. That it was all like,
blown out of proportion. Then it’s okay if you
think that way, it’s fine. It’s fine because for all the people, there would be no point of reference in their own personal experience to say, oh yeah I’ve seen that yeah. Maybe they say they will
recognize the episodes and say oh yeah, I remember also that when we ended up scouting for strip club that’s out in entire state to find out the best strip club for Half-Baked scene. Yeah, I’m sure there
will be people like that. Oh yeah I work also with a producer who will hang up on the phone. Yeah but all these puzzles,
all these elements together is something that’s I
think very hard to mention. But it’s also, what I get
out of this experience is nothing ever surprises me anymore. And I’ve been to some tough
productions since then. Quite a few. But that’s okay, that’s
kind of like, okay. Once you have this
experience when you have a point that is hard to mentions that, oh yeah been there, it’s
worse, it’s nothing. Like in Wag the Dog. Oh but it’s nothing, oh we shot Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,
there was three other, oh that’s nothing, a
dusty homeless character, oh that’s nothing. So for me I’m kind of, that’s nothing. And it’s great place to
be, like whenever you get to production, and things are
really tough and they do like, then I will be social because
I know I’ve seen better. I’ve seen worse. I lived worse. – [Interviewer] Now there has been already there’s gonna be this question
after the book comes out. And it’s already you know,
from the few industry people that have read it before it
comes out, about the movie. The movie version, it is a
question that’s asked constantly in any of my interviews, it’s
constantly asked by anybody. Is it, this would make a great movie. Originally your idea for me
was to write a screenplay. I said I didn’t want
to write the screenplay and the book came out. I think it’s much better
that the book came out first, because I got the whole story out. The screenplay can’t
encompass the entire story. So what is your feeling of the movie idea? First of all getting made one day. And secondly, if the
movie does go through, obviously I’m the only director that I will allow on the project, and you are the only cinematographer that I will allow on this project. What’s your feeling on, first of the movie and then us being part of the movie? – [Boris] Well here is the thing, the movie itself and I always say that this is still one of
the best scripts I read. – [Interviewer] The movie, Jimmy’s movie. – [Boris] Jimmy’s movie. – [Interviewer] Right, sure. – [Boris] Jimmy’s movie
the script itself– – [Interviewer] Was great, it was great. – [Boris] It was great. – [Interviewer] It was a good script. – [Boris] If we made it, had we made it– – [Interviewer] It could
have done something. – [Boris] It could have done something. I think it had a potential, really. – [Interviewer] Yeah, agreed. – [Boris] The story was
interesting, and it’s very colorful, and the characters are colorful
and setting is colorful– – [Interviewer] And it
was a unique take on it. – [Boris] It’s really very you know, yes it is kind of like,
yet another mafia movie, but with a little bit more
personal family kind of– – [Interviewer] Yeah, yeah. – [Boris] You know, I
could see that what would set this film apart from anything else. Our film, making of that
film would be something that, well you remember I kept telling you during
the pre-production. The worst thing that we are
missing here that we don’t have surveillance cameras broadcasting 24 hours what’s happening in production. And that could have been
the best film ever made about making of of the
movie that was never made. But we didn’t think about
it, we just joked about it, but now in hindsight
when we think about it. Like, wow I wish we had a camera. Wouldn’t it be so great to have cameras and get all these
precious moments recorded. So if this movie ever gets
made, making of the movie, I think it could be so interesting. Because I remember back
maybe around the same time there was a movie called
Room about crazy film-maker who coincidentally couple
friends of mine worked on. When they told me what was experienced working on this film The Room, which is probably as crazy as it can get. I go no, no way. I ended up seeing movie The
Room actually a couple of times, actually I went to the screening. And it was the craziest
and most ridiculous thing I’d ever seen, but it became a cult. It had a following, it
still has a following. Midnight screenings, there’s a whole. And then somebody heard about it, and they made movie Disaster
Artist, about making a movie. About how they made a movie
The Room with the crazy guy who was a director, producer, everything. And it was successful,
it was really successful. So for a lot of people who have not even seen the movie through, it was just enough to see the movie about making it, to make it really great film. So I feel the same way about this film. That if we would make it one day, well that would be fantastic
to relive it this time forever. (laughs) – [Interviewer] But the question I have, ’cause I always tell people this. That you know, I always
used to critique Jimmy and you did too, that this movie, he was an ego-maniacal maniac because he was making a movie about, he was producing a movie
about his own life. And I had never really seen a producer produce a film about their own life. Generally speaking, it’s
not something that’s done. But then of course, I would
take it to the next level where that I would not only produce, I would direct and write
a movie about my life. Have me in the scenes, and then you would be there next to me. So then now, how surreal
and meta would it be that I would be directing a scene with you and me as the characters, and then you would be there,
where the actor playing you, which would obviously Sacha Baron Cohen. – [Boris] There is the, yes absolutely, I think that will be so
unique and I don’t think this was ever done in history of cinema. So there is a point that we
have to break new ground here. That’s really what it is. And as far as Sacha Baron Cohen well, you know I have to think about. I have to look at the resumes and– (interviewer laughs) Do the screen test. I mean a cinematographer
in this particular story is such a crucial part. It’s almost as equally important as a dir, maybe even more important than director. – [Interviewer] I would
disagree, but go ahead. – [Boris] So we have to really think about complexity of the character, and how it is possible to
bring all these nuances. – [Interviewer] Oh my god. – [Boris] I mean, Boris
is very complex guy. – [Interviewer] Aw, Jesus. – [Boris] And it has to communicate
his historic background, his education, his cultural heritage, aside from his artistic skill. And whole philosophy, when it comes down to telling the story visually. So yeah I agree, maybe Sacha Baron Cohen would be as close as we can get to get the character of Boris, me, as really true to the way. – [Interviewer] I’m rethinking the whole Boris character in general. (laughs) We might have to tone
it down a little bit. You might just have
one or two scenes, sir. (laughs) – [Boris] I would not tone
it down I think the film– – [Interviewer] You
should be on the poster, you should make it on the poster. – [Boris] Boris should be on the poster because he’s such a
crucial part of the story. (interviewer cackling) – [Interviewer] Without question. I think it would obviously
be a very unique experience. I can’t even think about
making a movie like this without you, so it just has to happen. I mean I can’t have another
cinematographer do this. It’d have to be you. Um, Frank is no longer with
us, he has since passed. But I would have loved to have Frank on this project as well. But I mean having you would be there, would be so surreal, I think we might break the space-time continuum. – [Boris] I have a feeling the
right way to do this would be to go back to the original
location, to the crime scene. And go to the same race track, get back to the same production
office as we had there. I would make cappuccino,
and start production there. Which would also serve as
location for the movie. And I think also really I think everybody who participated in the original movie would be great, so bring them all back. – [Interviewer] Wouldn’t that be amazing? – [Boris] That would be really fantastic. By now I’m sure many of them have very good, successful careers, so might be bad measure stepping down but it doesn’t matter. They can still be BA back
then like how we had it. So I think that would be
really a right way to do this. Question is, how ’bout Jimmy? – [Interviewer] That was the question. What do you think Jimmy is going to do when he sees, ’cause this
will eventually get to him. – [Boris] Well I’m, it’s hard to predict. As we know, Jimmy’s very
hard to predict type of guy. He might have his own idea. And I think the biggest problem, the biggest issue he would have is that he would be taken out of
equation in whole process. So he would not like that. On other hand, including
him in whatever capacity, even just to play himself, who knows? That might open whole possibility. But I don’t think that I wanna happen. – [Interviewer] No it will
not happen, not on my set sir. I am sorry, (Boris laughs)
that will not happen. We are not casting Jimmy to play Jimmy. – [Boris] But we can
bring him as a consultant. I think he likes to consult. – [Interviewer] Absolutely
not, I don’t want him. There’s no consulting, there’s nothing I want Jimmy to do on this
film, nothing whatsoever. – [Boris] So– – [Interviewer] If anything,
we might be able to give him a ticket to the premiere. – [Boris] I think we will need
to have beefed up security for anything else on the production. – [Interviewer] Oh that I guarantee you are gonna have beef
up, and you and I will have personal body guards walking
around with us at all times. – [Boris] Of course, I would not be operating any other way. – [Interviewer] But in all honesty though, what do you think Jimmy
will do when he sees this? – [Boris] I think, here’s the thing. He would of course, be very happy because he is important part of the story. So for him it will stroke
his ego really nicely. And immortalize him as Jimmy forever. And that’s something
I’m sure he would love. Thing that he would not love, well it will not be film that he
wanted to make about himself. It’s about us, it’s about the process. Where he’s just important
part, but not the key player you know, of the story. So marginalizing Jimmy as a character in all this story structure would be something he would not be happy about. – [Interviewer] Oh I
mean he won’t be the star but he is the main protagonist. Excuse me, the antagonist. – [Boris] He is already
called, also staring Kirk, you know like that, starring Boris and– – [Interviewer] No okay
Boris is not top billing. (laughs) – [Boris] No okay, so. – [Interviewer] Can I have
top billing Boris, please? – [Boris] Okay you can get the main– – [Interviewer] Okay fine,
fair enough (laughs). – [Boris] (mumbles) you know like, Jimmy and the rest, Jimmy and the driver. – [Interviewer] Right. And you think that he, that
would be the problem he has. – [Boris] I think that
the way to find out really is to make it as soon as possible and see what really reaction would be. – [Interviewer] Well he’s
gonna hear of the book before the movie gets
made, that’s no question. The book will get out
before the movie gets made. – [Boris] Right. – [Interviewer] I mean, no question. – [Boris] Yes. – [Interviewer] ‘Cause
we are recording this prior to the release of the book. You know, we haven’t spoke,
maybe we’ll do another one where we speak after the
book has been released. Maybe after it gets a little pressed, we’ll see what happens. But right now this is being recorded before the book is released. So we have no idea what
will happen to the book. What will go on, we have no idea. So this is a very interesting place to be. – [Boris] Oh yes, definitely
interesting place to be and I’m very happy to be in this place. And people will read on real Boris, but– – [Interviewer] I think that they will, I think the real Boris will
step out of the shadows one day. – [Boris] I hope I will be proud one day to bring the key light on me and finally release, relief, release
the idea of the true Boris. – [Interviewer] And one last question. Or two last questions,
they kind of are similar. What did you feel when
you first read the book, the whole thing from cover to
cover when you first read it. What was the first thing that came to you? – [Boris] It was all like,
to me reading the book was like closure, closure as much for you. Was also closure in a way for me because I remember you more before. That when I made a phone
call and told you hey, I just heard Jimmy on the radio. I cannot believe this guy’s still around and still doing the same thing. Something needs to be done about it. And I told you hey, write
the book, and you did it. Because I knew that you needed
to get it out of your system. That’s important, there was
something that was always like, we would always over
the years reference it, make joke, always crack the jokes, kind of revisit the moments. But I knew that there
was far more to the story than what you and I went through
and you and I joked about. So for me finally when I read the book, I got the whole picture like,
okay that’s what it’s about. And I knew that was a chapter
that you needed to close for your own sanity, for
your own sake of mind. And it’s also I think
it was good place to go to revisit where you started
and where you are right now. To kind of do some kind of validation of your own personal
existence, your personal life. So to me that was the thing. I love the book very
much from the beginning when I started reading,
especially chapter about Boris. That was really very, very inspirational. But for me it was really,
like I read it in one, you know like in one
continuous chunk of time. That’s how I think compelling read. I mean I was part of it and I could relate to many characters and many events. But as a journey, the book takes
people, it takes reader on. Even if it’s whole completely fictional, I think it’s just fine, and it’s great. The world to be immersed in,
even for a brief point in time. – [Interviewer] And when you
held the book in your hand. I just did that recently,
I gave you a full book, ’cause you read the digital version. When you saw it with the
cover and everything, what did you feel? – [Boris] Well, you know. Book is a document, and it’s a real. And I hope this book is
gonna stay in somewhere in some archives in Library of Commerce, or whoever’s gonna keep this book for generations and generations. So for me it was a real final closure. For you, for us, for anybody
who was part of this. It was like okay, this thing is now real and now this thing is gonna go out there and become part of lives of
many, many people out there. So now you have the
real thing in your hand, and that to me was like a
great moment of accomplishment. – [Interviewer] Boris thank you so much for the inspiration to write the book. For the nudging that you’ve been giving me for the last 20 years (laughs). Every time you tell me to do something it takes me a little bit to get around. You told me to move to
LA, it took me about six, seven years to do that. And you pushed me for 17 years
or so to write this book, or to tell the story, but
I finally got it done. So I wanna thank you so much
from the bottom of my heart that you did that and
for everything you did while I was going through
the most difficult time of my entire life. – [Boris] Well, thank you for
taking me along on the journey and I’m very happy that I can push you in the right direction, and that when you listen to
me you have always results is something that you appreciate, and makes me feel good too. So that means I’m not
as crazy as I might be. But as we say back in old
country, paceba and thank you and I hope to see you again
with something exciting. (intense electronica)

2 thoughts on “Shooting for the Mob: FBI Witness Relocation Interview with Boris “The Cinematographer””

  1. Hey Alex any chance for a transcript of this. I'm sorry I'm trying real hard to hear but the deep throat format isn't great for podcasts.

  2. Impressive video.I really liked seeing it.
    Continue with it .subbed you.
    I will be really thankful for it when you support me too please 😃😊 ❤&✌

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