Welcome to episode 60 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 writer Beau Martin Williams. We’re going to be talking about his latest film Ameri-Cans which he’s also the lead actor in so stay tuned for that.
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Over on YouTube I want to thank Radical Soul Productions, Ginger Schein, and Stanford Crane for leaving me nice comments on episode 57 and 58; thank you guys for that.
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A quick few words about what I’m working on. I talked to and emailed last week with producers of two of my project. I’ve mentioned these projects on the podcast before so I’ll just give a little update. My limited location horror thriller script, the producer’s still out there trying to raise the money for it. We’ve been having some conversations about shooting it on a microbudget which I’m happy to do if he can raise the money. He’s got some money he’s raised already. It’s just a question of if it’s enough to shoot this script. Hopefully it is but we’re just kind of going back and forth. He’s looking for some locations and just seeing what he can do with the money that he has. And I emailed my producer of my limited location female protagonist sexy thriller script. She’s still plugging away with that script too so that was nice to hear. She sent it out to a few actors and is waiting to hear back from them. The big hurdle with an independent film is raising the money so I think once she has a cast that she likes, I think then she will start to really concentrate her efforts on going out and getting the money, but that’s a huge hurdle even if she gets some good actors attached. Raising the money will still definitely be a challenge. Anyway, there is still a little action on these two options so that is a good sign. I completed the first act of a limited location mob action thriller script that I have been working on. I read it in my writers group last week and I’d say it got a so-so reaction. I have a few things to shore up. It got some good notes. There are always some things. As long as I’ve been writing scripts there are always some things that you just bring it into a group of writers and they point out some things that you just can’t even believe that you missed. So I definitely got a few things which I’ve got to go back and fix. I’m really trying to keep this one super low-budget. I’ve mentioned this before on the podcast. I’ve talked with a lot of producers over the last couple of years. We really want to shoot something. They just need a script that they can be shot on a microbudget. So I’m really trying to keep this one as small as possible so it can be shot on a microbudget, even smaller than the other two scripts that I just mentioned my limited location female protagonist sexy thriller script. Those are limited locations but there are definitely quite a few actors and it’s pretty broad in terms of getting those locations. They’re not easy to get locations. This script is going to be shot in a house that can be easily gotten. Almost all of its going to be two actors in the house so it can be shot easily and getting that location could be fairly cheap and easy. So hopefully it turns out halfway decently as well. We will see.
So now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m talking with screenwriter and director Beau Martin Williams. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome, Beau, to the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show.
Beau: Thanks for having me, Ashley.
Ashley: So to start out, I wonder if you can give us a quick overview of your career and kind of how you got started in the entertainment industry.
Beau: My first passion has always been as a writer. I started writing in college. I took my first screenwriting class. A creative writing teacher actually suggested that I take a look at screenwriting and so my junior year was my first class. I have been working on scripts and writing scripts since I was 21 years old. It’s a craft that takes some time, and the first idea which I had for this screenplay was around this bank robbery. I had this bank robbery that I thought was really cool and I tried to make that the focal point of this screenplay. I finished it after years and I actually began working on it as a final project in the screenwriting class in college. I think five years later I actually finished it. A close family friend of our Bobby Erbeck, who created Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, read it. He actually said, “Beau, what do you know about robbing banks?” And I said, “Nothing.” He goes, “You just played football at the University of Colorado. Why don’t you write about that? That’s something pretty big that people would want to learn about.” In the back of my mind I think “Well, what the heck do you know about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?” That’s a different story so I tried to work on a script about my experience playing football in college. I actually did a speech in public speaking class. It was a persuasive speech on why I thought that college athletes should be paid. It’s a five-billion-dollar-a-year business and who knows what that’s gone to today. This was back in 2001-2002. They were doing “The Longest Yard” and it was 50 million for that movie and add another 50 million for an advertising budget. I was trying to get something made that was on an independent theme with a studio budget and the studios are kind of all in bed with [inaudible 0:07:41.8]
Ashley: Let’s take a step back. So you had the one family friend that did Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and you said your second script about college athletics, you were shopping that. Give us just a little bit of background. When you say you’re shopping it, I assume at this point you’re giving it to more than just the one family friend. So how did you make some of these other connections, and what did that exactly mean when you said shopping it?
Beau: I don’t think I would ever solicit my script as far as trying to shop it. I would give it to people and ask them for feedback hoping that they would (A) Either know somebody that could help me bring that script to life, help me get it made into a film or (b) They could connect me with the manager or agent or somebody who could help. So I would give it to anybody and everybody that was willing to read it. I would say that of the people whom I put it out there to, maybe half of them actually read it and maybe half of the people who read it actually gave me feedback. I think feedback is valuable as a writer. You can be sensitive to feedback but I think that the harsher the feedback, the stronger the feedback really helps to fine-tune the story and get it to where they will really read. I guess I wasn’t shopping; I was trying to gain exposure in the hope that [inaudible 0:10:01.2]
Ashley: And just to dig a little bit further, you said you were working in a club in Hollywood, literally you just meet someone there. You get their email address and say hey, can I send you my script? Just give us sort of a full idea, sort of a scope of what you were doing because I think that can maybe help other people and give them some ideas for their own scripts.
Beau: There were some people who were regulars so we had regulars who would come in who were working on TV shows or were agents or were managers or were actors. I was facing the door when they came in. They came out and smoked a cigarette. There was nobody else outside. I’m the one hanging outside the door and it’s really about developing relationships. First and foremost, it’s tough. You don’t know anybody and it’s tough. I know that there are a lot of good actors in this town who for one reason or another haven’t made it, and I’m sure that there are a lot of good writers in this town who haven’t made it either. To be honest, the route of shopping stinks. I try to find somebody who will really get behind it. It’s real tough. I know writers who get their stuff picked out, maybe they sell something and there is no production there. I mean we have three production companies that try to get an option, Ameri-Cans which was initially titled “The Option Arm” based on the [inaudible 0:11:28.8] which was very popular while I was working for [inaudible 0:11:33.5]
Ashley: So let’s dig into Ameri-Cans for a minute. Maybe to start you could just give us a quick log line for the movie just for the people who maybe haven’t seen it or haven’t seen the trailer. You can kind of give us the pitch.
Beau: You have two log lines running one through the press and IMDB and one on our social media sites. One of them is a broken-down collegiate football stock hero. You start them in the eleventh hour during LA’s nihilistic [inaudible 0:12:17.6] That was one log line we’re running with the press and the other one we’re running on social media is raving through reality on the eve of the economic collapse, a store front mute to the eyes of the Los Angeles [inaudible 0:12:31.3]
Ashley: And as I said, it reminded me of Wolf of Wall Street as I said with heart because your protagonist really seemed to have a conscience about him. So you wrote the script on IMDB that says that—because you also write and create it—and it says co-creator with Matt Funk. Maybe you can just explain what that actually means, how Matt Funk was involved and sort of the initial kernel of this idea, even what a co-creator means on a feature film.
Beau: Matt was working for years as a bartender while I was working [inaudible 0:13:05.8] and we started hanging out off nights. We realized that we had a great passion for films and shared an interest in film and shared an interest in the same kinds of films. I went to him about a year into my job at the bank that I was working for. I asked how would you like to do a boiler room based in Los Angeles about the mortgage industry. We just started brainstorming ideas. As things continued to unfold in front of my eyes while I was in the business, he started checking the script and networking and building this thing up. Every completed draft of the script we would then take it out like I said and try and get feedback from everybody and anybody that was willing to give it to us. The feedback would come in and then we’d go back to the drawing board. I’d tailor a new draft of the script; he’d read it. I would get his feedback. We’d workshop scenes. We’d re-develop it. We’d rewrite it and when it got to a point where we were happy with it, we’d send it back out. This went on for a very long time. When we started this thing, the financial market didn’t come completely crashing down until 2008. We had started working on this script in 2006. This thing was still unfolding in front of our eyes as we had this script that was completed. So we didn’t know how it was going to end yet.
Ashley: So how many drafts would you say you wrote over the course of four or five years?
Beau: I joke all the time; I probably wrote close to four thousand pages for a 76-page script. That’s no lie. In my garage right now—I just moved to a new place—I’ve got two boxes full of scripts as well as two duffel bags full of scripts, just different drafts, different titles. We changed the name about 60 to 70 times on this thing, and it has been a heck of a journey seeing this thing come to fruition. The final script that we shopped around—like I said we had three production companies try to option the script. They didn’t want to pay me for the option; this thing would probably be sitting on the shelf. We shot 76 pages. It was 108 pages so we killed about 32 pages of copies, and there was a lot of stuff there that I didn’t want to lose but we brought our producer, Mike Massini, who came on and he said, “You know, there’s a lot of great information but a lot of this is going to lose your audience and a lot of stuff. It was between me not wanting to dumb it down and them saying how would you explain this to a first grader? I think that it’s pretty intelligent but there might be some stuff that goes over the head of the audience, but for the most part, if you paid attention you should be able to understand it.
Ashley: I thought you guys did a great job with that. I’ve never worked in that business so I’m certainly the layman in that. Even though I didn’t understand the intricacies of this thing, for the purposes of the story I got the basic idea of what was happening. I wonder if you could take us through your workshop process. You keep saying you would workshop scenes, workshop different important characters and stuff. Just tell us what that is. I mean, you acted in this script too so I assume you probably know a lot of actors and that probably comes into it. Explain what the workshop process is for developing something like this?
Beau: There are two processes. One was we hit a crossroad. It’s nice to have somebody who you can go to when you’ve hit a writer’s block point and you don’t know what you’re going to do here. We kind of bounce things off each other, and one of us would call the other one and say, “Dude, I got it.” Lots of times it was ironic but it would almost happen simultaneously. I’d start to say something and then he’d already know what I was going to say before I’d finish what I was going to say. That was one process of trying to get over hurdles together. The other process was actually becoming these characters. I think that the most difficult thing for us as males was developing the female characters. We are working on another script right now called “351” which we’re going to take out to some actresses to help us really, really dive into those female characters and shape those characters.
Ashley: Now let’s talk about some of the choices. You just mentioned you had the 108-page script and you really had to cut it down to the 76 pages. That was one thing that as I just mentioned, it felt like you had the Wolf of Wall Street with heart and that was one thing I think you guys did very, very well. You made your protagonist very likeable almost from the get-go. He seemed to have a conscience about this thing and felt guilty about the potential problems that he might be getting his friend into more with refinancing his house. I’m curious how much of that was very deliberate? Was that how you were feeling when you were in the situation or is that something that came later? You realized you had to make your protagonist likeable? Walk us through sort of that decision-making process because it was integral to the story. I thought it was a very smart decision, and I wonder if in reality that was really sort of how you saw it when it was actually unfolding in your life as someone working in the financial industry.
Beau: I never made a whole lot of money in the mortgage industry because in order to sell something wholeheartedly I have to believe in what it is I am selling, and in my entire mortgage career I sold one option envelope. I tried to talk the guy out of it. I explained to him why it was a bad loan. I told him what was going to happen, what was on the horizon because the boss whom I had in New York wasn’t selling options. She couldn’t believe that there were people in Los Angeles who were selling these home loans. It was a four-payment option loan. You had to borrow one percent payment option, but it was designed for real estate investors who could leverage their cash with multiple properties with low monthly payments while they fix the property up and turn them over real quick. When it was rolled out to the mass public, it allowed people who had no business getting into million-dollar homes to be able to not only qualify but also be able to afford their payments. The loan would eventually reattach when the loan balance reached 118 percent of the loan’s original balance. You have an interest-only payment and a one-percent payment. Most people made the one percent payment, but the difference between the interest-only payment which on a million-dollar loan would be like $5500 at five-and-a-half percent, and the one-percent payment would be around $2700. So you have $2300 that’s tacked on to the balance loan at each month. When that loan hits 118 percent, that loan would then recast and it would go back to the client. The client would have to refinance because they can’t afford $5500 a month. They’d have to refinance, and that mortgage broker would get another commission on the loan. So they’re getting a commission on the loan every 18 months. This is what people were doing in the business. I recognized it as not helping the client; all you’re doing is helping yourself. I couldn’t sell that product. So I admit I made the bulk of my money in 2007, and I didn’t make a lot of money. I actually spent three years in the mortgage industry. And I came out of the mortgage industry with about ten thousand dollars in credit card debt. I made eighty thousand dollars in 2007 selling against the option arm home loan. I put together a mailer campaign. I had a direct email list of people who had option arms in the Greater Los Angeles area, and I sent those mailer campaigns out to all these people and said get out of your option arm home loan before it’s too late. I got about six or seven people out of option arms and into better loans and then 2008 rolled around and I was unable to qualify 30 people in the first two weeks of January. I realized that things were really going to hit the fan, and I left Washington Mutual two weeks before they laid off all their loan consultants nationwide. So I always had a conscience going through this business, that there was something shady that was going on here, kind of like Jason in Ameri-Cans. I tried to tailor his mindset about the business very similar to how I felt. So if you feel like there is a lot of heart in the film or in the character that was me really trying to show my true feelings about what was going on in this world.
Ashley: I can see how a loan like that for a sophisticated real estate investor might make sense as you said, but you’re right for an individual who doesn’t know what they’re doing, it’s disaster waiting to happen. So let’s talk about some of the other things. I get a lot of emails from people who have done something in their lives or maybe they were in a war or some interesting thing has happened to them. They’re saying gee, I want to turn my life story into a script, and I’m always very leery of it. (1) Their lives don’t sound nearly as interesting as they think they do, but I’m curious; there must have been some things that were in this story that you had to pick and choose. Well, let’s not talk about this stuff. This doesn’t make sense. It was maybe an interesting vignette but it doesn’t fit in to sort of the overall context of this screenplay. Maybe you could just walk us through that process of turning a life story and some of the choices that you made to turn it into a fictionalized screenplay.
Beau: As far as omitting some things and including others?
Ashley: Yes. There must been some stuff that maybe was interesting but it didn’t necessarily fit into the context of the script. I mean, the story was very cohesive. As you said, it was very much about this option arm but there must have been other interesting things, interesting characters. How did you make some of those choices to not include stuff and to include other stuff?
Beau: And also back to feedback for that. I sought out feedback. I continued to seek that feedback. Throughout the entire production process, through the editing process, there was stuff that we lost in the editing room. As a team we feel Matt and Massini, we reshaped the entire script in the editing room and then we had some holes. We wrote stuff and it went out and did research. We did that for about three years to really make sure that we shaped the exact story that was going to work. So I had a lot of help in regards to that. Like I said, the original script was 108 pages and Mike said there was no way we had enough money to be able to go out and shot a 108-page script that we had so we hired a specialist to help us shave that thing down to 76 pages, a guy that he knew that was really good with [inaudible 0:24:46.3] He actually rewrote the page numbers and said we need this to happen instead of by page ten, it needs to happen by page five; instead of by page 20, this needs to happen by page 12. I make a joke about this. If you’re late for the film, if you’re ten minutes late for the film, you’re going to show up and we’ll already be in act two.
Ashley: So let’s talk about sort of the next stage of this. You’ve written the script. You’ve gotten a lot of feedback; you’ve got a version that you feel confident about. You mention that you had found some interest with three production companies. They wanted to do an option. So just walk us through, now you’ve written a script. What’s sort of the next step? How did you get it out there and how did you find these three production companies and ultimately what did you kind of do to get this thing made?
Beau: Matt has a pretty solid acting background. He just knew a bunch of people in the industry like he knew more people in the industry than I did. We shopped it around with director friends of his which he had worked with as well as fellow actors. Matt Madrano was an actor/producer which we had shopped it to. He really liked the script, and he thought that there was something huge there. We had other friends which brought us to production companies that tried to option the project. There were actor friends that brought it to production companies. They knew we were trying to option the project. But we didn’t really like the angles that they were pitching us on. Matt and I had one production company that said you know what; we think this script is great. We’re going to take it to a writer at CAA; we’re going to put his name on it and we’re going to package it with a nameless director and you guys are going to have nothing to do with it. And we said no, that’s not what we’re going to do. This same guy actually told us–and I took my night life back and I really started an events company on the west side of Los Angeles. I came up with my share of the funds to shoot this thing. I threw 500 parties over the course of five years. I had access to a bunch of nightclubs and I had restaurants which I had worked with. I had clients who were well-off clients who allowed us to shoot at their houses. This guy said you think you got tossed a couple bones here and there that you’re going to be able to get all these nightclubs that you’re going to be able to show off all the glitz and the glamor in this world, no chance, no chance. That’s what we did.
Ashley: How much money were they offering you for the script?
Beau: Nothing. They were offering me nothing; they said you’re a no-name hire. Nobody knows you. No one’s going to offer you a penny for the stuff. I had two people initially try and option it for nothing and probably about two or three months later we had a third company that tried to option it for nothing. Some of the ways these production companies work is they see a project they think [inaudible 0:27:55.2] they give five projects. They take those five projects. They go out there and they pitch them to their investors and if the investor bites, then they go into production. If my script wasn’t one of those five scripts that was pulled for production, this is sitting on that guy’s shelf, one of the options that was so vague, it said we have the rights to this project for a year. If we are in financial negotiations during that one-year time period, then we have the rights to it for an additional four years. So I’m looking if I sign this option, if he takes these five scripts to an investor and the investors says okay, we’re going to make one and he decides not to make mine—we are also interested in that one, there is no way for me to know that he said something like that. Now, all of a sudden this guy goes into production on a script that’s not mine and mine is stays on the shelf for five years and we’re second year right now, we’ve got nothing to talk to you about. So Matt and I after taking three different meetings, we said, you know what, if we’re going to get this thing done, we’re going to have to do it our way. I went to work doing the only other thing I knew how to do with the connections that I had established, after Washington Mutual, I got a job as a marketing manager for Japanese Vodka and I was the regional marketing manager from San Luis Obispo all the way down to San Diego so I had developed the knack for communicating with Night Life managers. I had a background from being at the door; I knew a lot of people in the business. I just went to work. I talked with some friends of mine who were doing events in Hollywood. He asked how much money are you making. Are you making a thousand bucks a night? And I was like and sometimes more, sometimes more. I said I could do this. There was nobody doing it in the beach communities in LA. So we attacked a market where there was a demand with no competition. Things went really well for us to where after two years I had my share of funds to shoot. Now I didn’t know that we were going to continue to put money into this thing for the next two years while we were in post. We did our first edit and we put all our songs in there and we got what we thought was going to be an awesome picture, and I went to our music supervisor with the songs that Matt thought were really good, he has a really good ear for music. He kept giving songs to Theo and Theo kept putting them in the film. He said, Dude, those songs are awesome. It’s working. When it came back, it was a quarter million dollars for the music that we wanted to put in the script. So we had to go back to the drawing board again and i=figure out based on what [inaudible 0:30:59.5] this is what we can afford; this is what we can’t afford. These are the sections that we’re going to have to take back to our composer who does an unbelievable job connecting the tracks that we licensed with his original tracks which was the last thing that was put into place that kind of created this waterbed which floats the story to us.
Ashley: Maybe you can take us through just briefly some of the process of actually the logistics of making this movie. Obviously at this point you are now starting to think with your friend, Matt, okay, let’s go ahead and make this movie ourselves, but you don’t have a background in film production. So what did you do? How did you find a director? How did you find a line producer? What were some of those steps to actually just getting this into live production?
Beau: Matt Medrano introduced us to Michael Massini and Massini had worked with Theo on Fifty Pills which was the first film that he directed with Kristin Bell and Michael (inaudible 0:32:03.9] and he’d also worked with him on I think it was a pilot program that he wrote and a friend of his wrote called The Cadillac Crew where they shot a couple episodes that Theo and Chris Leitwein, our director and photography, worked on together. He said I got the guy that can do this. He initially said we needed to cut 108 pages down to 76 pages. He had the production experience. He helped us put all the pieces together and really assembled our entire team. Along the way we made tons of mistakes. The first director whom we brought on was not originally Theo. We brought on a guy out of New York who was underqualified and was in over his head. After the first day of shooting we shot one scene and we said there’s no way we’re going to get this whole thing on the schedule that these guys have. We need somebody who knows what they’re doing and Theo had not gotten back to us yet. So Michael pulled the plug on the project which, Thank god that he did because we would have wasted all the money that we’d saved. And Theo got back to us. He came out here and we met with him. Mike said this guy knows how to get a lot out of a little. He knows how to make things look like they’re done on studio budgets for next to nothing. Mike and I took Theo around to all the locations that we had access to, some through my company and some through relationships that Matt had shot at my house. We shot at Matt’s house. Theo was like if you want me I’m on board. We decided to bring him on. A month later I went to Block Island in Rhode Island with him and his family and based on the locations we had, we retailored the script. Theo said okay, we’ve got you guys going to the bookie’s house to make a bet and then from there you go to a sports bar because we can’t afford to move more than once a day and I think we only had two days where we had location moves. The rest of the days that we shot for our twelve principal days of photography were all shot at the same location and finally maximized that location to make it look like different locations which Theo was a specialist at. We retailored the script to the locations that we had. We came back into town and we sat down with UPM and we figured out our twelve-day schedule. We packed a ton into twelve days, and I really got a credit on UPM and Theo for that because I didn’t know how to do any of that stuff. I was in film school 101 when I was playing with live bullets because I had all my money in the project.
Ashley: This is a great story. I was fairly surprised when you said it was done on a shoestring budget. I was fairly surprised but the film looks great so my hat’s off to Theo and your DP and everybody else. It does look great so well-done on that front, but hearing you explain this is just so educational. I hope that there are people out there who are really listening to this because the stories you’re telling are exactly the sort of in-the-trenches story if you’re going to go and make your own independent film, all these things that you’re saying are exactly how it happens. You get a director who doesn’t know what he’s doing; you’ve got to fire him and stuff. These are the problems of independent films so I think you for sharing all this. As I said, I just hope people are really listening. This is a great interview.
Let’s go to the next step of this. So you got the film shot. How did you find distribution? You and I helped out through your publicist so there’s a distribution now for this film. Did you guys go to film festivals? Walk us through that process. You got the film finished and then what did you do next to actually find distribution?
Beau: One of the reasons we were so attracted to bringing Michael Massini on the project initially was because he actually works for [inaudible 0:35:56.9] Distribution, and working at [inaudible 0:36:01.6] he had people sending him films to watch all the time and he had been tutored by Bowen over at Arch Dome on what works and what doesn’t work. So he had a very strong understanding of what we needed to do production-wise in order to create something that was going to attract a distribution company. And Mike knew Brady and we had a couple of other distribution companies that were interested but Brady said no, I want to do this thing theatrically to create the buzz and stir up a lot of interest overseas and with the on-demand markets. If you guys can bring to the table what you think you can from a promotional standpoint being that I do have for the last five years a preferred event coordinator, but typically I am a promoter and I understand that mindset very well. We tried for a couple of film festivals. We would have to try back at Sundance and Toronto. However, that said, they got very rough cuts of the film that were really pretty sloppy. I wished that we had waited until we were ready, but even Brady said this isn’t a film festival film. It’s a theatre film and that’s the way that he wanted to take it.
Ashley: So tell me this—and I keep bringing it to something like Wolf of Wall Street and I’d be curious to just kind of hear your thoughts and hear the reception you were getting with this project. This is a very American story and it also doesn’t have–and I would say to its credit—and this isn’t a snub of this film, but Wolf of Wall Street (1) it had a whole European arm. It definitely got international where there were scenes in Italy and he’s going and investing in Europe. There is a lot more drugs and sex which is obviously something distributors think that they can sell. So I’m curious. Did you get any pressure to maybe open the story up and make it less of an American story? Did you get any pressure to just have more sex and drugs in the story?
Beau: We were actually done shooting before Wolf of Wall Street came out, believe it or not so I didn’t feel any pressure from Wolf of Wall Street. I thought that if anything it could help us. We did want to spice it up. Movies that I was comparing it to were too big to fail and Margin Call and Inside Job, and even Wall Street too when that came out. Those are all movies with a similar theme as far as movies based on the financial industry. One thing that I thought was lacking in those films, I didn’t think Margin Call and Too Big to Fail were very informative, great films which I liked, I didn’t think they were sexy enough to grab the younger audience. Our film also moves very fast. We tailored it that way for a younger audience because of social media. It’s got Facebook; they’ve got Instigram. They’ve got Twitter. They’ve got Snapshot. There are so many different forms where that came from and we really needed to move quickly to keep them on the edge of their seats. I don’t want to call them the me, me, me generation but there’s so much content out there for them that you really need to grab their attention. I think someone told us the way they test films is they put a bunch of people in a room and as soon as they pull out their cell phones, they know that something’s not working here.
Ashley: I’m curious. You mentioned the three options that you got. Obviously if you’re going to finance it yourself, attaching yourself as an actor is not a problem but did you want to be an actor in the film when you were looking at potentially optioning it to these outside companies?
Beau: Matt and I both did, but at the same time I said you know what, if you can get somebody like Channing Tatum attached to the project—I believe that I read somewhere that he actually worked in the mortgage industry—I would have been willing to step back out of it because I felt that the story we were telling was more important than me being an actor in the film. But I also knew that I was capable of doing that. It was tough wearing multiple hats and going through this process. The first shot was in my house and I’m wearing the producer hat. I’m also wearing the writer’s hat and going through these scenes as the writer making sure okay, is this happening what needs to be happening? We parked a wardrobe truck in my neighbor’s driveway and we put a note. One of my team put a note in my neighbor’s fence that said hey, if you want to park next to my truck, please let us know. My neighbor sent me a text message and she goes “What the F is going on over there? Come outside right now.” I go out through the back alley and she goes, “Read this.” And I go, “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me.” So I go into our new piano mic. If we’re going to park in the neighbor’s driveway, we don’t put a note on their fence saying if they want to park in their own driveway, ask us if they want to park next to our truck. We’ve got to ask them if we want to park there. I’m getting called on the set to get into character two seconds later so it was hard. Wearing multiple hats through this process was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I was responsible for the majority of the locations too. I remember waking up and our wardrobe truck that next night got blocked in. We had to be on the set at 9:00 and hoping I can get the car out. So I’m waking up at 6:00 AM every thirty minutes to go out to the alley and see if that truck’s unblocked so I can pull it out and try and get it over to the next location. I would have been willing to step out of the project if I knew it was going to benefit the project.
Ashley: So ultimately you do feel like you are a writer, not an actor. That’s the direction you want to take.
Beau: I think that I want to tell my own stories. I don’t need to be—and I don’t want to go after projects that I’m not passionate about. I did some auditioning and went out for some projects when I first got into town and I’m taking a bunch of acting classes and workshops since high school so it’s something that I can do. But if I’m not passionate about a project I’m not just out there looking to do it to make money. I’m not going to sell myself out on a project because it has a big price tag on it just to do that. I want to make things that are relevant and that have great messages.
Ashley: So what’s next for you? You mentioned another script that you guys are working on. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about that and kind of what your plans are for the future.
Beau: The next script is a trash-action LA story. It’s a guy who’s a runner for a sports book and he is rolling around town in a Mock 1 mustang. The engine in the Mock 1 mustang is a 351 Cleveland so it says 351 right on the side of the car. It’s a very charismatic guy that’s meeting all these people from all different walks of life. He falls in love with a young lady who is working as a hooker at a brothel. She’s in a compound and it’s these two people from these terrible walks of life and love pulls them out. If the financial industry was seeing this where we were really trying to focus on the power of love in this next film.
Ashley: Okay. Sounds interesting. I look forward to seeing that. So how do people see Ameri-Cans? Maybe you can tell us kind of the release schedule and where it’s going to be available.
Beau: It’s actually opening this Friday, January 23 here in Los Angeles. It will be at Universal City and AMC up there, in Burbank AMC 16. It will be in Torrance at the Rolling Hills 20 AMC in Torrance. It will be at AMC in Phoenix. It will be at the AMC River East in Chicago. It will be at the AMC Westminster Promenade between Boulder and Denver in Colorado which is actually the theatre I used to go to when I was in college. It will be at the Austin Metropolitan. It will be in Elmwood, Louisiana. It’s at the AMC Empire in Times Square, New York. It’s playing in Maple Grove at the AMC out there in the Minneapolis area.
Ashley: And then when will it be available on Video On Demand, ITunes and all that kind of stuff?
Beau: I’m not sure what Arch Dome’s plans are yet; I think probably about three months out from a release date, what we’re hoping that we can drum up enough interest theatrically to where it stands and we get a two, three, or four-week run and then we have to also look into what we’re going to do and what our plans are for international distribution just through some small Facebook tests and social media and market tests. I think there may be more interest in this film overseas than there actually is here. So we’ve got to sit down and brainstorm that, but right now our main goal is focusing on getting this thing to really do well theatrically.
Ashley: So what’s the best way for people to keep up with you if they’re interested in just seeing what you’re up to? You can mention a Twitter handle, a Facebook page, a blog, anything really that you just want to share so people can maybe learn more about you.
Beau: I’m on Instigram. I don’t really use much Twitter. My Instigram handle is wbeaudiddly. We’re on Facebook at Facebook/americansmovie. We’re also on Instigram at americansmovie. We’re on Twitter at americansmovie. Our website is www.americansmovie.com.
Ashley: Perfect. I’ll get all that straightened out and I’ll link to all that in the show notes so people don’t have to write it down quickly. They can go to the show notes and click right over to it.
Well, Beau, you’ve been very generous with your time. As I said, this has been a great interview. I really appreciated it, a real true testament to independent film and how stuff gets done so I wish you the best with this film.
Beau: Thank you, Ashley. I really appreciate your time as well.
Ashley: I want to announce the new sys script consultant service. We’re launching a super inexpensive script reading service. All the readers have experience reading for studios, production companies, or contests. The readers I’ve partnered with are the gatekeepers. They’re exactly the same people who are going to be reading your scripts at the companies you submit to. The readers will be evaluating your scripts on ten key points like structure, character, dialog, and marketability. You can read a quick bio on each reader and pick the one that you like to read your script. We’re still going to be offering an in-depth screenplay analysis by industry veterans. While I think this is a great service and offers tremendous value for what you’re getting, it is a bit pricey for some people so I wanted to create a service for people who maybe didn’t want to invest in quite as much money into getting some professional script notes. So if you want a quick economical way to get notes from a professional reader on one of your screenplays, check out our new service which you can find at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/consultants.
So let’s wrap up today’s episode. I just want to talk about a few things that Beau said. To me, the real take-away is just how much Beau made things happen for himself. He didn’t wait around. He had some other companies. One optioned the script. He said no, I’m going to go and make this movie myself. And hopefully from listening to this podcast you’re getting a sense of sort of why he might have done that. I’ve mentioned many options that I’ve had and as you can see, this podcast has been going now for well over a year and a half and some of these options have been going since before the podcast began and they’re still going. And I think Beau really appreciated that and understood that. You can get out there. You can find producers who like your material. You can find producers who want to make your script but getting the money and getting that thing into production, you’re still a long ways. Just finding the producer isn’t necessarily getting you all that close to getting the movie made. As I said, I’ve mentioned a lot of the options that I’ve had and a lot of them are still out there. The producer’s still out there slogging a year to a year-and-a-half later. So really think about that. The only real of making sure that your script gets made is really by going out and making things happen for yourself, going out and raising the money. All these problems that Beau mentioned, making the film, a director being in over his head, having to kill production and go back—all that stuff—that’s just part of production, going over budget, it’s just all part of production, having your neighbor complain, these are all of the things that you’re going to deal with in being a filmmaker but that’s just part of the process and you’ve just got to plow your way through it. No one is going to call you and ask you to write their next feature film unless you’ve done something that was at least somewhat successful. And even if you’ve had some success, there is still a good chance no one will call you and ask you to write the next feature film. Again, I hope you kind of go to IMDB, look at some of my credits. I’m still out here plugging away and I’m still trying to make things happen for myself. I’ve got a bunch of credits, but it really doesn’t get any easier. It hasn’t really gotten any easier for me to sell my next script just because I’ve sold a bunch before. There’s no producer just waiting to get your query letter and contact you. You’ve really got to get out there and make things happen for yourself.
I thought this movie that we talked about with Beau, Ameri-Cans, I thought it was a pretty good movie but my guess is it isn’t going to be a huge massive Indi hit, but that doesn’t really matter. I mean, it was a pretty good film and even with some modest success, this will help Beau get his career to the next level. It may not get his career to that A list writer level but it will slowly add up. It will slowly give him a small step to that next level and what that next level is may not even be quite clear at this point. But getting out there and doing things, doing something that’s pretty good like this film, when Beau looks back on his career, he really will look back on that as a stepping stone up. I’ve been showcasing a lot of different independent filmmakers on the podcast like Beau. I highly recommend that you check out these films even if they’re not something that sounds all that interesting to you. I mean, there is just this old screenwriting adage reading bad scripts is something that is also valuable. I actually like this movie so I’m not in any way implying that I thought Ameri-Cans was bad but some of these movies are better than others. Some of these movies that I’m talking with the filmmakers are better than others, going and watching them and even if you watch the film and think it’s not that good, it’s still good to hear how the filmmaker made the film, watch the film, judge for yourself is this a good film? And then see what kind of success this filmmaker has. That can kind of help you gauge your own writing. It can help you gauge your own career. It can help you gauge the value of going out and making your own film by seeing these films. Even if you don’t like them, by seeing them you start to get an idea of this is sort of what’s out there, look at the production values. I mean, you just heard Beau basically tell you it was all funded by himself so you know this was not a big-budget film. It was something that’s probably within the means of most of us.
One thing I did want to point out too, being in LA, I always get this question as a screenwriter, should I move to LA? One of the things that Beau did—and he takes it for granted as do I since I live in the Los Angeles area; Beau lives in the Los Angeles area—there’s just a wealth of very talented people who will work very cheaply. The talent pool is very deep. It’s deep on actors; it’s deep on all the casts, all the crew. You really can find good quality professional people willing to work for no money or next to no money. So I definitely think that that’s something that should be considered in this equation. If you’re going to go out and make a film, if you live somewhere in Kansas, it’s unlikely that you’re going to really find a ton of good actors and good crew so the whole thing could unravel for you so definitely keep that in mind. Beau has been living and working in Los Angeles for quite some time so he probably had a lot of connections, but even if you don’t have a lot of connections, just physically being in Los Angeles, it’s easy to meet those people; it’s easy to put an ad frankly on craigslist hey I need a crew. I need a cinematographer and you’ll get a lot of responses from local people who have really solid professional credits so that’s definitely a part of this equation not to be underestimated.
Anyway, I really hope people are listening to these podcast episodes and it’s inspiring them to go out and take action. I mentioned earlier in the podcast my limited location mob action thriller. I’m thinking I might try and take my own advice and produce that film myself if I can’t find a producer quickly. We’ll see; I really want to get something into production this year at any level and even though I have a bunch of stuff optioned, I know ultimately taking control and producing something myself gives me the best chance to get a movie made, and not just get it made, but get it made so that the finished film actually resembles what I wrote. Again, if you’ve been through this process where you’ve sold scripts, that’s not something to be underestimated as well.
Anyway, that’s the show. Thank you for listening.