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BPS 078: Screenwriting & Hollywood in the Times of COVID with Greg Gertmenian

Today on the show we have Greg Gertmenian, who is the Head of Script Analytics and Film Development at Slated. He is also the co-inventor of the Script Score, the only screenplay evaluation tool proven to accurately predict good films. Helped arrange financing of films like SUPER TROOPERS 2, DEEP MURDER, CRUISE, AT FIRST LIGHT, GOD BLESS THE BROKEN ROAD, BECOMING and WHAT BREAKS THE ICE.

Prior to his time at Slated, produced short format content including the fan-beloved short film, BALROG: BEHIND THE GLORY and the award-winning, AFI Fest film THE HAIRCUT.

I wanted to bring Greg on the show to discuss Hollywood, screenwriters and the COVID pandemic, and what we all can do to survive and thrive during these crazy and uncertain times. Enjoy my conversation with Greg Gertmenian.

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Alex Ferrari 0:01
I like to welcome the show Greg Gertmenian. How you doing my friend?

Greg Gertmenian 3:39
Good, man. How are you? Good. Good.

Alex Ferrari 3:41
Thanks for having thanks for having me on the show. Thank you for you being on the show. I appreciate you coming on and talking all things about the film industry in this crazy time that we're living in right now.

Greg Gertmenian 3:54
Indeed, yeah, it's my pleasure. Thanks for having me. There's lots to talk about.

Alex Ferrari 3:57
Yeah, absolutely. So before we get started, how did you get into the business in the first place?

Greg Gertmenian 4:03
Oh, that's a good question. So. So I did. Bill films, I focused on film and comedy in school when I was in college at USC. And I wasn't a film major, but all my friends were. And so that got me into the business of sketch comedy, directing sketch, comedy writing and performing and doing some stand up. And shortly after, you know, graduating, you realize, no one's gonna make it and invite you, you got to make it yourself. So that started me on the path of making stuff. And I had some success with some short films out of school and then joined my brother's management company, which he started for for new feature screenwriters. And so I sort of cut my teeth at his shingle helping him, discover writers and sign them and then send them out and get options and writing assignments and sales and And that company was sort of the basis for the company that we would later found in 2012 called spec Scout, which was sort of the the path the career path that I'm on today with, you know, discovering new writers the script score and and the underlying technology. They're

Alex Ferrari 5:19
great and then you work now for slated or work with slated?

Greg Gertmenian 5:22
Indeed, yeah. Yeah. Erica, so

Alex Ferrari 5:24
we'll get into slated in a little bit. That's one of the reasons why I want to have you on the show because I'm really curious about slated and what they do, but because of your work with slate and and with set and specs spec Scout, before then, I mean, you have your ear to the grindstone, pretty much about the industry. So you're reading the trades, and you're talking to people, and you have a lot of information that many of us outside of the industry might not have, because you just have access. Obviously COVID has thrown the largest monkey wrench I've ever seen in the history of the industry, which is a fairly large statement to say, I've been in the business for 25 plus years. In my time, I've never seen anything and just being a student of history of our industry. I just never seen anything like this. What I mean, what are you hearing? Like, I mean, obviously, every day, you know, as of this recording, we don't know what's happening right now, as we're recording, we're, quote unquote, opening up as the cases are flying up around the country. And even here in Los Angeles. Nobody knows what's going to happen in a month, in a week. So what are you hearing from executives from finance ears, from distributors from talent? You know, what's, what's the word?

Greg Gertmenian 6:42
Yeah, I think everyone is generally pretty eager to set dates. In the near future, when stuff is going to hopefully resume and get back to normal. I'm much less optimistic than that. Just because we have, you know, so many countries that are ahead of us in the curve. And we've seen that they've opened back up and then had to pull back. So you know, generally we're seeing I think there was an announcement today that movie theaters in Los Angeles in New York are expecting to open back up in mid July. And,

Alex Ferrari 7:16
and I don't I'm not optimistic.

Greg Gertmenian 7:19
Yeah, I think so. I think that, you know, I've spoken to because that's slated, we we work, you know, we're working on 60 films at any given time, and all of them have different production schedules. And they're all trying to make their day, right. So I've heard different filmmakers approach this differently. But I think that the conventional wisdom right now is that we're going to open back up for a little period of time, during which production is going to follow pretty strict guidelines to try to keep sets small to try to keep people in the respective corners of the set during the respective duties. The unions have signed off on certain protocols with regard to that sort of limited COVID mitigated production. But then we know like every other country, that there's probably going to be a resurgence. And from from what I'm hearing, I think the resurgence is expected to be a few months later, maybe perhaps sometime in November or September. And that's obviously not a tested statement. But as far as you know, whispers through the grapevine, I think the senses we're going to get we're going to get in the game for a few months, people are going to try to do their COVID, safe, friendly productions. You know, we certainly have some films that are more contained, that have, you know, could be made with tiny crews that are planning to shoot in that frame of time. And then if and when stuff starts to hit the fan again, then we'll you know, we'll have to pull back and adjust accordingly. But I know that there are some universities out there who are planning to go back just in session on schedule in August and try to rap a little early before the the the resurgence of COVID happen. So I don't know if we're following their lead or what but I think filmmakers are eager to get done what they can while they can. Give me my I'll be back on ice in a period of a few more months. Yeah, I

Alex Ferrari 9:13
mean, I'm even less optimistic than that. I think right now just looking at the numbers and what people are talking about there. You know, it's in a 50% capacity already in LA with ICU beds. And it's growing every day because of the because of the protesting. Because of all that stuff that we didn't that wasn't even a part of the crazy that we have to deal with in 2020. And now all of a sudden, we have that thrown in. So that's a complete new monkey wrench in this normal, somewhat normal, a normal timeline that you even talking about. So um, I don't see theaters opening up in July. I just don't and if I do how, like, if tenant opens up Nolan's tenant opens up July 15. Well, yes, there'll be a handful of people Go out, is it gonna have $150 million opening? I doubt it. I don't think there's enough theaters nor enough people who are willing to go to the theater to go see it. It's unfortunate because I want to see that movie in the theater. I want to see it in IMAX. But how? I, it's such a strange world. Like I'm trying to think like, how, like, we have no blockbuster summer. This is the first since 70, whatever. 75 when jaws came out, this is the first non blockbuster summer. That's right.

Greg Gertmenian 10:29
It is. Yeah. And who who among those filmmakers want to be the first guinea pigs to try out opening in a theater that can only be filled to have capacity or whatever?

Alex Ferrari 10:39
If you're lucky. Yeah, if you're lucky. And then also like, wouldn't it be interesting, like, let's say tenant does open up, and, and it has $100 million opening, a lot of people go see it, then all of a sudden Two weeks later, the tenant wave comes in from people to contract it contracting it from I mean, it's it happened in Memorial Day. So now we're feeling that what happened on Memorial Day, two weeks later, will sir, the revealing the after effects of that, and all this other stuff. So it's it's just, it's fascinating to see. And what we're hearing in the industry in general, what, what opportunities you see for filmmakers and screenwriters post COVID because I think the industry is going to change irreparably, it will never go back to where it was, I don't think sets are going to go back to the way they were any, even in the next two, three years. I think it's gonna it's like certain things are going to just change. Do we would you agree?

Greg Gertmenian 11:36
I'm hearing a lot of that, and I haven't accepted it in my heart. But, but it's it stands to reason I think that makes sense.

Alex Ferrari 11:46
So what are the opportunities for filmmakers and screenwriters in this new post world, and this, you know, opportunities that are presenting themselves now that there might be that I always tell people that there are doors that are opening that would have been closed before? Because of COVID. So COVID is closing other doors that Normally we'd never had access to, but might be opening other opportunities up? Which like any crisis does?

Greg Gertmenian 12:10
Yeah. Well, you know, in the first place, there was an incredible shortage of, of new content, right. So what we saw first, we saw in the first three weeks of this, and it were going on over three months now, which is hard to believe. But in the first few weeks, we saw people go a little bit quiet as they were bracing themselves to figure out like what was the size and scope of this thing. And then at least on our side, because being you know, being an online platform, we deal with people all over the world. And so on our side, we saw business start to resume normally, or projects have been getting a lot of interest. We've been getting offers on projects, we didn't see money fallout of projects, we didn't see distribute distribution, fallout of projects, things seemed normal. And then they seemed almost to increase in intensity, that demand for good projects increased as streamers, distributors, buyers realized, we're not going to be getting any new content for a while. So there was a period of time and I think we're still in it, where if you had a completely film, if you have a film and post, you're, you're you're in demand more than you would have been prior to COVID. And we're definitely seeing some films that are in post that are getting pretty great offers, I don't know would have been as rich before COVID happened. So that's sort of the first opportunity. I think if you're a filmmaker with a film in post, you're you're sitting pretty. Aside from that, I think that people are definitely rethinking how they film things. I think that contained sort of sub genre of stuff is interesting for a whole different reason. And Necessity is the mother of invention. In this case, I think you know, you don't necessarily it doesn't necessarily have to be contained thriller, someone trying to get out of freezer or what have you. You know, there's a lot of we've seen a lot of very interesting sort of high concept stuff that takes place in small space. And if you can do that and make it feel organic, then that can end up being a pretty cool movie. So I think I think figuring out how to shoot those tiny skeleton crew films is an opportunity. I've already seen movies, there'll be movie selling, it can just next week, that are you know, COVID romances, quarantine romances, films that start entirely, you know, on their computer screen over Skype and and through other screen technology. So no, maybe that'll give rise to some of that. I I hear that I hear the groan in response to hyper, you know, hyper topical, you know, it's

Alex Ferrari 14:40
just like, the last thing I want to see is a movie about what I'm dealing with 24 seven I want to escape. So I get sent. I get sent. I mean, do you have any quarantine shorts? I've been sent like, Oh my god, they're just being sent to me left and right because filmmakers You know, think that they're the cool, we're gonna we're gonna be this is the thing that's gonna blow me up. This is the thing that's gonna get me I'm gonna do this. Nobody else in the world is gonna do a quarantine short, because everyone else has stopped shooting. So they're just trying to figure that out and then I get I'm like, Guys, I don't want to watch a shirt about. I just turned on the news and I'm just

Greg Gertmenian 15:18
already too much,

Alex Ferrari 15:21
it's too much. So I'm really curious about this kind of sub, the sub genre, which I think it's going to become a sub genre of filmmaking, which is this kind of quarantine thing. It might be short lived, it might be a short lived movement, maybe a you know, one of these more established filmmakers might go down that would like I would love to see like a Michael Mann quarantine film, or, or Dave or David Fincher quarantine film like that would be very interesting. in hands of masters like that, to see what that genre Yeah, precisely

Greg Gertmenian 15:54
in the hands of masters and non opportunists, for sure. But yeah, I mean, as far as the appetite of buyers, studios, distributors and investors, they're all still looking for the same stuff they were looking for, in my in my from my, from where I said, Okay, still want, you know, cool concepts, they still want visual stories. They still want diverse stories. And so I don't know that we should be changing up our whole game plan. It's more just a matter of, you know, trying to figure out how we can accomplish those same objectives in these circumstances. And if not, then how can we be ready to knock it out of the park, the moment that we are able to go back to work, and I think, you know, one of the unfortunate things is that when it's over, it won't really be over. Because not only will there be production restrictions, but there's going to be a mad dash for all of those tax credits, all of those crews and all of those regions. And it's, you know, I can only imagine how difficult it's going to be to fight for space. As everyone is trying to schedule all of that delayed production,

Alex Ferrari 16:57
it's going to be a mess, it's going to be a mad rush, because there's a limited amount of states that have tax rebates or countries that have tax rebates, and crew, and everyone's just sitting on the sidelines. And like everyone's so everyone wants to play ball at the same time.

Greg Gertmenian 17:11
And talent. Yeah, exactly, exactly. It's like if you're making an offer to an actor right now, they can presume they may be free. But But what happens when the studios make those same demands and production opens back up? Where are they going to prioritize? So? Yeah, it'll be interesting to see.

Alex Ferrari 17:28
It's such a mess. Yeah, it is such a mess. It's, it's, it's very interesting to just sit in the sidelines, and kind of watch what's going on. Because it's like, every day you really don't know. And you just mentioned the Cannes Film market, and the festival. That's different. That's like not it's happening. But it's virtually happening. So I have, you know, I have a bunch of distributor friends of mine who are at the virtual, and with a virtual booth. And I'm dying to hear how that goes. What are you hearing about this? I mean, and I think it's way overdue. Let's just put that in. I think the virtual film market is way overdue. But it needed something like this, it was probably going to take another five to 10 years before can or AFM decided to do something like this. But now they're forced to. So what what are you hearing about that?

Greg Gertmenian 18:21
So I think, on the whole people are generally sort of excited about it. They're there they are, you know, cannas put a put a lot of effort into trying to recreate the experience of the of the physical market as much as they possibly can. And I think everybody really appreciates that really commend them for that. And for the most part, we've seen sales companies that are just looking to proceed with businesses normal, they are building up their slates right now they're grabbing up their final acquisitions, so that they can announce what films are going to be selling. And they're booking the calendar of virtual screenings and virtual meetings, and I have heard some relief and appreciation expressed on the part of some sales companies to say, you know, it's better in a couple of ways. One, you know, I'm not going to get ambushed by somebody just walking into my booth that didn't have an appointment and doesn't have, you know, can't buy a film can't can't buy a film in a given territory. They have more control over their schedule and can be more efficient that way. But number two, also, when they do a screening, yes, it's virtual. But they have the ability to book that sort of virtual theater beyond what that small physical physical screening room can can accommodate. So you could potentially have you know, hundreds of people tuning in for a really exciting screening virtually that would not have been able to to make that same time at the physical market. So there are upsides

Alex Ferrari 19:43
Oh, there's a lot of upsides and have a cost out of the fly that I mean, don't get me wrong, I wouldn't mind going to Cannes Right. I mean it that's one of the nice things about it. It's you know, you go to Ken but but for a lot of these distributors and sales agents and buyers, it's just like it's it's an it's not cheap.

Greg Gertmenian 20:00
Right. Yeah, it's not it's not cheap. And if you're not prepared to turn it into a vacation, then you end up just sort of running around. not appreciating what. The scene around you

Alex Ferrari 20:11
the south of France. Yes,

Greg Gertmenian 20:13
exactly. So, yeah, so I think there's definitely some upsides. And I'm hopeful that the films that we have at the market this year are gonna are going to do to do well, because at the end of the day, the buyers still need content and new content, the levels of new content are getting lower and lower.

Alex Ferrari 20:32
So I heard I heard from through the grapevine that Netflix, because everyone, that's kind of like the the gold standard in streaming at this point, that Netflix, I heard from multiple sources, that they're like, oh, Netflix is we're not and they're just they don't buy anything, because they're buying this and that and I heard two different two different things from about Netflix one, the studio's when this, they happen, they unloaded a ton of content on the movies at a discount, because they needed revenue, because movies stopped like, like a lot of you know, if you don't have Disney plus, or if you don't have HBO Max, the revenue started to slow down. So they started dumping a lot of product on and I started seeing, like, Paramount movies and other big studio movies from like, 1015 years ago on there. So that was one thing. And second, I heard that Netflix basically had enough in the in the pipeline to last for two and a half, three years comfortably without having to buy another piece of content. So what do you hear? I'd love to hear what you're hearing about that and just in the streaming ecosystem in general.

Greg Gertmenian 21:42
As far as insight into Netflix, I don't I don't have any more insight than that. I think all of that makes sense. Generally, they are a company that has telegraphed to the world. Like, look, we we got this.

Alex Ferrari 21:53
We're good. We're,

Greg Gertmenian 21:54
we're doing fine.

Alex Ferrari 21:55
Tiger King is coming, don't worry.

Greg Gertmenian 21:59
That's right. And so that wouldn't surprise me that and I think I mean, just from a consumer standpoint, right? We're all sitting at home, dipping into those television shows and titles that we've been meaning to watch for a long time. I'm not at the bottom of my list. Oh, right. So you know, if that's any indication, then Netflix must be telling the truth. And yet, I think the shiny new titles, with 2020 dates on them are exciting for people. And I also know, and as I'm sure you know, you've seen this as well, that the the number of entrants in the streaming platform space is not decreasing, there are more people that are looking to do, you know, sports centric content, streaming platforms, and comedy centric content, streaming platforms, and all of those platforms still need content. So you know, there's more places than ever to sell stuff to. And if you're a buyer right now, or a distributor right now, you have to be aggressively looking, because not everybody can be Netflix. And it's and so and not everybody can buy studio content at a discount can afford that. So? Yeah, so I think if if there is a net effect of this, even though filmmakers are a little, they're restricted with regard to what they can do right now, I do you think that that it has become much more of a seller's market? Because because of the dearth of of new content?

Alex Ferrari 23:25
Now with packaging of films? How do you? How can an indie filmmaker package of film in today's world, like there was a set way to do it in, you know, January? Now? What are financers? looking for? How do you package it? Do you have any tips on you know, filmmakers trying to get projects off the ground now and scripts off the ground with, you know, attached talent in one way, shape, or form?

Greg Gertmenian 23:55
Yeah, so packaging and I have really appreciated the conversations that you've had on your show about how to approach sales and packaging from an independent film standpoint. I think that that is one thing that independent filmmakers overlook quite often they have a sense of indie film as being this very early model of, you know, Kevin Smith, can I be your friend? Yeah. Right. Right. And, and that is just isn't the case anymore. it you know, in today's market, you really need to build some value for your budget. That's not to say that if you you know, film A, if you make a film on a $25,000 budget, and no one's in it, and your execution is superlative, that you can't find a home for it, but generally speaking, you know, you're going to need to be thinking about what recognizable faces you can put in your film. And that directly impacts how much money you get to make your film to the extent that you're, you're trying to ask other people for investment. So I've appreciated you sort of foregrounding that conversation. Thank you on this show. Because that's, that's, that's one of the things that, you know, when we have 1000s of filmmakers coming to us to the extent they understand that it makes the whole rest of the process a lot easier, and it makes those films a lot easier to help. So I think, you know, first and foremost, I think it's, it's critical to just understand building value for the price of your film for the price of your budget. And, and, you know, I've seen people be successful at it all different kinds of ways. You know, obviously, if you have a personal connection to, to a star who trusts you, that's great. If you have a track record, that makes people feel at ease, even better, that's the best, arguably the best way to go about it. And, you know, we've also seen people to great effect use casting directors if the script is very compelling. If you're a director with a short or a pass film, who's proven that you can really create a good product, then having a reputable casting director send your script out to targeted talent can go a long way. And so those are the ways that we've seen film sort of self packaged up without the aid of a big agency. And then of course, if you you can be an indie film who works with CAA or UTA, or w Emmy. And if they rep you, and they really believe in the project, then of course, they can unleash a whole roster of really valuable talent who can take your film to the next level? So there are many different ways to do it, of course, what you just sort of have to look at, what is your network? What do you have at your disposal? How strong is the script? What's your track record? And then try to calculate, you know, what the best approach would be?

Alex Ferrari 26:40
How do you get one of the three big talent agencies to really like, look at your script, look at your package, look at yourself as a filmmaker and or screenwriter, producer, however, what what are some tips to kind of get in because that means everybody is trying to get to CAA or Wi Fi? And you know, it's kind of like, Oh, well, I'm wrapped by and I've heard that term. So many times. I'm like, Oh, my film is wrapped over at CAA. I'm like, and it's been in development for 10 years, it means nothing. But But if you put if you're serious, and you get momentum, and you actually get in there, how do you do that?

Greg Gertmenian 27:17
Yeah, so I think what I think in those cases, the films are trying to convey that the that that one of the agencies has agreed to sell domestic for them in the event that there's anything to sell, which isn't totally meaning last, but it's not actionable right now. Right?

Alex Ferrari 27:36
Well, no like that. I understand. But what I was referring to is like, I've heard filmmakers, because as you know, filmmakers sometimes stretch the truth not often sometimes stretch the truth when it comes to their projects. Not often, not often, it's very rare when that happens, but when they do stretch it, they're like, Oh, yeah, my film, this project is repped by CAA. So or is wrapped by W me. So yeah, so let's say, let's say 50% of the time, that's real. And then when it is real, is generally like what you're talking about, or that they have, they rep the director, and now they're taking on the whole project. So now they're gonna package the whole film with their talent in there. And that's that's generally the way it is. But sometimes it's, it's a stretch. So how do you if you're not repped by these companies? How would you approach a CAA? Do you come in with financing? Do you come in with maybe attached talent? Or I mean, because I mean, if you just show up with a script, and a dream, it's the lottery ticket at that point, if I'm not mistaken, if with no preparation, right, yeah,

Greg Gertmenian 28:38
I think nobody really wants to read a script.

Alex Ferrari 28:42
Shocking in Hollywood, that nobody wants to read it.

Greg Gertmenian 28:46
They all have so many scripts to read and your scripts not, you know, even if your script is incredible, and I'm sure you had this, you know, you people have sent you scripts, and you're like, this is one of the better scripts I've read this year. And it's still impossible to get anybody to care. You know, I really think that one of the sort of secret weapons that that filmmakers can use, if you want to be, you know, if you want to be making features at a high level, you kind of have to put your money where your mouth is and do a proof of concept or a short. That proves that you are an exceptionally talented director or producer. less true for writers, I think, unfortunately, writers in the position that they're they, you know, a short is not necessarily the best representation of their work. So they have to just write incredible specs that get you on page one. But if your director or producer, you know, I, I don't understand the logic of hoping someone's going to give you $5 million for your first feature. But you haven't tried you know, if you haven't proven you can do it, right. And directors that really do put their money where their mouth is and they go out there and they book a you know, a location for three days or whatever and they they create an event credible, high concept genre short are proof of concept. Those people tend to get traction if the short is good, because it's so easy to send a short out and have somebody click on it if for no other reason, because we're curious to know if you really as good as you say you are. So as far as like batting average getting a good response from agents or from anyone who can help you, based on cold outreach, I think a killer proof of concept of short is is the best way to go,

Alex Ferrari 30:29
would you? And this is a little bit of a disheartening comment. But I've read some amazing, amazing scripts. It's like when you read them, you're just like, how is this not an Oscar winning thing? Like it's and I've read them multiple times, from not unknown screenwriters from very well known screenwriters who have major track records. And yet, they can't get financed, or they can't get a packaged. And it kind of dawned on me This is years ago, when I first came to this game, it's like, oh, it's not about how good it is, unfortunately, it's about a bunch of different things hitting at the right time. So the right script that attracts the right producer, or the right director, or the right talent in the scope of where we are in the Zeitgeist of Hollywood at that moment, that perfect storm is what propels a certain project off the ground where a year earlier wouldn't go or a year later, it wouldn't go Is that a fair statement?

Greg Gertmenian 31:29
Yeah, I think that there are so many movies like that that took 10 years to get made for a reason. You know, there are projects that have come to us years ago that had a different cast, and a different producer, right, and they weren't able to get off the ground. And I don't know that the script was as good as it was, you know, 20 drafts later, I can't say, but it took that project going through multiple permutations before it hit one that really conveyed value to the person reviewing it. So I think that part of it is just the process of you know, there's a there's a glut of content out there. And so to calibrate a film just right, so that it sounds exciting, it feels like the most exciting version of itself. Sometimes, unfortunately, that just takes time. And most of it does have to do with the team and the talent. So, you know, I think at least from you know, we have 2300 investor companies that we're servicing through, slated. And so we have a lot of experience, getting a sense of what they respond to what they don't, package projects are always more interesting. And I think that one of the reasons for that is not only can you run numbers on a package project and figure out like how safe your investment is, relatively speaking. But you can just envision what the film is a little more clearly, when you know who's going to be in it, and who's directing it, and who's producing it, it becomes less of a concept less of a sort of a theory, and more of an actual product.

Alex Ferrari 32:59
So it's kind of like less heavy lifting at that point. Because if you have a script, you've got to start lifting a lot, because you've got to then package it and do it and, and you've got to really put a lot of energy in it. But if someone brings you a package script, like here's the talent, here's the director, here's some finance, like, and that just sets everything, it sets you apart. And it's not the quality of the scripts that setting you apart. It's the whole package that's setting you apart. Is that fair?

Greg Gertmenian 33:26
Totally. And I think that that gets to that actually gets to a distinction that's really important, I think, between independent filmmakers and the studio system, which is that in the studio system, you can write an incredible set spec and sell it for three quarter of a million dollars, right? You know, and then in that case, someone's literally just giving you money for having gotten that far. In independent film, it does, it never works that way. Because the money is usually just the money, their GPS that can sometimes be active. But for the most part, they're going to look at your script and say, What am I writing a check for? And who am I writing it to? And yet, you know, there are still a lot of independent filmmakers that maybe also exist in the studio system, but want to make their own film. And they're hoping that there'll be an investor who comes along and writes them a check so that they can cast and make offers and hire people. But in independent film, it just doesn't work that way, they're really expecting, you know, the money is the capital is really expecting you to build it first. So that it becomes an investable product.

Alex Ferrari 34:27
But even within so then the studio system too. I mean, if you have a package, it helps if you have if you have talent, if you have even some financing, you know from outside sources. That helps as well correct?

Greg Gertmenian 34:41
Absolutely. Absolutely. And we saw that in TV too, you know, with this boom of serialized content, and I'm not a TV agent, so I can only speak to the conversations I've had with them. But what I started to observe is that whereas before you know you might be able to take out a really strong pilot And or a really strong pitch and sell shows more and more and more and more over the past five or six years, you're really having to take out the whole the whole package and pitch the whole package before someone will consider buying your show. So that space has gotten a lot more competitive and a lot more talent driven than it had been before. So you got to your point, Alex, I think, yes, the package matters also in the studio world, as well.

Alex Ferrari 35:25
And now and let's talk about TV and films, because I mean, studios in general, I mean, there has been a massive shift in the studio system. And I consider the studio system basically the top six or seven, you know, majors that are, you know, and then there's some outliers that work within that, you know, the mini majors, if you will, but the majors that have shifted their entire business model, to IP based reboots, you know, franchises, the, you know, the films of the 80s and 90s that they're rebooting wouldn't ever be made today. Like they're not making those films that can you imagine The Goonies being made in a studio system today like that, that wouldn't ever exist? Or Gremlins or any of these amazing 80s and 90s. Ghostbusters, can you imagine Ghostbusters, like as a as an original pitch now would be very interesting. So, you know, so I see that there is also a limited window as far as how many of these films are being produced a year. at the studio level, they're they're not making 30 movies is studios not making 30 movies a year, they're making 10 at the big at the Disney's what made what like 12 movies last year, either at the studio level. And then Warner's is probably around the age of 1012. Before they were making 30 or 40 movies a year. And they were a different budget ranges and everything. So there is a certain limit of funds and opportunity now in the studio, theatrical space. But the television and serialized space, it is wide open and there is so much more opportunity there. And also, now the straight to the made for TV movie market, if you will back if I should date myself, you know, the movie of the week kind of movies which are now direct to Netflix, you know, or direct to HBO match or originals or original Hulu films that are at a much lower budget. Where do you think screenwriters and filmmakers in general should be focusing their energy? Should they be going for that homerun hit of like, I'm going to do the next 50 million 100 million dollar movie? Or should I start trying to get into serialized works trying to get into these lower budget direct originals for Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Max Disney peacock and so on?

Greg Gertmenian 37:41
Yeah, that's a good question. I think that the streamers always want content that feels like it could have been theatrical. So I don't think writing that kind of content, big concepts, you know, high concept. I don't think that's going out of style anytime soon. And if you have and if you have a knack for it, I mean, I ultimately went, you know, a lot of our businesses talking to writers and I think so much of the ancillary screenwriter, industry, fixates on this idea of like writing something marketable. writing something that can sell. And while I think there is some, there is some wisdom to that, generally, my advice to writers is to, to figure out what kind of writer you are, what your brand is, you may want to write every genre, but what genre, you know, in which genres Do you really excel? And in which honors? Does your work feel really authentic? And is it really resonating with people? And if you figure out what that is for you, then you can sort of figure out how to do the slightly more commercial version of that, that maybe puts you in the conversation, you know, for us for sending us back out to studio buyers, etc. But But yeah, I don't know that. I think that's where you kind of have to start and see where that leads you. And some people find themselves in the position of writing, you know, they're really good buddies. And unfortunately, that's not you know, that's not a that's not a firebrand genre

Alex Ferrari 39:12
for what was I'm sorry, you broke up, what was that genre again?

Greg Gertmenian 39:16
Oh, and you know, indie drama knees is like,

Alex Ferrari 39:19
so much

Greg Gertmenian 39:20
is a tough one, it's, you might be really, really good at that. And yet, it's it's really tough without a hook to get anybody excited about that. So, but but you know, I think, you know, you have to figure out what your voice is as a writer, and then try to innovate within that space and figure out what the commercial version of that is.

Alex Ferrari 39:39
But did did they have a better shot at getting in a writers room getting into a series now is that I mean, I think there's just by the math, there's more opportunity, correct?

Greg Gertmenian 39:49
Yeah, I think so. Yeah, I think so. I mean, I don't I don't work as much on the TV side, but I but I definitely have had a lot of friends who are writers and who were you know, Coming out of school or coming out of an MFA programs that have gotten snapped up into some really great writers room rooms, and they're excelling because they were incredibly talented. But I think that, you know, writers rooms are really intent on diversifying right now, I think that's, that's critically important. And there's there's just so much so many more of them. And I've seen all kinds of opportunities open up for my friends who I think prior to that, you know, serialized streaming boom, maybe would have had would have had to wait a little longer before this first forsters opened,

Alex Ferrari 40:31
do you think that this, this mad Gold Rush that's been happening now, probably for the last five years or so in regards to content? So many streaming platforms are opening up so much cotton? I mean, this is I mean, people are buying, I think they bought southpark for $100 billion, or something like 100 million dollars and, and Simpsons, you know, and obviously, Fox was purchased by Disney and friends how much his friends kept $200 million, or something like that $250 million, or something like that. It's um, it's insane that, but they're buying content up just they're just absorbing as much content as they can into creating as much content. Do you feel that there's a bubble here, like I kind of, I kind of see a bubble forming because this is not sustainable. This pace, cannot sustain for 20 years. And our economy right now is definitely not in the greatest space. And I still feel that we're nowhere near the worst of where the economy will eventually drop to. So I know, we all want content, we all want to see this. But there's how many of these streaming services can actually survive? How much money is there? Like? What do you think I just, you know, I don't want to put you in a bed in the corner. But I'm just asking, like, what do you think? Do you think this is gonna end? Or is this gonna pop?

Greg Gertmenian 41:48
Yeah, you know, as long as we're making, you know, as long as I'm allowed to make grand predictions, that could be entirely

Alex Ferrari 41:54
Absolutely, absolutely. That's what we're here, sir. And yes,

Greg Gertmenian 41:58
that in fatica? Lee, yes, we're in a bubble. And no, I think I mean, yes, some extent, I do think we are in a little bit of a bubble, because I think of the phase of growth that we're in as an industry is one in which there's been a new, there's been a new medium, there's a new playing field, that's been, you know, that we're all planning on. And the streamers are just just glad they're battling for dominance right now. So they're spending wildly inflated numbers of amounts for properties that they know are going to draw the most eyes with, you know, under the threat that maybe not all of them will survive into the next phase of this growth. And I think I think that that that, unfortunately, that is a strategy that they have to pursue, because they may damn well, what's that took a beat. Right, right. And so yeah, so I think that the prices will naturally settle. As, as people realize that there's probably room for all of these streaming services, maybe one or two will get knocked off. But, you know, for the most part, I'm seeing people toggle between their Disney pluses and their hulu's and their Amazons and their Netflix's with no problem. So, so I think the prices will naturally settle after this initial sort of elbowing people out of the way. Phase, you know, resolves, but, you know, beyond that, I can't, I couldn't say, I mean,

Alex Ferrari 43:22
I looking at looking at history again, I mean, in the early 90s, there was this indie, the indie boom, where they were buying, I mean, and if you got into Sundance, you got a million dollar deal. It was just like, it was like they were split. And then it felt like almost every month there was a new Kevin Smith, john Singleton, Spike Lee, Robert Rodriguez, Richard Linklater, and superstar broke, there was just every month there almost seemed like this new, this new kind of Cinderella story. And and then the studio's all said, Wait a minute, there's money in Indies, let's all put up in the shingle. So there's Warner, independent and Paramount Vantage, and all this the fire search light. But then it's it popped. It popped towards the end of the decade, it started to pop in, and then it started to fizzle out. And I have a feeling that that's kind of at that's a smaller scale, because what's going on now is massive, comparatively? Right.

Greg Gertmenian 44:13
Right. Yeah, things will certainly settle. And it will be interesting. It will be interesting to see how the curation of content for all those streamers ends up arranging itself, I think, you know, in our company, that's, that's a big part of our business model, right is where we're aggregating independent filmmakers and their projects from all over the world. We're taking the best ones, and then we're helping them get package financing sold, the demand for content has has never been higher. So I think there's going to be more of a demand for companies production companies, you know, talented producers, but also companies like ours who filter out the great projects and can curate those for for the buyers so that they don't have to roll up their sleeves and get in the muck out there and sort through The unsolicited submissions in the film of the film world. So

Alex Ferrari 45:03
God does a lot of that.

Greg Gertmenian 45:07
Yeah. On a completed film level on a script level,

Alex Ferrari 45:12
do you remember the time where it was just like there was too many scripts? Then now there's too many feed finished films out there. Like there's literally finished films that never see the light of day ever. Like true. It's amazing. It's it's pretty remarkable.

Greg Gertmenian 45:28
Yeah. And I think that that's something that we also see quite a bit of is that filmmakers get into this state of paralysis after where they're working on post, you know, for months and months, and sometimes years at a time. And I think they're almost, you can get a little fear of failure, that if I finally say, it's done, and if I take it out, you know, maybe it won't sell or maybe it won't sell for the amount that I hoped. And yet, you know, what, they don't realize it, it sounds hyperbolic to say this. And yet, it's so so so true, is that, you know, as my partner, it's slated, Jay on the finance team always says from the minute that you wrap your film, the clock starts to tick on the value of your movie. And if you're not getting a cut, and if you're not getting in conversations with sales companies, and if you're not getting out to the market, ASAP, then your films value is going to start to die and your phone's gonna get less and less relevant. And in many cases, people just they miss one of the market cycles, they miss a couple of them, and then they're just out of the game entirely. or God forbid, if they don't, if they don't time it right. And say they have a submit to festival because that's what everybody wants to do first is submit to festivals. And then maybe you have a festival premiere, well, then that becomes effectively a release date of sorts, that becomes a date upon which

Alex Ferrari 46:44
now it's really,

Greg Gertmenian 46:46
and now you've accelerated that. So I think, yeah, absolutely. I mean, the piece of advice that I have for filmmakers who do have a film and post is to get a cut that you can share, and then start to think about who's going to sell the movie, whether that's a big agency who's handling domestic and, and maybe International, or whether that is a sales company that you really trust, think about who that partner is going to be before you start willy nilly submitting to festivals, because festivals simply do not have the bandwidth to look at every every submission that they get. So you can have a fantastic film, and they may never find out. And you know, not to throw slinging mud at any festival in particular, but it's simply a numbers problem. So you know, you're much likelier to get a festival premiere festival debut, if you have somebody submitting your film to them. Who has a reputation with that festival, whether that is producer. So yeah, yeah, or a producers rep or a sales company who does a lot of business or an agent, you know that that makes all the difference in the world. So that's my number one piece of advice, when filmmakers come to us with the film and post is like, don't just start submitting to festivals, get a sales strategy in place, get a partner, have that partner make the submissions, you're going to go much further trust me, and then that partner can can use the festival as part as part of an overall strategy to debut your film to the world. And then use the next market as sort of a launch a launch for your film and sales

Alex Ferrari 48:16
don't do which you sent as you brought up festivals, do you? I've been saying this for a while festivals don't have the power that they used to this is not 1992 anymore. There's a handful, that mean anything to the bottom line, we're talking about five, maybe six in the world that mean anything to the bottom line, from your experience working with distribution companies and buyers and you know, other than the look, it's super cool. We all want to get into Sundance, she's the pretty girl that we all want to get it you know, a date with. There's no doubt about that can south by Tribeca, Toronto, we all want to go there. And it's fun. It's a cultural event. It's red carpet and, and there could be some business to be done at those festivals. But generally speaking, it's first of all, it's not a guarantee anymore. Before it was a guaranteed like you, you get in Sundance, it's sold, someone's gonna buy it. But that doesn't mean anything anymore. What are your feelings about festivals as a general statement from the buyers perspective, distributions perspective? Do they really mean anything? I mean, I mean, it cooks Of course, Sundance on a certain kind of film makes all the sense in the world. But even then, it's still not as much as it used to be. I mean, am I wrong? please do let me What do you think?

Greg Gertmenian 49:34
I agree. No, I agree that it's not a guarantee anymore, for sure. I do still feel that the handful of festivals that you named Sundance south by Tribeca can, Toronto, they still do really matter as far as your ability to introduce your film to the world and jumpstart the sales process. So you know, I'm sure they're they're there and then there's another tier festivals below them that still help with sales, they still have some stage, but they may not be, you know, as, as fancy and shiny as those others, but I still think that they make an incredible impact on your ability to, to get the film sold and distributed.

Alex Ferrari 50:15
But there is only a handful, period. Like even even first and second tier, we're talking 2025 film festivals around the world. That really means a lot. And I feel that so many filmmakers lose so much time submitting to all of these.

Greg Gertmenian 50:31
Right? That is so true. That is so true. And then they you know, the film, The filmmakers, then try to use, you know, I'm gonna, I'm gonna accidentally name a real Film Festival by trying to come up with a fictional one.

Alex Ferrari 50:46
So I always I always use I always use Moose Jaw, the International Moose Jaw Film Festival. I don't think that's a real festival. But you could just use the or the Uptown downtown Film Festival. Sure. So the Uptown downtown festival Yes, that is

Greg Gertmenian 50:58
a perfect, perfect, I'm going to use this from now on people are gonna start to think it's real. It's gonna be a life of its own. Yeah, so that that, you know, there's there's 1000s of those. There's I feel like there's a new one every week. And the same thing goes for screenwriting competitions too. And I think maybe that is a misconception that that the that the belief is that if someone has validated your film, then it's more valuable. And yet if that somebody is a an unknown screenplay, competition or Film Festival, it actually does just damage and particularly if you got like third place in the in the Uptown downtown Film Festival, it's like you weren't even good enough for for uptown downtown.

Alex Ferrari 51:43
I want to talk to that guy. I want to talk to that gal. Whoever shot that I want to I want to talk to whoever won uptown downtown. You've got grand jury and uptown downtown.

Greg Gertmenian 51:58
So you know, and of course I I can relate to having been on the creative side. The idea that somebody is saying, look, you did a good job that is that that's all people want to hear when they've finished making something. And like me, like you're still looking at it as a business. You have to be strategic about who you let put their laurels on your poster.

Alex Ferrari 52:18
No. Well, that sounded that sounded kind of dirty. I don't know why it's like you don't let someone else's laurels on your posts.

Greg Gertmenian 52:27
Doctoring COVID

Alex Ferrari 52:29
Absolutely not. Absolutely not. You need to you need to wipe that down with some alcohol. But um, but but so I suggest sometimes when I'm consulting with with filmmakers, I look at the film and I go, look, I think this film might have a chance. And even the might have a chance at any of the 25 film festivals. Sometimes they'll go, why don't you just put some feelers out at real distribution companies and real real buyers and see what happens. Because what's the what's the endgame here is the end game prestige, then go down the festival circuit, have fun, spend two years running the festival circuit. But understand that financially, that is not going to be good for your film. If you run it, I've seen festivals on I've seen films on the festival circuit for two years, just and they play 60 film features, right? And then at that point, I'm like, nobody, like I don't care if you have 60, laurels. Right? They're all uptown downtown. It doesn't matter. But your ego is very well inflated. After all of that, so right. What's the end game being honest?

Greg Gertmenian 53:40
Yeah, I think I think that that can potentially be an approach, you know, if you if you are a filmmaker with relationships at those distributors, then I think that that's well advised. If you're not, then I would encourage you to partner with a producer or sales company. Who does because we've seen cases where films have finished their film, festivals, maybe festivals, maybe they didn't. They then queried a bunch of buyers. And they got sort of de facto passes not because anyone actually ever looked at the film but because they said no go away unsolicited submission, we don't know you. And then that becomes difficult for a sales company that comes on board and tries to sell the film in earnest because right you have to navigate well, Was this an actual past? And anybody actually look at it? Of course, the answer is normally No. But in most cases, that becomes a conversation that you don't want to have to have. So I would say you know, sales companies for all the flack that they get for all the sales companies out there that may or may, you know may be more bottom feeding type companies predatory

Alex Ferrari 54:45
predatory is what I like to call

Greg Gertmenian 54:47
predatory perhaps. But there are still a lot of sales companies out there that they make a living selling movies and being transparent with filmmakers and reputations, and so I really do think that they can be That link that unlocks a distributor taking you seriously a festival taking you seriously. And and making sure that you're you're managing that process carefully and strategically.

Alex Ferrari 55:11
Do you think that from your experience, because I've spoken, spoken at nauseam about this, in regards to distribute the traditional distribution space where we're at right now, I've been yelling from the top of the top of the hill that Rome is burning, especially in the indie space. And that talking studio space, though I do, I do feel that those walls are starting to crumble a bit too, under its own way. But the traditional distribution model is kind of starting to fall apart. Because what was once cash cows are not no longer there. And they literally from month to month, year to year, don't know where their money is going to come from. Like before, it was pretty stable. Like, you know, you had VHS, were good with VHS. We had cable deals, we had pay TV, free TV, then DVD showed up and then just everybody was like The Great Gatsby when the money was flying everywhere. You could just release sniper seven. And it was already you already made 3 million bucks on DVD. But those days are all gone and streaming is not paying what DVD was. So I've and I've spoken to I've been at AFM. I've spoken to multiple distributors that I literally asked him I go, you really don't know where you're gonna get your money, are you and they're like no our main, our main strategy is to acquire as many films as we can, at no money upfront, for as long as we can keep them in our library. So then we can negotiate with a streaming service to sell the library off to them and see if we can make any money with them at all. T VOD is pretty much dying, if not dead. s VOD, is if you can get a deal. Great. And a VOD is where the money is currently. But it's still nowhere near DVD money. So that's at the lowest level of independent film, we're talking, you know, $10,000 movies up to even up to a million dollar to $2 million movies. But some of the movies I'm sure you're working on are at much higher levels, and that that's a whole other ecosystem. What is your feeling about the future of the model in general? And feel free to say, Alex, I take the fifth on this.

Greg Gertmenian 57:17
I'll take a partial fifth. I mean, everything you're saying rings true. I think that, uh, that packaging and bundling these titles together and selling them is definitely a line of business for sales companies. The mg has gone away. And in some ways, that is a good thing. Because, you know, of the whole fallacy that that the MSG was truly a minimum guarantee, which of course it isn't, it's usually a it's a

Alex Ferrari 57:43
maximum.

Greg Gertmenian 57:44
Right? It's a maximum guarantee that No, they didn't, they weren't clear about the asset. Exactly. So you know that and so I'm actually in favor of sales companies, not paying employees to acquire the content themselves, because then they really have to take the film out, and we get to see in a sales cycle or to how well they're able to actually sell sell the movie and their and their, you know, their ability to make money depends on that performance. So yeah, I don't miss the I don't miss the MG from sales companies, I think a no mg model is certainly Okay. And then they really just have to perform.

Alex Ferrari 58:22
If that's if they perform, if they can perform, sometimes even it's not even in their power, if they can or cannot depends on the marketplace.

Greg Gertmenian 58:31
It's, that's true. In their defense, that's true. And yet, I think a good sales company has really strong relationships with buyers, they know exactly what that buyer is looking for in advance at the market, or they at least have a sense of it. And they know what where their cash cows are. I mean, it's it's not a surprise, and I'm sure I know, you've talked about this as well, that there are certain genres that have more inherent sales value irrespective of cast. So you know, we can rely on that to some extent, if you have made an action film and executed it exceedingly well, then there will be some buyers for that. And cast helps a great deal. So So yeah, I think they you know, they don't have full control. But a good sales company is is is going to have a better sense of what they can do with a given film and hopefully get closer to hitting their numbers.

Alex Ferrari 59:21
Now in the in the world that we're living in right now. Something that I never thought would happen has happened, which is the international market has shut off basically, because of COVID. And then the Hollywood system, this is where I said that the weight of the system is kind of falling on against itself. When you make a 200 million plus dollar movie, which is the norm now. And then you spend another 200 or plus more to market it. That kind of movie without an international component can't sustain itself. You know, I mean, obviously the there's the marvels of the But can you make a $200 million movie without the international marketplace? In the way it is now? And I don't know, I'm not sure. In the next year or two, is that marketplace even going to, you know, within this next year or two? How much of that marketplace is even available to us? So can bond survive? Without international? Can Black Widow can wonder woman? Can they? I don't think their model is built on domestic only because now we're not the biggest market China. I think China is am I wrong? Is China is the biggest market? No. Are we still the biggest? I'm not sure we're close. I mean, but that's the other thing. China's China's shut down all their movie theaters when COVID hit so you're like, right, you know, Milan is sitting in limbo. So it's, you know, can the studio's systems business model work without an international component? And how does that adjust these events, style films that are basically the norm now in the studio system?

Greg Gertmenian 1:01:01
I don't see how it can I don't see how you can make a $200 million movie without the ability to sell it outside of the US. I don't see how that that's possible. But I but I don't think international markets are going away. I think they'll be there again, at some point. Right. But yeah, I think that isn't that product is built specifically at that budget level, because they're planning theatrical across the world. And then all of the, you know, all of the ancillary revenue streams that come downstream from that.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:33
Yeah, well, yeah. So so that brings a good point theatrical. We then be touched on theatrical in this conversation. I mean, theatrical is taking a pretty big hit right now. And I'm a fan of the movie theater. I love it. I want I if I could go everyday I would. I grew up in a generation as you did that we the movie theater, you're not a filmmaker, quote, unquote, unless your movies in the theater kind of thing. But this is really taken. I mean, the movie theaters industry has taken a hit not only here in the US, but around the world. And now that people are becoming more accustomed to staying at home and it's absorbing it, I'm sure people are going to want to come back out to the theaters. But are the numbers going to be back to where they were? How long will the numbers be able to get back to the work? And they were going in a downward trajectory? pre COVID. So again, that same question, does this model work without a theatrical component not only theatrically but internationally, but domestically? And because there's no way you're releasing a $200 million movie off a streaming? And I joke with trolls, trolls made 100 million bucks. Yeah, that's nice. That's great. Let's throw bond up there. Let's throw a Marvel movie up there. And let's get some real numbers to see. Are people going to spend $400 million? I think they can because mike tyson fights back in the day, they would gross three $400 million that they did. I mean, it is possible. And that was with cable VOD. You know, and what this is, all those big fights. I mean, they would gross three $400 million in a night. So it is possible. It was great, right? It's insane. That's why like, you know, what's his uncle who's like the greatest undefeated middle eight, kind of can't believe I can't remember the ball, small guy. He beat Pacquiao he beat everybody. So that guy, I can't believe the names forgetting me. people yelling at the podcast right now that gets him. It's him. Like, I'm sorry, please forgive me. But that guy would walk away with 100 million bucks for the night or Tyson back in the day, he would walk away with $100 million a night. But so it is possible. But what do you think? What do you think?

Greg Gertmenian 1:03:37
I think it's possible. I think it's going to continue and I think we'll start building budgets for the ideal scenario of $100 million troll screaming release as opposed to the ideal scenario of a billion dollar you know, global theatrical release. So you make the movie for 25 million instead of 100 million Well, that's you know, it seems we can figure that out especially with you know, technology continuously advancing the cost of CG is imagine getting more and more man and

Alex Ferrari 1:04:05
ultimate the Mandalorian with the with the with the technology that they deal with Amanda Laura. Volume, Oh, God, that I think is one of the futures of the industry to save us from COVID like, have a very condensed but yet a 12 hour sunset. It's insane.

Greg Gertmenian 1:04:23
Yeah, it is very cool. I saw that that promotional video and that behind the scenes video, and I think that's such a good point. I'm sure they're doing all kinds of marketing right now around that technology, because it's, it's those kinds of things that are gonna allow us to to make theatrical type experiences on smaller budgets. But the idea of a $200 million movie to begin with is hard to wrap your mind around. And that's

Alex Ferrari 1:04:49
on the lower end because he started looking at some of these bigger Marvel films that they pushed 300 million, you know that 233 50 you know, I mean, no one I don't even know what avatar back 10 years ago. cost, I can only imagine what it's costing. James Cameron with an open checkbook is very dangerous. But, you know, how does, you know? How does avatar work? Like, you know, coming out these next four is the fourth four avatars that he's making. It's, it's really interesting to see, it's it's gonna be a, it's gonna be a complete shift of the industry. I think you're right, you're gonna have to adjust budgets accordingly. And it's doable, like Mandalorian was much more affordable than it should have been.

Greg Gertmenian 1:05:32
Right, right.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:33
Yeah. It couldn't have been done without that technology.

Greg Gertmenian 1:05:37
I think so. Yeah. It looked fantastic. So hopefully we get to see some more of that.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:43
Now tell me tell me about slate. And we've been talking about slate a little bit here and there. So what is slated what how does it work? How do you help filmmakers and screenwriters? Tell me what you do?

Greg Gertmenian 1:05:52
Sure, yeah. So slate, it is a marketplace, or filmmakers to take the projects and develop them, package them, financed them, sell them get them distribution. So we have 50,000 members. It began as a as an invite only film finance network in 2012. So people had to be vouched for in order to join, all films were personally approved by our team before they could list and we had a small community of investors that had some some oversight in the beginning, which has become much more stringent now that it's an open network. But today, yeah, we're 50,000 members, I think something like 80% of our of Sundance movies last year were made by slated members, two thirds of Oscar nominated movies last year were made by slated members. And we've had films listed on the platform that including, you know, uncut gems or loving Vincent that were sort of living things and was nominated for an Oscar uncut gems should have been,

Alex Ferrari 1:06:53
should have won several Oscars. I mean, come on.

Greg Gertmenian 1:06:56
So So yeah, it's a you know, it is a it is a vibrant marketplace of filmmakers and fantastic projects that are coming from all over the world. And the platform itself serves to evaluate those projects, and then help them get linked up with wherever they whatever they need, based on where they are in their in their process. So that's what that's what our team does that P team that I'm part of,

Alex Ferrari 1:07:18
now the screenwriters submit their, their scripts there, how does that work?

Greg Gertmenian 1:07:22
Yes, yeah. So you can list your project, and not get any evaluation of your script or any financial projections. And then you can hope to match with a producer or a sales company, based on your logline and your poster and the value of you and your track record. That's a thing you can do. Generally speaking, we advise that people make use of the analytics that are available, the script score is critically important. And the financial analysis is also pretty important too. If you're hoping to attract, the investors that we discussed, are looking for projects that you know, have some have some demonstrable value, and, and some clarity there. So. So yeah, so you can list a project and have it not be scored. But what we advise is that you list your project, you submit your script to our team, you have our team review it, and then the analytics that we provide, you give you more of a presence on the site, more exposure on the site, and you're able to match with all those higher end investors, producers, sales companies who have said, Look, I only want to be messaged or matched with people whose projects had been reviewed and who scored above a certain threshold. So we use the analytics to enhance the matching.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:34
So but but you do work with treatments, or is only scripts or do work. It's like, here's the idea of I have this person attached to write the script, I have this director attached. I might even have some talent attached. Can you package a deal like that? And then maybe look for development funds, things like that?

Greg Gertmenian 1:08:50
Totally. Yeah, totally. So there, there's so there's three sort of key metrics, there's the team score. So if you list your film, you don't submit your script, you don't run financial projections, then there's just going to be a score based on who's making the film. So if you're a director, and you've made six, or you'll have a score, and people who are looking for projects with elevated teams will find you. If you choose to submit your screenplay, it should be a completed screenplay. Sure. We are taking completed scripts, we are taking completed movies, and we're going to start taking completed documentaries as well. And when I say completed, I mean a rough cut is fine picture lock cut is fine. And for for that process, it's it's always the same with every project. And we've done it for 10,000 projects to date, which is that we remove the cover page from the script, and we hand it to our development staff and we have three different members of our development staff read the script and respond to a set of questions independently stat returns us 100 point script score on a scale from one to 100. But it's really more on a scale from 60 to 90 because that's where most the scores fall And then that score indicates sort of how far in your development process you are, how close you are to being ready to being matched to a producer, or how close you are to being ready to effectively shoot. So if if the way our system is designed with three readers reviewing every project in one person gives it a recommend that the project will qualify for matching with with almost everybody on the on the platform, even if the other two readers are past,

Alex Ferrari 1:10:27
you know, is it work like so it's a market is kind of like, once you get past that's kind of like a marketplace. So then it goes up on the boards, let's say, and then everyone has access to seeing what that is. And then people contact the producers of that project or the owners of that project.

Greg Gertmenian 1:10:42
Yeah, more or less the the matching is, is really sophisticated in that it's focused on what you as a member, Alex have said you want to see. So if you told slated view your profile, I only want to see projects with script scores above 70. And or I only want to see projects who have an attachment that is x or higher, then those are the only projects are going to match with and every Monday morning you're going to get a digest that shows you the projects that you match with. And for any project that is a match to you, they'll now be allowed to message you because their project matches that criteria. So if at any point, an investor or producer wants to receive fewer matches, they can dial up the script score threshold, or they can dial up their team score threshold and get more targeted matches. Or they can say I only want stuff at this stage at the packaging stage or development stage or something

Alex Ferrari 1:11:33
like that. That's gonna bring it in. Right, very, very interesting. That's a pretty cool, pretty cool situation you got going on.

Greg Gertmenian 1:11:40
I man I love it. I really really love it. Because we you know that the global component of it is probably the most exciting because we have filmmakers that are submitting from Canada, from Egypt, from Mongolia, who have truly come up with these incredible stories, incredible screenplays. And, you know, you may or may not be surprised some of them have a very firm grip on how to build value how to package their movie for their territory. And so we're coming across films that I just never would have conceived up because because none of them are my experience. And but also films that I just never would have known existed that are beautiful, you know, sometimes heartbreaking stories, either at the script stage, or the post stage. So the idea that we can be a portal for those filmmakers and get them straight to the person that they need to be talking to in a matter of weeks or months. That is that is really exciting because the film industry at large is very scattered, very disorganized. You know, people depend on shows like yours to help them make sense of it all. And so we pride ourselves on being another one of those sort of spirit guides that can help assess you where you stand, figure out what you need and get you to the right place.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:51
That's like spirit guide. I think that's good. Hashtag spirit guide. That's very, very nice. Very cool, man. Very cool. All right, so I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I asked all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker and or screenwriter wanting to break into the business today.

Greg Gertmenian 1:13:09
So first screenwriter Write, write, write, write, write, I think that competitions, if you're focusing on the top three or four are fantastic, you know, obviously, submit your script to slated and get it scored, you're going to get 20 pages of feedback and a script score from people who are working in the industry and have read 1000 scripts each. So that's really high value. And then I'm here to answer your questions about your coverage. So if you have a script, that's where I'd start, but there are also screenplay competitions, like the nickel like page, like the ones that roadmap writers or tracking board does. Those are all great companies. And I recommend that a new writer, try all of those avenues, it cannot hurt. If you get traction with any of them, it can be meaningful and allow you to take take your project to the next step. If you're a new filmmaker, yeah, then you should try to meet somebody who's more experienced than you and not hire people that are less experienced than you to help you pack the film, develop the film, and take that project to the next step. Also, list your plate we will help you

Alex Ferrari 1:14:06
and what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Greg Gertmenian 1:14:13
You ask this to all your guests

Alex Ferrari 1:14:14
every single one. That is the Oprah question. That's the Oprah question. Yeah.

Greg Gertmenian 1:14:21
It's it's the lesson that I learned longest.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:23
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the business or in life?

Greg Gertmenian 1:14:32
That is a tough one. It's hard not to get super existential on that. She's That's intense. I think I'm gonna try to keep it film related. Otherwise,

Alex Ferrari 1:14:42
we'll have a crying session. It'll be a thing. We don't get it there. I do therapy for free on the show all the time. It's fine.

Greg Gertmenian 1:14:50
Yeah. You know, I think I think that, you know, I think that the film industry can be a big scary place. And I think That when you think about agents or investors, you think of these sort of faceless people that are really intimidating and really cutthroat. And the fact is that there is a really healthy heart of the film industry independent or studio system that is here, because they love stories, and they're here for the right reason. So I think, you know, I think authenticity, of focusing on authenticity, and, you know, making stories that really resonate for you, and building around that, you know, not being blind to the business aspect of it. But you know, realizing that if you do make something that is incredibly powerful, or tells a story, that's true for a lot of people, and then you also build value, that there are going to be people who are passionate and excited about that. And yes, it may take time, but I think don't make it a foregone conclusion that everyone is cynical out there. Because I think there are a lot of companies out there that are looking to be part of something meaningful. And, and if you've, if you've created that, then you can be part of that, that dream for everyone.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:02
I you know, if I could tack on to that, because I found that, you know, doing my rounds in Hollywood so much as I've done the years. You know, yes, they're these these gods that we have on Mount Hollywood, you know, the Spielberg's and the Nolan's and these kind of guys, but at the end of the day, they're all human, everyone's human. everyone you meet is human yet some have more egos. Some are, are, you know, are acids, some are not, some are very sweet, some Americans, but they're human beings and you get all sorts, but I found honestly, once you break through that first layer, if you're a professional, and a providing value to the person you're talking to, they're going to reciprocate and they're going to be open to it. It's the what can you do for me? I want you to read my script. I want you to give me money like that energy, of course, you're gonna get you're gonna get like to just back off, right. Um, and the best advice I ever heard from, like, what's the best advice be in the film business? Don't be a dick. Right? Is that the best? Like the best advice ever?

Greg Gertmenian 1:17:03
Right, right. Yeah, I think people have this concept of the film industry is being really cutthroat and cynical, and then they try to adapt a version of themselves that can handle that. And I think that's the exact wrong way to go. I I think you described it. exactly correct. That just don't be a dick. And that there are there are nice people out there who, you know, if you have built something valuable, I'm interested to have a discussion.

Alex Ferrari 1:17:28
That's the key value if you can provide value in whatever way shape or form that's going to open the door much quicker than Pina Dijk. And now the toughest question of all three of your three of your favorite films of all time,

Greg Gertmenian 1:17:44
oh, no, my gosh, okay. Um, okay, recent film. So when I was a kid growing up, and I it's problematic for a number of reasons today, but I loved and people hate this film, but I loved Forrest Gump.

Alex Ferrari 1:17:57
I mean, I love Look, I love Forrest Gump. I think Forrest Gump is fantastic. If it's on a watch it do. I think that it should have beaten Pulp Fiction as the relevance of what it was that it like in the history of cinema. Yeah, but it was fantastic. Yeah, it's so much fun.

Greg Gertmenian 1:18:16
Or scub I love it's hard to choose the top films but in the past few years I've loved films like a loved room I think about room a lot for its structure and what it was able to accomplish with relatively little

Alex Ferrari 1:18:31
not the room not the room, but room not Tommy was so's ring.

Greg Gertmenian 1:18:35
I love them both. I think I think my top three are room, the room. And

Alex Ferrari 1:18:44
I think everyone, everyone who's listened to the show knows my affinity for the room and how genius of the film that is and how there's very few films that can transcend from so bad to Oh my god, I love it. I get to watch cats, though. I haven't heard that from cats are just here. It's just

Greg Gertmenian 1:19:07
yeah, or you can't be self aware when you're making the nothing. You can't. You must have zero self awareness that is the key to success in making the room

Alex Ferrari 1:19:18
quality you know, you can't like if you and I sat down like we're gonna make a room kind of film. It's done. It's dead from the beginning. You have to be completely don't

Greg Gertmenian 1:19:27
kill my dreams, Alex just

Alex Ferrari 1:19:28
like no, but if you have to be completely unaware of how ridiculous or right that is. It's exactly the room showgirls is another one. That's just remember so showgirls is a huge fan base, huge fan base for

Greg Gertmenian 1:19:44
desert Really?

Alex Ferrari 1:19:45
Oh my gosh, they just they're releasing a documentary on it right now of how it's transcended itself now, and you can watch showgirls, it's not the room it nothing's the room, because that's just a whole. I mean, that wasn't a you know, it's not Paul Verhoeven For God's sakes directing it, but you watch you watch, it's so beautifully bad. There's like, beautifully bad and then there's just masterpieces The room is a masterpiece of he uses the same stock footage three times, like,just watch it. But you can't watch. Do you ever watch the room alone? Don't do that. The room has to be watched with a group of people. That's the only way to properly enjoy the room. It's like Rocky Horror. You should not watch it alone.

Greg Gertmenian 1:20:27
That's a great.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:29
Yeah. Now where can people? Where can people find you and slated and the work you do?

Greg Gertmenian 1:20:36
You know, come visit [email protected] sign up. It takes two seconds, it's free. And then you can chat with us via our little chat bubble at the bottom right corner. There's a little orange dot click on that. And you'll be talking to one of us in no time at all. So wherever you are, we'll be able to help you get set up.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:51
Great. It has been an absolute pleasure having you on your show, man. Thank you for dropping all the knowledge bombs and the inside knowledge bombs on the industry today. So thanks, brother.

Greg Gertmenian 1:21:00
Oh, man, not at all. Yeah, really nice to chat with you, Alex. And I hope we get to chat against him.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:06
If we can learn one thing from this episode, it is that you shouldn't watch the room alone. It's just weird, guys. Just don't do it. I want to thank Greg for coming on the show and dropping those knowledge bombs on the bulletproof screenwriting tribe. Thank you so much, Greg. If you want to get links to anything we talked about in this episode, as well as contact information for what he does at slated, head over to the show notes at bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/078. And guys, if you haven't already checked out the new indie film hustle Podcast Network, which is the home of some of the best screenwriting and filmmaking podcasts out there, head over to eye f h podcast network.com. And we have a ton of other podcasts that are not just my podcast, but also other podcasts and we're adding new awesome podcasts every month. So check it out. Thank you for listening, guys. As always, keep on writing no matter what. Stay safe, and I'll talk to you soon.


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