Thomas Tull: From Batman Dark Knight Trilogy to AI and The Rolling Stones | Lex Fridman Podcast #259 | Summary and Q&A

January 26, 2022
Lex Fridman Podcast
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Thomas Tull: From Batman Dark Knight Trilogy to AI and The Rolling Stones | Lex Fridman Podcast #259


Thomas Tull, founder of Legendary Entertainment, discusses the process of making epic movies, the future of movies vs. TV, the role of robotics and AI in manufacturing, and his investment in a company focused on de-extinction.

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Key Insights

  • 🎥 Making an epic movie requires a great story, a fantastic director, and a strong script that respects the source material but puts its own stamp on it.
  • 🎬 The success or failure of a movie is determined by various factors, including the director, script, and cast.
  • 🌐 The business of filmmaking has changed drastically over the years, with the rise of streaming platforms and the need for institutional capital in the movie industry.
  • 💡 Capitalizing on industries that lack innovation and bringing technology and innovation to those industries is a key focus for Tulco.
  • 🌍 Virtual reality, along with movies and TV, will shape the future of storytelling and entertainment.
  • 🤝 Building strategic partnerships with companies like Warner Bros. enabled Legendary Entertainment to succeed in the movie industry.
  • 💰 Institutional capital plays a crucial role in supporting long-term goals and providing patient funding in the movie industry.
  • 🤖 Robotics and AI have the potential to revolutionize manufacturing processes and enhance human interaction and experiences in various fields.


the following is a conversation with thomas tull founder of legendary entertainment known for producing blockbusters like batman's dark knight trilogy the hangover franchise godzilla inception jurassic world 300 and many more he runs telco which is an investment company that focuses on how artificial intelligence can revolutionize large industries ... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: What are the key elements required to make an epic movie like the Dark Knight trilogy or Jurassic World?

To make an epic movie, you need a great story, a talented director, a fantastic script, and the ability to put your own stamp on iconic characters while respecting the original mythology.

Q: How has the movie industry changed since 2004, and what role does streaming play in this transformation?

The movie industry has undergone radical changes, with streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu creating their own content and challenging traditional studios. This shift has given rise to new formats and storytelling possibilities.

Q: What opportunities and challenges exist in bringing manufacturing back to the United States?

While it is essential to be self-reliant and have a robust manufacturing industry in the United States, challenges include cost-effectiveness compared to international markets and the need to find a balance between automation and human labor.

Q: What is the potential of de-extinction and gene editing in restoring lost ecosystems and species like the woolly mammoth?

De-extinction and gene editing technologies have the potential to restore lost ecosystems and species, like the woolly mammoth, and bring about significant advancements in genetic research. However, ethical considerations and responsible use of these technologies are crucial.


In this conversation with Thomas Tull, founder of Legendary Entertainment, the discussion covers various topics such as the process of making epic movies, the role of directors in the success of a movie, the challenges and opportunities in the business of filmmaking, the future of movies and TV, the impact of technology on storytelling, the balance between money and creativity, the role of constraints in innovation, the cost of making movies, the future of virtual reality and immersive experiences, the importance of storytelling in films, the changing landscape of the entertainment industry, the role of capital in innovation and disruption, the challenges of innovating in traditional industries, the importance of manufacturing in the United States, the role of robotics and AI in high-tech manufacturing, and the impact of AI on society and the future.

Questions & Answers

Q: What does it take to make an epic movie from start to finish?

Making an epic movie requires a great story, a talented director, and a fantastic script. It is important to put your own stamp on iconic characters while respecting the mythology. Each movie is like a startup company and there is no formula for success, but having a strong foundation of a great director and script is crucial.

Q: Who defines the success or failure of a movie?

Building a big movie involves various aspects such as digital effects, actors, and the director. The director plays a crucial role in overseeing the entire process, but it is a collaborative effort. The success or failure of a movie depends on factors like the script, the cast chemistry, and the producer's guidance. Each movie has its own story and how it came to be.

Q: What are the good, bad, and ugly aspects of the filmmaking business?

The business of filmmaking has changed significantly over the years. One of the challenges was the lack of institutional capital in the movie business. The risk of investing in movies was high, and it was a unique industry compared to others. However, with the right approach and discipline, it was possible to make money. The advent of streaming services like Netflix and changes in audience behavior have also impacted the industry.

Q: What is institutional capital and how does it differ from other types of capital?

Institutional capital refers to large pools of organized capital from entities like private equity firms, financial institutions, sovereign wealth funds, or university endowments. These institutions have a long-term perspective on investments and provide patient capital. On the other hand, non-institutional capital may come from individual investors or friends and family, which may not have the same long-term commitment or expertise.

Q: What are the benefits and challenges of raising institutional capital in the movie business?

The benefits of institutional capital include having dispassionate professionals who focus on hitting the numbers and providing long-term support. Compared to non-institutional capital, institutional investors are less likely to offer unsolicited opinions on creative decisions. However, the movie business is unique as everyone has an opinion about movies and television, creating more room for second-guessing and criticism. Private equity deals can be difficult to make happen due to the individualized nature of the process.

Q: What is the key to creating works of genius in any industry?

Creating something special requires sufficient capital, a patient approach, and alignment between the management team and stakeholders. Having enough capital allows for experimentation and taking risks, while patience is crucial in allowing extraordinary things to take time. A shared vision and understanding between the management team and stakeholders help navigate challenges and measure success effectively.

Q: How do constraints impact creativity and innovation?

Constraints, along with deadlines, can serve as catalysts for creativity, productivity, and innovation. Constraints force individuals and teams to think outside the box, find alternative solutions, and overcome challenges. While having some level of resources is essential, too much financial abundance can sometimes hinder creativity and result in short-term decision-making. Striking the right balance between constraints and resources is important for stimulating innovation.

Q: What is the role of money and beautiful graphics in storytelling and filmmaking?

Money and beautiful graphics can enhance storytelling when used to enhance the overall experience and enable the audience to suspend disbelief. However, if they are used to compensate for weak storytelling, they can become distractions and hinder the audience's emotional connection with the narrative. It is important to strike a balance where technology enhances the storytelling rather than overshadowing it.

Q: What is the future of movies and TV, and how does virtual reality fit into it?

The future of entertainment will likely involve a combination of movies, TV shows, and immersive virtual reality experiences. Virtual reality has the potential to be the next great medium, where new storytellers will emerge, creating interactive and immersive narratives. It can combine elements of movies, video games, and social networks to offer a transformative form of storytelling. Movies will still have a place in cultural fabric, and the formats and platforms for content consumption will continue to evolve.

Q: How does the role of movies differ from TV shows in shaping culture and leaving a lasting impact?

Movies have historically played a significant role in shaping culture and have a timeless quality that allows them to be remembered for generations. TV shows, even epic ones like Game of Thrones, may have a shorter shelf life. However, with changing technology and storytelling formats, the distinction between movies and TV shows is blurring. The impact and cultural influence will depend on the quality of the content, regardless of the medium.

Q: How do you decide which industries to disrupt and how to bring innovation to traditional industries?

Disrupting industries involves identifying sectors that have not traditionally embraced innovation and have had limited access to technology. It is important to find companies with management teams that are open to change and have a clear vision for the future. Providing the right capital and access to technology and expertise can enable traditional industries to innovate and adapt. The goal is to marry the innovation of technology with the existing strengths of the industry.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Thomas Tull reflects on his journey in the movie industry and the importance of storytelling, great directors, and scripts in creating epic movies like the Dark Knight trilogy and Jurassic World.

  • Tull discusses the changes in the movie industry, including the rise of streaming services like Netflix and the blurring lines between movies and TV shows.

  • He shares his thoughts on the future of manufacturing, emphasizing the role of robotics and AI in enabling high-tech manufacturing and bringing back manufacturing to the United States.

  • Tull explains his investment in Colossal, a company focused on de-extinction and the restoration of lost ecosystems using gene editing technology.

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