BPS 055: Writing and Selling Screenplays Outside of Hollywood with Allen Johnson

Today’s guest is screenwriter Allen Johnson. Allen has taken a unique path to become a working screenwriter. He has been able not only to sell ten screenplays but has been able to do it without an agent and living outside of Hollywood. Allen lives in South Carolina, not exactly a mecca for screenwriting. In this episode, we dive into how he was able to make a living writing screenplays ys and discuss his tips and tricks to get screenwriting gigs.

Some info on today’s guest: Allen Johnson is a Screenwriter, Historic European Martial Artist, and a fight choreographer/stunt fighter. Allen has had several screenplays and stage plays produced with several more in development. He has trained in historic swordplay for over 15 years and has been involved with the Society of American Fight Directors for about 6 years.

He also teaches numerous screenwriting classes, workshops, and panels, and has appeared as a guest speaker on writing as well as providing script coverage services to others. He continues to train in historic martial arts with the Palmetto Knights: Historic Steel Combat Team, based out of Columbia, South Carolina.

Enjoy my inspirational conversation with Allen Johnson.

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 0:36
I'd like to welcome to the show Alan Johnson. Brother, thank you so much for being on the show, bro.

Allen Johnson 3:49
I am honored to be here. Thank you so much for the invite. Looking forward to it.

Alex Ferrari 3:52
Yeah, man. Absolutely. So you are a longtime tribe member. Without question, you bet. I talked to you on on the Ask Alex show when I was doing that for a while like this, like two years ago now?

Allen Johnson 4:06
Yeah. Yeah. years ago. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 4:08
It two, three years ago, we did that. And we were talking. And you reached out to me the other day. And you were just just as a casual statement, you just said oh, by the way. Yeah, you know, I've shot I've sold 10 scripts, and three of them got produced. And I also sold some plays, and they're being produced as well. And you know, and I'm like, wait a minute, you don't live in LA? And like, how does this work? So I was like, I need to get you on the show. I invited you on the show. Because I want to give everybody out there who's listening to this podcast, some hope that you don't have to live in LA to make this happen. You look, we all love to get the big giant projects, but there's ways of making a living with your art and with your writing outside of the Hollywood system. So before we jump into all of that, sir, how did you get started in the business?

Allen Johnson 4:55
Well, it's been a really long slow journey like most kids have. Are our vintage were of similar vintages as you'd like to say, yeah, you know, I grew up obsessing over our film heroes, you know, I, I wanted to be Obi Wan I wanted to be Indiana Jones. You know, I wanted to do all I wanted to be James Bond all these exciting action heroes, you know, that we grew up with. And I grew up mainly in South Carolina. And as we all know, it is another mecca of Hollywood. Yeah, I mean, there was nothing, there was nothing. There was no realization that, you know, people actually did this for a living. It was just a magic thing that happened in a dark theater, you know, so I never really had any formal education. The only time I ever got close to anything was like my senior year in high school, my friends and I got together and made a ridiculous spoof film, it was awful. We had to borrow a VHS camcorder from the athletic department in order to shoot this thing over a single weekend. It was awful. But that was my that was my first taste. And I was never a great student. I was always the one always daydreaming, getting that was the note always going home to my mom constantly daydreaming? Well, look at me now. daydreaming for a living, right? Yeah, but, but but I couldn't get into a really good university, I went to a junior college for a while and actually had a decent little theater program. And so I started getting into acting, a few classes, you know, of touching on to script analysis, stuff like that. And I enjoyed that. And then I finally was able to transfer it to a four year university, I transferred to the University of Utah, which is great, because we had Sundance right there in our backyard. So I had an opportunity to see that. And you know, and again, though, this was in the early 2000s, you know, this is like 2000 2001 2002. So is it's a very different world than it is now. We were just starting to see the the the the celebrity invasion of of a Sundance and how that thing changed over time. But I continued to make a few little short films here and there, nothing was, it was it was really great. I was not a talented filmmaker. The education that I got, there was mainly theoretical, a lot of film theory, I read a ton, and watched a ton of movies, which are great, great education. You know, I think that's something that's missing from a lot of young filmmakers today, they don't study the classics. And so I had great background in that great study. But all the upper level classes were all they were they were geared for people who were voted in essentially by the administration, and they only had a very few amount of cameras and equipment. And back then everything was taught on 16 millimeter, because that's how real artists did it, obviously. And of course, you know, back then, I mean, they taught editing as actual splicing flap out of the film. Yeah, I remember seeing walking by these guys with these glazed look in their eyes, staring at this flip flop flip flop thing in this box, you know, as they're taping, their, you know, pulling the tape across their thing, learning how to edit and, and of course, we had to fight over the few high eight camcorders. And we were editing on like a 1999 version of Final Cut. You know, the one that if you had a five minute video took about five hours to render, inevitably, it would crash halfway through, and then you'd have to start all over, you know, people sleeping underneath the desks in the editing room and stuff like that. And so that was, you know, my film education and I, during this time, I was never aware of any kind of, you know, here's a way to get out to LA and here's what here's a sponsorship or any kind of internship or anything like that. Nothing like that was available, or, you know, they just didn't offer it to me. One way or the other, you know, that was it. But at the same time, I was continuing to try and do acting, I found a little agent, they're in town, and I started doing commercials and things like that, at the same time. Kind of my other passion along with this. I do historical European martial arts. I specialize in historical European sword fighting. So I started sport fencing in college. And then I got into the more historical aspect, I started finding ways to get into films that way, doing some stunt fighting, doing some choreography. But after a while, I started really focusing in on my screenwriting classes had a really great professor. And that's where I really found my love, I really found being able to sit there and create and to delve deep into these characters and come up with whatever I wanted. I didn't have a budget you know, so that was that was really became a passion for me and that's really where I kept kept honing my craft. In fact, I took it took the class a couple of times without getting credit for it. You know, I had expired my allotment for getting collegiate credit for this class, but I kept wanting to take it because I loved the the atmosphere so much.

So that went on for a while and then Everything started to stagnate. life wasn't going well had some relationship changes that didn't go well. I was getting down is getting depressed. I was working at a movie theater as a manager, and then a glorious gig, you know, do whatever you can to even touch the the the

Unknown Speaker 10:17

Allen Johnson 10:18
the cell. Yes, yes. And then we actually had to back then we actually had, you know, flatbed reels with the the film on it, you know, we had to do an upright, you know, stuff like that. So I'm sitting there. And, you know, I one day, I'm sitting there opening up the theater, and it wasn't in a great area of town, I've got a gun press up to my face, because a guy's jacking the till for literally 65 bucks. I'm like, Dude, this is gonna buy you a shoe. You know, not, not even a pair. And so I think I need a life reboot. I just need to kind of hit reset, and it was your Fight Club moment.

Alex Ferrari 10:54
It was when Tyler journey puts it puts a gun to the head at the end in the back alleys. Like, what do you really want to do? Yeah.

Allen Johnson 11:01
So, but at this point, I didn't have any options. So I went back home to South Carolina, I went back to my roots. And, you know, again, I was hoping that I'd be able to kind of re get back into things and find a new way to get back in. But it was even worse. You know, it was it was just dry. There was no market, there was no opportunity. I did find a little agent got a little extra work here and there. But if

Alex Ferrari 11:24
you got an agent in South Carolina, yeah. So they had no, they had screenwriting agents writing agents in South Carolina says

Allen Johnson 11:31
more is more Talent Agent just because I was trying to grasp for anything, so it was not a literary agent wasn't anything like that. So I got in a Kevin Bacon movie as an extra sitting in an office and you know,

Alex Ferrari 11:44
assuming Awesome,

Allen Johnson 11:46
well, now I'm great at the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, I scored that game now. Right. So. But, you know, at that point, it was there was nothing. So I submit one of my favorite scripts of all time to a screenwriting contest, this is the script that I just absolutely loved. I was this is the best work I've ever done. And the thing with this contest is this. If you submitted to this contest, you get free coverage. And I was really excited about that. And the coverage I got back just absolutely. It destroyed the story. I mean, I keep I keep it with me, everywhere I go to to keep me accountable. And to remind me I mean, I've got the thing right here. And the comments were you know, this, this is a premise without any commercial spin. Why would a producer spend money on this? This has been done many times the script is dull from page one, there isn't a shred of originality to this. There's like four or four pages of that. I quit that day. I quit that day I was done. That's it. That was the best thing I could have ever written.

Alex Ferrari 12:59
You took your shot. You went up to the plate. And that was it. That's it.

Allen Johnson 13:04
That was it. There was nothing. There was nothing. So I started getting into jobs I had I was doing designing brochures for a restroom partition company. I was one of those horrible people that called you in the middle of the dinner, asking if you want to refinance on your home. I mean, that's how bad it had sunk, you know. So about a year after that contest, I get a call out of the blue from a friend of mine from outwest, who lives still lived in Utah. He was a dp really good dp. He had been working on an independent film for a producer and he says, Are you still writing? Kind of, you know, what are you looking at? He says, Well, this guy just finished shooting a film form. He wants to jump right into another one. But he needs a writer. Can I send him something for you?

Alex Ferrari 13:52
If that's like, that's if that's not the universe knocking on your door. I don't know what it is.

Allen Johnson 13:57
But it's one of those things where like, do I even dare to get my hopes up even a little so of course, I sent it off. And in less than a week, called me up said I love what you read. You wrote here. I want you to write this story for me. Here's the concept. We're shooting in a month. Let's go. That was my first professional sale. That's my first professional assignment. Since then, I've had 1010 professional sales. They've all been assignments, and three of them had been produced I've been able to to produce or sell for stage plays. Three of those have been produced. I've been able to write magazine articles. I've spoken on panels and workshops and conventions, and two different kinds of writing groups. And my best accomplishment 10 years ago I got married and my wife is still with me. They haven't they haven't disowned me yet. From you know, literal from going to the point where I thought there was no hope whatsoever, I thought that I didn't have anything to offer. And here and all this takes place in sunny South Carolina, you know, right. Like,

Alex Ferrari 15:13
that's, that's fascinating, man. That's fast. So did you ever consider moving to LA?

Allen Johnson 15:19
I did a little bit, I had seen a number of people who had made that jump. Especially when I was living in Salt Lake You know, they're they're excited. They had both as actors and producers and directors and writers, they made that jump and just about without fail, within six months to year, they all came back, they got chewed up and spit out. And they were angry and bitter and broke. And, and, to me, that's all I knew. So well, if you make that jump, unless you've got an in already, there's no hope. So I was too scared to make that jump. I never thought you know, I could, I could do that. It takes a lot of money to make that jump and it just wasn't there. You know, I

Alex Ferrari 16:01
mean, being an East Coast boy, myself, it took me years before I jumped out here, I got out here 11 years ago. And it took me I mean, I went out once. I think right after that whole shooting for the mob thing came out to LA and I was my I got my ass handed to me, like complete, like so handed to me wasn't even funny. And I went back to back to Florida with my tail between my legs. It took me another four years before I attempted it, you know, not four years, like seven years before I attempted it again. But at that point, it was a little bit different. I was on my feet, I was coming from a place of strength. But I came out here with nothing. Like I had, I knew two people, no job prospects, my whole plan was have a final cut system. I'm just gonna set it up in my extra bedroom that we're going to get a two bedroom place in North Hollywood, and we'll see what happens. And it just so happened that everything kind of worked out. But it's I get you, I get it. It's not an easy jump. But also if you only know one way like like, oh, if you move to LA if you don't have a job waiting for you, you're gonna get destroyed. Yes, yes. And no, it all depends on how you lay it out. I what I find fun what I find interesting about your story, and I think it's something we could dive into a little bit is that first right hook that you got with that coverage? Yeah, that decimated you. Absolutely. That completely knocked you out. And it's so many of us on our journey. You know, I always I always refer to that quote by Rocky Balboa is like, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. And it's so true. And you're going to get those punches and you're going to get that shrapnel you're going to get that the scarring, you're going to get all of that stuff, you know, you're going to get weathered, you know, you're going to get weather during this during this process. And I find that fascinating that How old were you when you got that? That smack?

Allen Johnson 18:07
Let's see. That was I think I was probably in my early to mid 30s. Yeah, so

Alex Ferrari 18:13
you weren't a kid anymore. You don't know you weren't a kid. But at that point, and I feel you because I was there because I lived outside of the Hollywood for so long. That that one punch, you know, knocks you out? And, you know, it's it's, it's it's interesting, if you wouldn't have gotten that phone call from that dp, what do you think would have happened? Because that phone call changed your life?

Allen Johnson 18:38
It absolutely did. You know, I like to think that if you, I didn't have that perspective, then but I kind of have a little bit of this perspective. Now. If you keep on doing what you do, and you do it in the right way. I think that you are going to be given opportunities to succeed, you just have to be sure that you're in a place to accept them, and have the, I guess, ammo, for lack of a better term to take advantage of the situation. If I wouldn't have had a script ready to go when he made that call, that opportunity would have passed me by you know, I'd like to think if I was still trying to do the right thing and be a better person and stuff like that somehow I would have been rewarded with another opportunity. But you can't bake on that you have no idea. And by my spirit still would have been crushed, I would still have been in the soul crushing job that I that I hated. Waiting for what I don't know. You know?

Alex Ferrari 19:34
I mean, I'm still waiting for that studio to call me. You know, I've taken meetings and I've done a lot of things outside of that, but I'm still waiting for Marvel to call me and see, you know, to get that, you know, like I always put out there like Marvel I'll take the meeting. We'll see what

Allen Johnson 19:49
happens. But I was I put out there that you know, my my favorite character in all fiction is Obi Wan. And so apparently the universe has passed me by with the opportunity to write the Adobe series, but that's okay. I'm happy that it's happening.

Alex Ferrari 20:05
I was gonna ask you, I was gonna ask you, I was gonna ask you that I was like, so what do you think of that whole Obi Wan Kenobi series coming up? Because I know you're such a huge fan of Obi Wan Yeah,

yeah, yeah, I know, I'm excited for it. I'm glad that it's happening. And I absolutely tickled that that yuans gonna be a part of that. And, you know, I couldn't I couldn't think of anybody better to do that. And I'm just The only negative is that I'm not involved.

But obviously Yeah, I mean, I I said the same thing. I said the same thing about every single Marvel movie ever made. And for that matter, every Star Wars movie ever made. So, alright, so you got the one you one opportunity to write a screenplay? And do you mind? If you do mind talking about money? Or is that something you want to kind of keep quiet even in the early stuff?

Allen Johnson 20:52
I can, I can tell you what I was told, I have no idea if what I was told about the budget at the beginning, was the same at the end. So at the beginning, they were talking about a $300,000 budget, and I think it ballooned up from there, I'm pretty sure I have no idea what it ended up being at the end, of course, you know, as a writer, you know, you work with them before early on in a process, you complete your draft, you turn it in, and then you sit around and the film comes out. And you're like, Oh, that's what you did with it, you know? So that's, you know, you're usually out, you know, once you turn in that final draft, you're usually out of the the process.

Alex Ferrari 21:28
So by doing that one project, that kind of just you just kept getting work from that producer, you start, how did you get the next the next hands then

Allen Johnson 21:36
it was it was all kind of linked together. There were a couple other projects that came from that producer. There were other people that worked on that production in other capacities that went on to do other jobs, that ended up reaching out to me and said, Hey, I really like what you did here, you're easy to work with, I like how you collaborate, I have this idea, you know, or I'm working with this, or I've got this business partner, he wants to do this thing. Let's explore this idea. And it kind of ballooned out from there. So it was it was these links and chains. And then a couple of times, there were instances where I saw somebody that was working on a project that I liked. And I just contacted them, you know, online and just said, Hey, I really like what you're doing. This is a lot like the type of stuff that I enjoy doing. Here's my IMDb if you ever looking for another writer in the future, you know, I'd love to work with you. And once or twice that's been you know, they've come back, they haven't all worked out as far as getting all the way through production. But you know, just keeping an eye on just being a fan, you know, saying I like what you're doing. I want to be a part of it. Here's what I've done so far. You know, if you want if you'd love to want to collaborate, I'm here,

Alex Ferrari 22:51
you know, so you're basically you're hustling, sir. Yes, yes.

Allen Johnson 22:56
You know, and and again, it's it's it's kind of funny because one thing that I've had to accept as I I'm getting on in my ears, I'm not as young as I used to be, I'm now doing the dancing season, like a great chicken or something like that? I don't know. But, um, but I've had to manage my expectations a little bit more. What I think it's really important, at least for me in my career, to identify what am I willing to sacrifice to get my goals? What am I not willing to sacrifice to get older that does become very important changes, it changes I'm willing to sacrifice a lot to achieve my my screenwriting dreams. I'm not willing to sacrifice my relationship with my wife, I'm not willing to sacrifice my relationship with my kids. That means that sometimes my indie film hustle turns into a little bit more of an indie film shuffle. You know, it's it filmmaking over 40 in default shuffle, you know, but it's it changes you know, it it, you have to be at peace with that too. So as long as you're willing to establish You know what, you're willing to sacrifice what you're not willing to sacrifice, and then work towards that and be at peace with the rest you know, you can manage your expectations a little bit better from there.

Alex Ferrari 24:15
I think as you as you get older, you start to realize at least I have that you you start defining what happiness is for you. And you start defining what not only what you're willing to do what kind of BS you're willing to put up with if any as you get older but that that tolerance level goes way down than it used to like things I did in my 20s I would shoot somebody now if I had to do because I just don't have the patience for that anymore. I

Allen Johnson 24:45
don't got time for foolishness anymore.

Alex Ferrari 24:47
Yeah, I just don't and, and, and just being just understanding the definition of what makes you happy. is so powerful man because I really hope I'm really hope that people out there can just dive into that one question like, what makes me happy? Like, you know, what, what do I really need to be happy? And is it? Do I have to live in the Hollywood Hills and make a billion dollars? Sure, that's a dream, if you wanted to be a dream great, is it going to really make you happy? What are the chances of you getting to that point, in this lifetime, you have to be honest with yourself, I'm all about chasing that dream, don't get me wrong, that's what my whole thing is about. But be you know, like, I always say, like, follow your dream, but Don't be an idiot. You know, so,

Allen Johnson 25:42
and also translates well, to, you know, how we spend our time. I, I'm really disturbed by this growing trend of how much time people spend, especially online, discussing how much they hate something,

you know, so much wasted energy,

Alex Ferrari 26:00
if you were to take half of that time, right, and dedicated it to something constructive, or at least building up something that you like, you know, how much better you know, would it be, you know, you could, you can actually be generating something positive. And I've noticed that, you know, with, with people that you work with professionally, if somebody is constantly talking about how much they hate something and how much, you know, this is, this is horrible, and that's horrible, you'd want to work with that person, you want to be the the person who's who's upbeat, who's positive, who builds up, you know, and, and, and that took me a while to realize one of my, in my past, I was also a film critic for about a year for a small little newspaper, but you

did anything to be around the business, anything,

anything, and I enjoyed being a film critic in the in the sense that, you know, I got to go to all these screenings and stuff like that, and that was a lot of fun. I enjoyed that. Watch about four to five movies a week, you know, in the theater. But I was a terrible critic, I was bitter because I thought that's what I had to be, you know, that's that film school mentality. You know, if it's not black and white and subtitled, then it's just drivel for the masses, you know, anything that could remotely be, you know, commercially relevant, you know, that's, that's for the ground links down there, and your to the above such thing, and you start to buy into that stuff, and it's ridiculous. But then one day, you wake up and the sun is shining, and the birds are singing you think yourself, man, I just want to watch Andy punch some Nazis, man.

Allen Johnson 27:30
And you're wrong with that. That's, that's,

that's what I want to do. You know, and so that's, that's kind of been my thing. You know,

Alex Ferrari 27:37
I've been I've been pumping this theory out lately. And it's gonna be in a bunch of episodes coming up. And I've said it a couple times. But I think it's something it's a really great analogy about the disease that both you and I have. And it is a disease. I mean, once you get bitten by this, this virus, which is called being a filmmaker being in the film industry, it is there is no vaccination for there's no immunization for it. And I mean, it's kind of like herpes. It's kind of like, once you get it, you got it for life. It's sometimes it's dormant, but sometimes it flares up. And you know, and but no matter what you do, you're always a little itch. There's something like, you know, it's it's always there. It's a horrible analogy, but it's so

Allen Johnson 28:22
true. It is it is absolutely true. You know, and it's it's one of those things where, you know, it's when people ask you, you know, about writing, why would you do something like that, and you have other talents, don't you? And you respond to job, Nicolas, like, it's not that I can't do anything, but right, but I just can't do anything but right. You know, and they just sit there and blink at you. And you're like, Well, you know, that's they don't get it, either get it or you don't. And I am so incredibly blessed. I'm so fortunate that I have an incredible wife who supports me. Oh, amen. And, and, I mean, if you, everybody has got to have that person in their camp, whether it's a spouse, or a partner, or a friend or whatever, that's just support you 100% you also need the people that can call you out on stuff. And sometimes that could be the same person. Some, sometimes you can get somebody that you know, gives you honest feedback, that can really be critical, but loving, but you always need that person there to say no matter what, I'm going to believe in you. Because you have to have that life raft. It's way too hard without it.

Alex Ferrari 29:32
Yeah, there's no question. I mean, I couldn't have Well, there would be no indie film hustle without my wife. So I'd be straight up. I mean, if it wasn't for her, telling me Alex, do what you got to do. You're gonna and I still work and I still was doing post and I was still directing every once in a while, but she was the one that just kept supporting me. She's like, I know this is gonna turn into something. It's just gonna take time. I believe in you and that, that belief is what got me through you. All this time that I've been doing this, it's been a little over four years now that I've been with indie film muscle, and all the stuff I've done, but if it wasn't for her, it would have never, it really wouldn't have happened, you know, if I would have had someone nagging or jumping on top of me, like, what do you do go get a staff job somewhere, or no, she gave me the freedom to do what I need to do it. There's never underestimate the power of a good, a good partner, whether male or female, whatever, you know, whatever. Whatever support you can get man is so invaluable. And the thing you know, again, I wanted to have you on the show, man, because you represent something that I haven't had on the show before, which is somebody who's making a living outside of the Hollywood system. And to give people who are listening, hope that that can be done, because that is not an image that is projected anywhere. I don't see that anywhere. I don't see anyone talking about it. I don't see anyone saying, Hey, I live in South Carolina, and I'm a working screenwriter, like that is not something I see. I just don't see it. And I'm in this every day, right? I read everything. I'm in this all the time, I talked to a lot of people, I've never seen this. But that's why I wanted to kind of put this, this image out into the world and having you come on is so important, because I really do hope it gives people out there, not only in the US, but in the world. You know, and you know that they don't live in near a major city or they're, you know, in Calcutta somewhere or, you know, they're in South Africa or something like that, there's always a way to do it. It's just about being prepared when that opportunity knocks, but you've got to show up every day, with no expectations. You know, you got to show up every day with no expectations of what's going to happen. And if you just keep showing up every day, and I use indie film, hustle is such a good analogy for that. Because every day, I would show up, I would put up to podcast every day, I would put blog posts out every day. And at the beginning, you know, crickets. I mean, I did jump I didn't move fairly quickly. But it's still everyday just show up grind that grind. And you got to know

Allen Johnson 32:10
that one of the things that I talk about when I do my little classes and workshops, you know, a lot of people, especially the the more our tour variety, like to talk about the Muse and being inspired and stuff like that. Well, you know, sometimes you just got to tell that lazy old muse, I'm going to be here tomorrow, from three o'clock to eight o'clock. If you want to show up.

Unknown Speaker 32:31
That's where

Allen Johnson 32:32
I'm going to be here working. Yeah. And and sometimes she shows up, and sometimes she doesn't. That's fine. I still have a plan.

Alex Ferrari 32:41
Regardless, now, do you have an agent?

Allen Johnson 32:43
I don't know. It's,

Alex Ferrari 32:46
again, another beautiful example of like, Oh, you need an agent to get anything done? No, you don't?

Well, writers and agents ain't really talking these days anyway. So that's true that sir,

true that

Allen Johnson 33:00
aren't exactly on speaking terms at the moment. But

Alex Ferrari 33:03
are you? Are you union? By the way? Are you? Not? So do you have an agent at all? No, I don't. And that's another that's a great. Another wonderful thing about your story is that, like so many people will tell you in film school, you need an agent to get anything sold. Or you need an agent to have a career you don't.

Allen Johnson 33:21
Right now you don't you don't know, I would add something I would like to get it. I would like to get the point where I'm getting those wha wages, you know, and things like that. But that w ga and the ATR talking these days anyway. So I'm just you know, doing the thing that I've always done for the last 10 years, you're hustling

Alex Ferrari 33:38
outside the usual you're hustling outside the system, because you're not WETA that you're not in union. So you know, and then and again, your rate for screenplays varies, you know, because what is the what is the wg a minimum, I think isn't a 30 40,000

Allen Johnson 33:55
I think it's like 36 for a feature or something like that. It's been a while since I've looked at the schedule of minimums, but and again, with with so much new media stuffing, it's there's a lot of variety. And they've done a lot of a lot of work to try and make it affordable for different levels. So they got you know, the ultra low budget, low budget, and there's different ways that you can kind of use union riders and defer payments or break it up a little, a little bit. And I'm not an expert in that stuff. But yeah, I try to work with people's budgets. I try to make sure that it's you know, something that works for me. You know, and this is something again, my great wife has to keep reminding me of and I have a tendency to undersell myself, Oh, she she keeps on reminding me you're worth more than this. And so I need that voice in my head as well. To to help out with that.

Alex Ferrari 34:49
This is I'll tell you what this is, this is a another affliction that we have is that when you hustle so hard, and then And you'd like us, for me when I was coming out and post, literally anything that knocked on the door I took, right? I just took it because I was outside the system. So like, Oh my god, it's a job, I gotta take it. You know, I was an editor in Florida, you know, with the occasional directing job, which was rare. So I took anything, and I worked with any budget. That's why my IMDb is sick. It's stupid, right? It's so long, because I took every single project that showed up. And at a certain point, you know, you just have to like, Hey, I'm worth more than this. And it took my wife to tell me like, you can't, you can't keep doing this. You're killing yourself for a few grand. Like that's, that might have worked when you were 25. But you can't keep doing that. You know. So it's a mind shift. It's a mindset change that you have to kind of do in your head, because you're just, you're just like, it's that kind of like, Oh, I I if I don't take this, when's the next one showing up? So I got to, I got to take it in I underbid anybody else to get it. So make sure I get it. It's that kind of desperate mentality that we outside the system sometimes have

Allen Johnson 36:06
the imposter syndrome swinging in there. Like, if I were bid myself, you know, they'll they'll say, No, they'll realize that, you know, I don't really know what I'm doing, you know, and that type of, and then you read other people's screenplays. And you're like, Okay, I'm okay. I'm at least better than that. And that got made? So let me keep going, you know?

Alex Ferrari 36:25
Exactly, exactly. Now, I want to ask you, what is your writing process? Like? Do you have a daily writing process? How do you work, I

Allen Johnson 36:32
used to have a daily writing process. But with my kids, that kind of changes a little bit. So I kind of have to, to be flexible, and adjust. And a lot of it depends on you know, if I have an assignment or not, if it's something that I'm just writing spec, then I can kind of just go with the flow and write when I have time to do something like that. If I have a writing assignment course, my family's understanding, we kind of create blocks of time for me to work, things like that. But what I like to do, especially with assignments, is I spend a lot of time and outlining and developing, before I even type fade in, I would say that out of my entire the entire time that I spend writing, probably at least 65 to 70% of that is before I actually write the script, you know, so I really like to take a lot of meetings with the producer, the studio, the director, whoever's involved, and really make sure we get on the same page about what's going on. And I really try to, especially with all these things being, you know, low budget, low ultra ultra low budget things, I write to their assets. So we'll have meetings about you know, where are you planning to shoot this, you know, what type of things you already have, that you know, you want to use, that I can use in developing the story? Do you have performers that you know, you're going to cast in your movie? Can I see their real? Can I see some of their previous work? So I know how they deliver their lines, what kind of cadence do they have? Let me get inside their heads so I can deliver something that fits with the kind of characters that they do. You know, those type of things that I'll sit down and talk them to if they've had department heads set up like wardrobe or, you know, locations or, you know, stunts and special effects? What can I do to make your job easier? You know, what can you do? What can you not do? How long are you going to be shooting? You know, do you want to avoid nights? Do you want to avoid, you know, dealing with rain, you know, so I get all those questions answered beforehand. So that when I start writing my outline, everybody's already on, on, you know, on that same page with, okay, here's the things we're going to do. It's so much easier to change 10 pages of an outline, than realize you're on page 70 of a screenplay. And you got to go back and start over because something doesn't work. You know, when you're able to hand those those producers or that director that outline, and they can see what every single scene is where it's going, the things that they'll need. It's so much easier to change stuff in that moment, rather than do pumping out draft after draft after draft. And then, you know, having people kick around this 90 page document, as opposed to something that's 10 pages. So that's something that I usually try and do with a lot of these projects.

Alex Ferrari 39:26
You know what was great about that is you are really coming at it as being of service to your client, basically is where a lot of screenwriters have this ego, that it's like it's my work. It's my story. It's my screenplay. I'm like, No, dude, you were hired for a job and you're being paid for that job and you need to be of service to the client. You know, when you when you get to the point where you're Aaron Sorkin or Charlie Kaufman or Shane Black, that or Tarantino then you do whatever the hell you want. And it's a different conversation at that point. But you're still being of service and even these, even these screenwriters who are working on Avengers, I promise you that they were being of service to, to the

Allen Johnson 40:11
elite, they have a very specific sandbox that we're working on, you know, and then going back to, you know, talking about Star Wars, you know, we've seen a lot of writers come and go. And I really think a lot of that is probably because, you know, I'm not in the room, I don't really know. But I imagine a lot of that is, you know, the the producers say, here's our overall vision, you can work with this or not. And if you know, things get outside of that, and they decide, you know, I can't stand this box that you've given me, then you move on to somebody who can run the thing with independent stuff. It doesn't matter how artistic or eloquent you think your script is. If it's unsuitable, it's on producible, then they'll find somebody else to replace you with. So it's not so much selling out as it is buying in.

Alex Ferrari 40:57
Right, exactly. Now, I want to ask you, Ben, how do you stay motivated, when you're not surrounded by the business? You know, because like, for me, I mean, I live in Hollywood, I live in the mecca when I walk out my door, there's everywhere there's something about the business. And I know a lot of people outside Hollywood. That's like when you come to Hollywood. I'm sure you have you been you've been here, right? You've been to LA Oh, oh, I haven't. So if you get to LA one day, you walk around your mouth will be on the floor, and you'll be like, Oh my god, the streets are paved with gold. I was like that for about two years until they came cynical. You know, because when I first got it, it was just like, Oh my God, is that a post? Is that Warner Brothers? Is that Disney? Is that Sony? Like you just every everywhere you go, it's all about the business. You know, any coffee shop? That's the big joke, any coffee shop you walk into all you see is final draft everywhere, you know, and all this laptops. But you don't have that in South Carolina. I didn't have that in Miami. So how did you stay? Or how do you stay motivated to just kind of keep after this, this this dragon, if you will?

Allen Johnson 41:56
Well, I think that, you know, writing is one of those things where you have to be in love with the, with the process of writing, that's the thing that has to be pleasurable for you and rewarding because if you're chasing accolades, or or you're chasing the end result, you're going to be disappointed because production is an absolute meat grinder on scripts, you know, you you don't realize it at first, but the script that you write will not be the film that scene. And if I'm looking to see every single word that I put on this page beautifully, you know, blown up into to a big screen or on the TV exactly the way I wrote it. I can't use that as my vote of motivation, because it'll never happen. You know? If I'm, if I'm chasing, you know, that, that that name on the screen, yes, nice to see your name on the screen. But you know what, everybody gets rewritten.

Alex Ferrari 42:55

Unknown Speaker 42:56
asked Oscar winning.

Allen Johnson 42:59
I mean, you had that great interview with john August a couple a couple of months back. And and he's one of the best writers in the entire business and he gets rewritten. You know, and, and kind of coming back to to my my story, you know, I've had, I've made 10 sales and three have made it through production. You know, john August has like, what eight or nine films on his IMDb but what do you say is sold like third or something like that he's

Alex Ferrari 43:26
worked on 30 or 40 projects. Same thing with Jim rules. You know, the writer of Fight Club. When you look at when you look at his IMDb, he's got like a handful of credits. But Jim doesn't stop working. He's constantly working on projects, but they just for whatever reason, they don't go over the finish line. And a lot of these single

Allen Johnson 43:43
writer, these guys never see the light of day.

Alex Ferrari 43:47
Yeah. And it said, and I love what john said, I love what john said, He's like, you've got to become kind of like a stock picker. like is this is this project have the legs to get to the finish line? Like what are the what are the you know, if I'm gonna take on this, this gig, it's not about the money anymore. It's about like, I want to see something produced. You know, so like, when Tim Burton when Tim Burton calls, generally speaking, those those projects get done.

Allen Johnson 44:12
Yeah, that's true. So yeah, to kind of come back, you know, full circle to your original question. And I have to be in love that story. Is this a place that I want to live for a few months? Is Is this exciting to me. So that's what keeps me motivated. Is is the the joy of writing, I enjoy that creative process. I enjoy collaborating, it took me a while to realize that I am one cog in the machine. But if I do my job really well, everyone else will, will be excited by that too. And things will run more smooth. So I have to be in love with you know what I do and the way I do it. And to me, that's that's you know, self motivating if you have to look to other sources, to be able to do something that you claim you love. It's not going to work out it's going to end You know, you You have to be able to self motivate, you know, you got to be in love with the process and and committed to that. And that doesn't mean you don't have bad days or bad weeks or even bad months or years.

Alex Ferrari 45:12
Bad years

Allen Johnson 45:14
there, I don't know anybody who has any job on the planet that hasn't at some point said, Man, this is a drag. And that's okay. You do that. And then you find other things to get your mojo back and you keep going.

Alex Ferrari 45:26
Right? It's about being in love with the grind. You gotta you've got to love the daily grind. You can't do this for the red carpet. You can't You can't do it for the red carpet. There's so many filmmakers who do it literally for the red carpet. And I'm like, dude, because when the red carpet is over, which is so quick, it's it's done. And then now what now you're depressed for like months because it takes forever to get

Allen Johnson 45:50
another project off the ground. And it's especially true for for writers because honestly, nobody cares about writers. It really don't. I was at a I was at a workshop once and a girl asked me if I was famous. And I'm like, No, of course not. I'm not famous. She's like what you write movies. So that's what's your favorite movie of all time? And she said like clueless or something like, who wrote that? She had no clue. Her most favorite movie of all time. She had no clue who the author she knew the author of her favorite book. She knew the stars of her favorite show. Right? You don't get famous and that's okay.

Alex Ferrari 46:22
There's there's there's only a handful that do and and and, you know, I mentioned a few of them. Sorkin, Tarantino Shane Black Kaufman,

most of those are filmmakers as well.

Unknown Speaker 46:32
like gold writers. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 46:35
You know, there's, you know, there's a handful of them. There's not a whole lot of them, that people really know who they are. Because it's it's you know, it's a thankless job. Unfortunately, it isn't.

It it's one of those things that unfortunately, and this this might sound a little self righteous, but that's okay. Cuz you know, we're having fun here. But it's one of those. It's like, it's like driving, everybody understands, because they know how it works. They think they know how to do it. Well.

Yeah, I watched I watched a movie. So I obviously to make one

Allen Johnson 47:09
steel industry. You know, with the film stuff, you know, if you sit somebody in front of a camera, there's a lot of buttons there. There's a lot of numbers on that thing. That's kind of scary. You sit somebody down in front of an avatar, like why are there colors on the keyboard? You know, this is ridiculous. This is scary. But you sit somebody down to write a story. They're like, Oh, I can make words I could write top to bottom left to right, you know, I can do this. This is easy, right? You know. So it's one of those things that unfortunately, especially with the independent productions, it's a little bit difficult to convince people, this is something worth investing in. You know, I'm worth investing in to get you a good script. And we're like, well, I can write a script. Anybody can write a script? That's easy. Maybe?

Alex Ferrari 47:52
Exactly. Now, I'm gonna ask a few questions. Ask all of my my guests, sir. What advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Allen Johnson 48:02
Study of the craft, study the, there's a lot of especially young writers get so caught up and so excited about the idea of breaking the rules being the rebel. And when you're starting out, it just looks like sloppy writing. There's a reason why this format is specific to the industry is because it tells other people how to do their jobs. If you don't know how to properly format, a slug line, when they go to drop that script into movie magic. It's going to get all screwed up. And they're going to have to spend extra time to fix the problems that you created, because you couldn't format a slug line properly. And you're not gonna get

Alex Ferrari 48:39
called again,

Allen Johnson 48:40
No, probably not. But if you can do that easy, and if you can say, Hey, you know what I can help you with tagging the props, and the vehicles and stuff like that on my end. So it can populate it, you know, when you drop it in, you know, you might earn yourself some extra points there. So that's certainly something that I would, I would suggest, you know, for for young writers to do. Study the classics. read as much as you can read screenplays, see how they work, see how they look on the page, study or genres, whatever you whatever you're writing, and whatever your wheelhouse is, you know, make sure that you understand that understand subtext. You know, for the love of God, please understand on the nose dialogue and how to avoid it. You know, and don't get so obsessed, especially when you're first starting out with trying to blow people's minds. You're knocking out inception, inception. It's just an action movie that the actors the characters themselves slept through, you know, so it's, it's, you know, you're not just learn how to be entertaining, learn how to tell a story. And then you can go and write your existential crisis piece that's in slow motion, and black and white and all that stuff.

Alex Ferrari 49:55
Why don't you try to build three or four houses the proper way and then if you want to create your Your, your masterpiece and have windows on the floors and doors in the ceiling, then do that. But I believe it

Allen Johnson 50:08
was David Mamet, in his book on directing, he had a story in there about I think it was in the 60s or 70s, there was a trend, called counterculture architecture are basically as all these hippie architect, architects were fed up with the fuddy duddy way that they used to do things back in the day. And we're gonna build build links based on how we feel, not a bomb these formulas, these these gross things that you know, you old guys use. And of course, it was a colossal failure. There's a reason why these blueprints exist. And you know, you need to need to figure that out. So then when you go to bend a few of the rules, you know exactly what you're doing, how far to take it, and you're doing it. So it serves a purpose in the story as opposed to just being a rebel, because that's cool. Because it's not your ego, you're feeding.

Alex Ferrari 50:59
It's the story you're feeding. Exactly. Now, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact in your life or career.

Allen Johnson 51:06
So when, you know, with most writers, when they start out, usually the first thing that they come in contact with is is Syd field screenplay. And, of course, that was one of the early ones that was influential. But the one that really struck out, struck me a chord with me was one called Lou hunters, screenwriting for 30, for the most obnoxious title ever. He was a screenwriting professor at UCLA. And it's essentially his class. And this is the first book that I had ever read, where he actually takes you through the entire process of writing the script. Here's how I gather ideas, here's some things that you can do to formulate ideas about stories, here's how I can develop characters. Here's how I give them personality, and voice. And he actually goes through and writes an entire screenplay inside the book showing you the process that he goes through. So it he essentially, you know, broke down this this mystification of how you somehow put all these words on a page, and it makes sense, into I'm doing these specific things to achieve this creative result. And so that was really, really influential to me. So Lou hunters, screenwriting for 34, you know, I have no idea if it's even still available. Of course, this is back in like, 2000 2001. So we're going back a little while Amazon,

Alex Ferrari 52:24
Amazon, actually, it was a great one. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life,

Allen Johnson 52:33
um, knowing my worth is a big one, knowing whose opinions really matter, I made the mistake with my first film, I read the comments.

Alex Ferrari 52:47
Don't do that.

Allen Johnson 52:50
You know, but you know, especially as a writer, you have so little control over the end result of that picture. Ever, it's never going to be exactly the way you wrote it. The The, the lines are never going to be delivered exactly the way you thought, people are going to make stuff up, the actors want to put their stuff in, anybody who has a voice on that set is going to want to change it in some way. And it happens. And that's the process and you kind of have to be at peace at that. So learn whose opinions really matter. And just ignore the rest because it really doesn't matter. Now, what

Alex Ferrari 53:25
did you learn from your biggest failure?

Allen Johnson 53:29
What did I learn from my biggest failure?

Unknown Speaker 53:33
I think

Allen Johnson 53:36
that I'm enough. That's like, that's

Alex Ferrari 53:39
one of our popular one. It's, it's,

Unknown Speaker 53:41

Allen Johnson 53:42
you know, it's one of these things where you, you get hammered by people. And there are legions of people out there that will tell you, you're doing the wrong thing. You don't know what you're doing. You're a hack, you're an imposter. And, and if you don't, if you buy into that, that can crush you. But realizing that you're enough, you know, that that can that can really bolster you and keep you afloat because there, you're vastly outnumbered.

Alex Ferrari 54:16
Fair enough.

Allen Johnson 54:18
So just being able to rely on that is is extremely helpful.

Alex Ferrari 54:23
Now, what is the biggest fear you had to overcome to write your first screenplay or just to become a screenwriter in general? Um,

Allen Johnson 54:33
that it's not going to happen when I want and how I want it.

Alex Ferrari 54:37
Yes, great. Would

Allen Johnson 54:38
you ever want to you know, get a good chuckle as some young filmmaker about their five year plan, you know,

Alex Ferrari 54:46

Allen Johnson 54:49
exactly these expectations and these ideas. By this time, I'm going to do this by this guy. You have all these grand ideas. And, and it's not going to happen that way. And it's okay. You'll You'll figure Hear it out,

Unknown Speaker 55:00
you know, three of your favorite films of all time.

Unknown Speaker 55:04

Allen Johnson 55:05
I would not be here having this conversation if it wasn't for Star Wars and Indiana Jones. It's it's cliche, but I am I am. I am no longer too ashamed to say that those popcorn movies have had the biggest impact on me and still remain my favorites to this day. I am so much of a fan. I even like to prequels. Alex, stop it.

Alex Ferrari 55:29
Stop it.

Allen Johnson 55:30
Stop. Listen, hot take hot take. I will I will contend that any complaint that people have about the prequels either can be explained within the context of the film's or has a precedent already set in the original trilogy.

Alex Ferrari 55:46
I'll go toe to toe I am I that's another episode for another time, sir. I listen, I just I just I just I actually I just watched five minutes the other day with her daughter for the first time because she's a Star Wars fan because I'm a good dad. And I it was horrible. It was it was really, really I mean like I was just looking at it. I'm like, I loved it when I first came out like I was like I was I drank that Kool Aid. I bought I you know, I did all of it. The the action sequences were fantastic. You know, the Padres I loved, but charger. Oh my god, it was just painful. I did enjoy Attack of the Clones better. And I and I think Revenge of the Sith is probably the best of those of that trilogy. Great. Hayden's acting could have been better you and was fantastic. One of the highlights of the series was without without that was you and Natalie Portman was basically just dressing. She didn't let her do what she does. It's it's a painful, it's a painful process to go through. And we I don't want to get into it, Alan. But I don't want to get into it. But I do tell people if you are introducing your kids to Star Wars, you have to watch it in this order. You watch new hope Empire, then Phantom, attack, revenge and then go to revenge of the Jedi. or excuse me, you turn to the Jedi. Okay, that's that's the original six. Then you continue from then you can and then you continue with the new trilogy, which I love the new trilogy. I think the new trilogy is fantastic. Fantastic. And I love the Rogue One.

Unknown Speaker 57:28
What was

Alex Ferrari 57:29
the greatest Darth Vader scene? Ever? Oh, yeah. You want to hear something funny. My buddy worked on that he worked on on the one and he was telling me He's like, dude, I would just sit there. And because they could have they could look at any clip in the system and ILM. So they would he would just grab the QuickTime for that sequence. And he would just played in the background on. He's like, it was just the greatest thing ever. Yeah. So sorry. Sorry, everyone, we're kicking out We will now stop.

Allen Johnson 57:59
So yeah, if you had to nail me down to one specifically, I'd probably go with empire that thought that was just a fantastic film. And of course, Raiders is just just so fundamental. And as far as the third one. The other film that was just incredibly influential for me was was Braveheart. That one was, I saw that at the time, I was working at a movie theater. And this was when I was, you know, in high school. And because I worked in a movie theater, I saw 26 times in the theater. Yeah. And, and that was the point where I think I decided, I don't know what this thing is or how it gets done. But I want to be included in something that generates this. You know, that was a childhood hero. That you know, the story of Wilma comes from Scottish heritage. And so that was just, you know, a dream come true to see that that thing on the big screen. And I wanted to be a part of that I had no idea how or why or you know what that was, that was what big calling cards, Fantastic Film fans.

Alex Ferrari 59:00
Now, where can people find you and your work and what you're doing?

Allen Johnson 59:04
Okay, well, I've got a website and it's long and obnoxious and we can just put that in the show notes. I'm on Facebook and I'm on Instagram, my Instagram is at Alan j underscore right fight that's a Ll e n, the letter J underscore WRI te si gh t because I write and I find

Alex Ferrari 59:25
nice, fantastic element. I really do. Thank you so much for being on the show. It's my pleasure. Thank you and giving everybody a new image of what a working screenwriter is and can be so I really do appreciate and I hope it does inspire and give some hope to a lot of screenwriters out there.

Allen Johnson 59:46
Well, it's not a pretty image but it's one that works there's a lot of mileage was it's not the years that's the mileage right that's that's how it, how it works out for us. But I'm absolutely tickled that I could, you know, be a part of this and try and give back To the tribe, I really admire what you're doing and how much you're giving out. And I think that it's just a wonderful thing and the more people that do this type of stuff, that that rising tide is gonna raise all of our ships.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:14
Thank you, brother. I appreciate it.

Allen Johnson 1:00:15
Thank you.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:17
I want to really thank Alan for dropping those inspirational knowledge bombs on the tribe today. Thank you, Alan so much, you are an inspiration. To many screenwriters listening to this today, there is hope you can make a living as a screenwriter and you don't always have to go for that giant home run the big movie studios and a $200 million movies you know, you don't have to that shouldn't be the only bar to a successful screenwriting career there are hundreds, if not 1000s of other writers making a living in the screenwriting space or in the playwriting space, loving what they do and actually generating revenue every day with it. So thank you, Alan. If you want to get links to contact Alan or anything else we spoke about in this episode, please head over to the show notes at indie film, hustle comm forward slash bps 055. And if you have that screenplay, that's so amazing, but you can't get it produced for whatever reason, the things aren't lining up the way you want to. Maybe you should join me at the maker movie boot camp. So I can show you how to produce that movie yourself. produce that screenplay yourself. Create your own content and take control of your own destiny and not wait for someone to give you permission to do your art and to be a screenwriter and a filmmaker. So if you want to check it out, please head over to m y m bootcamp that's make your movie m y m bootcamp comm I'm hosting it on October 26 and 27th in Burbank, California. And if you haven't already, please head over to screenwriting podcast comm subscribe and leave a good review for the show. It really helps us out a lot and make sure to share this episode with at least five of your friends or if not this episode, the entire podcast or website with five of your screenwriting friends. I want this information to get out to as many people as humanly possible. Thank you for listening. Thank you for your support, guys. As always, keep on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.

Please subscribe and leave a rating or review
by going to BPS Podcast
Want to advertise on this show?
Visit Bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/Sponsors

BPS 052: Story$elling Your Screenplay with Heather Hale

Today on the show we have returning champion Heather Hale.  Heather Hale’s new book Story Selling: How to Develop, Market, and Pitch Your Film & TV Projects helps you get your stories out of your head and onto the worldwide stage. From the inspiration and conception of all kinds of creative writing, through the development and refinement of all the elements, to navigating the legal, financial, physical production, distribution, and marketing labyrinths of the overlapping businesses of mass media, she explores how (and why) we write, co-create, share and monetize stories around the world today.

Pitching is an art form that brings together content and communication channels. Regardless of What you’re pitching . . . Where, When and to Whom . . . the principles are universal. It’s How you pitch that matters ― and there are countless strategies that combine elements in different combinations.

Heather’s book details all of them, their construction and applications, in a fun and interactive way that inspires readers to create memorable and saleable pitches in order to get their projects made.

Enjoy my conversation with Heather Hale.

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 0:31
Now today on the show, we have returning champion Heather Hale. And today we're going to talk about her new book story selling how to develop market and pitch your TV and film projects. Now pitching is an art form. It is something that we all need to do at every level of our lives. Whether it's pitching a project to a studio executive to an investor, or pitching where you want to go to dinner and trying to convince your wife or your friends that that's the place we should go. It's all about how you communicate. But when you're pitching your stories, it is about how content and communication come together. And in this episode, I dig deep into how to get the most out of a pitch, what little tips and tricks you can do to help you in the room with a studio executive with an investor with someone that's going to hopefully help you with your project. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Heather Hale. I'd like to welcome back to the show returning champion Heather Hale. How are you? All are you doing? How are you? I'm good. I'm good. Thank you for so much for coming back. You are a busy bee. So now you're back with your we're gonna talk a little bit about your second book story selling but you were original guests on indie film hustle in Episode 240 talking about how to work the markets.

Heather Hale 3:38
A lot of fun. Thank you. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 3:40
absolutely. And you were a big hit. A lot of people like to love that episode. So when I heard about your new book, I was like, well, we got to have Heather back to talk about this. Because if I just for my own personal I just have so many questions. I'm dying to ask. So for for people who don't know who you are and didn't listen to that first episode. Can you tell us a little about about how you got into the film business?

Heather Hale 4:02
Yeah, so I'm a writer, director, producer, film and television and I have about five broken stories because everybody has to break in and re break in and really break in so me bout to do my next one. Yeah. So I guess my big break in was the courage to love, which was a five and a half million dollar lifetime original movie that Vanessa Williams, Stacy Keach, Gil bellows and Diane Carroll was in. That's the big one.

Alex Ferrari 4:27
I got you.

Heather Hale 4:28
I did a bunch of other little things like a couple PBS series that won Emmys and lifestyle magazine that I'm still doing. It's a TV talk show that won some tellies and Ace awards and just lots of I did a lot of infomercials, commercials trade

thrills, you name.

Alex Ferrari 4:49
So you've been hustling? You've been hustling?

Yes, indeed.

So Alright, so let's talk a little bit about selling your stories. How do you How does one well, what advice do you have to develop a marketable story or screenplay a project?

Heather Hale 5:07
Well, that's a loaded question is,

it depends on where you're at in the process, it depends on where you're at in your career, it depends on the kind of project. So that's a pretty broad question. But it's, of course, a question everybody has. So I think a huge part of it is knowing what your concept is, and knowing who would buy it. And who would watch it. So what are your distribution channels? Is it a limited event series? Is it a contained thriller? Or an indie feature? Is it you know, an indie feature? Is it something could be a one hour drama, comedy sketch comedy? What What is this monster that you're selling? And then who are the likely buyers or the prospects that would be contenders for financing distribution attachments, actors, directors, who are the people that could come on board as part of that daisy chain that get the momentum going to get it pushed up the hill? I, I think I said this in the last time, I feel like Sisyphus, the octopus is pushing like eight rocks up. That's how I always feel. But it's I think it's, it's being able to identify what the gym the concept is, and who's going to care? Who's going to care enough to fund millions or pay 12 bucks, like who's gonna care and want to see that? And how do you get it to them, and what's the best way to pitch it to them.

Alex Ferrari 6:26
And that can work pretty much on almost any level. I mean, even if it's a small micro budget film, you're just pitching it to somebody who you want to work for very little on the movies, it could be a dp, it could be an actor that you want to bring on board, it could be anybody. Or it could be your money,

Heather Hale 6:41
shoot in their restaurant, or you want them to donate Gatorade, like whatever.

Alex Ferrari 6:47
Yeah, it's all it's all part of the same thing. Everyone always thinks that you have to sell your story or selling your stories, or your project is all about millions and millions of dollars and getting you know, Steven Spielberg to executive produce. Yes, there are those but more likely, it's like going down to the local pizza joint that you talk to all the time, like, Look, this is what I'm doing. And getting in those skills that you have to kind of build

Heather Hale 7:09
a restaurant after hours, would you give us a really good deal on your cameras? Whatever you need, beg, borrow, steal everything and getting that star to come for one day? You know, whatever it is, it's, it's pitching it in the best light possible and angling it so that your approach strategy is appropriate for whoever it is, whatever it is, you're asking for, from whoever that prospect is?

Alex Ferrari 7:31
Well, let me ask you a question. When I started, when I first started my very first short film that I did, I turned it into kind of like I was a nobody with no, no real background other than shooting a few commercials. This is years ago. And I was trying to put together a small short film, which was going to be around at $1,000 for film in Florida. And I made it into this kind of I even at that's the this book, of course wasn't available then. And a lot of these concepts wouldn't even talked about back then. But

Heather Hale 7:57
I was I needed to read it 20 years ago.

Alex Ferrari 8:01
Yeah, exactly. I would have loved to read this 20 years ago. So but what I did was, you know, because I was like I'm a nobody from nowhere. And I got to put together a team to make this movie. So what I did is made it kind of like an extravaganza, in the sense, like it's a really big ambitious action film with a lot of visual effects. And I started getting artwork commissioned to make it look good. And as you start building up a bigger a bigger thing than it was I was treating it like it was an x men movie. You know what I was I was treating it like a really big budget movie, even though it's a small movie. And that attracted talent to the piece because nobody else in my area was doing anything this

Heather Hale 8:35
action is reality.

Alex Ferrari 8:37
Exactly. So is that kind of a good point, because I know a lot of people listening might have a short little short film or a little micro budget film, and to kind of create this kind of buzz about it and kind of create like, I want to be a part of that craziness.

Heather Hale 8:50
Yeah, I think, you know, everyone wants to be a part of the next great thing everyone wants to not have missed out. It's like that FOMO fear of missing out if you were the one who, who didn't get that opportunity. I have a friend who was next door neighbors with Bill Gates. And when Bill Gates was a kid, he asked him for $4,000 to buy his first computer and he said no. So you know that we all have the book. I was just listening to the Jim Patterson masterclass. And he said 39 people turned down his first novel. And the truth is, are those 39 people wrong? Maybe. But 39 people who are supposedly professionals in the industry missed the boat on being the publisher for James Patterson. So you need people to think you're the next big thing and even if you're not the next big thing like the hot ingenue or whatever, that that project might be in the Spirit Award worthy Sundance buzzworthy is it going to be like you look at distributors and of course distributors want to see a list talent, but they also love to see a good stable and ensemble of solid talent where they know that the the bar of acting ability is going to be raised to that level or that the deep Or the costume designer, whoever the key key department heads are, that those are rock solid people. So if you can create this ensemble around you that you're the weakest link in the constellation, you're going to be able to pitch the strength of your team and kind of try to parlay some traction off of that. Everybody's communal efforts,

Alex Ferrari 10:22
is it? Isn't it true that like, I've seen so many, and I've done it myself, so many projects pitched around, you know, really high end. below the line people like really excellent editors, really excellent DPS. Riley. Yeah, they're, they're really quick. But that gives you like, as a young filmmaker, or an inexperienced filmmaker, they're like, Look, I have the vision. But these are my craftsmen. These are the people who are going to execute my vision. So at least at minimum, you know, it's going to look and sound and look good. And so that's make investors and even studios, sometimes, depending on what type of studio it is a little bit happier, right?

Heather Hale 11:00
Yeah, you've surrounded yourself with people who are going to make sure that you deliver good quality. And same thing with your, if you're an actor, or an actress trying to write yourself a role and put up the money and buy yourself the roll. You know, that is a strategy that works for lots of people, surround yourself with the best of everything, you know, make, you know, let yourself be the weak, I always think you should be the weakest player on the bench, you know, then your game is always raised to the players around you. So just make sure you get the very best you can secure and then pinch your heart out of look at all these great people that you couldn't have afforded. But I've got at this scale, because they all want to help me. And it is an issue as well, that when you land that one actor, or that one key person below the line, they are the ones that nobody wants to be the first to the party. So yeah, same thing with money. No one wants to be first money, and they all want to be first money out. It's tough. You know, you can often get second and third money, but who's the first jump in the pool?

Alex Ferrari 12:03
I don't know if this is even legal or not. But let's say your mom and dad are going to invest in your in your business. Can you just say we have investors already, we already have money and do

Heather Hale 12:10
that all the time. I know someone who has half a million and he or she told me behind the scenes, it's Mom and Dad, you know, nobody can it's confidence. It's just all smoke and mirrors, you know, and it's not just smoke and mirrors. I mean, you want to you want to take care of anyone else's money like it was your own. And you're going to take care of mom and dad's money because that's not so you're in retirement or your own inheritance. But it's your parents. So I think you just you want everyone to know that you honor the fiduciary relationship that you have and that you're going to do the very best you can in every department and every element and make everyone have faith and confidence in you and you got a pitch and pitch and pitch your heart out every which way.

Alex Ferrari 12:55
Now let's talk a little bit about screenwriters because I know screenwriters unfortunately have the worst the worst luck to have to pitch their their wares. And many times they don't have those visual stimulation, or videos or ripple, maddix or any of those things. What are the biggest mistakes you see screenwriters when they're pitching their scripts? Well, I

Heather Hale 13:16
have a lot of ideas for that. And I also think that times have changed. So they used to say don't use any key art, when you're pitching a screenplay. That's sort of true sort of not true. We talked about this in the other book, how to work the markets, but basically don't use shitty key art. Right, because most of what comes is awful. So it's okay to use key art. It's also okay to turn down the 12 students who want you to use their key art and use nothing. As a writer I worked on projects where I was a judge of a bunch of competitions, and the people came in and what the writer the creator pitched verbally and on the page was so much better than the chintzy budget that they could swing for some trailer or sizzle reel like you know, don't don't if it's not fantastic. Don't give that because your words should be able to see your writer that's we expect you to be a fantastic writer. The reverse is true as well. I've seen lots of slick, beautiful high end ad agency quality pitch decks and sizzle reels where the idea wasn't good. Write the story wasn't there, the characters were no good. It wasn't fresh wasn't original. So people can see through that. So as a writer, just write the best stuff you can. So then beyond that, you can use things like you don't have to have a photoshoot. You can use things like unsplash.com and there's a ton of others that's free images. So just get the image that captures some beautiful photographer who's done it for free and given it to you. Also, you can use any image you want in a pitch deck, right? It's not going you're not selling it. It's not necessarily going on the internet. Even if it goes on the internet, it can be password protected. So You can grab images off other things. And that's, you know, another thing people can do what's called a rip ematic. Instead of shooting a short film and editing your proof of concept for your feature film or your TV show, grab images of ala stars with the kind of production value you're wanting to communicate, and then just do a voiceover that kind of unifies it was telling your story. And they know that the Brad Pitt that changes even to Will Smith, that changes to whomever that that's the character we're tracking, then they can visualize in your mind's eye and a list actor with that kind of production value. Or don't worry about it, just have it written, you know, on the written page or grab images, I've done things where, wherever the set is, maybe it's Martha's Vineyard, maybe it's the Wild West, you grab images that conjure that sense of place and time and that mill you. And then don't worry about the actor so much. I have a project where we have an ensemble cast, and of course, we have whoever the hottie of the week is male and female, right? whoever they are, I'm not gonna say who they are because they look dated. But your veteran actors, some of your character actors, those are some of the anchors that you know, maybe you're going to stunt cast a cameo for a day or two. So maybe in your fantasy, you get Frances mcdorman and Kevin Costner. Alright, cool. And then we'll cast whoever the stars are, you know, but those are the anchor that are going to let you know the caliber of acting involved.

Alex Ferrari 16:24
Yeah, I have edited many a rip ematic in my day for clients, where it's it's a kind of a, it's an art form, first of all, but also a lot. But it's, but it's also something that not many people even know about. It's not a very known thing, or diplomatic where I literally would go to, you know, seven and Fight Club. And I would because it was a dark thriller esque thing. And I would just grab images of Brad Pitt and I actually carry Brad Pitt through multiple movies, in the trailer. And there's a lot of those kind of things like these pho trailers on YouTube now that I did do for fun. But

Heather Hale 16:58
on my website, so I have Heather Hill comm forward slash story selling. And I have rip ematic examples. And any that you have, that you I'll put tons more up there. So I keep trying to put things that are good examples. So and there are lots of when the fo ones are fantastic, because if you've ever seen the trailers that take something like the shining and turn it into romantic comedy, Oh, those are the best, right? But look at what it teaches you about images and juxtaposition of images and music and lighting, like you've lightened it up to a different color palette, and suddenly, it's not the shining anymore. Or you take some you know, Wes Anderson thing and make it gritty, film noir ish. Like, that's how you can change what we think the genre is, and who the target audience is. So I talk a lot about in both books, reverse engineering from your comps, your film and television examples that are similar, or that have the same sensibility or same target audience. And what can you learn from their taglines from their keywords? And are you pushing the boundaries in unique and interesting ways? Are you? Are you colliding ideas so that what comes up is fresh and in your wheelhouse really specifically? And I think all of these marketing materials, whether they're on whether it's a pitch deck, that's like a PowerPoint, whether it's a proposal in Microsoft Word or PDF, whether it's a sizzle reel, or rip, ematic, whatever an animatic. All those things are just to communicate the idea that's in your mind's eye to kind of emulate the viewing experience for your prospect.

Alex Ferrari 18:27
Now, can you tell everybody, we just want to go down the line? What is a pitch deck? So if you explain to people what a pitch deck is exactly?

Heather Hale 18:34
Well, I'm I think this is all changing all the time, because we have a whole generation of students who couldn't edit, what, 2030 years ago. I mean, it's just it's a whole different world. And so we have a very visual multimedia savvy, social media savvy generation, plus veterans that have been in the business for a long time and have done things in a different way. So I'm not sure that anybody knows this exactly. But in the book story selling especially I really tried to say, here's what a synopsis is, here's what a summary is. Here's what a logline is, you're going to hear a ton of different examples of what a treatment script meant all these words, but pitch to me. When I think of pitch deck, I think of a deck of cards. And I think of a stack of images. So I think PowerPoint for pitch deck that doesn't make it right or wrong. It can be saved as a PDF and sent in different ways. But I think, image image image with very little writing in a pitch deck, right? I did a fantastic pitch deck for a project. And then they wanted to know what were this episode synopsis. They wanted all the words after I went to all this effort to make this great image rich thing. I had to turn around and end up doing character breakdowns. Here's where the each episode would begin. And then here's our Cliff Notes. I'm cliffhangers. So, to me a pitch package is any one of these things. It's the package of the material. And a proposal might be more like a series Bible where you might have, here's a synopsis of the pilot. Here are the key episodes that we're going to talk about. If it's a limited series, you might have all of them. And so in the proposal, you're putting everything and it's a proposal to someone. Is it to a product placement company? Is it to a director? Is it to a star? Is it to someone playing a small supporting role, that's really key, and they're an A Lister, and you're going after them? And then you're gonna pitch it like, I don't know if you've seen the new, I don't know if it's called Karate Kid, but the new Karate Kid series or

Alex Ferrari 20:34
you mean, Cobra Kai? Kai,

Heather Hale 20:37
they teach that, right? But you know, they pitched it wildly differently to each of those actors, right? Because to one actor, it was his chance to he was the victim, he was the one that had the illegal kick to the head, right? So it was totally pitched differently to each of them to get them to feel like they were the protagonists of their stories. Yeah, so So it's the same thing, if you're pitching to someone who's got a fan, it's a fantastic big part. But they're only in two episodes of maybe a 10 episode limited series, you're pitching that key role, none of the rest of it really matters because they're not even there. So you have to make sure that it's what's in it for me. And what's relevant to me about this.

Alex Ferrari 21:19
So it's cost is your custom making pitches per person. Yeah, person thing,

Heather Hale 21:24
but honestly, 85 to 90% is the same, right, you're just taking out some stuff and shifting it. So I've started doing pitch decks and proposals. And then some, I don't normally have the ability for a sizzle reel. I mean, I can do Ripa maddix and things but my editing skills are are on the upswing. Make them so if I have someone on the team, who's a great editor, that's fantastic. I grab images and I grabbed I'll give like a an AVI timecode script of here where this would be great this clip this clip, this clip, and here's how we could pull this together. But for my purposes, I can usually do it with images, I've grabbed off the internet, which you know, I'm sure everybody knows, but right click and you can use it, you don't need REITs you don't need to pay for it, get the highest rates can and then, you know, make it smaller and wrap your text around it. And you can make a really beautiful presentation that really hits the high notes. And then on the website, I have a bunch of examples of everything too.

Alex Ferrari 22:22
And we'll put those in the show notes without question and then a sizzle reel. Because that's also another mystery that like a ripple Matic what is a sizzle reel. Exactly.

Heather Hale 22:29
Well, if you think of a trailer, the trailer for a movie, say for example, is often unfortunately beginning middle and end and it gives away all the best moments and it ruins the spoilers, right? That's typical bad trailer but it gets butts in the seat. So the cinema a trailer for let's say, Jane, the virgin for this week will be this week. And they're not going to tell you about pilot they're not gonna tell about the whole season. It's just what's coming up. So if you're or Game of Thrones, whatever it is that you're, you know, binge watching, if you happen to be watching it weekly on say, broadcast television. It's this upcoming week that are the like America's Got Talent. Here's who's in the semifinals, whatever it is, that's coming up, that's the trailer, a sizzle reel might be the whole season. Here's the whole asset that like if you were selling a TV show that you've put in the cat, let's think like like the dog whisperer. It might be clips of the whole five or 10 years or big bang theory it might be you know, they might be selling that to other countries. And that sizzle reel is the whole season, or the whole series, or the whole anthology series you think a True Detective American Horror Story. So it's not telling you what's coming up next week. It's not telling you the whole story like a trailer might or a trailer should tease. So they're all different ways of teasing. It's just how much content of the asset are they teasing and even as I give you all those definitions that you know they could all be wrong for a different kind of project. It's just I think I love the saying sell the sizzle not the steak. Right? You just you just want to tease and intrigue them so they want to come back they want they want like a logline is to get them to ask to read the script if if a logline gets them to ask to read the synopsis. They just asked for the second hurdle like you want to always go for the clothes so you're trying to get them to ask to read the script ask to see your you know your screener asked to get to the next step. And if you can't get them to make that leap, what's the very best next thing that will hopefully keep driving towards your goal?

Alex Ferrari 24:42
Now, how do you construct the pitch? I know that's also a loaded question because it depends on what kind of pitches but like you know, let's say a screenwriter is going to go into a pitch meeting with you know a potential producer or studio. How do you construct literally like construct the pitch like because some some of them will go in there and talk for 30 minutes you're like, nope. So how do you do it?

Heather Hale 25:04
And I talk a great deal in the book about different kinds of pitches, different kinds of projects, different environments. So the pitch for an on the studio lot, meeting, an official pitch meeting, that might be 30 minutes long, where everybody in the room has read your writer's Bible, your series Bible, they might have even read this read the screenplay, like sometimes you go in, and you're pitching after the fact where everybody's read everything. And then other times, you're doing a pitch fest event or virtual pitch fest thing, where it's five minutes, it's a total stranger, and you got to, you know, do your whole elevator pitch and don't even have time to build rapport. So I think it depends on what you're pitching, character driven projects are going to be pitched quite differently than a plot driven project, a high concept project is going to be quite differently pitch something that might be a famous novel, or a famous life story, somewhere where we have some point of reference, that's going to be quite differently pitch than some original worldview of like a Juno. Right? And it's, it's a whole, you have to know the world and the person and so depends on what it is you're pitching. Same thing with a pilot, a pilot for a, whether it's comedy or drama, it's going to be very much about that driving protagonist, because it might be it might be a serial, it might be episodic, who knows that? Are we going to want to tune into this character week after week. And then in the book, I go through everything, including reality TV, game shows, documentaries, everything. So it depends on two, do you know anything about the people you're pitching to? Sometimes who you're pitching to you can google them and you have a good feel for who's going to be in the room? I give strategies for how to find out who's going to be in the room. Sometimes you're completely prepared and who's in the room has changed by the time you get there. Like I had to deal with MPC when comp when Comcast was acquiring NBC Universal, so I had a four year deal. And you would go in and you who you thought you were pitching to, and you've done all your research on was different. And I even went in and pitched one day, and they had to call it off because of the stock shares. And who was they were requiring? And they couldn't hear y'all. You know, there's all sorts of stuff going on. Same thing with an investor, are they legit? Are they real? Are they not, it's just sometimes hard to know who you're pitching to. So you want to make sure that you're prepared to kind of lead off with some top notes. I often think of like an overture and a musical or an opera. It's like boom, boom, boom, skipping a rock across the water, so that they get a sense that there's going to be gunplay, there's going to be some fight choreography, there's going to be this epic romance, we get a sense of the type of things we're going to be seeing. And then you do a deep dive into the character that you're pitching to maybe the visuals and cinematics to a director, maybe why there's a great affinity target audience to an investor. It depends on what you're pitching to why, who and why. And that's another thing I talk about is the like journalism, the who, what, where, when, why, like, think about those things. And so in the book, I did what I thought was a lot of fun. And I've had a lot of readers read it, and they loved it. I'm not tooting my own horn, I just was really thought every minute. What What did I wish I had 20 years ago, what does storytellers need to have. And so I did all these work, worksheets and spreadsheets, and here's how to break it down. I have some stuff from Blake Snyder in there that would save a cat and all the genres. And here's an approach for loglines. If you don't like that, no worries, here's how to break down a tagline. Here's how to use irony. Here's how all the different ways of going from logline to synopsis to pitch deck to video, all the different ways because you might have to go backwards and forwards. And that's a big premise of the book is as you refine and hone your marketing materials, it becomes real glaring, where your problems are in your script. Right? Real Clear. So you're rewriting and developing as you're marketing and as you're pitching. And when you pitch and people are confused. It's probably a problem in the script. You know, or missed opportunity when someone laughs when they're not supposed to. There's something there's a there's a gap there waiting for that you you should go back and rewrite your script. And not that you should you know, be influenced by all that. But but it's it's not art until someone encounters it. Right. So what you think is in your head might be quite different. Like I don't know if I told you this in the last one. But I had a thrower class with Neil Hicks at UCLA that I love.

And he gave us this exercise in class and it was you know, what do you want? So one character asked the other character, what do you want? And my brother, his wife had just come out of the closet. So this had rocked the world of our family. And so I wrote you know, what do you want a divorce like Because to me, it was a very melodramatic, poignant thing. So I wrote this little exercise, and I wrote a divorce. And I did this dialogue back and forth. And then he asked us to read it. So here's my family processing this challenging thing. And as I'm reading it, the class is in hysterics laughing like it was a spoof on comedy. And I was too embarrassed to like, I could have cried with how embarrassed I was, but I just kept reading it. And at the end, you'll Hicks it that is some of the best comedy writing we've ever heard. Well, I haven't even had the time to see the humor in it. But it just shows you that what you think you're expressing somebody else might be getting something quite different based on their worldview, or the juxtaposition of what you've put together. So it's all about your delivery, and their discovery. And is there a gap there? And and can you is that a missed opportunity? Or do you need to refine your presentation?

Alex Ferrari 30:59
Now? And would you agree that sometimes if you are lucky enough to walk into an office or someone's home, or you know, depending on an investor or something like that, and you haven't had a chance to do your research, because you didn't know who that person was? That if you do scan that room and see what they have in the room, like, oh, there are Laker fans, oh, they got an autographed picture of Muhammad Ali Oh, they've got you know, things on the wall, like to kind of like quickly do a profile in your head about them and try to connect or create rapport with them in one way, shape, or form before you even start the pitch even if it's for a couple minutes. Does that make sense?

Heather Hale 31:32
It that's actually an age old sales technique called fish on the wall technique. And you walk in and you see the big Marlin on the wall and you go, Hey, did you catch that? And it opens up a chance for them to talk about something that they love. You may see a photo cube and say, Oh, your son so cute. He plays soccer. Well, yeah, now he's in college, because that picture is from when they were five or eight or whatever. But still you have a frame of reference. I often suggest people wear icebreaking jewelry or like your shirt is the who knows it the camp.

Alex Ferrari 32:05
Yeah, the cap. Yeah, it's just a word something. Yeah. Uh huh.

Unknown Speaker 32:08
Well, what is it though?

Alex Ferrari 32:09
It's just a place you work out?

Heather Hale 32:12
Yeah. But I mean, so then I then we begin to have something to talk about, and hustle and be your baseball cap, indie film, hustle, right? So same thing, I'm not wearing anything good. But if I had like a Native American project, and I had turquoise jewelry, and someone said, Oh, I love that I'll actually see how to Staci like boom. And you go right into your story, right? I often try to think of what could I wear that will make them and good example, I used to go down every year to the Marlin fishing tournament in Cabo San Lucas, where lots and lots of millionaires and billionaires aren't that 25,000 just to fish, right. So I would carry the bag from last year's tournament so that when I was at LAX, and you're in this little teeny terminal going to Cabo San Lucas, everyone knew you were going there. And so by the time you got there, you had met a few people on the plane, he had to switch to a smaller plane. They all knew Cabo San Lucas, they saw that the Bisbee, black and blue, and then by the time you're on the shuttle, which they always stop at someone's house or something, you know, the cousin's gas station for beer. You have made 568 friends before you even got into the hotel. Same thing with like the American Film market, Matt p these things if you bring last year's bag, and you're at the Loews hotel, people know that you're in that mill you in that world. So whatever it is that you've got, I wouldn't be wearing costumes. But if you have a T shirt or basically a baseball cap something, but even I have like some really cool jewelry from Ireland Murano. That's like glass blown, and then you can talk about, you can figure out a way to have an anecdote that drives you to your story. It's just a way to shortcut.

Alex Ferrari 33:50
I've heard of some of the most horrible pitches I've ever heard. I'd love to hear when anyone Have you heard about like people like literally dressing up sending Chippendale dancers to agents. It's not a good thing. And it generally does not work if you're just trying to get attention for attention sake, that kind of stunt stuff. It can work. But from what I again, always if it's done properly, if it's done well and it's just generally not.

Heather Hale 34:19
A million examples are going through my head. We could talk all day about bad pitches. million pitch fast by planned and organized millions. But two that come to mind one was a stripper who did a lap dance as part of her pitch. Okay, sure.

Get her It's fine, but it's pretty neat to clearly think everybody in town wanted to hear that pitch. He had no interest in her script. So she had to schlep around all over town doing lap dances for what like that's, that's not going to help you. Another one. This might be incredibly politically incorrect, but I will tell you someone came up to me this was 1520 years ago, and I think it was a female to male transgender. And he was saying that he didn't want that it was a true story. It was his story. And he didn't want people taking the meeting, just to see what look like, right? It was 20 years ago. So it was less. It was it was more rare than and I said to him, I said not to be disrespectful. But I wish I had a hook line. And the guy laughed. He's like, you know what, you're right. Like, it is what it is, right? It is what it is. So it's not the same as the stripper doing it. It's like you get in the room. That's the hook. Okay, now is the story there. So there's, there's always a hook, there's always an angle there. Like I said, I have a million stories of people who've done good jobs, bad jobs. It is what it is. I did one with Martha's Vineyard project where I went into pitch to I think it was NB C's blue sky network. Those USA. And there had there was two different execs I was pitching to. And they each had a different assistant. And so I was doing a lot of coordinating, trying to get the two of them in the room. And so the day that I came, I took chocolate bars from Martha's Vineyard for the two assistants. So it wasn't it was a little brown nosing. But it was kind of project specific, they would remember it was just a thank you, I gave it to them off to the side. And I think a little touches like that are very personal and nice. And then they remember that. So I think there's a lot of things you can do that are within the scope of not just common courtesy, but like I think of other than Japan a year they do oh Miyagi, where they bring a taste of the season. So that was a little taste of Martha's Vineyard for this comedy that we were pitching to their bosses.

Alex Ferrari 36:56
In my book, I actually had went around Hollywood pitching with a mobster, you know, with the book I wrote a little bit ago. And that was my hook like they I was sitting at the short term Armand with some of the biggest actors in the world purely because they just wanted to have a dinner or coffee or drink with the mobster and he never disappointed. So it you use what you got? I guess

Heather Hale 37:25
that's the same thing. Like I was talking with a transgender guy like, I'm not I'm not making any kind of a judgement just that there will be that curiosity looky loo kicking tires. It sucks, but why not use it? So if you've got a mafioso that's willing to come with you and schmooze Have at it, right?

Alex Ferrari 37:42
I don't think there is a mafia. I don't think there is a mafia so that wouldn't come around and instruments in Hollywood. Are you kidding? Yes, they are definitely pitch worthy without question. Right. Now, how do you research potential buyers for either your screenplay or potential projects? There's a lot of people just have no idea where to even begin with just searching. Who's gonna want this?

Heather Hale 38:04
Yeah. So I cover that real extensively in both books. And probably that's one of my, that's probably my superhero skill is like, my dad was a spy. And I was almost a spy. So

Unknown Speaker 38:16
I, you know, I

Heather Hale 38:17
ended up I interviewed with the CIA in Arlington, Virginia for a week when I was 19 years old. So my dad was Yeah, so my dad was in the Secret Service. And so I am like, Spidey skills and spin research and due diligence. So a couple things I learned, unfortunately, for Sony, you know, they had that huge leak. I did not know this, but this is a terrible tip to give people but it's true. And you know, once it's on the internet, it's out there forever. If you're trying to track down contact information for someone, like let's say, you know, it's at caa.com, like, you know, the, the domain name, right, and you know, their name, if you put in, like if you put in Alex Ferrari Plus, at indie film, hustle, calm, something like that. And just do a search for that. What I found was a gold mine of all the Sony press releases that pulled up that person's name that had whatever their actual email address was below, because it came up on all these different documents. And now you've got their contact information. So that's better than variety insight that's better than IMDb Pro. It's the stuff they're using internally. So I shouldn't share that because it'll probably I'll scramble to change it. But that's been an amazing resource for contact info. But I also do like, I'm, I'm sure you have run into investors who are not investors

Alex Ferrari 39:48
know, never they're all on the up and up. Right? They all have millions. This is my favorite. This is my favorite. They say it's only 5 million. I don't that's no problem at all. I could do 5 million in my sleep. I don't know Get up for lesson. One. I can't pick up lunch right now. I can't pick up lunch.

Heather Hale 40:04
And their shoes are cheap. Right?

Alex Ferrari 40:08
So not there's anything wrong with Payless shoes. But if you're saying you have $5 million to invest, you shouldn't have Payless

Heather Hale 40:13
shoes. I'm saying, we can have shoes from Payless. We're asking for 5

Unknown Speaker 40:18
million. Exactly.

Heather Hale 40:20
Exactly. So coming off I've started to do is put in the name plus scam plus scandal plus fraud Plus, you know, and find out because someone somewhere will have said, this guy's a total fraud, it's a scam. So using those search terms, you know, become a world class internet search person. Because you'd be amazed what you find. And and even if you find, you know, who is it, Zuckerberg, anyone who has 10 million friends is bound to have a few enemies, you're bound to find some dirt on anybody. So you can see if it's legit or not, you can see that. So, but finding out what they've done, I had an example where I won't use it. And I won't use any names. But basically, somebody tried to bully me. And they won into optioning, one of my best projects, saying that they had produced a little movie called and then I won't say what it is because it's going to be too easy to track down. But they produced a little movie called XYZ. And then when I did some due diligence, they have been the second unit producer, second unit line producer,

Unknown Speaker 41:34
oh my god,

Heather Hale 41:36
well, I have options I should have at the time this was pre like I should have gone into the backroom. And IMDb need to see that they were second unit line producer, that's quite different than even if you're one thing,

Alex Ferrari 41:48
first line producer, that doesn't

Heather Hale 41:50
mean anything, while difference to cut checks out of a checking account that somebody else got money into. Right? So just do your due diligence, like crazy. And then unfortunately, and I found this if you find someone who has a company name that's really common odds are they chose it because it's really common, and you can never quite suss them out. So, you just, there's so many people playing Hollywood, like if I could go back in time, and clean my calendar of all the people who wasted my time. How much of like Pulitzer Prize Nobel winning projects, right? Because we would have all that time back. So do your due diligence and, you know, pay attention to red flags, because red flags don't get better.

Alex Ferrari 42:35
And yes, it was without question. But But I am I am shocked to hear all these stories about the business. I've never I could never imagine something like that happening and our business. No, it's in our dish is shocking, shocking, shocking.

Heather Hale 42:56
And that's the problem is a lot of people are playing Hollywood.

Alex Ferrari 42:59
Everybody want to pay 95% 95% of like hollywood,

Heather Hale 43:03
hollywood, so you need to figure out, are they I mean, it's one thing, like, I have respect for the guy who's trying to fund his fluffs. Breakthrough, fine. If you're gonna put up money for or whoever, their son, their daughter, if they're gonna put up money to get a break for someone, I'm all over it, let's surround them with the best talent, let's give like, let's get you your money back. Like, like, let's just be honest about what we're trying to do here. But it's when the people are playing Hollywood, they don't really have the money. So you know, I'm a former mortgage banker. So I'm pretty good at tracking down to see if people have the money or not. Because in mortgage banking, you have to do proof of funds. If you ask for proof of funds, a legit investor will give you proof of funds. Yeah, they may block out the account number, they may have it just be better off from the bank manager saying that they have X number of digits. It's none of your business, but just some third party verification. lots of ways to prove that. So it's exhausting.

Alex Ferrari 44:08
I could see it in your face just talking about it. You're exhausted about it.

Heather Hale 44:13
Like I was involved.

I'll tell you two things and we gotta move on because I'll just get sick to my stomach. So I won a senate commendation from California State Senate for helping San Juan Capistrano stay out of the junk bond scandal when Orange County filed bankruptcy. San Juan Capistrano is the only city to not be dragged through that. And so I was the vice president of the Chamber of Commerce, I was really actively involved in saving a historic building yada yada yada. But we saw that come in like a train wreck like there are signals. There was also a company and I'll go ahead and say it because it was a big deal quest financial. That pulled a scan on lots and lots of films. I won't mention them but they are films you will have heard of. We thought we had 30 million raised we thought we had Money in escrow like, and I actually had the FBI call me and say, Can you help us like I was involved in that investigation because I was the one company that pulled out and said, I said to my partners who are all high profile, I said, guarantee you in the 11th hour, they're going to switch escrow companies, they're gonna say there was a problem with the wire, they have to switch escrow companies, and what's going to happen is, people who are supposed to put skin in the game have to put just 400,000, right, because you're getting 30 million This is your skin in the game, you're going to go and that's going to not be that building won't be there. Because there's there will be fraud. So there were I helped try to help them figure this all out. But unfortunately, not a week goes by you think of the people who are all those internet scams with that you inherited money that all the

Alex Ferrari 45:49
Nigerian prince, yes,

Heather Hale 45:51
Prince or even the Social Security scams that are going on, unfortunately, goes on in our business all the time where people say they're going to hire you as a line producer for a project and they're going to wire you money and you need to buy equipment, the equipment is going to somebody else that's cash out of your account because the funds bounced. So the scams are just there.

It's it is exhausting.

Alex Ferrari 46:12
I'll tell I'll tell you, I'll tell you my FBI story if you'd like to. Yeah, first and foremost. So, so the, the worst and I've never spoken about this on on any of my shows, because it's just not. It's not, it's not something that you actually, you know, talk about a lot. But I was called by the FBI, which is not a phone call you want to get because when you get it, you're like, Hi, this is the FBI. I'm like, No, who is this? And they're like Sarah, where the FBI was like, Oh, God, and like, we're USA, you attach this product. Did you work on these projects with these producers? And I'm like, Yeah, I did. I worked in post and I just like, we're flying down to interview you. They've been indicted. And we want to see if we're gonna use you as a witness. And we just want to hear your side of the story, not your side. I'm not in trouble. You're like, well, hang on. Let

Heather Hale 47:00
me just check with my mafioso see what

Alex Ferrari 47:05
this is, thankfully, years later, and my documentation of the mafia story. The mafia story has been documented in my book, which is available. I'll find bookstores on Amazon as we speak. But this was a completely separate thing. I mean, this is probably about 10 years later, but man and they had him come over, we had a set sit down, and we talked to over over a coffee. No, no, no, it didn't come over house, we went met at a coffee shop. I'm like, hey, come over, and we set that and then afterwards, after we felt they felt that like, Okay, this guy was absolutely not involved with anything. And it was cool. Then, of course, I'm talking, then, of course, I'm like, so do you watch the exe files? area? 51? Is it real? Come on, tell me. And I said they just started laughing. They just start pacing themselves. But it's a serious thing. Another project that was involved with the director went to jail, because he defrauded tax tax incentives, because he told the told the state that he paid an actor $6 billion when he actually only paid him $600,000. Right and probably pocket in pocket pocket of the difference. And then all of a sudden, he's in jail for five years.

Heather Hale 48:12
That's hurting, not just the IRS, but it's also hurting your investors, your party, project, star, everyone's pissed at the star because he's making 6 million when he's only making 600,000. Like the lies that go backwards and forwards is, like said exhausting. And I will say not not just in sales. There is like we talked about the beginning. You have to project that you're bigger than you are you have to buy Payless shoes on the first day and wear them before they get scuffed and fall apart. Like you have to wear it's all smoke and mirrors. So there are people who are hammering their crew down saying that their budget is 600,000. And they turn around and tell the investor or the distributor that it's a million dollar project. Well, that is truck because they have the the distributor will say well, it's a million dollars, we're only going to give you 600,000 Well, now you're good, right? But then the crews find out you're getting it's a million dollar project, you will meet a quarter more an hour and then they're striking. Like it's tough. It's tough the balancing.

Alex Ferrari 49:14
It's a balancing act with that kind of stuff. But we have we have gone off the rails here, which is bad. But it's fantastic. Because actually it's all very, very good information for people. Listen, listen, you know, you and I have been around the business for a long time. We've seen a lot of stuff and and I tell you some people have not like I know people right now listening to this podcast, their minds are blown completely by some of the things that you and I take for granted because we've experienced it so many times. But out there that's who they're marking. That's their mark the guy or the girl listening.

Heather Hale 49:45
I think in the last podcast about the thing I overheard at the market right about taking skimming off the top of a SAG bond.

Alex Ferrari 49:53
No, no, no,

Heather Hale 49:54
no, no, don't tell us it. So I was at the American Film market and I overheard you One distributor training a wet behind the ears, another distributor sales agent, basically saying that the contract should read that they make a commission off all proceeds. So what that means is is you know how you put up a SAG bond right to pay all your actors? Yeah, so let's say that bond is a mil of a million dollars 200,000 depends on whatever your budget is sure you put up that bond to guarantee sag AFTRA that you will pay your actors. So when that refund of your bond, your savings account, that composite, the composite that you have allocated to pay payroll, comes back through the account, they take a commission off the top of you getting your own deposit back. So you got and they're teaching one another how to screw independent filmmakers. So you just gotta watch. I know, shocking, shocking,

Alex Ferrari 50:51
I can't a distributor never I thought they were the they were the were the cream of the crop, never a distributor.

Heather Hale 50:57
Yeah. So I mean, it's just, I'm not jaded, I love what we do and love what we do, we are lucky to get to tell stories to connect, you know, I love it, you just have to pay attention to the daisy chain of middlemen in the middle. And the people who are not craters, I also find that with agents and managers and entertainment attorneys, and there's a lot of good ones in the business. But by the time is one creator to another and there's 12 you know, dominoes in the middle. By the time the two creators can talk together, they have a shared vision, and they want as much as they can get on the screen. They want to be honest and authentic to the material. It's all people in the middle who just take a piece off top, every time your money changes hands, someone's getting a piece of it. So it's just a tough, tough business. And still, we're in it.

Alex Ferrari 51:45
And we're and we're still psychotic enough to do this on it. And smile and smile about it because we're all psychotic, and we're all a little bit crazy inside

Heather Hale 51:54
I I often say if I won the lottery, I'd wake up and keep doing what I'm doing only and do a hell of a lot easier. I know exactly what projects I'd be working on and who I'd be hiring. I keep doing it, it would just be easier.

Alex Ferrari 52:07
It'd be a lot it'd be a lot easier without question. Now do you have any marketing tips for screenwriters, and also filmmakers to either help them with their own personal brand or the brand of the project because I've something like a movie like Kung Fury. I don't know if you ever heard of that movie that did so well that they're actually doing a feature of it. Now. That was such a well branded, I mean, so brilliantly branded with some guy from Sweden, I think or something like that, who did it. And that's, that's a great example of a of a project brand name, but then there's filmmaker branding, as well. Or screenwriter branding in general. Like any advice, you have a marketing tips on how you can get them out there.

Heather Hale 52:47
Well, it's funny because you know you it's the flip side of the coin, the more you brand yourself, the more pigeonholed you are. And then you want to shift from a historical biopic to a thriller and, oh, that's not what she writes. You know? So I think, I think Jeff, Archie wrote Sleepless in Seattle said once at selling to Hollywood, you get nouns and verbs, right? nouns and verbs. If you're going to use an adjective, they need to be precious. So with you with your project with your brand, make sure that you're thinking of your adjectives, as almost SEO, Search Engine Optimization words, like are you? Is it a hip word that's going to conjure that affinity market the right age demographic? Is it? Are they words that really clearly delian ate your worldview? The sensibility like if you think of Wes Anderson, or you think of john Grisham, I mean, you can think of Steven key you can think of some of these people or you think of like Jane, the Virgin, like it's a kind of a campy telenovela with its tongue in cheek, like it's really fresh in the woods now. I mean, it's much it's been around for a long time, Big Bang Theory, you know, making geeks hot, like all the different things they did. They, they knew what they were going after what they were creating. So I think it's the same thing for you, if you have a product project is easier to brands and a person because the person might want to evolve and change and, you know, look at the Beatles and the different influences they incorporated as they call, right. So music from India, like whatever it was, they were doing, they were evolving. So I think it's important that you make sure that what you're the Nisha carving out for that project is really crystal clear to that nation. And that's a huge part of the collaborative process and making sure you're all making the same movie. In a writers group, that you don't have people trying to target and tell their story with your script, like, what is the story you're trying to tell and make sure you honor that vision? And then beyond that, how do you communicate that and even, you know, I've done some faith based things that are Not necessarily a Christian faith base, but you want to not alienate people who aren't feeling that. So you know, how can you kind of play down some elements so that you can get these pieces of the puzzle and then play up those benefits to other people? So it's what, what are the pieces of the puzzle? Same thing with ethnicity, you know, I always try, I have a couple projects now where the characters are like Jordan, Chris could be a girl or a guy could be black, white, Asian, Native American, like, I'm cool with that. So I try to like, right, colorblind, unless it's really important that it's a ginger Scotsman, right? That'd be something that that woman has to be middle aged or postmenopausal to. That's what the story is. So whatever the issue is, but otherwise, can you be colorblind and your writing and your casting, so that now if you're going to, if you're pitching that to an African American woman to play the lead, that same pitch package could go to an Asian guy to play that same role? Because it's a thriller, and they are an agent, or whatever? So how do you? How are you, it's all comes down to who you're pitching to? And why what are you trying to get out of them?

Unknown Speaker 56:14
You know, are

Heather Hale 56:15
you trying to get them to fall in love with that role?

Are you trying to get them to feel like they're gonna make their money back? Are you trying to get them to open their doors after

Unknown Speaker 56:23
hours per

Heather Hale 56:23
location? Like, what is the reason you're, what are you trying to do with that?

Alex Ferrari 56:29
Excellent. Now, I also want to ask you, cuz you're out there and you're, you're in the in the trenches, as they say, what's easy? I know, right? What's

Heather Hale 56:39
one of these days want to not be in the trenches, I want to be like up at the Cannes Film Festival on the balcony, not in the trenches, or on a yacht somewhere. But yeah, I'm in the trenches.

Alex Ferrari 56:48
I can set I can, I can sense that from you. I can set so we all want to be at the top of the mountain with Spielberg and Cameron, and all these kind of guys could just do whatever they want, whenever they want. But until that day comes we're here huffing it. So as as we are here, down in the trenches,

Heather Hale 57:05
these are the good old days, we just don't know it yet.

Alex Ferrari 57:06
Exactly. These, these are the stories that will tell these are the stories that will tell them the yachts. Oh, no. But so TV projects or feature film projects, what's the better? What's a good market right now? What's where's the most opportunity? Or in general? What is where is there the most opportunity for content creators, screenwriters, filmmakers to make a dent?

Heather Hale 57:32
Well, I haven't I, I have an opinion, not advice. So I've got lots of opinions. I think no one knows. And if I knew I'd have a crystal ball, and we would be on that yacht having a really fine wine, right. So I'm not saying I'm the Oracle, I have my opinions. And my opinion is film and television when I first wrote the first book, you know, my book proposal said that film and television were converging. And 11. People thought that was really insightful and one person's like, No, they're not. They're totally different business models. They're totally different. No, they're converging. They're so converging. It's so seamless. Now. The viewer doesn't care how that content got to them, whether it was satellite, or you know, coaxial cables, or cell service, they don't care if it's on an iPhone screen, a big screen of their screen, the cinemas at home are as good as they are even better than some of the Cineplex at the mall. So that convergence is pretty incredible what everyone wants. Remember the old days with websites where they called Sticky, sticky website, they want sticky TV now and is what is TV is TV Cable broadcast. Is it streaming like what is it? It's just content, it's all content. And so what they want is, whether they're ad supported, whether they're subscription supported models, whether they are you know, there's so many different models now, what they want is addictive, binge worthy marquee value stock. And so I think the biggest opportunity at the moment is limited event series anthology series. Its serial programming, whether it's episodic look at Black Mirror, or which only did three episodes I guess in their next season, which is kind of odd. But who cares like it's whatever the stories require. So is it are like Twilight Zone, they're rebooting, you know, these kinds of anthology series where the grand American Horror Story True Detective the genre unifies them and you know that you can come back week after week and get that kind of thing who knows who's going to be starring in it? Or like one hour dramas and serials your your Netflix and Amazon and Hulu you know, Hulu just won its first Emmy for Handmaid's Tale. So all of these things, they want people who are going to be loyal and come back, whether it's appointment viewing or binge viewing or just wanting to talk about it because the we've had this nonlinear time shift where people don't talk around the watercooler anymore, right now, you could have seen all of Game of Thrones, and I might not have seen any of it. So how do we, how do we engage on that? And that's what's happening with your, your got talents all around the world is it's like they want this, it's either gotta be live, and you have to be that fear of missing out, we're talking about, you know, so, again, it depends, is it reality, it's documentaries are having a total resurgence of Renaissance now. Because it's easier to find these things. So I think again, it's all about identifying your target audience and being authentic and true to the material. And there's some series out there where one episode is 11 minutes, and another one is 44. It's whatever the story needed to be for that chapter. So we have so much freedom as storytellers today. And that the fragmentation of the dial, I often think of millennials going what dial, right? What's the dial, to dial like, they don't even know that I have this frame of reference. So we have to be able to shift with that and know that at the end of the day, people but there's so many jobs in our industry and around the world, in every industry that are being taken over by robots. It's tough for a robot to tell a story.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:14
Yeah. They're not well, they can't, they can't, but it's all based on older people's I saw AI doing it. There was a whole episode on coming up about that, like AI and and how they wrote it. But it's all algorithm based. It's all based on old scripts. Right? And it's just not, it's not there.

Heather Hale 1:01:36
Yeah, so that's what I think I don't even know if I'm answering your question now. But I'm interested in what we're talking about.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:40
No, no, no, I got you. You made it, you made a very good answer to it.

Heather Hale 1:01:44
But it's being tapped into not just the Zeitgeist that's current, but what matters to you. Like, what's frustrating to you? what pisses you off? What's inspiring to you, because if you're authentic and real about that, you're going to find others, for whom that's true, as well. And the more you can stay stick to the truth, the more like specific it is, the more universal it is. So I think, I think we're in an amazing time. And I think if you just keep sticking to your guns, and stay in the trenches, and keep hustlin and happen, you know, good, good work rises to the cream of the crop.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:20
Now, tell me a little bit about the book. We've talked a lot about stuff inside the book, but just tell us exactly what the book is. Where can people find it when it's available?

Heather Hale 1:02:28
It's called story selling, how to develop market and pitch your film and TV projects. It's a Michael easy book. And it's, there's a link on my website, Heather Hale comm forward slash store selling, that it's a pre order on Amazon. So they actually can order it now. But they don't ship till July. So it's done. It's ready to go. So I don't know what happens in that process of how hard is it to hit print, right, and, like, get it to you. But it's coming out. And I have had a lot of people read it. And like I said not to toot my own horn, but it's it's really good. I'm really proud of it. I think I have had people who've been in the business 30 years who are like, I would read this for every project. So I'm really pleased with that. And people who have never written anything are like, Okay, this is it's not rocket science. And it's not colored by numbers, either. But there are steps and there's some things to think about. And there's a lot of fantastic books out there on everything under the sun. But I didn't feel like there was a book out there that explained these things that we're all scrambling to create all the time pitch decks series Bibles, rip of maddix like, what are these words? How do you pull them together? And do you need a treatment for every project like you'd like? And what are the what order do they get done in so and I talk a lot about like, you know, it's the affinity backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards. It's it's an never ending process and it can be development hell, or it can be I talked about, you know, reduction sauce, you take this huge soup terrain and reduce everything down to great, fantastic ingredients and get to the essence of each of those elements and let them shine and that's what you're trying to do. And I also think of like kindergarten rooms with feng shui like everything should have a place of you know me zomboss knees on scene, everything's got a place and do you have all the pieces you need all the elements so that somebody can help you achieve your dream gives them the pieces they need to sell on your behalf?

Alex Ferrari 1:04:23
Now I'm gonna ask you questions asked all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to break into the business today? Get a job. get a real job. No, no, no. I would not I would not get a job in the business. I would say as a good piece of advice.

Heather Hale 1:04:40
It's not a bad advice. I would say.

You know, write what you know, write what you need to know. Like follow that process of discovery so that you're writing stuff that you would want to watch. Surround yourself with really fantastic people. trust your gut instincts. If you Someone makes your skin crawl, run, and really enjoy someone and they improve your writing or they improve their good collaborator, like, spend time with people that you get this, you know, these productions can be, as you well know, just delicious and dry. So you want to be surrounded by people who make you laugh, who make you feel good about yourself who make you step to the plate to create the best work. Don't surround yourself with naysayers and people who make you question yourself and, and are hyper critical. I mean, it's all about people at the end of the day, not just the people you're working with, and not just, you know, the people you're accountable to whether they're investors or distributors, but also think about what you're putting out into the communal consciousness. Like, is that something that you want to be part of your legacy? Like, really think about that, you know, put out there images that you want out there? I think people often try to kowtow to the up to the market. And what do you think is good?

Unknown Speaker 1:06:01
How about what wish was good?

Alex Ferrari 1:06:05
That was that was that was good. I liked that one. That was? That was good. That was a good one. I like that one. That was actually really, really good. That was it. So the rest of it was scrapped. But this was actually really cool. Can you tell me a book that had the biggest impact on your life or career? Oh,

Heather Hale 1:06:25
yeah, I probably shouldn't because it'll reveal my politics. Iran, atlas shrugged. The Fountainhead. I'm a libertarian through and through.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:35
Fair enough fair dose.

Heather Hale 1:06:37
You know, she came from Russia. And

Unknown Speaker 1:06:38
she, you know, so

Heather Hale 1:06:40
I don't know that we're, that we have the American Dream right now, or real capitalism or real democracy. But what, what we hoped it would be, you know, that's pretty pure in that, and I know, there's people who can't standard.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:52
Hey, everyone's got everything. I asked you a question. What was the book that impacted you? And that was the book. And that's all good. Yeah. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life,

Heather Hale 1:07:04
I'm probably still learning it? Well, there's several things I would guess one of them is life's not fair. You know. I mean, that's it. It's really I wish life was fair. And it's not. It's not a meritocracy. You know, the best person doesn't always win. And sometimes it doesn't matter how hard you work. Doesn't matter how hard you want it life isn't fair. And it stops. But

Alex Ferrari 1:07:29
you gotta keep running. Keep hustling. Okay, hold on.

Unknown Speaker 1:07:33
Only life was fair.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:34
Oh, my gosh, would there be better they'd be a lot better movies in the world.

Heather Hale 1:07:39
That's like fat comedy and that trailer if life were fair.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:43
Now, what is fast? All right. Now, what is the biggest fear you've had to overcome in your career just to kind of make those first few projects?

Heather Hale 1:07:54
Oh, well, a million. Of course. I think everybody has the I'm not good enough.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:58
Yes. imposter syndrome.

Heather Hale 1:08:00
So I'm not worried about that issue. Um, I think a huge part of it. I this is probably way too truthful. But it's just coming to me. I'm not married. Because I have suffered so many betrayals and divorces professionally, that I'm in a happily committed 11 years solid rock solid romance. But I think I'm just so I feel like I've been divorced 25 times, you

Alex Ferrari 1:08:27
know, the feeling, right? Look, when you're with a project for three, four or five years, and you and you keep in like oh, it's almost there. It's normal. It's always there. It's almost opposite. It is about to drop.

Heather Hale 1:08:40
The rug keeps getting pulled out from under you, you thought that had a ring on it. Like every time like I had a project I was in a payer play offer. And the first check had cleared and the contract was signed, and it fell apart. And it didn't get either pay or play like how does that happen? Why is like not fair. Like, I vented everybody like I every project, I get a step further. And then, like there's a million ways to get screwed in this business. And I've been screwed by all of them. And I just keep thinking I've run out of them. And the next one, like, I don't know, I don't know what the lesson is there. But you just have to, again, have people in your life that you can turn to who can help you see the irony and the life lessons and the comedy in the shit that we put up with. Like, there's always a pony there. Maybe there's it's just not in that room.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:33
Right, right. Or if it was just a couple guys in a horse outfit.

Heather Hale 1:09:38
We're in like, Horton Hears a Who and we're looking in all the wrong rooms that are full of shit. Like there's a pony here somewhere. I don't know where it is, but

Alex Ferrari 1:09:47
I'm glad this turned into a therapy session. I'm glad I could help you with this. Not Listen, listen. I actually I absolutely feel you I feel I've had so many projects fall apart and but for whatever reason. We're still here. We're here. And we and then I don't know if that says something about the business or us well, or both gone with the wind

Heather Hale 1:10:07
when Scarlett O'Hara standing there and it's I think it's Civil War, Civil War, revolutionary

Alex Ferrari 1:10:13
Civil War,

Unknown Speaker 1:10:14
the war and there's all those dead soldiers. Yeah. And they just

Heather Hale 1:10:19
blow and that's awesome man in Hollywood, right? And you look around, you're like, I recognize him from 20 years ago, and I used to hate her guts, but she's a trooper, she's still here, we're gonna be friends like you just, at some point, you see who the survivors are. And that's awesome, man. I know what

Alex Ferrari 1:10:37
and it's so true. And I hope I mean, I hope we have not scared off a whole gaggle of people listening to this.

Unknown Speaker 1:10:45
Or your listeners

Alex Ferrari 1:10:46
know, but you know what this is, but this is the truth of the business. And I'm always like, my, my mantra is follow your dream, but Don't be an idiot. And it's, it's like, I'm all about the positivity and the motivation, you've got to go for it. But you have to be aware of what's out there. And that was the main purpose. I even opened up in the film, hustle and bulletproof screenplay, or bulletproof screenwriting in the first place because I wanted this kind of information out there. Because it's not taught in schools. It's generally not in books, it's stuff that you hear about in the back at drinks at AFM, or in a coffee shop. And you never hear the whole story know each other. Exactly, you you're lucky enough to overhear a conversation like this and that's why I wanted to bring people like you on the show. So I'm grateful for your honesty and I'm

Heather Hale 1:11:32
grateful that you're out there doing this and I'm not jealous of other ones of your episodes. I mean, they're great. So I'm honored to be on here and I hope I hope I said stuff that was cathartic to people who feel like idiots because you're not an idiot like it's happening to the people the people who got screwed and that other deal or third generation filmmakers episode i thought you know what, they've got credits I would be as killed have and I thought come in and not that I my nose hasn't been kicked in many times. But you see them again and their patterns you can recognize so just it's not fair. It sucks get over it. And no, you got yourself and write great stuff and do stuff that makes it at the end of the day worth it.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:17

Heather Hale 1:12:17
Right. And at the end of all of this, you didn't write some schlock and you didn't throw together some piece of shit that someone else could have done like make it more worthwhile

Alex Ferrari 1:12:28
without question and I have one last question three of your favorite films of all time.

Heather Hale 1:12:34
Oh well always Shawshank Redemption is

Unknown Speaker 1:12:36

Alex Ferrari 1:12:38
it's my top as well.

Heather Hale 1:12:41
One recently booted from I think I need to do a list where you have the how long they've been on the list Sure Sure. Brand new one is greatest showmen.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:51
I I really enjoy scripts I loved it

Heather Hale 1:12:53
loved that loved it. And then there's a bunch that would be neck and neck for third and in their would for sure be waking the divine.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:03
I love waking that the vibe is such a really little film. Big fish in there. Yeah, Tim Burton,

Heather Hale 1:13:10
and there's a one. There's a million of them. I have a list. I did a list on my website top 10 films. And at 231 I had to stop. So now I just go in and update the top 10 but I always

Alex Ferrari 1:13:25
tell people if you haven't seen Shawshank Redemption, or if you don't want if you don't like Shawshank Redemption, you are dead inside and we can't have a conversation. I've yet to meet someone who didn't like Shawshank Redemption and even if they did if they heard me say these things they probably wouldn't admit to it but but every time by the way anyone listening anytime I get a bad review or someone doesn't like something I do. This is all I google bad review Shawshank Redemption and they exist and you read these things and they were from Big, big reviewers and you just sit there going wow.

Heather Hale 1:14:00
Though, Shawshank is a really good example. I'm not gonna say bad branding or marketing. It was bad

Alex Ferrari 1:14:06
it was it was bad branding horrible.

Heather Hale 1:14:09
To see Shawshank Redemption I have no interest in seeing the jail dropped like zero interest. It came out everyone talked about it. There was no I had no interest it took me like a year and a half to do Shawshank Redemption. And when I did I can't tell you how many times I've seen it so that that makes me feel better again, bad branding bad advertising, bad marketing, whatever it was, but at the end of the day, it didn't matter because it was so

Unknown Speaker 1:14:35
good. It is and it's played 1000 times like that it

Heather Hale 1:14:39
won't matter if it's poorly branded it won't met all the other stuff just write shit like Shawshank like shots you she sell seashells on the seashore.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:54
Like Shawshank like Shashank Heather where can people find you and your work and your Your stuff that you do.

Heather Hale 1:15:01
Heather Hale calm and Heather, Heather held calm. I thought long time ago, just brand new, because you're gonna have wear lots of hats, right? And you don't even the two books are how to work the film and TV markets, which is by focal press, which is a guide for content creators and the other is story selling how to develop, market and pitch your film and TV projects. And my best film and TV projects are ahead of me. They are coming, right you don't need to watch anything else.

Unknown Speaker 1:15:32
Learn and we're moving forward.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:33
Yes, mistakes were made. But now we're moving forward. Taken. Heather, it has been an absolute pleasure having you on the show. And thank you for dropping such honest knowledge bombs on the tribe today. So I appreciate that

Heather Hale 1:15:45
all through the day and regret it but I am my biggest fault. And then there's plenty to choose between.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:52
Thank you, Heather. Thank you. I want to thank you for coming on the show and dropping those knowledge bombs on the tribe today. We all need a little help with pitching. It's a big, big deal. And if you don't know how to pitch your story, I hate to tell you, you're not going to get your story out there. It really is a very helpful tool to put in your filmmaking and screenwriting toolbox. Now if you want to get in touch with Heather and want to read any of her books, head over to the show notes at indie film hustle comm forward slash bps 052 there I'll have links to her her official website and to the books as well. And if you haven't already, please head over to screenwriting podcast.com and leave a good review for the show. Subscribe, and tell every screenwriting friend you know about the show. It really helps what we're doing here out a lot. Thank you guys again for all the support. Thank you for listening. As always, keep on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.

Please subscribe and leave a rating or review
by going to BPS Podcast
Want to advertise on this show?
Visit Bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/Sponsors

BPS 047: What Makes a Great Screenplay with Stephen Follows

What if someone could read over 12,000 scripts that were read by professional script readers, who gave the scripts an overall score as well as scores for specific factors including plot, dialogue, characterization, theme, and voice. Then looked for connections and correlations to discover what professional script readers think a good screenplay looks like. Well, today on the show I have that man, Stephen Follows.
It’s a monster of a report — 65 pages to be exact — that examines data from over 12,000 screenplays – mostly written by amateurs, but some of them written by professionals and major Hollywood actors.  Using rigorous data analysis methodologies, Stephen and his team found some fascinating correlations.
Click here to read the report: Judging Screenplays By Their Coverage Report

What They Found

Here’s just a taste of this amazing report. Later sections go into more detail and more topics, but below are nine tips screenwriters should take on board to help improve their chances of impressing script readers.

  1. Know thy genre. Your priorities should rest on the particular nature of your chosen genre. For example, Family films place the highest premium on catharsis, while for Action films it’s plot.
  2. Some stories work better than others. The vast majority of scripts can be summarized using just six basic emotional plot arcs – and some perform better than others.
  3. If you’re happy and you know it, redraft your script. Film is about conflict and drama and for almost all genres, the happier the scripts were, the worse they performed. The one notable exception was comedy, where the reverse is true.
  4. Swearing is big and it is clever. There is a positive correlation between the level of swearing in a script and how well it scored, for all but the sweariest screenplays.
  5. It’s not about length, it’s what you do with it. The exact length doesn’t matter too much, so long as your script is between 90 and 130 pages. Outside of those approximate boundaries scores drop precipitously.
  6. Don’t rush your script for a competition. The closer to the deadline a script was finished, the worse it performed.
  7. Use flashbacks responsibly. Scripts with more than fifteen flashbacks perform worse than those with few to no flashbacks.
  8. VO is A-OK. Some in the industry believe that frequent use of voiceover is an indicator of a bad movie, however, we found no such correlation. We suggest that any complaints on the topic should be sent to editors, rather than writers.
  9. Don’t worry if you’re underrepresented within your genre – it’s your superpower. Female writers outperform male writers in male-dominated genres (such as Action) and the reverse is true in female-dominated genres (such as Family).
Stephen Follows is an established data researcher in the film industry whose work has been featured in the New York Times, The Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, The Mirror, The Evening Standard, Newsweek, The New Statesman, AV Club, and Indiewire.

He acted as an industry consultant and guest on the BBC Radio 4 series The Business of Film, which was topped the iTunes podcast chart, and has consulted for a wide variety of clients, including the Smithsonian in Washington.

I just love Stephen and his amazing ability to crunch numbers for the benefit of the filmmaking community. He’s truly doing God’s work. Get ready to go down the rabbit hole and see what makes a great screenplay.

Enjoy my conversation with Stephen Follows.

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 like to welcome to the show Steven follows man thank you so much from your busy insane schedule sir to come on the show and and share your knowledge bombs with the tribe today.

Steven Follows 4:35
Hey, my pleasure. I'm really delighted to be here and it's really nice to connect up and hopefully, you know help your audience as much as the work you're doing already helps them

Alex Ferrari 4:44
Absolutely man. I mean, oh before we get started, I have to tell everybody in the tribe that you I am a huge fan of what you do. Steven is easily the best like film researcher film data. Guy on the planet without question, the stuff that he does is absolutely insane. And we're going to talk about one of those insane projects in this episode without question. But we were just talking about,

Steven Follows 5:12
It helps that there aren't many of us right there. So you don't have to do well in a small category. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 5:19
But the point is the work that you do, which is, you know, obscene amounts of data crunching for the film industry, and then you put that kind of information out, you don't hide it behind, you know, $1,000 paywall you give it away, or give it you know, or you know, pay as you go, or whatever it is, you really are trying to help the community. So I'm excited to talk about your latest project. And we're also going to talk about some of your past projects as well. But before we get into it, why? Like, I what point did, what did you have like data, like charts on your wall? When you were a child? How did this? How did you become the the world like the film data guy, and what made you want to get into this side of the business? And I know you have other you know, you are in other parts of your business. But first of all, how did you get into the business and then we'll talk about your film data stuff?

Steven Follows 6:10
Well, I've always been into film, as a kid, that's been always my thing, that's always the medium, the power of it, and you know, everything from your, you know, the temple, you know, popcorn blockbusters love them, and right down to sort of right down right across to kind of really heartfelt indie films that make you think and cry, and, you know, that's always been my thing. So film is always been there as a constant. And then I used to write a little bit as a kid, but mostly I was wanting to be a producer. And I went to film school, and I was in a class of like, 100 people, and everyone wanted to be a director, or, you know, a camera person, and I just, I wanted to produce, so I just produced and produced loads and loads of terrible short films, and just, you know, producing was my thing, I can organize stuff. And I like to bring things to, to reality. And I also like working with other people. So it's, I never want to go away and just do so by myself. I kinda like the idea of a team and what that makes, and then sort of a production company and working away at that writing and producing stuff. And my business partner, Ed is a director at a really good one at that. And so we sort of built a company that was a video company, and now focuses on storytelling. So we still make videos, we do TV commercials, we, all our stuff is for charities in the third sector. And so that that kind of that part of my life is that sort of 15 year journey, which was always driven about, you know, wanting to get films made and wanting to move people. And then with the charity thing, wanting to do it for the good guys and get people to change maybe. And then on the side of all of that is that I, when I was before I went to college, I had to decide, did I want to study film, and then do the kind of academic intellectual stuff that I enjoyed on the side or the other way around? Did I want to go and study, I don't know, politics or economics, and then do film on the side. And I decided that it was more interesting to study film, and to keep the intellectual stuff as a hobby, and not try and do it as something useful. And you know, it's just curiosity, you know, this more than anything else. It's not, it's just about wanting to understand how the world works. And so then I did that, and I sort of made that commitment to myself, you know, what, I will make sure that I do some stuff that uses my brain, you know, my running a production company definitely uses many parts of who I am. But the creativity, and people skills and things like that none of its using the just the logical part, you notice, there's so many more things going on. And so I sort of used to do little projects and stuff. And I quite often if I had a debate with a friend in the pub about film, they'll be like, oh, yeah, there are more comedies. And I'd say, I don't know, I don't think so or whatever. And I got I was the one that would go home and try and find out not to win the argument, because it's frustrating to have people in the future just chatting to each other without the information. And if they knew they could do that far better for their audience for themselves for their projects. And the the industry is not very good at sharing that information. So it was always a hobby, and I just started putting it on the blog, because I felt that it was a good place to do it. And why not share it? You know, there's two cool things about this one is discovering something and going oh, my God, look how cool that is. The second half is just as interesting, which is, hey, guys, come look at this, you know, because then people go off and use it in a way you never thought. And then they come back. And they're like, oh, that thing you show me. I used it like this. And you're like, Oh, that's really cool. You know, so sharing the information has been as essential as doing it for me all along. And yeah, so then I started the blog, and then somebody told me that it was good to try and have some structure to it. So I decided to publish every Monday, I just, you know, one of those things where when you have loads of different things in your life that are all different shapes. It's very hard to work out what to do today. And so by having these self imposed deadlines, it really helped and I just kept looking for stuff and the more I look for something and the more I find something else to think of and things build on other things and you know sometimes I'll someone will tell me about a cool technique like I was a couple of years ago someone told me about this API where you could send it a picture of a human face, and it will tell you all the emotions in it. And I'm like, Oh, cool. I wonder if it worked with the posters. And I sent a few movie posters, and it worked. And then I'm like, wow, I could send all movie posters. And so you

Alex Ferrari 10:14
No, you see, that's, that's where this is where you are different than most human beings. One or two. That's kind of cute. But then you go straight to all movie posters.

Steven Follows 10:23
What are the steps? I'm missing in the middle? Because the thing is, the hard things are, you know, conceiving in there, and then building it, but then to like, it's like building a whole printers and printing one magazine, like, what? Like one copy? No, no, no, no, do a print run for everyone. And so and then once you have all this data, what's really fun is that you tend to get really clear patterns and stories. And you say, I always knew that, or I knew that as a film fan. But now I've got the proof, or actually, everything in the industry says about x is just wrong, it just doesn't work like that. And the people at the very top or the people who have been in for a very long time, they know this, but they let everyone else think the other thing because it makes it easier for them or whatever. And so it's really nice to come back and go, Hey, no, guys, this is something that you can do to help the work you're doing. You know, and I think this is awesome. Like, that's really a fun thing to do, because people are going off and using it. Like if someone's going to make a movie, and they're gonna make it like this. But I know that that at that choice they've made is not going to be great for their success, if I can nip in and help them and give them a little bit of advice. They're still doing all the hard work, but then their film will be, you know, much more successful or whatever it will be. I feel like if you can do that you kind of got it. You don't it's not really a choice. It's kind of I got a small part I can play along the journey and I if I don't then I'm being a bit lazy and not really playing my part to the community. You know,

Alex Ferrari 11:44
That's it. Yeah, it again, like we've said off air it's like, that's just so not in my wheelhouse. I'm so impressed with that mentality. And how the mind your mind works. And and you were telling me like I'm marketing I'm like, well, that's me. I could do that. That's my that's in my wheelhouse without question, but your work is is doing an insane amount of good for for a lot of filmmakers and a lot of people in the business and your latest project, which I'm going to read the cover which one it was approached when I was approached by the to about this, I my mouth dropped. I couldn't believe that someone did this. But then I saw your name on and I was like Well of course it makes perfect sense. Only a psychopath would do this and like all it seemed it follows Okay, that's perfectly makes perfect sense. The the new report is called judging screenplays by their coverage, you analyze 12,000 Plus unproduced feature films, screenplays and the scores they received and revealed. And this is reveals what professional script readers think make a good screenplay. And that's what this entire report is about. And it gives you a real like this is a this is an interesting report, because it's about 12,000 unproduced feature films not produced feature films. So please tell me how this came to be. And and how did you go about putting this together? And then we'll get into some of the nitty gritty of the report?

Steven Follows 13:14
Yeah, that sounds great. I mean, there is this is not the main reason I do it. But there is a real side by side pleasure in doing something that it's like, it's like a magician, where they spend years training how to do this thing. And then they got all this equipment and a team. And then they go, oh, yeah, like this. And it's like, magic. And as any screenwriter will tell you, nothing is magic. It's just hard work. You know, like you watch Ocean's 11. And like, how did they get out of that situation? You like? Well, the screenwriter writers worked on it for like a year, and then made it look easy. So yeah. So what happened here was I was talking over a year ago, with the guys at Screencraft. And they manage all sorts of competitions and things like that. And they have really good guys that really interested in helping screenwriters is one of those businesses. That's a proper business that's come out of wanting to support screenwriters. And I can I can tell theater in the sense that I talked to lots of people and a lot of people suggest things and you can tell which people are just saying, Hey, can we just get some value out of this, whatever. And then there are other people who really want to sort of say, Yeah, but how does this help writers. And so we were chatting, and both of us had seen years ago, there was an infographic that was still doing the rounds, like it's a big one page infographic. And it was from one particular script reader who had kept loads of notes of all the scripts I've ever read. And they and there was an interesting things like what country or what state the characters were from, or whatever. But then on the right hand side was this list that was about why they thought the scripts were bad or why they were held back, you know, it wasn't didn't have a strong protagonist didn't have a strong plot, and they'd rank them based on how many times that came up. And John Screencraft and I were both independently saying to each other code, there's that thing I saw years ago, that was really cool. And I was like, Can we do that at scale? You know, can we we can't find the exact things like that, you know, like protagonist is a bit weak in the third act, because that is nuanced that the data would struggle to really understand. But there is loads of stuff we can do. So we spend some time talking about, okay, but how do we do this? Like, in this modern world of privacy, how do we do this without it being a problem, we don't want to be taking people's private work and doing all sorts of things with it. And, and so that was that was back a little bit to figure out how we do this without causing any problems. We don't want to be the next, like Facebook or whatever. But at the same time, I think we can help screenwriters. And so in the end, we worked out a kind of complicated but good system that anonymized all the data, or the scores that they read is gone, but still allowed us to have a look on that. So it's not it wasn't a case of us sitting there reading every script and all that kind of stuff. It was more turning into data. And as I said, there's scores, what they get from readers was not just the overall score, but also all sorts of things like catharsis plot structure, you know, voice things like that, taking all of those anonymizing them, but still being able to sort of link data points. And then Okay, great. So we got over that hurdle, then it took longer than I thought it was going to on a data science point of view. Shocking, so much information. Shocking. Yeah. Well, it's just, you know, and also, it's one of those things where you start and you think, okay, I'll just do ABC, and then you're doing that you're like, oh, look, D exists. Oh, yeah, he exists F, G. And then you know, so it really was a discovery thing, where as soon as we cracked, cracked one thing, we discovered two more things. And in the end, we had to go, okay, you know, there's some things we put to one side and said, you know, what, I'm not going to do anything on this. Because we can do this in the future. And it's just too much now. And we should say, why keep saying we. So I let the I let the process and I certainly something that John screenhouse. And I set up but also, there was a two great people that really helped me Josh Cockcroft. And Laura mentioned, were both of them really helped me with the coding and the thought process and the writing it up. And, you know, it was a team effort. And so yeah, we there's a few things we left on the table. But then we left, we ended up with this 50 page report that looks. I mean, it looks at three different things. Fundamentally, the main thing is it looks at what script professional script readers think of good script looks like. And we can talk more about what it is in a bit. So that's the main that's the main purpose the report. But then the next bit was about well, what is the average screenplay look like? You know, like, what, what's normal, not even good or bad, but like, how many characters scenes pages dialogue locations. And then finally, there's little bits we could do about screenwriters. Again, we don't know, like, individually there, who they are or how old they are in like that. But there are some things we can figure out with gender and genre and which bits of software they use as well because you know which program do you write with? And stuff like that? So that's the bits that we decided to lend into your you may be telling me Do you think it's long? I think it's short.

Alex Ferrari 17:59
Psychotic. You're psychotic. That's it. And that's fine. Fine. Thank you. No, no, but you're psychotic in a wonderful way, sir. In a wonderful, wonderful way. I just as you're talking, I just realize what who you are you are your money balling screenwriting?

Steven Follows 18:15
Yeah, it's so funny, because that's come up a few times. And we thought about like, Okay, do we lean into that? Or do you know that and ultimately, I think the really important thing to remember with this is that we are judging what's what script readers think a good script is, we're not saying what audiences do, we're not saying rate work, what we're doing. And we're also not there's no formula for it, you know, the more data I get into the more I appreciate the value and importance of human creativity and ingenuity. And so it's not like I can just generate a script now. So you're absolutely right. But I have a very narrow thing. You know, this is the gatekeepers, you know, as you know, the people who get you in the room, you know, the get you place you win a competition or whatever, will give you validation to show what you can do. That's what we're focusing on this really narrow gatekeeper role.

Alex Ferrari 19:01
Right, exactly. So I mean, the difference between Moneyball is they were literally just looking at it stats. So that was a different thing. There was no creativity in involved. But this is a money balling of script readers and what will get what betters your chance of getting a screenplay through the gatekeeper, which is a massive Head Start above everybody else. If you don't, if you know this information, you've just changed your odds of writing something or creating something with your creativity and with your skill and your craft to actually be able to break through the door much faster and get more attention quicker, just based on this on this research. And as I'm skimming through that the report, I just came across like what matters most to script readers, and on the most important side, it is characterization, plot, style, the voice of the Have the writer. And then the things that matter the least theme hook originality format, which is opposite of what a lot of people talk about a lot of people talk about, oh, it has to be completely original Oh, it has to have be perfect format. You've got to have a good hook in the themes got to be really great structures down there as well. But they really care about characters. They care about plot, and they care about style and the voice. So it's more of the almost less of this, the the technical and more of the creative is what they're looking for, at least from just looking at it at a quick glance.

Steven Follows 20:38
No, no, I think you're absolutely right. And I think the important thing is to sum this up with is that if you get the technical stuff wrong, you can fail, but you can't win without the other stuff. So it's almost like the reason that you do the technical stuff is so that you don't get you know, so that you don't get thrown out. So the foundation, you're going to exactly as the foundation, exactly, that's a great way of putting it. But if you're going to excel, if you're really going to make something incredible, then your voice as a writer, is the most important thing that people are after. And it's fascinating to see this in the data because I see this in other places as well. When you look at what movies successful and things like that, it's you can't say that this is always the case in every place, but being good or working hard, come out very, very often as the amongst the number one things, and here is a writer, it's not about tricking them with a clever line, or like a good title or like it's formatted, you know, are beautifully it's or, you know, or that it's so different just for the sake of being different. What we can see here is what matters is can you write something, can you can you do have a voice? Do you have an authenticity, you know, the idea of writing a really good spec script in Hollywood to get yourself noticed, they're not going to pick up your script, they're not going to make it. But the fact that you could write it or a certain voice is what will open doors. And you see the same thing here. And because these are all spec scripts, you can see actually, yeah, this is what you should be doing. Don't worry too much about how viable it actually is to be made tomorrow, you know, don't spend forever just focusing on the formatting. It's not to say it's not something but fundamentally, who are you? What have you got to say, you know, how would you describe these events? Not what are these events, you know, and that's what these people want. And I love that because I think and I hope that's what writers want to do. They want to see the world. Think about it and express it. And I find that really pleasing and reassuring that that's what the script readers are after to

Alex Ferrari 22:26
If you if you take a list of the top 20 screenwriters who have worked in Hollywood, dead or alive, but let's say alive, I'm going to say that all of them have a very unique voice, you know, the Sorkin's the Shane Black's the Kaufman's, you know, these kind of note, Christopher Nolan, these guys have very specific styles, and have a very unique voice. Sure, there's always going to be technicians always going to be craftsmen who could just get in there and knock out a script. Be kind of, you know, straight down the middle. But the ones that stand out the ones that really, really that that we know the name of the writers off the top, like I say Sorkin everybody should know who Sorkin is. Everyone should know who Kaufman is, or black. You know, these are, these are screenwriters whose style is so significant Tarantino so significant that their last name is enough to to, you know, create that. And I think people forget about the voice because they're always so caught up with trying to do something that's going to impress or what's hot now or all this kind of stuff. And this, this obviously proves. There's one thing that I find interesting, who's going to talk about genre next is that a lot of things oh, what's hot and what's not hot, there's certain things that just stay hot, and certain things that just don't stay hot for a long time. And and they stay consistent over time. Just sure they'll have little peaks and valleys of horrors really hot right now, or this is really hot right now. But do you agree with that?

Steven Follows 24:04
Yeah, totally. And I couldn't agree more. I think you're absolutely right. What's interesting is that, because we are film fans, you know, we're cinephiles, we go and see movies. And then we are film professionals. We sometimes overthink the film professional side of things and ignore the film fans side of these things, you know. And so sometimes you go through this big data process, you write it all up, and then you're like, oh, yeah, I kind of knew that. But that's okay. Because you've got validation. And but I'll give you an example. You know, you're talking about genre. With all of those things that we talked about, we correlated the success of the overall script based on their scores, all these things, which exactly as you said, says, basically, the shorthand of this is how important each of these things and like you said, formatting comes out, as the least important across all genres. It's still it's not it is not irrelevant. But it's just not the most important thing. But what is the most important thing changes depending on different genres? So the ones you talked about the characterization voice, then the number one for most of the genre But then if you think about a family film, right, so the most single most important thing for a family film is catharsis. Yes. Which makes perfect sense. As a film fan, you know, I'm not sure I would have sit there and guessed if I was, before we did this work, I would have written it like this. But now I see it. I'm like, of course, because you need a family film to be safe, you need it to be something you can put the kids in front of that you can watch. And you need the journey to and and it needs to end satisfactory, you know, I'll give you an example. So there's a viral video from like, I don't know, five, six years ago. And what it is, is Toy Story three had just come out on DVD and blu ray. And for a Christmas prank, a family had taken it to two kids had taken it and cut out the bit. So that card, the very ending so that what happens is the move that they're all going into the incinerator, they're all about to die, they say their goodbyes, and then the credits roll, right. And they showed it to them that their mom, right, and they had a hidden camera. And she's watching it like a big fan of Toy Story seemed once he watches three, she thinks they're all going to their death, and then the credits roll. And then she's like, What? What, and she looks like she's devastated. Like, not just sad, but like her world has fallen apart. And like it goes on. It's very funny. And then they own half. And they tell you what they did. But But what's so funny about that, is it saying the same thing as this data, which is, you don't expect a family film to leave you hanging, it has to close up. But you think about a thriller, or a good drama, like a really good drama. Maybe the characters have a resolution, maybe they don't, but the themes never resolved really, because you these are questions about what it is to be a human being. And so it makes sense that, you know, you wouldn't necessarily use this data to go and craft the perfect plot for a family film. But if you've written the first few drafts, and you're like, Okay, how can I improve this? You go? Okay, well, is my catharsis, you know, how cathartic is this? How much does it actually close at the end of the journey? And whereas if you're doing some other genres, it becomes far less important adventure films, it becomes less important in that sense,

Alex Ferrari 26:59
Right! Like, if you look so interesting, no, no, like, you look if you if you look, if you listen to or you watch free, Willie. Like, if if Willie doesn't get free at the end of that movie, they don't have four other movies know,

Steven Follows 27:15
Exactly, if the closure, you know, and catharsis and closure is slightly different things, but they're in the same wheelhouse. And it makes such sense

Alex Ferrari 27:23
For family film, but you don't need that for a horror movie, I mean, that the killer could get away and then that sequels. It's just different by genre, but based on on the report, the advice per genre, which I find a little fascinating, but once you start thinking about it makes perfect sense. The genres that are scored the highest, I'm just gonna do the top three in the top and the top bottom three, the top is thriller, then goes animated goes adventure, which makes perfect sense because those films kind of cross over tastes, meaning that almost everybody can enjoy a good thriller. Almost anybody can enjoy a good adventure film. Almost anybody can enjoy a good animated film because you know what you're expecting with that. But then, on the other end of the spectrum, you've got comedy is the worst reviewed fantasy and sci fi. So then if you start thinking about like, well, comedy, not everyone's going to get certain jokes. And then if you don't like it, if you don't like fantasy, it's probably just it's a riskier. It's a riskier genre. Same thing for sci fi. If you're not a sci fi or fantasy fan, not everyone's going to enjoy it. Everyone's going to generally enjoy a really good thriller, or a really good adventure film, like Raiders of the Lost Ark. Almost anybody could enjoy Raiders of the Lost Ark. You know, you don't have to be a fan of archaeology. Yeah. But you have to be a fan a fan of Lord of the Rings to enjoy Lord of the Rings.

Steven Follows 28:51
I couldn't I totally agree. And I think there are other things as well, when you when you think about like comedy is the only genre where you can really fail at like, oh, no, if you've got a horror film, and it's not very scary, it's still a horror film. It's just a bad one, or a draw. Everything is drama, like us talking is drama. It's not very dramatic, but it's drama. But if we don't make jokes, it's not a comedy. And so the answer can be no. And then for fantasy and sci fi, my theory on this one, which is just my theory of the same data that you've got in front of you, but my theory is that if you get some of the details wrong in a fantasy or sci fi when you're writing the script, it's confusing. And humans don't mind mystery mystery is intriguing, but confusion is feels horrible. Yes, when something's confusing, it's genuinely painful in an emotional sense. Whereas a thriller if it's confusing, it doesn't matter as much because it's about the unknown fantasy like you want to know the world. You know. I saw fantastic beasts, too. Not long ago. I won't spoil anything about JK Rowling's

Alex Ferrari 29:51
And I've never heard of her she good.

Steven Follows 29:55
I think she's amazing but in this film is a bit confusing, but the my main point with is that every now and then there's a situation that the characters are in. And then it turns out, there's a magic way of getting them out, like literally magic. And that's fine. But it's a bit of, it's a bit of a frustration as an audience, because you, you feel disempowered to be able to figure out what's going on, because she can't explain the volume of stuff that she knows about that world. And so when you get a fantasy or sci fi wrong, you're not explaining enough for the audience. And so the ones that are bad tend to be quite bad, you know, I'm not very good sci fi, not very good fancy, I'm not very good comedy, actually feel pretty shitty, whereas a not very good thriller, still a thriller. So my guess is that this is about whether you can fail at genre or leave people completely confused, or when you actually can just make them think it's average and fine. But yeah, who knows? We know one of the things we can't tell here is that we there, there is no and we certainly don't have access to any objective measure of quality. So it could well be that over these 12,000 scripts that maybe the comedies were bad, you know, and maybe that or maybe the script readers were biased. I mean, I don't know I don't think so.

Alex Ferrari 31:01
It is just comedy is extremely difficult. It's, it's probably one of the most difficult things to write to direct to, to make a movie of, because I still remember airplane, when that was the worst test screening ever, in Paramount's history, the worst test reading, ever. And the reason why they went back and analyzed why because it was obviously a classic and one of the biggest hits Paramount ever had at the time. And I could still watch it. Now I'm pissed myself, because it's one of the best companies ever. But don't get me started. Because all the lines are starting to come back in my, in my head, I don't want to cut down the airplane road. But they figured that people at that time in history, did not feel comfortable enough to admit that they liked it. So when they wrote it down on the cards, they just wrote down bad reviews because they didn't want to say I really liked this low brow slapstick stuff. And that was fascinating to me.

Steven Follows 32:00
Yeah, that's the same. It's the same with horror, like horror has always been a genre where in the 80s, and 90s people denied it. They're like Fangoria magazine in the UK aimed at fantasy and horror. They used to have a column that was entitled something like it's not a horror, but all of that. And it was people promote movies that were like, it's not a horror. It's like a dark psychological thriller. And people will basically use all of these words to say it's not hard. And then that generation that grew up on those horror films actually grew up into positions of power. And when No, I like horror, and horror kind of exploded, and then people's became less ashamed of liking horror. But horror has the least connection when it comes to horror movies, the least connection between what critics and audiences say they think about it, and whether they make money or not, you know, if you want to make a lot of money with the drama and documentary, they need to be good by both audience and critic standards. With horror, it's relevant, you know, the purge has made so much money. No, officially, no one likes it. You know, it's got terrible audience reviews, terrible news predicts reviews, and it does just fine. And there are other horror films that are like, Oh, this is a work of art, and they just don't make very much money. And it's not that they have to be bad, it's that they're disconnected. So you're right, there's this everything we're looking at is a lens, or a lens or a lens. And if the lenses tell me what you think, well, then suddenly I'm thinking, well, who are you? How do I want to be seen, you know, whereas when you've got things like, these are anonymous, screwed reports in the sense that you no one's gonna know who wrote them, you can actually say what you think you're not having to stand up there and defend it. You know, or if you're a critic, you're thinking, what do people think of me? What do they think they will my name my photos next to this, you know, like, I don't like this schlocky horror. Of course, I like the really important foreign film or whatever. But when you look at what people pay to see or what they rent or whatever, you see a different story.

Alex Ferrari 33:47
Yeah, when you when Silence of the Lambs won, the Oscar was in nominated, and that during that time, it is still the first and only horror movie to ever win the Oscar, to my knowledge, at least.

Steven Follows 34:00
Because because they told everyone it wasn't a horror. It was a thriller. That's how you got away with it was

Alex Ferrari 34:03
It was a psychological thriller. You never once heard anyone call it a horror film, ever. But but when you watch it, it's an effin horrific. Terrifying, it is terrifying. And by the way, do you know the Hannibal Lecter is on screen for like 12 minutes? Really? In the entire movie like 12 to 15 minutes it but all you can remember is him? In that movie, yeah. It's fascinating. Now, one of the this is this is another bit of data that I just everyone always asks about, what is the key amount of pages? What's the number? What is the sweet spot for page count? Because, I mean, we've all we've all seen the 200 page script written by a first timer saying this is so good that Hollywood's gonna take notice professionals were going to go look at him and go, Look, dude, it's just not going to work out for you, you need to stop.

Steven Follows 35:07
Well, it's like that joke of a producer picking up a long script and going I don't like it. It feels expensive.

Alex Ferrari 35:14
Exactly. It does. It's, it doesn't make financial sense. Even George Lucas had to break up Star Wars into three movies, because his first script was like 258. But I found, I'm looking at the numbers right now. Of what it's it's kind of where I was a couple surprises, though. I didn't, because normally, I always thought it was like 90 to 95 was a good sweet spot. But it seems to be 95 to 99 is a good sweet spot. But then it jumps right to 105 to 109 and 110 to 114. Yeah,

Steven Follows 35:49
I wouldn't worry about that, you know, on any chart, there's going to be a little bumpiness, you know, and so 95 to 99 seems to be ever, you know, marginally higher than 100 204. But I wouldn't worry about those kind of details. Because that is that's not, you know, significant in a data sense. But what is significant is on either end, you know, under about 85 pages, yeah, over about 130. And it falls off a cliff. And what, there is a pleasing bell curve around here, and like you said, 95 to 115 is about the highest. But ultimately, the biggest piece of news from this is, as long as it's not too long or too short, doesn't matter.

Alex Ferrari 36:27
You're right. So they're very close to very close,

Steven Follows 36:31
Very close. And it is certainly not enough like that you should go and add in a couple of pages, and it will make a big difference. It depends what's on those pages, right? I think as short as you can be to get your get your whole thing across. But also, once you start crossing below 90 pages, it's not really it's less than less like a feature film, you know, right? And less than the edit and stuff. And we found that in a few different things where I had exactly the same as you, when I started this, I was like, right, I got some stuff I want to test, you know, talking about how I started doing all of this data stuff in the first place. I'm thinking right, I want to test whether there is a sweet spot for pages. And I also want to test if VoiceOver is a good or bad thing. Because my theory has always been well, the theory I was educated on really, you know, was the voiceover is a bad thing when it comes right. I was my next thing. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Like it's it's novels, right? It's a literary format. It's a way where you say what the character is thinking internally. But that's not how movies work movies a show, don't tell. So I'm thinking great, we'll be able to test that we'll be able to see if voiceover does home movies, because the argument against VoiceOver is that's a literary thing. It's internal monologue. You should show this stuff if you have to say the character things you know a voiceover I was feeling sad at this point, then you're not doing a good job writing. The counter argument is usually just Goodfellas

Alex Ferrari 37:52
Oh no, I'll throw out throw one even better Shawshank. That's a great example. It's a great movie. It's still my top two movies ever is it's like one of the greatest and it's wall to wall. Voiceover And Goodfellas is to Goodfellas is also an AMAZING film. But Shawshank really you know because it's considered arguably one of the best movies ever made. At least by IMDb at least by IMDb ratings.

Steven Follows 38:19
Yeah, and by the way, for every every group, old young male female like this, this isn't a movie that's been swamped. Like the matrix has been swamped by younger male people. No, no. Shorter is universal. And lesbian bear a member it's a three hour brutal racist prison drama. It's not like written on it.

Alex Ferrari 38:37
And it's called the worst idol ever. The Shawshank Redemption.

Steven Follows 38:42
I don't understand two of those three words. Yeah, exactly.

Alex Ferrari 38:45
It's right thought I get but the rest of them like really? No, it's It's fascinating. And I don't want to go on a tangent on Shawshank because I could talk for hours about Shashank but that movie is such an anomaly. And I always I've analyzed that movie a million times of why why it is so why it's so loved and beloved. I always tell people if you don't like Shawshank you're dead inside I'm sorry. I kind of talked to you. You something went wrong along the way you you're dead inside I'm sorry.

Steven Follows 39:17
But when I give I give a talk from time to time and when I use Shawshank as an example. I do say how many of you have seen it? And there's always like no that sometimes they'll be one person if there's a room of like 50 people and everyone else turns them and the main question is like how how have you not seen this movie? Like this is an essentially and what's so funny is that the next movie they made The Green Mile I have a three hour brutal racist prison I love them Stephen King I love it. But anyways, I'm not this is not a tangent but my theory on Shawshank is that that movie is essentially it's got a fun plot in the sense that it's got

Alex Ferrari 39:52
Fun and fun fun.

Steven Follows 39:54
No, sorry. No, no, but what I'm saying is that the twist you know, are we we already We weren't rooting for him. But the main reason that's that's a distraction. I don't think that's the reason it's a successful film. I think that's fun. But I think that's what it gives people in their front of their mind to be distracted. The reason it's so successful is for three hours, it asks one basic question, which is, can these two be friends, and then the most unfriendly people in the world? You know, one is a wrongly convicted quiet accountant, who's in an incredibly brutal place, the other guy is in prison, he's black in a place that's in a time that's incredibly racist. It's unfair. And throughout the whole movie, you're saying, Are they friends? Are they friends? Are they friends? And the final? Final, our focus shot says, yes, they are. And then your heart explodes, because you're like, Oh, my God, they were friends. And that's what that movie does. It asks one question repeatedly, for three hours, and then gives you a satisfying answer.

Alex Ferrari 40:48
Now, I'm going to give you my theory, because now we're gonna, we're gonna do I'm sorry, audience, this is going to happen. So just settle in for a second because we're gonna we're gonna do this. I agree with that. I think that is one of the multi layers of this film. I always found it to be and I'm sorry, spoiler alert for anyone who's not seeing Shawshank Redemption, I'm going to talk a little bit about the ending. So please, fast forward. But I only saw it as an as a allegory of our existence. And I'm going to go deep here, as our existence as human beings, because I feel that many of us feel like any refrain, that life has put us in boxes that we do not belong in, that we've been wrongly accused of, whether that be our life circumstances, our family life, our jobs, whatever it is, and then that that beating that he gets throughout the movie, and you know, getting the ratings and all the other things that happened to him is life doing that to us on a daily, weekly, monthly yearly basis, again, and again and again. And it is a life sentence, just like him, it's a life sentence. So when he figures out a way to over not overpower but with his mind, break free, and that he has to go through, you know, three football fields worth of crap to get out of that. And when he's so finally exposed, it's almost like he's being birthed, again, at the end, rips off his clothes and, and that he has been able to outsmart the thing that put him there. It is the ultimate cathartic feeling for us, like, Oh, my God, what if I could do that to my boss? What if I could do that to a family member, that that's been pounding me all these years, emotionally, verbally, or whatever, or you know, whatever situation in life has been doing that to you. And that is why I feel that it is it cuts through every genre, age, male, female, it doesn't matter. I remember watching that movie, oh, it was in 94, it was released. And that year, I'll never forget it. I was I was fresh out of high school. And my high school, you know, friends at the time, who, you know, we all thought John Claude Van Damme was the greatest actor of all time. We all said holy cow is that a great movie, it cut through even maturity level. And only after you get older, you realize a lot of other levels of it. But even at that basic level it cut through. That's my interpretation

Steven Follows 43:18
That is that I love that that is such a good point. And you know, the interesting thing about read is that the Morgan Freeman character is that I can understand everybody identifying with and you've to frame but nobody is really identifying with read. And I read something a while ago that was talking about the TV show entourage. And it said, the reason that TV entourage works is not because men have a fantasy about being Vince, then it's not that they want to fuck movie stars, and they want to be rich, is that they want to be best friends with Vince. So they get to movie stars. Like they don't want the responsibility or the pressure or the expectation of being Vince, they want to be turtle. They want to be he you know, he wanted? Yeah, exactly. That's what men want. They want that kind of access, access, but without the responsibility. And so everybody wants to have a friend like read, but nobody actually wants to be read. And because here's a guy that can get you everything, but you can still be quiet. Andy, you know what, I find that that's, I like your theory on that one. We um,

Alex Ferrari 44:13
I think I like your theory as well. I think the I think they're both valid, and they both work in the same way. It's just I think that that movie has so many layers and levels of things that are going on that it just it is it is as perfect of a film as I've ever seen on you.

Steven Follows 44:31
And it proves to me that you'd like I'm joking about being a brutal in a prison job. But it is. And it isn't like that that is that teaches you that there's no story that can't it's impossible for it to be something that can connect with people. And if you can have that movie that the static stream connecting with so many people in such an extreme way and I think is possible. It's not everything is possible with anything.

Alex Ferrari 44:50
No stories, good stories, it will cut through all of this if the story is exactly well executed and directed in the I mean, it's just amazing. But back to what was over. Sorry, guys. Sorry, we went on a short check.

Steven Follows 45:03
You can come back now we finished and

Alex Ferrari 45:06
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Steven Follows 45:17
Yeah, no. So So anyway, so one of my first theories I had I really wanted to test when I when we started on this data was voiceover and and is it correlate with bad scripts? And and I can tell you now that the answer is it doesn't matter. It doesn't. If you have a huge amount, then obviously, it's a problem. But a huge amount of anything, you know, there's a, I can assure you that a huge amount of exclamation marks don't help, you know, huge amount of anything doesn't help. Fundamentally, it doesn't matter. And so I've updated my understanding of this. And I now think that I still believe that there is a loose correlation between voiceover and bad movies. But now I'm putting the blame on editors and producers who were doing hack jobs to, quote unquote, save a movie, or to make it shorter or to you know, whatever. You know, like Blade Runner,

Alex Ferrari 46:02
You were you were I was about to just cough up Blade Runner. I mean, yeah.

Steven Follows 46:07
And so that's my theory is now now is that actually writing? VoiceOver is fine. It's how you use it, it doesn't it's not a good thing. It's not a bad thing. It's a tool, you know, and you as an artist need to think with that and what you paint matters. But it's not a bad thing. It's not something to one of the things I hope I can do with this project is, if you are a writer who is currently being told to cut voiceover, you believe is important. And you're being told, because it's a fact that VoiceOver is bad. I can tell you for a fact, fact, it's not. It's what you do with it.

Alex Ferrari 46:37
Yeah, I know, Robert McKee yells at people for using VoiceOver. But like everything, it's a tool. It can be used right or not?

Steven Follows 46:45
Well, so he might not be, he might not be wrong as well. But it's correlated with bad movies. But that's different to bad screenplays, you know, really important that we understand that because movies go through so many processes with so many people between the screenplay, and the beat and the big screen. And that's why this data stuff is so interesting. We need to chop up all of these different stages down and analyze them separately, so that we're not confusing one thing and doing something else, you know, we're not just thinking I saw a bad movie with VoiceOver therefore, I'll never write it. No, no, don't do what that movie did that made it bad. It's not, you know, you're focusing on the wrong thing.

Alex Ferrari 47:17
Now, I love the next part I want to talk about and for everyone listening in a car with a child, this is the part where you might want to skip or pause and listen to it privately. We're going to talk about swearing in scripts, and that I just love that there was somebody who counted how many shits there were in 12,000. Scripts? How many folks that were in 12,000 scripts and other words, and I just love that you are that person? Steven? I do.

Steven Follows 47:47
What can I just say for the record? I did not read every script. Of course, there's one. No, no,

Alex Ferrari 47:51
Obviously now you would still be doing it. But that there was a that was a that was one of the data points that we needed to discover. That was it,

Steven Follows 48:00
I can tell you that I built the machine to, you know, a little algorithm to discuss these, which means I'm one of the few people who can say I have built a buck machine.

Alex Ferrari 48:09
You know, but like so the word that's most uses shit starts swear word, and followed quickly by fuck. And then the C word I never liked saying the C word. But the C word drops down to like, five, less than 10% of all scripts had this word because it's a harsh word. It's harsher than shitter. Fuck, but it's fascinating. Like, and then also in genre, which John uses the most swear words, Comedy, Action and horror.

Steven Follows 48:43
And the thing is, I think they're all doing different things in the sense that action, it's about exclamations of like, surprise, I think horror, it's about you know, pain and frustration whereas comedy, it's, it's, they're using it in a different way. And in another part of the report, we found that there's a strong correlation between sexual words words to do with sex that are in comedy. So if you look at most words to do with where it's, you know, genitalia or or different sex or whatever sexual acts, they're much more likely to be found in comedy. So people because they don't tend to thrillers don't tend to be fundamentally about sex, whereas comedies can be or are more likely to be. So it's interesting. They've all got different reasons for being, you know, on that top part of the script, top part of the chart

Alex Ferrari 49:26
That I'm looking at the report right now, Steven, and I started giggling because there's a graph and graphic with like, fuck, 63.3% Fuck can't 9% It's like, it's like throwing and I'm like, oh my god, this is brilliant.

Steven Follows 49:45
You know what, guys? The Venn diagram with three people showing the overlap of stuff that this caused me this graph caused me the biggest problem of all of the reports. And as I said before, it's a lot of fun This song was a problem because every time I sent notes to my graphic designer, it went to his spam folder. Because all the words in the email were the three worst words in the English language. And so this was a problem for moderation more than anything else. And I was trying to, you know, point out then this is academic. It's not like we're children. But, um, but what was interesting is that there is a correlation. Earlier in the report, we looked at the correlation between the amount of swearing and the scores it got. And we found that actually, across all the films, as they got scarier, they got higher, higher and higher scores not insignificantly, apart from the most, the top 20% of you know, in the 20%, who got the most weariness, and they're the ones that didn't perform that well. But the ones that had some swearing, or what we call a lot of swearing, so this is sort of third of fourth, fifth of the rural districts, they actually scored the highest. And when we try to look into why this was obviously you should know family, but across all the scripts, it was like this. And when we also drill down to try and work out why we discovered a pattern where the swearing of the script was, the higher the score was for voice, which is one of the things that we can measure like we were talking about before with catharsis and things like that. So what's happening is that a lot of times script readers are correlating the use of swearing with how good the writers voices, or, you know, good writers swear a lot, we can't, we don't know the difference between the two, they both show up the same. But this is a really good example of this is true. And this is very useful, but at the same time, just putting more swear words in there is misreading the results. It just says that kinds of people who have the strong, strongest writing voice are more likely to wear than the ones that don't.

Alex Ferrari 51:49
Well, I mean, it is actually quite fascinating. But again, you know, given Tarantino or Shane Black, the power of cursing, they use it as an art form. It's it's a paintbrush for them. They don't lean on it as a crutch. Where a lot of screenwriters I find in scripts that I've read, lean on it as a crutch as like, I have nothing cool to say here. So I'm just gonna say the F word. You know, as opposed to something that really makes sense. You know, like, it's like when Tarantino curses, it's an art form?

Steven Follows 52:22
Yeah, well, yeah, you can say that he's writing voice is coming out of that. You're absolutely right. And so yeah, kind of kind of interesting. I'm not sure this is there's a few things in here where I don't really want people to take this as literal advice to do tomorrow. It's more as a route to understand how things work. But yeah, if suddenly the no spec script world becomes a lot scarier, then I,

Alex Ferrari 52:43
It's your fault. It's your fault. It's your fault. And then age, age of characters, I found. Not surprising, but interesting, where basically 30s is the sweet spot. That's that, well, that's

Steven Follows 52:57
Your right, that's the most common and so that we don't have individual data on the actual screenwriters. So I can't tell you like whether people who are over 60 write characters that are over 60, I'd love to, but I think that's a bit like we'd have that, you know, people to give us that there. And it's just a bit too much private data. But what we do know is across all our writers, the average age is about 3132. And so Unsurprisingly, the most common age for characters is in their 30s. But what you find is if you look at the age of the characters, and then you look at how often they speak, you find that as characters get older, they speak less, which is just typical of like someone in their early 30s, or late 30s. so late 20s, thinking, the older they get, yeah, the less relevant they are, the less, you know, they drive the story, which I thought was kind of fun. And also the idea that, you know, there are things in here that I think one of the things a good writer will always be thinking about, is how will show on screen? How will people see this? So for example, the most common final digit and an age was characters was zero. So the characters were 2030 4050 That makes sense, right? But then the next most common was 525 3540. But after that, it was eight. So 2838, you know, 48. And I think that's because the writers think that when you write somebody 28 You're saying something about their character. You know, they are older, but maybe they've got regrets. They've got time to try and achieve things, you know, people midlife crisis, you know, maybe hits people around 38, or whatever. And so there's information that the writers are trying to convey that is probably never going to be shown on screen. You know, if the characters are having a midlife crisis, then you have to show them saying it, living it driving a new car, whatever it is, but just saying their age won't do it. So it's kind of interesting about is that one of those things as a writer is, are you conveying that information in a way that will make it through to the big screen and into the minds of your audience?

Alex Ferrari 54:50
Well, I mean, we've we've talked a lot about this report, and believe it or not, everyone, there is a lot more information in this report than what we've discussed that we haven't given away all the goodies and And are you giving this away? Are you doing it pay as you can what is going on with this?

Steven Follows 55:04
No, we're giving it away, actually. And the last report, I did a horror report, I did it as a pay what you want, because it costs it took a lot of time to put together the horror report. And I thought, if I can make a sustaining business out of people paying for these reports that I can then put the money into the next report, that would be great. And so it was a minimum of $1. And anything else more you wanted. This time around, we're doing it entirely for free, because we figured that what we really want to do here Screencraft and I got together to help screenwriters, you know, they've given up loads of that. And they've given me access in various ways to their data. But it's fundamentally something that we really want are doing not as a commercial thing, and they're not paying me, you know, what it is, it's just to help people, it might make a little harder for the people who really could get some. So it's gonna be a free download, but time you listen, really free, if you go to Steven follows.com as STP HMF ll ows, you'll be able to find it and download the whole thing as a PDF for free. And I do want to say a big thank you to the people who bought the horrible past, whether you paid $1, whether you pay $20, whether you paid $50, thank you, because some of the things we had to do for this report, we had to pay for services or like the graphic designer or the little costs, but they their costs. And the money that people paid donating for the whole report went into this one. So the fact that is free is thanks to the people who chose if anything last time, but also especially the people who chose to give more than the minimum and love that, you know, the community can give what they can everyone gives what they want to hear from what they think it will help them. And yet, together, we can all move ourselves forward, then that's a that's a happy outcome.

Alex Ferrari 56:46
And we are going to put links to to the report and to all of Stephens insane work in the show notes as well. And then we are also going to talk I might have you back for the horror report, honestly. Yeah, I might have you back for the horror report. Because the horror report, let's just just tease everybody listening. It went through how many films, all of them. So basically, every horror film ever created. You actually

Steven Follows 57:19
I think he's ever released ever released in US cinemas ever so I think it's top 10,000 films. So it's not like if you made a video with your mates or known sorry, it's ones that made it to some form of distribution. At some point throughout the last 100 years, yeah, I just I spent a year and a half looking at them in every possible way. And it was really enjoyable. You know, funnily enough, I'm not actually much of a horror fan. And I don't really watch horror films. It's not what I want as a fan. But as a, as someone who wants to understand the industry, it was really exciting, because, as I said, there's the lowest correlation between the quality of the film and the success, which immediately suggests the question, well, what does matter, and also because it's the most accessible genre for low budget filmmakers, and it can, in theory, you could be the next paranormal activity or next Blair Witch, whereas you're not going to be the next Jurassic Park. So it's an accessible genre that's fun to make, that actually has, you can affect it more than just get good. And so for me, that was like, okay, I can do something here. I can help people who want to make horror films, by helping them show what kind of things but you're right, it's like 200 pages, it took a year and a half. It's gonna It's a whole new podcast, I think

Alex Ferrari 58:30
We are going to, I'm going to have you back seat. And we're going to talk about the whole report, because I think that's going to be extremely beneficial to, to the tribe. And I just want to read it to because it's, it sounds fascinating, you know, so, Steven, I want 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 or a filmmaker?

Steven Follows 58:52
I'd say it's these two things, which sound like they're the opposite, but they're not one is is about you, which is, you know, just get good, you know, and they get good, really, really slowly. And it's really, really hard. You just keep working at it. And you keep writing and writing and everyone says Write, write, write. And actually that is the right thing to do. You just keep producing the work. And so that's a sort of inward note. But then the second thing is you got to get out there and you've got to meet people, not because you're going to meet the next Harvey ones in or studio boss in a lift, God that has a completely different meaning nowadays, it does. It does.

Alex Ferrari 59:26
Yes, yes.

Steven Follows 59:29
You're not because you're going to meet the next studio boss in a left pitch them and then and then she's going to hire you. That might happen. But that's not the reason you go out and meet people is because you meet people who are in the same position as you and they're in the same pub journey. And, and, you know, everyone says networking, networking is through its people. It's people standing in the corner of a industry event, clinging on to their drink, hating it, standing there for somebody else. Hey, I'm Steven. I hate this. And so when I was going, Hey, I'm Alex. I hate this too. Oh, cool. You know, and then talk That's what networking is. And the more you can do that, the more you'll meet people who are in the same position as you, but they're a producer, or director or a writer, whatever you need. Someone who's been there before who can help you, or there's someone who can work for you or work, you know, you can bring them on your team. And you just you keep adding, you keep turning up. And you look at the people who are successful, they are very talented, but they've also turned up a huge amount. And the most of the people that come in at the same time as you the first year, you're in film, loads of people coming in the same year. Most of those people are lazy, most of them are flaky, most of them have got other things to do. And that's great, like good luck to them, that it's great that they're leaving the industry to do other things that make them happy. And if they haven't got the stamina for it, it's better they find out now. But the more years, you keep turning up the keep producing work, keep showing it to people keep talking to people, you just get good by turning up because people see you, they give you advice, you see patterns. And then very quickly, you realize that the person that you met at that party five years ago, they're now actually got a film that did well and they're looking for another script, and they know you. And suddenly it seems a bit easier. So after like 567 years, maybe 10 years, depending on where you are and what you're doing. Suddenly, things almost become easier, out of nowhere. But what's really happened is it took you 10 years without any feedback of access to build those roots. And the last thing I say is that when I was a kid, I am British and I grew up in Britain. And when I'm watching all of these comedies in the 90s, everybody seemed to be on this comedy TV shows. Everybody seemed to be in each other's shows. And I always used to think how do I break into that circle? How do I break in circle? And now as an adult, and as someone who understands the industry, I realized you don't break into their circle? You make your own circle? Yes. And do it when nobody else is anybody else. And everybody else is unemployed has never done anything isn't good. Yeah. And you connect your work together. And then suddenly, one day you wake up and you realize you're in a circle. And you're in your own club, and no one can break in really like it's not that you're pushing them away. It's just that, given the first choice, why would you not work with these people that you've worked with? For 10 years, who also were there for you when there was no money and no fame and they still showed up course you're going to hire them first, which means there's no space for anyone to break in. But there should be people making their own circle in another room somewhere. And in the future, there'll be the people that were in the same position you are now. And I think that's really important to realize is that you all of the work is done before the light gets shine on you, you know get shone on you. And you have to work hard when no one's watching. Because eventually that does pay off. It just isn't sexy. It isn't fun. It isn't easy. It doesn't pay. And it's it's not the sexy kind of montage you see in a movie of people just writing and then being angry and then suddenly being happy. And then they've got it and then it's the next morning. It's far less sexy than that.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:38
That's some great, great advice. And I've I've answered I've asked that question hundreds of times on the show. That was that's the first time that's ever been answered that way. So it's a really great piece of advice. Oh, thank you. Now can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career?

Steven Follows 1:02:57
Interesting, I read a lot. And I read a lot of nonfiction to try and understand different people's worlds. And I'd say I it's hard to say the one but I'd say one that is incredibly powerful that really ticked a lot of boxes was creativity, Inc.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:10
Oh, what a great book. Oh, that's a great book.

Steven Follows 1:03:13
And it's so nice to have an entertaining story with a with a person's life story. But also it's a business book. And it's a book about how to be a creative, a creative person. Yes. But the other thing, just I'm going to cheat and give you a second book. It's entirely different. There's a book called The Golden theme. And it's a short book, and it's by a story theorists called Brian McDonald. And he also wrote invisible ink and a few others. He is a genius and is totally, I wouldn't say underappreciated, because lots of people know how good he is. But he's, I don't understand why he's not, you know, bigger than the key or, you know, talking more, I just, his stuff is amazing. And the golden theme is a fairly short little book. It's not sort of whole book, like invisible ink is a whole book about screenwriting. The Golden theme is about one idea that he's seen throughout many different the history of stories and art and things like that, that there's one theme that seems to be seems to come up a lot in the work that's really successful. And it's this idea that we're all the same. And he talks about it and he doesn't, he doesn't even make it a loan book. He doesn't need to he makes it a get some examples, talks about it. And says that when that comes up, it tends to be really powerful. And when soon as you read this, you're like, Yeah, I can see it. And you and you walk around the world going, Oh, my God is there. Oh, my God. And then you realize you can put it into your work. And so yeah, anything written by Brian McDonald, but specifically Gordon theme, it was out of print for a while, but I think it's come back into print. And if anyone is brilliant, well then get it. Read it. It's it'll take you an hour to read it. And it will transform your writing I think.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:43
Yeah, it's actually I'm on Amazon right now as we speak. So it's been it's been put in my cart sir. Now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Steven Follows 1:04:56
Well, obviously the only honest answer is I don't know. Yeah, but I won't give you that one. I think I think I can Okay, so I wouldn't say it took me a long time to get to the same answer. Everyone always told me. So I used to read lots of books about internet startups and things like that, because I was because I always thought there's a strong correlation between running a production company or being an independent producer or direct director and having a startup, it's a very similar model, it's just you don't have the bit where you turn it into a multi trillion pound enterprise, and you get to be floated on the stock market. But the first few bits are very similar. And they all say things like, he talked to a serial investors in Silicon Valley. And they always say, We're investing in the people, not the product. And when there's one investor, when one Creator, we're less keen to invest, but when there's a team of two or three people, then it really matters. You know, that's, you know, a team of two or three great people who work together, that that's the most investable combination. And so you hear that, but you think, Well, yeah, but how can I find my kind of partnerships or whatever. And so you kind of forget it. And but then, when I look back on the things that have really mattered, it is partnerships. And I've ended up working with lots of different people and some people I've worked with once, and that's been fine. Other times, I've wanted to work people again, and again, and for a small number of people who I have ongoing work with, whether it's in a limited company, like an actual commercial business, or whether it's someone I just I've got a shared lexicon with. And looking at the people that really I work with and have ongoing relationships with, I can see how they bring the best out in me, I bring the best out in them, they catch the worst of me, and I catch the worst of them. And, and as we will Alex and I were talking about beforehand, it's about Sometimes there are things that I hate that I think it's just the worst thing in the world. And for someone else, it's the best thing they could possibly do. And I you know, you and I are talking about you loving, promotion and marketing and me, I can't stand it can't do it. And yet with the film data, stuff, this stuff is not a sweat. For me, it's hard work, but it's not impossible. Whereas for other people, it can be hard to imagine what it is. And if you find someone who you truly understand you share a worldview, you share a view of how the world should be, but your interests and desires are fundamentally opposed. That's a really good model. So I'd say don't try and find people who want to do what you're doing. Find people who believe what you believe. And then do a little project with them. And if that works, do another one, do another one. And you don't have to, you know, meet somebody and propose to them, you can just keep working with them. And then you'll find the people who keep turning up. And that is the most wonderful supportive thing where you have someone who gets you to work with you catch the worst of you, like unhinged, you know, unclip you, so you can run to the best of you. And it's just immense fun. So, yeah, be open to that and try and find those people as hard as that might sound.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:43
And what are three of your favorite films of all time?

Steven Follows 1:07:47
Oh, Jesus, I think Shawshank Redemption we talked about that is, you know, I wish I wish I had the balls to say, you know, Jurassic Park, for the Fallen kingdom and the Fallen kingdom to whatever it was called. I don't. And I think inside out is an amazing law about just what it is to be human. And I still I've watched that movie so many times, I still don't know how they did it. And I just in a story basis, I just don't understand what that is. And I also think I think, what was that movie called? I can't remember the name now. I think it won the Oscar. And it's about kind of a complete mind. Like, it's an Australian film about the secret police in the 80s. And hold on my Western political lives of others. That's why I got married to my wife.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:38
Same here. Same.

Steven Follows 1:08:42
Remember what I said about find a partner who understands the shares your worldview, but has different skills? Yes, he can remember like, you know, names and stuff, and the lives of others. Like, again, another movie where you watch it, and you're just like, how, what, what, that's amazing. How did you do? How did you do that? And yet, it's so clear, like it's just great work on every level. Yeah, the movies that seemed to really move me.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:04
And where can people find you and your amazing work, sir.

Steven Follows 1:09:09
So all my works at stephenfollows.com. Occasionally I do I don't tend to do work published and other places just time more than the house. But some of the work I've done with Bruce Nash, who runs the numbers is on the AFM website. I think there's copies of it on my site as well. And I would actually, I'm gonna use this opportunity if you've spent the last hour hour and a half, maybe 10 minutes ago, Alex had been editing and listening to me and to Alex and you're already on listen to his podcast. I know you've got one or two amazing questions for me to research. I know that there's some stuff I like. Is that always the case? When does that work? Was this I don't care how stupid it sounds how everyone tells you no one knows. Maybe maybe this is a stupid question. Maybe no one can know but I I would love to have any question you can send me to research because the best stuff I've ever looked at is when people have said you know what? I probably not going to do this or, you know, everyone always says this, And it suggests something I never thought of, I go and look at it and come back. And it's really pleasing because I can actually help. And I, you know, this is me, I'm not going to, I'm not going to reply with one idiot question go away, you know, even the, the questions which sound the most kind of strange or straightforward, are speaking to a wider truth. So, go to my site, go on the contact page, oh, Steven follows.com, go to contact page, semi fill in the form, it comes straight to me goes to my inbox. I will happily respond to everything as if I have the answer. I sent you the link. If I think it's impossible, I'll say so. But probably I'll say that's a great question. I'll put it on my list. And then one day, when I have the data or the time I'll look at it and become an article, not only will you get closure, but also, so many other people have shared a guarantee you share your question. And it'd be really nice to be able to help. So if you guys can help me go on my site, send me questions, ideas, things I should research in the film industry. And I'd really appreciate that.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:57
Oh, well, people were what you wish for, sir. That's all I'm gonna say at that for that right now. Be careful what you wish for you might get anyone.

Steven Follows 1:11:05
But the message that I said, Alex, send me. Oh, I'm from I'm part of the tribe.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:10
I'm part of ifH tribe. Yeah, just put that I've done this before. And I've warned people not to do something stuff like this. Because they get inundated with emails and conference. So I'm curious to see what will happen. But, of course, thank you so much for being so generous, not only with your time today, but your constant work and helping filmmakers and screenwriters. And people in the business try to succeed. So I truly from the bottom of my heart, I truly appreciate all the hard work you do. And you do an immense amount of hard work, you know, almost selfless in many ways to to help the industry. So thank you again, for that and for being on the show, sir.

Steven Follows 1:11:49
Oh, thank you so much. Thank you for your time, and I'm not gonna I'm too British to start talking about all the great work you do, but likewise to you. But also thanks for having the time to chat about these things. This is how we get the word out there. This is how we realize we are all the same. And we all have the same challenges. So if I can be part of this, I feel honored. So thanks again.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:08
I want to thank Stephen for coming on the show and really dropping some major knowledge bombs on the tribe today. Thank you so much, Steven. If you want to get links to this insane report, please head over to the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/bps047. And you'll get links to anything else we discussed in this episode, also including his new course on crowdfunding for filmmakers. If you have a project and you need some advice on how to crowdfund properly, his course is pretty insane as well. So definitely check that out. And if you have not already, please head over to screenwriting podcast.com And leave a good review for the show. It truly truly helps us out a lot. And we want to get ranked as high as we can on iTunes. So it really really does help. Thank you so much, guys. I really hope you enjoyed this crossover episode. As always, keep on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.

Please subscribe and leave a rating or review
by going to BPS Podcast
Want to advertise on this show?
Visit Bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/Sponsors

BPS 045: How People Around You Can Hurt Your Screenwriting Dreams

I wanted to do an episode on this subject for a long time.

“You are the average of the five people you spend most of your time with.” – Jim Rohn

I wish I had someone to tell me this early on my screenwriting journey. In this episode, I go over what happened to me when I was starting out, how my friends affected me and my ability to move forward in my career and what happened to me when I moved to Los Angeles over a decade ago. I discuss how the people around you affect you on a personal, professional and even spiritual level.

I really hope you find some value in this episode.

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
Welcome to the bulletproof screenplay podcast episode number 45. right until it becomes as natural as breathing, right until not writing makes you anxious, anonymous. Broadcasting from a dark windowless room in Hollywood when we really should be working on that next draft, it's the bulletproof screenplay podcast showing you the craft and business of screenwriting while teaching you how to make your screenplay bulletproof. And here's your host, Alex Ferrari. Welcome. Welcome to another episode of The Bulletproof screenplay podcast. I am your humble host, Alex Ferrari. Now today's show is sponsored by bulletproof script coverage. Now, unlike other script coverage services, bulletproof script coverage actually focuses on the kind of project you are and the goals of the project you are. So we actually break it down by three categories micro budget, indie film, market and studio film. There's no reason to get coverage from a reader that used to reading tentpole movies when your movies gonna be done for $100,000 and we want you to focus on that at bulletproof script coverage. Our readers have worked with Marvel Studios CAA, WM E, NBC, HBO, Disney, Scott free Warner Brothers, the blacklist and many many more. So if you need your screenplay or TV script covered by professional readers, head on over to cover my screenplay.com and today's show is also sponsored by indie film hustle TV, the world's first streaming service dedicated to filmmakers, screenwriters, and content creators. If you want access to filmmaking documentaries feature films about filmmaking, interviews with some of the top screenwriters and filmmakers in Hollywood, as well as educational online courses all in one place. ifH TV is for you. Just head over to indie film hustle.tv. Now today's episode is a really quick one, I wanted to kind of put together this small episode, I thought it was something that needed to be said. And I know a lot of the tribe listening, haven't thought about this because of many reasons. So I heard a quote the other day that made so so so much sense that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. And I wanted to tell you stories about what happened with me and and the people I used to hang out with back in the day. A lot of times when filmmakers are hanging out or have a group of people around them, a lot of times you are the

the most advanced, the most driven the most the biggest hustler out of your group. And that, to me, is the worst place to be. Because you don't grow, you don't become better at what you do. You need to find people who are better than you, who will challenge you who will make you take your game up to another level. And that's the that's the positive way of looking at this, I'm not gonna talk about the negative way as well. Now, if you're hanging around five losers, and five guys or girls who are bringing you down, who are negative towards everything you do, you're never gonna get out of the out of the box, man, you're never going to get out and never get, you're never going to start the race, how you even get to get to the track, you need to find people around you, who are not only going to inspire you to be better, people who are going to support you and push you to grow as a artist, as a filmmaker, as an entrepreneur, which is all well you have to be in in order to make it and in the business today, those three things very, very, very much so. And when I was coming up, I you know, when I was in high school, I hung around with you know, good people, good friends, but they really weren't helping me move forward. A lot of times, some friends were some friends weren't. And same thing happened when I was in college. And when I got out of college, I didn't have anybody around me that was really, you know, in a different place. It was that at a higher level, let's say in, in the business somewhere, someone who would push me to be better than who I was. I was always pushing myself. I was always hustling myself. And I'll tell you what, when I was in, in Florida, you know a lot of ways and not always and I'm not trying to be cocky or anything like that, but a lot of ways. I was the big fish in a small pond, you know, and a group of friends that were around me, you know, were excellent. And some of them really did push me, but others didn't. And it wasn't their fault. It wasn't my fault. It was just the nature of where we were we were in a smaller town. In the film business was just not as you know, prolific. And then occasionally I would meet people like Egon Stefan Jr. who definitely pushed me To go a little bit farther, there was where, where he had been in the business for so long, and he taught me a lot about, about cameras about lenses and so on. But when I got to Los Angeles, that's when things changed for me. Because in LA, you know, you have to take your game up a notch, in order to survive, you know, you, you have to be, you're being pushed left and right, when you're meeting and working with people, a lot of these people have been in the business a lot longer than you have a lot of people have been, have much more experienced than you did, then you had. So when I got here, every single job I did, in a lot of ways, these clients were pushing me, these filmmakers were pushing me harder and harder. And that was, I mean, I grew within the first two years here, more than probably in the 10 years that I was in Florida, purely because of the nature of Los Angeles. Now, you could do that maybe in Atlanta, you could do that. And in New York, you could do that in many other big cities and a lot of other areas around the world that have a big film communities. But for me, it was LA. And I just, I just wanted to kind of put that message out there. Because I think you guys need to reevaluate people who around you and don't tell me about your I live with my mom, that doesn't count. I'm talking about friends. You know, I'm talking about people who are, you know, are in your business, we're trying to help you now, again, family, friends, if they're not helping you, if they're bringing you down, that might be something you need to reevaluate in your own life. I've had to do that many times with family. And it's not always very pleasant. But I know for me, it works. And it helped me move to where I need to go, especially early on in my career. So look around you and see who is around you, who are you spending the most time with? Who what is the average of the five people you spend the most time with? Are you hanging out playing Halo all the time, or drinking all the time or going on, and not really getting, you know, not writing, not doing what you need to do to get to that next level to get to that next place in your career, in your life, in your dream on your journey, you know, you've got to kind of grow. And when you're growing, you need those people around you. That's why I love masterminds. masterminds are when you get a group of people, you know, hopefully people who are farther along than you are, so they can guide you push you keep you accountable. That's why mentors are so important. Finding a mentor that can push you that can keep you accountable, and get you to that next place. It's kind of like having a personal trainer, you know, when you have a personal trainer, they're going to push you farther than you think you can go. And that's the kind of people you need around you. You know, I'm blessed because I get to talk to these people all the time, I get to have them on on my show, I get to talk to them. And they're not pushing me, but they are they are pushing me whether they know it or not just by me talking to them. I see where they are, I see the path they've walked in their journey. And it inspires me to move forward and inspires me to become better at what I'm doing. You know, and I, you know, who are you listening to on your on your way home or on your commute every day? Obviously, hopefully me. But if you know, but what podcasts you listen to what audio books are you listening to? You know, what are you doing to take your self to the next place to take you that next step further on that journey. And I think it all starts with the people you spend the most time with. And really you need to evaluate that in in 2019. And I hope this message gets out to you guys. And I mean it from a good place. And I want you guys to I don't want you to break up with your girlfriend or your boyfriend. I don't want you to leave your parents, because I said so I want you just to be really truthful and honest with yourself and find out hey, what what are these people doing for my life? Are they helping me? Or are they hurting me? Or are they just even worse, not doing a thing? They're negating they're just like, they're just they're just black. And they're not doing anything for me you if you want to make it to the next level. If you want to take your filmmaking journey farther down that path, get those skills up to push you farther than you were before. Then you've got to surround yourself with people who are better than you in those specific areas of life. Whether it's entrepreneurship, business, filmmaking, losing weight, getting healthy, meditation, spirituality, whatever it is, find those people ask the universe For those people to come into your life, and I promise you, they will. And slowly but surely you start just just releasing and letting go of the negative energy, letting go of those negative people letting go of those people who are not helping you, people who just want to stay at home, and do nothing, when you really want to get something done. And I know that is really helpful in smaller towns around the country and around the world. Places where the film business is not spewing out of every corner, like it is here in LA. But you really need to do this guys. And I, again, hope that this message reaches you guys at a good time in your life. And also, I don't care how old you are, you could be 20 or you could be 60. And if you're still surrounded by the wrong people, they're not going to move you forward to where you want to be in your life. Alright guys, better your situation better your chances on this turbulent filmmaker filmmaking path that you've decided to walk down in whatever avenue you decide to walk down in this business. I really do hope nothing but the best for you guys, and wish you nothing but the best. So thank you again for listening.

And that is the end of another episode of The Bulletproof screenplay podcast. As always keep on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.

Please subscribe and leave a rating or review
by going to BPS Podcast
Want to advertise on this show?
Visit Bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/Sponsors

BPS 044: The Art of Writing the GREAT Screenplay with Linda Seger (CROSSOVER EVENT)

Today on the show we have the legendary Linda Segar. Linda was one of my first ever interviews back when I launched Indie Film Hustle and her episode is by far one of the most popular ever. Here’s some info on our lovely guest.

In 1981, Linda Seger created and defined the career of Script Consultant. She based her business on a method for analyzing scripts that she had developed for her doctoral dissertation project. Since then, she has consulted on over 2,000 scripts including over 50 produced feature films and over 35 produced television projects. Linda was the consultant for Peter Jackson’s breakthrough film, Brain Dead, and for Roland Emmerich’s breakthrough film, Universal Soldier.

She was the script consultant on Pasttime and Picture Bride–both winners of the Audience Favorite Award at the Sundance Film Festival–as well as for the films TheLong Walk Home, The Neverending Story II, Luther, Romero, and television movies and mini-series including The Bridge, the Danish-Swedish mini-series (now playing in the US).

Other clients include Ray Bradbury who said,

“Linda’s technique is a light to see by,”

William Kelley, Linda Lavin, and production companies, film studios, producers, directors, and writers from over 33 countries.

Having authored nine books on scriptwriting, including the best-selling Making A Good Script Great, Linda is one of the most prolific writers in her field. 

Here new book The Collaborative Art of Filmmaking: From Script to Screen explores what goes into the making of Hollywood’s greatest motion pictures. Join veteran script consultant Linda Seger as she examines contemporary and classic screenplays on their perilous journey from script to screen. This fully revised and updated edition includes interviews with over 80 well-known artists in their fields including writers, producers, directors, actors, editors, composers, and production designers.

Their discussions about the art and craft of filmmaking – including how and why they make their decisions – provides filmmaking and screenwriting students and professionals with the ultimate guide to creating the best possible “blueprint” for a film and to also fully understand the artistic and technical decisions being made by all those involved in the process.

“A very thorough and fascinating look at the whole filmmaking process – the art and the craft. Highly readable and interesting for filmmakers or beginners with a special emphasis on the power of collaboration. A well researched insider’s guide – like taking the hand of accomplished filmmakers and learning from the best.”
– Ron Howard, Oscar-Winning Director and Co-Founder of Imagine Entertainment

Enjoy my knowledge bomb filled conversation with Linda Seger.

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 0:38
I'd like to welcome back to the show returning champion, Linda Seger, thank you so much for being on the show, Linda

Linda Seger 4:17
Oh, thank you.

Alex Ferrari 4:18
You have been you were one of my early one of my early episodes, one of my early interviews and your how to make a good script. Great. And you honestly were one of the most popular podcasts I had on both of my podcasts. And for everyone that everyone who's listening who doesn't know who Linda is or her work. She is a legend. She has been she was like one of the first if not the first.

Linda Seger 4:42
I was the first Yes.

Alex Ferrari 4:44
So you actually started the whole consulting helping screenwriters writing.

Linda Seger 4:51
I started the script consulting business and I started it is I was the first one to think of it is an entrepreneurial business as opposed to somebody teaching a class and helping people with their scripts, so

Alex Ferrari 5:06
So tell us a little bit about tell everybody a little bit about your background, they don't know who you are.

Linda Seger 5:10
Well, I have a big background in drama, I have a Master's, I have a doctorate in a very unusual field of drama and theology, if you can figure that out. And I've taught college, I've directed plays, and I did a thesis for my doctoral degree on what makes a script work or what makes a great script. And when I entered the film industry, in 1980, I found a whole lot of scripts that didn't work. And I took my thesis and I applied it to those scripts to figure out what's missing. And it was very workable, I started out very slowly went to a career consultant said, this is really what I want to do. So I've been doing this since 1981, I really still enjoy doing it. I work with a whole huge breadth of writers, I work with people who say I have an idea. And I work with Academy Award winners, and just about everybody in between.

Alex Ferrari 6:14
Now, I want to, I want to, I've always been curious about this, because I've had like your friend Michael Hagen, and Chris Vogler and a lot of these guys who are in the space with you. And they also work with like, you know, starting out, and then they also work with these big Oscar winning. How was the conversation like when you have an Oscar winning screenwriter, who's obviously very capable and very seasoned? What is the conversation like that you're like, when they call you for help? Where's their block? What's What's stopping me from writing something?

Linda Seger 6:46
Sometimes the problem is that it's simply not selling. And they're wondering if there's something wrong that they are not seeing. Because no one is very objective about their own work, you need a professional outside eye. But what I noticed with the experience writers, very, I'm very respectful. And I'm very careful. And I don't have to say as much. So I might just say, Okay, let's look at this first turning point. It's a little muddy, could it be just a little cleaner to really get that narrative track? And the second act going in the nod? And I, I don't have to say more, because I don't have to explain it. They know exactly what I'm saying. So there's a shortcut. And there's a kind of a trust that is there that, okay, I say those three sentences and next point. And in most of the time, experienced people are also very respectful of me. And there is that mutual sense of you're both doing a professional job. Now, I do have experienced writers who say, never tell anyone who worked with me that I call you in on my scripts, because I'm a professor now. All right. And I think other people really don't mind. Like I worked with William Kelly, who wrote witness after witness. And I think we actually worked on two scripts. So they they didn't get made. And I think the producers had an idea that was kind of unworkable, no matter what you did with that. But that was great to work with him and to know him.

Alex Ferrari 8:30
That's, that's amazing. Yeah, cuz I know a lot of times, screenwriters, especially when they get up, up and up at the upper echelons of the business, where their names are now famous or known in the industry, at least, they don't want to know that they don't want to let anyone know that like I have a secret weapon like Linda.For, for advice.

Linda Seger 8:52
Yeah. And other people are actually very pleased about them say, oh, that's, that's fine. And in fact, when I started out in 1980, and 81, I was a secret from everyone and nobody would admit it. No, what happens is a lot of people consider it sort of a badge of honor and professionalism. Like of course, I go to a script consultant to make get that last five or 10 or 20% Out of my scripts, like no problem.

Alex Ferrari 9:21
That's amazing. Because I mean, because a lot of times screenwriters, especially young screenwriters, they just they don't they don't think square consultants can bring a lot of value to them, because they're like, Oh, if, if they can do it, like if they if they're that good, why haven't they won 10 Oscars and things like that? And it's, it's kind of, I have always looked at as like, you're looking at it, you're like a technician, you're going to come in and do things and see things that they just are not gonna see, no matter how talented they might be. Michael Jordan had a coach. I mean, he was one of the greatest basketball players of all time.

Linda Seger 9:56
Well, the other thing is consulting was a totally different town. than screenwriting, and you have to be diplomatic, you have to be very good at explaining concepts. So, you know, when people say, Well, you don't write, say, No, I'm not interested in writing, I'm into some consulting, because that's where my ability, and that's where my background is. And consulting is a combination of analytical and creative, because I have to get inside that other person's story in their style. And when I give notes, I have to if it's a comedy, I have to give calm comedy notes, not just, you know, notes. And, and I'm there to help them work and nurture their own talent and their particular abilities. So it's, it suits me very, very well. And there's just a lot people will say, I just don't want to do that I really want to write and so that's great. You should need writers. Now your new book? Well, one of the many, I mean, you've written like 13 or 5000 books. Well, I didn't know for 15 and, but nine on screenwriting, and I'm writing my 10th on screenwriting right now.

Alex Ferrari 11:13
Right. And you've and you've written, you're very prolific as a writer. I don't know what you're saying you don't like to write, but you do write, you write you write. Write these books, you write a lot of books. But your latest book is The collaborative of art of filmmaking, the art of filmmaking from script to screen, yes. Push the book out there. Absolutely. So I wanted to ask you, what are some of the necessary elements that make a successful creative kind of collaboration?

Linda Seger 11:42
Well, the first thing is that film used to be think thought of as the directors, the true artists, so it was called the otter theory. And somewhere in the 80s, maybe even into the 90s, people began to think differently about making a film. So this is a collaboration between the greatest artists in each of their areas. I mean, imagine working with the greatest composers, the greatest makeup artists, the greatest actors, the greatest directors, and what a thrill that is when you think of how much they bring, because they are masters at what they do. So the collaborative art of filmmaking follows the script from the script stage, through every artist to look at what does each artist do along the way to create the film. And the script is really sometimes thought of as a guide or a blueprint. It's, it's one of the few art forms that is not complete when you do it. It's not complete, until all these different artists come in and do this great work with that. Now, what we did the first, the first two editions were done with I had a co author Ed Wetmore, who actually died in 2016. But gave me permission before that, to do the third edition by myself. When we first did this, we interviewed 70 different artists. And then we've added interviews. And in this one, the third edition, I've added some more and also did a lot of Google of research as well. And now it isn't really exactly an interview. But what it is, is that all these different artists, talk about ideas, so that so I will discuss an idea, let's let's just talk about what a composer does. And then there might be a series of quotes from famous composers that expand the idea that I have introduced. So and then there's a case study, and we decided to keep the same case study as the second edition, which is a beautiful mind.

Just because it's it's a great film. And it's really, really difficult to talk to every artists on a film. And that was the whole idea of a case study. So the first edition, the case study was Dead Poets Society, and some of those quotes are integrated into this book. And then the second edition was a beautiful mind with the help of Ron Howard at getting to all these people, except for the actors. And Ron said, it doesn't matter what I do. Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly are not going to talk to you so there was so much read Nightline, so I got great material in there for them. And it is interesting, because it's not easy to get these interviews. And but I mean, literally, we did 70 We sat down with me I had lunch with Ron Howard. I went to Hans Zimmer's student music studio, who's the composer and was on actually I sat with Bill Conti, the composer, when he was recording the music, he invited us to come in, listen to a recording session. So and we were in Leonard Nimoy boy's home sipping cappuccino and Lawrence chasms home. And I mean, it was, it was just, you know, it's tough, it's a tough game, it's really tough to get these people. And so there were, there are some additions to those. And just lots of lots of wonderful information in here. That's really important to every artists, because the actors should know what the editor is doing, and the editors should know what the composer is going to do. But for the screenwriter, it's really important to know what people are going to do with your script. And when what they're doing is fine. And when what they're doing is you just cringe over that because you you want great people working with it.

Alex Ferrari 16:03
Now, I mean, if you can imagine Steven Spielberg's work without John Williams, or out or without Janice Kandinsky as his cinematographer, I mean, look,

Linda Seger 16:12
Kathleen Kennedy, Catholic,

Alex Ferrari 16:14
I mean, you know, his amazing collaborators he has, and everyone thinks of Steven Spielberg as one of the greatest directors of all time, which he is, but without this group of people around him, he doesn't have that magic, you have to, it is such a collaborative art. And people always forget about that, because of this theory, the autour theory, which, you know, like the Kubrick's of the world, and you know, Billy Wilder and Orson Welles and these kind of older filmmakers, Alfred Hitchcock, but all of these guys had such a cult. I mean, they had collaborators for years. I know Ron Howard, he won't even move on a movie unless his first ad is available. And he's worth his first ad, like, they will stop. We can't even that can't go until the first ad is.

Linda Seger 17:02
Yes. And people like Spielberg, or a lot of a lot of these other people. Clint Eastwood uses a lot of the same people Spike Lee, they say we have such a shorthand, it's just so relaxing is so much easier, because you know, where everybody is, you know, that you can trust them. And so more and more people have this group around them, that as you say, goes as far as the assistant director, and I mean, Lauren's cast and did so many movies with Carol, little tin as the editor. Do so you, you just say yeah, when you work well with people, you want to keep working with them.

Alex Ferrari 17:43
It's hard. It's hard to even find people you can work with in this business. And when you find them, you hold on tight.

Linda Seger 17:49
Yes, yes. That's, that's the best.

Alex Ferrari 17:52
Yeah. And you also mentioned something earlier that, you know, screenwriters should actually know what the editor and the DP and everyone else is doing. And I'm such a proponent of educating yourself as much as humanly possible about the process. And so many times, specifically, screenwriters, they'll just stay in their little screenwriting bubble and they just like, well, like, I don't even know what a DP does, or I don't even know what the editors doing. Like, if you don't have to be an expert on any of those areas. But do you agree that you should, at every every person should know everything as much as they can about this process?

Linda Seger 18:24
Yes, and one of the reasons to know so much is that you want the best people in each area to be attracted to your script. And if you know how to write that script, where the editor says, I just love the way these scenes move one to the other, I love how clear the narrative wine is. VS, I want to be part of that, or the director loves the images, or the producer says, you know, I think I can sell this, I think this is really commercial, it's got all the elements that we look for in a great film. So the more you can know about that, the better and there is a saying, you can't use it if you don't know it. And so said you never block out law knowledge you never limit yourself. And maybe on technical things, I say I don't want to look, I don't want to learn that. But but you know, when it comes to film or something like that, you really want to be open, because it's amazing how many tools you will use that are in your toolbox.

Alex Ferrari 19:32
Now if you're able to write if you're able to write something like you're saying that, you know can addressed an editor going, Oh, I just love the way this is that or this or that or the DP goes, Oh, I love the images and what you could do with that. A lot of times those secondary and third layer of people like the director will be maybe on the fence and they'll hand it to the editor. I'm like What do you think? And that's the thing that puts it puts it over the top is that or the producer will do the same thing.

Linda Seger 19:57
Plus, these areas are so fascinating. Before we did the first edition of this book, I did a class in every area at UCLA. And so I took editing, I audited composing. I did and I actually have had a background acting so but I took an acting weekend. And I took actually three film directing classes. And people said, are you interested in directing film? I said, No, I just want to understand that folk that focus on that perception of the director. And I totally enjoyed all of these classes are just so fascinating to learn how all these different pieces fit together. And then talking to people who just, you know, really knew how to be interviewed and knew all this amazing information. You know, acting How do you prepare for the acting part or makeup. Another thing I found so interesting was the different personalities. Because the Brian Howard said, the director gets to play with everybody. And so the director has to be kind of extroverted, but to think of the editor in the dark room editing, and you think of the writer in the room, by him, by him or herself very solitary. So that's a different personality, or the actor that has to relate so well to so many people. The makeup, people told me, one of the things that they had to do is they said, We have to be able to move with all these different personalities, because we are the first person the actor sees. And we have to help set the tone, if they want to talk before they start shooting while having their makeup on. We will talk and if they want to be quiet, we will be quiet and we better be in a good mood. Because that's part of our job is to get that attitude going before he go on the set and have to do that hard work.

Alex Ferrari 22:05
That is what we like to call being professional. Yes, professional, which is, unfortunately, lacking in many ways in the business.

Linda Seger 22:15
In this business, there is a tendency to think that everyone can do everything. Everyone thinks they can, right and they can act and they can direct. And the composer said we are the first artists where people will actually admit they can't do our work. And they say in a lot of times that they will say to the composer something like I want a motet here. And the composer will say, believe me, you do not want to motet here. Let me play you what that actually is. And one of the quotes in this book, which is so cute, as they said, so many people don't know how to talk to the composer. And someone says, you know, this, this is a little too much like yellow sunshine, could you make it more like a blue cloud? Like the composers, I guess so I guess we can't do that.

Alex Ferrari 23:12
No, it's kind of like, because I've worked with many composers in my career. And it is like I've once or twice tried to talk in their talk. And I've been in both times, they just like, You need to stop that. That is not your job. It is my job to do that. And all you got to tell me and this is a great piece of advice for people working with a composer is speak emotion, speak emotion, what do you want to feel? I'll get that's my, um, the translator, from your emotion to the music. That's why you have me here. I think that was a great, great way of looking at it.

Linda Seger 23:43
Yes. And in that moment, when composers say, I got it, you know, or I I'm they play a little tune. They said that's it. They play a little tune to say, No, not even close.

Alex Ferrari 23:58
Like, like I would love to sit in a room with John Williams and Steven Spielberg just for like 15 minutes and be a fly on that wall during any any of their sessions just to see what that after so many decades and decades of making iconic things together. Like, what's that conversation like at this point?

Linda Seger 24:15
One of the interesting things that I have in here is that when John Williams compose that five note sequence in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, he said, I sat down and I came up with 350 combinations of these five notes. And then Spielberg ask a mathematician how many possible combinations are there and I think it was something like 34,000 and John Williams that I think maybe a my 350 I can find something you know the right kind of sound that I'm looking for. But isn't that amazing? And see, I think that's another great thing about professionals is that sometimes people think professionals it's easier said no proof. The difference between a professional and an amateur is the professional works harder.

Alex Ferrari 25:08
You'll make good.

Linda Seger 25:10
Yeah, they will they keep working to get it right. And they have they have trained themselves to sort of know that A ha moment says yes. Okay, this is what I'm looking for. But you know screen professional screenwriters write a scene 22 times, and amateurs after the third time they think it's there and say no, is that that's the difference between the two is you? You learn? Okay, let me look at this again. I have a saying with the books I write if I haven't written that sentence 10 times is probably not good enough.

Alex Ferrari 25:46
That's, that's great.

Linda Seger 25:48
Yeah, is in you just and you work on the wording and you work on the rhythm and you reverse the sentences. And then you decide, let's not do that here. Let's do this here. And I'm in just because I, I'm a nonfiction writer, because I do the screenwriting books, and I do some books on spirituality. And so in doing though, is I'm, you know, I'm doing the creative process of a writer, I'm just doing it in the form of nonfiction, as opposed to screenwriting. And it is interesting. I love working with ideas. I love writing books. And I have never had a desire to write screenplays. I love consulting on screenplays, I just just love the different subject matter I get and the different problems I encountered. So we all have that place where we have to figure out where we fit. And what's nice what the collaborative art of filmmaking that if you want to be in the film industry, but you're not sure where you want to be. You read about all these hours and say, Oh, I'm fascinated with editing. I never knew that when I never done so. So it was the book will help you figure out where you fit in. If you're a new filmmaker doing low budget, the book will help you through those low budget films where you don't necessarily have all the people around you that the expensive studio films might have.

Alex Ferrari 27:16
Now, real quickly, you were you were talking about professionals and amateurs and I know amateurs a lot of times are people starting out when they're writing screenwriter and when they're writing screenplays really get caught up so much in the in the the minutiae of the period has to be here that has to be there all these rules in the formatting, not even the structure or story, just the formatting. And it is important to format and like I always tell people like when you're Shane Black, they're gonna let a spelling error go by they're gonna let some grammatical stuff go by because you're Shane Black, or you're Aaron Sorkin, and that's going to fly and you have to be so much more perfect when you're starting out. But I think they get caught up so much. I'm excited. When I started writing my screenplays, I did the same thing. I was just like, literally periods and this and that. What's your opinion on that?

Linda Seger 28:05
Well, there's so many good formatting programs to help you. But if you're writing the first group, first script, it doesn't matter. And then you'll after you write it, you'll go in, you'll reformat it, what you want to do is to start getting it down and have the experience of writing 100 pages. It's scary. The first time I I wrote my first book, making a good script, great. I was terrified until the last chapter. And what I learned was you can type when you are terrified, your your hands might be shaking, but you can still type. And pretty soon you take a deep breath. And it's like, okay, and on many of my books, I've reached those points of sheer terror, said, Oh, my gosh, I have to do this chapter or what am I talking about? And is this good enough? And then you go back into it, and you get feedback. That's extremely important in writing. And you go through the process, and, you know, somewhere around my sixth book, it occurred to me I was an author. I used to say, I write books, and someone said, you're an author said, Oh, yes, I guess I'm an author. And, and as you write, I mean, I feel like I have a handle on writing now. And it goes more easily in many ways because I don't get frustrated, I don't get upset if I'm running into problems. I go for help. I go for feedback. I can hire a researcher I mean, I do whatever is needed in order to do it. But terror is part of that and especially at the beginning, and and knowing that you're having trouble with something, say I don't know how to do this. I had a literary consultant for my first seven books, and sometimes I I needed him for the whole book. And so the first couple of books he did, he worked on the whole book, and my editor at the publisher say, why are you having that? That's what I do. And I said, Well, you actually do something somewhat different. And he helps me present to you a good draft. So you don't have to do as much. But people have different talents. And then, as I got more, you know, farther along, when I ran into problems, I would go back to him. And sometimes I go back to him with a page, though on my one of my books is, he said, you know, what your your actually first chapter actually starts on page two, move that paragraph up with these three paragraphs over here. Oh, oh, it works really? Well, like couldn't see it.

Alex Ferrari 30:53
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Linda Seger 31:03
So we need we need those people.

Alex Ferrari 31:06
Yeah, I understand your point of after six books, you think of yourself as an author, I, it took me a long time before I consider myself a director or I consider myself a writer of any sort. After after, or even a podcaster at this point. I guess I guess I'm like, I'd literally turn people like, oh, you're a podcaster. I'm like, I guess after three 400 episodes, I think I guess I am. I don't? Yeah,

Linda Seger 31:29
I don't know. Interesting how long it takes for us to acknowledge. Yeah, on the other hand, some people acknowledge it so fast, that they say I'm a writer, director, producer, and you say what have you done. So I have a couple ideas. No, and the business card and a business card helps that quite yet.

Alex Ferrari 31:47
And they have a business card Don't forget to have that has a business card. So that's all they need. Now, I wanted to also because there's so I mean, I could talk to you for hours. So I'm going to try to get a little bit more in because I wanted to also touch on a few of your other books and some of these concepts in your other books. I was fascinated about the concept of competitiveness being competitive against being collaborative. You know, there's so many so many not only filmmakers but screenwriters out there who have this kind of dog eat dog mentality when they're trying to just like I got an undercut that guy or that girl is gonna you know, I'm like, I mean come like me competition with with Aaron Sorkin. I'm like, No, you're not. So stop. You're not? What do you have to say about that? What advice? Can you give screenwriters and filmmakers? Who are this kind of Doggy Dog competition,

Linda Seger 32:35
This is an amazing collaborative business. And if you have that sense of competition, work at getting over it. Now, when I started, I had that sense. And anytime someone came along, or someone's a tree, they're just a great seminar leader. And I go, oh, oh, are they better than me for that was a great script consultant. And every time that happened to say, I don't want to do this, I do not want to spend my life feeling competitive with people. So I don't have competitors, I have colleagues. And we have worked really hard since I'd say the late 1980s. To come together. So most of my colleagues, I know them, I have good relationships with them. Some of them I'm very dear friends with. But the thing when you're collaborative is that you feed each other with simply opens up your business. So I endorse other people's books, they endorse my book, my certain colleagues get me jobs, I get them jobs. We, you know, we really, and we talk about things. Sometimes we have to talk about a contract. Sometimes we'll talk about maybe a problem we're having with a client and you call and you say how do I handle this? And, and I have, I have Well, one of my when you know if I ever get sort of caught up and that junky stuff, you know that chunky stuff that we sometimes get caught up in? And Pamela J Smith is a mythologise cook script and salt. And also she says, Honey, don't get none of that on Yeah. He's great. And sometimes, you know, she'll say leave this one alone. And other times she says, No, this has to be addressed. And let's work together on the email or how we're going to address this because it's it's important for the industry to address certain things. So I think that's another thing I have what I call my confidence. And when I'm not sure about something, I say okay, how do I handle this? I don't think I'm either I'm not handling it well or I have a feeling I'm not going to handle it well unless I talk to you. So we need We really need each other and that begins to feed everything out and ripple outwards. I wrote a book about this. It's an it's not a screenwriting book it is what is called the better way to win, the better way to win, connecting, not competing for success. And I did it is a master's degree in a I have an MA in feminist theology among other degrees. And so I was interested, how do you move from one model of thinking to another when you've grown up and thinking of other people in your field is competition and it took me a long time to get over that. But the My intention was I do not want to live my life this way. It just eats you away and you know, you can't appreciate other people and oil like who's number one in the world? Oh, forget it

Alex Ferrari 35:59
Don't you agree that I mean I always because it even in my world where I'm online being an online influencer, if you will, in the filmmaking and screenwriting space with indie film, hustle, and bulletproof screenplay, I get, I get colleagues of mine who are also in this space. Who think of me a lot of times this is competition. And I always tell people, I don't have competition because there is nobody that can compete with me, because it's like me, it's like me trying to compete with Chris Nolan. Like, Chris Nolan is Chris Nolan. i He has a flavor and his movies I have a flavor of mine. You know, maybe that's not good example because he's at a different level than I am. But no, but it just even colleagues is like, there's only one Linda Seeger like, you know, there's a Michael Haig, there's a Chris Vogler. There's a John Truby. You know, all these guys have very different flavors, and are presenting ideas just in their own through their own filter. And it's just you can't really compete at that point. And some people like you, good.

Linda Seger 36:55
Yep. Because you want to be authentic, not only as a human being, but in your work. And you say my work is an expression of me. And so there isn't anyone else that does things, the way that I do it. But I have teamed up I even do team Consulting at times where just recently, someone had a very mythic oriented script. And so I did my work. And then they went to Pamela Smith, and she did their midterm mythology work on it. And then Pamela and I had a phone conversation to just make sure we were in tune because we said we don't want to contradict each other. We want to expand on each other. And, and you know, it's so much fun to work with good colleagues. So we used to be part of a screenwriting summit where it was Syd field and Chris Vogler and John Truby, and Michael Hagen, me, and we went to Tel Aviv, we went to Mexico City together, we went to Toronto, you know, just various places. And we had such a good time together. And it was such a wonderful way to get to know each other in a much better way. And so we feel, I think we all felt very warmly toward each other, and we feel very supportive of each other. And what a joy. I mean, we're, we're supposed to have fun in our work, we're supposed to enjoy what we do and enjoy the people around us and who wants to go around everyday feeling miserable and competitive with a pit in your stomach. That's not a good way to live. I don't want to live that way. So we and there are people of course, that will be competitive. And that will not be as close to you and you think well, I just don't want to rile them up. I always want to be respectful and kind. And regardless of what they do, I don't one of the things I had was I don't want to give other people a reason to have trouble with me because I don't want to cause anyone trouble. I want people you know, I mean I want everyone to be happy and fulfilled that's my goal in life was

Alex Ferrari 39:14
Why not? Absolutely it makes life a lot easier. We're here for a short time on this on this rock I mean it should be it we should have some fun while we're here and and that kind of energy is excellent. One thing you also mentioned I want to touch upon is mindset I'm a very big proponent of mindset and and how it literally can crucify us and stop us from doing anything and also opens up doors and accelerates your your create not only creative process, but your life in general. Yes, what is your you've worked with probably 1000s of screenwriters now, close of your career. I'm assuming you've run into some interesting mindsets along the way, whether it's at the very high levels of Oscar winning screenwriters to the the amateur just starting out What are some of the biggest obstacles you see that screenwriters put in front of themselves? To stop them? And I'm sure you've met super talented screenwriters who were just like, why aren't you doing more? Why'd stop thinking that way? What are some of those things?

Linda Seger 40:14
Well, one thing is people who don't want to learn. And they really think that they know everything, in which case, there's no reason for them to come to me. But sometimes they do anyway, I think they hope I'm going to write 20 pages about how wonderful they are. And so you're getting no matter what you're going to get a critique. I mean, that's what I do. But I think that's the hardest thing is people who push things away that can help them and say, you know, AI, or people like me, are not there to tell them what to do. We're there to show them how they can get more out of their script. And we don't just say, Well, do the scene this way we see look, you want more movement in this scene? Or, you know, we talk conceptually. So I think there's this kind of the sense about everyone being open. Another thing and I say this in a lot of my seminars, say learn to say yes, instead of No. Now, have your characters say yes, because no stops the story. And yes, opens it up. So if the guy says to the girl, you want to go out with me Saturday night to dinner? And she says, No, we don't have a story. And when I'm invited to places I, I just generally say yes, a lot. Now, I don't say yes to dangerous situations. But I'm going to be going and teaching in nine countries this fall. So I've been saying yes to Kazakhstan, and to Kiev, and to Warsaw and Latvia and all this. But I also know in my case, I also check things out in terms of the safety side, and I did say no to Tehran, I said, No to Kurdistan, I said no to Nigeria,

Alex Ferrari 42:03
As you should, as you should.

Linda Seger 42:04
And I have a group of consultants, I actually they're made up of generals and colonels who know the world and I save his Latvia safe. They say, Yeah, but don't go to Russia right now, or don't go to Tehran right now. And so I I take them more seriously than the State Department. So but one of the things I found in my seminars last fall, so many people came up to me after and said, That is such a great concept for life, is to say yes. And what I see is screenwriters sabotaging their careers. So somebody says, you know, we'd like you to write the script, but we don't have much money. Is it all? No, I don't want to do it. It's the first opportunity said your first opportunity. You say, yes. I mean, you want to keep the ripple effect going? And if you don't say yes, you have no narrative line about you as a screenwriter. So, you know, later down the line, you're going to say no, to some stuff, and yes, to others, but even in my work now, I generally don't say no to things because I, I want things to keep opening up. And so, you know, I say I have the whole spectrum of writers. And sometimes people say, Well, do you only work with studio films? No, of course not. I work with people just have to contact me.

Alex Ferrari 43:31
Exactly. And I think there was a book by Shonda Rhimes, the year of saying yes. Where she literally says, yes, she literally said yes to everything. And she's like, I'm going to do an experiment and anything like I get asked, no one knew that she was doing this. But for a year, she said yes to everything. And she said her world changed. Oh, yeah. Because her opportunities just opened up. And she just started going to places and doing things that she would have never done, because of her own mindsets, or because of her own things. She said no to so.

Linda Seger 44:00
And I think the other thing is look for places where you can be kind and generous. And that there's a lot of time. I mean, when if people email me, I do try to respond. I mean, I don't necessarily respond with a fork as email. But I do try to recognize, you know, people are reaching out for help. And I think sometimes you see people in this industry, who just are not generous. And then you see the people who are and one of the loveliest things I heard was I have a friend who's has produced and put together some very, very big film festivals and she says, you know, one of the nicest guys I ever met with Liam Neeson. He got off the plane. He says, What can I do to help you? She says, Oh my gosh, this is the nicest things versus someone getting off the plane with their entourage, and they're stuck up nose and, you know, do this do that. And so I think all of all of us, it doesn't matter where we are in the world is to say I, you know, I'm here I want to I want to do good things. And my sense is we, it's kind of like writing, if somebody says, Why do you write says, The only reason to write is to change the world as we know it?

Alex Ferrari 45:29
Without question, yeah, so do you believe also, I mean, I have to believe at this point that you, you would agree with what I'm about to say. But I've discovered it recently in the last few years is once you become of service to other people in whatever shape that might be, it might be something small, it might be something big. The world changes for you, and opportunities, open up the doors open. And I can't even tell you how many opportunities have presented me because of me being of service to a community of filmmakers and screenwriters out there, I get them, I literally get to sit down and have a conversation with a legend like yourself, and have this connection that, you know, if I would have called you, if I would just drop an email to you, I'm like, Hey, can I just talk to you for an hour and a half? Probably not going to happen. But But do you agree that just being of service really does open up a lot of opportunities with with people and in their lives and careers.

Linda Seger 46:21
And you have to believe that things ripple out in that even when they don't come back to you directly. They come back indirectly. And so you want to keep the ripple. You know, you want to keep that ripple going.

Alex Ferrari 46:37
Now, you also you also have written you know, many books on screenwriting, but you've also written books on spirituality. And I know when some sometimes when you say that word I know right now the second I said the word spirituality I know of at least 20 to 30% of the audience just said, Wait a minute, what's going on? Well, everyone calm down. My audience is a little used to me talking about little deeper subjects. I wanted to touch a touch upon not only spirituality, but you know, because obviously you have a very unique pedigree, with writing in theology, and where you come from, in regards to spirituality regards to your own journey in life as a creative, let's say, let's say with a creative and a screenwriting. Yes. How can that that concept of spirituality, whether you believe it or not, I always like I used the term universe a lot. It's like the universe does this and the energies of coming in and out? What is your advice to screenwriters, and filmmakers, for that matter? In regards to getting in touch with themselves? You know, I meditate a lot. And I teach meditations. And I wanted to kind of bring that to my audience as well. And it's done so much for me. What do you what do you feelings on this?

Linda Seger 47:48
Well, I wrote a book called spiritual steps on the road to success. And the subtitle is gaining the goal without losing your soul. And what interested me was the spiritual issues that go along with success. And I was mainly interested, because as I moved from failure, that things not working for years to becoming successful, I realized the issues become very different. And I think it's really easy. When you get successful you think you don't need to be spiritual anymore, because you have everything you're praying about before, of course, why and what I discovered was just a whole new set of issues. And so I got interested in those issues, although the book begins with chapter on what it means to feel called and all you know, or guided, or, say, the way you opened up, or I just found my way, and I love what I'm doing or, you know, however you define it. And so the first chapter is about that. But then as it moves on, and talks about some of the other issues. And then I think there is a commitment, what, when I started out, I kind of made a commitment that I would try to do my business with spiritual principles and with spirituality. And I figured that I sort of figured I would make it I didn't expect to do really well. But I said, you know, I don't think I'm going to fall through the cracks. Now, there were times I did think I was going to fall through the cracks, but and what I discovered instead what I mean, things have gone far bigger and better than I had expected when I started out. But I think I was willing when I started out to say, I just want to actualize myself, I want to use my talents. I want to nurture people's creativity. And so then things open up and then not saying no to how they open up because we often put those gates down like I saw myself. Oh, I bet all the studios are going to hire me. And Won't that be great and I'll get my names in there. Paper and maybe get thanked for an Academy Award. Well, that's not how my career went. I do work with experience writers, but the studio's don't hire people like me. And what I realized was where the path is evolving. That's the path, you walk down. And you don't just say, Oh, I'm sorry, you're fine. I have to put my nose in the air. And so there, there is a lot about moving down, and then realizing the issues, you have to deal with change. And I don't think in anything, we do things alone, I think our lives are collaborative. And that means if you need a therapist, go to a therapist. When I was starting my business, I went to the Young Center in Los Angeles, and they had a sliding scale, I was at the bottom of have no money. And but I worked with the union as Carl Jung, NOONIEN therapists for really several years. And it really helped because every time an issue came up in my business, I had someplace to go. I work with a spiritual director at times, and I'm going on this long trip for two months teaching in nine countries. And when I taught them was gone for two months, last fall, I worked with her throughout the summer, and I really think I'm going to go back, because I think I want to be ready for the opportunities, the challenges of that much travel, meeting lots of people you know, want to make sure I don't get too tired, it can't get sick. You know, there's because people say, Oh, they're so glamorous. He said, Yeah. I mean, it's, it's wonderful for people who love to travel, which I do. But there's a lot of challenges, and saying, I'm going to be in 10 countries in two months. And, you know, I I expect everything will be fine. But I don't know what causes tennis like

Alex Ferrari 52:05
This time of the year.

Linda Seger 52:08
So you know, you really try to cover everything and say, and the generals told me, they said, Don't go out in the countries in you know, any of these more neutral places, but the city will be safe, and it'll be fine. And when I went to Colombia, that's what they said, Do not go to the country, but stay in the city, and always have someone with you from that country. And so, you know, we will do that and follow safety procedures. But I was told no, is that you are fine in Kazakhstan, you should not have any trouble. And we approve your trip to Kansas that. So? No, so So there's kick, I think keeping in touch and I think the other thing is centering down, like when you're working on a screenplay or you're writing is there's times you just have to take a breath and kind of sit with something. And I when I write my books, there are times I will reread a chapter and I say it's not good enough. It's not deep enough. It's not saying anything new, it's not emotional, and I sit down. So let me get into my gut. What is it I want to say that maybe somebody hasn't said before? And how do I get in touch with that, and then have the courage to say it, and you know, to be upright. But there is another thing I have noticed, in my writing, I have been more willing to do personal stories, and also to be funny. And I will say this, even when we're writing a book on dialogue, and my assistant does some of my typing, and I do some of the dictating. And we'll just sit here will sit that is so funny. I hope my readers just burst out laughing when they read that paragraph. So letting all those different parts of you out and saying, yeah, sometimes you have to sit down and think about what what do I have to say that's fresh and new. NFL don't have anything to say, well, you know, there's other jobs you can get.

Alex Ferrari 54:21
Now, I mean, did you agree that a lot of a lot of screenwriters specifically will go into this business, first of all, thinking they're going to be rich and famous, which, yes, generally, generally speaking, not not the greatest business plan I've ever heard of in my life. But if you're going into it to screenwriting, and you're writing and you're putting all your energy in things, thinking of the market only, and only thinking of making money or getting out there, that generally doesn't work often. You know, it's a lottery ticket, if they're outliers that have that works, but anytime I've heard of anyone writing something that really came from inside really with something personal in touch with something else that know a story that no one else can tell, or a message that really resonates within a fictional story that comes from you. And you open yourself up in exposing your, your soft underbelly, if you will. Yeah, that is where that's where the magic is, isn't it? That's where the stuff is, right?

Linda Seger 55:23
Yes, yes, is to pull it out and not be thinking about the market, down the road, you know, say your 10th or 15th, scrapped, you might develop that sense of more of a commercial sense is gonna go along, or you have an idea that someone doesn't think is commercial, and you say, how do I make this resonate with other people, and you work on it, and you get feedback from other people. And they say, I'm, I'm really bored the first 15 pages, but then you get into something really interesting, say, oh, that's where I need to go, I need to build up on that. And so you do think, you know, I mean, I get feedback. When I write a book, I usually have six or eight readers give me feedback. And then I ventually have the editor, of course, but I wouldn't, I can't imagine turning a book into some, even to a publisher, even after all these books, without having readers that are going to give me feedback and say, Yeah, this is fascinating, or I don't understand this part, or this is repetitive where and when you want to get the filters. So you know, I sometimes I just pour a lot of things out and have other people help me filter it through. So there's a balance on anything, you know, even a balance on the humor,

Alex Ferrari 56:52
Without question, and but even with those commercial projects, you know, some, a lot of times, the writer needs to dig deep to even make something like A Beautiful Mind. Oh, yeah. Yeah, I forgot who the writer was that had cubicles gave us was exactly. He, I'm sure when he was writing that story. There was something deep in him that he put on the paper through through that amazing story. And then Ron and Mr. Howard actually took it to another place and his team. But But, but he

Linda Seger 57:23
Akiva had to really work to get that job, because he was known to the Batman stuff and that kind of very entertaining thing. But he grew up in a house that brought in autistic children. And so his mother was a psychologist, and he knew he had something to offer. And he went after that he was not in the shortlist of possible writers. But he heard about this and he went and he just pitched his loot as hard out. Then he also took that chance of making that jump into more serious work, in the same way that Steven Spielberg did it with color purple. And I have so much respect for people who take that chance they think about Sally Field from The Flying Nun to Sybil, or Farrah Fawcett majors, you know, that made that jump in a number of

Alex Ferrari 58:18
Robert Robin Williams, Jim Carrey.

Linda Seger 58:21
Yeah,Poets Society, you said that it is so risky, and it's so easy to not do that. And it's very, it's very difficult because you have a built in audience on one area, and then you make a jump into another. So when I started doing some spiritual books, everyone thought, what you're nuts. But I mean, I've adopted and I have two master's degrees in theology, and in focusing mainly on religion, the arts, but I thought I really want to, I have some things to say in this subject. And I have the background, to be able to say things, but you know, making that leap, you don't have a built in audience and people say, Well, I know you one way, I don't want to know you the other way. And so your heart has to guide you and say, it's not an easy path,

Alex Ferrari 59:18
Either. Yeah, it's like, look, I'm going this direction as an artist and as as a soul and a human being in this world. If you guys want to come along with me, great, but I'm going down this path. And if you don't, that's fine, too. I'll come back and do something that you might like again, but this is where I have to go.

Linda Seger 59:34
That's why my, my website has the writing part. And then you can click on the spirituality part if you so choose, and you don't have to choose that.

Alex Ferrari 59:43
Exactly. Now, you also touched upon something earlier and this is another one of your great books about subtext.

Linda Seger 59:49
Yes, writing subtext

Alex Ferrari 59:53
Subtext is such an art form. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. And it's something that so many early or young screenwriters will just write on the nose dialogue and on the nose, like his scenes, and subtext is what makes honestly I think what makes a good script. Great. Yeah. So what are some advice or some tips you can give us about writing good subtext?

Linda Seger 1:00:25
Well, one of the things is you want to start tuning into the subtext in your life. And when this was an assignment, Michael Weezy, said, We'd really like to have a book on subtext, would you like to write it? And I thought, oh, that sounds interesting. But I don't, I haven't thought about this. And so I started by tuning in, where do I see subtext? Where have I seen it in my past? Where, where do people say things where I think I wonder what that really means? You know, when when the guy says, I'll call you, as you leave this man? I wonder what that means. Now, if he calls me tomorrow, I'll know what it means. But if he doesn't, is he dead? Did he go to prison? Did he get in an accident? Or wasn't he really interested in that was just a line. So you, you, you know, or when you say, how does this look on me? And person says, Fine, it looks fine. And it's like, no, you don't think I look too fat? No, it's okay. I don't think I'm going to buy this, because that's not there's something going on here that I don't quite interpret. And one of the things was subtext when you come across it, you usually don't know what it means. And so going into that. And then, when I found when I wrote that book, as I thought, what are the movies where I absolutely know, there's a lot of subtext. And one was ordinary people. And one was Hitchcock's shadow of doubt. And so I studied those, and I began to look for the patterns. Where am I seeing subtext? How is this similar to this? Oh, I see. subtext can be in words, it can be in gestures, it can be an action, it can even be in the genre. And so I began to see all the different layers of that. And I had to I kind of had to learn how to talk about this, because there wasn't another book on subtexts out there. i There were a few books that maybe had a section, I don't even think a chapter I think more like a mention. And since then, I think there's just been maybe three books since that. And then we're writing a book on dialogue. So there, I actually was working this morning on the chapter on subtext, which will go in and trying to make sure I didn't say the same thing I said, in the subtext. And so, so far, so far, I have

Alex Ferrari 1:02:58
So far, so good. But yeah, but on the nose dialog is one of the biggest notes I've ever seen coming back from from screenwriters is just like, I'm going to walk over there. Or, you know, or let's not even talk about putting in history of a character, like, you know, like, when you were beaten

Linda Seger 1:03:18
Back, is that they had a terrible child.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:21
You know, like, when you're when your dad beats you, like, no, look, look, don't be much more. And I always am very keen that when I watch a movie now, how they slip in that kind of, what's the word, it's, I'm completely losing, like a resonance,

Linda Seger 1:03:35
You know, it's the little comment of this thing. You say, Oh, that either means the opposite. Or it carries layers of meaning. And that means that the writer needs to really love words, and say, That's not the right word. It doesn't have the right resonance. It's like when you sing, there's a thing called the overtones. And, and you say, it's that extra ring, almost like you almost hear that octave above or the octave below and say, that's what we're looking for, or, you know, marine biology, the undertone, they were looking for the undertow that you see something and you sense that underneath, you know, what lies beneath. And so, and that takes a lot of work from a writer because usually the first or second draft is going to be more on the nose. And then you start working to say I want to get, it's just too flat. It's too obvious. So now what is it? Well, I was just gonna say one of the things that I love about the book, I'm co writing the dialogue book with John Winston Rainey. And the end we're having a case study where we take a little section of a client's script with their permission, and then we do know Senator John does a rewrite. And a lot of the notes are, okay, we want to resonance here we want to get get a little deeper with what we're doing. And so people can actually see how do you rewrite dialogue? How do you think through it? To make it richer?

Alex Ferrari 1:05:19
Now, what is a? If you I'm sure you have at least an example. Is there a scene in film history that just like, Oh, that's really great subtext just so that you see people really understand?

Linda Seger 1:05:29
Yeah, well, there's, there's a scene and there's a scene and Well, I'll tell you what might be really famous. The photography scene in ordinary people. It's around Christmas, and the father is trying to take a picture of the mother and the son Conrad and the son in the mother, the son really is uncomfortable with the mother. And he keeps crossing his arms and turning his back and they're they want to get the two of them together, we'll show how you know get together and he doesn't want to and, and they're having all sorts of trouble getting the camera to work. I mean, it's just absolutely saturated with you say, oh my gosh, this family is so problematical. And all they want is everything to be normal and this this is not normal. This is they're struggling so hard to be normal and the therapist says you know normal is not all it's cracked up to be. But But I would look at and look at ordinary people it's just filled it's it was Gosh. Anyway, it's it's his was written by Alvin Sargent, and Elvin and I have a little email relationship. And we've occasionally met when we're in LA for breakfast. He's absolutely adorable. He's had one of the longest histories of a screenwriter way back paper, moon and all that up to Spider Man two. Wow. Just, he's, he's an amazing writer. And he's the most, I actually think he's the most adorable man I've ever met. It's like I did. And I write him when I tell him that, you know, and then he says on cue of beauty. Just the sweetest little emails at times back and forth.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:25
Now you also talk a lot about in your work, the rewriting process, and how how just insanely important is the rewriting process? Like you were saying earlier, a professional rewrites at 22 times the amateur will write it two or three times like, Oh, it's good. We're good. Yeah, what are some methods X screenwriters can do in the rewriting and rewriting process to make it more effective, and they're well,

Linda Seger 1:07:47
The first thing is you is that it's really good for you to get it out. So don't do too much evaluation too early in the process. You don't want the mother to come in and nag at you, when you've just written the, say that stuff. So you, there's times you just have to get it out. And what I do is when I'm not sure about a word or a phrase, I put brackets around it. And I might write it three different ways. And then I let it sit. And I might sit there for a month until I say, Oh, wait. Now now it's clear about how I do it. But the first rewrite is really, you going back to what you've rewritten, and I suggest you circle what is good. Don't Don't get upset with what's bad, you might only find three lines or three sections that are good, great. That's, that's your guide for the rest. And then you rewrite, and then you start getting feedback. And sometimes I think it's good to be in a writers group, if the writers group is positive, and to you know, you have your group of friends, other writers that to send it to listen to their feedback. But that doesn't mean you have to follow it. It just means listen. And then down the road, you might want to go to a script consultant, or if you don't have that group of friends who are writers who can give you initial feedback, then you can go to script consultant earlier. But But this idea of getting the help along the line, and training yourself to say I am willing to go back into this, this is flat. Now, I'm gonna have to think a bit about what I want to do about it. But nevertheless, I know this is where I want to approach it. And this is and in some ways, it's a little bit like practicing anything. I've gone back to piano in the last two years, is it I get up in the morning and there's three measures that are really really hard. I get up in the morning and I play him three times. Before I start my day in You know what, they sound a whole lot better now than two months ago. And it's the same thing as you get up in the morning. And you say, right now, I'm only going to work with these five sentences or the scene. And I'm not going to start with page one, I'm going to go in what are those places I have to tussle with, that I know aren't working. And you just, you know, break it up. And you said this is this is the process. It's the process of every single artist, is you get it down to its smaller parts, you go back to the bigger parts, you get to the smaller, you go to the bigger. And it's it's something, you know, you just learn a lot is this is the art process and don't resist it. Just recognize the sunset.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:48
And this is a tightening. It's just tightening everything up.

Linda Seger 1:10:52
Strengthening, tightening, broadening, deepening.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:55
Yeah, all those are great words. All those are great words. And, in your opinion, I think you were the best person to ask her this question. What makes a good writer Great?

Linda Seger 1:11:08
Well, they need to it's an it's a combination of art and craft. And so your art is your voice, that somebody should be this sometimes people say, I can look at a movie. And maybe I didn't see the credits, or maybe I didn't see who wrote it. I look at you know, it's a Woody Allen movie, Woody Allen has a very clear, artistic voice. Or you look at Oliver Stone, oh, that's gotta be all and Oliver Stone will be very much. And so whatever that voice is. And it might take a number of scripts to find your voice and affirm your voice. Because sometimes people are really comedic. And they're not taking advantage of that. And so you're saying what it what makes up my voice? And how do I accentuate that and balance that. And then you need to know the craft. So you're putting your voice and your specific ideas together with I know the three act structure, I know how to express my theme. I know what visuals mean, and how to create metaphors cinematically, and I know how to round up my characters. I know how to make my characters more dimensional. I know when I'm hitting a cliche, I'm going to fix that. So you just keep learning about all these elements. And you learn I learn a lot from other movies at this point. So sometimes I'll watch a movie and say, Oh, I hadn't thought of that. Like, crash, 14 plotlines all intersecting at the second turning point, like what's going on here. And I broke I wrote a book called and the best screenplay goes to and I analyze crash Shakespeare in Love and sideways. Three very different movies, I spent 70 pages on each of them, interviewed the directors and the writers of both of all of them. And you begin to you know, you say these are learning movies, these are so you find those movies where you say I can learn a lot from watching this movie a number of times. And you know, so I mean, I have favorite learning movies I love as good as it gets and Love movie, you know, you quoted from that one, and say, oh my gosh, you've just watched that movie over and over again and you keep understanding dialogue transformational arcs, relationships, character contrasts, every twist. They learn so much, and the willingness to do a line that leaves you breathless, that line when Jack Nicholson's character says, You make me want to be a better man. And you just go, Oh, my goodness is and what a deep line. Somebody had, you know, James Brooks and Mark Andrus had to go deep inside themselves, to find that ability for that kind of character to have made that kind of breakthrough to actually be kind and let some of that inner side out.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:30
Yeah, it's I was I was on a plane the other day and I had to watch Jerry Maguire again. I hadn't seen Oh, yes, what I just said when he's when he says, You complete me at the LA usually you have or you had me at hello. So cliche now, but even still, it still has that impact. And it's still so powerful. And that's one of those lines. In a movie. It's quoted slices, egg capitals, completely that one line says everything you need to know about the movie, yes, without

Linda Seger 1:14:58
The ability of the writer to write that line says you had to go to a good deep place to write that line.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:06
But you also psychologically as a screenwriter have to be willing to, to go that deep to kind of go maybe to places that you might not want to go to, to pull that out, because there are, if I may use Joseph Campbell, the treasure that you seek is in the in the cave that you are afraid to go into.

Linda Seger 1:15:28
Yes, yeah. And we'll say I have to keep, you know, moving in that in that direction.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:36
It's, it's Yeah, it is. It is. It is a it's a very fascinating, fascinating process, the screenwriting process in the filmmaking process in general. And I'm going to ask you,

Linda Seger 1:15:45
Okay, oh, I was just gonna say, and you need to know a lot of psychology to get into the different characters. And I think you need to be very careful in certain subject matters. Some people say, tread very carefully, if you decide you're going to deal with evil people. And, you know, and actors, I know, actors who have said, I'm not going to do those kinds of characters anymore, because they inhabit me, and I inhabit them in is hard to get rid of them after. And I have to go into that place. And do I really want to do that for the next year or four years of my life for whatever it is, I'm not talking about the perfect goody two shoes characters, but you do have to be careful about taking serious subjects too lightly.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:34
Well, I mean, well, perfect, perfect example. Just to follow up on that. I always tell people, when I see someone who's quote unquote, evil or bad, is it his perspective? Because from the perspective of Hannibal Lecter, he's good. He's the hero. He's the hero of his own journey. You know, he doesn't go like, you know, twisting the mustache going, aha, you know, and that's where all bad people are evil people. It is all about perspective. And I think the best villains in it all have this kind of, in their perspective, they're doing good if there's multilayered, like I'm doing something bad according to other places, but I'm doing it for a good reason. Like you have it just perfect example is Fanus in Avengers, this last this last Avengers movies, he wants to destroy half of the universe, but his perspective is it's like, look, we're overpopulated. This is just what I'm gonna do. So there I mean, it's weird, but it's a it's a way of his it's a perspective, would you agree?

Linda Seger 1:17:34
Yeah. And there's also a lot of times insecurity behind it. Really bad backstory? I mean, a lot of things to explore about what's really going on inside that person? What are they grappling with? What are their temptations that they have to give into? What are their obsessions? Because they don't have the good and the light, to illuminate the way or to you know, help them take another path? And so, you are you are in the grass of evil, too.

Alex Ferrari 1:18:10
Yeah, without question. And I'm gonna ask you the last few questions, ask all of my guests and I could talk to you for at least another four or five hours, but I want to respect your time. Now, what advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Linda Seger 1:18:23
Well, the thing is, you have to eventually know marketing. And you have to eventually look for opportunities to be able to either sell your script or to get an assignment to, to do with script. But I think know a lot and then get into organizations may depending where you live, if you have women in film near you, and men come join Women in Film now or you have a cinema arts organization or any kind of, you know, screenwriting groups or whatever, get involved because it has been proven that people who are in a community of some sort or collaborative, in some sort, do better. You have those people who say to you, I'm let me you know, yes, I have an agent or let me refer you to whatever that might be. So get in, get involved and learn and try to get inside the business to some extent, if somebody says, you want to come to the set, say yes, because the experience of being on a set and seeing what happens and all the waiting and all the cables that get moved around. But just to see what that is like, is a really terrific experience to have. So you're trying to broaden your experience to understand this and you're trying to build relationships. You want to be very careful about using people that you meet But on the other hand, you know, if you have an opportunity, have your 22nd elevator pitch ready. You get in the elevator with Steven Spielberg for some reason, he's going in the 12th floor, you better push the 12th floor button to say I have 12 floors to say, I'm writing a story about a joint strike that threatens the fourth of sound and the Fourth of July weekend. And it Oh, the elevator with me, I want to talk to you. So then be prepared. That was the other thing be prepared. So when somebody says I love your idea, do you have a script? It's a good idea to have the script? Or if you have a new idea, can I see some of your writing, have some writing that you've really gotten as good as it can get? Because you don't want to be caught? When you finally have an opportunity? In you're not ready to take it?

Alex Ferrari 1:20:54
Would you? Would you believe that Steven Spielberg must be terrified of going into elevators by himself at this point in his career,

Linda Seger 1:21:00
Especially after I said that if he hears the podcast? No, you're not the second floor.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:07
You're honestly I've had so many different, you know, people on the show talking about pitching and that they always use Steven Spielberg in an elevator as an example of

Linda Seger 1:21:20
The urban myth or something like that.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:21
I mean, it's insane. And okay, so can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career?

Linda Seger 1:21:30
You mean somebody else's work? Yes. Oh, probably the power positive thinking, by the way, Norman Vincent Peale. Way back. You know, I was ready to go to college I had read. I had read that. Great. And maybe it had an influence, because one of the questions on the application was, what books have you read in the last six months outside of classes, and I probably had one of the best book lists like the making of the President 1968, East of Eden, lack of the power of positive thinking I had just a lot of great books and what I had been reading, so maybe it kept me into college.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:11
That's right. It's a great book, by the way. Yeah. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Linda Seger 1:22:19
Oh, I think the biggest lesson was learning that this that life is collaborative. I entered this business thinking yourself made, and just, you know, you do it yourself. You never asked questions, you pretend to know everything. And it became clear that was not a good idea. And I literally spent about a year learning to change my thinking. And it and what was interesting was, I had spent years probably 14 years of living on the edge. And once I changed my thinking, I found success within a year. So that change of thinking is really important is your mindset. Mindset matters later when collecting that competing for success.

Alex Ferrari 1:23:06
And the toughest question of all three of your favorite films of all time.

Linda Seger 1:23:11
Um, Amadeus is is undoubtedly one, I call it the big jam. People always know I'm going to mention witness. And one of the reasons I'm a Quaker, and although we're not Amish people, sometimes mistake commerce and Quaker, and my husband proposed to me during the barn ways raising scene of witness. It was not an exact proposal, but it was, it was a sort of proposal. And then the real one came a little later. So of course, it's very special. And then I knew I knew Bill Kelly. And Pamela Wallace. BILL KELLY has died. I talked to Earl Wallace once, but I didn't know him. But Bill and I occasionally had lunch together. Pamela and I had PEF team taught together and she's endorsed a few of my books, so that's special. But now you want a third one I guess probably Tootsie

Alex Ferrari 1:24:10
Oh, great. Oh, what's this an amazing three bar movies. Yeah, I'd love to see it's such a

Linda Seger 1:24:16
Yeah. And see these in these films. When you find a favorite film it really stands up. So you watch it over and over and over and you say you know I don't get tired of this film. I even when I know the dial even when I like to say is just you keep getting the nuances and say What a brilliant piece of filmmaking is

Alex Ferrari 1:24:38
My mind's is always go I hope and everyone listen to this show knows what I'm about to say Shawshank Redemption, which I think is well yeah, that her fairy films ever, ever, ever written, put together everything. It's fantastic. And finally, where can people find you your work your books? Everything that Linda has to offer?

Linda Seger 1:24:56
Yes. Well if you know my name, Linda Sager and think of sacre like Bob Seger s Eg er, my website is Linda sager.com. My email is Linda Linda Sager calm, you're gonna going to easily easily find me and I'm on YouTube. And I mean just a lot of things. And you could find some really interesting things on YouTube of me that are unexpected like me horseback riding to music.

Alex Ferrari 1:25:28
Linda, honestly, you are a national treasure in the world of screenwriting. So thank you so, so much. Like I said, I can literally talk to you for at least another four or five hours comfortably. And I think everybody would be entertained listening.

Linda Seger 1:25:41
I love talking to you. So you know, we can do this. Again, this has been great.

Alex Ferrari 1:25:46
Thank you so much again, and I again, thank you for dropping some amazing knowledge bombs on the on the tribe today. So I truly appreciate it. Good. Thank you. I want to thank Linda so much for her time and coming by the show and dropping major, major, major knowledge bombs on the tribe today. So Linda, thank you. Thank you so much. If you want to get links to any of Linda's work, her consulting, her website, anything just head over to indiefilmhustle.com/315. And it will be links to everything and anything that Linda does. So thanks again, Linda. And guys, today is the day my screening at the Chinese Theatre of my new film on the corner of ego and desire plus a talk and book signing of my new book shooting for the mob is happening today. For tickets, just head over to indiefilmhustle.com/screening. And I hope to see you guys there. Thank you again so so much for the support. And that's the end of another episode of the indie film hustle podcast and the bulletproof screenplay podcast. As always keep on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.

Please subscribe and leave a rating or review
by going to BPS Podcast
Want to advertise on this show?
Visit Bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/Sponsors

BPS 043: The Meditating Screenwriter – How to Be More Creative

Over the years I have mentioned my meditation practice and how important it is in my daily routine on the show. Many of the #IFHTribe have asked me to do an entire episode on meditation and the importance it has in the creative process. Today is that day.

In this episode, I go over:

  • My personal meditation practice
  • Why it’s impossible to CLEAR YOUR MIND
  • How to embrace your minds inner voice
  • How science view meditation
  • Neuroscience and what actually happens to your brain when you meditate
  • How meditation can make you more creative

I discuss practical everyday uses for meditation in your creative life. Some of my greatest ideas and thoughts have come to me during my meditations. I’ll also teach you how to meditate for 10-15 min to start and then over time, you can grow your practice to 1-2 hours a day like I do. Once you start meditating it becomes addictive.

Get ready to open your creative channels to full flow. 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
So today, guys, we are going to talk about meditation for filmmakers for screenwriters for creatives in general, and I've been contacted by a lot of the tribe contacted me to do an episode on meditation to help them with their filmmaking or their screenwriting. And as many of you know, I've mentioned my meditation practice throughout many, many episodes, and many, many interviews I do that is one of the cornerstones of my productivity, my creativity, and what I do on a daily basis here at Indie film, hustle. So I thought it would be interesting to do a meditation podcast, not like I'm not going to do not taking you through a guided meditation, though, if you guys want me to do something like that, I'll think about it. But this is more about my process, and kind of debunking a lot of myths that come along with the concept of meditation. So I'm here to just tell you how I do it, and what I've been studying and what works for me, which is not the traditional way of doing meditation. Now, before we start, I will tell you one thing, the second I started meditating, and again, I meditate anywhere between an hour minimum a day to two hours, sometimes longer. On any given day. It has changed my life, it has changed my perspective on things. It has been such a powerful, powerful thing in my life. It has centered me a lot of the anger and frustration and things that were before just consuming my soul consuming my day to day experience. And I just just needed something to help me get out of that. And the second I started meditating, I saw changes almost immediately, I was thinking clearer. I was becoming more creative, I was becoming more focused, more productive. All these things started to come into being anytime I had a question that I needed an answer to, I asked it in my meditations. And a lot of times, those answers would just come to me while I was meditating it, it helps me answer deep problems that I might have in my life, or forks in the road or where I should go. It is pretty transformative. And and there's a reason why so many big entrepreneurs and CEOs and billionaires and all these guys, about 80 to 90% of them all have a regular meditation practice. Now I'm also not going to talk about just the spiritual side of it. I'm going to talk about the science of what happens to your mind into your body when you go into a meditative state. And because I've been doing a lot of research lately in regards to neuroscience and what the actual you know, the things that happen to your mind and what happens to the way your mind reacts in your brain reacts. And meditation has been proven scientifically again and again after research after research after research that it does help with so so so many different ailments, different stresses, and so on. So let me tell you a little bit about my history with meditation, I've been trying for the better part of 20 years to include meditation into my daily life. And throughout those 20 years, I knew the benefit of it, but I always tried it and just never could really get my excuse upon my mind around it. Because I would sit down, and my mind was just going a million miles a minute, and I could not clear the mind, I could not empty the head as so many people have said in the past, and I just felt like a failure, when I did it, it just didn't, just didn't resonate with me. So I then tried to do it maybe for five minutes at a time, and maybe eight minutes at a time, 10 minutes at a time, you know, and it just never stuck, I just never found a lot of value in it. Even at that point in my life, I just My head was too, I was just too clouded with so many other things. And then about a year and a half ago, I, I sat down and had a meditation teacher, that I that is an old friend of mine. And we started sitting down and she kind of taught me how to meditate properly. And, and the value of longer meditations and things like that, which I'll get into. And from that moment on, I started meditating for 10, or 15 minutes at a time, then 20, then 30, then an hour, to my record of a day in one day, four and a half hours of meditation. And I'll tell you about that day later. But for the first time in my life, when I started to meditate in the way I'm about to tell you, doors started opening up, I started seeing benefits right away, all sorts of wonderful things started happening to me. So I want to break a myth right now that clearing the mind, as so many meditation instructors say, does not work because it's impossible. It's like asking your heart to stop beating, it is not a possibility your mind is active all the time. It is swinging ideas and thoughts and everything, it's just not possible to clear the mind. So what I do is I allow the mind to keep going, I embrace the activity in my mind and your mind should stay active during your meditations. As your thoughts come in and out, hold on to them and then let them go. There is no clearing your mind. What happens to me in my meditations is when I just start thinking about things, it's kind of like when you're about to go to sleep, you start thinking about things, think about things and then all of a sudden, you're you're gone, you're in your lala land. But when I meditate like that, I have ideas coming in and out, then all of a sudden, the noise starts to quiet down a little bit. And I start focusing on one series of thoughts or one thing that I'm thinking about or two things I'm thinking about. And it just kind of pairs everything down. So the noise starts to go away a little bit. But you're always thinking about something. And then sometimes I've gotten to a place in my meditation where I I actually just start going deep, so deep that I don't even know where I'm at, I go into another place in my mind. I'm in such a deep meditative state that I'm still thinking about things but I lose track of time I lose where I am, to the point where I then get up, you know, an hour and a half to two hours later. And I wasn't planning to stay that long. Right before I did this podcast. I was planning to meditate for an hour. I ended up meditating for like an hour and 30 minutes. And I don't even realize when I didn't get like I didn't I didn't know where the time went. And that's when you are so deep in where you are in that wonderful state in the meditative process. And that's where a lot of the magic that I'm we'll talk about in a little bit happens. Now, what is the best time to meditate? A lot of people always ask me early morning is historically the best time right when you wake up because your mind is still in that alpha sleep state. It is easier to meditate then it's easier to fall back into that state because when you meditate, you go into that alpha state. So when you just get up, get up, go to the bathroom, come back to bed and start your practice. Now all you got to do is sit up when you meditate so you can sit up in your bed with your back straight is extremely important that your back is straight. You could do it on a couch, sit up on your bed on the floor with a pillow against the wall if it helps. Whatever you do, just keep your back straight. Now as you start to meditate, just become aware of how your body feels. Focus on your breathing if you like, do you have an itch, scratch it. It's another thing. By the way, if you have an itch, there's no place in the rule books that say you can't scratch it, it's not like you're gonna break out of a meditative state because you scratch an itch, scratch it, scan your body, scan your body with your mind to see how you feel, is there an ache is or hurt, or tingling is there heat is or cold, start doing that, and your mind will start flowing with it. And as thoughts come in and out, just flow with it, don't fight it, grab onto a thought. And if you want to go down that path, go down that path of thinking of thoughts. If not let it go till another one comes in, and so on and so on. And so you, you'll start seeing that your mind will start to quiet, the noise will start to quiet. And it will allow you to focus, focus on one thought focus on one or two thoughts, ideas, things like that, which are so so important. So it does clear out the noise. But it's not clearing of the mind, you're always thinking of something, you're always thinking of thoughts. But there's not 1000s of them going off at at a time. And this might take a little time to do. But this is just how it works for me. Now, if you hear a noise outside or outside the door or outside your window or a siren going off, okay, just ignore it. And keep just keep going forward. What I like to do is I put on headphones. So I block out all noise I have some like, you know, waves playing, you know, ocean waves or a noise machine, or something like that to kind of clear it out. I also even wear an eye mask, like a sleeping mask. So I literally cover my entire all my senses, my hearing in my eyes. So I'm really deep in like, so light doesn't affect me, sound doesn't affect me. And it really helps me go in deeper and faster. And I've been doing that since the very, very beginning of these last almost two years of meditating. Now, another question I get all the time, how long should I meditate?

Well, I compare meditation to a train leaving the station. The longer you let the train travel down the tracks, the farther and deeper you can go into your meditation. Every time you stop and start a meditation meaning like, you know, you stop for 10 minutes and you leave, come back for another 10 minutes you leave all that kind of stuff, it's kind of like the train leaving the train station from the station every single time. It doesn't pick up where you left off in your journey. It's it starts at the exact same time. So the longer you could stay in, the more benefit the cooler the things that could happen to you the ideas that creativity, all the things that I talk about, the longer you're in, the more benefits you will reap. Now the more you meditate, the faster your train will be able to travel as well. So it's not just like Chugga chugga chugga at the beginning, the deeper you could get into meditation, the faster you can get in like I can get in probably within a couple minutes. And I'm deep, I can go in deeper really quickly. If trained myself, with my practice to go in that deep. It used to take me 30 minutes to go in that deep. And sometimes it does take a little longer depending on where my mind is during the day, when I meditate. Oh, and by the way, I said mornings are always best to meditate. I personally like to meditate throughout the day. I meditate in the afternoons, I generally don't meditate in the evenings every once in a while I'll meditate in the evenings. But I generally either meditate in the early morning, or afternoon sometime during the day, it's when I find it's easier for me to do it within my schedule. And what I like to do because I'm a morning person, so my my juices are flowing really heavily in the morning. And I find that when I meditate that early for me personally, it's not as beneficial as when I have maybe run the tank out a little bit after lunch or something like that, when I could do that. Now, if you start to meditate, meditate for 10 minutes at a time, just at the beginning 10 to 15 minutes is fine. Your goal should be to get to 30 minutes, that should take you a month, two months, whatever works as long as you keep that practice going. If you have to spend six months to get to 30 minutes, that's fine. But as long as you stay with those 1015 minutes a day, keep going at it, then you will go for longer and longer stretches. And the longer you're in, I promise you the more amazing you will feel afterwards. Now, I wanted to tell you about my four and a half hour day. I went in so deep that the things that I saw in my mind and the things I experienced in my body. Were pretty remarkable. And I tell you this because ideas started coming at me. problems that I had deep seated problems I was dealing with in my life at the time, answers started to appear for me. When you have a problem, a deep seated problem in your day, then even deep seated, if you have any kind of issue with someone, or with something, or with something you're carrying with you, or a goal you're trying to achieve or something along those lines, if you ask the question during your meditation, you'll be surprised that the answers that will come back at you. It is pretty, pretty insane. From my experience, at least. Now mind you, I don't have a meditation group. I don't talk to a lot of other meditators that are are as deep as in it as I am. And by the way, I'm not as deep as monks or any other kind of heavy meditators are I you know, I don't know a lot of other meditators. So a lot of what I'm talking about is from my own personal experience, and from what I've studied. Now, I also do something I like to call little mini meditations throughout the day. Now, this is not included in my one to two hours a day of full blown meditation. But I've noticed that after 15 minutes to an hour, my battery starts to run down and consider my energy pack of the day, very much like an iPhone battery. If you don't charge during the day, or wear down lower and lower and lower, and as it gets lower and lower, lower, my productivity starts to fade, and my concentration starts to fade. So every hour, so I'll take five to 10 minutes, and just go to a couch, sit down and meditate for those five or 10 minutes. And I can't tell you how beneficial, those five or 10 minutes of meditation are. If you're just starting out, just close your eyes for five minutes, and breathe. That's it, you'll be amazed at the energy that you come back with you, you become clear your mind starts. It's like like literally plugging your iPhone into a supercharger. And it charges it charges me up every like every time I do it. It's really, really remarkable. And it's really helpful. There's a lot of studies and research that says that to be more effective in your day to day productivity, you should take breaks, you know, especially if you should never do anything more than 90 minutes without taking a break. Again, this is not possible for everybody, but try to do the best you can every 15 minutes or an hour, take five minutes you get you get breaks, take five or 10 minutes, go somewhere quiet. And just meditate for those five or 10 minutes, I promise you, you will get a lot more done during the day than you normally would. You won't feel as beat up and as tired especially for those in the tribe who are doing those hour commutes or two hour commutes. As you're listening to me, right now, I'm sure you want to charge that battery up because you will wear that battery down. And as you wear that battery down, that's when things start to break down, your temper start to come up, you become shorter, your temper become shorter, you don't think very clearly, you don't. Don't allow yourself to filter things that come out of your mouth. A lot of arguments and fights happen because of this energy drain. And if you're able to do these little technique of maybe a five minute or 10 minute meditation every hour, hour and a half throughout the day, it will help you get through the whole day more productive, more balanced and more centered. Now I was going to talk a little bit about the science and the science is so so clear, and meditation they've done so many studies on meditation and the benefits of meditation. So I'm going to list off a few things that the science says about meditation, you do become less stressed, oddly enough, right? Your stress levels start to drop. And when your stress levels start to drop, during your meditation or in a meditation practice, your body has time to rest. It has time to repair itself, your mind becomes clearer, you can produce more you can become more artistic, more creative. You can write better when you when you drop that stress. And it's as simple as sitting down and being quiet. sitting down and doing everything I said earlier in this episode, and meditating, you'll be amazed at what happens when you drop that stress out of your life, that fight or flight stress out of your life. On a side note, in regards to stress in regards to fight or flight, chemicals that run through you every time you're stressed out. It could be anything in this world that stresses you out could be your boss could be your wife could be your traffic that you know your commute your kids, whatever it is, when you have that stress, the the chemicals that create fight or flight. And if you don't know what fight or flight is, it's something that's been programmed in us since the beginning of our evolution where if there's a tiger, that tiger will try to attack you and eat you. You create all these chemicals rushed into you to defend yourself and run you they're going to fight it or you're going to fly you're going to take off now in our evolution. That was only supposed to be released when there was danger. But because of the world we live in, because of all of the stresses in our life, whether it's financial, whether it's everything I just said, that fight or flight, chemical bath that our bodies and our minds are in, are on almost all the time. So when that happens, you get sick more your immune system goes down, you can't think clearly you can't be creative, you can't do anything. And that is one of the biggest things that is happening to our society in general. But I'm talking specifically to my filmmakers and screenwriters and my creatives out there, that you won't be able to be creative, you won't be able to write, a lot of you guys will say, Oh, I have writer's block, or I can't just get through that one big thing that I need to get done. This is one of the reasons to stress that you have if you can release that stress, with meditation, a lot of things will start to open up, you'll get healthier, you'll be sick less, and your mind will be clearer, your mind will be able to focus on the tasks at hand, whatever that might be. When I say about clearing your mind, your mind, at least for me, at least when I'm stressed out, your mind becomes clouded almost in a fog. And you can't think clearly. So then you go into instinct mode. When you're in that instinct, mode of survival, you can't create. It's not a place of creation. You ask any of these just really accomplished artists, writers, filmmakers, when you're in that kind of pressure cooker. Mindset, it's extremely difficult, if not impossible, to be truly creative, or at least as creative as you could be, your potential drops dramatically. And no one talks about this kind of stuff in our in our world, because it's just not talked about. But that's why I'm here I'm going to talk about it goddamnit. That's something I want to bring to the table. And I just see how it's changed my life. And I wanted to change yours as well. Like I said earlier, meditation also charges your battery, your mental battery, and your physical battery, you cannot underestimate that power of what that can do. Now another thing that's happened while I've been meditating is my need for sleep has dramatically dropped. So as many of you have heard in a performer episode, when I talk about my daily routine, where I wake up every morning around 430, to go work out, I and I go to bed around nine 930 Every night,

those six hours of sleep or so that I get is more than enough. I've been doing this for months now, working all the time, during the day, hanging out with my family and all that kind of good stuff. And I've been able to make it work. And meditation has allowed me to do that because I don't need as much rest, because my battery's more charged than I used to be. Now I know and spoken to meditators, and specifically my meditation teacher who can work 1820 hour days, without even sleep, some of them are at a point where they don't even sleep for 2436 hours. And they just meditate during the day. And it gets them going. I'm not at that level yet. I hope to be one day, but it's not where I'm at yet. But that's pretty amazing. And I've seen it again, in my world of what I'm able to do with it in a small in the small doses of what I'm able to do. I can only imagine being able to do that, like my meditation instructor. She does that. She's also been meditating for 3040 years. So it's a big difference. She's much, much, much farther along than I am. Another benefit of meditation is amazing things will begin to happen in your life. And when I say that, I mean that when you are able to clear your mind we're able to focus so many other dominoes start to fall in your life in a good way. You start seeing things clearer opportunities start presenting themselves, you will start attracting certain amount of type of person to you. And it's pretty remarkable, and I can't explain the to too deeply. But I will tell you that. Just trust me things will happen in your life. You become more self aware of your own body of your own experience. And you become more intuitive about what you should or should not do in your life in your career. In your art. You will begin to ask yourself questions you've never thought of before empowering questions because the answers to those questions, start to change your life in one way shape, or form in a positive manner. Again, because you're able to clear out the crap, things are starting to be able to shine through that were just muffled before and it's a it's truly truly amazing. I have an issue in my life. I asked a question during my meditations. And I'm always amazed at what my mind will say When you're able to go within, and focus on the inside, remarkable things happen. I truly believe that all answers to any question you might have lies within you, not outside of you. It all lives within you and meditation as a way to get it to it. Now, I hope this little mini introduction to my meditative practice has helped you guys, and will help you along your journey as a filmmaker, screenwriter, a creative of any sort. And I want to offer a book up to you guys to get to read and help you along this path a little bit. It's called the code of an extraordinary mind by vision Lohani. Now the book did not help me specifically with my meditation because I was already meditating by the time I read this book, but I can see the value in it and what he brings to it. He talks a lot about his meditative practices was teaching meditation for almost five years, 10 years. He has one of the biggest animation apps on on Apple's App Store. And the book itself teaches you to think like some of the greatest nonconformists, minds of our air to question to challenge to hack and to create new rules for your life. So you can define success in your own terms. It is a really, really remarkable book and I can't recommend it highly enough. I'll put a link to it in the show notes at Indie film hustle.com, forward slash BPS 043. Again, I hope this helped you guys. You've been asking for it for a while, so I brought it. It's a little bit outside our regular scheduled programming, but I do believe it's going to be beneficial to a lot of the tribe out there. So if you haven't gone already, please head over to indie film hustle.com forward slash mob and pick up my new book shooting for the mob based on the incredible true story of how I almost made a $20 million movie for the mafia and Hollywood. It is a insane, insane ride, so definitely check it out. And that is the end of another episode of The Bulletproof screenplay podcast. May your meditative practice help you on your screenwriting journey. As always, keep on writing, no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.

Please subscribe and leave a rating or review
by going to BPS Podcast
Want to advertise on this show?
Visit Bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/Sponsors

BPS 042: No Bullscript – Screenwriting Advice from the Executive’s Perspective with Danny Manus

Today on the show we have an author, writer, and former studio development, Danny Manus. Danny parlayed his career as a development executive in Hollywood to becoming an in-demand script consultant and founder of No BullScript Consulting.

The author of No BS for Screenwriters: Advice from the Executive Perspective, which is now in its 2nd Edition, Danny was ranked in the Top 15 “Cream of the Crop” Script Consultants by Creative Screenwriting Magazine and was named one of Screencraft’s “25 People Screenwriters Should Follow on Twitter.”

Danny has taken over 3000 pitches, written almost 250 articles on screenwriting for numerous websites and publications including ScriptMag, for which he is a columnist, and has been a judge for the PAGE Awards four years running. In this episode, I wanted to see what the perspective is from the other side of the desk.

Enjoy my conversation with Danny Manus.

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 1:43
Well, today, we're literally doing that with our guests company called no bull script. Now, today's guest is Danny Manus, it's not Danny is a Hollywood development executive, and has been working in the business for many, many years working with huge companies and has taken over 3000 pitches, and is now focusing his life on helping screenwriters pitch and be able to get their projects seen by executives by the studio system. And he's coming at it from a very unique perspective, because he was on the other side of that desk for many, many years. So his experience is pretty priceless. That's why I wanted to have him on the show. And today in this episode, we really go deep into the weeds on what executives want, how to pitch properly, the do's, the don'ts, and so on. And Danny has been able to parlay his career as a development executive in Hollywood to become an indie band script consultant, and the founder of NO BULL script consulting. So he is definitely someone you guys should be listening to. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Danny Manus. I'd like to welcome the show. Danny Manus. Thank you so much for being on the show, brother.

Danny Manus 3:10
Thank you so much for having me. I'm really looking forward to this

Alex Ferrari 3:13
Awesome, man. Awesome. So before we get into it, I want to know how you got into the business?

Danny Manus 3:19
You know, it was kind of a boring story, but I'll make it fun. I I interned for a semester I went to Ithaca College in New York. They had a semester in LA program, which is half of the reason I went there. And so I interned at Columbia Tristar in TV development, and at Fox in feature casting. And I just, I loved it. I loved everything about LA I loved everything about the business. I was studying screenwriting, I came out here to write just after graduation. I you know, I had two big studio internships under my belt, I thought oh, I'll get a job no problem. And I stupidly which I kicked myself for one of the mistakes one of the many mistakes I've made you know, I didn't go into like the agency Trainee program or something like that, which I feel like I probably should have and I I tell people to do if they're moving out here young and hungry. But um you know, I looked for a assistant job and I you know, have the UTA job list when that used to be a thing you know, that you could really use and I got a job as the assistant at Sandstorm films, they had a first look deal with Sony Screen Gems. They had just had number one movie with them with the Forsaken, which was both there and Screen Gems first number one movie so they were very happy with them. And I was their assistant for about a year and I was awful. But you know, it was just like everybody else at that time in In the early 2000s, you interned, you're an assistant, you did your job. And if you were good at your job, you got promoted. And if you weren't good at your job, you floated around as an assistant for a little longer. Thankfully, I was useless as an assistant, but I gave great notes. And so they kept me. I had good ideas, and I gave great notes. And so they promoted me and we found a new assistant to help but it was, you know, as a small production company I had, it was for three heads. One person who was above me and me. And, and then when we brought in the assistant was one more, but we did a lot of movies. We did I think, in the three years I was there, we did seven films for watch, which is a lot. And most of them for Screen Gems. We did the covenant, which was a number one movie did the remake of prom night, which was a number one movie. And when we did a lot of movies that were not number one movies, back then you could make like straight to DVD movies and still make a lot of money. Right. So we did a lot of those too. And yeah, and I just kind of I love development. I really liked that world. I came out to write, like most development executives, and Joe Cardona, J. S. Cardona who was our principal, who's a writer, director. He's done 3040 films took me under his wing along with a couple of other writers that we were managing. That we worked with a lot. And so we kind of called ourselves their managers, we put them on projects, and they got paid. I mean, they were working writers getting paid and getting movies made. So you know, when he kind of took us all under his wing for a while, and it was really nice to have that person, you know, shepherding your, your career and then Sam storm ended. And I went over to Clifford rubber productions, to help had just done Cinderella story, which was a you know, $20 million grossing teen movie. And I love teen movies. And so I started there and was there for another few years. And I still work with Clifford, he's a great guy. And then during the writers strike, that ended we had things in, you know, that I had sold during the writer strike and, and it was still going and still going and still going, it was going at United Artists, which was at the time not to get too far into it. At the time, it was like, right after Tom Cruise did the jumping on the couch thing. Everyone was like, he's never gonna work again. And so he's like, I'm going to get into producing and really give my all into producing and so he loved the project that I had sold to UAE and things were go in and we were meeting with directors and we had a rewriter on and all this great stuff. And then all of a sudden Tropic Thunder came out. And everybody was like, Oh, wait, we still have Tom Cruise. Let's find another project for him. And then like everything got put on the backburner that was not Mission Impossible to turn around and blah, blah, blah. That's and that's Hollywood folk. But the breaking story was honestly just like everyone else's interned was an assistant, worked my way up to their director of development at Sam storm. And then went over to Clifford's as their director of development you know, got some things going and then decided half decided half writer strike, because there was kind of a hiring freeze, kind of, for like a year. I went on a lot of interviews, I did a short stint at eclectic pictures for lovely summer, for long for long summer. And, and while I was doing that, and working, you know, to other jobs, and trying to get my own stuff, you know, Project side already been attached to or that I was finding as a producer, as I was getting that going. I started an apple script and started consulting and, and it took off and so instead of looking for more exec jobs, I was like, You know what, I'm going to be my own boss for a little while, um, see what I can do and see what I can make of it.

Alex Ferrari 9:33
Good for you. So So you basically your your, you made your bones as a development executive, basically. Yeah. So, which is one of the reasons I wanted to have you on the show because I love to hear perspectives of development executive, someone who's been in the trenches, seeing these scripts come in, I'm sure you've heard a couple scripts in your day. And you've heard a couple pitches in your day. So

Danny Manus 9:55
Yes, so the about 360 current count 360 or so?

Alex Ferrari 10:01
So is that a dog ears are just normal counting

Danny Manus 10:04
That is it makes me feel like I'm living in dog ears. But yes, those are actual.

Alex Ferrari 10:10
Alright. So let me ask you, what is the worst pitch you ever took development executive because there has to be one that stands out.

Danny Manus 10:21
There is I mean, the worst worst pitchers are not the ones given by the professional writers who come in for regular pitch meetings. I've had pitches that aren't so great. But the ones that you talk about

Alex Ferrari 10:33
the ones that you would be on a podcast and someone would ask you, what's the worst and the one that you would say? That's the one we're talking about

Danny Manus 10:38
When you might put in your book, and

Alex Ferrari 10:42
what not to do of what not to do? Yes.

Danny Manus 10:47
They come from the pitch fests and the, you know, the out of the box, kind of pitching things and, and events like that. The best one, the best. The best one I used to tell. I was still a Clifford's. I don't remember what event it was, but it was here in Los Angeles. And, and it was about a year or two after Garden State had come out. And, and so I had this guy and he, he sat down, it's like, you know, I have kind of an indie dramedy, kind of like Garden State about this guy who, you know, is high and mighty high and powerful. But he goes back to his hometown, which is being like his beachfront property, which is being taken over by evil developers or something. And you know, he really hasn't connected with his home in a decade, or with his family, and he's taking a stroll down the beach to just kind of, you know, get back into the field of his hometown and a huge wave comes up and washes ashore, and it washes this great big seal up onto the shore that knocks him over and the seal rapes him

Alex Ferrari 12:07
so for everyone, for everyone not seeing this on the video podcast version of this Danny's face is dead straight. It's a complete that can delivery was was brilliant. It's just brilliant delivery. Oh, how he did it. And the re the seal rapes him. It just stood there stone faced it was. Wow,

Danny Manus 12:29
I practice that one. My former life I was Jonah Hill.

Alex Ferrari 12:33
I got it. I can't believe that's a real thing. Seriously.

Danny Manus 12:37
Yeah, that was a good one. I mean, I've had a couple of incest ones, which was

Alex Ferrari 12:43
and these people aren't completely the screenwriters are completely straight.

Danny Manus 12:49
totally serious. It was in Portland at an event I go to every year it's a wonderful event. So nothing you can see event this was just this guy. Now keep in mind my company at the time it Clifford's. We did Cinderella story we did Sydney while we were doing teen coming of age shows, sweet comedies. And this was right after Brokeback Mountain came out the year after. And the guy you know, even he went he wasn't even sitting pitching to me. He stopped me in the hallway because he couldn't get a session. And he was like, I think this is really for you. I couldn't get a session. I couldn't sign up. But I really want to tell you about as I'm sure tell me about it. Because like it's a coming of age love story between a dad and a daughter. And I gave him three outs. I went like a stepfather and a stepdaughter. And he was like, no, no. I was like, like two older people who didn't know until they were in their late 40s and 60s that they were related. They didn't No, no, no. It was like, like, like two people who didn't know that they were related in the team together. It's like no, no, like a father and his 16 year old daughter. Oh, my when you're just straight pitching me an instance. Cinderella story. He was like, I really think the best part was like, I've posted parts of it online. And it's gotten a great reaction

Alex Ferrari 14:16
from we're incest our os.org

Danny Manus 14:19
Yeah. And I was like, you know, I think that might be a Pass.

Alex Ferrari 14:25
Pass. It's a hard pass

Danny Manus 14:27
about it. But for now I'm gonna pass. Thank you, though. No, I'm good without the handshake.

Alex Ferrari 14:36
I love but I love that you gave them outs. And you were like, and actually your stories were more interesting. I'll be like, Okay, those are like more interesting concepts than just straight up incest.

Danny Manus 14:48
Yeah, I've had a few of those. I mean, I've had butthead police, you know, where people come in with gimmicks. I used to talk about you know, don't bring any gimmicks here.

Alex Ferrari 14:59
Oh, like Yeah, like like A stripper will show up or they'll bring drop

Danny Manus 15:02
costumes and props. And I had a guy with literally a foam, but on his head, you know, and and to be fair, at least it tied into the concept. I mean, it wasn't like a random prop for Batman or something was it? It was, it was but it was butthead police. It was it was an animated show. So you give it a little bit of leeway. You know, but you realize, you realize that for five minutes, you're literally pitching to an asshole. I mean, like there's there's one staring at you on his head, as he's pitching and all you can do is

Alex Ferrari 15:46
Oh, my God. Wow. Why haven't

Danny Manus 15:52
I fall asleep in a pitch? Which was amazing. No. Yeah, that that was a really good one that in his defense, it was the condition or is it? No, the condition was it was like 430 It was one of the last sessions it was eight hours of pitching. Everybody was exhausted. And but if if your own pitch puts you to sleep, just think about what it's doing to us. And if I didn't have my friend that day and sitting next to me, I mean, he nodded off for like, four seconds. You know? Like you could tell he was like telling the stories like it's a road trip about you know, two girls and they you know, they got to go save their um in those four seconds, I look over to my friend like,

Alex Ferrari 16:46
Is he is he sleeping? Sleeping? I was never mind. I was actually doing a consult once and I was at at a Starbucks and I had this moment screenwriter in front of me, we were talking. And he literally God bless him. He just had a rough night, because he had kids and everything. And while we were talking, he was just like, just yeah, just like, like completely go out while I'm talking. And, and you're not feeling when you're so exhausted. That you're trying to keep your eyes open. Yeah, but you can't. That's what I was for 30 minutes. I felt so I'm like, Dude, do you? Do you just want to go home? Yeah, if I could, man, I can't sleep I haven't slept on I

Danny Manus 17:28
Don't have kids writers don't have.

Alex Ferrari 17:31
So okay, so that's the worst of the bunch, which are amazing. By the way, some I have not laughed so hard in this in this show ever. So I appreciate that. For people watching the video version of this, you will see me lose my crap. It is hilarious. I can't I can't believe some of the stories. Now what is the best pitch you ever heard? One that you said, wow, this guy just not this girl just knocked it out of the park.

Danny Manus 17:57
You know, I had a couple of them. I had a pitching team that really had their stuff down. I will be honest, I don't remember the story. But I remembered them. And I didn't really like the story. I just liked how they pitch. They felt very sort of themselves. They had it down so they weren't talking over each other. They knew what you know, what beats to press and who was going to say them and in what order. So you know, they felt rehearse. They didn't feel amateurish. They were tight. They were tight. Yeah, it was a tight pitch. It was in five minutes of rambling. Because you don't need five minutes to pitch your story. You need three tops. And so yeah, they just had it down. And I mean, unfortunately, you don't remember the great ones. You really don't. I mean, you remember great pitch meetings and great people that you meet in pitch meetings. But you don't remember every story. That's good. You know, or that's great. You just remember the really

Alex Ferrari 19:06
bad one remember the incest Do you remember the but remember the ones

Danny Manus 19:09
that leave an impression? Yeah. Remember the ones that you call your mom about and be like, guess what happened today?

Alex Ferrari 19:15
Or you call your mom and go I don't know why I'm doing this and why am I in this business? What's going on? I need to reevaluate I'm making poor life choices.

Danny Manus 19:23
Look like last week was was uh, two weeks ago was my 16 year anniversary in this in this town and in this business, and I still call her every other day and say the same God.

Alex Ferrari 19:34
Just like I don't know why I'm here. I don't understand it.

Danny Manus 19:37
You should have made me go to business school. Exactly.

Alex Ferrari 19:41
Why did you support my dreams? How good you know what?

Danny Manus 19:49
A lawyer like all our other Jewish friends doing

Alex Ferrari 19:53
now Can you can you give some tips on how to do a good pitch like what are some of the keys that you need to have to have a pitch?

Danny Manus 20:01
Yeah, absolutely. You know, I've been teaching pitching is how I got into how I made the jump from executive to consultant, really, as I was speaking at a lot of these conferences across the country as a, as an executive, still taking all the pitches at the pitch fest, and I just keep seeing those same mistakes made time after time after time. And so I wanted to teach that class, which was called the no BS guide to pitching, which eventually kind of led to no postscript great and some great. I can't take full credit for it, I can only take half credit for it. My my first web developer, actually came up with it when she asked what do you you know, what do you want it to be a balance, like I wanted to really be my personality. And I teach a class called the no BS guide to pitching and the no BS Guide to Characters. And she was like, How about no bull script. And I went, Oh, trademark trademark trademark. So, but I started teaching that pitch in class, and over time, it has changed 100%. But for me, what I teach in pitching is the five C's and an H, especially when you have your short pitch, and you only have 235 10 minutes to do your pitch. It's all about concentrating on the five C's. The first one being context. where actually the first one is concept, you know, what is your idea? The second one is context, which is to me, you it's the template movies, you know, it's in the vein of this and that it's setting up the tone and the genre. It's setting up the context of why you're the person to write it, you know, what is your connection to the story or character? What is your connection or inspiration? You know, that's going to be somewhat anecdotal, maybe, but something personal, that's going to connect us to you, so that we know why you're the writer that was supposed to write this story. And, you know, and as well as anything about you that we need to know, you know, that's going to make you stand out if you've won prestigious contests, if you've been published or produced before, if you've been optioned before things that are gonna make you stand out against the pack. So the context to your project and the context to you. Next is character who we are going to follow. Why. And I always have my clients and writers say this is why this character why now, if you can't answer those two questions, you probably haven't figured out a strong enough character base to get your plot in moving or to make us invest in that character story. You know, what do they have to achieve? What do they have to overcome? Who's against them? You know, what is their goal, but also what is their deeper, you know, like emotional need and want. And just, and maybe a line of backstory, so we have some context to them, you know, what their baseline is. So we know once that inciting incident happens, like where their arc is going to take them. So the basics, you know, half a dozen basics about your main character. And, you know, I was a judge at Austin Film Festival, I taught their pitch prep class for their competition for a few years, and was judged for their pitch and calm for a few years. And you only get 90 seconds, and it's a tight 90 seconds. But every single pitch, if if writers spend 20 More seconds on character, their pitch would be 50% better. Because that is what's going to hook somebody. So that's character, concept, context, character conflict, what is the external conflict that's going to drive the story, we probably got a little bit of the internal conflicts in the character section. And then the fifth, C is confidence and just going in there, knowing that they want to hear from you, you have something to say, you know, and you are confident you know, your story backwards and forwards. You don't have to read off cue cards for three minutes. You know, like this is not your first time and if it is your first time you are faking it till you make it so we don't know it's your first time.

Just just go in there and own the table own the room so that you know, you're you're not cocky because we don't like cocky, but we do like confident in your story. You know, be collaborative. You know, if someone has a note, or someone makes a suggestion, don't be like No, that's an how it goes, I wrote this, you know, II open, but be confident in yourself and your ability. And the H which I tack on there is hook. Because we really have to know, once we know your concept, what is the hook that's making your concept different and taking it you know from a new angle, new, you know, direction, new thing that we haven't heard before. And if you can nail the five C's and the H in a 235 10 minute pitch, you will at least have the basis to bring somebody into that world and let them know you know what your story is about neither it's going to interest them or it's not.

Alex Ferrari 25:43
Excellent advice, sir. Excellent advice. And I'm assuming you go in much deeper detail on all of those in your lectures and courses and stuff.

Danny Manus 25:50
Yes, I do. Yeah, there's a there's tons of hours on it is one of my site it does go much more in depth as well as logline and forgotten context is where your logline would go as well. Okay, I mentioned that.

Alex Ferrari 26:07
Now, what is the biggest mistake you see first time screenwriters make?

Danny Manus 26:12
Um, you know, get this question a lot. And honestly, the biggest mistake is rushing it rushing the process, submitting before they're ready submitting before their scripts are ready. Not doing their research. And just the deadly combination of impatience, desperation, and ego.

Alex Ferrari 26:39
Horrible mix.

Danny Manus 26:41
If you get those trifecta, you are ft before you ever start, it's it's never going to happen. Because this this business takes four things. It takes luck. It takes timing, it takes

Alex Ferrari 27:05
your soul. It takes your soul. No,

Danny Manus 27:09
it does take your soul. It takes talent. It takes timing, it takes luck. And and it takes there was one other I always say talent, timing, luck. And persistence. Well, that too, and the right idea. And the right idea. And if you know, if the right writer doesn't have the right idea at the right time and have the right luck. It doesn't happen. Even if you have two or three out of those four. It's usually the force that becomes the X Factor. You know, there's so many projects I've worked on, or developed over the years that were just like, two years before it's time, you know, and if we hadn't, if we had just waited another year, everybody wanted that thing, you know, or there were writers who had the greatest idea I've ever heard. And it was the right time, but they weren't the right writer for that project. You know, and it's just when those four thing is, you know, the right idea, the right writer, the right time, and the right luck, all come together. That's when success happens. But too many writers are trying to force it. And their impatience and desperation will not only cost them sometimes 10s of 1000s of dollars, which, you know, as a consultant, I'm super wary of, because, you know, let's face it, it's not a secret. Some people don't like consultants, and there's some really shitty consultants out there who should not be charging for, for working with people. And, and they ruin it for everybody else. And the writers who are so desperate to get their first script out and made are the ones that are going to fall victim to that, and we hate seeing that happen. And so, you know, and executives, they can smell desperation, a mile? Bacon, you know, like, you it's the one thing you know, I know, a writer who's a good writer, prolific writer, hasn't quite broken through yet. But um, you know, he got a reputation as being a little too desperate. And people don't want to work with desperate writers. They want to work with people that that feel like they're already professional writers. They just, you know, don't have the, you know, the job's yet to prove it, but they feel like they are professional writers.

Alex Ferrari 29:54

Danny Manus 29:55
I mean, that really is.

Alex Ferrari 29:56
Yeah, nobody wants to you know, it's like a girl doesn't want to date a guy Like so desperate or vice versa. It's the same in this business. And I remember being on both sides of that equation, me being the desperate one. And then me being the one that seeing that smells the desperation on people, and it's such a turn off, you can have the best idea ever and it's such a turn off.

Danny Manus 30:18
To be fair, to be fair, I think I'm more desperate now.

Alex Ferrari 30:24
I smelled, I smelled it on you, sir.

Danny Manus 30:27
You're just you're just desperate for different things, you know, 15 years in, then then you were when you you know when you're in your 20s. But you just you learn how to keep it under, you know, you don't let the desperation bubble up in a conversation. You just you learn to stamp it down.

Alex Ferrari 30:48
You hide it? Well, sir, you hide it well. Now, another big thing that screenwriters have to deal with, and we kind of touched on this earlier, but notes and how to deal with notes. Because that's such an issue, especially for, you know, amateur writers or new writers. I've seen it I've seen it I've been there I've been I've done it myself early on in my career, where you get a note from a producer or director or an actor, and and you just get completely defensive over your baby is like, No, I am the one you are not How dare you. professionals don't do that. professionals understand that there is much bigger, it's show business.

Danny Manus 31:30
Yes, it I always say, you know, this is not they don't call it an art colony. They call it show business. However, I will say that I think professional writers get even more angry about notes

Alex Ferrari 31:45
depends on how, depending on how big they are, and how much experience you have.

Danny Manus 31:49
Yeah. But the thing is that a professional writer notes, it's not about the note, it's about the note behind the note. And they know how to they know, they know the code, you know, they figured out the code that backs us, to give you the note they're trying to give you without saying you wrote a bad character. You know, there, there's something else they're actually saying. And professional writers have figured out how to decode that, and how to address their note, while still getting across what they want to get across. Or, you know, new writers are so scared of losing that deal that they're scared of asking the question like, What exactly do you mean by that? Or, you know, would you, you know, do you think this might be a good solve? They're just, you know, they just solve everything, you know, they just try to, you know, if it's exes, you know, the character is not that likable. You know, a new writer, will go back to page two, when they're introduced, and say, you know, Bill 35. likable. You address that.

Alex Ferrari 33:03
That's great. That's great.

Danny Manus 33:05
But but, you know, a writer, you know, that's been doing this a while, is going to go back and look at okay, well, why is that character coming off as likable is, you know, is the goal that they have, you know, not relatable? Is the, you know, are the stakes not high enough for us to be engaged? You know, is the dialogue not quippy enough to show off their personality and make us care? Like, what is the reason for that disconnect? You know, there's a, there's a note behind that note that you have to find. You know, and, and that's the real difference. And that just comes with experience and, and time and the notes process. It's part of why I think new writers should get professional notes before they start submitting to producers, because it lets you in on that process, and gives you someone to discuss those notes with so that you understand the note and can address the note and get the options for the note before you're thrown into the lion's den. And you're like, he doesn't like my characters. What what do I do? Do I make a new character? You know, and you freak out over a note that is probably easy to address, if you know how to address it. So but you have to be collaborative, you have to be open to notes, even if it's the dumbest effing note you've ever heard in your life, and you will get that note? Your response in the room is yeah, you know what? That's interesting. Let me think about that. And then you immediately do not think about it because it is the dumbest note you've ever gotten. But you don't say that you play the game a little bit and stay vague. And you know, and that's how you win. But

Alex Ferrari 34:56
it's but it's politics. It's a game and that's what that's what screenwriters Even filmmakers, they don't understand when you're working in the Hollywood system, there is so much subtext in meetings, there's so much subtext and conversations, there's so many politics going on behind the scenes, and the higher you get up on that ladder. The harder is like I can't even imagine what was like for someone like Zack Schneider, dealing with a franchise like Justice League and Superman, and Batman how what you had to deal with. At that level? Well, you've got a bunch of scared executives, who all think they're gonna lose their jobs, because this whole thing is coming crashing down. And they got to bring in Joss Wheaton to do something for it.

Danny Manus 35:38
And by the way, every executive thinks they're about to lose their job at all times. At all times, and half of them will, you know, but on the flip side of that, I will say, and I always stand up for execs, because whenever I'm on a panel with writers or you know, they're always hating on executives, you know, who are these people who just want to slap their names on my creation and feel like they're part of the writing process? You know, I call I call bullshit on that. And I do, because the executive who's working with you, on your rewrites, who you've pitched this to who is pitching your idea to their boss, they're your biggest cheerleader in that room, they are putting their name and reputation on the line for you and your idea. So if they're making a suggestion, it's not 95% of the time. Yeah, there's 5% of douchebags who just want to take credit for stuff, but 95% of the time, it's because they know what their company or their boss is going to respond to, or not respond to in a pitch or in a script. And they want to help you make that good impression. Because your good impression is their good impression. And your success is their success. And so they have no reason to give you crappy notes on purpose. Unless you're a horrible person, and they're trying to get rid of you.

Alex Ferrari 37:06
Which there is that there is that there is that there's a tiny

Danny Manus 37:09
bit of that, but But you know, they are your cheerleader in the room, they are not there to destroy you or your project or turn it into something else they are by and large, very creative people. And I will point out a sad but not sad but interesting fact that there are more executives or former executives that have sold their scripts in the last five years than contest winners. Interest so more execs, like me, we came out to write we have a background in screenwriting we do, right? You know, and, and we're not there to screw people over, we're there to get stuff done and be part of the creative process and kind of guide you through that company's creative processor or development process. But you know, a lot of writers and the higher up they are, the more they feel this way. They feel that the you know, the too many executor their enemy and they're they're really truly not almost all of the time.

Alex Ferrari 38:17
That's, that's very true. Do you also find it and I think it's something extremely important for screenwriters, especially young screenwriters coming into the business to understand that, in Hollywood, Hollywood is run by fear and avoidance. I mean, it's simply, you and I both know that from being here, but the whole the whole

Danny Manus 38:37
Im scared shitless right now.

Alex Ferrari 38:40
I live in constant state of fear all of my life. No, but But seriously, though, like this, there, that's why there's so many noes, because there's so much fear of like, I'm going to lose my job, I can't put my you know, balls out there. I can't kind of take the risk. And that's why there's that's why the films that come out of the Hollywood system are what they are. And occasionally you'll get some really interesting stuff. But that's not their business, their business is to put out product that sells to the masses. And that's the way the game is played the days of the days of the experimental studio movie. They're there, but they're rare. They're rare. It's a few and far between. Would you agree?

Danny Manus 39:19
Yes. Yeah, absolutely. It's, it's a different business than it was even five years ago, you know, 10 years ago, 15 years ago. It's a completely different business. The stakes are higher, the budgets are higher. The audiences are pickier you know, they have to make such different decisions than they used to. You know, when there was a DVD market. You didn't have to get it completely right. Because you were still gonna make another 60 million, you know, on DVDs. And you know, we made a lot of programmers at my first job at Sandstorm and they made a lot of money. You know, we did the sniper Movies.

Alex Ferrari 40:00
There are those that that franchises made so much money.

Danny Manus 40:06
So much money we did, we did sniper two, three and four, you know, and we just kept going, it's kept going, they kept going, we did, we did not there, they kept going. But, you know, we did two, three and for we did them for about five, five and a half million dollars. Plus with the rebate that we got for shooting and you know, Thailand or Budapest, you know, it's like four and a half million dollars. And they it's gross, like $50 million, you know, on DVD and, you know, package sets and stuff like that. And so those days are gone. And the days of of developing, you know, it used to be when I started in development, it was like the 50% rule, if you could get a good idea 50% There, we'll take it the other 50% narrow, it's like you needed to be 90% done with a package before we're even going to read it. And think about making it, you know, and you know, somebody at Netflix already has to want it. You know, it's with it with LOI. It is a completely different business now than it was 10 years ago. The upside is there's more ways to break it in more places to in more platforms to get your stuff made and a wider array of stuff being made. Outside of the studio system, the downside is that the studio system all want exactly the same movie by exactly the same person for exactly the same budget. And, and it is hard to crack into that system much more so than it even was. And I think because of Hollywood's attempted rebranding itself and and diversifying itself and finding new voices and new talent and new things. execs are even more careful 100 times more careful than they were three years ago, you know, they are looking for very specific things now. Whereas before, it was like look, just have a great idea and have a great script. And now it's it's not just that, you know, and so writers have to do their due diligence, and not follow the trends because it never pays to follow the trends. But you have to know what the trends are so that you can try to get ahead of them. You know, I said years ago, that very soon there's going to be a major rom com a major LGBT rom com that, you know, that hits, and that's going to be a new big thing. You know, and then love Simon came out and that I mean, there's a bunch of things, you know, in development right now that that fits that bill, especially for Netflix. So it's trying to find that next thing while knowing what, what people want to read.

Alex Ferrari 43:07
I actually you know, I know a lot of screenwriters, professional screenwriters, and I've read some of their scripts, some of their specs, and I and I sometimes I'll get done reading it, I'm like, why is it dismayed? Yeah, like, this is amazing. Like, what, like, I see Meryl Streep in this. I see. You know, I like I mean, it's just so good. Because I've read bad scripts, I write bad. I've written bad scripts. So I've read but I've also read bad scripts as well. And when you read something of quality is just obviously, they know the craft, they know the thing. They're, you know, they have credits of movies that you and I would if I said out loud, you would go Oh, that guy. And they even have a star attached. And it's still no,

Danny Manus 43:52
You know, I read just as much great stuff from writers who aren't getting produced as I read crappy stuff from writers who are getting produced. And you know, that just happens it just happens it's a numbers game. It's a referrals game. It's a budget game. There's a million reasons why good scripts don't get made and some bad projects you know, get sold or or get made. It's almost it's not usually the writers fault every once in a while but that's that's just how it is. I've had plenty of projects over the years that I was like, This is my no brainer. If this doesn't get made, I will eat my shoe. And you know, and you know, shoo,

Alex Ferrari 44:38
Shoo, a one steak sauce on it, you know, little SriRacha

Danny Manus 44:44
Yeah, it goes down easy. And then there's other stuff is like this is the worst piece of crap I've ever read. How is this getting? You know, how is this going in to every major studio with major producers attached? It's not good. That's just something you have to accept. And you can only do so much and write the best script for you for your voice that's going to help you get ahead and stop worrying about, you know, can this sell? And just, you know, worry about can this get me to that next place in my career that I'm looking to go to? You know, can this Phil you know, can this achieve for me my next goal instead of like, Can this win me the Oscar? Know what your first script it's not winning you the Oscar, you know just like trying to get read by you know, anyone three will first Yeah. And then worry about your Oscar like 10 years from now.

Alex Ferrari 45:43
Ridiculous. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Me mean people's egos people's egos gets I mean, this, this town is so full of ego is dive and funny. And we've, I mean, I've dealt with it I've had, I still have one, but I try to keep it in check. And I keep it relative. But there's some people who just I've literally had filmmakers in my post sweet. Tell me straight faced. I'll see you at the Oscars next year. Like straight faced, like not the sun at Sundance. Nothing I back up, not ask her. Like, that's where this is going. And I'm like, Wow.

Danny Manus 46:29
You know, I will say the tagline for my company is hate me today. Love me. In your acceptance speech? I saw that. That's correct. So you know, it could happen. I'm waiting. I'm gonna wait.

Alex Ferrari 46:39
Could we also win the lottery? Sure. Sure, it can happen. It can rob them. Now I want to talk about something that writers filmmakers as well. They all think that this is the magic thing that you need an agent. The agent is your face. Just kind of your eyes rolled back for people not seeing this. His eyes rolled back. I think he lost consciousness for a second as I said that. But the you already had a little mini stroke. Because Because agents and managers, all I need is I need I need Ari from entourage. I don't like I need Ari from entourage. There is an

Danny Manus 47:22
Ari has been fired in the me to movement. So you're screwed. Actually.

Alex Ferrari 47:27
I know both both the real RA and the x or Jerry pivots. But you we need, we need a Baracuda we need a shark like that to be our agent and that they're going to go out there and they're going to hustle and get my scripts read. Give me the millions I deserved. Please, let's just talk about that. Let's let that out in the air. Please tell me your perspective.

Danny Manus 47:47
It is my least it's the least favorite question I get from writers. Which, because it's the number one question I get from writers is how do I get an agent? And for 90% of those writers, the answer is you don't you know, the agent will get you if you need an agent. But most writers don't. You know, unless you have three, at least three viable sellable pinchable commercial projects, and agents not going to pick you up yet go for a manager. If you really feel you need someone, but for those writers who only have one idea, or you know, they just have that they don't want to be screenwriters, as a professional as a long term career, they just have one great idea. One script they want to write, you know, one piece of legacy they want to leave because I think this is a great story. Don't waste your time with managers and agents and stuff like that they have no use for you. Right, you know, just try to make your script as great as possible. And then try to find a producer who will read it. And you have a very singular focus. And that's almost easier, a lot easier than a writer who wants to do this as a long term career. But if you want to do it as a long term career, there are plenty of ways to find representation. But know when you're ready. And most writers, again, are submitting far too soon. If you don't have, you know, a dozen ideas that you're developing, if you don't have at least two if not 3/5. Finish scripts, if you don't have, you know, if you've never pitched before, if you've never networked before, if you know if you've never done any of the homework and the research before, you're not ready for a manager yet. Keep working on your craft managers aren't going anywhere. You know, and it's not like if you don't get them in 2019 You'll never get one then they're always gonna be there. You have to wait until you're ready because you really do Want to get one shot most of the time. But between contests and events, and pitching and social media, and consultants like myself who have good contacts with those reps, and, you know, just friends and referrals, or whatever, there's a million ways to find a manager, and they can be super helpful in your career. But know when the right time is, and as far as agents go, I don't want to bad mouth agents,

Alex Ferrari 50:36
bad mouth agents, it's

Danny Manus 50:37
okay. But you have to know what you're offering them. Right? You know, they don't. I'm like a manager who's kind of there to guide your career, and they're in it for the long haul. And they're there to help you develop an agent is there to close that deal, and get you the best terms possible. And a great agent is there to make a great writer into a superstar. That's what great agents do. If you're barely on your first project, or you're on your second script, and you're just trying to get read, you are like two to five years away from needing an agent, you know, and if you do need an agent, your manager will help you get that agent, because they have those relationships. I always say look for a manager before you look for an agent, you know, unless you have something really specific. Or you have something in development with, like a client of that agent, you know, if you got to an actor, which by the way is way better than going to an agent? No, if you if you're looking for an actor, or you think you know, the actor that's right for your project, don't go to their agent unless you have an offer. Because the first words out of their mouth is hey, that's great. What is the offer. And so if you don't have financing, don't bother with the agent yet go to their production company, where they have assistants and executives who are in charge of finding and reading scripts for their talents to produce. And there is no no better silver bullet in this industry than having a great actor attached to produce your project opens every door. So if you're thinking that, you know, Shirley's theorem might be right for your project, to go to her agent, unless you have a $14 million offer to make her go to her Delilah, whatever it is, you know, films, you know, Banner, call and get in the system on the phone and tell them that you think this would be great for her to produce. And get in that way. And then if she likes it, and once the role great if she doesn't, you know, she'll get another actress of great caliber to read it. That's way better than ever calling an agent's. But that's something on the packaging side, if you're trying to get an agent yourself, go for a manager first, have a portfolio of work that is commercial and sellable and ready to go and know exactly who you are as a writer and who you want to be, which is something I work on with my clients and my mentees constantly. Because today, unlike 10 years ago, where you had to decide like, were you a TV writer, are you a film writer, and today everybody wants both, like you have to be both or want to do both. But you also have to know your voice. And you also have, what kind of writer you are and how you're going to be sold for the next two or three years. And you know, everyone's like, I don't want to be pigeonholed. I don't want to get into a box.

Alex Ferrari 53:42
Lucky to get into a box.

Danny Manus 53:44
Yeah, friggin pray for that box, jump into that box with both feet, like like my cat does. And just love that box. Because that box is making you money. That box is getting you scripts, that box is giving you a career that you're going to be able to jump out of that box and make an even bigger career two years from now. So I get real nice and cozy in that box for two years and stop effing complaining that you're being put into a box in the studio system. That's what you're being put into.

Alex Ferrari 54:19
It's insane when I hear that like I don't want to be boxed in like you you would be so blessed and lucky. If you could be boxed in I know what I know I used to my one of my good friends was West Cravens assistant years ago. And he would tell me stories of how upset Wes was about man. I'm stuck in this horror box. I can't do anything. And do you remember that there was a movie called Music of the heart? Yeah, with Meryl Streep. GLORIA And Gloria Estefan. That was a West Craven directed film. Absolutely. And you know why he got that? Because they wanted scream too. That's the only reason he got an expense. He wanted scream twos, like you want scream to give me it was called 500 violins originally and then then a music of the heart. And and I was like, but look at that the West Craven had one of the greatest horror, directing careers in the history of cinema. Honestly, he's his name is up there. But he was unhappy about being in the

Danny Manus 55:25
box. Look, I get it. I mean, you don't want to be in that box forever. Yeah, you know.

Alex Ferrari 55:31
So don't be too good, is what you're saying. Don't be too good in that box. Like if you're really good that you're stuck there. But just be good enough to get in a box. And then you could top out.

Danny Manus 55:40
Right? But that's the conversation to have with your rep saying, Look, I love doing horror. And that first script that got you a rap and got you 40 meetings around town was a horror script. So that's the the next two projects you're going to do our horror projects. But if you tell your rep upfront, like hey, I love doing the genre stuff. But I also want to do comedy. And I also want to do an action movie, then their job is to find that project, you know, to develop with you or for you to develop that is going to make that transition for you so that you're going from horror, to horror comedy, to comedy, you know, a horror, horror action to action comedy, to whatever, and so that they have a plan for your career. And I always tell you know, when when writers are trying to find their voice, find their box, but not get too stuck. I always tell my writers to look at the sub genres that you're writing to try and find a through line. That is your voice because it's not usually in that major genre, that first genre. But if you come to me and you say, Look, I have an action comedy, a horror comedy and a romantic comedy. I was like, Okay, well, you've got a through line there, that tells me what your voice is. You're just bringing that voice to different genres. But now we know what your voice, you know, what you want to do with that connective tissue is so that we can sell you as a type of writer, even though you're doing different genres, we know what your voice is bringing to that genre. And that's how you break out of that box is by using those sub genres and secondary genres, to bring out who you are, as a writer instead of just, you know, the genre of the premise you happen to come up with.

Alex Ferrari 57:34
That's awesome. Advice, actually, is really great, great advice. And I'm gonna ask a few questions. I ask all of my guests. What advice would you give a screenwriter trying to break into the business today?

Danny Manus 57:47
There's the funny answer,

Alex Ferrari 57:48
Run. Run,

Danny Manus 57:49
Just run.

Alex Ferrari 57:52
We both go to the same place.

Danny Manus 57:54
Run Forest. The, you know, the the real answer, there's two real answers I'll give. And one is a mistake that I made for many years in my career was, I thought I was going to be an Emmy winning writer. And so for the first few years, and before I was even in the business, I didn't pay attention to the other stuff. I didn't think I had to know about financing, or distribution, or, you know, or, or casting it. Well, I loved casting, but, you know, there were other things, the business side of it, that I didn't think I needed to know, because I was just going to be writing talents, you know, and that's, and that's it, I didn't know about the development process. Until you know, I was interning and started doing coverage. And you know, and then as an assistant, you know, doing scripts I didn't know about networking, like I just didn't know other stuff. Because I was so focused on my little corner of the world. And if you are a writer today, you have to multi hyphenate yourself. If you're a filmmaker today, you have to multi hyphenate yourself if you're an actor today you have to multi hyphenate yourself. So you need to do you need to treat it like a business and do the work and do the reading and be knowledgeable on way more than just your little corner of the office. That's that's one thing is have a bigger scope in terms of the information you're taking in so you really understand the business you're getting into from all sides. The second thing is right while you can because it's not going to get easier as you get older. I wish when I you know looking back when I was 24 and I had time oh god I ever those days, but I did. But I didn't write you know, because there was probably some party I was invited to you You know, and you're like, Ah, I had so much energy at 24 What the hell did I waste that for? If you are, if you are young enough, try to break in from the inside, come to Los Angeles, get a job in the industry, break in from the inside, it will cut yours out of your journey. If you can't do that. Then at least get out of your box, wherever that box is. If you are, you know, in the middle of Oklahoma and you are writing alone, find a group find a conference find people go online social media, use it to your advantage. You know, know when this business is a marathon, and when it's a sprint, no one to ask for help. Find a find a consultant or a mentor or a person that can help you. You know, there are no shortcuts. There's no shortcuts. And I wish I learned that. Earlier, I wish I learned that nobody owes you Jack. S. And it took me a little while to to learn that. I mean, look, I'm from Long Island. I mean, I've been working since I'm 14 I worked my ass off and in college, and since I'm 15 1415 years old, but um, you know, now they now they call it white privilege back then. And we were just assholes. Like, somebody owes you a little something just for getting through college just for doing the thing that you're supposed to be doing. You're like, where's my agent? And my million dollar career? Where's my Emmy? 30? Like I saw 30 year old Emmy winners, where's my Emmy? nobody owes you anything. And to keep working your ass off no matter how hard you work on that first script. Keep working on the second and the third?

Alex Ferrari 1:02:06
Absolutely. Now, you know Daniella, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact in your life or career?

Danny Manus 1:02:14
Like what screenwriting book or what

Alex Ferrari 1:02:16
Any book book book?

Danny Manus 1:02:18
Yeah, that's a good one. I'm running book works as well. I mean, I don't know that I loved their script. Okay, this is the probably the opposite version of what the answer you're looking for is, but there were screenwriting books that I read as an executive. And starting out that I disagreed with, so vehemently that I had to write my own and start teaching classes because I was like, if people are reading this shit, they're going to have the wrong impression of what executives really want. And so I need to write my own book, you know, and do my own thing to, you know, to tell them how it really is, you know, and tell them other, the other side of it, and so, I won't, I won't mean what, what books but their books on pitching and 62nd pitching and things like that, that you might be able to figure out that I just really disagreed with, you know, at the time 1010 plus years ago that inspired me to write my own articles on my own books and then do the consulting and, you know, bring something else that wasn't out there to writers in terms of like great literature come 1984 was always a huge, great favorite of mine. It's the one I remember in ninth or 10th Grade Reading and picturing as a movie and me saying in my head I really want to make the movie version of this one day. And so I you know, that was that was one that always stuck with me and then now we're living it

Alex Ferrari 1:04:08
We laugh because we're dying inside.

Danny Manus 1:04:11
Laugh because it makes us sad

Alex Ferrari 1:04:15
Now what is the what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Danny Manus 1:04:21
I think like I said, nobody owes you anything. And you're gonna make mistakes. I'm working on a new book and book proposal now about those mistakes. Who knows if it'll ever get done but

Alex Ferrari 1:04:41
Smoking like a true writer?

Danny Manus 1:04:44
Yeah. You know, a, you know, I hate to say it, but like, passion isn't enough. But if you don't have it, you'll never make it right. Um, you know, that's good. Like, if you don't absolutely love this industry and what it does and what you know, and what you can get to do in it, they get out because it's awful otherwise, like it is. It has its moments, don't get me wrong, it is. It's fun and stuff, but it's hard. I mean, if I knew then what I knew now or stuff, you know what I make different, I'd make a lot of different decisions. But if you don't absolutely love it, if you don't feel like you were trained for nothing else, I have no other viable workplace skills, I can't do math, I not created history. But there's very little else I can do,

Alex Ferrari 1:05:44
You've doubled down, maybe you've doubled down, you've doubled down, like you're in

Danny Manus 1:05:49
it until, until it's over, you know, but but that like, passion is great, but it's not enough. But if you don't have the passion to it, and you don't love it, get out because it will eat you alive and make you and make you a worse person. Instead of make you a better person.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:11
I always whenever I speak, I always say this to people in the room, like everybody here knows an angry filmmaker or a better filmmaker. Everybody here knows an angry screenwriter, a bitter screenwriter. And if you don't know one, you are the angry, bitter screenwriter, you are the angry, bitter filmmaker,

Danny Manus 1:06:28
you know, and we all go but if you haven't been bitter for a day, you know, you probably haven't been in this business long enough. Hey, man, no, no, no, no. I mean, look, I get dinged, I used to get things all the time for being cynical, and, you know, a little bit more of a pessimist and I try to balance it out. But you know, you are what you are, but you gotta you gotta look on, you gotta try to look on the bright side of things. And the hard part about Hollywood is that the carrot is always right. Yes, you know, and some times it's right here. And sometimes it's right here. And you're just constantly following that carrot. Because every once in a while, it just gets so close. And yeah. Ah, you know, and that just drives you crazy. But, but you keep going because as long as there's a carrot in front of you. You just got to keep following it. But that is the dangerous part of this business is you always feel like there's a carrot there.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:28
Isn't that carrot. So? Well, anyway,

Danny Manus 1:07:32
three of your favorite someone to help you help you reach that carrot. Oh, and then you can't do it alone. Right? That networking and friends in this business is important. And I made a horrible mistake. And I talked about this pretty openly in my classes. Like, you know, when I was starting out, I separated I had a lot of friends from school that came out here we were all you know, TV film students. But they were my friends. And then he were my business people. You know, here were my business acquaintances, or my colleagues, or the word that I like to use a friend and says, That's a great word. Yeah, that's what my coining friends is. But I never it was quite a few years until I really started to realize that you have to make those a friend and says and colleagues, friends, yes. Because you don't, you're always going to be on the outside a little bit. And we all feel like we're still on the I feel like that every single day my wife and and most people do. I know people who are very much on the inside who still feel like they're on the outside. But make friends and treat people like they could be friends and not just colleagues that can get you something or, or someone you can do something for, or some sort of favors this. Because even though Hollywood does work on a favorite system a lot of the time it doesn't feel like a favor when it's with your friends. And so, you know, networking is great and everybody talks about networking. But and I was okay at networking when I was younger, I hate it now, but I was okay at it when I was younger, but what I wasn't good at was turning those networking moments into friendships. Fair enough. That's great. And I try to do that especially as they're coming up because the people you come up with or who you're going to be in this business with for 2030 years.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:35
Now three of your favorite films of all time.

Danny Manus 1:09:39
I knew that you ask people this and I I tried to I came up with so many things of what you could ask me writer influences that I love and like, you know, underrated scripts and topics. I've been trying to figure it out. And of course they do change you know, every year Favorite Movies. The ones I always tend to go back to are a few good men, great American Beauty. And, and a comedy that I think is so underrated but every time I say it's I wouldn't say it's my favorite movie of all time, but the original Death at a funeral. Oh, it's such written by Dean Craig it's a British one, not the Chris Rock one. The the original one with Alan Tudyk. And, and, and a wonderful cast of characters is such an insanely hilarious underrated comedy. That when I read it as a script, I had to call the agents and just be like, Can I meet with him? This is the funniest thing I've ever read. I don't I don't think I ever actually did get that meeting. But, but I love the movie. My cousin Vinnie is up there. Love cousin Vinnie. In terms of comedy, you know, I can watch heat you know all day they The Nice Guys and sort of like newer movies that I think should be classics. Shane Black's The Nice Guys is right up there

Alex Ferrari 1:11:13
All good titles. They're all good titles, not where can put all the copper. Now where can people find you? And can you list off the books you've written and what you offer and all that kind of stuff and where they can find you?

Danny Manus 1:11:25
Yeah, people can find me on my website, which is nobullscript.net if you .com It'll take you there too. But no,

Alex Ferrari 1:11:35
I was gonna say is there another noble script that we're not aware of

Danny Manus 1:11:39
Funny enough, it was taken, you know, not 10 years ago, this this year 2019. This may as my 10 year anniversary, congrats, running this company. I don't know how that happened. But it happened. When I started the company, my hair was here. And so at the time when I got it somebody another consultant friends of mine, who I didn't know at the time, oh, noble script.com. And there was nothing there, but they owned it. Now I own it. But uh, yeah, noble script dotnet. You can find me on Twitter at Danny Maness. I put tons of screenwriting stuff and other comedy news ranting, you know things.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:24
And then you get a new offer a mentorship and you also offer consulting?

Danny Manus 1:12:29
Yes, absolutely. On noble script, you can find all my consulting services and packages from I mean, I've really worked soup to nuts from concept and brainstorming, through all the different drafts to polishing and rewriting query letters, pitch help. It really is pre managing, I like to call it pre managing, because I help my writers figure out what they should write, help them develop it and write it. And if it's great, and it's ready, and it's a recommend I try to get it out there, you know, to my context, so I think we'll respond. And a year ago, I started this mentor service, I only take 15 writers at a time, or somewhere around there. And it's a five month mentor service, it's much more in depth, we do calls every two weeks. So you're getting lots of notes calls, we're going through your ideas, we're developing them, and instead of just you know, paying for one set of notes, and then you know, maybe come back for a second set and which is great. This allows us to go through the process of however many drafts it takes to get it really polished upset. So by the end of the, you know, five months, you've got at least one if not two scripts that are really ready to go. And it includes career, you know, coaching and pitch coaching and query letters. It's very all inclusive. I'm about to start my third cycle of that. Now for the spring I still have slots, so I have a handful of slots open and I'm always always looking for more because I actually really enjoy being able to mentor writers it's not for first time writers I should say that this is not for first time writers writing their first script. This is for writers who have written a couple things and really want to take their you know their career and their scripts and their next projects to the next level. But you can reach out it's on my website or through Twitter you can email me always at Daniel at Noble script dotnet you can email me and and I'm happy to help and my book, no BS for screenwriters advice from the executive perspective. It used to be it's still on the writer store website but now that the writer store doesn't exist anymore.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:44
Is it gone gone?

Danny Manus 1:14:46
It's gone it's gone gone.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:48
Like I know it's gone in Burbank, but like is it's gone on the website too?

Danny Manus 1:14:52
No the websites still there. Okay. Still there. They do still sell some webinars and books and things that you can still get my book on. on there. You can also email me for an E version, they have a hardcopy version. I do have an E version that that you can always get from me. And yeah, and I'm always looking for new groups and conferences out there. So if you're listening and I know there are a ton of great people listening to this, you know, this pod cast if you've got a conference or a film festival or a panel and you want someone to you know, bring the fun

Alex Ferrari 1:15:32
Bring the spice,

Danny Manus 1:15:34
Bring the spice

Alex Ferrari 1:15:42
Remember the whole desperation thing we were talking about? It's starting to come off.

Danny Manus 1:15:45
Can you smell that?

Alex Ferrari 1:15:47
It's a good quaf could smell it to the air. Dan, it's been a pleasure talking to you, man. Thank you for dropping some great knowledge bombs on the tribe today, man.

Danny Manus 1:15:58
Thank you so much for having me. This is great.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:01
I want to thank Danny so much for coming by and dropping some major knowledge bombs on the tribe today. It is always nice to have the executives perspective when you're pitching to executives. So if you want to get links to anything we talked about in this episode, including contact information for Danny, his book, and so on, head over to indiefilmhustle.com/bps042. And guys, if you haven't, please check out my new book shooting for the mob, which is a allegory of what not to do when chasing your screenwriting or filmmaking dream it is a an insane down the rabbit hole story of how I almost made a $20 million movie for the mob and I was taken on a rollercoaster ride through Hollywood. It is based on a true story. And definitely anybody in this business. Anybody who wants to get into this business should definitely read it. Just head over to shootingforthemob.com that shooting with two O's. The mob.. And that's it for another episode. Guys, as always keep on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.

Please subscribe and leave a rating or review
by going to BPS Podcast
Want to advertise on this show?
Visit Bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/Sponsors

BPS 040: Why Screenwriters Are Programmed to Fail

Before we begin I need to reveal a truth to you.

“The Matrix is not a movie, it’s a documentary”

Believe it or not, this is true. Our internal operating system in our mind was programmed years ago when we were children. That programming runs our life through the subconscious. Don’t believe me?

  • Did you drive a car today?
  • Did you brush your teeth?
  • Did you think about walking to the kitchen to make breakfast?
  • Did you think about breathing or making sure your heartbeats?

Probably not. You would be exhaust mentally if you had to think about all of this every day. This is all run by our operating system (aka the subconscious), the problem is many of us are still running Windows 95.

In this episode, I go deep down the rabbit hole and discuss how our subconscious can and does stop us from achieving not only our screenwriting dreams but how it affects all areas of our lives. I discuss how my life changed dramatically when I discovered this and made those upgrades. I also go over the two ways you can upgrade the old operating system in your head.

“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.” – Morpheus

Let’s all take that Red Pill and see how deep the rabbit-hole goes. Get ready to have your mind blown, literally. Enjoy!

If you find value in this episode please share it with someone who needs to hear it.

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
Before we start today, guys, I just want to lay out something very clearly, is that the matrix is a documentary, not a film, and I'll explain what I mean, in this episode. Now, the title of the episode is why filmmakers are programmed to fail. And I wanted to go deep into this because it is something that is affected my life dramatically. And I really hope that this episodes, clarify some things and bring some things to your conscious mind in a way that hasn't before. I want you to understand something that our lives are ruined by our subconscious mind. And I'll prove it to you. Did you drive a car today to work? Or any time? Did you brush your teeth?

Did you think about walking to the kitchen and making breakfast? All those kinds of mechanical operations? Who's running that? Who's running the code driving the car? Who's running the shop when that was going on? Because your mind was somewhere else you were thinking about problems or stress? Are you thinking about why this movie that I'm working on is not getting made, or I can't find the money, or and this is happening while you're driving a 2000 pound piece of metal down a highway or you're walking down stairs, or you're brushing teeth. Or you're running or jogging, or any of these other kinds of things, even sometimes while you're talking to somebody else, or listening to somebody else for that matter. These operations are run by your subconscious mind. It is not run by your conscious mind, you don't have the mental cognitive energy on a daily basis to run your entire system, if you will. And I'm going to use a lot of computer terminology because I think it really makes things a lot easier to understand. If you had to actually consciously think about getting yourself out of bed, putting your feet on the floor, thinking about lifting yourself up, coordinate how you're going to walk and think about every single step while still watching everything around us and nothing hits you or bump into you then go to the bathroom. All these things all these morning rituals, I'm just talking about the morning rituals, let alone your daily rituals. All of that is run by your subconscious mind. That is all hardwired operating system that is run by your personal operating system. The problem is that many of us are still running Windows 95. And we really should be running that brand new Mac iOS. I don't want to get into a Windows Mac thing. I'm just using it for an example guys, everyone calm the heck down. Now I want to I want you to listen to this very carefully. That same operating system, that same subconscious mind that runs your day to day business your daily operations also keeps you where you are in life and on your filmmaking or screenwriting path. Let me repeat that. Your subconscious that same operating system is What is keeping you from what you are trying to obtain in your life and in in your filmmaking in your screenwriting, I want you to understand that the construct that your subconscious has built, has a need to protect itself in its own mind. Your subconscious does not like change or want change, change is scary. Uncertainty is scary. But understand from an evolutionary perspective, this makes perfect sense. stability and predictability is safe, change is uncertain, change my open you up to be eaten by a tiger, or knocked over the head by a competitor while you're trying to, you know, get food or or survive. But these mental models don't serve you anymore.

And once you understand this, this is really life changing career changing stuff. When you're about to embark on making a movie, let's say, and you haven't done it a million times before, that's scary. And your operating system is not happy about it, and it will kick in to protect you. In its mind, it's there to protect you on an evolutionary level, it's there to protect you in any kind of change, or modification in the code will kick in the agents Agent Smith will come in and start sabotaging you and making things hard, because it doesn't want you to go down that road. Now I'm going to throw another thing at you. Your operating system or programming is installed within the first seven years of your life. Now this is scientifically proven. Hell, the Jesuits have been saying this for over 400 years. They said give me a child for seven years, and then I will show you the man that he will become, because they knew that this seven year period is when all the programming all the O 's is installed into you. Now let me explain. In order to survive on this planet, your brain needs to build an operating system. When you come in your your fresh hard drive. You got nothing in it. You don't have any any beliefs. You don't have anything in it you have you have basic basic basic operating systems, how to breathe, how to cry for food, very basic stuff. But in order to survive in the on the planet, you need to upgrade that operating system. So how do you do it? You watch your surroundings, you watch your parents, your siblings, your community, people that are around you. So whatever is going on around you in those first seven years, that is getting imprinted into your operating system. The ideas that you pick up in those first seven years set you up for life, that is what's going to run you for the rest of your life. If you don't believe you can be successful, if you don't believe that you're worth it. Or if you don't believe that whatever you don't believe on a subconscious level, then you will create habits that will stop you from creating the things that you might want on a conscious level and sabotage yourself. That's what I've seen so many times with filmmakers that I'm like, Why is that guy or that girl? Not moving forward? They're so talented, and they're so experienced, but yet something seems to be stopping them. I don't know what I'm not going to write it off as bad luck. But I'm just curious why that happens. I've seen it so many times, in my experience working with filmmakers, 1000s of filmmakers over the course of my career, that I kept seeing it again and again and again. And I wondered what that was. This simple reason is why poor people stay poor and rich people stay rich. It's because of the programming. Now think about it for a second lottery ticket winners lottery winners, right? How many times have you heard somebody that has never had money in their entire life win $100 million? What happens? The majority of the time they lose the money or they self destruct because they don't have the programming to handle that kind of money. It's just not something that they know or how to deal with or even how to handle. Why is it that 65% of professional athletes lose a lot, if not all of their money within five years of retiring? How many times have you seen athletes at signing table somewhere? Years later when they were making $20 million a year? And years later? They're signing for 50 bucks 150 bucks a signature? Why is that? Not in every case. But in some cases? It's the programming. If you think life is a struggle, if you say this film business is just too hard, they'll never let me in. I'll never be successful. I'll never get my movie made. Guess what? If that's what you're saying to yourself, then you're right. Period. If that's the thoughts that are going in your head, you're programming yourself to fail. For years, I did this. For years, I was the angry, bitter filmmaker, who was so upset at everybody else and looking at everybody else around me, you know, getting a leg up, and I wasn't getting those opportunities. I'm like, why is it? Why is it? Why can't I get my shot? I'm sure many of you listening to now, right now have had that conversation in your head, maybe even this morning? Why am I not getting the shot, I'm good enough, I feel that I can do it. But yet, I was programming myself on spinose. To me, I was programming myself

to fail. And only when I made a change, only when I decided to just completely override my operating system did things change, when I finally got to a place where I could not take it anymore, I decided to make that change. And that's when I made my first feature. This is Meg, or from the moment I said, I'm gonna make the movie, it took me 30 days to shooting that damn thing. And when I did, I didn't give my operating system time to even react. I was there I was in it, I was doing it. And I just said, I'm not going to stop, I'm going to keep going and I overrode my programming. I stopped those horrible mental constructs that I was creating for myself, these limiting beliefs that I kept repeating to myself, again, and again, and the subconscious was listening. And all of my habits, all of the things around me that I was doing, the people that I was attracted to, in the business, meeting people that would bring into my inner circle, all were reinforcing those negative, those bad thoughts that I was putting in my head, that bad programming 95% of our lives comes from these programming in the subconscious. Only 5% of your life is being lived consciously. Even if you think that you're at the driver's seat, you're not in all areas of your life, health, career, love, money, creativity, relationships, every area of your life is run 95% by your subconscious mind, by that Oh s by that operating system that programming. So what is the solution? What can you do to change this? Step one, recognize where you are struggling in life. Just look at your life and ask Where am I struggling? Because if you're struggling in an area that the programmer that Oh, s is not supporting, guess what, you're gonna have a problem, it's gonna fight back at you, the agent Smith's are gonna come at you, and you're trying to be Neo, and you're trying to create new programming, change the system, change the matrix. And I'll give you an example. I've spoken about this a little bit before, but I'm going to talk about a little bit more detail. Now. I've always had issues with my weight. And I know a lot of people out there listening because I've heard you guys message me and you know, and talk to me about this, that I've had issues with my weight all my life. Why? Because of the programming I had when I was a kid. You know, unfortunately, I had family members who were obsessed about their weight. And even though I wasn't when I was born, ask a baby, what its thoughts are on its body fat, or how their weight is or how they look in jeans. They don't think about things like that, that is all implanted. That is all programming based around what's around you. So I was programmed with this, that weight is a struggle. It's going to go up and down. I will never be thin, I will never be in shape. I will never have a six pack. All these thoughts were in my head. And I decided, you know, within the last six months, I said that's it. The same way I changed my mind and change the programming about my filmmaking career. I did the same thing with my health. And I said that's it, I'm going to change. I did the same thing when I was when I went vegan. I said enough's enough. I don't like the way I feel. I don't like what's going on in my body, I'm going to change. And for me, that was a good choice. Not for everybody. But for me it was. So when I decided to change the programming about working out and change my habits. All of a sudden, I was the guy that wakes up at four o'clock in the morning to go work out. I am the guy that works out six days a week and is happy to do it in like jumping out of bed ready to go work out. I'm the one that watches what they eat and how they eat. They make good healthy choices. Am I never gonna eat a piece of cheesecake again? Of course not. I Of course, I'm able to indulge. But the point is that that programming has been shifted. And now it's such a habit that I can't go back, it would hurt, it would actually be very difficult for me to sit down and just pick out like it would be difficult in my head to do it. Because my programming is now shifted. I reprogram myself, I am my own Neo, in the matrix of my life. I'm so sorry, with all the matrix bonds, I apologize, but I'm just using it, I think it's a good, good way to illustrate the point. So that's step one, recognize your struggle

and focus on it. That's step one. Step two, it's time to upgrade your operating system. The conscious mind is creative. And it can learn from an audio book, a podcast, an online course. And you can learn information that way and you can bring information in. But the subconscious mind does not work like that. The subconscious mind does not pick up those things. There's only two ways to program the subconscious mind to change that operating system. The first way is within the first seven years of life. That's one way. The second way is repetition. Practice, practice, practice. You didn't learn to drive a car in the first seven years of your life, but you learned how to drive a car, didn't you? You learned and you practice until it was installed in your operating system. Now you don't even think about the process of driving. Look at any 16 year old driving a car for the first time. One it's hilarious unless you're in the car or around the car. But secondly, all their mental energy is focused on the task. They're a wreck. They're nervous, they're anxious. Why? Because that operating system is going haywire. Their urge their want their desire to drive is overriding their operating system. Their their their desire for freedom in that car is overriding their operating system and their operating system is trying to handle it is trying to deal with it. But they do it so much. That finally becomes hardwired and now it's cool. If you've been driving for years, like I have been driving since I was 16 years old. It I don't even think about driving again in a car and I go there's never nervousness. There's never anxiety about driving. I don't care. It's amazing. It's amazing once you start thinking about it. That's why Michael Phelps, the Olympic swimmer can jump in a pool and just swim without even thinking about it. Why? Because he has done it 1000 times. Do you think that Steven Spielberg or Chris Nolan or David Fincher walk on the set and is nervous about the day? Or is nervous about the people that they're working with? Or about the process? Generally speaking, no. They might be nervous about new elements have been added in like story or actors, or getting the performances that they want specifically about this, but the mechanical processes of directing? Do you think Spielberg gets nervous? They think Scorsese gets nervous. Of course not. That's home for them. That is the pool that Michael Phelps one jumps into, it's their home. So when you jump on a set for the first time, you're a nervous wreck. Because you don't know what's going on. You're trying to figure things out, you haven't done it before. So your operating system is going haywire. It's trying to stop you, but your desire to make that movie, your desire to write that screenplay is overriding your operating system.

So this is where affirmations come into play. If you want to be a successful screenwriter or filmmaker, repeat every day, I'm a great writer. I'm a great filmmaker. I have the abilities needed to tell stories, I have the abilities needed to direct this film. Say it again and again and again to yourself. And the secret sauce to making this really, really transform your life is adding feeling. If you feel what you are saying, if there's an emotion attached to it, it will supercharge what you're doing in your subconscious feeling is so so powerful. Think about a great time in your life and then how that makes you feel in your body. Think about a bad time in your life and see how that makes you feel in your mind and your body. When you add positive feeling when you add real emotion to a thought that really in truly supercharges your transformation that will begin to change your operating system that will begin to change your subconscious mind. Doing this with a combination of educating yourself on what you need to do or be is a game changer. during your life, I'm not saying you're gonna sit there and look in a mirror and go, I'm a great filmmaker and never pick up a book. But if you start to do that, that programming will start kicking in, and then all of a sudden, you're going to notice that other habits are going to start coming in, you're going to want to listen to audiobooks every day, you're gonna want to listen to more podcasts, you might even want to start taking more online courses and start maybe, I know it's crazy, setting up time every day out of your busy day, to educate yourself, to learn your craft, to add those tools in your toolbox. But it all starts with the subconscious, because you could take a thout look how many people here listening? And I know I can't, I can't get any hands up. But I'm sure that many people who are listening have taken an online course, taught by some of the greatest masters of all time, but yet, it hasn't moved the needle. Why is that? Why is that? How many 1000s of podcasts have you listened to? How many online courses have you taken? How many audio books have you listened to? And yet, if you're not moving forward, in what you're trying to do, what's holding you back? Could it be your operating system? Could it be your subconscious mind that is holding you where you need to be because that's where it wants you to be because it's safe and predictable. On an evolutionary level, you've got to break through that mental barrier, you've got to break through that mental construct, it serves you no longer if you want to be happy, repeated again. And again, when your subconscious mind gets it gets that programming update that you won't have to say it anymore. Just like driving a car, just like learning your ABCs How many times did you sing that darn song until you can sing it off the top of your head now, not ever have to think about your ABCs once your subconscious, or operating system gets it, that is when you will start to create habits that will change your life and will change your filmmaking career, and your screenwriting careers in ways that you cannot even imagine. It has in my life. And like everything on this show. As I go through the journey of my filmmaking career as my creative career, my life, I try to share it with the tribe. If I find value in information that I'm finding, I want to share it with you guys. Because these concepts that I've just laid out, have changed my life for the better. I am healthier than I've ever been in my life, I'm in better shape than I've ever been in my life, even when I was in my 20s. And even when I was working out with a trainer back then I'm in better shape. Now. I can do things now that I was never able to do then. And this is less than six months, guys, I haven't been doing this for years, in less than six months, I've been able to drop almost 40 pounds. And I still got about another 15 or so that I want to get rid of. Because I got to get that six pack. Why not because of ego. Because that's where I need to be. On a health standpoint, it allows me to do more for you guys, for my tribe, for my business for what I do with my family in my life. That is what I've changed my programming to be. And it's changed my filmmaking career,

I've done two movies, where the first 40 years of my life, I haven't done any, in the last couple years I don't do and if I really wanted to, I could have probably done four or five movies this last year. But I had other fish to fry I was writing a book we're building up the you know, the podcast doing all the things I had to do. But if I wanted to, I could have easily done that. Because I changed my programming. Now I also don't want you just to write down on a post it note in your bathroom, that I'm a good filmmaker, I'm a better filmmaker I am. I'm happier. Whatever that is, that is a suggestion. You need to repeat it to yourself, in your mind, or out loud every day. So your subconscious gets it and it will make a difference. I promise you it will make a difference in your life. Because it's made a difference in my life. I cannot tell you all the things that have changed in my life because of this bit of knowledge, this knowledge bomb that I got months ago. I want you to understand something that I'm about to release a book. I am a published author. Now, I never in a million years had a program in my head that I was published. I could be a published author. Why? Because I didn't have anybody around me that I knew that was one. I didn't know it was something that somebody else did. But when I decided I'm like I'm going to write a book, and I'm going to do it and it's going to get released and I'm going to get it published. And that's exactly what I did. Now Now all of a sudden, I've got three or four books lined up that I'm writing. Why? Because my programming has changed. My program is now telling me oh, writing books is safe, you can do that. And when I come across new programming that I want to change, I will change it. It's all within your power guys. I want you to understand that the freedom for you to change your life, to change your filmmaking career, to change your screenwriting is all within your own power. It's in side of you. I just did an episode a little bit ago about meditation. It took me years of trying back and forth to be a meditator. Because in my mind, in my programming, I didn't have anybody around me that was a meditator. I didn't have any good role models, I didn't have any, any programming that could reinforce that. So I was like God, something that somebody else does. And I was just talking to a tribe member today, actually, who will remain nameless, but you know who you're who you are, sir. Where when they saw that episode, title, they're like, oh, meditating, that's, that's for somebody else. I'm just gonna keep hustling harder and harder. And I'm gonna just keep working harder and harder. Because their programming told them that meditation, that's, that's something new, that's something scary, I don't want to go into that world. And they just wrote it off. Now, mind you, I am a guy who has a company called indie film, hustle, I wear a hat that has hustle period on it. I'm all about the hustle. I'm all about the work. It's about being smart about it. Using that energy properly, hell just even be able to get energy to do it properly, which starts with your health, and your mind, and your mental health and your spiritual health, all of that stuff. That's where you have to go in order to move forward. Once again, guys, you have the power to change your life. Nobody outside of you, nobody anywhere else. If you're waiting for someone else to make you happy or to make your dreams come true. You're going to be waiting a long time. You're going to be waiting and waiting and waiting. It is a recipe for nothing but pain. Understand that

you need to take control of your life. You need to start making these decisions and these changes in your own life. And you have the information, there's no excuse anymore. The information that I've laid out in this episode can change your life, your filmmaking life, screenwriting life, your creative life, and just your life in general. I really hope that this episode has helped you guys again, a lot of this information has helped me out dramatically in my life. And as I continue to find and discover new things, I will continue to relay them to you guys. I know you guys have been, I mean getting given me so many emails lately, I can't even tell you so many messages about these new series of podcasts that I'm doing that you guys are really digging it. So please, if you love these podcasts, please share them with as many people as you can. I want this information to get out there. I want my community I want the tribe, I want filmmakers and screenwriters, and people at large to get this information because it is just kind of earth shattering kind of stuff. Because when you're able to change your life, then you can change lives around you. And when you can change lives around you, they can change lives, and so on and so on and so on. So I really hope this helped you guys out a lot. I'm going to put a couple of books in the show notes at Indie film hustle.com Ford slash 306 That might help you understand a little bit more about this process. Thank you guys for listening, and I'll leave you with this. This is your last chance. After this. There's no turning back. You can take the blue pill and nothing will change in your life and you will stay exactly where you are. And you will not move forward or towards the direction you want. Where you can take the red pill and you can truly see how deep the rabbit hole goes. As always keep on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.

Please subscribe and leave a rating or review
by going to BPS Podcast
Want to advertise on this show?
Visit Bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/Sponsors

BPS 037: The Toxic Screenwriter Mindset and How You Can Change It

Today we will tackle the toxic screenwriter mindset. That screenwriting mindset. That artist mindset. We discuss the mindset. How the beliefs we have stop and derail our dreams and life. So many of us have belief systems that limit us. Today we are going to break this down and give you some tools to reprogram yourself into the person and screenwriter you want to be.

“To have results that very few people have you have to start doing things that very few people do.”

Please share this episode with anyone you think needs to hear it. Listen to this often. Enjoy and keep on hustling.

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
Welcome to the bulletproof screenplay podcast episode number 37. To have results that very few people have, you have to start doing things that very few people do. Anonymous. Broadcasting from a dark windowless room in Hollywood when we really should be working on that next draft. It's the bulletproof screenplay podcast showing you the craft and business of screenwriting, while teaching you how to make your screenplay bulletproof. And here's your host, Alex Ferrari. Welcome to another episode of The Bulletproof screenplay podcast. I am your humble host, Alex Ferrari. Now today's show is sponsored by bulletproof script coverage. Now, unlike other script coverage services, bulletproof script coverage actually focuses on the kind of project you are and the goals of the project you are. So we actually break it down by three categories micro budget, indie film market and studio film. There's no reason to get coverage from a reader that used to reading tentpole movies when your movies gonna be done for $100,000 and we wanted to focus on that at bulletproof script coverage. Our readers have worked with Marvel Studios CAA, WM E, NBC, HBO, Disney, Scott free Warner Brothers, the blacklist and many many more. So if you need your screenplay or TV script covered by professional readers, head on over to cover my screenplay.com and today's show is also sponsored by indie film hustle TV, the world's first streaming service dedicated to filmmakers, screenwriters, and content creators. If you want access to filmmaking documentaries feature films about filmmaking, interviews with some of the top screenwriters and filmmakers in Hollywood, as well as educational online courses all in one place. ifH. TV is for you. Just head over to indie film hustle.tv. Now guys, today, I want to talk about mindset, and the power of what you believe you can or cannot do. I've been getting a lot of reactions from the last few episodes that I've done, starting with all filmmakers are marketers, and how bad do you want it? Now, if you've been listening to me for a while, you know that I do these kinds of podcasts every once in a blue moon. I didn't do these as often. But nowadays, I don't know guys, I'm just inspired to do so. So I want to put this out into the tribe. And I hope it does some good. So let's talk about your mindset. Let's talk about what you believe now. What you believe is what you will achieve. And that I can promise you, I'm going to tell you a little story about something that happened to me. I don't know if many of you know or not. But I've always struggled with my weight. I have been struggling with my weight. For years, I'm talking about probably 40 years, I've been I've gone up and down with my weight been very thin been extremely heavy, you know, 5060 pounds, difference in every time I do it. And I've tried every diet, everything, every thing, everything I could possibly do to lose weight, and to gain muscle and to do everything I can read books, took courses everything, and never ever seemed to change no matter what I did. And recently, I decided to change my mindset to change what I believe I could do with my own body. Because you know, as you get older, especially us guys listening out there girls listening out there who are in their 40s You know, you're like, Oh, I'm not 22 anymore, I'm never gonna have I'm never going to be in good shape. I you know, I

but those days are gone. I'm you know, it's my body's just too old. I have injuries and blah, blah, blah, all sorts of excuses come up, right? Well, I decided to change my belief system, my mindset of what I could do with my body. And I haven't mentioned this before, because I generally don't like to talk about this, because it's just really it doesn't it's not applicable to what we talk about here on any film, hustle, but I think it is today. Because what I decided to do is I changed my mind to say you know what, I am capable of losing weight and I'm going to do it in the right way. I'm going to do it healthy. And I'm going to do it as slow or as fast as needs to be done. And you don't look at the 60 pounds that I want to try to lose. I'm going to look at the first pound, then the second and then the third. And I'm proud to say that I've lost over 30 pounds and almost 10% body fat within three months. I changed my habits. I changed my routine completely and it has changed my life dramatically. And I want to use this story to illustrate what you guys listening to this are capable of the mind it is one of the most powerful things in the universe. Billions of dollars have tried to replicate what the mind can do. And they haven't yet to achieve this thing they might one day, but not just yet. And by changing my belief system, in my mind truly wholeheartedly by just changing my belief system, and then changing the habit of believing myself to be able to lose a pound at a time, two pounds at a time, a pound a week, now was my goal, pound a week, then I would lose two or three pounds, I'm like, great, my goal is still pound a week. And I would just keep going. till finally I started gaining momentum. And by changing those habits, changing my routines, I was able to start achieving things that I had never been able to achieve with, with my body. Now I've gotten to the place where I'm in probably better shape than I've ever been in my life. And it took three months. It didn't take a lot of time. But I dedicated myself every day waking up at four 430 in the morning, to go work out eating, well changing my diet, changing my habits, and it's paid off. That's what it was so amazing to me that I was able to do this. So quickly. By just changing my mindset. If you change those mile markers in your mind, those beliefs, those kind of boxes that your mind puts on you, and I'll talk about why it does that in a minute. But you can change those those those mile markers, and move them just a little bit forward. Every day. Magical miraculous things will happen in your life. I'm living proof of it. Now, I'm gonna talk about like, let's say for example, income, a lot of us have beliefs of what we can make, financially every year, whether that be $10,000 $100,000, or a million dollars, it doesn't matter the number, but you have that kind of number in your head. And that's your mindset, that's your mile marker, that's the box that you've put yourself in. And then you once you're in that box, and by the way, this box or this mile marker could be for your entire life. I know you know these people, these people who believe that they will never get farther than where they are right now in their life. Because this is their belief system and your brain will do everything in its power to keep you in that belief system.

But once you're in that box, then you start behaving in the way you need to and feel the way you need to feel to make that kind of money every year. After a while the programming becomes hard wired in your brain. So if you believe that you're only going to make $10,000 a year, you're probably going to get a job that's going to support that belief. And you're going to just scrape on by and not actually achieve what you want to achieve. Because that's the way your mind thinks that's the way your mind thinks it is all that's capable of doing. So you will dress the part you will hang out with the people that are around this same belief because you need support for that belief. That's what people always say, and I did a whole episode about it is that you are the sum total of the people that you're around? Why is it that some of the greatest most successful people in history all say you need to find people who are doing what you're doing at a higher level and hang out with them. Because when you do that you're reprogramming yourself, you're reprogramming your mind to believe that you're capable of doing it because now you see examples. Now you see what they're doing. And all of a sudden the programming starts to change. You need to reprogram your mindset for whatever you're trying to do in life. Whether that be writing that screenplay, becoming a professional writer, becoming a professional filmmaker, going into television, acting, I'm using all the stuff for film business, but it works in any thing you're trying to do in life, that could be relationships, romantic relationships, relationships with other people, kind of job offers, you're getting kind of businesses you can build. You need to reprogram that mindset. If on a conscious level, you begin to believe in these thoughts, these new ideas, these new thoughts that are better for you that are going to get you to your goal to your dream, they will begin to go to your subconscious and then they will start to reprogram you little by little, but you got to keep those ideas coming you got to believe and the easiest way to do that is surround yourself with people. start educating yourself, start listening to books, start reading books, start taking courses, start watching things ingesting consuming content that will move you towards that direction and I promise you, your subconscious will begin to reprogram itself because it's a new mindset. You have to treat your mind like a computer. There is hard wired programming operating systems that you need to update Every once in a while, but most people go through their life, not reprogramming themselves angry, bitter, because they don't understand their own computer, they don't understand their own programming. Once I changed my mindset, my belief system, my mile markers in my brain, I was able to break through walls that have been with me throughout my life. It was just just miraculous. I mean, I can't tell you how my life has changed so dramatically. By doing this. And everything I go through, I try to share with you guys because I want to help you through my journey, and share everything I'm learning along the way. Understand that we follow through on what we believe we are, that is the programming of our mind. If you understand that, that little negative voice in your head, that little critic that we all have. And when that voice says you aren't good enough, that dream that you want, that's never gonna happen. Things like that don't happen to you. You're you are who you are, you're the best that you can be in just be happy with that. When he says these kinds of things, that little voice is there to try to keep you in the current state to protect the beliefs you already have in place. It is a defense mechanism by the brain. It does not like change, it doesn't want change. It is something that we as humans have brought back with us throughout our evolution when we were still in caves.

It is something that saved us before but now is something that is hurting us. We don't need it anymore. We need to understand the mind the brain and have it work for us and not have it hinder us or stop us from what we are trying to achieve. Whether in the film business or in life. Changing this mindset, changing your belief in what you can do, will change your life and career. I promise you, I am living proof. If you believe that you can't, then you won't. If you believe that you can make that movie, or write that script, or learn that new skill or get to that goal. Then you will you see the brain will have you eat the same foods every day dressed the same way hang out with the same people do the same things you do day in and day out to maintain that image you have of yourself because it's safe. Your brain is trying to protect you it wants to keep you there. It doesn't want you from it doesn't want you to get hurt Lifetime's are wasted because of this faulty programming in your mind. You need to reprogram yourself to change that mindset. Now I know a lot of you saying But Alex, how about fear? I'm afraid I'm afraid of doing that of making that movie of putting myself out there? Well, let's take an example for a minute. How do firefighters run into a burning buildings every day around the world? They have this insane amount of adrenaline pumping through them. Everything in their body is telling them no. Why would you run into a burning building? You're gonna die. But yet, every day, millions of firefighters around the world do it? Are they all fearless? Are they all Superman or Superwoman? No know, they all have that same fear. They all are afraid. The difference is that they have learned to identify that feeling or that fear. And understand that is a normal thing. No normal human being sane human being is going to run into a building that's on fire and not feel fear. When I started this podcast, I was afraid when I launched indie film hustle, I was afraid when I made my first feature film publicly, I was afraid. But just like all those examples, firefighters rely on the skills, knowledge and preparation they have done to deal with the danger that they're running into, to deal with the circumstances that they're running into. They understand the fear in a safe way, and they go in and do their job. And that's how you need to look at whatever you're trying to achieve. You're trying to lose weight. It is a job you do it. You go in every day. I don't want to hear about fear. I don't want to hear about pain. You just do it. You run a write a script, you set yourself up new habits. You write a page a day, every day. Don't stop. You want to make a movie, do things every day, small, incremental steps that move you forward. If I would have looked at 60 pounds that I want to lose. At the beginning of my journey, I would have never done it, I would have never done it. But because I focused on small, incremental goals, I was able to achieve a larger goal. Same thing happen with this as Meg. Okay, my first feature film, it took me I was 41, when I made my first feature film, when I was more than capable of making my first feature film 15 years earlier, easily, I could have done it, I had the skill, experience, talent to do it. Let's stop me, I did. I created a monster of this. This this first feature film, I created so much out of it, that I held myself down. And I just was petrified to move. But something finally happened that made me change my mindset, change my beliefs and what I was capable of doing. And was I afraid, oh, my God was i i was scared to death. And I just said, I'm not going to do this anymore. I can't, and I moved forward. And I did it every day. I did it very quickly. But I did it every day, and I got the movie made. And all and you know, you guys know the rest of what happened with that. You have to learn to identify the mindset of fear in your life, you have to understand that it's normal. And that feeling is there to protect you, your mind your brain is trying to protect you. It is terrifying for change, it doesn't want to change, it's happy where it is. Because it's again, going back to that programming we had when we were, you know, in the caves.

I'm going to give you some techniques to help you get through the fear. Okay, anytime you're afraid in life, and it's worked for me really, really well. When you're afraid, you're fearful, you're stressed, you're angry. Anytime that happens in your life. Take to stop for a second, close your eyes and take six to eight deep breaths. This is not fufu stuff, just try it. This will deactivate the stress response center in your brain, then you will be able to think through the problem. Clearly. When you activate the stress center of the of your brain, the blood rushes to the area of your brain that is responsible for fear for stress for anger, adrenaline, all that kind of stuff. To get you out of whatever situation you're in, it is just trying to protect you. It is the programming, and it's fantastic programming for survival. In life, when you're out in the caves, when you're out, you know not when you're trying to make a movie, not when you're trying to write a script, not when you're trying to have a relationship or get to a goal or a dream. It's very horrible at that point. But if you know, if you have a lion chasing you, it's a pretty good, pretty good program to have. When you want to take on a new goal in life, you have to take it one step at a time. Because if you take these small increments, it will not activate the stress fear response in your brain. That's what was happening to me with my first feature film every time I thought about it. My brain just went into overdrive, like you know, you can't do that. No, you got to stay right where you are. Because I was thinking of this monster thing. And now if I just didn't same thing with my weight, I would think about all the weight I would have to lose. And then I wouldn't move. Or I would do something kind of half assed just kind of I don't know. And that's what would happen. If you look at the end game at the end goal, whether that be the screenplay, whether that be the big movie, whether that'd be losing 60 pounds, or getting that job or whatever it is. Your brain will activate the fear response and keep you where you are physically and mentally in life. Your mind creates the standards that you live up to you, by your beliefs create the standards that you live up to. If your standard is to write one screenplay, work on one screenplay, let's say right, let's say you're working on one screenplay for three years, and then you complain, Oh my No one's giving you a chance or Hollywood is such a bastard place and it's everything so hard, then that's what you're going to be. That's what you will live up to. I promise you because I've lived it. So many years of my life I wasted because of that crap. Habits are a tool to change this. They are the biggest, most powerful tool you have on this journey, creating good habits and releasing bad ones. I changed my mind I changed my habits so so effortlessly after I decided to believe differently. I never work that come I'm waking up at four o'clock in the morning to go work out. Who does this? I do? Because that's what I believe I need Do that's what I want to do to get to where I want to be. And once you do it what the first first four or five, six weeks rough. But now, my body wakes up at four o'clock in the morning without even the alarm clock. Why? Because it's a new habit, because my mind has been programmed to love it to want it. I read two, three books a week, I never used to do that. But now it's a habit. I can't be anywhere without having a book playing in the background or podcast, or something, or watching a video on YouTube or taking a course online. These are the habits I've changed, and it's changed my life. And I want that same change to happen in your lives. Because the power of belief, the power of mindset, it is that powerful. I promise you. Desire is not enough. Wanting it bad is not enough. You need to change your mind, your mindset, your belief system, your mile markers in your brain, what you're capable or not capable of doing. You need to change those things. And once you start changing, and I'm not until not telling you to change them all at once, or make big huge leaps. Little by little, I believe that I can get up in the morning at four o'clock every day, and go work out like a beast and get into the best shape of my life. I am in better shape now than I was when I was in my 20s.

Why? Because I believe that I can. And I'm proving it. Other things in my life are changing, because I believe that they can change. I believe that I can create a streaming service for filmmakers. And create a Netflix no one's done. No one's doing this. No one's ever done it. But I believe that could do it. And I believe that it can create more value for my tribe. And I did. I never written a book before. But I believed that I could. And because I believed I could. And I started taking small incremental goals, which were 1000 words a day was my goal. Sometimes I hit it. Sometimes I didn't. Sometimes I exceeded it. But every day I worked on it one way or another. And within months, I was able to have a rough draft done. Not years, but months, I had never written a book in my life. And look what happened just because I believed that I could do it. Why? Because I did small incremental steps because I changed my beliefs. Don't let anyone friends, family, acquaintances, teachers, whoever it is, tell you what you are dreaming about for yourself or for your family is not possible. Because I'm here to tell you it is possible. And the power for that dream lies within you. The door to success swings inward, not outward, that power lives within you, and no one else to have the results that very few people have. You have to start doing things that very few people do. Let me repeat that to have results that very few people have, you have to start doing things that very few people do. There's a reason I used that quote at the beginning of this episode, because it's so true. It's actually scary how true that statement is. And I want to say one other thing before I let you guys go today. These are beliefs that I have about everyone who's listening about everyone in the indie film hustle tribe. And I want you to think about these beliefs. And see if we can start reprogramming you right now. All the members of the ifH tribe are doers, not talkers. They have strong minds. They are aware of what's going on now. And they will create systems to help them get to where they want to go. They will write down their goals. And most importantly, they will all hustle. I hope this episode helps you guys out a lot. I've got a few books, I'll recommend in the show notes at Indie film hustle.com, forward slash BPS 037 that will help you on your path, if you will. Again, now that I'm reading all these books, I'm sharing I want to share with you guys so parcher I put more and more of these out for you guys, and probably create a couple more top 10 lists for you guys to check out. But I really do believe what I'm saying here guys, and I really hope that this helps you on your path. It really is all about your mindset. It really is about your belief in what you Can cannot do. So believe and you will achieve whatever you want. Thanks for listening guys. And don't forget that my book shooting for the mob is out for pre order on Amazon just head over to indie film hustle.com forward slash m OB just indie film hustle.com forward slash mob. And it'll take you right to the Amazon link, please preorder. And if you read the book, if you're part of my launch team, please on February 22, go and leave a review on Amazon. The more reviews I get, the higher we can get ranked and we can get that book out to as many people again as possible in the world so I we really, really appreciate that guys. So as always, keep on writing, no matter what. I'll talk to you soon. Thanks for listening to the bulletproof screenplay podcast at bulletproof screenplay.com That's B u ll e t e r o f s CR e n PLA y.com

Please subscribe and leave a rating or review
by going to BPS Podcast
Want to advertise on this show?
Visit Bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/Sponsors

BPS 035: How Bad Do You Want Your Screenwriting Dream?

What are you willing to sacrifice to make your filmmaking dream come true? How bad do you want it? These are the questions I’ll be discussing in today’s episode. If you are looking for something to get you revved up look no further. This is my “tough love” episode. I keep running into filmmakers and people in the business who just like to talk or hide behind excuses. I have two things to say about that.

  • Life doesn’t care about excuses.
  • The film business doesn’t care about your circumstances.

There are 24 hours in a day. I breakdown 24 hours and I promise you will find out that you have, at least, 4-6 hours a day to dedicate to your craft and dream. Yes, even for those who have a 2-hour commute, work 8 hours and have a family. The power to make your dream to become a reality is only in your hands. No one else’s! I really hope this episode lights that fire in your belly to make your dream come true.

Please share this episode with anyone you think needs to hear it. Listen to this often. Enjoy and keep on hustling.

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
Welcome to the bulletproof screenplay podcast episode number 35. If you don't have time to read, you do not have time to write Stephen King, broadcasting from a dark windowless room in Hollywood when we really should be working on that next draft. It's the bulletproof screenplay podcast showing you the craft and business of screenwriting while teaching you how to make your screenplay bulletproof. And here's your host, Alex Ferrari. Welcome. Welcome to another episode of The Bulletproof screenplay podcast. I am your humble host, Alex Ferrari. Now today's show is sponsored by bulletproof script coverage. Now, unlike other script coverage services, bulletproof script coverage actually focuses on the kind of project you are and the goals of the project you are. So we actually break it down by three categories micro budget, indie film market and studio film. There's no reason to get coverage from a reader that used to reading tentpole movies when your movies gonna be done for $100,000 and we wanted to focus on that at bulletproof script coverage. Our readers have worked with Marvel Studios CAA, WM E, NBC, HBO, Disney, Scott free Warner Brothers, the blacklist and many many more. So if you need your screenplay or TV script covered by professional readers, head on over to cover my screenplay.com and today's show is also sponsored by indie film hustle TV, the world's first streaming service dedicated to filmmakers, screenwriters, and content creators. If you want access to filmmaking documentaries feature films about filmmaking, interviews with some of the top screenwriters and filmmakers in Hollywood, as well as educational online courses all in one place. ifH. TV is for you. Just head over to indie film hustle.tv. Today, guys, I have one question and one question only to ask you. How bad do you want it? That is the question we're going to explore in today's episode. This is what I like to call my tough love episode. I've been talking in consulting with a lot of filmmakers lately. And just meeting them on my you know, when I talk and, and workshops and things like that, and I just wanted to address this and wanted to address this and hopefully this episode will light a fire in your button anytime you're feeling a little low or down. This is the episode you're going to turn back on to get you revved up. So the question again is how bad do you want it? What are you willing to sacrifice to make your dreams come true? And I don't want to hear any excuses. I know we all have life. We all have things that we have to do. And we have financial restraints and all this kind of good stuff. I get it. Trust me, I get it. But I have one thing to tell you. Life doesn't care. This business does not care about your problems, your excuses, or your circumstances. Period.

No one is coming to save you. Let me repeat, no one is coming to save you. There isn't going to be a magical God from Mount Hollywood, who's going to come down and bequeath you the new David Fincher, the new Chris Nolan the new Tarantino, and they're going to give you $200 million to go do whatever you want. That doesn't happen. I promise you, that will not happen. Just like Mark Duplass says, the Calvary is not coming. You've got to do it yourself. And I know a lot of you listening right now like well, you know, you know Tarantino got this or, or you know, got this opportunity. Or Chris Nolan got that opportunity. Or David Fincher and I'm just using a few guys, you know, the Coen Brothers, it goes on and on many, many different directors who've made it into into Hollywood and working in bigger sandboxes than we are. And I know you probably say, Oh, this or that they had this happen if I would have that happen to me, I wouldn't be able to do it. I promise you something that nobody in this business has gotten to where they are without busting their butt. Without hustling hard. I promise you. Okay, there's no royalty, that automatically gets you. And I'm sure there's nepotism. But there's no royal you know, if your last name is Spielberg doesn't mean that you're going to direct the next big thing. It doesn't work that way in Hollywood. It only gets you so far. If you do have that luxury. The most of us don't have the last name Spielberg or or Scorsese or any of the other big names. It's about you hustling, busting your butt and killing yourself to get where you want to be and what you're trying to do. Alright, so just take that myth right out of your head. Nobody got anything handed to them. No one. I've been in this business long enough. And I've studied and spoken to enough filmmakers to see that every single one of them started somewhere. They all started wherever they started, whether it be in commercials, whether it be making an indie film, whether it writing a screenplay that got him some notice, they all busted their ass. All you guys see is what happened afterwards. Everyone just saw Tarantino and Reservoir Dogs. That's all they saw. Like, oh, he just blew up overnight. The man was busting his ass in town for close to a decade trying to get his stuff done and get seen and made. Okay, mariachi, another one. I was like to bring up Robert Rodriguez. Everyone says, Oh, he got a $7,000 movie. And it was all this or that. You know what, but no one talks about the 40 or 50 short films that he'd made prior to that, or all the hustle and creativity at the bust to get El Mariachi out. And the list goes on and on. I could talk about filmmakers all day with these stories. They all busted their butt. Now I know a lot of you listening right now are telling me Alex, I work for a living man, I don't have time to dedicate a lot of time to dedicate to my, my art my craft my dream. I've got to pay the bills, I get that. I get it. But I want to let's break that down for a second. You've got 24 hours in a day. Okay, 24 hours in a day. So let's break it down. So let's say you sleep for seven hours, I'm being kind by giving you seven hours. Let's say you sleep seven hours. All right, then I'm going to give you an hour to wake up, take a shower, brush your teeth, have some breakfast, and get ready for the day. That's eight hours gone. Now I'm gonna even give you two hours of commute an hour, they're an hour bet you're you're hustling hard to get to work. Most of us don't have hour, an hour, hour and a half commute to work many of you do. But I'm going to give you those two hours of commute. Okay, whether it's 30 minutes or an hour, I'm going to give you that. So that's two extra hours while you're commuting. By the way, you're generally going to be either riding a bike, walking, driving a car, or on a train somewhere, generally, that's what it's gonna be. So during that time of commute, what can you be doing to get you closer to your dream? What can you be doing? Could you be listening to audiobooks? Could you be listening to podcasts? Could you be educating yourself? That is a perfect time to grow as an artist as a craftsman, as a person who's trying to get to whatever goal you're trying to get. Educate yourself. It has never been easier or cheaper, or even free to get information. So you could be listening to audio books. I mean, you get a free audiobook just by signing up to audible.com.

And you could be listening to podcasts which are free and there's a ton of information, as you know, because you're listening to this podcast. So now we've gone through 10 hours. Okay, now you're at work. We're going to work a standard eight hour day. Alright, standard eight hour day we're working today. While you're at work, what can you be doing? Are you sitting at a desk? Are you crunching something? Are you editing? Are you doing other things? At your job that you're sitting around? Could you listen to audiobooks during your day? Even if an hour or two here or there? Could you listen to podcast? Possibly even if you know if you if you have a certain kind of job? Could you even watch a course? Could you watch an hour of course, you know or listen to that course online course. Again, educating yourself every day moving a step forward every single day. And I'm going to give you a trick with audio books, podcasts, and online courses. I listened to all of my books that 1.75 to two times as fast. I've gotten used to two times as fast depending on how fast the narrator presenters speaking. But even if you go to 1.25, the speed that he's speaking or she's speaking, or 1.5 it just cuts down dramatically the amount of time you're spending and you could absorb more information. I read two to three books a week, a week because of this technique. And it gives me so much information, so much knowledge, so much inspiration to move forward in whatever I'm doing. So now you've come back home you did that hour commute, it's already been included in the total and you want to spend time with your family or your girlfriend or whoever you want to spend time with. And I'm like I like to spend time with my family. I need to eat dinner and you know that great you got two hours and I think two hours is enough. But if you want to even push it to three hours fine, but I'm gonna say two hours. is more than enough to get home. You know, unwind, make your dinner and hang out with the family play with the kids before they go to bed. All right. Now also, I'm gonna ask you another question. While you're cooking dinner, could you be listening to an audiobook? Can you be listening to a podcast? Could you be doing something that moves you forward in your, your quest for your dream, for your goal? Educating yourself is the biggest thing you can do when you're trying to move forward towards a dream or goal. The smarter you are, the more knowledge you have, the more dangerous you are the skills that you're putting in your toolbox, the tools that you put in your toolbox grow more and more and more. And it might not seem like a lot right now. But I promise you, you keep doing that. You read one book a week, listen to one book a week, at the end of the year, you have 52 books under your belt. Do you think you're going to be a little bit better at what you're trying to do? Do you think you're going to be a little have a couple more tools in those toolboxes? I promise you you will. So now, with all the math, if I've done the math correctly, you've got four hours left for the hustle for the side hustle. During those four hours. What can you do to get you to your goal?

Can you practice whatever you're trying to do? Anything if you're trying to direct? Go take an acting class, I promise you it will humble you. Learn how to work with actors, bring over some friends shoot some stuff. If you're trying to be a director, it doesn't matter. Spend that time honing your craft every day. Every day. You want to be a writer you want to be a screenwriter, right? Right for those hours read screenplays, just like Stephen King said at the beginning of this episode, if you ain't got time to read, you ain't got time to write. Okay, so read screenplays and write screenplays, read books listen to books about screenwriting about the craft. You know a lot of people always say oh, the Guru's they haven't done like, you know what a lot of these guys who write books, a lot of these women who write books, on screenwriting, on story on Character Arts, all this kind of stuff. There's always a nugget of, of great information in those books. If not one, there's hundreds. But you never know just read, I promise you you will grow. Don't let your ego get in the way. Read the books, listen to the books, listen to the podcast, those things will will help you I promise you. You can't get better at your craft, unless you practice that craft. Unless you do that craft. If you're going to build a table and you want to be a carpenter, I promise you the first table you make is going to suck. But the fifth table better be good. Same thing goes for what we try to do in the film industry every day, whether that be cinematography, whether that be production design, whether that be directing, writing, acting, whatever, hone your craft and practice every day. What else can you do during that time, take some time out to meditate. Take some time out to center yourself to go within. I promise you that the best best ideas I've gotten are during my meditations, meditate for 30 minutes minimum, give me a five minute 10 Minute Meditation 30 minutes minimum. I would prefer an hour hour and a half personally, but work your way up to that. But I promise I can't keep saying promise because I've been here. I've do I'm doing it right now with you. You will grow so much more. A lot of the ego will start to wear away. When you meditate. A lot of ideas will start flourishing coming up, you'll become more focused, sharper, your mind will think clearer. Okay. What else can you do? Why don't you work out, you can put that at the beginning of the day. If that works out better for you work out for 30 minutes. You don't need a gym. You don't need any of that stuff. There's so much information online, go to YouTube, and watch, do yoga, do jumping jacks, push ups, old school, whatever, get that heart rate running. Because also another thing I'm going to promise you is if you get yourself physically in better shape, your mind will be better and your work will be better. You'll have more energy to keep going and going and going. So many people ask me how I'm able to do all the work that I do is because I work out every day. As many of you know, at five o'clock every day I wake up at 430 every morning to go work out for an hour. And I still work in a meditation for at least an hour if not two a day. So it's doable. It can be done. And finally, what can you do during this time? Just take online courses, watch ifH TV, you know not for a same shame. This plug wherever you want to go Skillshare Udemy masterclass, I don't care, learn, learn, educate, educate yourself and learn. Alright, stop watching Netflix, stop watching Game of Thrones, it's not getting you anywhere, it's not moving you where you need to be. Okay? I used to do the same thing I used to sit down and watch three, four hours a night of TV and, and just chillin or going out with my boys and drinking and I hadn't drank, but you know, going out with my boys and hanging out and watching football or whatever that was, okay. Stop it. Because if you want to do that, that's fine. I have no problem with that. You go out and eat on wine at night, great online, take 30 minutes, take an hour out of those four hours if you want to, to unwind, okay. But if you don't do what I'm telling you in these four hours and do that hustle. I don't want to hear any complaining from you. I don't want to hear that, oh, God, I'm not getting where I want to be. The opportunities are not showing up. I don't want to hear any excuses. Because it's on you.

It's on you. You've got to make it happen for yourself. Stop waiting for permission from other people to make your dream come true. Stop hiding behind other people, oh, they didn't give me the shot, or I didn't get this opportunity. Or I didn't get the money for the film. If you're looking for $10 million for the film, and it's your first film, no, it's not going to work out for you. I promise you make something cheaper, make something that you can go make by yourself. And if you feel scared, I'm sorry, you're gonna have to go through it. Because you know what, if you don't go through it, there's 200 people right behind you who are doing everything I'm telling them to do. And they're hustling harder than you are. And you're going to see them fly by you. Okay, I want you to understand this. So So clearly, at the end of the day, you're competing with yourself. But as you see people fly by you, you start asking yourself, What am I doing wrong? Why am I not going as fast as they are? They're a good barometer. But at the end of the day, it's up to you. And you only have to compete with yourself. So look inside yourself, and ask the question, How bad do I want this? What am I willing to sacrifice to get to where I want to be in life, in my career in my dream? Or is this all just Bs, and you're hiding behind something and talking a lot. I can't stand people who just talk and talk and never do. And we smell you coming from a mile away in this business. And I meet them every day I speak to them every day, whatever the reason why they do it, whether it's ego, whether it's fear, I hate to tell you, this business doesn't care. Life doesn't care, and I don't care. You need to get off your butt and do what you need to do. Hustle every day, the power for your dream is in your hands and no one else's. You have to out hustle outwork everyone else around you. I don't care about talent. I don't care about connections in the business. That doesn't matter. Give me someone who's hungry, who's willing to hustle, who's willing to put in the time the effort to get to where they want to be. I'll take someone like that any day over someone who's more talented, or might have more connections, who's willing to sleep for hours, five hours a night. So they get that extra time in their hustle in their side hustle before it turns into their main hustle? Who's willing to do that? Are you are you willing to put in the effort? Ask yourself the question. What am I willing to do to make this happen? Am I willing to give up? Go into McDonald's every day so I can get into better shape so I can focus more so I can put more energy into my dream? Am I willing to work? Am I willing to put that hustle in? That is the question you really need to ask yourself right now. Because that's what's gonna get you to where you want to be. I've got a family. I'm 44 years old right now. And I hustle harder than most 20 year olds I know. Okay, I don't want to hear excuses. Because no one cares. No one cares about your excuses. Make it happen for yourself, guys. Please, I'm begging you. I want everyone listening to this to make it happen for them. Whatever that dream, that goal is, I want you to have that success in life. Because even with all the work, and all the hustle all the blood and the sweat and the tears and everything, it's worth it. Because it fills your soul, it fills who you are. And there's nothing more powerful on this planet than someone who loves what they're doing. And they get up in the morning to do it every day. They run to work, they don't dread going to work. That's where I want you all to be. That is what my wish and dream is, for everyone in the tribe. For everyone who gets to listen to this, a want that dream for you. Whatever your dream is, work on it every single day, you've got an hour, give it an hour, you got three or four, then use three or four hours. We'll make it happen for yourself.

Please, I'm begging you. I want you to so so bad. Please make it happen for yourself. But I do promise you one thing. There is someone right behind you doing everything I'm telling you to do. And you're gonna get angry and bitter. When you see other people around you. Hustling harder than you. There's no excuse. Hustle is something that you can do and will out work everybody else around you. Hustle is the great equalizer. Hustle doesn't care how much money you hustle doesn't care where you came from. Also doesn't care who you are. If you work, you'll get there. Be smart, educate yourself, and just put 120% into whatever you're doing. If you're making one phone call to get that internship or that job, make 20 instead of 20, make 40 I want you to succeed. Please don't make any excuses. I want you to make it happen for yourself. Because at the end of the day, you are in control. You have all the power to make your dream come true. Right? I can't tell you is going to happen in one day, or one week or one month or one year or one decade. But you put in the work put in the hustle, you will get farther than you where you are right now. You'll get closer than where you are right now. That I promise. Guys, I hope this episode really lit a fire in your butt at something I've been talking to myself about doing for a few weeks. Now I've been kind of mulling it over and seeing how I was going to present this information to you. And I really do hope that it has lit a fire in your button. And I swear to God, I really, really hope it has. I'm going to put a couple books that I recommend for you guys to listen to and read to get this, this new transformation in your life up and going in the show notes at Indie film hustle.com forward slash BPS 035. Now, I also want to let you guys know that the filmmaker indie film hustle contest where I'm going to give you $30,000 To make a web series contest is still going on. It is going to be going on till February 4. And please, I want more submissions. I want more people to get take care take this opportunity. I mean swear the last year's winner got an HBO deal. This is a serious contest, guys. I want this opportunity for everybody in the tribe. So please submit before February 4. And it's been and you guys have been submitting like crazy. So I can't wait to read all your submissions, and take a look at what you got going on. And I'll keep you guys updated on what's going on. And finally, ifH TV is growing every single day. Thank you so much for all of the tribe members who have signed up for indie film hustle.tv And, and enjoying all the new content that we're putting out weekly. If you have not signed up for indie film, hustle TV, please do so because February 1, which is next week, or this week, I'm not sure I think it's this week, it will go up to 1399 the regular price of 1399 a month. Right now it's at 1099 a month. So if you want to jump in, jump in now, because after that, it will go up and stay up at 1399 and then go back down to 1099. Alright, please check it out. Thank you guys for listening. And I really do hope this has done some good in your life today. As always keep on writing, no matter what. I'll talk to you soon. Thanks for listening To the bulletproof screenplay podcast at bulletproof screenplay calm that's b u ll e t e r o f s CR e n PLA y.com

Please subscribe and leave a rating or review
by going to BPS Podcast
Want to advertise on this show?
Visit Bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/Sponsors