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BPS 056: From Synopsis to Subplots – The Secrets of Screenwriting Revealed with Geoffrey Calhoun

Today’s guest is screenwriter Geoffrey D. Calhoun. Geoffery is the author of the #1 best-selling screenwriting book The Guide For Every Screenwriter: From Synopsis to Subplots: The Secrets of Screenwriting Revealed.

Screenwriting made simple. The Guide for Every Screenwriter is one of the most efficient instruction manuals on the craft. This book cuts past the verbose film school expository, and gets straight to work, delivering sample-driven outlines and templates that anyone can follow. It is quick to apply to your work and serves as a side-by-side checklist for the writing process. This is the book for anyone looking to write a screenplay and for any professional needing a refresher. Whether you are learning how to write a screenplay or are a veteran screenwriter, this is the perfect tool for you. This book reveals the mysteries of screenwriting from concept development, subplots, to format and beyond by using easy to follow templates and examples.

Geoffrey D. Calhoun (Heroes from Heaven – S.O.S. – Lily) is the founder of WeFixYourScript.com where he and his team mentor indie filmmakers and support them with all aspects of screenwriting from concept to development, polishing a script, one on one consultation, and even write for hire. Geoffrey is a multi-award-winning screenwriter and is sought out as a script consultant and a re-writer for various stages of development and production. He is the director of the Script Summit Screenplay Contest which is listed as one of the biggest Screenplay Competitions by The Script Lab.

He is known for his fast-paced thrillers but has also won awards for comedies and dramas. He has received honors in several film festivals and contests including the Louis Mitchell Award for Excellence in Writing. In 2017 Geoffrey was listed as a Top 100 Indie Writer in the World. He believes everyone is a writer at heart and has dedicated himself to help others learn the craft. His seminars are designed to break down the mysteries of screenwriting by using easy to follow templates, outlines, and modern popular films as examples.

Enjoy my inspirational conversation with Geoffrey D. Calhoun.

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Alex Ferrari 0:28
I like to welcome the show Jeffrey Calhoun brother, how you doing, man?

Geoffrey Calhoun 3:21
Good, man. Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.

Alex Ferrari 3:24
Oh, man, thanks for thanks for being on. We're gonna hopefully drop some knowledge bombs on the screenwriting tribe today. But before we get going, Man, what, how did you get into the business man

Geoffrey Calhoun 3:35
actually started on a bet about 15 years ago,

Alex Ferrari 3:40
the best step best beginning to any story about the film.

Geoffrey Calhoun 3:46
I had aspirations to be a writer at all. Alright, so

Alex Ferrari 3:50
how did you do it?

Geoffrey Calhoun 3:51
I had a friend I was working with and he was an editor on a on a local TV shows like a morning show. And he wanted to get into screenwriting. So he wanted to motivate himself to write it. So he bet me out of the blue to write a screenplay. It was more like a script. And we had like a month to do it. So you know, I got like, you know, a bunch of books, screenplay and stuff like that. And I wrote it. And then we compare it and I ended up winning. But you know, I was really into it. Because I'm, I'm a little competitive. And I don't know, people don't realize that. So then I set it down in the kitchen table and my wife read it. She's like, Hey, you know, this is pretty good. And I said, I actually confessed to her like I really got a kick out of it. I really liked this thing. And it was just funny because I'm dyslexic and writing for me it was very difficult. So I ended up trying it again and I just fell in love with it and haven't stopped since.

Alex Ferrari 4:49
That's amazing. Now, you know, we were talking a little bit about this ON OFF AIR, but there's so many different people. If there's a there's a few screenwriting books out there. There's a couple There's a counterpoint there's at least there Syd field and like save the cat. And I think there's a couple maybe one or two other screenwriting books out there. What makes your book which is called a guide for every screenwriter, which is, which is a bold or a bold title in the screenwriting space, I have to say one of the reasons I caught my eye I'm like, well, who is this guy? Um, what makes your perspective on screenwriting different than then the plethora of other options out there?

Geoffrey Calhoun 5:28
No, that's a great question. I mean, the the title is supposed to wave a flag, of course, but I wanted this to be the biggest little book in screenwriting, I wanted this to be a one stop shop in screenwriting, because something I found with the industry of screenwriting books is that they all kind of specialize in one particular field. And so you end up having a library of like 20 bucks, and I wanted to take all of that condense it into one book, while still really honoring these great screenwriting masters, because I don't believe in reinventing the wheel, you know, and, and then write this in a way that is so efficient and fun to read that you can be you know, going back to it regularly, it could be your desktop book, it could be your back pocket book, and, and really get a lot out of this thing.

Alex Ferrari 6:15
That's awesome. And yeah, I guess it's it, you're right, there's a, there's a there's a 1000s of books, and they all are like, because screenwriting is such a vast, deep, dark hole that you could fall into. You could literally just talk about character arcs for 200 pages, you know, it's it's, and there's actually a book called character arcs, which is, it's water based. So there's multiple ways to do it. So to kind of put together a guide that kind of, at least hits everything you need. And you could always go deeper into any specific field and any specific thing, but just something like that reference guide. Yeah, it's a great idea. Now, what advice would you give for filmmakers? You know, because I think genre is a big issue. People people get pigeonholed in. Oh, I'm only the comedy writer. I'm only the act. Yeah, I'm only the romance and romantic comedy guy, or girl? What advice would you give to write in any genre cuz I know a lot of screenwriters out there would love to just jump, like the Coen brothers to like jump from wherever they want to go and just do it. Any tips? Yeah, man, I

Geoffrey Calhoun 7:19
don't limit yourself to genre. I have this section of the book called The Myth of writing, which you know, where people think that they should only just stay in a little circle. And that really pigeonholes you as a writer and limits your your overall vision. And I tell in the book, you know, if you're a horror writer, right around calm and just see the difference, do your research on a rom com and see the tone, hit the beats, and I even give like, methods of how to do that type of research in the book. But really doing that will give you a larger overall breath of writing and make you even better and deepen your craft. I mean, Me Myself, I can't be married to a particular genre. Because I work as a script doctor or a consultant where I get called in to fix screenplays. I mean, sometimes last minute, like days before shooting, I come in, and I do a reread, you know, and I can't be limited to a horror and just say, Well, you know, it's a rom com, you guys are so well, like, I have to be able to come in, right and really kind of hit those hit those beats in those tones. So I think, yeah, if you want to be a better writer, work outside of your genre, you know, just be brave and do it.

Alex Ferrari 8:25
And when you're building a screenplay, it's it is very similar to building a house, you know, the bones, of all stories are similar, if not the same, but different. There's different blueprints, let's say for different kinds of houses. But there's a limited amount of houses you can buy. But generally speaking, the bones are the same, the structure, the frame is all the same, the foundations the same, it's when you start designing within those parameters. It's what makes a story, what makes the screenplay work. Every once in a while, you'll get a pulp fiction that kind of like, well, we're just gonna build a whole other kind of thing over here, or there's those kind of films that just kind of like, throw everything upside down. But that's very rare, generally speaking, and even then, even when you and I've talked about Pulp Fiction multiple times on the show, even if you look at poker fiction, if you even if you look at Pulp Fiction, and you say, Oh, it's so like, it's all over the place. Like, if you look at it, and you actually find the beats, he's hitting the exact beats, but and that's what makes that film so ridiculously genius. Like, how do you do that with changing the timeline with jumping back? And you're still hitting the beats? Like, that's insanity?

Geoffrey Calhoun 9:33
Yeah. Yeah, I mean, 17 was a master of structure, and he really loves to play them. And I always respect that when a writer can just play with structure and come up with something out of left field. It gives you a good template of like, okay, I can do that now. And they really start to try and figure out and break that down. See, I agree, the structure is there in when you start to master that thing. You really start to see the craft change another guy, another writer who's like that it would be Jonathan Nolan. You know, a few years ago Westworld the TV show, I mean, oh my god, they're knocking them out of the park. The structure is is amazing, but it's all there the beats are there, especially with the, you know, full season arc.

Alex Ferrari 10:11
And that's a whole other like a whole other conversation let's talk about series versus screenwriting. Is this like feature work? But at the end of the day, though, it's similar beats, it's similar things just stretched out over a larger budget, or, or larger timeframe without question. Now, can you the one thing a lot of screenwriters always especially young screenwriters coming out? is what's a high concept versus a low concept? That's, that's a big thing. Can you just explain to people what a high and low concept is?

Geoffrey Calhoun 10:44
Oh, man, thank you appreciate that. I actually love talking about this, because high concept is so huge right now, but I actually have some theories on it. So high concept is really an easily explainable idea. It's something that's easy to market, which is kind of why producers really hop on it. Because it tends to have a wider demographic. So you know, something like Jurassic Park is a high concept film because it's, you know, a dinosaur park where the dinosaurs get out and go crazy, it's really easy to explain. But a low concepts are also called like a non high concept is really your character study, film. It's the it's the indie film, where they kind of lean into a character and less about the world, and more about how the character sees the world and interacts with the world. And personally, I feel that high concepts are, are getting less popular, and you're seeing lower returns on these films, but you're seeing an uptake and in the low concept, character study films, and a nice example I like to use is that new Joker film coming out Joaquin Phoenix, I mean, that's a low concept film. And it's getting it's getting a lot of buzz. And I think you're gonna really start seeing that a big uptake in that with the with the market right now.

Alex Ferrari 12:02
Yeah, I think I think the audience or the thing is that the audience is just getting smarter, man, we're so much more sophisticated. I mean, you know, you and I are of similar vintages. So, you know, we, we we've seen hundreds of 1000s of hours of entertainment and story, and I must have easily seen 10s of 1000s of movies in my life. Oh, sure. I mean, with without him, and I've worked in a video store. So I mean, for four years, five years, I'm like that. So I mean, I've seen a lot of stuff in my day. So all of that input, and and we're trained like we're in the business. So it can you imagine someone who's not in the business. And still, like, I always use my wife as the barometer, like if she calls it out. Like, she's like, Oh, that's, that's the character development was just so weak, wasn't it? And I'm like, Who are you? And I didn't marry this, like, I don't understand. That way. She's like, Look, I've been living with you for so many years, something has to have rubbed off on some point or another. But when she's talking about, oh, that care, oh, that was just no motivation there or all this it felt dry or this or that. It's interesting to see people outside the business. And that's what the reality is of our world. Now. We're so savvy. And can you imagine the kids coming up now? Well, I

Geoffrey Calhoun 13:21
mean, my son is, you know, he started writing screenplays and he actually won a bunch of awards. He's 13 now, but when he was 10, he was really getting getting into screen.

Alex Ferrari 13:31
So let's stop this. Stop this right here. Bastard. I can't believe a 13 year olds writing screenplays. I didn't even know what a movie camera was at 13. Are you kidding me? No, I had a kid on who's like, yeah, I'm 17. I've shot you know, like six features already. And I've, you know, yeah, they're on amazon prime. I'm making a little bit of money with them. But I really want. And I'm like, first of all, we all hate you to understand. So let's get that out of the way. And let's move on from there. But no, it's it's just a different world. Like it's a world that you and I can't even think about. Because it was just, you know, we didn't have this. It didn't exist. I didn't mean to call your son a bastard. I apologize. All right. So you're saying so I'll tell him. He really started at 10 years old. So

Geoffrey Calhoun 14:17
we were we were sitting in a theater and this is before he started writing. And we got through moving. I don't want to name it. But he looked over to me and he goes, that character development was terrible. Oh, you and the ending of the movie totally destroyed the ark. Whoa, hold

Alex Ferrari 14:34
on. Please name it. Please name it. I want it. It's Justice League. It's Justice League. Go

Geoffrey Calhoun 14:39
ahead. With that one, too,

Alex Ferrari 14:43
I'm sure.

Geoffrey Calhoun 14:44
But I looked at him as like, you want to do a daddy does and he's like, I'll give it a shot. So then he wrote his little screenplay. Yeah, it was cool. Yeah. So I mean, they're just they get it. You know, they've seen the same beef, like you said, and they've kind of learned it through analysis.

Alex Ferrari 14:59
Right. Exactly. mean the things that you know when I read Syd field book? That was the first time I think for a lot for an entire generation? Yeah. It was like the book that everyone was like, what what we all do sit. It's all the same story. At 20 minutes something happens at this time it happens here. Like, that was mind blowing to me. And I wasn't even in I think I was just I wasn't even in film school. I just got out and film school when I read that it was insane when I read that. And now that's common knowledge. Like the hero's journey, everybody Yeah, knows the hero's journey, like, you know, it's just something that's built into our psyche at this point again. So that would make sense why high concept movies are starting to waver. And yeah, the Joker is a really great example of that. I was gonna ask you, what word is the matrix fallen? Because the matrix is not high concept. It isn't it isn't. Because you can't pitch that balance, doesn't it? You can't pitch that in a sentence.

Geoffrey Calhoun 15:54
Yeah, and I think you're right. They definitely lean in to the the monomyth figure though the show the holy figure that way. And so I think by doing that, they're able to lean into the inner character relationships, and then they really explore that world. And exploring that world is definitely a high concept take. But yeah, I think they strike that balance, which is incredibly difficult. You know? It's,

Alex Ferrari 16:20
it's a it's a masterpiece. I mean, that first, yeah.

Geoffrey Calhoun 16:21
Oh, that's classic. So I use it in the book.

Alex Ferrari 16:25
Yeah. I mean, it's, there's, there's certain movies that come out into just kind of change things. And that matrix was definitely one of those films when it came out. It definitely changed things without question. Now, can you? Can you give me some ideas of how to create a high concept project some tips? Um,

Geoffrey Calhoun 16:41
well, I think one of my favorite tips is to find a classic, and then put a nice twist on it. And that is, that is a good way to to get into high concept with with something that's original, but yet put your own spin on it, like I think of was the lungs, Chris Hemsworth, and Snow White, like Snow White and

Alex Ferrari 17:00
the Huntsman or the Monte Carlo Count of Monte Cristo or something along those lines? Yeah,

Geoffrey Calhoun 17:04
yeah. I think that, that doing that. And then just when you're coming up with your concept, you want to just keep bringing it down and making it simple and more simple and easy to understand. Because when you get into concepts that are like 234, sentences long, like it's too much, gotta cut it down, make it easier, make it easier.

Alex Ferrari 17:20
So what's when you're saying make it easier, you're just thinking is like, simple simplify the story. So like, Jurassic Park story, so Jurassic Park is so simple. It's like it's a dinosaur park where the dinosaurs are alive. I mean, that that pretty much. That's the sales page. That's a search. You know, but what is like the superhero genre? So monstrous right now? And it's I mean, it is it is the film industry. If you take out movies, it's huge, right? If you take Marvel away from the film industry over the last 10 years, they will I mean, seriously, $20 billion would be gone.

Geoffrey Calhoun 17:54
Like, simply now. Yeah, they're there. They're definitely huge. they've they've, they've created their own marketing kind of saved the industry in several ways, which is just crazy.

Alex Ferrari 18:04
It's it's it is insane. I mean, we could talk a little bit about Marvel's I mean, because I Oh, and I don't want to do the Marvel DC thing. But I see a Marvel character in your background. So I'm assuming you're a Marvel guy. I see Iron Man I a little bit more often. I see. Because your star wars and marvel. I'm assuming your Marvel. Yeah. I'd like stories. I mean, I like DC movies as well. There's I mean, I love Batman and all that stuff, though. Arguably, Batman is the only Marvel character in the DC Universe. But that's a whole nother conversation. If you think about it, if you think and I yeah, I can see. So I love to ask, I'd love to ask story. You know, gurus or alchemists, if you will, why Marvel has made it so been so successful in DC has not in the end, you know, and I was I beat up Justice League so much because it is it is the lowest hanging fruit there was like you're talking about the five four or five biggest superheroes with the biggest, you know, no, like no one knew the hell out Iron Man is the Avengers. These are all bc character B character

Geoffrey Calhoun 19:19
and in the nail, I mean, but you got to look at the casting though.

Alex Ferrari 19:23
Nobody's the casting character. There's a four, you know, like Black Widow like you kidding me? Like Hawkeye? Like you all the work that had to be built to build up that entire movie, where literally, all you had to say is Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are going to be in this movie. That's all you have to say. And everybody in the world knows what that is. And they screwed it up so royally, that it's upsetting. was literally upsetting. So, in your opinion, what do you think Marvel has done and why their films have hit so many beats and so much success with Is the DCS habit?

Geoffrey Calhoun 20:01
Well, it's the long game for Marvel because the brilliant thing they've done is with each film, they release, they release it in a different type of town. So you'll have you know, Captain America Civil War is more like World War Two film, I'm sorry, is more like a spy thriller, whereas Captain America was like, you know, World War Two. But then you have Thor Ragnarok. That's obviously a comedy. So they keep releasing it, change it up.

Alex Ferrari 20:28
It's like it was a psychedelic comedy. Yeah, the colors and it was just always

Geoffrey Calhoun 20:32
vibrant. Yeah, I mean, so they keep changing it up, you know, in the Marvel movies that don't do well, or the Marvel movies where they don't have that really interesting new type of tone where it freshens it up. Whereas DC they kind of kept trying to just imitate, you know, The Dark Knight and go dark and dark and dark. And the audience kind of got tired of it. And so by the time they brought, you know, Wonder Woman and Aquaman, and I think it was too late, because they were changing up the tone there a bit. And then they just leaped right into the Justice League, but the groundwork wasn't laid the way you need it to be. So you get a you get a film that tonally is all over the place. It's dark and somber, but then it's funny, and it's a buddy comedy, but we don't really know the characters and their relationships aren't really that well defined. So actually think about this a lot. And I feel that DC is better suited for television. I think if they were given a bit longer of a game on television, I think they would be far more successful. And Marvel will continue to be rocking out these films and their phase. What are they in phase 20? Now?

Unknown Speaker 21:39
phase three,

Unknown Speaker 21:40
three, or four? I

Alex Ferrari 21:41
think. Yeah, I

Geoffrey Calhoun 21:42
think it says you're in and you're going to see more and more various genres coming out. I think with that Black Widow is going to be another spy thriller. And you'll see really cool stuff like that. I mean, they're bringing in changxi right. So that's going to be like a kung fu action film is totally different. I mean, was last time you see that? I mean,

Alex Ferrari 22:02
and also and also Natalie Portman is going to be the new Thor eventually. Yeah, that's gonna be like insane. Like, I mean, it's there's so much cool, you know, and then blades coming back the blade being done within the world of the Marvel the MCU right.

Geoffrey Calhoun 22:18
And they're talking about bringing Deadpool and so that can be really interesting. We

Alex Ferrari 22:22
haven't even talked about x men Deadpool Wolverine with you know, fighting alongside like, they haven't even we haven't even spoken about five and Fantastic Four and all these other Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 22:31
Oh,

Alex Ferrari 22:33
x men, and maybe we'll finally get a real Fantastic Four.

Geoffrey Calhoun 22:38
That's gonna be a hard one to figure out, baby. I would like that challenge. Just because that's such a tough nut to crack.

Alex Ferrari 22:44
It's well they've tried it a bunch of times and they have not been able to hit it. But look, man, they made Ant Man. I know. They made Ant Man they made

Geoffrey Calhoun 22:55
which is which is a heist film, right?

Alex Ferrari 22:57
Which is a high school. Yeah, high school both of them but and wasp is kind of like a romantic heist film like a will they won't they kinda When Harry Met Sally,

Geoffrey Calhoun 23:07
another different genre, right? So they just keep hitting these different genres throughout each film,

Alex Ferrari 23:11
and they made Guardians of the Galaxy. Are you like we're not even on the B or C level characters that basically the bottom of the bargain bin, like knew nobody ever was like, What? Did you ever see the Saturday Night Live skit about like, Guardians of the Galaxy about Marvel, like Guardians of the Galaxy is coming out. And you know what? We're Marvel so ftu because we knew we could do whatever we want. We're gonna have a talking raccoon and you you're not gonna love it. Why? Cuz we're Marvel. That's awesome. We're gonna have a talking tree. Why? Cuz we're Marvel. What are you gonna do watch DC? just brilliant. Brilliant. Brilliant skit. Alright, so we've gone off this I've gone on a tangent. I do those tangents every once in a while the Marvel star. But we'll get we'll get back looking back to the screenwriting. But it's important because I want to I want people to understand why those characters and why those movies have resonated in a way that no other series ever in the history of films has done. Yeah. And there's something to be studied there. And to lay down that they lay down the work they took the time, you know, imagine if they would have brought out the Avengers before Thor. Or before was it Thor or Captain America and they just kind of threw this character. It would have never worked.

Geoffrey Calhoun 24:28
It goes back to what we talked about earlier about trying out different genres. You know, obviously Marvel has proven you know, doing these different genres can lead to success. So as far as a screenwriter, why would you ever want to limit yourself to a genre?

Alex Ferrari 24:40
Yeah, and that and I've never actually I've never thought about it before like that with the Marvel films being different genres, but they are. They're all. They're all. They all have the good ones like, you know, you watch a winter soldier. That's just an amazing spy thriller.

Geoffrey Calhoun 24:54
Absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 24:56
It's kind of like when you watch Dark Knight. Well, that's just heat. That's just a quick Yeah, that's just heat with a super Yeah, it's with a superhero and a crazy man. It's, it's really, really good. Um, now you also talk about mind mapping in your book, what is Mind Mapping in your, in your opinion,

Geoffrey Calhoun 25:13
oh man, mind mapping is so useful and really underutilized. So all mind mapping is just a way of an exercise to create freeform thought. So you just write down whatever your you know, concept is in a metal bubble, whether it's a concept or a character or something like that, that you want to build off of. And then you create branches of ideas. And now the really fun thing about this is to not be married to any particular idea, and just let your imagination go wild and crazy. And then when you come up with another idea, you do like little sub branches, and then you kind of cross out what you don't like and what you like, and you circle and then you just kind of follow it around, and you create this beautiful myriad tree of ideas. And then you're able to come up with with what you're looking for. And it's amazing. And if you do it in a public place, it's really cool, because then you start getting influenced by your surroundings, and actually did it with a with a new writer a little while ago, who couldn't come up with a with a killer concept, right? So we sat down, and they wrote down their, their concept idea, and they started doing all these crazy branches, and within 15 minutes, they had everything figured out.

Alex Ferrari 26:21
It's amazing. It's amazing. Are there any tips you have for mind mapping,

Geoffrey Calhoun 26:24
I say mind mapping is just be free with it. Don't Don't worry about going crazy. Just, you know, let it happen. You do it in a public place. And, and don't be overly judgmental of it. And like I said, if you want to use the environment, and you know, you can even do fun things like write down sounds or noises, if that even trigger something in your mind and just kind of let that flow happen. It's kind

Alex Ferrari 26:51
of like turning on the faucet and just whatever comes out comes out basically.

Geoffrey Calhoun 26:55
Yeah, absolutely. You know, your subconscious is always working on this stuff. Like if you're writing a script and say you get stuck at a point, I say go take a little time off, come back, you know, while you're out cooking dinner or running errands, your brain is working on it. And then when you come back and you sit down you like finish that scene, oh, it's a miracle. Well, it's the same thing with with developing concepts. So if you can just sit down and then just let all predisposition goes and just sit down as Okay, I'm just going to create this now I'm just going to write down whatever happens, then you're gonna get some really cool stuff coming out.

Alex Ferrari 27:28
Now, what is the biggest mistake you see with first time screenwriters

Geoffrey Calhoun 27:32
that they think it's easy?

Alex Ferrari 27:35
Well, I mean, obviously, it's easy. All you need is final draft and an idea, right? And you should just and you should just get the million dollar check any day now?

Geoffrey Calhoun 27:42
No, that's not how it works this out work for you. Right.

Alex Ferrari 27:45
I've done that four times by myself, sir. Just four times. And that was this week. And that was

Geoffrey Calhoun 27:51
that was right before lunch.

Yeah, I know that they think that they think it's easy, that they don't have to do things like format and structure. Or when I meet with new writers, they say, well, do I have to do it this way? And I'm just like, Oh, I mean, yes. You know, and so

Alex Ferrari 28:08
I have to hit the nail in the wood to build the house. Do I

Geoffrey Calhoun 28:13
know that's perfect? That's exactly yeah, yeah. No, no,

Alex Ferrari 28:17
I want to I want to use duct tape. I think it's prettier, and it'll be fine. What could go wrong? What is it about our industry that in filmmaking and in screenwriting that you'd like anybody feels like they they can do it? Like, you don't listen to a symphony and go, Oh, yeah, I could do that. Like, you know, you don't you don't go like you know what, today I'm gonna go build a house. I've never built a house before I've seen it on TV I've seen I've watched HGTV. So I'm sure it's not that hard. And I'm also going to mortgage my house. Yeah, I'm gonna mortgaged my house, I'm gonna take $200,000 out of my house, take a credit line off my house, and I'm gonna build this house that I've never had any experience doing?

Geoffrey Calhoun 29:02
What? I'm gonna build this house because I saw one on the street. So obviously, I know how to do it. With the only industry

Alex Ferrari 29:09
this the only industry that does that, like, I mean, other than being an entrepreneur, where people like, Oh, I could I could run a business. But it's, it's like, even that, it's like, well,

Geoffrey Calhoun 29:22
when I teach seminars on this stuff, and I sit down, and I tell people, like screenwriting is the most difficult literary art that exists, and I just kind of watch everybody's eyes glaze over. Like it doesn't land, you know, but like writing a book is is forgiving. Like, you can write in whatever voice you want. You can you know, you do you do Haiku, you just hit the beats, you know, you can write a poem. There's not a free form of that. But when you write a stage play or screen for a screenplay, I mean, you've got to write something that some producer is going to consider for, you know, 100,000 to a million dollars, but now you're going to write something that has to be very specific and deliberate and it's not open. To you know, your your your willingness to just kind of do what you want to do like you have to do in a very specific way

Alex Ferrari 30:09
you can play around but within the box there is a box you got to fill up. And I can tell you being an author, I'm sure you as well. writing a book is so much easier than writing a screenplay like infinitely. I sat down and I wrote a book like that that a Tata Tata Tata Tata Tata, like I'm like, Oh, I could just, I could just write, I don't have to worry about beats, or I don't have to worry about like, structure, like basic grammar structure, but that's basically what a paragraph in a sentence is. And that's basically all I have to worry about. Oh, it's It was so free. Yeah,

Geoffrey Calhoun 30:43
I gotta get screenwriting is the hardest, most difficult, soul crushing, best, wonderful, amazing thing you can do. But writing this book was just like, This is fun.

Alex Ferrari 30:57
This is exactly it is. It is something and I hope everyone's me. If there's any screenwriters listening to this. It's exactly what we're saying. It is. It is soul crushing. It is brutal, but yet wonderful, lovely. Amazing. But you've got to love it.

Unknown Speaker 31:12
Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 31:13
Gotta love what you're doing, man. No, this is.

Geoffrey Calhoun 31:16
There's a quote that. You just reminded me of that. I think Jonathan Nolan says I hate writing. But I love having written.

Alex Ferrari 31:25
Oh, it's great quote. Oh, man. That is an amazing I wrote. And then I think it's a I think it's Hemingway who said writing is easy. All you got to do is sit at the typewriter and bleed.

Unknown Speaker 31:37
Yeah, absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 31:39
It's so true. Now I wanted to talk a little bit about loglines because it's something that we we hear about in screenwriters like oh, you have to have a good logline has a good luck. I have a compelling logline, just about to let everybody listening know what a logline is, and any tips on creating a compelling logline.

Geoffrey Calhoun 32:00
So a logline is just a one to two sentence breakdown of your story. Really. It has to be efficient, brutally efficient has to be interesting if to hook the reader. It can't be boring. It can't be overly wordy. And I have a template in the book on how to efficiently write one and kind of create that hook for it as well.

Alex Ferrari 32:22
Excellent. Because it's it's not easy writing a logline. Like if writing a screenplay is hard if writing a screenplay is hard, like boil, boil down those 90 pages into a sentence or two. Good luck. Oh God, when I had to write once for like my short films that I did back in the day, I was just like it would they were perfect. I'm like, Dude, it's a short film. If you can't get this out in a sentence, dude, it's it's 10 minutes, man, let's let's move it a lot. Yeah. And one thing I want to talk to you about, and this is something that writers and because I've read a lot of scripts in my day, especially young writers, they, they will bust out the thesaurus out in in your script, and you will start getting these 5075 cent words out there even some dollar 50 words, man, and it's just like this, this hodgepodge, and I'm reading it, I'm like, dude, if I gotta look, I'm like, if I'm fairly literate, I read. I personally read around two to three books a week, you know, I try to mice, I really try to consume as much information as possible. Man, if I've got to look up the word, it's probably it shouldn't be here. It shouldn't be a hero. So can you can you please just talk about stop trying to show off your English Lit degree.

Geoffrey Calhoun 33:46
That's really interesting. Um, yeah, writing a screenplay when you reading it needs to be. It needs to be pleasant to the eye. So you don't want it overly wordy. So you want to be Spartan with your words. You know, when I do like action blocks, for lines, I don't do five. I don't do more than that. I do four lines, it makes my scripts just a breeze for a read. You want to be efficient with with your description. But if you start playing out those dollar 50 words, you're not impressing anybody. And if you're frustrating them, they're not going to want to keep reading your script. I don't want to be looking at boards. You know, I mean, you know, there's there's, you know, instead of saying very tired, you can say exhausted Sure, that's easy. But if you start getting into something crazy, you're not impressing anybody you know the goal and I mentioned this is is that my job is to glue you to your chair with my words. If you're reading my my script, and you have to go to the bathroom, I want your bladder to be killing you because you can't get up and walk away from the script because you need to know what happens. And I'm not gonna do that if I'm if I'm getting crazy with with really fancy words.

Alex Ferrari 34:56
Because there is a plethora, a cornucopia, if you will, sir have options. Exactly. Bye bye if anyone please look up cornucopia do not use that in the screenplay. It's a red flag. Can you imagine just like the the he ran, ran into the store where there was a cornucopia of gun options. Could you imagine if you read that line, it's so pretentious. It's like, yeah, it's a lot. I

Geoffrey Calhoun 35:28
wanna, I wanna, I want to buy that script right now.

Alex Ferrari 35:31
Exactly. I think that's a dog safe school, though. I think that's a dog saves Christmas movie, I'm not sure. But which is obviously pre sold in most of multiple markets around the world right away. That's another thing I wouldn't mind talking about is is is aiming your script, making your script marketable? Because there's, there's something that's that screenwriters also don't do a lot of is think about, specifically about, oh, is my script even marketable? Is my script even doable? Am I presenting this script to the right producer? If you're if you made a 200 million if you wrote a $200 million visual effects extravaganza, and you give it to a producer who's used to making one to $2 million, and most of their movies are the dog saves Christmas movie that goes straight? The hallmark? Yeah. That and you're like, what? Nobody? Nobody understands me? No, dude. You didn't you didn't do market research. You've got to, you got to understand my kid is a cornucopia of scripts. I

Geoffrey Calhoun 36:34
have a cornucopia of awards.

Alex Ferrari 36:36
Exactly. Oh, God. That is the word of the day, everyone cornucopia. But it's so true. So they don't they don't start to make Look, it's an art form. So we want to write a story that just means something to us. That's great. And you should write that. And it's, it's fairly cheap to do. So. You can write whatever you want. It's the cheapest part of this entire process. Sure, without question, but if you but what are your end goals when you start writing? And that's I think something that is not talked about a lot is like to actually sit down and go, Okay, I'm going to write this story. What is my goal with this story? Is it for me is am I something that I'm going to try to produce? This is something I'm going to make for a few, you know, $100,000? Am I going to try to sell this? What can I do? If I am going to try to sell this? What can I do? What can I put in that script? That's going to give me a better chance? How can I load up the script, if you will, with things that are going to make me more appetizing for purchase? Or for actually a movie to go into production? What advice do you have?

Geoffrey Calhoun 37:31
Well, I it's funny that you mentioned this because I was literally talking about this a couple nights ago with a young screenwriter. And he was frustrated with, you know, a lack of direction with his writing. And I, I tell everyone, I have a strategy. Whenever I plan to do anything with this craft. I strategize if I want to get an indie horror film made, I look at the market, I look at the democratic demographic I want to work in, I looked at the budget I want to work in. And then I hone a screenplay around that. And then approach producers who are making those films, and then pitch it to them in a way that they want to hear it. And so when they say Wow, this is great, I think I want to option this. And all makes sense. Because it's all lined up. I've set myself up for success. No one else is going to make you but you so you can't just you know write this crazy $300 million feature and then send it out to people wonder why they don't want it. You have to set yourself up for it. So yeah, I mean, strategize and plan, you know, outside of like hiding and some producers bushes. I'm not saying you want to work. But I'm not saying

Alex Ferrari 38:44
don't do that. Don't do that. Let's just put that out there. Don't do that. Don't. Don't hide in the bushes. Don't stalk. Generally speaking, don't stalk them. Don't try to don't do not approach them in the bathroom. That's not it. Like as as he's as he's like unzipping. You're like I can't do you have to use your logline. That's what I like, I just need two seconds. It's about a park with Dinosaurs get out.

Geoffrey Calhoun 39:11
It's not called Jurassic Park. So it's called Carnot. It's called connoisseur.

Unknown Speaker 39:17
Cars. Oh, fantastic. Oh, Roger Corbett baby. You're welcome.

Geoffrey Calhoun 39:21
So yeah, just just strategizing. And there's ways there's ways to do it. There's ways to find the connections that you need to get there and get your script to where it needs to go. And in always have a plan and by doing that you're setting yourself up to succeed.

Alex Ferrari 39:36
Can you please tell me your opinion and I think I know the answer this, but I'm gonna ask it anyway, because I want this information out on this episode. A professional writer does not spend five years on the script. A professional writer has 20 scripts in their in their desk or on their laptop, and they're not precious about any of them. They might be more passionate about some of them, but they're not precious. And that's a professional writer. Is that a fair statement to say?

Geoffrey Calhoun 40:07
I think that's 100% accurate. I mean, I mean, as far as gigs go, I have a nine week turnaround time, I can do it. And I've done it in six. But I don't take I don't take three years to write a script.

Alex Ferrari 40:19
But you know, but you know that but you do know those screenwriters who've been on that screenplay for like, and every time you run into them, like, how's that script? Go? It's almost there. Yeah. I'm like, Oh, so close. I'm almost there. Have you been working? Anything else? Nah, man, just focusing all my energy. Yes,

Geoffrey Calhoun 40:33
this one script. Yeah. And in the meantime, I've sold two scripts, and I got one producer, you know. And so and like, my career's is going where it needs to go, and they're just stuck. And then I just want to like, shake them. But you know, that's, that's where they're at. So yeah, the the other thing is, is our job is to make a product that the producer, the director really wants to see come to fruition, if that means they need their voice in there somehow, or they need things change in a particular way. We're not here to fight and argue and, and and attack, we're here to Yes. All right, give me whatever notes you have, I love notes, I want this thing to be the best possible outcome for you. And and then you make that happen. And so I mean, that's always been, my, my attitude. And it's, it's, I mean, producers like to work with me. So I'm assuming it's the right it's

Alex Ferrari 41:26
another mistake that I've seen a lot of is, and I did it back in the day, because I'm a director for first and foremost, but I would write in my screenplays, camera direction, dolly, dolly, in crane up, things like that, or you start creating the visuals of the film are so detailed. That's also a sign of like, unless you're directing it yourself, and you financing it yourself. It's it's difficult. I mean, maybe if you're a writer, director, you might be able to get away with that. But if you're not the writer, director, and it's a it's a work for hire, or if it's a product that you're trying to get sold, a director reads it and like, I don't need anyone telling me how to shoot.

Geoffrey Calhoun 42:05
Exactly. Yeah, no, I think you're absolutely right. I mean, we are the screenwriters, our jobs, aren't to create the story. But we're not the costume designer. You know, we're not, we're not the set designer. We're not the we're not the director, we're not the cinematographer, there's, there's subtle kind of cool ways that you can make that happen suggestively, but you don't have to be married to it. And the other issue with camera directions is one thing I hear back is, I'll hear well, I really love your voice as a writer. Well, if you're lost in camera directions, the reader, the director, producer, they can't hear your voice as a writer because it's hidden behind those camera directions. And that actually cuts into your creativity as well.

Alex Ferrari 42:49
Now, another big thing I'd love to talk about is the reading script versus the shooting script. And oh, man, is that a big difference? Can you talk a little bit about the difference between those two?

Geoffrey Calhoun 43:01
Yeah, well, so the shooting script is what we just talked about. It's chock full of camera directions, and it's created specifically for production. The reading script is a script that we use a screenwriter writes to make this thing be really interesting to, to what to create what I call the theater of the mind. So as you're reading, you know, you read aloud, so as you're reading your books, are you reading the script, you start to see the script happen, you start to see it become a movie, you've cast it in your mind, and, and in the end, it happens as a play in your mind. So that can't really happen with camera directions, because the camera directions pull you out of story. If you're if you've written a really great script that reads well, and it's beautiful, and isn't overly wordy, and you don't have $1 50 words in there, and it's natural, then that theater of the mind kicks in, and then they're able to become lost in the story. And they walk away with a positive feeling for it.

Alex Ferrari 43:58
Yeah, without question. Now, can we talk a little bit about the difference between sympathetic versus empathetic characters? Because that's again, another confusion that I see a lot of.

Geoffrey Calhoun 44:10
Yeah, they're two different things. So sympathetic, is when I know you're hurting. And I understand that as a fellow human, you're hurting and I and I feel bad for you. But empathetic is will say, I see you're being abused. And I can feel that pain because I've been abused. And so it runs deeper into my core and I have a stronger emotional attachment to you as a person or on film as a character. And you mentioned the Dark Knight. So really cool thing about that film is they tried creating empathy for the Joker character by consistently changing his origin story.

Alex Ferrari 44:50
Yeah. Yeah. He keeps telling the different origin story how he has a smile which is which is brilliant, which is brilliant and and you know it to talk about dark night. For just a quick second, I mean, I've never seen such a perfect villain. For the hero like, Yeah, it's great. Like the Joker as a villain works only because of Batman and vice versa. Like you can't put the Joker in another movie and he's not gonna play the same. You can't put the Joker in Indiana Jones like it's not, you know, you can't put Batman, Darth Vader in the, to create a good villain you need to create basically a polar opposite, right? And that's basically what that is. Do you agree? Absolutely. I

Geoffrey Calhoun 45:31
mean, it's that order versus chaos. I mean, that's why the Joker does not work very well in team ups because it's just too random. And and you know, things like Luke and Vader, they're polar opposites. And it really plays thematically and with the character because well, if you do the character, right, you can have that villain character arc will be the polar opposite of the hero or throughout the story.

Alex Ferrari 45:54
Now what is what is what makes a good hero? In your opinion?

Geoffrey Calhoun 46:00
Yeah, so I think Yeah, character that has. Yeah, deep empathy. So some somebody that you can feel for and understand what they're going through and why they're going through it. Somebody who's who's written with kind of universal human truths involved in them. So if you kind of infuse a hero character with someone suffering with loneliness, or they don't feel like they belong, or trying to overcome some kind of internal sabotage mechanism, that you know, the loss of a loved one things that we've all gone through as the human experience, if you can infuse that in a character, and then you put them on a journey through through this arc of them going through this pain and then learning to overcome it makes a great character because when we're watching these films, and we're watching this character, and we and we and we really attached to this character, eventually we're not really rooting for the character anymore. We're actually rooting for ourselves because we want to succeed ourselves. So when we see this character going through this we envision it as us and not them, which is why you want to have this character have an arc that it's satisfying because I want to win as a person so if I see them when I went and there's this moment of catharsis and release that happens within us which is why you see like a movie that does really well in an act two and act three or an act one and act two, but kind of loses it in an act three and people go nuts is because they didn't get that they were hooked to this character they love this character and then the ending made them feel wanting and that reflects us as as a lashing out at the story.

Alex Ferrari 47:45
Can you give us an example of some anti character anti heroes that are like like our so I love anti heroes

Geoffrey Calhoun 47:53
like also like Logan was

Alex Ferrari 47:55
yeah you read you

Geoffrey Calhoun 47:56
can read my mind forgiven Unforgiven was anti hero you know Dan Poon ways but he kind of borders on the parody as well. So these guys that are

Alex Ferrari 48:08
like let's let's analyze Logan for a second what makes him like Wolverine as a character is such a he's such a for lack of a I don't want to bust out Shrek but he's like an onion. He has multiple he's there's a reason why that character has is the most popular character in the x men universe and has been able to go and obviously the casting with Hugh Jackman is an amazing amazing I don't even know how they're gonna do another one but oh man Yeah,

Geoffrey Calhoun 48:37
we said the same we said about Batman too. So

Alex Ferrari 48:39
yeah, it's always the same thing but we haven't seen it yet with the same thing with Iron Man. Eventually they will there will be another Iron Man one day yet. How is that going to be? I don't know. But Logan, can we analyze Logan? What makes what what what? What are the characters clicking in logon? Because obviously, there's a lot of history that the audience has has brought to the movie. You know, like like, like Marvel when they start up Avengers, endgame. There's or even Avengers Infinity War? Like, there's no conversation about who these people are. There's no conversations about what's going on. They just they just assume that you've been on for the ride for the last time. Yeah. Yeah.

Geoffrey Calhoun 49:17
I mean, it's just the Avengers is all high concept. And it's just action and let's get to it. They do weave in some subplots, and some some theme there going on with with the Avengers without teamwork and regret. But the interesting thing about Logan, but I think what makes him really empathetic is a couple of reasons. One is he's a character that craves to have people in his life but he pushes them away. And I mean, that's like, we all suffer with that. And another thing is resentment. He has a lot of resentment about the decisions he's made in his life. And I mean, who doesn't regret, you know, something they did in their life. And so by by putting that in this character, and then Watching him go through this arc, especially with a little girl, where he opens his, you know, her his heart to her eventually, and then sacrifices himself to see that type of thing. I mean, if you're a parent, you're on board with this, you know, right away. So I think those are the things that really kind of bring you into this on top of the whole fact that it's actually a Western and people don't realize it, or that, you know, he's the he's the lone wolf that we've loved. And he's he's coming to the end of his journey on top of all that thing, putting in the resentment, the fact that he craves to be loved, but can't let him self love and putting these things in there and then just suddenly hitting those beats.

Is, is what does it and then he's ended he's also fighting his younger self in Oh, yeah. I mean, that's just a whole other, the whole other layer of doubt I do it. I argue. I always tell people, I argue that dark nights still probably the best overall superhero film of all time, but Logan is probably a close second, in my opinion, my solid, it's so it should have been Oscar nominated. In my opinion, it was so because you take away the superhero aspect of it's still just, it works.

It's the last one. Yeah, it works.

Alex Ferrari 51:13
It works without question. Now, what do you have any other tips on? creating great characters in general, villains and heroes?

Unknown Speaker 51:24
Um,

Geoffrey Calhoun 51:26
yeah, I mean, making them likable, obviously, making them unique and interesting, giving them some internal conflict that actively sabotage is their external conflict is really important. So and we talked about that with Logan, putting them on a journey, that that doesn't leave any threads undone. So making sure that they have that that resolution in the end is incredibly important. Making sure you have supporting characters that, that reflect aspects of the hero, that, that allows them to interact and show aspects of the hero that he needs to sell to the audience in order to really get them behind. You know, are they likable? Are they? Are they frustrated? Are they angry, you know, you know, like, like Logan's relationship with with Professor X, for instance, you know, his his relationship, there is definitely one of a son who has to take care of an elderly father. So there's the regret and the resentment that he has to do that, but then a deep love for him. And then moments of where he's embarrassed by his dad being you know, I get

Alex Ferrari 52:40
almost killing it almost killing everybody, because he has a seizure. Got it?

Geoffrey Calhoun 52:43
Yeah. So yeah, there's all these these moments and building that relationship allows us to see different aspects of Logan. and kind of get into that onion that you're talking about

Alex Ferrari 52:54
now is what can screenwriters do to get the work read by the right people? That's a big question. But I was just curious.

Geoffrey Calhoun 53:02
Yeah.

Oh, no, I you know, I do things like you do your research and find who wants to read it? So are you talking about getting it produced or getting it or getting it kind of rewritten or

Alex Ferrari 53:14
getting it read by the right like either getting sold or getting produced? Or getting a writing assignment from it like, yeah, how will any advice on get because look, we all know that there's 1000 script I made literally, I've been in rooms and studios where there's a wall, from floor to ceiling just piled up with screenplays that if they've been read once, it's amazing. There's so much competition out there. So what can you do to set yourself apart? Besides write the greatest screenplay ever written?

Geoffrey Calhoun 53:42
Yeah, other than writing that killer script that we know you have inside of you, um, networking, I think is huge for this for this industry. Film Festivals is a great way to network, getting out there making connections with with that script. And the really cool thing about networking is, you just don't know where it's gonna go. I met the very first person I ever networked with, we are still friends to this day, we still have each other's back when things go wrong, or we promote each other when things go great. And we kind of you know, help each other out as their careers get better. So like the rising tide lifts all ships. So I think networking is huge. Outside of that, if you're looking to like, I want to get into this guy, and I'm able to meet him, you just do your research, find out you know, who's who's reading for this producer. You can do that on IMDB, IMDb Pro, or you can find it on, you know, there's books that tell you who to find. And then you send out your query letters. Outside of that. I mean, getting a manager and isn't isn't as crazy difficult as everybody thinks it is. It's just about forming that relationship with a manager and making sure that there's someone that can get you to where you need to go because managers are like a great key to doors. Cuz querying Can Can, can lead to more querying, and you can kind of get addicted to it like a slot machine and not get any returns. So but if you foster you know, relationship with a manager over time and then they decide to, you know, take you out if they believe in you, you know, lots of doors open for you.

Alex Ferrari 55:19
Okay, can you please just tell everybody to, to do some damn research before they Curie anybody? When I get a link to a screenplay, they're like, hey, Alex, I need you to read my screenplay. So you can get it produced. I'm like, you have not done your research. I am not in that position. Maybe what I like you get it too, right. So and it's the shotgun approach. It's just like, I'm just gonna, I'm gonna spam everybody. Yeah, and hopefully something will happen. And generally speaking, nothing ever does, because you're pissing off. If you're a professional in this business that pisses you off, and you'll never look at that person again, or work with that person.

Geoffrey Calhoun 55:54
Not spam. It's spam. Yeah, that's why, like I said earlier, strategize, have a strategy, find who you think this works for, and then send them the query if you have to, and, and then go from there. But I think networking is use us as an even better alternative and, and building those relationships within the industry. And because nepotism is real well, you know, you know, if you're, if you're working your way through the industry, and you start getting your reputation, like I did, were like, hey, this guy is he's got something. I mean, I was going to film festivals as a film festival in London. And I ended up not going in any of the screenings, because as I said, I'm sitting in the lobby, and a director came up to me, and he's like, Hey, what are you doing on the writer, and he had a script with them, and he's like, I have issues. I'm gonna go on board. So then I look at the script, you know, and I give them notes on it. Well, the next thing you know, I'm holding court at this film festival. And I have people literally Alex running to me with scripts in hand. handyman. What do you think of this? And I spent my time in London doing that just looking at scripts and and, and,

Alex Ferrari 57:00
and some kids came out of that, I'm assuming.

Geoffrey Calhoun 57:02
Yeah, I mean, you know, and then people start liking and it just builds your reputation. So I mean, things like that are are priceless.

Alex Ferrari 57:09
Without without question, man. I'm gonna ask a few questions. I asked all of my guests. Sure. What advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Geoffrey Calhoun 57:20
Yeah, it takes time. It just takes time. You got to put it in

Unknown Speaker 57:27
the game.

Geoffrey Calhoun 57:28
It's the long game and and everybody says that I say time, talent and tenacity personally, so how long can you go for? Can you build your skill? And are you are you strong willed enough enough or like me pigheaded enough to really really stick it out and take take the damage? You know what I mean? Sometimes you get feedback when you're just starting out that is brutally personal. And I remember going to to the grab a drink a few times with a buddy and be like, Oh, man, this was rough. You know, but you just kind of get through it and then you go do I really want to do this and if you do, you stick it out and eventually you will get there but it's not gonna be pretty and it's not easy. It could take 10 years it could take 15 years but if you think you're gonna break out tomorrow one I pray that you don't because you're not ready for it. You don't have the tough skin so if you break out tomorrow I really worry about you because I don't know how well you're going to handle this system. You know you kind of have to develop the shell around you not in a rude way but in a like in that in I they don't understand my genius we need shrapnel

Alex Ferrari 58:39
you need some shrapnel you need some scarring. You need some shrapnel you need some some you need that rhinoceros skin and yeah, that's Yeah, but this is my this is my this is my brand, sir. This is exactly this is I always tell people I'm like, I'm like I've like I tell people all the time. Like the reason why there's a grizzled voice on the other end of this podcast because i've i've got shrapnel lots of it. In my in my in my body. So and and it's just kind of like that. Being a kid star. Like that's why so many kids scars don't break out eventually from being kickstarts because it's just too much. It's too much and you can't handle it. And it's kind of like I've never swung a bat before but now you're on the New York Yankees lineup and you're batting you're back and forth. Like but I've never swung a bat but you're here you're at the show. But yet you're just so unready, like you see baseball on TV. It seems easy enough. I mean, and you just swing the bat and the ball goes somewhere. No. It's just that easy, but it's completely 100% agree with you. I rather I rather take some a little bit more to and I think that's only when you're young. You don't want to go through this. But when you're older you go Ah, you needed to go through this. You need you need it. You need those obstacles.

Geoffrey Calhoun 59:54
I had a full head of hair when I started.

Alex Ferrari 59:57
I'm 25 Dude, I look at me Yeah, no I do not sir. I look horrendous for 25 I look fantastic for 65 but I look horrible for 20

Geoffrey Calhoun 1:00:06
I read it. I think we're the same age and I get 5011 I'm like,

Alex Ferrari 1:00:10
oh I haven't gotten that yet. I'm some No, no, I haven't gotten 50 yet no one has had the balls to call me out 50 yet, but it's worse because I'm vegan. That's why but I clean living baby clean, clean, live and medically living. All those impossible burgers. They are tasty. Don't get me started. Alright, so what was the book that had the biggest impact on your life or career?

Unknown Speaker 1:00:42
Oh

Geoffrey Calhoun 1:00:46
yeah, I gotta go with I'm gonna I'm gonna be honest. Gonna go with the screenplay. Yeah, that was the first book I read on screenwriting. And that Yeah, blew my mind. And then from there that led into you know, like story. And then I went into a hero with 1000 faces. And then I was well into the rabbit hole, my friend and as like, Well, I'm not coming out of this for a decade, you know? And, and I was just like in it. Because when I do something I have to some weird like this. I can't just learn something, I have to break it down to the genesis of it. Like, where did this start? Where did this come from? Oh, that's how I have to understand. So it's a lifetime. That's a lifetime. Yeah. So I mean, so I just spent like a decade really diving into this stuff going into the monomyth. And then kind of seeing how the different master screenwriters kind of took parts of the monomyth and then kind of call it their own and then tracking that was actually fun to me, because I've been recently as called a screenwriting geek. And it's incredibly appropriate. And so yeah, I'd say that was that was the entry to my to my journey on this.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:51
Now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life Oh,

Geoffrey Calhoun 1:02:00
that I needed to be better that I wasn't you know, this screenwriting genius because I actually had an early success in screenwriting. I optioned my first screenplay.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:12
It's easy that all of them should be that like, exactly right. That's the worst thing that could happen to you because they was awful because that's that that's the only reference point you have to the business. Like why does anyone talking about this? It's super easy. They just right? option. Yeah, it

Geoffrey Calhoun 1:02:26
was so in Detroit, we had incentives for while they were filming everything here, like you know, like the dark night and and so there was a studio here that the option my very first screenplay, and this is great. We did a table read, you know, they did the whole show. Oh, okay. Great. And then the then we got a new mayor in and then the incentives disappeared. And I'm not kidding you. A week later, the studio folded, of course. And then I had like a 10 year drive period after that. I was like, Okay, so this is this is, you know, I guess I'm not this genius. This isn't not supposed to be this easy.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:59
My first short film, I'll never forget this my first short film, which went on to have a lot of success on my first short film, the first film festival I got into I won. And I'm like, wow, what are you talking about? This is great as this did not win an award for like 50 other screenings, like 50 other festivals have to go through before. I mean, it did it did was a very successful film eventually, but right. I didn't win another festival 50, like 50 submissions, or some 50s. It's

Geoffrey Calhoun 1:03:24
great. And you're there, and you're that guy at the festival, like, Oh, yeah, it's my first piece. It was my first work. And he won, and everybody else is like, this guy.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:36
is son of a. Now what did you learn from your biggest failure?

Unknown Speaker 1:03:45
Um,

Geoffrey Calhoun 1:03:46
so yeah, one of them. I would say that. You can't please everybody. You know that, that a lot of this craft is subjective and not objective. And so you're going to get work in front of people that people are going to hate. I did this script that was very much like in Tarantino, as it was a Rashomon style three different stories coming together, interweaving really difficult. A lot of fun structure was cool. And I like you like personal attacks from people. You know?

Unknown Speaker 1:04:26
What the hell's going on?

Geoffrey Calhoun 1:04:27
I mean, people complaining about my characters, what they do after the story, and I put the scripts open, you're talking about like, a month later, I didn't read any of it. You know, and then I one of my future mentors. He said, Well, you know, it's probably pretty good. Yeah, I sent him and it was really your brand. It's and he's worked on a lot of great stuff. And then he read He's like, oh, man, you've got some skill. And so then he took me under his wing. And in the same with like that Weston, he took me under his wings moment when he when he read that type of stuff that I did, so Then I ended up thinking about like, Well why was it and is because my characters were hitting that emotional core with the with the audience I was making them feel and they are getting pissed about it because they didn't like the ending. And so that's what I started to take away from that.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:17
Yeah, very cool. Now what was the biggest fear you had to overcome to write your first screenplay?

There's just for everyone not watching this there's a smile on his face.

Geoffrey Calhoun 1:05:35
So and I actually want to equate this to the book as well if you don't mind because it's the audacity to create something to say that you're good enough to do this. Maybe like cuz this guy's guys writing a screenplay? You know? Like same thing like the Who is this guy's thinking that he's good enough to write a book you know, it's there is that audacity I had to get over and not be like, I'm a screenwriter now, you know, and like, just just to just get into the craft and really enjoy it and, and leave the ego out of it.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:05
Oh, it's it. There's a little bit of ego in this business. Just a slight bit of ego in this business that we deal with and let alone our own egos. Kind of like when you get your first screenplay options, like instantly. I'm sure you do. I'm sure you were a little difficult to be around during those days. I'm sure.

Unknown Speaker 1:06:27
I just like you said,

Geoffrey Calhoun 1:06:28
I just thought it was like totally normal like this, how you read a screenplay and someone wants it? I mean, isn't that how it works. And then life just beat me down for like years on end.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:38
And I think life did that on purpose. So like, let's give them a taste. So he doesn't have his guard up. And then all of a sudden, we're gonna just clock him across the face. Like Mike Tyson says, great quote, everyone's got a plan to get punched in the face. And it's so so so true.

Geoffrey Calhoun 1:06:55
How bad is this guy? Want it? You know, I think that was but

Alex Ferrari 1:06:59
that's but that's isn't that a definition of this business? Like, how bad do you want it like because in every aspect of this business, being a cinematographer, being a director, being a writer, being a producer, whatever aspect you're trying to go after in this business, it's all about how bad do you want it? How much are you willing to put up with? How long are you willing to hustle? The tenacity of it? And yes, as the famous Rocky Balboa said in Rocky Balboa? How hard can you get hit and keep moving forward? And it's, I mean, it's so true. It's so true. And that's what this business is all about. And, yeah, when I talk to kids, man, when they're coming up, and they got the stars left in their eyes, that's why I always anytime I meet someone like that, I beat them down right there. And I do it in a very loving, I do it in a very loving and constructive way. Because I tell them after I'm done doing it, that they'll go. I rather you get it from me that we're sitting in a room with someone who can actually do something for you. And then you've earned that opportunity. I rather you hear it from me. I was at a festival the other day, I was up on a panel and this filmmaker, I swear to God, he comes up and he's like, and there's like a bunch of power hitters on this panel. Like these guys are all like they can they can greenlight a movie tomorrow, you know, the 2030 $40 million guys, right? And this kids like, raises up his arm. He's like, so how can I get you guys to watch my short film that's in the festival? And I just, I mean, we all and then you saw them they kind of saying they're all awkward. They all the guys are awkward because they don't want to deal with it. I you I'm used to this. I'm used to filmmakers, I know how to deal with it. So. And I said, Well, first off, you don't do that. You don't you don't you don't just walk up to somebody you've never met before. It's like Do me a favor, like you don't do that you need to provide value to that person before Yeah, and build a relationship with that person. Then later on in the in the battle, he raises his hand up again. And before I answered my go, we're not gonna watch this. We're not watching you're short and out. And, and the guys on the panel like, dude, you're brutal. Like I rather them get it from me now when rather than when they're in the room with you.

Geoffrey Calhoun 1:09:10
You know, you just said something. That is really a great point, though. And, and I talked about this actually, when I did a seminar recently in Vegas, I'm providing value. When I network with people. It's not about read my script. It's about providing the value of what they need, how can I help you so it's not but what I need is what I can do for you. And when I network with people, I make sure that they get that vibe from me because I'll listen to them. And you know, everybody wants to talk about themselves. Everybody wants to talk about their project. So I'll listen. I'll ask some probing questions. And eventually, they're like, Hey, you know, I heard you I heard about that your issue with character development, and I'm actually pretty good at that. I'd be happy to take a look at your script. And next thing you know, you're working with that person. They're hiring you for a gig. You know, so that's, that's Yeah, that's a great point, man.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:58
Yeah, being a value is the first thing I ever tell anybody in this business because it's like that's what that's all I was that guy I was that when I was coming up when I was younger, I would walk up to somebody have any sort of power and you could feel the desperation you could smell it just comes out just comes off you that desperation. They're like, Can I get your card? Can I get the eyes are open Can I get your card? I can you read my script? Can Yeah, I mean I've got and then you start going into the pitch. You've just met this person. You haven't even gotten their name yet. Oh, and now like my radar for that stuff is so like, within a second I'd be like, dude, just stop. Just stop.

Geoffrey Calhoun 1:10:39
We've had very similar journeys.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:41
I don't think it's unique dude, we all we all I think we all start when we're young. Like you know, Tarantino was like he said it very beginning like he couldn't get arrested in this town. And he was literally always looking through the window at the party, like no one would even look he was desperate to get his stuff seen. But his talent finally rose to the top and somebody I think it was Tony Scott was Tony Scott was the first one who bought Drew romanski Yeah, he brought romance and then Oliver Stone bought Natural Born Killers. And then that's how it kind of and then he started doing rewrites and script doctoring and all that kind of stuff. But, but it took how long he was in his mid 30s. When Yeah, when he finally got hit, you know, he was Yeah, it took a minute. It's a it's a Yeah,

Geoffrey Calhoun 1:11:22
I'd rather have a late start honestly, to have the mental maturity behind me and be able to handle it, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:11:27
without question and this business. Now I'm gonna ask you the last question. The hardest question of all three of your favorite films of all time.

Geoffrey Calhoun 1:11:34
The fountain

Alex Ferrari 1:11:35
I love the fountain. Oh, so under, under under, under. appreciated.

Geoffrey Calhoun 1:11:40
It's It's beautiful. It's it's literally a beautiful film. Aronofsky is a genius. You're gonna laugh at this one. Return of the Jedi

Alex Ferrari 1:11:52
over Empire,

Unknown Speaker 1:11:53
dude. Oh, is the emotional

Geoffrey Calhoun 1:11:55
it's

Alex Ferrari 1:11:58
a box, isn't it? It's the box. You know, I saw

Geoffrey Calhoun 1:12:01
it in the theater when I was a kid. There's a whole story behind it. And then there was at the theater as actors and Darth Vader walking up and down the aisle and actually crawled over people to get to him and as he walked by a touchdown, and so there's just that emotional. Yeah, and

I think so has less to do with the movie and what to do with your personal experience. Got it. I love return to the jet. I think return is fun. But you compared her Empire to do but I get it. Yeah, no, I see. I was the third one.

Oh my god. Um, you're gonna make me think pretty hard now because I never really considered I love I love all movies. Um, let's go with i i'd say man wasn't Empire. Yeah,

I don't know, man.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:50
I'd have to say any movies. Any movie. Any movie that comes to your head right now. It doesn't mean you're not like we're not going to put it on your gravestone, dude, it's okay. The Matrix matrix is my top five. I always use Yeah, matrix and the top five I always my top five. Number one is always Shawshank that's always gonna be mine. Yeah. Shawshank Fight Club. Fight Club. The the matrix, Pulp Fiction. Fiction salad. Oh, God, what's up? I mean, I could I could I mean, I can then then now it's a free for all like,

Geoffrey Calhoun 1:13:29
yeah, I mean, there's so many films, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:13:31
but Fight Club Fight Club, Fight Club specifically. I just frickin love. I mean, I'd love seven to I think seven is amazing.

Geoffrey Calhoun 1:13:39
I mean, I mean, I like the sixth sense. You know, that was a huge one for me. I was like, Oh my God. You know, my

Alex Ferrari 1:13:46
mind was blown. Of course. Yeah. Spoiler alert. He sees dead people. But

Unknown Speaker 1:13:53
actually.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:58
And if I if I get any angry emails, it's over, like almost 30 years old at

Geoffrey Calhoun 1:14:02
this. But I was gonna watch it next week.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:07
Never seen this movie. Now, where can people find you and your book and all the wires that you have, sir? Yeah, so

Geoffrey Calhoun 1:14:15
the guide for every screenwriter is, is on Amazon. It's on Barnes and Noble. There's the guy for screenwriter.com You can find me at we fix your script.com because that's that's the brand that I run. And I also run the script summit screenplay contest as well, which is top 20 biggest screenplay contest by script lab.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:37
Awesome, dude. Well, man, listen, it's been a pleasure. I'm sure we could talk for at least another two, three hours, which is always a sign of a good guest when we could just keep chatting chat and sauce. Thanks. I appreciate it, man. So thanks again for dropping those knowledge bombs on the tribe today. Hopefully we've done some good here today. Maybe we've saved some egos maybe we've helped somebody along their path a little bit and things that you And I take for granted they might have just gone, huh, so, so don't don't yell out read my scripts. Hmm, that's don't do that.

Geoffrey Calhoun 1:15:07
Yeah, don't run after him.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:09
Don't approach them in the restroom. Yeah, if we could take if there's a because there was a cornucopia of things we learned in this episode. Man, it was a pleasure having you on the show, brother. I

Geoffrey Calhoun 1:15:21
really appreciate it man. Nice to meet you.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:24
As I promised Jeffrey Calhoun brought the pain and brought the knowledge bombs on the tribe today. Thank you so much, Jeffrey, for all your amazing knowledge. And if you want links to anything I talked about in this episode, including all of his amazing services that he offers screenwriters, head over to the show notes at indie film, hustle, calm forward slash bps 056. And I also have links for those in the screenwriting resources page on indie film hustle. Now guys, I'm also working on a, you know, a little project just for the screenwriting tribe just for the bulletproof screenwriting tribe, I am going to be coming out with some big stuff, hopefully in the next two to three months. For you guys, specifically, I think it's due It's time. And I'm going to be bringing just an insane amount of value to you guys coming up. So please keep an eye out for that. If I were you, I would be very excited. Thank you guys for listening so much. I really do appreciate it. You guys have made this show, one of the top screenwriting podcast on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Stitcher, and all other major podcasting platforms. And I am humbled. And thank you so much for all the reviews. If you haven't reviewed this show yet, and have not subscribed yet, please head over to screenwriting podcast.com. subscribe and leave an honest review for the show. It really, really helps us out on the rankings. I truly, truly appreciate it. Thank you again so much. As always, keep on writing, no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.


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