This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 057: Screenwriter Jordan Imiola Talks About His Recent Successes.
Welcome to episode 57 of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger, over at sellingyourscreenplay.com. In this episode’s main segment I’m interviewing Jordan Imiola, a screenwriter who’s had some success using my email and fax blast service so stay tuned for that.
If you find this episode valuable, please help me out by giving a review in ITunes or leaving a comment on YouTube or retweeting the podcast on Twitter or liking it on Facebook. These social media shares really do help spread the word about the podcast. I’d like to thank over on ITunes, I got a very nice review from Michael Stagg. I really appreciate it. It’s nice to know the podcast is helping inspire writers. If you have a minute, please do write me a review in ITunes. It helps get the podcast listed in more places within the ITunes algorithm so it reaches a broader audience with more positive reviews. Also if you subscribe in ITunes then you’ll get the new episodes downloaded to your phone each week so that’s a nice convenient way to stay current on the podcast.
Over on YouTube I want to thank Stanford Crane and Jessie Glenn who left me nice comments on episode 55. Thank you for that, and on Twitter I want to thank Phase Four Films, Marty Wolfe, and Sarah Patton who retweeted various past episodes on Twitter last week. Thank you, guys, for that. And on Facebook, Thank you, Michael Stagliano, Stefan Hoover, and Nicole Rice who all liked the Sys Facebook page last week. Thank you, guys, for that.
A couple of quick notes. Any websites or links that I mention in the podcast can be found on my blog in the show notes. I also publish a transcript with every episode in case you’d rather read the show or look at something later on. You can find all the podcast show notes at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcasts and then just look for episode 57. Also, if you want my free guide How to Sell a Screenplay in five weeks, you can pick that up by going to sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide. It’s completely free. You just put in your email address and I’ll send you a lesson once per week for five weeks along with a bunch of bonus lessons. I teach the whole process of how to sell your screenplay in that guide, how to write a professional log line inquiry letter, how to find agents, managers, and producers who are looking for material. It really is everything you need to know to sell your screenplay. Just go to sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide.
So now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m talking with screenwriter Jordan Imiola. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome, Jordan, to the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I really appreciate your coming on the show.
Jordan: Well, Ashley, thank you very much for having me.
Ashley: So to start out, I wonder if you can just give us a quick overview of your career as a screenwriter and kind of what you’ve done and what you continue to do.
Jordan: Sure. I went to Buffalo State College where I studied television film arts. At the time it was a new major, pretty much made that description where people were nervous. I was in the first class to get into it. That was back in 2008 I believe. Yes, in TV and film arts over there. I wrote a bunch of scripts in Buffalo and pretty much they trained me to become a director/writer. I had an internship with Fox my senior year. I moved out here afterward, got a job working for Fox and have been there ever since and that’s been about five years since I’ve been living in LA.
Ashley: Ashley: Okay. So let’s touch on some of the successes you’ve had. In the pre-interview you had mentioned some placing in some contests, some jobs, and maybe just briefly kind of give an overview of the some of the successes and then we’ll dig in specifically. I’ll kind of dig into each one of those one by one but maybe just give an overview of some of the success you’ve had.
Jordan: In 2009 I was nominated through the WGA, Michael Klinger Fellowship nationwide are chosen different colleges. I was one of the first students at Buffalo to be nominated and that was for a [not understood 0:04:09.7] with Old People. I didn’t win it unfortunately but it was really good to be nominated for it. I won the 2013 grand prize for the screenplay competition. Other than that I’ve done a bunch of web series. I’ve written about ten screenplays so far, maybe about three pilots and four or five specs of other TV shows. I’m still writing a bunch. I’m working on a pilot right now that I’m trying to produce myself. Hopefully I’m going to start doing that next month, and I also have a web series that I’m going to put on next week.
Ashley: Let’s talk too just briefly just mention some of the professional work you’ve actually done as a writer. You had mentioned some writing assignments that you had gotten and also an option of one of your scripts.
Jordan: I optioned one of my scripts about a year and a half ago called Rain Sunny, and it’s a comedy about a boy trying to kill himself, and I optioned that. I have also done just rewrites of some comedies. I get work whenever I can.
Ashley: Let me go back and dig into some of these, the fellowship and the Blue Cat. So you mentioned this fellowship that you were nominated for but didn’t get. Do you feel like there was any heat that came out of just being nominated? Did any agents email you? Were you able to use that or leverage that in any way, shape, or form to kind of parlay that into anything?
Jordan: I think it definitely got me some [not understood 0:06:26.2] from the WGA like people know what the WGA is [not understood 0:06:37.2].
Ashley: Okay. And let’s talk about like the Blue Cat and the other one that you said you won the screenplay search. Placing as a semifinalist in the Blue Cat is obviously great. I mean, they have hundreds if not thousands of entries, and I have not heard of screenplay search but I’m sure to win it is certainly an honor. So, again, did you get any heat out of any of those placings?
Jordan: Not really. No. I talked to a few producers but other than that, not much.
Ashley: So let’s dig into some of these actual options and their rewrites. You had mentioned in the pre-interview that you actually got a paid writing assignment through craigslist. You mentioned—and I would just refer the readers—I actually created a video sort of about setting up an RSS feed to basically cull those leads from craigslist into your RSS reader. I will link to that in the show notes so we don’t necessarily need to cover all that technical stuff as far as getting those leads, but the bottom line is you found a job through craigslist, a producer looking for someone. Maybe you can tell us about that and if you’re willing to share some of the amount of work you had to do, how the experience went and even how much you got paid because that definitely is interesting to some of the writers who are potentially out there looking at maybe responding to some of those leads.
Jordan: Well, I’ve known you for about four or five years and I know you’ve done this probably off and on [not understood 0:08:12.4] The way I found was to write from a book already listed so this author wrote a book pretty much and I got 800 dollars to turn the book into a screenplay.
Ashley: What kinds of demands did he have on you in terms of timeline, how long did you have to take this book and turn it into a screenplay?
Jordan: She gave me about six to eight weeks I believe.
Ashley: That’s a pretty quick pace. I mean, you’ve got to be chugging along.
Jordan: I sent her a bunch of scripts beforehand of what I found to see what she was looking for. I can’t really talk too much about it [not understood 0:09:09.8] and wrote the screenplay really fast and it worked out.
Ashley: So, in a minute—and I know again in the pre-interview we talked about the option you had and the other writing assignment that you had—and that was through one of my email and fax blasts. So we’ll get into that in a minute just to kind of understand how all corresponded. But let’s talk a minute about some of the other things you’ve tried. The virtual pitch fest, I’ve actually tried that and I think it was you who mentioned it to me. So there have to be a few other things that you’ve tried maybe without success. But I’d just like to get a sense of sort of the scope of what you’re doing to market. Obviously you’re looking on craigslist to find leads. You’re doing a bunch of things. You’re entering some contests obviously if you got a semifinal on the Blue Cat so what other services or things are you doing to try and market your stuff?
Jordan: Yeah, I did the virtual pitch maybe a year and a half ago and pretty much how that works I think they pay about ten dollars to every producer you send of it. And you have to sign up five producers for at least fifty bucks for five producers. You just send them a log line and then based on the log line [not understood 0:10:28.0] I go to comedy so I look for producers who did comedy based on what I had. Three of the five producers said yeah, but pretty much I sent the PDF’s but I haven’t heard from them since. I’ve emailed them a bunch of times, but I haven’t heard back. A lot of these were actually on your blast so I think there was a few that [not understood 0:10:55.8]
Ashley: Yes, there is definite cross-pollination of the lists.
Jordan: I have also tried the Blacklist. I think it was actually the same script. That was called the Crystalline Journal. This script was about three female comedians who [not understood 0:11:13.2] dudes to prove [not understood 0:11:18.2] and I sent this to the blacklist and I think the blacklist honestly is just too expensive. I can’t remember how much it was. It was a couple years ago. For the result I got with the black list it wasn’t worth the money.
Ashley: It seems like the Blacklist is really all about getting—because it’s like one month of hosting and then two reviews is 125 dollars and you need to pay for those first two reviews to kind of get yourself in. You don’t get a good rating on those first two reviews, you’re pretty much sunk.
Jordan: I think if you know people who are in the business, they’ll go to your script on the Black List and give you that five-star rating or whatever it is. If you don’t know people who are already signed up on the Black List, it’s kind of hard to work your way up from the bottom.
Ashley: Is there anything else you can think of just off the top of your head that you’ve tried because I’d be curious just to get your results.
Jordan: I sent a bunch of scripts to your Blast and got those two things. I haven’t tried Inktip yet but I want to.
Ashley: Let’s talk a minute about because you’ve done a lot of shorts. As you mentioned, we’re in a writers group together and I’ve seen bunch of you present a lot of these shorts to a writers group and then gone on to produce them. Let’s just talk about that because that’s one of the things that I’ve recommended to a lot of writers. In this day and age it’s fairly inexpensive to write a three or five-minute short and produce it on YouTube. Maybe you could just talk a little bit about that in terms of doing those shorts and did those get you anything? Do you feel that that’s a worthwhile endeavor? Should writers be doing that and trying to get themselves out there through shorts?
Jordan: I believe that you get a lot of experience. You can learn a lot about how production works. I also direct a lot of the short reviews and learned a lot about directing from that. I’ve had connections with them now. You get to meet actors and working with them especially around LA. I think it’s great to meet new people. The more people you have the more you can do.
Ashley: So let’s dig in a little bit to the email and fax blast that you’ve done with my service. How many total blasts do you think you’ve done? I was trying to remember; I honestly don’t keep that good a track so I’m curious how many blasts have we done for you?
Jordan: I want to say four.
Ashley: That was about the number that I would have said too. And this is over the course of maybe two years probably we’ve done four blasts.
Ashley: Let’s kind of talk about sort of an overview of just—again, we’ll dig into it in a minute—but just give an overview of what success you’ve had. You’ve done these four blasts and maybe you can tell us about the different successes you’ve had and we’ll dig into the specifics.
Jordan: The first blast I did was for Kristin Jones. I had over 120 producers request the script. I had about four or five meetings from that blast alone. I’d gotten optioned pretty much from this guy named Anthony. He is the director and I sent him the log line for Kristin Jones. He got the script, said the script wasn’t for him but he wanted to see what else I had. So I was working on a draft of Rain and Sunny at the time. I sent him the first act and he got the first act pretty much after I finished writing it which was maybe like six months down the road. Again, he wanted to option it right there and then. So that’s how I got my option from the first blast. Now it’s getting actors together to create the movie and trying to get funding and all that stuff.
Jordan: I had one guy who was interested in optioning it but he didn’t have the money to option the last blast I did which I think was [not understood 0:15:44.2] but I’ve had a bunch of these producers around LA on all these blasts.
Ashley: And what do you mean he didn’t have the money? So you wouldn’t give him a free option and you wanted to charge him something for it and he didn’t want to pay for the option?
Jordan: Yes, pretty much. [Not understood 0:16:01.1]
Ashley: So he wanted to option it but he also wanted you to do extensive rewriting on the script in order to make it on the budget that he thought he could raise.
Ashley: And you never did any of these rewrites?
Jordan: I did a few. They wanted to outline the whole thing first and make another draft. That script’s about three Cuban colleagues who become superheroes but [not understood 00:16:51.8] is when they’re high. It was to outline it to make sure everything was below budget kind of thing.
Ashley: So let’s talk about some of these meetings that you’ve had. What do you do with these meetings? Do you try to follow up with those producers? Do you feel like you’ve made some genuine connections with them, people you’ll be able to send new stuff to as you write new stuff?
Jordan: Oh yes. Definitely. Meetings generally go pretty well. We talk about the script and see if we can work on it, and I definitely feel that I can accomplish the goal. I always believe it’s better to meet than it is to call or email. You have more of a personal connection.
Ashley: I totally agree and I think a lot of people—I can tell, and a lot of people email me and they’re like gee, how many sales have come out of this? How many options have come out of this? And they’re missing a really big component which is just the networking and building a nice little list even if it’s only ten or fifteen people, but those people you know them well, and as you say, you’ve actually met them and they’ve read something that you’ve written and they’ve liked it. Those connections may not pay off today or tomorrow or even next week or next month, but a year or two down the road, that’s how those sorts of connections can pay off.
Jordan: If they like it but it’s not for them, they might know someone who will like it and will pass it along. The more people you meet [not understood 0:19:04.8]
Ashley: So let’s talk about the rewriting job that you got through the Blast. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Jordan: It was pretty much the same. The first blast I did with you, this guy actually knew all the scripts, but I think he was just trying to pursue his own writing more than he was trying to pursue other scripts so he had a script which was a comedy which he got my script and thought it was hilarious and laughed a lot. It was a lot of fun and I think I got six hundred dollars for that. I just had to rewrite a lot of the routines [not understood 0:19:54.4]. He was a producer in Canada. I think he was trying to make it in Canada.
Ashley: And just in general, I’ve done some of this sort of writing assignments like that, and I’ve found them very, very painful. Just in general how did they go? There is usually a lot of back and forth. People don’t usually like maybe some of the stuff you do so you’re already doing a lot of rewrite on his script and so you sent him your version and he didn’t like some stuff. So maybe you can just tell us a little bit how the process went.
Jordan: I try to always talk with the person and see what they want. Whenever I’m rewriting I always send him an outline. There is a bunch of short stories in that script. I would say what about this short story and I’ll say okay, let’s do that one. A lot depends on the client.
Ashley: Sure. So let’s talk a little bit just about sort of the process. The Blast goes out and then you start to get script requests. Let’s talk a little bit about the process in terms of sending them the script. What do you say in your response? What do you follow up with, people who say no, this isn’t for me. Just tell us about your follow-up process once the script is requested. As you know, you not only get some script requests, but you get mostly people saying no, this isn’t for me. So how do you just handle that whole process?
Jordan: [Not understood 0:22:02.2] you kind of have to bug these people to keep reading it. Once they do read it, they really like the script and want to talk with you about it. I generally wait three to four weeks. You’ve got to keep going back and forth until they really do read it. A lot of times they are just busy, but when they really do read it which is like three or four months down the road, they’re like oh my gosh, why didn’t I read this sooner? I had one, for example, read the script and I gave her the script and it took her something like nine months for her to finally read it. And she read it on an airplane. The next morning she called me and she sent me this huge voicemail about how funny the script was but it took her nine months to read it.
Ashley: You send them the script and then you wait three or four weeks. You send them an email saying hey, just wondering if you’d read my script. What do you do if they just simply don’t respond? At what point do you just say well, I guess they’re just not interested?
Jordan: Usually it’s five emails. I’ll wait three or four weeks and if they don’t respond to the second email, then I’ll send them a third one. I categorize my emails. I just go down the list and am like this person responded. Sometimes I’ll just copy and paste the same message. I make it sound really nice. After five emails, if you don’t get a response I generally give up.
Ashley: I’m curious. I don’t do this follow-up as much as I know I probably should and so I’m curious just to kind of hear your experience. From my blast you’ve had a rewriting job. You’ve had a bunch of meetings and you optioned the one script. The proof is in the pudding. So you’re doing these follow-ups. Have any of the actual success whether it is option, a rewrite, or an actual meeting. Have any of those resulted from following up, somebody who kind of I haven’t read it; I haven’t read it and you just kept pursuing them and eventually they read it and liked it and you got a meeting out of it? Have you found that that is true?
Jordan: Yes. I get nervous doing this. I’ll call the number at the bottom of the email, and I have had really good conversations talking with this person. When you call them, it’s harder for them not to respond. It is just having the passion to deal with it and having perseverance. The more you push them to do it, the more they’re going to want to do it. I’ve had really good conversations just from calling the companies and asking for the person responding to the email.
Ashley: I’m curious. Obviously you’re in LA and a lot of these producers are in LA, there are not a lot of people who are not in LA. So I would be curious to get your take. When you talk to a Canadian producer or a New York producer, what do you do in those cases as far as following up? Obviously you’re not going to be able to physically meet with them so what do you try and do? Do you try and eventually schedule a phone call and talk about your script if they’re willing to? Or suppose they write back yeah, I like this script but it’s not for me. What do you do at that point if they’re not in LA?
Jordan: If they’re interested in my script and they want to call me, we’ll schedule a time to call on the phone. A lot of times it might not be the same as the time zone so you have to schedule a meeting in your time zone. What is the second part of your question?
Ashley: I’m just wondering—and that kind of leads me to my next question—at what point do you suggest a meeting or is it they who suggest a meeting? I mean, this seems like a fairly typical scenario and so I’m just trying to figure out how you get these meetings scheduled? I mean a lot of times I’ll do the blast. I’ll send them the script. They’ll email me back saying listen, I read your script. I like it but it’s not for me. I don’t think I could do it because of X, Y, and Z. Do you then ask would you be willing to meet with me just so we can talk about what projects you are working on or do you let them initiate because I don’t get a lot of people asking to actually meet. So I’m just wondering how you get that into the conversation.
Jordan: Actually I’ve never thought about that. [Not understood 0:28:05.9] Is this script in terms of what you are looking for? I’ve given them a log line to other scripts and that actually works sometimes [not understood 0:28:18.2] Like I said, the option I got was the guy actually said no to my first script but then I said here’s a log line from a script and worked on that. She said yeah, I like that a lot. The more you write the more log lines you’re going to have and the more you’ll be able to put out there. I know you and me both have a ton of scripts out there.
Ashley: At what point do we say listen, can we meet sometime? At what point does that sort of enter the conversation?
Jordan: I’ve never actually initiated the meeting part of it. If someone is out of the country, I might ask for a phone call, but I think for the most part, if they really want your script, they will schedule a meeting with you. Most of the time they schedule meetings with me or we’ll schedule several conversations.
Ashley: It sounds like from the way you’re talking, you will follow up with every single response like if they email you back and say hey, I read your script and I liked it but it’s not for me, you will follow up with those with basically some more pitches and you’ll try and discern exactly why the script wasn’t for them and then pitch them something that potentially might be for them.
Jordan: Exactly. Yes. If something’s wrong and a lot of people are saying no to your script, something’s wrong with it and you want to find out what that is so you can fix it.
Ashley: Well, I think that’s some good information for people especially people who are considering using my blast service or even if they’re just doing blasts on their own. I think those are some helpful tips for them. Maybe you can just talk about briefly what you’re working on now. You’d mentioned I think a sitcom. What are you working on now and what are you going to do to get that out there?
Jordan: I’m working on a TV pilot. It’s pretty much like Modern Family with the kids in middle school, teachers and students. The script went out and I have a bunch of actors. We are going to start shooting hopefully next month. It will be done maybe around April. I’m also working on a script right now. It’s called Miller and her Husband. It’s about three desperate guys who pretty much sell themselves to women they want to marry. I also have a web series that will be out hopefully this weekend. So it might be out when you watch this podcast.
Ashley: We’re recording this on January 6 and this podcast won’t air until well after January 6, well after this weekend so I’m sure that will be up by then. I will get that link into the show notes if people want to check that out.
Ashley: I’m curious, just one thing about your pilot and I’ve had friends shoot pilots before in the past. I haven’t done any TV writing so I’m definitely not at the cutting edge of what people are doing or why they’re doing it. But what do you do once you have a TV pilot? What do you try and do with that? Do you try and get it to your contact at NBC? Do you just try and pull it on line and hope that it goes viral? What exactly is your strategy with doing a pilot?
Jordan: My strategy first is to tell the people like producers and people I know. If I don’t get any results from that, I just put it online and see what happens. I’ve had a lot of people interested in it and I have sent it to a bunch of managers and producers. I’ve never sold or optioned it but I definitely want to do something with it. [Not understood 0:33:31.3]
Ashley: I always wrap these interviews up by just asking what’s the best way for people to keep up with you. If you’re on Twitter, you can mention your Twitter handle, Facebook, blog, email, anything that you have that people could just follow you and maybe connect with you if they want.
Jordan: My website is jordanimiola.com. Also my Twitter is jordanimiola. You can find me by searching my name.
Ashley: And I’ll link to that stuff in the show notes as well so people can find the show notes and just click directly over there. Well, Jordan, this has been a great talk. I really appreciate you coming on. As I said, I think it’s some great information. I know a lot of people who listen to this podcast. If they’re not doing my email and fax blast, they’re doing something similar so just hearing someone who’s in a trenches doing it is very informative.
Jordan: [Not understood 0:34:57.8]
Ashley: Well, perfect, Jordan. As I said, you’ve been generous with your time so I really appreciate you coming on the show.
Jordan: Yeah. Thanks for having me.
Ashley: In the next episode of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast, I’m going to be interviewing screenwriter Chris Sparling who wrote the movie Buried starring Ryan Reynolds and more recently a film called The Atticus Institute which he wrote and directed. We’ll be digging into the Atticus Institute talking about the film and how it got made. Chris was on the podcast before in episode 24 so if you have a moment, check that episode out before next week. We’re not going to be spending any time talking about the things we’ve already talked about in previous episodes. So if you can listen to episode 24 before next week it will give you some additional context to what we’re talking about. Anyway, keep an eye out for that episode next week.
Generally I pitch one of my screenwriting services towards the end of the episode. In some ways this whole episode was a pitch since all of Jordan’s success came through my email and fax blast service. If you want to learn more about this product, just go to www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com and then click on the link which explains the email and fax blast service in more detail. I have had tremendous success from my own email and fax blast service as well, and I’ve covered that pretty well on this podcast so I won’t go into that now. I think Jordan did a really good job following up with the people who contacted him from the blast and I think he got the most out of the Blast because of this.
I do think it’s important to note if you listen to this podcast there are a lot of other services out there and some people are having success with it. I’ve mentioned Inktip, the Blacklist. These other services should definitely be a part of your marketing arsenal when it comes time when you finish a script and you’re wondering what to do with it. I’d highly advise use all of these services. I myself still use Inktip; I myself still use the Blacklist and obviously I still use my own email and fax blast service. I really just think that’s key. From the people I’m interviewing for whatever reason, it doesn’t seem like people seem to have a lot of success with multiple channels, and I’m honestly not sure why that is. I mean, the people who I have had on and had success with Inktip—I’ve had two or three writers on the podcast who have had success with Inktip—and they haven’t had a lot of success with other marketing channels and I don’t know exactly why that is. But for whatever the reason some people find success with these different channels and you’ve got to find the channel that’s going to work for you. It may be my email and fax blast service; it may not be my email and fax blast service. It may be Inktip; it may be Blacklist, but as someone who’s marketing the scripts, you’ve got to branch out and you’ve got to try different things. Contests are another thing. Some people seem to do well in contests. They haven’t had as much success on Inktip or some of these other services so again you’ve just got to find what is going to work for you. I do think that there are different types of scripts that work for these different types of marketing channels. You’re type of script might work on certain channels and it’s not always that easy. Even as experienced as I am and as much success as I’ve had, I’m really not quite clear always why some things are working on Inktip and why some things are working through my blast and frankly some things have worked through my blast and not worked on the Blacklist. I mean, I’ve optioned a script which I got a review of a 3 on the Blacklist so clearly it did not do very well on the Blacklist but it’s a script which I have actually optioned a couple of times and have had high hopes for. So you’ve just got to find that medium and Jordan, for whatever reason like myself has had success with my email and fax blast service. But I don’t want to make it seem like it’s just me showing my own services. Really what I’m trying to do is bring people on and just show you the full scope of what’s out there and my service is certainly one of them. But don’t let that deter you from trying some of these other services because you actually might find more success with some of those.
Anyway, I really appreciate your listening. That’s the show today.