BPS 025: Writing Screenplays that Actually Sell with Lucy V. Hay

Today on the show we have Lucy V. Hay from Bang2Write. Lucy is an author and script editor, living in Devon with her husband, three children, and six cats. Lucy is the associate producer of Brit Thrillers Deviation (2012)and Assassin (2015) both starring Danny Dyer.

In addition to script reading and writing her own novels, Lucy also blogs about the writing process, screenwriting, genre, careers and motivation and much more at her blog Bang2write, one of the most-hit writing sites in the UK.

Enjoy my conversation with Lucy V. Hay.

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Alex Ferrari 1:27
I like to welcome to the show, Lucy. Hey, thank you so much for jumping on.

Lucy V. Hay 2:34
Well, thanks for having me. So nice to be here.

Alex Ferrari 2:37
I know it's taken us a minute to get to this point.

Lucy V. Hay 2:41
Yes, we had, I think it was six months, I think we align our schedules.

Alex Ferrari 2:47
I know our schedules are a bit hectic, but I'm so glad we finally be able to make it work. I've been wanting to get you on the show to pick your brain a little bit about about the business. But before we jump in, how did you even get started in the the film business? All right.

Lucy V. Hay 3:02
It's a it's a really kind of long and involved story.

Alex Ferrari 3:06
A short version then.

Lucy V. Hay 3:08
Okay, the short version is I did I did a degree in screenwriting for film and television. Back in the day, I was here in the UK during that course in 2000. I graduated 2003 I was a single mother back in those days, and I didn't have any child care. And I really, really wanted to be involved in screenwriting in some way. I wasn't really sure how I just knew that I wanted to be part of the industry and, and I really love the development of stories and, and just really kind of being involved in whichever way I could basically. And during the time that I was on the degree, I had to do some work experience to pass the course. And during that time, I managed to get a some work experience reading screenplays for a literary agent, and various other places as well. schemes and a lottery funding initiative and various things like that. So as it when I came out of university, I thought well, you know, maybe there is room for someone who can actually read people screenplays, and actually consult on screenplays to actually help people get better and have better opportunities and better ways of kind of breaking in because when I was reading in the spec pile for agents and for producers and for various schemes and competitions, one thing I noticed was that there were a lot of first drafts or really obvious mistakes and people weren't really doing peer review so much then it was all before social media. It was all before blogs and things like that. So I thought well, you know, maybe there's a room for somebody like me who could be some sort of a visor. And then I can be involved in, in screenwriting, and with screen writers. And the it was just it took off really quickly. And I thought I would be dealing predominantly with new writers, writers who were wanting to break in. And whilst that was true, I very quickly started getting clients who are much higher up the ladder. And I was reading for people who were working in television is working in movies. And before I knew I was even even had some clients who were, you know, pretty famous. I was like, wow. So I figured I must be doing something. All right. And I think one of the the key elements for that for kind of making the splash that I did was probably the blog. I was one of the first people to kind of get into screenwriting. As a blogger, although there were lots of screenwriting blogs, from screenwriters point of view, there weren't so many about the actual craft of screenwriting. In those days, especially in the UK, there was things like John August's blog, and around the same time go into the story started. And various other website or wordplay, ones like that, but they were all very, very American. And I saw that there was this, this kind of gap in the market, if you like for UK, screenwriting advice, specifically as like a teaching blog. So yeah, I dived in with both feet and, and so like 1015 years later, here we go.

Alex Ferrari 6:36
Awesome. Now, what are some of the biggest mistakes you see in first time filmmaker or first time screenwriters?

Lucy V. Hay 6:44
Oh, God, I think probably the first thing would be that they don't they have an idea or they see a trailer in their head, or they see some like imagery in their head, or maybe just a character or something like that. And they don't really know what the story is, they don't know what it's about. They don't know how plotting works. They're thinking probably really deeply thematically, but they're not necessarily thinking about the actual blow by blows of the plots. And so they get themselves all tied up in knots as to what the story is really about versus what's literally happening. And so they end up writing these crazy, crazy drafts where you can read your whole, like 100 and page 120 Page screenplay and you still have no clue what what's happened. It's just like an explosion. It's like a stream of consciousness all over. And that's probably what everyone does. I think at some point, I know I did that literally everyone, when they start out, whether they're writing a screenplay, or a short story, or a novel or whatever, they can't really get their thoughts in order. They know that there's bits and pieces that they want to want to say. And maybe they've got a really interesting voice or a really interesting idea or an interesting character, but they just can't make it all gel together. So I think that's probably the first kind of most obvious thing that happens. Another thing that happens is people's concepts and loglines, just really half baked, you know, they either don't make sense, or they're really derivative, or they're just boring. And you kind of go what, what the hell is that? I don't know what that is. And that usually happens after they've come to the realization that Oh, actually, I can't just write the stream of consciousness, I've got to try and kind of organize it but then they might over organize it organize it in such a way that it's still not recognizable, or as come out of the left field, or is to say me, too, what's gone before. Other things that are really obvious is dialogue, there's far too much dialogue in the average spec screenplay. Even if it's good, they probably still don't need a third or even half as much as what the got. So they forget that it's a visual medium, you know, they've fallen, a lot of writers fall in love with dialogue. And some of them are really good at dialogue, but they forget the visuals. Alternatively, maybe they go too far the other way. And it's really nice and visual. But again, it's not coherent. You just you don't know what's really happening. And so you actually need more dialogue. But that doesn't happen very often. It's nearly always too much dialogue, I find which I think's really interesting.

Others other things, structure is a big issue. People just don't know how structure works, because they haven't done enough research into what structure means to them. Lots of people say, Oh, well, you only need a beginning, middle and end and not necessarily in that order, which is what bank to write believes as well. But you also do need to know how other people have structured things before you and that doesn't mean you have to use pictograms and worksheets and all that kind of stuff. But it does mean that if you're movie is like Blade Runner is like alien or is like, whatever. You do need to know how those stories were structured and why they were so interesting to you, and why you want to do something in that kind of vein. Because if you don't know how they crafted their stuff, then how are you going to know how to craft your own stuff. So it doesn't really matter how you structure, it doesn't matter if you use save the cat doesn't matter if you use three, three acts, or the mini movie method or the 22 steps, use whatever you like, no one cares. But it needs some sort of structure. And very often things go wrong in structure, like a very classic one would be starting too early. So you end up with a really lumpy kind of first act in particular. Or it starts really well but then it has a massive dick in the middle and, or you end up running on the spot or something like that, or resolutions, you know, the endings can be too rushed, and it's like, oh, it's all over what the hell just happened? That kind of thing. So those are the kind of classic structural issues. And then finally, I would say the kind of the next obvious one would be characterization. People don't know what good characterization is. And what what is good characterization. Well, I mean, how long is a piece of string, but the two things that you need for good characterization is a role function, what they're doing in the story, and then also their motivation, which is why they're doing things you know, why? What do they want in the story? Very often writers will understand motivation, but they won't necessarily understand role function. Role function of things like protagonist and antagonist they usually get those Okay? protagonist, usually, these days antagonist can be a little bit more up in the air but usually most of them can get those two main ones it's usually the secondary characters where things go wrong, the mentors the jobs words, the love interests, you know, all those kinds of secondary supporting kind of characters will go wrong, they'll be boring or they'll or they will have over thought them some somehow I mean, very often people get really angry about love interest so as being female for instance, but rather than actually changing the love interest to a male and making it a gay love story, for example, which might make it a bit more fresh. They will turn it into like I read a lot of rom coms that have no romancing. Like

why is there no romance in his rom com which sounds insane and that's because it is because we need romance in a rom com and if you don't like the fact that certain characters or love interests for instance, for instance, then don't write rom com you know, something else, but people try to reinvent the wheel a lot and things get out of control very quickly. I mean, even an auntie rom com is still got romancin You know, it's just that the you know, an xe rom com is like a sad rom com You know, it's funny, but it's tragic because it don't end up together you know, something like 500 days of summer that was a great Auntie rom com something like Crazy Stupid Love was an auntie rom com, you know, it's all about the relationships where things go wrong, and maybe you won't recover from them. But you learned something and so it's still hopeful and it's still useful in it's not a tragedy tragedy, where everything is ruined. So but they don't know the difference between a rom com with no romance and an auntie rom com and, and I think what I'm really talking to you about now is the fact that writers don't do enough research, they don't do enough research into the craft, and they don't do enough research into their art. You know, if you want to write a rom com, you should be watching as many rom coms as possible. If you want to write a horror, you should be reading, reading and watching as much horror as you can. You should be reading novels in that genre, you should be immersing yourself in your craft, and also in the in the styles that you want to do. It's it's it sounds obvious, and that's because it is but unfortunately, a lot of writers don't really get that they say I haven't got enough time. I haven't got enough time. I haven't got enough time to write. So I want to write every night and it's like, well, you'd actually get your writing done a lot quicker. If you immerse yourself in in the situation. That's what pro writers do. They immerse themselves in a story. And in that story world.

Alex Ferrari 14:33
What so what you're telling me is that my idea of to bring back dinosaurs and have them in a park is probably not going to fly nowadays.

Lucy V. Hay 14:42
Well, I mean, you could give it a try. I think someone might have got there before you. I mean, certainly. I mean, everybody everybody loves dinosaurs. You know, literally every

Alex Ferrari 14:52
I'm joking. I'm joking.

Lucy V. Hay 14:55
If you actually could find some sort of twist on that dinosaur story, then By all means, you know, I mean, we were talking there about genre busting, you know, if you can bring us something that we've seen before, that's pre sold like dinosaurs, like vampires like werewolves like whatever. Zombies, yeah, if you can actually bring us something that we've never seen before, and make somebody like me, a script reader or a script editor go, Oh, God, why haven't I seen this before? Then they're going to pass it up the chain to their boss and say, you know, I've, you'll never guess what I've seen, you know, a new take on the vampire myth. And they'll be like, You're joking. It's like, no, I really have here you go. And that's what gets everybody excited is this notion of genre busting, and bringing something that we've never seen before. I mean, we're talking about the same but different, and most writers do get that after a while, but they probably concentrate too much on the same Enos and not enough on the difference.

Alex Ferrari 15:52
Now what to say is you've read so many scripts, what do script writers look for, in a screenplay, specifically, like these the little the little giveaways and like, Oh, this is this is I'm gonna I'm gonna I'm gonna pass this and, and take it up. Take it up the ladder.

Lucy V. Hay 16:07
Aha, so a script reader, what does this? Yeah. We're looking for something that looks like a script in the first instance, you know, you wouldn't believe some of the

Alex Ferrari 16:20
stuff written in word not so much.

Lucy V. Hay 16:22
Oh, no, thank you, tech. nerd, I think so something that looks like a script, in the first instance, is always a plus. We have this thing now. I mean, everybody knows about the first 10 pages and how it's got to, you know, do what it's, you know, set it set up the story and introduce the characters and, and make us understand what, where it's going in the first 10 pages, even if that's a lie. But in real terms, because there's so many submissions, now, you need to really start on page one with a bang, you really, really need to grab someone massively on page one, now you need a great visual, you know, if you've got dialogue on page one, then it needs to be a really cool line. You know, it can't be something really boring. And the average first page of the screenplay is really dull. It's somebody literally walking into the frame and talking about something. And doing Oh, this is a big introduction scene of some kind. And it's like, that's not interesting. You know, when we want to start with something really intriguing, or shocking, or devastating, or interesting, something that makes me go, I mean, I read screenplays all day for God's sakes. And yet, I hardly ever sit up and go, ooh, on page one, because I'm used to things being, you know, not necessarily grabbing me. But that very first image, that opening image has got to really grab me. I mean, I read one yesterday that I was blown away by it was awesome. It was the first thing, you know, the first thing I did, after reading it was call up my all my friends and say, you'll never guess what I read a brilliant page one. And they'd be like, No way. Because script readers don't read brilliant page ones very often. So that's, that's part of part of it. Another thing that we're looking for is confidence. You won't believe how kind of apologetic a lot of writers write, you know, you've got to really own the page, I suppose. That's what people mean, when they talk about voice, this notion of confidence, and actually opening the page and actually saying, you know, this is my script, you know, we don't want all these vanilla screenplays that are really just really bland, we want something that's going to grab us. Again, we're talking about this notion of being really hooked. So not just imagery, but the way you write it as well, you know, a sense of confidence, a sense of voice. Another thing that we want as well is an intriguing character of some kind, something that we haven't seen before. Because although sometimes storylines can feel a bit like they're, you know, like we've seen them before. I'm so bored of seeing the same characters over and over again, and there'll be the same characters in different genres and different styles you know, people are going to think a bit more outside the box. And I'm pleased to say that we're actually seeing a lot more diversity now. You know, there was a point where it was all male leads they're all white all the time. And of course there are some great films and TV shows with with white male leads. It would be absurd to say that there there aren't there are some really, really good ones. But does it have to be that guy every time every time you know what more can you bring to this character there's a situation by making it a woman by making it a person with a disability by making it somebody who's gay or straight or transgender. And just, you know, just mixing it up a bit. And, and just a great sense of structure. It's so rare to find a well structured screenplay. It's so rare. So every time that happens, and it makes, it makes it so easy to read, and when something's an easy read, you read it fast, and you pass it on fast. If you have to read it, and it takes a long time, your your interest is going to wane, you're going to forget, you're going to put it to one side, you're going to forget to call your boss or your or your collaborator or whatever. Whereas if you read it and go, Wow, amazing. You're going to be picking up the phone, you're going to be writing an email, you're going to be writing a tweet going, oh my god, I just read something amazing, you know, and all that kind of stuff. And that creates buzz, and that makes you far more likely as a writer to get into someone onto someone's radar.

Alex Ferrari 20:46
Very good. That's an excellent answer, by the way. Excellent answer. Now, what are some tips on selling dramas in today's marketplace, which they are just so difficult, but I'd love to hear some ideas of yours?

Lucy V. Hay 21:02
Well, of course, I wrote a whole book on this called Writing and selling drama screenplays. But basically the potted version of rights of saying you know how to sell a drama, because you're absolutely right. Drama is a dirty word in the current marketplace. You know, there's a lot of a lot of producers out there selling their dramas and thrillers, for example, when they're not really thrillers at all, although some of them do a very good job. I mean, I saw one of my case studies, and the book is called hours. And it's by the writer of a rival Eric Kaiser. And it was his directorial debut. And was a fantastic drama. It wasn't about fatherhood, it was about responsibility. It was it was just beautiful. It was really, really good. And it was the last job that's the late Paul Walker from Fast and Furious did

Alex Ferrari 21:58
the movie Yes. Yeah, it

Lucy V. Hay 22:01
was a great it was a great film, I loved it. But they did sell it as a thriller, the distributor, they had him on the on the front cover looking all rugged and stressed was going, you know, like it was and they had him on the back. And he had any carrying a gun and all that kind of stuff. It does look like a thriller. So some some distributors, and some producers as well will sell dramas as thrillers, especially if it's got a very compelling kind of survival elements in it like ours, because it was set in the New Orleans hurricanes. So if you've got some sort of hook like survival situation, then maybe you could do that as a thriller. But that is a bit of a cheat, really. But but it can work. Having said that, you can tell it is really good. I'll sell it as a comedy, as well, because there was a movie about cancer called step mom said starring Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts, beautiful story about an ex wife who has to leave the care of her children, with her with the new wife's husband. She's dying of cancer, the ex wife and she has to leave her young children with Julia Roberts, the new wife and their father, and it's all about the two women getting to know one another. And actually getting over resentment, and, and, and the unfairness of the situation because of course, she doesn't want to die and all this kind of stuff. And it was it was heartbreaking and beautiful, really, really well done. But they sold it as a comedy. And although there were bits that were funny, because it was very much from the tragic element of you know, if you don't laugh, you cry. It wasn't a comedy. It was a drama. But the distributor sold it as a comedy. I remember the trailer and see. Yeah, and I don't think they even mentioned cancer in the trailer.

Alex Ferrari 23:53
They do. Of course, who's gonna watch that movie? It was

Lucy V. Hay 23:57
exactly so but it was a beautiful film I saw on Yeah, sores on television by accident, and I was weeping buckets. It was so good, brilliant performances. So yeah, so thriller or comedy, you know, trying to give it that kind of sense. That can work again with this notion of issues as well things like cancer, things like teenage pregnancy with Juno, you know, you can you can give that as a hook, you know, using issues as a hook to sell them can work. That said, when it comes to drama, generally, you're not going to sell a drama in the classic sense, like you would sell a genre piece not in not in the in the current marketplace. So basically, what happens is you're not selling stuff in terms of in terms of actually, you know, getting a check and going in and you know, saying jaws in space and getting them to do a blank check to you and all that kind of stuff like you know, like everybody wants but basically what you're doing is you're writing The Best Drama that you can think of the best devastating one both best whimsical one, best survivalist one, whatever that is, and your recruiter, and it's kind of like a recruitment drive, you're kind of getting people on board with you, you kind of essentially call yourself the writer producer, if you like or, and you're recruiting everybody onto your journey and making them kind of get on board with you and help you make this film. I mean, I was reading about or forgotten his name. The guy who did he was the producer of Dallas Buyers Club. And we're gonna be talking about Yes, and it's just completely gone out of my head, which is, which is really annoying.

Alex Ferrari 25:46
That's a straight drama, that is a straight drama. Exactly, exactly.

Lucy V. Hay 25:49
But of course, it's about issues. And it's it's a it was a very kind of preside prescient kind of issue because of course, it introduced to the mainstream, the notion of transgender characters. And it was it was something that was quite dark, and also had some some moments of of light and shade, and made a massive cultural impact in the same way that probably something like Philadelphia did with Tom Hanks about 20 years before. And interestingly, around the same time that Philadelphia was made and was getting all its Oscars with Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks, Dallas Buyers Club was doing the rounds, it was literally in development for about 20 to 23 years. Originally, apparently, Woody Harrelson was going to play Matthew McConaughey is part which you can see can't use. And it just it just stayed in development hell for a long, long, long, long, long time, because nobody wanted to make that film. And anyway, the producer Kassian yields that his name Catherine your last finance multiple times to to make Dallas Buyers Club. Because basically, it was his pet project. It was his passion project. He really, really wants to make this movie, because he thought it was important. And he was absolutely right. And eventually, when he lost it for the third time, he just got out his Rolodex or his filofax, or however he does it and just call people up begging them for money. And he eventually found someone who said who he said, Look, mate, I gave you your start in filmmaking. So now give me the money to make this film. And the guy said, Oh, no, no, no, no, I don't, I don't think I don't want to make that film about about AIDS and stuff, it's too much of a downer. I don't want to do it. I don't want to do it. And he goes, Look, it's really important. We're going to win all the awards, it's going to make a massive cultural impact. I guarantee it, you know, Cassie newels had that much belief. And the guy said, You know what, I'm going to give you the money. But when you go to the Oscar ceremony, you've got to take me with you. The rest is history they want all those Oscars and casinos took took his mate to the Oscars within, you know, and it's, it's like, wow, you know, you've got to have that kind of belief, when you're making a drama, you have to understand that, unless you're willing to get behind it 100% like that, then it's probably not worth writing a drama, you probably want to be doing something else, you know, you probably want to write a horror or something that you can sell a lot easier. Because if you think that writing a drama and selling it just because it's lower budget than average is going to make it easier. It's not, it's still like 30 million times harder to make a drama than a genre piece. So that's always really worth thinking about. Whenever my writers come to me and say, I really want to do a drummer, I say, Well, how are you going to do this? And if they look at me blankly, I go, Oh, dear. Because you don't know the half of it, you know, but it you know, sometimes they'll come to me and say, right, I'm gonna make this amazing drummer because this subject matter is really important to me. And I've got this strategy, I'm going to go I'm going to get the money from from this scheme I'm going to get the money from from these kinds of product placements and various investors and all that kind of stuff. I'm gonna take it to all the various film festivals, I'm going to win loads of awards, I'm going to make sure it gets into the Oscars. I'm going to go all out to go you know, to the nth degree with that, and I and every time somebody comes to me with that, I go fantastic. I will help you because they know what they're talking about.

Alex Ferrari 29:42
Yeah, then dramas are dramas are such a unique genre in film because they're the one that kind of like you can easily tweak it to make it a comedy or you could tweak it to make it a thriller, or at least have those elements in it. For some for selling points of view where You know, sometimes there are those stray dramas like Dallas Buyers Club, you know, I don't even remember if there was any humor, I think there had to been a joke or two in there. But you can't sell that movie, obviously, as a comedy. And the other, the other genre that gets really abused is thriller. Now, what is the definition in your opinion of a thriller? We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Lucy V. Hay 30:32
Well, Thriller thrills, so you know, that's that's kind of, you know, everybody knows that because it's in the name. But, you know, what does thrilling actually mean? And and I think there's two kind of key things that are in a thriller, again, something I mean, both thriller and drama are two things I feel really passionately about which I had to because I've written a written a book on each of these terms, in terms of thrillers, in terms of the what I would call a definition of thrillers is a thriller usually has some kind of element of mystery to it, there's usually they usually have to find out some sort of answer to a question of some kind, who was behind it all, if you like. And then it could be a straight mystery as well, you know, the notion of the whodunit as well. But even if it doesn't have a mystery elements, because not every thriller has a mystery element. Because at the end of the day, a thriller just has the thrill, it can just be exciting. That's the point. So I think what is predominantly the point of thrillers is that it's about the chase of some kind, whether they're looking for like a mysterious answer to a question, or whether they're literally chasing someone. It's about the chase, literally or metaphorically.

Alex Ferrari 31:49
Now is there is there cuz in a horror films, a lot of times can either be tweaked to be thrillers as well, because, arguably, you know, I just watched it the other day, and it is thrilled, it definitely thrilled, you know, but it also scared. So, how do you play around with that definition? Or are we really just getting into the weeds?

Lucy V. Hay 32:14
Now, I think there's I think there's a considerable difference between thriller and horror, a lot of people kind of mix them up and say that, you know, that they're the same. And certainly there is some mixing within the genre, you know, thrillers can be horrifying. And horrors can be thrilling, you know? Whereas, but if you've take it right down to the foundation levels, a thriller is for the chase, and a horror report the scares, you know, horror is supposed to scare you. And so, you know, sometimes you find being scared, thrilling, and that's great. But is there a sense of mystery there? Is there a sense of Chase, they're probably not necessary. I mean, something like it, for example, is a classic horror, because yes, there are thrilling elements in it. I loved it, when he jumped out of the fridge and out of the room, and all that kind of stuff. I loved all of that, because it is thrilling to me because I enjoy being scared. But ultimately, it And arguably, most of Stephen King's work, in general is about vanquishing the beast, there is this bad thing, and you have got to stop it. That's the point of horror. And so it's about being scared. And it's about vanquishing the beast and who, who could be more both Beasley than Pennywise.

Alex Ferrari 33:31
He's horrible. Oh my God. What a beautiful. What a beautiful rendition of that novel. It did. They did such a beautiful job, and always good. I can't wait for the sequel. I can't wait for chapter two.

Lucy V. Hay 33:44
Yeah, no, I can't. I mean, I, I've enjoyed the first TV series version of it. Very awesome. But a lot of the plotting was quite wack. Really. It was just it was it was just a bit lumpy and strange. And it really kind of it was very 90s. And a lot of really weird stuff going on. It was it

Alex Ferrari 34:07
was also to the movie. So it wasn't, it wasn't an actual, you know, full blown feature films might have not taken as much time that, you know, the caliber of the writers might have been different. It could have been a whole whole sorts of reasonings. But yes, I did not see the Tim Curry version. Or if I did, I don't remember it, as well. I do remember him. But this, right, but this version, but this version, he was just eerie and scary. It was just it was beautifully done. Beautiful. And I love that that was in the 80s. That yes, because now we tap into that wonderful, the wonderful thing that's just running rampid right now over Hollywood and over movies in general is nostalgia. Can you talk a little bit about nostalgia and what is it right now because we've had nostalgia for a while. I mean, you can you can go back to examples like American Graffiti. That wasn't For the 50s, and it's always a couple of decades back, I noticed it's like two or three decades away. And then we can go back and be nostalgic about it. But the 80s has something very special about it, there is something unique about that, that that 80s And now 90s, to both, which

Lucy V. Hay 35:20
I think it's unique. I think it's just the fact that we're old now. People, people who are 35 Plus are looking back on times of the 80s in the 90s, with such fondness because everything seems simpler, then, you know, there was no social media, there was no people in your face with, you know, you could go away for the weekend. Nobody could hassle you, you know, now you've got bloody mobiles all the time.

Alex Ferrari 35:44
We weren't at war, the economy was good for the most part.

Lucy V. Hay 35:47
Not necessarily. I mean, there was a lot of stuff going on. And certainly in the UK in the 80s. There's the miners strikes, there was a massive recession, you know,

Alex Ferrari 35:57
before, before us in the US. I mean, yeah, we had the Cold War, but the Cold War in the 1980s, late 80s and 90s, were pretty much an economic boom for us. Yeah, you know, there was there were, you know, and we weren't at a war until the 90s with the Desert Storm, but it wasn't like an ongoing war constantly. And it's just a much more complex time now, without question.

Lucy V. Hay 36:21
I'm not sure it is actually, I think I think there's always been crazier, you know, crazy things going on in the world. I think we just hear about them more now. kinds of stuff going on in the 90s that we never heard about at the time, you know, the Taliban taking, you know, the stronghold and stopping all the women going to work and you know, the the Chechnya and rebels and the destruction of the USSR and Yugoslavia was gone. And

Alex Ferrari 36:49
I think we were ignorant back then. And that just we didn't get the information as much. It's just now we're overloaded with it.

Lucy V. Hay 36:56
Yeah, I think so. I mean, you know, the the genocides that are happening in places like Rwanda, for example. It just every bit as bad as the things that ISIS are doing, and Yeah, apparently, this is this is these are the worst times that we've ever lived in. Actually, I think we've always lived in terrible times. And I think we've always lived in wonderful times. I think it depends where you are. And and I think we're looking back with nostalgia for the 80s and 90s. Because we're looking through rose tinted spectacles. Now, I loved my, you know, being a child or being a teenager, and all those kinds of things. But I'm not, I'm not denying the fact that I had problems and the world had problems at the time. And I think I think that's something that a lot of people forget. And the Victorians believe that nostalgia was actually a disease, you would actually become sick, you would actually become sick for the past. And I think that's what a lot of us do now. And of course, it's easier than ever to be sick for the past, because of course, you can look on the internet and see all these great things that you used to have or used to believe you had. And, and now you think that now the present is is rubbish. And I think that's a real shame in lots of ways. Because you know, you've only got now there is no, now

Alex Ferrari 38:05
there is no you don't have tomorrow, you don't have the past, it's all Now,

Lucy V. Hay 38:10
none of us know how much time we have. And unfortunately, a lot of us wasted by worrying about things that have already gone, worrying about things that might not happen, and saying that everything about now is terrible. And, you know, everybody worries, everybody gets annoyed about stuff, you know, they got a crap boss or their teams, let them down or anything like that. But at the end of the day, you have to kind of try and keep gratitude in your heart for the fact that you're not dead.

Alex Ferrari 38:45
Very, that's a very good point. At the end of the day, like you know, what you should be grateful to you're not dead, I mean, you're here might as well enjoy it while you're here and enjoy the present moment. And that's the only thing you really have control over. And I think that's a great way to write a character. You know, because also characters a lot of times have the same neurosis that we have as human beings

Lucy V. Hay 39:11
which was going to ask you like ology, I've had I've suffered from depression before? So it can be done.

Alex Ferrari 39:20
Without question can be

Lucy V. Hay 39:22
Yeah, it's it's something you know, a lot of people get really annoyed and say, oh, you know, when you say that, you you're you're sticking the boot into people who have mental health issues. And it's like, no, I've got every sympathy for people with mental health issues. You know, life is hard. And sometimes, you know, the chemicals in your brain really screw with you. I know that just as much as anyone. But you know, we have to reframe things, the bad things, and we have to kind of hope for the best because what else is there? There is literally nothing else.

Alex Ferrari 39:53
Pretty much pretty much. Now, you also wrote another book about writing diverse characters. Can you give any Vyas in a small tips on how to write a diverse character and what is your definition of a diverse character?

Lucy V. Hay 40:06
Well, I mean, diverse character, you know, the notion of the word diversity, it just means variety. You know, for a lot of people, as soon as you say diversity, they think that you mean race, or they think that you mean, LGBT or female leads as well, we'll come under that because of course, female leads are so much less prevalent than the male leads. So those are the three that people immediately think of. And then I would also say, well, disabled characters are as well. And it's actually shocking how little diversity there is, in showing the disabled experience on screen. It's really, really surprising if you actually break it down how many disabled characters you see. Nearly always wheelchair users nearly always male, nearly always white, they nearly always want to kill themselves. It's, it's pretty sad.

Alex Ferrari 41:05
It's actually pretty sad. It is really sad. I mean, the my left foots of the world are rare. Yeah,

Lucy V. Hay 41:11
yeah. I mean, it's, it's, it's unfortunate, because, you know, one in five people in the UK and the US have a disability of some kind. And there's many, many in what they call invisible disabilities as well that people can't necessarily understand. Because they physically can't see them. But they creates, you know, massive challenges in people's lives. We also tend to see disabled people only in drama, because drama is about struggle. And we initially we you know, able bodied people immediately think oh, well, if you're disabled, then your life is bad, which of course is nonsense is absolute builds. And so it's really great to see more and more disabled characters in genre pieces. So, for example, Furiosa would be the obvious choice, that was great. She was so good. And she you know, she didn't just have a disability, she had essentially an upgrade, because Because had she not had the robot arm, then Max would have fallen from the rig and gone on to the wheels of the of the truck. And of course, she saves him. And she would never been able to grab him like that with her normal arm, she could only grab him with her robot arm. And we've seen robot arms a lot in Hollywood, which I always find really intriguing. You know, Bucky from Marvel has got a robot arm now got a vibranium arm over Canada gave to him. There's detective Spooner, played by Will Smith in the iRobot. In 2005, he had a robot arm as well. And we've seen other robot arms in general. And of course, the Mad Max universe has always placed disability at its heart, right in the very first movie across the franchise. And so I would like to see more characters, you know, in disabled story worlds, where people, you know, have issues to do with their disability, but maybe, but not necessarily the whole their whole story. I would love to see that. I would love to see more working class characters, especially from UK writers, you know, we have we have a bit of a hang up on lords and ladies and all that kind of stuff over here.

Alex Ferrari 43:22
Is there is there I heard there's a wedding going on.

Lucy V. Hay 43:27
I've no idea. Seriously. I was on a train on last week. And one of the things came over the tannoy saying, Oh, that there's going to be major disruption on the line next week next weekend. And I thought What the hell's happening next weekend? And I had to Google to find out it was the royal wedding. I was like that's how disinterested the average person is in the in the royal wedding.

Alex Ferrari 43:48
I know. They're obsessed about it here. I mean up cess it's yeah, my

Lucy V. Hay 43:53
sister lives in Australia and they're obsessed with it over there as well. And you know all my Australian friends and American friends keep saying Oh, you're ready for the for the royal wedding is like how can I be ready for the royal wedding? I'm not going everybody you know people assume that everybody in Britain is going to this wedding.

Alex Ferrari 44:11
I guess it's the because we don't have you know, kings and queens here. So I guess I guess that's the thing I guess like I don't know. I don't know why why Americans are so enthralled with it for so much. I'm not I just every time I turn the television on. I see these guys. I'm like, I know way too much my way. I know way too much about the wedding already. And I'm not even following it.

Lucy V. Hay 44:34
Yeah, I've managed I've managed to mute and unfollow pretty much everyone who likes the wedding now. So I've managed to be in blissful ignorance. So that's great.

Alex Ferrari 44:46
Now so again, one one last question want to ask you? How do you construct a proper pitch because I know that's such a difficult thing for for writers and for filmmakers in general to pitch their ideas in your in your opinion. How do you think proper pitch?

Lucy V. Hay 45:02
Well, I would say the first thing you need is to think about your logline and how you actually communicate your story and the logline. I often talk on bank to write about what I call the three C's of a good logline. So we're talking about clarity, which is obvious, it's got to be clear, but you won't believe how many log lines just aren't clear. And so you don't really know what's happening. And it's a really good thing to do is to check for clarity always and post them in places like well, the bank to rights Facebook group will have a, you know, you can write it on the wall and all the banker writers will chime in and give their feedback on the on the log lines. And that really works especially on clarity issues. Because then you've got like, very often 10 or even 15 people will chime in with their feedback. And if they're not getting it, then you know that you got a problem. There's another great website called log line it. So it's log line.it. And you can actually put your log lines up there and ask for feedback. Another one that you can do is Reddit has a great group called just called screenwriting and you can put your logline up there you do have to be fairly strong stomachs to Oh,

Alex Ferrari 46:17
yes. Anytime you go on to read it, you have to have a strong stomach.

Lucy V. Hay 46:22
Yeah, you do. So if you get upset easily to don't go on Reddit is my is my brutal advice.

Alex Ferrari 46:30
Brutal, like they're the worst?

Lucy V. Hay 46:32
Oh, absolutely. Brutal. I mean, there was this guy on Reddit the other week. I mean, he was going on and on and on at me, I had to mute him. In the end he was going on about how I didn't have done the thing in my career and how I was really sad, blah, blah, blah. I was like, Whoa, you're unleashing so much vitriol on me. I mean, for God's sake. But you know, whatever. Exam it's very sad place, no doubt. But yeah, so Reddit can be brutal. But in the banter writers Facebook group, we're always very, you know, the whole point of it is moral support. And, and peer review. So you know, by all means, put your loglines there so clarity will be the first see of the three C's character is another one. So, you know, who was in this? What do you know? What's, what is their motivation? What is what is the point of them being in, in this thing. And very often, we have the same kind of characters, even in loglines. One thing I've noticed over the years is what I call the negative adjective female. And there's always, you know, the guilt stricken young woman or the bereaved mother or something really negative, and then she has to overcome something, you know, even in a genre piece, and it's like, Oh, my God, why can't we just have a kick ass females? Five ones? Why do they all have to be guilt ridden? Why do they all have to be traumatized? Oh, my God, you know, so. So, again, flag up some really interesting things. And then the last one would be conflicts, you know, what is the situation this character finds themselves in? So we're talking, clarity, character, conflict, that's the three C's and the keys of a good logline. From there, I would say in terms of pitching especially if you're pitching in real life like a pitch fest, or or on you know, one of those, you know, Skype meetings that you can book with, with various producers and stuff. Now, the first thing I would say is, introduce yourself, you know who you are, whether you have any credits, and actually say what you're going to be pitching whether going to be pitching a feature or a short film or

Alex Ferrari 48:48
TV. Just don't just just don't just jump into it.

Lucy V. Hay 48:52
No, no, don't know don't just read out your your logline. So I've had a lot of very bad pitches over the years where they basically just kind of sit down and go and just bark a logline at you. And you're like, Whoa, what's going on? We're

Alex Ferrari 49:04
human beings remember that? Exactly. You

Lucy V. Hay 49:06
know, and it's really, really good. If you can make some sort of connection, all the best pitches I've ever heard someone sat down and said something like, Oh, hi. Oh, you know, I've read your blog. I really liked your article about blah. You know, I know you like female leads, I know you like thrillers. So I'm going to be pitching a thriller feature for you today. And I'm immediately thinking, Oh, this person's done their homework, they know what they're talking about. They know me they know of me. And it just gives you a good kind of connection at the beginning of the pitch. You don't have to say you like things if you don't. But if you have happened to have watched something that someone's made or read their articles or or something, you know, you have some sort of like prior knowledge or you've met them before maybe you know, I've had had a good pitch only the other week when a lady came in and said Oh, hi we met women in film and TV. which is a union for women who work in film and television here in the UK. So we met there before. And we had a little chat quickly about that person. Then she told me a logline. And you know, we had that kind of sense of connection and rapport. And of course, I remembered her afterwards. And that's always helped. So yeah, introduce yourself, say what you're pitching, say your logline, try and deliver it conversationally, if you can, don't just read it out, and then be available for questions about it. And before you go to the pitch, try and think of the questions that they might ask. I mean, that doesn't mean that you're necessarily going to cover all of them. But to actually have an idea of what they might say will give you confidence and confidence is what always powers a good pitch.

Alex Ferrari 50:45
Very cool. Now, can you tell me a little bit about bank to write in the good work you're doing over there?

Lucy V. Hay 50:51
Banks, right is a well, it started off as a screen writing blog only. And then over the years, it started to kind of change. And I started to talk about characterization. Generally, I started moving more into script editing, as well as script reading. So I started to I got commissioned to write those two books on writing, which in turn, got me more jobs on working on dramas and thrillers in particular. So I started to kind of really talk about genre really talk about drama, especially because I found myself talking about thriller and horror a lot. So I talk a lot on the blog about drama, a lot about thriller a lot about horror, started talking more and more about diverse characters as well, which that led into the into the third book. But also, one thing that I noticed over the years was that people, you know, writers really wanted to connect with me. And so I created the Facebook group, which is really lively, and really connected and really encouraged now. And so I've kind of bringing that back and forth between the main sites, and the social media kind of pages, and also the main bank right groups. So whatever they're talking about in the group, I will make sure that I write about on the main site, because I know that it will, you know, power the site and power the chat in the thing and increase the sense of community and just make it more cohesive. And one thing that I noticed that the bank writers really liked was things like quotes and success quotes and inspirational quotes. So I put a lot of quotes on the on the blog, and what we can learn from them as writers, I did one recently about Rocky and how he used the Patriot to say to writers, because I really think that I think it's great, because he's so motivational, and he's so spiritual. And so you've got to go out there and do it, which is something that I truly believe as well. And also in terms of other things they like, they like productivity articles, so you know how to get writing done. You know, there's a lot of writers out there who have, you know, very diminished windows in which to write I know, I do, I mean, I'm a professional writer, as well, I write novels, and blog copy. And, you know, I'm just writing stuff all the time constantly. But I still have less time than I want to write my own speculative work as well, you know, I've got, I've just been planning a project recently that, you know, I haven't even shown to my agent yet. It's just a story that I have, I feel a burning desire to, to tell. But I know that I've got a million other things to do first, so I'm going to have to do it on you know, keep it on the back burner and keep writing, you know, 1000 words here. 1000 words, they're just like the banker writers who may still have day jobs in completely unrelated things. So I write a lot about productivity, I write a lot about self belief and motivation as well, especially when the bank writers have have been through, you know, really bad rejections. Because one of the great things about banker writers on Facebook is that when somebody is rejected, they might post in their resume or be rejected. Everyone's like, ah, chin up, it'll be alright, you know, keep going, all that kind of stuff. Because only other writers really know what it's like to be rejected. You know, I can say, I mean, I got rejected, yes. And my husband came home, and I told him, I've been rejected. And he was like, Oh, no. And he went out and got me a bottle of wine, which is very nice of him. But I know, he doesn't, he's not a writer, he doesn't know what it's really like to be rejected. So the first thing I did was get on the phone to some of my writer friends, and so be rejected immediately, like, ah, Nightmare, you know, and I'll do the same for them as well. We do the same in the Facebook group as well. And so yeah, we talk about and that, you know, loads of different things to talk about novel writing more and more as well. Because of course, I'm getting really into that I love writing my novels. And it's just because it's nice to have a change as well, because I spend so long right reading screenplays, and, you know, writers stuff. It's sometimes nice just to write in a completely different medium. Although I actually think of screenplays and novels as being the same. I certainly outline them in the same way you know, with reacts and character motivations and role functions and all that kind of stuff. I do them exactly the same way. It's just novels are three times longer, and a bit more psychological as well.

Alex Ferrari 55:12
You also write nonfiction books as well. Yeah,

Lucy V. Hay 55:15
yeah. So yeah, I will write it. Yeah, I've even write those really with three acts, to be honest.

Alex Ferrari 55:24
What are the three books that you that I know off the top of my head is the one the writing drama, running? That's

Lucy V. Hay 55:30
right writing and selling drama screenplays, writing and selling thriller screenplays. And then it's writing diverse characters for fiction TV and film. So that third one actually incorporates novels as well, because of course, we're talking predominantly about characters. And of course, character, right? Whether you've got a character in a screenplay or a character in a novel is, you know, the same thing. They're just maybe presented differently. But other than that, they have the same kind of genetic makeup, very makeup.

Alex Ferrari 56:01
Now I'm going to ask you, some council a few questions. I asked all of my guests, it's going to be kind of like speed round. What advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Lucy V. Hay 56:13
I would say get a website and do online networking as much as possible. Learn about what it is to do good online networking via social media and via your blog, and actually how to bring people to you. So in other words, create a platform. I think that's really really important. Looking back, I did that kind of instinctively. And and it's really led me it held me in good stead.

Alex Ferrari 56:39
Very cool. Now, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career?

Lucy V. Hay 56:46
Oh, blimey, there's been so many. I mean, I read it, I read about 100 books a year. So it's difficult to say really? Is it fiction or nonfiction button?

Alex Ferrari 56:55
Either one, and just something that comes to your head?

Lucy V. Hay 56:59
I think for me, weirdly, the one that kind of really sticks out for me when I probably and I'd probably recommend the most to people would probably be we've world by Clive Barker, because it made such a massive impression on me as like a 13 year old school girl. I mean, it was it was filthy in so many ways. And but it wasn't Yeah, exactly. highly imaginative. And so visual, it was so massively visual I went on to read all his other ones like image occur and, and the midnight meet train and all his comic books and all this freaky weird stuff, Cabal and, and all that kind of stuff. And it and it made a massive, massive impression on me, even though I don't write fantasy, just the visuals of it. They never left me and I can even when I think of those words, I can see them in my head. So yeah, I wanted I wanted to be like him. And, and really, you know, hopefully one day I will be as good as him.

Alex Ferrari 57:59
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life,

Lucy V. Hay 58:04
um, don't take things personally, I think especially when

Alex Ferrari 58:08
you're on Reddit.

Lucy V. Hay 58:12
I mean, sometimes people kind of get under my skin, but nine times out of 10 Now they just bounce off me, it just doesn't bother me, especially online. And certainly, because I've started to notice that when you have a massive online platform, you start to notice the the trolls and the and the negative people say exactly the same things exactly the same way. And so the more you're exposed to it, the more you become immune to it, it's kind of like a mad online kind of vaccination if you like. So it's quite rare that things really bother me online. Unfortunately, in real life, when things happen, I they really still can get me down even Now, having said that, I recover a lot quicker than I used to. It used to be that you know, something happened with my family, or something happened in my marriage or something like that. It would take me You know, I wasn't resilient. It took me ages to kind of recover from it emotionally. But now, because I've been doing lots of work on myself about that. I think I think I'm much better than I used to be definitely so yeah, don't take things too personally specially not in the industry. Because people say things for

when they just work on the basis that they don't mean it and and if they do mean it, just tell them to go you know, F themselves.

Alex Ferrari 59:35
Okay, and three of your favorite films of all time.

Lucy V. Hay 59:40
First one has to be alien left a huge, huge elbow mark. I watched it when I was about 11 That will do it. That'll do it. Yeah. And and I was really shocked and and it just totally overwhelmed me and I just couldn't stop thinking about it. And then I rewrote alien in my in my Various notebooks for about five years afterwards, just right in the same thing about a girl going into space and getting attacked by monsters. And some of them were Alright, so I've got a couple of mine notebooks and thinking, well, maybe I should do something with some of those someday. So yeah, if you ever see if you ever see a space story from me about a girl being attacked by monsters, you know why? Another one that really kind of made a massive impact on me would be Blue Valentine, the drama starring Ryan, great. Another Cassie Newell's one actually, that he produced. And it was so good. It was so true about you know, the nature of divorce and love and that, you know, the the relationship between men and women. It was it was, it was so brutal. And so true and so beautiful, and tragic. And just awful. And oh, God, it was just it was so good. I really, really loved it. So yeah, Blue Valentine would be another one. And I think the other one would be Toy Story. Because I had, I was about 14 when that movie came out. And I remember, you know, I'd never really seen 3d 3d Animation before that. I mean, I know it was around but I don't remember ever seeing it. Certainly never seen a movie with it. And I remember going to the cinema and and I remember being dragged to see it because I was gonna go to see kids movie, I'm a grown up. And, and I was like, wow, I could not believe I could not believe my eyes. I mean, actually, when you look at the first Toy Story, now it looks quite dated in glory three. But at that time, that was the best they could do. And it was I was amazed by it. And I was also amazed by the fact that it was a family movie rather than just the kids. And I just loved all the you know, like, Hey, I'm Picasso and his sight paid based on sideways, you know, the potato. And I was just I remember get I remember getting it and laughing. And I was the only one that laughed in the cinema. But it was because it was because I live in Devon in the UK, which is tiny. And there was only about 20 people in the cinnabar. But I remember thinking Why don't the grownups get it? And that's when I started to think, oh, you know, there's such a thing as a literary illusion. And there's such a thing as subtext. And there's such a thing as, as these things that are put in, you know, these in jokes for grownups and for cultured people in things that are comedy and stuff. I started to notice different different things and how you could be 14 and get a cultural reference like that. But a grown up sitting next to me didn't get it. I was like, Oh, that's interesting, different responses to different to different things. Not everybody's the same. And so, you know, all of these movies really kind of, you know, set off things in my in my head as it were, I mean, because of Blue Valentine. That's when I wanted to write the drama screenplays book, so when my publisher said to me, you know, do you want to write another writing book the first thing I thought of was Blue Valentine but I want to write something about that somehow I want to I want to kind of do you know, look into what drama is and what the minutiae of of that thing is because drama can be anything can literally be anything so how do you get down you know, at least with thriller, you know that thriller thrills and it's got to be thrilling in some way and it's got to be about Chase It's got to be about the mystery or in it so that Chase is figurative or or literal. But you know what is drama? What is it and what is it that makes me interested in it when something is so devastating as say Blue Valentine versus something like Little Miss Sunshine which is not devastating at all, but it still has pathos in it so what what is the difference? And so yeah, that that set that off and made me think yeah, what is what is this thing about emotional truth and drama?

Alex Ferrari 1:03:51
Now working people find you in your work

Lucy V. Hay 1:03:55
well, you can find me all over the all over the internet. I'm like germs I get everywhere. So if you Google my name Lucy V hay ha why you'll find me if you Google Lucy hay or find the Countess of Carlisle in Scotland. I can't win against her unfortunately, cuz she's a historical figure from the 16th century. If you Google Lucy V Hey, or find me if you Google bang to write you'll find me BA and g number two w r i t e, that's one word. And I'm going to write.com I'm Lucy V Hey author.com as well and I'm basically on all of the platforms I've already I'm on Facebook, I'm on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, you know, you tripping you're tripping over me I'm I'm literally everywhere.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:43
Well, I'll make sure to put those links and also links to your books in the show notes. Lucia it's been wonderful talking to you for this last hour. Thank you so much for dropping some nice knowledge bombs on on the tribe. Thank you so much.

Lucy V. Hay 1:04:56
Oh, you're welcome.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:58
Thank you, Lucy for dropping Some knowledge bombs on the tribe today. If you want to get more information about Lucy and her work at Bank to write, just head over to the show notes at Indie film hustle.com, forward slash BPS zero to five, where I'll put links to everything we spoke about in this episode. And, guys, if you haven't already, please head over to screenwriting podcast.com And leave a good review on iTunes. It is so so helpful to the show. And it helps the rankings of the show and I really want to get all this information out to as many screenwriters and filmmakers as humanly possible. So that's screenwriting podcast.com. And that does it for another episode of The Bulletproof screenplay podcast. Thank you so much for your support. I hope this episode was of service to you on your journey as a writer, as a creator and as an artist. As always, keep on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon. Thanks for listening to the bulletproof screenplay podcast at bulletproof screenplay calm that's b u ll e t e r o f s CR e n PLA y.com


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