Today’s guest is screenwriter/podcaster Ashley Scott Meyers from Sellingyourscreenplay.com. Ashley is a working screenwriter in Hollywood. He also spends his time running a popular screenwriting blog and podcast. His focus is on helping you sell your screenplay. Here’s a bit of his philosophy in his own words:
If you ask 100 different screenwriters how they broke into the business you’re going to get 100 different answers. There is no “right” way to break in. So my philosophy has always been simple: try as many different angles as possible and figure out what works best for you.
Below are two short lists of things you should be doing to try and sell your screenplays. I’ve listed them in order of what I think is most effective (your results may vary). One thing to keep in mind, this is not an exhaustive list. You should be thinking of other ways you can market your material and doing those things, too. If you would like to share any of your ideas please email me as I’m always curious to hear how other writers are successfully marketing their material.
Also, you may not be able to do everything on these lists, but the more you do the better chances you’ll have. If you’re serious about success, however, you’re going to need to try most of these things, otherwise, you’re not going to be giving your screenplay, or yourself, a real chance to succeed.
Things you can start doing today.
- Make phone calls to agents, managers, and producers pitching your material
- Write query letters for your screenplays and snail mail, email, or fax them to agents, managers, and producers
- Scour sites like Craig’s List and other online resources for people looking for screenplays and send them your query letter
- Enter screenwriting contests
- Try and connect with agents, managers, and producers on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook
Long term items which you should also be doing.
We get into it in this interview so take some notes on this epic conversation. Enjoy!
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Alex Ferrari 0:08
I'd like to welcome the show Ashley Scott Meyers, man, how you doing brother? Thanks for being on the show.
Ashley Scott Meyers 2:10
I'm doing great. Thank you for having me on.
Alex Ferrari 2:12
Yeah, I've been I've been a fan of what you do over at sell your screenplay for a long time. So and we we run in the same circles. So it's it's finally we and we bumped into each other at AFM in the hallway as you do at AFM.
Ashley Scott Meyers 2:26
Exactly, exactly. Yeah. Coincidental meeting. But yeah, that was fantastic.
Alex Ferrari 2:30
So um, so first of all, let's talk about how you got into the business like what was your big break? Do even you know, because you're your writer, so it's tough. So how did you do it?
Ashley Scott Meyers 2:39
Yeah, it's tough. So I mean, I think I'm the typical, typical, typical and a lot of ways I grew up on the East Coast, Annapolis, Maryland to be specific, and I came out here after college, you know, and just moved out here and just started working at a tennis club. I play tennis club started to meet people. There was a guy there that was up at CSUN Cal State Northridge. He was getting a degree in communications with an emphasis, I think, in screenwriting, so I went and basically did the same thing. And one of the things that I got out of CSUN was, as I was walking out one night, there was another guy in my class named Stan Williamson, I think that was his name. And he had just sold a script called just write that actually start. And this was, you know, back in probably the late 90s. Start, Sherilyn, Fenn and Jeremy Priven. And it was actually a very nice little film. And I said, Well, how did you sell it? And his answer was, like, super straightforward. He was responding and back in like, let's say, 1998. It was like backstage, and that was the day gala variety and Hollywood Reporter back in the back of those magazines, they would have classified ads. And there were production companies that would be looking for scripts, and you would see him and I had seen them in submitted to a few, but I'd never heard anything from any of them. So I kind of had just given up. But he said, No, you got to be persistent. And you got to send it's going to be hundreds of letters, you're going to send out a lot, you'll probably never hear from most of them. But every now and then you will. And he said I've over the years, I've optioned a ton of scripts through this, and this one actually got option and then produced. So that was how he did it. And I just started religiously doing that. I just turned it into a routine. And every Thursday, I would go down to the public library, and I could get all of these different magazines. And again, back then it was drama blog and backstage West and there was a whole bunch of these things. Yeah, the Hollywood Reporter. And I would go through them once a week and I would make submissions and and eventually I started to get a little bit of people, you know, calling writing back and and eventually I optioned and sold my first script, a script called dish dogs that did end up getting getting produced and had Shawn Aston and Matthew Willard and Brian Danny, which back in 1998 was a big deal. Yeah, they were they were hot actors. It was like a $2 million film. Obviously, the world of independent film has changed a lot since then. But, but it was a great experience in terms of getting on the board and getting a credit, but it was not a great experience in terms of like creative fulfillment. This is the typical stuff, the script was completely rewritten. And at one point we optioned the script to these guys. And, you know, just just this little an aside. So me and my buddy wrote this script, we go down there, and we meet him at this house. And it's kind of it's off where the big Larry Flynt building. So we're driving by the Larry Flynt building, and you take a right into the neighborhood there. And you know, it's like, yeah, and just like a beat up little house, small little, you know, ranch house, and we go in there, and they're like, Oh, we just did a movie with Stallone. And, you know, they hold up this poster and you're looking and you're like, that's not Sylvester Stallone. And it was Frank Stallone, his brother. So that was the kinds of movies they were making. And that should have been our first clue that things might not be headed in the right direction, but to their word, like there was no there was no funny business with the money. They never tried to cheat us or anything like that. They were good. Cool. Like they were super cool guys to hang out with. But creatively we just didn't see eye to eye and they made a number of changes. And I mean, in my opinion, anyways, the movie is terrible. And, but that was kind of my first foray into it foray into screenwriting, Professional Screenwriting, I would say.
Alex Ferrari 6:04
Very cool. Now you've been doing, you know, you've been doing a lot of work at sell your screenplay and you do consulting and you work with a lot of screenwriters to help them sell their screenplays. What is the biggest mistake you see first time film a first time screenwriters make? Yeah, so
Ashley Scott Meyers 6:19
I would say the this the single biggest mistake and I really try and preach this on my podcast every episode is that a lot of screenwriters, especially newer screenwriters, they tend to write scripts about, you know, some life experience or something that they think is cool, that they think is interesting, but there is no discernible market for that movie. And, you know, it's basically dead on arrival. And even if the script is really, really, really well written, I mean, if it's, if it's great, like, if it's super well written, then you might be able to get some work out of it, you might be able to get an agent out of it, you might be able to it might be able to push your career forward. But in terms of actually selling the script, it's going to be very, very difficult, unless you really understand, like what producers are looking for and what budget range and, you know, just understanding some of the more logistical things of screenwriting. It's not I think people that go into screenwriting, they have this sort of fantasy that and this is not this is a pure fantasy, they think that you know, screenwriting, I'm gonna be able to sit, you know, on a beach in Thailand with my laptop and, you know, create my stories and email them off to the producer. And, you know, it's not like that, at the levels I've worked at and which is not even to say, the studio level, which I'm sure is even a whole nother you know, set of parameters, but it's very much about I mean, Professional Screenwriting is really very much about getting assignments, it's about, you know, getting networking with that producer, and then the producer comes to you with his idea and wants you to write it, he doesn't care about if he's the one paying the bill. He doesn't care about your idea, you know, he just needs someone who understands how to put a screenplay together and, and and and can write it for whatever budget he has. So I say that's the mistake is understanding what you're actually how you're going to actually market the script how you're going to sell and understanding is there really an audience for this too many screamers and I include myself in that, like my the first couple scripts I wrote. I mean, one of them was called Mother literally the first script I ever wrote it was called midlife comedy. And it was about this guy going through a midlife crisis. And here I am, like a 22 year old, you know, guy writing about midlife. I knew nothing about midlife crisis. And there was no there was no market for that script. Even if I did, even if I'd have been, you know, a 40 Something guy writing that there was still no market for a movie like that.
Alex Ferrari 8:32
Gotcha, gotcha. Now, how would you? How would you? How would you tell screenwriters to approach prospective producers about getting their stuff looked at or produced?
Ashley Scott Meyers 8:42
Yeah, so I mean, in this in this day and age, I mean, there's a whole host of ways to network with producers, including my own site selling your screenplay.com I will not show that here. As much obviously, I think my own services are fantastic. And and I have a variety of ways for screenwriters to connect with producers. But there's other services out there. I mean, if you don't have a lot of money, the biggest like thing that I think you can do is get an account with IMDb Pro, you can get it for free for a couple weeks. But even if you can afford the 15 or 16, whatever it is per month. Like I'd say 80% of everybody in the entertainment business is listed there with an email address or phone number. So if you want to connect with people, you know, that's a quick, easy, cheap way to do it. Now, when you start talking about sending cold emails, you know, you're sending an email, you don't know this person, you're going to need a volume and again, and you do it a lot. And you're going to need some volume on that because in most cases, they're not going to respond to you. So you need to be doing it a lot consistently. But that's the quickest, cheapest, easiest way. There's other free services. I mean, I've had screenwriters tell me they've connected on Twitter, you know, following some some agents or managers or producers on Twitter and being a becoming sort of a part of their circle, you know, tweeting at them just getting to know them and not you know, constantly pitching your scripts, that strategy. I think I just mentioned stage 32 Craigslist is a great free place, especially if you're writing short films, there's a ton of producers, directors on Craigslist, looking for especially short films, you know, guys out of film, school, even people in film school, they need short scripts, this is a great way to build your resume. It's a great way, all of these things that I just mentioned, you know, knowing how knowing who you're going to sell your script to, doing some short films is a great way to do that. Write some short scripts, they're easy to write, in this day and age, everyone's telling you to make them shorter. I mean, a five minute short script is perfect. And for something like Craigslist, it's easy to produce, and go on Craigslist, meet some people. And you know, the James Cameron and the Steven Spielberg's of tomorrow, those guys are on Craigslist looking for scripts right now, some of those people, you know, 99.999% of them, they're not going to not going to succeed. But some of those people that are looking for scripts on Craigslist, they will go and have careers. And if you get to meet those people early on, that's a great way to do it. There's a tip there's another service called the blacklist, these are all you know, online services, you can pay in some cases, fees and ink tip and blacklist you pay a fee. And then, you know, you can upload your script or you can respond to leads. And I have similar services to like the blacklist or a tip at selling your screenplay. One thing I always recommend, and again, not to show my own services, but I have something similar, but I highly recommend the Inc tip newsletter they do once a week they publish a newsletter that they send to members. And again, there is a cost to this, I think it's maybe 30 or $40 per quarter or something. But it costs it's it's you get to see what real producers are looking for and how sort of granular that actually is and how specific it is. And you know, you can start to get a feel for what you're writing. Even if you don't have scripts to submit to that newsletter, your scripts don't match what they're looking for, you will start to see patterns, you know, female driven thrillers, you know, you'll see that over and over again scripts for you know, for women, you'll good scripts for women, oh, that's, that's an underserved market, maybe that's something that you can tweak on one of your scripts, or maybe on your next script that you write, you can start to sort of figure out, Hey, these are what the producers are actually looking for. And, and maybe I should write something that people are actually looking for. So I'd say those are sort of the main places I would recommend.
Alex Ferrari 12:12
Now, you spoke a bit about short films, are short films worth it? Or is it should film writers do short films, shouldn't they?
Ashley Scott Meyers 12:19
Yeah, I highly recommend it. I mean, again, you have to you have to like you have to understand the expectations of something like this, the short film that you do most likely is not going to go viral. And it's not going to you know, catapult your your career to the stratosphere. But that's okay. I mean, if all you get out of it is a you know, you meet an actor that you hit it off with, and then you know, that actor or you meet a director that you hit it off with, I mean, these short films, there's virtually no budget, so you're not going to make any money writing short films. I mean, you'll be lucky if they pay you 100 bucks. In most cases, they're not going to pay you anything. But I think that's fine. And especially for people that don't have credits yet. It's a great way to sort of get into the system to get on IMDb start to build a resume. I mean, when you're pitching to a producer, your feature film and they say, Well, what else have you done? Hey, man, look me up on IMDb, and you got six short films listed there, that totally puts you in another conversation as just, you know, the guy that has done it. So I would say understand what is realistic with the short films, but they don't take that much to write? And wouldn't you rather write you know, let's say 10 short films and see one or two of them actually get produced? Then, you know, maybe two feature films and see none of them get produced? You know, I think it's a great way just to cut your teeth and network with people and see, you know, you'll start to understand why did they change certain things in my script, and you'll start to understand probably the practical aspects of production, hey, they change this and why did the actor you know, he didn't say this line of dialogue, right, you'll start to understand, well, this line of dialogue was sort of a tongue twister. And, you know, maybe he couldn't, it didn't feel natural for him to say, and that can enhance your writing. So there's a lot of sort of subtle things that you get out of doing a short film. And and it just, it can't be underestimated. Like, that's how you build a career. I mean, everybody wants to, you know, get discovered by the producer and win that Academy Award. And that occasionally happens. So people think that that's like, the way it happens, because it happens, you know, once you know in a blue moon, but if you really looked at the people that have won Academy Awards for screenwriters, I'd be willing to bet 99% of them, you know, they started off very modestly and work their way up and eventually got to that point, and everything starts, you know, it's like the longest journey starts with the first step. And I think short films are great, great first step
Alex Ferrari 14:42
there are you know, there are no prodigies in our business that are there. I mean, there are no people that just show up and like I can just write the Oscar winning script or the Oscar winning movie. It's yeah, doesn't exist as it's kind of a myth.
Ashley Scott Meyers 14:54
I think I think like Diablo Cody, who did Juno, you know, I think she's kind of the goal. Standard for that is that there's this sort of mythology behind her that she was plucked out of obscurity. And she did win that Academy Award. And but again, even if you drill into that story her specific years though she's a wreck. Yeah, correct. And she was, she was working as a professional writer for a newspaper. So I mean, that's another great background, like you're gonna if you want to be a screenwriter, see if you can get a job as a journalist, because that's a great background, learning how to communicate with words and and you know, how to, you know, mess with people's emotions and get people to have an emotional reaction to your writing. All that is great background, and you're laying the groundwork, potentially for screenwriting.
Alex Ferrari 15:38
Now, what are the some of the key elements of a good script?
Ashley Scott Meyers 15:42
You know, I would say I'm big on structure. And I think a lot of screenwriters, I think a lot of people like there's, there's sort of two types of people and you'll one of the people are more are probably better with structure and one type of people are better with character, I would say most people who go into screenwriting, like maybe 70%, or 80%, it seems to me, they're more interested in character than structure. And I think if that's who you are, or in my case, as I said, I feel like I'm pretty good with structure. You know, you need to lean the other direction and kind of be good with the other thing that maybe you're not as natural with. And so I would say that's number one, if I was going to give a tip is, is trying to understand where you fall in the equation, are there a lot of scenes where they're great characters, but it doesn't really move the story forward? You know, maybe you need to step take a step back and be better with structure. Or the the other thing is, does this script feel sort of robotic, it's structured well, but the characters don't feel real. Maybe I need to spend a little more time with with the structure. But I would say the biggest thing I do say, Well, what's a good script? The biggest thing is, you know, evoking genuine emotion. And that's ultimately why movies I mean, the best movies, they evoke genuine emotion in the viewer. I mean, you have a visceral reaction to it. It's an emotional reaction to it. And the screenwriter needs to start that process with the screenplay. I mean, when you read a good screenplay, you know, Shawshank Redemption is a good example. Reading the screenplay. It's, it's an emotional experience, just as watching the movie. I mean, you really feel for this guy, it's he's really able just through the words on the page, you can really feel some emotion, he's able to draw that out of you. And that's the thing like, if you do nothing else, forget about structure, forget about character, if you can evoke genuine emotion and people through your writing, I think you're in pretty good shape. And, you know, you can probably learn a lot of the other stuff. But if you don't know how to get get emotion out of people, you don't know what connects with people, it becomes very difficult to to be a successful writer.
Alex Ferrari 17:44
Now, what are some of the cliches or tropes that you constantly are seeing in screenplays that you just wish that were just gone?
Ashley Scott Meyers 17:51
Yeah, that's a good question. You know, one of the big ones, and it's talked about often is this idea of the opening where it's, you know, you see some really dramatic scene, and then it cuts to, you know, two weeks ago or six months ago, that sort of an I don't even know what that's called, there's probably a name for it. You know, there's certain things like that, that you just you, when you read a lot of scripts, like when you're the lone screenwriter writing your script, you don't realize that every screenwriter in the world is is, you know, doing that same same thing? I would say also originality, I mean, obviously, originality counts for a lot. I remember in the 90s, after Pulp Fiction hit the hit the scene, you know, there was just, there was so many of these sort of, you know, rip offs, fiction and knock offs. And, you know, some of them were better than others, like,
Alex Ferrari 18:40
something like eight nights, eight days in a valley or something like that. Yeah,
Ashley Scott Meyers 18:44
yeah. Three, three days. Surely, they're thrown. Yeah. And I mean, even a movie like go, you know, yeah, it was a big studio movie. It's like, it's basically just kind of Pulp Fiction with a bunch of young you know, urbanites what,
Alex Ferrari 18:57
what to do and what to do endeavor when you're dead. Something like that was another one of those guys.
Ashley Scott Meyers 19:03
And if you I mean, that's just the movies they got produced. So think of how many of those reps were floating around there. So I would say really be original. Don't try and just knock off you know, something or write like something else. Be original have your own voice.
Alex Ferrari 19:18
Now, um, screenwriting contest, what are your what's your opinion on them? And do you think they mean anything? Do they work? Do they help?
Ashley Scott Meyers 19:24
Yeah. So So and I, you know, I kind of feel like I go against the grain with a lot of what the sort of the common wisdom here with a lot of screenwriting consciousness here, here's my opinion, I've and I've had a lot of these people that run screenwriting contests, I've had them on my podcast, so you can go back and you can listen to some of these episodes for yourself. What I have found with the screenwriting contest is the people who run the contest, they genuinely understand that the best thing they can do to promote their screenwriting contest is have a bunch of really successful winners. So when you win their contest, and then you go on To sell that studio script, that's a big feather in their cap, and that's going to help them build their own business. So there is a sort of symbiotic relationship between the screenwriting contest and the screenwriters that entered it. And most of the people that have come on now most all the screenwriting contests, the people that I've talked to, they understand that and so when someone wins a screenwriting contest, they're going to do what they can to help those people move along in their career. Obviously, the bigger contests the Nichols, I think is probably sort of the top of the Keisha I'm tracking board has done a fantastic job really promoting their winners, and they're really well connected. You Austin? Yeah. So there's some, there's sort of some of these marquee contests that are definitely, if you can win them, you know, they they're, they have some real value in place even placing, even placing, correct, correct, but even the smaller contest, I think, you know, again, they can they can have some value if you just manage your expectations and realize that, you know, it's not even the nickels, like, even if you go and look at the nickels, which is, I think, without any but I don't think anybody would argue that. That's the top screenwriting contest so so even with the nickels, it's the top screaming unconscious, you can go and get a list of their winners and start to go on IMDb and see what their winners even winning the nickels. It doesn't guarantee you a screenwriting career, most of the people that have won the nickels or place nickels never went on to do much of anything. So you have to understand that contests are not the be all end all. And it's unlikely sometimes that happens. But most of the time, it's just exactly what I was saying with the short films, it's just going to be another piece of the equation that kind of helps you again, it gives you a little something when you're talking to a producer, Hey, I just got a semi final placing in this, you know, Joe Blow screenwriting contest, and maybe it doesn't count for a lot, but it counts for a little. And you never know how that's going to actually help you down the road. Obviously, don't submit to screenwriting contests, if you can't afford it. I mean, this is not you shouldn't be using your rent money to submit to more screenwriting contests. But if you can afford if you can afford to do it, I recommend trying it. You know, and I have a list on selling your screenplay of sorts, I think it's nine or 10 contests that are all reputable. And it's the ones we mentioned and a bunch of others that I think are reputable and worth entering. So that's kind of where I would send people if you want to know specifically about that. But you just never know the other sort of the bigger question of this. And again, it goes back to what I was saying about short films is I really feel like one big hurdle and and and I'd be curious to get your thoughts on this. Because because I think you're in a similar situation. I mean, we're both from the East Coast, we moved out here kind of to make our dreams come true. One of the big things that I faced was growing up in Annapolis, Maryland, there were no artists, I mean, the only artists that I knew was my guitar teacher who was you know, scratching out a living, teaching, you know, high school kids how to play classical guitar. So that's my that was my experience as an art. So I didn't know writers certainly didn't know filmmakers. But there really were no artist. So there's just sort of this, this, it feels unattainable. It feels like sort of a pie in the sky like it could never actually happen. It just doesn't feel real. And so you know, entering a screenwriting contest, even the lowliest screenwriting contest in the world, or doing that short film and seeing it produced and, and maybe that short film gets into a film festival, I think it just, it gives you confidence, and it gives you it makes you feel like like, these are things that you can do today, and actually have some tangible results. If you're just hurling scripts at Universal Studios and the big producers and the big stuff, you know, you're quite likely to go, you know, 2345 10 years or longer without having any tangible results of them. Just saying no, thanks. No, thanks. No, thanks. So I think getting on the board and having some even minor success as early as early in your career as possible. It just makes you feel like it's real. And I think in hindsight, I was very, very lucky. I had been here about three years when me and my writing partner option that first script dish dogs, but and they gave us 500 bucks for a six month option. And we were just tickled to death man. And we were just over the moon. But all of a sudden, I started to feel like maybe I got a shot at this, maybe I can actually do this. Maybe I'm not this isn't just a pie in the sky. So again, with the contest with the short films, understand what the expectations are, understand that, no, they're not going to, they're not going to turn your life around. They're not going to change your life. But they might give you a little bit of confidence just internally to you, they might be competence to you, it might be something that you can show your mother, you know, I just won this contest, and she might be a little less skeptical of you throwing and driving out to Los Angeles. You know, there's just there's these little subtle things that I think are important and so many people give up. And I'm sure you've had this experience too. I mean, when I got to LA I went down to senex casting I started doing extra work and you know, I met a bunch of people and you know, two years later, half those people were gone three years later, you know Got 25 years, 10 years, almost all of them are gone. And I wasn't smarter and more talented than these people. I was just more persistent. I just kept banging against the door. But But I think having that success with DISH talks again, in hindsight, I was very, very lucky
for a variety of reasons. So I think that's where screenwriting contests, even the lowest screenwriting contests, and same thing with the lowest short film, that's where I think they can really be worthwhile. No, and
Alex Ferrari 25:26
I would agree with you coming from Miami. I mean, I was surrounded by artists, but not filmmakers. It was hard to find filmmakers. So for me when I was growing up, you know, watching like movie magic on television on a Saturday night watching the behind the scenes of Terminator two, you know, it's like, Oh, my God, I can see something. And then later in life, you know, my connection to Hollywood, as weird as it might be as watching entourage, like it was a window into that world, whether it's extremely crazy as it was, it was still that window, and it was a connection there. So a lot of times you do feel like you're on an island, and it's someplace that you think is completely unobtainable. That's why it took me so long to finally move out to LA took me a long, long time. And I've been out here for a decade now and doesn't even I can't even remember a time when I wasn't in LA, honestly. But one of my best friends. That was one of the two three guys I knew in LA when I came out here said, The only regret you will have to moving to LA is you didn't do it sooner. And he was absolutely right. From the moment he met me. He's like, why don't you come out to LA? When you come out to LA? You got to be out here. And there is something about being here. You know, a lot of people's like, do I need to be in LA to make it? No, you don't. But it helps in a lot of ways, in my opinion, because you can walk into any Starbucks in LA, and how many laptops will have final draft open? Yeah, they're everywhere. You're surrounded by this entire its entire industry and everybody everybody walking the street is in the business in one way, shape, or form. So that's, that's infectious. Do you agree?
Ashley Scott Meyers 26:57
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, just our own, you know, coincidental meeting at AFM. I mean, we both live in LA, we were it was easy for us to get in our car and drive to AFM. We didn't have to get in a plane and go to a hotel and this, like, I would have never done it, you know, I would have just tried to do it online. So there's all these little subtle things and being in LA as another prime example, you get the question just when people ask it, you know, in some ways my heart sinks, because when someone asked the question, you know, what they want to hear? They want to hear that you don't have to move to LA because they're struggling with that. And but the bottom line is, is is this going to help? You know, you can you can make it, it's it's not impossible, but you're making something that's already very, very, very, very, very, very difficult. You're making it even more difficult by not moving to LA.
Alex Ferrari 27:41
And a lot of people move to LA make those connections, make a name for themselves, and then move away. And that's completely fine. And then they can just come back and forth for business. But what I think everyone does their time here, you know, what are New York, you know, in New York, the other big place, but generally speaking, if you're going to make it in the movies, in the flicks and the pictures, you know, being out here, it helps so, so, so much, and we're both prime examples. Yeah, yeah. So no, I agree. Now, one thing I've always wanted to talk to somebody like you about is the, how the screenplays presented and all the kind of codes that I've heard that you that, you know, producers or production companies like well, if has three, one of those things called the whole description for as the birth of brass braids. Yeah. So there's three of them. They're obviously amateur, and I don't want to deal with it. So it has to have to, and then they open up the first page, how some of the formatting has to be and all that stuff. How much of that is real? And how much of is is BS?
Ashley Scott Meyers 28:41
Yeah, so that's a good question. And, you know, it's, it's, it's subtlety much like the the question about moving to LA, it's hard to quantify, and it's gonna be different. There's no, like, there's no set rules or this and that, but, you know, think about from the perspective of the person who's going to be reading this script, you know, they're probably someone who's overworked and underpaid, they're sitting at a desk, reading through dozens, if not hundreds of scripts, trying to find that diamond in the rough that they can bring to their boss. And so, you know, these little clues, like what you're talking about now that No, I don't think anybody really submitting scripts with the brass braids anymore. Now everything is electronic. So you're on so yeah, so you're on so you're submitting PDFs. But you know, I mean, there are things that you know, I nothing is it's there's no like, hard and fast rules with screenwriting. But I would say you're getting a program like final draft or a you know, some legitimate screenwriting program that will get you like, 90% of the way there because it'll take care of like the formatting and you know, the proper use, and so you're 90% there, and then all you really need to do is go and you can go to selling your screenplay.com/library We got you know, hundreds, if not 1000s of script produced scripts listed there. So you can go and look and I would say look at some of the more modern ones. And, you know, look at how the title page is laid out. Lay out your title page like, you know, a produce script. So just don't do anything, you know, crazy look at some produced scripts and try model years after it, you know, but there are certain things that I think again, if you are the just put yourself in the mind of that overworked, underpaid reader, if a script comes in and the formattings off, what are you going to think you're going to think this guy has not taken the time to learn the basics. And just kind of what you said, I don't know that there's a good example of like a screenwriting prodigy I mean, screenwriting is one of those things, that just takes a lot of skill, it takes a lot of patience and time and like doing it, you just have to put in the hours to get good at this. And there's no, I don't know that there's really any escaping it. I mean, different people have different talent levels. And, and people are able to, you know, maybe achieve success with different amounts of effort. But I read Oliver Stone, like platoon was the script that kind of got him going. And I think that was like his 11th script.
Alex Ferrari 30:59
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Ashley Scott Meyers 31:09
You know, so even a guy like that, who is, you know, immensely talented, you know, super smart. Even a guy like that had to write 10 scripts before he kind of mastered the craft, and had one that people really respected and like, so, you know, it's just part of the process. And if you write 10 scripts, and you're still getting some of these sort of formatting issues wrong, then you know, yeah, that's probably another issue. I would say, you know, the length of script, this is a common thing I see through the script analysis. And, like, again, it's a very, very easy thing to look at, like when you open up a PDF, it tells you, you're looking at page one of you know, 120 pages. So right on page one, that reader can look at what the page number is, and again, put yourself in the head of a overworked reader. If you see that the script is 160 pages. You just got to think, does this guy really maybe this guy's written the next Shawshank Redemption, and there's always that thought, but then the next godfather? I think the script for The Godfather is 160 pages. So they're not father. Yeah, exactly. Are you? Are you really?
Alex Ferrari 32:15
Are you Francis Coppola? 1970s. Yeah,
Ashley Scott Meyers 32:17
exactly. So. So you know, I would just really urge people to take that stuff as seriously as possible and try and do you know, some due diligence, look at produced scripts, and try and present yours in the best possible light. Because I do think it counts. But I think again, it's a subtlety. And I think the act of going through and learning these rules, and looking at those produced scripts, just doing that work will make you a better screenwriter. And that's the whole point is when someone sees 160 page script, the first thing they're wondering is okay, is this is this the next Francis Ford Coppola? or is this some idiot who doesn't know what he's doing? You know, and, and, and, by the way, I just read 100 Other pitch scripts that were 160 pages, and every of every one of them was a stinker. So you know, they're gonna, they're gonna be like, Yeah, I doubt this is the next Francis Ford Coppola with good reason. Because they've never read the next Francis Ford Coppola. They've read 1000 scripts this year, and not one of them has been good as the godfather. So yeah, if you're writing The Godfather, knock yourself out. But But I would say be careful. Be very careful that
Alex Ferrari 33:22
now, can you for once and for all tell screenwriters how to copy write their script?
Ashley Scott Meyers 33:29
Yeah, it's it's as simple. So it's, there's, there's a lot of information. Yeah. Okay. So there's two pieces to that. Number one, the WT GA registration is a good, quick, cheap, easy thing to do. And you'll get a W J number. And that's just a function of going to the W ga.org. website. And there's a link that says register script, I think it's 20 bucks, and it lasts for five years, and a lot of producers will have what you have you fill out a release form, and then on that release form, and might even say what's the WJ number. So that's a good first easy step, it'll take you five minutes and cost you $20. So I highly would recommend that then the other piece of that is going to the Library of Congress and off the top of my head, it's going to be more than I could, you know, explain but I do have a post if you go to selling your screenplay.com that's specifically labeled, you know how to copyright your or copyright your your your script and go do that. I'm not a lawyer. So I don't want to get into like all the legal stuff. But I have had lawyers tell me that there are certain protections and stuff that the Library of Congress copyright will give you that the WTA registration will not so he recommended this was my lawyer was recommending that I do register everything with both the WGI and the libre office. In fact, I don't even know that he cared about the WTA. That's my invitation. But he did. He was a lawyer and he did recommend that I recommend it that he that I registered with the WTO but it's just a matter of going through the process. It's all online in this day and age. So it's not that complicated. And I can't remember, I just can't remember off the top of my head what it is, but I have a post where I go through it in great detail and explain how to do it.
Alex Ferrari 35:00
My understanding the WPA is basically a token and has no legal protection whatsoever. While the only one that really matters is the Library of Congress, the WJ is nice. But it really is kind of like a token. It's nice. But if you only do the WPA, I, you're in trouble. So you definitely have to have at least the Library of Congress, as well, because that's the one that really counts. But you're right. They do. Are there are predictions as to why and there's a sense of credibility, I guess.
Ashley Scott Meyers 35:26
Yeah. I mean, the thing of my experience with the Library of Congress is that it's always taken a long time. And I haven't done it in a while. So my memory is a little, little hazy. But when you register a script with them, they don't give you like, it's not instant registration, just and so it's like six months, yes, six months or nine months later, you'll get a letter with your actual, you know, Library of Congress registration number. And so often, what I find is I get done with my script, and I want to start sending it out. So the WTA will give you a registration number right then and there. So at least your, your, whatever their protection is, and again, you may be right, that it doesn't offer much of any protection, but it is some protection. And so I always just do the WJ. And then I don't I don't feel bad about sending it out before that the Library of Congress letter actually comes back to me. So I can start sending it out. At least I feel comfortable with that, again, do your own due diligence, but that's what I do.
Alex Ferrari 36:21
Yeah. And from what I understand is, once you register at the Library of Congress, it starts at that moment you register. So if anything comes along, and someone tries to take your stuff you use or tries to copyright it after you. Yeah, you're first in line got that date? Yeah, exactly. So it starts from that date, even though you don't get the registration for a year. Now, can you? Um, can you tell me a little bit about selling your screenplay? And yeah, you do. They're
Ashley Scott Meyers 36:45
so sure. So this started, I started, I think, in 2009, as just a blog. And I basically at that point, I had written a book, called of all things selling your screenplay. And I basically just went and detailed my experience selling whatever scripts I had sold up to the year, what say 2007, or eight when I actually wrote the book, and I did a self publishing with the book. And one of the big things that they were recommending, at the self publish the company that and I say self publishing, I was working, this is sort of before Amazon publishing. So I actually worked with a company called Book locker, that sort of, it's kind of like a distributor. I mean, they were the ones who actually pushed it into all these services. And they would send out newsletters, how to mark your ebook. So that's where it sort of started, they said, you know, what, start a blog. And, and so that's what I did. 2009 I started this blog, selling your screenplay, I started to listen to a number of podcasts over the years, including Pat Flynn, who I guess we both have some experience listening to. And so in fact, Pat Flynn was really the first podcast I ever listened to, because he had listened at night on the website. And, and I really liked the format. And it's exactly what you were talking about, you know, people get to really feel like they know the person, because you hear them talking and sharing stories about themselves and their family and stuff. So I thought it would be a great way to, you know, disseminate this information that that I had, so about 2000, I guess it was four years ago, let's say 13, I started the podcast, and now it's a weekly podcast, and I'm a little over 200 episodes into it, and I interview, you know, it's a screenwriting emphasis, obviously, but it's a lot of independent filmmakers, you know, guys that are making the low budget genre films. And you know, they come on, and they'll talk about how they wrote it, how they got produced. And then there's also si a select. And that is basically, you get access to a number of things, including some educational materials, a forum of the paid members, and then you also get leads that come out, you know, twice, three times, four times a week, we actually are networking with producers. And so we're then sending those leads to, to to screenwriters, and they're very specific stuff. As I sort of mentioned earlier, it's a great way to actually see what actual producers are looking for. So that's, I'd say, selling your screenplay.
Alex Ferrari 38:55
You have a new film, I see the poster behind you called the pin the pins. Yeah. How do you pitch the pitch? So whatever you directed it, you wrote it, you produced it, tell me how that whole thing came about.
Ashley Scott Meyers 39:07
Okay. So I think, you know, in a lot of ways, I think my some of my motivation was similar to what you have talked about with with your film is that I kind of felt like, it could be a good case study, I could talk about it on the podcast, and I can kind of show people as I went through this process, how you can go about writing and then directing and producing, you know, a low budget film. Now the real impetus to it was and you can go back and listen to my podcast, cuz I, I usually take a few minutes on every podcast and kind of talk about what I'm doing as a screenwriter. And I'm trying to think it must have been maybe 2014. In the fall, I got two back to back writing assignments. And yeah, nice. So I got these two writing assignments, and you have to work so hard to get those writing like just to get these jobs. Yeah, it is. It's a huge amount of effort. And I mean, one of the writing assignments. I have had one of them actually came through a guy I had interviewed on the podcast. That's actually how I met him. But the other one was the distributors of one of my past films. They are on a list that have just a cold email list that I send out query letters to, and they actually recognize my name responded and said, Oh, yeah, we'd like to potentially hire you to do a project, we're starting to produce our own stuff. And but this process went on for I think it went on for like a year and a half, where I would meet with them and just things never quite worked out. So finally, they said, Okay, we're ready to go after a year and a half of kind of waiting for this. And so I do these two, back to back writing assignments. And, and again, I have nothing but good things to say about the people that I was working with individually. But you know, just creatively, it was not fulfilling, I was writing their ideas, it was brutal work, one of the scripts the guy needed in literally a week. So I wrote the entire feature film script in six days, it was a very rough six days, needless to say. And then, and that one actually ended up never getting produced. The other script I wrote, and, you know, there was a lot of rewriting back and forth. You know, a lot of what I thought was my best the best scenes in there, they were taking them out. And some of it was just budgetary. They didn't think for the budget they had, they could do it. So some of it, I kind of understood, but a lot of it, I didn't necessarily finally they brought on a director, and then the director just literally completely rewrote the whole project did a page one rewrite didn't like anything I did. And again, that's part of the process. But I just got to the point where, you know, at this stage in my life, like, I just don't need it. Like, it's, it's the money that they paid me, it's like, the money that they paid me was not worth the, you know, the juice, the juice that I got out of it. Sure. And so I said, you know, what, I got to just go and try something on my own. And, and that's what I did, I'd written the punch. So that's when I started writing the punch. And I knew this was something I was going to potentially do myself. So I kept it, I made sure that it was a low budget, it was very contained small cast limited locations. And, and and I tried to use follow some of my own advice was it's kind of a crime action thriller. It's a genre film, you know, low budget genre film, it's not like sort of an arthouse film. So I felt like, you know, there might be an audience, you know, through self distribution, you know, you put the poster up, and I got a bunch of guys, you can see on the poster, you know, everybody's holding a gun or a knife. So it is it is what it is, you know, it's a low budget genre film. But this is what I feel like I can actually sell and potentially, you know, make more of these, if I can turn this into a business model.
Alex Ferrari 42:35
That's awesome, man. That's awesome. Yeah. So I'm gonna ask you some rapid fire questions. Ask all my all my guests. What would what advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?
Ashley Scott Meyers 42:47
Yeah, I mean, I think a lot of what we've kind of discussed, I mean, get out there, write short films, just, you know, submit to some of these people on Craigslist looking for short films, get your career going network, I think, I think especially and I understand this, because this is the way I am to, I am sort of an introvert. You know, I prefer to just write scripts, I don't want to go out and meet people, I mean, going to AFM is just, it's a brutal thing. Because it just constantly meeting people and, and having to make small talk with people you don't know, it's very difficult. So I understand that most people that go into writing, they're probably like that, but you've got to get out of your shell, and you've got a network and you've got to meet people, and you've got to understand what these producers are looking for. And kind of get over yourself get over your, your this idea that you're just going to keep writing in your room just writing, writing, writing, cuz at some point, that's not gonna, that's not gonna cut it.
Alex Ferrari 43:39
Now, um, can you tell me what book has the biggest impact on your life or career?
Ashley Scott Meyers 43:44
Um, yeah, I'd have to say, and this might be different than what I would recommend. But when I was early on, and I'm giving all these long winded explanations, I know this is rapid fire. So my first foray into screenwriting was I got a copy of the Writers Market. And in there, there was a bunch of pages of production companies that supposedly would read query letters from new people. So I wrote up a query letter or what I thought was a good query letter and sent it off to I think two people I just picked two that seemed especially open and one of them and back then it was like you would put a self addressed stamp postcard in there so that they could easily reply to you. So one of them I get the postcard back. And it says, Thank you for that undated on, you know, titled manuscript submission. No thanks. And, and so I realized then that I was doing something wrong. The other guy just took pity on me. And he actually called me and he recommended Syd field screenplay. And I went out and I got that book. And and I would say that had the biggest sort of profound impact because all of a sudden, you know, someone at this point I was in college in North Carolina again, knowing no filmmakers, this was pre really the internet. So I suppose maybe the internet existed, but it wasn't you couldn't just get a bunch of scripts. So it was very difficult to get this sort of information. So once he told me that Syd field screenplay had a ton of practical use for information, it's real big on structure. But just some of the stuff like the braids, I had never seen a script, I didn't even know what these brass braids even worth. Right. And, and Sid fields talks he talked about that a little bit, you know, to brass braids and and you know, on your script and stuff. So that was just a big turning point where all of a sudden, I started to, you know, I was going this direction, and then all of a sudden, that book sort of, you know, got me back going the other direction, which I think was sort of the right direction.
Alex Ferrari 45:32
Yeah, that that I remember reading that book in college, too. And it blew my mind. And like, what every movie is the same? Yeah, it just blew my mind. Now, what lesson took you the longest to learn whether in life or in the business?
Ashley Scott Meyers 45:46
I think a lot of what we've been talking about is just how important understanding, you know who you're going to sell your script to? And this is, you know, I've been asked similar questions like, if you had to do it all over again, how would you do it differently? What I would do if I was just moving to Hollywood, now, I would make a real concerted effort to find a PA job at a distribution company, a company that was distributing films and learn that side of the business understand why, why they're taking this film, and they're not taking that film. And that would just be really, really valuable for any screenwriter. And it took me a long time to learn it. I didn't do that. And, you know, just through trial and error, and this this movie dish dogs, it really was a low budget, indie or a low budget genre film. It was a comedy, but there was like these young guys, they went to a strip club. So we had kind of me and my buddy just stumbled onto it. And so it took a while to for me to really understand, well, why did they buy that script? And it was a lot of these things I'm talking about was because they could promote the nudity, they could promote a bunch of sexy strippers share. That was kind of a cool story. I mean, these guys were doing, you know, movies with Frank Stallone. So that just sums up what they what they were doing. But But there's something to that. And understanding that lesson is so important.
Alex Ferrari 47:02
Now, I normally ask what your three favorite movies of all time are. But what are your three favorite scripts of all time?
Ashley Scott Meyers 47:09
You know, it's a good question. I mentioned Shawshank Redemption. I really, it's it's a great movie, but the script is equally as good. I read the script for source code. I've recommended that to other people, I think the script is a lot better than the finished film. So if you've seen the film, and we're sort of ho hum on the film, I would highly recommend you go back and find that script. I think and I don't know that I've actually ever read the script for the Wizard of Oz, I have two small children. And we went through this wizard of oz phase where they're watching it over and over again. And you look at some of those old classic movies. And Mike you talk about Sid fields and his sort of structural paradigm and how easily that and organically that fits on a film like the Wizard of Oz, I'm always blown away Wizard of Oz is so well structured. And it's just it's a perfect movie like for so many reasons. And you know, that's it's worth looking at at all these movies I mentioned Shawshank Redemption and source code, but Wizard of Oz is kind of a perfectly built movie. You know, from the character arc to the structure of it to the midpoint to the antagonist. It's It's It's I there's nothing, there's very few movies, I see that I say, I as a screenwriter think I could have done that just I would have tweaked that or would have changed that. And Wizard of Oz is one of the movies I there's not anything I can really point to I say they could have done this better. Or they could have done that better. You know, Megamind is another movie that I watch. My kids have watched it over and over and I'll be sitting there watching it. And I don't know that I've ever actually read the script. But the script is so smart. And it's so perfect. There's very little again with a movie like Megamind that I would change. I can't think of anything, you know that I would change
Alex Ferrari 48:51
about that script. And I know Robert McKee is a big fan of Casa Blanca. Yes. Casa Blanca. Yeah, yeah, for sure. It's amazing. Now, where can people find you? Yeah, so
Ashley Scott Meyers 49:00
I'm selling your screenplay.com Obviously, I'm over there. Podcasting weekly, I am on Twitter, I would highly recommend selling your screenplay.com all my Twitter and you know, Instagram. And so it's listed in the upper right hand corner, but I am on Twitter and Facebook. I think it's facebook.com/selling your screenplay. Don't quote me on that. I'm on YouTube. I do release my podcast on YouTube. So if you prefer to get the video and the audio, you can check that all out. And again, I think it's youtube.com/selling your screenplay. But if you just go to selling your screenplay.com all those links are in the upper right hand corner of the homepage.
Alex Ferrari 49:32
Actually man has been an absolute pleasure talking to you man and talking shop with these attention being on the show, man.
Ashley Scott Meyers 49:37
Thank you. I really appreciate it. And it's a long time coming. I'm so glad we were able to finally connect.
Alex Ferrari 49:41
Cool, man. Thanks. I want to thank Ashley for being on the show and dropping some major knowledge bombs on us. So thank you very much Ashley. If you want the show notes for this episode, just head over to indie film hustle.com forward slash b p s 004. And don't forget to head over to screenwriting podcast.com. And leave us a good review. If you find value in these episodes really helps us out a lot with the rankings in iTunes. And if you haven't already, please subscribe. It really, really does make a difference. I really hope you're enjoying this first batch of episodes of the bulletproof screenplay podcast. There are many more to come, you've got another couple of fresh ones, as well. So just keep on listening, and I truly hope they are valued to you and your screenwriting journey. And as always, keep on writing no matter what.
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