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BPS 140: The NO Bullsh*t Guide to Making Your Indie Film with Jeff Leisawitz

Have you ever been in a place where nothing is going right creatively? Do you ever feel like you are standing in your own way? Me too. Today’s guest is author Jeff Leisawitz who wrote Not F*ing Around— the No Bullsh*t Guide for Getting Your Creative Dreams Off the Ground.  This little pack is quite a punch.

I wanted to have Jeff on the show to drop some knowledge bombs to wake up the tribe a bit. To help you get out of your own way; to get you out of any creative rut.

Jeff Leisawitz, Not F*ing Around: The No Bullsh*t Guide for Getting Your Creative Dreams Off the Ground

This guidebook is a manual for creatives who can’t quite get their creative juices flowing? The day job sucking your soul? Fizzled out before you put the finishing touches on your amazing creation? With relentless positivity, full-on authenticity, and a punk rock thunder spirit, author Jeff Leisawitz pulls back the curtain on the creative process and reminds us that we are all creative SuperStars.

It’s time to get off the couch and get on the path. It’s time to tap into the cosmic heartbeat that thumps in your chest and shines from your soul. It’s time to get NFA!

About Jeff Leisawitz: Jeff is an award-winning musician/ producer, a critically acclaimed author, and an internationally distributed filmmaker who has devoted his life to creativity.

As the guy behind Electron Love Theory, Jeff fused interviews with Seattle’s WTO demonstrators into electronic music, garnering more than a quarter-million downloads worldwide. Jeff has released five studio albums and has landed thousands of music placements in film, TV, and multimedia for clients like HBO, MTV, Discovery, Microsoft, NBC, and many others.

As the founding writer for Seattle’s taste-making alternative rock station 107.7 The End, he chronicled the alternative grunge scene in the 90s.


After training as a Life Coach and practicing NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Re-Patterning) Jeff landed a gig as an adjunct faculty member at Pacific Lutheran University— teaching college students to rock. (Seriously)

When creative businesses, schools, and organizations like Brown Paper Tickets, Tacoma School of the Arts, Gage Academy of Art, Northwest Film Forum, and others need to amp up the creativity, Jeff leads workshops and events to fire up the creative spirit and empower people to tap into their true potential.

Enjoy my conversation with Jeff Leisawitz.

Right-click here to download the MP3


  • Jeff LeisawitzIMDB
  • Jeff Leisawitz – Website
  • Not F*ing Around–the No Bullsh*t Guide for Getting Your Creative Dreams Off the Ground – Amazon


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Alex Ferrari 0:28
Now I know all of us have problems getting our creative dreams off the ground. And we always struggle with our own demons, or obstacles that we throw in front of ourselves or obstacles that are thrown in front of us trying to just go down the journey go down the path to get to where we want to be, wherever that might be in our careers in our just life journeys. And today's guest, Jeff Leisawitz wrote a book to help you with that part of your journey. It's called no effing around the no BS guide for getting your creative dreams off the ground. And I had a chance to read this little book and it is just plumb full of amazing little stories, guides, things that to just kind of help you. And it's kind of like a reference book that you can go back to again and again. And again, when you're feeling down. Or if something comes up against you. It really helps you break through a lot of that creative bs that that we put in front of ourselves, I had to deal with that for 20 odd years of just constantly getting in my own way. And this book hopefully will help you get out of your own way to make your dreams and your creative dreams come true and your professional dreams come true as well. So this episode, me and Jeff really dive into the book go over a lot of the tips and techniques that he came up with to help creatives just get out of their own way and also just be able to achieve those goals that they're going after. So without any further ado, here is my conversation with Jeff Leisawitz. I'd like to welcome the show, JJeff Leisawitz. Man, thank you so much for being on the show, brother.

Jeff Leisawitz 3:36
Hey, thank you, I'm happy to be here.

Alex Ferrari 3:39
So you've written this wonderful book, called no effing around the no BS guide for getting your creative dreams off the ground. And I wanted to have you on the show. Because I think everybody in the tribe listening definitely can help have to get a little bit of assistance in that they get in their creative dreams off off the ground, myself included. So why did you decide to write the book in the first place?

Jeff Leisawitz 4:05
Well, I wrote this book, really by accident. I was minding my own business going to the coffee shop on a weekend morning as I often do, to do some writing, whether it's on a screenplay or journaling, or poetry, or just whatever. And I just wrote this piece, which was, you know, sort of this empowerment kind of stuff. And when I was done, I was like, geez, this is pretty good. Maybe I should write a book. Why not? I've never read a book before. Let's do it. So I wrote an outline, you know, shortly thereafter and then busted the thing out. But it wasn't until after I wrote it, that I realized why this was such an important piece for me and hopefully for the world as well. And that is because on one hand, I'm this big creative. I've spent my whole life as a musician, as a writer, as a filmmaker, as a photographer, all That kind of stuff. But on the other hand, I'm also really big into empowerment empowering people. So everything from being a summer camp counselor with the arts and crafts program to teaching songwriting to college students now, I also am a life coach, right practicing life life, life coach stuff, and something called NLP Neuro Linguistic repatterning, which is sort of fringy philosophy, psychology practice, where you help people untangle their subconscious blocks, so they can move forward and make better choices around their worlds and you know, the things that are sort of built in with them. So this book really put both of these pieces of myself together in the same place and seems to be working.

Alex Ferrari 5:51
Now, why do people get in their own way, specifically in the creative world, because I know I'm, I'm definitely a victim of that.

Jeff Leisawitz 6:00
People get in their own way as creatives for about a zillion reasons. But I believe it all comes down to our psychology, because the way we think, both consciously and unconsciously, seriously affects and maybe even totally affects everything we do. So if you have a belief system that was sort of programmed into your brain, when you were a kid, right about not taking risks, okay, and that's in there. And that's, that's your thing. And now it's time for you to take a risk in your creative life, guess what, you're probably not going to do it. On the flip side, if you were programmed with an idea that says, Take every risk possible, anything goes, right, maybe you sneak money out of your mom's retirement account, to make the film in black and white. Right, right. Right, because hey, any risk goes, both of these strategies are really not that helpful. Both are too extreme. So if you can understand where you're coming from, and the forces that are driving you, as a creative, you will then be much better able to make better choices.

Alex Ferrari 7:25
Now, how can you discover what you love to do? Because I know a lot of people listening, you know, they listened to the podcast, because obviously they want to be a filmmaker, or screenwriter, or some sort of creative, but but how do you know what you love to do? There's so many different things you can do even within the film industry, there's 1000 different jobs. How do you find that thing that it that makes it I gotta do this for the rest of my life?

Jeff Leisawitz 7:50
Well, the the biggest way to dig into that is to keep asking questions. And the question that at the end of the day is always Why, why why why. But before we even get to that, take a look at what you love. Right? If it's, you know, for talking about making films, what do you love about films? Is it the story? Is it the way the character emotes on screen? Is it the special effects? Is that the sound, right? I mean, this is pretty obvious, but it's going to drive you towards what you love. If you if you love experiencing it, you're then going to love creating it or working with it or something like that. So really just taking a look around. And then the next question is why? Why do you want to write a story? And what kind of stories do you want to write? There's a concept out there called make your mess, your message, right? What is your pain? What is your What is your tragedy? What is your, you know, the difficulties that you've had in life? And then create a story from that if you're a screenwriter, right, or director things like this. So those are ways to start digging in, you know, another way might be to look at what you do want, like aspects around the sort of job or career path? Would you want to work alone? Do you want to work with people, right? Huge difference, and that's going to separate you from you know, separate these jobs in huge ways.

Alex Ferrari 9:34
Also, I would also throw in there, ask yourself why you want to do something even if you find something you think you love. Ask yourself why do you want to do it? Because are you doing it for money? Are you doing it for fame? Are you doing it for Fortune? What what's what's the purpose? Would you do it if you weren't getting paid? You know, that's, that's always a great if you could do if you can answer them like I would do this and if I and I get paid, I'll be happy.

Jeff Leisawitz 9:58
That is absolutely True. Because if you are being driven by something that is not true to your heart, in any career, it doesn't even matter if it's creative, it can be anything. If your head and your heart are not aligned, you will never be able to take action that is that is balanced and focused. And it will never get as far as you would like it to go. If you were just doing it for the money. You know, that's not a it's not a real good driver. And hopefully there should be something else in there when we all got to get paid. And you know, of course,

Alex Ferrari 10:37
I guess you're on course, of course. Yeah.

Jeff Leisawitz 10:40
But it's not the only factor. And you know, fame. Like what is fame? And you know, the question, like you said, is why? Why do you want fame? Because guess what, when you get it, if you get it, it's not going to be what you think it is, I promise you that

Alex Ferrari 10:55
I just had the pleasure of doing a pre screening of the new movie coming out called the last movie star, I'm going to be having the director on soon, which is starring Burt Reynolds. And it is a story about basically a washed up actor, who was at one point, the biggest movie star in the world. And it is heartbreaking to watch, but rennels, for everybody who doesn't know on, you know, for all the millennials out there who doesn't know, Burt Reynolds was Burt Reynolds was basically Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt thrown together. And he was the number one star in the world for probably like six to 10 years, making the most money out of all of them. And you know, he's fallen on hard times. And you know, he's kind of fallen off. But the movie was brilliant. But the one thing I loved about watching that is, when you're talking about fame, it doesn't get more famous than Burt Reynolds at the point of his peak, like he was the biggest star in the world. But at the end, does it matter? What did you do with your life? Were you happy?

Jeff Leisawitz 12:03
Exactly what are you contributing? And what you know, what do you How are you healing? through your creative work? I mean, it's a huge part of my book, and my workshops and stuff like that, you know, sort of the the main theme of what I've got going on over here is using our creativity, our creativity, to be seen, expressed and healed. Right. So what do I mean by that to be seen? Well, you know, as we're running around in the world, it's easy to become anonymous, right? It's just people everywhere. So there's that piece, but then the next piece is like, Okay, what about your inner circles, your friends, your family, your you know, significant others, co workers, people like that? Did they see you and understand you? Yes, hopefully somewhat a little bit maybe. Right? But do they fully see you and understand you. So if you can use creativity, to you know, create something, whatever it is song movie piece of writing, whatever, it's a new way to be seen. The second piece is to be expressed. So what do I mean by that? It means to go from the potential to the actual. So the potential is, you know, the dancer who knows all the moves, but she's sitting in the corner, on the day, you know, on the dance floor is right there. And the music's playing in that moment, she has just potential. But as soon as she gets up there and actually does it, that's when she becomes actualized as a dancer. So once you're seen and expressed, then the healing comes in. Right. So a lot of creativity, a lot of films, a lot of books, a lot of stories, especially are, you know, away, to have a catharsis create a catharsis for yourself? What are my tragedies, what are my struggles, all this kind of stuff? You get it out there for the world, but it's even more than that. Right? That's the sort of obvious healing. But there's also a healing, I believe that goes on. When, you know, if you write a love song, right, sure. Where's the healing in that? Well, the healing and the love song is all the loneliness that preceded the celebration of that song. Okay. So when you're seeing expressed and heal through your creativity, something really cool happens. You give a gift to the world. That's your film. That's your screenplay. That's whatever you're up to. And then here's the even cooler part because it comes around in a circle. When you when you're seeing expressed and healed and you give your gift to the world, and by that I don't mean you know, a major release of your film or this or that. I mean, it can be a small thing, right? It can be a poem to your your friend or your girlfriend or something. Right. But when you do this, you become the gift, right? Because you show Others in the world that they can be seen, expressed and healed. And this is freakin huge. If we all did this with this kind of intention, the world would rise in a way that would be huge.

Alex Ferrari 15:17
You know, and one thing as I gotten older in life, I've noticed this with films, going back to features, that when you when you see a movie by a filmmaker or group of collaborators, who truly love what they are doing, who truly have an amazing intention, it spills off the screen, it spills off the screen. But it does, but when you watch something like and I've bashed this movie enough, but I'll bash it again, the Justice League, you watch that, and you can see people in it who want to, but the box is not, you know, the the, the car is not really well put together to go on the journey. You know, and it's just this, this Hollywood, like, flashy stuff. And we've seen it a million times, you know, with all the transformer movies, you know, all that kind of stuff, you can tell that it's not coming with the right intention. But you watch a movie like Black Panther, and it spills off the screen, the intention of that movie is you know, it's it literally, and audiences can pick it up.

Jeff Leisawitz 16:28
I totally agree with that there is a you know, I believe almost like a metaphysical energy that is imbued or infused into our creations. So an example I like to use on that is, you know, your basic pop star. Right, you put them up there, and yeah, they can sing. Yeah, the song has a hook. It sounds good.

Alex Ferrari 16:50
It's already He's good looking. Yeah, sure.

Jeff Leisawitz 16:52
Exactly. And you might even like it, and you might even like it for, you know, a minute or a week or a month, but then it disappears. Yep. And then you've got a song like Aretha Franklin going Ari SP CT. Mm hmm.

Alex Ferrari 17:06
And you can feel that oh, my God, can you that song? Oh, God, you can feel like almost any song by YouTube.

Jeff Leisawitz 17:15
Exactly. It's because they're coming from the heart. They're coming from real truth. And they're tapped into it. And that is what audiences always respond to.

Alex Ferrari 17:27
I think also, I know we're going off track a little bit, but I think we're still on topic is, as as filmmakers, as storytellers, if we can if we can tap into truth, and authenticity, because in today's world, there's so much Bs, there's so much fake news, if you will, fake this or fake that, or, you know, people putting out these fake lives on Instagram that like, Look, my life is perfect. Or on Snapchat, when you know, and I know, it's not one, but when you put something that's truth out there, people so so can feel it, and are drawn to it because they want authenticity in their stories. They want truth, they want to feel something from the artist, not something that's manufactured truth, because manufacture truth might have worked in the past, but people are so savvy now. And that's why Hollywood's having such a tough time. You know, they're having a really tough time. You know, unless they're able to tap into some of those real truth. And I'm not saying you can't have a fun movie and have truth. Like, again, Black Panther, I saw it was wonderful, so much fun to watch. But you could just see it spilling off the screen authenticity of that movie of Ryan coogler, who wrote it and directed it. It was amazing. It was amazing. But would you agree with that?

Jeff Leisawitz 18:49
I totally, totally agree with that. And I believe there is a major paradigm shift coming and actually underway right now. With artists and thinkers and business and all this stuff, because you're right, people are sick of the crap. They're sick of corporate, you know, agendas, they're sick of just just things without any soul or truth or that's

Alex Ferrari 19:15
Why artisan foods and artisan crafts and you know, in you know, they don't want to buy a table that was made in China, they want to make it they want to know who made their table, you know? Exactly, it's to an extreme I mean, I don't want to get hipster on everybody but but but artisan food like understanding where food comes from where organic food comes from, as opposed to McDonald's. That's why McDonald's is having such a an all these fast food places are having such a tough time because the world is changing and they're being left behind in their wake. And people want that authenticity in their food, in their in their entertainment in their books. You know, you can go back there's certain books you go read 1984 tomorrow today and it's still gonna ring true. Right gonna threw in another 50 years, maybe a little too true.

Jeff Leisawitz 20:03
And this is a huge opportunity for us as independent creators. Right? We have tools now, obviously with, you know, cameras and all kinds of computers and the internet and podcasts and all this stuff, right. As well as distribution that, you know, we've never seen before, you know, so we can tell powerful stories without spending $100 million to do it. Oh, yeah. Right. Absolutely. So that is a key piece that, you know, I think filmmakers really need to hear it's like, Yeah, it's great to have the production values and all that kind of stuff. But what's really going to drive the story is a great story and actors who care, right?

Alex Ferrari 20:54
Exactly, and not actors who want the biggest, the biggest trailer, it's about the story and about getting into the weeds and exposing themselves, not physically, but emotionally and spiritually on that screen. That's why when you watch Meryl Streep, god damn man every time because she knows how to do Daniel Day. Like, every single time, they just know how to tap into that truth. Without question. Mm hmm. It's pretty insane. It's pretty insane. So let me ask you, you suggest people fail fast? I agree with you. And I understand what you're saying. But can you explain it to the audience? why people should fail and fail fast?

Jeff Leisawitz 21:41
People should fail fast, because failure is an absolutely necessary step to success. Okay. I have talked to the hundreds of success, like very successful people in different fields. And they all say the same thing. Thank goodness for failure. Right? So here's the deal. failure. First of all, it First of all, it's looking at it in such a way that it's not you are a failure, it is I failed, right? And there's a very big difference. And that goes back to the psychology again, right? If you identify yourself as a failure, that's not good. And you really got to work on that. But when you look at it as I failed in this particular, you know, event, or or creation, or whatever you're going for, that's fine, right? You separate it, you deal with the pain of it, perhaps. And then you step back and you're like, what can I learn from this? Okay, here's what went wrong. Here's what could be optimized. Here's what could be better. Here's what could be cheaper, or here's what I want to spend more money on, you know, whatever, just ask a million questions, because remember, the better the questions that you ask, the better the answers you're gonna get.

Alex Ferrari 23:04
Right? It's like, a question like, why did I suck at this? Not a good question. Not a good question. Exactly. It's gonna Yeah, as opposed to like, what can I learn from this situation to make myself be a better filmmaker or person? Exactly. better question.

Jeff Leisawitz 23:21
Exactly. So you know, my philosophy of fail fast is you get it together, the best you can you get in the car, you you step on the gas, you crash into the wall, you step back, you learn what you can learn, you get in the car, and you step on the gas again, and hopefully you go a little bit further this time.

Alex Ferrari 23:40
You know, the funny thing is that with that mentality, I've done that so many times in my life where I just get in the car and just drive to see what happens. And I've crashed multiple times. Like as you as you should. Exactly. And then with my latest film, I actually got in the car, and just put the gas to the floor. And I didn't crash, which was very odd. I was like, Oh, my God, it's things are things are happening. Let's go. It was a fast trip, but I got it done. And I think well, I wouldn't have been able to do that unless I crashed a million times before. And I could just weave and dive through the obstacles that I knew were coming. Right, but you need to fail. And I would say not only fail fast, fail often. Yes, absolutely. as well. Now, are there any tips on how on how to handle the world just slapping you're kicking your ass on your journey because reality in the world always comes in and just slaps you across the face. It happened to me in my early 20s. And anytime I see someone young or even someone older, who's got a complete chip on their shoulder or completely arrogant, I'm like, I don't care who you are. It will happen at one point or another. The world will come crashing down on you Some sometimes bigger than, then than you expect, what do you? What kind of advice? Can you give people on how to handle that first slap across the face? From the world?

Jeff Leisawitz 25:13
Sure. Well, the first, the first thing I would consider is not taking it personally. Okay. Yeah, I mean, that sounds pretty basic, but it's true, because as creators, you know, somewhere within us, we believe that our creations and our projects are us in a way that is different from the way an accountant might think of this and accountants screws something up, ooh, you know, sorry, you know, that's my bad or whatever. But it's not like it's their baby, right? It's not their child, right. But creatives tend to believe that what they are creating is them. So you must separate this conceptually in your head. Right. And that is going to give you a lot more distance, and a lot more breathing room, from the pain that the world will definitely give to you at one time or another. And really, really, a lot of the time. You know, if you're going for it, you're gonna get way more rejections than success and failures than successes. In any of us. You know, when I was in college, and I was getting ready to graduate, you know, I've got all my creative dreams and stuff. And my advisor sits me down, and she says, you know, if you're going to be an artist, get ready for 97%, pain and rejection. And I was like, You gotta be kidding me. And now it's like, yeah, I maybe pick that up to 98 and a half percent. It's like, there's a lot. So there's the one piece. The other piece is sort of what we talked about before, which is process and product, right? If you genuinely and deeply love doing the thing that you are doing, there is a gift to bear. As opposed to, I got to make a ton of money. I got to be famous. I've got to win some award, like like the ego stuff. Right? So if you genuinely love writing screenplays, hey, of course, it's great to sell one, of course, it's great to produce one and go for it. And I'm totally down with that. And you're going to have a lot more longevity and a lot more health, in your hearts and being you get value simply out of doing it.

Alex Ferrari 27:47
Absolutely. And yeah, so much more. Because that kind of lessons, that's a great decimal great advice. Because if you love doing it, regardless of what the outcome is, which is one thing I've always said is don't attach outcome to whatever you're creating as much as little as possible, because that's when you really get hurt. And that's when those slaps really, really hurt. Without question. Now, can you discuss the two major motivating forces that guide most of every decision that we make, which is avoiding fear, and gaining love of one way, shape, or form or love of something?

Jeff Leisawitz 28:26
Absolutely, those are the true, the two forces that will guide everything, we are either moving towards love, or avoiding fear, and you know, in pain, and you know, those kinds of things. So, it's really critical to, again, ask yourself questions. What are you doing? And why are you doing it? Right, and if you're moving towards love, and there are reasons to move away from fear, and again, conflict and pain and all that, I mean, there's definitely a purpose there. But to use these powers, and these motivators in such a way, that helps you, you know, move towards the truth of who you are and what your expression is. And if you do that, the outcome might not be exactly what you thought it you wanted. But it will still be valuable for you. I mean, I'm sitting here now talking about this book and all this stuff, you know, around empowering creatives, guess what, up until, you know, two years ago, I had no idea this was like really my mission. You know, I want to be a rock star and a filmmaker and all this stuff. And I you know, I still love all that stuff. But again, I was attaching this huge outcome to these endeavors. Now, it's like, Hey, you know what, I'm going out here. I'm doing my thing. And, you know, hopefully people will get some value out of it.

Alex Ferrari 30:00
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. And same exact same thing for me. Three years ago, I had no idea that I was going to be doing this, interviewing people like you doing a podcast, doing a website, doing all this kind of stuff. And if you would have told me, oh, you would have shot to feature films, and you, you know, have this podcast and, you know, in this community you've built up and helping people, I would have never would have never believed it. So it but when you find it, you're like, Oh, this feels good. I'm gonna keep doing, I'm gonna keep doing this.

Jeff Leisawitz 30:40
Okay. And, and again, I believe that's the alignment of our head and our heart and our action.

Alex Ferrari 30:48
Yes. Yes, without question. Because I mean, I've been I know, you've been on projects like this too, but you're on a project, you're doing it for the money, or you're doing it for something other than what really you should be doing it for. And it never turns out, right? It always becomes painful, it always becomes stressful. It always is. It's a car crash car. Hey, man, I've crashed that car plenty of times. And it's tough sometimes, because you want to take them, you know, sometimes a gig is a gig. And you got to do it for the money sometimes. And don't get me wrong, I've done that millions of times.

Jeff Leisawitz 31:27
And that, and that's okay. There's nothing wrong with that. But as we move forward in our lives, you know, the question is ask the questions of what can drive you towards sustainability, you know, as you know, making a living or whatever? And also, what, why do you want to do the thing that you want to do? Because that is going to make a huge difference. And again, you know, we're sort of talking about this in terms of, like career stuff, like, but it doesn't have to be, you can make films on the weekends for the hell of it. You can write screenplays, because you like writing screenplays and not even worry about selling it or making things right. It's just, you know, again, it comes down to the process and the product, what are you trying to do? Why are you doing it?

Alex Ferrari 32:18
And it's never too late. That's the other big thing I love to preach is like, Look, if you're 50 if you're 60 and you want to start writing screenplays start writing screenplays. Sure, that was a Julia Child's was 6465 when she started. Oh, wow. Yeah. And the colonel from KFC. I think he was like 70 when he opened up his first KFC. That's a good piece of trivia. I like that, you know, like these guys started late in life, it there's no reason why age should stop you. You know, and a lot of ways as you get older, you have a lot more tools in those toolbox to get started, as opposed to a 20 year old getting started. In the exam field. Would you agree? Yeah, absolutely. Now, how do you handle that wonderful little voice in your head? That tells you you're not good enough? Why are you even bothering doing this year? You have no talent? Look at you. How do you handle that guy?

Jeff Leisawitz 33:20
I call that little voice in our heads the IQ or the inner critic, right? You've sort of heard that before. And it is true that if the IQ gets loud enough, or talks long enough, it will kill any creative dream that comes across your your heart. Right? So how do we deal with this thing? Well, first of all, we have to realize that it's actually there for a reason. Okay? The reason is outdated, outmoded, whatever, but the reason is to keep you safe. Okay? So, you know, you go back, you know, 10,000 years or whatever, it's to keep you safe from the tiger and you know, all those kinds of things. But now, the world is a lot different. We're not faced generally, with that many physical threats. Now, what's more emotional threats, or possibly financial threats? Right? Are we fitting into the group? Are we you know, are is our ego balanced and healthy or not? Things like that. So, first, by acknowledging that IQ, you know, the, your inner critic, is there for a reason and to honor it for that, right? Actually lessens its power. Right? Then, you sort of you can get into meditations I do this in my workshops and my you know, stuff like this meditations where you go in, you go into your mind, you go into your heart, and you'll be like, Okay, again, thank you for your service, but you are not needed here. And I've got various exercises where you can essentially turn down the volume on what the IQ says and how it says it. by loving the EQ and letting it go, you take away its power. And that is tremendous. Because if it's too loud, it is going to screw you up. And we've all had it.

Alex Ferrari 35:24
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah, my IQ is Mike was on full blown. He was full blown. But eventually you kind of you kind of wrangle them down. It's, it's that little voice, I always tell people the story, the little voice, like, Look, the little voice in your head is the is your best friend and your worst enemy at the same time. We all we all had a dinner. And then we're stuffed because we ate this huge dinner. And all of a sudden, dessert tray comes out. And you want to like, Alright, let me just have a piece of cheesecake. It just looks too good. And that little voice inside of you is telling you. Yeah, I just had the cheesecake going, you'll go to the gym a little bit more, you'll you'll burn it off. Don't worry about it. That night, when you get home and you take your clothes off in front of the mirror, that same voice goes to you fat pig. Why did you eat that cheesecake? You've got to control that voice? Because if not, they will control you. Exactly. Exactly. Now, there's a there's a chapter in your book that says say yes. And agree to whatever is in front of you. Can you explain a little bit of that? Sure.

Jeff Leisawitz 36:33
So years ago, I took an improv comedy class, I guess, right? And there's a bunch of different tenets about how to do improv comedy. One of them that really struck me was say yes, and, and what they meant by that was, you know, when you're improving a scene, you need to take whatever facts or information that everybody else is putting out there and assume it's true. So if somebody else says the aliens are coming down, and they're spaghetti all over the floor, right? You buy it. And then you move on, you know, okay, maybe we should feed the aliens, some spaghetti might be your, you know, what you do as an actor in there. Okay, if you don't accept that reality, the whole thing stops dead. Right? So I thought this was really a really smart way to think about the world. Because if you say yes, in your life, what that essentially means is I am accepting reality as it is as objectively as you can look at it. Okay, that's the first piece. Where are you? Really? What are your skills? Where do you want to go? What's your thing? Right? And then the second piece is, say yes. And blank. What can you add to what's already there? How can you create value? How can you move forward? How can you do all this kind of stuff? That is going to essentially step the scene up? Right? Just like it does an improv comedy? What's the scene in your life that you can step up? So you know, if, if, if the reality of your life is I can't afford a big fancy camera, but Jeez, I've got my iPhone. That's the Yes. Okay. And then, what's the end? Well, jeez, I know, a couple friends who are actors, and I have this little script. Let's bust this thing out. So now, you've accepted reality, and you've created value and move forward with that, which is a lot different from the mindset of, well, geez, I only have an iPhone and not even realizing you have an iPhone. I can't get up my $30,000 to do my scene. You know, I have to hire all these people and stuff like that. Sure. It's great if you have that, but that's not your reality. Right? Right. So by clearly looking at what is your reality, you can then step forward in more meaningful and powerful ways.

Alex Ferrari 39:11
That's a powerful really powerful statement. Honestly, it really is because I was caught in that or in that world for so long. of I can't make I can't make a move until everything's perfect. So I have the right camera, the right dp, the right cast the right store, like it froze me for 20 years, you know, till I finally just said, screw it. I'm tired. Wait, I'm just gonna and I actually just said, This is my reality. This is what I'm gonna go do.

Jeff Leisawitz 39:43
And that I mean, that's my exact story filmmaking wise to I was trying to sell my screenplays, you know, to Hollywood producers and stuff and like, you know, getting the bites but you know, no sales. And finally, like, screw this. I'm just making, I'm making short. I'm just doing it. I just did. Man, isn't it. It's amazing. It's also amazing. By the way, it's might be helpful for your listeners, I put that thing out. It's called mystic coffee. I put it out to tons and tons of film festivals. And I got shot down by every single one of them. And I was like, oh, man, wow, that's a major fail. Right, right. And then I get a call out of the clear blue from a company called Gaia TV. Sure, right. Conscious media is what they do and call themselves and they're like, somebody showed us your film from a film festival, you know, or, you know, a curator at a film festival or whatever. And we love it. We want to give you a 10 year non exclusive deal worldwide. Like, sure. Like Okay, now the films out there, it's making money and people are seeing it. So you don't ever know. The way it's gonna go.

Alex Ferrari 40:59
It's never the way you think mostly. It's rarely the way it's it's rarely that way. And it's generally sometimes it's better. A lot of times I find it's better than what you imagined. Or at least different. At least different at least definitely different without without question. Yeah. It the whole Oh, by the way, I don't know if you knew this or not Steven Soderbergh just made this his latest film on an iPhone. Really, purely because, you know, obviously, Steven, because you in on whatever he wants, right? He decided to go on an iPhone, I watched the trailer of it, I was like, looks pretty good.

Jeff Leisawitz 41:37
And I'm sure I would love to hear his, you know, his reasoning for doing that.

Alex Ferrari 41:43
I think he just, I think he's one of those guys. He's like, he's never gonna make a movie for a studio again. He's done with that. So he, he just said that he's going to be doing his movies the way he wants to make them, and just go out and shoot them. And just, he doesn't care. And because he's got the clout of who he is, actors will come and work for him. And, and he's gonna just do his movies. And I think he wanted to, I think he wanted to prove that it can be done, which is a lot of stuff that he's done is like, I'm just gonna prove that it could get done. Right, you know, and he's just gonna do it. And it looked pretty good. You know, I mean, if you watch tangerine, which is Shawn Baker's beautiful movie, shot on the iPhone, it looked great. It was like, remarkably great. Did you see his latest movie Florida project? I have not. Oh, such right. We completely, completely snubz he should have been should have been an Oscar nominated film, without question. But anyway, um, so let me ask you, what advice would you give a filmmaker or screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Jeff Leisawitz 42:53
Well, basically what you just said, which is just do your thing and love what you're doing. If you're a screenwriter, write screenplays, put them out, you know, do whatever you got to do there with that kind of the business stuff. But write the screenplays for the right reasons, the reasons that matter to you. Same thing with the filmmaker, bust out your iPhone, or borrow your buddy's camera. I don't like just do it. However, you can do it. You're going to be moving forward, you're going to be getting better at your craft, you're going to be failing fast, and you're going to be getting better and you're going to be stepping closer towards your goal. And at the end of the day, if you love what you're doing, you're already winning.

Alex Ferrari 43:38
Amen. Yeah. Now, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career?

Jeff Leisawitz 43:52
I've read I've read a lot of books. I, the first one that the one that pops into my mind is Catcher in the Rye, which I turned on to probably as a maybe 12 or 13 year old was sitting in my parents bookshelf. And I read that book literally, every year from probably 13 to 25. I love that book so much. And then I stopped and then you know, maybe when I was sitting around 40 or so I read it again for the first time since then. And I was amazed at the difference of perspective that I had between being younger and being a little older. So what did I get out of that book? I think I related hugely to obviously it's a Holden Caulfield, the character specifically, in ways that he could see through the bullshit of the world. Half of this book was him looking at stuff and saying, like, Man, this school that I'm at, everybody's a phony, right? And here's the beauty in this little piece of the world over here that nobody's even looking at. Right? And over here, this is this is a bunch of crap. Right? So, you know, grown up, and even now still, I have the same mindset. I'm like, Where is the beauty? Where's the truth? And where is the nonsense? And let's get rid of the nonsense. Let's think, for ourselves. Please write, we are so inundated with media, with, you know, peer group, with advertising and marketing, with social with, you know, like educational institutions and government, like all this stuff, has a gigantic effect on us. And if you're not, if you don't have your filters up, this stuff will brainwash you. So, again, being more conscious and asking questions, why do I think I have to buy this expensive thing? Hmm. Is it because you really need it? Or is it because you've seen 40,000 ads for it?

Alex Ferrari 46:20
Great. If I if I if I may translate that for filmmakers? Do I really need to buy an Alexa? Or can the iPhone work? Or can a Blackmagic Pocket camera work? You know, or cheaper? You know that that whole gear, people buying gear again and again and again and again? Do you really need it? What do you what's the minimum thing you need to do your art?

Jeff Leisawitz 46:41
Exactly. And it can be an excuse? Oh, guys, I need I need all this expensive stuff in a huge budget to do my thing. Now, you know, you know, the freakin Beatles made Sergeant Pepper's with a four track. Right? So if they can do that, what can you do with all of this stuff? Most of which is so cheap and even free.

Alex Ferrari 47:09
Right! It's pretty, it's pretty remarkable. And for the kids in the audience, The Beatles were a band back in the signum joking. I just saw amazing documentary on how the Beatles changed the world and just completely changed my perspective on them the death before but I really loved them after I saw that document.

Jeff Leisawitz 47:30
I just saw that too. Isn't that good?

Alex Ferrari 47:31
Netflix and Netflix and amazing documentary? Right? Yeah. I didn't know that. They literally changed the music industry multiple times. Yeah, it's remarkable. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Jeff Leisawitz 47:52
Wow, well, I'm still learning it, I'm sure. But something recently came up. That is really pretty extraordinary for me. And this goes down into the psychology. So I was I was with some people. And I was saying, Hey, you know, my business or my book and my workshops. In some ways, it's going great. I'm getting out there. I've got clients, and you know, people showing up to the events and all this kind of stuff, fantastic. But it's really not getting as big as I would like it to be, I'm not having as much impact as I know, I could write. So there was sort of giving me advice or thoughts on it. And one person said, you're not confident, I'm like, wait a minute, I'm confident when I started, I was not confident, you know, of course, I'm starting a new thing. It's out of my comfort zone. Now I can talk about the stuff I know what I'm doing, et cetera, et cetera. So I really felt in my mind that I was confident. However, somebody else said to me, you're you are confident in your mind. But your heart is not fully ready to be seen. And I was like, Oh, my mind blown. And this has, you know, without getting too far into it, this has been sort of an issue under an undercurrent of my consciousness my whole life for various reasons. And so I took this little bit of wisdom, and I'm still doing this journaling on this, why is it that I'm not really ready to be seen? And how can I be seen and how would it feel to be seen because that's vulnerability, right? That's huge. You're putting yourself out there as any creative does. And then meditations around this stuff, again, using some of these NLP techniques that I know to re essentially rewire my subconscious and let me tell you Have something within days of this happening. And this was really just like two, three weeks ago, within days of this, I have gotten a ton of new clients, a ton of new opportunities to speak, and do my thing, and workshops, and all this stuff without changing my outward actions in any significant way. Amazing, isn't it? It's amazing. And, and that is why I really believe so deeply, that it's not just your head and your action in the world that will help Of course, you know, move you towards your goals, but it is the energy within you. And if you can unblock that, and move that forward. That is it will help you in tremendous ways.

Alex Ferrari 50:52
And sometimes it takes a lifetime for people to understand that it does that they just they they die, bitter and angry, because they didn't achieve their goal. But a lot of it was like you just didn't find this one key inside of you to unlock that part that stopping you. Because at the end of the day, if you keep pushing forward. And obviously if you keep hitting the wall in the same place, and the walls not moving, you got to change your direction, change your attack, if you will, sure. But at a certain point, if you keep at it, you will have to make some sort of some sort of headway in, you know, look, if your goal is like, I need to win 10 Oscars, I'm like, this is not, this is not First of all, a horrible goal, to start the journey on. If that's if that's the only way you're doing it is to get 10 Oscars, that was the point. But I think that people do get so they see that thing inside of them, or they don't see that thing inside of them that stops them. Like me, it took me 20 years to get out of my own way. And once I got out of my own way, it was like a rocket ship. It just took off in a way. And it's only happened in the last three, three years or so. For me, and it was because I got on my own way. And I got a lot of these preconceived notions out of my head, you know, like, Oh, god, what is going to be my first movie, my first movie has to come out, it has to be Reservoir Dogs. Right? You know, it's got, it's got to take the world by storm. I'm like, No, dude, it does not. You could just make the movie. And if it's good, great. If it's not, you make another one. And so on. So it is it's sad. But anytime I see that in people, I always try to help as much as I can. Because I'm no expert by any stretch. But I always try to, like, look inside, what's stopping you? Because you've been doing this for 10 or 15 years? Do you agree? Like there's something there's something? It's more likely something inside of you?

Jeff Leisawitz 52:58
Exactly. It's it's always let me just say that it is always you to some extent, and usually, to a large extent, right. So again, that's what I do with my coaching. And that's what I do at these workshops is, you know, help people not only with the practical actions, because that's important too. But dig into the why unblock these pieces that are screwing us up, create different identities. Did you fail? Or are you a failure? Right? The all this kind of stuff? Are you ready to be seen Why or why not? Right? And if we get into that stuff, it changes. It just changes everything.

Alex Ferrari 53:40
Absolutely. Now, what are three of your favorite films of all time?

Jeff Leisawitz 53:44
Oh my. Well, gosh, three, I'm going to go with you know, it's so easy to say it but Pulp Fiction because I mean, that's just some great first Star Wars movie. You know, I feel connected with Luke.

Alex Ferrari 54:02
We all do. That's why it's why it's Star Wars.

Jeff Leisawitz 54:05
That's right. I sort of escaped my home planet and i've you know, believe in the forest. I'll turn that freakin scope off for that last, you know, killer shot.

Alex Ferrari 54:15
Yep, yep. Yep.

Jeff Leisawitz 54:18
What's another one I love? Well, I love contact.

Alex Ferrari 54:21
Oh, wow. Yeah, I love contact.

Jeff Leisawitz 54:24
No, I mean, that's essentially faith and, and science

Alex Ferrari 54:29
McConaughey and Foster had absolutely no chemistry but the movie was correct.

Jeff Leisawitz 54:33
Yes. I and one of my screenplays is thematically similar to that panaceas dream about a shaman, a scientist who invent a pill that cures any illness and it works. But they don't know why it works. And you know, when the scientist sister starts dying and the pill doesn't work for her. The scientist has to figure this out. Sounds Yeah, you Yeah. So, you know, I mean, I could list a bunch more movies, but

Alex Ferrari 55:05
No worries, no worries, threes good threes. Good. Now where can people find you?

Jeff Leisawitz 55:10
Right! best way is jeffleisawitz.com. Hopefully you can spell that right, or our show notes. And yeah, sign up, you know, for the newsletter, and you can have free chapters in my book. So that's cool. And then again, I do the coaching, and both creativity and business coaching, by the way, you know, branding, social media, all that kind of stuff, and online workshops. So you can be anywhere, and we can do this.

Alex Ferrari 55:40
Awesome, Jeff, man, thank you so much for dropping some beautiful knowledge bombs on the tribe today. I really appreciate it. I hope it inspires some people to ask the deeper questions on there.

Jeff Leisawitz 55:52

Alex Ferrari 55:52
And on their journey.

Jeff Leisawitz 55:53
Thank you. And again, if we can all do this be seen expressed and healed through our creativity, the world will become a better place as well.

Alex Ferrari 56:02
Absolutely, my friend, thank you so much.

Jeff Leisawitz 56:04
Thank you.

Alex Ferrari 56:06
I hope you enjoyed Jeff and I's conversation. I learned a lot from it. And I really want to thank Jeff so much for being on the show and dropping some major knowledge bombs on the tribe. So thank you, Jeff, so much. If you want links to anything we talked about in this episode, head over to indiefilmhustle.com/226 for the show notes there, you'll have links to the book, which I highly recommend you get to small little book, but it is just plumb full of great, great stuff to help you guys on your path. So please check it out. I also want to remind you that Suzanne Lyons, and my indie film producing masterclass is coming out April 9, if you want to get in early, please email [email protected] And you'll get on a list to get it a little earlier than everybody else. And maybe even a slight discount. And it's going to be $90. And, and for retail, and it's going to stay at that price. We're rarely ever going to have any specials. But if you email now and put yourself on the list, there will be a $15 discount. So please email at [email protected] And if you guys really want to understand indie film producing from someone who's been doing it for many, many years and has worked with big stars, and done budgets from $50,000 budgets, all the way up to $15 million budgets, understand all the legalities, all the paperwork that you're going to need contracts, all that kind of stuff releases all of that's included in the course that you can download as well. So [email protected] to get in early. And as always keep that also going keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.

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BPS 130: How to Avoid Career Pitfalls for Screenwriters with Felicity Wren

I wanted to take a deep dive into the marketing side of screenwriting today because it is in fact, a necessity in the industry today. Unfortunately, not many writers bother themselves as much about marketing their work. While I have some course resources on the IFH Academy website to help writers pitch stories or to get past the gatekeepers and so on, I thought it would be favorable to have marketing and development exec, Felicity Wren on the show to delve into the subject. 

Felicity started off in this business as an actor and now is a producer and VP of Development at the International Screenwriters Association (ISA). ISA (Est 2008), is a screenwriters community and resource platform that allows branding, marketing screenplays to producers and provide learning resources for seasoned and new writers. 

To date, ISA subscribers include 5,104 Industry Pros, approximately 70,000 Screenwriters, and 8,039 resources for screenwriters. Definitely, a goldmine!

Felicity trained academically across the performing arts sphere (writing, directing, acting technique, and script analysis). She pursued acting and appeared in films like Star Trek Into Darkness, The Battle of Hogwarts, Tales of Uplift and Moral Improvement, and more, but lost interest in the competitive reality and stress of waiting for the callback.

So, she pivots. Alongside her partner,
she launched a theater company, Unrestricted View (1999) in London that worked primarily with new professional creatives. A decade later, Felicity moved to Hollywood to seek the bigger dream.

Some of Wren’s work includes short films like The Trap, Homeless Realtor, Who’s Who, The Force, and several others. At the ISA, she get’s to work directly with the Program Writers, and ISA Contest Winners, ensuring their projects get in front of eminent producers, managers, and agents in Hollywood.

For screenwriters trying to sell a script, you have to know your voice and feel comfortable using it beyond your incredible writing. Understanding what you bring to the table is key in every profession. Of course. Coupling that with some marketing tools can propel you for higher success. That’s why this conversation is important.

Enjoy my very informative conversation with Felicity Wren.

Right-click here to download the MP3



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Alex Ferrari 0:15
I'd like to welcome to the show Felicity rent. How you doing, Felicity?

Felicity Wren 0:19
I'm really good. Thank you, Alex really good indeed.

Alex Ferrari 0:22
So thank you for coming on the show. You know, I've been a big fan of what you guys do over at ICA for a long time. And, and I thought it would be appropriate to have you come on the show to talk about marketing, because it's something that writers generally don't think about your career building and how to pitch how to actually try to pitch your story, how to get through all these gatekeepers, all these kinds of things. So I want to kind of do it a little bit of a deep dive into marketing, because it's, it is unfortunately, a necessity in today's world, if you just can't write the great American screenplay and hope that the, the gods from Mount Hollywood show up and you're like, you now shall write, here's $3 million this way to the Hollywood Hills, like that's not, that's not a thing. But a lot of screenwriters and I know that you know this, I think that's the thing. And it's not this. It's another skill set now that we have to talk about, which is marketing. But before we get into that, how did you will get into this business, this ridiculous business that?

Felicity Wren 1:25
Yeah, we were just talking about the fact that it's a bit of an abusive relationship. So yeah. Why on earth? Well, I kind of, I'm from the UK Originally, I think my accent does give it away, just in case anyone was wondering what's wrong. It's not Australia is the UK. And

Alex Ferrari 1:42
I was gonna pinpoint South Africa. South Africa, obviously.

Felicity Wren 1:48
Obviously, makes perfect sense. So I always loved acting. And then I realized that it's actually so difficult, because you're always waiting to be picked. So I thought, What can I do to change that? So the guy I was seeing who became my husband, that time, we started a theatre company, and we actually found ourselves in a little theater. And we started working with creative people and people who were starting out in their career. And that was 20 years ago, and I still run that little venue in London. And 11 years ago. I was thinking, hmm, it surely there's more to life than this, because I think, I don't know if everyone feels the same. But I think that even genetically it says, every seven years, you become a completely new person, every cell in your body is renewed. So I feel like if you're having a lovely life, or even if you're not having a lovely life, that's maybe a moment for you to think what else could I do with myself? And so I you know, you always have that Hollywood dream, much as you were saying earlier about the writers getting someone will discover me, I felt I could come from Hollywood.

Alex Ferrari 2:51
discovering my genius is what I like to say is like, why hasn't Hollywood discovered my genius, obviously? And why hasn't Kevin Fey he called me up to direct the next Avengers? I don't understand. Can you explain to me

Felicity Wren 3:05
the reason if you do need to be there, as though it's one of those things to kind of like, or not so much anymore, but it used to feel like that. So I thought, well, Hollywood, you know, just really needs a female British actress. It looks a bit like Meryl Streep's daughter that she didn't have, who hasn't had any work done? So that's my thinking, of course, very sensible. Until unrealistic.

Alex Ferrari 3:29
Sure. So the thing is, it's funny, because we're talking about the pecking order of abuse in Hollywood, and actors get the worst, the worst of the stick, they have no control. They're commodities in the process. writers are right next door to them, they have a little bit more slight bit more power, and control. And then probably directors, filmmakers, and then all the technical aspects of things. But I mean, and this is something I've said before on the show is, you know, to get into this business, you have to be a slightly bit insane, because it's not, it is not a business that makes any sense of any any sort whatsoever. I mean, because I mean, I've been in the business world, and I've been in the film industry. And this is the only business in the world would you could spend $5 million and have a worthless product at the end of it. I mean, am I wrong? Like you could you can spend $5 million over but over over selling, you know, over building a house with marble and this and it's in the wrong neighborhood in the wrong location, yet you still have a house with some value might not be the full value of what you spent. But there's value there, you literally can be have something that is worthless, and spend $5 million, if you don't know what you're doing in this business, and how it's insane and you know, and by the way, you can't even tell it what money you get. If you put 5 million in you're like, I think we're gonna get five to 10 back maybe what world is that a business

Felicity Wren 4:56
is not a business and the thing about that I always feel as well if you kind of work In the business world, you can think I'm going to start at the beginning. I'm going to serve my apprenticeship. I'm going to work my way up, and someone's going to notice how good I am. And I've been here for 10 years, and then it's going to mean something. And it's here. It's like, it doesn't none of that none of those rules apply. I think there is a kind of sense that maybe for an actor, you don't have to audition anymore, although Viola Davis was talking about the fact that she still had to, I think that's changed a bit with them recently. But you know, it was disgusting. It's used to racism in effect right there.

Alex Ferrari 5:33
Jesus Christ.

Felicity Wren 5:36
You know, I hear even if you're doing really well, and you're thinking, I can't do really great if you do a bomb project, when you go to movie jail, and you're back where you started.

Alex Ferrari 5:46
It's, it's insane. The old deal joke is how do you make millions in the film industry? You start with billions. So

how do you make millions in the business? You start with billions. But what it's, but it's it's true. I mean, and I'm kind of spotlighting and making poking fun of our industry, because it is it's insane. Obviously, someone's making money. Generally, it's not the artist. And that's a whole other conversation. Generally, it's not the artists. But you know, there is a business somewhat in there. But at the independent level, and things like that so hard to generate any real revenue, especially in today's marketplace, and for screenwriters trying to sell a script. I mean, when I was coming up in the 90s, you know, we were still in the boom of the spec script. It was kind of tailing off the spec script boom, of the 80s, where Shane Black and Joe Astor house, they weren't like getting, I mean, I think I read somewhere, Joe Astor house made $20 million on films that never were produced. Never were produced. I mean, he did produce they he did a couple really good movies. Yes, it gets. Yeah, don't get me wrong. He, I mean, he's, it wasn't like an anomaly. He was a really good writer, and still is a really good writer. But but that was that was kind of tailing off in the 90s. And there wasn't nearly as much competition and there was nearly as much information about I mean, I think when did subfields book come out? Like,

Felicity Wren 7:17
Oh, my God, does that save the cat? No, no,

Alex Ferrari 7:19
no. sixfields was the basically the first book on like, screen for screen format. It was all about screenwriting format. I think, the 90s I think it was in the mid 90s. I know save the cat came out in the late 90s. But it wasn't Yeah, there wasn't a lot of information yet. So the competition wasn't as fierce. But today, everybody's a screenwriter, everyone's a director, everyone's because there's so much more information about our industry. So I mean, how do we cut through as a writer in today's world in your opinion?

Felicity Wren 7:53
Um, well, you have to know your voice. I think that's the thing is like more than anything, is you have to really kind of like drill into I mean, obviously it worked really well for me being Meryl Streep's daughter she didn't and didn't realize she had that's my obviously my my benefit but I think it really understanding what you bring to a piece of work to your work to the industry. And really then making the most of that and using everything everything that you have so that you can understand that if there's a big push right now for Latina writers then if you're Latina, go for it don't go like I want to be seen just because my writing is just like this. No, absolutely just use everything you can I think it's a start with the very beginning. Understanding yourself looking at the movies that touch you, why did they touch you? What is it about them what the stories they keep telling will probably tell you a lot about your own pressure points. The because I feel like writing itself is a really therapy, isn't it? I mean, that's what writers are doing. They're just working out what's going on inside them on the page. So if you look at other movies that really touch you, I think you'll get a bit of a clue as to what's really going on with you then really understanding those ideas and working to to really hone them and find your way of presenting them that is different from other things you've seen but the same because that's that's the other thing you know, it'd be too crazy because people want things that have already made money. But I think that's going to be the first point is understanding who you are your voice getting really clear about it the stories you want to tell the themes that you have that are important to you and then start writing I think the idea that you just need one great script is a lie. I know this this I think again, that's still with that whole thing about I think they've been like one or two stories and where people have been swooped in and kind of like it was my first grip. It was my first acting role and

Alex Ferrari 9:55
Diablo Cody is a perfect example of that with with Juno. She got the Oscar and all A lot of stuff it was like it was my first script and she had been writing for years and that's what people don't understand she she'd been writing. She's been a prolific writer before she did her first screenplay. But, but I always tell I always tell screenwriters and filmmakers as well. That the only thing you have going for you is your secret sauce. That thing that is unique to you like there can't be another Quentin Tarantino because he's already he's got them he's he's cornered the market on Glentoran. Like Aaron Sorkin has cornered the market on being Aaron Sorkin like there's no one's going to be able to do that. No one's going to be able to be another Alex for another Felicity. Like we have our thing that is ours, that gift that that voice, our experiences. It is so unique to us. And I think once writers understand that all successful writers do this, all of them across all mediums are the ones who tap into that, that makes them special, the guy or the gal who is copying or trying to imitate. And by the way, and I'd love to hear your thoughts. We all do that. We all start imitating because that's how we learn from filmmaking and screenwriting we start, you know, we read the Shane Black scripts, we read the Tarantino scripts we like we got to read script, like the moment you sit down to start to write dialogue like Tarantino, you realize, Oh, this is not possible. Because it's just something inside it. Like when you start writing Sorkin dialogue, you go, I can't get the beats the heat he's doing or Mamet or they can't, because it's there's, you can't, you could try to go down that road. But I think once you start tapping into that, that well inside of you, is when the magic start happening. Do you agree?

Felicity Wren 11:43
I totally agree with that. And I feel because the thing is you said at the beginning is there's no guarantee about really being in this business. So you should do it for the love of it. So if you really love sitting down writing, getting these stories out thinking about your characters exploring where they might go, then at least you'll have the pleasure of that, regardless of what happens. I mean, of course you want something to happen. And you aspire for that. And there are things you can do to put yourself out there so that more people know about you, I think you have to be brave. Understand what your ideas are. And then don't be afraid to share them. Because actually, people want to hear about you we want. I think this idea that only some stories matter is false. All stories matter. We're all human beings on this planet, trying to get through trying to make trying to make ends meet, trying to cope with heartbreak and enjoy, you know, all the gamut of emotions. But the way we connect is through story and through understanding and really having compassion and empathy with another person. And you don't know I always say to my writers, I'm like, you don't know what that one story that you've written that one line that one moment that one scene will do for someone else who either reads it or watches it, and suddenly they feel seen. And that is probably that should be enough for you to sit down and go like, I'm gonna do it for about a minute. So if one person and then I feel better, then that's enough. And then from there, of course, we want to make money. But if you start from that, I think very sweet, unique place.

Alex Ferrari 13:28
No. Are you telling me then that you shouldn't get into this business for the money? Is that what you're trying to say? I mean, I got into some TV rich, obviously. So why it hasn't happened yet. But but that's why I started obviously, because this is the place to make money. I mean, every money in this business. I kid I kid but but as a kid, so many, so many writers and filmmakers come in to this business like I'm gonna be rich, you know, it's like, hey, it's gonna be it's gonna be raining Benjamins all day. Because you read the stories and you hear the press that Hollywood does. I've always said the holly was extremely good at the sizzle, but sucks at the steak. And they sell this. They sell the Hollywood dream. So beauty. They've been selling the Hollywood dream since the 20s. Since you know, since Chaplin jumped out, you know, or the Keystone cops are running around. They were selling the Hollywood dream. And I always tell people who haven't been to LA. I got the perfect example or analogy for Hollywood is this. It's the Oscars. When you go down to Hollywood Boulevard on Oscar night, oh, my God, it looks amazing, doesn't it? Oh, it looks great on television. It's great. Then your family flies into LA and they're like, hey, I want to go down to Hollywood Boulevard at the Chinese theatre and like, you don't want to do that. No, no, no, it's great. No, it's great. I want to go see it. I'm like, you don't want to do that. So I did the same thing. When I first got here with a friend of mine who lived here before I moved here. And I went to downtown downtown and I went to Hollywood Boulevard, and we parked where Madame Tussaud's is now that was that was an empty parking lot back then. And I parked in the moment. We got out there was a woman who walked by and she's just like, welcome to Hollywood and she lifted up and flashed us. And I was like, my wife and I were just like, wow. And my friend goes, welcome to Hollywood and we walk down the street and I just my wife was clinching to me because it was not. I'm like home like, and the farther you will get away from the from the Dolby theater. Oh, it gets shade here and shade here in shader. And that is it. It looks almost like a cesspool other than that little block. Am I wrong? I mean, it's perfect analogy for Hollywood, because it shows you on the screen. Oh, it's so pretty. But the second The show is over, they pull up the red carpet, and it's like, needles in the gutters. It's insane. Yeah.

Felicity Wren 15:45
Yeah, that corner is particularly ugly as well when the red carpet is gone. But it literally from above, when you've got the seats down and you can't see the street. There is absolutely nothing there. And then you're just accosted by people out of work or actors dressed as Disney characters trying to take their photo with you. And then it just gets further down to is really stripper attire. Drops further down the shops further down. But it is the absolute opposite of what you think there is no paved with gold in Hollywood. That is not true.

Alex Ferrari 16:15
It's a Boulevard of Broken Dreams. That's damn sure. It's as cliche as that is once you're here. I've been here for over a decade. And when I got here, the streets were paved for gold. For me. I was like, Oh my God, look, there's Warner Brothers. Oh, look, there's Disney. Oh, look, there's a boathouse, I was so excited just to be in the business about a year or two. And you're just like, yeah, this is this is the reality. Okay? Okay, this is how this game is played now. But at first you don't. And that's one of the reasons why I do what I do is because I want to warn people trying to get into this business. Look, I'm not saying don't follow your dreams, but you got to be prepared for what's coming. And most people aren't there. Most people are not prepared for that. I always say people, the punch, we're all going to get punched, we all get punched throughout our throughout our careers. No matter who you are, if you're Steven Spielberg, if you're, we all get punched by this business. And occasionally, you learn how to avoid the punch, you learn how to duck, you learn how to take the hit a little bit easier. But if you don't know that there's a fight, you're gonna get knocked out in the first one. And how many fighters have you run into who the first time that punch comes, whatever that punch might be, they're out for the count. And they just like, I'm out. I don't want to do this, because they weren't prepared for it.

Felicity Wren 17:32
I think as well as so many things can be disappointing. Especially if you're a writer, a baby writer, or someone that's doing it as a second career, we have a lot of that. Then you're used to a certain set of rules. You know, if you're a baby, right, then you just come from school or college and everything's been pretty easy until that point. And if you're a second career, then we have those rules again, that you can work hard enough and people would understand and you would get somewhere or is it this just not like that here. So people promise you things and then they don't do what they say they're going to do. So you have to understand that you can it's a weird thing though, because I do think still think you need to celebrate all the time to keep your morale up. So the fact is that someone says I want to option your project, you should be like, wow, you know, you should literally like run around your front room, you should call your friends you should if you drink have a beer, if you don't drink, have a look. This is not an advert for look for you know, do something to go like oh my goodness, this is amazing. Someone has realized my work, seen it and liked it. And that's wonderful. And then just get back to work. Because until it's actually signed, the contract is signed until the money has gone over. Till even it's there started Principal photography until Principal photography has stopped till it's in the editing room until it's all done, done. Done. It doesn't even really exist.

Alex Ferrari 18:57
Until you're at the premiere on a screen or on your home screen at a digital premiere nowadays. It doesn't exist, it doesn't exist. I know it's shocking for people to listen to but here in Hollywood people do exaggerate sometimes. And they lie straight up and they tell you they're going to do something and they don't. And the first few times that happens to you You're just like wow, this sucks. And it's it's it's it's rough. It's a rough go of it no question.

Felicity Wren 19:30
I think it's because everyone's trying to kind of push each other away push off of each other. And this is I don't mean it sounds so cynical, but it's so hard to get a movie made that you're like well if I get someone attached, then maybe someone will then put the money up so you kind of like you lie to both parties to say that this person is attached to you want to put the money and then you go this person for the money I'm so do you want to be attached and there's that that kind of money. Yeah, that really I think can be, that's where it can all fall apart. Because actually nothing is really set in stone until it's set in stone. And like we say, that's when it's all done. So I think you have to find ways to make it almost like a game for yourself. So it's more lighthearted, I think, to kind of stay in a place of it would be great if that happens, but it's not gonna ruin my life, you know. So that's what you need lots of other stuff. I think the other thing to remember in this business is that you do need friends, family, hobbies, you know, other bits of your life to fill you up. Because this, whatever this is, is never going to be enough. And so when you're let down, you still have other things and you're like, well, I can go to the beach, it's okay, I can stop writing for a day I can do that I can, I can go out for dinner with my lovely partner, I can do something that makes me remember that I am a human being living on the planet. And this is just one of the things I do. However, you have to have a passion for it. But it's still one of the things you do.

Alex Ferrari 20:59
That was the biggest mistake, one of the biggest mistakes I made coming up is that my entire identity was associated with being a filmmaker, and being a director, like that was my whole life. And, and to a certain extent, you have to kind of be that obsessive, especially at the beginning you have to be. But that balance that you and I are talking about is it's only because of age, you know, we've been around the block, hey, I've been around the block a little bit. It's like, you know, just to speak the way you just say was so eloquent. And wise. I don't hear 20 year olds speaking like that, generally speaking, and it happens every once in a while, but very rarely. So that is just you just kind of kind of go through it. And you realize there's a hopefully people listening who are of that age, can take these notes and understand that that I know you're trying hard to to break through and I'm writing and this. But if you completely attach your identity to the craft of screenwriting, or filmmaking, or being in this business, you will never, ever be happy. I don't care if you went to Oscars, because I spoken to Oscar winners who have won the Oscar and then they're like, now what? Because and when that if you don't win the Oscar the next year, I'm a failure. Like, how crazy is this? thing? Things like that. So you have to have a balance in life. And I'm so blessed to have a family that balanced me because when I was young, I was it was first 10 years. There was just that's all it was. But I was very, very depressed, very unhappy, because it was just this kind of high, low, high and low, high. Yeah, constantly. And you never, you never had this baseline. It was just constantly highs and lows. So you, you'd be so happy one day, and you would crash the next because that guy lied to you. Or the financing fell through, which was never really going to happen anyway, because it was just some kid with a trust fund who said, Oh, mommy's not gonna give me the money this week. So, you know, these are the things

Felicity Wren 22:57
and condition them is next, isn't it? It's like next. So you get there and you think, Oh my god, I would be so happy. If I moved to Hollywood, you move to Hollywood, you're like, Okay, what's next? I'll be so happy as someone read my script next, then they want it, then. And you can't lose track of that moment when you were a little person just wanting to move to Hollywood, and being able to look back and think actually, I've come so far, and I'm doing so well. And am I enjoying this process? That is what it should be? Am I am I taking a moment each day to be grateful? And just to say, wow, I feel like being a storyteller is one of the best jobs on Earth. I mean, I know it's not easy. But getting to dig into the human idea, again, to tell stories about love and triumph and changing the world. I mean, what an amazing thing to do. I think there are lots of jobs where people are just earning a paycheck. And you know, I respect them so much. Because that's, that's hard just to do that just to do something for the paycheck. Whereas with a story, you actually get to go like disappear into your mind. And imagine a different way for yourself and for others. And I just think it's such a privilege to be here. And so enjoy it in the in this process. Really, pat yourself on the back more often than not, you know, take a stop and go oh my god, this is amazing. I'm so glad I'm here. I'm so glad I'm doing this and even when it's rubbish, it's just show me how good it's gonna feel when it's great.

Alex Ferrari 24:29
Then I want to point something out that you just said, the process. I think that that's where so many screenwriters fail is that they don't enjoy the process. They only look at the outcome. And they're putting so much pressure on their work and their art that it can never live up to it. I used to do that constantly with my work when I would release a short film. I'm like, this is the one. This is the one that's going to blow me up. This is the one that Steven Spielberg is going to see and he's going to come down from Hollywood tapped me on the shoulder is like now you shall do Jurassic Park seven. Now like that was that was the end when it didn't Do that which it doesn't, and it can't. And the people and I've spoken to the people that had that has happened to, by the way, and every one of them never expected that no, never thought it was going to happen to like, I was just making a short film. And all of a sudden, someone from Hollywood showed up into like, hey, do you want to make the feature version of that? And here's a couple mil, like, literally that conversation. They never said, Oh, this is the thing that's gonna blow me up. No one ever said that one of the famous conference, one of the famous mythical stories is El Mariachi, which is Robert Rodriguez isn't people still talk about that movie? As the like, well, he did a movie for $7,000. And we can get into all that another time. But But he was making that movie. And everyone's like, oh, he was making that movie to get found? No, he's making that movie for the Spanish VHS market. And happened to drop it off at an agents who a friend of his who worked as the assistant to an agent, that agent happened to be the biggest directing agent in Hollywood. He saw it, and but it wasn't. And when they were going to release a mariachi, it's like, No, no, no, no, no, no, give me the money to remake it, I don't want to this was I was just playing, I don't want people to see this. And that was and that was the thing. So writers have to understand that as well that you have to enjoy the process. And the moment that I stopped, I started to enjoy writing, or enjoy what I do on a daily basis and never put an outcome towards it. I became so much happier.

Felicity Wren 26:31
Yes, I like everything in life, isn't it, it's like, if you're trying too hard it is it worth the cost of that. So if you're looking for love, if you want to be in love, don't look for it, it's that same kind of thing, you do it because you're having a nice moment telling the story. And then keep telling them keep telling them and I think that's the other thing about I think we started with that is that I think you should really be thinking about ideas and writing out the ideation you know, really spending some time every week, every month to just think okay, reading articles what's exciting me right now what is kind of like happening in the world that is important, but still is relates to me and is relevant to my life and the things that I care about. And just say like just write start writing ideas out about right. So what would happen if this if these people, if these people who I'm trying to think of an example, had cat is landed on the moon, and it's not a great one, it would be a very niche market. But you know, so start thinking about what ifs and ideas and stuff like that. So you're always trying to generate new ideas that are relevant to what's happening socially right now. And that also kind of still touch who you are. So that you you're not stuck as well on just the grind of this one script that maybe you're working on or you're madly in love with, but might need a little bit of time away. It doesn't mean to say that you're writing on 15 things at once, but be focused on those scripts you're writing on. But then think take some time to write some other ideas. So that if you are ever in pitching this fabulous script that you're in love with, and they ask you what else you have, then you have 10 or 15 other ideas ready to go that they can talk to you about because as we know, even if they're only going to buy one of the scripts from you, they're actually buying you the writer rather than just the script. And so you want to show that you're that kind of writer that's full of ideas, and really can be flexible and move with them. And if they start talking, you can start riffing back and you know, they want to it's like a marriage, you're going to get in bed with them for a long time, if they take your script unless you start to make it.

Alex Ferrari 28:36
I was talking to a screenwriter The other day I was a very successful screenwriter. And he's like, when I went to pitch, this is what I did, I would have the eight minute pitch for my big script that I loved. And then they would go That's great. What do you have? What else do you have? That he's going to a two minutes, two minute pitch for another script he had? And he was like, boom, boom, goes. Yeah, that's great. What else do you have? Then he does this thumbnail 22nd pitch, they're like, That's the one. And you just never, you never know. He's like, Alright, that's the one you want to buy? Okay, well, we'll sell you that one. So you have to have multiple things. And I always tell screenwriters as well, that if you're working on a script for two, three years, and it's just one script, and that's the only thing you're writing on, you are not a professional, you're hobbyist at that point, you're not a professional, you have to professional writers write and write a lot and have multiple scripts. I know you don't have to have multiple scripts doing at the same time, though I find it to be helpful to be jumped back and forth. Sometimes maybe between two or three, maybe Yeah, not 15, but two or three. But you should always have your product and ideas. It's you need to walk into meetings with minimum of three ideas or scripts ready to rock and roll if not five or six. And you're really not going to be any good at writing into you're probably into your fourth fifth sixth. Seventh, if not 20th screenplay unless you're a prodigy and they do come but that That's the that's the outlier. You can't really Hey, well couldn't turn it here. I'm like, stop it. Stop right there. Stop. Well, Aaron Sorkin did stop, stop. Don't put your name in the same sentence with them because they're, they're a different level than you are. And it's not better or worse. It's just at a different place in their career than you are and the kind of towel. It's like, well, Mozart started looking. Like I picked up the I picked up the piano. Well, Mozart was seven. I'm like, really, really, he was seven. Really, you compare yourself to one of the greatest geniuses. But that's, that's the insanity of screenwriters and filmmakers.

Felicity Wren 30:37
I know, the good news is you can get better at it. You can get better at it. And actually, it's not as ageist as other bits of the profession, so you can get better. It doesn't matter how old you are in the same way unless they're looking. I was talking to someone the other day, a millennial. Actually, no, she's probably the the younger than that. She's like, she's only 22. And they're not millennials and more on open other

Alex Ferrari 31:02
and new. Forgot the new Yeah, not even. I don't have that new generation anyone. Anyway, but we are so old fellas. We are ancient. We are ancient. We are dating ourselves. Let's just watch. Let's go to blockbuster went to VHS and just watch a movie tonight. I mean, seriously, we're that old.

Felicity Wren 31:26
He was talking to me about dialogue. And she was like, Oh, God, all these millennials writing this dialogue for our generation. And I was like, I mean, cuz I was like, that means? I mean, just like, Oh, gosh. And that's like, yeah, so um, then Okay, then I think you've got it. She's a writer too. So I say then you need to get out there. And actually, all these people in rooms need to be going, like who are hiring from rooms need to be going, Okay, I need to find me some baby writers, because we think we know how people are speaking and they're not speaking that way. So let's actually get some authenticity in the room. And I think that's something I've really enjoyed this year. COVID, and just previously to COVID, this whole kind of thing is this I search for authenticity in writing, and in rooms and in TV shows and in features that stop being older white dudes kind of writing young women and stuff like that. I felt like it's great that things are changing.

Alex Ferrari 32:28
Yeah, no, there's no question and you're starting to see more and more diversity in, in, in movies and television shows. And it's, it's not that the old white guy story is not good. It's just that's all we had, we need to have, yeah, other points of view, because that's not the country we live in. And having those other points of view are are fantastic. And I'm really glad that that's happening now. And giving opportunities to mean being a screenwriter in the 90s. Unless you're a white dude, it was it was rough. I remember coming up as a Latino in Miami. And they said, If you direct the Spanish commercial, you won't be able, they won't allow you to do English language anymore. Because I would then be put in the box of he's a Latino director does Latin American or Latino commercials, because God forbid, if I can aim a camera at a Spanish speaking person, I can't aim a camera at an English speaking person, you know, or, I don't even get me started that whole world. But that was that was that was the fear. And I had done some Spanish commercials. And I'm like, I can't put them on my reel. Because I would get I would get ousted from the room. It was just insane.

Felicity Wren 33:41
It was like, I'm glad that the multi hyphenate has become a thing though. I think though that has become it didn't used to be. And I think everyone was very much more if you're an actor, you're an actor, if you're right, you're right. If you're a filmmaker, a filmmaker, a director, you know, I mean, you weren't allowed to do all those things. It's like you're almost being greedy. Whereas now actually, they want you to do those things. But it also means that you have to as a screenwriter, or a filmmaker or anyone in this industry. Treat yourself like a business you are a business person. And I've been talking to him recently, and I think even going so far as to become a producer yourself as a screenwriter. So you can hire yourself as a producer on for scripts, if they're going to get made by somebody so that you can be fired off the script as a screenwriter, but you're still on in some capacity as a producer is something to think of. So everything you're doing now when you're trying to get your script out there. Think of it as a business person, not as a creative and that's why you kind of need your head split down the middle I would say and I'm sure you would agree is that half his business and half his creative because this business half has to be making the deals or learning how to build a pitch deck. Being good on the phone, selling something, learning That is the business side. And the other greatest I sometimes forget, like, we aren't going to tell this amazing story about things I love, you know, it's like the two halves.

Alex Ferrari 35:07
Well, like I always say there's the word show in the word business. And the word business has twice as many letters as the word show. And there's a there's, there's a reason yes, it does, one needs the other. But without the money, they no show. Because they'll put on a show, it could suck, but they'll put on a show. But the money is what really is going. Now, I was talking to someone the other day that about branding, and they were a screenwriting team, and very successful screenwriting team from the 80s and 90s. And I was talking to him, and they were saying that they branded themselves in town as the rewrite guys, they would be known as the guys who would come in to trouble projects and rewrite these projects and in specific genres. So they did romantic comedies. And, and through an action, which was weird, it was, like I said, they would add a little bit of comedy to action projects and things like that. And I think as a screenwriter, even at a certain level, you need to think about branding, branding yourself in the business, because the business wants to throw you in a box, they need to throw you in a box for their, their small minds, to to put to be able to deal with you. Because there's just so many things, if you do everything. I can't, I don't know where to put you. So you need to kind of find a niche at the beginning, you could venture out later, but at the beginning, you need to find a niche and focus on that niche and become a brand on that. And it could be you're the dialogue person, you're you know, I can I can do rewrites. I'm really good at you know, subplots, I'm there's things as far as getting work, not selling the million dollar spec, working as a writer, I think that's so powerful because every every major screenwriter you could think of they had their niche. I mean, Quintin was rewriting Crimson Tide. And you can tell the scene that he rewrote, because it's so clearly him, because Denzel Washington in a new killer service, talking about Silver Surfer, so. So it's like, that's the good dirtiness. But he was he was he was brought in to punch up dialogue. We know when he was starting out, because that was his brand. Would you agree about branding? And how do screenwriters If you agree, brand themselves in the business?

Felicity Wren 37:29
Yeah. It's a really interesting question. I reached out to our writers on our development, slate, and the the way we asked them to talk about themselves, is that if you were a Hollywood producer, because they're all or average from anywhere, quite frankly, but you were clicking through, and you were looking at your profile, so the kind of like the bio of you the story of you. What kind of writer would they get if they hired you? So are you someone who in is fascinated by familiar relationships and how they explode? And how life can be different if you come from a blended family? Or do you do like to focus on dialogue and comedy and and unpicking stories and from narratives that we've already heard? You know, I mean, so whenever you because I feel, again, it's that thing that we started within the idea that knowing who you are and what your pressure points are, and what your story is, that is your brand. So you have to get it get very kind of clinical, I think, and dissect and go into your work and go like, what are the things I keep talking about? That actually, if someone was going through and they went, I want to punch up a dialogue and a family script with a with a breakup, a new Hello, I really interested in relationships and breaking up and kind of, then they've got that for you. I think it's, I think if you're particularly interested in horror, or something like that, and you say, like I seem to be drawn towards these kind of genres, and to put that in as well. But I feel like the how you tell a story and the kind of beats of it, the heart of it, even in these different genres will probably remain pretty similar. Because that, as you said, is your special sauce. So I guess what, what you're asking for the brand is to find your special sauce and articulate it correctly.

Alex Ferrari 39:25
Write it, articulate it, if you will. and promote yourself that way. You're right. I think one of the bigger mistakes that a lot of early or baby screenwriters as you'd like to call them do is that they're like, Oh, I write horror, romantic comedies, actions and sci fi. Like you're done. There's just this No way. No one's gonna hire you because they don't want a generalist. They want a specialist when it's writing. Would you agree that they're like, I'm an action producer. I want a guy or a gal who just loves action and writes action. And if there's a little humor in it, all the better great but I need someone who's focused on actual or at least someone who's focused in horror, and thrillers or I need someone who's focused in sci fi, or in romantic comedies or comedies. Do you agree?

Felicity Wren 40:10
I think I mean, I felt like it's got a bit because of a much more genre busting. And I think genres themselves become a bit more fluid. But I think it's that the thing about, as you were kind of saying is, you can't be an expert in everything. And if you are trying to build up your career, you should be trying to find producers, directors, managers, these kind of people that like people like you. So in a way, you want to kind of work out what your voice is, what your brand is. So that then you can be very targeted in your approach, if you are thinking about producers you'd like to work with or that might like to work with you. So what do you have in your portfolio that is like, work with what they have produced, and then see if you can find a way to get to them. I mean, it's always trying to find kind of roads in but that I think helps you decide who your brand is, and what your brand is. And then where you can target your approach. And manager, if they tend to, I would say, probably tries to cover all bases, but see if there's a hole in their roster. So they've got a comedy person, they've got a an action person, they've got a TV person, but we haven't got someone that's really focused on horror, then maybe you could approach it that would be your approach is that I see. I really like these interesting characters that are in difficult situations. I particularly like horror that psychological rather than gruesome, I see that you have done these other your other writers on your roster, do this, this and this, I feel like this is maybe a place where I could fit in your roster if you're looking right now. So I think branding will help you across the board, in your sales pitch.

Alex Ferrari 41:46
Can you also know, myth bust, this concept that all I need as an agent in my life is going to be better. All I need is a manager to sell me and then they will see my genius, and the millions will roll in. Can you please bust this myth for anyone listening?

Felicity Wren 42:09
I always say there's a reason why they take you they take 10 and you get 90. And it's because even if you get a manager at maximum, they're gonna do 10% of the work and you do 90%

Alex Ferrari 42:22
That's great. I love that. I've never heard that one. That's great. So

Felicity Wren 42:25
I mean, like the idea that they're going to, they're going to take you on and then the unit sit by the phone, and it's going to ring and it's the same for actors, you know, I mean, that is not not going to happen. The best thing you could do if you were going to meet with managers, or try and get in touch with them and try and you know, there's a whole thing, Twitter, follow on Twitter, you know, do your homework on IMDB Pro, this is not an ad with IMDb Pro, but find out you know who their writers are, is that you nowadays can find out a lot about who they are and what they want. So that you when you approached them, and you're like, actually, I think I might be the right fit for you. And I've done some homework as to where I think my projects might land in the industry. They're like, thank God, I don't have to think about that. They've already given me if they like you, and they'd like your work. They're like, wow, I already have a starting point, I don't have to think about where I'm going to send them. Because if I agree with some of these ideas, and that's taken some of the work away from me already, managers are looking like most people to do as little as they can for as much return as they can. And depending on where you are in the roster. Again, they've got lots of people at the top that they have to, they have to be seen to be doing a lot more for if you've just signed with them. And you are literally the last person that or they might give you a bit of a burst at the beginning where they're like, okay, you around town and you have this kind of flurry at the beginning. If nothing happens, then then it will be crickets, and nothing will happen ever again. So this idea that they are going to look after you and change your world is absolute rubbish. But it does give you It gives you a tick, it gives you an authenticity it gives you someone else has chosen you for when you can then go out into the world and approach other people. And you're like, well, I'm signed with this manager. So therefore let's have this conversation.

Alex Ferrari 44:10
Yeah, and I noticed you kept saying manager and you didn't say the word agent very often in that conversation because it's very true. Managers are a little bit more open to nurturing careers slightly bit slightly more agents are mercenaries. They're absolutely mercs business. Yeah, it's just the business in for P and for screenwriters, you have to understand that no agent is the agent is only going to sign you if they believe they can make money with you. And the easier the money the better. You just want Sundance, I'll sign you because I know I'll be able to probably flip you really quickly and make a little quick cash. You're a commodity. That's what that's what it is. You look at you look at these huge movie stars from the 80s and 90s. They're not at CIA anymore. They're not at William Morris anymore. They're at they're at second tier because their career doesn't is not making 20 million he's not making she's not making 20 million a pop anymore. So it's business, it's business where a manager will kind of little bit more. But yeah, you're right, the water bottle tool, though, they might throw you on the water bottle tour. And if no one if there's no bites on that shotgun, it's a shotgun approach essentially, to should throw you out there, see if anyone bites if someone bites, great if no one buys, okay, let's see what happens, we'll hold them, you know, we'll hold them around or hold around for a little bit to see what happens. But it's, it's the case. And like you said, the more the more of a complete package you can bring to them as a writer, the more likely you're going to get so if you are a prolific writer, who is now not only written screenplays, but has multiple selling books, self published books on on Amazon, you have a website, you have a maybe even a small following from your books, you've got a business, it, you've packaged all this together, you bring something like that to them, they're gonna take that writer, much more than the writer who's just like, this is the one I forget, it

Felicity Wren 46:17
was a nice idea, but it's just again, is that they only the manager only has so much time to in their day. And they are on to make money themselves, you know? And so if you can help them make money from you, then they're going to be like, thank you very much. I've been looking for you. Yeah. And also, I think it's just to empower yourself. I mean, the we talked about this earlier, Alex and I, you know, the actor has nothing until they start writing, you know, and if you're a screenwriter, you know, you, in a way are waiting to be picked. So how, how can you help yourself, you write a lot, and then you do the research so that if something does come along you already if someone if you're in a lift somehow, if it ever goes in elevator, that's the word that you can you can pitch your project, you know, where it would land in a streaming or TV, you know, producers that might be interested in it. And you've already done this work. And if someone's saying that what you're doing right now, again, well, I'm doing this and I think it'd be right right to do Max, but I'm just awaiting my manager speaking to a few people over there, then suddenly, you can speak with authorities and they're like, Oh, I show maxes looking at someone's but you know, then because everyone likes to hear those kind of trigger words that there may be means that they should be interested in having a look themselves. And it means that you have something, something to hang on to, rather than just, this is my art and I'm writing. It gives you you know,

Alex Ferrari 47:43
you're providing value. And that's the key to any career. Anything you do in life is to provide value to the other person, every relationship that you have. you're providing value. So, so many screenwriters Do you know, I get pitched. I get I get pitched screenplays. They send me this is how and I've said it 100 times on the show. Don't send me a screenplay. I'm not a producer. I'm not gonna produce your screenplay. I know. And I will get cold emails with a query letters with a screenplay attached, which of course gets deleted instantly. Now I'm like, Why? What you've done no research. You just saw me talking to some producer and you think that I'm gonna like read your screenplay, and go, Oh, you know who we are all you know, I'm gonna reach out to this guy that I just talk to. Because obviously, no notes to your homework. I mean, and that's the other thing like somebody screenwriters don't know who to Who do you approach and how do you know who you approach I always tell them IMDb Pro, IMDb pro IMDb pro IMDb Pro is your best investment, great ROI. And you like you've been saying, find out what they're looking for who's on their roster, what kind of projects that they're into? Are you going to pitch a romantic comedy to Blum house? which I'm sure they got and I promise you they get them? I promise you they get?

Felicity Wren 49:14
Well, I think you just want to set your, your best foot forward. This is just so that you have more of a chance. And I think sometimes it's difficult because again, it's your own work and dependence. Some people are egomaniacs and like it's my work, you got to listen to me, but I tend to find that they tend not to be the best writers is the people that are more

Alex Ferrari 49:36

Felicity Wren 49:37
Yeah. It's the people who are a bit more humble a little bit more sensitive and find this difficult. Try and imagine it's your best friend. I don't know call your rights yourself. I guess it's Beyonce, isn't it? It's Beyonce and her kind of Alter Ego you know, she has her stage persona. Queen Bee the queen bee Yeah, queen bee. So I guess basically do that for yourself is that you have the right to who is a sensitive Human has to kind of expose it in a way so that we can have enjoyment from it. And then you have the business person that goes like, Okay, I'm going to take that sensitive little soul, and I'm going to work out the best way to move them forward and use a different part of your brain, call yourself something different. I'm sure people have actually kind of Well, I think is all those kind of old movies where they were like, Hey, I'm here for the meeting. And then they go, like, I'm here, you don't mean to pretend to be the agent and then ring them up. You don't have to do that. But I think psychologically, it's probably worth doing that. So treat your writer friend, as your best friend and try and see if you are giving them advice. What would you do and how you would be like brave, be brave, throw your hat in the wing, enter that contest, you know, try and send a cold email, see who you might want to work with, you know, really give them advice as as you would a best friend, because I think there's only so hard when it's just little you and your work. But actually, people are looking for story all the time. And it is so hard to find good ones a good script is honestly, it's not even a needle in a haystack it's needle in the haystack in the hay field. You know, I mean, in a in a low in somewhere where there's lots of hay. I mean, it's like, it's huge. It's so hard to find a good script. And an original voice. I mean, if you have something if you think oh my goodness, I read a script the other day that I really liked because it was about two young homeless kids, and then living on the streets, and then sort of an incident happened, and then how they get off the streets. I've never really seen that. And it was and it was written from such a authentic point of view and gave the main characters had had things that were extraordinary about them, even though they were dirt poor and living on the street and in hardship, you know, in that that I was like, Okay, this is this is good. This is interesting. So, whatever your story is your uniqueness, your point of view, if you have something original, honestly, someone will want to read it and will want to make it.

Alex Ferrari 52:05
And I think you mentioned this a little earlier in our conversation in regards to the the pressure that you put on art, but like the, the All I need is this and then this will happen kind of thing. Like I just need to win the nickels and an hour I guess I just need to get an agent or I just need Steven Spielberg or Chris Nolan to see my work and I'll they'll come on and Shepherd me through and you know, these kind of things. And I think screenwriters as well as filmmakers need to break apart from that, just get that guy get out of that mindset, because it is all about the process and enjoying the process and enjoying the road. Because this is going to be a painful Look, you've chosen a very interesting career path. As a screenwriter, it is wonderful, it is beautiful, you get the privilege to tell stories, but it is not an easy path. For any writing. Writing is never been easy for when it was Charles Dickens. Shakespeare had, you know, Shakespeare had a rough time a rough go of it. You know, he wasn't considered Shakespeare when he was writing, you know, he was just another dude trying to get a play off the ground. So, and to understand that, that humility that you must have, because if you are not humble, this business will humble you to your knees. Oh, my goodness, he will humbly anytime I see one of those egomaniacs which I've run across, oddly enough, a handful of times in my business. And in my time, in my time in the business, I always say to myself to the business will take care of them. You know, I've had literally I've literally had producers in the room like I'll see at next year's Oscars with this film. Like it's just such such delusion. That and i think i think i think when you run into people like that, and I think this is an interesting conversation to have, when you run into delusional people in this business, on every every level, from the screenwriter, to the producer, to the financier to the actor, whoever, when you that is obviously a defense mechanism that they've created for themselves to survive this. This this this Bartlett that is the film industry. They don't understand yet that that's not the way to do it. But it's it's a defense. How would you if you have to deal with someone like this, which I'm sure you have, and I have as well? What advice would you give to deal with delusional people? And by the way, if you don't know any delusional people, you are the delusional person. Like I always, I always, always say like, how many people here have ever How many people here know an angry bitter screenwriter or angry and bitter filmmaker? And and everyone raises round like if you didn't raise your hand you're the angry and bitter screenwriter that everyone else looks at. So

Felicity Wren 54:49
oh my gosh, but it's true, isn't it? I think I think you're right though. I think I try and look at it like this for anyone that is being Either mean, or delusional or, or horrible, or where that all that kind of stuff comes from something that they've got going on with them. It's actually nothing to do with you. And the fact that you're at the kind of like, I had no receiving the the blunt stick of it that and you know, then behaving so badly. I think it's just to try and remove yourself from that situation and get to what they are really angry about or delusional about or so you kind of try and undercut and keep asking questions. So you kind of go like, so is it this? You do? Not? I mean, so you kind of like so. So you've got the money. So where's the money coming from? Okay, so who's Billy? Is it in the bank? You'll I mean, so you keep asking questions, that kind of unpeel the kind of the delusion, I think not in a mean way, but just in a kind of like, so I don't understand. It's like, it's really kind of getting to the truth of it. Because if you ask for the truth and ask enough questions, I think you can then kind of like barely the guy like I'll, or they'll be like, admit something, or they'll kind of storm out and then you know, and then just God anyways, but I think remaining in your own strength, so not kind of getting caught up in their what they've got going on. So like, does that seem real to you? You know, it's the same thing, isn't it? If a deal seems too good to be true, is

Alex Ferrari 56:27
no. So with that said, though, with that said, I'm going to I'm going to tell you a story really quickly. If I told you that there was a producer, who said, we're going to get a million dollars for this project. Where's the money coming from? Oh, there's this. This guy who married a rich woman in South Africa, let's and he gets a stipend of a million dollars a month to play with, as his has his walking around money. And a million dollars is no big deal. And he really just wants to be part of the filmmaking process. Give him a part in the movie a little, a small little cameo. He wants to go to the red carpet, all this kind of stuff. And the director is a first time director. The cinematographer has never shot a feature. And we will probably have a couple of real actors involved, like faces and maybe even an Oscar nominee. Do you believe that thing happened?

Felicity Wren 57:35
I hope it did. Because it sounds amazing. But oh my God, what a What an amazing group of things to happen all in one go. Did it happen?

Alex Ferrari 57:44
Yes. I wasn't, I wasn't the director. But and I won't say any more about the project because I don't want to bring the project out. But it is in my past. I was part of the project in a small capacity. That's exactly how it happened was a good? No, no. Nothing in that conversation stated that it was going to be good.

Felicity Wren 58:09
No. But I mean, again, I'm hopeful. It seemed like a dream come true. I wonder if somehow then blossom,

Alex Ferrari 58:15
blossomed into an Oscar winning now. Nothing, Nothing. Nothing. No, it was a complete and utter disaster. The only thing that held it together was the cast. And they were it was also at a different time period. It was thinking, like I say the dates but it was at a time period where it was easier to sell international based talent nowadays is not as easy. But yeah, but so there's those stories, and you can imagine me I was just like, why is this happening? and Why doesn't anyone give it to me? Why hasn't someone given me the million dollars? obviously have a much better back? Don't they understand my genius? Like I always say, I'm the humblest guy you'll ever meet like the humbleness of the humble. No, but humble people. I'm the humblest but yes to being home. I'm the best at being humble. Number one. Best the better. Everybody else. It's ridiculous. But so you see things like that. And I worked along the post production business. So I would see these stories come in. And it would get me so angry. I was an angry bitter filmmaker for so long. Oh my god so long. And I know in the screenwriting world as well, you see these projects get done and you see these paydays. And you're just like, why did that person get that? What? But you can't look at things like that. You just got to go out on your path. You're on your on your journey and just keep, keep look going down. And I promise you something good will eventually happen if you do that. If you enjoy the process. You're winning. Right? Are

Felicity Wren 59:49
you already winning? And I always kind of think you can reframe everything. So like you can kind of go like Oh, why did they get that money and you go and it's so terrible. And you're like, well, this is inspiring me so I can go I got that money and it's terrible. And mine's gonna be better than that. You know, I think everything that really annoys you, if you can take a minute to step back from it, and just kind of flip it, flip it, I feel like you could do this in life anyway, just try and flip it and go like, Oh, I didn't get that role. And I think it was a Jennifer Aniston she was opera and an advert or something. And she, she was down to the last two that you know, that pen heavy pencil thing. And she was going. And she was really she didn't get it, she was absolutely devastated. Because it was going to like be I know, $5,000 because I used to pay or maybe even $15,000 because I used to pay quite well back then. And she was going away filming and everything. And she didn't get it. And then she called into the friends interview. And it would have been while she was away filming and she got that role instead. And you have to think about how different her life has been for not getting that interview.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:54
I do believe that there is a plan for us on a now we're not we're going into spiritual world and the destiny and all that kind of stuff. I think we do control our own destiny, I think we do definitely have to put the work in. But they're there. This just forces man, there's just things that just you you can't see things like you know, the friends gang. How they all got together like it just so happened stance that was so perfectly put together. We're making a hundreds of millions of dollars 20 years later still and they're still making money off that show. All those kinds of things. There is destiny, there's just no question I was listening to. I had the producer of pretty woman on the other day. And and he was talking to us about Julia Roberts. And he wanted Julia Roberts to be on the show on the movie. And Gary Marshall wanted Julia Roberts but Richard Gere had to sign off. So Julia Roberts, Jesus, this is Julia Roberts, basically, I think after mistake pizza. So she was not Julia Roberts, she was I think, 20 whatever. I think she's like, 2021. She was a baby. She goes to his apartment, Gary's with her. Gary leaves the room. This is the way the story goes. Gary leaves the room. He's like, I got to go to bathroom so he can get to get to know her. And then like, 15 minutes later, he still hasn't come back. He calls up Richard, on the phone and goes Richard, what do you think, while she's at the room, and while he's on the phone, Julia Roberts writes on a post it writes a little note on the post that and then shows it to her. And it says, Please say yes. And, and, and Richard, of course fell in love with her at that moment. And the rest, as they say is history. But that was just a, you know, just a that's fate like you can't and how the and how Julia Roberts was even considered for that role. So many stars had to align to get there. There is that there is that?

Felicity Wren 1:02:53
But I think the the friends thing, sorry to interrupt you, I would say with friends is that all that money didn't make them happy? Not everyone?

Alex Ferrari 1:03:02
Absolutely. You're absolutely right.

Felicity Wren 1:03:05
So actually having a happy life is more valuable than being an Oscar winner. Or the best screenwriter, or the most famous actress, or the most, you know, being happy with yourself and with your who you are as a human being is me for Be careful what you wish for. Because it might just come true.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:27
And people listening like oh, I want to be a famous this or I want to you know, direct that or I want to write this. They don't understand what that entails and what trade offs you have to do. If you want to be the biggest movie star in the world. There is some trade offs. You want to you want to write on a studio project. There is some trade offs. You want to direct the Marvel movie. There is some trade offs things that you don't understand because you've never sat in that chair. And I've been blessed by being able to talk to a lot of these writers and directors who do sit in these chairs. So I hear all the stories. So when Kevin Fay he does call me for Avengers part five. I'm ready. I'm ready. So Kevin, if you're listening, I'll take the meeting. I'll always take the meeting. Now I'm gonna ask you a few questions asked my my guest Felicity what are three screens? What are three screenplays that every screenwriter should read?

Felicity Wren 1:04:28
God Yeah, get out. What's God is the one that's just it's Emily Blunt and john because

Alex Ferrari 1:04:40
Chris was quiet place. quiet place. Yes. a quiet place you should read that because i think i love about that. Is that so imaginative about how they, how they put it on the page. You know, I mean, they kind of did something different and want to Jim Hart's ones. I would either go Dracula or hook one of those people. Jim Jim, a friend of the show, Jim. And, and yeah, that hook. God are the stories of Hogan and Dracula. Oh, god, they're they're amazing. Yes. All great choices. Also, I wanted to kind of highlight what you guys do over at the ICA. So let's you're what you're helping screenwriters as well as we are, what are you doing? What are the resources you guys have for screenwriters? Can you talk a little bit about that?

Felicity Wren 1:05:31
Yeah, thank you. The I will, I'm the VP of development for the International screenwriters Association. It was started by someone who was a actor turned screenwriter who moved from Chicago to LA and was like, oh, my goodness ever wants to take my money and no one is doing what they said they were going to do. So he just started as an online resource for screenwriters, so that you could check stuff out. It's a place of community for screenwriters is a place where you can put your profile up, you can put your screenplays, you can put posters sizzles. So you can make it a place with other screenwriters where you can completely put your brand in one area. We have producers that are signed up to the site, and they definitely go through and look at talent and look at screenwriters, you can promote your success on it. And then it's also full of the other half of the business. So that's you and your craft and your career. There's a lot of teaching elements of it too. But there's also the business side. So we have it's called ISO insider where movie make a variety of all the news comes through. So you can have a look at that. There's pro tips and tricks about what's going on in the industry, red carpet interviews, interviews, like such as yourself. But as you go and speak to directors and producers and see what they're doing and how they how they found a way in the world. So it's always just it's a hub really, for you to find people like you and information you might need. I also want a development slate of 172 writers, which is a top tier writer pool of scripts I found through contests and referrals and success stories, just brilliant success stories. I love following people who are doing well and telling people about it. That's the other thing if you weren't doing well, not to be obnoxious. But let people know. Let people know that said no to you in the past, let people know that helped you on the way say thank you. Those those are all we all like to feel that we've you know, it reminds me that we're all connected. And in some way, even the pizza takes hundreds of people to make it, you know, want to grow the corn did my middle look on? You know, like? Yeah, I mean, it's, we're we're also interconnected, I think COVID showed us that more than ever, is that we actually all need each other. So to be in a place where you kind of go like, okay, we're all here again. And when it is when times are difficult. And when you have those moments where you're dealing with delusional people, things are down there to have these other people that will lift you up and say like, I really believe in you and you know, keep going.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:11
Now in England, do they have pizza made of corn? Because I wasn't aware that corn was an ingredient in pizza. So I was just I just wanted to clarify because I haven't been to England. I'm not sure if that's the thing. I just want to be prepared. If there is corn pizza, not to look like an outsider. Yeah. I'm sorry, I couldn't let it go. I now have weeds. Oh, god damn it. Yeah, you're right. As you were talking, was you were talking like Did she just say corn? I can't let that go away. About the tortilla pizzas. Everyone. It's it's very LA. It's very la it's very la with the tortilla pizzas. So what advice would you give a screenwriter trying to break into the business today?

Felicity Wren 1:09:11
Find your people. I think. Go on Facebook, join all this amazing groups. Go on Twitter, go on Instagram do all the social media stuff and find all the people are out there doing it. Hashtag screenwriter is massive on Twitter, you need to be following that. And from there you will find lots of screenwriters and showrunners and producers because they're all looking on there to it became an again an amazing when the industry changed. It became a place for people to find each other so and I also think is a place where you can celebrate so if someone has got a new project out and you've seen that in the trades, because you're now reading the trades as part of your job. You can then congratulate them on Twitter or Facebook or wherever and they do notice if you keep saying and if you say something smart If you're funny, the other thing to do in those Facebook groups is to help others so that if someone says I need a script reading or I need a logline looking at be one of those people that offers advice that does help out, not to your own detriment to avoid writing. But do it enough so that you're a person that's part of the community that's actually trying to make this stuff happen, then I think it's hard to kind of enter contests and fellowships and look for grants and see if there's like a little area in your hometown, if you're not in LA, that that has projects that they're working on, volunteer on, find people are writing shorts, or producing shorts, film, schools, volunteer go to be unset, you can learn a lot from being on set, I think, one about how actors and directors work with each other with lines, but also just how the whole process is so that you can be a better screenwriter, I think really immersing yourself in the job, then read, read all the time, read other people's scripts, read scripts, whilst watching the movie, see how much they changed it. If your TV's your thing, kind of get into TV, t scripts, TV scripts, and then it's the start putting pictures together, start practice looking at pitch decks, thinking about so you actually act as a producer for yourself if you are going to create this because it's probably in your mind. So then how can you put it on the page? What's the tone? Who would you have in it as your dream cast? Why now why you why you this writer, put that all in the pitch deck, even if he never send anywhere which you should, even if you don't, it means you can talk about it more eloquently. If someone asks you about it. Practice your pictures for 10 minutes, one to two minute one, one minute, Mark, as Alex was saying about that. And keep learning don't give up. Be persevere, believe and know that you have your your own journey in this process. Don't compare yourself to anyone else. It's miserable. And pointless.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:57
And bitter, bitter, bitter screenwriter, the bitter filmmaker

Felicity Wren 1:12:02
just makes you feel horrible. What's the point in doing that? You know, it doesn't touch them at all. And you just going around going it should have been me It should have been me and it's like my eye and just makes no sense. Just try and do something better.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:17
Or just do something that you that they can't do that do that thing that you can do and only you can do. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Felicity Wren 1:12:35
self belief. I think that is the hardest one. And unfortunately, nothing in any aspect of your life works without it. You have to believe in yourself. You have to think that you're worthy. So self worth, I think, and it's an ongoing process. I'd like to say I'm there but I'm there on Sundays that you know, I was nervous about doing this. I will beat myself up afterwards about times I stumbled over words you know, I mean, so it's a continuing, we're all a work in progress. So I guess remember that and let yourself off the hook about it. You know? I haven't killed anybody yet. You know, so I'm not a murderer. So it's their worst things.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:15
Exactly. And I've already forgotten about the corn pizza. Oh my god. My name is facility worm when I eat corn pizza. I'm telling you that is a teenage sleuth book series. Right now you and I should we should go operate. And last question three of your favorite films of all time. Okay. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Surely.

Felicity Wren 1:13:46
So good. The only thing is I have to have 10 minutes afterwards to cry. I literally have to cry for 10 minutes afterwards because I'm so sad about my life choices and so happy about them at the same time. It's one of those things that you know if you had to do it all again, would you Yeah, yeah. It does it hurt like hell. Yeah, so it's just I love I love the imagination of it the magic of it. I mean, I was gonna then go, can I do for because then I would then that leads me to the Truman Show. I'm a very kind of I'm very think a very big fan of Jim Carrey. I think he is underrated as an actor. He's I mean, he is a modern David Van Dyck again massive fan of his. I think he is so versatile and so talented. And people when he was in this in a stereotype box for a while, but you know, he he is incredible. I think he's an amazing, man. Amazing. So so those are my two. I'm going to link those together even though they're not the same. And then the hours I just love because I really enjoyed Steven daughters directing. I just think the script itself is so beautiful. I haven't seen So I hadn't seen many pictures with three very dynamic and different female leads, who kind of that ensemble was such an ensemble piece. And it was, I'll never forget that image of Julianne Moore on the bed, reading the book and the water just coming at her feeling like she's drowning by being a housewife. And as someone who doesn't want to be a housewife, I really, really kind of really spoke to me. So the hours and the storytelling is beautiful. And the acting is incredible. And then I think, a bit more recent, is arrival. Because I just, Oh, my God is such a smart script. And it just, when you understand what it's been doing with you at the end, how it's been messing with your mind. I was I was just blown away by the ingenuity of it and the the stylishness, exotic sophistication of it, and and I also hate it when alien aliens are portrayed as the enemy, because I feel like it's another form of racism. It's all like,

Alex Ferrari 1:16:11
who's not you is an alien ism.

Felicity Wren 1:16:14
Yeah, it's an alien is a racist. Everything is this whole thing about keeping us divided, you know, anyone that's not you is to be feared. You know, and I feel like, I love that about arrival. It turned that on its head. And it gave us an same time humans, we're gonna help them too. So it wasn't a case of we've come to rescue you it was a partnership. So I really enjoyed that about

Alex Ferrari 1:16:35
and where can people find out more about what you find about you. And what you do over at ICA?

Felicity Wren 1:16:43
well, you can find us at www dot network iaasa.org. And I am on the website there. You can I mean, basically, you can just go this is a really kind of big website, you can go and have a bit of a poke around Have a look isn't so much free stuff on it, there is a $10 a month or $99 a year membership. That puts you want to slightly, it's called IRC Connect, it's a slightly more elevated membership, the rest of it is free. And that basically just means that you get for free contest entries a year which is actually worth more than the fee you pay to be on it. And you have a few more things that adjust for you extra classes and stuff like that. But you can have a look. It's all free, have a wander around. I'm there.

Alex Ferrari 1:17:28
Very cool. It's been an absolute pleasure talking to you had a lot of fun. And I'm I hope this episode helps a few screenwriters out there and hopefully they're not crying curled up in a corner somewhere in the fetal position. After this conversation, I hope they are empowered to move forward with their dreams and their careers. So thank you so much for that.

Felicity Wren 1:17:48
It was such a pleasure to meet you.

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BPS 110: What Talent Agencies Look for in a Screenplay with Christopher Lockhart

Today on the show we have award-winning producer, film executive, educator, and industry story analyst Christopher Lockhart. Christopher is renowned for his script editing acumen. He has read over 60,000 screenplays.  He is also an award-winning filmmaker and member of the WGA, PGA, and the Television Academy.

Chris got his start at International Creative Management (ICM), where he worked as script consultant to legendary talent agent Ed Limato, who represented industry giants such as Mel Gibson, Richard Gere, Michelle Pfeiffer, Liam Neeson, and Robert Downey, Jr.

He later moved to the venerable William Morris Agency, which merged with Endeavor to form WME.  At WME Chris has worked on award-winning projects for A-list clients like Denzel Washington, Russel Crowe, and Rachel McAdams among others.

Chris branched off into film producing with the cult horror hit The Collector and its sequel The Collection, which opened in the top ten American box-office.   He wrote and produced the award winning documentary Most Valuable Players, which was acquired by Oprah Winfrey for her network.  Chris has set up several other projects, including A Rhinestone Alibi at Paramount, and Crooked Creek, a modern noir thriller.

As an educator, Lockhart shares his talent and 30+ years of industry experience as an adjunct professor at Screenwriting program and at UCLA. His writing workshop The Inside Pitch was filmed for Los Angeles television and earned him an Emmy Award nomination.

Chris and I also teamed up for a new webinar from IFH Academy called How to Become a Hollywood Script Reader from Industry Insiders

HOW TO BE A HOLLYWOOD READER is a webinar focusing on the secrets of one of Hollywood’s most vital and mysterious jobs. A reader evaluates screenplays and stories, practicing quality control through “coverage” – a written report that judges creative success. The reader wields huge influence that empowers Hollywood chiefs to greenlight film, television, and new media.

This webinar examines the core components of coverage, how to write it, and provides tools and pro tips to navigate the reading profession – led by two preeminent Hollywood readers. By pulling back the curtain on this creative process, the webinar also gives writers, directors, actors, and producers a rare look inside the mind of those who decide the fate of their material. To access the webinar Click Here

Chris prioritizes emotionality and his client’s character role and development ahead of the overall story solidity. He shared some tips for new writers, some lessons learned from bad scripts, what goes on behind the agency curtain and the blessing of untapping a story’s best version from re-writes.

Enjoy my conversation with Christopher Lockhart.

Right-click here to download the MP3



  1. Bulletproof Script Coverage – Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
  2. AudibleGet a Free Screenwriting Audiobook

Alex Ferrari 2:24
Well guys, you are in for a treat. Today's guest is Christopher Lockhart, who is a story editor at W m. e. William Morris endeavor, the world's largest talent agency, where he curates projects for a list actors and artists such as Denzel Washington, Rachel Mike Adams, Russell Crowe, and so on. He has read over 60,000 screenplays over his career and is also an award winning filmmaker and member of the WETA PGA and television Academy. He's also created the amazing Facebook group called the inside pitch where he helps screenwriters navigate the crazy world of screenwriting in Hollywood from inside the machine. And that's why I wanted to have Chris on the show, I wanted to talk to somebody behind the walls behind the walls where everybody wants to get to. He is there. And he has a very unique perspective on story on what sells on what movie stars are looking for, because this is what he does, day in and day out. And as you heard at the beginning of the episode, Chris and I have teamed up to bring you the How to be a Hollywood script writer webinar at IFH Academy, which will not only make you become a script reader understand the mentality behind script reading. But you will also become a much better screenwriter, just by understanding the craft of breaking down story after story and learning these pro tips that jack and Chris bring to the webinar. Again, you can gain access to that webinar at bulletproof screenwriting.tv forward slash script reader. Now without any further ado, please enjoy my eye opening conversation with Christopher Lockhart. I'd like to welcome to the show Christopher Lockhart thank you for so much for being on the show. Christopher.

Christopher Lockhart 4:27
Thank you. It's great to be able to talk to somebody

Alex Ferrari 4:32
Exactly as we're we're all locked up in our in our little quarantine caves here in LA. Well, I was gonna ask you though, like, you know, you being on the agency side, I've been hearing from a lot of agents and managers to say that the world has changed. They're never going to jump into a car for an hour and a half again, to go take a 30 minute meeting and then come back to their office. What are you hearing on your end?

Christopher Lockhart 4:54
Well, you know, my policy has always been that I try to get people to come to me for my meetings, generally speaking. But yeah, you know, I think that that we have been forced out of our comfort zone, believe it or not our comfort zone was driving an hour and a half to go to a meeting. And now, we realized that this technology works, it's equally as efficient, and perhaps more efficient, because now we can utilize our time more wisely. Let's face it less time in an automobile makes a very big difference. And I think we're gonna see this ripple through a lot of industries. I think, for example, the commercial real estate industries, you know, you're going to end up with a lot of vacant buildings, because I think a lot of a lot of companies might actually have people just work from home in the future. It's cheaper, it's easier, right, you know, less rent. It's less wear and tear, I think that there are a lot of people who would be open to that.

I haven't been in my office in many months. I look forward to getting back to it. Just you know, just because, you know, you never know what you have until it's gone.

And so I hope that a lot of us just generally speaking, not even with work, but just with life that we realize, I think sort of how lucky we are generally speaking, and then there are some pluses to this, perhaps some people spending more time with their families than they might have or maybe want to, but I think that there are some definite pluses to to, to this, need to cling to those at least otherwise.

Alex Ferrari 6:43
There's some sort of silver lining in this ridiculousness that is 2020. But yeah, you're right. I think it's going to up end the commercial real estate business without question, because there's going to be a lot less people renting, because they don't need to, like, you know, I know, attorneys and things like that. They're like, I'm shutting down my office because I don't need it anymore.

So, before we get started, how did you get into the business?

Christopher Lockhart 7:10
Ah you know, it's always just who you know, you know, who, you know, is very important. And I've been out here for a while, working as a writer, and, and and then, you know, I sort of had some crossroads and, and some things happened in my life. And an opportunity was presented to me to go and meet with this Uber agent named Ed llamado, who was the CO -resident at ICM and agent to the stars Mel Gibson, Denzel Washington, Richard Gere, Michelle Pfeiffer. Robert Downey, Jr, Liam Neeson, you know, go on and on. And he basically needed a script consultant, he needed somebody who could go through all of these projects that were coming to his office for his clients. And, you know, make a long story short, I took the job, and 25 years later

Alex Ferrari 8:15
And Big Bang, boom, we're here. Now, and did you when you were working with? Well, you've been you've been working with, you know, big actors and big, big agencies, because you move from ICM to over to WMA? WME? Excuse me?

Christopher Lockhart 8:31
Both, actually. Yeah. Because in 2007, we left ICM, we went to William Morris. And then in 2009, William Morris merged with endeavour and then it became WME.

Alex Ferrari 8:44
Right. And you've been working with clients, high end clients ever since then doing the same thing, just basically vetting their projects. So you've, you, you, you have a very inside inside information in regards to what big movie stars are looking for, in their movie in their projects, generally speaking.

Christopher Lockhart 9:02
Yeah. And believe it or not, it's, it's not always it's not really rocket science. You know, they're really just looking for good projects. And and I think the, the smartest actors are the ones who don't pigeonhole themselves. So very rarely do I get marching orders. You know, rarely do I get a client who says, Listen, I only want a script that does a, b and c, that that order comes down sometimes, but not often. And I think that's how actors really succeed because they are open minded to all different kinds of projects. And hopefully, the ones that I'm sending their way are, are good. They can't do all of the projects that are sent their way they can only do some. But, but yeah, my job is to it. is to be be a taster, you know, so to speak.

Sometimes I liken myself to a little, like a real estate agent, you know, where I'm trying to find a piece of property for a client. And the job involves other things as well. Yeah, there's a lot of reading. But I'm a little bit of a development executive, because I'll work with some of our writer, director clients, on their projects from the very beginning. Sometimes I'm called in in like a hail mary pass to go into the editing room and consult there. So I basically work with story anywhere from the very earliest of the development process, right through post, I even go on to sets, you know, and sort of work from there also. So, so so it the job entails a lot of elements that make it interesting, because each day is different. Maybe not right now. Right now, every day is exactly

Alex Ferrari 11:09
it's groundhogs day.

Christopher Lockhart 11:10
It's Groundhog's Day. But typically, it's it's, it is varied, but there's a lot of reading, there's no doubt about that.

Alex Ferrari 11:20
Lots and lots of homework to do. Now, obviously COVID has up ended the entire world, let alone our small little corner of the world that is Hollywood. How do you see COVID affecting not only Hollywood, as we're currently seeing it, what you're seeing currently, right now, because it's changing pretty much on a weekly, weekly, or monthly basis. At this point,

Christopher Lockhart 11:43
Warner Brothers just broke the news about how they're going to start to release their projects for 2021. And it's pretty shattering. Actually, it's really changing the game. Oh,

Alex Ferrari 11:56
God, how are they doing it? I haven't read that.

Christopher Lockhart 11:58
Well, there. I've only skimmed through it because it literally just came out. But they are going to do a day and date with HBO max with a 31 day license. And so it's it's it looks pretty complicated. I'm sure it'll be complicated from the agency end. As these deals of course have to be brokered. So ya know, not exactly sure yet, how it's going to ripple out, or what the other studios are going to do. But let's face it, everybody, everybody's improvising. And people always ask, oh, you know, what's the business going to be? Like, in six months? I don't know. I know, I know, just as much as you do. If you would ask me yesterday about Warner Brothers release plan for 2021. I wouldn't have told you that this is what they were gonna do. So maybe the writing was on the wall for other people who are more intuitive or pay more attention to that. But I don't, I don't have a clue. I'm literally riding the surf like everybody else.

Alex Ferrari 13:11
So I No wonder woman is being released. I think Christmas Day or something like that. Day in and day is where they're going to release in the theater. And they're going to do so it's a similar thing, but they're only going to allow it on the platform for 31 days, and then that's when it gets pulled off.

Christopher Lockhart 13:25
That's right, that's exactly what they are doing for all of their 2021 releases.

Alex Ferrari 13:30
Wow, that is a huge, that's really upside down. Yeah, because 2021 even with the vaccine with everything, we're not going to get back to where we were in 2019 for at least a couple years.

Christopher Lockhart 13:42
Well, what what might this news even do, let's say to the stockholders of AMC, you know, I mean, is this going to send complete panic through the ranks there. So, I, you know, this is just this has been a crazy year, and people who say, Oh, I can't wait until 2020 ends, like, there's just gonna be a hell of a lot more than 2021.

Alex Ferrari 14:08
I keep telling people that 2020 can make 2020 is when you want to make 20 look like 2019?

Christopher Lockhart 14:14
Very well might, I hope not,

Alex Ferrari 14:16
I hope not to trust me, because like, I don't know how much more I personally could take. I don't think any of us.

Christopher Lockhart 14:22
I just I it's like I'm on a 12 step program. I just I, I take this day, you know, one day at a time, I really think that's, that's just the best way to do it. Because things are changing so rapidly. You know, there were a lot of layoffs throughout the industry. And, you know, who knows, you know, who knows if anybody will even have a job in six months. So it's just, it's too much to think about. So I just sort of do what it is that I need to do day in and day out, and I just don't think about or try to control those things that are in the future.

Alex Ferrari 15:00
And how do you think all of this is affecting screenwriters? Because, you know, and how can they kind of adjust themselves to this new, this new world that's changing by the minute,

Christopher Lockhart 15:13
What's new about isolation for screening?

Alex Ferrari 15:16
Well, there's that

Christopher Lockhart 15:17
This this is, you know, this is, if there's anybody in the industry who can thrive during this time, it is the writer, because the writer should be writing. That's exactly what they should be doing. Now, it's hard for director to go out and direct or producer to produce. But a writer can be writing at this very moment, by the end of COVID, every writer in town should have two to three new scripts that they've written. And there are still deals, you know, so there are still still writing deals going on, and writers are working. So I think if, if anything, they have the the, they're able to make the best out of this.

Alex Ferrari 16:08
Now there was, there's I think one misconception that I hear a lot of screenwriters that I talk to all the time, is that they look very much like independent filmmakers. They think they're making films today, like it was 1992. So they like thinking of like, Oh, just go to Sundance, and I'll get this and that and they have this kind of magical world that was then I think screenwriters have the same thing with the spec market, which in the 90s. I mean, the Shane blacks and the Joe Ester houses. I mean,

Christopher Lockhart 16:35

Alex Ferrari 16:35
Can you talk a little bit about the spec market? And what is if there is a spec market? is it happening? What's the deal?

Christopher Lockhart 16:43
Yeah, there's not really all that much of a spec market right now, a few scripts have sold clearly this is this is not a banner year for selling a screenplay on spec, which is why screenwriter should be writing because there is a possibility that when this drought is over, that people will be looking for content much like after, you know, any WGA strike. You know, we've often seen remember a lot of that that spec boom of the early 90s was fueled by the writers strike in the late 80s. So, so there is a great possibility that that will be hungry for content once the industry is up and running again, which is why people should be writing now worry less about the business at this moment and concentrate more on the creative, because then I think you will be prepared for the business when it is reanimated.

Alex Ferrari 17:53
Now, what is some? What is one of the biggest misconceptions that screenwriters have about the industry about Hollywood in general?

Christopher Lockhart 18:01
Oh, boy, I don't know probably 1000s.

A few. I think I Well, I don't know, I think that, that maybe some more naive writers might think that they literally just sort of can write a screenplay, and then the doors sort of open for them. I don't really understand that. That process as to how the doors would just automatically open. But that's, but that's what they think. Or they feel like because they've written a screenplay that the industry owes them the respect the time to read their script, when that is definitely not the case, by any means. I'm not saying that they don't deserve the respect and time. Sure they do. But nobody's going to give it to me. So. So I think that's a really big misconception. I think another big misconception, of course, is that they're going to make millions and millions and millions of dollars. Write screenplays, when, like anybody in this business, it's a lot of struggle. And one reason of course, that writers at least in the WGA get paid what they get paid is because that might be all that they get paid for three or four years. And, and so they need that money to hold them over. Right. You know, this is why actors get residuals and etc, etc. Because the work is often far and few between. So so there's a lot of struggle. There are, I think, misconceptions that a writer sells a script and their career is made. I would say probably the majority of writers who sell scripts never, never go on to a career.

It's a you know, it's like a one hit wonder. You're always working, it never gets easy. It never gets easy. And I really think that a lot of writers who haven't been out here they think Yeah, I just I just need to sell that one script with no, you know, listen if, if you sell it in it, and it and it rocks the town, that's one thing. But that's not most, that's not most scripts sales. You know, most script sales are for load and no money. And they go under the radar, the movies never made. Or if the movie is made, nobody sees it.

Alex Ferrari 20:26

Christopher Lockhart 20:27
So there's just so there's so many ways for your career not to get started after it's got started.

Alex Ferrari 20:36
It's funny because I always tell people about Kauffman and Sorkin like the you know, they have scripts that they can't they can't produce, like they they can't, that they're amazing. But no one's willing to give the money. And I was telling if Charlie Kaufman and Aaron Sorkin are having problems, what do you think you could have? right to be? It'd be as realistic as possible about this.

Christopher Lockhart 20:59
That's well, and, and, and not every script that an A list writer writes, hits it out of the ballpark. So you know, I've read a lot of scripts by writers that I love. And unlike Yeah, this just doesn't work. This just doesn't work. And this probably wasn't a great project.

You know, that happens all the time. And for new writers. I think that they're often under the impression that because they wrote a screenplay that they've written a screenplay, and yeah, often when you read it, yeah, sure. It starts with fade, and it's got fade out. It's got slug lines. It's in proper format. It's got 120 pages, but it isn't a screenplay. Right? And, and so it often takes a lot, a lot of trial and error, to be able to get to that screenplay that eventually can help you break through. So impatience is certainly an issue with new writers thinking that they don't necessarily have to put in their time.

Alex Ferrari 22:09
So like, you know, a 12 month plan is not long enough, is what you're telling me to start my career as a screenwriter?

Christopher Lockhart 22:15
Yeah, I'd say 12 years. Probably would be more realistic.

Alex Ferrari 22:21
Right? I have a long Yeah. I have a one year plan, like you haven't had a 10 year plan.

Christopher Lockhart 22:25
And then you're just starting. And listen, there are always exceptions to the rule. I had always,

Alex Ferrari 22:31
of course,

Christopher Lockhart 22:32
I had a student many years ago named Josh Schwartz, who's a, you know, this phenomenal show runner. He created the the OC and, you know, Bob, lots and lots of other shows the runaways which is on Disney Plus, I think, yeah, and just, you know, right, on and on and on. Amazing kid. And, you know, he sold his first spec script for like, $1.75 million, or something like that.

Alex Ferrari 22:59

Christopher Lockhart 23:00
You know, yeah. And so, people look to that. And they're like, you know, I'm gonna do that. But that's the Powerball.

Alex Ferrari 23:08
No, it's a lottery, lottery ticket, I call it the lottery,

you know, somebody wins the Powerball lottery every week.

Christopher Lockhart 23:14
But that doesn't mean that you should quit your job, and wait for your numbers to come in. So, you know, that, that That to me is, is, is something that people really need to consider is, is the long term plan. And just having patience,

Alex Ferrari 23:36
Right? And that's that every time I was people always ask me, What do you What's your biggest piece of advice I could patients? It took me a long time. I mean, I was just, I just was talking to James v. Hart, who was on the show the other day, and after doing some research on him, he he got hook, when he was in his 40s. And he and he was, he was bumping around Hollywood for 1015 years, had a couple of things produced and he was writing and getting paid to write but nothing was getting produced. And it was, you know, then, Mr. Spielberg called and life changed.

Christopher Lockhart 24:08
Right? But and that can happen, but he really had to put in the mileage

Alex Ferrari 24:14
Correct. He had to get to that time. Now you said something about residuals earlier and I wanted to see what your take was on this. Because the game of residuals and, and those those kind of deals like the friends have and and Seinfeld and you know, all these residuals, Netflix has changed the game in regards to buyouts or and now I think even Disney is trying to do like maybe a two year season run or something like that, and then it's done. What what is what are your feelings on like that? Or is it you know, is that too touchy of a tough topic to talk about?

Christopher Lockhart 24:47
Well, you know, I'm not going to pretend that that I'm an expert on that. Thankfully, I don't have to negotiate deals. I'm not an agent. So you know, I get too strict. really stick with the creative. But all I can tell you is this that a lot of big talent is more than willing to work for the streamers. So and you see that, you know, so that isn't a secret. You know, we have a lot of big names, good names in series. And a lot of big names. Look at somebody like you know, Sandra Bullock and birdbox for Netflix. We've got George Clooney coming up in

Alex Ferrari 25:35
Can't wait for that movie.

Christopher Lockhart 25:37
Yeah, I can I read the script. It was called Good. Good morning. Something.

Alex Ferrari 25:43
I forgot the name of it.

Christopher Lockhart 25:45
But it changed the title now. And and

Alex Ferrari 25:50
Fincher Fincher, too, he's, I mean,

Christopher Lockhart 25:53
yeah, you know, and so we can go on and on. This is I remember, you know, 10 years ago, if your movie went to Netflix, you didn't tell people it was embarrassing.

Alex Ferrari 26:08
Right, right. Right. You're right.

Christopher Lockhart 26:10
It was it was, you know, it was like, a, it was like The Scarlet Letter. And, and now, you'd be lucky if you could get your movie on Netflix.

Alex Ferrari 26:23

Christopher Lockhart 26:24
So it's, it is amazing how it has evolved. And, and talent wants to work with the streamers very much. So. So there's clearly a big future in the streamers provided that the that their business model can be sustained. You know, I still ask myself all the time, how is Netflix going to sustain its business model when it spends so much money on content? Now, I did notice that they raised my monthly rate, like $1, or something, you know, eventually Netflix is going to be $25 a month. You know, like, I feel certain for that of that. Because that's going to be the only way to hold up that model. Because they have to they they must have content in order to compete.

Alex Ferrari 27:19
And to me, that's it, you got to feed the beast, it's like a constant feeding of the beast. And it's, I mean, I have a I have a streaming service and it's small. I mean, obviously it's like a miniscule thing. And I feel like I have to constantly be putting new content up obviously my my projects don't cost $200 million to to, to put them up, but it's just it's not never ending and also by the way, Netflix set that priority that that standard up to release 15,000 things every week. And I

Christopher Lockhart 27:50
Listen, I'm glad they do.

Alex Ferrari 27:51

Christopher Lockhart 27:52
Right. And when did they when they raised my rate $1 I was like, give me something like I appreciate Netflix. I appreciate the content I don't love everything but there's always something there that I can find to watch and and I suspect that it will only get better but again they you know they they are they are shelling out a lot of money for content a lot of money yeah and and that and that's why you see big talent flocking, there

Alex Ferrari 28:27
It is it's kind of like a gold rush. But I agree with you i just don't know how how long this can sustain itself because they are an obscene amounts of debt. They earn an obscene amounts of dead right now.

Christopher Lockhart 28:37
Well, we have to hope that they that they can figure it out. Because if we lose the streamers after having lost the movie theaters, you're then then we're screwed.

Alex Ferrari 28:49
There's no there's no, there's no because we lost DVD. We lost VHS. We lost DVD, which was so much money. And and then, yeah, you're absolutely right. Because if Netflix goes down, it's it shatters a lot of things.

Christopher Lockhart 29:02
Right? So they can't go down. And, you know, people will often say, Oh, you know, how does Hollywood feel about Netflix? And I'm like, Netflix is Hollywood. You know, we just it's just Hollywood is evolving. You know, there was a time when movies had no sound, you know? So

Alex Ferrari 29:22
no color.

Christopher Lockhart 29:24
No, no color. So it's evolving. You know, you got you got to go with the flow. So yeah, you know, I wish any venture the very best, because that means opportunities for my clients, which in turn keeps me employed.

Alex Ferrari 29:46
And then there you go. Now what when you're looking at scripts for your clients, what are you looking for, but I mean, is it just basically I just need a good story, but there's there anything specific in the scripts that maybe give some tips to screenwriters

Christopher Lockhart 30:09
You know, I think generally speaking, I do not have a checklist. I always say that I look at scripts holistically, I'll read any script that is given to me, I will read it from beginning to end, even if I know by page 12, that the script is terrible. Because actually, sometimes I'm wrong. Sometimes on page 12, and 15, and even 30. I'm like, Oh, my God, this script is so boring. And then a little bit later on something happens, A Beautiful Mind. For example, I remember reading that for Russell Crowe and and just wanting to toss it aside. Because I was like, Oh, my God, this is just like a perfunctory spy thriller. And I was like, This is so boring. And then you get to that twist, you have the rug pulled out from under you, if I had tossed that script aside by page 30. And listen, I still think that that twist should have been moved up a little bit earlier in the script. But regardless, if I had tossed it aside, you know, things might have been a little different for Russell Crowe. So. So I've learned my lessons over the years to stick with scripts I I also learn a lot from bad writing, actually learn more from bad writing than I do good writing, but an answer to your question. Because of looking for talent, my eye is always drawn, most importantly, to the protagonist of the story, the role that might client might play. So for me, I'm looking at that. And how does that character evolve? What is the character's journey through the story? how active is the character? How does the character change?

Alex Ferrari 31:59
How does conflict inform the character? These are things that I look at. So often, I'll read a script, where sort of the stuff on the periphery, I don't think is very good. But I'll say this is a terrific role. And not all that long ago. And I'll make this a blind item. But there was a screenplay that I read for a client. And I thought the role was amazing. But I really felt like the story went off the tracks at about midpoint. And then for the second half of the script, I didn't really have a clue what it was about, but I was like, Man, this is a good role. And that client made that film and won an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.


Christopher Lockhart 32:50
So you know, so my eye is always drawn first and foremost, to the character. And, and, and how I see the client in that role. So that's first and foremost for me. So that's what's really important to me.

Alex Ferrari 33:11
I mean, in a lot of times, I find this I've been speaking to so many different people in the industry and writers and screenwriters. I've come to realize that character I mean, plot is very important. But you don't generate remember plots of movies you remember characters of movies like I can I remember Indiana Jones? Do I remember the plot of Raiders of Lost Ark? Yes, because I've seen it 1000 times. But if you put my my feet to the fire on Temple of Doom, kind of remember the plot, but I remember, I remember the characters I remember all of those characters. so clear.

Christopher Lockhart 33:43
And most importantly, at least from my experience is that we remember the the emotionality

Alex Ferrari 33:50

Christopher Lockhart 33:51
Attached to the character. Because ultimately, you know, movies, screenplays, any art form, at least in my opinion, is is an emotional experience.

Right You know, if you if you go back to Aristotle, it's all about catharsis. So it so it is, it is about emotion. And for me, when I read a screenplay, I want to be moved. For me a screenplay is never should never be an intellectual exercise. That doesn't mean that it can't be smart. It doesn't mean that it can explore intellectual subjects. But ultimately, it has to be emotional. And, and so if I read a screenplay, and I feel the same way at the end, as I did at the beginning, it's probably a pass.

Alex Ferrari 34:49
Now, you said something earlier about you learn more from bad writing that you do for good writing. Can you tell us tell us a little bit about what you learn when you read a bad script?

Christopher Lockhart 34:58
Well, you know, you often learn and sort of what you shouldn't do, and more importantly, why. But I also think that, because I've read so many scripts, I've read over 60,000 scripts in 30 plus years. So I, like I have so many stories in my head. So let's say that you write a screenplay, and I read the screenplay, and I don't think it works. Now, I can guarantee you that I have read at least a dozen screenplays, very similar to your story. Because you know, you're all using the same archetypes and, and tropes and motifs. And I can then think, on those other dozen screenplays and how they were able to make work. What you weren't able to make work, just and then I can sort of compare and contrast. And so often, I can sort of figure things out or even through rewrites because I have, I have to read a lot of rewrites, you know, I can remember, you know, a script like, like man on fire with Denzel, I must have read 17 or 18 different drafts of that script as it came in. But I can remember very specific scripts that I had read, that didn't work. And, and, and I couldn't figure out why it didn't work. I could articulate that it wasn't working. And I might even be able to say why it wasn't working, but couldn't tell you how to fix it. And then you get a rewrite that comes in. And whatever it was, that I was feeling has been altered, the rewrite is much more successful. And then I'm able to look at what they did, and compare it to what it was before. And then have a learning experience. through that. I always bring up Matchstick men. As an example. That was the Ridley Scott Nicolas Cage movie.

I don't want to screw this up. But in the film, he he Nicolas Cage is a con man who meets his a strange daughter. And then they go out and do a con together. And then spoiler alert, we find out that she has content, she is not his daughter. Right? So really clever. The first draft that I read, she was his daughter. She was his daughter. And so then you get so then you get to this third act, it never has a really interesting climax. And it really felt like something was missing. And I couldn't figure it out. And then seven months later, a rewrite comes in. And I read that I'm like, Ah, that's it. Of course, it makes total sense. This is a movie about cons. This is a movie about confidence men. So you need a great con, you need a twist in the third act. I love the sting.

Alex Ferrari 38:09

Christopher Lockhart 38:10
And, you know, this has been all sort of part of my learning experience through reading so much. And and you know, I studied dramaturgy as a graduate student at NYU, I've been MFA. But really, so much of my education has come through reading scripts, and of course, being forced to read scripts. So my education has been at gunpoint, so to speak. But a lot I've learned a lot as a result.

Alex Ferrari 38:45
So you're like a database of of stories and screenplays because of just just sitting around reading very much like I'm very much like, Bill Murray and Groundhog's Day, so I'll bring it back to that. He's like, maybe there is no God, maybe he's just been around so long that he knows everything. So I'm not saying you're a god, sir. But, but but you but you, but you do have a database of all these stories in your head that helps you, you know, has I mean, it's like a computer almost. So you could just kind of go in and dive into things. That's really where

Christopher Lockhart 39:15
You know, a lot. A lot of what I do is somebody saying, Hey, you know, we're looking for romantic comedies for this actor. Can you you know, come up with a list. And, and so yeah, you know, so I go into my database, which is not just here, but is also on my computer, although I have a very antediluvian kind of system. So it's, it's very tough. Sometimes I it's it's really weird how I have to find projects that can often remember the stories but titles now for me, because there's so many titles, I can't recall titles. Sometimes I'll have a co worker who will call me say hey listened. You know, last week you read the ABC script. And I'll say, Wait, wait, wait. I remember that script at all, what was the logline? Because you know, that was like 30 scripts to go from me already. So it's like I read it, I move on to the next. But once I get a prompt, everything opens up in my head, and then I can really remember the story.

Alex Ferrari 40:24
So can you talk about what a screen when a screenwriter is ready for an agent or manager? Because so many times I hear screenwriters say, All I need is that agent or manager, I just need that that champion to just get me that deal. When are they actually ready for an agent or manager to take them on?

Christopher Lockhart 40:42
Well, my glib answer to that is always they're ready when the agent or manager knocks on their door. Because ultimately, when, when they're coming to you, you're ready. And people might say, Oh, well, how do they come to you? Well, they come to you because you want the nickel fellowship?

Alex Ferrari 41:04

Christopher Lockhart 41:05
You know, or maybe you wrote some low budget film that you thought nobody would see. But you know it, it was Sundance on fire. So but ultimately, it's a one thing that any writer can do is turn to his network to get feedback on his screenplays to see what's working and what isn't working. Because sometimes the writer isn't the best judge, especially when you've been working on a script for so long. And right. Yeah, absolutely. So So having that network of people that you trust, who can read your script, I give you notes. And then eventually, I think you can get the feeling when the notes go from from this to this, that maybe your screenplay is ready to share with representation. But that still may not mean you're ready, because in some cases, a rep might read your script and say, Wow, this is great. You're a great writer. I can't sell this, though. There's no market for this. What else do you have? And then you don't have anything? Right? So maybe having that follow up script, I used to work with an agent named Brian Cher, who's a manager now.

He's a he was a real wonder kantipur he was selling spec scripts at William Morris when he was in the mailroom. True story,

Alex Ferrari 42:39
That's amazing.

Christopher Lockhart 42:40
Yeah, so I have a lot of respect for him. And he always used to say, you know, something, a writer only needs one script, that's all I need. I just need if a writer's has only written one script, and I can sell that script, that's all that matters. But the truth is, is that often you're not writing that one script that's gonna sell, it just might be enough to sort of get the door open a jar. So having more than one project. And then of course, helping a rep, a representative see you and understand who you are. So if you do have more than one script, and there's a little bit of controversy here, but I suggest that writers brand themselves and that and that they stay with one genre, because if an agent or manager reads your action script, and they love it, but they can't sell it, but they love it, and they want to see what you have next. And it is a historical romance. Oh, that's gonna be a big letdown. So it kind of sucks, I think because writers hate the thought of having to be pigeonholed. But I think branding yourself is wiser. And then eventually, when you break through, and you want to do other things, then your reps job will be to help you cross over and do other things. But branding yourself, so you become that guy. I also, I also think there's just some common sense in it. So it's like if you write action scripts, and you write one action script, and on a scale from one to 10, it's a five, then you write a second action script, this time, that's a six, then you write your third one, it's a seven, you write your fourth one, it's an eight. And then by the time you have your fifth one, it's a nine. Now you're now you've got a really great action script that you can share with the town that the town will be excited about. But if you started with your first action script you wrote that was a five and then your second script is a romance. That's a five, and then you write a mystery, and that's a five. You're not, you're not necessarily growing. And the truth is, is that every time you write a script, you're a new writer Anyway, you know, and but so it helps to carry over some of those tools and get really, really good at doing one thing, and then a rep can sell you because if you have all different genres, a rep doesn't know how to sell you.

Alex Ferrari 45:14
So thinking along those lines help, and just getting your work out there again, you know, sharing your work with people entering it into contests that are reputable, like the nickel fellowship, for example.


Christopher Lockhart 45:29
yeah, yeah, I, you know, like, really the, in my opinion, the only contest that that matters industry wide is the nickel.

Alex Ferrari 45:40

Christopher Lockhart 45:41
And the and the studio fellowships, which are these TV writers, fellowships, they're just good. Because often if you are, if you are accepted, and you do the fellowship, you are transitioned to a staff, TV job at any of those studios. And so clearly, that's a really beneficial program, but screenwriting contests like Austin or scripta, Palooza, or even final draft, I wouldn't say that they are accepted universally through the industry, I would say that a lot of them have fans. But they don't have the kinds of brand that the Nickel fellowship does.

Alex Ferrari 46:32
Got it,

Christopher Lockhart 46:32
for whatever reason.

Alex Ferrari 46:33
Fair enough. Now, you said something earlier in regards to a low budget, low wonder like a kind of like a hit low budget hit? Do you recommend that screenwriters write a low budget independent film that can actually get produced so they actually have something out in the world as opposed to just a screenplay in hand with a cup in hand?

Christopher Lockhart 46:56
Right. You know, I think if a screenwriter has access to filmmakers, and money, even if she's not going to direct or even produce the movie, then it would behoove her to do that. But trying to sort of second guess the industry. I don't always know if that's wise, sometimes I just think the best thing riders should do is write the best fucking crazy ass memorable script that they can write, whether it's a gazillion dollar budget, or a low budget, because the odds of it selling are slim to none anyway, right. And what you want to do is make a splash. You want people to read your script and go, Wow, I want to meet this guy. That's what you want. First and foremost, the idea of trying to sell a script is I'm not saying that you shouldn't think that way. But, but again, the odds are that you're not going to sell a script, what you want to do you want to get representation, what you want to do is get a job. You know, you want somebody to say, Hey, I'm not going to make your movie, but we have a project that is similar to this. And maybe we can bring you on to do a rewrite.

Let's face it most. The majority of writers in the business, their bread and butter is through assignments. It's not spec selling.

Alex Ferrari 48:24
Right. Yeah, exactly. The spec selling thing is that lottery tickets that Powerball. That's right, that and so

Christopher Lockhart 48:31
So I say right, what you're good at, right? What you want to write, and write the hell out of it. You know, we're doing a logline contest right now. On my writers group, my Facebook writers group, and, you know, so we got about 400 log lines. And you know, a lot of them it's like, you look at these and I'm like, Yeah, like, Man, this this just doesn't feel like a movie in me.

Alex Ferrari 49:03

Christopher Lockhart 49:03
You know, maybe the screenplay is different. Maybe the screenplay is gonna take me in some, you know, other direction. Surprise me. But like, Yeah, I don't know about this that just doesn't feel like a movie. It's not it's not very exciting. Doesn't really smack with with conflict, which is something that I always look for in a logline. You know, I want to know what the conflict is. And does it sound like it's compelling? Does it sound like it could, you know, hold up a script for 120 pages? And and so I just, you know, I think that that writers should just just really think about what they're writing, you know, the process starts at the beginning, when they're hatching an idea and come up with something that's really compelling, because you have to stand out, you know, if you're just going to write that's that relationship script.

Alex Ferrari 50:08

Christopher Lockhart 50:08
About You know, you and your dad and you know your estrangement, and you come together under some sort of circumstance. And like I've read a million of those look, it doesn't mean that your writing may not be brilliant to could be brilliant look at Juno, right, like, read a script like Juno. And the writing is really fresh. But if you heard the logline You know, it would sound like an after school special from the 80s

Alex Ferrari 50:36
You're right

Christopher Lockhart 50:36
It does, but the writing is amazing. The problem is that it The problem is that you have to get people to read your writing. You know, Diablo Cody was she had a very popular blog. You know, I believe she'd already written a novel I think she'd even been on like the David Letterman show. And, and Mason Novick, who was a manager, he he approached her and said, you know, have you thought about writing a screenplay? And and so she was already juiced in. It's like, if you're somebody from Iowa, and you have no connections, and nobody's banging on your door, and you write Juno, how, how are you going to get it out there, especially when the logline is an after school special from? Well, hopefully, you entered into the nickel and they recognize the writing, and you win, or place very, very high, which perhaps opens some doors for you, as we said earlier, but but I just think that writers need to think about what they're writing, and, and just light it on fire, you know, light it on fire, because I read a lot of scripts, as do many other people in this town. And a lot of them feel the same. They're just sort of homogenized is when you're reading a screenplay, and you come across a character who's making compelling and unique choices, in pursuit of whatever it is that he or she is pursuing. Right? And these choices result in very unique and compelling conflicts. Then you say, Wow, I'm going to remember this. And then also, as I said, earlier, we remember the emotion.

And, and so it's like, you know, if you can write just one amazing scene that is moving and that doesn't mean moving somebody to tears, it means you could move them to laughter moves into fear. Again, out of all screenplays that I've read, I could I could tell you moments in screenplays like oh, yeah, there was this one script. I don't remember what it's called. And it really remembered the story. But there's this amazing beat, where ABCD happens. I might even remember where I was when I read it.

Alex Ferrari 53:13
Because it hit you emotionally.

Christopher Lockhart 53:14
Yes, exactly. Right. So you know, those are the things that you need to be going for, you know, so, so think so think, original, think, think emotionally, write a screenplay that is going to grab the reader by the throat, even if it is on producible. That wouldn't matter.

Alex Ferrari 53:39
Yeah. Which brings me to the next question I had, do you should screenwriters that are trying to break into the business. Think about budget when writing? Do they write the $200 million original story that more than likely will never get produced? Because that's just not the way the system is working right now? Or do they make that they write something that could be done for $20 million for Netflix? What should it should that even be a consideration?

Christopher Lockhart 54:07
You know, I have there's obviously two schools on that. I am a pragmatist. I and I'm very realistic about things. And so yeah, I would say Listen, don't write a $500 million script. But at the same time, I just said before, nobody's gonna buy your script anyway. So go ahead and write an amazing $500 million script. The thing is, this is it's not about budget. It's it's it really comes down to whether the script is good or not. This is I wish this is what people would worry about. But this is what writers don't concentrate on. They concentrate on all these things that they can control. Like, oh, I shouldn't use we see in my screenplay. That's a no no. Or I can't write it. big budget, screenplay or you know all of these things that are in their control. The one thing that they don't think about is writing an amazing screenplay. because believe it or not, that is out of the control of most of most new writers. Because, look, to be honest, most new writers shouldn't be writing, they shouldn't be writing screenplays, they probably shouldn't be writing emails. And so, you know, it's worry about your craft worried about the quality of what you're writing, don't think about the business. Because Great, so you write a script that Netflix can produce, but the script sucks. And as a result, Netflix isn't going to produce it. So what does it matter?

Right, exactly. Now, if you if there's a writer who wants to break into television today, what should should they write a spec script on an existing show? Or should they write an original piece?

They should be writing original pilots.

Alex Ferrari 56:01

Christopher Lockhart 56:02
Yeah. However, I would say that a lot of the studio TV fellowships that I mentioned earlier, like Warner Brothers, for example. They I believe, also want to see an existing a spec from an existing show. So it wouldn't hurt a TV writer to have both. But definitely, original pilot.

Alex Ferrari 56:32
Now, what is the biggest mistake you see screenwriters make in writing screenplays? Because I'm you have a few written if you've read a few. So I'm sure you've read a few bad ones. What are these constant mistakes, story wise, structural wise, character wise, that you see that you just like, Oh, God, I wish they would just stop this.

Christopher Lockhart 56:51
Yeah, the number my number one on that list. And I don't really make lists. But this would be my number one is that they create a protagonist, who has nothing to do through the story

Alex Ferrari 57:06
Who's just like a just an observer, or just hanging out

Christopher Lockhart 57:10
in an active protagonist. So, you know, ultimately, in drama. And again, you know, this is, this is the way I look at material, this is not the way everybody looks at material. You know, I definitely when I, you know, first started writing and studying, you know, like, Aristotle was definitely my guy. So, you know, I believe that, that you have to give your protagonist something to do. And in a film needs to be something that that is active. And that can be filmed. So when somebody says, Yeah, so I have this really exciting story. It's, it's about a character who wants to feel safe in a world where she's lost. And I'm like, Yeah, I don't know what that means.

Alex Ferrari 58:23
Because I was watching a movie The other day, and I can't remember it because it was bad. But the character didn't, the main character was just along for the ride. They didn't, they didn't generate the story. They didn't because of their actions, nothing that they did affected the story, the story was going in the direction it was going to go regardless if they weren't, and they were the protagonist, which was just a weird thing, as opposed to someone that is constantly moving the foot moving the story forward in one way, shape, or form.

Christopher Lockhart 58:52
Right, it's it's it. So I will meet writers who will say, well, the character doesn't have a lot to do, because this is a character piece. And like, yeah, that doesn't make any sense to me. Because in drama, a character is defined by the choices that she makes. Yes, you will create little idiosyncrasies for your character that texturizers the character, but that is not what creates a dramatic character. So in a screenplay, you give a character something to do something important, like in Erin Brockovich, she spearheads a legal case. Right? So she, she sets out to win a legal case. She's even a lawyer, and she sets out to win a case for these cancer stricken people who have been screwed over by some utility company, right. And so that's her goal, right? Her goal is to win this lawsuit. That's her goal. And now through the movie, she sets out to achieve that goal, scene after scene after scene. And there are choices that she has to make things that she has to do. And these choices reveal who she is. So for example, she goes to some place and she needs copies. And so she lifts up her boobs, and, you know, she, she playfully seduces the nerdy clerk, that gives us an inkling of who she is. So the choices that characters make, let me just give you a very broad example, if I may. So let's say you have your your characters walking down the street, and he looks down at the sidewalk, and he sees a wallet, somebody had dropped their wallet, and it's filled with cash. And what your character does with that wallet, will help to define who the character is. If the character just leaves the wallet on the ground, and walks away. That's one character. If the character takes the money and leaves the wall behind, that's another character. If he takes the whole wallet, that's somebody else. If he takes half the money and leaves the other half, that's a different character. If he takes the wallet to the police station, to return it. That's another character if the owner of the wallet comes to the police station and offers the character a reward, if the character takes it or doesn't take it also reveals character, this is what reveals character in movies, it is the choices your character makes, it's not the novelistic details that people get caught up in, like these idiosyncrasies of well, this character drinks Coca Cola out of a bottle, Pan, it looks that's interesting. Like it that's, that is a fine piece of texture for a character. It's not dramatic, it's not speaking in the language of which you are trying to tell your story.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:21

Christopher Lockhart 1:02:22
So So and of course, you want these choices to be made within a dramatic framework. So Erin Brockovich is making these choices in this framework of her having to win a case, right, or Hamlet sets out to avenge the murder of his father. That's, that's Hamlet's journey through that five act play, or Sheriff protein, jaws has to kill the shark, you must give your character something to do, you must give your character a goal, because that keeps the character active. And it also keeps the audience engaged because we want to know what will happen. We asked ourselves, gee, will Aaron win the case? And we stick around for two hours to see if she will, will Hamlet avenge the death of his father, we stick around through five acts to see if he will, will Sheriff Brodie kill the shark? We stick around for two hours to see if he will. If you don't ask that question. There's no reason for the audience to stick around.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:31
Right. And we won't and you think it's that's story one on one, but a lot of a lot of writers don't get that

Christopher Lockhart 1:03:39
not a lot. Not a lot. Most.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:42

Christopher Lockhart 1:03:43
I'm saying for because I do read a lot of amateur scripts. You know, I also teach so I read a lot of students scripts. That is, it is it's like the COVID-19 of screenwriting, is not giving your protagonist something to do that is the virus. It is a pandemic. And no matter how many times I can say this, it doesn't matter. Like sometimes I'm at these events where people pitch. So they'll come up and they'll pitch and they'll you know, spend two minutes and then I'll say, Well, I'm not sure what is it that your character is doing in your story? And they don't have an answer. And I say, Okay, look, you know, let me hear a pitch where your character is active, where there is a goal and your character is, is traveling through the story to reach this goal. Let me hear and then somebody comes up and does the pitch. And there's no goal. Like Okay, I guess you didn't understand me. And so I explained it to get who has a story where the protagonist is active and has something to do. Every hand goes up and it doesn't matter you literally can go one after the other after the other after the other. So they seem to understand it but then it gets lost in translation somewhere. Listen screenwriting is an easy it's the reason why not a lot of people do it. It's really hard. It's really hard work. And and also, I think a lot of writers come in writing from from a perspective that they're writing. You know, I always say that screenwriters are not really writers. They're really not write screenplays are constructed, they're built.

The writing the the, the writing spirits, like you're committing mellifluous prose to the page is not what screenwriting is about, because nobody will see that.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:55

Christopher Lockhart 1:05:56
Nobody wants you to describe a sunrise in 1000 words, in a screenplay, like you wouldn't have novel, you have to describe that same sunrise in five words, in a screenplay,

Alex Ferrari 1:06:06
but get the same emotion but get the same emotion to say

Christopher Lockhart 1:06:08
of course. So screenwriting isn't about writing. I mean, you know, look at the word playwright, right. Like if if, if you actually look at the word play, right, it's w ri ght? Er, right? Like a ship, right? Right, a builder of so you're building, you're building, a screenplay, it's all about, it's all about structure. It's all about how it is constructed. The way one scene is juxtaposed to another, the ebb and flow, the cause and effect, the setup and the payoff. It's all about construction. And so a lot of people come at screenplays as writers, rather than builders. And I think it's the builders who are successful. First and foremost, look, that doesn't mean that you can't, you know, have beautiful writing in your screenplay. Sure, you know, but ultimately, that doesn't translate to the audience experience.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:08
No, I mean, you read a Shane Black script, or a Tarantino script and Tarantino's dialogue snaps, and you will hear it. But if you look at the Shane Black script, I still I still love Shane's descriptions. His descriptions are amazing, but no one loves it.

Christopher Lockhart 1:07:22
And, but he's also not trying to be literary.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:26
Right? He is.

Christopher Lockhart 1:07:27
He is sort of he is a storyteller. And he's telling a story as if he were in the room almost.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:34

Christopher Lockhart 1:07:35
And and you know, he has that very sort of specific where he's winking at the reader all along. And, but it's not Faulkner,

Alex Ferrari 1:07:44
you know, it's by any stretch. Now, I'm gonna ask you the last few questions I asked all my guests. What are three screenplays every screenwriter should read?

Christopher Lockhart 1:07:55

Alex Ferrari 1:07:57
I read the pop into your head. I hear the questions.

Christopher Lockhart 1:08:01
I say this, you know, because I use it in my classes. insomnia. Yeah.Hilary Seitz wrote a screenplay that was adapted from a foreign film. Which country I don't recall.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:17
Swedish, Swedish Swedish perhaps? Yeah.

Christopher Lockhart 1:08:19
And I'm not saying the movie. Mind. Your screenplay is much better than the film. The script. I believe the screenplay for insomnia is the actual reading experience is interesting. I would say that is The Very Best Screenplay that I have ever read.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:40
And the Nolan remake the Nolan remake one not the original script of the remake the Hollywood

Christopher Lockhart 1:08:47
IMAX. Correct. But again, I'm not talking about the movie. So don't go out and watch the movie. I'm talking about reading the screenplay, because that was your question. And and yeah, I think that script was was an is brilliant. And and because it just does everything that a screenplay should do. And does it so well and in an in a fairly complicated way. So So I love that script. Andwhat do you want me to say Chinatown? You know,

Alex Ferrari 1:09:26
Godfather, Shawshank Redemption.

Christopher Lockhart 1:09:30
You know something? i? I honestly think that in some ways, once you've seen the movie, the the screenplay experience is ruined for you. I feel like I'm lucky in the sense that I read all of these movies before their movies.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:49
Do you think you read meant you were you were involved with a man on fire, which is I love man on fire but on the page. Please tell me that Tony Scott translation that he did for the film, that kinetic energy that vibe, the thing was that on the page was even close to being on the page, or was it just a completely different experience?

Christopher Lockhart 1:10:13
The, the, the thing that's in the screenplay is the emotionality right there, the relationship between creasy and the girl. And, and that's, that's, that's what sells the script. Tony Scott is Tony Scott. And then he brings what he brings. Of course, I knew that Tony Scott was I but I'm pretty sure that I knew that Tony Scott was attached to direct when I read the script, so I could probably imagine the way certain things would go. But ultimately, reading a screenplay before it's a movie, in my opinion, is the most beneficial thing for a screenwriter, that doesn't mean that they shouldn't also read screenplays of films they love. But I say this, because once you see the movie, when you read the screenplay, you are now interpreting that screenplay, through the director, through the cinematographer, through the performances, through the music, it's all been done for you. When you read a script, before, it's a film, none of that is done for you, you have to bring all of that to the page, I have read a lot of mediocre screenplays, that have been great films, because you end up with a really good director and a really good actor, and you have a good film. And, but if you're just reading that screenplay, you you can you can see the flaws. So, so I'm definitely an advocate of of that. So I'm gonna tell people that if they read in the trades, that screenplay just sold for a million dollars, try to get your hands on that script. You know, this is why you got to have a network of people, by the way. But you know, try to try to get your hands on that's good to read that script and try to understand why somebody would invest that kind of money into this project. Sometimes you just scratch your head

Alex Ferrari 1:12:27

Christopher Lockhart 1:12:28
And sometimes you don't, sometimes you're like, wow, like, I totally get this,

Alex Ferrari 1:12:32
Or have sold a bunch of scripts that never got produced, and he got paid handsomely for them back in the day

Christopher Lockhart 1:12:37
absolut, absolutly will, let's face it, again, the majority of scripts that sell never get made. So so that is not that is not unusual. I have read many scripts over the years, that I still feel sad that they have not been made. and and, and and I continue to promote those scripts. So I will always continue to promote those scripts. So when somebody asks me for a list, and there's that script that I love from 15 years ago, but it's perfect for this actor, that title goes on that list. And that's how movies get made.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:20
Yeah, I mean, I remember seeing an interview with john Cusack who said, he wants to his agents, he's like, give me the script that you can't, no one is ever going to produce. And then they ended up being john malkovich. Because you mean john, being john malkovich is not a commercial film. But it was, it was brilliant. And then you give it to spike Jones, and then you put that cast together. And it all it all worked. Now, what advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Christopher Lockhart 1:13:47

Alex Ferrari 1:13:49

Christopher Lockhart 1:13:51
That is paramount, and create a network. So you start to create a network. And again, you can do that. If you live outside of the industry here in town. You can follow people on Twitter, and on Instagram. There's all kinds of Facebook groups. Again, I invite anybody to come to my Facebook group, it's called the inside pitch. And it is a place where you can meet people and have friends and exchange screenplays with them. And creating that network is really important. Those are the things that screenwriters need to be doing all the time. And in my opinion, it should almost be 5050 it should be you know your writing 50% of the time and your networking 50% of the time, because one without the other is fairly useless. It's great to have an amazing script but if you do not have a network in which to share it, then you're at a loss and yet at the same time if you if you have a network, but no work to share with it, then you're also at a loss. So those are those the things and those are things that you can do. Those are the easy, simple things. And then of course, you should be educating yourself. So watch movies and read screenplays. I mean, it's kind of just all basic stuff.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:17
And what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life? I'd love your reactions. By the way, everybody who's not watching this, his faces are amazing.

Christopher Lockhart 1:15:33
Why don't you just ask me what kind of tree? I would be? What was the question again?

Alex Ferrari 1:15:38
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Christopher Lockhart 1:15:43
Oh, that's easy, because I actually just learned it very recently. You have to vacuum every day.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:51
The best answer to that question?

Christopher Lockhart 1:15:53
No, but it's absolutely true. You have to vacuum every single day. And then you don't get a lot of dust in your apartment. You know, I mean, I just, it has just just just come to me. You know, I'm like, because I'm always dusting all the time. It's a pain in the ass. And I just realized through COVID every day I vacuum, and I'm not hardly dusting. So my advice, vacuum every day.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:21
That should be the title of a book. Vacuum every day.

Christopher Lockhart 1:16:26
See? Maybe you and I will write it. Yes.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:29
Christopher, I truly appreciate you being on the show. And if people want to reach out to you, I guess the inside pitch Facebook group is the best place. That's the best place. Thank you again, so much for being on the show. And and just your wealth of information has been very beneficial to my tribe. So I appreciate it my friend.

Christopher Lockhart 1:16:45
Right. Thank your tribe, and you'd be well.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:49
I want to thank Chris so much for coming on the show and dropping those knowledge bombs on the tribe. Thank you again so much, Chris. If you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, head over to the show notes at bulletproof screenwriting that TV forward slash 110. And again, if you want to get access to Christopher's new webinar and IFH Academy, head over to bulletproof screenwriting.tv forward slash script reader. Thank you again so much for listening, guys. I've got some amazing guests coming up in the coming weeks and months. So stay tuned. Thank you again, so much. As always, keep on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.

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BPS 103: How to Approach a Lit Manager in Hollywood with John Zaozirny

Today on the show we have literary manager and producer John Zaozirny. He oversees the feature film production slate for Bellevue and the Literary Management Team.

John and I discuss the raw truth of the film business, what he is looking for in a client, how screenwriters should approach a manager and he does some Hollywood myth-busting as well. If you are looking for representation in the film industry this is a must listen to episode.

His clients’ writing and directing credits include INFINITE, PARALLEL, ELI, BAD MATCH, BETTER WATCH OUT, HEAVY TRIP, OFFICE UPRISING, SPLINTER, A CROOKED SOMEBODY, amongst others. His clients have written feature scripts that are set up at Warner Bros, Paramount, Netflix, Fox, Lionsgate, New Line, Focus Features, Fox 2000, Sony, Universal, amongst others. As well, his clients have had 20 scripts on the last 6 Black Lists, the annual list of the best-unproduced feature scripts. His client Elyse Hollander wrote BLONDE AMBITION, the number one script on the 2016 Black List, and his client Sophie Dawson wrote HEADHUNTER, the number one script on the 2020 Black List.

His clients have also written on TV shows such as MR ROBOT, CLOAK AND DAGGER, TRAINING DAY, TINY PRETTY THINGS, LIGHT AS FEATHER, HAWAII FIVE-O, THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE, and HAND OF GOD, amongst others.  He also reps the writer of the Eisner nominated comic book LITTLE BIRD.

As a producer, John’s feature film projects include CRISTO (set up at Warner Bros, Black List 2010), WARDEN (set up at New Line) CAPSULE (set up at Fox, Black List 2013), BLONDE AMBITION (set up at Universal, Black List 2016), and LION HUNTERS (set up at Warner Bros, Black List 2017.) He was an executive producer on the feature films ALWAYS WATCHING, PARALLEL and produced ELI,  which was recently released by Netflix. He is producing INFINITE, which has Antoine Fuqua directing, Mark Wahlberg starring and is set to be released by Paramount on May 28, 2021.

Enjoy my conversation with John Zaozirny.

Right-click here to download the MP3



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Alex Ferrari 0:49
I'd like to welcome the show Salva Rubio how you doing Salva?

Salva Rubio 2:32
Hi, Hi, Alex and Hi to all your viewers and listeners. We're doing fine here in Barcelona.

Alex Ferrari 2:40
Very cool. And I just I always love technology. I mean we're literally across the world from each other. And we're still able to do this it's still I don't take it for granted I'm old enough to know when this was not a thing

Salva Rubio 2:53
You know this is this an apocalypse going on outside? So let's just hope that there is not a solar storm or something like that. Why everything by 2020 has been crazy so far. So why not alien invasion and zombies

Alex Ferrari 3:08
Alien zombies alien invasion more people more people haven't risen up from the bottom yet from the core of the of the planet to take over. Atlantis hasn't risen. I mean, there's there's a few things that are yet to be done. But we still have two months.

Salva Rubio 3:23
We have a couple of months and 2020 so far has been exciting. But maybe it needs to go with a bank. No, no, no,

Alex Ferrari 3:31
No, no excitement, no police. We've had enough excitement this year to last us a decade, if not to. But we're here to talk about about save the cat in your book, save the cat goes goes indie. And I wanted to bring on the show because we've had we've had people on the show before to talk about Blake's Blake's world with save the cat his groundbreaking work. But I wanted to I wanted to bring you on because of the indie aspect of because a lot of my listeners are indie filmmakers. So before we get going on that, how did you get involved with save the cat?

Salva Rubio 4:03
Sure. Well, I mean, it all starts like in 2004. So I finished my university degree with theory's licenciatura. And then I decided that I wanted to work to work in films on how and I found a job in a production company which also has, well it was a half production. Also distribution also exhibition. It was like the most important in the production company, distribution company and so on in Spain. So I started reading scripts, just like so many people. Well, the lucky thing about my job is that I could read a lot of big names, scrape scripts, I mean, it wasn't just like spec scripts, you know, like people trying to get into the industry. We have show that but all of a sudden I had a David Cronenberg screenplay, or maybe Michael hanukkiah screenplay, or maybe you know, Danny Boyle screenplay, because they were, Europe is very common to show your screenplay around before the film is done so that you can start getting money, you know, as a foreign production company, you can get European money, but it has to be done in advance. And it was a funny thing, because I was reading these screenplays and wondering how the resulting feel, could be. But then a couple of years later, I would see that film, on the cinemas in the theaters. And I would be, you know, like, wow, from that screenplay to that movie. There's such a big distance, but in visual terms, the screenplay was there. And they've got me thinking, you know, like, what, so the screenplay can be a classic thing. And then the film can be avant garde thing. I think it was in 2000, maybe seven was I have a very bad memory. Blake Snyder came to Spain, actually, he had a gig in in London, I think he went through Barcelona. And I was lucky, lucky enough to be there with him to meet him and to take his seminar. That changed my whole view. Because I realized that there was, I was an aspiring writer, and I realized there was a method, there was a guideline, there was something that could help me in my learning.

Alex Ferrari 6:44
Very cool. And then can you go over a little bit about what save the cat is for people who are not familiar with it the cat?

Salva Rubio 6:52
Yeah, sure. Save the cat is one of them. Most, one of the best selling screenwriting books in history, I couldn't say is the best selling one or another, but is one of the most important. And he came and took the world by surprise in the mid 2000s. Because they were very good, nice, stylish books. They were all a bit serious, a bit academic. And Blake, he was a comedy writer, he viewed quite a funny book, about screenplay, and screenwriting is structure full of interesting, funny, even childish terms. But the result was that it was a very easy to follow method, based on 12 steps, the breaks neither be cheap. And well, it became a bestseller. Because for students and also for executives, it became like a pattern of how a film should feel.

Alex Ferrari 7:52
And can you go over those those 12 beats the Blake's beats and kind of talk about them a little bit?

Salva Rubio 7:57
Yeah, well, I can try by memory. But first of all, you have the opening image, the opening image is the view of the world before the adventure happens, you know, there's a world with a systemic problem, we still don't know how to fix it, but it's there somewhere. Then we have the setup, which is the moment in which we come to meet our main character is usually two or three scenes, watching him or her in his everyday life is to get to know him or her. This point is another bit called the themes theater, in which another character secondary character, maybe a mentor, tells the main character, the protagonist, the theme, so you should learn is, and we have the catalyst, which is like the inciting incident, you know, halfway through the first actual thing happens that pushes the story forward. And then we have something called the debate, which is a few scenes still in the first act, in which the main character tries to avoid that adventure, and thinks of ways to avoid that. But obviously, that's not going to happen, he has to go this is so we have played called the break into act two, which is the first choice and we enter act two, we have a very long act as everyone who's trying to write the Scooby knows. But Blake called the first part of this second. He called it the fun and games. And that is certainly a very important concept because the fun and games section is where the writer has fun and games no fatalities is telling a horror story to tell and is not going to have any fun. But this is that where the poster moments are where the trailer moments are. This is where you show what the people came to see is what Blake called the problem. of the premise, then we have the mid point, which is a very important bit like a kind of tempo holds the picture together. And we have victory, which the character feels Oh, so this adventure is easier than I thought, I don't have to change at all. But then we have default defeat, which are these the evil characters take notice of the hero and start attacking him or her. So we entered the second part of act two. And we are in what Blake called the bad guys close scene. As the name is surface, planing, as the name says is where the main character has to become a warrior, he has to become someone to defend, depending on which hand gener we can be in a horror film, and he has to fight the monster, he can be in a film about grieving, and he has to confront his feelings, then come three, so important bits to finish the second part of the second act, like he used to call them, they are called or is lost. She's like this belly of the whale moment that writers know very well. But then he had something called the dark night of the soul, which is a time for sadness, a time for regret, because the main character couldn't change, or didn't know how to change. And then we have what Blake called a break into Act Three, which is a moment of illumination, a moment of precision, the main character wants to change, but still doesn't know how to change. So we have the x three, and the x three, here's something cool. In his third book, like revise five beats more, which I can say, so they're not actually, we can say they're actually 17. So in our three, had the preparation where people, main characters are heroes prepare for the duel, then the duel start, then at the middle of the duel, there's going to be a reversal, something that I like to call the it's a trap moment. And then we have the duel per se, and 70s and 80s. They fight each other. The protagonists have some sort of final illumination like Luke Skywalker theory and Obi Wan, say use the Force. And then well, usually the bad guy is defeated. And then we have the final image in which we use as a mirror, we have the opening image and the closest image. Those should be different. We should see that song has changed in that universe.

Alex Ferrari 12:47
Whoa, that was amazing. Is that about? They think you think it is? That off the top of your head? I don't know what you're talking about. You don't have good memory.

Salva Rubio 12:59
So I guess it's kind of my head that I wasn't sure if I could pull it off. But it happened.

Alex Ferrari 13:05
It's hard to it's hard wired. It's hard wired. And now you've seen a lot of I'm assuming from from writing your book, you did a tremendous amount of research watching a ton of independent films. What is the biggest mistake you see in independent film?

Salva Rubio 13:19
Hmm, that's an interesting question. I mean, independent film, as you know, is a universe a different universe, per se. And okay, my biggest insight is this. People usually say that there are two kinds of screenplays First, the literary screenplays, so to speak, and then the technical screenplay. Some one is more like, you know, for the screenwriter, and the other one is for the director, and I believe that I think you need a sales a screenplay, and a shooting script. Right. And also different because many people try to write the film of their dreams. But it's sometimes so different. So we are so intense are so on a moroto

Alex Ferrari 14:13
On marketable.

Salva Rubio 14:15
Marketable. Yeah, that's the word. So investors and all kinds of people who must like it, they they become scared. So I would say, give us a good screenplay clear that I can visualize that feels classy. That doesn't feel like too novelty. That doesn't feel like too strange or weird. And then at some point, during the development process, speaking with people with the money in your pocket, then you can realize your vision.

Alex Ferrari 14:49
Okay. Now, can we go over I want to go over a couple of the genres that you that you kind of spoke about in your book, which I thought I loved the names of these. So Did the how to save a cat approaches the specific genres. So monster in the house?

Salva Rubio 15:06
Yeah, well, let me start by saying that the generators are really useful. I mean, these are an individual like in sort of invented them is what we could call universally storylines. And every story fits one of them. So there's like a kind of short talk to understand each other. I mean, normal gingers are like westerns, which are movies with Cowboys, usually, or horror movies, movies with a monster so but sometimes you have a Western, there's a guy with a heart, but can be a horror story can be a comedy. It can be, you know, it's a problem because traditional gingers don't tell you the story. They just speak about the aesthetics. And that is Berlin. When do you need someone to picture in their mind your screenplay? So the Blake Snyder generous, they tell the story. So monster in the house, for example, is usually horror look always horrible is usually horror. And what is cool about the generous is that Blake, yeah. Is that for this generous to work? You need a few elements. And if those elements are not there, well, it's going to feel incomplete. You know? So for example, monster in the house, as the name says, have a monster with a supernatural creature. Do you need a house? Do you need people locked inside a place to neither maybe a mansion? Maybe a hospital? Or maybe a country? Like in 20 days later?

Alex Ferrari 16:48
In the 2020? Or 20 days later? Yeah.

Salva Rubio 16:51
London 20 days later. Yeah. So then you need a couple things more like for example, you need a sin. People need to be served, what the what is happening to them. And then you see to have enough elements for a page to come before refer to her as a woman Jenner that can help people understand your film, but it's things you can do, you can throw in the elements that are going to make that story original, like you're writing a slasher film. Well, we know they're all the same, but you can say so this is a slasher, with this new Monster of inventing or in this new setting. There's no one no one has ever done. And I think it's a way to focus really soon in those original points your needs your script needs to have.

Alex Ferrari 17:45
So kind of like alien was obviously a monster in the house. But it was the first time that anyone had done it in a spaceship before. That's it. Yeah. Now, the Golden Fleece. How does? What does that genre?

Salva Rubio 18:01
Well, the Golden Fleece are basically wrote movies. They basically wrote movies and Golden Fleece is an element in Greek mythology. The whole Golden Fleece was something like a lamp. I'm not sure

Alex Ferrari 18:16
if it was a lamb. It was a lamb like, thing.

Salva Rubio 18:20
Yeah, skin, lambskin skin. skin was magical. And it could turn anyone into a powerful person. But it was guarded by a dragon in a very distant part of the Mediterranean. And you have to physically go there. So these are the most basic stories like in Joseph Campbell's hero's journey, which hero has to go somewhere and get something to be happier to be healthier for his for his community. But this can be for example, this great film by David Lynch. This straight story. You know, it was about an old man going in a tractor. Yeah, America. But that's it. It's a movie after all. So we also need a few elements. We need a road network sampaoli in in The Wizard of Oz, the road is what the yellow brick road. But in this film I just mentioned, alleys are a little missing. Chinese away from Albuquerque to Los Angeles. Do you need a team, the team is the people that are going with you or that you are going to find in the way for example, in Little Miss Sunshine is the family but it's important to see that the family of Little Miss Sunshine and the companions of Dorothy in Wizard of Oz, they're kind of similar. One of them is a heart or one is the brain, blue is the wheel and so on. And the funny thing about These Jenner is that Junaid wells Blake code wrote apple at the end. Do you need some sort of disillusionment or deception at the end? Every character that arrives to the end of the physical journey will find news. We'll find that that which they were looking for, like for example, the Wizard of Oz, I want to go home when you realize that the Wizard of Oz is a fraud. Fake and well, you cannot go home using his power. You need to go home by your own means. That's what this this is sorry. Sorry about now,

Alex Ferrari 20:39
Dude with a problem. So another cool one.

Salva Rubio 20:43
Yeah, well do with a problem is basically thrillers, and action films, do a problem. As you can see, all of these have like mythological origin. In fact, in the city catalog, we have been publishing a few articles about how these generals have their origin in mythological tales. And in truth, a problem. It could be the Hercules story. He was a normal guy. He wouldn't have been he was special, but all of a sudden, he was tested by the gods. So dude, we are rolling out those stories. Like for example, guy, Hart, McLean, and Hercules they're the same guy. They are. Ordinary guys pursues extraordinary art. And well, they need to find their own strength and their own power they need to believe in themselves to to defeat the gods themselves. So Well, that's a really intense gener

Alex Ferrari 21:53
So it's onra like that a lot of the examples you just gave are very big movies. big big movie. So in the indie world Are there examples? Because dude with a problem like diehard for indies is a little rough, though it can't be done. I guess if you're like in a school somewhere. The school is taken over by terrorists. You're the kid. So I'm just writing a story right now. And you're you're the kid is john McClane. It's basically home alone. But but on an indie budget. Are there any examples of like specifically, like due to the the problem? Or the Golden Fleece or monster in the house? Obviously, most horror films are monsters, low budget, but like low budget, more indie stuff?

Salva Rubio 22:33
Yeah, sure. In in, in the book in civic art goes to the Indies. There's 50 films that we go, we analyzed. And there's 10 genders, five films for each gender, and all of them are independent. Like, for example, let me just tell you the five we have a monster in the house. We have 28 days later, we have the lives of others, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. We have the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Yeah, we have the Yeah. And The Blair Witch Project. Of course, what's so cheap, you know, a couple of cameras and, and then we have funny games, which again, is only one location and Golden Fleece, we have a Little Miss Sunshine. We have old brother reservoir rocks, the strange story which is mentioned and the full moon, people may see for Monty Lesnar, a rogue film in this category, you also have the role to perfection films in which people get better doing something you know.

Alex Ferrari 23:44
So no, so like so another genre that that I saw in the book was the superhero genre. Now a lot of people think when they think superhero, they think Marvel they think DC they think Superman or Spider Man or x men are one of these big budget things. How can you apply the superhero genre in the indie world?

Salva Rubio 24:05
Well, the funny thing is that superheroes existed before they kept superheroes, you know, as a superhero in musical terms. It was a different person with special abilities. It could be physical abilities, like for example, Achilles, he was invulnerable, you know, no one could bullets or arrows couldn't hurt him. That's a superhero in my book, you know, he had his own kryptonite, which was the Achilles heel. So this kind of characters have been around, they're always in. This can be normal people so to speak, their powers may not be evident. their powers may not be like flying or having x rays in their eyes. But charisma can be a superpower. Like any politician can tell you, or the ability to inspire others, right in our list. We have for example, Erin Brockovich. As you remember, it was an indie. And it was a film by Steven Soderbergh. And it was a woman that was she defeated a big company out of her willpower, not of her love for other people. That is also a superhero. The others we have is fantastic, Mr. Fox, you know how you remember how he became the leader of his pack. We also have a rubber seal, I turn yellow, and also the Elephant Man, because the super hero Jenner, my favorite thing about it is that people with, you know, underdogs, and people which are ignored by society, they are really powerful because they know how to survive in very harsh environments, like the normal world for you and me, is not really dangerous. But for many people with disabilities, for example, there are my world is a challenge, go wave. That's why they are so brave. And so that's why we have the Elephant Man. And we have a proper comic book superhero in this list, which also was an indie. I'm sure you remember it. We made it was the crow. Sure.

Alex Ferrari 26:25
Yeah. And the Crow was wasn't in the in the production. Yeah, and I'm going to be having the director of that. That film on the show very, very soon. Alex Ferrari is Yeah, he's I'm super excited to have him on the on the indie film hustle podcast, because I love the crow. I thought the Crow was it's a masterpiece. I mean, obviously, it was tragic. What happened with Brandon Lee in this and all of that, but the movie itself is it's almost an anti superhero film, you

Salva Rubio 26:57
know what I mean? But the comic book was great. I mean, if you can read it, it's great. But also the people kept their hearing you they will realize that the people that are watching this they will realize I'm I'm I know him. So the Chroma middle has failed the 90s Oh, sure.

Alex Ferrari 27:20
Oh, yeah, that soundtrack Stone Temple Pilots, Nine Inch Nails. Oh, good.

Salva Rubio 27:24

Alex Ferrari 27:25
Good stuff. Good. I think Smashing Pumpkins was on there as well. I think there was a song by Smashing Pumpkins. It was amazing. It was a great, great soundtrack. It was just at the same time I was in college. So I was watching. I was watching that movie and listen to that soundtrack constantly in the 90s. But yeah, and then I'd like to thinking about superhero as well. Like someone like Sherlock Holmes. He has a superhero power, which is his intellect. So a lot of times the superhero genre, even in the indie world can be someone who's just smarter than everybody else, or has this like he's excellent at a specific thing that nobody else is they are a high achievers are, are their abilities in a one area is so far beyond everybody else that that is considered a superhero. Correct?

Salva Rubio 28:09
Correct. Also, because most superheroes at some point, are rejected by society. I mean, the lesson in the classic superhero, and I'm talking about made, especially the lesson is that many of them will be rejected because they are too powerful or because people are envious of their power or because they inspire people. So they are dangerous. I mean, like, for example, a film like Malcolm X for candy, or films about Che Guevara, those are films about political leaders, but they can be told as a superhero story because they have power, which is inspiring people and leaving them to freedom and that is dangerous for the bad guys

Alex Ferrari 28:55
Or the establishment if, if it goes against the establishment, that's a great I never thought about Gandhi and Michael max as a superheroes, but I guess that is a broad definition of what a superhero is, which is anybody who has an ability that nobody else has, and makes them special. Hence, superhero superhero. Yeah. Not another genre loved. And I'd love to hear your take on it is when the full triumphs, which is a great indie. It could be a great indie genre.

Salva Rubio 29:32
Yeah, he's really into material. I mean, the full childfund is another story that has its roots in the mythical past. But it's it's good material, especially for comedy because the fall triumphant is basically the story of the the village for I think that's the also the name in English and is about their character, that underdog which everyone just ignores because Okay, he's a silly or hero See the world as the rest of the people, or? Well, I mean Helios looks or feels like, full. But I love these general because, you know, once you start with that word, mostly stories, you start with a character, which needs to change the neither a transformation. So some of them start being like a bit, let's say wrong or bad, a bit stupid, a bit evil, whatever, they have a flaw, and they need to work on that flaw. But fools in firms full are mostly well meant they are mostly good people. So they cannot just have a normal arc, like our characters could imply for them to become worse. So, in this in this dinner, the kind of change we're aiming for is adaptation, the need to adapt to the world without losing their inner light, you know, without losing that which makes them nice and special.

Alex Ferrari 31:06
So like Forrest Gump is a good example of of that, like he Forrest Gump doesn't change. But he had gaps from when he's a boy all the way to the end, being a multi millionaire, ex Vietnam vet Medal of Honor winner, and all the other amazing things that happens to that guy, but he does adapt to the world. But he never changes he, he doesn't get harsher. He doesn't change his inner light. Can you give us a couple of examples of indies in that genre? Sure.

Salva Rubio 31:38
I need to say also that the book is called civico goes to the Indies. And it also includes European fields, which are technically indies and Altera films in general. So that's why in this category we have for example, the King's speech,

Alex Ferrari 31:54
Which was appealing was it was a it was a Europe was a minute, it was a European that wasn't a European movie, was it?

Salva Rubio 31:59
Yeah. Yeah. It was very interesting.

Alex Ferrari 32:02
Yeah. But it was independent is a loose term with that, because it won the Oscar looked fantastic.

Salva Rubio 32:09
Do you mean that it was Yeah, it was crazy. But I think production wise, I mean, we were very careful. I don't remember the details. But I think we were very careful to select fields that would fit in the band. Okay. Otherwise, what

Alex Ferrari 32:23
Considering can it's not a studio project, to say the least, and is definitely an indie story, to say the least. Because that's not something the studio would pick up. They might pick it up for distribution after it's made. I think that's what happened with King's speech. Do you have some other examples?

Salva Rubio 32:39
Yes, sure. For example, life is beautiful. We also won an Academy Award. Sure. It's an Italian film. And also, there was a film that made huge waves in the past, but is it's been like sort of forgotten, but it's a great film is called the artist.

Alex Ferrari 32:57
Oh, yeah. The one that was the one that won the Oscar?

Salva Rubio 33:01
Yeah. Yeah, yes, it was the black and white film about sound film and siren film, and how our character had to adapt. And we have a couple more we have Boogie Nights, which is these Well, before in the in the poor industry in the 70s. They also must understand us a terrific film. And we have a special category for Rs film, which is the dark for his people which are playing for, but they want to take advantage of others. And that is much point. Oh, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 33:44
Yeah. And that's Yeah, that's the the dark fool is interesting, a concept as well. There's so many different and in the book, you go through all these different movie examples, which are great. So you really can kind of connect the genre with actual films that you can kind of start applying to in your scripts. Which brings me to my next question. When a screenwriter is working on a screenplay, specifically aiming it at an independent film market? Should they be thinking about budget? Should they be thinking about how it's going to get produced? Or should they just kind of go wild?

Salva Rubio 34:19
I think if it's if it's your first film, you should have the budget into consideration, obviously, because they will trust you if you can make a cheap film. And it works and it looks great. It says that you're a good general in this fight in this battle. It says that with very few elements, you can make a worthy thing. You're not afraid one of the very good film in this regard, is let me check because sometimes I forget the names. I'm sure your listeners remember pie. Yeah, first of all, Darren Aronofsky Which was grainy and dark. And it was so cheap. But that made it so special. There's no film alike. So I think if you aim for, what can I do with a little money? How can I make this look special, not maybe great because some people put all their money in trying to make the film look professional. With that same make look special. It could look different as a director, and show your identity and show us what you can do with what you have.

Alex Ferrari 35:37
But also, I think that takes a level of, of not only bravery, but also of someone who's extremely comfortable in their own skin. Because I know as when I was coming up, you try to emulate other directors, you try to emulate other storytellers, other screenwriters, because you're afraid of your own voice, you maybe haven't found it yet. You haven't developed it yet. And you're afraid to put yourself out there completely, wholly. But these examples of you that you've talked about many of those screenwriters and directors, like pi is a fantastic example. He was a young director and just came out and did exactly what he wanted in a very, like there's still no film look that looks like pie. Pie was this grainy black and white 16 millimeter, high kinetic energy, wonderful story myth mysticism in it. It was an amazing introductory film, and but it's, you could just see the bravery in it. I mean, Reservoir Dogs, obviously, it's a great example of that as well. I mean, look at you know, and, and his writing and how he shot it and what he did. It's, it's remarkable, but I think you you do need to have a sense of comfortability as an artist, I think that goes for any artist, right? In any genre. And any, any, any any craft, whether it's musician, whether it's art, painting, writing,

Salva Rubio 37:02
Yeah, I mean, sometimes you should temptation to say, well, maybe if I don't do what I like, and I do what they like, maybe I can have a shot at the rate. But, you know, I think life's very short. And sometimes you don't get many chances. So I would be happier with with shooting the film I like, and I can be proud of when I can show my family. And I can say to my friends, this is what this is sorry, I've been meaning to sell for all this time. And if that is the last thing, and the last film, I should, okay, so be it. But I'm proud, you know. But if I just go with what they want, I am going to be restless. And I'm going to be you know, sort of unhappy maybe. So, some people don't have the choice. And some people do go and you know, they they shoot something they are hired to shoot and then they go on to make their own stuff. And that is great also. But if I had to choose, I would always choose. I'll do what I want, and then see what they want.

Alex Ferrari 38:12
Exactly. And it's it's a difficult path regardless, as a as a screenwriter, as a director, especially in the indie space. Do you have any advice on getting your screenplay, your independent film, screenplay produced, anything that you can kind of put in there, or present ation, or whatever? Anything that you could do as a writer to help you have a better shot of actually getting produced?

Salva Rubio 38:36
Well, I mean, the world right now, as we were seeing the world is crazy. It's crazy, in a good sense. I grew up I mean, I grew up professionally reading all these screenwriting books from the 70s, and the 80s, and the 90s. And they all said the same thing. Right, the script in this way, and then you print it and then there's a three punch thing. And then you send me with an introduction. And that is out. I mean, that is God and not valid anymore. So we're writing history, we are finding new ways to do it. So I always say if you have a mobile phone in your pocket, should the film shoot the damn film tomorrow, get your friends and do it and then show it in YouTube or whatever. Because for me right now the difference is not making that big film that will put you on the map is making a ton of films, short films, episodes, art, whatever, get you to get into the industry, have friends that will help you with your films do will help them with their friends and then this guy knows one guy and then he puts you in touch and things happen outside your room and things happiness I home and you need to meet as many people as you can help them as much as you can. I think that the gears start moving. And then at some point, you have a chance. But if you try to do everything by yourself, what does it mean to be difficult?

Alex Ferrari 40:12
Very, very, very much. Trust me, I've done it myself. So it's not that easy to do. Now, what's up? What's up? What's next for you? What are you working on?

Salva Rubio 40:23
Right now, I just finished a new draft of an animation film and doing for it's a co production is a production company, New York and in Spain. So they are trying to build you know, this project, animation or young our thing plus, we could say that, and also I'm doing a lot of graphic novel stuff, which, in in the US is mostly superheroes in the comic books and graphic novels. But here, we have many more Jenner's if I may say, so I just have a graphic novel released in the US by the US Naval Institute, and its concentration camps story is a real story about the Spaniards that were in Nazi concentration camps, which is something that not many people know. And it's about the Gracie plan. Some of them of them have to steal pictures of all what was happening in the camp and take them out for the world to know. They do. It is not really a woman's story. Well, it's fascinating. So I invite you to read the photographer of my 1000 is called Ivan, US Naval Institute. And that's the last thing I released in America. Very cool.

Alex Ferrari 41:47
Now I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I asked all my guests. What are three screenplays every screenwriter should read?

Salva Rubio 41:54
Oh my god. You know first name pops in my head always is John Cameron.

Alex Ferrari 41:59
James Cameron redacted said Yeah.

Salva Rubio 42:02
James James Cameron. He writes so well. So I would say anything by James Cameron. Like for example, aliens. Could be great. Little Miss Sunshine. It's hidden hidden piece.

Alex Ferrari 42:14
He didn't do that one. Oh, you do? James Cameron didn't do aliens. But little Mr. Johnson. Other one?

Salva Rubio 42:19
Yeah, that's another one.

Alex Ferrari 42:21
I was gonna say I don't remember James Cameron. Because that would I would actually watch James Cameron's A Little Miss Sunshine. That would be amazing.

Salva Rubio 42:28
It would be a different phone as he called. Little, big dark night.

Alex Ferrari 42:35
And there'll be some sort of 3d animal or creature?

Salva Rubio 42:39
No, I didn't watch another one. Yeah. Broly. You know, I've been the first Indiana Jones are some films like Gauss, because they are straight to the point funny scenes quick to read. Okay, Yes, they are. Hollywood script, but why not? Anyway, you know, each year we have, we're lucky because the academy publishes only screenplays. And there's a few indies in there. So that's also to take into consideration. And just let me say, one, one more. It's a more love by Michael haymaking. Because it will break any expectation is of 67 page script that results in a film of 127 minutes. So you know people that say no, it's one page one minute. Well, not always.

Alex Ferrari 43:40
Not always. That's not a that's not a script to look at proper formatting. But it does the job, but it does the job.

Salva Rubio 43:50
Because what Yeah, good.

Alex Ferrari 43:51
So what advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Salva Rubio 43:57
Let's say write a ton of stuff. Let's say don't write 123 screenplays out thing you're down and your talent is there? No, right one every two months, or every three months or every four months but right one finish another? Keep making friends. And somehow if you have 10 screenplays is easier to make you that if you have to.

Alex Ferrari 44:24
And where can people find out more about save the cat and your book?

Salva Rubio 44:28
Well, this blog is save the cat.com weekly there's articles and new beat sheets. So if you're interested, there's a ton of research material there. And my own website is sour Rubio dot info. Just like my name. Well, there's this stuff I've been polishing lately.

Alex Ferrari 44:50
Very cool Salva man, thank you so much for coming on the show. It's been It was a wonderful talking indie save the cat. I'm a fan of save the cat. I love it. I talked to everybody and I talked to all the different kinds of story systems and I just find that they all are going to the same place. We're all trying to tell good stories at the end of the day, so I do appreciate you coming on man and sharing sharing your knowledge with us.

Salva Rubio 45:16
Thank you so much, Alex. I'm thanks for everyone for listening. And you know, don't give up. Keep writing keep shooting to make it.

Alex Ferrari 45:25
I want to thank Salva for coming on the show and sharing his knowledge with the tribe today. Thank you so much Salva. If you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, including links on how to get the book, head over to the shownotes at bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/102. And guys next week, I have a big surprise coming to the bulletproof screenwriting tribe, so stay tuned. Thank you so much for listening, guys. As always, keep on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.

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BPS 101: How to Make 2021 Your Year – Happy New Year!

Well, 2020 has been one hell of a year. Our industry has been turned upside down and inside out. The way business is done in Hollywood has been changed forever. There has been so much pain and suffering this year. People lost their jobs.

Legendary companies that were thought to be unbreakable filed for bankruptcy. The mear act of being on set became a highly dangerous occupation. So many beloved filmmakers and actors passed away. Film festivals closed their doors. Movie theaters giants shut their doors, some for good. COVID-19 devasted not only our business but the world.

2020 just f**king sucked!

With all that said I see a light of hope on the horizon. Like every New Years before Jan 1 brings with it a new hope, an opportunity to improve things, and for your life to be better than before. 2021 has a lot of pressure on it for sure. I know so many tribe members have had a rough go of it but the only thing we can do is to take charge of what you can control.

You might not be able to control the world, the virus, your employer, or the economy. But you can control what you do on a daily basis, how you act, how you think. You can think everything sucks and there’s no hope for you or your dreams or you can think that you have the power to change where you are in life right now.

Every dream, every success story started with one thought, I CAN DO THIS. As Henery Ford once said

“If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”

The power of your own thoughts is so much more mighty than you think. Trust me I speak from experience. Looking back on my life I realized that in the roughest moments my thoughts were destructive and when I was experiencing great successes my thoughts were constructive. Whatever you focus on grows so if I were you I’d focus on the positive and not the negative.

This year I came to a profound truth that the key to success is to help others. The moment I launched Indie Film Hustle my life began to change. The more I helped others the better my life became. The opportunities I had been chasing for decades just started showing up at my door. Don’t get me wrong, as you know I hustled like crazy but not on getting things for myself as much as providing value to other people. As Les Brown said

Help othersachieve their dreamsand you will achieve yours.”

In 2021 make it a goal to help others with their dreams and I promise you that things in your life will change, it did for me. In 2020 I released my second feature film On the Corner of Ego and Desire, created BulletproofScreenwriting.tv, my premium online education platform IFH Academy, launched the IFH Podcast Network and multiple podcasts including The Filmmaking Motivation Podcast, The Directors Series Podcast, Inside the Screenwriter’s Mind Podcastand spoke to legendary filmmakers and screenwriters on my shows like Oliver Stone, Barry Sonnenfeld, Alex Proyas, James V. Hart, and John Badham just to name a few.

And most importantly I was inspired by you the Indie Film Hustle and Bulletproof Screenwriting Tribes. Your stories of overcoming obstacles, massive successes, and following your dreams moved me. Getting emails and messages from around the world gave me hope that yes we are in tough times but even with all that you, the tribe, continues to move forward like an unstoppable creative force.

In 2021 we will try, fail, and try again because remember…

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” – Henry Ford

The more you might fail the closer you are to succeeding. I’ll be trying a ton of new things in the new year and hope they will be a success but am ready if they don’t live up to my expectations.

In 2021 I’ll be launching a couple of new companies, partnering with amazing new instructors for IFH Academy, releasing my new book, adding amazing new content to Indie Film Hustle TV, publishing new audiobooks through IFH Books, producing a few new podcasts for the IFH Podcast Network, and developing new websites to further help filmmakers and screenwriters follow their dreams.

I want you to write down what you want to accomplish in 2021 and what steps you will be taking every day to get those goals. Do you want to set a goal of one or two screenplays a year as Oliver Stone does? Do you want to direct your first feature film? What needed tools do you want to put in your toolbox? What need skills do you want to learn to make you a more dangerous and knowledgeable filmmaker or screenwriter?

After speaking to hundreds of the industry’s most successful artists and business people I found they all had one thing in common, they never gave up! They all just kept going no matter what. Oliver Stone had the script for Platoon in his pocket for years before someone produced it. James V. Hart was in his forties when he had his breakout with Hook and Dracula. Barry Sonnenfeldwent from shooting adult films to having his movies gross almost $2.5 billion worldwide.

Every successful person you look up to failed and failed often on their way to success. They never gave up and you shouldn’t either. Every no is one step closer to a yes. I wish all of you an amazing 2021 and don’t forget to keep that hustle going and keep that dream alive!

Be well, stay safe, and Happy New Year.

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Alex Ferrari 0:02
Well, guys, 2020 has been one hell of a year and emphasis on the word owl, our industry has been turned upside down and inside out the way business is done in Hollywood has changed forever. There has been just so much pain and suffering this year. So many people lost their jobs, legendary companies that we thought that would be there forever, and they were unbreakable, filed for bankruptcy, or closed completely. The mere act of being unset became a highly dangerous occupation. So many beloved filmmakers and actors and writers and technicians passed away this year. Film Festivals closed their doors, some for good movie theater giants, shut their doors, some never to return. COVID-19 has devastated not only our business, but the world. 2020 just fn sucked. With all that said, I do see a light of hope on the horizon. Like every new year before January 1, brings with it a new hope and opportunity to improve things. And for your life to be better than it was before. 2021 has a lot of pressure on it, to say the least. I know so many tribe members that have had a rough go of it in 2020. But the only thing we can do is take charge of what we can control. You might not be able to control the world, the virus, your employer, or the economy. You can control what you do on a daily basis, how you act and how you think. You can think everything sucks, and that there's no hope for you or your dreams. Or you can think that you have the power to change where you are in life right now. Every dream, every success story started with one single thought I can do this. As Henry Ford once said, If you think you can do a thing, or think you can't do a thing. You're right. The power of your own thoughts is so much more mighty than you think. Trust me because I speak from experience. Looking back on my life, I realize that in the roughest moments, my thoughts were destructive and negative. And when I was experienced great successes, my thoughts were constructive and positive. Whatever you focus on grows. So if I were you I focus on the positive and not the negative. This year, I came to the profound truth that the key to success is helping others.

The moment I launched indie film hustle, my life began to change after years of struggle, after years of hustling and trying to hack the system and trying to get to where I wanted to be no matter what. It was launching indie film hustle that made the biggest difference in my life. The more I helped others, the better my life became. The opportunities I had been chasing for decades, just started to show up at my door. But don't get me wrong. You know, I hustle like crazy. I'm kind of insane about it, to be honest with you. But my hustle is not about getting things for myself, as much as it is to provide value to other people. As Les Brown once famously said, help others achieve their dreams, and you will achieve yours. I want you in 2021 to make it a goal to help other filmmakers, other screenwriters, other people with their dreams. And I promise you that things in your life will change because it certainly did for me. In 2020, I released my second feature on the corner of ego and desire, created bulletproof screenwriting.tv my premium online educational platform ifH Academy launched the ifH Podcast Network, and multiple podcasts including the filmmaking motivation podcast, the director series podcast inside the screenwriters mind podcast, and spoke to legendary filmmakers and screenwriters on my shows, like Oliver Stone, Barry sonnenfeld, Alex prayas, James v. Hart, and john batum, just to name a few. But most importantly, I was inspired by you, the indie film, hustle and bulletproof screenwriting tribes, your stories of overcoming obstacles, massive successes, and following your dreams moved me moved my soul. getting emails and messages from around the world gave me hope. They Yes, we are in tough times. But even with all that, the tribe continues to move forward, like an unstoppable creative force. In 2021, I'll be launching a couple of new companies partnering with amazing new instructors for ifH Academy, releasing my new book, adding amazing new content to indie film, hustle TV, publishing new audio books through my publishing company, ifH books, producing a few new podcasts for the ifH Podcast Network, and developing new websites. To further help filmmakers and screenwriters follow their dreams. I want you to write down what you want to accomplish in 2021, and what steps you will be taking every day to get to your goals. Do you want to set a goal of one to two screenplays a year like Oliver Stone does? Do you want to direct your first feature film? What needed tools do you want to put in your toolbox? What new skills do you want to learn to make you a more dangerous and knowledgeable filmmaker? Or screenwriter? What side hustles Are you going to try to create the generate revenue for yourself while you're chasing your dream? After speaking to hundreds of the industry's most successful artists and business people, I found they all had one thing in common. They never gave up. Oliver Stone had the script for a platoon in his pocket for years. And everybody in town rejected it. Everybody in town said will never produce this. Nobody wants to see this movie, but he never gave up. And in 1986 he won the Oscar for Best Picture. And Best Director James v. Hart was in his 40s before he had his breakout hits with hook and Dracula. Barry sonnenfeld went from shooting adult films, to having his movies grossed almost $2.5 billion worldwide. Every big screenwriter, every big filmmaker, every big director, every big producer, they all have one thing in common. They failed and they failed often on their way to success. They never gave up and you shouldn't either.

Every no is one step closer to a yes. In 2021. Educate yourself as much as possible. learn something new every day. Take a course read a book, experience something, work on a set safely Of course, do whatever you can to put more tools in your toolbox. The reason I was able to Go to Sundance, and shoot an entire feature film in four days, running around completely guerilla style was not only because I had an amazing group of people working with me, but it was also because I had been working for two decades, putting tools in my toolbox, being able to not only direct, but also right, edit, color grade, do the graphics, produce, and so, so many other jobs, I can't even keep track of them all that I did on that film. But I was able to do that, again, because I educated myself and I and I worked on putting those tools in my toolbox. In 2021, I want you all to add a ton of new tools in your toolbox. If you're a writer, learn new techniques, learn new approaches to the process, or hell just write more, because by writing more, you're adding more tools in your toolbox. I'm going to go back to my conversation with Oliver Stone. And I asked him how many screenplays Did you write before you got to direct your real first film because he did a film right out of right out of college. But he doesn't even count that one as much as he does a second one. And he had written about 1012 screenplays, something along those lines before a producer finally financed one of his projects. The road to success is not easy, but it's doable. And it's doable for everyone listening to my voice right now, anywhere in the world. If you think you have a tough, you should listen to that podcast about what Hollywood and how that amazing filmmaker makes his films for two $300 us. And he makes it he built an entire industry in his in his town. He's world renowned now. But when he started, he was just trying to learn trying to put more tools in the toolbox. I don't care where you are in the world. If you want to make something happen for yourself, make it happen. The power to change your destiny is in your hands. It might not be easy, but it's something that you can do. I want to wish you all an amazing 2021. And please don't forget to keep that hustle going and to keep that dream alive. He will stay safe and have a great new year. And of course, keep on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.

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BPS 098: Screenwriting a Road Trip Comedy with Jason Shuman

I have a treat for the tribe today. Last week we had screenwriter Eduardo Cisneros on the show discussing his new film Half Brothers. Today we have his co-writer and producer of the film Jason Shuman. Jason is a writer and producer who has made over 20 motion pictures grossing more than $500 million worldwide as well as produced over 100 episodes of television.

Shuman has produced four films that reached number one at the box office with Darkness FallsThe MessengersBangkok Dangerous, and the critically acclaimed Lone Survivor. Other well-known films include the 2017 docudrama Rebel In The Rye, Little Black BookDaddy Day CampMiddle Men and the beloved comedy Role Models.

On the television side, Shuman has also produced shows including TBS comedy Are We There Yet? with Ice Cube, and served as Executive Producer on the FX show Anger Management and the Emmy® nominated TV movie, Dawn Anna. His new film is Half Brothers.

Renato, a successful Mexican aviation executive, is shocked to discover he has an American half-brother he never knew about, the free-spirited Asher. The two very different half-brothers are forced on a road journey together masterminded by their ailing father, tracing the path their father took as an immigrant from Mexico to the US.

I first met Jason years ago at the Sundance Film Festival where I spoke to him on the Indie Film Hustle Podcast about the film he had in the fest called Rebel in the Rye. In this episode, we discuss his career as a producer, how he went “all in” to become a serious screenwriter, how Danny Strong (Gilmore Girls, Empire, Billions) helped him become a better storyteller, and his epically funny new film Half Brothers.

Enjoy my conversation with Jason Shuman.

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Alex Ferrari 0:03
I'd like to welcome to the show Jason Shuman, man, how you doing Jason?

Jason Shuman 0:24
Hey, good. Great to be back. Alex. Good to see you. Thank you for having me.

Alex Ferrari 0:34
Yes. This is your first time on the bulletproof screening podcast but you are a friend of the show from indie film hustle back in the day. We we did a when I did my I think it was my first Sundance interviews. When I was at Sundance doing interviews and you were one of my I was lucky enough to talk to you while you were there with rebel in the Rye.

Jason Shuman 3:51
Man, that was a for me. That was an amazing Sundance, my favorite Sundance that I've ever experienced. It was so great.

Alex Ferrari 3:58
And it was the shining outside it was snowing so much that year it was like, like, but no joke was like a like a dilution of snow outside. It was insane. how crazy

Jason Shuman 4:12
It was special because I loved rebel and working long and so I was so proud of the movie, but also because I had so many friends that wanted to come to be a movie premiere. So I rented this like house and it was like about 14 of my friends. Some who brought their wives. So it was couples and it was like a fraternity house I had there were like four rooms and the rooms had bunk beds in it. So they were like husbands and wives sleeping together and bunk beds all so if there was this I had a great sort of thing and I was like, Hey look, I'll I can promise you as if you come with me everywhere. I can get you in if you roam on your own. Good luck to you. And so everyone was like it was like my little entourage Had the whole time it was best.

Alex Ferrari 5:03
Do you remember? Do you remember what we what we did the interview in that in that penta. And that kind of like penthouse area was like it was like that. That's where I was staying. So it's like this kind of kids camp for grownups going to Sundance. It's like camp for grownups, if you stay anywhere within the vicinity of Main Street, unless you're rolling really hard, and you're one of the big stars, you get your own private everything, but generally, but generally, there's just no space. So that you have to get you got people, you know, who are very high end, like people in the industry, big producers and directors and actors. And they're, they're doing exactly what you said, they're sleeping bags around the corner somewhere to Matt. They're like the two of them in a bunk bed. Like it's,

Jason Shuman 5:50
Happy to be here.

Alex Ferrari 5:51
Yeah, it's, it's, it is such an it's just an amazing experience. And I can't wait to actually experience it again. Hopefully, I don't get it back, you know, hopefully after it. But so before we get started, can you tell the audience how you got into the business because you have a unique path to your screenwriting side?

Jason Shuman 6:11
Well, I mean, I look i was i was a film geek. Since I was 10 years old, I was riding my bike to the mall to see everything in anything. I had a note from my mom, that in the movie theaters knew me to let me see R rated movies if I wanted to. Because I had that note that would never fly today, by the way, like I was just a little film geek dreaming of going to Hollywood and making movies and, and my dream was to go to USC film school. So when I got in, I thought like the heavens had parted. And like I was anointed the next coming. And then you get to orientation. And you realize, so did the other 60 people that got in everyone felt the same way. So you kind of have to have a big wake up call and say, all right, you know, I'm just an 18 year old freshmen time to work. And so I got to go to USC film school and meet the most incredible group of friends that I still am very close with to this day. And I had a wonderful experience there. I got to do internships because I was living at USC, and you get to be so close to Hollywood. And so I didn't know I was just doing everything in anything making movies on the weekends, doing internships on days, I didn't have classes, and one of my internships led to an internship with a guy named Marnell, Koeppel Sim, who passed away two years ago. But that was a big thing. Because he was he was a huge producer at the time, she's huge and won an Oscar for Petunia, just a couple years earlier, it had the fugitive, which was not only ox opposite, but got nominated for an Oscar. And he was in the middle of making seven devil's advocate eraser. outbreak. And so there I was interning for this for this company, this man, he had this huge production company at Warner Brothers. And so I felt like I had like the king of the world, even though I was just making copies and getting coffee. And that led to a job when I graduated. So I got some my first, you know, big break coming out of there. But to be honest, I kind of had wanted to be a writer, director, as we all do, and we, but because I was offered this job, everyone was like, Well, why don't you just take it? You can just learn what do I know? I'm 22 years old. So I took the job. And I spent a couple years there and it was a great sort of induction into the business from a Reno film school is not real reality.

Alex Ferrari 8:48
No, stop, stop. Stop it. You mean to tell me when you're out in the real world. They don't talk about Kurosawa all the time.

Jason Shuman 8:59
My favorite freshman year, my buddy herb Ratner, still a close friend. He goes, he calls me up. It's like a Tuesday night and he goes, man, there's like a sneak preview of Philadelphia, with Denzel and Tom Hanks, we got to go and I was like, I have a geology test tomorrow. And he's like, we're talking about, you know, who cares about the geology is let's go see this movie. And I was like, you're right. I'm a college student. Now I don't have to study for the geology does that though. So my, my, my going rogue as a college student was not going to that party and getting drunk on Tuesday night. It was like going to the man's Chinese and see a sneak preview. That to me was like being the rebel.

Alex Ferrari 9:45
This was your Animal House. This was your house.

Jason Shuman 9:49
So there was a lot of that in college, a lot of sneaking off. So, um, so I worked for Arnold for many years and rose up there. And then I had this most amazing opportunity to start my own production company with a guy named William sherek. And so we went off and I quit, I quit that job, I went, and we started to make some movies. And one of the original ones was darkness falls, which I can't believe now was like 18 years ago.

Alex Ferrari 10:24
And if I, if I can stop you for a second, because when we spoke the first time, I actually know the story of darkness falls, how it got produced. I'm, like, one of my co hosts was with me, Sebastian, he was like, how do you know that? I'm like, dude, I'm a film geek. And any story about a filmmaker who made it like that any because that was a lottery ticket. Essentially, he had a great short, that he had a great short that got picked up. And then they turned it into a feature, which then was a big hit at the time. And I was like, of course, I know that story every you know, if you have to know that just kind of like they'll mariachis and the clerks and like he was one of those. He was one of those guys that had that that window. Yeah. So it was great.

Jason Shuman 11:08
Like he was he is and was the nicest guy Jonathan, he became close friend of William and eyes. And so it was a magical experience, because we go off and make this movie. We're all in our mid 20s. And we shot it in Australia and, and anyway, we bring it back in the studio didn't know what they sent these three guys off doing. And then they just put it God bless Tom sherek. Who, who was like, let's put it out on Superbowl weekend. And everyone was like, Super Bowl Weekend. That's a two day weekend. No one goes to the movies on Super Bowl Sunday. And he's like, Yeah, but there's no competition. So we came out in 2003 Superbowl weekend and we were number one for this little movie. And that sort of helped William and I get a deal at the studio and and and then we were off to the races making a bevy of movies over the next 10 years. And we just flying over genres like we did the Messenger's Sony we did little black book, we did role models, we were just hopping all over the place with comedies with horror with romantic movies, some family movies, so it was a great run. I really loved it.

Alex Ferrari 12:24
Now, let me ask you a question though. How as a as a producing team or as a production company? Yeah. The the standard frame of thought is to pigeonhole yourself or at least it's your, your, the heart like Blum house, he's like, you can't Blum house, you know, slapstick comedy, I'm not gonna probably go see. But, um, maybe I would, because I'd be curious. But generally as a as a production company, or as a producer, you kind of want to knit yourself like Arnold was an action. He was the action dude, he was the actor. He was like, he reminded me very much of Joel Silver like him and and Joel

Jason Shuman 12:56
Intern are as well.

Alex Ferrari 12:58
Yeah. So that's, we have to have a conversation about that another day. But, but yeah, those kind of guys. So you were jumping all I saw me when looking at your IMDb, you're everywhere, like role models horror, like it's all over the place.

Jason Shuman 13:11
That's my own fault. And probably to my own detriment, because we had we came right out of the gate with two fairly successful horror movies and darkness falls and the messengers, and we were getting a lot of offers for people like can make horror here can make horror there. But the truth is, I'm just I love movies, and I love stories. And I love all kinds of movies. Like I'm just not I see everything. I don't care small, big, which genre you are. I see it all indie movies, and, and I just was like, William, I can't sit in another meeting and talk about the mythology of these of the ghosts and what their motivations are. And I started to become creatively stagnant because, you know, yeah, we had to meet in a row and they were hits but we probably developed 15 others at the time. So I was in so many meetings and reading so many scripts having to do with this thing and that thing, you know, blumhouse came later and certainly he grabbed that with paranormal and he wrote it and that's probably what William and I should have done. But I was so excited to read little black book. I was so excited to read Bangkok dangerous, so excited to deal with being meetings on role models and talk about like, the big set pieces because I loved Judd Apatow and I our offices were right next to Judd Apatow and I was like, but I want to make movies like him too. So it's great. Just to have my own wanting to flex the that muscle of like being just telling different kinds of stories. So that's what we just kept doing.

Alex Ferrari 14:53
And it seems to have worked out okay for you. You've done, you've done no complaints. It's like and I think Once you've set yourself up as either I mean for screenwriters would you recommend screenwriters stay kind of on, on on a genre at the beginning, so at least they kind of put themselves in that box. And then they can kind of spread out like once you're Aaron Sorkin, you can write whatever you want. Once you're Shane Black, you can pretty much write whatever you want. But at the beginning, the town kind of likes to know what you are, if you're a horror, got your horror, got your comedy, comedy,

Jason Shuman 15:24
because your reps need to know how to sell you they need to know how to introduce you to the town. And that is done easier for them. And for you, if you kinda like this is the I want to make the next blumhouse movies or I want to be the next jet Apatow if you can kind of sell yourself that way. It just makes their job easier, whatever that is,

Alex Ferrari 15:45
right. But but you actually because you were jumping all over the place that became kind of your brand. Like, oh, he he does everything.

Jason Shuman 15:54
That's what people don't. They're like, Well, yeah, you you can look at my IMDb and you're like Jesus, but I you have to understand when I went in to make daddy day camp, which seems funny now, right? But Sony called William and I and said, Would you be interested in producing it? Like the kid in me is like I grew up on those Herbie the lovebug movies and can't movies like meatballs. And I was just like, Wait a second, I am going to submerse myself in can't movies. And I am going to try to make the greatest can't movie for the this generation of eight to 12 year olds. So it's like you think like, Schumann, why would you go off and make daddy day camp? It's like, well, because to me, that was an exciting opportunity to give kids of that generation, a camp movie that maybe they would watch over and over again. And I went nuts. I watched so many camp movies, not just the ones that I remembered. I was trying to submerse myself and what made camp movies fun, what kids would want to see today. So it's like, even though the result may have not been this beloved, like legendary can't movie that was the attempt that was and that goes for everything. When we were making Bangkok dangerous, you know, it's like, we were thought we were making, we tried to make an action movie that could parallel, you know, the action movies that they and we thought there would be like, this was Bangkok dangerous, then there would be like Shanghai dangerous, then there would be we were trying to set up so people have to understand sometimes it works like role models, lone survivor, etc. And sometimes it does, you tried everything and just fell a little short. It's not like you didn't work any harder. Right? You did any more to make it a great movie. So you just put them out there and go, let's see what happens.

Alex Ferrari 17:56
Now I was when we spoke. When we spoke at Sundance those years ago, you were at that point talking about getting into screenwriting, and that you were moving to New York to work with the work with Danny Thank you, Danny, with Danny strong and, and kind of just like, you know, go under his wing a little bit. You were telling us like, Hey, I'm gonna, I'm gonna learn how to be a screenwriter. So what made you jump from being a producer to wanting to go into the very non competitive world of screenwriting?

Jason Shuman 18:30
There's many things, it's just you get a little older. And you start to say to yourself, how do I want to keep challenging, but there was also that kid in me who look I had what William and I got to do at the young age, we got to do it and the opportunities I had learning from Arnold at 22 years old. I wouldn't take that back for anything. But there was that 1415 year old and me that was like, but I wanted to, I wanted to write I wanted to create stories from the beginning not to sit with writers who and I love and respect Good, good screenwriting. So I thought either I put my money where my mouth is, and see if I have it in me, or just, you know, go and continue to be a producer and keep trying to evolve that way. And it was Danny who called me and said, I want you to drop everything. And I want you to move to New York. And I just want you to like, Come meet with me every day. And just let's talk screenplays let's I want you to write and I'm going to read your stuff. And I'm going to critique it. And I'm just going to give you a bootcamp and I was like, how can I turn this down? That's amazing. We had been pals since 18 since USC film school, but like Danny at that time was, was at the like he had just won every award for game change and the height of the butler coming out and he he hadn't even created Empire yet. Which I got to be sitting there with him while he wrote the pilot for empire that was pretty cool. He kept like turning his computer going like, Is it me? Or does this seem seem really fun to you? And I'd read it and it'd be like cookie, doing something like they have the vision for cookie way, way at the beginning. So I owe it all to Danny. Like, really?

He I did. I did what he said, I left my life in Los Angeles, and I moved to New York. And I sat and wrote every day with him, he texts me in the morning, here's the cafe I'll be at, I'd show up. I do my stuff. He'd be doing his stuff at lunch, I'd asked him a bunch of questions. And when I was ready to show him stuff, he'd read it. And he was brutal. He was brutal with me, but it was helpful. He'd give me all the ways he approached writing all the sort of mottos that he would take how he approached a blank page, how he would approach characters, how we would approach everything. And I just tried to make that habit. And it took a while he, it was a year and a half of writing, handing him stuff and him Wow. shitting on it. And finally, after a year and a half, he thought that maybe I had morphed myself into a writer who could be consistent. I don't think he was looking for a good scene here. And there. He was looking for consistency. He was looking for, like my storytelling to have evolved to a place where he felt like, now I could go off and maybe sell some stuff or, or or had honed my voice. I mean, that's a hell of a friend.

Alex Ferrari 21:39
I gotta say,

Jason Shuman 21:40
yeah. One of the greatest things he taught me. So any screenwriters listening was, he was like, sit down and write write down a list of things you love, and things you hate. Like things, things that anger you because that's where recount came for him. It's like, it's like, he hated that election process, the 2000 election, he was angry about the outcome, and it really boiled his blood. And so, you know, then he goes and buys some books and reads about the Florida recount. And that turns into a story that he outlines. And so that was a big thing for me. You know, like, if you look at a lot of the projects I'm working on now, this show I have at Apple. Eduardo and I are writing short circuit, my HBO show about the Lakers. It's all stuff in the 80s because one of the things I wrote down on that when I would do those exercises is I love the 80s I just do. Yeah, that was my era. I love the music. I love the television. I love the movies. I love the campiness, I love the outfits, I love my memories. I like what malls looked like I liked just that. And so it that list he had me do really reverberated in the work. Not all the work that I've done in the last four or five years, but a lot of it is like things that really angered me are things that I just love so much that I want to live in that world and with those characters. So that was just every I could we could do a whole couple hours on the Danny strong method and how well it works. But it really was,

Alex Ferrari 23:24
I'm not sure I'm not sure everybody can afford that, that that seminar for a year and a half. And I'm not sure Danny has the bandwidth. I know I'm joking, I'm joking. You should you should actually call Danny. Like Danny, I'm just gonna I'm just gonna put out a seminar, it's gonna be called the Danny strong method. I'm not paying you anything, unfortunately. But I think Danny strong. That's amazing. So you said something really interesting. Like, how do you approach a blank page? How is there? is there is there are there some tips because that is the most one of the most daunting things a writer has to do is, and it's not a page anymore. Is that blinking cursor? Generally speaking, yeah. How do you approach a blank screen?

Jason Shuman 24:10
This is it was Danny had always sort of taught me that. Don't get it right, get it written. I don't care if it's the worst scene you've written in the world. And Eduardo subscribes to that same theory. So when I started working with Eduardo was nice to see that like, I have friends I have very successful screenwriter friends, who they'll spend the whole day on that one page so they get it perfect. And God bless them. But I found that what Danny's method and Eduardo's method, which is just just write the worst version of the scene, I don't care because the rewriting it to us is the fun part. So I feel like I've written the most amateurish worst awful scenes that I wouldn't show like my closest friends, but then you go back and you immediately start to realize how lazy it is how cheesy the dialogue is. But at least you're not looking at a blank page anymore. At least you're looking at some semblance of a scene. And somehow, even if you're rewriting the whole thing from scratch, it somehow to me makes it mentally easier. If I'm rewriting a scene that exists, then then staring at that blank page. So that's what I've always done these last couple years.

Alex Ferrari 25:29
I mean, from I can't agree with you more, I always find the rewriting process so much easier than the writing process for me. And when I'm like, I write a lot of Britain, but my books and, and I do my writing, I write, like seeing the announcement from our iPod, my blogs and stuff, but it's just starting sucks. It sucks. But the rewriting part, so sometimes I'm writing I'm like, this sucks. I know. It sucks. I'm just gonna keep Yeah, that Oh, that was horrible. Let me just keep going. Or is this is this is atrocious. I'll never let anyone read this. And I'll just keep going. And then the next morning, I'll come back and like, Okay, this is exactly what I thought it was really hard. But why don't we do this? Why don't we move over this over here. And let me rewrite this, oh, I have a brand new that this really bad paragraph that I wrote, has now set me on another path in my mind. To write a brand new paragraph has nothing to do with the old paragraph. But it's a complete rewrite from basically and just go. So it's, it's it keeps it keeps the thing flow. And it keeps the things it's kind of like editing I've been I've been an editor for 20 odd years. So like when you edit the scene, you edit a horrible, just get it all just cut it just cut it. It's master shot theater, there's no nuance, get it up there, then you could start slicing and dicing

Jason Shuman 26:42
same, it's the same. And I wish you know a lot of writers beat themselves up and like everyone has their process. Everyone approaches it however they want. This works for me. And the tidbits that Danny's taught me or at least the ones that I retained are that way because I think they spoke to me. But like I remember I showed up one day. And I got a terrible sleep. And I was just kind of groggy. And I was like, Danny, I don't know if I feel it today. And he's like, doesn't matter. Keep writing. And I'm like, I got like two hours of sleep. And he's like, let me tell you something. When you read your screenplay, you got 126 pages of crap, that you're ready to sit down and read through. You won't remember which scene you wrote on that day when you came and you're like, Oh, I feel great today. Remember which scenes we felt great about which seat because it's all just sort of blends in. So the goal every day should just get those two pages done, get those three pages each day, just get that done. Because then when you stack it all together, you probably won't even remember and it probably won't even be as bad. Just like on those days where you think you wrote brilliance. And then you go read it next day. You're like, wasn't that brilliant? I mean, I walked away. I walked away the day before thinking like, Man, what a great day of writing. It's, it's it's the same thing. It's never as good as you thought it was. But it's also never as bad as you thought it was. And so just keep doing it. Just keep writing. Don't let yourself get excuses. And just kind of keep powering forward and like that. That's what makes Danny Danny because it's like yeah.

Alex Ferrari 28:31
I and I think it's I always find it to be better to be prolific than to be perfect. Yeah, there's a lot of directors, a lot of screenwriters out there who just put out stuff. And yeah, they're not all home runs. But a lot of them a couple might be strikeouts, but there's a lot of singles, a lot of doubles, a lot of triples, and there's maybe a one or two homerun situation in there. If I may, if I may be as cliche is to use a baseball metaphor with it, but but I always find that it works. Baseball metaphors work. That's why it's so cliche.

Jason Shuman 29:02
One of my favorite stories from Forrest Gump because I got to work with this guy, Charles Neuwirth, who was the UPN line producer on Forrest Gump. And he said like Zemeckis had been talking about the shots he wanted to get, and it took like six hours to set up, and they could only do it during a certain time of the day. And so they get it all ready, they're rehearsing it, they go to shoot the scene. It's not quite what he wanted, and he just turned to Charles and what they can all be gems. can all be gems, but when you mix it in with Forrest Gump, you have so many great things about it. Does it matter that not everything is and I try to remember that they can all be gems, but if you've got enough gems in there, yeah, it'll be good stuff. it sparkles. It

Alex Ferrari 29:48
will sparkles. Now, as you know, obviously you've been around town for for a while you've been working in town when you started to go out as a screenwriter. How did the town respond to you? As you know, because everyone used because this town is very loves boxes and loves putting people in boxes. So when you came out from, hey, you've been a successful producer. But here's my script I need you to read. How did the town respond to you? I'm curious. Um,

Jason Shuman 30:19
I had to fight that I had to convey my conviction in my heart and soul that that this was like, not just a thing I was trying that this was a full commitment that I was making, that I wasn't looking to just sort of dabble my foot in it. And I meant it. When I packed up and moved to New York. I was like, I'm all in. And so I had to convey that this was not just some hobby, and I was hoping that I was going to succeed by hook or by crook. And so yeah, I had to deal with it was nice that when agents would read it, and they didn't know who I was, because I'm not, I'm not Brian Grazer. I'm not just like, not everybody knew who I was. So I ended up having some, when I started sending my material out to agencies, tried to send it to people I thought maybe didn't know who I was, but who I knew and admired. And so those were some initial meetings that went really well. And I did, I was honest with them that I have a producing career, but I'm hoping I'm hoping that my knowledge and my background of producing will only make me a better, better writer, especially in television, where TV or TV show running and TV writing, a lot of it is producing too, I have hung around enough a TV shows to see that the the show runner, half your job is overseeing the writers and the other half is dealing with the network and the studio and dealing with the politics of and that is in itself producing. So I knew I could combine both in a way that could be advantageous to the writing. And then along the way, I almost wanted to call up every writer I've ever worked with as a producer, and say, I'm so sorry that you have to take notes from me, because now that I've given myself a grad school in screenwriting, and I feel like I understand screenwriting, so much better now than when I did as a producer. I'm like, you had to sit there and listen to my notes. Like, and now I feel like I was just talking out of my ass. Like, how did I not do this sooner, at least sort of dive into screen, right? I feel it makes you a better producer to sort of understand the nuances of not only being a writer, but just on how story works and structure and characters and God just like it's just crazy to me that that the way this town is built where you could get a really good job like I was given right out of college, and in a room with million dollar writers and have Arnold Coppola single, like Jason read the script, meet with me with that million dollar writer give him notes. And they have to listen to me. And they're very cordial and respectful. Because I represent Arnold COPPA Xin. But I'm like thinking back upon that now, not only was I I should call those people up and be like, thank you for not just being like your biggest moron Jason, who sent you into this room.

Alex Ferrari 33:39
And that's isn't that amazing. But that is that is the way this town works. It is just ridiculous that there's a huge producer, a legendary huge producer, who sends in a 20 something and goes, I kind of like I trust your taste, Jason, go read it. And then go talk to this million dollar plus screenwriter and give him notes. Who's been who's written probably 30 or 40 screenplays in his life, probably even more, you've never written one. And you've written you've read maybe five, so maybe 10 I'm being generous. So give him you're giving me notes based on the video store experience you have.

Jason Shuman 34:20
I would do that. I would prepare all night. I'd be like in order to make this character more three dimensional. This is what you should do this to do. And I was prepared on it. But Jesus Lord, okay, all right. I guess my youthful, like, fake it till you make it kind of stuff.

Alex Ferrari 34:41
And that's and that's, you know, that's a really good lesson for screenwriters listening today, because you're gonna deal with young Jason's. And by the way, Jason is one of the nicer ones that I've I've ever met in this business, but you're gonna get, you know, we all deal with people who are put in positions of power that don't have they shouldn't be there. Especially talking to creatives who might know it's, I mean, it's this. It's the oldest, I mean, manque. I mean, manque just came in late. I mean, so it's been happening since the dawn of our industry. Someone just said, you know, someone told Chaplin, you know, when you fall, it's not really ringing true. So can you put the banana peel over to the like, there's telling you, you're doing it wrong, or wants to put in their stuff. But so how did you deal with? How would you? How do you suggest screenwriters deal with notes? Because that is something that every screenwriter no matter what, what level they're at, unless you're Tarantino, or one of these big writer directors who have every does every Yeah,

Jason Shuman 35:46
sure. Yeah. Um, look, I think one of the skills of the good screenwriters, the ones who have a lot of success working within the studio, and the network system, is learning how to address notes and interpret notes without just being a typist, like your job. And I think they expect this of you is not to literally take the notes and just go and do note number one, and just go into the document and change it. They're giving you what's bumping them about what you've written, and they're trying to articulate it, hoping that you will get it. And then that's, that is an art form that I'm constantly trying to work on. And having Eduardo getting to work with Eduardo makes it easier because we're just two of us. So we can talk it through. You know, people like Danny who works solo, Danny just has an interpretive mind. So he's like, Okay, I know what they want. I, I can read between the lines. And so I guess it's just something you should, if you're a writer, if you have a partner, a room that you work in, talk it through, maybe from talking it out loud, you kind of like, oh, here's Okay, I see what they're and then you bring your own creativity to the note and your changes, so that it doesn't mess up the overall tone and theme that you were going for. That is an art form and of itself. And if you can become good at interpreting network and studio notes, you will be a successful writer. I'm still working on it to this day, I do feel like my past as a producer helps. But believe me, there are still plenty of documents I get, or I'm like head scratching like shit. This is bumping them. But the note is confusing me. It's confusing me and I don't understand what exactly they want. And sometimes it takes a few days of it. And I like talking it through like did they mean this? I mean, look, if you have a good relationship with them, you can call them and ask them to explain it. But a lot of times we've done that, and I'm even more confused.

Alex Ferrari 37:58
Exactly. Now how did you get it? Now how did you get involved with Eduardo and and what is it like writing with a partner? You know, because I'm also a soloist I I've written with partners before and sometimes it's been great sometimes it hasn't been good. Eduardo loves working with you because I had him on the show as well obviously. So he speaks nothing but high highly of you sir. Except off off air off off air. off air. He was destroying you, but on air. He really really enjoyed working with you wasn't working with how is it working with it with Waldo? And how did you guys meet?

Jason Shuman 38:36
Well, look, Alex, I'll go deep. I have had no luck in my personal social life finding a like as to my mother's dismay, like, finding some married started family. Yeah. Not for lack of trying. I just can't seem to click with with someone out there. I know. It's harder. Now we're in a pandemic. But even before I can't use that as an excuse, somehow in my business world. I've had two partnerships, me and William sherek. And me and Eduardo. And they both came very naturally. It was not forced. It was not anything. It was like I met William. In college, we totally clicked. And then naturally we got we just started working together. There was no sort of like, like formal like, thing. It just felt so natural that we were into each other's Yang like and then the same thing with Eduardo like I just met him. Coincidentally, it was kind of full circle from co Pilsen because my sort of mentor at Cobo Wilson was this executive named Sanford panitch. And he's sort of the opposite of what I was just describing. He was a young executive who was brilliant, just brilliant, even at a young age, and he found Arnold so many of those movies like like, seven and future And devil's advocate, and eraser, he found those scripts and he developed them. And he was like 2526. At that time, he's amazed. And now he runs. Well, he's president of Sony under Tom Rothman. And he's just that good. He's just that good. And I was having breakfast with them. And he had read some of my stuff that I had been writing and he thought it was good, thank God. And he said, Look, I just signed this deal with this guy, Eduardo Cisneros. He just wrote and produced this massive hit called instructions not included, which Sanford couldn't speak highly enough of. And he said, The guy is like the Judd Apatow of Mexico. He He's created all these hit shows. Now he's created his movie. I just signed an overall deal with them. Why don't you meet them? And if you guys come up with an idea that you can work on together. Great. Do it here at Fox at that time, Sanford was at Fox. And so it was Sanford. He kind of like

Alex Ferrari 41:01
Matchmaker, he's a matchmaker.

Jason Shuman 41:04
And so we we met in a conference room at Fox, and I came with like, literally 10 ideas that I had prepared. I was always the Judd Apatow when I had offices near him. He always said like, when he worked the comedy clubs, and when Sandler would say like, Hey, man, could you write me like three jokes. And he would write like 20 jokes, because he just wanted to show Sandler like that he was up for the challenge that like, he wasn't going to waste this opportunity. So that always kind of like, Okay, I'm gonna come prepared every time and I wrote down 10 ideas. And I pitched them all to him, and Eduardo hated all of them. So then we were like, well, then we just started shooting the shit. And then we just started talking. And then I somehow stumbled on a germ of an idea that he was interested in, but it was not fleshed out. And then we ended up meeting for coffee another day, talking about the idea more, which led to more meetings. And then we eventually took the idea to Sanford, he bought it. And then we were able to write our first script together. And I'm not kidding. It's kind of like, it was so easy. It was so natural, that, like, his strengths were my weaknesses. Vice versa. His work ethic was the mine, in terms of like, you know, being available for each other, we didn't have other stuff going on, like, that frustrated each of us. And so it was such a wonderful process that when that was over, he was like, hey, I've had this other idea. Maybe we could work on it together. And we ended up selling that as a TV show to Fox didn't get made. But we got to write another thing together. And in during that is when he said like, Hey, I have this idea for this movie called half brothers. And then he's like, now we just pitched that one together. So it just happened very naturally. Where would there was never like an official, hey, let's shake on it. We're working.

Alex Ferrari 43:05
We're writing tea.

Jason Shuman 43:07
It just happened naturally. And so I'm just grateful. I'm just grateful to the universe, that in my work life, they brought me to partnerships that have just been magical, where in my personal life, I'm like, still waiting, still dealing with the phone calls from my mother being like,

Alex Ferrari 43:26
Oh, my God, I dealt with that so much that my mom, my mother actually connected me with my wife, she actually matched make me with my wife, believe it or not. And it worked. It works. By the way, it was a swing and a miss of a handful of times before. But it was Oh, man. on that. Yeah. Cuz it was like, every time she would try to hook me up with something I'm like, this is Do you even know who I am? Like, why did you Why would you send her to me? Like, this makes no sense. But yeah, so that's, that's great. And then as far as writing, I mean, cuz you wrote by yourself for a little while before you start writing with a partner. So yeah, when you're writing with a partner, what Eduardo said at least was that you guys just kind of, you'd be you have, you'd have someone to bounce ideas off of, and you can kind of bounce things back and forth.

Jason Shuman 44:14
A lot of people have asked me, What, don't don't you get frustrated because I have my own voice. As a writer, I have all my life experience that I bring to it. Do you get frustrated and I could see how people could ask that because when you're just up by yourself, you may be get frustrated with yourself but you're not arguing over this jokes, funnier, that jokes funnier. But I think that with Eduardo and I, we just haven't had that issue. It's been a total sort of two one plus one equals 10. We feel like we get 10 times more done. We're not hurting each other's voice. Sure. Do we argue about like I think that's funny and he doesn't think it's funny or vice versa. But we just let it go find keep your joke. Um, early on, I Eduardo, getting getting to know him. He had such a mission with his writing. You know, my mission was just to try to make people laugh. I just grew up Jerry Seinfeld, David Letterman, Mel Brooks, I just I just wanted to make the world laugh. I didn't have specificity specificity that Eduardo did with what he not only wants to make the world laugh. But he wanted to change the stereotype of, I'll say, Latin x people for him, specifically Mexico. But he really had a goal with his laughter. And that changed my world, to be honest, Alex, because I had just sort of grown up thinking like, oh, laughter is the best medicine. But to meet Eduardo, and have him talk about, yeah, I want to make people laugh. But I also want to create characters that defy the stereotypes. And I'd like to do it by sort of, like putting cheese on the broccoli. Like, maybe we can change hearts and minds by creating positive Latinx stereotypes, like having characters that would normally just be a white doctor, or a lawyer or a successful businessman. But why can't we can Mexican Cuban, South American, and somehow the comedy can just come and somehow People will laugh and see the movie, but then they'll walk away, not realizing that like, Oh, it was a Latino character that wasn't just a garden or a made a Narcos, a rhino. And so, when, when he started to talk to me about that, it was to me, I was like, sign me up, Eduardo, sign me up, because I want to go on that mission with you. So to me, helped me understand where the last many decades have gone wrong in in their portrayal of Latino characters, and let's try to let's try to make a positive impact on the way it brought a whole nother depth to what I was just thinking of just gonna be another funny Jewish guy, to being to having more of a purpose to the writing. In an entertaining way, obviously, first and foremost, we're trying to entertain Sure. And so, with that goal in mind, can we also elevate what we're trying to do?

Alex Ferrari 47:45
That's, uh, if you can combine those two things in your professional life in your creative life, that is a very honorable way to to approach it. It really truly is. I mean, for me, I mean, I'm Cuban. And only two main Cuban influences in pop culture are Ricky Ricardo, and Scarface who happens to be Italian. So he, you know, so, and for years, you know, like, Hey, man, how you doing, man? Like it was constantly that throughout me when I was growing up, you know, because Scarface was the 80s By the way, nothing gets missed a poem. I think Scarface is a tastic film. And I think Chino did a fantastically a performance of what it was, it's a it's a bit over the top, I'm just saying just a bit over the top, and it's just a bit but he's a patina. But it's but it's true. And and I think now with what's going on in the world, and there is a lot more awareness of, of bringing these kind of characters, and I think you guys are at the forefront, and I can't wait to actually see half brothers, but from the trailer. It looks hilarious. Like, I'm like, I told my wife about it. Like, we kind of watch this when this comes out. This is gonna be amazing.

Jason Shuman 48:54
Thank you, I love the movie. It was everything Eduardo and I wanted to do when we set out to write it, to produce it, and bring on the team of Luke and Luis. Like, it's, I'm, I'm so proud to have been able to make a movie like this that is very contemporary, very, we think, but also follows the classic structure of movies that I grew up loving, like planes, trains, and automobiles. I mean, I, I worship these movies, and I've watched them hundreds of times. So to get to kind of live in the genre of some of my all time favorites, but try to create a modern movie with also the intention of like what we were saying to to just change the stereotype a little bit change the perception. So it was it was a fulfilling experience from top to bottom.

Alex Ferrari 49:52
You know, you know what's funny is when I was watching the trailer, and I saw that scene with when he's running towards the car with the goat By the way, everyone You can see the trailer at the at the show notes. So it doesn't sound like we're like talking weird, but definitely watch the trailer. But when he's running towards the goat first image that popped in my head, I don't know why it was planes, trains and automobiles. Like I just like it just it just felt very john Healy to me, which was great. And I was like, oh, now that you said that, it makes all the sense in the world because you can see that, that that kind of tang to it, it has a flavor of of those kind of old midnight run. Especially midnight, I just recently watched midnight run again.

Jason Shuman 50:34
Oh, my God grown and consider anything, anything, even if one little moment in a movie that I'm a part of reminds me of john Hughes, like, we're good. I'll take it cuz that's, I don't I could never make planes, trains if I tried. It's such a brilliant movie. But we just tried to bring the funny in the heart and the warmth and the characters that were that could make it an entertaining movie, and still take you on a trip and take you on a journey. And so we can have another conversation after you watch. I'll come back anytime.

Alex Ferrari 51:10
I can't wait. No, I can't wait. I can't wait to see it. And, okay, just let me lose my train of thought. Um, we were talking about john Hughes. All right, I forgot. We'll go on to the next question. So with with half brothers, in you, obviously now, sitting on both sides of the table as a producer and as a screenwriter. What advice do you have for screenwriters on approaching a project approaching a producer? How What does that screenplay? How does that screenplay have to be? How should they approach it? What's the do's and do nots? Should we just show up at your house? and knock on the door with a screenplay? I mean, I heard that's the way it's done in Hollywood. I've seen movies. How do you? How do you look at it?

Jason Shuman 52:00
choosing a producer? It's it? You know, you got to be careful because there are a lot of producers around around town. And like I don't know. And

Alex Ferrari 52:12
can we use the air quotes with the words producers, because I

Jason Shuman 52:17
Hit a producer.

Alex Ferrari 52:18
But also you could just go down to the FedEx store and or UPS store and get a business card made up and say you're a producer? There's no accreditation.

Jason Shuman 52:27
That's the scary part. Yes, sir, is so important. Because as I've learned, if they give up on your script, it's good as dead, like the producer has to keep that boulder being pushed up the mountain, you're a screenwriter, you know, unless you happen to have a career as producing like I had luckily done. So we sold in this case, we sold the pitch to focus there were no producers attached at the time. But I knew what to do as far as how to get keep the studio as as we kept doing drafts. And we got Luis attached to star and we got Luke interested in directing. That was me just instinctually taking over and saying I've got a script that I'm really proud of. And I think there's a movie here, I'm just gonna keep putting it together. So when it came time to the studio saying like, I think we're gonna make this, then they were just like, Well, why don't you just produce it? Why don't you and Eduardo just produce it since you've kind of been acting as producer anyway. So that was just a lucky situation where I turned to Eduardo. And I was like, wow, that's, that was it? We get to make it ourselves. But I do I do. Really. I don't take for granted good producing. Because even in my writing career, I've I've now been able to work with producers, that unlike they have skills that I don't have as a producer, I think they are they've helped me see things that I'd like to do in my producing game. And people that I just respect immensely. And so if you're a screenwriter, and you've got a script, like you can, you can either take your chance on a young ish producer or a new producer, if they have a lot of excitement for your script. But don't, don't, don't, don't sell your soul away. Like if they dropped the ball, you got to be willing to change it up. Because you can just sit dormant with a producer's kind of given up on it. And then it's just the if you go with a big company, like a big grant, Brian Grazer type company, well, they're great and Brian's amazing, but you're probably going to be dealing with their executives which is okay to just make sure that you get along with them. Make sure that you have a rapport with that executive and you feel like this executives got your back has the same vision of you do of trying to get it where it needs to be? There's no right answer, Alex, because every producer is gonna have a different set of skills, they're gonna have different contacts. Like, I only know the people that I know. Right? So if you bring me your script, I know the agents that I've known for 20 years, I know the talent that I know. And I have a way of doing things that might be totally different than somebody else who's like, been doing it the same amount of time I have and their connections are totally different. So the attachments that they might pitch you the agents they might talk to. So it's sort of an instinctual thing. You got to meet with producers, you got to hope there's enthusiasm, you got to look into their eyes, male or female, and you got to say, I trust them. I got a good feeling. You know, bring another Danny strong story when when when he wrote recount, and HBO was like, Danny, like, Who do you want to team up with on this movie? Because Sydney Pollack, who was the original Director Producer of recount passed away, like months before they were going to go shoot. And so Danny was given carte blanche to like team up with so many different and I find named you some of the director and be like, Lord, but he met with Jay Roach, and Jay Roach at the time. This is before Jay Roach has gone on now to do a bevy of dramatic work. That's amazing. But at the time, he had had the Meet the Parents movies, and the Austin Powers movies. But Danny met with them. And I'm gonna steal his story. He felt much better. But he just said, I met with him. And I was like, this guy's a winner. This guy, it's like, could I go with some of these other people who have more dramatic stuff on their resume that I admire too? Sure. But I sat there with Jay. And there was just something about this meeting, where I was like, Yes, I want to, I want to go down a road with this guy. I want I just this guy's a winner. And everything he touches turns to gold and I'm in and that was just Danny's instincts. That was just Danny's instinct saying like, I you could talk me out of it. But But am I gonna let you because? And I feel like that's what as a writer, you gotta send your stuff out there. You got to be fearless in that and then the meetings you take. If somebody seems shady. If somebody seems a little suspect, don't do it. Don't do it.

Alex Ferrari 57:37
But that doesn't happen. That doesn't happen in Hollywood, Jase. I mean, everyone who is so nice and upfront, and they didn't do anything shady here. Right. That's sarcasm, if anyone did not pick up on the sarcasm, that sarcasm, I'm just both Jason and I have gray hair for a reason.

Jason Shuman 57:58
I was always taught, like, a good deal with a bad person is a bad deal. Yes. And a bad deal with a good person is a great deal. And I don't forget that like if I meet with somebody, and they're offering me less money, but, but I just feel like such a good person. And I asked around about them and people speak lovingly. And then there's this other person who just don't know but but they're offering me more money 10 times out of 10 I'll go with the less deal but with the good person because it will in the long run it will pay off to me.

Alex Ferrari 58:39
That's a great, great advice. And I've just remember what I lost my train of thought the one thing I was gonna say it's so great that Focus Features you know, is producing films like a half brother because in the studio system that's that was very commonplace, but nowadays, yeah, you don't you don't get films of this because that halfway there is not a tentpole. You know, it's not $200 million movie so generally the studio's that's what that's what they're doing. And now specifically with the way the world is like no, but like what Warner Brothers just released the other day was just like, holy cow. This is this is changing the game. I mean, who knows what's gonna happen in the next year? So it's so cool that they actually are putting so many resources in a really, it truly is. It truly is.

Jason Shuman 59:26
That was a testament to Eduardo his work with Oh, honey. Oh, derbez. Um, you know that that Eduardo had worked with him not only on instructions, but Latin how to be a Latin lover had helped him out with overboard. And so those movies, Oh, honey, it was a brand. So those movies performed really well. And focus was willing to take a shot to kind of create their own division or at least their attempt to kind of get into that market. If we're just talking about from a business standpoint. They saw that there is a niche being created by Eduardo and no henio and Ben Odell and their company. And it was just sort of like, and look, we're in a pandemic, so the movies come out. And it's doing fine for pandemic wise we're doing great. But you know, in a real world, the box office would have been more on par with like Latin lover and overboard and instructions, but the world's changed. And so most people will safely watch it on their on their things. But if they happen to be in and around a theater, or drive in, I went to the drive in this weekend to watch it was so fun. And but if you're in Phoenix, or Texas, or Florida, or somewhere where there's a theater and you feel safe, you can experience it how Eduardo and I intended it to be experienced, but eventually it will come out and hopefully still do the same kind of numbers that that those other movies did. Over the lot.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:00
Yeah, and I want to ask you a few questions. I asked all of my guests sir. What are three screenplays every screenwriter should read?

Jason Shuman 1:01:10
One, my first and foremost is network.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:14
So good. It's been Yeah, that's, that's been on that list a lot.

Jason Shuman 1:01:18
A lot. I refer to it quite a bit. And it's just brilliant to me in every way, shape and form. I could never use the word so easily that he uses. so brilliant. I really do love a Paddy Chayefsky as a writer but also the movie network. The other ones I sort of flip around from a genre perspective. I love Cameron Crowe's Jerry Maguire script. Because I think that drama D is a difficult, difficult genre, trying that the critics often crush you. And it's like, when you get it, right, though, when you do Terms of Endearment when you do a movie that has comedy, but also has a ton of drama in it. And it's about someone like Jerry Maguire, like just taking a small step forward in life. And so I love reading that script all the time, because I think how he pulled that off, we created a big movie about a sports agent is quite brilliant. And then, God, the third one that I would say, because I read so many scripts that I often refer to, I, I would this is gonna come out of nowhere, but Oliver Stone, his script for wall street is very influential to me. Because he created a world created a world that I'm very fond of. He created a pace and a character. And that character's goal is to make money and to be like this. This like Gordon Gekko guy who's supposed to be the bad guy, but turned into this iconic, like, good guy. And so when I read Wall Street when I read Wolf of Wall Street, also another great script, similar vein, they create these worlds that are so fun to live in. They're so intoxicating. Yeah, though, they're sort of nefarious worlds. And so I often refer to the wall street screenplay as well. So I know that's kind of all over the place. But I use those those three scripts have inspired me a lot.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:55
Well, you and I are of similar vintages. So Wall Street, in my video store days, I must have seen Wall Street It was a religious experience to watch Wall Street for me. I can read I can recite the greed speech right now off the top of my head. I'm not joking you I could go off the top of my head and read that because I just, it was such a you and I never really understood it. But you actually said something really, very pointedly there that it's intoxicating. That that world at that time was I wanted to be Gordon Gekko so bad when I was a freshman in high school. Like I was just like, um, like, I started reading Wall Street books. I started reading, you know, investing books. I started like, you know, oh, yeah. I mean, I had the poster, the greed poster. There's they said they sold greed posters, with the whole speech. And I had it framed in my room. Oh my god.

Jason Shuman 1:04:50
Wait, it's not just the greed speeds. It's like when he's in the limo and he says, You're either inside or you're outside. And I'm not talking about some schmo making 300,000 living comfortably I'm talking about liquid rich enough to own your own jet, you know as a 15 year old the movie's supposed to be a tragic of a guy who's sold his soul to the devil. Yes pays the price. But But our generation saw it as as like a beacon of light of like how to live our lives.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:28
The funny thing is that the devil is the thing that you love the most about the film and that's what the devil is good at. Yeah, he's good at it at a toxicated bringing you in. And and I actually like the second one, Wall Street. Money doesn't sleep.

Jason Shuman 1:05:42
I don't want to talk about that you don't like my good friend Allan Loeb wrote it and I love him. He's one of the best screenwriters. But it was hard for me to watch because I the first one is so perfect. why he's such a perfect movie, that it was just I don't think there was any version of the sequel that would have made made you happy. It's just like, if somebody made Apocalypse Now, too. I probably go like I can't.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:06
I can't do it. I can't I don't care if it

Jason Shuman 1:06:09
Perfection. How do you top that? Just let it be.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:12
I don't care if Coppola goes back in time and writes it in the in the jungle while he's shooting? The first one. I'm not watching it. I'm not watching

Jason Shuman 1:06:21
Can't do it.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:22
Now. What advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Jason Shuman 1:06:27
Very simply, I have a couple mantras I live by them. It's like, first off, you got to be all in. Yeah, like playing poker, you got to look at your hand, whoever you are, if you're whatever culture you come from, whatever males like female, binary, whatever you see yourself as whatever you look in the mirror and identify as you've got to look at the hand you've been given. And you got to say, I've got a lot to say, and I'm in it to win it. And you got to put your chips in and say I'm all in. I'm all in. And I'm gonna keep going until I die until I have a heart attack. And because it is so tough, it is so competitive. And you gotta just say, I'm just like, whenever my time is, and I do feel like everyone gets their shot. That you got to just keep writing every day. No excuse. Just tell your stories. I don't care if it's, as Danny would tell me. I don't care if it's making a list of things you love and hate. I don't care if it's just going off book and just in your journal writing extemporaneous scene, you've got to write every darn day, you have to even Sundays, like you got to adjust. Jerry Seinfeld says he has a calendar. And he makes sure he writes at least one joke every day. And then he puts an X in his calendar so that he looks back on the year. And it's like, okay, I wrote 360 a minimum I wrote 365 jokes. So you should be able to look back and say I wrote every single day. And I promise you, if you do that one year, then two years, then three years, stuff will happen. It just Will you unless you're just too scared to show it to anyone then I don't know what to tell you. But like, if you just do it, just just put your chips all in the middle and say whatever this hand is, I've been given in life. I'm all in on it. And I'm gonna I'm gonna keep evolving obviously as a human being and as a writer, but I'm I'm in it to win it as a filmmaker and a storyteller. That would be my

Alex Ferrari 1:08:41
that's awesome advice. Yeah. And again, just perseverance man, perseverance. Just that's it's it's a lot of times I found in this business. It's not about the who's the best or the most talented. It's the one who just keeps grinding it out and keeps going keeps showing up.

Jason Shuman 1:08:55
I don't love Jay Leno. I wasn't the big Jay Leno fan. But man, that guy had a work ethic. He would write he jokes on Saturdays on Sunday is in the morning at night. He was like, I'm not the best looking guy. I'm not the funniest guy, but I'm gonna work harder than everyone else. I'm gonna just if I'm, like, I don't have that natural charisma, like Letterman does, or everyone just loves Letterman. But you know, and my I have a lot of respect for people like that. And so that these are just the people like the Judd Apatow story I said, where he'll wrote 15 jokes. There's a theme to what we've been talking about. And that's just how I see it. I'm just like, I'll put in the work. I'll deal with the rejection. And it's no fun Look, I don't like it. I have plenty of friends who have dealt with lots of hours of phone call me being like, uh, uh, but then I get up the next morning and just keep going. Just keep keep it going.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:55
Keep keep keep the keep the hustle. Keep the hustle. Last question, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Jason Shuman 1:10:06
So easy to answer that enjoy the process? Mm hmm. So results oriented, that you can't, you just cannot be, it can't just be the selling of the script, or just getting the movie made or the TV show made. You gotta try to enjoy the process of writing that you're like, every day, you get to sit there and tell your stories, you know, and some days are good, some days bad, but try your best anything in life. Try to enjoy that you today, the goal is to write three pages. And if you did that successfully, go have yourself a beer or a nice meal or pat yourself on the back. Because that, you know, enjoy the little victories enjoy the process, and then the outcome will be what it's going to be. I don't I have no control a lot over that. And yes, I used to. I used to start having grandiose things of like, oh, maybe I could sell this for a million dollars and get it made with Brad Pitt. And great, great when it happens. I've been lucky enough to have it happen a couple times like that as a producer. But in general things happen in ways you never saw come in. So just try to the process. And and then half brothers is out right now as we as we speak in theaters, and then as a coming up. Do you know when it's coming out? Oh, no. We'll be out on VOD, Amazon, all that stuff, but it will at some point.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:39
And I will I will put all that in the show notes. Jason and I appreciate you coming back on the show man on this show. First time, it was an absolute pleasure talking. I know we can keep talking for at least a couple hours. Just and I'm the first one to sign up for that Danny strong seminar you're going to be creating soon, so I appreciate that

Jason Shuman 1:11:58
Thank you Alex anytime.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:01
I want to thank Jason for coming on the show and sharing his journey with us if you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, including how to watch his new film half brothers. Head over to the show notes at bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/098. And guys, if you have not checked out, indie film, hustle, TV, and all of the amazing screenwriting courses and filmmaking, lessons, workshops, movies, documentaries, things like that, head over to indiefilmhustle.tv and check it out. Thank you so much for listening, guys. As always, keep on writing no matter what. Stay safe out there. And I'll talk to you soon.

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BPS 088: The Entrepreneurial Screenwriter with Jeff Willis

Today on the show we have screenwriter, consultant, and studio executive, Jeff Willis. Jeff has been in the film business for over 15 years as a writer and executive working on films like Avengers: End Game, Spider-Man: Far from Home, Captain Marvel, and Black Panther to name a few.

Around 30 minutes into the show we begin to discuss the business of screenwriting and more importantly what screenwriters can do to make money and get their stories out there. There are so many options out there for the entrepreneurial screenwriter. Jeff and I talk about the many options a screenwriter has to make money with his or her stories and unproduced screenplays.

Enjoy my conversation with Jeff Willis.

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Alex Ferrari 0:40
I like to welcome the show Jeff Willis, how are you doing my friend?

Jeff Willis 2:49
I'm doing well. How are you doing? Thanks for having me on.

Alex Ferrari 2:51
I am doing as well as I can be in this crazy upside down world we live in today.

Jeff Willis 2:55
I know I keep telling everyone you're pandemic adjusted terms is my go to phrasing is endemic adjusted terms.

Alex Ferrari 3:02
I mean, we live in it. Well. I mean, now currently when we recording this episode, I mean, we're literally in Blade Runner. Because of the fires. I mean, some of the images coming out of San Francisco literally look like Blade Runner. 2049 It's I know it's it's insane. And now every day I walk out of my house I live in LA. I walk out and I go not can't go outside today. Not too much smoke in the air got to go back in the house. It's it's an insane. It's like the whole world is it's crazy. It's crazy.

Jeff Willis 3:34
Yeah. Who knew who knew that Roger Deakins was going to dp the apocalypse?

Alex Ferrari 3:40
It does look, I mean, you right? That's actually I'm gonna steal that one. I like that one. Because I don't know. It's It's insane. And and our business has changed so radically. And so many things have changed not only for riders, but for the business in general. I mean, if I would have told you, hey, Jeff, you know, in January, you know, no blockbuster season this year, for the first time since 1977. There will not be a summer blockbuster season. And oh, we're gonna shut down the world for at least a couple months. And you will look you would have looked at me like that's a horrible pitch. And we're not making that movie.

Jeff Willis 4:17
Yeah, exactly. Too unrealistic.

Alex Ferrari 4:19
It's too on the nose. No one would believe something as crazy as that. So how did you login into the business in the first place, sir?

Jeff Willis 4:29
So I, you know, I started in, in film school. I didn't really get interested in film until I was in high school. And it was one of those things were a friend of mine, who was a you know, one of those like kids, like I wanted to be a director since I was nine. My parents got me a camcorder. I was Dan kind of kind of people. He always knew he wanted to make movies. And he was one of those projects in high school where you know, that, you know, they give you the option. They're like, Oh, you can do an essay, or you can do a project or you can do a test. And he was like, I want to make a movie. And I was like, Well, that sounds kind of fun. Like oh, not with that. And then it's The process of you know, being behind the scenes and making something just totally, like, totally blew my mind, I had so much fun doing it. And then once I knew he was gonna go to film school, I'm like, Oh, that's a thing, you can go to school for this, like, that sounds awesome. So I went to Long Beach State for film school. And then, you know, my senior year in film school, I interned in the in the business, you know, to get my foot in the door and get some college credits and everything. And that was, you know, almost, you know, 20 years ago, 1520 years ago. So, over the last, you know, over the last 15 years, I've been just, you know, working my way up and you know, climbing the climbing the ladder, and then writing on the writing on the side.

Alex Ferrari 5:39
And the business has changed a bit since you got into it originally, would you say? Little, little tiny bit, you

Jeff Willis 5:45
know, there are, you know, things like emails, which are way more important than they used to be. We only send interns to the copy room to copy you know, 400 scripts manually anymore. God, I

Alex Ferrari 5:57
remember those days. Geez, I was an office intern for a show for Fox when I was in college. And that was I had to make copies. It was it sucked. Yeah.

Jeff Willis 6:07
No, no one wanted no one wanted to intern on Fridays, because that was the day you had to photocopy every script for every executive to take home with them. You know?

Alex Ferrari 6:15
And then don't forget the color the the the different drafts and the different color pages that you got to stick in? And oh,

Jeff Willis 6:24
exactly. No, good, good, good times.

Alex Ferrari 6:27
Good times, good times. But that's also a thing that a lot of a lot of writers and people getting into the business don't understand that you do got to pay your dues in one way, shape, or form. You know, and I think from when we were coming up, it was a little bit more accepted. And I think there was a little bit more access even because the competition wasn't nearly as brutal as it is today. It was it was a simple, it was simpler times, as I'm sure when we were doing it growing up. It seemed like there was just oh my god, how are you going to break in, but looking back, you're like, Oh, my God, I was wide open, like, there was nothing. Like I got internships in this. And I got, I got into that, and there was so many more opportunity. But now it's a little bit more complicated, but I think it's a lot more, there was a lot more opening to the whole mentorship program and kind of like getting getting in and learning that way. And then doing that crap work pa work, intern work, things like that, to kind of get to the next level and learn.

Jeff Willis 7:22
Yeah, it's, you know, it's funny how often I tell people that too, because you know, and you talked, you know, on on your other episodes of your podcast about how important networking is, you know, that's the gong you keep banging, because like, like it is, it's, you know, I haven't had, I don't think a single job that I've ever gotten, since my first job has come anywhere other than networking, someone knew someone or put in a call for me, or told me they knew of something. And it is it's like it it as much as the industry has changed in terms of, you know, how it does business, or the things it focuses on, or the types of projects it does, like, the one thing that never changes is, you know, by and large, with few exceptions, you know, the the majority of people make their way in this industry by starting at the very bottom, you know, working real hard for a really long time, until eventually it pays off. And, you know, that it, you know, that has, has become more difficult in some ways. But you know, also in other ways, like, like, it hasn't really changed. But that's what everyone does is, is they have to spend a long time paying their dues to, you know, to get to the point they want to be

Alex Ferrari 8:24
now can you you know, because I'm sure you know, you work in Hollywood, you work with some big studios, I'm assuming that you get hit up all the time, especially when someone knows that you work at Marvel, or you work at this company or that company. They're just like, Hey, hey, can you read my script? Hey, I got this great aunt man. script for admin for can or they try to like, suck, like, what can you do for me, Jeff? Kind of energy, which is the biggest mistake anyone could ever make when trying to network with someone because you just want to get away. It's just like being that that wanting guy who wants to date at a club girls can feel it and vice versa. The same thing happens in it. And I always I always I used to call it or I still call it the desperation. jakar so you would actually it's a clone that you're drenched in with and you can smell it. You can sense this desperation. I always tell people that the only way to really truly network is one to try to be as authentic as possible. And to to be a value. What can I do for you? How can I help you and that's how you build a relationship. Not what can you do for me? Would you agree?

Jeff Willis 9:35
Yeah, no, absolutely. And it's funny because I give that exact advice to pretty much everyone that asked and it's funny I'm I'm pretty active on you know, Twitter, Reddit, a couple other you know, things and it is funny how often people yeah, people ask that question. How do I network? How do I make connections? And it's funny because yes, as soon as you start with well, over the course of several years, you have to if people go No, no, I'm out like I can do it in two weeks. But it's you know, that's the, what you said is exactly right. I mean, it is about providing, providing mutual value. And you can't be the person that walks in and says, you know, what can you do for me Nice to meet you, you know, like, read my script. And what's funny is how often people will literally just assume that that means, you know, like, like, bumping it one interaction. So it's like, Okay, I won't ask them to read my script, the first time, I'll say, nice to meet you at the pitch event, and then we'll go home, and then I'll email them and say, Well, your script, you know, and it's, and I keep telling people it, like, it's, that's not what it's about it is again, about, you know, providing a mutual benefit and showing that you're genuinely interested in someone else. Because we all have people that you know, want something from us, we all have people that are looking to leverage what we can do for them for their own benefit. And we're all in that position where we all need benefit from someone else. But you can't, you can't make a habit of being the person that is constantly treating, like a one way street and saying, what can you do for me? How can you help me, help me, help me help me without offering something in return? And it's funny, because the next question that a lot of young writers, you know, often ask is like, well, what can I possibly offer? You know, an executive, you know, or what can I offer someone, you know, in a position of power that I need something from? And it's, and it's funny, because I tell people? Well, I mean, think about, you have to, you have to anticipate, you know, what, what they need, what they're looking for that kind of thing, they are meeting with writers, because they need good quality writers that can, you know, pitch to them that can help them fill out, you know, a slate of, you know, of talent, they're looking at, you know, they need people who can't they, they can rely on that, they know that, you know, when their boss says, here's a concept I'm interested in, they can bring someone in, and, and vet really quickly whether or not they're a good fit, so that they can look good to their boss. So your value as a writer, you know, isn't in, you know, here's a script by it. For me, it's, I can, you know, I can tell stories, I can develop character, I can take what you're giving me and synthesize that and give you back something that you can, you know, show to your boss show to your department head show to a producer or a director and make you look good. And that's how you get into these relationships where, and, you know, the more I'm the the higher the levels I get to in this industry, the more I see, it's true, where, you know, there are very few people in this industry that have the power to, you know, to greenlight or to or even to spend money, you know, nowadays, they're just, they're just so few of those positions around. And those people tend to have people that they like, and go to over and over again, because those people have demonstrated, you know, an ability to give them what they're looking for. So they say, Great, I need a rewrite on this, you know, this spec is pretty good. But the dialogue sucks, you know, I know a guy who's my dialogue guy, and I can bring him in, and he'll Polish this up for me. And you don't get to be in a position like that without offering some value to someone else. The guy that keeps saying Will you read my spec? Will you do something for me never becomes the guy that gets a call from a studio head saying, look, I needed I needed a last minute dialogue polish on this, I'll give you 100 grand for a week's worth of work, you know?

Alex Ferrari 13:07
Yeah, it's very true. That's a lot of times people ask, like, hey, why is that director keep getting work, he stinks. Like, his movies are bad, but he keeps getting work or that writer keeps getting work. Why? Because exactly what you said they have proven that they can provide a service and get and get it finished, which and actually get them a final product, good, bad or indifferent. They got something at the end of it, and that you can show that you've completed as a director of 345 films like okay, at least we know, he or she is going to get it over the finish line. Same thing goes for writers like we're gonna get a draft out of this guy, or we're gonna get a Polish out of this person. And that is more valuable a lot of times then, the most talented writer that no one's ever heard of, is that a mean cuz they're unproven, and Hollywood is fairly skittish new stuff like that, taking risks,

Jeff Willis 14:03
ya know, the number of times that I I've told people that to where it's like, and again, I think this is the same pretty much everyone says, but you know, it's better to be, you know, someone who is pretty good at their job and easy to get along with than someone who's a genius. And, and not, because it is true, like, what most executives are looking for, in a situation, especially when you're developing something like development is a process of incrementally getting closer and closer to something that you can that you can feel comfortable shooting, right? Like, it is rare that you either a bias script and you're like, I'm gonna shoot this as it is no notes, or where you say, you know, I'm gonna buy this script, and it's only going to take one rewrite, and we're gonna get all the way there. You know, it's, it's most often a, an evolutionary process. So rather than being the writer who is difficult to get along with, and occasionally brilliant and hoping that you really just hit that Grand Slam, you know, every time you're up to bat it's so much better. To be the writer, that's like, Look, I may not be, you know, I may not write the most genius stuff in the world. But if you give me a set of notes, I can get you most of the weight of what you're trying to do, you know, I can get you 80% of the way there every time I do a draft. And again, that's what becomes valuable because then the development executive can go back to his people, his producers, his studio heads and say, Look, we paid this money for this work, and look how much better it is further along, it's almost, you know, like, where do we go from here, it gives them that constant evolution that they're looking for in getting the project more and more ready for production. And, you know, I've always, I've always told people, you know, if you asked me whether I'd rather be, you know, a spec writer making, you know, million dollar spec sales, or you know, like this German writer who's getting you know, 5060, grand, 100 grand a draft, but regularly doing rewrites and stuff, I would be that second writer every time. Because, you know, that's, that is where you not only do the work, and you can you keep working in this business as a writer, but it's also where you make the most connections, and the most value in your career is like the number of people who are like, that guy can get me 80% of what I need, if I hire him and to do it to do a pass, he'll, he'll get me what I need in that script.

Alex Ferrari 16:08
80% is huge. Like that is, like if you can get a script to 80% of where you want it to be. That is because most people can't get it to 10%

Jeff Willis 16:19
Yeah, no, it's funny, I, my, my very first executive job, I, you know, I'm looking at, and it's funny, because this actually parlayed into a writing assignment for me, but, you know, it's one of those things, and one of the one of the areas that, you know, I think it's so important for writers is understanding writing for budget and understanding, you know, what things cost, because there are so few people that can do that. But it is like, the number one consideration when people are rewriting stuff is, is trying to hit budget numbers in production, you know, logistics that they that they have to work within. But so that, you know, this guy writes, it writes a script, and I can't remember the details, but it was, you know, the third act is this huge, you know, house mansion explodes, you know, like, like, explosions, helicopters, you know, everything. And at the time, we were an independent company. So we were like, look like, like, everything script is great. The third act gets, you know, quote, unquote, a little out of control. And we need to, we need to, we need, we need to write it cheaper, we need a cheaper version of a third act that, you know, that doesn't miss any of the, you know, the character, the important character moments of the arcs, but like, but it's just literally cheaper to shoot. So the guy caught, the guy goes back, and comes back and turns into his rewrite. And now, the, the the third act is like, I forget, it's like, takes place at like a ski chalet. There's snow, there's more explosions, there's, you know, gunfire, and everyone's looking at the script going, this is more expensive than the last verse, you know. And, and, and the writer just didn't understand what elements made a cheaper, cheaper shoot. And it's one of those things where, like, that's what I think is so important with, you know, with writers who are trying to have a career This is you need to understand, and it's one of the reasons why I'm so glad you do this podcast, and there other business resources out there, because it's not just about writing good characters, or compelling narrative. It's also about understanding like the business that drives the art. So like, if you don't understand how to make those business considerations like work, you're not gonna be hired very often, because that's what they need is they need someone to say, I need this script rewritten to be shot $5 million cheaper, but don't lose any of the good stuff, you just need to figure out a better way to do it.

Alex Ferrari 18:27
Right, exactly. So instead of a cast of 1000s, that is gonna cost you you know, a lot of money to shoot that big giant action sequence. Maybe you could do it in a different way that they can drop that budget just a bit. So everyone's happier.

Jeff Willis 18:43
Yeah, exactly, exactly. is it's kind of one of those things like, so it's $20 million to shoot it this way. Is there any way to, to to rewrite it so that we could shoot it for, say, the $8 million? We actually have? Because if we can't, then we're going to something else? Because I don't have an extra 12 million to give you.

Alex Ferrari 19:00
Exactly. And I think for writers specifically, you know, when you write I've heard this so many times from writers like should I should I, you know, box myself into budget, or should I just let my imagination flow? And I always tell people like, well, what's the endgame here, because if it's a spec script to show what you can do, then as a writer, then let your let your mind flow. Understand that the chances of that getting produced is going to be Milton none. But you also don't want to box yourself in completely. It all depends on your end game. If you're trying to produce a movie for you know, $100,000 and make an independent film. You can't have that giant action sequence in it. That's just not the way it works. So you kind of have to work things out a little bit. Would you agree?

Jeff Willis 19:49
Yeah. Well, I mean, and it also I think, has to do a lot with you know, with the notes or the reason you're coming in, you know, to meet and it's one of the questions that I don't hear asked often enough by writers, but like You know, you come in, and there's a set of notes, and they tell you what they want to accomplish in the script. But very few writers, you know, will take the time to ask, like, what is your goal with this with these notes? Are they just trying to be? Are you just trying to tweak the story? Are you legitimately trying to make it cheaper to shoot? Or do you care about budget? Like, are you willing to blow it up, like, in the conversation that that is had about a rewrite, so often, it's only looked at in terms of story and character. And, you know, it's really important, I think, to have that conversation, because a lot of times, sometimes even executives don't know. And more importantly, for the writer, it also tells you which notes are really important and which ones aren't. Because like you can kind of go through if you're having a legitimate conversation about the business considerations of you know, the notes, and there isn't 1% of the notes, then you know, that that note is like a personal preference, or it's something you know, it's something more more subjective. Versus, you know, I can't have this shot on a cruise ship, because that expensive that that location is too expensive, or whatever. So the more you can have an open conversation with whoever whoever's hiring you about the kinds of notes they're doing, what the motivation is for, why the why they want it done. It not, it doesn't just, you know, help you as a writer, but it also helps you turn in a draft that they that is more likely to be what they want, it's able to really hit the areas that they that you know, the things that they want. And again, it makes a development executive look like a superhero, if, you know, if they give you a script and you rewrite it, and for 50 grand you cut $10 million out of the budget like that is that is like hero level stuff for a development executive to be able to say so it's always worth considering those kinds of things when you're, you know, when you're considering writing assignments, because that's what so much of this business is the underlying business drives so much of this. Now, can

Alex Ferrari 21:49
you can you kind of this, I want to hear what your thoughts up. I think it's a myth that a lot of screenwriters and filmmakers kind of think about when they're writing their, their Opus, their their big screenplay that they're trying to create. And which is there's nothing wrong with having ambition when you're writing a screenplay. But there has to be truth raw truth involved with this. And one of them is I've seen this happen so many times, that they're gonna write the 100 and $50 million epic, based on an original idea, and they've never sold anything. And the director that they might have attached to it has never directed anything close to this budget range. And they will spend five to eight years peddling it around town with a sizzle reel, with 1000s of dollars worth of concept art, and it's going to be the next big Marvel thing is going to be something just like Marvel, and they're pitching it to the studios, and they just wonder, why am I not getting any traction? Can you? Can you talk a little bit about that? Well, I

Jeff Willis 22:52
mean, it's I, I was just talking with a friend about this the other day, but, you know, when you're when you are creating projects, you know, the the two angles that I typically that I typically advise people to go on is either if you want to make something yourself, make it as low budget as you possibly can. Because the idea is, you know, there are a there are an ever decreasing number of people that can finance a movie dependent as the budget escalates, right? So if it's a million dollars, maybe there's 5000, individuals, companies, whatever, they can make a million dollar budget, you know, if it's a $5 million budget, maybe there's 2000 if it's a $10 million budget, maybe there's 1000 if there's a 20 million, like you get into like so the more expensive you write something the fewer and fewer places that can actually make it and until you until you literally hit a point of no return which is you are only at a level where a studio can make it but if you look at what the studios are making, they're not doing original stuff much anymore. I mean, you know Disney by and large, Marvel make stuff based on their own IP Star Wars make stuff based on their own IP, Disney now makes most live actions are remakes of their animated like movies, like the number of original projects being developed at Disney are is much smaller than it used to be.

Alex Ferrari 24:04
And also and also the budget of those like Ivan Ivan the great whatever, that the monkey movie with a Heisenberg that just got released on Disney plus, those are they make so they make like move on. And they're gonna have all their old animated IP, or they'll make something that's probably 20 million and below. Yeah, more kind of like touchy feely really family, sometimes sports like the miracle miracle or things like that. And they still do one or two of those a year. Exactly. It's a bit like so

Jeff Willis 24:34
what I kind of tell tell people is like, Look, you need to aim for the lower end of things if you want to have any hope of getting it made. Because all of the development slots at the much higher level much higher budget are basically already reserved by people who already know what they want to make. So, you know, the business consideration I tell people is look you're either writing something low budget, hoping to get it made or you're writing something super high budget because it's a sample to get hired on. You know an assignment that are It exists. But again, you know, Marvel Disney, you know, Warner Brothers DC, like, they all have their big budget tentpoles they don't need a 100 they don't need to make to take $150 million flyer on some original superhero they created. Because, you know, in the case of Marvel, there's what 6800 superheroes they have to choose from already?

Alex Ferrari 25:20
Is it safe?

Jeff Willis 25:21
It's hard to explain sometimes, because I know that that's it's one of the it's one of the strongest illusions in this industry. Like, like the illusion? Well, first of all, the strongest illusion is the one that screenwriters you know, just like, are off somewhere, and they just, you know, write down their brilliance and, you know, type fade out, then sell it for a million dollars and then disappear until they're ready to sell another one. Like, that's the number one but like, but the second one is that, yeah, that, that you can somehow write a great script. And all of a sudden, you know, the sequel part, the doors will open. And you know, the studios will welcome you in and pay you, you know, ungodly amounts of money to make your original project. And that just doesn't really exist anymore. Because, you know, at the studio level, the studio already knows what they want to make and their projects that are already in development, and they need someone to execute what, what vision they're already trying to create. They're not looking for, you know, like, gee, we're short on, you know, franchise, tentpole ideas, like, I sure hope someone comes along and gives us one.

Alex Ferrari 26:23
Yeah, that's not so that's especially Disney. That's not something that Disney is having a problem with at this point in the game.

Jeff Willis 26:30
I don't think any creative execs, you know, anywhere in any of the studios are sitting there going, gee, if only we had some ideas about what we wanted to make movies.

Alex Ferrari 26:39
Yeah, exactly. But the whole, the whole business has become the studio business from when you came into the business. And I came into the business, when there was that $20 billion. I mean, Disney used to make 20 30 million movies a year at 20 million, 30 million, and occasionally a few temples, which now the whole business is completely driven by temple and spectacle. And that's just the way the business is. And if they make a movie for less than $100 million, that's insanity. Like, I've, there's rare for that to happen, because I've been saying this for years. And I actually wrote into my book, that Disney's Disney is not a movie studio anymore, that they they make about 15% of their revenue from exhibition of their films. They're in all the other businesses from theme parks and T shirts and hats and exploiting IP. That's the business that they're in there, you know, because it's the definition. To me, a definition of a studio is a company that makes movies and makes money off of selling access to that movie, that was the traditional definition. But that's not what these studios are, especially the top, you know, three or four like Disney, universal Warner Brothers. They Disney does it the best, obviously, they, everyone, everyone's chasing Disney.

Jeff Willis 27:55
Well, and it's and it's funny to see how how many companies are chasing Disney as well, where it's not just the studios, it's a lot of independent companies are aiming that way to where it becomes less of a focus, like so when I when I first started working beacon pictures was the company, I worked for it first. And it was I had the distinction of working in a lot of companies like after their heyday, but before they have a resurgence. So I was I was at beacon pictures post, bring it on Air Force One and pre castle, you know, so it was like, but, you know, at the time, you know, beacon was kind of the quintessential independent company, right, which is it had an overall deal of studio that paid them overhead to develop stuff. And you know, and make it. And that's where so many of the, you know, so many of these movies came from, which is, you know, Disney would have first looked deals with all these companies all around town, and they would bring them the stuff that they were interested in, hey, here's a really interesting $20 million drama. Here's a you know, and once all the works been done, they didn't Disney could say, it seems like you have a good business plan here. Yeah, we'll make that one or Yeah, we'll distribute that, or Yeah, we'll give you the money to do that. And, you know, after after the home video bubble burst, and studios stopped kind of doing overhead deals that it was it was it was, in effect, independent development kind of went away. And all these companies are now working on their own. But it's funny, because now you see these independent companies trying to replicate the studio model, because they know that's where the money is. So rather than seeing companies, independent production companies, you know, try to develop 40 projects, hoping to make you know, five in a year, you see them really trying, you know, trying to acquire established IP that you see them trying to or develop, you know, in house IP, but then just milk it like crazy. I mean, the number of companies I've worked with or consulted for in the last few years, where the focus wasn't on development. It was getting that one project out there so that they then they then could concurrently develop a video game development marketing campaign work with a merchandiser to get product out there. It really has for better Or worse, become this, you know, this, you know, horizontal, you know, effect where it's not about constantly putting out new content, it's about putting out content that was successful enough, you can exploit in a variety of lateral ways and make multiple revenue streams, you know, in order to, in theory get more money to make more movies, but it gets really frustrating because then you get, you know, again, instead of companies looking to make five movies a year, they may only make one because they're so focused on the other ancillary markets. And that's an you know, really hard I think it's contributed to the the decline in the stock market. I think it's declined, you know, the decline in, you know, writer jobs in general, it's been, it's been really hard because there's so many other business interests now, rather than just we need to develop new material constantly, so we can make more movies constantly.

Alex Ferrari 30:48
Now, would you recommend a writer, instead of writing a script, let's say they have a great idea for, you know, world building in this very epic story, whether it be in fantasy sci fi action, whatever it might be, would you recommend they actually just write novels based on that story, self distribute or self publish those novels at first or get it published traditionally, and they can actually start making money with their, with their writing, in addition to now having, hopefully an established IP, that might make it a little bit more appetizing for that screenplay that they already wrote, based on that on that work. So they're still making money off of their, their stories. And yet, they also have the screenplay ready in hand. So now they can walk it. It's much more I feel it's much more powerful for a writer to walk into an executive meeting go, here's my best selling book that is sold X amount of copies because I've self published it. Here's the book series. It has a big fan base. Here's what I've built. Here's the screenplay for the first two. What is that a better pitch, then? Here's a screenplay. Yeah, I

Jeff Willis 31:55
mean, so it's so it's so interesting. You mentioned that because I've actually been, I've actually been kind of pivoting to self publishing a lot in the last couple of years. Mostly because I'm working on my own stuff in that vein, but like, it's interesting that you bring that up, because I think there's really two, there's two ways to look at that. And the first is, you know, the, the way that you're describing it is absolutely a viable path, right, which is, if you develop something that is successful in another medium, that is obviously a feather in your cap when you when you go back to the to the screenwriting element. And the other thing that I'd say about that is that you know, what's really important is, we all talk about how frustrating this this business is where like you are pitching things, you don't get the job, you write stuff, it doesn't get made, like there is so much failure that comes you know, often through no fault of your own, just just the nature of the beast. And there's so much frustration that comes with not not getting things made waiting for approval waiting to stop for someone to say yes. And I really think that things like self publishing are great, because not only is it a potential Avenue where you can sell and make money on your own. But it's also it's also that creative release, it's that you don't need permission, you can literally just, you know, write the end, you know, fade out, click publish, and it's available, people can buy it and the market and the audience can speak for itself. So I often kind of recommend writers that have a lot of different ideas. And a lot of different mediums consider that because it is it's kind of one of those look, if you like writing a lot of different things, maybe focus on the low budget stuff, for screenwriting, and then write your huge space epics as books, you know, that, that you don't need to spend money to shoot in film, because it's a book, it's words on a page. So I think that it's definitely a good idea to consider other other avenues to, you know, to get interest in a project and then kind of come back to it. The second part of that, though, that I would warn people to get against is, there's a real mentality, you know, kind of like with the networking shortcut that we talked about earlier, people want to shortcut this process. And the way that often comes in is they, what a lot of writers translate, what we just talked about into is, oh, if I have it as a book first, then that means it's popular, and I can, I'll have an easier time selling and,

Alex Ferrari 34:03
and, you know,

Jeff Willis 34:04
the truth is, one not only is it like, you have to have a you know, a bonafide like bestseller, you can't sell 10,000 copies, and have it really moved the needle for anyone because, you know, it's one of those, let's think about this 10,000 copies, even if all 10,000 people bought a movie ticket at 10 bucks,

Alex Ferrari 34:21
and you want to make $100 million movie and you're making $100 million now but you're

Jeff Willis 34:25
only have you know, 100,000 in sales, that's not gonna that's you need to have legitimate like, like earth shattering numbers to impress people. But the other the other flavor of that, that I see a lot is, oh, if I if I write it as a book first, then I'm licensing it rather than selling it to the studio so I can reserve all these rights and everything. And I always like, again, I think, you know, my pet peeve is you know, business stuff you because it's one of those things where on the business side of things when you're doing a negotiation, there's so much trade off for what you're doing like no one unless you're JK Rowling unless You're good, okay, Stephenie Meyer, um, you don't get to dictate the terms of the agreement. So the more greedy you are with holding things back, the less likely someone is going to a wanted or be give you what you're asking for. So I see so many writers be like, well, if I write it as a book, then it's existing IP. So that'll get my foot in the door, because I can say it's existing IP, and then I can make a better deal for myself. And sorry, like, we've only sold 14 copies to friends and family, like, you're not gonna get a better deal at the studio than buying it outright. If that, you know,

Alex Ferrari 35:30
no, I mean, when I when I laid out that that scenario, it's a long game, that's gonna take a while to build up a fan base, you've got to I mean, you've got to build basically a business around your, your writing, and it can work, I've seen it work, I've seen filmmakers, I've seen screenwriters, create podcasts out of their screenplays, and turn that into a, you know, existing IP, where now you can monetize the podcast, but also start building an audience. There's so many ways for an ambitious entrepreneurial screenwriter to get their work out there. But there's what is just the one big thing that you have to worry about is work, you got to do lots of it. And it's going to take the other thing, time and patience. Like, this is not a short game, we're talking about years, not months, years for for you to build this up to the point where if you've written four or five books over the course of three years, you've built up an audience around your work. Let's say there's a series, let's say there's a podcast, let's say there's other ancillary products that you've built around this story, which again, everything I'm saying is completely doable in today's world, and very affordable to do to the point where an executive is expanding, scanning around Facebook, and you pop up on their feed. They're like, what the hell is this? And all of a sudden, they go to the website, they're like, what is this they got a whole world here, they've got product lines. Now we're talking to different completely different conversation without an executive or a potential investor, somebody is now calling you because they're interested in what you're doing as opposed to look at me guys, look at me, look at me, I need I need you, I need you to just like now I'm just gonna do my own thing. And I'll wait for people to come to me and for my personal experience, that's exactly what has happened to me. When I started indie film hustle five years ago, where I was drenched in desperation. jakar for a lot of my time here in LA when I first got here, because I didn't know any better. And when I opened up indie film, hustle, and bulletproof screenwriting, all that stuff, all of a sudden, I started getting contacted by people about my projects about things because I've built out this thing online, and I can provide value. And that's the key value, what can you provide besides a story? Because everyone's got a story? Right? Well, I

Jeff Willis 37:44
mean, it's you and the word entrepreneur, entrepreneurial is such a great, you know, a great phrase for this, because, you know, writers are all independent contractors, we are we are our own business owners, we are our own brands. Yes. And you do like you have to, you have to create excitement for your for your work. And it's funny because some writers are only want to write right in some screeners only want to write screenplays, and that's fine. But then, but then your version of that hustle is writing script after script after script and hoping someone notices. And for people who want to do that, like that is totally fine. Like that's, that's their bag, like, that's great. But you know, I am more person, I am personally more interested in other avenues of things. So the the, you know, writing things in different genres, writing things in different mediums, books, you know, whatever, trying things on my own, you know, web series, short films, you know, like any of that kind of stuff increases the chances, or at least I like to think it does of someone seeing you in a non standard way. Because if you only write scripts, the only way you're going to get discovered is if someone reads your script out of a stack of other scripts and says, Oh my God, that's really great. Let's meet this guy. But again, you never know when you know, some executives gonna be you know, messing around on Facebook, or Twitter. And someone's gonna say, Oh, my God, have you seen this thing? This web series is hilarious, or like, this graphic novel is my favorite thing. I read this this year. Have you ever heard of it? Like, that's the kind of stuff that I think that if you are, if your priority is being a creative person, you know, like a creative professional, there shouldn't be any limitations on the types of projects you're willing to do or tackle as long as they're interesting to you. Because every everything you put out is another chance for someone to discover you in a different way. And there's another audience to be drawn. And you can have arguments and debates over, you know, what's the best way to do that? What's the streamlined way to do it? What makes sense? What doesn't, but the truth is, like, it's such a moving target that no one ever can tell you it like no one, no one has yet figured out a way to say if you do A, B, C, and D, you'll be you'll be successful. Because if they could, we would have all done away. Oh. So you know, the only thing that's left to do is to try A B C, D, E, F, G H I J, you know, and hope that you know, someone somewhere sees K and is like, awesome. That's why I want to talk to that guy,

Alex Ferrari 40:01
you know, and I don't mean to interrupt you. But I think that a mind shift needs to happen with screenwriters in today's world, because, and this is just my opinion, I'd love to hear what you think about it is that if you're constantly waiting for someone else to give you permission, someone else to make your dreams come true, you are giving way too much power to the industry, you're giving way too much power to somebody you've never met, to make you happy to put food on your table, all of that stuff. I'm much more in the camp of building something myself being able to express myself as an artist, monetize that art in a million different ways now online, that you can do that and start just doing even if you're not making a lot of money at first, just do the work, just keep working, keep pumping out content, keep, if it's a podcast, if it's you know, if it's a story podcast, if it's a web web series, like you said, if it's books, if it's graphic, novels, whatever it is, just keep pumping stuff out. Because eventually, if you keep at it, you will build something of substance, you will build something that will be able to generate enough revenue. So you don't have to Uber, that you don't have to do that job that you don't want. And then if something happens, great, and maybe you even want to reach out to a few people, and I get this is what I'm doing things like that. But you're not like, if I don't get that call, my life is over. And I feel that's the problem with filmmakers with screenwriters and everybody in this business, you're always waiting for that permission from somebody, where in today's world, like when you and I came into the business, that wasn't an option. Like there wasn't an option to self publish, to do a podcast to do web series to actually create revenue streams from your art. This is very, very difficult. But in today's world, absolutely. You can I love to hear what you think.

Jeff Willis 41:48
Yeah, no, I mean, it's one of the things that, you know, the, the shift that I think ultimately has happened, you know, on a larger scale is, you know, it is it has gone from an industry or at least the idea of breaking in creatively whether you're talking about publishing, right, you know, screenwriting, filmmaking, whatever, has gone from a problem of access to a problem of standing out, right. And it's asked me to choose which one I would like, I would so much rather have the problem be figuring out how to get an audience for the content I'm able to make, rather than the problem be, I need someone to give me permission to make what I want to make. So it's, it's why I tell everyone that, you know, the wants to think about making an independent movie or whatever, like, like I am, so into that idea of doing it yourself, because you can like, like, it's like you said, you and I didn't have that option. You know, growing up, I mean, even when I went to film school, it was the beginning of like, the digital age. So we're just starting to be able to affordably make stuff and not have to, you know, spend money on film stock and developing in a lab and stuff. So, you know, that the last few years of being able to or the last, it's not a few years anymore, I'm old, it's the last couple of decades. The last couple of decades have seen you know, it just consistently get cheaper and easier to shoot, you can learn to do animation at home now, you know, with After Effects, which cost you 20 bucks a month or whatever, you know, you can learn to shoot on a GoPro camera that's 400 bucks, you know, you can learn to like, there are so many ways that you can do stuff yourself. And again, like I would so much rather have the problem be too much content and being and being seen above, above the the mess of like, you know, crappy projects that will never get made? Because people everyone thinks they can make a movie and it turns out, no, they can't. You know, it's, I would so much rather have the problem be getting visibility for your good quality stuff. One because I think that tends to happen naturally anyway. But to it's an easier problem to have to have something that exists and be like, I just need to figure out how to get people to see it than it is to be like I have this thing I really, really want to do, but oh my god, I need someone to give me the money to do it. I need to raise money to do it. You know, it's

Alex Ferrari 44:01
no one's ever gonna ask you to as an executive, as someone who's worked in the business, if you see somebody do everything we were just talking about that has spent a couple years building out their own IP building out novels building out like a little world like a little mini Disney, maybe a couple t shirts here, maybe a graphic novel there and they've been able to do all of this. Isn't that much more impressive to you? Like, wouldn't you just want to have a conversation with that person to just figure out like, how are you doing it? Because I've had those meetings I've had a studio executives call me there's like, dude, how are you doing it? Like I just want to know how you are running your business. And then we'll talk about your projects. But it's I feel it's much more impressive. It shows a lot about the person and it shows a lot about their work ethic and their it says volumes about who they are as an artist and as a business person. Yeah, I

Jeff Willis 44:52
mean, and I think that's that's true more than anything because it is a visibility and like and view into the The kinds of things that they're interested in and the kinds of things they're working on. Like, the really hard thing is, as a screenwriter, it might be comparable, if you had meetings with people, and they were to ask you questions like, so how many scripts Have you written? You know, like, how many have you sold? You know, like, What? How many? How many paid gigs Have you gotten, but they don't ask those questions. So it's hard to contextualize for a, for an executive that you're meeting with, if you're just a screenwriter, it's hard to contextualize whether you are incredibly experienced, or this thing you're meeting on is, you know, like, like, your lucky swing right out of the gate, or whether it's, you know, something you kind of got a handle on, but you just kind of lucked into, like, it's really hard to take a meeting as solely a screenwriter. And again, unless you have a ton of credits to your name that people can look up, say, you know, look, you're in good hands here, like I my work speaks for itself, you know, because you're otherwise relying on, you know, either word of mouth, or your agents to kind of put your name out there and say, Well, no, no, he did, he did a really great uncredited rewrite on this thing, or he did an amazing draft of this movie, that's, you know, that the option expired, it's dead, you know, like, it's really hard to contextualize all of the hard work and the good work you put in as a screenwriter. But if you are the kind of person that is, again, entrepreneurial, and developing other things, it is so much easier to again, point to things and say, you know, point to the Hey, I made that thing and say, hey, look, like I have this website, I have this, you know, book series, I have this, you know, this, this wiki page, that is all about the crazy, you know, interconnected world that I've written in my sci fi graphic novel series. So I think that, that makes it more interesting. Because again, if you're just looking at scripts, the script has to speak for itself. And you have to hope that the guy or gal reading it, loves that one script enough to want to meet you, right? Or has heard enough good things about you over the years to be like, I gotta meet that person. Because other people have worked with him and say, He's great. But yeah, like I said, you know, if you're, if you're doing a bunch of your own things in an entrepreneurial way, you increase the chances that someone will come across it in a in an unconventional way, like just living their life link, you know, someone sends you a link, or someone says, Hey, have you checked this out? It's more likely to get checked out. because not a lot of people will even when you say you got to read the script. It's amazing. It's hard for people to find time to read 100 pages, but to watch a two minute, you know, YouTube clip, like sure, like y'all, I'll put that on. And, and then once they once you catch their attention, then when they find you online and find your presence and find the things that you've made again, see you in that like, Oh my god, he made this and he did this. And he tried that. And that's interesting. Oh, how'd that turn out? So then even if it's not, you know, I sold 180,000 copies of my of my sci fi novel, it's maybe not but like, but you have something really interesting going on here that people seem to respond to. And that's where the conversation most often.

Alex Ferrari 47:50
Right? And I loved you said something to words that really resonated with me, I think we should dig into a little bit of it a little bit. It's being just a screenwriter, the concept of being just a screenwriter, I want to dig into a little bit because I agree with you, I think I'm gonna ask you the question. Do you think being just a screenwriter is enough? If you're starting out? You know, it's because if you have credits, if you're old school, if you started in the 80s, or the 90s, or even the early 2000s, you have you have something under your belt, that's a different conversation, but just starting out now, unless you've got the next you are the next Pulp Fiction, you know, you're the next Tarantino or Sorkin or Shane Black. Unless you're that which nine out of 9.999% out of 10 is not going to be that person. Do you think that a screenwriter should be more than just a screenwriter?

Jeff Willis 48:45
I think it depends on on the interest. I I don't think that there's anything wrong with being just a screenwriter, I think there are people out there for whom writing screenplays is the only thing they want to do and feel called to do and that's there's there should be no no shame or stigma attached to that agree. But I think it is a harder path now than it used to be writing writing jobs are fewer and far between, you know, it is harder and harder to get your name out there as a as a screenwriter, it's harder and harder to get your name on stuff that actually gets produced in get you get credits for. So I think that it is harder to be just a screenwriter and not have other irons in the fire. That's not to say that it can't be done. And that's not to say that it shouldn't be done if that's if that's really what you feel like your career is is aimed towards. And you know, most importantly, I think that it's important not to not to force yourself into a category that you don't like, I cannot count the number of writers that assume they need to be writers and directors because that's how they get stuff made but have no interest in directing and void shows when they try to make a short film. Right. So it's kind of one of those things where I I always kind of tell people like and and it's it's funny because I just had this conversation with a friend of mine where he was asking, you know, Doesn't make sense to always kind of be writing the same type of project or to like to do a whole bunch of different things. And I think there was a time where being just a screenwriter who only wrote screenplays in one particular genre might have been the way to go. Because you know, you're the horror guy, you're the guy, you're a dialogue punch up guy. But I think more and more, I think that it is more advantageous to be someone who has a wide variety of interests, and even more has a wide variety of mediums they're interested in, because, again, I think that it's, I think that in this changing landscape, where I mean, in the last decade, you know, TV has completely overtaken film in terms of like, the number of productions that are out there, and the type of content that's being out there. And there's nothing to say that, you know, 10 years from now, it won't be something else video games, it might be animation, it but like who knows, like, with COVID animation might really take off,

Alex Ferrari 50:50
it's holodeck. It's holodeck filmmaking. It's holodeck filmmaking. So that's, it's gonna be holograms. And we're gonna be inside the story. That's the next day.

Jeff Willis 50:58
There you go. Yeah. So, you know, and the fact that there's so many, so many changing variables, I think that the, again, the more irons you have in the fire, I think the more likely you are to find success, it may be unconventional success that you don't expect, like, it may be one of those things where and and it's funny, because talking about all the self publishing, writing that I do, and like, I cannot tell you the number of writers I know that self published books and make in excess of a quarter million dollars a year, right? And you and you have never heard of that exact bookshelves. They're not like they're not, you know, at Barnes and Noble. And it's one of those things where I think that it, it is going to, it's going to require someone to be able to accept the fact that it that the the reality doesn't match the dream. And we talked about that briefly, where it's like, the dream is you know, I you know, I write a screenplay whenever I feel like it, I sell it I show up for the premiere, get my picture taken, do a bunch of interviews, then go back home and write another screenplay. Like, yeah, that's, that is already unrealistic. And and off the mark from what reality is, but it was,

Alex Ferrari 52:03
it was real, it was unrealistic when it was happening, which is like the 80s. In the 90s, when the spec boom app,

Jeff Willis 52:09
it makes you want to shake those people and say, which writer told you that this is the way it was? Because I don't know anyone who this this experience is indicative of you know, but but I think it's gonna take so people have already kind of accepted I think it moved into, like, if you're talking with people who have seriously taken their writing career seriously, as a screenwriter, and they have realistic expectations, then they now know, you know, it's it's a slog, there's a lot of disappointment, there's a lot of false starts, like they have a more realistic sense of what that job is. But I think it could potentially shift even more in the future where now it becomes Look, if you if you are a creative person, if you are a writer who writes stories, then you may be writing things in a variety of different mediums and you never know what may take off, it may be a web series for which you have a Patreon that pays your bills. It may be you know, uh, you know, in an independent book sale, where you get 70% royalties at Amazon that pays your bills, it might be screenwriting, where you get a huge six figure paycheck every couple of months, or, you know, if I had to put my money on it, probably a combination of everything, where, you know, in order for me to quit my day job, and by the way, I love day jobs, I don't understand why more writers feel like they can't have them. I'm like, I love the fact that my writing is extra money and not Oh God, can I pay the mortgage, you know, with write my writing check before I need to get another one. But for me to get comfortable with leaving my day job and being a full time creator, that has to come with obviously a certain amount of income to support my family, you know, my bills, my responsibilities, and I don't more and more I don't see that as coming from just screenwriting. You know, I see that coming. as, you know, my tax return at the end of the year, most likely in that situation is going to look like okay, here's the you know, here's a you know, 50 k rewrite I did on a screenplay. And here's the eight Grand i made on Amazon for my book sale, here's the you know, the the 2500 for my Patreon account, and you add up all of those sources of revenue, to get at a level where you can support your family. And I think that, again, the writers who were like I only do this one thing, and I can only do that are going to have a harder time because each of those revenue streams is becoming harder and harder to succeed at. So the ones that are open to doing multiple ones, and, you know, seeing where that revenue comes from are going to be the ones that are able to survive as full time creators more easily because they're not relying on that, that you know, that real rare circumstance where like God, I hit it out of the park in that one that one arena.

Alex Ferrari 54:35
So you're suggesting people hustle service while you're saying they have to hustle?

Jeff Willis 54:39
At the risk of quoting what's on your hat? Yes. Hustle might be the appropriate word

Alex Ferrari 54:44
for it. Well, I mean, I'll use an analogy of what happened in my career. I started off as an editor. And I was just a commercial editor. I just did commercials in in Miami when I first started out. And then when I came to LA I realized that like oh, Everybody here has a final cut machine, everyone's an editor here, I'm gonna go into color grading. So I now can edit. And then I started color grading because it was less competition, a color grading. And then when everybody started getting more color grading systems, I'm like, Well, you know what I'm gonna go. So do post production supervision, because I kind of understand the whole thing. So now I do three jobs in post. And then I'll also do an online editorial, I'll be on the editorial too. So like, I could package and master films as well, to get it all out there. Oh, and I'm doing some VFX I'll just become a VFX supervisor as well, because I could do VFX on the independent films. So now I was I because of that, I was always eating. I was always working, because I spread myself out. And I know guys who would like know, all I do is edit promos. All I do is I'm just a trailer editor or I'm just, I only do TV. Like they really specialize and I was very old mentality to do. And when things started to close down, that reel was only promos and they couldn't get work, they had to start from scratch as opposed to really diversifying their their skill set and what opt in what services that they can provide to a potential client. And I agree with you 100%, that writers now if you're a writer, you should write. And there's so many either between side hustles of writing blog posts, writing other things that you can get on a freelance basis through up work or Fiverr, things like that just to write and get paid to write. There's books, there's podcasts, you know, from your books, there's web series, there's so many ways to start generating revenue. And then then additional, like you said, Oh, and I could maybe do that rewrite for 20,000 or, or $50,000. And putting it all together, at the end of the year, you're like, oh, man, I had had a pretty good year, as opposed to the old school mentality of like, I just screen right. And I only got to screening great jobs, and I made 100 grand this year, which is not a bad thing. But for whatever reason, if those two jobs go away, I'm screwed.

Jeff Willis 57:02
Yeah, well, I mean, it's it, you know, and it's to the point of, you know, again, treating, treating your career, like a business you are you are the brand, you are the business. And if you were in, you know, in any other field, the idea of only having one stream of income would be insane. If you were in financial services, and someone said, and a financial advisor was like, you know what you should do, you should pick one stock you really like and put all your money in that like, like, you would not hire that guy again. Same thing, though, like the same thing is true of a place like Disney. If Disney decided at one point, we're not going to do anything else, no theme parks, no merge, no whatever, we're only going to put movies in theaters, like they would like their dividend would revolt. But you know, so it's kind of one of those things where, again, if you are a serious, creative professional, and you see yourself as a company or a brand or something like why would you not also think that diversification is important for you? Why would you think that only screenwriting is the only way forward, and the only source of revenue you can have, rather than looking for other ways. And, you know, you have a number of other, you know, services, and I've had a bunch of people on this podcast that have other you know, businesses, and you see that all the time, you know, someone who's a writer, and a script consultant, or, and a, you know, and they do coverage work,

Alex Ferrari 58:19
and they have an online course or something,

Jeff Willis 58:21
or they have an online course, or they work a day job like that, like that mentality, I think is so important. And I have so many writer friends I know, that feel like they are a failure as a writer, if they, if they can't make ends meet from their screenwriting every year. That's not they, they say, you know, gee, I had I had a good year, the day before, the year before, but this year, I made zero, you know, and it's been a real struggle. And I always kind of, why don't you go out? Like, why don't you go out and get something else that will help you know, pay the bills or will help pass the time or, you know, will help make you feel creatively fulfilled? Like there is no reason you have to only stay in one lane when every other, you know, financial advice in every other area of your life is diversify, diversify, diversify, so that you can both manage, you know, manage disappointments and also, you know, and and mitigate risk, like, you should be doing that in your creative endeavors as well.

Alex Ferrari 59:12
Without without question, and that was what I did with post, like, I was a director, but directing jobs were few and far between. And they, you know, like, just like getting that screenwriting gig, getting a directing gig, you know, someone's gonna give you two $300,000 it like it's a lot of, to, you know, have a budget to do a commercial or do a music video or whatever. I couldn't survive on just doing that. So I always had post production as my base. And I always that's what and then then and because I was able to build that business up as a direct wreck and go, Oh, by the way, if you hire me as a director, I'll throw in post or I'll package it all together.

Jeff Willis 59:47
I was just gonna say The other benefit is, you know, his additional areas of expertise that then become, you know, value adds to, you know, to what you're doing. And, again, you know, maybe it's not, maybe it's not as you know, If it's an if it's a super low budget indie, then yeah, maybe it's like, I'm the director and also the post supervisor and also the colorist. Well, yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:00:05
no, but for commercial work for commercial work for music, or for client work for, even to even series, like I've gotten, I did a series for legendary, where I did everything. And, and it was a good budget. But if it wasn't me doing everything, we couldn't have done it, because the budget was too low was perfect for me.

Jeff Willis 1:00:24
Right. But then but then that that experience also translates into if you just want a director job, I mean, if you're going up for you know, directing a Marvel movie or whatever, like, that's a completely different thing. You can also then say, but I've worked in post, I understand what a post supervisor does, oh, you understand what a VFX person does. So you're not gonna have a problem with me not understanding and appreciating the value that other people add. And like, being able to communicate with them and being able to effectively execute those areas become really, really important. And I mean, I, I kind of have that in, in my job, too, which is, you know, I work in primarily business affairs. And there are an awful lot of people I work with that have only ever worked in business affairs. So they don't understand the larger context beyond like negotiating the agreement and getting you getting the deal done. And as someone who has spent most of his career bouncing around, I've worked in creative, I've worked in physical production, I've worked in operations. I'm one of, you know, at the risk of tooting my own horn, I think one of my strengths, as you know, as an executive is having experience with that whole process, so that I can say, I understand why creative is asking us for this thing, I understand the limitations that we need to go back to them with I understand, you know, from a legal perspective, why we can and can't do that I understand from working with post why that's like why we can't do this. But maybe we can do this instead. And it's such a valuable skill to be able to say, not just here's the one thing I do when I do it well, but here's the thing I do, and I do it well, and I do it well, because I understand all of the different moving pieces I have to interact with and can help explain and work with those areas. Because it's just again, this is such a collaborative business, even if you're a one man show, you know, doing your own thing, like you still have to work with other people. And the more you can understand what where they're coming from and what their needs are like, the better partner, you're going to be with them. And those again, those are the people that get hired over and over again, is that that guy gets me he understands that I have budget constraints to care about. And it's not just about you know how good the script is, you know, that post guy gets me because he knows I need to stay on budget no matter what, but I don't have a lot of money. I need to make the most of what I have, you know, like, those are the kinds of things the people that get hired so often because they give people value.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:38
Yeah, I mean, I can't tell you what, when I was working with directors who were just directors, and they had no idea about the post production process, it used to drive me mad, it just, it would be just so upsetting. Because I'd be like, well, we didn't do this. And this. Well, I don't know how to do anything of that. I'm like, Dude, this is your business man. Like, this is what you do. Why don't you? I don't think you don't have to be an expert in what I do. But you should have a conversation like basic conversation, read a book, Matt.

Jeff Willis 1:03:06
Funny story I had in film school was so my film school had two different tracks, there was the production track, and then there was the like, the studies track, right? And

Alex Ferrari 1:03:16
so one makes money and one track makes money the other one doesn't make?

Jeff Willis 1:03:20
Well, exactly. So So what ended up being funny is the production track was all for the, you know, aspiring directors that, you know, you know, they wanted to make their own films. And the the studies track was where I ended up going, because there were so many more interesting classes, there was a production management class, that's where the writing classes were like, there were so many different areas that I was interested in. And it was so funny, because by the time film school ended, I was the go to producer on all my friends shows, because they were all on the production track. But none of them knew how to like actually make the thing. They just knew how to, like, most of them knew how to boss actors around. And they knew, you know, some of them kind of paid attention in cinematography class have kind of got a sense of like angles and light and lenses and stuff like that. But beyond that, they couldn't tell you, you know, how to do a schedule, or a budget, or where to show up or the logistics of having, you know, a company move.

So, it's funny how, you know, it's funny how, like you said, people who want to be just directors or whatever, and have no interest in learning the other areas, like that's where the real value is, is even if you do it, even if you haven't spent a decade doing that job, a director that knows what each person that works for them does and what their capacity and requirements are is such a valuable addition because they're the guy that can be like, yeah, okay, I get it. Like you're stressed out, you're over budget, you know, what do you need me to do? Or Gee, like the schedules, you know, you were running behind today, what do I need to do to catch up? And that's the stuff again, that you know, that has that makes you a working professional rather than someone who occasionally gets work and you know, like, I cannot count the number of directors that I've worked with that, you know, especially on big studio movies, they get sidelined when they can't deliver on time. It's just like, Okay, great, like you had fun doing your creative stuff. We're gonna go finish the day now, because we have eight more pages to shoot. You know, it's just right.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:07
And that's the other thing going. Going back to the screenwriting aspect of it. I think a screenwriter who understands production or at least understands, like we were saying earlier, understands costs, and what things do cost and time and things like that, when they're doing the rewrite when they're when they're, you know, hired to do a polish. And if they, like you said, if they can shave dollars off and still able to tell that story, you will work constantly, because it's all about for the for the studio, or whoever's putting up the money, it's about ROI, return on investment, if you can return more money to them, then you will always work. And that's why it's, you know, directors, writer, directors like Robert Rodriguez, has worked constantly throughout his career because he's able to produce high quality products, you'd like him don't like them irrelevant. Tyler Perry, a lot of people don't like his stuff. He's laughing all the way to the deck. He just I think I just read somewhere that he shot 42 episodes of his show in like four or five days is crazy. Like, I'm just curious, I would love to just be a fly on the wall to see how he's doing, I'm assuming is very played like, where it's just like, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, and they just cover the hell out of it. And we're out the door. But his audience is good. And look at a writer. Look, that's a perfect example of what we're talking about look at a writer who wanted to be a screenwriter who wanted to make movies, but it couldn't break in. So what did he do, he started writing plays. And when nobody and then he started producing his own plays, then he would go on tour with his own place. And he built something up for himself and built up this community and built up this, this, you know, this world, this ecosystem, if you will, of all this stuff that he was doing with Medea and all that stuff, to the point where he finally got a shot with diary of an angry black woman, which then exploded and then he leveraged that and then and then over the course of last 20 years, he's literally built quietly, he's built this empire where now he is the only executive, excuse me, the only filmmaker I know. And I don't even think Lucas had this Lucas had other toys, but he built an entire studio for himself.

Jeff Willis 1:07:22
Yeah, it's so funny. So like, I worked with the producer this one time and again, most people probably wouldn't know wouldn't know his name. But like he had a very similar to like, kind of like the way Jason Blundell has been house where, like, Yeah, he had a formula for the way he made stuff. And he made a lot of money making movies over the years to the point where he had bought himself basically, you know, a lot, you know, it like it like it where he could shoot and he had a backlog built and everything. And it was funny working with him, because so many of the notes were, you know, I don't have an airport set. But I do have a coffee shop, a restaurant, a you know, whatever. So make it fit in one of those very corpsman

Alex Ferrari 1:07:54
esque, very corpsman esque.

Jeff Willis 1:07:56
Exactly. But you know, it was what it was one of those things right? Again, like, you may look down on the fact that he makes, you know, kind of cheesy movies that are all kind of the same. But like his model was, I don't spend $1 over a million dollars to make it because I sell it to the cable networks for 1.5. And I do that eight times a year, like I don't like there's nothing stupid about that business model where you're making 500 grand eight times over every year, like clockwork, you know, and you have your model, you know what you're building, you know what you're shooting like, it's just, it's it's funny how often how often people try to, like, divest creativity from business and see them like, see them as as negatives are opposite sides of a coin, where it's like, oh, if you do something that's smart business, it can't possibly be creative. And I'm like, are you kidding me doing eight movies a year with the same sets and making them all seem different, is about the most creative thing I can think of just too much more than like, I have an original set that I built for this one movie, and then I tear it all down to the end.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:55
And again, if you're Spielberg or Nolan, or you know, or these giants, that's great. But that's not that's the exception to the rule, and that everybody's ever going to be Spielberg and no one's you know, or Cameron or Scorsese or any of these giants. You got to build you, you got to walk your own path and build your own world, I think and I think we are now in the the age of the entrepreneurial screenwriter, the entrepreneurial filmmaker, the film entrepreneur, as I call it, because that is the way forward. I think a lot of people are still writing and making films or trying to make films like it's 1997. And that world has gone literally now. With COVID

Jeff Willis 1:09:43
Yeah, it is. So it's so much harder to to work within the system when there is so much stuff out there. And again, it's about attention. It's about getting someone who again is in a position to pay you to do something. It's about getting their attention and getting their interest. And again, like I, you know, there are, there are, there are some executives I know that are old school, like, you know, I read scripts, and that's all I do every day. And then I find a good script, I meet the writer, and that's it. But I mean, like, it's that there are so many more executives I know now that have diverse interests, you know, and they're constantly watching web series and surfing YouTube and looking for you know, tick tock or whatever, like, whatever the new thing is, trying to find interesting, you know, interesting voices, so that they can come in and talk to them. And I do really wonder how, like, I would be curious. And again, I don't work in development. So I don't have any, any hard and fast numbers on this. But I would genuinely be interested in you know, if you look at the total number of, of meetings and executive takes these days are creative exec, how many of them are, you know what I am, I am a screenwriter. I write screenplays, you read my screenplay, liked it, and now you want to meet with me versus like, hey, you're an interesting content creator that I found somewhere else, I really want to, I really want to see, you know, see what you can, I just wanna have a conversation with you and talk and see if there's anything there.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:03
Right. And I think the second conversation is much more interesting, for me, at least, then, than the first one, I because I and I think we could leave it at this. If if you're able to, to express yourself creatively, as a writer, and make money doing all these other things that we're talking about, whether it's writing novels, self publishing, in a web series, graphic novels, podcasts of of your stories, whatever those other avenues are, if you're able to build a small business, around your art, whatever that is, and that art could bring in 50 to $70,000 a year, or whatever the number is for you to be able to provide for you and your family, whatever that because depending on where you live in the world, that number can vary. Whatever that if you can do that. And keep doing that for years, year after year. Why are you so concerned about making it big somewhere else, you're you're living the dream at that point. And and then if someone shows up great, but you're happy in this process, as opposed to being so on me, I don't know about you how many writers you know are just angry, bitter, unhappy, because it hasn't worked out the way they want it to, because they've been sold a raw deal, or this illusion that we've been talking about, where you write the spec script, get a million bucks and just go off in, you know, into your Hawaii, Hawaiian palace somewhere, you know, and surf all day, and then right when you want, that's not a really practical thing. And I think they've been sold a raw deal. I think they've sold a myth. And they're pissed about it, where I think if you're able to build out a business, around your art, whatever that is, then you're happy. And that took me a long time to figure out because I was the angry and bitter filmmaker for for most of my career. And I always say if you don't know, an angry and bitter filmmaker, if you don't know, an angry and bitter screenwriter, you are the angry and bitter.

Jeff Willis 1:13:04
No, it's true. Like I think, yeah, to leave it, you know, I think that the constant evolution of your expectations is something that's really important, you know, and I was the same way, you know, I, when I graduated from film school, you know, again, you have the sights on the on the screenwriter, writing, you know, writing Marvel movies, seeing my name on screen and stuff like that. And what's funny is, over the years, I, you know, obviously, and then I hit that disappointment that everyone does, where it's like, okay, that, that my life didn't work out the way that I just assumed it would at 22. But then, but then you start thinking about really kind of the things that are important, right, you start getting your, you know, your bucket list of, you know, experiences together. And it's funny, because, you know, now that now that I've worked at Marvel, you know, one of one of the nice perks is that they credit all of their in house people on their films, right. So, you know, it's one of those things where it's like, I have gotten a credit on the Marvel movie, does it say credits executive, you know, halfway down the crawl rather than, you know, written by? Sure. Is that really that important to me that that, you know, the writing credit is? Is that the only thing that will make me happy? No, not so much. You know, I, you know, I've always, I've always loved studio lights, and I've worked on one now. So you know, you know, that bucket list is done, you know, I've been paid for my writing, like, not a lot, but I've gotten a check that says, you know, for your, for your writing services. And it's just been important to reevaluate once you do have that, you know, that hard crushing reality check of like things, not working out how you want, and finding out what really is important to you, and deciding, you know, what makes you happy. And for me, it's one of those things where, like, I really enjoy my day job at Marvel, I like the people I work with. I love those movies. So the chance to work on work on them, even if it's you know, you know, vetting the names in the intro, which is like not terribly exciting, but like, it's something that I find immensely satisfying, and I enjoy it's something that I don't I wouldn't mind doing as a day job until I you know, until the day I retire. And then on top of that, I'm able to supplement it with creative projects. That interest me, I can make a short film when I want, I can write a script, I can write a book. And most importantly to me, I don't ever have to worry about that thing being a financial success, because I have a day job that pays my bills for me. So everything else is just on top of that. And what what's been really nice about that is, to me, that is my definition of a successful life. It's my successful career, where I have found a way to be happy and content with the things I have achieved and able to set more realistic goals than just being like, Oh my God, if I don't, if I don't have a written by credit on a Marvel movie, before I before I retire, like my whole life's meant nothing up to this point, you know. And it's hard because that in comparison to a lot of writers I know that are full time writers and won't allow themselves to do anything else, like full time screenwriters that won't take a day job or whatever. And I just see so much struggle, and so much frustration with, you know, the living paycheck to paycheck or the feast or famine nature of the business. And it's just, I always think it's important to really, like, really reevaluate those things that are important to you. And for me, writing is important, but it's not so important that I can't also you know, pay the bills of the day job or find other ways of feeling like I've I've met certain thresholds for success that I have for myself. And I think these days, that's, that's what a lot of writers and other creatives are faced with, which is, you need to figure out your definition of success. And it's probably not going to be what you originally thought it was, you're probably not going to make your money from where you thought you were, you're probably not going to make the the fame and fortune from where you thought you were, it's probably going to come in a different form.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:29
Are you okay with that or not? And I don't know about you, but when I, when I didn't get to the Oscars at 25. I said,

Jeff Willis 1:16:38
I was sitting at home being like, man, I should add it. I you

Alex Ferrari 1:16:41
know, and then I'm like, well, I'll wait till 30. And then you push the 35. And then you always have that conversation like oh man, but Spielberg make jaws when he was 27. You know, Orson Welles made, you know, Citizen Kane, when he's 23. You know, Tarantino was what 31 when he made or 30, when he made a reservoir, you know, it every year that that that those lines, just keep going back and back till you finally just go, you know what, I'm just not those guys, I got to walk my own path. And when you become comfortable with that, life becomes a lot more pleasant in this business. And I think that's where a lot of the pain comes from, when you're just holding on to these ideas that you've been taught, or you've heard of growing up in this business. And when they don't come to fruition, which, by the way, 99.9% of people don't get their dream exactly the way they want it. It's heartbreaking.

Jeff Willis 1:17:36
Yeah, like, I can't remember if you saw it on Twitter, it was it was about a month ago now. But there was a survey going around, about how old were they got their flat directing, producing, you know, like writing gig. And like, it's so funny, cuz like, the, the, the stereotype or the assumption is that, you know, everyone that makes it in Hollywood is, you know, some, you know, 23 year old, fresh out of college, you know, success story. And the reality is, I think they said that of all of the, like the Oscar winning directors, the last 10 years, like the average age is like, 41, where they directed their first film, you know, and it's just, it's like, it is, and maybe it's reassuring, because I'm, you know, approaching 40, you know, in a little over a year. So, you know, maybe that's reassuring to me, but, you know, whether it's that or whether it's author saying I didn't write my first book until I was 44, or 50. Like, there is no, you're not out of time, you're not trying, like, you can't break in any time, it could be your next project, it could be your 10th project from now, like, there is no hard and fast rule, as long as you're willing to still go for it. And still, again, to quote your hat hustle, you know, like, you can be you can break in with anything at any time, you know, and that's what motivates me to keep going is, you know, the idea that, that an opportunity could be just around the corner could pay off.

Alex Ferrari 1:18:50
Absolutely. Listen, I made my first feature 41. So it took me 20 years to break through them in the mental block of making a feature film, and I just got when I did it. So and that was that's my path. And by the way, the first thing you do is not going to be Reservoir Dogs. It's not going to be paranormal activity. It's not going to be Iron Man. It's not going to be this monster cultural hit that that you dream about. It could be and if you If that's you, please call me You can come on the show. But but generally speaking for the rest of us, it's not that and you just have to be okay with that and keep going forward on your own path. Because you're not going to be Orson Welles you're not going to be staying in not going to be guaranteed or you're not going to be Sorkin. You're not going to be black or Joe Astor house, those that that's not the world that we live in. You know, look at Jordan, look at Jordan Peele. He wasn't Comedy Central, doing skit comedy for years. And yeah, and all of a sudden, he became the this generation's Hitchcock, like, literally overnight, like coming from comedy and he just like I'm gonna write, like one of the better horror screenplays ever written. Oh, yeah. I'm gonna do that now. And I'm gonna also direct it like, you see, I just want people listening to it. I promise you, Jordan, Peele did not sit down and go, you know what I'm going to do about a decade of comedy on a cable network, and I'm going to do really well on that. But then I'm going to shift gears and I'm going to do horror, and I'm going to be rebrand my entire self as a horror guy, because that's what I really love. I guarantee you that wasn't a conversation, a journey. It just kind of happened. Now I'm going to ask you a couple questions. Ask all my guests. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life,

Jeff Willis 1:20:36
I think it's probably applies to both the film business and life, but it's, it's basically kind of what we were talking about, you know, like, don't wait for someone to give you permission to do something. And the corollary to that, which is like, no one is going to advocate for you better than yourself. I spent a lot of years waiting for people to like, recognize my hard work and waiting to reward me for your genius, your genius or your genius for my for my genius. Yeah, exactly. And it's funny, because I learned that from my, I learned that from my parents who both came from this, this world where you work at a job and you just do a good job, and the company takes care of you until you retire. And that is most definitely not been my experience in the professional world lately. But you know, I spent a lot of time just saying, Well, look, if I just do a really good job, and I come and I show up to work every day, eventually, like, you know, I will get all the things that I want. And it took me a long time to realize how often that's just not true. People go, Oh, thanks for doing the work, appreciate it, have a good day. And you have I've had to fight for everything that I've wanted by hard work, you know, dedication, you know, persistence. And it took me a long time to realize that, you know, I was waiting around for someone to give me permission or recognize that I was able to do more than than I was doing. And and now that I've kind of learned that lesson, it's a lot easier for me to to advocate for myself and go out there and do the things I really want to do. Because, you know, I I know that the inspiration in the museum is going to start with me.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:12
Now, um, what are three screenplays that every screenwriter should read?

Jeff Willis 1:22:17
I think the three scripts that I think affected me the most and are great examples of you know, people writing that great scripts that really got the noticed was passengers by john spades is fantastic. story of your life by air hyzer, which became a rival, which he got nominated for an Oscar for was blew my mind. And then my friend, Bob signs wrote a script called orphans that got made into an indie movie called extracurricular activities last year. And he has had that script as his calling card script for 20 years. And he still gets it. And they still email him and say, Oh my God, that's one of the best scripts I've read the the twist at the end just blew my mind.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:58
So and it finally got made.

Jeff Willis 1:23:00
And it finally got made. Yeah, they spent 20 years it got optioned, I think eight or nine different times. Like it just never like, it was a true like, if you ever want it, you should have him on the podcast at some point, please about process. Yes. Because he is like the quintessential, like 20 year overnight success story where everyone's like, Oh, my God, you got your movie made? That's great. He's like, yeah, 20 years after I optioned it the first time.

Alex Ferrari 1:23:25
Absolutely. Bob, what's gonna be Bob is gonna be on the shelf. Bob wants to be on the show. I want to have Bob on the show. And now where can people find you and the work that you're doing?

Jeff Willis 1:23:34
Most of the stuff I do. These days, I'm on Twitter most often. I'm at j Willis at one. I also have a somewhat defunct blog, all rights reserved. WRI t s, which is where I kind of post articles on the business of writing whenever I can think of that. And then ultimately, I'm I'm working on a business of writing book that hopefully will will help some people out, hoping to have it published by the end of the year. But follow me on Twitter. That's where that's where I make most of my announcements and and make most of my rants on the business end of things.

Alex Ferrari 1:24:05
I need to talk to you about your marketing because when you say that defunct bla bla bla you know, blog, it's just generally not very appetizing.

Jeff Willis 1:24:12
I feel like I feel like I couldn't in good conscience say it was active when I think the last post was like from February of this year, so

Alex Ferrari 1:24:20
Well, that's fair. There's been a lot of people who stopped posting in February because of obvious reasons. It just like the world is upside.

Jeff Willis 1:24:27
It wasn't for lack of wanting to update the website. Let me just say that.

Alex Ferrari 1:24:32
Jeff, man, thank you so much for being on the show. I really appreciate your your take on the business and hopefully some screenwriters listening right now will start thinking about taking their career in a different path that can make them happier and more successful. So I do appreciate your your implement. Thank you so much, my friend

Jeff Willis 1:24:51
is supposed to be on the show. Thanks so much for having me.

Alex Ferrari 1:24:54
I want to thank Jeff for coming on the show and inspiring the tribe today. Think a little bit differently about how you can make money with your screenplays. I plan to be doing some more stuff in regards to the entrepreneurial screenwriter in the coming months, so keep an eye out for that. If you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, please head over to the show notes at bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/088. And guys, if you need some help with developing your story, I have a new course at IFH Academy called the foundations of screenwriting story development taught by Jeffrey Calhoun, who is the writer of the best selling book, The guide for every screenwriter. So just head over to bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/storycourse. Thank you so much for listening, guys. As always, keep on writing no matter what. Stay safe out there, and I'll talk to you soon.

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BPS 084: The Movie Script Selling Game with Kathie Fong Yoneda

Today on the show we have studio veteran, story consultant, and best-selling author of The Script Selling Game- 2nd edition: A Hollywood Insider’s Look at Getting Your Script Sold and Produced  Kathie Fong Yoneda.

The Script-Selling Game is like having a mentor in the business who answers your questions and provides you with not only valuable information but real-life examples on how to maneuver your way through the Hollywood labyrinth. While the first edition focused mostly on film and television movies, the second edition includes a new chapter on animation and another on utilizing the Internet to market yourself and find new opportunities, plus an expansive section on submitting for television and cable.

Kathie has worked in film and television for more than 30 years. She has held executive positions at Disney, Touchstone, Disney TV Animation, Paramount Pictures Television, and Island Pictures, specializing in development and story analysis of both live-action and animation projects.

Kathie is an internationally known seminar leader on screenwriting and development and has conducted workshops in France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Ireland, Great Britain, Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, and throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Enjoy my conversation with Kathie Fong Yoneda.

Right-click here to download the MP3



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Alex Ferrari 0:48
I'd like to welcome the show Kathie Fong Yoneda How are you Kathie?

Kathie Fong Yoneda 3:00
I'm fine. Thank you, how are you?

Alex Ferrari 3:01
I'm doing good as good as we can be in this crazy upside down world that we live in. But thank you for being on the show. I wanted to bring you on because I loved your book, the script selling game. And it is I think a part of the screenwriting conversation with screenwriters, it's not talked about enough, I try to yell about it, at the top of my lungs, from the from the mountain to you. And just you need to understand the business side you have to understand how the game is played. You need to it's not all about plot and characters. And that it is all about that. But it also is about the Business Like Show Business. There's two of them. You have to connect. So I wanted to bring you on the show and kind of dig into that. But before we get started, how did you get into the business?

Kathie Fong Yoneda 3:48
Um, it's the only thing I owe to my ex husband. My ex husband worked for famous director Stanley Kramer, and I was just doing secretarial work. And he was telling me Well, if you can do secretarial work, work at the studios, they at least have a union you get paid a little bit more. So I applied at Universal Studios. And surprisingly, I got in. And it's kind of an interesting fact is that this is many, many years ago. I mean, we're talking about the 1960s. I've been in the industry for a long time. And what happened is that about I got put into the what they call the secretarial pool. And I was I was just doing my work and one of the gals in the secretarial pool came up to me and she said, You know, my friend was supposed to get that job. And I said, What What do you mean? She said, the only reason you got it is because you're Asian. And I thought well that's that's kind of a crazy thing for her to say but I just looked at her and I just said Well, I don't know. All I know is I got the job. I went down to The, you know, to do the personnel office and I asked the gal I said, Well, you know, what is this all about? You know, and she said, Well, it's true, we were looking for it, specifically, somebody who was of another ethnicity, because the industry is liable to get sued by the motion by the, by the United States government, because we had less than one 10th of 1% of our workforce is, is, you know, minority. So everything else is white. And so it was a big wake up call for that industry. And she said, but, you know, you still, we didn't hire you just because of that, we hired you, because you were the best candidate, you actually typed faster, you gave a great, you know, little, you know, talk about who you are, and, and, and sort of what you what you were interested in, and that's why we hired you. And so I kind of just worked my way up the ranks in the secretarial pool, and eventually started working in the industrial, excuse me, the Executive Office over at Warner Brothers. And that's where I met the man who became my mentor. His name was Richard Shepard. And I don't know, I don't know if a lot of people might not know him. But they, he was a producer. He was a top studio exec, he helped to form, I believe it was creative management associates, which used to be a very famous agency. He went off on, on location for one of his films, and I was lifting them at the office. And so all these scripts kept coming in. And I was getting bored. So I started reading them. And when it came back, he, you know, started to read picked up one of the scripts started to read it and said, Oh, you don't need to read that one. Because, well, why not? And I said, it's not very good. And so he picked up another one, I said, you know, that one's even worse. You don't need to read it. And they looked at me and he said, how many of these Did you read? And I said, all of them, there were probably about 40 scripts. It was pretty boring when he was. So he said, Do me a favor. He said, Could you just do a, you know, a few lines telling me what it's about. And, and then do a paragraph on why you liked or didn't like it. So I started doing that. And I found that it was just like, doing book reports in a way remotely, they had two scripts. So that's how I got started. And he, he said, you know, you are really good at this, you're very, you're able to sort of get the essence of the story. And you must watch a lot of movies because you're able to determine whether or not works. And so if he was my mentor, and what he started to do was involve me in some of his productions. So I became a production secretary. And I actually was the first Asian female, not only at Universal, but at Fox now. I was the first what they call production secretary to ever get a credit. And it was the credit was on Robin. Han. Wow. And then then my boss moved over to become president over at MGM before it eventually disintegrated. But while I was while I was going over there, he said, Well, you know, the good thing is, guess what? You get to have your own secretary, you'll be the number one secretary. I said, Well, I'm not so sure about that. And he said, What do you mean? And so I did my first deal. I wanted to do as I said, Well, I'm happy to to go over to MGM with you. And and I'll be, I'll set up the office, and I'll hire somebody to do you know, to be the secretary. But after a couple of months after she's gotten used to everything, I would like to have the opportunity to spend 30 days in the story department as a story analyst. Because in those days, in order to become a member of that Guild, you had to work for 30 straight days. And then you had to go through I guess it's sort of I don't know

Alex Ferrari 9:31
a qualifications or something like that.

Kathie Fong Yoneda 9:34
Yes, series of qualification, things you had to do. And so I did it and I was one of the few that actually got it got in right away. On the on the first thing I didn't have to take it, take it over and over again. So I became a member of the story analysts guild and that's how I moved around from studio to.

Alex Ferrari 9:53
So let me ask you, how many scripts Have you read in your career?

Kathie Fong Yoneda 10:01
You know, I really should have counted a month when I started. I didn't, I didn't really think about counting them, but

Alex Ferrari 10:07
10s of 1000s? Yeah.

Kathie Fong Yoneda 10:11
I would say cut, you know, because Listen, I've been reading scripts since about 1973.

Alex Ferrari 10:20
So, and I,

Kathie Fong Yoneda 10:21
yeah, so and I still was reading them. But when I became an executive over at Disney, and so and i was i was a VP over at Island pictures, and I was still writing scripts and as part of my job. And I still reading scripts now, because I'm helping a lot of the new writers out there to sort of get started. So I'm a consultant.

Alex Ferrari 10:43
So what should writers do in the development process that can give their story a fighting chance?

Kathie Fong Yoneda 10:51
Well, I think I should say something like, you could read my book, that would be

Alex Ferrari 10:57
what we're always gonna say, we're gonna begin every answer to every question, you should read my book. That being said, What else? Could you say?

Kathie Fong Yoneda 11:07
Oh, you know, it. First of all, if there, if you are a writer yourself, think about the scripts, the movies that really touched you that are in that genre that you're doing. And get a hold of that script, you can usually go the scripts.com and a couple of other places that you can get, you know, get a piece of scripts, and look at more movies in that arena, and see what were the scenes the key scenes that were able to give you a good sense of the characters, their motivation? What is it that made that movie, work? All those other things that you need to work on to make sure that your movie in that particular genre has all of those different qualities to it? I really, I mean, I love working with writers, especially the newbie writers, because they have a there's still something about them where there's that originality. Mm hmm. And I think they haven't been beaten up exposed, too much been exposed too much to some of the realities that we face in, in the industry, it does become rather tough. I mean, though, when you when you become a paid screenwriter, yes, you you will do a lot of writing and everything. But you also have a lot of other disappointments. And there's always knowing that there are other writers out there that are before you and behind you. It's just, it's one of those things, and moods change and genres change and what's popular, you've got to kind of keep up with that. But what's nice now is that they're streaming. And there's web series. And there's a lots of other ways that I think writers can actually express themselves. I used to be on the board of the LA web this many years ago, I think it was starting back in 2009 or so. And it was just amazing, because the idea of taking something and winnowing it down to just watching three or four minutes of it. And having people come back the next week to watch the next chapter, the next chapter, the next chapter. It just, it gave me such a wonderful way of saying of being able to tell other writers start off small, if you're unsure, start off small and and go big. Probably one of the best success stories is, you know, there were there were a couple of people who had wonderful web series, which eventually, you know, turned into while people started looking at those web series and realize that these people had a lot of talent and they were hired. So that that's one of the things that happened. And I think web series is another way of doing it is especially if you want to break into television, and get used to being able to tell things succinctly. And you really have to develop those characters right away. And so I always tell people, when you if you have a television series idea, start off small start by by doing something like a web series.

Alex Ferrari 14:26
And I mean, the world is changing so rapidly. And I mean, just for me, I could only imagine since 1973 how the world has changed in the film industry, how movies have changed, everything is changed so dramatically. There is more than ever need for content because there's so many outlets out right now. And there's so many streaming services and and features in a lot of ways are not leading the pack anymore. It's more scripted television. And and that's where a lot of these these initial invoices are going and that's, to be honest, was where a lot of the money's made. I mean, unless you're at the upper echelon in the studio system, you're doing Marvel movies or tentpole movies, and that's a different conversation. But generally speaking television is where a writer can actually start making a living, even even even a low budget streaming series, you'll be able to make some money as a writer, which, if you're making any money as a writer, you're winning.

Kathie Fong Yoneda 15:28
Oh, yes.

Alex Ferrari 15:31
But the one thing I, again, when I said at the beginning of the show is a lot of screenwriters just don't even think about the politics. The the business side, what can screenwriters do to prepare themselves better? For the business of screenwriting, we know that it's kind of like film, school, film school beat you up about the process of making a movie, but they don't teach you how to sell the movie, they don't teach you how to get a job in the industry. They don't teach you how to make any money. All they do is teach you the art. And the same thing goes with screenwriting A lot of times, you know, there's 1000 books out there about and 1000 courses about how to write a screenplay, very few about the business side of like how to actually make a living, how to sell your script, what can they do to better prepare themselves for the business side?

Kathie Fong Yoneda 16:19
Well, I think that what's difficult for a lot of writers is they would rather just have the words on paper, do the talking for them. Learning how to pitch is really one of the more difficult things to get people to do. And it's being able to sort of boil down the the heart of your story, to let people know what what your project is all about. And sometimes, you know, people are so used to being able to say, well, and this this scene, this happens, and then this is sort of like, they start telling you the whole story, but they're not selling it, it's just it's just like to, to whoever's listening to it, it's just a lot of words, you need to be able to very succinctly tell your story. And so pitching is one of those things that I found, it just is one of those things, you got to develop that as one of your talents, it can't be just handing somebody, your script or your book, you have to be able to pitch it. And in doing that, you can put in your own personality. And I think that's important. Because a lot of it is when you're talking with somebody, they may have a wonderful story that they're pitching to you. But if they don't have the same kind of if they don't have a kind of personality that you feel you can work with, that can sometimes blow the deal. Mm hmm. So this is where it's also this is, um, you have to pitch to everybody. You know that it, whether it's a studio exec, somebody in production, even if it's somebody you happen to meet at a party, who works in the industry, and they ask you, what do you do? Oh, well, I wrote a screenplay. Oh, tell me what it's about. Now, the other thing that's helpful is if you belong to a writers group, and there's so many online writers groups nowadays, and they're places like stage 32, and a couple of other places that a lot of people are very much aware of those kinds of groups are very, very helpful, you can find people who are going through the same thing you're doing. And that's what I like about this business now, before it used to be so competitive that nobody would tell anybody anything, because they were afraid somebody else would get ahead. Nowadays, people seem to be willing to help one another. And in doing so, I've noticed that this I do a lot of retreats. So I have to work with a lot of writers in large group and the idea of working that way working together or working side by side with somebody and seeing what they're doing, how they're developing your their material and they can see how you're developing your material. And you guys are able to exchange ideas and give some advice to one another. It builds up a friendship Not only that, but if one person makes it they're gonna you know if they hear about Oh, there's another job up and we need somebody else on staff they're gonna they're their friends are gonna probably be the next one they're going to be getting that phone call or email saying hey, guess what, we need somebody else on staff so those kinds of things that you know i mean, i i they used to have more conferences now. There's a lot more online ones now. And I think that helps the small group online once it kind of what's going on now because they used to have the ones where you would go to a hotel instead or something and you would have And I used to be a member of a lot of those, I taught a lot of them but it. And it was great because you know, you were able to sometimes meet agents and producers and all that. But you were doing it with hundreds of other people this way, at least online, you could start making your own contacts more directly. So I do think that, you know, joining some of those groups is really a step forward.

Alex Ferrari 20:32
Can you can you please tell the audience how important it is to build relationships in this business that this business is so relationship based, I've said it on the show a bunch of times, and I will continue to say it, because I want to hammer it into them that if you don't like you could be the next Sorkin mixed with Tarantino's love child, I mean, you can be next best writer ever. And if you don't understand how to get to somebody, or at least build relationships to get to open those doors, you're going to be standing on the sidelines because I've even read. I mean, I haven't read nearly as many scripts as you but even I've read scripts that I'm like, how is this not produced? This is an Oscar winning story. This is well written by a really big writer, and it's not getting produced. So these guys who have credits who have relationships, who have amazing content, can't get their stuff done. What is the chance of a newbie writer having it so that at least back the chips, relationships different? You agree?

Kathie Fong Yoneda 21:38
Well, I actually think now is actually a very good time for those of us who maybe don't have as many credits, or who are just getting into the business. Because there are a lot of companies that will no longer exist after this COVID experience. Oh, yeah. And so there's a lot of people then who are now branching off with people they've worked with, to form smaller production companies or smaller entities. And, you know, that includes even agencies, there's still a lot, there's a lot of stuff going on, you know, with there is the Writers Guild, but then remember, they, they did try to get rid of the Writers Guild. And that didn't work. And I think that people are realizing who your real friends are, and who you can really work with and talk to, during this pandemic. And I think that's what's going to help people to form some of the relationships that they need. It's interesting, and you know, a lot of the people form things through film school. And I can't stress enough that even if you are not in college, or a film program, at a university or something, talk to some of your friends, do you know, do you have a friend that knows someone who's, who does camera work, or somebody else who don't look at other people outside of writers, because the more information that you have, about the process of getting a movie or a television series made, really can help you with your writing. And with your relationship building, I

Alex Ferrari 23:27
do recommend that writers team up with directors and producers at a small level to create a web series, let's say that's low budgets, so they can have something produced that they can have actors acting their lines, and, and it kind of might set them apart a little bit, when going into one of these pitch meetings are like, Oh, yeah, I've produced, my scripts have been produced four or five times on the series, you could just go to Amazon, or you can watch it again, better yet on Netflix, if you can get it to that point. But even on Amazon or some other place, they it kind of sets you apart a little bit and kind of puts the power a little bit more in the writers hands, as opposed to just always looking for someone to give them the opportunity to open that door for them.

Kathie Fong Yoneda 24:10
Well, I you know, to me, it shows, it also shows that you as an individual, are not afraid to get out there, that you're so passionate about your work that you're willing to put yourself on the line. We cannot work. I don't think any of us can. If we just stand there and hold our hands out and expect somebody to shake it and say yes, we are I'm you. You've got to prove that. And when they know that you've done this, if you've you've paired up with some other people that that you are familiar with, and that you guys get along and you do things well together, like in a web series. It really I think gives whoever you're talking to a better stronger sense of who you are and that you have the passion to move ahead. And that it does, you're not going to let anything stop you, you certainly don't mind, you know, working with other people. And that's, that's the main thing is, you know, a lot of people have have made the mistake of thinking that okay, you know, I've got this job. And that's it. And I and I now have, you know, I've got something on my resume here. And they don't fail to keep up with their relationships with some of the people that they may have been working with. This happens a lot with movies and television. The important thing is, if you are in a writers room, like you are on most television series, you you form relationships very quickly, you're in that room, sometimes for 12 to 15 hours a day, for five, six days in a row. Oh, yeah. And you have, you have to prove that you're a team player. And you're, you know, personalities always have to come out because you can't always hold back on something. If you believe in something, I mean, your personality comes through. And if you work with people who have similar personalities, or similar points of view, when they move that they get in, you know, say one of their scripts is bought for a television series, you better believe they're going to think about Oh, yeah, all these writers that I've worked with, that I got along with, they're going to hire those people. So having building those kind of relationships are very, you know, key. And starting off on a smaller level with web series is a perfect way to go.

Alex Ferrari 26:35
Now, when you get into a room, let's say you finally get into this room that we keep hearing about, and you're in the you're in the room with this mogul, producer, Agent manager, what do you do in a pitch meeting? What are some pieces, some tips that you can give a writer to be in a pitch meeting?

Kathie Fong Yoneda 26:54
First of all, do your homework. So in other words, whoever you're meeting, find out a little bit more about them. You don't have to do a whole bio or something on it. But you know, just see if there's something you know, find out what their what they've done in the past, what helped them to get where they are now. Maybe maybe, you know, a producer might have might have been a creative exec at an agency or you know, at a studio, or maybe someone might have even been reader or story analyst somewhere, usually can find out, you know, you go online, and if you Google that person's name, their stuff bound to come up about what their background is like? Not, you know, plus, you can go to, you know, what is it? Some of the other websites, there's so many of them now, you know, out there, but go to some of those websites and check them out and see what was their background? You could have something in common like that you could have gone to the same college, even though it was 10 years apart when they graduated. Or it could be that, that maybe they have sometimes you find out things like oh, yeah, and so and so is in this club, you know, so maybe it's a literary club, or maybe it's flying airplanes club or whatever. I mean, they have funny things that people will put in there about who who people are and what do they do. And if you know someone else in the industry, who happens to know them a little bit more or have worked with them before, it doesn't hurt to just say Oh, so and so. told me to say hi to you, I told them I kind of immediately they told me to say hi, that goes a long way. For know, who's my someone, so don't be afraid to just talk to your writers group, which is something you know, to whoever it is that you kind of hang out with. And you say, you know, I've got a meeting with Mr. X. And do you know anybody who knows them or whatever. And just to find out if they know a little bit more about it? There's, there's, you have to have a certain amount of sincerity about things so to authenticity, right? Yes. I've been in meetings where people have, you can tell when they're trying too hard. And they're not being well, they're not really kind of sincere

Alex Ferrari 29:17
about what there's, there's I like to call it the stench of desperation. It's like a it's a perfume that, that that you wear. I wore it for many years, where if anybody that came on set that even had a remote amount of power, you would just rush over to the mango. You'd be you'd be like that grip on set with the screenplay in his back pocket like hey, you know when you get a chance to do you mind reading, like it was just this kind of like, energy sucking thing like what can you do for me? What can How can you help me as opposed to the opposite, which was what I discovered later in my career is how can I be of service to you How can I help you and and that's a much more authentic way to become to get a really build a relationship. And then you start working together. But you got to start by offering what you can do as opposed to sucking. Would you agree?

Kathie Fong Yoneda 30:08
I'll agree, very much agree. The other thing too, is, you know, nowadays, a lot of colleges now do have film school as part of their curriculum. And that's, that's one of the things that if you can, even if it's just taking two or three classes, and maybe not doing it, exactly a major in it, but if you can, if you can, that's great. But if you're, you know, if your dad's paying for your college degree, and he wants you to get it in something like Applied Science or

Alex Ferrari 30:40
accounting. Sure,

Kathie Fong Yoneda 30:42
yeah, you could still you could still take a few screenwriting classes, because if you graduated from that particular school, and had taken some of those things, it's very easy to sort of find out a lot about the other people out there, whether they're agents, execs, producers, actors even. And by the way, actors nowadays, they're getting a lot smarter. They're forming their own production company

Alex Ferrari 31:11
as they should, as they as they should they should develop projects themselves. Oh, yeah, absolutely. This whole concept of and I think writers are start are going to start getting to that place. I don't know if they're there yet. But there are some that are doing it, where you as the creator, in today's world, the old studio system, where the there's a gate and there's gatekeepers, if you want to play at the very high end, again, tentpoles, Marvel studio, Disney, these big giant corporations, you got to play that game. But you can still build something outside where those people or those outlets or many other outlets like Netflix, for God's sakes, or Hulu, or these other companies will come looking for you if you build something out. So that's why actors, and I think with writers can team up with production people and team up with actors. That's when it starts getting really interesting, as opposed to always waiting for the gatekeeper to open the gate and give you, you know, crumbs to get in there something like that. It's just a lot of people trying to get in. And that's what I my personal journey was, I was trying to get into the party for the longest time. I snuck in a couple times. But the bouncers took me out later on. So I always tried to get into that hollywood party till I finally decided to make my own party and started creating my own company and started developing my own projects. And then magically, they start knocking on my door and asking me what I'm doing. And I was like, Oh, so this is how you do it. Okay, I get it. And then that the stench, that desperation stench started to go away?

Kathie Fong Yoneda 32:49
Well, I mean, you're self reliant,

Alex Ferrari 32:51
you have to be

Kathie Fong Yoneda 32:52
like to invest, people are self reliant.

Alex Ferrari 32:56
And that's something they don't teach you in school, they don't under that's like something that one little comment is so powerful, because you're saying, if you are self reliant, if you show that you can do it on your own, if you show that you can build even at a small level, a web series, that you were able to produce a web series that has a good story, decent production value, which in today's world, you could absolutely get for 10s of 1000s of dollars, because I've done it, and I've seen other filmmakers do it. That shows a lot as opposed to one of the 10th How many times did you walk in a room during your career and just saw piles of scripts from the floor to the ceiling, just sitting there that either you had to read or someone else was reading? And you guys were just going through it? And am I exaggerating? Or is it I've seen the pictures?

Kathie Fong Yoneda 33:43
Its course nowadays it's it's digital, you know, they get online, which is just as bad because I actually think, and I've actually talked to a lot of people who are in the industry and they say they actually kind of prefer having something you can put in your hand. Yeah. Oh, instead of reading it off the computer, which you know, after about two hours of that it kind of gets them gets weary on the eyes and sometimes you kind of forget everything. But you know so much of this industry is I understand it's about who you know, but it's also who you can be and who you are. You've got to have some I mean I always tell this funny story you know the guy who was who's on that television show which always which is escaping my mind right now but Randall the one that the one that does the thing about the Asians brand Oh,

Alex Ferrari 34:42
I'm Fresh Off the Boat.

Kathie Fong Yoneda 34:45
Yeah, Fresh Off the Boat. Yeah, okay, cuz it's been off the air now for what two seasons but yeah, what he did. You probably have heard the story too, is that he was actually with a bunch of others friends. They wanted to kind of, you know, get into the industry as writers, directors and actors in office. So they started a web series. And you probably already know

Alex Ferrari 35:12
this story will ever be, but a lot of people don't know. So please go ahead.

Kathie Fong Yoneda 35:17
So, IKEA is this Swedish company that has furniture, and they've got all those different floors of furniture and everything in it. And Randall and his friends wanted to do a little short film, which back in those days, it would just call a short film what isn't called a web series, but that's what it was, it ended up being that they would have to shoot certain scenes here, there. But they would usually webseries usually only have one or two scenes in them anyway, for each episode, because it's hard to find scenery that you can actually use. So if they didn't, they all were kind of like a couple of them, in fact, I think were roommates. And so they were sharing a single apartment. And so they didn't have much to work with. So they lived in Burbank, some of them lived in Burbank, and they went over to the IKEA and started filming some things at the IKEA store. First it would be in the kitchen, then it would be in the living room area. Area. And finally, the Night Manager actually the one who the one who was there from about three o'clock in the afternoon until close to 10 kind of noticed all of this thing, what's going on, they are just taking pictures of the furniture, these guys are actually getting to know taking movies. So we asked them what they were doing. And they explained, look, we're really sorry about this. It's just that we, you know, he explained, we're trying to do a series so we can show people and he says, you're going to do a TV series here. And he goes, Well, no, we're putting it on the internet. And the guy was actually kind of intrigued, interested. He just thought, oh, oh, okay, that's well, he says, you know, well, actually, you know what the best time to come there after 730 because most people's gone home, they either passed by year on the way to work or during lunch, but after about 730 or so it thins out so come on over. He actually let them do it. Now he he's no longer working there. So don't think you could still do this because I don't want people I don't want the IKEA manager to calling me and saying what the heck did you What did you What did you tell people

Alex Ferrari 37:22
this there's there's there's filmmakers everywhere trying to shoot now and I can't Well, not right now anyway because of COVID. But when it does come back out?

Kathie Fong Yoneda 37:30
Well, Brenda Randall was an unknown at the time. And Randy

Alex Ferrari 37:34
Randall Park Fifth Amendment, Randall park the actor Yeah, right. Yeah. And he's gone on to be big. He's huge.

Kathie Fong Yoneda 37:42
And it's one of those stories. And it's the same thing. There's that that gal Jane, who the, the Hispanic gal, who in her first series, she she started off doing three web series. And one of the casting people was hooked on web series and noticed her and that's what he did is he called her in. And she you know, she was she's very famous and got her own. She not only had her own television series, but she now then ended up I think she's now producing a film.

Alex Ferrari 38:21
Yeah, you're talking about Gina Rodriguez from Jane The Virgin. Well, funny enough. I actually funny enough, I actually worked on I think her first feature as a, I was I was the post production guy, editor, colorist person on her first film, and she was a supporting cast member. And she was she stole the show. And I was like, wow, this girl's got something. And then like, you know, a year or two later, she's like, Oh, look, she's got her own TV show now. Okay, she's exploded. Okay. That's how it works here in Hollywood. Yeah, oh, she's an Emmy winner. Yeah. Okay, so this is this is how that works. Okay, great. It's, it's funny, you know, being here in LA, is

Kathie Fong Yoneda 39:02
this group of friends saying, you know what, we got to do some to show that we are serious about being in this industry.

Alex Ferrari 39:10
Yeah, and and it's so important. You're absolutely right, it's so important to just kind of go out there and do it. And, you know, like, like the IKEA story. Sometimes you gotta not break the rules, but just you live in the gray area, you live in the gray area a bit and you got to do what you got to do. And as long as you're not doing anything illegal, just go for it and try to make it happen for yourself. But that says a lot more to me as a producer, as a filmmaker, about somebody that they've actually gone on produce something on their own that has some quality to it, then 1000 scripts, you know, you know, in a lot of times, I don't know if you agree with this or not, but a lot of times, it's the best stuff doesn't always get produced. It's not always the the cream rises to the top. I'm sure you've read a ton of scripts that never have been produced, that were Oscar worthy, or should have me worthy series that just didn't get produced for whatever politics, you know, money falling apart all that kind of stuff. It's a lot of times who hustles the hardest, and who gets, who proves it to the right people and the politics involved Is that a fair statement?

Kathie Fong Yoneda 40:20
It's it's not a good statement, but it is a first agree with you.

Alex Ferrari 40:24
It's not a good statement, but it's a fair statement.

Kathie Fong Yoneda 40:28
But it's but you know, what it's sort of like that no matter what industry you go in, you have people that, that know other people, and they get up there right away. And then you have people who who are struggling, and even though they may be very talented, they just haven't, they just haven't found their voice and, and, and their community to be able to help move them ahead. And I think what's great is now with the internet, we're finding a lot more of these people. I do know that that one of those things about the internet is people are very easy to talk to over on online, much more so than if you meet somebody in person for some reason. Maybe it's because they think that people judge you, you know, by how you look or, or what your first appearances or something. But once you start talking to people online, you get a real sense of someone's personality. And I just I have so many of my writers who have told me that they have met the most interesting people who are now people they are working with, on projects, whether it's a director, an actor or whatever, they are actually starting to work together and move ahead on on projects, because they found people that they can work with. And sometimes, you know, back in the olden days, you had to work with whoever was shoved your way, whether that person was someone that had a good personality, or had a good sense of humor, or whatever, something you know, you just had to work with whoever they told you to work with. It's still a little true today. But I find that I see groups of people, especially behind the scenes, people that like to move together to another project.

Alex Ferrari 42:18
Oh, God, yeah, I mean, Clint Eastwood, Ron Howard, Steven Spielberg, they've been working with the same team for decades. Because once you get people you can work with, you want to stay with them. Because and

Kathie Fong Yoneda 42:29
all those people started off together.

Alex Ferrari 42:32
And it's and the funny thing is, too, one thing that just people don't understand, especially when they're coming in the industry is it is difficult to find people you can work with, like, really connect with really have a second hand with. And when you find these people, you don't want to let them go, you want to want to hold on to them. And if you have the power to do so. Especially like those guys, you can bring them along and build out like I mean, I know I think Ron Howard won't do a movie without his first ad. Like he just waits until he's available. And then he does a movie with him. He just won't do it without one without him. And same thing for DPS and art directors and production designers and all that kind of stuff. It's, it's something that screenwriters need to understand this, well, if you can build that group together. Like you said earlier, if they get a job, and they need to fill another seat or two in that, in that writers room, you're getting the first call, it's about that relationship much more so than Oh, at least I know I can hang with this person. He's talented talent is like that. That's the that's the bare minimum. Like, we understand you're talented, you have to be talented, then there's a lot of talented people. Now the next criteria is, Can I sit in a room with you for 12 hours and not kill you? That's so much more valuable than having a super talented person, I would rather have someone who's a little less talented. And I can actually work with then a super talented person who is impossible to work with.

Kathie Fong Yoneda 43:57
Now I have a very dear friend who who's a writer and has been a writer for a long time. And, and she's told me she said, You know you She said she would she would rather rely on somebody on her writings on a writing staff. Because they, they know so much more about who she is and how she can react at any given time to any different situation. I mean, sometimes you're you're asked, okay, guess what, we're not going to do that that script that you guys put together, we're gonna instead you got to come up with a new one in the next 24 hours. I mean, when you can work with a group of people who are willing to step up to the plate and in and, you know, get things done. That means so much more. It's it's kind of people that really, you know, make her feel that she's got her worth and that she's got their back. You know, if you can do that, it really helps.

Alex Ferrari 44:56
Now, what are some of the common reasons scripts are rejected? In Hollywood, I'm sure there's 1000 reasons, but what are some of the common ones that you're just like, oh, cheese, please Why?

Kathie Fong Yoneda 45:10
Um, it usually has to do with the characters. More of I mean, it's, you know, story too, but you can see, some of the some stories are actually, you know, sort of things that we have seen before. But it's the characters that make it, set it apart a little bit. And I think that's what people you know, sometimes they say, Oh, I wrote this, I wrote this romantic comedy. And I'll ask, well, what's it like, and they'll say, Oh, it's like, you know, I don't know, whatever, you know, any Audrey Hepburn or something like that. And then I'll look at it and oh, my God, it's almost like they're copying scene for scene, except that it's not set in Rome, it's set in someplace else, you've got to be still have that spark of creativity, to set it apart from everything else that we are reading of the average executive, and the average agent probably reads, Oh, I'd say 2030 scripts a week minimum. If they fit, if they finish, all of it

Alex Ferrari 46:13
generally isn't a true list, like you got five, five pages, five to 10 pages tops,

Kathie Fong Yoneda 46:19
you're lucky if you have an agent that actually will read 10 or 20 pages, occasionally, they you know, they will do that. It's just, it's really a hard business. And there is just so much coming in the doors. I've been in this industry for so long. And I just remembered I was talking to somebody who just retired as an agent. And he basically said that, you know, on an average day, at our agency, we would probably get something like 70 scripts. Some of them were well, and a lot of them came from friends of friends. And some of them came from from, you know, clients they already have, or from clients that are looking have that have had an agent that are looking for a new agent. Yeah, that's that's how many every single week and they all have to read it and everything. It's just,

Alex Ferrari 47:09
and the funny thing is that what you just said, though, they're all referred scripts, these aren't cold scripts that just come in from, you know, Joe Blow in the middle of the street somewhere. These are just these are, these are actual things that they have to read, because they're either coming in, they're referred for a friend of a friend or something like that, then add that the 1000s a day, from unknown screenwriters who are trying to break in, if they even could get through the door.

Kathie Fong Yoneda 47:37
Yeah, it's, you know, it's, it's a difficult thing, this industry, you know, but the relationships that if you, especially if he's gone to film school, or at least taken three or four film classes, those relationships are what I think really can help you because you guys have that common sense, you have that common background and fun Foundation, and you guys know each other, you know, whether you can work together or not. And that's just so vitally important. You know, there are a lot of agents out there who told me, you know, when I asked, oh, how'd you get into this and get into this agency? Oh, well, so and so. And I used to, I used to go to USC together or something like that. And so it was sort of like it was it was more like, because there was somebody they already knew. And, or they're doing favors for somebody. That's the other thing. And it's not, it's fine, if you want to do favorites. I mean, I've actually had one writer that that told me that she was a nanny for an Actor for his kids. And he actually gave it to his his agent to read he did read part of any read the first 25 pages or so. And then he, he said, Well, I don't have time to read the whole thing. But I do think it's a good start, you know, I don't mind I'll just give it to my agents. So he did. And that's glad to have her script. Read and they did like it enough that they kept her on for a little while, but she now has kids of her own and she's not in the industry.

Alex Ferrari 49:15
So what you're saying is we should become nannies is that's the way in is the nannies. Is that is that what I'm getting from that stores.

Kathie Fong Yoneda 49:22
For her at least that it worked for that I mean, you know, she she actually realized after after a while she was on staff on a television show for a while. And it was it was fine. But then she met her has been and, you know, he just said, You know, I have the kind of job that I have to be on call because he's a doctor. And so he said, You know, we're either going to have to hire a nanny or you're going to have to take care of the kids or whatever. And she was fine. She was at that point. felt comfortable enough that okay, you know, but she is now starting now that her kids are older. She's now thinking about getting back into the business of writing. But then COVID hits so

Alex Ferrari 50:07
slow that that slows down things a little bit. Now I wanted to ask you, because this is a myth that is talked about so often is that and a lot of newbie screenwriters think this, all I need as an agent, all I need is an agent or a manager, and all my dreams are gonna come true, they're going to put me out onto the street. And I'm going to get million dollar offers and things like that. Can you please debunk the whole All I need is an agent thing. And when a writer actually needs an agent, can you answer that for us?

Kathie Fong Yoneda 50:42
There are about 10, or 20, really good screenwriting competitions, where they actually have agents or studio execs or production executives, who are the judges of the finals. And sometimes I've seen that whoever sometimes the person who wins the competition doesn't end up with the agent, it's somebody who was like, maybe in third place, gets the agent. But there, there are at least 10 to 20 really, really good screenwriting competitions out there, that I think people should think about. I think that's one way to kind of also get started. I it really, in fact, I would say, I know that the one that I really liked a lot is the final draft, one, their final draft has their competition. And of course, you know, most people are using Final Draft so that that's a good thing. Because what I like is the people who are the finalists, and they do it for television, and they do it for features, which is nice. They not only get to have a trip to visit as an agency or to visit, you know, introduced to some agents, they also have an opportunity to meet a lot of people in the industry, because they have a big party, where they they're giving out awards and everything for the final draft awards. And I was surprised it's held on the Paramount lot, and I've gone a couple of times. And there were actually actors and production to people, producers, from who work on the lot, who go over there, and there's a big cocktail hour and they you can meet these people. I mean, that to me is you know, it's almost like if you get in, and you're one of the 20 people or so that that become you know, viable for all those awards. They actually you can meet all those people and they will, they're very little talk to you. They're there, their apparel mountain and it's promoted there where Oh, here's so and so you got to meet this person. They have people who are actually moving around their their their creative execs who were helping to get those riders at the competition to meet all of these different people and I have seen I've heard about all these people getting actual agents, or actually getting their script to a production company for a TV show. So things like that can happen. So the competitions are a good way of getting started.

Alex Ferrari 53:19
Now I'm gonna ask you a few questions asked all my guests. What are three screenplays every screenwriter should read

Kathie Fong Yoneda 53:38
my absolute absolute favorite screenplay ever where I read it? And I didn't want to change one word on it. So Day Afternoon,

Alex Ferrari 53:50
yes. Amazing script. It's amazing script.

Kathie Fong Yoneda 53:55
Yeah. Most designs, unfortunately, most of them are dramas.

Alex Ferrari 54:04
It's okay. It doesn't matter like

Kathie Fong Yoneda 54:06
well, another one to that that I absolutely love is network. Yeah, that's

Alex Ferrari 54:11
that's an answer on the show many times.

Kathie Fong Yoneda 54:15
Yeah, no, no, what just it's it really. I think what it is it's because what that guy says screaming is how we've we've all of us have felt like that at some point. We

Alex Ferrari 54:28
I hate to tell you we all feel like that right now. We're going through some stuff right now. It's it's amazing how how accurate that is even to

Kathie Fong Yoneda 54:44
see um, Musical comedies.

Alex Ferrari 55:00
Sure, sure, go ahead.

Kathie Fong Yoneda 55:02
I love I love musicals, too. So I love Grease.

Alex Ferrari 55:09
Grease is fantastic. Even though there are there's their teen hit their high school students who who are 35 years old. Other than that, other than the 35 I mean, literally Stockard Channing is I think 32 in Greece's. So it's, it's pretty, it's, but it's a, it's an amazing film. It's an amazing film. Now, what advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into business today? Well, I

Kathie Fong Yoneda 55:42
think it's important if you can to try and figure out who do I know somebody from college? Or who's in the same neighborhood or something that you live in? Are they writers, you know, where can you find another writer. And if you, you know, you can actually even go online, there's a lot, that's what's nice about the internet, there are so many now online writing groups. In fact, I think in another week or two, I'm supposed to be doing a little q&a for this writing group. And it's just, you know, if you can get together with other writers, it gives you a sense of community. And I think when you have a sense of community, you will then realize you are not alone. And back in the 80s, and 90s, and a little bit from the beginning of the 2000s. people tended not to want to do that, because they looked at each other as competitors, right? Instead of instead of as, as people that they can share things with. I think it's gotten a lot better, of course, in the last 1015 years. And so I you know, I would strongly suggest that if you can find a group, even if it's an online one, talk with people there, they oftentimes will have people that are in the industry who, you know, are willing to come in, you know, do a one hour talk on on different aspects of writing. No, I think joining. And the other thing, too, is I would also like to let people know that it's not just for people who are writing screenplays, if you have a novel, because if you have noticed, around Academy Award time, most of the movies, especially for dramas, usually came from a book. Correct. So if you, you know, if you have a literary group, that's also something you know, that you might want to get into, especially if you don't start off with that. A lot of the love of the famous writers, that's what they did, they started off with a book and then they suddenly realized, Okay, wait a minute, here, I can turn this and some of the other books I have into movies. And there's a lot I love it nowadays, because with the internet, they have more places now because everything is streaming.

Alex Ferrari 58:11
Yeah, absolutely. And now and where can people find you, your work and your book?

Kathie Fong Yoneda 58:18
Okay. Here's my book, the scripts, thinking, you can go to M WP Calm, calm. And that's my publishers website. And I believe, I think they're still doing it. They were giving a 25% discount if you bought their books through their website. So you know, you want to check that out of it. See

Alex Ferrari 58:46
what anybody looking for your consulting services?

Kathie Fong Yoneda 58:50
Well, I do consulting, I also I also do some workshops overseas, and I don't know how far your audience goes around the world around the world.

Alex Ferrari 59:06

Kathie Fong Yoneda 59:08
Now with a COVID thing, of course, all my everything in this year is the kind of cuckoo but I already have next year lined up I will be in Ischia island of Italy, which is off the coast of Naples.

Alex Ferrari 59:22
Very difficult. tough, tough job. tough job. It's a very tough job. Kathie, very tough.

Kathie Fong Yoneda 59:26
I'll be teaching at a Swedish film school teaching at a school in Estonia, another one in Cologne and another one in Warsaw and another one in Budapest. But also I teach on Roca Bertie, for the recovery retreat, virtual. They have a regular Real Property retreat in France. But there's also a virtual one they have. I will be they usually have it like once a month that I don't know if they're doing it in August or not. But I'm going to be teaching a segment of it in September and just go to birdie retreat calm and click on Roca birdie virtual. It's like a five hour mini retreat. There's four mentors more in different areas. One might be somebody who's a manager, somebody else might be a writer, someone else might be a production person. And someone else might might specialize in books or something. I mean, they have four different people who are the mentors. And it's a limited, I think it's a limited enrollment, I think this may be 30 people on online thing. And there each of us mentors have to give a 20 minute lecture. And then we also have to read a two page synopsis of a fair number of the writers who

Alex Ferrari 1:00:56
I will put, I will put that all in the show, I will put that all in the show notes. Kathy, thank you so much for taking the time out for coming on the show and dropping the knowledge bombs on the tribe today. So I appreciate that so much. Stay safe out there. I want to thank Kathie for coming on the show and really giving us an inside view of what it takes to sell your script in the Hollywood machine. And if you want to pick up her book, the script selling game, the Hollywood insider's look at getting your script sold and produced, and links to actually reach out to Kathy head over to the show notes at bulletproofscreenwriting.com/084. And guys, if you haven't checked it out already, please check out our new screenwriting podcast inside the screenwriters mind, which is the best interviews from all the podcast in the I FH Podcast Network. If you want to check that out, head over to screenwriters mind.com. That's it for this episode, guys. Thank you so, so much for listening. As always, keep on writing no matter what. Stay safe out there, and I'll talk to you soon.

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BPS 078: Screenwriting & Hollywood in the Times of COVID with Greg Gertmenian

Today on the show we have Greg Gertmenian, who is the Head of Script Analytics and Film Development at Slated. He is also the co-inventor of the Script Score, the only screenplay evaluation tool proven to accurately predict good films. Helped arrange financing of films like SUPER TROOPERS 2, DEEP MURDER, CRUISE, AT FIRST LIGHT, GOD BLESS THE BROKEN ROAD, BECOMING and WHAT BREAKS THE ICE.

Prior to his time at Slated, produced short format content including the fan-beloved short film, BALROG: BEHIND THE GLORY and the award-winning, AFI Fest film THE HAIRCUT.

I wanted to bring Greg on the show to discuss Hollywood, screenwriters and the COVID pandemic, and what we all can do to survive and thrive during these crazy and uncertain times. Enjoy my conversation with Greg Gertmenian.

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Alex Ferrari 0:01
I like to welcome the show Greg Gertmenian. How you doing my friend?

Greg Gertmenian 3:39
Good, man. How are you? Good. Good.

Alex Ferrari 3:41
Thanks for having thanks for having me on the show. Thank you for you being on the show. I appreciate you coming on and talking all things about the film industry in this crazy time that we're living in right now.

Greg Gertmenian 3:54
Indeed, yeah, it's my pleasure. Thanks for having me. There's lots to talk about.

Alex Ferrari 3:57
Yeah, absolutely. So before we get started, how did you get into the business in the first place?

Greg Gertmenian 4:03
Oh, that's a good question. So. So I did. Bill films, I focused on film and comedy in school when I was in college at USC. And I wasn't a film major, but all my friends were. And so that got me into the business of sketch comedy, directing sketch, comedy writing and performing and doing some stand up. And shortly after, you know, graduating, you realize, no one's gonna make it and invite you, you got to make it yourself. So that started me on the path of making stuff. And I had some success with some short films out of school and then joined my brother's management company, which he started for for new feature screenwriters. And so I sort of cut my teeth at his shingle helping him, discover writers and sign them and then send them out and get options and writing assignments and sales and And that company was sort of the basis for the company that we would later found in 2012 called spec Scout, which was sort of the the path the career path that I'm on today with, you know, discovering new writers the script score and and the underlying technology. They're

Alex Ferrari 5:19
great and then you work now for slated or work with slated?

Greg Gertmenian 5:22
Indeed, yeah. Yeah. Erica, so

Alex Ferrari 5:24
we'll get into slated in a little bit. That's one of the reasons why I want to have you on the show because I'm really curious about slated and what they do, but because of your work with slate and and with set and specs spec Scout, before then, I mean, you have your ear to the grindstone, pretty much about the industry. So you're reading the trades, and you're talking to people, and you have a lot of information that many of us outside of the industry might not have, because you just have access. Obviously COVID has thrown the largest monkey wrench I've ever seen in the history of the industry, which is a fairly large statement to say, I've been in the business for 25 plus years. In my time, I've never seen anything and just being a student of history of our industry. I just never seen anything like this. What I mean, what are you hearing? Like, I mean, obviously, every day, you know, as of this recording, we don't know what's happening right now, as we're recording, we're, quote unquote, opening up as the cases are flying up around the country. And even here in Los Angeles. Nobody knows what's going to happen in a month, in a week. So what are you hearing from executives from finance ears, from distributors from talent? You know, what's, what's the word?

Greg Gertmenian 6:42
Yeah, I think everyone is generally pretty eager to set dates. In the near future, when stuff is going to hopefully resume and get back to normal. I'm much less optimistic than that. Just because we have, you know, so many countries that are ahead of us in the curve. And we've seen that they've opened back up and then had to pull back. So you know, generally we're seeing I think there was an announcement today that movie theaters in Los Angeles in New York are expecting to open back up in mid July. And,

Alex Ferrari 7:16
and I don't I'm not optimistic.

Greg Gertmenian 7:19
Yeah, I think so. I think that, you know, I've spoken to because that's slated, we we work, you know, we're working on 60 films at any given time, and all of them have different production schedules. And they're all trying to make their day, right. So I've heard different filmmakers approach this differently. But I think that the conventional wisdom right now is that we're going to open back up for a little period of time, during which production is going to follow pretty strict guidelines to try to keep sets small to try to keep people in the respective corners of the set during the respective duties. The unions have signed off on certain protocols with regard to that sort of limited COVID mitigated production. But then we know like every other country, that there's probably going to be a resurgence. And from from what I'm hearing, I think the resurgence is expected to be a few months later, maybe perhaps sometime in November or September. And that's obviously not a tested statement. But as far as you know, whispers through the grapevine, I think the senses we're going to get we're going to get in the game for a few months, people are going to try to do their COVID, safe, friendly productions. You know, we certainly have some films that are more contained, that have, you know, could be made with tiny crews that are planning to shoot in that frame of time. And then if and when stuff starts to hit the fan again, then we'll you know, we'll have to pull back and adjust accordingly. But I know that there are some universities out there who are planning to go back just in session on schedule in August and try to rap a little early before the the the resurgence of COVID happen. So I don't know if we're following their lead or what but I think filmmakers are eager to get done what they can while they can. Give me my I'll be back on ice in a period of a few more months. Yeah, I

Alex Ferrari 9:13
mean, I'm even less optimistic than that. I think right now just looking at the numbers and what people are talking about there. You know, it's in a 50% capacity already in LA with ICU beds. And it's growing every day because of the because of the protesting. Because of all that stuff that we didn't that wasn't even a part of the crazy that we have to deal with in 2020. And now all of a sudden, we have that thrown in. So that's a complete new monkey wrench in this normal, somewhat normal, a normal timeline that you even talking about. So um, I don't see theaters opening up in July. I just don't and if I do how, like, if tenant opens up Nolan's tenant opens up July 15. Well, yes, there'll be a handful of people Go out, is it gonna have $150 million opening? I doubt it. I don't think there's enough theaters nor enough people who are willing to go to the theater to go see it. It's unfortunate because I want to see that movie in the theater. I want to see it in IMAX. But how? I, it's such a strange world. Like I'm trying to think like, how, like, we have no blockbuster summer. This is the first since 70, whatever. 75 when jaws came out, this is the first non blockbuster summer. That's right.

Greg Gertmenian 10:29
It is. Yeah. And who who among those filmmakers want to be the first guinea pigs to try out opening in a theater that can only be filled to have capacity or whatever?

Alex Ferrari 10:39
If you're lucky. Yeah, if you're lucky. And then also like, wouldn't it be interesting, like, let's say tenant does open up, and, and it has $100 million opening, a lot of people go see it, then all of a sudden Two weeks later, the tenant wave comes in from people to contract it contracting it from I mean, it's it happened in Memorial Day. So now we're feeling that what happened on Memorial Day, two weeks later, will sir, the revealing the after effects of that, and all this other stuff. So it's it's just, it's fascinating to see. And what we're hearing in the industry in general, what, what opportunities you see for filmmakers and screenwriters post COVID because I think the industry is going to change irreparably, it will never go back to where it was, I don't think sets are going to go back to the way they were any, even in the next two, three years. I think it's gonna it's like certain things are going to just change. Do we would you agree?

Greg Gertmenian 11:36
I'm hearing a lot of that, and I haven't accepted it in my heart. But, but it's it stands to reason I think that makes sense.

Alex Ferrari 11:46
So what are the opportunities for filmmakers and screenwriters in this new post world, and this, you know, opportunities that are presenting themselves now that there might be that I always tell people that there are doors that are opening that would have been closed before? Because of COVID. So COVID is closing other doors that Normally we'd never had access to, but might be opening other opportunities up? Which like any crisis does?

Greg Gertmenian 12:10
Yeah. Well, you know, in the first place, there was an incredible shortage of, of new content, right. So what we saw first, we saw in the first three weeks of this, and it were going on over three months now, which is hard to believe. But in the first few weeks, we saw people go a little bit quiet as they were bracing themselves to figure out like what was the size and scope of this thing. And then at least on our side, because being you know, being an online platform, we deal with people all over the world. And so on our side, we saw business start to resume normally, or projects have been getting a lot of interest. We've been getting offers on projects, we didn't see money fallout of projects, we didn't see distribute distribution, fallout of projects, things seemed normal. And then they seemed almost to increase in intensity, that demand for good projects increased as streamers, distributors, buyers realized, we're not going to be getting any new content for a while. So there was a period of time and I think we're still in it, where if you had a completely film, if you have a film and post, you're, you're you're in demand more than you would have been prior to COVID. And we're definitely seeing some films that are in post that are getting pretty great offers, I don't know would have been as rich before COVID happened. So that's sort of the first opportunity. I think if you're a filmmaker with a film in post, you're you're sitting pretty. Aside from that, I think that people are definitely rethinking how they film things. I think that contained sort of sub genre of stuff is interesting for a whole different reason. And Necessity is the mother of invention. In this case, I think you know, you don't necessarily it doesn't necessarily have to be contained thriller, someone trying to get out of freezer or what have you. You know, there's a lot of we've seen a lot of very interesting sort of high concept stuff that takes place in small space. And if you can do that and make it feel organic, then that can end up being a pretty cool movie. So I think I think figuring out how to shoot those tiny skeleton crew films is an opportunity. I've already seen movies, there'll be movie selling, it can just next week, that are you know, COVID romances, quarantine romances, films that start entirely, you know, on their computer screen over Skype and and through other screen technology. So no, maybe that'll give rise to some of that. I I hear that I hear the groan in response to hyper, you know, hyper topical, you know, it's

Alex Ferrari 14:40
just like, the last thing I want to see is a movie about what I'm dealing with 24 seven I want to escape. So I get sent. I get sent. I mean, do you have any quarantine shorts? I've been sent like, Oh my god, they're just being sent to me left and right because filmmakers You know, think that they're the cool, we're gonna we're gonna be this is the thing that's gonna blow me up. This is the thing that's gonna get me I'm gonna do this. Nobody else in the world is gonna do a quarantine short, because everyone else has stopped shooting. So they're just trying to figure that out and then I get I'm like, Guys, I don't want to watch a shirt about. I just turned on the news and I'm just

Greg Gertmenian 15:18
already too much,

Alex Ferrari 15:21
it's too much. So I'm really curious about this kind of sub, the sub genre, which I think it's going to become a sub genre of filmmaking, which is this kind of quarantine thing. It might be short lived, it might be a short lived movement, maybe a you know, one of these more established filmmakers might go down that would like I would love to see like a Michael Mann quarantine film, or, or Dave or David Fincher quarantine film like that would be very interesting. in hands of masters like that, to see what that genre Yeah, precisely

Greg Gertmenian 15:54
in the hands of masters and non opportunists, for sure. But yeah, I mean, as far as the appetite of buyers, studios, distributors and investors, they're all still looking for the same stuff they were looking for, in my in my from my, from where I said, Okay, still want, you know, cool concepts, they still want visual stories. They still want diverse stories. And so I don't know that we should be changing up our whole game plan. It's more just a matter of, you know, trying to figure out how we can accomplish those same objectives in these circumstances. And if not, then how can we be ready to knock it out of the park, the moment that we are able to go back to work, and I think, you know, one of the unfortunate things is that when it's over, it won't really be over. Because not only will there be production restrictions, but there's going to be a mad dash for all of those tax credits, all of those crews and all of those regions. And it's, you know, I can only imagine how difficult it's going to be to fight for space. As everyone is trying to schedule all of that delayed production,

Alex Ferrari 16:57
it's going to be a mess, it's going to be a mad rush, because there's a limited amount of states that have tax rebates or countries that have tax rebates, and crew, and everyone's just sitting on the sidelines. And like everyone's so everyone wants to play ball at the same time.

Greg Gertmenian 17:11
And talent. Yeah, exactly, exactly. It's like if you're making an offer to an actor right now, they can presume they may be free. But But what happens when the studios make those same demands and production opens back up? Where are they going to prioritize? So? Yeah, it'll be interesting to see.

Alex Ferrari 17:28
It's such a mess. Yeah, it is such a mess. It's, it's, it's very interesting to just sit in the sidelines, and kind of watch what's going on. Because it's like, every day you really don't know. And you just mentioned the Cannes Film market, and the festival. That's different. That's like not it's happening. But it's virtually happening. So I have, you know, I have a bunch of distributor friends of mine who are at the virtual, and with a virtual booth. And I'm dying to hear how that goes. What are you hearing about this? I mean, and I think it's way overdue. Let's just put that in. I think the virtual film market is way overdue. But it needed something like this, it was probably going to take another five to 10 years before can or AFM decided to do something like this. But now they're forced to. So what what are you hearing about that?

Greg Gertmenian 18:21
So I think, on the whole people are generally sort of excited about it. They're there they are, you know, cannas put a put a lot of effort into trying to recreate the experience of the of the physical market as much as they possibly can. And I think everybody really appreciates that really commend them for that. And for the most part, we've seen sales companies that are just looking to proceed with businesses normal, they are building up their slates right now they're grabbing up their final acquisitions, so that they can announce what films are going to be selling. And they're booking the calendar of virtual screenings and virtual meetings, and I have heard some relief and appreciation expressed on the part of some sales companies to say, you know, it's better in a couple of ways. One, you know, I'm not going to get ambushed by somebody just walking into my booth that didn't have an appointment and doesn't have, you know, can't buy a film can't can't buy a film in a given territory. They have more control over their schedule and can be more efficient that way. But number two, also, when they do a screening, yes, it's virtual. But they have the ability to book that sort of virtual theater beyond what that small physical physical screening room can can accommodate. So you could potentially have you know, hundreds of people tuning in for a really exciting screening virtually that would not have been able to to make that same time at the physical market. So there are upsides

Alex Ferrari 19:43
Oh, there's a lot of upsides and have a cost out of the fly that I mean, don't get me wrong, I wouldn't mind going to Cannes Right. I mean it that's one of the nice things about it. It's you know, you go to Ken but but for a lot of these distributors and sales agents and buyers, it's just like it's it's an it's not cheap.

Greg Gertmenian 20:00
Right. Yeah, it's not it's not cheap. And if you're not prepared to turn it into a vacation, then you end up just sort of running around. not appreciating what. The scene around you

Alex Ferrari 20:11
the south of France. Yes,

Greg Gertmenian 20:13
exactly. So, yeah, so I think there's definitely some upsides. And I'm hopeful that the films that we have at the market this year are gonna are going to do to do well, because at the end of the day, the buyers still need content and new content, the levels of new content are getting lower and lower.

Alex Ferrari 20:32
So I heard I heard from through the grapevine that Netflix, because everyone, that's kind of like the the gold standard in streaming at this point, that Netflix, I heard from multiple sources, that they're like, oh, Netflix is we're not and they're just they don't buy anything, because they're buying this and that and I heard two different two different things from about Netflix one, the studio's when this, they happen, they unloaded a ton of content on the movies at a discount, because they needed revenue, because movies stopped like, like a lot of you know, if you don't have Disney plus, or if you don't have HBO Max, the revenue started to slow down. So they started dumping a lot of product on and I started seeing, like, Paramount movies and other big studio movies from like, 1015 years ago on there. So that was one thing. And second, I heard that Netflix basically had enough in the in the pipeline to last for two and a half, three years comfortably without having to buy another piece of content. So what do you hear? I'd love to hear what you're hearing about that and just in the streaming ecosystem in general.

Greg Gertmenian 21:42
As far as insight into Netflix, I don't I don't have any more insight than that. I think all of that makes sense. Generally, they are a company that has telegraphed to the world. Like, look, we we got this.

Alex Ferrari 21:53
We're good. We're,

Greg Gertmenian 21:54
we're doing fine.

Alex Ferrari 21:55
Tiger King is coming, don't worry.

Greg Gertmenian 21:59
That's right. And so that wouldn't surprise me that and I think I mean, just from a consumer standpoint, right? We're all sitting at home, dipping into those television shows and titles that we've been meaning to watch for a long time. I'm not at the bottom of my list. Oh, right. So you know, if that's any indication, then Netflix must be telling the truth. And yet, I think the shiny new titles, with 2020 dates on them are exciting for people. And I also know, and as I'm sure you know, you've seen this as well, that the the number of entrants in the streaming platform space is not decreasing, there are more people that are looking to do, you know, sports centric content, streaming platforms, and comedy centric content, streaming platforms, and all of those platforms still need content. So you know, there's more places than ever to sell stuff to. And if you're a buyer right now, or a distributor right now, you have to be aggressively looking, because not everybody can be Netflix. And it's and so and not everybody can buy studio content at a discount can afford that. So? Yeah, so I think if if there is a net effect of this, even though filmmakers are a little, they're restricted with regard to what they can do right now, I do you think that that it has become much more of a seller's market? Because because of the dearth of of new content?

Alex Ferrari 23:25
Now with packaging of films? How do you? How can an indie filmmaker package of film in today's world, like there was a set way to do it in, you know, January? Now? What are financers? looking for? How do you package it? Do you have any tips on you know, filmmakers trying to get projects off the ground now and scripts off the ground with, you know, attached talent in one way, shape, or form?

Greg Gertmenian 23:55
Yeah, so packaging and I have really appreciated the conversations that you've had on your show about how to approach sales and packaging from an independent film standpoint. I think that that is one thing that independent filmmakers overlook quite often they have a sense of indie film as being this very early model of, you know, Kevin Smith, can I be your friend? Yeah. Right. Right. And, and that is just isn't the case anymore. it you know, in today's market, you really need to build some value for your budget. That's not to say that if you you know, film A, if you make a film on a $25,000 budget, and no one's in it, and your execution is superlative, that you can't find a home for it, but generally speaking, you know, you're going to need to be thinking about what recognizable faces you can put in your film. And that directly impacts how much money you get to make your film to the extent that you're, you're trying to ask other people for investment. So I've appreciated you sort of foregrounding that conversation. Thank you on this show. Because that's, that's, that's one of the things that, you know, when we have 1000s of filmmakers coming to us to the extent they understand that it makes the whole rest of the process a lot easier, and it makes those films a lot easier to help. So I think, you know, first and foremost, I think it's, it's critical to just understand building value for the price of your film for the price of your budget. And, and, you know, I've seen people be successful at it all different kinds of ways. You know, obviously, if you have a personal connection to, to a star who trusts you, that's great. If you have a track record, that makes people feel at ease, even better, that's the best, arguably the best way to go about it. And, you know, we've also seen people to great effect use casting directors if the script is very compelling. If you're a director with a short or a pass film, who's proven that you can really create a good product, then having a reputable casting director send your script out to targeted talent can go a long way. And so those are the ways that we've seen film sort of self packaged up without the aid of a big agency. And then of course, if you you can be an indie film who works with CAA or UTA, or w Emmy. And if they rep you, and they really believe in the project, then of course, they can unleash a whole roster of really valuable talent who can take your film to the next level? So there are many different ways to do it, of course, what you just sort of have to look at, what is your network? What do you have at your disposal? How strong is the script? What's your track record? And then try to calculate, you know, what the best approach would be?

Alex Ferrari 26:40
How do you get one of the three big talent agencies to really like, look at your script, look at your package, look at yourself as a filmmaker and or screenwriter, producer, however, what what are some tips to kind of get in because that means everybody is trying to get to CAA or Wi Fi? And you know, it's kind of like, Oh, well, I'm wrapped by and I've heard that term. So many times. I'm like, Oh, my film is wrapped over at CAA. I'm like, and it's been in development for 10 years, it means nothing. But But if you put if you're serious, and you get momentum, and you actually get in there, how do you do that?

Greg Gertmenian 27:17
Yeah, so I think what I think in those cases, the films are trying to convey that the that that one of the agencies has agreed to sell domestic for them in the event that there's anything to sell, which isn't totally meaning last, but it's not actionable right now. Right?

Alex Ferrari 27:36
Well, no like that. I understand. But what I was referring to is like, I've heard filmmakers, because as you know, filmmakers sometimes stretch the truth not often sometimes stretch the truth when it comes to their projects. Not often, not often, it's very rare when that happens, but when they do stretch it, they're like, Oh, yeah, my film, this project is repped by CAA. So or is wrapped by W me. So yeah, so let's say, let's say 50% of the time, that's real. And then when it is real, is generally like what you're talking about, or that they have, they rep the director, and now they're taking on the whole project. So now they're gonna package the whole film with their talent in there. And that's that's generally the way it is. But sometimes it's, it's a stretch. So how do you if you're not repped by these companies? How would you approach a CAA? Do you come in with financing? Do you come in with maybe attached talent? Or I mean, because I mean, if you just show up with a script, and a dream, it's the lottery ticket at that point, if I'm not mistaken, if with no preparation, right, yeah,

Greg Gertmenian 28:38
I think nobody really wants to read a script.

Alex Ferrari 28:42
Shocking in Hollywood, that nobody wants to read it.

Greg Gertmenian 28:46
They all have so many scripts to read and your scripts not, you know, even if your script is incredible, and I'm sure you had this, you know, you people have sent you scripts, and you're like, this is one of the better scripts I've read this year. And it's still impossible to get anybody to care. You know, I really think that one of the sort of secret weapons that that filmmakers can use, if you want to be, you know, if you want to be making features at a high level, you kind of have to put your money where your mouth is and do a proof of concept or a short. That proves that you are an exceptionally talented director or producer. less true for writers, I think, unfortunately, writers in the position that they're they, you know, a short is not necessarily the best representation of their work. So they have to just write incredible specs that get you on page one. But if your director or producer, you know, I, I don't understand the logic of hoping someone's going to give you $5 million for your first feature. But you haven't tried you know, if you haven't proven you can do it, right. And directors that really do put their money where their mouth is and they go out there and they book a you know, a location for three days or whatever and they they create an event credible, high concept genre short are proof of concept. Those people tend to get traction if the short is good, because it's so easy to send a short out and have somebody click on it if for no other reason, because we're curious to know if you really as good as you say you are. So as far as like batting average getting a good response from agents or from anyone who can help you, based on cold outreach, I think a killer proof of concept of short is is the best way to go,

Alex Ferrari 30:29
would you? And this is a little bit of a disheartening comment. But I've read some amazing, amazing scripts. It's like when you read them, you're just like, how is this not an Oscar winning thing? Like it's and I've read them multiple times, from not unknown screenwriters from very well known screenwriters who have major track records. And yet, they can't get financed, or they can't get a packaged. And it kind of dawned on me This is years ago, when I first came to this game, it's like, oh, it's not about how good it is, unfortunately, it's about a bunch of different things hitting at the right time. So the right script that attracts the right producer, or the right director, or the right talent in the scope of where we are in the Zeitgeist of Hollywood at that moment, that perfect storm is what propels a certain project off the ground where a year earlier wouldn't go or a year later, it wouldn't go Is that a fair statement?

Greg Gertmenian 31:29
Yeah, I think that there are so many movies like that that took 10 years to get made for a reason. You know, there are projects that have come to us years ago that had a different cast, and a different producer, right, and they weren't able to get off the ground. And I don't know that the script was as good as it was, you know, 20 drafts later, I can't say, but it took that project going through multiple permutations before it hit one that really conveyed value to the person reviewing it. So I think that part of it is just the process of you know, there's a there's a glut of content out there. And so to calibrate a film just right, so that it sounds exciting, it feels like the most exciting version of itself. Sometimes, unfortunately, that just takes time. And most of it does have to do with the team and the talent. So, you know, I think at least from you know, we have 2300 investor companies that we're servicing through, slated. And so we have a lot of experience, getting a sense of what they respond to what they don't, package projects are always more interesting. And I think that one of the reasons for that is not only can you run numbers on a package project and figure out like how safe your investment is, relatively speaking. But you can just envision what the film is a little more clearly, when you know who's going to be in it, and who's directing it, and who's producing it, it becomes less of a concept less of a sort of a theory, and more of an actual product.

Alex Ferrari 32:59
So it's kind of like less heavy lifting at that point. Because if you have a script, you've got to start lifting a lot, because you've got to then package it and do it and, and you've got to really put a lot of energy in it. But if someone brings you a package script, like here's the talent, here's the director, here's some finance, like, and that just sets everything, it sets you apart. And it's not the quality of the scripts that setting you apart. It's the whole package that's setting you apart. Is that fair?

Greg Gertmenian 33:26
Totally. And I think that that gets to that actually gets to a distinction that's really important, I think, between independent filmmakers and the studio system, which is that in the studio system, you can write an incredible set spec and sell it for three quarter of a million dollars, right? You know, and then in that case, someone's literally just giving you money for having gotten that far. In independent film, it does, it never works that way. Because the money is usually just the money, their GPS that can sometimes be active. But for the most part, they're going to look at your script and say, What am I writing a check for? And who am I writing it to? And yet, you know, there are still a lot of independent filmmakers that maybe also exist in the studio system, but want to make their own film. And they're hoping that there'll be an investor who comes along and writes them a check so that they can cast and make offers and hire people. But in independent film, it just doesn't work that way, they're really expecting, you know, the money is the capital is really expecting you to build it first. So that it becomes an investable product.

Alex Ferrari 34:27
But even within so then the studio system too. I mean, if you have a package, it helps if you have if you have talent, if you have even some financing, you know from outside sources. That helps as well correct?

Greg Gertmenian 34:41
Absolutely. Absolutely. And we saw that in TV too, you know, with this boom of serialized content, and I'm not a TV agent, so I can only speak to the conversations I've had with them. But what I started to observe is that whereas before you know you might be able to take out a really strong pilot And or a really strong pitch and sell shows more and more and more and more over the past five or six years, you're really having to take out the whole the whole package and pitch the whole package before someone will consider buying your show. So that space has gotten a lot more competitive and a lot more talent driven than it had been before. So you got to your point, Alex, I think, yes, the package matters also in the studio world, as well.

Alex Ferrari 35:25
And now and let's talk about TV and films, because I mean, studios in general, I mean, there has been a massive shift in the studio system. And I consider the studio system basically the top six or seven, you know, majors that are, you know, and then there's some outliers that work within that, you know, the mini majors, if you will, but the majors that have shifted their entire business model, to IP based reboots, you know, franchises, the, you know, the films of the 80s and 90s that they're rebooting wouldn't ever be made today. Like they're not making those films that can you imagine The Goonies being made in a studio system today like that, that wouldn't ever exist? Or Gremlins or any of these amazing 80s and 90s. Ghostbusters, can you imagine Ghostbusters, like as a as an original pitch now would be very interesting. So, you know, so I see that there is also a limited window as far as how many of these films are being produced a year. at the studio level, they're they're not making 30 movies is studios not making 30 movies a year, they're making 10 at the big at the Disney's what made what like 12 movies last year, either at the studio level. And then Warner's is probably around the age of 1012. Before they were making 30 or 40 movies a year. And they were a different budget ranges and everything. So there is a certain limit of funds and opportunity now in the studio, theatrical space. But the television and serialized space, it is wide open and there is so much more opportunity there. And also, now the straight to the made for TV movie market, if you will back if I should date myself, you know, the movie of the week kind of movies which are now direct to Netflix, you know, or direct to HBO match or originals or original Hulu films that are at a much lower budget. Where do you think screenwriters and filmmakers in general should be focusing their energy? Should they be going for that homerun hit of like, I'm going to do the next 50 million 100 million dollar movie? Or should I start trying to get into serialized works trying to get into these lower budget direct originals for Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Max Disney peacock and so on?

Greg Gertmenian 37:41
Yeah, that's a good question. I think that the streamers always want content that feels like it could have been theatrical. So I don't think writing that kind of content, big concepts, you know, high concept. I don't think that's going out of style anytime soon. And if you have and if you have a knack for it, I mean, I ultimately went, you know, a lot of our businesses talking to writers and I think so much of the ancillary screenwriter, industry, fixates on this idea of like writing something marketable. writing something that can sell. And while I think there is some, there is some wisdom to that, generally, my advice to writers is to, to figure out what kind of writer you are, what your brand is, you may want to write every genre, but what genre, you know, in which genres Do you really excel? And in which honors? Does your work feel really authentic? And is it really resonating with people? And if you figure out what that is for you, then you can sort of figure out how to do the slightly more commercial version of that, that maybe puts you in the conversation, you know, for us for sending us back out to studio buyers, etc. But But yeah, I don't know that. I think that's where you kind of have to start and see where that leads you. And some people find themselves in the position of writing, you know, they're really good buddies. And unfortunately, that's not you know, that's not a that's not a firebrand genre

Alex Ferrari 39:12
for what was I'm sorry, you broke up, what was that genre again?

Greg Gertmenian 39:16
Oh, and you know, indie drama knees is like,

Alex Ferrari 39:19
so much

Greg Gertmenian 39:20
is a tough one, it's, you might be really, really good at that. And yet, it's it's really tough without a hook to get anybody excited about that. So, but but you know, I think, you know, you have to figure out what your voice is as a writer, and then try to innovate within that space and figure out what the commercial version of that is.

Alex Ferrari 39:39
But did did they have a better shot at getting in a writers room getting into a series now is that I mean, I think there's just by the math, there's more opportunity, correct?

Greg Gertmenian 39:49
Yeah, I think so. Yeah, I think so. I mean, I don't I don't work as much on the TV side, but I but I definitely have had a lot of friends who are writers and who were you know, Coming out of school or coming out of an MFA programs that have gotten snapped up into some really great writers room rooms, and they're excelling because they were incredibly talented. But I think that, you know, writers rooms are really intent on diversifying right now, I think that's, that's critically important. And there's there's just so much so many more of them. And I've seen all kinds of opportunities open up for my friends who I think prior to that, you know, serialized streaming boom, maybe would have had would have had to wait a little longer before this first forsters opened,

Alex Ferrari 40:31
do you think that this, this mad Gold Rush that's been happening now, probably for the last five years or so in regards to content? So many streaming platforms are opening up so much cotton? I mean, this is I mean, people are buying, I think they bought southpark for $100 billion, or something like 100 million dollars and, and Simpsons, you know, and obviously, Fox was purchased by Disney and friends how much his friends kept $200 million, or something like that $250 million, or something like that. It's um, it's insane that, but they're buying content up just they're just absorbing as much content as they can into creating as much content. Do you feel that there's a bubble here, like I kind of, I kind of see a bubble forming because this is not sustainable. This pace, cannot sustain for 20 years. And our economy right now is definitely not in the greatest space. And I still feel that we're nowhere near the worst of where the economy will eventually drop to. So I know, we all want content, we all want to see this. But there's how many of these streaming services can actually survive? How much money is there? Like? What do you think I just, you know, I don't want to put you in a bed in the corner. But I'm just asking, like, what do you think? Do you think this is gonna end? Or is this gonna pop?

Greg Gertmenian 41:48
Yeah, you know, as long as we're making, you know, as long as I'm allowed to make grand predictions, that could be entirely

Alex Ferrari 41:54
Absolutely, absolutely. That's what we're here, sir. And yes,

Greg Gertmenian 41:58
that in fatica? Lee, yes, we're in a bubble. And no, I think I mean, yes, some extent, I do think we are in a little bit of a bubble, because I think of the phase of growth that we're in as an industry is one in which there's been a new, there's been a new medium, there's a new playing field, that's been, you know, that we're all planning on. And the streamers are just just glad they're battling for dominance right now. So they're spending wildly inflated numbers of amounts for properties that they know are going to draw the most eyes with, you know, under the threat that maybe not all of them will survive into the next phase of this growth. And I think I think that that that, unfortunately, that is a strategy that they have to pursue, because they may damn well, what's that took a beat. Right, right. And so yeah, so I think that the prices will naturally settle. As, as people realize that there's probably room for all of these streaming services, maybe one or two will get knocked off. But, you know, for the most part, I'm seeing people toggle between their Disney pluses and their hulu's and their Amazons and their Netflix's with no problem. So, so I think the prices will naturally settle after this initial sort of elbowing people out of the way. Phase, you know, resolves, but, you know, beyond that, I can't, I couldn't say, I mean,

Alex Ferrari 43:22
I looking at looking at history again, I mean, in the early 90s, there was this indie, the indie boom, where they were buying, I mean, and if you got into Sundance, you got a million dollar deal. It was just like, it was like they were split. And then it felt like almost every month there was a new Kevin Smith, john Singleton, Spike Lee, Robert Rodriguez, Richard Linklater, and superstar broke, there was just every month there almost seemed like this new, this new kind of Cinderella story. And and then the studio's all said, Wait a minute, there's money in Indies, let's all put up in the shingle. So there's Warner, independent and Paramount Vantage, and all this the fire search light. But then it's it popped. It popped towards the end of the decade, it started to pop in, and then it started to fizzle out. And I have a feeling that that's kind of at that's a smaller scale, because what's going on now is massive, comparatively? Right.

Greg Gertmenian 44:13
Right. Yeah, things will certainly settle. And it will be interesting. It will be interesting to see how the curation of content for all those streamers ends up arranging itself, I think, you know, in our company, that's, that's a big part of our business model, right is where we're aggregating independent filmmakers and their projects from all over the world. We're taking the best ones, and then we're helping them get package financing sold, the demand for content has has never been higher. So I think there's going to be more of a demand for companies production companies, you know, talented producers, but also companies like ours who filter out the great projects and can curate those for for the buyers so that they don't have to roll up their sleeves and get in the muck out there and sort through The unsolicited submissions in the film of the film world. So

Alex Ferrari 45:03
God does a lot of that.

Greg Gertmenian 45:07
Yeah. On a completed film level on a script level,

Alex Ferrari 45:12
do you remember the time where it was just like there was too many scripts? Then now there's too many feed finished films out there. Like there's literally finished films that never see the light of day ever. Like true. It's amazing. It's it's pretty remarkable.

Greg Gertmenian 45:28
Yeah. And I think that that's something that we also see quite a bit of is that filmmakers get into this state of paralysis after where they're working on post, you know, for months and months, and sometimes years at a time. And I think they're almost, you can get a little fear of failure, that if I finally say, it's done, and if I take it out, you know, maybe it won't sell or maybe it won't sell for the amount that I hoped. And yet, you know, what, they don't realize it, it sounds hyperbolic to say this. And yet, it's so so so true, is that, you know, as my partner, it's slated, Jay on the finance team always says from the minute that you wrap your film, the clock starts to tick on the value of your movie. And if you're not getting a cut, and if you're not getting in conversations with sales companies, and if you're not getting out to the market, ASAP, then your films value is going to start to die and your phone's gonna get less and less relevant. And in many cases, people just they miss one of the market cycles, they miss a couple of them, and then they're just out of the game entirely. or God forbid, if they don't, if they don't time it right. And say they have a submit to festival because that's what everybody wants to do first is submit to festivals. And then maybe you have a festival premiere, well, then that becomes effectively a release date of sorts, that becomes a date upon which

Alex Ferrari 46:44
now it's really,

Greg Gertmenian 46:46
and now you've accelerated that. So I think, yeah, absolutely. I mean, the piece of advice that I have for filmmakers who do have a film and post is to get a cut that you can share, and then start to think about who's going to sell the movie, whether that's a big agency who's handling domestic and, and maybe International, or whether that is a sales company that you really trust, think about who that partner is going to be before you start willy nilly submitting to festivals, because festivals simply do not have the bandwidth to look at every every submission that they get. So you can have a fantastic film, and they may never find out. And you know, not to throw slinging mud at any festival in particular, but it's simply a numbers problem. So you know, you're much likelier to get a festival premiere festival debut, if you have somebody submitting your film to them. Who has a reputation with that festival, whether that is producer. So yeah, yeah, or a producers rep or a sales company who does a lot of business or an agent, you know that that makes all the difference in the world. So that's my number one piece of advice, when filmmakers come to us with the film and post is like, don't just start submitting to festivals, get a sales strategy in place, get a partner, have that partner make the submissions, you're going to go much further trust me, and then that partner can can use the festival as part as part of an overall strategy to debut your film to the world. And then use the next market as sort of a launch a launch for your film and sales

Alex Ferrari 48:16
don't do which you sent as you brought up festivals, do you? I've been saying this for a while festivals don't have the power that they used to this is not 1992 anymore. There's a handful, that mean anything to the bottom line, we're talking about five, maybe six in the world that mean anything to the bottom line, from your experience working with distribution companies and buyers and you know, other than the look, it's super cool. We all want to get into Sundance, she's the pretty girl that we all want to get it you know, a date with. There's no doubt about that can south by Tribeca, Toronto, we all want to go there. And it's fun. It's a cultural event. It's red carpet and, and there could be some business to be done at those festivals. But generally speaking, it's first of all, it's not a guarantee anymore. Before it was a guaranteed like you, you get in Sundance, it's sold, someone's gonna buy it. But that doesn't mean anything anymore. What are your feelings about festivals as a general statement from the buyers perspective, distributions perspective? Do they really mean anything? I mean, I mean, it cooks Of course, Sundance on a certain kind of film makes all the sense in the world. But even then, it's still not as much as it used to be. I mean, am I wrong? please do let me What do you think?

Greg Gertmenian 49:34
I agree. No, I agree that it's not a guarantee anymore, for sure. I do still feel that the handful of festivals that you named Sundance south by Tribeca can, Toronto, they still do really matter as far as your ability to introduce your film to the world and jumpstart the sales process. So you know, I'm sure they're they're there and then there's another tier festivals below them that still help with sales, they still have some stage, but they may not be, you know, as, as fancy and shiny as those others, but I still think that they make an incredible impact on your ability to, to get the film sold and distributed.

Alex Ferrari 50:15
But there is only a handful, period. Like even even first and second tier, we're talking 2025 film festivals around the world. That really means a lot. And I feel that so many filmmakers lose so much time submitting to all of these.

Greg Gertmenian 50:31
Right? That is so true. That is so true. And then they you know, the film, The filmmakers, then try to use, you know, I'm gonna, I'm gonna accidentally name a real Film Festival by trying to come up with a fictional one.

Alex Ferrari 50:46
So I always I always use I always use Moose Jaw, the International Moose Jaw Film Festival. I don't think that's a real festival. But you could just use the or the Uptown downtown Film Festival. Sure. So the Uptown downtown festival Yes, that is

Greg Gertmenian 50:58
a perfect, perfect, I'm going to use this from now on people are gonna start to think it's real. It's gonna be a life of its own. Yeah, so that that, you know, there's there's 1000s of those. There's I feel like there's a new one every week. And the same thing goes for screenwriting competitions too. And I think maybe that is a misconception that that the that the belief is that if someone has validated your film, then it's more valuable. And yet if that somebody is a an unknown screenplay, competition or Film Festival, it actually does just damage and particularly if you got like third place in the in the Uptown downtown Film Festival, it's like you weren't even good enough for for uptown downtown.

Alex Ferrari 51:43
I want to talk to that guy. I want to talk to that gal. Whoever shot that I want to I want to talk to whoever won uptown downtown. You've got grand jury and uptown downtown.

Greg Gertmenian 51:58
So you know, and of course I I can relate to having been on the creative side. The idea that somebody is saying, look, you did a good job that is that that's all people want to hear when they've finished making something. And like me, like you're still looking at it as a business. You have to be strategic about who you let put their laurels on your poster.

Alex Ferrari 52:18
No. Well, that sounded that sounded kind of dirty. I don't know why it's like you don't let someone else's laurels on your posts.

Greg Gertmenian 52:27
Doctoring COVID

Alex Ferrari 52:29
Absolutely not. Absolutely not. You need to you need to wipe that down with some alcohol. But um, but but so I suggest sometimes when I'm consulting with with filmmakers, I look at the film and I go, look, I think this film might have a chance. And even the might have a chance at any of the 25 film festivals. Sometimes they'll go, why don't you just put some feelers out at real distribution companies and real real buyers and see what happens. Because what's the what's the endgame here is the end game prestige, then go down the festival circuit, have fun, spend two years running the festival circuit. But understand that financially, that is not going to be good for your film. If you run it, I've seen festivals on I've seen films on the festival circuit for two years, just and they play 60 film features, right? And then at that point, I'm like, nobody, like I don't care if you have 60, laurels. Right? They're all uptown downtown. It doesn't matter. But your ego is very well inflated. After all of that, so right. What's the end game being honest?

Greg Gertmenian 53:40
Yeah, I think I think that that can potentially be an approach, you know, if you if you are a filmmaker with relationships at those distributors, then I think that that's well advised. If you're not, then I would encourage you to partner with a producer or sales company. Who does because we've seen cases where films have finished their film, festivals, maybe festivals, maybe they didn't. They then queried a bunch of buyers. And they got sort of de facto passes not because anyone actually ever looked at the film but because they said no go away unsolicited submission, we don't know you. And then that becomes difficult for a sales company that comes on board and tries to sell the film in earnest because right you have to navigate well, Was this an actual past? And anybody actually look at it? Of course, the answer is normally No. But in most cases, that becomes a conversation that you don't want to have to have. So I would say you know, sales companies for all the flack that they get for all the sales companies out there that may or may, you know may be more bottom feeding type companies predatory

Alex Ferrari 54:45
predatory is what I like to call

Greg Gertmenian 54:47
predatory perhaps. But there are still a lot of sales companies out there that they make a living selling movies and being transparent with filmmakers and reputations, and so I really do think that they can be That link that unlocks a distributor taking you seriously a festival taking you seriously. And and making sure that you're you're managing that process carefully and strategically.

Alex Ferrari 55:11
Do you think that from your experience, because I've spoken, spoken at nauseam about this, in regards to distribute the traditional distribution space where we're at right now, I've been yelling from the top of the top of the hill that Rome is burning, especially in the indie space. And that talking studio space, though I do, I do feel that those walls are starting to crumble a bit too, under its own way. But the traditional distribution model is kind of starting to fall apart. Because what was once cash cows are not no longer there. And they literally from month to month, year to year, don't know where their money is going to come from. Like before, it was pretty stable. Like, you know, you had VHS, were good with VHS. We had cable deals, we had pay TV, free TV, then DVD showed up and then just everybody was like The Great Gatsby when the money was flying everywhere. You could just release sniper seven. And it was already you already made 3 million bucks on DVD. But those days are all gone and streaming is not paying what DVD was. So I've and I've spoken to I've been at AFM. I've spoken to multiple distributors that I literally asked him I go, you really don't know where you're gonna get your money, are you and they're like no our main, our main strategy is to acquire as many films as we can, at no money upfront, for as long as we can keep them in our library. So then we can negotiate with a streaming service to sell the library off to them and see if we can make any money with them at all. T VOD is pretty much dying, if not dead. s VOD, is if you can get a deal. Great. And a VOD is where the money is currently. But it's still nowhere near DVD money. So that's at the lowest level of independent film, we're talking, you know, $10,000 movies up to even up to a million dollar to $2 million movies. But some of the movies I'm sure you're working on are at much higher levels, and that that's a whole other ecosystem. What is your feeling about the future of the model in general? And feel free to say, Alex, I take the fifth on this.

Greg Gertmenian 57:17
I'll take a partial fifth. I mean, everything you're saying rings true. I think that, uh, that packaging and bundling these titles together and selling them is definitely a line of business for sales companies. The mg has gone away. And in some ways, that is a good thing. Because, you know, of the whole fallacy that that the MSG was truly a minimum guarantee, which of course it isn't, it's usually a it's a

Alex Ferrari 57:43

Greg Gertmenian 57:44
Right? It's a maximum guarantee that No, they didn't, they weren't clear about the asset. Exactly. So you know that and so I'm actually in favor of sales companies, not paying employees to acquire the content themselves, because then they really have to take the film out, and we get to see in a sales cycle or to how well they're able to actually sell sell the movie and their and their, you know, their ability to make money depends on that performance. So yeah, I don't miss the I don't miss the MG from sales companies, I think a no mg model is certainly Okay. And then they really just have to perform.

Alex Ferrari 58:22
If that's if they perform, if they can perform, sometimes even it's not even in their power, if they can or cannot depends on the marketplace.

Greg Gertmenian 58:31
It's, that's true. In their defense, that's true. And yet, I think a good sales company has really strong relationships with buyers, they know exactly what that buyer is looking for in advance at the market, or they at least have a sense of it. And they know what where their cash cows are. I mean, it's it's not a surprise, and I'm sure I know, you've talked about this as well, that there are certain genres that have more inherent sales value irrespective of cast. So you know, we can rely on that to some extent, if you have made an action film and executed it exceedingly well, then there will be some buyers for that. And cast helps a great deal. So So yeah, I think they you know, they don't have full control. But a good sales company is is is going to have a better sense of what they can do with a given film and hopefully get closer to hitting their numbers.

Alex Ferrari 59:21
Now in the in the world that we're living in right now. Something that I never thought would happen has happened, which is the international market has shut off basically, because of COVID. And then the Hollywood system, this is where I said that the weight of the system is kind of falling on against itself. When you make a 200 million plus dollar movie, which is the norm now. And then you spend another 200 or plus more to market it. That kind of movie without an international component can't sustain itself. You know, I mean, obviously the there's the marvels of the But can you make a $200 million movie without the international marketplace? In the way it is now? And I don't know, I'm not sure. In the next year or two, is that marketplace even going to, you know, within this next year or two? How much of that marketplace is even available to us? So can bond survive? Without international? Can Black Widow can wonder woman? Can they? I don't think their model is built on domestic only because now we're not the biggest market China. I think China is am I wrong? Is China is the biggest market? No. Are we still the biggest? I'm not sure we're close. I mean, but that's the other thing. China's China's shut down all their movie theaters when COVID hit so you're like, right, you know, Milan is sitting in limbo. So it's, you know, can the studio's systems business model work without an international component? And how does that adjust these events, style films that are basically the norm now in the studio system?

Greg Gertmenian 1:01:01
I don't see how it can I don't see how you can make a $200 million movie without the ability to sell it outside of the US. I don't see how that that's possible. But I but I don't think international markets are going away. I think they'll be there again, at some point. Right. But yeah, I think that isn't that product is built specifically at that budget level, because they're planning theatrical across the world. And then all of the, you know, all of the ancillary revenue streams that come downstream from that.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:33
Yeah, well, yeah. So so that brings a good point theatrical. We then be touched on theatrical in this conversation. I mean, theatrical is taking a pretty big hit right now. And I'm a fan of the movie theater. I love it. I want I if I could go everyday I would. I grew up in a generation as you did that we the movie theater, you're not a filmmaker, quote, unquote, unless your movies in the theater kind of thing. But this is really taken. I mean, the movie theaters industry has taken a hit not only here in the US, but around the world. And now that people are becoming more accustomed to staying at home and it's absorbing it, I'm sure people are going to want to come back out to the theaters. But are the numbers going to be back to where they were? How long will the numbers be able to get back to the work? And they were going in a downward trajectory? pre COVID. So again, that same question, does this model work without a theatrical component not only theatrically but internationally, but domestically? And because there's no way you're releasing a $200 million movie off a streaming? And I joke with trolls, trolls made 100 million bucks. Yeah, that's nice. That's great. Let's throw bond up there. Let's throw a Marvel movie up there. And let's get some real numbers to see. Are people going to spend $400 million? I think they can because mike tyson fights back in the day, they would gross three $400 million that they did. I mean, it is possible. And that was with cable VOD. You know, and what this is, all those big fights. I mean, they would gross three $400 million in a night. So it is possible. It was great, right? It's insane. That's why like, you know, what's his uncle who's like the greatest undefeated middle eight, kind of can't believe I can't remember the ball, small guy. He beat Pacquiao he beat everybody. So that guy, I can't believe the names forgetting me. people yelling at the podcast right now that gets him. It's him. Like, I'm sorry, please forgive me. But that guy would walk away with 100 million bucks for the night or Tyson back in the day, he would walk away with $100 million a night. But so it is possible. But what do you think? What do you think?

Greg Gertmenian 1:03:37
I think it's possible. I think it's going to continue and I think we'll start building budgets for the ideal scenario of $100 million troll screaming release as opposed to the ideal scenario of a billion dollar you know, global theatrical release. So you make the movie for 25 million instead of 100 million Well, that's you know, it seems we can figure that out especially with you know, technology continuously advancing the cost of CG is imagine getting more and more man and

Alex Ferrari 1:04:05
ultimate the Mandalorian with the with the with the technology that they deal with Amanda Laura. Volume, Oh, God, that I think is one of the futures of the industry to save us from COVID like, have a very condensed but yet a 12 hour sunset. It's insane.

Greg Gertmenian 1:04:23
Yeah, it is very cool. I saw that that promotional video and that behind the scenes video, and I think that's such a good point. I'm sure they're doing all kinds of marketing right now around that technology, because it's, it's those kinds of things that are gonna allow us to to make theatrical type experiences on smaller budgets. But the idea of a $200 million movie to begin with is hard to wrap your mind around. And that's

Alex Ferrari 1:04:49
on the lower end because he started looking at some of these bigger Marvel films that they pushed 300 million, you know that 233 50 you know, I mean, no one I don't even know what avatar back 10 years ago. cost, I can only imagine what it's costing. James Cameron with an open checkbook is very dangerous. But, you know, how does, you know? How does avatar work? Like, you know, coming out these next four is the fourth four avatars that he's making. It's, it's really interesting to see, it's it's gonna be a, it's gonna be a complete shift of the industry. I think you're right, you're gonna have to adjust budgets accordingly. And it's doable, like Mandalorian was much more affordable than it should have been.

Greg Gertmenian 1:05:32
Right, right.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:33
Yeah. It couldn't have been done without that technology.

Greg Gertmenian 1:05:37
I think so. Yeah. It looked fantastic. So hopefully we get to see some more of that.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:43
Now tell me tell me about slate. And we've been talking about slate a little bit here and there. So what is slated what how does it work? How do you help filmmakers and screenwriters? Tell me what you do?

Greg Gertmenian 1:05:52
Sure, yeah. So slate, it is a marketplace, or filmmakers to take the projects and develop them, package them, financed them, sell them get them distribution. So we have 50,000 members. It began as a as an invite only film finance network in 2012. So people had to be vouched for in order to join, all films were personally approved by our team before they could list and we had a small community of investors that had some some oversight in the beginning, which has become much more stringent now that it's an open network. But today, yeah, we're 50,000 members, I think something like 80% of our of Sundance movies last year were made by slated members, two thirds of Oscar nominated movies last year were made by slated members. And we've had films listed on the platform that including, you know, uncut gems or loving Vincent that were sort of living things and was nominated for an Oscar uncut gems should have been,

Alex Ferrari 1:06:53
should have won several Oscars. I mean, come on.

Greg Gertmenian 1:06:56
So So yeah, it's a you know, it is a it is a vibrant marketplace of filmmakers and fantastic projects that are coming from all over the world. And the platform itself serves to evaluate those projects, and then help them get linked up with wherever they whatever they need, based on where they are in their in their process. So that's what that's what our team does that P team that I'm part of,

Alex Ferrari 1:07:18
now the screenwriters submit their, their scripts there, how does that work?

Greg Gertmenian 1:07:22
Yes, yeah. So you can list your project, and not get any evaluation of your script or any financial projections. And then you can hope to match with a producer or a sales company, based on your logline and your poster and the value of you and your track record. That's a thing you can do. Generally speaking, we advise that people make use of the analytics that are available, the script score is critically important. And the financial analysis is also pretty important too. If you're hoping to attract, the investors that we discussed, are looking for projects that you know, have some have some demonstrable value, and, and some clarity there. So. So yeah, so you can list a project and have it not be scored. But what we advise is that you list your project, you submit your script to our team, you have our team review it, and then the analytics that we provide, you give you more of a presence on the site, more exposure on the site, and you're able to match with all those higher end investors, producers, sales companies who have said, Look, I only want to be messaged or matched with people whose projects had been reviewed and who scored above a certain threshold. So we use the analytics to enhance the matching.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:34
So but but you do work with treatments, or is only scripts or do work. It's like, here's the idea of I have this person attached to write the script, I have this director attached. I might even have some talent attached. Can you package a deal like that? And then maybe look for development funds, things like that?

Greg Gertmenian 1:08:50
Totally. Yeah, totally. So there, there's so there's three sort of key metrics, there's the team score. So if you list your film, you don't submit your script, you don't run financial projections, then there's just going to be a score based on who's making the film. So if you're a director, and you've made six, or you'll have a score, and people who are looking for projects with elevated teams will find you. If you choose to submit your screenplay, it should be a completed screenplay. Sure. We are taking completed scripts, we are taking completed movies, and we're going to start taking completed documentaries as well. And when I say completed, I mean a rough cut is fine picture lock cut is fine. And for for that process, it's it's always the same with every project. And we've done it for 10,000 projects to date, which is that we remove the cover page from the script, and we hand it to our development staff and we have three different members of our development staff read the script and respond to a set of questions independently stat returns us 100 point script score on a scale from one to 100. But it's really more on a scale from 60 to 90 because that's where most the scores fall And then that score indicates sort of how far in your development process you are, how close you are to being ready to being matched to a producer, or how close you are to being ready to effectively shoot. So if if the way our system is designed with three readers reviewing every project in one person gives it a recommend that the project will qualify for matching with with almost everybody on the on the platform, even if the other two readers are past,

Alex Ferrari 1:10:27
you know, is it work like so it's a market is kind of like, once you get past that's kind of like a marketplace. So then it goes up on the boards, let's say, and then everyone has access to seeing what that is. And then people contact the producers of that project or the owners of that project.

Greg Gertmenian 1:10:42
Yeah, more or less the the matching is, is really sophisticated in that it's focused on what you as a member, Alex have said you want to see. So if you told slated view your profile, I only want to see projects with script scores above 70. And or I only want to see projects who have an attachment that is x or higher, then those are the only projects are going to match with and every Monday morning you're going to get a digest that shows you the projects that you match with. And for any project that is a match to you, they'll now be allowed to message you because their project matches that criteria. So if at any point, an investor or producer wants to receive fewer matches, they can dial up the script score threshold, or they can dial up their team score threshold and get more targeted matches. Or they can say I only want stuff at this stage at the packaging stage or development stage or something

Alex Ferrari 1:11:33
like that. That's gonna bring it in. Right, very, very interesting. That's a pretty cool, pretty cool situation you got going on.

Greg Gertmenian 1:11:40
I man I love it. I really really love it. Because we you know that the global component of it is probably the most exciting because we have filmmakers that are submitting from Canada, from Egypt, from Mongolia, who have truly come up with these incredible stories, incredible screenplays. And, you know, you may or may not be surprised some of them have a very firm grip on how to build value how to package their movie for their territory. And so we're coming across films that I just never would have conceived up because because none of them are my experience. And but also films that I just never would have known existed that are beautiful, you know, sometimes heartbreaking stories, either at the script stage, or the post stage. So the idea that we can be a portal for those filmmakers and get them straight to the person that they need to be talking to in a matter of weeks or months. That is that is really exciting because the film industry at large is very scattered, very disorganized. You know, people depend on shows like yours to help them make sense of it all. And so we pride ourselves on being another one of those sort of spirit guides that can help assess you where you stand, figure out what you need and get you to the right place.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:51
That's like spirit guide. I think that's good. Hashtag spirit guide. That's very, very nice. Very cool, man. Very cool. All right, so I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I asked all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker and or screenwriter wanting to break into the business today.

Greg Gertmenian 1:13:09
So first screenwriter Write, write, write, write, write, I think that competitions, if you're focusing on the top three or four are fantastic, you know, obviously, submit your script to slated and get it scored, you're going to get 20 pages of feedback and a script score from people who are working in the industry and have read 1000 scripts each. So that's really high value. And then I'm here to answer your questions about your coverage. So if you have a script, that's where I'd start, but there are also screenplay competitions, like the nickel like page, like the ones that roadmap writers or tracking board does. Those are all great companies. And I recommend that a new writer, try all of those avenues, it cannot hurt. If you get traction with any of them, it can be meaningful and allow you to take take your project to the next step. If you're a new filmmaker, yeah, then you should try to meet somebody who's more experienced than you and not hire people that are less experienced than you to help you pack the film, develop the film, and take that project to the next step. Also, list your plate we will help you

Alex Ferrari 1:14:06
and what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Greg Gertmenian 1:14:13
You ask this to all your guests

Alex Ferrari 1:14:14
every single one. That is the Oprah question. That's the Oprah question. Yeah.

Greg Gertmenian 1:14:21
It's it's the lesson that I learned longest.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:23
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the business or in life?

Greg Gertmenian 1:14:32
That is a tough one. It's hard not to get super existential on that. She's That's intense. I think I'm gonna try to keep it film related. Otherwise,

Alex Ferrari 1:14:42
we'll have a crying session. It'll be a thing. We don't get it there. I do therapy for free on the show all the time. It's fine.

Greg Gertmenian 1:14:50
Yeah. You know, I think I think that, you know, I think that the film industry can be a big scary place. And I think That when you think about agents or investors, you think of these sort of faceless people that are really intimidating and really cutthroat. And the fact is that there is a really healthy heart of the film industry independent or studio system that is here, because they love stories, and they're here for the right reason. So I think, you know, I think authenticity, of focusing on authenticity, and, you know, making stories that really resonate for you, and building around that, you know, not being blind to the business aspect of it. But you know, realizing that if you do make something that is incredibly powerful, or tells a story, that's true for a lot of people, and then you also build value, that there are going to be people who are passionate and excited about that. And yes, it may take time, but I think don't make it a foregone conclusion that everyone is cynical out there. Because I think there are a lot of companies out there that are looking to be part of something meaningful. And, and if you've, if you've created that, then you can be part of that, that dream for everyone.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:02
I you know, if I could tack on to that, because I found that, you know, doing my rounds in Hollywood so much as I've done the years. You know, yes, they're these these gods that we have on Mount Hollywood, you know, the Spielberg's and the Nolan's and these kind of guys, but at the end of the day, they're all human, everyone's human. everyone you meet is human yet some have more egos. Some are, are, you know, are acids, some are not, some are very sweet, some Americans, but they're human beings and you get all sorts, but I found honestly, once you break through that first layer, if you're a professional, and a providing value to the person you're talking to, they're going to reciprocate and they're going to be open to it. It's the what can you do for me? I want you to read my script. I want you to give me money like that energy, of course, you're gonna get you're gonna get like to just back off, right. Um, and the best advice I ever heard from, like, what's the best advice be in the film business? Don't be a dick. Right? Is that the best? Like the best advice ever?

Greg Gertmenian 1:17:03
Right, right. Yeah, I think people have this concept of the film industry is being really cutthroat and cynical, and then they try to adapt a version of themselves that can handle that. And I think that's the exact wrong way to go. I I think you described it. exactly correct. That just don't be a dick. And that there are there are nice people out there who, you know, if you have built something valuable, I'm interested to have a discussion.

Alex Ferrari 1:17:28
That's the key value if you can provide value in whatever way shape or form that's going to open the door much quicker than Pina Dijk. And now the toughest question of all three of your three of your favorite films of all time,

Greg Gertmenian 1:17:44
oh, no, my gosh, okay. Um, okay, recent film. So when I was a kid growing up, and I it's problematic for a number of reasons today, but I loved and people hate this film, but I loved Forrest Gump.

Alex Ferrari 1:17:57
I mean, I love Look, I love Forrest Gump. I think Forrest Gump is fantastic. If it's on a watch it do. I think that it should have beaten Pulp Fiction as the relevance of what it was that it like in the history of cinema. Yeah, but it was fantastic. Yeah, it's so much fun.

Greg Gertmenian 1:18:16
Or scub I love it's hard to choose the top films but in the past few years I've loved films like a loved room I think about room a lot for its structure and what it was able to accomplish with relatively little

Alex Ferrari 1:18:31
not the room not the room, but room not Tommy was so's ring.

Greg Gertmenian 1:18:35
I love them both. I think I think my top three are room, the room. And

Alex Ferrari 1:18:44
I think everyone, everyone who's listened to the show knows my affinity for the room and how genius of the film that is and how there's very few films that can transcend from so bad to Oh my god, I love it. I get to watch cats, though. I haven't heard that from cats are just here. It's just

Greg Gertmenian 1:19:07
yeah, or you can't be self aware when you're making the nothing. You can't. You must have zero self awareness that is the key to success in making the room

Alex Ferrari 1:19:18
quality you know, you can't like if you and I sat down like we're gonna make a room kind of film. It's done. It's dead from the beginning. You have to be completely don't

Greg Gertmenian 1:19:27
kill my dreams, Alex just

Alex Ferrari 1:19:28
like no, but if you have to be completely unaware of how ridiculous or right that is. It's exactly the room showgirls is another one. That's just remember so showgirls is a huge fan base, huge fan base for

Greg Gertmenian 1:19:44
desert Really?

Alex Ferrari 1:19:45
Oh my gosh, they just they're releasing a documentary on it right now of how it's transcended itself now, and you can watch showgirls, it's not the room it nothing's the room, because that's just a whole. I mean, that wasn't a you know, it's not Paul Verhoeven For God's sakes directing it, but you watch you watch, it's so beautifully bad. There's like, beautifully bad and then there's just masterpieces The room is a masterpiece of he uses the same stock footage three times, like,just watch it. But you can't watch. Do you ever watch the room alone? Don't do that. The room has to be watched with a group of people. That's the only way to properly enjoy the room. It's like Rocky Horror. You should not watch it alone.

Greg Gertmenian 1:20:27
That's a great.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:29
Yeah. Now where can people? Where can people find you and slated and the work you do?

Greg Gertmenian 1:20:36
You know, come visit [email protected] sign up. It takes two seconds, it's free. And then you can chat with us via our little chat bubble at the bottom right corner. There's a little orange dot click on that. And you'll be talking to one of us in no time at all. So wherever you are, we'll be able to help you get set up.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:51
Great. It has been an absolute pleasure having you on your show, man. Thank you for dropping all the knowledge bombs and the inside knowledge bombs on the industry today. So thanks, brother.

Greg Gertmenian 1:21:00
Oh, man, not at all. Yeah, really nice to chat with you, Alex. And I hope we get to chat against him.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:06
If we can learn one thing from this episode, it is that you shouldn't watch the room alone. It's just weird, guys. Just don't do it. I want to thank Greg for coming on the show and dropping those knowledge bombs on the bulletproof screenwriting tribe. Thank you so much, Greg. If you want to get links to anything we talked about in this episode, as well as contact information for what he does at slated, head over to the show notes at bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/078. And guys, if you haven't already checked out the new indie film hustle Podcast Network, which is the home of some of the best screenwriting and filmmaking podcasts out there, head over to eye f h podcast network.com. And we have a ton of other podcasts that are not just my podcast, but also other podcasts and we're adding new awesome podcasts every month. So check it out. Thank you for listening, guys. As always, keep on writing no matter what. Stay safe, and I'll talk to you soon.

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BPS 075: Top 10 Screenwriting Scams to Avoid

On today’s show, I’m going to discuss screenwriting scams that ALL screenwriters should be aware of and avoid at all costs. It never surprises me how predatory people can be with screenwriters and filmmakers in this business.

I did an episode exposing ways screenwriters can get screwed on writing assignments. Listen to that one here


I do a deep dive into each of the following scams in the show.

  1. The Free Option – Optioning your screenplay for free
  2. Agent Reading Fees
  3. Script Consults That Ask for a Backend Cut
  4. Screenwriting Marketing Services
  5. Screenwriting Contests – Promises
  6. Screenwriting Contests – Milking Technique
  7. Ghost Writing Screenplays
  8. Any Deal That Gives Your Rights Away
  9. Representation Retainer Fee
  10. Screenwriting Contests Warning Signs

Stay safe out there guys. Sharks are everywhere. Enjoy!

Right-click here to download the MP3



  1. Bulletproof Script Coverage – Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
  2. AudibleGet a Free Screenwriting Audiobook

Alex Ferrari 0:00
Well, we are here guys. Number 75. I can't believe that we've done 75 episodes of the bulletproof screenwriting podcast thank you guys so much for spreading the word about this podcast, it has grown beyond what I ever thought it could. So thank you for that amazing support. And I wanted this episode to be a little bit special in wanting to kind of stand out from the crowd. So today we're going to talk about the top 10 screenwriting scams to avoid. Now on the indie film hustle podcast, I've talked at nauseum about scams in the distribution space in the production space. But I've never spoken about the scams in the screenwriting space. And my God, there are a lot of them. I was talking to a professional Screenwriter The other day, and he mentioned one of these scams that we're going to talk about. And it kind of got me got me thinking, I was like, I can't First of all, I can't believe that that's a thing. And he's like, Oh, yeah, it's a thing. All right, and I got taken by it. When I first started out. I was like, holy cow. So I started doing research, and found so many scams that you can avoid as a screenwriter. So let's start off with number one, the free option. That's when you option your screenplay to a producer, when I'm going to use that term, quote, producer for free. You're basically just giving your your rights to your screenplay for 12 months or so if you have to do that. Generally speaking, if they can't afford to pay you some sort of option, a fee upfront, then they probably can't produce your film. That's a general statement. Now with that said, though, we're going to be having a guest coming on in the next few weeks, who tells a story. He's a professional screenwriter, and he tells a story of how he did give a free option, but it was to a very reputable producer who had big, big credits, and had you know, worked with big stars. And it wasn't a free option. It was a development deal. So they would not pay him for the idea of the screenplay. But they would develop the screenplay together. And if they didn't produce it, the screenwriter had all the rights. Back to them, and you can go and shop it around else. So for him, that story worked out very well, because he got a masterclass on how to work at a much higher level than he had been working with his professional producer and producer teams dealing with notes, working out characters, dealing with production costs, and like, you know, just because you write, the man gets thrown out the building out the window, you don't understand what that cost is, and things like that, that he learned during that process. So in that case, it made a lot of sense. But generally speaking, if you give away a free option to your screenplay, that is not something that you should be doing. Next number two, Agent reading fees. This is where an agent and or manager charges you to read your script. Now, I want to make this very clear, there is no reputable agent or manager that will ever ask you for money to read a script. It is not something that is done in the business in the professional side of the business. It is also illegal for agents to charge upfront fees and the state of California. So be very, very careful. A lot of new screenwriters will not know the difference. And they'll say, Oh, well, you know, I'm really busy. But if you want me to read it, I charge $50 just to read your screenplay. And and that's it, but you don't even have a guarantee that you're going to even read it or do anything with it. So please avoid that at all costs as well. Number three, script consultants that demand a back end cut. Now, there's a lot of script consultants out there, some of them are very scammy. Many of them are very good. I recommend a bunch on my site that are very reputable and are actually there to help. screenwriters work through their their process, their script, their story, scripts, consultants and script. Doctors I feel are an excellent resource if you find the right ones. But some of these scammers will ask for back end participation on on a script. So it means that if I am a script consultant and you hire me to consult on your script that I demand is part of our agreement that I get back in participation on that script if it's ever sold and or produced. And even some of them go farther, to ask for partial credit, if they work on the script with you to be a co writer with you on it. If anything like this happens when you're dealing with a script consultant, please run away. Number four screenwriting marketing services. There's a lot of these little companies and guys who have popped up in this kind of cottage industry, of marketing services for screenwriters. And when I say that script like marketing services for screenwriters, I'm not talking about branding yourself as a screenwriter or anything like that. But talking about selling your screenplay, marketing your screenplay to the industry. So some of the things that they do is the the last payment to send log lines to hundreds of producers on their email list. And then very might well send these log lines to the 100 producers but there's no guarantee that anyone will ever look at that log line and or act upon that logline meaning request anything, there are no guarantees. There's also no need for storyboards for your unproduced screenplay. If you're trying to sell a screenplay to a production company or get a director attached. Do not spend money or marketing services for storyboard creation for this project. It is a useless and waste of time. It is unless you are the director involved with that screenplay. And you're trying to build out a package that sell the whole the whole film. That's a different story all together. But if you're just a screenwriter, and trying to get your screenplay noticed, do not spend money on storyboards. It does not make any sense whatsoever. Next, a screenplay does not need a website. Do not create or pay anyone to create a website to promote your screenplay. That is not done. And it's kind of ridiculous. So please don't do that. And also do not produce or pay anyone to produce a trailer for your screenplay. Again, if you're the director, it's a different conversation. But if you're a screenwriter trying to get your screenplay seen, or optioned by a producer, production company and or director do not have any do not pay Anyone to produce a trailer for that screenplay, it does not make any sense. Number five, screenwriting contest promises. Now, screenwriting contests in general have a kind of checkered past. Because it all depends on the screenwriting contest you're submitting to. Some are extremely reputable, some are absolute scams and money grabs. So you need to do your homework. A couple of things you need to look out for to kind of give you an idea that the screenwriting contest might not be on the up and up is when they say that want to be producers may be looking for financing for the winner of this film. That means nothing, it means absolutely nothing. Possible interest from a quote unquote producer means nothing. It is a promise, it is an empty promise. There is nothing tangible behind it. When they say a producer says that they'll read your screenplay. Again, no guarantee means nothing at the end of the day. And also pre production. Oh, any script that we get is going to go directly into pre production. Pre production is a very, very big word. That can mean 1000 if not a million things to different people. When you think pre production means Oh, it's a greenlight were going and that's what a lot of people think. But pre production, and other people's definition could be development. It could be in pre production for 510 years, and it can never go anywhere. These are empty promises. So look out for these kinds of empty promises in screenwriting contests. Number six, the milking technique that screenwriting contests use, or at least scam or predatory screenwriting contests use. Now this is any request for money after the initial submission fee to the contest. Things like, Oh, you won an award and now I'm gonna have to charge you for that award. That means that they have a physical award, and now you want it so we're gonna charge you for it, they're gonna make money off that. And they're gonna probably make a ton of money off of that because screenwriters like filmmakers won awards on their shelves, because it makes them feel good. Trust me. I've probably paid for an award or two in my day. So just be careful of things like that. Also, another part of the milking technique is when a contest asks for options on winning screenplays, this is such an insane thing, when it comes to like this is the extreme milking technique where they're just like keep asking and getting and getting. So let's say you submit to your screenplay to this contest, you win, you win top prize. Now they've option your screenplay for free. They own the IP of that screenplay for and depending on the kind of deal you you signed, when you submitted and you agreed to, they can have that for five years, they can have that for 10 years, they can have it in perpetuity. Now, I'm gonna tell you a horror story that I know of, of a screenwriter submitting their, their script, their IP to a contest, and that contest, blocking them from being able to make a feature of their film. Now, they they submitted this short film, short film script to this contest. And the contest, part of the contest rules was that they optioned the screenplay that they own that, that that right and they had they were gonna give you all sorts of exposure, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Well, it ended up being that the short film that this this filmmaker slash screenwriter wrote and produced was excellent. It did really well in the festival circuit. So good, in fact, that producers came calling. And they wanted to produce a feature version of this short. The problem was that the contest locked up those rights, and they attach themselves as producers to this project. And these poor poor filmmakers and screenwriters, who finally got a shot to take their career to the next level was blocked by these predatory film contest organizers that locked up their story. And because they were attaching themselves as producers, the legitimate producers didn't want to deal with that, and they walked away from the project. And unfortunately, that movie was never made. And those rights to my understanding are never returned to the filmmakers. It is a cautionary tale please be very, very careful. Number seven, Ghost writing screenplays. Now there is a lot of people out there who say oh, I'm gonna just go on a ghost write a screenplay or you get kind of suckered into ghost writing a screenplay. Well, they're going to pay you for 100 bucks 1000 bucks for you to write an entire screenplay, where you're going to ghost write an entire screenplay where you get no credit.

And they get all the credit, you can't attach yourself on the screenplay, you can't use it as a writing sample. And again, you get very little money. If at all upfront, a lot of these deals are sweat equity or back end deals, where they're like, well, if something happens, you'll get paid on the back end. But it's kind of a losing proposition. Let's say that that script does do well and gets produced, do you actually think you're going to get paid, you can't even say that you wrote it, it's so it's not a good place to be as a screenwriter, you should always get some sort of credit for the work that you do. In my opinion, I did a whole episode on the film enterpreneur podcast about a filmmaker who a ghost wrote short films, but he knew exactly what he was doing. He was trying to generate revenue for to make his movie. And he did he generated $10,000 ghost writing short films. Now those are little one offs. And the chances of a short film blowing up or doing something like that is nil to none. So you got to weigh the risk versus reward on that on a short film, if you can do something like that. And it makes sense for you to do that. It's kind of like selling short stories. Sure, that might make a little bit more sense. But full blown screenplays, I would absolutely not do that at all. Number eight, avoid any deal that gives your rights away. Now, make sure when you have a deal on the table, that you are going to get a credit for the screenplay. And if you're w GA, you have certain protections for that. But these a lot of these non union deals are very scamming. You've got to protect yourself as a screenwriter. So make sure that in the contract and the agreement that you will get credit for the screenplay. And if they do a bunch of rewrites, and it's at a point where you don't want it to be part of your, you don't want to have your name on it anymore. Make sure you have that option as well. Make sure you have the rights, the publication rights of your screenplay, you have to make sure that they don't have the right to publish your screenplay and sell it without your approval and or residual payments or anything like that. Which brings me to the next one, future residuals, a lot of times you give away the right to future residuals, a buyout or something along those lines. Those do happen. Be very, very careful and understand what you're getting into when it comes to future residuals. If you're non union, and they're paying you 50 Grand 100 grand for your screenplay. And it's a non union deal. That might be what you need to do. But you're getting a substantial amount of money upfront plus credit. But just understand that. And non union companies might insist on all rights, just for you to submit to them. And you've got to be very, very careful. A lot of these companies will in the in the agreement that you sign. When you submit a screenplay, you're giving them the rights to that screenplay, and that just some rights, all the rights just to submit, you need to run away you need to avoid this at all cost Be very, very careful. Number nine representation retainer fee. This is when a agent manager, someone along those lines say that they will rip your screenplay in town for a monthly retainer in addition to an upfront retainer. So that means that I go to an agent or manager and I have a screenplay. They're like, Look, we're going to represent this screenplay. But we're going to need you to pay $2,000 upfront and a $500 a month retainer and we're going to shop this around the town for you. That is not the way business is done. That is a scam. You need to run away and be very, very careful when you see something like that. Nobody in town is going to ask you for a monthly retainer to represent a screenplay. They are paid on commission. So be very careful. And last but not least, how to avoid scammy predatory screenwriting contests. Like I said earlier, not all screenwriting contests are created equal. A couple key things you need to look for is no transparency on who the organizers are. If you can't tell who's organizing, like the people that literally people behind the contest, and if they have some sort of reputation, some sort of industry juice something and there's they're hiding, runaway. Check the credits of the judges that they're going to put up like they're going to go look Joe Blow is going to read this for you. Well, what is Joe Blow done? And does he have any credits in the industry as a judge?

So be very, very careful with that. And also check what this contest has done for writers in the past. Have they helped writers? What are they offering? are they offering a cash prize is that the deal? Like if you win, you win 1000 bucks, you went 5000 bucks, you get all sorts of other prizes is that the deal they're giving, are they giving are they promising you access meaning a deal with a manager or an agent, an actual deal with a real manager or real agent that will then bring you on as a client. If you win this contest, do your homework, check out what they are offering, and what they're offering currently, and what they've done for writers in the past. So just be very careful. When you're dealing with screenwriting contest. There's a lot of sharks out there. And a final note, guys, at the end of the day, you cannot buy your way into the film business. When it comes to screenwriting. You can't pay someone to buy your screenplay. You can't pay someone to pay someone to force them to do anything to give you a shot, to do anything. The only thing you can buy is produce your own screenplay. If you've got the money to make the movie, that's the only way you're gonna buy your way in. But you cannot buy representation. You cannot buy access. It's It doesn't work that way. It has to happen organically. Anything. That sounds too good to be true. It probably is. So be very, very careful out there. And I sense that this is going to get worse as the economy continues to kind of wobble in the coming months and years following COVID. When things when the pressure is applied to people. More and more scams more and more people trying to take advantage of other people, they become more desperate. So I need you to be vigilant with what you do with your property and with your cash. I hope this episode has been of help to you guys. If you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, please head over to the show notes at bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/075. Thank you so much for listening, guys. As always, keep on writing no matter what. Stay safe, and I'll talk to you soon.

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