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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BPS 074: The Screenwriter’s COVID-19 Survival Guide with Jason Mirch

With all the unknowns facing screenwriters due to world events I thought I’d bring on someone who had his ear to the grindstone of Hollywood to see what the town is thinking and doing during this crazy time. I reached out to Stage 32’s Jason Mirch, to talk about Hollywood and how to survive and thrive as a screenwriter during and post-COVID.

Jason Mirch is a feature film and television producer and executive with over 15 years of experience. Jason also serves as the Director of Script Services at Stage 32 where he works directly with screenwriters, filmmakers, and leading industry executives.

In addition to his work with Stage 32, Jason runs production and development for a company which produced low-budget genre pictures for an international audience, as well as serves as a business advisor to a successful post-production VFX company which contributed to The Peanut Butter Falcon, Crawl, Martin Scorsese’s Silence, Arctic, and Let them Talk for Steven Soderbergh and HBO.

Most recently, he produced a 3D animated feature film starring Jacob Tremblay, Emmy-winner Christopher Lloyd, Oscar-winner Mel Brooks, Emmy-winner Kenan Thompson, and Emmy-winner Carol Kane.

Mirch was the Head of Feature and Television Development at Image Nation, a finance and production company based in Abu Dhabi, UAE. There, he supervised the Image Nation contributions in the development of Flight, The Help, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Contagion, Careful What You Wish For, Ghost Rider 2, and 100 Foot Journey.​

Prior to his work at Image Nation, Mirch was Co-Head of Development at Storyline Entertainment (Oscar-winning Chicago, Footloose, The Bucket List) where he developed a slate of feature film projects for New Line, Paramount, Summit Ent., and CBS/Paramount. He also developed and sold television projects and mini-series to CBS, NBC, Fox, ABC, and Lifetime.

If you want to know what is currently going on in Hollyweird and how to better position yourself as a screenwriter now and in a post-COVID-19 world then listen up.

Enjoy my conversation with Jason Mirch.

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 1:53
I like to welcome the show Jason Mirch how're you doing my friend?

Jason Mirch 4:18
I'm doing well How you doing

Alex Ferrari 4:20
man? I am I am good sir. I am good. You are? You are you work with my brother from another mother? RB batoh over at stage 32. So I you know I talked to RB was like, Hey, you should come on the show of the screen because he hasn't been on my shows enough.

Jason Mirch 4:36
But we Yeah, what did you choose? The record was or for he's

Alex Ferrari 4:40
got I think we sat down and counted it. I thought 11 times between workshops that I record and him actually being a guest about 11 times total in the history of indie film hustle. And now he's been on film entrepreneur, which is my other podcast, but he's never been on this podcast specifically. I'm thinking, I've never recorded him for this podcast. So he said first you should come on and then he'll come on eventually to talk about things as well. So that's high. That's high. You know, it's a lot of pressure on you. So

Jason Mirch 5:11
I appreciate that. No, he's again, he's he's a fantastic guy. And of course, he would throw me out first. So he is

Alex Ferrari 5:19
and we were talking we talked about off air a little bit of like, how his RV hanging in there because I mean, he's always traveling. He's always running you know, doing something. He's like, Oh, I'm over in Cannes. Oh, I'm over in Berlin. I'm over here there. And I always in his Instagram is is, is honestly, for me the most infuriating Instagram feed ever. Because he's always having so much more fun than I am. Until I put him in the last episode he was on I was like, we have to start something called hashtag this fucking guy. Which has taken off surprisingly enough people have the tag give me a stack. I love this fucking guy. Hey, he just pisses himself.

Jason Mirch 6:00
Well, he's the guy. He's the kind of guy that can be at like three different events somehow at once. And you have no idea there's three of us do like he's all over the place. All

Alex Ferrari 6:08
there's three, there's three of him. And each of them has two livers. There's no question at least two or three livers each.

Jason Mirch 6:15
Right. Well, what if one is handled? RB walks into a bar. I know that the party

Alex Ferrari 6:21
he's on? He's on. On brand, sir.

Jason Mirch 6:24
Yeah, absolutely. No, no, your brand. No

Alex Ferrari 6:26
question. So um, so you've been in the business for a long time? How did you get into the business?

Jason Mirch 6:32
I so I went to school for writing and directing. Because a Chapman University down in Orange County, because like every young film school student, I wanted to be Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorsese. Or, you know, and you know, you you go through school and you you learn how to write screenplays, and you quickly realize that you're not those guys. You know, you're there's one Steven Spielberg and you're not it, dude. So, you know, you get out of school. And I think initially, like a lot of film, school students, you come out and you think, Alright, well, where's my overall deal? You know, like, I just walk on the lawn, and they're just going to give me shit.

Right? And that's the way it works. Yeah, right.

Right. And so one of the things I quickly realized is Film School teaches you how to make a film they'll teach you three point lighting and how to cut on an avid and all these things, but they don't tell you how to get a film made. And my first job out of the industry or out of out of college in the industry, was an Entertainment Tonight, the new show entertainer show, and you know, I like 20 to 23 year old kid at that point, and I'm, you know, helping an executive producer write the show, and it's fun, because you're, you know, I'm at the Emmys and the Oscars and I'm standing next to Brad Pitt at the Golden Globes and it's fun, and then you quickly realize that, you know, I'm like a, I'm like a high school kid at prom, but I met with the yearbook. You know, it was like, Yeah, you're at prom, but you're not at prom. You're taking photos, the kids that are actually at prom. And so I was like, alright, that's like this. This is not this is not what I want to be doing. This is not what I got into, you know. And so I went and found I went and worked at a management company that's no longer around anymore. They since merged, but it was evolution management, and evolutions big claim to fame, founded by Mark Bergen, Oren coulis was the saw franchise. And so I came in right at the end of writers after sod took off and became a phenomenon I came in right around the time sought to was in production. And so I was on the little bit side of their management company working for two managers. And so I've read every really good and really bad horror script under the sun. Right? Where it's like, you know, you you were you write somebody back, you're like, look, bro, we're not going to make this but you got to talk to somebody because you got issues with your parents, man, like, we can't make

Alex Ferrari 8:55
you should seek help. But you should seek Yes, seek

Jason Mirch 8:58
help talk to a professional. It's stop sending this around town. But you know, so I did that I was I was on the lead side. But and that was really truly the first exposure to the business, you know, where you learn buying and selling and and how projects get made and what, you know, what attachments you need to have I when I came in. And this is 2005 2006 Um, I came in a, you know, you could still sell a feature pitch in the room like that, like the player back in the day like a player. You could walk. I mean, you could walk in and sell a movie poster, and then that lucky and then but yeah, we'll write it later. You don't feel like they just write the check. But then it became okay, no, we need a a treatment or a script, you know, script meant, you know, would you like a half treatment, half script, hybrid? And then it was like, Okay, we need this and we need a filmmaker or we need this and a filmmaker and who's your piece of talent that's attached. And so I watched this evolution of business where studios started to get more and more You can call it conservative, you can call it risk averse, you know, more demanding whatever it is. And so I watched that that aspect of the business change. And then from there, I went and worked at a company called storyline entertainment, founded by the late, great Craig zadan. And Neil Marin, who produced Chicago, and we were doing hairspray in the bucket list and I came on. And that was very much in the sort of studio development model, you know, where your, your new line gives you a chunk of change and says, Okay, go put these stars in this movie. And I ran their development, their future in television development, you know, for for a couple years, and then moved into film finance and production and worked for a company called Image nation, Abu Dhabi, which was based in the Middle East. And so I spent five years in the Middle East, learning, don't finance, independent film finance production, we had international deals with companies based in the US Participant Media and Warner Brothers and parks McDonald, Hyde Park entertainment, the company through which was hired. And that was a really eye opening experience, because you're always learning, you know, yeah, studio give you $30 million. But when you've got to go raise money, what does that actually look like? And that was during the, you know, just as foreign pre sales started to kind of taper off in terms of really being able to finance your project. And then then, you know, again, after that, it was it was independently producing, I started to put together an animated film that I was asked to come on and produce. And then, you know, all throughout that I knew, you know, RB verse bato, and Amanda, Tony over stage 32, because I taught for them. And ultimately, you know, about a year and a half ago, a little over a year and a half ago, they said hey, would you want to come on full time and, and work with us to build out this, this division, you know, working with writers and I said, Absolutely, that's the kind that's right in my wheelhouse. So that's kind of a broad strokes. You know that what?

Alex Ferrari 12:06
Yeah, absolutely. And then in the world that we live in today, that's a probably good place to be right now. Because you you have work all the time.

Jason Mirch 12:13
Yeah. It's all online and I can do it from the comfort of my sweatpants if I need to the absolute

Alex Ferrari 12:19
absolutely in the in the bungalow that you have built out in your house. Exactly.

Jason Mirch 12:25
My old Hollywood bungalow, right. Look like this anymore, by the way. Yeah, they

Alex Ferrari 12:31
don't. I was on a bungalow the other day it in the back of universal and I mean, the bungalows themselves they do but inside it's not the exact right. But if you watch Hail Caesar, this is what a bungalow looks like.

Jason Mirch 12:43
Right. Exactly.

Alex Ferrari 12:46
So um, so there is obviously an elephant in the room that's called COVID. I wanted to have her you haven't heard about it.

Jason Mirch 12:53
Haven't heard. What is it?

Alex Ferrari 12:56
So so obviously COVID is is is affected our industry it was affected the world, but let's focus on our industry. It has affected our industry in ways that I don't think anyone ever saw anyone even conceived. If I would have told you in January that we were shutting down all movie theaters around the world. And by the way, there's not going to be a blockbuster summer. All of those movies are going to be pushed into the into the winter and God knows what the hell's gonna happen. In the fall in the winter, i, i There's only so many slots. And there's you know, I so there's that question. And the L by the way, the Oscars are going to be postponed for two months. Right. And there's no war, specifically going. Hey, no, that's not a World War that stopped this. All right. No, you would have said you're absolutely right that down because it might make a good story. Right. Yeah. It's It's insane. So, yeah, yeah. No, so tell me so what are you? I mean, you're pretty your ears pretty close to the grindstone when it comes to? What's going on in town? How are you seeing the town react? What are their plans? Because there's a lot of new, there's a lot of people in the news and a lot of things, you know, articles and, and reports of like, okay, so everyone's going back to back to work. And we're going to start shooting in July. And you know, we're going to start shooting in August for the new television season, or we're going to do everything at home. It's going to be all quarantine shows, and what are you hearing? I mean,

Jason Mirch 14:25
yeah, it's it's a lot of that. And I think, you know, again, before we jumped on here, you You and I were talking about this, there's, there's multiple groups of people, you know, people that do say, Okay, we're 100% coming back in July, and we're in prep, and it's, you know, it's just a matter of getting face masks, and we're on board and then there's people that are saying, like, Look, we're not coming back till next year, realistically, you know, and I think that there's, there's a desire to come back. I think that practically and functionally, nobody knows what that means. Right. So I was just I just saw that that, you know, NBC, a, you know greenlit Republic. Let's see 123 I'm sorry, five pilots in production, there's a daytime soap that wants to come back and start shooting in July. Of course, we all heard the Jurassic Park isn't be shooting in the UK. And by the way, they've had to add $5 million to their budget in order to be able to do that, which I think is interesting. Because if you're looking at sort of a scalable way, you're going to bring things back, you know, they're talking about yes, not just face masks and, and routine testing and, and medical staff on hand and all these things. Right. You know, that's, that's going to be at least for a while, something that filmmakers have to consider, right. So if you know, if you're doing 100 plus million dollar movie, and you've got a $5 million budget for that, what does it look like for an independent filmmaker who, you know, has to have some level of those things accounted for, you know,

Alex Ferrari 15:49
if you're doing a half a million dollar, a million dollar movie, you might have, you might need 50, extra grand 100 Extra, you might need a little extra cash, and

Jason Mirch 15:58
you need to find that that medical person, like what does that look like?

Alex Ferrari 16:01
There's not like a place you can go and get them all because they're not right. There. There is no, that is a brand new position that I think will be on for the foreseeable future.

Jason Mirch 16:11
Right. Absolutely. Absolutely. And so, you know, I think there again, there's a desire to come back, there's a desire to to return to normalcy. I think that practically speaking, nobody knows what it looks like. I think nobody knows what it actually physically looks like, in production every day. And, you know, having a Q tip stuck up your nose before you go to work, right? Or what it looks like, I was just talking to a writer today. And you know, I said, Imagine being a piece of like a piece of talent who's older, you know, you're talking about a guy who guy or girl who's in their 60s 70s 80s. Right? Those the most vulnerable, I think, because, you know, you know, we can talk about sort of, you know, the survival rate of COVID. And the fact that it's a 98.5% survival rate, depending on how old you are. But you start to getting in the the older generations that are filmmakers there. I mean there. I mean, some of these people have been forced into retirement because of this, because they're not going to be allowed to work on I mean, trying to ensure a production.

Alex Ferrari 17:18
Like how do you how do you ensure Marty? Mr. Scorsese? Yeah, on his next $200 million dollar Netflix film with Leonardo DiCaprio that they just signed? How do you ensure that in like, in that's never been an insurance line item? On on production insurance on? Like, what happens if someone gets COVID? And for whatever reason? They they don't they don't make it? Yeah, absolutely. And it was because specifically because of the production. So how do you protect against that insurance companies aren't jumping on board right now? Right. So I mean, then they have to sign waivers and it's like this whole thing. And now a sag is not allowing that. Right that Scott bale production, which I had no idea Scott bales there wasn't production. But um, that's, I'm sorry, I have no love loss for Mr. Bale, though. I did like Charles in Charge. Back in the day, and Chachi. But, um, but yeah, whole thing I cancelled the sex like, no, no, you can't have that. Do that. So that whole thing, and then having all the unions agree, because, you know, there's a historical precedence for all the unions agree on how production should be handled?

Jason Mirch 18:28
Right. Exactly. Well, and that's it. And, you know, it's interesting, because you're exactly right. And, you know, ultimately, it's gonna be the rules themselves, that they, you know, the document came out, and everybody's looking at it. I mean, it's just not, in my opinion, sustainable long term, because nothing can get done. I mean, just, you know, becomes cost prohibitive for especially smaller productions. Or it just becomes so overbearing, that feeling like I can't do this for what you're asking, you know, and that's, that's gonna be the real change.

Alex Ferrari 19:00
But so I've also mentioned this on on a couple of the other. My other shows is that, is there a model moving forward for these for a standard Studio project, which is, you know, a Marvel $200 million plus movie because that's standard. All the studios, as far as feature films are concerned, that is standard 150 to $250 million, because they don't, they don't go for singles, they stopped going for singles a long time ago. It's home run, or strikeout lights all the time. Is there a model financially that makes sense without a theatrical component, not only here in the US, but worldwide because worldwide audience or the worldwide box office is 70% or something like that of total revenue generated. So when this happened, China shut down. Their large market Europe shut down and they're still shut down in a lot of these areas. So is there moving forward? Does this financial model work anymore? Will we continue to have $250 million spectacles? If we can't go theatrically? Is is SVOD going to be able to pick up the weight? I don't know. Right? Charles was cool. It's $100 million. That's nice. And it was a unique film a huge set of times, but throw a Marvel throw Avengers up there. And let me know how that works out. Don't wonder what Wonder Woman or bond or any of the movies are sitting on the shelf right now?

Jason Mirch 20:26
Well, and that's exactly right. And it was interesting to see which you know, which film studios punted to later in the year, right? Top Gun Maverick for instance, or bond, right? Both got Wonder Woman, or, or trolls or the like, you know what, fuck it. Let's just see what happened. Or look at look at, you know, something like Hamilton, which was meant to be released throughout theater theatrically? Because I mean, that tickets still $1,000 A ticket to New York, at least it was at the time. And then they're like, alright, well, let's put it in theaters and get, you know, a couple 100 million dollars out of the rest of the world. And now it's, well, let's put it on Disney plus, and just see if we can pull in some of those those people who would watch it on on

Alex Ferrari 21:12
subscribers, subscribers, they're still they're still trying to get subscribers. I'm very excited about Hamilton, because I've never seen it. I've been dive I've listened to me, probably about 5000 times I've listened to that. Right? I could say yeah, beta. So I just saw the trailer came out the other day, I was just like, Ah, this is amazing. But look at that world, they spent 75 million on that, right. So like 75 million for that, for that purchase. for that for that for those rights, which is massive, massive purchase for a movie. I mean, is that a record, like a for purchase of a film

Jason Mirch 21:45
or something like that? It's a it's gotta be up there, man, I can't imagine. And that's and that's what's so interesting is to your point, I think there will ultimately be a singles and doubles model that comes back because of s VOD, VoD streaming those platforms because, you know, to your point about international sales, I mean, international sales used to finance and fun, so much of what I did on the on the independent feature side, which was, we've got a $14 million movie that needs to look like 35. It's got one big car chase, it's got to, you know, B plus A minus pieces of talent. We can do that movie for $40 million, we can presale 60 to 70% of it, and only put about a million dollars of real money into it. Now and again, and it will look good. We'll look theatrically, you know, theatrically released good now it'll, you know, we would put those into 10 cities, you know, and basically try to roll into a, a streaming. S VOD release. That's what I think it's gonna look like you're gonna have this, this gap that you can fill with a $20 million dollar movie maybe as long as there is some sort of output for it. That makes sense.

Alex Ferrari 23:04
Yeah. $20 million movie those days, Disney Plus, I'll be popping those out like candy all day, all day. Because I mean, even the Disney Channel movies that they did, which are not 20 million, but they were like, you know, four or 5 million all all day, there'll be popping those out. And that's what Netflix does. That's what used to be the movie of the week. And it's now become the Netflix, or Hallmark

Jason Mirch 23:26
or Hallmark lifetime. Well, and that's and that's the thing. I mean, you look I mean, if I would have told you again, let's go back to that scenario, where it's all pre COVID. If I was going to tell you that David Spade would have the number one film in America, and it wouldn't be seen in a single theater, you'd be like, What the hell are you talking about? But that's what it is. You know, it was that the Netflix film that that do that film? That was a Netflix film called the wrong it was like the wrong Missy or something like

Alex Ferrari 23:54
Yeah, I saw I didn't see I didn't see the movie. I saw a pass through my feet. So

Jason Mirch 23:58
that had according Netflix was the most downloaded film, right? I don't know. I can't remember their history or certainly their recent history.

Alex Ferrari 24:07
No, again, we'll be hitting a tiger King, obviously. No. I mean, come on. Let's get serious. No, no, we'll probably like weekly probably are like the week or the month or something.

Jason Mirch 24:17
So but your photography was a series but this was a single feature film. Yeah. So that single feature film gets an incredible amount of downloads. It's a it's a it's right in Adam Sandler's wheelhouse in terms of what they do. And it crushed it crushed and it and it was not what it was not a major blockbuster. You know, it wasn't an Avengers thing.

Alex Ferrari 24:35
This is funny because I've actually done some research on what happens why Adam Sandler, is having success on on on because he hadn't had success like Sony lost them. He was Sony's boy for a long time. And then he kept putting out get on bomb after bomb and it just didn't do as well. But in Netflix he kills and the reason for my research that he kills is that when people are scanning through when you know when you click on an Adam Sandler film, generally speaking other other other than uncut gems, generally speaking, you know what you're gonna get? And there's a comfort there with all that with him. What do specflow What's unique about that actor and David Spade, Chris Rock that whole crew Adam Sandler has. You understand what Kevin James, you get that you know what you're gonna get? Yeah. And they'll give and it's part of their subscription and they'll just download it. And I've watched a ton of Adam Sandler movies. I was a fan of Adam Sandler from back in the day, and he's still doing the same shit hit stick stick he did in waterboy. Like it's,

Jason Mirch 25:43
it's all it's all Yeah, absolutely. It's

Alex Ferrari 25:45
not really changed dramatically until he does like uncut gems, which is a whole other like punch drunk, love. Love. He goes that he goes, he wants to be serious sometimes. And that's fine. And you should he's actually a fantastic actor. He's,

Jason Mirch 25:57
he's a great actor. And I think the biggest disservice that the industry or do that's done to him is that they don't treat him as though he's a fantastic actor, you know, like I get back box. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 26:08
well, the same thing. Robin Williams did the same thing. Jim Carrey, any comedian, they go down that road. But it's fascinating the way the whole industry has changed. Where before, you needed to have a huge, giant blockbuster, you know, box office receipts, but now you don't because the model is like Netflix. His model is completely different than, than anybody else's. But they changed the game and Luke have a whole series conversation about Netflix and how they changed Hollywood. But it's fascinating. But with back going back to COVID, though, what are you hearing as far as the studios because I know from what I'm hearing, they're still listening to pitches, they're still buying content, they're still buying scripts, they're still looking for stuff. That hasn't actually it's actually increasing.

Jason Mirch 26:54
It's increased. Absolutely. And and on my side through stage 32. You know, obviously, like I said, we do, you know, consultations, coverage, pitch sessions, all that stuff. And we have writers from all over the world who are meeting virtually now with executive through that platform and platform. The executives are incredibly hungry for content. I think, you know, since the beginning of the year, it has only gotten more busy, where we've had, I think, 275 requests from executives looking to meet with writers and, you know, in terms of development, nothing slowed down in terms of hearing pitches, nothing has slowed down, like you said, it's ramped up. What's changed, I think, is what they're interested in. You know, I don't think you're going out right now and pitching your post apocalyptic virus movie, you know, that's, that might be

Alex Ferrari 27:47
Oh, yeah, look, I look I just heard somebody they're releasing the full I think the full moon guys are releasing Coronavirus, zombies like that. I mean, there's an audience for it, I guess

Jason Mirch 27:59
we're living in, we're living it. I can turn on the news and watch that for free. You know, so that's, so what I mean, everything I'm hearing from executives, I got a really good buddy, an alias production company. And he said, every studio he talks to says, give me a rom com. Where's your rom com? And he's like, I haven't developed a rom com and 10 years but no, but that, you know, they want romantic comedy. They want light fare, right? They want things that are inspirational, aspirational. They want things that live in that sort of Best Exotic Marigold, the bucket list good feel good type movies, even if the even if there's something that is, you know, daunting as a private right? Bucket List, for instance, is about two guys who have terminal cancer traveling the world. Right? Right. You know that, but it's an uplifting film, and it's a lot of fun. And that's, that's what they want. We want escapist entertainment. I think there's all you know, there's always still a place for really good thrillers, psychological, paranormal, paranormal stuff, always as well. Animation is going to be coming in a big way. And that's not to say that it's it's you know, not kids movies, not kids animation, but it's, is there a place for adult animation, no grown up stuff, Scanner Darkly, or whatever it is where you might be able to take something that that you've you've written, it could be animation, or it could be shot. Let's see if it works for animation, because your actors are enough booth that's controllable, your animators can work remotely, largely. So it still keeps up the social distancing thing. So a lot of I know I've known three managers who are like, give me animation writers give me animation directors. Let me want to give me scripts that are that are animated or that can be animated, because that's what studios are looking for as well. That I think that's you know, obviously that's a byproduct of COVID directly, you know,

Alex Ferrari 30:00
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. And obviously dogs hates Christmas movies, obviously. Yeah, I mean, obviously.

Jason Mirch 30:16
Well, you know, I, there's still so many directors that say, like, look, I can I can bring this movie to Hallmark right now. And we can do it for under a million bucks. And it's a Christmas rom com and it will crush because you go to any home in the middle of America, you walk into any house randomly. And they will have Hallmark on watching those movies during holiday time. You know?

Alex Ferrari 30:37
Yeah. And they and they will they have them like I'm 24/7 have so much of those. Now, that's 24/7 loop and 30 days or 60 days before Christmas, or running up. And it's it's evergreen, and it's evergreen, and the Christmas Christmas movies. And if you put the right if you put Dean Cain, you put Melissa Joan Hart, you put this certain talent that has made a very lucrative career.

Jason Mirch 31:02
Absolutely. In that formula to it. You know, it's like, oh, yeah, here's the setup. Here's the new person in town, here's the struggle. And here's the kiss at the end. And we're out, you know, is done to your Sharman, commercial or whatever. And

Alex Ferrari 31:13
that's it. Exactly. But that's the world. So as far as screenwriters are concerned, I mean, obviously, there's a lot of content well, and of course, we haven't talked about series as much we're talking about films series are huge. And, and that is actually I think, the me personally, I think that's kind of the growth area. I think a lot of people said that this is the growth area for writing and production because it's you get more bang for your buck. You know, your financial buck. Like if you got 20 million bucks, you make one movie, or a season. Right? You know, it's and that's what people are looking for right now. Like Netflix is looking for series Docu series and, and you know, just series in general. And now there's still the peacock and HBO Max.

Jason Mirch 31:57
Oh, yeah, they're every everyone's gonna have, they're all gonna have now the thing? I mean, there's two two big things there. I mean, the first one is, you know, at Yes, as a screenwriter, you should absolutely be writing and developing a series or a pilot or something. And I just had, I was just talking to another writer that I was mentoring earlier. And I said, you know, they had they had one screenplay, and they're like, how do I get a manager and I said, write five more things, and write a pilot, right? And then you can really start to look for a manager. But one of the things I talked about was this idea that even if you write a series, and you're going into a Netflix or a peacock, or a Hulu or whatever it is. The first question I'm gonna say is, this is great. Who's your showrunner? Yeah, yeah, so So you know, the first thing you need to do as a screenwriter is understand you're not going to be running the show. And you don't want to, because running a show is a nightmare. And and as a first time screenwriter, I think, I think the biggest misconception, the biggest mistake writers make is thinking, Okay, I'm gonna run in I know my story. I'm going to run the show. And that's not what this is not the way the in the room. Yeah, be in the room. But no, you don't want to run the show. So yes, series series are always going to be one of the first things that I tell writers to write, or at least a pilot, and have an idea where that's going, but then immediately try and find somebody who is like minded, who understands your world that's capable and has done this before. And then you can walk that into a Netflix, you know,

Alex Ferrari 33:31
right. Yeah, a lot of film, a lot of filmmakers and screenwriters think they could just kind of like walk in the eye to go Netflix is buying like crazy. They're like, I heard like a think probably within a month after COVID hit. I heard from inside of Netflix that they're like, look, we're good. Yeah, we we've got three years of content, either done or in post. Right. So if we stopped production today, we have three years of content reserved. And oh, and by the way, all the studios freaked out and just dumped a ton of titles of them at a quarter 25 cents on the dollar. Because I started seeing that I start seeing like a Netflix. I'm like, wow, these are all these studio movies. Brad Pitt and all this. I started flying by on Netflix, like what happened here? Right. So it there's a misnomer. Do you agree to hearing the same thing?

Jason Mirch 34:23
Yeah, absolutely. That's exactly right. And I think that that's one of the biggest things that people Yeah, people think that Netflix is out there buying like, you know, a drunk sailor, you know, you know that they're not even walking again, in the same way that I thought as a kid, I could walk into Paramount get my overall deal. You don't walk into a script and be like, Oh, Netflix, here it is, you know, where's my money? You've got you've got to come with something that's really groundbreaking and really interesting and again, fits what their model is, what their algorithms are. I mean, the thing that Netflix has, it's so cool that that really didn't exist until their creation was an algorithm that tells them them exactly what their customers want. Right? I mean, we were developing, you know, even Hollywood, you're developing stuff, basically on spec, even as a studio hoping that somebody is going to show up and attracting models. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And that's, and that's where this whole, that's where the whole development model came from where let's buy 150 things at the, you know, over the course of a year, we'll, we'll develop 20 Of those, we'll put 10 into production, we'll release these, you know, and hope to God one hits, right. And then, of course, corporations came in and said, What's stupid, and they tried to pare those things back. And that's why we get Marvel movies and things like that, because they're the only thing that works. Or that's the only thing that a person realizes I'm not gonna be fired for buying or developing. You know,

Alex Ferrari 35:44
there isn't. That's another thing. We definitely should talk about fear. This entire town is run on frontier and risk averse. That's totally, because if you make one mistake, you're out there is no, there's no second strike.

Jason Mirch 35:58
And nobody, nobody that I know of, honestly, has ever been fired for saying No, they've been fired for saying yes. Right. But they've never been fired for saying no. So the default position really is cover your ass in a lot of these places. Now, that's not to say, and that's not to say that when a screenwriter brings in a pitch, or a script, or a spec, or whatever it is, there's not an executive, it's like, Fuck, I hope this is good. Like, they want it to be really good, you know? Because so because they want, they want to advance their career. So they're really hoping you bring it so don't you know, it's not to say that executives are sort of sitting back and being like, no, is it as a default position? They want you to be bringing it, but they're going to be very selective on what they bring, you know, to to their team, and to get behind and put their neck out on the line to get behind it and say, Yeah, say this is one that I would make. Yeah, like back in the day that

Alex Ferrari 36:49
there would be executives or producers who would who would take risks. You know, there's certain I mean, Spielberg would take it Spielberg has made a lot of, he's produced a lot of content, and not all of its good. I mean, he's taken a lot of risks on a lot of filmmakers. I think it was, I think he produce a Mexes first film, car, carwash, and then his car wash. Yeah. And it bombed. But Spielberg loves Zemeckis. He's like, I want you to do this Back to the Future thing. He's like, no, no, I don't want to, I can't and he had to go off and do Romancing the Stone. Then he came back at it back to the future, anything I can get, but but it was but but you know, would have that would Xebec is make it in today's world, you know, in this risk of would any of these like? With Scorsese? Like, can you imagine a 19 year old Scorsese today?

Jason Mirch 37:41
Yeah, I mean, I didn't just nail that, though. The, it's the relationship that, you know, it's the power of those relationships. Right? And, you know, again, RB will be on here preaching about it, because it's so true. You know, the reason why you'll see a lot of these guys being successful and coming up together is that they built those relationships. And and yeah, Zemeckis made something that that didn't hit, but Spielberg saw something in them, they maintain that connection, and they, and they are able to make something else, you know. And that's true. You know, I tell screenwriters all the time, meet as many screenwriters as you can meet as many directors as you can, don't sit there and be like, I've got to know, the head of the studio, you know, I've got to know the head of this cup production company. You know, the guys that and the guys and girls who, who help you get stuff made, or your contemporaries and other people around you, who you're coming up with. So, meet them, talk to them, get their insights, get their feedback, you know, that's those are the people that you need to impress, and then and help, and then they'll be the ones that helped pull you up as well.

Alex Ferrari 38:49
And that's how, you know, when I when I met our beat, five, four and a half, five years ago, um, you know, we started to build a relationship just purely because we we liked each other and then I eventually cast them in my feature and then made him world famous, obviously. But

Jason Mirch 39:06
right. So magnanimous Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 39:10
I mean, obviously made him world famous. Um, he was telling me that he gets people that reach out to him all the time like, Man, I saw your the movie you and it was did Amanda ever tell you the story of how their first screening of the film when they when RB and Amanda both came to my office, my suite is to watch the moving they sat there. I hadn't told them that I was going to have the character in the movie called I call them RB I originally was gonna beat the name out very Kill Bill ish. But they kept saying it's so many times I'm like, it's gonna it's just I have to just kind of leave it in now. So right every time the main character yells out RB Amanda pices herself. Even to this day, she cannot stop laughing But to go back to what we were talking about it is our relationship. That's a relationship. You know, that's, that's built over years. And let's talk a little bit about relationships with screenwriters specifically. Yeah. Because it's something that I mean, I've talked about before and other on the other on the other podcast, but in this one, I haven't really spoken about it too much. Though the do's and the don'ts about approaching someone in perceived power or perceived they could do something for your career. I know you know this very well. There is a stench of desperation is called Jowhar, Desperado. Yeah, that oozes that oozes from from desperate filmmakers, screenwriters. And I know this because I bought cases of this cologne and wore it constantly when I walked around Hollywood when I first got here. And anyone who's been in talent long can smell it a mile away. And I have people come up to me and like, read my script. Connect me to this. Yep. Hey, I know, you know, our B, can you get this to RB? Can you do this? I'm like, I'm like, Dude, I don't

Jason Mirch 41:09
know you. Like, but Hi, my name is Alex. Yeah, like

Alex Ferrari 41:13
Hi, I'm Alex. Yeah. So can you talk a little bit about how to build a good like an authentic relationship? And what your advice is on doing that with screenwriters? Because I think screenwriters and filmmakers both, they both are afflicted by the same disease. In regards to in regards to this desperation I've seen especially young filmmakers and young screenwriters coming up, they just they don't know any different. It's kind of like yelling on social media.

Jason Mirch 41:43
Absolutely. Well, and I think and I think the other the other the disservice in the misconception that exists out there is that you've only got this one shot, right, you walk up, and you've got 30 seconds this person, so get your entire life story out in 30 seconds, get them the script in 30 seconds and press them in 30 seconds, with how great you are, how talented you are, how smart you are with your elevator pitch and all this other shit. And it's just not true. You know, I mean, the first I mean, truly, the first thing is to be selfless in the business, you know, and to authentically take an interest in the other person. I think that's what's what's largely missing in a lot of people really, but But it's, for whatever reason, concentrated and exacerbated in people who wish to succeed in the entertainment industry. We are so concentrated on our own hustle. And our own, I've got to I've got to make this in this business, that they forget that there's another person across human being who has their same hopes, dreams, fears, concerns, questions, you know, wondering about, you know, how their mom's doing, or whatever it is, and I'm going to come at you as hard as I can, that you've, you've already lost me. And so the first thing I would say is be be selfless. I mean, ask what you can do to help that other person first inner authentic way. You know, that's, it's such a refreshing thing to be like, first off, I thank you, I admire what you do. I tell me, you know, tell me more about you. You'll, you'll, you'll, it's gonna be amazing how many doors open up for you just by being authentically interested in what the other person has to say.

Alex Ferrari 43:25
I found in my in my journeys in in lala land, that when you approach people in general in the business is always being of service. How can I be of service to you? How can I help you? That is gonna make you stand out so much more than read my script? Do this for me suck, suck, suck, suck, suck energy sucker, as opposed to like, Look, I'm a big fan of what you do. Is there anything you need? You know, I can I can, how can I be of service to you? How can I help you? With anything, you know, offer Time Offer energy Offer? Offer services, you know, like, Hey, I wonder, like my parents, my parents own a vineyard, do you? Do you need a vineyard? Not that that's a very, you know, common thing. Um, things like that. That's a that's a thing of being of service in a relationship, and then that doesn't happen in 15 seconds. It takes time.

Jason Mirch 44:27
Though, it does take time. Absolutely. And I actually got that question. I got that question from a writer one time he said, Okay, but what if I only have three minutes with this person, you know, and I said, You do not spend that three minutes asking for shit. You know, spend that three minutes talking about how that person has impact your life again, what you can do with them. And then if it's appropriate say look, I would love to continue this conversation. If if you would like to at your convenience at your leisure, what have you would it would you mind if I, you know, reached out on some level, whatever that is. And if it's a yes, great if it's a no, okay, you know, but don't You're, you're going to get further with that approach than you will with the, here's my script, here's my, here's my one sheet, here's this, you know, get this to somebody, or can you make this and then the other aspect of that is again, you know, building your community building your network offering to help those around you who can't do anything for you right now. Because that's again, that's the mark of somebody who is going to be successful. It's, it's amazing to me the number of people who reach out and say, Is there anything I can do to help promote you on social media? I've got you know, my, the following might be 500 people but that's such a kind hearted thing to do to say what can I do for you, you know, and largely miss and then the other thing too is just being able to carry on an organic authentic conversation with somebody is a lost art. We've just lost the ability yes to talk you know, we have you it's it's shocking how quickly people just dissolve when you try to have a conversation with

Alex Ferrari 46:14
them. Like a real like a real conversation.

Jason Mirch 46:17
Conversation you know, it you know, we're so we're so quick to try and get our shit out and get my hand out that there is no conversing there is no true. Give and take in a conversation or give, you know, give and get that sort of thing. It's just blasting out people, you know,

Alex Ferrari 46:35
Can we can we discuss a little bit in regards to the politics of of the business a little bit because there is it is an unspoken it's definitely not tied to film. And generally not spoken a lot in even in education in any sort. So occasionally, you'll get nuggets here and there. But there is an unspoken politics involved that filmmakers and screenwriters have no idea that they get caught by buzzsaw. So perfect example was the TV. The TV idea, like I have a pilot I'm gonna be the showrunner No, that's not the way this works, dude. Like, you know, you're not you're not Shonda Rhimes, and even Shonda Rhimes didn't get her first show. Right,

Jason Mirch 47:19
but Rob wasn't trying to rise back then. Yeah, she

Alex Ferrari 47:21
wasn't Shonda Rhimes. Either. Aaron Sorkin wasn't Aaron Sorkin when he first showed up? And that's the delusion I think that a lot of screenwriters have. So can you talk a little bit about how, let's say, let's talk in TV first, and then maybe talk in film about like, what is this? What is the politics? What are these unspoken words? Like, we kind of touched upon it with the fear aspect, where executives are going to cover their ass, and I'm not going to take a risk on you and your script. When? If I do and it doesn't. I'm out. So that's that's that's politics. That's a bit of politics.

Jason Mirch 47:54
Right? Absolutely. Well, I think yes, and there's, there's a, there again, there's a massive disservice that is done to young writers and and writers who are coming up. And it happens. Again, I mentioned award shows, you know, if you watch any award show that takes place, there, you're gonna announce the winner of the award show, or you know, of the best new television series or best screenwriter, whatever. And as this person is walking to the stage, inevitably, the announcer is going to say, this is his first nomination and first win. And this is the first thing he's been developing for the last 25 years. And now he's won this award for 25 years, but he was also doing 50 Other things that are in various stages of development. He wasn't doing this one passion project that suddenly hit. And it wasn't as though this happened overnight. And it wasn't a singular effort. You know, to your point about all the writers we just mentioned, they all had careers as baby writers, as failed writers, as writers who needed the help of somebody else, to mentor them and bring them up and give them advice and give them you know, a tough love on their project. So that's the biggest thing is that, and straight away writers think and a lot of filmmakers think this person was an overnight success.

Alex Ferrari 49:16
And I think Jordan Peele would be a perfect example of someone who looks like it was overnight. But he had been hustling and working on, you know, comedy for most of his career, where then he made this monumental film or shot not only wrote it, but directed it, get out. But it looked like an overnight success. Like they just showed up.

Jason Mirch 49:39
Right? Right. That's exactly right. That's the biggest disservice is that we look in filmmaking in entertainment. We still subscribed to the store, we subscribe to the overnight success because it's a nice narrative when it's total bullshit.

Alex Ferrari 49:54
It's a lottery ticket, a lottery I call it a lottery ticket mentality. It's like people think that this is yes, this is The one this script is going to be the one this film is going to be the one that blows me up and I can go live in the Hollywood Hills, have lunch with Spielberg, have dinner with Scorsese. And then I hang out with Fincher and Nolan on the weekends. And I party with Tarantino, and I party with Aaron Tina.

Jason Mirch 50:18
Exactly, exactly. Right. Yeah, exactly. Right. And they're all telling me what a genius I am the whole time is possible. They just translate tell me how great I am. Exactly. Yes. So that's a big problem. That mentality right there is a big problem, because it's such a it's such a cold, wet slap in the face when you realize that's not the way this business works. And truthfully, the the the the naked script. The script that has no attachments has nothing, you know, except for a really great idea. It takes a you know, that's not going into production tomorrow. It's not getting greenlit based on that script alone at this point. You know, it's it's so much of it now is to your point about politics? Who's Who's in it? Who's directing it? Right? Where, where can this be shot all these things, that it becomes such a bigger part of that. And by the way, as soon as you sell that screenplay, there's a good chance you might get rewritten and never hear about it again. You know, there's so many writers who have made a good living careers on scripts they sold that have never gone to production, you know, that have never been made, or that they've been rewritten off of, you know, and then and that's it. So, you know, the ultimately the the one of the biggest things is that the the holding in your hand right now is, is not the thing that's going to end up on screen without a lot of other thumb prints on it. And that's a big,

Alex Ferrari 51:45
no, can you talk about and I know you have experienced this. And I think this is something that a lot of screenwriters think this is the truth, but I don't I don't think they understand the reality of it, is they think that there's no good writing in Hollywood, that they're that everyone is waiting for the script, that's going to be that there's just no good stuff that gets produced. Or like there's just as a lack of good writing in Hollywood, which is the absolute opposite. I've read scripts that were so amazing. I'm like, Why isn't this a movie? Like, why didn't this win the Oscar, and I've read tons of those scripts. So there's an illusion in the in the screenwriters mind, especially one that's outside of the party thinks like, Oh, if they're just waiting for my script, that's genius with ego, and that's a whole other conversation. But they think that there might be a lack of good script. It's not about the lack of good, good content. It's the now before it's like anything in this industry before a good script was enough before a good pitch was enough. Right? And now a good script still not enough because there's another 10 or 20 Good scripts on that table alone. It's what is it packaged with? Who where is it coming from? Is it hitting the time periods in the right place? The right time with the right project? Right, the right group of filmmakers involved? So can you touch a little bit about that?

Jason Mirch 53:06
I'll give you I'll give you a perfect example that when I was back in storyline, we were we were taking out a pitch. This is before Orange is the New Black by about four years. We took out a women in prison show around town, and we took it to NBC. It was a it was a a woman Maria gente was the writer. She's fantastic. She was sort of an A co EP level she'd written on some some series. She was ready to take that next leap and become the EP show runner.

Alex Ferrari 53:37
What year was this? What years?

Jason Mirch 53:39
This was this was 2001 2008 2009 2009 Ben Silverman is president of NBC. Okay, right. 2009 we take this pitch out, and she sells it in the room. She sells it in the room to NBC with Ben Silverman who's like, I love it. I get it. Women in prison. I'm all over right. And we walk out the door like, fuck yeah, man. This shit is easy. You know? Films hard. You know, that was the second thing we had sold in like two weeks was good. I was like, it's hard. I am a genius. You're right. I am a genius. And so we sell this thing on a Thursday, Friday, variety hits Ben Silverman out at NBC. He'd been fired on Friday. And that show died right there. Right. And so we read rivalries like FOC and I remember we called up the executive NBC we're like hey, so how you doing? And they're like don't worry it's worse we still love this we love this series. It's great. Isn't it was that that was it dot did they ever make a pilot of it or no, never made a pilot? We that we the pilot written it was beautiful. Never happened and then years later, of course, oranges, the new black comes up. And I'm like, alright, well, that's it, you know, at least the instincts were right. But this the all of that to say, there's any number of reasons why your stuff is is not getting made or why things that you think are not great are getting made. You know, there have been so many passion projects that that started out as something really great. That ended up not being great. There's a lot of reasons why, to your point about is it the right time is the right demographic is the right this and that all that stuff. There's a reason why things get paid that we think we're like, we sit back and look, well, that was terrible. Well, nobody, nobody sits, you know, nobody said something like, Well, I can't wait to make a terrible movie. You know, they're making stuff because they truly believe that this is going to be something fantastic.

Alex Ferrari 55:50
Well, it was kind of like when, like when Passion of the Christ hit that everybody wanted faith based material, because like, oh my god, there's a lot of money in it. And now, because of COVID Everyone's like animations too big. So there might be an animation script that would have never gotten a second look. Well, right now because of the market. It might get in there. And

Jason Mirch 56:10
that's your thing. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, you're exactly right. And the other thing that that writers tend to do is try and chase a trend. Right? So you'll hear you know, so you again, you're somebody's gonna be listening to this right now. And they'll be like, oh rom coms hot, I should write a rom com, you know, or, or, and then they're gonna spend six months to a year writing their rom coms. And then by the time they get it out there, that trend is gone, you know, and so and then we're back on to space invasion thrillers or whatever. You know, that's, that's the difference chasing that trend, whatever you see in the theater, that you think you're going to right? You're done. You're already done, you know, that's done, you know, chasing faith based movies, because that anomaly hit in such a big way. You know, it just doesn't make sense. Right, right. Stuff that that's appealing to you, you know, that that turns you want, because inevitably that does it there's it's gonna find an audience somewhere.

Alex Ferrari 57:11
You know, you remember remember after Pulp Fiction hit how many bad Pulp Fiction ripoffs came out afterwards. Yeah. Oh, bad. It was really bad

Jason Mirch 57:18
one and really bad. And then the bad like Talentino knockoff dialog that they would try and oh, yeah, that's trying. Not realizing what Tarantino does with his dialogue. They would sit there and be like, you know, this. This is very Tarantino esque. No, it's not because you're not Talentino you know, like,

Alex Ferrari 57:35
Sorkin s are very quiet or Sorkin

Jason Mirch 57:37

Alex Ferrari 57:38
You can't write that. That's that.

Jason Mirch 57:41
Right? That's exactly right. And there's a rhythm to them. And that and that's why they hit you know, you you can't you will not get ahead trying to be like, to my point earlier, you know, I went in to film school thing I was gonna be Spielberg Well, there's one of him, you know, and that you're not it, bro. So find find you, you. And that's where you got to live.

Alex Ferrari 57:59
Yeah, without question. Now, how can screenwriters better position themselves post COVID? Is there anything that you can think of that? Because the landscape is changing? So there's, I mean, January 2019 2020 20, is a lot different than now. And the whole industry has changed. And I guarantee you 10 years 2021 is gonna be a whole lot different than we are now. So is there anything that you can suggest for screenwriters to do to kind of position themselves to be a little bit ahead of the curve? Not that you know, what's going to happen, but just anything that can maybe stack the deck a little bit?

Jason Mirch 58:35
Absolutely. I mean, I think that the biggest thing right now is is the networking and direct access to people who can help get projects made is unprecedented. You know, everybody is at home, reading everybody is at home looking for something to do. So being able to connect with people and network with people, filmmakers, again, other screenwriters, producers, executives, whomever it is, Do not be sitting out waiting for productions to get rolling, because by that time, you're already behind the game, right? So you need to be getting your work into the market right now. You need to be getting eyeballs on your material. I mean, we touched on stage 32. I mean, the you know, I constantly hear from writers who email me I constantly from writers on the platform who asked that question, how do I get out and I said, get on the platform, get network with people, be able to connect with people, you know, and I say connect connect with me. I mean, you know, my email is Jay dot merch at stage 30 two.com. Write to me, let me know what you're working on. Because if you're not getting your stuff out there right now, you're doing yourself a massive disservice.

Alex Ferrari 59:52
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Jason Mirch 1:00:02
So that's one so so being able to network and connect with other writers or filmmakers, people who are at home reading and then the second thing is, again, no know what's not going to hit. It's hard to like, you know, it's hard to read the tea leaves. Obviously, nobody knows. Nobody's ever known what people want. You know, I mean, that's that's just the reality. Nobody should know. What

Alex Ferrari 1:00:23
should you quote? Should you quote William Goldman? At this point? Nobody. Nobody knows nothing. Yeah,

Jason Mirch 1:00:31
there's no there's anything. Yeah, exactly. Right. We're making our best guesses. But the best guest says, like I said, you know, I'm not going to be looking at you know, post apocalyptic virus movies, you know, right,

Alex Ferrari 1:00:47
contagion. Contagion to an outbreak to not so much right. No, not

Jason Mirch 1:00:51
Yeah, exactly. Right. Well, you know, so funny cuz I had somebody somebody pointed. Well, they said, Well, you know, Netflix is, you know, has the number two and three movies are outbreak and contagion. I said, Okay, well, those are made. Again, you're not going to remake that movie and be like, well, here's, here's my version two, you know, just for some too soon. It's too soon. It's too soon. Again, to another point. How many how many 911 movies came out post 911. And how many of them were successful? Like that's, that's good. Was

Alex Ferrari 1:01:20
there a successful nine? I mean, I know that Oliver Simon did one

Jason Mirch 1:01:24
there was an Oliver Stone one there was a Tom Hanks version of one twin. Those extremely loud, incredibly close.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:30
Oh, yeah. Yeah, that was that was like kind of like an off off the 911 911.

Jason Mirch 1:01:33

Alex Ferrari 1:01:36
Yes, exactly. And, yeah, Sandra Bullock. Yeah. centerbrook was in that

Jason Mirch 1:01:39
right? And then in the United 93, all these projects, right. I'll be honest, I didn't show up for a single one of those. Nobody. I don't I live through that shit. I we've we all watched that. And I don't need to, I don't need to go back to that place what I want. And what I think a lot of audience wanted was to break out and have escapist entertainment. Do you know, this is interesting. The number one movie in 20? I'm sorry, in 2002. Made $350 million domestically was My Big Fat Greek Wedding. And of course, right? That movie has zero conflict. It's just a big you know, it's, it's it's a fun movie. It's a fun romp. Don't get me wrong, right. That the the sequel to that made something like 12 years later made like $57 million. I make no money. Right, comparatively, but people want like, you're coming out of 911 You're going out coming into an Afghan war, right? You've also got we got Iraq war on the on the horizon. And people like, I just want to fucking have a good time, man. Like, let me see what this Greek Wedding shoots all about. And that's what that's what people showed up to right place right time.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:46
Right product,

Jason Mirch 1:02:47
right place, right time. Right product, you know, and again, but and, and specificity to that person that right or that character, you know, nearby dollars, you know, that was so specific to her. But it was universal in terms of themes. And so that's the only thing I would say. semantically look fanatically, there might be projects that come out that deal with isolation, Cabin Fever, something that you don't see that can kill you like a predator, whatever it is, right. Thematically, those things will exist, certainly. But at the same time, make it specific to the story you want to tell what's resonating with you right now. And that's that's the only way to really get ahead of a curve is to think about what's what's your internalizing?

Alex Ferrari 1:03:32
Yeah, I mean, after COVID hit, I mean, I've been I've gotten 2030 COVID short films, about about COVID About COVID. And I'm just like, guys, I don't want I don't want to watch a movie about COVID I don't want to watch a short about COVID. And there's not gonna be Yeah, there wasn't, I don't think there's gonna be a COVID movie that's gonna break out.

Jason Mirch 1:03:58
No, I talked, I talked to a universal executive who said, we've been pitched 77 or 70, COVID movies, we've passed on every single one of them. We're not making that movie. You know, we're just going to make that movie. No. You know, just because it's happening right now. Doesn't mean it again. Specifically, because it's happening right now. Doesn't mean there's an appetite for it. You know, it was like any

Alex Ferrari 1:04:22
I know I was gonna say like nom nom happened with Vietnam happened. It took it took a while before Vietnam films happen. And it was like probably what another 10 years later before platoon and Hamburger Hill and Full Metal Jacket and that that whole section of time where Vietnam films were a thing, right, but didn't come out in 60s 69.

Jason Mirch 1:04:42
No, no, no, because they're what you're watching on TV. Exactly. Right, man, you know, I mean, and then you look at, you know, post post depression. World War Two is going on. It's musicals. It's musical comedies. It's Lightfair. That's what people wanted to show up for, you know, Again, my wife and I have watched nearly every Netflix romantic comedy, you know, that they had to offer and that and that's not you know, that's we're not alone in that, you know, there's a reason why those things are having a resurgence.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:13
And that's what and that's also probably one of the reasons why Disney plus is doing as well. I mean they got 50 million last hurt I heard 50 million subscribers in in what? Yeah five, four months. It took me Spiele like four years to get 10 million subscribers

Jason Mirch 1:05:27
Yeah, well into your point to about Sandler and knowing your brand. We know what we're showing up for when we show up for a Disney product we just know they've done they've been they've had 100 years to do it. But they've got such a solid brand you know exactly what you're getting when you sign up for that. Yeah, that's gonna be the end and they've got a library that's gigantic and owns everything you can think of. So there's there's going to be something there that people subscribe to or subscribe for Yeah, it's

Alex Ferrari 1:05:57
I just got HBO Max the other day because I just need to have I just need to know that have access to friends. I just need to know if I want to watch it. It's there. That's all I got to know. But we you know we're going through ballers right now we're just finishing up. I hadn't. I'm catching up on all these series that I had never saw like I think True Detective I've never seen I gotta go to two detective. Yes. So good. I hear

Jason Mirch 1:06:24
first season is incredible. First season incredible.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:27
I'll leave it at that second. The third is it worth second or third?

Jason Mirch 1:06:31
Sec. Second was second was rushed, man. I mean, it really they had such a battle. It wasn't meant to be a recurring thing. They were supposed to have that one series. And then they blew up. It was fantastic. And then they they sort of hurried the second season. And you can tell you can tell how about a third. And I don't even know if I watched it. I don't think I don't know. I did. I started I started and I felt the same way. I felt so just

Alex Ferrari 1:06:55
watch season one and we're out

Jason Mirch 1:06:57
season one will will blow you away.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:59
I just I just walked we just finished up How to Get Away with Murder. Oh, yeah, the whole series. Great series, wonderful writing, like wonderful, wonderful writing. It's just so much stuff. There's so much content out

Jason Mirch 1:07:16
there. There's so much content and and the other thing too is because there's so much content, how quickly are you how quickly do you abandon a series that's not working for you? I mean, you know, or, or a film or anything you can get, you know, gone I'll get five minutes into something. I'll be like nope, bucket. I don't like it. You didn't hook me. You know, I episode

Alex Ferrari 1:07:36
1015 minutes. Maybe I give maybe a one episode to have a show. Like we just finished like a little while ago, Shameless, the entire 10 seasons. Right? Yeah, bones, the entire 12 seas. Like it's just like, it's it's facet, it's but now I'm catching up on all of the shows that have always wanted to watch. Well, now I got HBO. So I'm like, Oh, great. Now I get all the HBO stuff. I'm not sure if I'll get Peacock, but maybe

Jason Mirch 1:08:03
well, and that's the other thing too is is you know, I was talking to somebody and we said, Alright, realistically, there's Netflix, there's going to be Amazon because Amazon Prime it's free, it's free. It's free. It's built in, you know, Disney plus, I can then use all of these. Yeah, and you've got all of these other ones that are gonna be kicking around jockeying for fourth position fifth position, what you know, and are at a certain point so peep there's gonna be fatigue where people like, I don't need to buy, you know, lifetimes streaming service or whatever, you know, I don't I don't want that I want Oh, no, these it's gonna be like you know, it's almost you know, it's almost like it's almost like the the original like big three networks. You know, you had the big three networks you had it was those what you had? And you know, and there's more control in a person's hand right now. But ultimately, I you know, who knows how long some of these other streamers are gonna are going to be able to keep it up.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:57
I think I agree. I agree with you on the on the top three now because Disney has positioned itself in that in that conversation with authority and there's no one that's going to dethrone them from that because they just own family they just right now. Everybody wants family everybody wants like writer and they own all the family and light fare be done. Absolute Marvel Star Wars Pixar, Disney and even now Fox and

Jason Mirch 1:09:20
mom's in the entire catalog. Exactly. So

Alex Ferrari 1:09:24
they own all of that stuff. I think that HBO Max peacock that they're CBS All Access. Those are some of the bigger ones but like, like lifetime chat, I'm not gonna spend is it 99 cents a month on VOD? Yeah, it's 99 cents a month and maybe, but it's these and there's over what three or 4000. I have a streaming channel. I have my own streaming channel, but it's very specific to filmmakers. And I'm not going after 10,000 100,000 followers, right. It's much more specific But these other channels like to have mutual friends, like, like imagine like, would you spend 399 for lifetime? Like, it doesn't make any sense?

Jason Mirch 1:10:10
No, it doesn't. And that exactly. And the reason, again, to the point earlier about walking into a home during a holiday season, there's a Hallmark Channel on, it's because it's easily deliverable, and it's part of a package as part of a bundle that your satellite or cable provider give you. You're not going to find the 65 seven year old woman who's going to get online and try and purchase the Hallmark VOD, you know, are you kidding me? They've got you, she's not gonna happen, you know. Um, so that market is already razor thin. And that's, you know, and again, you're gonna, you're gonna see, I think, you know, it'd be interesting to see all these consolidate into one package and, and ironically, basically have taken cable satellite, or cable and satellite, you've put it on the internet, and now he's got cable satellite on the internet.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:01
I don't think it's gonna happen though. I just, I don't think everyone's gonna get like YouTube TV. I have YouTube TV, which gives you the local and it has a ton of other channels. So it's like my version of cable. But you, you record anything and everything you want endlessly, right? Which is, which is fantastic. And Hallmark, and all these other channels are on there. But I know someone's trying to figure that out soon. And someone's trying to do this one apple is actually trying to do it. It's trying to put them all in. They can't. Like it's like why wouldn't Netflix do that? Like,

Jason Mirch 1:11:32
right? Absolute? No, yeah, net, though Netflix, I would just doesn't make sense for those guys. I mean, again, taking like the big three again, will always exist. What's you know, it's gonna be interesting, because some what some of these these studios did is they made the mistake, in my opinion, of trying to build a streaming service, like they build their networks, or they built their studio, or whatever it is where it's all so new, they just flooded these positions, where well, we've always had this in a network, we've always had this as a studio, let's just put it on the internet. And we'll just do that version of it. And it's like, that's not the way you work. That's not the way it works. You know, you've got to be nimble, and you've got to be super small and very targeted, and it makes sure that you're again making things that are on brand that people are going to show up for. And you don't need to be, you know, a part of that if you're if you don't have that audience. Yeah. And

Alex Ferrari 1:12:21
I think HBO is positioned itself is out of all of those people. HBO has a brand and has has a specific brand that it connects with Warner Brothers, and kind of it's been Warner Brothers style since the beginning that gritty, you know, from back and back into get the gangster days, like, you know, back in the 30s and 40s.

Jason Mirch 1:12:41
Yeah. And HBO and HBO had HBO Go before that. So people are already kind of accustomed to I can watch this online at my leisure. You know, and then they just made it, you know, obviously, expand that that brand, like you said, and it works. So well. The one

Alex Ferrari 1:12:58
thing we haven't talked about is there's a there's an elephant in the room with regards to streaming, which is Apple, which if they want to, they could demolish everybody, if they truly want to they have the budget, they have the money. And a lot of the content that they've been creating has been not as well received as they would have hoped. They haven't had a breakout yet. Right? They haven't had a break. I just signed up for it. Because there was a show I wanted to I think I wanted to watch the Beastie boy documentary. So I'm like I Okay, that was a 399 fine. It's like a rental. I'll take it up for the month, I'll make sure to cancel it. But they're a big they're they're, they're an unknown quantity yet. And I and I don't know what you feel about this. But I do think that you've got Apple, Google and Facebook, all sitting on the sidelines, waiting to see what happens. And they're going to start acquiring some of the studios. There's I've said this publicly a bunch of times, I think the three best studios that are in the best position to survive is Disney Warner's in universal because they're the most diversified. Right? But Sony paramount, Lionsgate MGM, they don't have that diversification. Or, or the franchises to be frank, right? That to survive in this environment where Apple could come in and just by Paramount's library, which is massive, and by Sony, that has a massive library as well. I think that and then when that happens, the whole play field changes. Imagine if Apple bought Sony tomorrow, and has all of Sony content now becomes a much more interesting conversation to get soon to get Apple Right.

Jason Mirch 1:14:35
Absolutely. I mean, and that's the thing, you know, so interesting, because historically, so many studios had been acquired by they'll be acquired by you know, Paramount was golf in Western company that I think it became Barbie. Car. Yeah. Yeah. And then you had Seagrams bought universal and then a quick the problem. I mean, the issue is you got you know, people want to be in the movie business. They want to be in entertainment. And so you know, these these moguls are no different these corporations are no different they see, they see it as a line item certainly. But then, you know if if Google or Apple or whomever goes in and buys a paramount, their cleaning house, I mean, oh, like even the real estate alone to maintain, you know, and even and even the, you know, the idea of having to try and keep up a distribution machine, right and then feed that distribution machine. That's a massive undertaking, you know? Well,

Alex Ferrari 1:15:30
I think I mean, but if you look at Apple, Apple's business model, they don't care. They're very unique in the position because, and maybe Google to a certain extent, but they're hardware company. They want to sell iPads, iPhones, computers, and all of a sudden you buy your new iPhone, you've got a year subscription of Apple TV for free. And we'll get and it's just another way to connect the consumer with an apple experience. They don't care about what what Hollywood does now and their business models. It's not even in their ballpark like Netflix. Don't Oh, skirt, Marty, you want $200 million and complete carte blanche to do whatever the hell you want. Here you go. Why? Because they don't need a box office return. They right. They have other parameters, other other metrics that they go after.

Jason Mirch 1:16:21
Right? Absolutely. And you know, I remember years ago, I said the thing that would and this is when Netflix was still mailing you DVDs. You remember that? DVD?

Alex Ferrari 1:16:31
I look a lot younger than I am, sir. I appreciate that. No.

Jason Mirch 1:16:36
I remember I remember getting the DVDs in the mail. And I remember thinking like, holy shit, if if Netflix can figure out a way to do digital streaming, and they can go worldwide. They're gonna be unstoppable. Right? Because those are the two. I mean, they just got to jump on everybody.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:52
Okay, a decade for Disney. And it's taken them a 2008 is when they hit. So it's been 12 years that they've been thinking about opening up their own streaming service slice.

Jason Mirch 1:17:02
Right. And why exactly, that's exactly right. And you know, and it's, it's interesting, because, you know, I'm a massive Disney, the business of Disney, the history of Disney. So, so the idea of, you know, Eisner and Katzenberg coming over from paramount to run Disney and really, you know, safety. One of the one of the things Frank Wells said, he's like, you know, I think was Frank Wells, I said, this, he said, I open up a door, and behind that door as money, every door, I open up has money behind it at Disney, because they weren't, you know, that was the, that was the advent of VHS. And they had Disney had not released any of their library on VHS, they wouldn't do it out of principle. And it was like, fuck that, like, They that VHS saved Disney, you know, in the early 80s, and into the late 80s. As a result of that, you know, to to not jump on a streaming platform and streaming bandwagon and be able to get that. I mean, you're right, they came in 10 years later, and look where they are now. I mean, they're already caught up pretty quickly, or they come up pretty quick, you know, Apple apples interesting, because Apple, and a lot of these other streaming services that have a ton of money Kwibi isn't i We can definitely touch on Kwibi

Alex Ferrari 1:18:15
Yeah, let's all could be in a second.

Jason Mirch 1:18:18
I mean, they're bringing in NASA filmmakers throwing massive amounts of money at them, because again, they are hoping they're hoping that contents gonna hit. They're hoping that if you hear Spielberg is doing something with Kwibi you're going to try and get a query subscription, right? Or Apple same thing, you know, Netflix, same thing they've they're, they're pulling these big names away from studios, or at least in competition with studios, because you're right, but Netflix will say Do whatever you want Marty you know, you need to you need a 10 million more dollars 20 million more dollars to do some more D aging fine, you know, we'll take it it's it's a totally, it's a totally different ballgame now because there is so much money. And these these companies don't have to they don't have a corporate overlord that sit there be like, Hey, watch, you know, you've got to make some of the hidden or you're or you're done, you know, you're fired.

Alex Ferrari 1:19:13
And I think out of all the out of all these companies, the other ones we've spoken about other than Kwibi. Netflix is very vulnerable, because they don't have a diversified business. All the other ones we're talking about are diversified, every other streaming service. And they all have other ways of making money where Netflix it's the one revenue stream. Yeah, they license out Stranger Things to T shirts occasionally. But generally speaking, that's, that's that's it. So if that dries up for whatever reason, if something happens to that revenue stream, the entire company goes down. Where if Disney plus shut down tomorrow Disney's fine if HBO Max shut down tomorrow, Warner's is fine. So it's really it's interesting that They are, they're the big boy, but they are vulnerable in a sense, and we are going to get to that critical threshold of, there's no more people than to to no more subscribers, like they've already Netflix is it's so beyond the US now they're just trying to go worldwide now. Sure, but at a certain point, they're just like, you're gonna hit, you know, you're gonna hit that threshold and you're not gonna run. So then it's now I'm spending money just to maintain what I have let alone to attract new subscribers, we are going to get to that in the next I say in the next 10 years or so.

Jason Mirch 1:20:35
Yeah, well, it's absolutely. And to your point about Disney. Bob Iger famously said like, we don't make movies, well, we make our products and the movies fit into those products. Right. So, you know, frozen to is a commercial for every frozen backpack, lunchbox, RV, Dolly. That's what that theme park ride all that. So what what Netflix doesn't have to your point, you're exactly right is an ability to really cross collateralize those things and be able to, you know, have different business groups talking to each other to really figure out alright, how do we make the most possible money out of this

Alex Ferrari 1:21:13
there then that I wrote a whole book on it called the rise of the entrepreneur, which is how to create ancillary product lines, which is basically the Disney model. I mean, Disney started this back in the 30s. I mean, when you are in the 20s, late 20s, early 30s. Like, right now, as we're speaking someone bought a Mickey Mouse t shirt somewhere in the world. Absolutely. And they're still generating revenue off of that IP. And I actually did a whole episode of How I actually went into the corporate filings from 2019. I think it was, yeah, 2019. And they made 70 billion. Gross. And then I wanted to see how much is actually movies, exhibition of movies, which is what a studio is supposed to be doing. And it ended up being that out of number one was, you probably know this, but number one was theme parks and resorts. Yeah, taking a hit. Right. Right about now. Not not a growth industry.

Jason Mirch 1:22:01
$30 million a day. They're losing. Yeah, it's

Alex Ferrari 1:22:04
not a growth industry at the moment. But generally speaking in the normal world, it's a good situation. The next was licensing for networks, cables, ESPN, that thing, then came movies, then came merchandise, but the merchandise also has to be included in the theme parks and resorts because they sell a ton of merchandise. So it ended up being about 15% of the entire 70 billion was generated off of like box office and receipts or exhibition of the movie. Everything else was around that and that's where people have such a hard time understanding is that Disney not only and I think it started with Eisner. When he when he came in, he'd say I mean Eisner saved Disney. Yeah, just no question. There's no Bob Iger without without Eisner regardless of how he left, but regardless of how it ended the relationship without eyes without eyes, and there is no Disney today that he started building this infrastructure out. Back then they're like, look, there's a lot of assets here. We're gonna start building out a system and infrastructure to start and then that's how the merchandising came out. Then the theme parks started pumping out then all this stuff, to the point where now it's just a money machine. Just like I have a buddy of mine who works at Disney. He's an animator he worked on frozen. And I and he take a we brought in all of our they got brought in by the brass and they wanted to show all the animators how they make their money. So they took every single animated film, and they broke it down into categories like okay, 30% merch, 30% theatrical and 30% home video. And then they got and it's like, and they like, you know, Aladdin, and they do all of those right, then they got the frozen. Right, it was 90% merch. Yeah. And 10% And that movie made like a billion and a half dollars. Yeah. And he goes, Do you know how much we made how much Disney made on the under dresses, the little dresses that like my daughter's bought, like they bought two or three sets of it back in the day. A billion on just adjust the dresses. Yeah, on just the dresses. And that's what people like. That's what I'm trying to let people know about independent filmmakers like there is a way to do that model in a smaller fashion where you can create ancillary product lines and create other revenue streams and an independent standpoint to be able to build up a business that makes sense right and so on. But that's that's the business and that's why that's why Paramount Sony Lionsgate they don't have that they are stuck in the 90s

Jason Mirch 1:24:29
Yeah, absolutely know that that's exactly right and and the the the the trouble is it's very difficult to read you know, look Paramount's I think I think para has a great America. Right? Great. America is like a like a theme park that exists. Like,

Alex Ferrari 1:24:44
I've never heard her. It's huge. It's monstrous. Yeah. Everybody knows about it. Great. America. Everyone goes to the end of the Super Bowl goes where are you going? Great America. No, nobody.

Jason Mirch 1:24:57
Exactly. Um, you know, that's that's gonna be the biggest struggle, like you said about Netflix and all these other streamers. But you know, as you're exactly right as a, as a screenwriter, you you don't want to come from a position necessarily, in my opinion of being like, Okay, here's what a lunchbox looks like, here's what a Barbie doll looks like, You're that that's not necessarily it. But I think you're 1,000%, right? When you have to say, Okay, how does this fit into a larger conversation about what, like how we're going to monetize this? Because ultimately, that's your right box offices, around box clubs around the world is is shrinking. Largely, you know, there's, there's more expensive tickets, there's fewer tickets sold more expensive tickets, bigger, bigger box office for bigger movies. But if you're doing it on the independent side, if you're doing something that's, you know, sub sub, you know, $20 million, or 5 million, right, whatever it is, right? You've got to figure out a way that that's going to live for a longer period of time, you know? And that's, that's the biggest challenge that writers have and trying to figure out, okay, you know, if this is, you know, if this is a story that I that I desperately want to tell I get that, how do I get somebody else, to see that it's something that desperately needs to be told?

Alex Ferrari 1:26:20
But also, but with screenwriters though? Shouldn't they? Like, what's your opinion? Should a screenwriter write a film an independent film that could be done for a million or 2 million bucks to in? Did you have a better chance of that getting made? If it's solid, then going into the studio system, and trying to get and try to play that game? Because that game you could play for a decade and not and not get anywhere? Without question. So what is the better place to be like, where, where would be a stronger position? I produced this, this is something I produced, it was financially good. And they made money with it. Here's my next five projects, or, or I have a project here with no attachments on it helped me.

Jason Mirch 1:27:03
Right? No, you're exactly right. No, you're exactly right. Go make, you know, go. If you're writing something, write something that can be produced a sub sub two $3 million. Right. And, and probably you can do a really good project. I mean, this is not bullshit, you can do a really good project for sub a million dollars. Oh, yeah. And still and still break out and get noticed. Right? You're exactly right, it's so much better to have a produced credit that you can point to and say, Hey, watch this, as opposed to Hey, read this, you know, it's just it's, it's, it's the nature of how you how you are able to be to your point entrepreneurial, and get your project going. The biggest I think mistake writers make is they think I'm a writer, period, full stop. And that's, and that's it, that limits you because you need to be a writer, a writer, producer, you need to think like a producer, you need to think like a filmmaker, you need to think you need to think like a distributor on some points to our point about earlier about who's actually seeing this movie right now. Right? Why would I as a financier, put $5 million $10 million $20 million into a COVID movie I'm not doing right. But if I can put less than a million dollars into something that is, you know, is a big fat, Greek Wedding type style, whatever it in that vein, or in that theme, and whatever it is. That's, that's my safer bet. So you're right. I mean, I think that it's very much, you know, rather than trying to straightaway go knock on the door of a studio. Because ultimately, though, you know, there's, there's a handful of writers that studios are will approve, will work with whatever it is, you know, to your point about politics. I was a developing executive for many years, and we had our lists, we had our rom com list, we had our thriller list, we had our horror list, we had our prices, we had our boxes, right? And, and we would and we, you know, we would get a project or we would come up with a concept and we said, Okay, who are our five writers we're gonna go to right, she's busy, he's busy, he's writing in this, this last draft was not great that he turned into, okay, it's this guy, right? Or this girl and we would come in and that's how you know, you know, you pick you wouldn't as a studio executive, go out and blast out online. Hey, I'm, you know, looking to write a rom com anybody? Anybody got some ideas out there? Like you as a studio executive, you weren't you're you're you're trapped by the that sort of system, you know, and, you know, you're certainly always looking for writers, but you're looking for writers from certain sources, right. And that's let's say

Alex Ferrari 1:29:43
gilded cage, like a cage.

Jason Mirch 1:29:45
And you're you're going out to the eight you know, you were going out to the agencies when when brighter still had agents, you'd go to the doctor yet, you know, there's so much shit looming down the road. You'd go to you say, hey, get who your rom com writer like, Well, this guy wrote this, she wrote this, she wrote this wrote this great send me samples, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:30:09
we'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Jason Mirch 1:30:19
Now, but now, writers have so much more power in their hands to actually write and get get shit out there into the market into the world produce, find producers find financiers find other filmmakers. Again, I can't stress this enough. You know, it's it's through. I mean, Thursday 32. We had a writer who entered one of our screenwriting competitions, our search for new blood contest, she won that contest, we set her up on a meeting with a manager, that manager set her up on a meeting with an agent, that team got her a StudioCanal picture. So in under a year, she went from winning a screenwriting contest on stage 32, to writing for StudioCanal, right adapting project that was totally in her hands, she had an incredible amount of ability, right. And she had a stack of scripts at home, by the way, that wasn't her only script she wrote. But she went into that man that meeting with with a manager. It was it was Jake Wagner, who was over at good fear at the time. And she said, Yeah, I wrote the script, and, and I've got a stack of other stuff. He's like, great signs in the room, get her set up with verb, and then they get her this this for her first paid gig and under a year. Right? That, and by the way, you know, she was a lawyer by trade, you know, so it wasn't like she was sitting there grinding away, you know, scaring people. She was she was, you know, she entered this contest. And again, that was totally in her control. You know, and that as a writer, that's how you have to be thinking now all these avenues have to be open to you.

Alex Ferrari 1:31:54
So Let's real quickly before, before we finish, let's touch upon this whole agency thing. I actually was talking I was actually talking to a because I heard about it, but I didn't know the details about it. And I was talking to this very well known screenwriter, a friend of mine that he was explaining it to me, he was on the phone with me. He was like, oh, no, this is what happened. And this is why, you know, we were talking about a project. I'm like, Oh, should we send it over to your agent? And they're like, no, no, we don't have agents anymore. I'm like, what do you what do you mean? You're like, right, big screenwriter. He's like, I'd heard something was like some rumblings going up. I didn't hear about it. And he's like, No, this is what happened. And just like everything else that's going on, like, like you were saying earlier that we don't I think that no one's gonna go back into a car to drive an hour for a 30 minute meeting anymore. think everyone's gonna get screwed that we're going to do a zoom meeting. Yeah. Because, yeah, now because we're forced to deal with it. I think now writers are going I don't, why do I need to give 10% away to an agent? I can. I'm good. I don't I I'm living. Yeah.

Jason Mirch 1:32:57
So what is what happened to what happened? Yeah. And meanwhile, an agent is gonna say, Well, wait, why am I trapped at this agency, when I can go be a manager and a producer and take a smaller client, you know, roster and go do my own shit? Why am I again, working for a gigantic agency? Where I'm just trying to get my clients commission? You know? No, it's it. I mean, I don't know, if you have you touched upon this at all. I mean, I've never,

Alex Ferrari 1:33:21
I've never touched upon the WTA situation with with the agency. I don't think I think we've glanced on it. But we haven't like gotten into the weeds a little bit. But if you want to explain it to people, that'd be fine.

Jason Mirch 1:33:33
Sure. I mean, so So basically, the idea was, years ago, there was you know, initially there, there was this idea that an agent would represent a piece of talent, a writer, a filmmaker, whomever it was, and in exchange for getting that person a job, they would get 10% of that person's salary. So agents are incentivized to work for their clients to hustle and get them jobs, and also get them the best deal possible, because that would get them the highest commission possible that is that the most simple definition representation, right. So ultimately, what happened was to our to our point earlier about packaging, and try to make your project more valuable. Agents at a certain point, sort of say, well wait, if we have this script, we can also put it with this director, who's also a client and we can put it with these 123 pieces of talent who are also clients. And we'll be able to take this out as a whole package to a studio, a network, what have you and then sell it them. Now, we won't necessarily take the commission from the creator of the show or the writer, we won't take that 10% But we're going to take an overall packaging fee that comes out of what the budget of the show would be from the network, right or from the residuals or from the back end or whatever it is. And so ultimately, the writers are, you know, making the They're fees on this project. They're not being commissioned. But then they, as these gigantic shows, Walking Dead, break, Friend, friend, all these shows, start making crazy residuals, these agencies are making incredible amounts of money that they're that their clients aren't seeing at all. And so the clients are saying, wait a second, how are you making hundreds of millions of dollars a year on this show that I created? And I'm not seeing a fraction of that, right, I'm getting whatever little checks that we're getting for residual. So. And on the agency side, the agents are saying, well, yeah, sure, we're taping this packaging fee. But do you remember that pilot that you asked us to set up and it went nowhere? Do remember all the meetings I took for this, you remember how we set up this and that died, that there's a lot of work that went into representing you that we never got paid for? Because we're on? You know, because because we are on this commission basis? So

Alex Ferrari 1:35:53
that that's it? That's yeah, that's,

Jason Mirch 1:35:55
those are the two arguments that are basically yeah, I'm not saying I agree with it, that's the agent the agents position is, is we you know, there's a lot of work that we do for you that you never see and that we this offsets all that work. Now, the reality of the situation is what happened is the the WJ said, Okay, fine, as a guild as as represented writers, as part of this guild, we are collectively firing our agents who do not sign a code of conduct, which basically would would eliminate packaging fees, and the structure as it currently exists. And so writers who are who are dear friends with their agents for many years, suddenly were without, without agents. And a lot of the agents who, you know, we're, again, we're at these massive agencies suddenly had all of their client lists leave them are most of their client lists leave them, and they're still trying to figure out how to bring money into their company, so they can justify their job. And so, ultimately, and before COVID hit, there was talk of a an all out writers strike, that would just again, collectively shut down the town. Now, given that we're just coming out, you could argue that we're trying to see the light at the end of the tunnel for this COVID thing.

Alex Ferrari 1:37:15
You can argue that we are heavily sir.

Jason Mirch 1:37:18
It would be it would be shocking. If the WJ said great productions are able to go again, let's all strike

Alex Ferrari 1:37:25
Yeah, that, you know, Oh, you guys haven't eaten You haven't eaten in six months. Anyway, let's strike.

Jason Mirch 1:37:32
Let's all strike. And so ultimately, that that's sort of the the, you know, I guess the last 18 months to a year of what has happened with the WNBA and the ATA boiled down.

Alex Ferrari 1:37:44
So But wouldn't it make sense, and let me just put this out there, because I do agree. Now I'm throwing in my two cents, not that anyone's are giving it. But um, that if the there is a value to what the agency is doing, without their connecting of all of the pieces, there is no, it makes that project much more enticing, and actually helps get it lit, where I find the problem with it is that they are taking all the revenue and all the back end and not giving anything to the Creator. If there has to be a split there. I do think that the agency, if they're not going to take any money up front, that they do deserve something on the back end. And if everyone makes money, we all make money. But there has to be a cut there. And that's where they got greedy. I think if they would go Okay, guys, we're going to take a packaging fee, but you guys are also going to get X X X X percentage of it too, right? And we're going to share in the success as a whole, which is fair, because without us putting this all together, chances are that we're not gonna be able to make this happen. So does that make sense? Am I

Jason Mirch 1:38:46
again, but you know, it's interesting. Again, we're talking, you know, and I've got a lot of friends who are agents, a lot of good friends of mine. Uh, you can't blame an agent for being an agent even when their agent game for themselves.

Alex Ferrari 1:38:58
I mean, you can't blame a scorpion for stinging the frog. Like it's

Jason Mirch 1:39:04
that's what they are. And they went and they went and got the best deal possible for themselves. And now you're trying you know, now we're trying to back up that that cart? Um, no, but you're exactly right. And the other thing that you know, people aren't talking about is how agents don't really want to be agents in the traditional sense anymore because there's not a lot of money left to be made it you have a look, you had you had William Morris, who was acquired by endeavour, right, which became William Morris Endeavor. And then it became endeavor con, you know, there's endeavor content. There's William Morris, or web. And ultimately, they're trying to figure out a way to diversify to get other streams of revenue, because they realize, again, to what we were talking about earlier, there, there's only so many jobs in the traditional sense available in Hollywood. Right. There's this many studio productions every year there's this many TV shows that have this many writers in the writers room. Eventually there is going to be a ceiling for all that commission coming in And so you can do you know, a couple things, you can try and poach as many clients as you can and control as much of the town as you can, you can try and you can try and do the packaging fees and try to get money on the back end as well, you can try and finance content through a finance arm, which a lot of agencies are doing. But again, agents are not able to be producers, legally, so they're not able to participate in any, in any revenue or anything else, except through these, this this packaging Fee Scheme, which was concocted, whereas managers, which is what again, which by law, you know, a lot of agents are like, Well, fuck this, I'm going to, I'm not going to be an agent anymore, I'm going to go set up my boutique management company with five other guys who are also former agents who still have a client list, or whose clients will come back to them when we're no longer agents. And we'll go set up stuff and we'll go produce stuff, and we'll go find the financing and all that with our existing relationships. And so there's gonna, there is gonna be a cataclysmic shift in terms of which agencies survive and don't, and the large ones will get larger, the small ones may shift and decide to be agile companies or fade out. But ultimately, it's all good news for writers. Because I mean, truthfully, it is because now writers are gonna have access to former agents who are now managers who need to build out a client roster, so they

Alex Ferrari 1:41:23
can also produce and they're also producing things. So now they can, they can now actually, Greenlight projects, because they're built, they're, the thing that I'm hearing is, uh, basically, they're learning that I don't want to be, I don't want to be a guy working on the line anymore. Alright, girl working on the line anymore working for the man, I want to, I want to monetize my relationships and my influence in this town, to be able to generate more revenue with those relationships. And that's basically what they're trying to do, which is where manager has been all along. But now it's like, so now the management pool is getting a lot larger, and UN agencies are starting. Yeah, I agree there is a limit. It's just the town has changed. And let's not even talk about how many non union non represented, you know, talent is out there that is producing, that's producing work for Hallmark. And we're producing work for lifetime. We're working for international. That's it, there's a lot, it's just the game has changed so much.

Jason Mirch 1:42:16
Well, that's one of the things that I always talk about with you know, I'll talk to executives all day long, I'll talk to writers, you know, through stage three, two, and, you know, I'll have, I'll have writers email me and say, Hey, I'm from the UK, or I'm from Singapore, I'm from Finland, wherever it is. And you know, how do I get representation like, this is the time man, because one, the Internet has changed connectivity in a massive way. You can, you can do what we do from anywhere at this point. And then the other thing too, and again, you know, you're able to connect directly with managers, executives, producers, actors, filmmakers, and you don't need to be in the same room anymore in the way we had to be 10, five years ago,

Alex Ferrari 1:43:02
five months ago.

Jason Mirch 1:43:05
And you're exactly right. And it's far more accepted. Now, to do a zoom meeting, even if you're in Burbank, and I'm in Manhattan Beach, or wherever we're not, you know, I'm not gonna hop on a flight to fly to Burbank from Manhattan Beach. I was

Alex Ferrari 1:43:18
I was about to say, Manhattan Beach, you might as well be in New York. I mean, it's just like, I'm not gonna, I've driven to this day, 32 offices back in the day, and I was like, it was an hour and a half hour 45 to get there. And I'm like, I just RV, you got to do this, you gotta come to me, man, I can't, I can't do this.

Jason Mirch 1:43:37
Totally. And now we can do this stuff. It's totally acceptable to do it over zoom, or Skype or whatever it is, and pack in four of these meetings in the time that it takes to do you know, to

Alex Ferrari 1:43:48
Norbit, you're able to do more business,

Jason Mirch 1:43:50
you know? Yeah. So and again, the the the success that I've seen writers have as a result of no matter where they are in the world of connecting through states 32 directly with executives, whatever it is, is incredible. I mean, the the, the option agreements that are happening, the representation that's happening, the production agreements that are happening, all with writers who are not based in LA, it's, it's, it blows that myth out of the water, that you need to be in a room with somebody in LA to get a job or to sell your script.

Alex Ferrari 1:44:26
Without question, especially for writers for filmmakers. I always tell them like if you can make it up to LA. I mean, I'm a transplant I've been here 12 years. If you can make it out here. The learning curve out here is so much more rapid than it was in a smaller market. You just I tell people like in the first year I learned more than that in the first five years I learned in Florida. I was in South Florida. So it is it just being in the business being around it talking to people everywhere you go. This is all pre COVID Like any any Starbucks you walk into, there's Final Draft everywhere. It's a joke, right? Oh, yeah, it's

Jason Mirch 1:45:02
a cliche. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 1:45:05
All you see is Final Draft laptops everywhere. And I and I always love walking, I always I always play this game like, I'll jump into an Uber in LA. I'm like, so how's the script going? And like, I'm telling you five out of 10 times, it's like, how do you know? Like, how's this? How's the script going? And how was the audition? And those are the those, those are the two things that that you hear. But you You learn so much more being here. But with that said, if you live in another country, if you you can absolutely sell a script. Right out being in town for writers is a lot different than being filmmakers, filmmakers. I think, if you can do it, it's great. If you don't rap, but you but you don't have to do that.

Jason Mirch 1:45:44
Yes, 1,000% Yes, but I would say also as an independent, if you're a truly independent filmmaker, meaning you're off trying to, to shoot your own project in whatever part of the world you're in the, the the barrier to entry is so incredibly low now. And it's basically your skill set. So because you can shoot on, you know, my iPhone camera, which is 4k quality, right? You can shoot, you know, you can cut on your home computer, there are so many ways of getting your work out there that again, didn't exist before. And and if you've got something to say that people actually want to listen to, you're limited by yourself at that point.

Alex Ferrari 1:46:22
Yeah, I mean, we shot on the corner of ego and desire with our beef for 3000 bucks over the course of four days, running around running around Sundance with a little 1080 p camera. And it looks it looks fine. It looks great. I mean, I saw I projected in the Chinese Theater and I was shocked at how beautiful look, it was so but also but that being said, I have 25 years in the business I have a lot of tools in my toolbox. I carried a lot of the weight on my own shoulders. It's like you said it's limited to your own skill set and and your own relationships as well. Right? Totally. Absolutely. So um, we could keep talking forever. Jason. I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I asked all my guests. Sure. What are three screenplays every screenwriter should read

Jason Mirch 1:47:06
read screenplays. I'm the one that I love. John August adapted big fish is and I think it's incredible. I think the the next one that I would say that I really enjoyed. Just my pure writing perspective is the apartment which is behind me. If you can't you know, for those of you that have the picture. That screenplay went through somewhere around 27 revisions before it was put in production. So it's from 1960 and it still holds up to this day. It's incredibly written and at a time capsule for the 60s By the way, which is it's it's it's not like watching something like Mad Men where you see them try to recreate it that's actually it. So it's a very cool step back in time, but it's it's so so beautifully written. Um, and then the third one that I absolutely loved from a from a writing perspective and Eisner to go back to some of your talking about earlier said it was the most perfect screenplay he ever wrote. Or I'm sorry, read was raised the last arc Yeah, by Lawrence castle. Which again is my favorite film but we're going back and reading the screenplay and then what I would also recommend doing if you haven't if you haven't done this is go back and read the transcripts of the call

Alex Ferrari 1:48:25
I have that we had that I have a it's on the shot it's on the I'll put it up put it in the show notes actually. They I posted it as an article it's amazing to listen to Lucas and Kazdin breakdown down Indiana everything from didn't the way that all rolls to everything it did was a chasm only did Lucas also called right that was the chasm only and that screenplay

Jason Mirch 1:48:47
that's good question I think what's chasm with like a story by for Julia J.

Alex Ferrari 1:48:51
Lucas? Definitely got the story by um okay. Yeah, cuz Catherine is such an amazing writer

Jason Mirch 1:48:56
incredible in Korea and then his son came back and his son's doing number four whatever trying to write number four for the franchise for tougher

Alex Ferrari 1:49:03
for indie for me number five.

Jason Mirch 1:49:07
Oh, God, we have five now. Yes, we're on number five now. Thank you. I I purposely skipped over four. Yeah, I only go I go to three. It shall

Alex Ferrari 1:49:15
not be discussed. Yeah, just stop. Yeah, shall not be discussed. It's kind of like

Jason Mirch 1:49:19
that's it? Yeah, it's still the best trilogy that has four movies in it. I would say

Alex Ferrari 1:49:23
that like it's rocky one through four. Then we just go straight to six. We don't talk about five. It's not it's not needed. Exactly. Now, what advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Jason Mirch 1:49:38
Write every single day. A meet people network every single day. Have a clear vision for yourself and the stories you want to tell be specific as possible in your storytelling to you. It's often summarized you know, people will say right what you know, and that doesn't mean right, Your Honor. Biography. It means write something thematically that resonates with you. And so be be truthful to yourself. Be honest with yourself about what resonates with you don't try to write something that you think is going to hit in the market. Don't try to chase the trends like I talked about earlier. But network, write every day, get honest, accurate, constructive feedback from from sources that you trust. Because those are the things that are going to make you ultimately better.

Alex Ferrari 1:50:30
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life? Wow.

Jason Mirch 1:50:38
That's a good question. I think the the longest that took me the longest to learn was that I should trust my own instincts. And if somebody, if somebody says, I don't get it, or I don't see it, that doesn't mean that you're wrong, or it doesn't mean that I was wrong. It just meant that they saw something differently than I saw. And so I had to learn that just because somebody said I don't get it, or I don't see it or whatever. It doesn't mean they're cheating on you or your idea. You can trust in Trust in what you have to say.

Alex Ferrari 1:51:10
Yeah, cuz I think Indiana Jones was rejected by a few studios.

Jason Mirch 1:51:14
Yeah, yeah, it was, I think wildly around town.

Alex Ferrari 1:51:17
If everything everybody, I think the only reason Paramount agreed to it is that Lucas, like said he'll pay for most of it or something like

Jason Mirch 1:51:26
that. And I think yeah, exactly. And he

Alex Ferrari 1:51:29
owns a lot of it. If it hits, it goes, but if it goes down, he goes down in flames. So he took a risk on that. And three of your favorite films of all time.

Jason Mirch 1:51:40
Three of my favorite films of all time. Well, I've already mentioned the apartment. I've already mentioned Raiders, so I won't I won't go back to those. And now you've just made it really hard. Or I made it hard on myself. Back to the Future, I guess. I guess so. So well constructed. I constantly teach that film in in the writers room. Which will which we want to talk about a second. I'm constantly constantly teach that film. Braveheart I think is incredible. Just the film wildly historically inaccurate.

Alex Ferrari 1:52:12
Good cinema, good cinema cinema.

Jason Mirch 1:52:14
So uh, so so well, just like Titanic. Know that Titanic was that was a documentary that was

Alex Ferrari 1:52:22
true. That was obviously rose. I mean, she's still alive.

Jason Mirch 1:52:26
She's still at somewhere, floating, floating out there behind the back of the boat. And then a third one, I'm just gonna, I'm gonna shoot from the hip on this and say, whatever comes to my mind. Um, you know, I really I really loved again, just from a an overall, it's so well constructed as a film is seven. I think seven. And of course, you can talk about everything else. You know, he's done since then. But seven, I think he was just so so well, well, he was just in this in this group.

Alex Ferrari 1:52:56
Well, you're talking you're talking my language now because seven is in my top five along with Fight Club, as well. Yeah. I mean,

Jason Mirch 1:53:03
by the way that could have been it could have been a tie between between Fight Club and 72. Arguably,

Alex Ferrari 1:53:07
two of the best movies of the 90s

Jason Mirch 1:53:11
to the best, and that I think are were largely underrated at the time. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:53:17
I think it was definitely underrated. And it's aged very well. And seven wasn't seven was a hit. But it was a pop hit. They were like, oh, it's it's but now people going oh, wait a minute. This is it.

Jason Mirch 1:53:28
Yeah, it was. Yeah. At the time. It was you know, Brad Pitt and Ben Paltrow. And you know, it was like it was, but now it's like it's aged so well.

Alex Ferrari 1:53:35
And they also say that with Zodiac like people understand that, that that is a masterpiece. I mean, yeah, the Zodiac can be like when the Zodiac came out. And it was like,

Jason Mirch 1:53:45
right, right. Absolutely. That did that scene in Zodiac where they're showing the passage of time. And they're showing the camera moves as they're building towers in San Francisco. Ah, years passing. Incredible. Incredibly,

Alex Ferrari 1:53:59
he's one of the best he is he's our it's him and him and Nolan. I always go back and forth between Fincher and Nolan because of their they are if you combine them the both of them, you've got Kubrick. occurrent daigou break. Because, you know, Nolan, I think even more so because he really loves Kubrick. But I still remember walking out of ice white shot in 99. And my friends asked me, Did you get it? What did you think of it? I'm like, I don't know. I'll understand it in 10 years, but I don't and I did. I took me about 10 to 12 years to figure it out. I'm like, Oh, I see what you're talking about now. Yeah.

Jason Mirch 1:54:36
That was on that was on the other day. And I came in about a third of the way through it and stopped what I was doing and and watch the rest of it. Because I was it's it's kept it's hypnotic. It's,

Alex Ferrari 1:54:46
it's personally my favorite Kubrick film and it was a lot of people's like, why I'm like it is art, my personal favorite and I still has the best opening shot out of like one of the top top three opening shots of all time, with a title that comes open, it was just he was working at a completely different level. And I think currently Fincher and Nolan are both working at that. They're just Terrence you know, there's a handful of filmmakers that are working at that ultimate level.

Jason Mirch 1:55:15
Well, that's exactly right. And again, there you can, you can point to their specific style, important their sensibility. And it's and it's so uniquely them. And again, if you want to be successful as in this business, that's, that's a, you have to find that for yourself. It doesn't mean you have to, you know, copy what they're doing. But you've got to find that sense of a sensibility that is uniquely you and not try to write for the masses. If you write for everybody, you're gonna fail.

Alex Ferrari 1:55:43
Absolutely. And a lot of people think, well, Tarantino just steals from everybody. I'm like, Yeah, but that's his thing. Like how he is able to funnel his massive encyclopedic knowledge of cinema and spit it out. Through his filter is what makes him what is

Jason Mirch 1:56:00
you know, I mean, it's these it's these great homage is and by the way, every every filmmaker will will, you know, do something that has everybody has an influence for sure. Everybody has an influence

Alex Ferrari 1:56:12
everyone steals. It's not like every everyone steal shots, everyone steals like, we're all still like, whoever came up with the close up. We're all stealing the close up. We're all stealing the wide shot. We're all eating the two shot, some camera guy set up the first two shot.

Jason Mirch 1:56:27
Yeah, we're stealing. Imagine the first time they did a close up and I was like, holy shit that worked that we're doing that again.

Alex Ferrari 1:56:35
And then when they caught it between a close and a wide shot or something like that. What is going on? Like you right? In those days? Yeah, blue. One thing I didn't, we didn't discuss real quick. And then we're gonna get to the writers room and stay steady to the volume. And what's going on with the Mandalorian. And what they did. I just wrote an entire article about how it's not just me every a lot of people who understand technology, is it this is his emperor is important as a moment in the history of filmmaking as a T Rex walking across the screen, a 3d T Rex, it's that important. It's that right? life altering like movies will never be the same again, after this. Technology has been used the way they've used it in the Mandalorian. Would you agree?

Jason Mirch 1:57:22
Yeah, absolutely. 1,000%. And that's I mean, that's what's so interesting about about filmmaking, generally what I realized the other story about James Cameron, who when he was doing avatar, had the first Avatar, he had to literally shut down production to go invent shit that he could use to make avatar. You know, he's like, he's like, Oh, we just we just went on pause for like, a year and a half, two years to go invent something because we needed to invent it. That's it. That's incredible.

Alex Ferrari 1:57:50
And I always tell people, I have got I've told many Cameron stories here that had a guest on who've worked on and they're just amazing stories. But there is probably no other human being on the planet that can do what Cameron does, and has the the carte blanche that Cameron does. Like I don't think Nolan is walking in and getting 500 million to go invent technology like that's just not his wheel barrel. Spielberg is not getting that Scorsese's not getting that features. Definitely not. Definitely not.

Jason Mirch 1:58:24
Who knows what that guy would invent?

Alex Ferrari 1:58:25
I have a no way he's giving no way. No one with a sane mind gives Fincher open checkbook. Yeah, but Cameron was that guy, and you know, he walked into a studio is that I've got this idea. It's a new IP, it's about a bunch of blue people, it's gonna cost about $500 million. It's gonna take about four or five years to figure out the technology. No major stars, we'll have some you know, we'll have some Gorny in it. And, and you know, and most of the the main stars, they're gonna be CG most of the time, so you don't even get to see them. But I got to figure this all out. Can I get you know, can? Can you cut me a check for 200 milliseconds, just start building the technology. Like who gets that? Like, there really is no other filmmaker that would get that and honestly, in history guy.

Jason Mirch 1:59:08
Yeah. Yeah, that's, yeah, the guy who actually he's the only guy who made the most money with any movie in the history of cinema. He can walk in there and be like, okay, yeah, but even,

Alex Ferrari 1:59:19
but even then this he has a track record of right. Just being groundbreaking technology every step of the way. Every time he makes a movie. So it's just I mean,

Jason Mirch 1:59:29
yeah, what are you guys like Howard Hughes. You know, these guys were like filmmakers, but they were also like, he was an aviator was an inventor. That's those sorts of guys are, um, yeah, they're there once in a couple generations where they exist. You know? Elon Musk, I mean, one of these guys who was just like, a billionaire inventor who's like, let's throw this against the wall and sees what's Ironman? Ironman.

Alex Ferrari 1:59:53
He's Tony Stark.

Jason Mirch 1:59:53
It's iron. Yeah, that's exactly right. I mean, I'd be so curious what Elon Musk would come up with in terms of a movie who's a director of Jumping, I'd be like, I'd show up for that.

Alex Ferrari 2:00:03
What Tom Cruise is going to be the first movie shot in space. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. That's right. And Ilan is helping so right. So technically, yeah. And again, if you're going to get an actor to do it, who's probably one of the few actors in the world that they're going to go? You okay? I mean, Will Smith's not getting that call Brad Pitt's not getting that call. But Tom Cruise has set himself up to a place where like, Nah, Tom Cruise wants to shoot something space. Let's go out and shoot something.

Jason Mirch 2:00:43
The kind of guy that actually would 100% do that where he's like, you know, I'll swing for the Burj Khalifa. Yeah, I'll go to space. What the hell that seems like the next logical progression.

Alex Ferrari 2:00:52
And I can't wait to see Top Gun. I have my buddy, a buddy of mine worked on it on VFX. And he was like, Dude, the images are just, they shot all that for like, real? Yeah, it's all practical. It's all practical. He had to you had to you can't you couldn't do it. Today's world, you need something. Right.

Jason Mirch 2:01:11
And he's actually Wi Fi. Yeah, you would feel that you would? If you were to do that all CG or you would you would feel there's an office in authenticity to it. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 2:01:19
it's amazing. But again, then do we could talk for another two hours.

Jason Mirch 2:01:24
So tell me about closing Yeah, closing in Arby's record of 11 I got one.

Alex Ferrari 2:01:31
So, um, tell me about what you do at stage 32. And the writers room and tell me what you working people find you.

Jason Mirch 2:01:37
So I'm the director of script services over at stage 32. And for those of you don't know, stage 32, it started as an online networking platform specifically for the industry, you know, for speaking for creatives, you know, filmmakers, writers, directors, producers, actors, actresses, craftsmen and women. The idea being that, you know, LinkedIn is for CFOs, and it's corporate and it's cold. And Facebook is photos of my grandma's cat and kids jumping on trampolines. And there was no place for creatives, like mighty creative to connect. And so it was founded by the guy we're talking about rich RV bottle. And then there's since been to other divisions built out of that there's the education side, which is run by the Managing Director, Amanda, Tony. And we've programmed without exaggeration, 1200 hours or more of education from working executives, producers, screenwriters, filmmakers, managers, agents, all with the idea. Again, no matter where you are, you can learn from these people who are doing in the business. And the mind division is the script Services Division, which connects writers, with managers, producers, executives, PR, other filmmakers to get, you know, consultation calls notes on a screenplay, mock pitch sessions to help refine what you're doing in your craft, because you can learn about it. And then you're able to put it into practice through the Scripps services division. And we brought on a roster of executives from I mean, without exaggeration, major studios, you know, universal MGM, Paramount Television, the guys that are guys and women that are working in the business who can who can help shorten that path to success. And reaching out to me it's just Jadon merch at stage 30 two.com. And I can help you know, again, guide guide what you know, your career based on what you're writing the format your writing genre, who makes sense for you to connect with? Because, you know, I want it you know, I again, I come from a manager, manager background, I come from a development background, I want writers to have success. And then on the writers room side, that's something that that's very, very cool, because, you know, it's it's a group of like minded writers from all over the world who connect once a week, every Wednesday, and we have a different webcast that I host. And so, you know, one week, we might be breaking down aspects of the screenplay, right? We might be breaking down romantic comedies. The next week, we're doing pitch sessions where members are able to pitch to an executive and get feedback on that pitch, you know, this is where it's working, this is work and improve. Then we do an executive hour, which is actually a lot like this, I've got to have you on the executive hour, okay, anytime, and it's I'll put you on or I'll put you on our webcast and come over my place. We get to, we get to talk about the business like this and writers get information and knowledge on what's working in the business right now, what they can be doing to your point. And then the last week we we turn the cameras we turn the spotlight over the writers and they get to share something they've written over the course of the month, and they'll get feedback from those other writers and there's, you know, it's again, we've got writers from as far away as Scotland and the UK, Italy, as close as right here in LA It's it's an it's a place where writers can be supported, connect with other writers connect with executives connect with me directly. And it's just become such a familial atmosphere. You know, we've got over, I think we have over 500 members now. But it still feels like it feels like it's an intimate group, which is very cool. And again, if you, in fact actually forgot to do if you if if your listeners remember it is it doesn't matter if it's tomorrow, or whenever this goes up, or six months from now. Again, write me an email J dot merch at stage 32. Calm, and I'll give you a free month to give it a shot. It's nice, because it is so cool. And I like to give away free shit. So, um, yeah, so so I'll give your listeners a free month to come check it out. And I again, I want to have you on there because it'd be a lot of fun. Again, we would do we would do another hour and a half at least,

Alex Ferrari 2:05:51
you know, this me as you know, I can talk. So I'll be more than happy to show up. Man, it's been an absolute pleasure, brother, thank you so much for coming on and sharing information with the tribe and dropping the knowledge bombs, as I say, as I call them. So thank you again, Jason. Stay safe out there. If you can't please speak on it

Jason Mirch 2:06:09
anytime. Absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 2:06:12
I want to thank Jason for coming on the show and dropping those amazing knowledge bombs on the bulletproof screenwriting tribe today. Thank you, Jason. If you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, please head over to bulletproof screenwriting.tv forward slash 074. And I want to thank you guys so much for all the support for the new website, as well as the podcast over the last year or so. It is because you guys have been downloading these episodes so much, and sharing links and articles to the website to all your friends and social media. Following that. I wanted to continue to add even more content and be more of service to the bulletproof screenwriting community. So again, thank you so so much for all the support. Also, if you guys have not already done so please head over to screenwriting podcast.com And leave a review. If you liked the show. It really helps out the podcast a lot. Thank you guys so much again for listening. Please safe out there. And as always keep on writing, no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.

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BPS 072: How to Write a Bad Ass Query Letter for Your Screenplay with Geoffery Calhoun

After many requests, I decided to finally tackle the dreaded query letter. I bring back to the show screenwriter, author, and IFH Academy instructor Geoffery Calhoun. Below Query Letter Checklist and a few areas, we discuss in the episode.

  1. No Snail Mail
  2. Do Your Research
  3. Address the Letter to Individuals, not “To Whom It May Concern”
  4. It’s about the script, not you!
  5. Be Causaul but not too casual
  6. Cut to the chase
  7. Don’t forget the Logline
  8. This isn’t open mic night
  9. Its CATS meets The Goonies
  10. Dig through your contacts
  11. Proofread

Some resources to help you with your Query Letter:

I hope this helps you write that query letter. Best of luck and keep on writing!

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
I'd like to welcome back to the show returning champion, Jeff Calhoun.

Geoffrey Calhoun 3:29
Brother, how you doing? Thanks, good to be

Alex Ferrari 3:31
here. I'm good. But I'm good. I reached back out to you, man, because I want I've been getting a lot of emails and requests about query letters. And I, we've never done anything like that on the show. I don't even think I have an article about it in bulletproof screenwriting. So I was like, You know what, I'm gonna call a man who knows about these things. And, you know, you obviously created the the screenwriters guide to formatting course that we have on ifH Academy. And this kind of goes along with that beginner level kind of stuff was like query letters and all that kind of thing. So I thought that this would be a good match. So just to answer some of the questions that I'm getting from the tribe and see if you can provide some value to the audience today. So I appreciate that.

Geoffrey Calhoun 4:18
Yeah, absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 4:20
So first of all, what is a query letter sir?

Geoffrey Calhoun 4:24
Well, I mean, a query letter is you're pretty much pitching your script to producer director, a major manager manager or an agent any of those things, but it's just like a real quick email. It's not anything too involved.

Alex Ferrari 4:39
That so simple as that and generally it is an email, not a snail mail.

Geoffrey Calhoun 4:45
Yeah, no, you're not you're not staying mailing anymore.

Alex Ferrari 4:49
Not so much just for the faxes sir. Not the faxing. You don't do

Geoffrey Calhoun 4:52
the fax you're not gonna use a pager. That stuff. When I was first starting out though you could send letters and so he did do that back then. But yeah, no, you're not mailing scripts anymore, none of that stuff.

Alex Ferrari 5:07
So what are some of the biggest mistakes you see with query letters?

Geoffrey Calhoun 5:12
I mean, one of them is they'll, they'll try and pitch themselves. Like, you know, I won all these awards, and I'm in this big fancy writer. Right. I think one of the one of the worst ones I've seen is like, you need to read this script, or else you don't know what you're missing. I mean, nothing comes off this are desperate or arrogant, or that

Alex Ferrari 5:32
is it. But isn't it funny that you say like, oh, yeah, you like, I've won all these awards. I'm such a hot shot, big screenwriter. But yet, you're sending a query letter. So that height is like John August, not sending the query letters. Yeah, exactly. You know, Aaron Sorkin not sending the query letters? So um, it's kind of counterproductive in that sense.

Geoffrey Calhoun 5:52
Yeah. It doesn't make sense. Yeah, I would, I mean, haven't bad grammar is a big issue. It's a big issue

period, even in script.

Yeah, well, some writers try and justify it. But yeah, no, it's a big problem. The see the thing about query letter is that I mean, you're introducing your skills, a writer right there. So it's an introduction to who you are in whether you're talented in that and the way your query letter reads, well, then it's indication that you could be a decent at least a decent screenwriter.

Alex Ferrari 6:28
Now, how long should it be?

Geoffrey Calhoun 6:31
It's not long, I mean, we're not sending out pages. You're just gonna do your, your your intro. And then you're going to do you're gonna do a logline like a one to two sentence log line. And there's two schools of thought on this. It kind of has to depend how it works for you. So you could do the log line and then what we call the elevator pitch. Or you could do the logline, the elevator pitch and a short synopsis. And that's about it. I don't I wouldn't go beyond that. And again, like I said, there's two schools of thought on that some people do this synopsis some people do.

Alex Ferrari 7:03
So just for people who don't know it real quick, what is the logline so just for people who don't understand

Geoffrey Calhoun 7:09
Yeah, of course. So the logline is just a brief one to two sentence explanation of your script.

Alex Ferrari 7:15
Simple as that. And then the synopsis obviously is the synopsis of your

Geoffrey Calhoun 7:19
script. But I would do a short synopsis though. So I would do like three similar senses.

Alex Ferrari 7:25
Yeah, tops right. And the elevator pitch is similar as far as the link Yeah,

Geoffrey Calhoun 7:29
so So the elevator pitch is just like it's Back to the Future meets Pulp Fiction, you know, something like that.

Alex Ferrari 7:37
I will see that movie. I watch that movie, which I was I was another question I was gonna ask you should you do the whole you know, back Back to the Future meets Pulp Fiction world or better yet Pulp Fiction meets Jurassic Park that movie I want to say but like do you do you do that? Because I know a lot of people like it's so Hollywood to do that. But it does get the it gets the message across really quickly like in the 90s diehard on a boat, diehard on a plane diehard in an arena.

Geoffrey Calhoun 8:11
I'm going to I'm going to be honest with you it's dealer's choice at this point. I mean, you can do it you can get away with it. You can not I mean? I guess it comes down if you're doing it well. I haven't done it but would my query the success I got I did my logline and I did a short synopsis and then that then ended up getting into Fred seabirds hands. Next thing you know, I was getting a call from Frederick otter and they were asking me if if I if I had a TV children's animated comedy, and I didn't so of course I said yes. And call up one of my best writer friends and said guess what we're writing tonight. And and then we wrote a pilot and we pitched it to him so so that's how I got success. But if you were to do the elevator pitch I would make sure you only did films that were successful and well known so

Alex Ferrari 9:02
like cats cats meets Ishtar not not it's not that shouldn't be

Geoffrey Calhoun 9:09
I've had nightmares of that one. How did you know you're my dreams?

Alex Ferrari 9:13
Scare ads meets his art. We should do a whole

Geoffrey Calhoun 9:18
show on finance meets falls two.

Alex Ferrari 9:21
Oh no, no, no. Cats meets cats meet the room.

Geoffrey Calhoun 9:28
I'm sold cats. That theater

Alex Ferrari 9:32
director Tommy was so can you imagine Can you imagine giving Tommy Wiseau $200 million.

Geoffrey Calhoun 9:38
I think you just figured out his next project.

Alex Ferrari 9:41
Thank you. I think I Tommy that's free if you're listening. Now, you were saying earlier don't focus on yourself. Focus on the story. Focus on the screenplay. How formal should you be? Because a lot of times like hey bro a little too informal but also don't want to be but you also don't want to be like To Whom It May Concern. Oh, I don't have that. So where's the where's the balance?

Geoffrey Calhoun 10:04
Yeah, well, you're going to when you're going to query somebody, you're going to target them. So you've already done your research on them. And you can find people through IMDb Pro, or there's even books you can find. But whoever you are querying you, let's talk about this for a second, make sure that they accept unsolicited materials, unsolicited meaning you don't have an agent or manager. So that's, that's first bar. So if they do accept unsolicited materials, then you can query that person, because they're open to it. And it's just Hi, hello. And then you know, Alex, or whoever their name is, you don't get to Formula formal with it. But you don't get too casual. So I would say it would be like the writing version of business casual so your your appropriate but your little loose?

Alex Ferrari 10:51
You got it. Exactly. It let's let's talk a little bit about how to find that right person to send it to because both you and I get query letters for screenplays, which is still mind boggling to me. I mean, at least you're a screenwriting, you know, instructor and Guru and consultant. I don't I interview people who are in the screenwriting space. I mean, I run a website

Geoffrey Calhoun 11:16
to make this $200 million script I

Alex Ferrari 11:18
wrote I you know, which is cats meets the room. But um, but anything cats meets your it's, it's solid, it's money. It's money. It's solid. It's cats meet Star Wars cats meets, you know, Harry Potter, I mean, every every, it's all it's just, it's, you're all good. But I get I get query letters, and I just delete them right away, because I'm like, I'm not even gonna respond. Because I don't want to just like I don't want to be legally responsible or anything like that. But that's the

Geoffrey Calhoun 11:48
big thing. Yeah. You don't want to get you don't want to get sued for that.

Alex Ferrari 11:52
Exactly. So but that was like, the best one I ever got was like, similar similar, like, you need to you need to read this is the next Star Wars The next right, you know, Mission Impossible series or something, some grandiose kind of theory. And you've got to read this. I've also and then they go into who they are, and all the amazing film festivals they've won, and awards they've won, which I've never heard of. But regardless, that's just not the way business is done. In our industry, anybody who's actually if anyone who actually has won real awards, like real awards, things that like an Oscar an Emmy. Yeah, the nickels or something of some sort of magnitude in the space. Yeah. You say that maybe once or twice in the letter like, Hey, I'm a nickels finalist.

Geoffrey Calhoun 12:47
That's that's a little bit you dropped, you

Alex Ferrari 12:49
drop it, you don't slam it over people's heads, and you definitely don't brag about it. Yeah. Because would you fit? Would it be fair to say like, the query letter should be kind of like having a conversation with someone you just met at a party? Like if you meet somebody at a party, you're not going to go up to them and go, Dude, I am the best. My next screenplay is going to be awesome. You need to read this book. Is that Is that fair to say?

Geoffrey Calhoun 13:11
Yeah, I think that's absolutely. I think that's totally accurate. Yeah. Because you're not too formal, right? But you're not too relaxed with the way you're talking with people and, and pitching your, your project. And I think that's good.

Alex Ferrari 13:22
Now, is this coming to with the tone as well being for more knowledge on like, should the tone be? Like, what is the tone? Because you could be aggressive? You could be, you know, do you start telling jokes, I

Geoffrey Calhoun 13:34
would be just purely desperate. If you could just come off? Yes.

Alex Ferrari 13:38
That's a Jakar. desperate. Ah, that's that's the actual cologne they sell that you put the problem?

Geoffrey Calhoun 13:45
Yeah, no, I would, I would, I would keep the tone. As far as the query goes, you want your tone to match kind of the genre of the script, you're writing it. So if you're doing like a short synopsis, you should be in that kind of a tone of, of of like a thriller or a comedy. But you don't want to get to, like I said, you want to get too crazy with it.

Alex Ferrari 14:07
Right. So like, as far as like, being too funny. Make like a joke or two is fine, especially if you're if you're pitching a comedy. Yeah, you're not doing slapstick. Yeah, exactly. But a little bit of that just a little bit to kind of give it of a personality, maybe something to stick out. Slight. Yes. It's all less is more. Exactly. Less is more. Now, I have to ask you the question, though, where where can you go wrong with query letters? Because I, there seems to be it tends to be kind of like a crutch for a lot of screenwriters. So what do Yeah.

Geoffrey Calhoun 14:39
Well, I mean, having been, I achieved a little bit of success with with the query letters, I'm starting to understand that. That's like the 1% with query letters. There's, there's just totally I don't personally I don't believe in them. There. I think that's something you can do, but I think it's something you should do in there. and walk away from and have really no expectation with it. Because what I found with query letters is that people will become kind of addicted to them and have this slot machine like mentality where they've written the script. And if they just pull that arm enough times, eventually they're gonna walk away with a win. And it just doesn't work that way. I think the best way to get your screenplay made is through networking. But I would even argue past that, because what I find with screenwriters is they write the screenplay, they get really excited about it, which is wonderful. But they expect, you know, fame, fortune, you know, making it in Hollywood. And I think the mentality is the issue, because there's a difference between writing a screenplay and expecting it to be huge. And then being a paid writer. Because if you just want to be a paid writer, then it's about using that screenplay you wrote as a resume, to provide what you can do as a writer, and not expecting that ticket sold. When that one of my scripts I did a huge circuit around the country well, and even the world with my script, going to festivals, and meeting people and, and getting to know them, and yes, they would read my work, but I would get hired because of my work to work on their project. And that's how I became a paid writer, I would recommend branding yourself around your writing and less about holding on to that script as a golden ticket.

Alex Ferrari 16:38
So that's a really good point here because a lot of screenwriters Well, there's two things one, a lot of screenwriters think it because I know that the screenwriters mind I know the filmmakers mind, because I have that in mind myself is that the query letter is like, Okay, I've sent out 10 query letters today. I don't have to work on my craft today. Like, I'm good now. And they and they use that as the excuse of like, I'm working towards it. But really, it's not. It's just it should be if you're going to do it, you know, send it out and don't shotgun it, please be strategic with it, not shotgun it because you will get you people will burn you're gonna get burned. Don't do that. Just be strategic about who do the research about who you want to send it to. And there has been successful career ladders, of course there has. But it shouldn't be the only strategy in trying to get your work out there. But branding yourself more as the writer than the screenplay is so much more important. Like, I mean, if you look at Shane Black, he didn't just He wasn't just the lethal weapon script. Right? That wasn't the only thing he had, you know, Aaron Sorkin wasn't just the one script. It wasn't just for a few good men. That's not the script. You know, Tarantino definitely just wasn't Reservoir Dogs. You know, there's they they set themselves up as writers in the space and then got like, even when Tarantino started out, he started getting a lot of rewriting. He did a lot of rewrites of script. doctoring, uncredited, credited. All that kind of stuff because of that mentality what you just said, right?

Geoffrey Calhoun 18:11
Yeah, I mean, it's, it's, it's what you want, I would not look at your script as the golden ticket. And instead, try and figure out how do I want to become this paid writer. And then you start branding, finding the niche that you can fill finding your strengths as a writer, and then building towards that, I mean, that that's the path that I've done. And that's how I found my success.

Alex Ferrari 18:31
Well, my friend, I appreciate you taking the time out to talk about query letters. It is something that the tribe was asking me for, and I think we have covered it and told you how to do it, how not to do it. Maybe you shouldn't do it. And also, even also play the little bit in the philosophy and the philosophy but the psychology of screenwriting, and yeah, getting in your own way. Because trust me, like I remember when I was, you know, like, Oh, I just sent out, you know, I faxed out. I fax out 20 resumes, guys. I faxed out 20 resumes today. I'm good. Let me go sit down and watch the latest reality show notes

Geoffrey Calhoun 19:09
back. I think I think at one point when I first started, I think I queried every manager, an agent in LA. And how that worked out for you. Yeah, I mean, I learned a lesson. Let's put it that way

Alex Ferrari 19:24
was that I'm assuming that was I'm assuming that's a two may concern. Because you didn't do it? Yeah,

Geoffrey Calhoun 19:28
it was like the worst query letter you get fake out. I was like this just green and desperate. And I just went through hundreds. I mean, it was hundreds and and I just didn't know what I was doing. And after that, I realized Yeah, this is this is not the way to do it. And then I just I matured and over time said okay, this, this is how I start

Alex Ferrari 19:47
to get paid. And I just want to put one more thing before we go. The desperation we've joked a little bit about the desperation. If the desperation spills over into a query letter, or into a phone call or in to that stuff. People do not want to work with desperate screenwriter or desperate filmmakers. They don't because trust me, I used to be doused in Jakarta spa. I mean, I used to have so much desperation you could just and professionals in the business they see it coming from a mile away. And in the thing is that you need to not come at it from a point of desperation, but have to come at it from a point of service. How can I help you get to where you want to go? Is that a rewrite of the script? Is is creating a script that's going to help you make money? How can I provide value to you? It's so it's so much more important than I need you to read my script to make my dreams come true. You're done?

Geoffrey Calhoun 20:48
Yeah, no, I mean, that's absolutely right. And we've all been there. I mean, I think that's why you and I do do things like this is because we have we have dripped and sweated and, you know, if it wasn't for email, they'd see my dried tears on my query letters, you know, I mean, it's just, we've been there and we know it, and we don't want people to go through it. The problem is when you are in that that desperation, you kind of don't realize it, you have to have that aha moment where you go, okay, yeah, I need to I need to refocus, I need to change. And you'll know that if you are looking at these query letters as your only hope, then you are in that mentality of being desperate, but there is ways to get around it. You just have to kind of retake control of your path, and start strategizing and planning your way to success. Because the one big concern I have about querying is if you're not strategizing, you're not planning, then you're just being blind faith in blind faith about it and hoping and praying. And I just think you need to take more control of that direction and be more active. If we're going to use screenwriting terms, be more active in your own story and a little less passive,

Alex Ferrari 21:59
right, without question, but I listen, thank you again for being on the show, talking about letters. And hopefully this has helped out a few people and maybe just maybe a couple of cars are ringing out in the world today as they listen to this episode. So thanks again by that. Thanks again.

Geoffrey Calhoun 22:14
My pleasure.

Alex Ferrari 22:16
I want to thank Jeffrey for coming on the show and clarifying what is a good query letter. If you want to get a couple more tips and outline of what we discussed in this episode, head over to the shownotes at bulletproof screenwriting.tv forward slash zero 72. And if you want to check out Jeffrey's new course the screenwriters guide to formatting, just head over to eye F h academy.com. And you can find it there or in the show notes. Thank you guys so much for listening. I hope this episode helps you on your stream writing path. As always, keep on writing, no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.

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Screenwriting Side Hustles to Survive the Pandemic

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Note: This is an Indie Film Hustle Podcast episode I wanted to share with you. Be safe out there.

Too many screenwriter’s thinking is based on two months ago. They believe that the world will go back to exactly how it was before on this pandemic blows over. That might be true and I truly hope it does but hope alone will not pay the rent. Our industry is going through an unprecedented shift. If I may quote the Ghostbusters,

Dr. Peter Venkman: This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.
Mayor: What do you mean, “biblical”?
Dr Ray Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath-of-God type stuff.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Exactly.
Dr Ray Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling.
Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness. Earthquakes, volcanoes…
Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together – mass hysteria.

We as screenwriters need to start thinking about how we can pivot your business, writing skills, and knowledge into the new reality that we are living in and very well might be in for some time to come.

Things that already are pivoting in the film industry:

  • No theatrical screenings, release on TVOD Premium
  • SXSW teamed with Amazon for a Virtual Film Festival (this could do more harm than good)
  • Drive-ins are making a comeback
  • Can’t screen your film in theaters, set up a virtual screening
  • AMC Theater’s stock has been downgraded and isn’t expected to recover

You have to think about what your customer needs are right now and address them. The companies that are sitting on the sidelines fearful of making any moves will be left behind. You as filmmakers need to change your mindsets. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Entire new industries will rise from this turmoil and if you are smart you will be ready to be a part of the new world.

In this episode, I breakdown some side hustles that will help filmmakers and screenwriters not only survive the pandemic but thrive in the new world we will be walking into.

Screenwriter Side Hustles

  • Write commercially: handbooks, corporate brochures and the like
  • Researchers
  • Blog Writing
  • Write for a website
  • Advertising copywriting
  • Editing copy
  • Write grant applications
  • Offer Gigs on Fiverr
  • Create an Upwork Profile to sell your writing services
  • Create a comic book (partner with an artist) – Could turn this into a short or feature once the air clears

Online Moneymaking Side Hustles

  • Swaybacks.com (Get paid to watch videos)
  • Become a virtual assistant
  • Virtual Tutor (VIP Kid – $14-$22 per hour) Chegg.com
  • Transcribe Audio or video (Rev, Scribe, TigerFish)
  • Review Software (SoftwareJungle)

I go into more detail in the episode. Think outside the box because the box you knew is not coming back. It will be a new box. Don’t be Blockbuster Video and fight to keep what you know while you reject the reality of what is.

Stay safe out there.

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The Ultimate Guide to Screenplay Competitions

Screenplay Competitions

Back in 1998, when I went to list the BlueCat Screenplay Competition as a new screenplay contest on the Internet, I was surprised to see there were already well over a hundred contests already in existence. This was 20 years ago! I can’t tell you how many have come and gone since then, but there are a bunch more now.

Screenplay contests do not have a good reputation. Why?

Because they’re a rip off!

Well, that’s not an accurate generalization, but like everything in the film and television industry, some experiences are more valuable than others. Writers do derive a legitimate benefit from entering screenplay contests, and some do not.

With so many screenplay contests, fellowships, labs, festivals, grants and competitions out there, what should a writer look for? What separates the best from the rest? Is there a single reason why you should enter your script?

Here are some things you might consider when choosing a screenplay contest:

Who are the judges?

Do you know who’s in charge of evaluating the scripts? What are their qualifications? Are they writers themselves? Who reads the scripts? Who hires the readers? Can you Google the administrators of the contest?

It’s important for a contest to be transparent. They might have a giant cash reward, but if you don’t know who runs the contest, what does that say about the competition?

What if they cite industry representatives involved in the judging of the scripts—do you know what their role is? Do they read all the submissions? Or only the top ten?

Does your script get read completely?

When you enter a contest, do you have proof they read your entire script? Is that important to you? It might not be. You might be comfortable with a contest reading the first 30 pages and then making a decision. Again, they might have the track record to back up their adjudication system. Yet reading your script until the end would be a fair expectation when submitting to a contest.

Does the contest have a history of finding writers that go on to have careers?

You can rely on contests with a record of previous winners going on to become professional writers. Taking a second look might reveal some of the alumni highlights could be seen as being more impressive than others. Study the careers of the previous winners. Are they now professional writers? Have you seen the work of the alumni yourself? Evaluate the track record of their “success stories.” And if they don’t have a track record, ask yourself why you’re entering screenplay contests.

How many contests do they run? How long have they been around?

There are a lot of first-year contests that are very exciting to submit for. And competitions that have been around for decades might not be what you’re looking for. But in general, new contests have not been tested, and the older ones have. Keep your mind open for the exceptions.

Does the contest run multiple times a year? Different niche contests? It’s fun to enter a genre contest, for example. Yet, how effective can they be in adjudicating all these contests? Who’s to say they can’t run all of them professionally. But the larger and established competitions run once a year. They do not have an 8-12 month submission period for a reason. What’s the reason?

What do people say?

Check for reviews on social media and message boards. Ask members of forums and writing groups for their experience in entering contests. Don’t take the first bad comment about competition and decide not to enter. A writer might be upset they didn’t advance in the contest or feel personally hurt over feedback they received. Do the research you would if you were checking out a new restaurant or school.

Be sure to see if the contests kept to their deadlines. Use Google to see if they have extended their deadlines in the past, or took a while to announce the results after they said they would. Why would a contest extend their deadlines or delay announcing their results? Is that in the interests of screenwriters?

Look for regional contests

Here’s a tip: look for contests held in your state by the local film offices. Or the chamber of commerce in your city might be having a screenplay contest. These contests are usually judged by industry folks that grew up there. Plus you won’t be competing against a lot of other scripts. Always enter any and all local writing opportunities.

What do you win?

Some competitions offer cash prizes, feedback and/or access to the industry. Review the prizes carefully. When they say $100,000, is that cash? Or value? Sometimes when you throw in a photo editing software that’s worth $3000, suddenly the actual cash they are providing as a prize is much less. What companies do they promise a relationship with? Go on IMDB and see who the managers represent. Always vet the prizes of the competition.

How much do they cost?

With so many contests out there, you would have to have a nice size budget to enter them all. Review how much each submission costs you. When you enter early, what’s the discount? Some competitions charge extra for additional services like feedback.

After reviewing these guidelines, you probably have a better idea of whether you want to enter a contest. Yet there’s one more very important thing to consider, something often overlooked.

How do they support writers when they’re not marketing and soliciting entry fees?

This is probably the best way to evaluate a writing competition. The mission of every contest is to help writers. Do they? If you have to pay for a chance to have them help you, and it’s worth it, fine. What else are they doing? Do they provide content that helps you as a writer? Some contests hold conferences and panels, write blogs and shoot videos, all in an effort to develop writers. Is it free? If not, why? Check your list and see what the screenwriting competition is doing for writers beyond a sales job and a “SUBMIT NOW” link. This is the best way to see the heart and mind behind the contest and how it will serve you best.

In the end, screenwriting competitions are not for everyone, yet they play an important role in discovering and developing talent, benefitting the writers themselves and the industry at large. And ultimately, the audience, which is what writing for film and television is for.

And always remember: writing today is the best way to win, and when you write, you’ve already won.

Gordy Hoffman is the Founder and Judge of the BlueCat Screenplay Competition. His screenplay Love Liza won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival and was distributed by Sony Pictures Classics.

Winning Screenwriting Competitions: Lessons Learned

Years ago when I received word that my screenplay, Control; Alt; Delete, had won not one but two screenwriting competitions, I believed that all the hard work, years of struggle, self-doubt, and rejection had culminated to a glowing achievement that would forever wash away the specter of failure: I had climbed the mountain to see my shining new horizon as a working screenwriter.

And it was marvelous.

Things just seemed to be going my way: I got an agent, a manager, and a well-known producer who was going to make my script into a feature. I had meetings with big production companies with studio deals, pitched projects to major producers, was courted with screenwriting assignments – it was my time to shine.

And then it unraveled.

Not suddenly… no. It was more like an incremental closing of a window that you thought was wedged open by accolades of your winning script. One thing happens, and then another, and another.

In and of itself, not one was a devastating setback, but collectively they amounted to an avalanche of overwhelming loss. My agent left the industry, my manager ceased being a manager, and the producer moved on… so did those screenwriting assignments.

In the end, I was back to where I started from, a scribe in name only with little to show for but a glimpse at what could have been.

Was I crushed? You bet. I questioned everything I did; every decision made. What could I have done better? Was I too cavalier? Was I too dedicated? Did I try too hard; could I have tried harder? Was this window of opportunity squandered forever?

Well, was it?

It’s not an easy question to answer. I do believe that those changes have come and gone like that girl you didn’t kiss when you should have: that magic moment will never be replicated.

However, I did learn a lot from the experience – the stuff you don’t learn in film school – call it the film school of hard knocks. And with that, I would like to share some of those lessons learned.

Are You REALLY a Screenwriter?

For years I asked myself the question, am I a screenwriter? You would think it’s an easy question to answer. Living in Los Angeles I’ve rubbed shoulders with those who could answer “yes” to that question within the span of a heartbeat; however, for me the moniker held so much emotional baggage that to answer it with a resounding yes was virtually impossible.

Partly because to call yourself a screenwriter is to give yourself a label that requires proof on several levels:

1) Have you’ve been paid to write?

2) Have you sold any scripts?

3) Do you do it full time?

4) Has anything you’ve written been professionally produced?

5) Are you currently writing something that will be optioned, purchased or produced?

6) Do you have a literary agent?

7) Do you have a literary manager?

If reading this you felt the illusion of calling yourself a screenwriter quickly dissipated by the stark reality that you answered no to most of these questions, then you’re in good company.

At one time I was able to answer yes to four of the above questions,  yet even so, I felt the unease of embracing the title because to call it a full fledged career had been as elusive as Tom Cruise winning an Academy Award™ — eventually you think it’s bound happen…eventually.

So maybe you do what I did when someone asked,

“what do you do?”

Squirm a little, furrow your brow, and say with a withered response,

“um, I… write.”

Hopefully that would be enough information, but invariably I would be expected to elaborate.

“Um… I write screenplays.”

I would then proceed to fill in some of the blanks,

“Nothing produced yet, but I’ve come close.”

So are you REALLY a screenwriter?

Well if you simply reserve the title of screenwriter to only those who are gainfully employed doing it, then yes, there’s only a few who can legitimately file their income tax return with the epithet “screenwriter.”

But, what if instead answering the above questions that focus more on the accomplishments of a successful screenwriting career, you were asked a series of different questions:

1) Do you make the time (not just find the time) to write everyday?

2) Have you completed a script? Better yet, have you completed multiple scripts?

3) Have you shared your writing with others and are accepting of constructive criticism?

4) Do you constantly seek ways to better your skills in the craft and discipline of being a screenwriter?

5) Are willing to forgo other career possibilities and weather through years of rejection,  disappointment,  and at times abject failure?

6) Do you actively search for stories to tell with a unique voice to share with the world.

7) Do write not because you choose to, but because you HAVE to?

If you answered yes to most if not all those questions, then as far as I have come to discover you embody the true essence of what a screenwriter is.

And it is only by answering yes to the later questions that you will ever be able to answer in the affirmative the former questions. So the question remains, are you really a screenwriter?

Am I? Let’s just say in my soul I am and for that reason I proclaim YES!

David R. Flores is a writer and artist (@sicmonkie) based in Los Angeles. He is the creator of the comic book series Dead Future King published by Alterna Comics and Golden Apple Books. Website: www.davidrflores.com

BPS 065: How NOT to Get Screwed on a Screenwriting Assignment

A MESSAGE TO ALL TRIBE MEMBERS: I know everyone in the world is going through a scary and tough time right now. I decided that I will continue to create content that can help you not only escape the troubles of the world for a short time but also help you move forward on your filmmaking and screenwriting path. I find myself looking for things that make me feel normal and I know Indie Film Hustle and Bulletproof Screenwriting are an everyday part of the lives of many people around the world.

I will continue to release fresh content for the weeks and months to come. This event will pass and I want you to be ready for any opportunities that might come your way. Stay safe and keep on hustling!

Today on the show I going to be discussing how NOT to get screwed on a screenwriting assignment. According to Wikipedia is

A screenwriter can also be approached and offered an assignment. Assignment scripts are generally adaptations of an existing idea or property owned by the hiring company, but can also be original works based on a concept created by the writer or producer. 

Screenwriting assignments are the holy grail for screenwriters. The problem is that that shiny carrot sometimes blinds you to the reality of what is going on. I spoke to a very season industry screenwriter with many credits under his belt, who shall remain nameless, and was enlightened by how producers and production companies take advantage of inexperienced screenwriters.

The predators are not just in the production and distribution waters, they are also alive and well in the development oceans as well. I hope this episode shines a light into this dark corner of the industry and shows screenwriters how to protect themselves and their work. Get ready to take some notes. Enjoy!

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Alex Ferrari 0:00
Now, guys, today we're going to talk about how not to get screwed on a writing assignment. And I've had the pleasure of talking to many, many seasoned, and also world famous screenwriters over the course of this show, and of my life in the business. And I was talking to a very seasoned screenwriter the other day, and he was telling me stories of what happened to him when he first was starting out in the business. Now, I know a lot of screenwriters out there when when you're first starting out and somebody shines a golden carrot in front of you. They dangle it right in front of you. You get all excited and hot and bothered and like oh my god, they're picking me Is this the thing? Is this going to be my lottery ticket to get to the other side? If any of you guys have read my first book shooting for the mob, you'll know that that is not true.

But but when you're young or when you're inexperienced in the business, people will take advantage of you, producers will take advantage of you. Production companies and distribution companies will take advantage of you as a screenwriter. So the story goes with this screenwriter who will remain nameless. He was telling me that when he was first coming up, there was this specific production company that offered him a writing assignment. And it was very early on in his career. He might have written one or two screenplays, they read one of his screenplays and said, hey, we'd like your style. We'd like to hire you to write a script and here's the idea. And what they gave him is basically they gave them the the general notes of what they wanted. So a lot of the key story elements and points and they had a director attached, you know, very well known director as well. So it all seemed very, very legit. And they sent over the contract and he looked it over and he signed it and he would get x amount of dollars at the beginning of production and he would get so much but you know at the end and it was well below W GA because he wasn't W GA at the time. And he signed it. And off to the races he went. And he must have spent anywhere from yet or 567 months on this project, going back and forth, mind you not being paid a dime yet. And he was just very excited to be working with them. He went back and forth, spoke to the producers, all this stuff. And then all of a sudden, nothing. He was ghosted. He could not get anybody to return his calls, the company was still very much in, in business, but they just stopped returning his calls. And he had worked for months, spent countless hours writing the screenplay, and he got paid absolutely nothing. And the reason why is when he went back to his contract, he noticed a little, little sentence or section that said, he will get paid on the first day of production, which means that if this movie never went into production, he would never get paid.

Either he didn't see it, or was blinded by the shiny golden carrot that was being dangled in front of him, but he signed it anyway. And he just at the end of the day, lost all of that time, mind you, he became a better writer, he got more experience. But he got paid not a dime for his work. So this is a problem that happens a lot in the screenwriting and development side of the business, you as screenwriters need to be paid for your work, or at least have an agreement and understand what you're getting into. If you are, if you are a screenwriter who is partnering with, let's say a film director, and you're getting percentage points, and in you know, you, we're all in it together, and we're all trying to raise money and blah, blah, blah, that's a different conversation, at least you know what you're getting into, and you're walking into. But when you have the illusion that you're going to get paid, when this for sure, like slam dunk, this is obviously going to happen kind of deal. And it doesn't go through you You wasted a lot of time, when you could have been working, getting paid to work somewhere else, working on your own specs, scripts that you have complete control over and ownership from, you know, this poor screenwriter has no ownership, oh, this work because it was based on an original idea that they had. So he can't even go and sell this script. There's no actual issues contractually, it is exactly legally what the contract said it was. So be very, very careful of signing development deals, especially early on, especially if you don't have an agent, manager or or lawyer to take a look at it, please, if you are going to sign something, if you can just spend the few $100 that you might have to spend to have an attorney, a good entertainment attorney who understands these kinds of deals. Look it over, please do so because it can protect you and save you months of time wasted time. I know that this screenwriter actually turned down other work, because he was so invested in this work, and lost revenue and income because of it. And trust me, I know this story, because when I was almost making a movie for the $20 million movie for the mafia, and everything looks so real. And I was being flown around Hollywood and all this stuff. I turned down commercial work as a director, because I was like, Well, I'm talking to this big movie star tomorrow. Why am I going to go waste my time? directing a commercial when I've got this sure deal in front of me. Mind you, I was younger and very inexperienced and an absolute egomaniac at the time. But these are lessons you learn. And I hope that this episode helps you not make that same mistake. You know, I know we all want that shot. We all want that opportunity to show who we are as artists, as writers, as filmmakers. We want that opportunity. And when someone promises you that opportunity, you're more likely to believe it because you want to believe it. And that is the dangerous part. A con man can only con you if you believe what story he's telling you. And if you really want to make it true in your mind and really want to believe it. That's when they've got you. So this company did that to them. And that company is still in business right now, by the way, has never called him back. It'd been years and he still every once in a while drops a phone call just to see what going on, and never return his calls. It's just the way the business is run. I hope this episode helped you out a lot. Again, I know a lot of you out there are going through a lot right now with the Coronavirus and everything else that's happening. But it will pass. Our industry is going to be shaken to the core. As many industries around the world are being shaken to the core, the weaker and the less stable companies in our industry will fall will collapse. I promise you, you'll start seeing major, major changes in the weeks and months to come in our industry, how that will affect screenwriters. how that will affect anybody is still up in the air.

There is still a lot of opportunity, a lot of production being done. I don't know what's going to happen in the future. All you can do. The only thing you can control as a screenwriter is to keep writing. When there was a great when those there was the great writers strike. A lot of great scripts were written in spec while the writer strike was going on. writers were writing. So take this opportunity if you are in self quarantine, right? If you are at home, don't just sit there and watch Netflix all day. Educate yourself. Take a course read a book, listen to a book, watch something to educate yourself to help you with the craft. There's so many courses available. So many online, so much online education. Obviously indie film, hustle TV has hundreds of hours of content and education for screenwriters. So you can definitely check that out at Indie film hustle.tv. And there's free stuff all over the place, whether it's on YouTube, whether it's articles, whether just educate yourself as much as humanly possible. And write, write, write, and write. Take advantage of this time. Because I don't know how long we'll be here. It could be a few months, it could be longer could be shorter, but take advantage of every hour every day that goes by, right. Don't let this be an excuse not to write. At the end of this when we see the light at the end of the tunnel. When we start coming out of this. There will be Rubble around us in this industry. But that's when the greatest changes and the greatest opportunities present themselves. If you're ready, with good scripts, with writing samples, with TV pilots with whatever you've been working on, you'll be ready while other people might have been not working as hard as you this is the time this is your chance. I wish you nothing but the best. I wish nothing but safety for you and your family. Safe travels my friends. As always, keep on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.

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BPS 064: Crash, Boom, Bang! How to Write Action Movies with Michael Lucker

Today on the show we have screenwriter, Michael Lucker. Michael is a writer, director, and producer with twenty years of experience creating film, television, animation and digital media. He began his career writing and directing television commercials while earning his undergraduate degree in broadcasting and film at Boston University’s College of Communication.

Soon after he landed in Los Angeles working in production on series and specials for ABC, NBC, CBS and HBO before taking a job as assistant to Steven Spielberg at Amblin Entertainment on feature films Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade, Arachnophobia, Joe Vs. The Volcano, Always, Back To The Future II & III and Jurassic Park.

He went onto serve in creative affairs at Hollywood Pictures where he worked on such movies as Crimson Tide, Terminal Velocity, Taking Care of Business and Straight Talk. Michael then embarked on a career as a screenwriter, helping pen more than twenty feature screenplays for Paramount, Disney, DreamWorks, Fox, and Universal, including Vampire In Brooklyn, Home On The Range, Good Intentions and Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2002 as best animated feature.

“You don’t have to be a writer of action films to benefit from Michael Lucker’s rock-solid screenwriting advice, but if you are an action writer… it is essential.” — John Baldecchi, Producer: Point Break, The Mexican, Conan the Barbarian

He also served as screenwriter on the animated sequels to Mulan, Lilo & Stitch, Emperor’s New Groove and 101 Dalmatians. An opportunity to serve as a creative consultant to Turner Entertainment took him home to Atlanta in 2007. He went onto work as a writer, director and executive producer with non-fiction production houses Encyclomedia, Shed Media, Crazy Legs Productions and Trailblazer Studios before launching his own production company, Lucky Dog Filmworks, which now serves as his home for creating film, television, and commercial content. In television, Michael has worked with Animal Planet, Cartoon Network, Travel Channel, History, Discovery, NBC, TBS, TLC, OWN, DIY, MSNBC, and A&E.

His new book Crash! Boom! Bang! How to Write Action Movies. 

A fun, insightful insider’s look at the nuts and bolts of writing action movies, from concept to completion, by a professional screenwriter and professor of screenwriting. Full of witty anecdotes from the front lines (and tricks of the trade from between the lines), Crash! Boom! Bang! promises an enjoyable and educational read for writers and students of all levels. Although bullets and bloodshed abound in cinema, the lessons within will benefit screenwriters of all kinds of movies.

Enjoy my conversation with Michael Lucker.


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Alex Ferrari 0:28
I like to welcome the show Michael Lucker. Man, thank you so much for being on the show, brother.

Michael Lucker 2:48
Sure. Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Alex Ferrari 2:50
So before we get into how to write an insane action movie, let's um, let's see, how do you how did you get into the business in the first place?

Michael Lucker 2:59
I started writing songs for girls I had crushes on in seventh grade that wouldn't give me the time today. And then I graduated writing for the school paper. And then I wrote a play in high school. And then I went off to college and studied writing in Boston. And people thought I was happy semantics. So I moved out to LA to try my hand at making my way on the wild world. And I landed a gig or two and I was unhappy with those. So I started typing. And that made me happy and I ended up getting one script in front of some agents and they got in front of some buyers and I got an option and then I got hired and then I got so and then I became a screenwriter. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 3:45
I'm actually a paid screenwriter which is a rarity. Like a functioning paid screenwriter in the industry. Which is funny you said that used to write songs I too dabbled in in songwriting for a the hearts of young ladies back when I was when I was younger,

Michael Lucker 4:04
and try and like you know, are my favorite. Unfortunately I

Alex Ferrari 4:07
also sung them and nobody will ever hear those

Michael Lucker 4:13
that's why I migrated over the screen

Alex Ferrari 4:15
but yeah, that's not that's not something that anyone will ever see. Because it's in my closet. Literally. But so your first movie if I'm not mistaken was vampire in Brooklyn, right? Or is that the first one that you sold?

Michael Lucker 4:27
First one it wasn't the first one got sold or I got hired to write but it was the first one that got me believe it.

Alex Ferrari 4:35
How many how many scripts that you get optioned or hired to do before that first

Michael Lucker 4:39
one? Probably five we've got a couple things going in Disney it's gonna be a couple things going to Paramount and universal. I think another thing or two and then we got this call on this one. It's kind of like took off.

Alex Ferrari 4:53
And if for people who not don't remember that vampire in Brooklyn start Eddie Murphy in in he was still Eddie Murphy. He's Always Eddie Murphy in my world, he's always Eddie Murphy. But he was at some of the height of his power back then. Because he made basically a vampire film, because he wanted to,

Michael Lucker 5:10
we could do whatever he wanted. I mean, he was one of my heroes growing up, I mean, 48 hours in Beverly Hills Cop religion to me, and so that for me to have a chance as a young man, as a young screenwriter, to write a movie, for one of my all time, favorites was just like a dream come true.

Alex Ferrari 5:27
I mean, coming to America, still arguably the greatest comedy of all time.

Michael Lucker 5:32
against that, but it's one of the at least Welcome to your opinion. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 5:39
So, so you wrote a book called Crash, boom, give us the title of the crash,

Michael Lucker 5:44
boom, crash, boom, bang, how to write action movies.

Alex Ferrari 5:47
Exactly. Now, how do you write action movies? Because you know what? Because action movies are. In today's world, action movies are pretty much prevalent in all of Hollywood studio system. I mean, they're basically action, superhero action, or Fast and Furious action. They're all they're all. They're all IP based, or franchise based. So having a skill set, as at writing a good action movie, is a good skill sets in the studio system, and also outside of the studio system, because action movies travel fairly well, internationally as well. So I know, it's a very broad question. So what are some tips on on how to write a good? And what makes Lisbeth what makes a good action movie? And then we can have a discussion about some good action movies.

Michael Lucker 6:35
Right? Well, I think, you know, little two questions go hand in hand. And what makes a good action movie and how you write a good action movie is based on the same tenants that that make good stories, no matter the genre, is one of the things that's often lost in a lot of the shallower you know, that bid, you know, action films that don't have much depth to the characters into their journeys. And so, when we're writing good stories of ATL, you go back to the hero's journey, and the principles that have been taught since Aristotle and seeing that rate of change and the hero, you know, fixing flaws they had the beginning and going through by going through the adversity that they face along the story to see, you know, how they transform and become, you know, stronger, wiser and more courageous, more humble, more soulful, at the end, what happens, I think, in a lot of action movies is those basic principles are lost, or they try to spread it so thin, especially in sort of films that have too many primary, you know, characters up top, they're trying to develop everybody, you don't get to get into anybody in much detail. And so we as the audience may not connect with them as deeply, or as honestly as we could, because the studio isn't trying to give a little something of everybody to everybody in the audience. So you know, when people say, How do you write a great action movie, and like, learn how to write a great movie, learn how to write a great story.

Alex Ferrari 8:11
So there's you and I see a you and I are from the same vintage, if you will, a July's. So we kind of grew up watching, it sounds like we both grew up watching a lot of the same great action movies of the day. So I mean, I personally think that the 80s and 90s but the 80s had a just is a golden age for action movies. You know, cuz 70s me you know, we got smoking a band and that kind of stuff. But they didn't come into it really into their own heavily into the 80s. So I want to talk about three movies and I want to hear what you think about them. I think they're three of their top five in my world. Diehard diehard obviously. Absolutely. Lethal Weapon, Lethal Weapon first one of my faves, and Predator. The first predator predator is your third. It's not like an order. I'm just saying that there's other action movies that I enjoy too. I mean, obviously Commando. Not joking. But I mean, I do love it for my cat. If I watched that movie today, I'm sure I'm gonna go, oh, this is horrible. But in my mind, it's still pretty awesome. But I could watch Die Hard. I watch it every year as a Christmas movie, because I did a whole episode on how it's the greatest Christmas movie of all time. Then there's lethal weapon, which I could still watch today. And it holds and you can watch predator. And it still holds. And at least for me, and I was wondering what you think about what like diehard we've talked about a nauseum. And we all know that's, you know, the his the hero's journey, the every man. I mean, what do you just really quickly what let's go over diehard real quick and what makes it such an amazing action

Michael Lucker 9:46
movie? Well, I'll say this, you're speaking my language really? Because it puts anything in perspective for you when I was a young man out of film school, coming from the East Coast and I landed in North Hollywood and I got my first job. In my little home law apartment, I had it, you know, off magnolia. I had two posters framed on my bedroom wall, and they were lethal. Largely because that was just part of, you know, the lexicon at the time. They kind of helped shape me as a young storyteller and filmmaker. When you got great writers like, you know, Jeff Stewart and Stephen Setzer and Shane Black, of course, and remains one of my favorites. They did things at the time, that revolution that revolution level, revolutionized, yeah, revolutionized Nike writer, the way storytelling was done. And they brought heart and soul and pain and flaws to the heroes in a way that a lot of traditional action movies had not done as much prior. And so we really identified connected with and cheered for those for you know, John McClane and Martin Riggs in ways that we had not done for heroes. Before that, so those movies I mean, to me, are quintessential and I encourage all writers who are interested in doing action movies to not only see those movies and study those movies, but read the scripts and look at how those writers crafted those images and created that tension and scenes and create that sort of identification, you know, for the audience and leader to have with those

Alex Ferrari 11:33
heroes. Yeah, Shane. Shane is Shane Black is arguably one of the greater he's in the top lexicon of, of screenwriters in general. But what he did and some of those early scripts usually you read the original last Boy Scout, not what was made but the original last Boy Scout. Long Kiss Good night. Lethal Weapon I think he didn't do lethal up into I think he did just a story of lethal weapon too. But every bone did. Yeah. But that was still also a great a great film as well. Lethal Weapon. He didn't write now he wrote the New predators. He didn't read the old predator. But but just was just watching his descriptions. Yeah, his This is his vocabulary was so and he breaks rules, he breaks rules left and right, you know, the way he writes the description how he does it. It's just like when Tarantino you know, when he writes his dialogue, he just breaks, he breaks rules all the time. But they're masters, they're absolute masters. And they you have to you have to read those scripts.

Michael Lucker 12:33
Yeah, you really do. Because like seeing the movies is one thing to working on screen. But you know, given you know, the quantity of scripts that consumed in the studio, every year, the scripts that rise to the top, really have to stand on their own, in order to stand out. And that means the words they use, you know, the images they convey as concisely and as creatively as they do, puts you in that moment puts you in that place that you really feel like you are, you know, in that car chase, or you know, scaling down that mountain or being thrown out that window.

Alex Ferrari 13:12
No question and like when I watch Lethal Weapon, because that was during my video store days, when I worked at a video store. I must have watched Lethal Weapon like 2030 times it was just such a the character of rigs, his transformation to the end if you just didn't see that, that was just something that wasn't done in action movies. It was so revolutionary and I mean diehard took that to another place, as well, both of them in their own way. But you're right, it was just you felt for so before you would have like you would have Schwarzenegger show up and write you know Schwarzenegger and Stallone, they would just be these hyper real Gods basically that could do no wrong and they could, you know, shoot guns until the cows come home and they never get hurt. I got dinged and I just keep going don't have time to bleed and, and all that kind of stuff up. But then you got something like diehard where John McLean's character is, he's a normal dude, going through normal stuff, and he doesn't look like an Adonis. And you got Martin Riggs, who also doesn't look like an Adonis and he's a very fractured character as a human being. He's on literally on these on the edge. Good. Well, one of

Michael Lucker 14:27
the things that I think Shane Black did and they do a die hard as well is the transformation of the hero is represented in such a clear and subtle and powerful way. That whether we're conscious of that as an audience member or unconscious of it, we feel it and so for example, and lethal weapon you might remember when we meet Martin Riggs, he's got a special Silver Bullet loaded in his gun and he's got it in his mouth, not ready to take his own life over the green Think deals over the loss of his wife, right? So, that's the opening shot of our hero. And for us to see that in the 80s it's like, this is our hero, a guy who's like living, you know, in a trailer alone on the beach with a gun in his mouth. What happens to the course the movie is he grows and we build a self esteem and re and finds a new sense of purpose as through his job and through saving my dog and his family, and ultimately, others. And by the end of the movie, and this is what makes like Shane Black's writing so powerful. The last scene of the movie, if you remember his rig, walking up the Murdochs house, and given him that same silver bullet that he was gonna use to take his own life as a Christmas present when he came for Christmas dinner. And it was he goes, it's a bullet and rigs last line of the movie is Yeah, I don't need it anymore.

Alex Ferrari 15:56
Oh, it's just, it's just so good. And the music, okay, those little things

Michael Lucker 16:00
that we try and teach and talk about in, in, you know, in academics, you know, setting or, you know, in lecture or seminars, is the kind of stuff that really makes I think movies resonate with audiences on a wide scale.

Alex Ferrari 16:21
And I think another movie that it's not often thrown in that list, but should be in my opinion, is the original Robocop.

Michael Lucker 16:29
I completely agree.

Alex Ferrari 16:30
It's such a good movie. And at the end, on the surface, it's just a good action movie. But if you go back into layers of onions, and what Verhoeven and the writer are trying to talk about, in that film, oh, it's so

Michael Lucker 16:46
good. One minor was the writer of that. Yeah, and you'll be happy to know that diehard Lethal Weapon and Robocop are all three of the movies I talk about in my book.

Alex Ferrari 16:57
Yeah. As you should, sir. As as you as you should, sir. So alright, so with every good hero, there has to be a good villain. And in so many action movies, the villains are horrible. They're just bad. They're one dimensional. They're paper. They're twisting the moustache kind of heroes. But in but in, Let's just analyze those three movies, Robocop, Lethal Weapon and diehard? The villains are almost as memorable, if not more memorable, sometimes than the hero itself or on par. So with diehard pawns, everyone I mean, you can't think of McLean without thinking of Hons you can't think of Mr. Joshua. The, the great Gary Busey. Right, when he was great, um, what he was great. Um, and then and Robocop, the, the corporate, the corporate CEO?

Michael Lucker 17:52
Yeah, there was just so evil. We often say in screenwriting, right, that, that the hero can only be as powerful and strong and their, their victory can only be as rewarding as the opponent's merit. So if you have an unfavorable villain, then it's not going to mean too much for you know, Luke Skywalker to take, you know, out, you know, some, you know, that mushy little dude with his lightsaber, but when Darth Vader is a formidable bad guy, then there's something to happen there. So you need in good stories, right? Whether it's a love story and drama or comedy, you need a formidable opponent, in order for the audience to invest in and feel victory when the hero defeats them. Right? South so that's one thing about being powerful opponents. The other thing to consider is that just as good heroes have strengths and weaknesses and have their skills and also have their their flaws. So to should good opponents. And that's one of the things that happens in all those movies is they're not the totally, you know, mustache, you know, black hat wearing, you know, one note villains, they might be doing horrible things, but they have their own justification for doing them. Or sometimes they started on a path that led to things beyond way that they ever expected. So the trick is to find a balance between that formative ability, right, and also that human aspect. And even in something like predator, it's what makes that movie resonate with audience because when Schwarzenegger finally has the predator down, you know, and he has them, you see the humanity really, in the monster. And and that's the moment where your hero Schwarzenegger has to make the more choice whether he's going to put a spike through the guy's face, you know or not. Are we going to arrive above, you know, the lowness that the elite.

Alex Ferrari 20:04
So there's two movies that come to mind because I think you're right. I absolutely think you're right. In regards to having a great you have to have a great feeling to have a good hero it without one or the other. It doesn't work. It's the yin and the yang. But then there's movies like Bloodsport, which, again, in my mind, fantastic. I, if I watched it today, we'll probably tear it apart. But if I remember correctly, the villain wasn't particularly a deep villain, but he was physically a threat. And that's why that fight at the end, and the whole journey is weak as the story might have been in that movie. That's why, you know, it was just such a massive man. And they built them up so much that it made it made that fight at the end or the whole journey up into that fight, work. To a certain extent, again, I know Bloodsport shouldn't even be in the same conversation as the movies we've been talking about. But just I just want the audience understand the physicality now. Physicality does count for something like Darth Vader's, like, six, seven. So he's also a very large, large man. But then you look at a movie like commando which again, which is not a great film. And I think one of the reasons it's not, there's many reasons why it's not great. It is great in my mind, but not great in traditional lines, is the villain. He looked like a pipsqueak next to Arnold, do you remember that? I even as a kid, I'm like, that's not a challenge for art, like Arnold could take that guy in a fight. But when we get to predator, that's a whole other conversation. And, and the predator is not a deep character. He's a very one dimensional character who does not change throughout the entire process of the film. But his abilities are what are formidable to an entire elite crew that make that movie work. I would love to just, you know, hear your thoughts on it.

Michael Lucker 21:56
Sure. Well, I think that those movies that you mentioned the BloodSport and the commando and the Predator, they don't have sort of the depth and humanity and, and sort of, you know, dexterity of some of the other villains that we talked about in the really good movies. And I think that's a sort of juxtaposition to see, you know, in the good movies that are remembered. Right, become iconic, you know, there are great heroes who are saddled, you know, in extraordinary situations against formable villains with death. And when you don't have that, then no matter how cool sexy smart and creative your hero is, it doesn't really carry as much, much weight

Alex Ferrari 22:42
so you're telling me that splits aren't gonna make it the story better? Not like Yeah, yeah, I still I still try to do it and it doesn't work. I don't know how John cloud does it. I mean, he made an entire career off that damn split. I remember that every movie cuz that was a huge I mean, I was a kid so when he was those movies were coming out every movie did work a split it somewhere like in the weirdest place.

Michael Lucker 23:11
But I just I saw Mission Impossible to was on TV last night. And I love Mission Impossible, and I'm a big Tom Cruise fan. But Tom Cruise was doing his quintessential sprint.

Alex Ferrari 23:25
Videos. He just running.

Michael Lucker 23:27
I think it's in his contract, he must run at least 100 yards at full tilt in every movie. That's something that studios have identified you know, in and films. You know, we want to make audiences want to see Brad Pitt take your shirt off, and audiences want to see you know, Tom Cruise began. So I think the Sprint's and the splits will both contractual promises.

Alex Ferrari 23:54
And Tom is one of those units, Thomas, you know, talking about these old action movies. I mean, these were, these were movie stars. You know, these guys were movie stars. And nowadays, there aren't as many movie stars anymore. The movie star power is gone. Where before a commando would be made purely on the on the strength of Arnold. A movie like that would never be made without movie star power behind it. Even today's well, we'll talk about today's world in a second,

Michael Lucker 24:22
I think. I mean, you're bringing it up. So I think I think it's a combination of the nature of the marketplace, right? Because of proliferation of digital media and the fact that anybody can sit on their couch, you know, in their den and turn on 1000 channels, you know, have that at their beck and call and watch whatever they want. It needs to be something special, to get them off the couch, to come into a dark theater to sit with strangers to pay 15 bucks off to get in the door, let alone 10 bucks for popcorn. So, in order to do that, it needs to be a big spectacle. And big spectacles cost money, and you got to have a big movie star in those spectacles for the, you know, justify the expense.

Alex Ferrari 25:09
But would you agree, though, that that Chris Evans isn't a movie star, but Captain America is?

Michael Lucker 25:17
I think that's a great example because I saw Chris Evans an action movie before he was known.

Alex Ferrari 25:24
Yeah, he's a he's a good actor. And he's done a bunch of stuff, good actor, and he's got a bunch of stuff.

Michael Lucker 25:29
And then I remember this Captain America movie came out. And I was like, Who's this guy? Who's gonna go watch this guy do anything? And, and I think he's fantastic in the role. Oh, but, but he and he's a great actor. But you're right, there is a difference between between being a great actor and being a movie star. And some of those things are, you know, energetic, and soulful and undescribable. You know, some people just have it. And some people as talented as they are, just may not.

Alex Ferrari 26:03
And also, and also, the other thing is that, and I think this is important for screenwriters listening, is that a lot of times I think if I could just get like my screenplay to Chris Evans, and I'm not picking on Chris, but basically, I just, if I could get it to Chris Evans, or I can get it to Daniel Craig, or if I can get it to, you know, one of those characters, or one of those actors who play those big roles, either James Bond or spider man or something like that. They don't have outside to suit outside the character. They don't have the marketability. They're good. They're huge stars. But you look at Robert Downey. He just came out with Dr. Doolittle. And it tanked and right and Robert and Robert Downey Jr. is probably one of the most famous actors in the world. He's one of the most talented actors of his generation. He's, he's amazing. But yet, doctors did not drive sales to Dr. Doolittle. The only thing outside of Marvel that's had any sort of success is the Sherlock Holmes movies. And that's a one off, so he hasn't been able to like, unlike Arnold or Stallone that he would they would just pump out. Because they were movie stars in an age of movie stars, where I think the age of movie stars is kind of over for the most part, there are certain like, the rock is the closest thing I think we have. Yeah, and even then, if he's not the right movie, you put you put the rock in a drama, it's not gonna work.

Michael Lucker 27:22
Right? Well, it's it's a good point, I think that, you know, times are changing. And it's one thing to remember is that, you know, you said there are no movie stars now, or they're not what they once were. And I would just qualify that by saying, maybe there's not as many as there were, and there's not as many right now. But it doesn't mean the landscape is going to change, because even though we're in the wild west with 1000, channels and digital platforms, things continue to evolve. Oh, yeah. Filmmakers, and brilliant studio bosses are continually trying to ride those waves and oftentimes surprised by by what they find. So I think, you know, we are in the middle of sort of a renaissance of sorts, where things are changing, and everybody's trying to figure it out.

Alex Ferrari 28:11
Nobody knows anything. Every I mean, no, like, everyone's on Tata. Exact, nobody knows nothing. And but I think I think that Disney is probably one of the only companies out there who really got it early on, they're like, you know, what's going to come? IP, we need to buy as much IP as we can. And that's what they did. And now they just made what I think it was 10 billion gross this year at the box office. So they basically were out of every, you know, I mean, they just don't have 567 movies that broke a billion dollars. They figured something out where I think the rest of the studios are trying to try to find like, you know, Harry Potter's gone. They can't unless until they reboot it, you know, Fast and Furious only has how many

Michael Lucker 28:54
things you have to credit them for having the vision for thought, you know, of Iger and the rest of them? No, yeah, Eisenhower days, you know, he built he started it is they all recognize the power of you know, owning you know, property that not only would reach audiences going forward and masses, but also had reach audience and mass prior to that. And they were willing to spend a few extra bucks and outbid others in order to hold on to that thing, knowing that they can take a Star Wars in turn out a Mandalorian and solo and everything else out of the brain that they own. Because, as we all know, as writers, studios own it, they get to do whatever they want with it,

Alex Ferrari 29:43
for better or for worse. Better or For Worse. Now, that brings up a good point as writers, you know, as screenwriters coming up in the world, because I know when you started, and when I started was a completely different landscape, completely different way of doing business. There was much Less competition, even though it was still a brutal time as far as competition, but now there's there's a lot more opportunity, but there's a lot more competition. Where do you think a screenwriter should focus on if they're going to write an action movie? It because I know a lot of international write these giant tentpole action movies and that are not based on IP, there are originals. And I'm like, Dude, if you want it as a, as a as a writing sample, fantastic. But the chances of the studio putting $100 million or plus, in a non IP action movie is gonna be different unless you're James Cameron, and you come up with avatar, and that's a different conversation. But where do you think they should focus? Should they show focus on the lower budget action movies, which there's still a lot of, you know, 15 20 million and below kind of things that are done for International, the Nicolas Cage movies, the you know, those kind of films that still have a marketplace? for them? It's a little bit easier to get into? I'm just curious, where your where you stand on that, do you think we'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show?

Michael Lucker 31:10
Well, I think you're right, that the, the expansion of opportunities based on you know, the, the elevation and technology is granted more chances for more writers to do more things. Same time, the money may not be as much as it was, but there may be more opportunity. So, you know, all my writer friends I know are writing everything they can, you know, and that means they're writing features, and they're writing and television, and they might be writing, you know, commercial copy as well, because they're writers and they love to write, and it's part of their soul. And that's why people should write is to tell good stories, and, and help you know, change the world, ideally, make it a better place, you know, and lift, lift spirits, and you know, warm hearts and all those things. And if you get into the writing business, for the wrong reasons, because you make a million dollars, or you're trying to prove their high school principal that you could amount to something one day or, you know, prove to the girlfriend that jaded you and elementary school, then then you're doing it for the wrong reason, it's gonna be a long, rocky road. So I think the bottom line is write everything you can and do it because you know, you love it and kind of let the universe sort of support you in that path. Because it's hard to control things once they leave the theater.

Alex Ferrari 32:46
Preach My friend preach. Now, I've heard many times before from other screenwriting gurus or people that are in the screenwriting, educational space, and also from screenwriters in general, that studios looked for a certain amount of action sequences, spread out through your seats as you could literally count them like there's an action sequence, eight minutes later, another action eight minutes later, or 10 minutes later, in your experience. What's your school of thought on that?

Michael Lucker 33:16
Well, it's interesting. It's a great question. You know, we all kind of understand an inherent three act structure, right? And Joel Silver producer of lethal weapon diehard incidentally, came along with what I believe he termed the the whammo chart, and it was like something significant needs to happen that surprises the audience every 10 pages. So if you're looking at a two hour movie or at 120 pages, you're looking at basically 11 significant surprises along the way. So you can kind of extrapolate that in some ways, and apply it to content of any length. But at the same time, you got to remember that you know, audiences today are different from audiences that you know, grew up on Lethal Weapon and I are like you and I did right and they're used to not only seeing things much faster, but they're also used to watching three or four screens at the same time. You he almost needed I think, in some ways increase the quantity of surprises as long as they're germane to the story and organic to character so that you are keeping you know, the a DD and ADHD, you know, generation from changing the channel when they're sitting at home on their couch, or from getting up and going for gummy bear to the theater and not coming back.

Alex Ferrari 34:37
Do you remember the indie movie Run Lola Run?

Michael Lucker 34:41
I know of it. I don't remember the movie The movie itself.

Alex Ferrari 34:43
I remember that. It was literally non stop tension or action the entire like it was just like, yeah, just it didn't stop. And I found it exhausting. Like so. This dangerous.

Michael Lucker 34:56
It is dangerous. And I learned that lesson the hard way. I was at a pitch at DreamWorks with Jeffrey Katzenberg and I was pitching to him an action movie. And I remember saying something along ridiculous along the lines of, you know, it's going to be nonstop action. It's going to be, you know, one of the, it's going to be a fantastic action movie. And a very simply and bluntly as he's known to do, because Michael, you, it can't be all action. I was like, why it's an action movie, come on, it'll be great. He's like, No, you have to have those roles, those moments of reflection, those moments of recovery, you know, in order for there to be a little bit of juxtaposition and diversity in terms of the story flow, and in terms of the audience's journey. And if you don't have those things, not only a chance for the hero to rest, and recover and reflect the triumph of the audience, too, then you're really missing out on the opportunity to surprise number elevate them, you know, on the roller coaster ride have ups and downs, on the next turn.

Alex Ferrari 35:58
That's why the roller coaster is not all the way up for a mile and then all the way down for a mile. That's why there's ups and downs. Because if not, you couldn't handle it. And the same thing goes for like tension. Like if you watch a Hitchcock film, he's such a master at it. And you just you just play the audience like like a fiddle, and he'd go up and he'd go down, and he goes up. But if you hold it too long, you hold that note too long, just like in a song, you're gonna lose the audience.

Michael Lucker 36:23
The interesting thing about a Hitchcock that always really impressed me was how he not only would he managed tension, but he would manage the audience's allegiance with characters. Oh, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 36:35
cheering for

Michael Lucker 36:36
the hero for eight minutes. And then we'll go through a door and we'll be on the other side of the door with the villain stuck in a situation. And we'll be rooting for the villain waiting for him to you know, I worried about him getting caught by the cops that we were just cheering for a minute ago. And he would take our emotions and put them back and forth. Like nobody had ever seen sense.

Alex Ferrari 36:58
Yeah, I mean, and let's not even get into psycho. I mean, killing off. I mean, sorry, spoiler alert, everyone killing off the main movie star in the first act just like what can you imagine in 1960? Doing that, like it's all new? Yeah, it was insane.

Michael Lucker 37:16
I think it's one of the things that made gameofthrones so successful until the end, was that

Alex Ferrari 37:22
until the end, we never knew

Michael Lucker 37:25
whose head was going to get chopped off. Right? Or what other body part might get chopped off? You know, we were always surprised. They kept us you know, Benioff. And Weiss kept us on the edge of our seats. You know, every every night we tuned in.

Alex Ferrari 37:39
Did you? Are you a fan of Walking Dead?

Michael Lucker 37:44
No, is the quick answer to it. So, you know, I live in Atlanta now. Right. And so it is a part of, you know, the Atlanta culture. And certainly with the proliferation of film production in Georgia now, Walking Dead A Vampire Diaries are two of the series in recent years, that help Stan as a healthy foundation to build much of this, you know, production

Unknown Speaker 38:10

Michael Lucker 38:12
So it's big worldwide, I think it's recognized as being one of the if not the most successful television show in history, right, broadcast or otherwise. And I was just never a big fan of zombies. And people will come to me, it's all about the characters it is. And I get it. And I've seen a few episodes, but this was never my jam. And when guys would come, you know, merging out of the shadows, you know, with their faces peeling off and your eyes falling out, you know, the same goal of eating our hero eye. It just didn't grab it didn't grab me, you know, where it grabs many other people. It just goes to show you can't please all people all the time, you have to tell the story to the best you can for you know, the market you hope to achieve? Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 39:06
I mean, I was a fan of that show for probably about five or six seasons. But then there was a major there's a main character that a villain that came in and they he just kept beating are the characters I've loved so much that June, there was no break. So the villain Deegan was just he was just it was just like a punch. But normally when you have a villain that's like that powerful. You got to get a couple licks in. But they just kept beating it to the point where I just got tired of watching my characters that I'd fallen in love with get beaten so much. I'm like, I'm out. I can't, I just can't deal with this anymore. And it turned me off personally. And the ratings did eventually go down. I think they had been going down a little bit. It's still super popular. But that was that was a mistake that I saw. I was like, I can never do that with a character of mine. Where if you have a Imagine if Darth Vader never He just kept pounding on Luke to the point where Luke just couldn't ever get up. What's the point? What's the The point,

Michael Lucker 40:01
yeah, well, you're right, we don't want to see that we're investing in those characters. And if it makes you feel any better I, you know, I'm teaching Screenwriting at university here. And I often take a temperature read on, on what's happening in culture and the zeitgeist based on my 1920 21 year old, you know, students in the program, and when I had them watch Walking Dead A couple weeks ago, talking about how, you know, film production and television production is, you know, increased in the state. And I asked them why they lost interest. And they said the exact same thing, really, characters, because somebody identify with this character or identify with that character. And in general, the answer was, because they kept killing off the people that we love. So if you're doing that, and to Game of Thrones credit, what they did do was if they killed off somebody, were bringing in somebody new bringing somebody new, bring somebody new, and so that there's constantly rebirth. Wow, there was death.

Alex Ferrari 41:06
Yeah, and that was one of the big problems like I with walking dead in generals like they would kill off it. I mean, that was kind of the exciting thing that you never knew who there was no one safe, really, except for maybe a couple of top guys. Uh, you know, they're not gonna kill off. And you'll be like, No, is this the week? No, don't don't ah, why did you get rid of them. And that's always a rough, it's a rough situation. And even though they brought new guys, but then they would kill them off. It was just like, emotionally, it's, it's a bit much.

Michael Lucker 41:33
I wonder if, in the old days before social media allowed everybody to vent and talk about everything that was happening, if that was a more insular experience, and, and also a more secretive experience. Now, if somebody dies in an episode, everybody's gonna know about it within 90 seconds of it happening, because it's all over social media. And so for those who haven't seen it, yet, it's ruining the surprise of the filmmakers or show creators have worked so hard to create, oftentimes, over many episodes, or even many seasons.

Alex Ferrari 42:09
Yeah, and it's it's a it's, it's look at storytelling in general, from the times, when we were coming up to now, the audience is so much more savvy, so much more educated. They understand terminology, like plot points, like the hero's journey, like the you know, the point of no return. These are things that a lot of audience members, even if they might not know, the articulation of it, they can recognize it. Because they've been like, there's generations, we've just been raised like I was a TV guy, I'm sure you weren't, we watch TVs and movies, constantly growing up vs. VHS came up. And that was the first time we could just watch anything and everything all the time. But now take that and put it on steroids. And, and now it's everything's instant ever made. It's

Michael Lucker 42:55
just to do now with storytellers, what I encourage my students to do is to take the sort of paradigms that we're used to, that they're used to, and manipulate it in freshing ways. And I think it's one of the reasons, you know, Christopher Nolan's work has such popularity is because He's twisting and turning at such a rate and surprising us in such a way nowadays, that even though you do know about plot points, and character arcs, are seeing those things turned on their ear. And that is refreshing. And that is exciting. Same thing

Alex Ferrari 43:33
with Terran. Tinos work like you, there's certain but the guys you're talking, just putting those two in the same sentence like they're their absolute masters,

Michael Lucker 43:42
right. And this is part of what I preach to is their masters because they understand the foundations of the genre and foundations of the medium, first and foremost, those things better than anybody, which allows them the healthy footing to take it and mix it all up and doing the whole new way.

Alex Ferrari 44:05
Yeah, it's, but you need you're right. It's kind of like being a master baker, and you know, every element of the ingredients and what those ingredients can do. And now I'm going to I'm going to do something that you've never seen before, but I understand if you need me to make a chocolate cake, I'll make your chocolate cake. It's gonna blow your mind. Right, but my chocolate cake now it's gonna explode and you're gonna love it. All. Right, well, yeah, and just like Avocado Chocolate cake. What? And then you taste it. Like how have I not thought of this before? And that's like watching a terrorist, you know, and move it. And one thing you talk about in your book, sneaky transitions. Can you can you elaborate about that a little bit?

Michael Lucker 44:45
Sure. So speaking of all action movies, you remember Highlander? Off course, it shouldn't be only one

Alex Ferrari 44:53
right? It should be it actually. I wouldn't mind a reboot of that. I would love to see like

Michael Lucker 44:58
a good one. Yeah, that would be a good reboot. Yeah, so one of the things that I loved about that movie is that the transitions, were so clever and subtle, taking us not only from one scene to the next, but oftentimes from one time period to another time period. And it made the storytelling, creed, creative, and effortless. And those transitions were part of the story. So it wasn't like a jarring departure, a jarring transition, when when those transitions can be part of the story and help push storyboard or help reveal character some way or help elevate, you know, the overall theme of the story. That's when I think movies are working on all cylinders, because not only is character writing stories, right, and actions, right, but also, going from one scene to the next just keeps us on an even keel moving without stopping to realize that we're actually in a movie. And that's something that drives me crazy and movies, is that when we get pushed and pulled out of the film, it's it removes us from sort of the emotional connection we have with a hero. My students love Deadpool, and I can appreciate the masterful Olmec and the incredibly brilliant acting and the little, you know, dialogue, I admire all that. But I'm constantly being pulled out of that story. Because of its meta this and reminds me I'm watching a story. And so I am partially because I grew up on, you know, older films. So I don't want people to keep jumping in and reminding me that, you know, we're watching a movie, I want to be lost in it, and feeling it, you know, and I think smooth transitions allow us to do that.

Alex Ferrari 46:56
And of course, the soundtrack of Queen I mean, that also helped that movie.

Michael Lucker 47:02

Alex Ferrari 47:05
was so amazing. That's such a it's such a great film. Um, now I'm going to ask you a few questions. I asked all of my guests. What advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Michael Lucker 47:18
We've already been hitting this a little bit, but learn the craft. I mean, a lot of people have great ideas, and they crank them out on cocktail napkins or paper towels. Right. But taking them from great ideas to write screenplays takes an understanding of the way movies are woven in the way stories are told. And so whether it's taking seminars, taking workshops, taking classes, reading scripts, watching movies, all those things are going to help educate you in a way for you to develop your own style. I think a lot of students you know, and you know, workshop attendees, or potential students and you know, attendees have reservations, thinking that understanding the way what they turn formula or template or structure is going to impede their creative process. And I say does not help you. So I think that is the first thing. And also knowing that, like, if you write a great script, I think and you get it in the hands of people that recognize great scripts, the universe is going to conspire to support you. Right. So it's like, you don't have to figure out you know, everything. But the hardest thing to figure out is how to write great screenplays. And I've had a number of students over the years, in workshops or otherwise, that when they wrote great scripts, they consistently would win a Screencraft Festival, and slam dance and Nashville and Austin and Atlanta, because those independent festival panels of judges, but we're looking at great screenplays that we're looking at 800 here 1200 They're 2000. They're all recognize that great writing. So really, the key is write a great script, and then get it into the hands of people that recognize great scripts.

Alex Ferrari 49:14
Excellent advisor. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Michael Lucker 49:23
The answer to both is the same and it's listen better? Yes, you know, I think, you know, oftentimes, you know, we writers are communicators and we are expressive and we are when given the opportunity or not given the opportunity. We want to impose our opinions, our values, our beliefs, our thoughts, and you know, I'm as a teacher in me that wants to help teach, right, so you're constantly expressing what the problem is, if you're constantly you know, Gabin then there's no room for you to really learn the ninth grade, you know, Zen teaching that something along the lines of You know, the this the speed, the the wise, our silence, basically, and those who are unwise other talkers. So I think the more you can listen to feedback you're given from those you're working with in a creative setting. And those in your personal lives as well, I think it will help make you a better writer, and

Alex Ferrari 50:39
what is the biggest fear you had to overcome when you was writing your first script?

Michael Lucker 50:46
Wow, the biggest fear, oh, I remember, it probably wasn't the first script, it was the second script. But I was so caught up in trying to dunk the double cross and triple cross and quadruple cross the audience to make it the coolest, clever attorney clever, and that I could, that I got so lost in it, that I couldn't find my way out of it. It's because I didn't have a foundational understanding of time, I learned a lot doing it. But because I was so caught up in the maelstrom and a storm of all those double crosses, I literally couldn't, you know, find a clear road to finishing. It took me a long time. Like, you know, contractually, now as writers with a W GA, if we're hired to write an original screenplay, we get 12 weeks and we have to deliver in 12 weeks. You don't get six months, or eight months or two years, you know. And so and that can happen if you don't have a clear roadmap. And that's where I'm clear understanding of storytelling and structure helps. Because you don't get lost, you don't get stuck.

Alex Ferrari 51:59
And three of your favorite films of all time. Wow,

Unknown Speaker 52:03
we talked about two

Alex Ferrari 52:04
of them. Okay, so diehard, Lethal Weapon and Die Hard,

Michael Lucker 52:07
good, definitely up there on all time. You know, and I gotta say the one movie that was the movie that led me to realize as a young punk that I wanted to become a filmmaker was the writers the last are so good. So when I was a young man, Atlanta, Georgia, and Atlanta, Georgia, I stumbled out of the theater. And I remember looking up at the stars, after the movie thinking that's what I want to do with my life. And when I was 21, and I landed in Los Angeles as a young man, you know, my first year out of film school. The job I landed was working for Steven Spielberg, on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade became full circle in a ways that in a way that you know, a few people have the good fortune of

Alex Ferrari 53:00
well, we'll have to do another episode on The Last Crusade adventures because I'd love to know how that was that set?

Michael Lucker 53:07
Let's like Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 53:09
Now where can people find you and your book and everything about what you're doing?

Michael Lucker 53:14
Sure. So my book crash boom, bang had right action movies is available in Barnes and Noble if there's any of those left and on Amazon, and my publishers website, which is W. M. wp.com. And it screenwriting workshops, usually housed at Emory University in Atlanta a few times a year. And that's screenwriter school comm. And they can follow us for tidbits, and tricks on screenwriting on Facebook, and they can email me anytime if they wish at Michael at screenwriter school.com.

Alex Ferrari 53:53
Be careful what you wish for Jim, I get a couple emails. So Michael, thank you so much for coming on man and then dropping the knowledge bombs on the on the drive today. So thank you again,

Michael Lucker 54:04
man. Thank you very enjoyed it very much.

Alex Ferrari 54:08
I want to thank Michael so much for being on the show and dropping his knowledge bombs on the tribe. I am a big fan of action movies, obviously. Again, like we said in the show, I don't I don't want to watch commando again. Because in my mind, it's perfect. Some films age better than others. But I hope you got something out of this episode. Thank you so much. If you want to get a link to anything we talked about in this episode, please head over the show notes at Indie film hustle.com, forward slash BPS 064. And guys, if you have a screenplay and you want to get some real feedback from a professional script writer in Hollywood, please head over to cover my screenplay calm, which is the bulletproof script coverage service that we run. And unlike other script consultancies, we provide coverage based on the type of screenplay It is and work with a pool of readers who have experience in each of the categories who give you notes that focus on the specifics of the goals of your screenplay or project, which are micro budget, indie film market and studio film. Just go to cover my screenplay.com and submit your screenplay there. And also guys, please forgive me that I did not release an episode last week. I know you guys were due, but I was sick as a dog. I was knocked out pretty much the entire week, not with Coronavirus, just a normal flu. But I'm back. You could still hear it in my voice a little bit. But I just want to let you guys know so I do the best I can also for everybody in the tribe, but sometimes even the hustle gets knocked down. Thanks again for listening guys. As always, keep on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.

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BPS 060: How to Write Your Screenplay in 2020 – Happy New Year!

I can’t believe another year has gone by. 2019 was one for the record books. So many things happened to me and to the BPS Tribe this year. In this episode, I breakdown this past year BPS style and also give you a large dose of TOUGH LOVE to get you revved up for 2020.

Don’t wake up Dec 31, 2020, and say

“Damn I just lost another year.”

Don’t let anything stop you from making your dream come true. Don’t let people tell you you can’t do it. People told me I was crazy for jumping into this business. Be smart, educate yourself as much as humanly possible and go for it. 

Don’t be that angry and bitter screenwriter. Don’t wake up when you are 70 and wished you would’ve taken a shot and your dream. Why haven’t you taken the steps needed to make your dream come true? Take the power back. Take control of your own destiny and make it happen for yourself.

I also go over what to expect from all the companies from IFH Industries. IFH, IFHTV, Bulletproof Screenwriting, and Filmtrepreneur. If you thought I did a lot in 2019 you ain’t seen nothing yet. Strap in for the episode you need to listen to get your 2020 off to a great start.

Happy New Year to the entire BPS Tribe.

Right-click here to download the MP3



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Alex Ferrari 0:00
Now guys, I do this episode every year, I think it's a good episode to do as far as just hyping you up for the new year and we are walking into a new decade, it's going to be 2020. And I've been doing this will be the fifth this will be the fifth episode that do New Year's because I've been I've been doing the podcast number four and a half years. And it is a is an interesting I was going back and listening to some of the older ones that I did around this time of year. And they're interesting, they're interesting to see where I've been and what ideas I had and dreams and aspirations I had during those times a few years ago and and where we are today. And this episode, I'm going to do a little bit of a little bit of tough love. As you know, you guys are a fan of my tough love episodes where I kind of, you know, just kind of give you a little bit of inspiration, while you know give you a kick in the butt that you need. I think we definitely need it for 2020. But I'm also going to do a year in review about what we've been able to do here at indie film, hustle. And what we're going to be doing in 2020, as well. So first in the year review, I'm going to talk a little bit about the distributor debacle and all that craziness that took up almost four or five months of my life and still going on. And I'm so glad that I was able to break that story about the travesty of what go digital distributor did to 1000s of filmmakers, and continues to do to filmmakers, as that process of bankruptcy and winding down is being done over there. And we do have some plans in the new year to do it to bring a little bit more light back to what they're doing and how they're doing it because I've become a watchdog of this side of the business now because I I feel truly 100% I truly feel that the abuse that the distribution side of the film industry specifically at the indie film level, it is so abusive, it is so out of control is so systemic in the system of abuse of filmmakers of financial raping of the filmmakers and distributor was just a tip of the iceberg. And I am going to be bringing more and more light to that as as the year goes on. And I have a few surprises as well in that arena. But I wanted to bring that out. So that was a very big part of the year. I released two books, shooting for the mob and rise of the film intrapreneur and I first of all, I can't believe I wrote two books literally wrote one book later on wrote two and the the response to both books have been amazing specifically to rise the film intrapreneur the sales, you know the downloads that have been seeing on the books, it's just humbling, and the quotes and reviews have been very humbling as well. So I am so glad that that that book is starting to change the conversation and hopefully sparks that revolution. And a little surprise for you guys that the audio book version of shooting for the mob will be released within the next week or two depending on how fast audible approves everything. So that is coming for you as well, after so many people have been telling me, why don't you have a job and I finally just sat down bit the bullet and went through it. And it was very emotional to go through that entire story again, but I did it. And I hope you enjoy my performance because I actually play Jimmy in there as well. So my, my voice was talk

like this, or something similar to that, when, when Jimmy speaks in the book, and it's really, it's good, I hope you guys like it, I hope you guys like it. So that's gonna be coming on. And if you want access to that you can go to shooting for the mob comm to check that out. We also launched a brand new website this year, the film entrepreneur website for entrepreneur.com. And we also launched the film to printer, podcast, YouTube channel, and of course, the book. And the reason I again, open that that whole website, the whole brand and company was because I felt that that is the future of filmmaking, independent filmmaking, I feel becoming that entrepreneurial filmmaker becoming that film intrapreneur will be where everybody needs to be, if they want to make a living, you want to be a hobby filmmaker, that's one thing hobbyist that's fine, no problem. But if you actually want to make a living, doing films, and creating content like this, I think the film to printer method is the only way that we're going to be able to survive as a community. So that's why I took so much effort to launch that new company. And there's been a lot of other stuff that I've been able to do with indie film hustle this year. But I don't want to sit here for another hour talking about all the things that we've done. But those are the big highlights. And it's been an insane, insane year, it's been an insane year of growth, for indie film, hustle and ifH industries in general, for all the companies that I I run and all the impact that we've been able to do to the community and helping filmmakers and screenwriters, and content creators through all the content that we provide through our platforms. And I'm so humbled and excited to continue to do that for the community. And I hope whatever I do on a daily basis, helps you on your path. Now, we have reached the tough love portion of our podcast. So I need you to prepare yourselves. Now I want to ask you the question, Why haven't you taken the steps needed to make your dream come true? What's stopping you? What's stopping you from making whatever you want to happen for you happen? Do you don't have money? Is that the problem? If you don't have money to make your movie, then make a smaller project. Partner with somebody do something else put the larger idea that the Opus that you have put it in that drawer man, you know, and keep working on multiple projects, you can't just work on just one. But you've got to take the steps and it could be baby steps doesn't have to be big steps. It can be baby steps. Why haven't you written that screenplay? that you've been thinking about forever? Why are you procrastinating? What is it that you haven't written that screenplay, you know, or haven't created a haven't created a system or schedule to write a page a day, or two pages a day, no matter how good or bad they are. Just write and write and write. You know I have now over 400 500 episodes of all my podcasts that I've done. If you go back and listen to the very first podcast, they're horrible, I think they're horrible. There's good content in and all of them. But they're not that great. I you know, I'm still trying to figure myself out trying to figure this show out. But now after doing it so long, I feel very comfortable doing this. I took a lot of trial and error, it took a lot of just grinding it out. And that's what you have to do. You got to grind it out. If you want to be a writer, right? If you want to be a director direct. If you want to create content, create content, and it doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't you know, you have to get away from this perfection because there is no perfection. Don't let that stop you. That's just an excuse. Because you know why? Because you're afraid. Because you're afraid of whatever of success of failing of, of what people will think of you of what people think of your art, whatever. But at the end of the day, those excuses are all based around fear. And if you're afraid of failing, good, fail, I want you all to fail. And I want you all to fail often. Because that's how you learn. You learn nothing from successes, nothing. You learn a lot more from failures than you do from successes and I speak from personal personal experience on that I've learned so much from my failures. And don't think that indie film hustle has been a smooth ride for the last four and a half years that I've been doing this, it hasn't. I failed on multiple occasions on many different things that I've tried, and it didn't work. And I just keep going. You know, and I fail sometimes publicly. You know, so I think Just keep going. Don't let that stop me, you can't stop yourself from following your dream, your passion, your goals, because you're afraid. Because you don't want to wake up December 31 2020 and say dammit, I just lost another year of wasting time of doing other things of procrastinating. What I really want to do, if you're not happy with where you are in life, you have to make the choice to change. You have to take control of your life. You can't blame other people for it. You can't blame the world for it, whatever your circumstances are. And I was, I mean, look, I was a day or two away from being homeless. If you read my book shooting from a mob, you'll understand, you know, I was I was gonna go bankrupt, I was gonna lose my house, I was gonna lose a bunch of stuff.

And I just kept going, you can't blame anybody else. For whatever failures you think you are having, or that you are having. You need to man up or girl up and take responsibility for where you are in life.

Okay, it is nobody else's fault. Sure things happen to us. Sometimes they're self inflicted, sometimes life just hits us with things. And believe me, I've been hit with multiple uppercuts in my life, multiple from many different directions. So I understand. You can't control what happens to you. All you can control is how you deal with it. How you perceive it, whatever your situation is, it is, for better or for worse. how you deal with that. How you deal with what life gives you is in your control. You are here on this planet, to follow your dreams. To follow that thing, that burning fire inside of you. That is why you're here. There's that thing that doesn't let you sleep that virus I talk so much about that filmmaking virus, that that film industry virus, that screenwriting virus, whatever that creative thing that you got bitten by years ago, that won't let you sleep at night, that will always continue to bother you for the rest of your days. Because you're not doing it. That thing, that's why we're here. That is why you are here is to make that thing happen for you, whatever that might be. You have to be smart about it and take chances. But make sure you take those chances. Be smart about it. Don't mortgage your house, don't take unnecessary risks. But you have to move. And it could be baby steps, but you have to go, you've got to be smart on how you do it. The state of the industry has changed so dramatically. In just these last five years, from the moment that I launched this podcast and launched indie film hustle to today, the industry has taken gigantic leaps. And it's shifted multiple times. You know, when I was when I launched this podcast, DVDs, were still kind of a thing. You know, that was five years, almost five years ago. You know, there's all these things that ways to making money and things like that with your films, there were other options. There were other opportunities, those are all gone, the business has changed. You have to understand that that old system, the Hollywood system, the film distribution system, the old ways of doing things, is broken. And that old system never was built to benefit you, the filmmaker, or you the creative. It just wasn't. filmmakers need to take control, to take the power of their own art form back into their own hands. We have the technology we have the opportunity. We have the direct access to customers, to audiences to be able to do that that wasn't available five or 10 years ago, in the way it is today. With the tools we have today. You have to take advantage of it. You need to be in control of your own destiny. No longer should you give the power of your film to a third party in hopes that they will one day pay you in hopes that they one day will make your dreams come true. That is just a recipe for pain and trust it from a guy who wasted 20 years of his career, chasing that exact dream and the moment I took The power back into my own hands with my own art, and built my own world, built my own business around my art form, and around being of service to others, my entire life changed. I want that for you. I want that for you. distributors and distribution companies are one revenue stream for your film, only one. And it shouldn't be the only one that doesn't make business sense. You can partner with a distributor if you want. And there are some good ones out there. Like I've said many times, but they're unicorns, the majority of them are predatory, the majority of the business is predatory. So you need to be careful. And the only way that you can kind of up opt out of that system is to change the rules to play by your own rules, to chain into play by the film intrapreneurial rules and control your own revenue streams and control your own destiny 2020 will be the year of the film intrapreneur you're going to hear me say that a bunch 2020 will be the year of the film entrepreneur. This is when the revolution begins in 2020. This is when filmmakers take back their power, take back control of their films, have their scripts of their stories of their content, and start learning how to make a living with it by using the entrepreneurial method. This is the year of the film entrepreneur. And you need to take control back. And you need to take the steps every single day to make your dreams come true. Because I promise you something, nobody else is going to care about your dream more than you will. Because you know what everyone's got their own dreams. So you've got to be the caretaker of your own dreams. Now I hope that lit a fire in your in your butt this year to get that thing going to get that script written to get that movie made to take that course to learn that thing to make that short film, whatever it is, I hope this little talk this last episode gets you riled up. And if you need to listen to it again, throughout the year, listen to it again. I have a whole ton of motivational videos on my YouTube channel that will help you get you know you want to get hyped up you listen to those are two three minutes apiece. And that there are indie film hustle.com forward slash YouTube and takes you right there. And I also want to go over what you can expect in 2020 from indie film hustle from bulletproof screenwriting and from from entrepreneur. So from indie film, hustle, you will continue to get a ton of new guests on the podcast, I'm going to be creating new content as always, there might be an update to the website, I'm still figuring out when I can do that. So a little bit of an update. You can see you guys if you guys go to the website, you can start seeing a little bit of shifting in how things are being presented and things like that. So I'm going to try to hone down a little bit on indie film hustle.com. Now as far as indie film hustle TV is concerned, I am going to be putting a lot of effort and energy into indie film hustle TV, we will be adding a ton of original courses and content, new films with special editions education, and adding new workshops and seminars. Like I said, I'm putting a lot of energy and resources into indie film hustle TV to make it the one stop shop for Real World Film education streaming around the world. The latest updates on distribution on cinematography on screenwriting, everything, I'm going to be putting it into indie film hustle TV. So if you haven't checked that out, please go to ifH TV comm check it out, and we will be adding amazing amounts of stuff there over the course of 2020. Now for bulletproof screenwriting, I'm going to be launching a standalone bulletproof screenwriting website dedicated to screenwriters, breaking down the art and the business of storytelling. And I'm going to be focusing a lot about the business as well as just how to write stories. I'm going to be teaching you how to apply the film entrepreneurial method in screenwriting, how you guys can create side hustles how you can start generating revenue with your skills, your writing skills, how you can start making money with your writing, in addition to selling your own projects, possibly creating your own projects, partnering with others. People are going to be creating a bunch of new content for bulletproof screenwriting on its new website, which will be bulletproof screenwriting.tv. And of course, we will be adding exclusive bulletproof screenwriting courses on ifH. TV as well. And now for film entrepreneur, we will be adding exclusive film propranolol training on ifH TV, doing a deep dive and exploring different avenues and aspects of the film shoprunner method and breaking down the concepts from Rise of the film entrepreneur as well. And of course, I'll be continually adding great guests to the podcast and adding more resources and education to help you on your film entrepreneurial journey. And I will be launching my first ever live workshop, which is the make your movie boot camp like two day event that will be held in late March. And in about a week or so week or two, I'm going to be putting out new ads and new website where you can sign up for it. And it's going to be a two day event. It's going to be still held here in Burbank. Last year, I did launch it. But I got so caught up with the whole distributor thing that all my energies went to that and I had to cancel it had to return money and you know and made sure everybody got their money back. But we will be doing it in the new year. And it's going to be a little different than what I originally hadn't planned because things have changed. So I'm always changing, always adjusting my method and adjusting what the information I'm trying to provide you guys with. So one day of the boot of the making movie boot camp will be focused on micro budget filmmaking, and how I was able to shoot this is Meg and on the corner of ego and desire my tips and techniques on how I was able to do all of that on such low budgets. And on the second day, we will be going over an introduction to the film entrepreneurial method and breaking down the basic concepts of the film intrapreneurial method. And of course, we will be adding possible couple of surprise guests as well. A couple other things we will be working on in 2020, I will be working on a new book, I have an idea for the book I have I have five books actually. But I'm going to be working on one of them's at least one this year. So keep an eye keep an eye out for that. Like I said before the audio version of shooting for the mob will be available. We'll be releasing my film finally on the corner of ego and desire on indie film hustle TV on January 21 2020. With an amazing amount of special edition content, breakdowns, interviews, audio commentary, I really wanted to go all out for on the corner of Elan desire and ifH. tv. And it will be available just to watch the movie on Amazon and on Apple TV as well. And I have a bunch of other secret projects that I'm working on at ifH industries this year, coming this coming year. And there's a lot of little things I have going on. You know me guys, I always have something going on. I'm always trying to create new experiences for you new content, new value for the tribe. And I just want to thank you, from the bottom of my heart to all of you, for all the love and support you have provided me over the last four and a half years that I've been doing this for you and for the tribe. And it's very humbling, it really, really is humbling.

The the well wishes, the reviews, the comments, the messages I get on a daily basis from you, I'm I'm so humbled to be of service to you and help you on your filmmaking journey or entrepreneurial journey or your screenwriting journey. This business is brutal as you are very well aware. And I hope that the work that I do helps you a little bit maybe saves you a little time, maybe save you a little bit of money, saves you a lot of pain and heartache. And I hope that this podcast and I hope everything I do through all my companies at ifH industries helps you on your path I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart. I do not take this very lightly. You've been you've given me the opportunity to do this for you. And I am forever grateful. So I will continue to hustle. I will continue to grind every single day to help you guys on your journey. I want to leave you with this guys. Don't let anything stop you from making your dream come true. Don't let people around you tell you that you can't do it. People told me when I said I wanted to be a filmmaker or a director. And I wanted to jump into this business. I was crazy. Friends of mine from high school said what are you going to do? That's insane. It was so beyond anybody's idea that that could be even a possibility that they were trying to they start trying to stop me Family members tried to stop me, they would tell me that I'll never make it. You'll never make anything of yourself, you know, all all the things of all the things. And you know what? I proved them wrong 25 years in, and I'm still here, still hustling. And I love what I do. And I'm so blessed that I'm able to do it. And I want you guys to have that same experience, not the exact same, I don't want you to go make a $20 million movie for a mobster and get your life threatened on a daily basis. I don't want that for you. But I want you to be able to make a living, doing what you love to do. And that's why I'm here. To help you do that. You need to be smart. You need to educate yourself as much as humanly possible about this entire process, not just a sexy parts, not just the lenses and the cameras and the cool stuff. All parts of this process, you need to educate yourself as much as possible. Read as many books as you can get an audible account and listen to books everywhere you go, while you're in line at the supermarket while you're driving to your commute, whatever it is, educate yourself as much as humanly possible. And the last part of that, that equation, she got to go for it. You got to get up off your ass. And just do it, just go for it. And if you fail, it's okay. You fail, you move on again. I've said it many times before, but Robert Rodriguez made 2025 short films. And I'm sure a lot of them were not that great. Before he made out of mariachi. He practiced and practiced and practiced. And he failed and learned and moved on, failed and learned and move on. That's how you make it. That's how you get to where you want to be in life. You just have to keep going. Like the incomparable Rocky Balboa said. It's about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. It's not gonna be an easy ride guys that I can promise you. It's not gonna be what they what the Hollywood sells you, which is that lottery ticket, that someone's gonna come down from on Hollywood, and give you a shot. And all your dreams are gonna come true. It's not gonna be that guys, I can promise you that. The only thing I can promise you is that as you continue to learn, you grow and you better yourself. And you might not get to your dream exactly the way you wanted it. Or you might get it exactly where you wanted it. Or something even better comes along like it did for me.

Alex Ferrari 27:48
And my journey is far from over. I got a lot of walking left. And you guys will be there with me as I take you through my journey in this business and hopefully help you along yours. Want to wish you guys happy new year. And amazing 2020 we are getting into the 20s. Guys, we are in the 20s now, so it's going to be the roaring 20s get ready for an exciting year. I don't know what what we have in store for us. I truly don't. But make your dreams come true this year, guys. I really want that for each and every one of you listening to my voice. And now since this is the first ever crossover triple crossover event between all three of my podcasts. I'm going to do a sign off for each one in this one podcast. So for the bulletproof screenwriting tribe, keep on writing, no matter what. For the film shoprunner podcast. The power is in your hands. Be a film entrepreneur, and for the indie film hustle tribe. As always, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. Happy New Year. I'll talk to you soon.

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BPS 059: The Business of Selling Story with Ken Atchity

Today guest is author, publisher, and producer Ken Atchity. Ken recently produced the global blockbuster (Jason Statham) and is the founder of Story Merchant. Ken wrote the best-seller Sell Your Story to Hollywood: Writer’s Pocket Guide to the Business of Show Business. I wanted Ken on the show to discuss the business side of screenwriting, a part of the industry that isn’t spoken about enough. We also discuss the “story market.”

Here some background on Ken.

In 1976, Atchity founded L/A House, Inc., a consulting, translation, book, television, and film development and production company whose clients included the Getty Museum and the US Postal Service. L/A House began by extending Atchity’s teaching of creative writing to manuscript consultation and soon moved on to publishing with the production of Follies, a magazine covering creativity, and CQ: Contemporary Quarterly; Poetry and Art of which he was editor. In the 1980s L/A House moved into television, with a syndicated television pilot of BreakThrough! of which Atchity was executive producer and co-writer.

In 1985, L/A House began development of a set of video/TV romance film projects entitled Shades of Love, which became 16 full-length films, produced in 1986–87 with Atchity as executive producer, that aired throughout the world, distributed by Lorimar, Astral-Bellevue-Pathe, Manson International, and Warner Brothers International, nominated for Canada’s Gemini Award; in the U.S. they premiered on Cinemax-HBO.

In 1989 he sold L/A House and founded AEI (Atchity Editorial/Entertainment International), a literary management and motion picture production company. Atchity sold Steve Alten’s Meg to Bantam-Doubleday at auction in a $2.2M deal; and then to Disney, partnered with Zide-Perry, for $1.2 (later, to Newline Pictures for a similar price). Incorporated in 1996, its name was changed to Atchity Entertainment International, Inc. in 2005.

In 2006, he and manager-partner Fred Griffin of Houston’s Griffin Partners along with a group of investors from Louisiana and Texas, acquired The Louisiana Wave Studio, LLC in Shreveport, Louisiana from Walt Disney Productions. The LWS is the only tank specifically designed to make waves for motion pictures in North America. Films produced at the LWS include The Guardian, Mayday—Bering Sea, Shark Night 3D, Streets of Blood, and I Love You, Philip Morris; along with numerous government and industrial films.

In 2011 Atchity was nominated for an Emmy for producing The Kennedy Detail (Discovery) based on their clients’ Jerry Blaine and Lisa McCubbin’s New York Times bestselling book by the same title published by Gallery/Simon & Schuster in 2010. AEI’s films include Joe Somebody (Tim Allen, Julie Bowen), Life Or Something Like It (Angelina Jolie, Edward Burns), and The MEG (Jason Statham).

In 2010, Atchity also founded Atchity Productions and Story Merchant.

Enjoy my conversation with Ken Atchity.

Right-click here to download the MP3


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Alex Ferrari 0:00
I like to welcome Ken Atchity, man, how you doing, sir?

Ken Atchity 2:55
Good. How are you doing? Very good. Nice to be with you.

Alex Ferrari 2:58
I appreciate it. Thank you so much for being on the show. I truly appreciate it. I know you're a busy man. So thank you for taking the time.

Ken Atchity 3:04
My pleasure.

Alex Ferrari 3:06
So before we get started, how did you get started in the business?

Ken Atchity 3:10
Well, in show business, I got started because I was a professor, working with stories, analyzing stories and helping people construct stories and of course, writing my own stories. And I just decided that I wanted to be on the other side of the coin, so to speak, I didn't want to be on the critical side, I wanted to be on the, you know, the making side, and get stories out to the world both in publishing and in film, and television. So I came up with an idea that ended up being 16 movies. And the rest was history. I just went on from there.

Alex Ferrari 3:47
Very cool. Now, in Europe, you you obviously focus a lot on story. What makes a good story, in your opinion?

Ken Atchity 3:57
Well, what makes a good story is is the reader or the audience not being able to forget the story? I mean, that's the ultimate test of a great story, I think, and that it really changes their lives in some way. Either. It really entertains them or It teaches them or shows them something memorable, that they have a hard time forgetting. To me that's the main, you know, the main symptom of a good story.

Alex Ferrari 4:23
Is that focusing more on plot on you know, the structure, is that talking about character, or is it a combination, like what are some of the elements?

Ken Atchity 4:31
Oh, it's a combination, but but the primary thing is character. Okay, so creating an unforgettable character. One of the signs of that is that, that people will start telling you things about the story that didn't even happen in the story. Because they, they they got the characters so well that they have yet you know, imagine the character in other settings. So I think the number one important thing is a good character, what we call the protagonist, who is the first actor in the story and who makes the story happen based on a need of theirs, and then has to go out and somehow battle against an antagonist, you know, obstacles to that need and accomplish it or tragically not being able to accomplish it by the end of the story. In your opinion, what

Alex Ferrari 5:19
does make a good a good protagonist?

Ken Atchity 5:22
Well, generally speaking, it's it's a flawed human being, it's somebody that we can immediately relate to, because of some problem that they're having. One of my favorite examples is lethal weapon. You know, Revell, Gibson, being a homicidal, you know, homicide detectives and as suicidal homicide detective, that's kind of hard to forget. So in the one of the opening scenes, he's actually playing Russian roulette, as he wakes up in the morning, and skwiggs, a cold beer has been, you know, puts the gun to his head. But it you know, he, he's, he's survived that day and goes on to another day, but you immediately can't forget him, he a guy who goes out and does his duty, despite the fact that he wants to kill himself, because his wife had been recently killed, etc. So, I mean, there are all kinds of memorable characters like Rain Man, and, you know, Silver Linings Playbook. You just go from one to the other, but it's usually the characters that you remember.

Alex Ferrari 6:29
Yeah, I never, I mean, there are obviously very good plots, you know, I remember, you know, Usual Suspects being you know, has the plot was so amazing. But generally speaking, it is character that drives like, that's what you really connect to, because they're the human beings that you're connecting to, that's something you can actually hold on to correct,

Ken Atchity 6:47
right. And one of the observations that you have in the in the film business is that the character is great. The plot is replaceable, so that that's what leads you i i specialized recently, in selling book lines line, you know, books, that my clients have written several on the same characters, and making them into series. So we're heavily involved in setting up series, and what buyers in Hollywood are trying to buy is they're trying to buy the characters, you know, they, they buy the characters, and they can go on making movies or episodes about those characters, without reference to the plots that the original author came up with. Sometimes they use this plot, sometimes, the writers, you know, the television writers, or film writers just make up their own plots to go with that character. Are you?

Alex Ferrari 7:38
Are you um, when you're consulting your clients now? Are you recommending that they if you're writing a book, let's say that you're, you're not just writing one book that you're writing series of books based off the same character, kind of like a Sherlock Holmes, or, you know, or, you know, jack Ryan or something like that?

Ken Atchity 7:55
Yeah, I mean, I, I end up doing that, because I kind of have the ultimate home run from a financial point of view for a writer is to sell a television series. And so one of my writers took the train in to see me the other day, and we sat there at lunch. And he, he done two novels already that were pretty good. And I told him, you should start thinking about, you know, writing another novel using the same character. And I did that a couple of years ago with another writer, Texan. And he's now written three books with the same character that caught my attention. And I took it out to a pitch meeting with a major producer a few weeks ago, and I could pitch it in two sentences. And the minute he heard about the character, he said, that's an obvious series. Let's Let's do it. So we're partnered on on the series, just because he heard about the character and the world the character finds himself in. So that's obviously a good reason to write more than one novel on the same character, not to mention the fact that you're much more likely to sell multiple copies of your novel, if you have several other novels that somebody can read with the same character.

Alex Ferrari 9:08
Yeah, I recently got, I was recently found the show called Bosch, which is a based on Michael Connelly's series of books. My grant it's so well done so well. And the character is, he's such an interest the Bosch character is so interesting, because he's he's a flawed human being. But yet he's not Indiana Jones. He's not Sherlock Holmes. He's not superhuman by any stretch. But yet you're just drawn in and if obviously, it's the actor, but the character itself and the world that that Michael created. It is fascinating. I'm seeing that because of all the streaming series and there's so much opportunity for filmmakers and for and for writers out there now. I mean, we are pretty much in the gold rush of story at this time.

Ken Atchity 9:54
Yeah. Would you agree? Absolutely. I mean, look at Breaking Bad and and look there and you know, the escaped from Connemara you know, limited series, but it's the characters that that draw you into it. You know they the plot. isn't that important. I mean, if you think about Bosh, like how many plots Can you remember right away?

Alex Ferrari 10:17
It takes me a minute it takes me a minute to, like, I have to go back to season one he had to do this season three, he had to do that. But it's Sparsh. It's like Indiana Jones, like you know, you know, it's it's it's James Bond, like how you know, how many plots of James Bond Do you remember? But you boy, you remember James Bond pretty clearly.

Ken Atchity 10:35
Yeah, exactly. And, and sometimes to show Hill, how the plot is harder to remember, they'll put the plot in the title, you know, the temple of Dune or Raiders of the Lost Ark, just in case you you forget, because you're not gonna forget Indiana Jones, for James Bond. So you think, you know, call his books after his villains? Because they're the ones you have to think about to remember Goldfinger and, you know, Dr. Know, etc, right. But you don't need to be reminded about James Bond. That's why you're reading the book or watching the movie.

Alex Ferrari 11:07
So in today's world, that we have such a huge opportunity for writers to be able to put, you know, write content, create content, do you recommend instead of going after possibly a screenplay, which is a one off to actually focus on series to focus on limited series? Is that where the marketplace is kind of leaning now? Because there's just so much need and want for original content? Now? Is that a smart move as a writer?

Ken Atchity 11:36
Yeah, it's definitely a smart move. It's, it's a little more difficult move. But it's a smart move, because we have so many channels demanding programming, that it's hugely competitive, mean, new, you know, broadcasters are born every year, whether it's Hulu and Apple recently, or Amazon and Netflix, the generation before, or you know, in the old days, the HBO and Showtime and even older days, the network's that they're all competing for, you know, stories and series, one of the big decisions we have to make when we go out with a series is whether it should be a network series or cable series. Because of the difference in content, obviously. But But clearly, that's it's not only it's not only easier to sell a series in this demanding market, but it's also it's also the smarter way to go because, honestly, the smartest writers and the best writers of all gravitated to television, television, you know, years ago, 1520 years ago was regarded as kind of a wasteland of no man's land. And it was very hard for us feature a feature writer to even want to go into television. And now it's just normal that television is dying for feature writers and rating feature writers. And more importantly, the feature writers are starting to write original stuff for television, because it's so difficult to set up a movie. By comparison, movies are still being made and huge numbers are being made, but not by the studios. The studios are limiting what they do to four or five movies a year where they used to do 30 or 40. And so the explosion of growth there is an independent films, but an independent film can have a very long road to production, because of the uncertainty of financing and the distributors reluctance to actually put them in theaters compared to the big blockbuster from, you know, Disney or from Warner Brothers. So all together television is a much friendlier and smarter environment. For writers I think to to aspire to.

Alex Ferrari 13:47
Do you agree with what Spielberg said about the implosion of Hollywood where this this whole new Hollywood the studio's to some specifically, which is just blockbuster after blockbuster after blockbuster that eventually one of these is going to pop that we're there's going to be a studio that's not going to be able to take a $500 million hit. And they're just going to go under and it's going to be kind of like this bubble that's gonna pop eventually do agree with that. Because I mean, it is riskier and riskier and riskier as I mean, we're talking about I remember when Titanic came out, and everyone's like, $200 million budget, everyone was like, insane. Everyone. $100 million budget was a lot of money. Now. Now we're talking 300 $350 million budgets, and plus marketing. So we're talking half a billion dollars to make a billion and a half dollars. What do you I just a curiosity just from from your perspective?

Ken Atchity 14:37
Well, it's complicated if he were, you know, if he were talking strictly about moviemaking. It would be easy to agree with that. But the truth is, studios don't make most of their money from movie making a studio, head of the studio head, somebody lunch with him one day and he said don't don't ever accuse me of being a filmmaker. I am a toy salesman. Makes films to advertise my toys. And most of the money that's made by any of the big studios is in merchandising. And so hopefully, if they have a $300 million bus, they'll be making it up from, you know, the $500 million they're making on another movie, or even on the merchandising from the failed movie, because there's no end to it. And, and plus, the studios are generally owned by international conglomerates. And those conglomerates are heavily invested in real estate. You know, the suit, one of the reasons they buy, the studio is for its real estate. And so I don't quite agree with him that that's going to happen easily. But it certainly could happen if a studio made three bad judgments a year. And all three were upside down. It would be difficult for them to survive it. And they do though. I mean, they do. Paramount has survived that several times. And you know, it's sad. I mean, DreamWorks has not really quite survived it. So they end up being more or less part of, you know, universal and that's basically the fate of studios has been acquired by another studio as Fox was just acquired by Disney, which still blows my mind. Fox was such a distinctive studio. And so is Disney the fact that they're all now in way the same conglomerate. It's just very upsetting and weird. It just, you know, narrows the number of places I can sell the movies, you know, my clients movies?

Alex Ferrari 16:30
Yeah, with without question and yeah, it's it's a weird world that we're living in. I think they're the the amount of stories that are being told. The channels are smaller at the big at the highest levels. It used to be many more studios, many more things. But I think we could thank George Lucas for all this merchandise, because he was basically the first one to really to do it, honestly. I mean, they didn't merchandising prior to George Lucas, but no one's done it as good as he has. From that point.

Ken Atchity 17:03
Yeah, I think no one kind of focused on it the way he did, from the very beginning. He was he recognized the value of the merchandising, in fact, you know, the story is that that fox, who financed Star Wars wasn't as interested in the merchandising as they were in the movie. I'm not sure that story is true or not, but it's, it is a legendary story. Yes, it is. And now, you know, now the Disney has acquired the franchise, you know, they're very careful to continue the toys, because that's where Walt Disney made all of his money is, you know, from Mickey Mouse t shirts, and Mickey Mouse dolls and all those other characters sitting on the shelves, like like they are in the background of, of your office there.

Alex Ferrari 17:54
Yes, my Yoda. All that good stuff. Right. Now, can you discuss a few pitfalls to watch out for on the business side of storytelling? Because I think storytellers are artists, we're, you know, filmmakers, we're just artists, we don't want to think about business or, you know, a distribution or a month, let somebody else deal with that. What are some pitfalls that we should look at in this new world that we're walking into? And that we're in currently, but I think that the the, the, the two avenues between business show and business are really starting to cross a lot more than before. So are there any pitfalls that you can kind of help help us watch out for?

Ken Atchity 18:35
Yeah, my, my second last book was called, you know, sell your story to Hollywood writers handbook to the business of show business. And I always tell my clients that the more they know about business, the better, the better, they're going to be in terms of being in this business and making a living out of it. And people, like you said, they're not that they're not that interested in the business part of it. But to me, the most upsetting situation for a writer that they should be looking out for is what's called reversion. And that means that you sell your story, you get some money up front, which is option payment, you even may get the right payment that occurs on the day of principal photography. But if something happens, three weeks into that, and the movie never gets finished, never gets shot. Your movie, your story, which was brilliant enough to get somebody to invest a lot of money in it, and to raise money for it is suddenly in limbo. And I can't tell you how many wonderful stories I've sold in the past that are in limbo and are likely to stay there. There's one in particular that a new finance group approached me a few months ago and said, we want to make this movie. We almost almost made it 10 years ago, if you'll recall. And yes, I do recall because we sold it to a distributor, and now it's in what's called turnaround, which means the distributor has its its claws on the story. They will not release it to another financer without the financer pain, not only how much money that studio had put into it, but also 10% interest a year, since then. So it ends up being a ton of money, like 50 times the amount of money that they actually spent on it, because of the interest. And, and that story basically is, you know, can be gone forever, and this Limbo state, and it's something to really look at to make sure that your attorney, your agent, your manager, has got a strong reversion clause that says something to the effect that if your movie is not made, within five years of of the, you know, the the data was contracted for, that it will revert free and clear to you, as opposed to go into turn around, where the studio can hold it up, you know, for for money. And God, we must have a dozen great stories in that situation. And it's, it's a huge thing to worry about. And of course, the other thing is to make sure that if you're a writer, especially over an animated film, that you are getting a true part of the back end of the story, meaning the profits of the movie, you know, they so rarely does that happen in Hollywood, that those points, as they're called, are referred to as monkey points, because I suppose only a monkey would believe that they're actually going to get those points. But if you have a really good attorney, there are things you can do to make sure that doesn't happen. And people don't really think about this on their first two or three deals. But after those deals, especially after something has happened, to show them what they might have made, have they had a better deal. You know, they'll they will get smarter about it. And we try to educate our writers, in fact, in that real fast Hollywood deal that we do. Online, it's a course on how to succeed in the business of show business, not just, you know, not not just the show part, but the business part. And people do I mean, obviously, people like Lucas and Spielberg have done pretty well for themselves, because they, they went to business school and learned the business part of it.

Alex Ferrari 22:20
Yeah, I was, I was told years ago when I was meeting with an agent that he's like, when I'm looking for a creative writer or director, I'm looking for three people, I'm looking for a politician. I'm looking for an artist, and I'm looking for a businessman. And Isn't that it? I think that was really great. It was a great window into what really is needed in this business. You know? And is this those three things? Because if you if you have just one of those, it won't work. You have to have all three, because a lot of people don't talk about the politics behind the seats. That's a whole other conversation.

Ken Atchity 22:59
Yeah, no, it is. Mostly it is 90% of the effort. It's dealing with the people dealing with the business. And honestly, when they say that creativity is you know, creative ideas are a dime a dozen. That isn't literally true, but maybe a quarter a dozen, you know, there are lots and lots of ideas, and they never make it to the screen unless you have those other qualities of business and, you know, political savvy, how to deal with people. Because you know, there's a there's a set of rules about how to operate in Hollywood and one of them is being a fun person to work with and stain off of everyone's life is to shortlist. It's a guy like that

Alex Ferrari 23:42
i like i like that term. Life. I've heard of the Life is too short. I've never heard it called that life is too short list.

Ken Atchity 23:49
And one of my books I I talk about it and what it takes to get on that list. And at a certain point, no matter how creative you are, and how brilliant your ideas are, nobody wants to hear from you. Right and

Alex Ferrari 23:59
even into some of these legendary directors and writers for that matter, that that are super talented, and they win Oscars and they make lots of money, but they're just horrible human beings, or horrible to work with the moment they stumble, it's over the the second they trip up, the second thing they stumble, it goes they never get to they never get back in. And but if you're a super nice guy, you know, like I use Ron Howard all the time, because Ron Howard is such an amazing filmmaker. And he's had he's had really strong bombs in his career, but he's also had really strong hits. But he's I heard so many good things about working with him.

Ken Atchity 24:41
Everybody likes him. You know, he returns people's phone calls. He's always nice. He doesn't show his the arrogance that he deserves. He doesn't act like it. You know, he's, he's humbled because whatever the reason is his character It was not destroyed by success and too often Success can destroy character. And I try to tell my writers that when they fail a few times that they're actually building character. So they'll do better. You know, in the long run,

Alex Ferrari 25:13
I call it trap milk. It's like you need a little shrapnel, you need a little scarring, you know, to toughen yourself up and to kind of go through this business.

Ken Atchity 25:21
Yeah, that's right. It's absolutely right. Now, can you can storytellers

Alex Ferrari 25:25
in today's world make a living with their stories? And if there is, what are some other ways that storytellers could make money with their business with their with their stories, besides just you know, trying to pitch a studio? Or you know, at the larger levels? Or do you have any advice on like what other writers could be doing to sell their stories or make money with their stories?

Ken Atchity 25:46
Well, of course, because of the Internet, and Amazon in particular, everyone can, you know, publish books that used to have to go through gatekeepers, mostly in New York to get to that point. And Hollywood is in love with books. So if you're going to try to sell a story to Hollywood, the best possible advice I can give you is to write it as a book first. And in the old days, hollywood used to insist that it be from a major publisher. But that's all changed in the last 20 years. And I discovered about 10 years ago that I was having a much harder time sell books, selling books to New York than I used to. I used to sell 30 or 40 books a year, and two, all the publishers, but then they were always, they were also bought up by the big conglomerates. So every major publisher of which they used to be about 50, they've now gotten down to about four. And those four have purchased the other 36 imprints and made them part of their, you know, they're big flags, because they're owned by herrschaft and Bertelsmann and Penguin, Putnam and so on. And as a result, they don't buy new voices the way they used to, they're not interested in unknown writers the way they used to be. So I got upset about that, because I didn't have as many books to take to my Hollywood lunches. And I decided about eight years ago now to start our own imprint, story, merchant books of which we now published over 300. And, and I set up a whole bunch of them as series and as movies, because they look like books, and they talk like books, and they sound like books. And so people go, I gotta read this, and I take the book to lunch with me, and they go home with it, and read it and call me in a few days and say they, they want to make it into a movie. So any any writer can do that they can put out, you know, go to to Amazon and print their books, or they can come to a company that helps them do that, like one of mine does. And that's a huge thing they can do. And, of course, they can also edit and help other writers and a lot of writers make a steady income by doing that. But there are more opportunities, I think, than ever before, to make a living as a writer.

Alex Ferrari 28:11
And do it in like, again, today's world that we have so much opportunity in the streaming space in the streaming space specifically, do you recommend that screenwriters begin to create their own video content to create a pilot or create instead of walking in with a just a pitch to walk in with a sizzle reel, or a scene or, or even a full blown pilot that they shot, you know, for 15 or 20? grand, you know, as a proof of concept? Or like in was it It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, that basically that's exactly what they did, they shot a pilot and then went off to do I think four or five seasons with that with that pilot with the same actors. I think even they just added a few more bigger names. So what do you think?

Ken Atchity 28:53
I think it's a visual medium. And if, if you know how to do it, then by all means, that's what you should be doing. Because that's what we're all looking for. We're looking for movies, you know, for moving pictures. And I have a client who kind of behind my backs. He was a business, not a business writer. And I had sold to his business books. And then out of the blue, he told me a couple of years ago, you know, I decided to make a dream of mine come true. I made a movie. And he he I couldn't believe it because he seemed like not the complete opposite of a guy who would make a movie, because he was a button down businessman. But he did make a movie and I saw it and now I'm helping him get a distributor for it. And he's also written a brilliant novel. And it took him years to get up the courage to do either one of them, but he's done them both and nothing's stopping you now me were the one thing about the creative world it is it's free. You're free to think outside the box and the boxes are not like they used to be ever since Jeff Bezos came along. The entire world has changed as much as it did when Gutenberg printing At the printing press or, you know, back in the old days, when someone invented writing to take over from the oral tradition, we're going to see through a sea change as big as either one of those not bigger. And where, whereas there used to be maybe 20,000 books published every year in the United States, it's now over a million books published every year. And a lot of them are horrible. A lot of them are really bad. But more than ever, a lot of them are good. And a lot of them are better than, you know, books that were published before. It's just the statistics, know, a lot of books means a lot of better books to, to you,

Alex Ferrari 30:41
can you talk a little bit about the need for marketing and understanding marketing branding, because you just said a million books are being published a year. So that's great. And it's great opportunity that our stories are getting out there. But because of the just the sheer number of amount of content, let's not even get into video content will take us 20 lifetimes to just watch what came out this week, alone. But on the book side, or just on the story side alone, without marketing, and this plays for both screenwriting, for for Novel Writing and filmmaking, the understanding of marketing and branding to get eyeballs on your book on your product on your story is more vital than ever before. And I think I find that even mediocre writers who understand marketing and branding go a lot farther than

Unknown Speaker 31:30
brilliant writers

Alex Ferrari 31:30
who have no understanding about it.

Ken Atchity 31:32
Yes, that's absolutely true. And I wish I had your speech you just gave to, to show all of my my author clients who, whose books we publish, because I give them the same speech. And and I, you know, if they're not willing to market, they're not going to be the ones that are visible. I mean, the speech that I always give is that sales depends on marketing. And there is no direct relationship between marketing and sales, there is no magic formula. But one thing for sure, is that a book needs visibility of somebody, somebody's going to buy it, they've got to see it. And so visibility is directly related to sales, because in the absence of visibility, there will be no sales, you've got to make it visible. And the formula is, you know, some advertising agency agencies talk about his impressions. And they say that you need at least four or five impressions before somebody will think about buying your product. So that's why in the slick magazines, you see ads, you know, full page ads for BMW or air mace, or, you know, clothes a quick vote tequila, it's not because there's a direct relationship between you see a BMW ad and you run out and buy a BMW, it's because you have a lasting impression from seeing an expensive ad in these magazines. And that's number one. And then you see a billboard with a BMW on it, and then you watch one go by enviously, and then you you read about one on Facebook that somebody just bought. And by the time you get up to four or five, and you're needing a car, you're going to be tempted, you can't go to every showroom and look at every car. So chances are BMW is going to be up there in the, in the top, you know, whatever percentage of cars you look at. And same is true as a book, they say you need five impressions. So Amazon ads, Facebook ads, blog, site tours, making a, you know, making a trailer for your book, anything you can think of doing we have services that we offer authors to, and they're things that help you get reviews, one of the primary things on Amazon is getting at least 20 reviews. And once you've got 20 to go for, you know, go for 100 reviews, once you go for 100. You go for 501 of my novels has 400 reviews or something like that at this point. And that just means that the sales start getting serious. And they also say that, as I mentioned before, if you write three novels with the same character, and then you're much more likely to get a following, because when somebody looks at it, and they get intrigued, they think oh, and here's two others. So if I liked this one, I can come back and read a couple of others. People like to do that they like to binge read, just as I like to watch, you know, binge watch bush or other TV series. That's the way we're doing it. Now. If you feel like Madam Secretary, chances are you're going to wait until the whole season's available and, and sit there and watch them on a weekend. more likely than tuning in the same time every week. And doing that we're one of our big viewing changes is that we watch things on our own time as opposed to watching them on the network's time and I'm not sure how Much longer that commercial networks are going to last, given how much pressure we have on us for, you know, to use our time.

Alex Ferrari 35:09
Yeah, I'm noticing that too, because, you know, even, even with even with mainline shows, I mean, Netflix kind of ruined us with the bingeing situation at Amazon and everything else. So now, like, when you're watching a network show, you're just like, Ah, it's, I gotta wait a whole year or whatever season to watch this whole thing play out, it's annoying.

Ken Atchity 35:32
It's not to mention having to go through the commercials. I mean, it's, it's just unbelievably annoying. I mean, I've even got to the point where, you know, I, I like to, I like to watch the news a lot during the day. So I'll get up at you know, when I get up at five o'clock, and, and record, CNN, and I don't start watching it for a couple of hours. And that way, I can go through the commercials because I, I just don't have the patience to, you know, turn off the sound during every commercial and, and they're endless, you know, they seem like they last 1015 minutes, before you get another 10 minutes of content. So that way of watching is, I think not going to be around too many more years, I think we are going to be binge watching everything uninterruptedly. And of course, that means the economics of everything will change because the networks exist based on commercials You can't blame them for, for doing what they have to do to exist. But but the cables have done is come up with another financial pattern, you know, to keep them going.

Alex Ferrari 36:34
Now, one thing that we all do, as storytellers and as creatives, we always have to deal with something called rejection. How do you in your opinion, how do you deal with rejection?

Ken Atchity 36:45
Well, I just do so many things that I don't have time to stew about it. You know, it's like, if you're, you have that much out there. And I I've written about rejection many times and in many different books and blogs. And basically, rejection is not something you should spend an ounce of your emotional time on. Because it's, it is a category that is required for success. I mean, if you don't fail, and if you want to call rejection failure, if you don't fail, you're never going to succeed. Because everyone who's ever succeeded, has done it through failing or being rejected. Just imagine if you were selling, you know, vacuum sweepers from door to door, if you got discouraged and had to go out for to the local bar for a drink every time you got the door slammed in your face, you would you would quickly become an alcoholic and not sell very many vacuum sleepers, right. And so what's interesting is in the book business, they actually use the word rejection. But in the film business, they never use that word I don't think I've ever heard it, once. They they simply, if they say anything will say they're passing, more likely, they're gonna say, especially to me that the door is always open. This just isn't fit here, right now. We just got a rejection on a major series that we know we're going to sell. And it from a major company stars, who told us, we have to pass on this right now, if you understand. But please come back here after Christmas, after the holidays, if you haven't set it up. And the reason has to do with, you know, regime change and all kinds of things. It almost never has to do. Yeah, it never has to do rarely has to do with the story itself, assuming that you've got a good story. So you just have to get used to it. And I tell my clients that the best way to get used to it is be working on something else, all the time. So your objective toward the thing you worked on before. What you have control over is what you write, you have no control over the fate of what you've written. And you shouldn't waste any time thinking about that. You know, once you've gotten it into the hands of somebody who knows what they're doing to represent it, you should simply start you know, creating more stuff and get put together a whole gallery of things you've created.

Alex Ferrari 39:12
Yeah, I also there's there's an element with storytelling in general is being in the right place at the right time with the right product. And there's certain there's certain time periods that a certain story, it makes absolute sense that would never fly in today's world. I mean, I always use Blazing Saddles, will never get made it to taste. Many of Brooks's movies would never get in today's world. But like I had a film that I was pitching around town eight, nine years ago, which had a female lead, kind of like comic book II style movie. And everybody would say, Oh, you can't put a female as a leader and an action movie. That's insane. Why would you do something like that? So I was a little ahead of the curve. Regardless if my story is good or not. That's it, you know, but the point is just the concept of the constant thing I was saying I heard and there weren't many movies being made that had female leads where now, female lead action movies are not a big deal. I mean, depending on the type of movie it is, and, and so on and so forth. So I do I do believe that that there is a certain timing good place for certain stories. Have you run across that as well? Oh, yeah, I

Ken Atchity 40:19
I don't ever forget, I was walking down the street in New York one day. And I got a phone call from a publisher and said, I am so sorry to be getting back to you. What, three years later? It has, is that book still available? And I said, I think it is we have some interest in it. But I think it's available. And of course, it was not only available, but the author had forgotten it existed. And long story short, I ended up making a three book deal, you know, that day, and the author was flabbergasted because he had moved on to other things as I had advised him to do. But the story set, you know, its timeliness had just suddenly occurred. And recently, I sold a movie that was on up channel on a novel that we had been trying to sell for 20 years. And there just wasn't a market for it. And we finally sold it and it was on two years ago, it finally played 10 did very well. And you simply would never know that it had been waiting around for 20 years. Like the Meg was the Meg, the biggest movie of the last couple of years that I've done 540 million worldwide to date that was sold 22 years ago for the first time. And it was simply in limbo all those years, going from one studio over the other from one writer to the other, and finally got made and, you know, knocked out the box office as, as I predicted it would 22 years ago. And that that's just happens all the time, a story's time has come, or it hasn't come. You can't predict, you know, whether your overnight success will happen in 20 years or in, you know, overnight.

Alex Ferrari 42:07
Now, with the mag specifically though, I think 22 years ago, it would not be the same movie as they made today, technology was just a little bit more advanced today than it was 22 years ago.

Ken Atchity 42:18
In fact, I think that was a good thing for the movie. You know, we plus it was much less expensive than it might have been 22 years ago, because the technology was is so much more advanced. And you know that that's true. So it's, it's almost like every story has its own fate and its own God in charge of it. And you really have to let it go the way you want a child at a certain point and make its way in the world or not.

Alex Ferrari 42:45
Now with with the movie, the mag specifically for people who don't know the movie, the mag was it was basically kind of like a jaws. But with a prehistoric shark that was just the size of a skyscraper,

Ken Atchity 42:58
a prehistoric 70 foot long shark, as opposed to a 12 foot long shark or, you know, 20 foot long forest. So not only do you need a bigger boat, you need to have a bigger ocean port to deal with. And so that that was a story that led to I think we sold seven more mag books for Steve after the first one, and then another six or seven books that are not about mag. So he built a whole career out of it while waiting for the movie to get Finally, you know made.

Alex Ferrari 43:33
Is there going to be a secret?

Ken Atchity 43:35
Oh, yeah, they definitely will be a staple. Soon as the US Chinese financing situation gets, you know, settled down. Both sides living in complete uncertainty every moment. That's the only impediment there there is right now to the story.

Alex Ferrari 43:54
Now, you obviously have pitched many studios, because executives, you've yourself been a studio executive. Or you have been a studio executive, correct? Oh, no, no, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. So you have pitched many studio executives. How do you any advice any tips do you have to pitching a studio executive your story?

Ken Atchity 44:15
Well, that's a good good question. Because I teach pitching all the time. And pitching is extremely rare opportunity because you have to be in the room with a person, you know who can buy something. And that doesn't happen very often. That's why we write treatments and written pitches. Because you know, an oral pitch is is a chance and and I learned quickly as a literary manager that at least 50% of the time, writers are the last person you want to bring into the room to pitch their own stories, because they have a very bad habit that they go into a trance when they start pitching and that trance means that they may be very excited and But they're no longer in contact with the eyes of the buyer. And as a as a professional salesman who spent all my life selling buyers and rooms, that's all I care about is your eyes. But I'm trying to tell you a story. Because I can tell within a microsecond, when you've lost interest in the story. And if I keep pitching you, then not only have you lost interest, but it's going to be impossible to recover your interest. And you're creating a negative view of the story. And writers don't even see that because they're in a trance, you know, they're in their own creative trance. And I always tell them, I'm going to kick you under the table, when that happens, so that you can come back to consciousness and, you know, recognize what's going on. Because most pitches are long when they should be short. Most pitches go on for 20 minutes when they should be two minutes long. Because the way you really sell somebody in the room is you get their attention in those two minutes. And then you let them ask questions for the next 20 minutes, until they're invested in the story that they that they got intrigued by in the first two minutes. So it's a it's a real art to be pitching. And it's something that the more you think about it, the worse you're going to be. And I'll tell you one story, I know we have to wind down at some point. But I once took a writer, a brilliant novelist who's going on to write for television, to HBO to Michael Fuchs, his office who was the head of HBO in those days. And we in practice his pitch at Warner, which was the financier that partnered with me to take it in there. And we went in said, Hello, there was a few minutes of chitchat. And Michael says to him, let me let me hear the story. So this guy, despite every warning, reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a little packet of three by five cards. And Fuchs said, what, what is that? And he said, these are just my cards, you know, to prompt me and he said, Wait a minute, didn't you write this novel? And he said, Yes. He said, How long did it take you? He said, a couple of years, he said, You You worked on the story for two years, you wrote a novel, it became a best seller, and you have to use cards, get the fuck out of my office, sorry, get out of my office. And we left, we left the office, that was the end of that sale. And it taught me you know, an important thing. Every time I go to a writers conference and talk about pitching, I tell him, you know, when you come up here to pitch, you're not going to have paper in front of you, and you're not gonna have your computer, you know, computer screen open, you're just gonna look at me and tell me the story. And if you can't do that, and you're not ready to do the pitch, so come back next year. And you know, when you're ready when you know your story. So pitching is, it's got to be from the heart. It's like telling the story. Imagine, you know, you go to Thanksgiving, you sit down with your dreaded uncle, because every time he wants to tell a joke, he takes out some three by five cards, so he can read the joke to you. I mean, that that's exactly what you know, it is the danger of a writer pitching. Well, I'm a writer, I need words, words come from your heart, they don't come to your, you know, from your screen.

Alex Ferrari 48:22
Now, do you have any advice? Any advice for about protecting your work? There's so much rampid, you know, thievery, or, you know, people just stealing ideas? Is there anything you could tell the listeners? How to Protect help protect your work?

Ken Atchity 48:39
Sure. I mean, first of all, I don't agree at all that there is so much rampant stealing of ideas. Okay. I, I ran across that and 30 years in the business, maybe twice. Were in both cases, I'm almost sure it was totally unconscious and unintentional. Because people go, you know, executives go to hundreds of meetings, pitch meetings. And if an idea comes up two years later, in another meeting, or somebody's looking for an idea, even though they take notes during meetings and trying to keep it all straight, they might not. They might not remember this is where they heard it. But mostly I never see this. JOHN Gardner, who was one of my mentors, a famous novelist, said that he once had written a story about a giant Alligator, and never sold it. But then found out that a movie had just been made. So he snuck into the theater and watched the movie. And he said, I almost fell to my knees after the after the after the movie, thanking God, that my story had never been sold because I thought, let somebody else take the rap for this hideous idea. You know, but I keep moving so fast that people can't keep up with me and that's the way you protect yourself by moving fast. You know? Not worrying about it. On the other hand, if you have to have an answer to that, you There are two ways to do it, you go to the Writers Guild of America west.org, and you register it, register your story register, your treatment cannot register ideas. Or you go to the Library of Congress, copyright register, and a page and register register it there. Those are about the only two legal ways to protect your story. And they don't protect your story, by the way, any good attorney would want me to make point to sell, they protect your claim to have written the story. The truth is that American copyright, international copyright, except for China, immediately protects what you've written, the moment it's written, you already copyright it legally. But to register your copyright, you can go to the copyright office and register online. And that proves your claim that on this, you know, particular day, you claimed that you wrote the attached story. And that way, if it ever comes to court, you can show you registered this and the only one only way someone can beat you, in your claim is by showing a registered ID two years earlier. And that has happened. Some big lawsuits have been won by, you know, false claims of authorship, by people who had registered a story two years after they're already been registered by the person who really wrote, you know, the story. So yeah, I wouldn't worry about it, I would spend like 1,000th of the percentage of your effort worrying about, you know, you're losing your your rights to something, spend the rest of it, writing a news story. Fair enough.

Alex Ferrari 51:48
Now, I'm going to ask you a few questions. I asked all of my guests. What, what advice would you give a screenwriter trying to break into the business today?

Ken Atchity 51:58
Right, just write. And before you write, watch every movie you can get hold of every movie you can see, especially your favorite ones. And read the screenplays. It's just shocking to me how many people send in things to us, that indicate that they don't know anything about movies. And they always start with something like, you know, all the movies made today are horrible. They're not like they used to be. Which by the way isn't true. There's so many contenders for the Oscar in every category. It's crazy. I mean, as somebody has to watch all these movies for the academy and one vote on them. That is just a preposterously untrue thing. But people say it all the time, which indicates to me that they don't watch movies. Certainly, I would tell a novelist. You know, don't write a novel until you've written read a lot of novels. And that's the number. You know, watch that, watch movies, read screenplays, and then write your screenplay. And just keep writing. Now, what

Alex Ferrari 53:02
is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Ken Atchity 53:08
That is such a good question. I don't I don't know if I'm ready to answer that yet. The lesson that took the longest to learn was I guess, being disappointed that people don't do what they say they're going to do. I don't think I still learn that. Because I see oh, you know, I deal with a lot of people. And at least half of them are more do what they say they're going to do. And they you can count on. They say they're gonna do it, they're gonna do it. But the other half don't. And it just surprises me that they don't and I don't understand, they swear I am going to do this. And then they just don't do it. And my brain was not constructed to, you know, either do that or understand how people can do. So I guess that's probably it.

Alex Ferrari 54:00
It's it's fairly shocking that people don't do what they say they're going to do in Hollywood. I mean, I've never heard of that before. It's very shocking. It's the first I've heard, I

Ken Atchity 54:09
guess what you'll find is true in the real estate business. And in you know, the architectural business and in the cookie business, every business, a cookie business. Yeah, exactly.

Alex Ferrari 54:20
Now, what is, what did you learn from your biggest failure?

Ken Atchity 54:28
Well, I guess what you learn from failures, never take anything for granted. And, and choose only the best people to work with you. And in particular, I would say choose people that are better than you. When you work when you're putting together a film for example, in any given field of the film and the given department, people that you can learn from because when you choose a weaker person that will We'll come back to haunt you. It's guaranteed. And you know, I have made that mistake and several times, and I don't want to make it any worse. So that was probably answer that question.

Alex Ferrari 55:15
No. And what are three of your favorite films of all time?

Ken Atchity 55:18
My favorite films of all time t that is that you think I get that question so often you think I'd have a pat answer to it. But one of them is a movie called fatso, which you probably never heard

Alex Ferrari 55:29
of have heard of that? So it was in the 80s, if I'm not mistaken.

Ken Atchity 55:32
Yeah. donvale always written, directed and started by Anne Bancroft mill mill, you know, Mel Brooks, his wife, one of my all time favorite movies, and and you mentioned the usual suspects, I definitely would put that up there somewhere. The pawnbroker one of the most unforgettable movies I've seen. I could watch it over and over again. I love life or something like it one of the movies that I made. I think it's still a good movie. I watch it on airlines whenever I can. Just extremely charming. It burns Angelina Jolie. But yeah, there's so many great movies. I, I kind of hate the question because it makes me choose when in fact, I'd rather give you a list of 100. Sure,

Alex Ferrari 56:24
sure. It's like choosing your favorite kid.

Ken Atchity 56:27
Yeah, exactly. You're not supposed to do that. Right?

Alex Ferrari 56:30
That's what they that's what they say. And now Is there anything you want anything you're working on anything, any new books, any new courses, things like that you can talk to the

Ken Atchity 56:38
audience about? Well, I just finished a book a few months ago called tell your story to the world and sell it for millions. Because I realized that, you know, having learned to to do storytelling on the front porches of Louisiana, my Cajun relatives who could come out and get you in laughter within seconds and others could put you asleep within seconds, who didn't know how to tell stories, I realized that there was no book that exactly showed you how to get from the front porch, or the dining room table, you know, all the way to signing a deal that could be worth millions. And that's what the book tries to do. I wrote with my vice president of story merchant called Lisa, Sarah Sally, we both had wanted to write a book like this. And so it just came out a few months ago. And it basically takes you from A to Z. And I'm really happy with that one.

Alex Ferrari 57:35
Very cool. And where can people find out more about you and the work you're doing?

Ken Atchity 57:40
My main website or the four or five companies that I run serving writers in various capacities. The main website is story, merchant calm, because it kind of shows you what all the different companies are, and you lead you from one to the other. And it shows you the movies and things that we've done, that we're proud of, and some of the movies that we're planning to do and series that we've set up.

Alex Ferrari 58:07
Very cool. Ken, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you, my friend, thank you for dropping the knowledge bombs on the tribe today. I want to thank Ken again for being on the show and dropping those knowledge bombs on the tribe, the business of selling your story, guys, it is something that a lot of people just don't talk about. It's always about the craft, and about how to work with characters and how to work with plot and how to create a great theme and all those things. And those are all part of the process. But you have to understand the business side as well and that business is ever changing. So you've got to stay on top of it. It is your responsibility as a writer to do so. If you want to get links to anything we talked about in this episode, including Ken's book, direct links to him and what he offers to writers, please head over to the show notes at indie film, hustle comm forward slash bps 059. And guys, if you want to get access to all of the Oscar contending screenplays, you can download them for free at bulletproof screenwriting.tv. Just click on the link free screenplays and it will be there for you or it's on the front page of indie film hustle as well. And I'm updating that daily. As new links come up as new studios put out new screenplays, I will continue to put them up there for you. And there is a ton not only this years, but over five to 600 other screenplays from past years all Oscar contending screenplays, as well as links to the entire screen play library at bulletproof screenwriting, which is categorized by director and or writer. So you can find your favorite writer or favorite director and see the movies and the scripts from their films and the scripts from that writer specifically So you can check that all out at bulletproof screenwriting dot t v. Thank you again so much for listening guys, I truly appreciate all the support for my new book, Rise of the film shoprunner and just your support in general of what we're doing here at bulletproof screenwriting. So thank you, again, very, very much. Happy Holidays. Merry Christmas. We'll be one more episode before the year is out. And then we're starting 2020 and there's going to be a lot of exciting new content coming to indie film, hustle, TV in regards to screenwriting. We already have hundreds of hours of courses, documentaries, things about screenwriting programs to teach you about screenwriting. And there's going to be a lot more coming in the new year. So definitely check that out at ifH tv.com. Thank you guys again for listening. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays. And as always, keep on writing, no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.

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BPS 058: Confessions of a Hollywood Script Doctor with Peter Douglas Russell

Today’s guest is screenwriter and Hollywood script doctor Peter Douglas Russell. I wanted to go deep into the back alleys of what Hollywood script doctors actually do in the business. Peter’s conversation was eye-opening, to say the least.

Peter Russell sold two television pilots in 2017. He enjoys working on projects both as a ghostwriter and as a consultant.  And he can both write and teach what he knows. So many successful screenwriters and producers have no idea how to teach what they do, and so many teachers can’t actually sell stories. But Peter does both.

Peter was UCLA’s Teacher of the Year in 2009. He invented (along with his then partner Cecilia Najar) a process called The Storymaker which you can use to quickly develop an original, complex, vivid story from a single idea — and the Storymaker is helping scores of his students shape wonderful stories.

Peter started as a story analyst in the 1990s and has read over 6,000+ screenplays for major film and television giants including Imagine Entertainment, Participant Productions, HBO, CBS, Walden Entertainment and dozens of others.

As he read these scripts, he started seeing deep, hidden patterns in the best stories. He wrote these down and started getting jobs FIXING writer’s stories. He got good at it — really good.

Peter was invited to teach at UCLA in 2004, and it became a passion, too.  He has now been invited to teach television pilot and film story creation at Pepperdine University’s Seaver College Screenwriting MFA program, at Story Expo in LA and New York, and many others. Meanwhile, Peter has turned The Storymaker into the most powerful tool for helping storytellers create original vivid stories. Simply and quickly.

Enjoy my conversation with Peter Douglas Russell.

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Alex Ferrari 0:36
I'd like to welcome to the show Peter Russell. Man, thank you so much for being on the show my friend.

Peter Douglas Russell 3:55
Thank you, Alex. Big fan. I think that you've got the whole Joe Rogan thing going. I really think I see great things ahead.

Alex Ferrari 4:05
I appreciate it, sir. I appreciate it. Now, how did you get started in the business?

Peter Douglas Russell 4:11
Well, I was a theater director in New York, in New York City. And I was doing really well. And then I went to a Broadway show and I saw what the directors were making even though they were on Broadway but they didn't have hits and I realized I was going to be poor my whole life and so and I was getting married and my wife wanted to move to LA she's from LA I said well let's let's go out to LA because I don't think theater is gonna ever make I'm never gonna be able to buy a house

Alex Ferrari 4:43
so then so then you said screenwriting that's that's where the money is.

Peter Douglas Russell 4:49
To get rich quick scheme is screenwriting yet rich in 30 years. Yeah, exactly. Or get rich never and live off security. Yeah, that's You know that but yes, you're right. But that but of course, and then I'm an idiot like every other idiot and decided to go out here and then I I lied my way into a job for CBS working closer into into Kupo, who was a brilliant, brilliant producer of what back in the 90s was what was saving CVS, which were the movies of the week that they had, which was the thing that and CBS was completely in the toilet. And this suit was she's an amazing genius of music. We made 80 movies a year close to it. And which is more than all the studios made? Granted, they were $3 million movies. And still, yeah, it may take six weeks. But I learned from her what commercial story was and how powerful commercial cinematic story is. And of course, it was a genre who was called the it's called the men are no damn good. Movie. That's that's what we call those stories. Men are no damn good movies. So like,

Alex Ferrari 6:05
it's a lifetime, basically. So lifetime. Yeah,

Peter Douglas Russell 6:07
yeah, it was, in fact, lifetime. They took away the business eventually. And a lot of the execs hopped from CBS to lifetime. But by then, Les Moonves was there. And CBS is really coming back. But I learned just how to quickly I was a script reader. And I learned how to quickly assess story. And I learned a lot about what makes great film story, because movies were everything then. And then I started doing these notes. And then these notes, I did script coverage, and then people would read it. And then the people were making a movie would read it, the director and they say, Hey, you know, this is really good. These notes are great. So what we got this problem you said and third acts, so what should we do? And I just started calmly, confidently telling them what to do. I didn't know. But I sort of got a knack for it. So then I started getting paid for my notes. And then I decided this is better than working at Costco. And if I can get paid for these notes, Damn, that's fantastic. And so I started doing notes for directors and writers. I'm doing film. And within about me, it wasn't quick. It took me like five years. And I worked as a script reader while I was doing this too. So I worked as a script reader for imagine, I worked for Brian Grazer, and Ron Howard. They were amazing, amazing teachers, an amazing just geniuses at what they do. And I worked for Brian doing Pete and Brian was an amazing guy. He, he if he's interested in something, he'll just buy all the books on it. You want to Einstein series, and eventually he did, right. But one of the things he decided he wanted to learn about was was quantum physics. So he got me to read several books on quantum physics now I'm an English major, right? So, you know, I'm basic math at Ralph's. You know, that's it, I can't even do that. So but I had to boil down these quantum physics books into into coverage. And I learned a lot. But he would, he would commission, and I learned a lot about movie story from him and TV surfing, remember he, he was an omnivore he would he would learn everything about a subject that he was interested in. And he had a Ron bass was going to do the movie script on onset. And eventually his thing became what's now on, I think, National Geographic, which is a series of television series, Einstein. But it was a long process. And I just got to watch, and also participate in his creation machine, which is an amazing thing to see. Because he was just, he's a, he wants to learn everything about anything that interests him. And then it eventually comes out in the story. So it was a great lesson in how you want to how your story gets informed by every piece of information about it that you can find. And I think it's why later on I got interested in historical stories in this miniseries that I just did on jack Johnson was also a historical figure, jack Johnson was the first African American heavyweight champion of the world. And I read everything I could get my hands on about him. Because, you know, Brian Grazer was sort of the guy who showed me, this is what you do, and your story will be so much more interesting if you know, all this information. So anyway, so long story even way longer. I started doing that and then eventually about, I guess, 12 years ago, I started going Writing for film for screenwriters, and I no credit and, and that's often still how I work. I get paid, I get money, I don't get credit. I'm not even in the W GA, although I want to be. And that's going to be a stipulation, I think of a couple of jobs I have coming up. I'd like to actually get in the W ga instead. And there's no real easy way to do that if you don't have your name on the scripts. But so for the last 10 or 12 years, I've done a lot of ghosting for a lot of screenwriters want help?

Alex Ferrari 10:38
So let me let me stop there for a second that I I've heard of, I mean, obviously ghost writers in novels. And I've heard of, you know, script doctors, which we're going to go a little bit deeper into script codes in a second. But I've never actually heard of a script doctor screenwriters script, a ghostwriter script, a screenwriter, like, like, are you writing full blown scripts? Or are you just taking other people's scripts and then really doing the bulk of the writing and then they get to put their name on it?

Peter Douglas Russell 11:06
It's all all of that. Sometimes. Yeah, sometimes it's someone who's gotten three drafts of a big screenplay or television now, which is, obviously a lot of my work now is TV. But they haven't, they'll have three drafts, they've done a lot of work on it, but they want it to be better. So I'll come in, and I'm essentially in those situations. I'm giving a lot of notes. And I'm actually helping them realize their vision. I don't go Okay. Well, I think this character ought to do this, this, this and this, and he's not getting I think we need storyline here. That's something I've learned that often, screenwriters, especially fairly successful ones don't really want you to do. They've got their own vision and use or you sort of, are there to, to deepen their vision and to really understand what they want. Now at the same time, often what happens is, I'll say, Well, what if we had them do this? And then they'll say, Yeah, that's great. And I love that idea for a scene. And I love this idea for a scene. And then sometimes you find yourself writing complete new storylines, but it's always in service to their vision. And if you lose that idea, you can run into trouble because they don't want you to create a whole nother story. It's not like you guys are writing partners, they want their vision, but better. But then there's also and this happens a lot with beginning writers and I work with beginning writers to, especially if they if they hire me, I'm you know, I'm, I will work for money. And often, people that are beginning, they do want to really sort of be shown what works. And they they really want my ideas. But there's all sorts of variations in that as well. Sometimes. They really want their vision still on the screen, but then I'm teaching them because I am a teacher. You know, I've been a teacher at UCLA since 2003. So I do and I'm a very good teacher, I'm probably a better teacher than writer To tell you the truth. I'm still feel like my writing is, it's certainly not the equal of great screenwriters. I have sold projects in the last several years under my own name. But and that's a great advance for me, but I don't feel like I'm anywhere near the kind of writer that, you know, like, Craig Mazin just did this Chernobyl. I mean, you watch Chernobyl, and you just go, Wow, I you know, that guy's on a different level. He's just, he's just amazing. So I, I'm very humble about my writing talents. It's taken me a very long time to sell. And I, I also, I also know, and it's always difficult to to tell people this or not, this is always a dance I do when I've got a, someone who's interested in doing this. What do you tell them? You tell them? do you encourage them? Or do you tell them the Absolute Truth? It's, it's a dance, because, you know, I've done this for 20 years, and I'm only now really getting some success as a writer myself. You know, john wells said that he wished when he started out and of course, john was probably one of the greatest show runners of all time. You know, does all kinds of fantastic stuff. Just I just saw his last season of animal kingdom, which he just pinned a lot of episodes himself. She's unbelievable. Uh, he taught he said he wished somebody told him when he started out how long it was going to take. Yeah, because I get people and you don't really want when you got total newbies, and they said, Well, you know, I'm gonna in six months I'm going to have this done. So I would go Yeah, that's fantastic. Yes, yes, you got to aim for that. You got to go for that. But the truth is that most of the time, it takes many, many years. before you're any good. And obviously, if you're a super Shakespeare genius, that's not true. But I only know one guy who sat down in a coffee shop, he was a comic. He sat down in a coffee shop and the first thing he wrote got sold. I know one guy who did that. And I don't know, and then I know a lot of writers and none of them did that.

Alex Ferrari 15:35
Okay, so it's rare on both sides of the camera like it's you know, it's on on for for actors to be a blowout success right away or for a director to be a blowout success or producer. It's those are called lottery tickets. It happens once in a while, like I had john August on the show the other day, and john doesn't look so how was it? Were you know, was it really tough? It was, you know, it was lucky my first script got sold. And it but it doesn't happen. It just generally doesn't happen. I think you're completely right. I I fall into the same world with independent filmmakers and even screenwriters would where I tell them this is a long game, you cannot think this is gonna, I've got a five year plan. I'm like, you're done. Like that. That's not enough time.

Peter Douglas Russell 16:20
Yeah, that's a five year plan to get me one place, but not all the way. Well, yeah. I mean, it's mean, you mentioned john August. I mean, he's, you know, he and Craig Mazin have an amazing podcast. And, um, yeah, he's super talented. I mean, I direct my students to him for just last week for some of his dialogue lessons. I mean, so yeah, a guy like that, you know, I don't put myself in that league. at all, as a writer, it was a painful, long process for me to even get where I am now, as a writer, and I just think I'm still a baby. I really am. Especially when it comes to TV. Because TV is a complex beast. And it's, it's where so much of my work is now it's so much more most of Hollywood's work is now although movies are coming back. But um, so when you're doing television, and you're handling four or five, six storylines. Yeah, I just my head explodes. It's such a complex form. So I yeah, it's, it's, I guess, if you're a super genius, like john Auguste, or this guy that I'm not going to mention, because I have, he hasn't told me I could tell him anybody about this, this comic guy who sold this, and he's very successful. And he just sat down and wrote it, but 99% of the very successful writers that I know, took a long time to do it. But yeah, there's exceptions. You know, Nancy pimental, who's an amazing writer on shameless. You know, Nancy was a comic and, and she just, you know, she heard her rise, you know, she doesn't sweat it, she just sort of writes it out. And the other thing I've noticed about people and I don't think Nancy would mind me telling the story about her. Nancy was a comic and but she's a stand up comic. And those guys always are super talented, super genius people they're just to do that requires so much. But she she got she sold a movie off of I think it was off of a pitch. And it was and it sold for an astonishing amount of money. This is before the big crash in 2008. And and sold for like a lot of money because that's when movie specs were just flying off the shelf people would enormous amount. And then these three brilliant actresses top named actresses, you know them all. They all they even moved into Nancy's house because they were all going to be in the script. And they hung out with her and they did and, and the script had insanely great buzz. And when they were filming, it was like, This is the next thing and you know, fantastic is going to be amazing. And all these actresses were talking about interviewing about and then the movie came out. And it was a huge bomb. And, and the critics were were just vicious about it. Now me I would have crawled into my bathroom with you know, with a bunch of heroin I wouldn't have come out for you.

Unknown Speaker 19:19

Peter Douglas Russell 19:20
Nancy had a party. And she invited everybody over to her house and the end to read these reviews and to watch movies and she just laughed about them. And and then she went and you know and then she she just started writing her next thing the next day

Alex Ferrari 19:35
because she's a stand up comic. She stand up comics has a diff they have a different resiliency. to that because it day and I know a lot of stand up comics. I've worked with a lot of high high profile stand up comics in my career. And they, they there's a there's a special kind of animal like to get up on stage with a microphone and basically have to you're very voice, your ability is the only thing that's going to make them laugh. And things even the biggest, most successful comics of all time. All have bomb nights. They've all had bomb situations that day. But they get used to it because it's day in day out every night and that made that makes perfect sense makes perfect. That's a great,

Peter Douglas Russell 20:20
you're absolutely right. I hadn't thought about that. But you're right. They they're in the fire. They're in the fire every night. And yes, they get they get humiliated horribly where Yeah, actors, writers, and we think humiliation to second hand or whatever, they don't really get scalded?

Alex Ferrari 20:35
It's not in their face. It's not in their face, like like a crack. Right?

Peter Douglas Russell 20:38
That's right. I have never done stand up. And you know, I think everybody who hasn't done stand up who thinks they're funny? They have that fantasy that Yeah, they say it's really hard. But I know if I got up there, I know. And I think that I that is the siren song of disaster. Right? And I still have that in my head. I gotta secretly admit I do. It's like, Well, you know what, I'd be different. I'd get up there. I'd be the one guy who I've never done before I would kill I just know I would kill. And you know, what would happen if I got out? It would be the biggest fucking sorry, the biggest disaster in history. It would be I'd be humiliated. Oh, yeah, my face would be made fun of like, all my secret horrible embarrassments. People would shout them out, you know, you know, that's what would happen. But you

Alex Ferrari 21:25
know, the funny thing is, I was directing a comedy special for a comic friend of mine. And we were doing rehearsals before the audience came in. And I stood up on stage and grabbed the mic so we can get some lighting. You know, I was doing a stand in. And I was I was looking out at empty seats, empty seats. And I'm like, Oh, hell no, like this. This is terrifying. Like, and I'm a I'm an outgoing guy. I can I can spit ball. I'm great. In a room, you get me in front, you know, at a party, get me a corner with five or 10 people. I'll have them on the floor crying. But this is I've worked with enough stand up to understand the technical aspects of their storytelling, how they do it, how they deliver the timing of it. It is it is such a brutal, brutal, and you've got to be kind of nuts to do it as a general statement.

Peter Douglas Russell 22:18
Oh, I think I'm fascinated by them. I think they're great. And I'm going to have to do it someday, just so I get that full, horrible experience that I know is coming to me that I dare to have the secret tiny little snuggery hope you know, the

Alex Ferrari 22:32
audacity Sir,

Peter Douglas Russell 22:33
you have the audacity, I know I'd be punished horribly for it. You know, I've always thought it'd be fun to just have 20 guys like me, these arrogant twits who think they can do it. Just get up there and give them three minutes and film it. I think the humiliation level might be compelling to watch. But you know, no.

Alex Ferrari 22:52
Do you know how much three minutes is that? Oh,

Peter Douglas Russell 22:57
yeah, one minute, you know, and yeah, I think that would be all you'd need. Yeah, maybe all you could stand me add to stay out three minutes that might be part of the horrible fun of it is they had to stay out there even if you were being eviscerated. But yeah, I think that comics. And the thing about Nancy is that she's so funny, and she's such a brilliant writer, and she's done so much great stuff on shameless. But she just didn't. I mean, I admired the balls of someone who, who could just get those kinds of horrible reviews and go forward I don't even like I can't even stand table reads I have to take tranquilizers to have somebody you know I I'm even when I've got the final draft, you know, voice up where they do the dog. I don't even want to hear that. So I can't stand being having my stuff bomb. I can't even stand watching it at a table read. So I've got some work to do on myself.

Alex Ferrari 23:57
Now, you obviously are a script doctor and you've done a lot of script doctoring. Can you kind of really explain to the audience specifically what a script doctor does and and in China kind of shine a light on the whole sub like this not sub genre. But the the, the there's a there's a very cultural subculture of script doctors that run throughout Hollywood that do a lot of a lot of heavy lifting that people just don't really know about. I know personally, multiple big names screenwriters, who have big scripts under their belt, but they have maybe three that been pop that have been produced, but they never stopped working. Like they're always script doctoring or taking this assignment constantly. So can you kind of touch upon that a little bit so people understand.

Peter Douglas Russell 24:49
Yeah, underworld. Yeah, the best way to describe it as I talked to the can't think of his name, but he's really good guy over at the W GA. About a year ago, I ran into any and we taught. And he goes, Oh, yeah, I said, he said, we don't, you know, we don't really have an official category for you guys. And he was kind of laughing. And I said, Well, you should I mean, if you want more dues, you know, we should be able to be in the WETA story doctors. And he goes, the problem he says, is that the writers wouldn't like it. He says, because you know that and they don't want. Sometimes they don't want to acknowledge that, you know, they didn't write the script. And even if just a story by credit it you know, it can rankle them. And so we there aren't enough for you guys to to put up that new category, compared to the source we'd get from the writers about it. Now, most a lot of writers aren't antagonistic about it, but they can be insecure about it and not wanting to share credit. So what they tend not to shocking, sir

Alex Ferrari 25:51

Peter Douglas Russell 25:52
Yeah, shocking. insecurity in Hollywood, but what they tend to want to do then is pay you. And so what you get into is a bit of a Faustian bargain. Well, it's not really bostian, because it's actually pleasurable. And I don't think you sell your soul, maybe you do, maybe it is fosston, because it does delay your development as a as a screenwriter yourself, because you don't get credit, but they pay it tend to pay you a good amount of money to help them. And then but you don't get a credit, you don't get your name on the thing. So

Alex Ferrari 26:25
any, any residuals or any benefits or any of the spotlight,

Peter Douglas Russell 26:29
you don't even have, you know, no health insurance, because none of the W GA. So what I'm going to do in the next couple of years is I am going to take less money for what I do, just so I can get a credit so I can actually get on the books somewhere. So there isn't sort of a surreptitious, furtive quality to script doctoring. It's a little bit shameful in a way.

Alex Ferrari 26:53
It's like a dirty, it's like Hollywood's dirty little secret in a lot of ways. Well, it's

Peter Douglas Russell 26:57
it's one of the cleanest dirty secrets.

Alex Ferrari 26:59
Very true, sir. Very true.

Peter Douglas Russell 27:01
But yeah, but yes, in a sense, we are kind of a horse in that sense. Come in, you get a and we leave, and we leave. And you know, no strings attached. No acknowledgement May, which I think keeps it underground. But it scores, doctors are fine with that, again, because the money can be very good. But it is when you if you want me to talk about what I actually do. It's really as varied as let's say you have a regular doctor, and he sees 10 people in a day. Well, he's going to do something different for every one of those persons, because they're all sick. But they all have different things wrong with them. But then of course, you can begin to see patterns there too. So there are things that are usually wrong with scripts. And you do look for symptoms. It's almost like you are a doctor, you can sometimes someone just walks in and the way they walk, you know, okay, well, I think I know what that is. or then you have to do X rays or CAT scans. And I have several tools for that as well. So I will, I will, I often asked, I often put the screenplay into a synopsis form, because I like to see the bone structure of the story. And often the bone structure of the story is wrong. And if the bone structure is wrong, then everything else is wrong. But bone structure, I mean, things like

storyline structure, what the characters do, it's often not right. So how do I know that? It's not right? What am I comparing this cat scan to? What's the ideal script? ideal story? Well, there are wonderful, wonderful scripts, and I've read probably 5000 to 6000 features. I counted it up last year, I think about 6500 features I've read in synopsize because I was just I was a script reader for 10 years, which is way longer than you should do it. Most people do it for a year or two and then they go into the business. Well, I was too stupid to do that. I just just kept reading more scripts. And then I've read several 1000 television scripts two of those. I've sort of distilled what what is what's good and what's bad. And believe it that the best scripts share certain traits almost always, no matter what the genre, no matter what the subject, and I'm not talking about French movies that don't follow Hollywood structure. Those are obviously out of my purview. You know, I love Godard, but he's doesn't follow commercial structure. You know, and and though that's great that he doesn't, but Hollywood does. Because Hollywood has to sell Hollywood has to sell to people all around the world. Hollywood doesn't have to ingratiate itself with film festivals, or have political connections like so many European countries have so that it isn't real whether or not you can sell tickets that gets you your movie. It's You know, on a film commission or who, or who you can get the money from politically, you know, those are, those are great models for filmmaking. But Hollywood is commercial. And so you have to sell tickets. So there, there are models that help you sell tickets. And by the way, I think selling tickets is the ultimate test of a great story. I mean, Shakespeare had to sell tickets. I think the reason Hollywood is so great, frankly, and I think Hollywood is great, the best movies are great. The best in the world is that we have to sell tickets, we are not just trying to please a group of judges or a literary committee or a political committee, we have to sell tickets. And yes, you can say, Well, that makes you a whore of China, whatever. And it does, but it also creates the very best movies, I think, the very best movies in the world. A lot of them are Hollywood, commercial films. So I've studied what those structures are. And they're fascinating, because they're not things that amateurs understand. These structures are actually really cool. And when I was just a professor at UCLA, starting 2003, I started showing these structures in class. And, and, and I became pretty successful. I was teacher a year there, I'm really proud of that, because I had these, I would. And that's all I really did is I showed these patterns that I'd found in film and television. Now, I thought that was really cool back then. But I was still approaching things academically. When I started applying all these patterns to my work, or to the work that I've started to get hired to do. I found that some of them were brilliant, and helped me a lot to actually create story. Some of them were more film theory and academic. So that was fascinating to see as well. So anyway, as a story, Doctor, I've got these ideas of what makes a healthy, great body of story. And then I take an X ray of your body or story, and I go, Oh, you know, your bones out of alignment, you know, your femur doesn't hook up with your buba you know, and that can be you know, if you don't have a core wound for your hero, you don't have proper reflector characters in your story. You don't have a good theme, you don't know where you're going in two of your storylines. They don't pay off, you know, 1000s of things like that, where I diagnosed those.

Alex Ferrari 32:24
Can you actually can you actually put to rest because I think a lot of variable especially first time screenwriters and even people who've been trying to get their stuff made for a long time, they fall into this camp of like, well, structure is going to take all the creativity out of this and it's going to be very formulaic, and I'm not gonna write like that. And I've yelled at screenwriters, often I'm like, Dude, it's just, it's like a frame of a house. All houses have frames, but not all houses are the same. But you still need framing, you still need a structure.

Peter Douglas Russell 33:02
I like the frame metaphor. I have one too, which is that Hollywood commercial structure is like a vanity license plate. Okay. When when you see a vanity license plate. The reason it's funny is that it's a limited form. It's a limited Canvas, right. But the canvas actually dictates the humor. In other words, you see a guy driving a Porsche around and his license plate. I think you get a words

Alex Ferrari 33:33
in letters. Yeah.

Peter Douglas Russell 33:35
And his license plate says three inches. Okay. So that's, that's funny, right?

Unknown Speaker 33:41
That's hilarious.

Peter Douglas Russell 33:42
It's funny. Now imagine that the license plate could be 10 feet long. And it says instead of three inches, it says, I'm driving this portion because I don't have a large penis. Right? That's not funny. Right? So you actually had more room to write something? But there's no entertainment to it. Yeah. Commercial form is a limiting form. You must in a movie. It's got can't be longer than two hours unless you James Cameron or Scorsese, or Peter Jackson. Yeah, right, Peter Jackson. But the exceptions prove the rule. And it can't be. It's got to have three acts. It's got to please the audience at certain points. It has to do those things. The genius of it really is figuring out how to write within that very limited form. Something that delights people almost precisely because it's limited.

Alex Ferrari 34:40
Like a high school like almost like a haiku.

Peter Douglas Russell 34:41
Yes, just like a hike. So commercial form is necessarily limited. But within those limits is where you show your genius. It's like I made a ship in a bottle, right? Well, if you made the ship out of the bottle, big deal, you know, anybody can do that. So you've got to follow This commercial form, but I find that sort of a delightful puzzle. Now having said that, you know, I used to be friends with Blake Snyder, who wrote save the cat and Blake was a genius. But Blake knew God bless him that his book save the cat was not sufficient to make to write a great movie, because he didn't have any say about character. He didn't have anything to say about huge portions of what it takes to make a great movie. He had a structure. Yeah, and you can follow a structure exactly, I have something called the bmrc structure, which all my students know about. But it's it's sort of like the 30 6090. But but I think it's cool. But anyway, you can do all that you can follow a structure and, and like your folks say, Oh, my God, you can make such a boring movie, you can have a perfect VMO you can have a perfect structure and make a terrible, terrible movie, you see it all the time. But most of the time, you don't. If you eat most of the time, you have a lousy structure, and it makes a lousy movie. But I tell people if they're starting to write, don't worry too much about structure at all. Do a vomit draft, right exactly out what you think you want your story to be about. Just write it all out. Write it out, don't worry about Oh my God, I've got 30 pages for the end of the first act, I've got to have a cliffhanger here. I've got to do this. write it all out. Write it a couple of times, I'll forget about anything. Don't write from a rulebook, you'll kill yourself. And then when you're sort of run out of steam, and your your movie or your TV show is on the page, one or two things will happen. One, you'll be that one in a million. Who goes oh, well, it's perfect. Here I go. You'll be john August, or you'll be this guy. I was talking about Craig Wright, but 99.9% of you. And by the way, these are the people that are going to make it these are these are really smart, talented people. 99.9% of them will be like, Oh, well, this is really just a heap of shit. And I've gone now I've got to make it better. And that's when you start looking at it and going okay, well, I'm going to ask you some questions. And the question is going to lead you to maybe make get excited about this guy, or get excited about this setting or get excited about this portion of it? Well, you did a really good job. These people are really funny in this scene, so let's explore who they were and what they are. And then you'll start going okay, yeah, yeah, then, and you'll get really excited about the story by my questions, or by the questions of anybody, you collaborate with her the reactions you get from them, and then you start going, Okay, wow, well, I want this to happen here. And that's going to have consequences here. And by the way, then you're doing structure, then you're then you're working on structure. And but here's, here's the truth, you're going to be rewriting this thing 4050 6070 times. And that's another sort of hard truth that it can be hard to tell the beginner about, because every beginner me included wanted to be john August, we all want to be the guy who just sits down, writes it out, you know, you buy a book, like one of those great books you can get in the bookstore on Amazon. Now it says things like, you know, write your screenplay, you know, while you masturbate, you know, write

Alex Ferrari 38:31
a screenplay in 30 days, or something like that.

Peter Douglas Russell 38:33
Yeah. Or you're in 15 minutes, I saw one that said something that you can write your they implied, you can write your script, while you are on a break at the office, right? Get get getting a drink from a cooler. And it's very attractive. And some of these people have a lot of really valuable things to tell you once you get that book. But the book title is bullshit. I'm sorry. Sorry. The book title is Bs, right? It's it just, you know, unless you're the one and literally 20 million, you're gonna have to work hard to get your script in shape. And you're gonna have to write it a whole bunch of times. And that's when structure comes in. That's when storyline when character when premise when all this stuff that I make a living doing comes into play. But yes, start from inspiration. Don't start from a rulebook, I think you'd kill yourself, and it doesn't work. So many of the tools I use won't work for you. You have to, I've got like 50 tools, and I see people come in and pick them up, and they'll go, Okay, I really love this one. I think this will happen and that doesn't really help. And then there'll be another one that they pick up like, Oh my God, this has helped me so much. So everybody's different, but you are gonna have to eventually structure your story whether it's instinctive or not. You will have to structure your story because it is a commercial art form.

Alex Ferrari 40:00
Now what is the biggest mistake? You see first time screenwriters make? I mean, you have read 6500 screenplays, I'm assuming you've seen a couple of patterns of mistakes.

Peter Douglas Russell 40:11
Well, the beginning script writer has a completely different problem than the professional. The biggest problem beginning screenwriters have doesn't have anything to do with what's what's on the page, it has to do what's in their head. And it is what we just said, they, they, I often feel like I'm more of a psychotherapist, than I am a writing guide for sometimes people that start out, because when they get that crushing realization that this is not going to happen in two months. That the story that they are, we're pretty sure And believe me, I sympathize with this enormously. I had it too when I was a young guy. The idea that in two months, I'm going to sell this and I'm going to be in Malibu, you know, and that and that motivates you. And I love that it motivates you. And you know, maybe that one in 20 million, you're gonna win that lottery ticket, and you're gonna be that guy or that girl. But it's managing the disappointment of my clients or students. learning that this process will take years that I find is the biggest mistake that beginning screenwriters make. They don't they underestimate how long it's going to take. And then when they get a glimpse of how long it's going to take. They crumble. Oh, and maybe they and by the way, that can be a really wise move. Okay, they're like, you know what, I don't want to spend the next 10 years of my life, you know, with four roommates, who are all you know, doing Chinese gone at four in the morning, and, you know, and I'm here, because I got to work my messenger job, I don't want to do that. I'm going to go be a CPA, I'm going to have a nice life. I'm gonna have a house in Toronto. And and, you know,

Alex Ferrari 41:59
there'll be but there'll be miserable, I promise you.

Peter Douglas Russell 42:02
Yeah, well, you know, maybe they will I always open to wanting people to take the right path. But they gotta know that it's a warrior path. It's a path of Machito it is. It's tough. This is not, yeah, this is a path of Bushido, this is not your standard issue. This is like going to med school. This is like, this is like particle physics. You know, and people say people in Hollywood. And it's a cliche, that they're that they're there's a lot of dumb people in Hollywood who lucked into their success, and they just do a few lines and they have a meeting and then, you know, then they go to their house, and they're done for the day. I never run into smarter people than I have. And they're just as smart. As you know, I was in academia for a little while. They're very much smart as university professors are very much as smart as Wall Street guys. They're very much as smart as all the typical stud occupations that brag about how smart they are around the world. Hollywood is full of insanely smart people that to succeed. So it's its path of Bushido. Yeah, you're you're committing to a path where some of the most competitive people in the world are trying to do exactly what you're doing. And you've got to compete with them, and you got to compete with their product.

Alex Ferrari 43:24
Now, what I find funny too, is that unlike the doctors, the lawyers, the CPAs, you can go down a certain path and and when you graduate, most of the time you'll be able to find a job, you know, your doctors are pretty much set up to get a job, lawyers, you know, it might be a little harder, but generally speaking, if you're even halfway decent, you're gonna get you're gonna get a job somewhere. CPAs there's, God knows we need more CPAs in the world. So there's always always I mean, we always work but you can go to you can get a PhD in screenwriting story and mythology. It means absolutely nothing in this business.

Peter Douglas Russell 44:04
Because it's a commercial business look, right? Hollywood doesn't give a shit. I just sorry, doesn't give a crap about your credentials. Right, right. Is it not a crap. And when people say because I teach at UCLA and I love UCLA, where I teach because the school I teach at, you've got to be working in your field right now to teach screenwriting or story development. You have to be working now. You know, you can't have done it. 10 years ago, you can't just have an MFA from film school and you decided you're going to teach at UCLA entertainment division Extension School, you've got to be working in your field right now to teach how to make a movie or television show and for me, that is great. That's why I love UCLA. Because you're actually getting it from people who have to do it. And so I think it's a people that is often asked me Should I go to film school and that That's, of course, a loaded question. Sometimes you should, if you've got rich parents or you're wealthy, and you want to learn a lot about film and maybe meet some people you're going to work with in the future. Absolutely, you can go to film school, it's going to cost you probably a couple $100,000. To do so, unless you're very lucky and give us a full scholarship. And that can be extraordinary. And I know that USC is great, UCLA is great. Right? If you are ordinary, middle class person, it's, it's a tougher question to answer, because so much of what you do is gonna be what you've learned, just doing it. And it's easy, do you want to be $200,000 in debt, and then coming out, and then you're still in the same place, or a similar place to somebody who hasn't gone to school at all, but who's really hustling it as a as a assistant, you know, in Hollywood. And obviously, if you've got, you know, hollywood parents and all bets are off, you've got a, you've got a smooth ticket in but most of us, you know, you gotta you got to think about that are is school really going to give you that much of an edge, I get a lot of people at my school, that have gone to film school, and they didn't learn what they thought they were gonna learn. And I think, I think if it's a third or fourth rate film school, that costs a lot of money, and there are a lot of them out there. I'd be very careful about going to a school like that,

Alex Ferrari 46:35
for screenwriting or for filmmaking there and but I do feel truly that there is so much information that you can self educate, you can take workshops, you can take extension classes, you can you can do what you need to do to learn the basics, and no matter all that stuff that they teach you until you're in the fire, when you're in the fire when you're when the bullets are swinging by with flying by your head. That is when you learn in my right.

Peter Douglas Russell 47:04
Eye. Most of the people I work with, a lot of them didn't go to film school, and they're very successful. I mean, the classic example everyone's faces. Spielberg, you know, didn't didn't get into USC, although they claim him as one now, but I was confused about that. But I really realized he didn't he didn't go they turned him down.

Alex Ferrari 47:22
No, he didn't. He went to a community college for a little bit dropped out of that.

Peter Douglas Russell 47:25
And by the way, community colleges are fantastic ways to learn your craft.

Alex Ferrari 47:30

Peter Douglas Russell 47:31
I you know, I went to an Ivy League school. And, and I gotta say, it was no better than for actually what you're learning practically. I think community colleges are often better.

Alex Ferrari 47:46
So better ROI, better ROI without question.

Peter Douglas Russell 47:49
I think they are. And I think the apprentice system, by the way, is a system that worked well for 1000 years. And I think being an apprentice, if you can get a gig in Hollywood, in an actual production company, I think that is just as valuable as going to film school or more. The other thing that I'd realized about film school is that I don't know if it's because it's just the nature of institutions. But they took a long time to pivot to television story. They were teaching film story exclusively up till just, you know, a few years ago, even when the industry had really pivoted to television after 2007. The bottom fell out of my business. By the way, when we had that big crash in 2007, all the independent film companies went away because the financing wasn't there anymore. We all had to pivot to television story.

Alex Ferrari 48:45
So yeah, I was gonna I was gonna ask you about that there has been an absolute explosion in long format streaming series, and there's such a need for content. Do you really believe that that is where a lot of screenwriters and writers in general can actually there's a lot more opportunity in those areas than trying to be a feature film screenwriter in Hollywood.

Peter Douglas Russell 49:05
Well, I'm sort of going to be a contrarian because yes, I agree with all of that. But having said all that, Apple is buying movies, Amazon's buying movies again. So these guys, these IPS, these internet platforms, they're pivoting and buying movies again, but yes, of course you're right. For the last six years, I think we've gone from like 200 scripted shows, and Hollywood delays.

Alex Ferrari 49:29
It's it's a lot. It's a logical,

Peter Douglas Russell 49:31
it's a ton of them. And but yes, so a television story has exploded. And it's kind of like the Russian novel I mean, as the longer they get, it's a sign of the of the absolute. The, the, the the the the idealization of the form, right, the television, long form television has become really a Russian novel and it's I'm so amazed and happy to be able to To be in a business at a time when there's such a boom, in that store, and then that stuff I've sold under my own name, they both been television story. So yes, obviously the market is way bigger than it used to be.

Alex Ferrari 50:16
But do you think but do you think there's that this is a bubble? Like, do you? I mean, you know

Peter Douglas Russell 50:21
what everybody says, No, it's not a bubble. And that means it's a bubble. But I'll say it too. Because I think television is just getting started. And it is because the means of distribution, right? It's just, it's just all internet now. And so those, those classical distribution channels of the networks and theater, they're over. So people have an enormous thirst for story. I've got students all over the world. Now, because i a lot of my I teach international students as much as national now because, because hell because the zoom because I, I can let her anywhere. And in fact, most of the work I do is at my laptop. Now even when I'm contracted for story doctoring, you know, I sit in my house, and I do the work, I don't even come in to, to Hollywood much anymore. So and that sort of reflects what I think has happened to the entertainment business. It's a pipeline now that's infinite. It's is it has no, you know, the old pipes were like, let's say the three inch pipes that carry so much water per hour, you know, those of your networks that your movie theaters? Well, the pipes now can be 800 feet wide, because that's the internet. It's just how much data you can pack in. So people's appetite for entertainment is insane. And it's getting bigger, and we've barely scratched the surface. I've got a Nigerian client now who's they're starting a new television network in Nigeria. So Africa is almost untouched. I have a client coming up a film client that's in South Africa doing a show and they're and they're they're building a studio in, in a in a city in Africa that that has never had production before. I don't think obviously things are going to crash and there'll be a crash. Obviously, this bubble will pop, probably because our financial markets will pop. And they're the ones that that fund a lot of Hollywood now. And that's what happened in 2007, I think, is when the stock market crashed, all the indie money fell out of film development, that'll probably happen again, you know, but it'll come back because we are thirsty for entertainment in our world. And so yeah, I think I think it's going to get bigger and bigger. Having said that, just let me caution. Again, this is an insanely difficult business to get your story even in front of people who matter. It's if anything, Hollywood's gotten more closed off in the last few years than ever, I used to tell my students Hey, you know, when you want because I teach a class on how to become a script reader. On Peter Russell script doctor.com it's one of my most popular classes. And I used to tell people at the end Okay, so now here's how you get in script reader job. You know, you go on IMDB Pro, you get a it's 20 bucks a month. And then you look, you look up all the production companies, you see what they've got greenlit. So that means they've got money. If they're making movies, they can't lie about it. They're making movies, that means they've got money, and they're the people are going to hire. So just find those companies. And then you look and you say, Okay, how are they going to direct your development? Here's the email. Well, guess what, a couple of years ago, they stopped putting their emails up on IMDB. And now either not even phone numbers there. I tried. I was trying to pitch a an exec I used to work for and I couldn't even find out what building he was in anymore. And I couldn't find his email, his old email. And I couldn't I still haven't gotten a hold of Arturo because I don't know what buildings I don't know, the company he works for. I know, I know where the building is physically. I can't I literally can't contact Dr. O. Because I don't have any way to do it. So they they sort of shut down. And I don't know why this is. But they've sort of even more recently shut down always to get in touch with them. So you've got a lot of frustrated creators out there that I have to tell every day like I'm sorry, it's really tough.

Alex Ferrari 54:34
would you would you recommend that? You know, like I always tell people that if you're a screenwriter, you should try to start, you know, developing your own projects and producing your own work. Because that's a great way to get seen because you're stepping yourself out of the crowd because not everybody does that. Yes. Yeah, yes and yes, right.

Peter Douglas Russell 54:57
Yeah, look, I was in a big film. Recently, and I noticed that the way people sold their work if they're new, they have a three minute trailer on their iPad and they go up to the sales agent or the manager or the agent. And they shove it under their nose and go look, here's here's what we did. They don't even give them a logline that even pitch them a script, they thrust this image under their nose. And so for two minutes, this guy will watch their sample reel. And it isn't a sizzle deck. It's an actual excerpt of their show. Let's say it's for women, they want to make the new friends. They shot it in their apartment in New York City, they're in Bed Stuy and they, they spent maybe five grand total on a on an eight minute webisode, which is a great way to, to pitch now to Netflix and stuff. And then they take it to the sales agent, and they just thrust it under their nose of the managers to go here. Here's what we did. Here's, we've already got it on, we've already got it down in the can. That's how people were selling at this mark. That's how that's who that's who Netflix was interested in. And they weren't interested in many of those, but they were in some of them. But if that's the way people are doing it now, not Oh, I'm going to take my logline and my script sample and I'm going to do a pitch, a verbal pitch for you know, four minutes in front of a manager an agent, they want to see that trailer, they want to see it. And it otherwise you're and that's if you can get a hold of them. I mean, just getting in front of a Netflix person. We were we did that a few months ago for them. For this jack Johnson mini series that we sold and the guy listen to the pitch. And he said, Well, where's your trailer? He's not we don't have a trailer. I've got this little picture of jack Johnson you want to see it? And then he any? And then he said, Okay, so how much are you going to ask? What do you want to um, how much are you going to ask for? If I was going to buy this? What What would you What would you tell me the price was, and we were so done. We hadn't even thought of that. And so finally, my partner is a sweet, wonderful guide. You said, Well, what do you think? And the guy gave us the finger. And he said, here's what you here's what Jasper never asked for less than that. So it but it's it was just it was fascinating to see, you know, the selling end of this? How how difficult it is just get in front of one of the people that can that can get your project done. It's very tough.

Alex Ferrari 57:31
I'll tell I'll tell you, I'll tell you what I actually got. I was reached out by Amazon Studios reached out to me about a project like out of the blue. Which is, which is insane, right? So I get a call out of the blue. And they're like, it's Amazon Studios. We'd like to set up an appointment all this stuff. And I'm like, great. This is insane. Right? Wow. And the project never happened. But, but I did have multiple calls with them. And then I spoke to some high level executives at Amazon. But every time they called me the phone number was different. Every I'm not kidding. Every time I got called their phone numbers were different. And I and then to the point was when this whole you know, we went through this whole pap project and it didn't go through. I can't get anybody back on the phone. Yeah, exactly.

Unknown Speaker 58:15

Unknown Speaker 58:16
I you know, I can't it's always

Peter Douglas Russell 58:18
the way it is a it they're very super paranoid. I'm sure they have to be

Alex Ferrari 58:22
Yeah, because everybody's trying to pitch them and even if they approach you they still like you're still not part of the team yet.

Peter Douglas Russell 58:29
Yeah, you know, Hey, watch out Be careful. Don't Don't get too close to me. I'm standing here but I could go away at any moment.

Alex Ferrari 58:36
It's It's, it's, it's hilarious. But you know, but what I find that, that i a lot of a lot of people are still teaching the old ways of doing things, which is that logline the elevator pitch and and that's fine, and there's still pitch fests and all of that kind of good stuff. But what sets people apart is what you just said, if you have a trailer, if you have a reel, a sizzle reel, something that a producer or a production company or somebody can see. And you have a good story, and you have a good script. That's almost I feel that that is the new norm. And that's where we're all going like if you don't have a sizzle reel, if you don't have four minutes of a scene, if you don't have a trailer, you won't even walk in the door, even if you can find the door.

Peter Douglas Russell 59:25
Yeah, and I've got a class in how to make a webisode. And I always urge people to take this class because the webisode form is an ideal way to show off your skills to a TV producer. It's a very short form, you've got to do a lot of things in it, you got to do what I call a BM OC, a sequence set. There's all these things you need to do in your webinar. And you really should study it. Because as you said, this is how you get the job. Now you don't do it with a pitch off a three by five card and maybe next year. That'll Change again. But this is the current market. And yes, you, you, you. And by the way, you only learn that by going to these markets and seeing how it actually works. I don't think too many people are teaching that because just the nature of the beast is that they are there behind the times. The other things you can do is, is obviously, you can put your shit up on YouTube. And I have to say that the one of the main reasons I have that I get my jobs is word of mouth. But also, I've done a lot of interviews now, up, and I get people contacting me, I go, I got my current manager, because she saw me on on YouTube. And, and of course, she hates me, I hate her. You know, she tells me I'm horrible. I tell her she's horrible. We have a classic dysfunctional manager relationship. It's just, you know, it, that's just kind of what it is. I mean, if this business is so full of, I don't mean, she really hates me, and I don't really hate her. But there's an antagonistic relationship you have with the people that that are supposed to help you sell. Because their job is so difficult, because you don't know so many things they know about the business, and you don't want to know. So you've you've, you're always, it's always an interesting day. This is never there's never a dull day. I've never had a dull day in Hollywood. always exciting. It's full of shouting and anger. And, and but also greatness. So I don't have great advice on how to get a manager an agent. It, it seems, it's almost like you almost have to it's like a real estate agent. You almost have to have a beautiful big house and they'll come knocking, right? It's

Alex Ferrari 1:01:47
exactly it. That's exactly it. Because if if you don't it's like that's a great analogy. Imagine if you're gonna go get a real estate agent, like I need a real estate agent or a real estate agent. When you finally get one. They're like, Well, what do you have? I'm like, I have this idea for a house. Yeah,

Peter Douglas Russell 1:02:02
exactly. And, you know, I often people always say, you know, to me, when I do seminars and stuff, they go well, you know, okay, just assume I've got a great script, how do I get an agent or manager? And I said, That's like saying, Okay, look, let's assume I'm a great brain surgeon. So am I going to do your surgery on you? How am I going to you that that assumption is insane? I mean, I have a great project. If you Why not be why not have a great project before you think about an agent or manager? Because I think some people think that Hollywood is a place where once you get in the door, everybody's the same and I okay, I love your project, all you need to see it, Here's your money. But the first thing I will tell you is what, what, okay, I'm a big agent, you're meeting me, what do you have to sell me? And people don't want to think about that. Sometimes they just want to think, Well, once I get that agent, I'll be able to write something great. We gotta write something great. You really do. And it can take you years before you even ought to think about an agent or manager. I know people don't want to hear that. They want to shortcut it. And there's some people in Hollywood, by the way, who will help you with that delusion, they'll say, well, we're gonna get you in a room with a bunch of famous agents and managers, that's, that's what we offer we offer access to you. And and people will pay money to get into that room. But then they don't have anything to sell. They're just, they're not gonna just like the person the agents not gonna go, you know what I like the cut of your jib Boy, you know.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:33
But that's the myth that Hollywood has been selling since you know, what's her name was found at that, at that ice cream bar back in the 30s?

Peter Douglas Russell 1:03:41
Actually, by the way, and yes, actors do advertise themselves on their bodies. I mean, if you're gorgeous, then that's sometimes all you need to be for an agent or fascinating looking, because that's a product that's a product that they can sell the product right there. And they'll take you, a writers that don't have that most writers aren't gorgeous. A few of them are actually my friend, Nancy Gordon, how

Alex Ferrari 1:04:04
dare you, sir? How dare

Peter Douglas Russell 1:04:06
you, oh, believe me, I'm not going to. But even if we were, then we might want to be actors. And that's fine. But our product is internal, or it's on a page. So we, we have to have that product, our equivalent of a beautiful face is our story. And and you got to realize you're not going to get an agent or a manager on the short run a force of your personality or your charm, or even your hustle. You know, I had a I had a manager telling me the other day, she said, Look, she said, I don't ever accept any manuscripts from anybody, unless they're a friend of a client. And she said, The reason is, if you're talented, you have talented friends. And you're and so that's, that's the only that's my filter is if I've already employed you, if you're already an actor or writer who's working for me, then if you Got a Friend, they'll be talented too. So that is, I guess the good news for someone who's a networker. Maybe Don't try to meet major managers or agents, but maybe try to meet talented people and befriend them. That can be a way to use networking to your advantage in Hollywood if you're a writer, have talented friends

Alex Ferrari 1:05:22
now, would you would you? would you suggest and I know this is a very out there concept. But how about spending instead of spending the time chasing a manager agent? How about spending that time on the craft and becoming a better craftsmen?

Peter Douglas Russell 1:05:37
Oh, yeah, that's the obvious answer. I always give that and that's correct. Yeah. People are thirsty for so many jobs are about who you know, they really are. And Hollywood can be of course, too. If you're a rich kid and your dad's the head of a studio, then your your, your path is, is smooth. It won't be easy, but it will be smooth. But for people who really want to say, Well, I'm a hustler, I want to be able to hustle. How do I hustle in Hollywood? I would say yeah, don't try to hustle and hustle up some friends, some talented friends you think are going places? If they get representation, then you can say hey, Dale, you know, here's my script, give it to her. And this manager told me that the other day, she said, I do believe if you're talented, you've got talented friends. So I just I'll read a script. If If one of my existing clients has a friend that has a good script, and they say it's good to read the script. But yeah, otherwise, it's very difficult to come into this town as a writer and network your way into

Alex Ferrari 1:06:39
gig. It doesn't, it doesn't work. Because at the end of the day, you have to have the goods, you have to have the goods, whether it's a product that you've already created, or multiple products you've already created to prove that you have the goods, they're not going to take you on the word that just because you're a nice guy, then I gotta go, you know, I'm going to give you that first shot on the next Marvel movie, because you were able to get to me and I like you that doesn't work that way.

Peter Douglas Russell 1:07:02
Doesn't work. And by the way, there is a slot for those people. But it's your it's your brother or it's your cousin or it's your son or daughter. I mean, nepotism in Hollywood is huge. So you're not going to get in there anyway, even if they do like you there that slots already full. It's the nepotism slot, you know, and and yes, that that's that's not going to work either. But hey, having said all that, you know, the business is bigger than it used to be. It's a really actually a really good time to to be entering as a writer. You just have to realize that it's also still insanely hard. It's the doors slightly ajar. But actually the door is not ajar anymore. It's just inside the roof. The house is bigger, but the door is still really hard to open.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:51
More people are trying to go through that door to

Peter Douglas Russell 1:07:54
I am maybe Yeah, maybe Yeah, you're right. I think I think you're right. You know what, I'm at UCLA in the coffee shop. And I'm sitting there and the entire university is all there, right? It isn't just filming. Everybody's talking about their television show or their screenplay. They're all you know, even if they're pre med or pre law. Everyone's got a show. And yeah, I think entertainment has become just overwhelming. It's exciting. I mean, I love it. I love I love what the business we're in. I think it's an amazing, fun, wonderful business. And yeah, it's so a lot of people want to do it for sure. But 90% of those 90% of those people won't really be your competitors because they'll they'll either stop when it gets really hard. Or they're too sane to take the take the notion that they're going to do something for five or six or 10 years that may completely not pay off. No, you sane people who think about their IRAs and retirement and you know and kids you know, sane people don't really enter this business. We're all insane. Without question,

Alex Ferrari 1:09:11
you have to have a little work carnies as I always say we're carnies. Yes,

Peter Douglas Russell 1:09:14
that's exactly what I say do yeah, we're comfortable. You know where those guys you saw you know, smoking next to the tilta world you know, when you were in high school would pop I tattoo on their arm it looks like they take your wallet. That's

Alex Ferrari 1:09:28
us. That's basically what we are. And and you've got to be a little insane to be in this business. There's no way I mean, I've been in it 25 years. And I've seen a lot and the one thing that's common is that everyone's nuts and diverse. There's very smart nuts, but you've got to have a little bit of insanity to to do this because like you just said, if you just sell the pitch of you're going to work for 10 years on something that you have absolutely no guarantee that you'll ever be successful at It has nothing to do particularly with you possibly, you might be a genius. But the breaks might not happen.

Peter Douglas Russell 1:10:07
Yeah, but chances are that the genius parts important. But look, I deal with this as a professor all the time, I have to tell, and I don't tell people this, but I should tell people this, I wrestled with it all the time. And in any fine art, this is probably the case. But one to 2% of you are going to succeed one to 2%, right? of a class, maybe not even that. Now, how do you palpably tell people that it's very difficult, but the fine arts have always been that way. They're very demanding, there's not many jobs. So you have to go into it with the idea that it's going to make you a better person. And also, you couldn't not do it. You know, and this is cliched advice that everybody Gibbs but it's true. If you cannot do it, don't do it. If you can, if you can avoid a career in show business, avoid it. Because you'll you'll probably be more content, at least in the short run. But if you can avoid it, those are the people who should do it. Because you're you're never going to be happy. Being a CPA. And if you've got that burning desire, you're just not you'd rather be, you'd rather wonder, hey, I might end up being an Uber driver. I mean, I don't know. You know, I've sold some stuff but but only in the last couple years. I did this for 20 years, without really having my name on anything that's sold. And, you know, I made enough money to live on thank God and most people don't even do that. But you because you do need a side hustle, usually. But and that's why screen. That's why script writing by the way can be a good good thing because you can do it at home in your jammies and eat but you can't you got to live a really small life. And by the way, why all your friends are having their kids in there. And they're by their driving the Mercedes and they got their big homes and they're and they're going to France in the summer and and they're doing this and doing that you're going to be in your rent controlled apartment in West Hollywood eating peanut butter. You know, I just always like to lay out the most dire so

Alex Ferrari 1:12:15
so peanut butter, what do we what are we? What are we the rock the raw Rockefellers peanut butter? Exactly. It's ramen, sir. It is ramen,

Peter Douglas Russell 1:12:23
Top Ramen, whatever. Yeah, it's that's what it is. But, you know, a Jerry Seinfeld said, you know, he was interviewing the South African comic. Oh,

Alex Ferrari 1:12:35
yeah. Real Africans? Yeah.

Peter Douglas Russell 1:12:37
Yeah. And, and in the guy said, he said when you get up and, and he said, I get up at, I get up around 11pm. And then I go to clubs, I go to five clubs. And then I get home at eight in the morning. And Seinfeld said to him, oh, you're you're you're a classic, you're going to be just fine. You're gonna This is going to be your, your your life, and you're going to do really well. And of course he has. But that's the sort of pure dedication that this sort of thing requires. Did you?

Alex Ferrari 1:13:14
Did you ever see the documentary Jiro dreams of sushi? No, but I heard of it. It's a fantastic documentary about this master sushi chef, who's whose restaurants in a subway. He's the only sushi chef ever to get a Michelin star. That's how good he is. Wow. And when he got away in Japan, he's like in a subway somewhere in Japan and like takes three months to get a get get a reservation. And basically you walk in you don't you say nothing. And whatever JIRA gives you you eat, and that's basically it. But But your life will change once you do it. But what the reason I'm saying is if you want to be an apprentice with him, it's a seven year apprenticeship. And you have to agree to seven years. I think it's seven or 10 years. I'm not sure. I don't remember exactly. But what I found really fascinating is because you know, this is exactly what happens with screenwriters and filmmakers. is they want to jump in. They're like, Oh, I want to I want to jump on that techno crane and let's let's start moving the camera. I want to be like Scorsese and everything like I gotta calm down. Calm down. Sorkin just calm down for a second there apprentice in order to touch fish. Because if you're a sushi apprentice, you you're assuming that you're going to touch a fish, right?

Unknown Speaker 1:14:29

Alex Ferrari 1:14:31
You don't touch fish for three years.

You're all you're No, no, no,

you're cooking rice.

Peter Douglas Russell 1:14:38
Oh my god.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:39
You have to cook the rice you have to master rice first, before you're ever allowed to touch a fish. And that is what we hear in our business need more of and the more understanding of that. You're going to have to write and write a lot A lot. That's true. And you

Peter Douglas Russell 1:15:03
know that my, what I see a lot, and I did this myself is, I would think about writing more than I wrote. And I think they're, they're six months or a year I'd go by I, you know, that's a fantastic idea. I just have to write it down. And there's a lot of that in the biz, which is that, you know, you don't actually get to the on the page, you don't do that much writing. And that's a really bad thing. And a lot of, I think a lot of people when they feel I haven't gotten anywhere, you say, Well, how much have you actually written? Do you write every day? No, I write once a week I write when the spirit moves me. Then, you know, it's they're not cooking that rice, right? They're just not cooking the rice. And, and, and so Yeah, and I think I also had a person that a lot of money that I trust fund, and they'd wanted to be a screenwriter for like, 20 years, but they actually only written one script in that entire 20 years. So there wasn't that urgency. Yes, you got to write you got to do your thing. And that's why I think it's great to apprentice with someone, and really just start doing scenes and start and pick up the camera and make something, you know, make a tic tock, you know, even even these commercial forms, that are, are are now prevalent in social media where you have 30 seconds to make your movie, or 45 seconds to make your movie, or Tick Tock I don't think that's 15 or 20. Those impose discipline on you and they make you need to tell a story in that form. And it's all about that discipline. So yeah, cook the rice man. that's a that's a good metaphor.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:41
Now, I'm gonna ask you a few questions. Ask all my guests. What are three screenplays every screenwriter should read?

Peter Douglas Russell 1:16:48
Oh, wow. Um, well,


okay. Are we talking film? Are we talking television?

Alex Ferrari 1:16:56
I mean, give me give me a couple of film and one television one.

Peter Douglas Russell 1:17:00

Unknown Speaker 1:17:02

Peter Douglas Russell 1:17:03
I think one of the greatest Okay, so so there's I have to go to with TV. That's one is the wire. And I I think you should read the wires entire first season, which I guess is cheating because yes, one script but and also read the wire story Bible. Because Simon is and I don't know if you've seen the deuce the his newest one on the deuce. Simon is one of the most brilliant journalistic writers there are, he creates worlds and his dialogue is extraordinary. It's so naturalistic, it almost feels like a document, documentary. And that's true of all of his work. But if you want the most sort of brilliant, naturalistic storytelling, you can find around I think he and and then also, Chase. So in television, I really think there are three great guys you want to you want to want to study? Yes, one of them is, is Simon the other one's David Chase and the sopranos. Because again, the writing is extraordinary. And then I think that Matthew whiner also is a brilliant teller of television story. I think that I'm sorry, I'm going to go to Vince Gilligan course, if you want to study the our form to television form. Vince Gilligan is just the greatest at what he does, I still teach the pilot of

Unknown Speaker 1:18:57
Breaking Bad,

Peter Douglas Russell 1:18:58
breaking bad because it just, it just shows you what an amazing writer was. Now, I will also tell you that I think for network television. I think you can study john wells, I think the way that wells writes is amazing. And it's a sort of a different kind of, of storytelling on network. So so those are the guys that I would, I would really recommend. They're the sort of the classics, okay. And then I think, by the way, Phoebe Waller bridge. Also television writer of fleabag Phoebe bridge is an extraordinary writer. She's just she's probably the best new television writer we've got comes out of playwriting as a lot of these guys do.

Unknown Speaker 1:19:51
And then for

Peter Douglas Russell 1:19:55
for screenplays, gosh there's

Unknown Speaker 1:19:59
almost no To

Alex Ferrari 1:20:00
three to come to mind three to come to mind.

Peter Douglas Russell 1:20:02
Okay, well, I this is one that I don't know how much he's gonna help you. It's Charlie Kaufman. I love Charlie. Love. But she's he's so he's such a singular genius. He doesn't follow structure really, although we really kind of does. But it's difficult. But I love him. I can read his stuff all the time. And, and so I also Well, I think that so many I think that probably Yeah, that's really true. Okay, so in I think that Robert Towne I do think that the the the mystery thriller is such a potent vision so I would, I would say town as classic. And and then I would I think the cones I think Joel and Ethan Coen are probably the greatest filmmakers that we have right now to write television to. And if you like action, I think Christopher McQuarrie I often use his stuff for modeling action, Allen ball, anything. I almost go more by writers than by by word. Sure, because it's what helps me an Allen bolt has been enormous help for me in a drama that I'm I'm writing right now. Steven Zaillian is amazing. I'm sort of a classic. I've been I've been reading William Goldman's scripts, who was a 60 screenwriter, and he's his world building and his, his cinematic style is, is just amazing. I love Brian Helgeland.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:56
There was 33 sir three, there's three.

Peter Douglas Russell 1:22:01
I went nuts. I was thought that way. That's there's like 40 more that are just about as good so bad. But yes. But you know, I think that Yeah, that'll do. Okay, so

Alex Ferrari 1:22:12
Okay, good. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Peter Douglas Russell 1:22:22
How hard I have to work. I I'm kind of lazy. And I think it's probably the reason that took me so long to succeed. I'm kind of lazy. And I have delusions of grandeur. So I kind of, I kind of want to be a big deal. But I when I see the work involved, I'm like, Oh, God, damn, let's just, let's have a, let's have a join. I think learning how to work super hard. Was was the toughest lesson for me in life. And also, as a writer, you know, the first thing I ever wrote, won a big prize. And I thought that was really cool. I was 20 years old. And I thought that I was home free man, my life was going to be fantastic. And, and it was the worst thing that could have ever happened to me because I didn't have a good work ethic. And I thought I was a genius. And I see a lot of people with that who want to go into Hollywood. They they think they're a genius. And that's gonna be more important than their work ethic. And the appalling truth is it's not. And and a work ethic is everything that your boy scout master and all those nasty adults that were so boring with all the things they told you about. That life was about that you sneered at if you were a little rebel like me. Turns out they were right. That that hard work is an enormous important part of success. And yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:23:52
now what is what did you learn from your biggest failure? Oh,

Unknown Speaker 1:23:57

Peter Douglas Russell 1:23:58
Well, I wrote a book that I wrote three quarters of a book, when I wanted to be a novelist, because that was my first big love. And it was picked up by probably the most prestigious publisher in New York, even when it was even just halfway done. I got a big agent. I just sent her the first chapter. And she was, oh my god, you're the next whatever. And then she sent it to this press, and they said, Oh, my God, you're amazing. We had a meeting about you. We want it we want you to come to New York, blah, blah, all this wet dream crap that you never imagined going to happen to you happened to me. And then I couldn't finish the book. Even though the publisher flew me out to New York and said, Hey, we're gonna sit down with you and walk you through the outline something my man, my agent said, it never happened in our old career. This guy here. That's how much he he loved my vision and said, I could never finish the book. But why? Well, and this goes to structure and what we talked about earlier, what You were saying about structure and what people think about structure. I think what happened is, I had written the first half of the book purely on instinct, and adrenaline and pleasure. I didn't have a clue in my head, what was gonna happen next. And then I got halfway done. And I should have just finished. But I got halfway done and, and I thought, Oh, well, you know, I got to get an agent. But we got enough here, I read it in a book, you've you got a couple of chapters, you send it out. So I sent it out, I sent half the book out, and got the agent got the publisher got it all. And then they said, This is fantastic. We can't wait. I got an advance. Then I went back, I was living in Topanga and I went back to my little cabin. And for the next six months, everything I wrote was shit. Because sorry, crap, because I have this structure. Now in my head, now you've got to do this. And this, now your hero has to do this, this and this. And I couldn't get my hero to do any of that stuff, all the entertaining, effervescent tone, because it was a comic novel was gone. And nothing he did, it was all LED. And it was my It was awful. And, and three times the publisher tried came in with a new plan. Oh, that's terrible, Peter, but you're always gonna, you're gonna do it. Here's another plan. Here's another, you did. So structure can sometimes kill you. And that's why I imagine I say when you're writing your script, and you're cooking, don't quit. Just get it all out on the page, write your excitement, as long as you can, maybe you'll be done. And even if you're not done, you'll have this whole work on the page that have a piece that isn't about Oh, got a plug in column A got to do B got to do see, because that can kill your creativity.

Unknown Speaker 1:26:59
So yeah,

Peter Douglas Russell 1:27:01
I that's my that's what I learned from my biggest failure. So don't try to rely on books and structure and stuff you read. Just ride your own excitement as long as you can. And then you'll have to go to structure and stuff. And by the way, Hollywood Story is such a complicated form, that the chances are, you're not going to get the whole thing out. And you are going to have to and this is the last thing I'd say, if you can have a collaborator, have a collaborator. This is such a lonely business. And it's so hard. If you have somebody who helps you who you're co writing with, I've seen it many times, because that's kind of what I get hired to do. Sometimes I'm professional friend, I'm your screenwriter, but I'm also your friend in this business. You know, I'll help you at this moment. If you can have a collaborator, so many people do. And the reason is, this is so hard, and doing it by yourself can feel terribly lonely. So having a it's not till I got partners, by the way that I really sort of started having some success under my own name.

Alex Ferrari 1:28:09
Now, where can people find out more about you and the work you do?

Peter Douglas Russell 1:28:12
Okay, well, it's just this simple. It's my last my first and last name, Peter Russell, script doctor.com. That's it. Peter Russell script doctor.com. That is where if you go to Peter Russell, script doctor.com. That's where all my classes are my lectures. I've studied most genres, and I have lectures in every genre on my site. And they talk about all the things I've observed that the greatest writers in this genre, whatever the genre is, love stories, ROM coms, action, whatever the common patterns are, that these guys and girls, us, I show you those patterns. And I've noticed that when I give a writer these patterns, when they get stuck in their story, if they're writing a rom com, or they go and they look, and they see Oh, that's what this guy did at this point. Oh my god. And this is how this guy created this character. And this is how these lovers fell in love. And this is how they, this is when they fell out of love. And this is why and this is what almost every great romantic comedy character has in them every time so and some of those things will, in my experience, they will set your heart at glow and they'll fire you up again and you will be excited about your project. Because, you know, like Picasso said, you know, talented people borrow geniuses steal. And I do think that and this These aren't structural patterns, although those are in some of them. These are tricks. These are tricks that The greatest people like Tarantino use in his story, their tricks, their tricks with guns, their tricks, with knives, their tricks with the suspense, their tricks with the way you enter a scene and get out. He stole so much of what he did from 1970s drive in film directors, a whole bag of tricks that that he uses and all of his work. He stole from classics too, but you want to steal stuff, and you can't patent suspense devices. You can't patent what Hitchcock did, you can't patent What lowen? Does, you can't patent what tintina does. They're there for you to steal. And I just show you the big glass case of things I've stolen. Hey, would you like to try this? You know, here's a plot device, man, I think you'd love it. And you go, Okay, I'll

Unknown Speaker 1:30:50
try that. Let

Peter Douglas Russell 1:30:50
me have one of those. And two of those. It's like when john wick goes into get his guns, you know. So that's kind of what I've got there on that side. It's a glass cabinet full of tricks you can steal,

Alex Ferrari 1:31:00
Peter, we can keep talking for at least another two or three hours. I know for sure, for sure. But I do appreciate you taking the time and dropping knowledge bombs on the tribe today. And it's been very educational, without question. So thank you so much for being on the show, my friend.

Peter Douglas Russell 1:31:16
Dude, I love your show. And I think you're performing a real service. And it's been really entertaining and fun. So yeah, I I've been really appreciative. Thanks for your intelligent questions.

Alex Ferrari 1:31:30
I want to thank Peter for coming on the show. I really appreciate all the insights that you brought to the tribe today. So thank you, Peter. If you want to get links to Peters work his his little tricks of the trade that he offers on his website for you guys to take a look at and steal as he puts it, head over to the show notes at indie film, hustle, calm forward slash bps 058. And guys, if you haven't already checked out I have done a complete revamp of indie film, hustle TV, and I added a ton of new trainings series Doc's about the screen writing process. It has become a treasure trove for not only screenwriters, but for filmmakers as well. If you want to check that out, please head over to eye f. h. tv.com, available on Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, as well as iPhone, iOS and Android apps. Thank you for listening. I really appreciate all the support. I hope this episode was a value to you on your journey. As always, keep on writing, no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.

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