Welcome to episode 63 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 Adam Green. Adam is a writer/director and actor who works mostly in the horror genre. He recently completed a film called Digging up the Marrow. In the interview we talk extensively about how he got his start in the business and how he got his current film made so stay tuned for that.
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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 of the podcast show notes at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcasts and then just look for episode 63.
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 new 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, or producers who are looking for material. It really is everything you need to know to sell your screenplay. Just go to sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide.
Also, a quick plug for the new Sys screenwriting analysis service. It’s a really economical way to get high-quality professional script notes on your current screenplay. All the readers have experience reading for studios, production companies, or contests. The readers I partner with are the gatekeepers. They’re exactly the same people who are going to be reading your scripts at the production companies and agencies that you submit to. The readers will evaluate your script on several key factors like concept and premise, structure, character, dialog, and marketability. Every script will get a grade of pass, consider or recommend. And I’m also offering a bonus. If you get a recommend of two readers, you get a free email fax blast to my list of industry contacts. This is exactly the same blast I use myself to promote my scripts. It is the same service I sell on the website. It is a great way to get your script into the hands of producers who are looking for material. Also you can read a quick bio on each of the readers and you can pick the one who you would like to read your script. So if you want a professional evaluation of your screenplay at a very reasonable price, check out www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/consultants.
A quick few words about what I’m working on. As I mentioned in the last episode, I’m writing a treatment for a comic book adaptation. I spent the weekend reading comics so I’m going to start writing the actual treatment today. Hopefully I’ll be done with the outline this week.
Also, last week I did a blast using my own email and fax blast service. I re-blasted my Sci-Fi noir script. I mentioned this script in December 2013. I did a blast for it then as well. I ended up optioning it to a producer; in fact, the same producer who I’m writing this comic book treatment for is that producer. So that was actually the start of that relationship. I met him through that blast, and the script that I blasted was this sci-fi noir script. Anyway, he wasn’t able to get the script produced so the option eventually reverted back to me. So I went ahead and re-blasted the script this past week so we’ll see how that turns out. I do find the number of responses does go down when blasting the same script. Again, I did pick up a few new script requests so it is worth doing.
So now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m talking with writer/director/actor, Adam green. If you haven’t heard of Adam, I would highly advise that you have a quick look at his IMDB page before the interview just to get some context. We talk quite a bit about his early career and some of his early films. I’ll of course, link to his IMDB page in the show notes but really all you need to do is just go to IMDB and type in Adam Green, and he will come right up. Anyway, here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome, Adam, to the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show.
Adam: Thank you for having me.
Ashley: So to start out, I wonder if you can give us a quick overview of how you broke into the entertainment industry.
Adam: Well, I went to college and got a Doctor of Science in TV and Film Production at Hofstra University in New York which never, ever came up again at any point in my career. People always ask should I go to film school. If you have the means, yes, go. But if not, I wouldn’t think that it has any bearing and that you still can’t do this so just to get that out of the way. But when I got out of college my first job was back in my hometown of Boston doing really low-budget local cable advertising. So like when you’re watching a cable network like ESPN or MTV late at night and that local commercial comes on and it’s terrible and it’s usually out of sync and it starts like two seconds behind the commercial and everybody waving in front of the store and all these graphics that you can’t even read them all, that’s what I was doing. One of the incentives for taking that job was that I would have access to their equipment because I didn’t have any money and I couldn’t afford a camera. This was like ’97 or ’98 so when I was working there, I met Will Barratt who has since been my partner in AriScope for 17 years now and been the cinematographer in everything we’ve ever done. It was the very first day shooting a car dealership. I looked at him and I said, “You don’t want to do this forever do you?” And he said, “I don’t know. Why?” And I said, “Because we could use this equipment at night when nobody knows and we could make our own stuff and we could get out of here.” And it literally started on day one, and so we made a short film called Columbus Day Weekend which was never meant for anything even to screen for a Halloween party. It was done for like eight dollars and it’s really bad but somehow that started getting passed around. This was way before streaming video so these were like VHS scapes that people were bootlegging and sending around. I got an email from a guy, United Talent Agency which was one of the biggest agencies out here that a bunch of people—the agencies were laughing at my short and recognized my name because she had gone to high school with me. So she was just pushing the mail cart at that point but it was encouraging to know that it had made its way out here and people were acknowledging it. So after that we decided to make a feature and so we made a movie called Coffee & Donuts for 400 dollars and we just used the assets that we had available to us, the beta cam from Time Warner and the three lights and I wrote a script that was just based on my life and try to get over my first girlfriend and trying to make it in the business and cast friends to play the parts. There were no professional actors. The crew was different every night. They would just be friends that we could wrangle and then we would teach them how to set up the lights and how to do things. Right when Coffee & Donuts finished was when Clerks premiered, and that really kind of gave us hope because somebody else was doing what we were doing. Coffee & Donuts won Best Picture at a film festival and then, lo and behold, I got signed by UPA. ZI came out to LA and thinking all this great stuff’s going to happen; I’m now doing what’s known in the industry as the water bottle tour where you go to meetings at every studio and every producer and they love your stuff and they have all these projects for you. I basically just starved for three years and nothing panned out. Anything that I was promised by anybody wasn’t real. All this money to make things or scripts I had written up were going to get made, nothing was happening. I had a job as a DJ at the Rainbow Bar and Grill which was like the heavy metal club on the Sunset Strip. That job was great because I could literally eat the leftovers that were tossed from people’s plates at the end of the night. That’s how I survived. And while I was a DJ I wrote Hatchet which was something I had come up with at summer camp when I was eight years old, and as a horror fan I was really disenchanted with the genre around the mid 2000’s because it just felt so mean-spirited and it had become all about torture porn and I didn’t fall in love with horror to watch a woman get raped or to watch somebody get strapped to a chair and tortured for 90 minutes. Like that’s not fun for me. So I wrote an old school 80’s slasher movie with over-the-top death scenes and comedians in it. I showed it to my agents and they said they’d send it out and see what would happen. Nobody wanted to make it and the most famous rejection letter was the one that said, “The writing is great but this movie will never get made in this climate because it’s not a remake. It’s not a sequel, and it’s not based on the Japanese one.” That was the actual phrase which became the tag line on the poster. We made Hatchet with 1.5 million that we raised in private equity and the way we did that was by making a mock trailer for it for twelve dollars. It was very simple. It was just a camera moving through a swamp. We went on a swamp tour and hung the camera off the side of a boat and we had a little girl read the mythology of Victor Crowley where there was a monster. We added some echo to her voice and it sounded really creepy and we put it on line and then all of a sudden, everybody wanted to see Hatchet. Nowadays I don’t know if that would still work. I don’t necessarily think we were the first to make a fake trailer for a movie that didn’t exist yet but it hit and it hit really big because a lot of horror fans around the world felt the same way we did and they wanted to see something like that. So that’s how we were able to start approaching financiers and hooking up with producers who had ins to people with money. So we put together at 1.5. We made Hatchet. I showed it to my agents. They passed on representing it because they said “We don’t represent sci-fi channel movies. We represent film festival movies.” So three weeks later we get into the [not understood 0:11:01.6] Film Festival. All the buzz between the New York Times and the LA Times was Hatchet was going to be the big movie that year and it was going to sell right out of the festival. Then my agents were like we might have a franchise here. We’ve got to get in on this so I fired them and went to a different agency. Now here we are ten years later and then we filmed Hatchet and it’s a franchise with two sequels so far. It’s crazy how it happened, but I think the moral in all of it is just that where there’s a will, there’s a way. I know that’s so hard to hear because everything is against you in this business. Like one exec said they’re always looking for a fresh voice and they’re looking for something original. It’s an outright lie. That is the last thing they want. They want an established property where they can plug in the numbers. They want recognizable features so that audiences will maybe go see the movie. They want somebody who’s already done something that has made X amount of dollars at the box office. So for anybody who’s still struggling and beating their heads against the wall, I’m with you. The saddest part is that it doesn’t get easier. I mean I’ve made my ninth movie. My company, AriScope has existed for seventeen years now. We’ve had two seasons of sit-coms and still it’s right back to square one again. We made a movie called Frozen in 2010, but due to circumstances, the deal with the producers of that film had with this company called Overture, they had the first right of refusal for that film. And Overture happened to be going out of business the very month that Frozen was finished and premiered at Sundance. So rather than let it go, they take this down to the sister company, Anchor Bay. Anchor Bay put out Hatchet, Spiral, Grace, and Frozen, my first four films. I wouldn’t have a career without them so I was grateful, but Spiral was an Art House movie, Grace was very disturbing and weird, but Frozen was the one that we really felt was going to be our main scene hit and that that was going to be the first movie which had—all of our movies have had theatrical releases—but that one was going to be on 1500 to 2000 screens and have 29 hours of marketing so people would know about it. And that didn’t happen so we were really just depressed.
Ashley: Let me stop you right there. We’re going to get into Digging Up the Marrow. That’s a lot of great information, and I just want to go back on a couple of things that you said and just dig in a little bit deeply. You mentioned your short? What was your short called again?
Adam: The first short was called Columbus Day Weekend.
Ashley: Okay. Columbus Day Weekend. I was in Hollywood in the 90’s and I remember when South Park came out, and as you said, it was people bootlegging the VHS tapes and passing them around. So it’s amazing once something got some sort of critical mass like that. But did that actually get you anything? It sounded like you said you had a friend working in the mail room at an agency, but did the fact that that got passed around, did that give you even an inkling into anything. It didn’t sound like it really ultimately led to much.
Adam: All it really did was boost our confidence that we had the ability to make something with nothing. That was going to get attention. It’s the equivalent now of making something and putting it on YouTube and then it going viral, to know that that the take had made it this far was really exciting, and what’s funny is when I did finally save up enough money to fly to LA and try to meet with those agents, it had already been three months so they didn’t care anymore. It’s really true that when you’re hot, it’s for like a matter of hours, and if you don’t make something happen right then, it’s not [Inaudible 0:15:05.2] When I came out here, they were already on to this new short that everyone was talking about with cardboard cutouts and they were going to make it into a TV show. I was like it will never work, etc. Those guys are geniuses, and it’s just amazing what they’ve been able to do. It’s astounding.
Ashley: So let’s talk about Coffee and Donuts for a second. So you’re working a production job which, I’m sure as most production jobs, have very long hours. Were you then literally shooting on the weekends or at night? Were you taking extended blocks like you took two weeks off of your main job to shoot this thing? Just give us some of the logistics of how you actually got Coffee and Donuts done?
Adam: Well, we worked every day from 9:00 to 5:00 or 8:00 to 6:00 depending on the day and then we would wait around and look busy until the boss had left the building. And then we would take the equipment and we would shoot all night and then at 5:00 AM, we would return all the equipment back where it was supposed to go and the boss would come in around 6:30 or 7:00 and didn’t know the difference. And we did get caught halfway through. I came back at 5:00 in the morning to return it and he was waiting for us. And he said if you touch this stuff again, I’m not just going to fire you, I’m going to prosecute you. I kept stealing the equipment. I’m not advising people to do that especially now. You can get access to a camera now very cheaply, back then not so much. But that’s how we did it. We shot every night, every weekend over a period of almost six months because you get very little done each night without having a real crew. So that was really hard, but that really set my work ethic that I still abide by. I’m in the office by 2:00 AM every day writing because I can get more done between 2:00 and 8:00 AM before the phone starts ringing and things start happening. I’ll work between 18 and 20 hours a day. If you think you can do this and not do that, unless you’re super rich where I’m going to take this year to go write my next masterpiece, good for you. That’s awesome! That’s not me. I’ve got to work all the time.
Ashley: True. I think a lot of people listening to this podcast would look at your career and say wow, what a great career and they don’t necessarily appreciate those 18-hour days that you’re logging even after this many years. So that’s an excellent point. So walk us through a little bit of what you did. So you finished Coffee and Donuts, did you submit it to all the typical film festivals? Did you get accepted to some? Did you get turned down by some? I just want to lead up to that point where you actually get signed. What were sort of the steps with Coffee and Donuts?
Adam: We didn’t know what we were doing and we should have submitted not that we would have gotten it necessarily but you never know. It’s a crap shoot; you never know what they’re going to take. But we should have submitted to Sundance and to Toronto and places like that. We didn’t know anything. So we happened to see something—I think it was like a trade magazine in the office. It’s not even around anymore—It was called something like The Smoky Mountain Film Festival or the [Not understood 0:18:34.7] Smoky Mountain Film Festival and I was like all right and sent off a tape. The next thing we knew, we were accepted and then they contacted us and said can you please send us the print. I didn’t know what a print was so I literally had to write back what is a print? It was the movie… It was shot on Beta SP. It was edited tape to tape, the old school way. So once you made a decision, you couldn’t change it. It was as old school as it gets. Will, my genius of a partner, figured out that if you jammed a 0.7 screwdriver in the timepiece generator of the deck and twisted it, it would make the image stutter. And then by doing it half-mixed dissolve over itself, it gave the illusion of 24 frames per second. Because people were looking at these on VHS back then, they thought it was real. They didn’t know.
Adam: He’s amazing. He can do anything. He’d shot every single thing that we’ve done whether it was a sit-com, a black-and-white 1940’s German movie. I mean everything looked different and that’s him. I’m just lucky that he’s in my life. So they wanted a print and we didn’t have one so they screened the movie on VHS and we won Best Picture. We thought our lives were going to change. Like we just won Best Picture. Where we had made a mistake was now we couldn’t submit for any other festivals because festivals want careers. Like Sundance isn’t going to take a movie that already screened at some bullshit festival like Smoky Mountain—I don’t even know what Smoky Mountain costs. And then when we won, we thought we were going to get money—because they said we’re going to send you your prize. And we were waiting for this prize to arrive, and the prize was a tiny little pelican case that you can set maybe one lens in for a camera. And to this day that’s still our pride and joy and we share it. Sometimes Will will take it when he’s on a shoot; sometimes I take it. That’s our Best Picture prize. But again, that did help because then when approaching agencies again it was I made that short that you liked. They probably didn’t remember at that point because it had already been a year. And then I made this movie. I made it for nothing and we just won this film festival and here’s my script. I also had other scripts written and that’s the other thing too. It’s like if you’re going to come out here—and you have to come out here—people will keep saying you don’t have to live in LA. That’s bullshit. You do, and if you’re not willing to do that, then just stop now because it’s not going to happen. If you’re not at least willing to relocate and do all those meetings and get in front of the right people and make those connections, then write a novel; don’t stop writing. Keep writing scripts, but at some point you’re going to have to come out here. I never wanted to live here. I still don’t want to live here; I think it’s just too weird as of Friday. I would give anything to go home to Holliston, Massachusetts and not live in LA; I really would. But you do need to come here and there’s always an exception story and normally it’s somebody who became established and now they can live wherever they want and they can do interviews on Skype and meetings that way and they don’t have to be there. But when you’re just starting out, you need to be here. I had other scripts written and that definitely helped because they’ll always say this is really good, what else?
Ashley: So you’re showing Coffee and Donuts around. How many scripts would you say you had to show to the agents?
Adam: I had two other ones that were both comedies. One was called God Only Knows which has almost been made many times over the past seventeen years and another one was terrible which was called The Intern and thankfully they were so impressed with God Only Knows they never asked to read that one because that would have killed that for me. It was not good. I had no structure yet. There were so many amateur mistakes that I was still making at that point. And then Hatchet was the next feature screenplay which I wrote after that.
Ashley: Walk us through this process with Coffee and Donuts just so we have sort of a specific template. Maybe people can even follow it. You’ve gotten one award from the Smoky Mountain Film Festival. You’ve gotten a physical VHS film to show. You’ve got a script to send in. What exactly did you do? Did you cold call the agents? Did you send them letters and if you sent them letters, what was in those letters?
Adam: The letters were usually a copy of the movie and a letter just explaining, introducing ourselves and what we had accomplished. It helps to have an award attached to the movie, and also we included a trailer for the movie. And I think that’s very important to do because the average exec or agents are not going to watch a 90-minute movie. They don’t have the time for that. They don’t have the patience for it. It’s like trying to get them to come to a screening. Nobody will actually come to a screening, an absolute disenchanting thing about Hollywood. Most of the people making the decisions don’t even like movies. They went to law school or business school, occasionally only one but a lot of them don’t. And they don’t have time for that. You’ve got to remember, too. They’re being sent hundreds of things every week. It’s physically impossible. So the trailer was really cute and we had an award and we had a movie. Really, I think I had the good luck of the fact that that first short film wound up in the hands of somebody who had gone to my high school who wanted to be an agent someday. So that really helped. I never would have known that there were agents at UTA laughing at something I had made. I never would have known, but when he told me that, that really helped. There is no right or wrong way. Everybody makes their own task. I would have given anything to have had streaming video and things like YouTube back then. I mean, we were doing streaming video in ’98 on our website. We make short films for Halloween every year. We’ve done seventeen years of them so far, and we just do those for the fans. We just put them on, they’re free and people can watch them. But this was like a good five or six years before YouTube and other people were doing that. It’s hard to stand out when there’s two million things uploaded a day. It’s hard, but one piece of advice that I give people is that a lot of the studio execs and agents are taking people off of YouTube now. People are getting three-picture deals that have absolutely no talent. They just play video games and talk about it. But because they have a following, that’s a content, and a brand and followers—everything’s done now. So if you have eight million followers on YouTube, they’ll give you the time of day and they’ll maybe talk to you. But how one thing stands out from another, I wish I could tell you. But we’ve made shorts that were so good and only gotten 20,000 views. And then we’ve made other ones that were so dumb. We did this one called Jack Jock. It was millions of views overnight. I don’t know why. I still don’t understand why anybody else thinks it’s funny besides me. This is just this two-minute thing of a guy trying to sell a pumpkin carton kit with a Boston accent, and he keeps maiming himself. Overnight it became huge. Then it got pulled down because the fake phone number we used turned out to be a real phone number and so the FCC made us take it down. We had to start over again, and it was the same thing with YouTube where somebody could flag your content and say it offended them and now your shit’s blocked. So unless somebody’s logged in and have proven that they’re 18, they won’t see your pics. And that happened with our two biggest viral hits, Jack Jock and Sabre. Sabre was a Star Wars fan film that won two awards from Lucas Film and George Lucas sent us cards. Again, this was done for fun with no money, and those two were huge but somebody would flag them and then they would grab it off of our page and repost it on theirs so that they could get the hit. With Jack Jock the worst thing was that there were a couple people that even took our credits off and added their own so they got the credit for it. And I wrote to them personally saying why would you do that? Like you just took credit from my thing. They wrote back go fuck yourself.
Ashley: A couple of Russians?
Adam: That’s the world we live in but you can’t get disenchanted by it because it’s a very small minority. Even in our way everyone talks about how phony it is, how fake it is. There are some wonderful people out here and the fact that you get to meet so many other creative people and make these alliances and these friendships. My company now, 17 years and we’ve mainly worked with the same crew on everything, no matter how big we’ve gotten we’ve remained loyal to the original core team. So whenever we can those people will have first right of those jobs. We never could have done it any other way. But I also am working in a genre that has standing like no other. You don’t see romantic comedy conventions or even action movie conventions. These fans are like nothing you’ve ever seen. If you do right by them, they know that you care and you’re good to them, they will follow you to the grave and they will support you. They won’t pirate the movie or torrent it. They will drive five hours to the closest theatre that’s playing it to support it in the theatre. They’ll buy the T shirt. They’ll tattoo the AriScope logo on our car. It’s crazy, but that’s another thing that I think people need to factor in. If you’re listening to this and you’re somebody who’s trying to write romantic comedies, a lot of what I do might not necessarily apply to you because I had the luck of working in a genre that I loved that had all that. I could go to conventions and do a panel on my movie and show clips from it and talk about it. That really made a difference.
Ashley: Let’s get into Digging Up the Marrow. Maybe you can start out by giving of a quick log line or pitch about the movie in case people haven’t seen it or haven’t seen the trailer. You can just kind of quickly tell us what it’s about.
Adam: Well, Digging Up the Marrow is kind of a new blend of documentary and fictional narrative where I play myself—and a lot of the move is actually real—and the story is that a kind of crazy guy named William Decker who claims that monsters are real and he can prove it, contacts me through my fan mail and because I’ve always hoped monsters were real and because I think it could be a little short film if nothing else, I take him up on it and I begin interviewing him and having him take me out to the spot where he’s going to show me those monsters. It kind of goes from there. So what’s cool about the movie is that everybody in it is playing themselves. It is a scripted narrative movie just like anything else but it’s presented in such a way that it almost feels like it is improv and like it is real. But the one thing that we did was that we cast Ray Wise as the crazy guy because we didn’t want anybody to think we were hoaxing them. We didn’t want anybody to think that it is real because then when the first monster shows up which is a spoiler as monster, when the monster shows up, then you would go wait a minute, this isn’t real and it would become all about being hoaxed. So we’re not trying to hoax anybody. It’s a scripted narrative movie. It’s just being presented in a way that you don’t usually see. It’s not a sound footage movie; it’s not a mocumentary so I don’t know what you’d call it and it’s been interesting doing these press days because that’s what’s kind of bringing up what do you call this? I’m like I don’t know. But it all came back to Coffee and Donuts. It was how do we make something where we use our assets that we have and we just didn’t want to answer to a bunch of financiers or an up-front deal with a distributor or producer outside of our own group. We just wanted to make something of an art project.
Ashley: And maybe we could touch on that a little bit. How scripted was this? Was every line of dialog scripted or was there some just ad libbing and coming up with stuff as you’re shooting?
Adam: It was completely scripted. At the very front of the movie, there are some interviews with celebrities talking about why they like monsters and there’s a little piece that’s like maybe 30-40 seconds long where we show the fans of AriScope, of my company caught showing their tattoos and talking about why they love our movies but everything else is scripted. There was a lot of improv that happened on set and it was fantastic but it didn’t make anything for the movie because I’m a big component of short movies. I don’t think anybody ever goes to see a movie and says man, that was too short. That doesn’t really happen especially just this past year with award season since I’m in the academies and the unions I get with screenwriters—I don’t think I’ve watched a single movie that was under two-and-a-half hours and they all could have been an hour shorter, most of them. But with this we really wanted to keep it to 80 minutes or 84 minutes. So all that improv ended up as extended or deleted scenes on the DVD. And I think fans loved that. If they liked the movie, if they get to watch an extra 30 minutes of stuff that wasn’t in the movie, that now is a reason to buy the DVD and the Blu-Ray as well because a lot of people just stream stuff and wait for Netflix now. So that is something which people should think about. Don’t be too precious with your material. Be ruthless and get it as tight as possible and everything you see in the movie is scripted.
Ashley: So maybe you could talk a little bit sort of about the logistics. You just said that you didn’t have a distributor when you started to make it so I’m assuming basically you funded this movie with your production company so you didn’t take funding from an outside source like a distributor. How does something like that work? So then you get the film done; you go about getting a distributor and one of the things that I always as an independent filmmaker myself, people are always trying to get the distributors on early so that they know that they’ve got that locked in. And I’m just curious what your approach was and how this all logistically worked?
Adam: Typically the movies we make we do have distribution beforehand or we have something in writing that we can show a financier that says upon delivery we will pay at least this much for this title. And then you have a foreign sales company that says these are our projections that we can get for this movie with this cast. And that’s how you put the budget together. The days of just getting somebody to hand you three million dollars are over. That’s very hard to come by unless you have something really exceptional on your hands like an actor attached who they know is going to get them their money back. But with this one, we couldn’t afford to make this movie entirely with our own money because as much as it is meant for work like it was just me and Will on the camera, there is a lot of expensive stuff in this film, namely the monsters. So what we did do, though, was we had great relationships with some private equity people like, for instance, some of the people who financed the first Hatchet. We really did well by them with that movie becoming a franchise. So when we needed money we would go to them and say you know you can trust us and we just need this much but that’s what we need. So we did take outside money but it was an amount where they didn’t now own the movie or control it or have any say in it. They were just kind of gap financing it almost, and that way once we sold it and they were confident that the dollar amount we were making this for and given our track record that we would be able to at last recoup our budget which we did in spades between all the territories that have acquired the film now. We didn’t do the traditional thing of doing a million festivals with this one which was a very bold choice. We decided we would do one festival, and it was going to be Fright Fest in London; it’s the best horror festival on the planet. The fans there are the most hardcore out of anybody in the world. They sleep outside for one or two days just to get their tickets and when they’re there, you have usually the same seat for five days from 9:00 AM until 1:00 in the morning. They sit there and watch every film, and they come from all over the world. So that’s where I wanted us to premiere and we didn’t have a trailer; we didn’t have stills. It was just that it was my next movie and thankfully the fans sold out that screening instantly. When the movie started I said to them you’re here tonight and you have no idea what you’re about to see and that means you’re here because at this point you trust me and thank you for that and don’t think I don’t notice it and I will never abuse that trust. I think you’re really going to dig us. And that was the best way to see the movie. Even the critics who were there, my request to not spoil the movie and not say what it was, they just said how they felt about it which thankfully across the board was all positive. But they didn’t say what it was. Then we started showing distributors and so very quickly we ended up with Image because this amazing relationship with between [not understood 0:36:50.0] and Chillarama and Mark Ward who was their acquisitions person, he was the acquisitions person at Anchor Bay who bought Hatchet, Spiral, Frozen, and Grace so we really wanted to deal with him. So we only wanted them for VOD and DVD and Blu-Ray because unfortunately the industry is still not in a place where as an independent production company you can go make a deal with Netflix or Hulu or Video On Demand that’s remotely going to be fair so you still have to go through an established distributor. But we held the theatrical rights because that’s always where we felt that we’ve been kind of ripped off for lack of a better term. But all of our movies that are in public theatres and like Hatchet was on 80 screens. There was no marketing behind that film. There were no commercials. There were no billboards, no reason it was there unless you had been to a horror convention and met me. That was it, and yet when they kind of turned around the other day, it was like I’m well over a million dollars that they claimed they spent on that release. And I’m not saying they’re lying necessarily, but it didn’t make a difference. So with this we wanted to do the theatrical release. We were going to do it very fervently and now that we have this following we’re touring the film especially because the film is based on an art exhibit which inspired it. So we’re going to go to each city with not just the movie and with myself and Alex Pardee, the artist, but also the art exhibit, and it’s still the same price as any other movie, fifteen dollars. And the only way they were going to know about it is through following up on Twitter or looking at the website or Facebook and the horror sites are talking about it. And that’s enough because we’re going strategically from like San Francisco to Boston, to New York, to Austin and then we will open in LA on the 20th when Image puts it on VOD. That’s really just a promotion for it. And two weeks later it will expand to Canada’s theatres but we’re controlling all of that. It just makes it easier. Again, I don’t want to come off like I’m saying all these distributors ripped us off. I’m sure they did spend that much, but it’s not well-spent and it was overspent. So now with this one, they can’t say first we still need to recoup the three million that we spent on this theatrical. We did that.
Ashley: I guess the risk is if the movie—I mean, this movie turned out pretty well. You got a good reception at the film festival. So then all these distributors are happy to jump on board. I guess the risk is if the movie doesn’t turn out that well or you don’t get that initial excitement, then distributors are going to back away as opposed to getting the distribution money up front. Then they’re kind of stuck with it even if the movie doesn’t turn out that well.
Adam: I mean that’s always the risk but with this we were very confident in the idea. We all deferred getting paid anything on it which was how we were able to just put all the money on the screening. That’s a big gamble to take. It really is. But we made this over the course of four years. While we made this movie, we also made Chillarama, Hatchet II, Hatchet III, and two seasons of Holliston. So we were always employed and working during that time. Just like Coffee and Donuts, this was the passing project—not that they aren’t all passing projects—but this really was a passing project that was being made around all that. If it hadn’t turned out well especially as how weird this idea is, it could have not worked, and there were several times in the making of it where I was doubting that it was going to work. I didn’t know, and the first time we ever showed it to real people and not friends was at [not understood 0:40:39.2] in Austin. It’s a 24-hour film festival that Harry Knolls does for his birthday every year. The cool thing about [not understood 0:40:47.5] is only he knows what movies are going to play. So the audience sits there for 24 hours and they have no idea. And sometimes he’ll show classics and then all of a sudden it will be a world premiere of something that’s not even finished yet. The year that Digging Up the Marrow played there, we played after The Wolf of Wall Street and The Hobbit and the Desolation of Smog and Popeye. No one had ever seen any of those movies and so it was exciting. And then we showed a rough version of Marrow because it hadn’t been picture-locked yet and there weren’t the visual effects and score and color. We just wanted to see what we had, and we thought that would be a great litmus test. Thankfully Harry Knolls loved it and wanted to play it which was huge. But we wanted to show it to an audience that wasn’t necessarily our fans, that wasn’t necessarily a horror audience and see what the real reaction was. Thankfully, even though it played at 6:00 in the morning after all those other huge movies, we were one of the standouts of that butt-numb-a-thon. So that really gave us the confidence for the blocking picture and spending the money that needed to be spent on color and visual effects and score and sound design and mixing. Then we premiered at Fright Fest three months later.
Ashley: I’m curious if from just this template for doing it yourself, getting the private equity funding and not getting a distribution up front is that something you would try again? That’s kind of the ultimate question if you felt like this was a success enough to go and do it again?
Adam: I definitely would. It’s not something that you can just necessarily keep doing year after year because, like I said, this was a long process because without any of us getting paid up front, that’s really gambling. I can tell you with Spiral which I didn’t write, I directed, I did that deferred. I never got paid and I never will because the movie wasn’t a commercial hit. Artistically it’s one of our greatest achievements and critically it was just darling but even though it had Amber Camlin and Jack Nevi and Joe David Moore, unfortunately it came out four months after Hatchet and it was buried in Victor Crowley’s shadow. So now people are starting to see it, but that one didn’t pay off. Our investors eventually did get their money back but it took a few years and that one was only $650,000. But the rest of us never got paid and we never will. So it is a gamble but I will say creatively just from my own soul, Digging Up the Marrow saved me. To go and do something and not have to take notes and answer to anybody and try to make it appealing to a wide audience as possible, we just made something that we wanted to make. There are no huge movie stars in it. There is no anything. It’s just made out of love and thankfully it worked. We also had the confidence at this point to do that because of the fan base that we have. So we knew that even if only our fans showed up for it, we’d still be kind of okay but thankfully it’s catching on much wider. Our expectations are pretty high now for what this is going to do, and I think that’s great. So I would definitely do it again, but it is a gamble every single time.
Ashley: Let’s talk about your process a little bit. You mentioned that you get up at 2:00 in the morning and write until 8:00 in the morning. Maybe you can talk about your process for writing a script. Is that kind of what the template you would get up every night at 2:00 AM and write for whatever that is—six hours and if so how many days, how many months does it take you to write a script like this?
Adam: I mean, unfortunately I’m not the most stellar healthiest example that anybody should follow because, first of all, I only write when I’m inspired to write. I don’t have that thing that other writers do where every day from this time to this time they’re writing even if it’s not good. I feel like that’s a waste of time. If my palms aren’t sweating and I don’t have, for lack of a better term, breathing or retching in my pants I’m not going to do it. So by the time I do get to the point that I’m like I’m going to write this, I have it so thought out and I know every scene and I’ve seen the movie in my head, so I’m able to write fairly quickly usually. But something like Holliston which is ten half-hour episodes and an hour Christmas special, and I’m the sole writer on the show, that’s like a thousand pages of content. So that will take me a good two or three months, but I did it while on set of Hatchet III which I was only producing not directing. It depends. It’s not like I’m doing that every day working those hours just writing, but I’m not just a writer, I’m also a producer, a director, and an actor. There’s always the promotion for these things and there is editing. There’s always a reason to stay awake. I’m going to be 40 in like three months. I don’t know how much longer I can keep doing this to myself; I really don’t. The big wake-up call happened during season two of Holliston. During filming in front of an audience, I passed out in the middle of a scene. I stayed on my feet but I just went to sleep. It was just purely from exhaustion but the scene started and it was a scene where Steve Snider and Joe Lynch had most of the lines. The next thing I know I heard the buzzer and everyone was laughing. I was out. So I can’t keep doing that forever, and I don’t expect anybody else to. But I just say that as an example of I don’t have the excuse well, I have this day job and I’ve got the wife and the kids and it’s just too hard to find time to write. You have to make that time if you’re inspired to do so. But if you don’t have it, you don’t have the idea, it’s not going to happen, just like making yourself sit in front of a computer, it’s not going to work. You have to already have seen what it is and you can play it in your head backwards and forwards. That’s when you really take the time.
Ashley: Well, a thousand pages in three months, that’s a significant page count every day so you must have been just churning out pages whether you were inspired or not.
Adam: I love that show so much and by the time we finished shooting season one, we already had all the episodes for season two. Joe Lynch, who’s not only my co-star but also my executive producer, we spend weeks bouncing off the story lines and characters and the ideas so that by the time I go off to write, I almost have every joke planned out and it does happen very fast. But it’s also an enjoyable process. I’ve done a few studio assignments where I didn’t enjoy the process and I did it because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do or because there was a paycheck attached to it, which was like very early on, the same thing with directing. I took a job directing a pilot for an MTV show that thankfully never aired. I don’t think the pilot even got finished. It was terrible and I didn’t want to do it at all. But my agents were like you need to be directing television and ultimately they were right because that helped when Holliston happened that I could be the director and the show runner. So I’m glad I did it, but it was a painful process. If you’re writing and you don’t love what you’re writing and you don’t love the process, that’s hell. It’s hell to sit and write that much stuff and not love it. So write what you love and you’ll be surprised how fast it will come out. But if you’re sitting there struggling over a heavy line of dialog and you don’t know where it’s going, that’s usually a pretty good sign that it’s not working. But if it’s coming pretty fluid and you’re happy and you feel really good each day whether you got five pages done or twenty-five pages done—and I’m not saying too that I’ll sit down and bang out a forty-page day and it’s great—it’s not. It still needs to be rewritten, but I feel good about where I’m going with it so that definitely helps. With Holliston specifically there is no writer’s room; there’s just myself and with season two I brought on another director which helped a lot. He shadowed me on season one and on season two he took the reins in directing a lot of the episodes and that helped because on the set I could just be the writer and an actor. I didn’t have to go and keep planning every angle; he had that. It ultimately became a sit-com; it’s not that hard as far as photography goes but the cast, especially the main ensemble, Joe, Corey, and Moira, that’s really my writer’s room. We spent two months rehearsing and we rehearsed for two hours every night and just read out the material. If a joke isn’t working, then it’s not working and they’re the only ones that I take joke pitches from and ideas from. If they don’t think something’s funny, then I lose it. By the time I get to set we can shoot 25 or 30 pages a day and it’s basically just like doing theatre. We know it inside and out. So that’s how we pull off that show with that process which is atypical to every other sit-com process. Usually there’s a writer’s room; they shoot one episode a week. We block shoot like a feature. So we shoot the whole season in six weeks or five weeks sometimes. It is very difficult but if you’re prepared, it’s a lot smoother and a lot easier than it might seem. And it’s fine. You’re so lucky when you’re working on one of those things, when it’s fun because it’s so hard and everything goes wrong. If you’re still smiling at the end of the day, that’s pretty awesome. Hatchet II was hard and Hatchet III was hard in a way where I didn’t really enjoy the process unfortunately which is why I didn’t direct Hatchet III. With the second one everything just kept going wrong. We got hit with the swine flu and the whole crew was throwing up. I was throwing up in a bucket while I was trying to direct. You can’t call in sick. The money’s going and the train’s left the station. So it doesn’t matter what happens. If there’s a death in your family, you can’t leave because on these lower budget things if you’re off for a day all that money goes out the window. The crew’s still getting paid; the locations are still getting paid. They’re not going to say it’s okay, you were sick so don’t worry about it. You booked our time so that process was horrible, and then also—just like a side note about that movie—was that we thought that one was going to be straight to video, and with Hatchet I the MPAA had such a hard time with that movie which still to this day makes no sense when there was stuff like Hostile and Saw and The Hills Have Eyes coming out and then our movie that was a comedy and there’s no realistic [not understood 0:52:21.7] they cut it to shit so by the time it went out in theatres, it wasn’t even my movie anymore. It was heartbreaking. So in Hatchet II it was going to go straight to videos so we went balls-out with that one and incredible effects and gore and carnage; it was so funky. And all of a sudden the distributor was like we’re going to go to theatres with this. It was like oh no, but they had found this relationship with AMC Theatres to do the same—a new program called AMC Independent—and they were going to put it in mainstream theatres and multiplexes which hadn’t happened for a horror movie in like 25 to 30 years. Normally you can play independent theatres but not mainstream shopping malls and such. So it was a really big deal and it was very exciting. Then the movie opened and mysteriously disappeared from all screens within 48 hours. Nobody will speak up as to what happened. I mean, it’s very obvious that a certain group had to get rid of that film because what if it had worked, even if they couldn’t get to it and it performed, then nobody would go to the MPAA anymore because you wouldn’t need to So it was devastating. That hole-cocked us. It was very, very hard and I’ll never really know what happened. I love AMC for taking the risk and I don’t blame them one bit as they caved under pressure. But whatever the reason was to pull that movie, that was the angle. That was the trailer; that was the post-trailer uncut and unrated. So that was all of it but then right before it came out, I remember hearing from the publicist, stop talking about the fact it was unrated. Don’t push that anymore. It’s like it’s all over the poster; it’s all over the trailer. It’s been the whole campaign. So something happened there.
Ashley: The conclusion is of that story is, though, no other movies after that went into theatres that were unrated? Is that what you’re saying?
Adam: Not like that, no. Digging Up the Marrow is unrated even though I think if it did get rated it would be PG-13 easily. But we just don’t want to give the rating board that money. There’s no reason to have a rating because we’re playing independent theatres with this.
Ashley: Your box office numbers were good for the first 48 hours, but the theatre pulled it after two days.
Adam: We don’t know what our real box office numbers were because it’s impossible to do the math. It opened Thursday night at midnight on 68 screens, but Friday morning we were already seeing on Twitter people saying hey, I just went to the theatre and the movie’s not playing; it’s gone. So we don’t know how many how many screens it was actually even on. In fact, by Friday night it could have been on three screens. So to try to factor in a per-screen average, I think the number they came up with was 1500 per screen which is good for a movie like that that’s not marketed and that small of a release. I can tell you that at that very same weekend, a movie that was advertised and did have marketing called Chain Letter opened on way more screens than Hatchet at AMC, and it’s been on for two weeks. That isn’t what they tried to say. They said the movie wasn’t performing so we pulled it. That’s never happened in the history of cinema. Water World didn’t get pulled. Ishtar didn’t get pulled. It was heartbreaking to watch that happen. It’s look, if I went back in time would I do it again? Would I try to stand up against the MPAA knowing the whole time that I’m going to lose? Yes, I would. I’m glad I did it because they were being unfair. It was an independent movie. We don’t pay their salaries so they were already under pressure because of the studio porn and stuff. They just picked the wrong movie to be so hard on. There’s nothing in Hatchet that’s realistic at all. So that was really hard. I don’t even know how I made it through that. Like it was then the conspiracies on line that we pulled it. It was a publicity stunt and some of the stupid shit that people say, just think about the math in that. If we were to do that, the amount of money that they lost by that movie getting pulled, and yet they still stood by me. They never said this is your fault for going on the news and telling the truth about what the MPAA did to you and that’s why it got pulled. Nothing! They totally had my back through the whole thing which is why we continue to work with them. But it’s just funny that years from now people are going to look back and hear that story and then watch that movie and be like over this? And that’s what happened. Then the movie became notorious. It was pulled from theatres and then you see it when it comes out on DVD. You’re like what? So it doesn’t make any sense. It is by far not the most terrific movie you’ll ever see but it happened.
Ashley: So maybe just to wrap up you told us a little bit about you’re going to do this tour with Digging Up the Marrow, maybe you can tell us some of the dates for that. If people are listening to this podcast maybe they can attend one of those or even the release dates after that tour finishes.
Adam: Well, the movie comes out on February 20 on VOD and it will be on every single platform. So whether it’s ITunes or your cable’s video on demand, it’ll be there. It also opens in Los Angeles at the [not understood 0:58:21.6] Theatre on February 20. About two weeks later it’s going to expand to about nine or ten other cities, but I don’t know exactly which cities yet. I’m not going to know that for a few more days. Prior to that we’re doing a tour with that which starts in San Francisco in Berkeley on Thursday, February 12 and then we go to Boston on the 16th, New York on the 17th, and Austin, Texas, on the 18th and then Los Angeles on the 19th. When the movie opens here on the 20th it’s just the movie; it’s not the tour. The tour is the movie and myself and Alex Pardee, the artist, whose work the movie’s inspired by who will be there. There will be a Q&A and then afterwards in the lobby we’ll have the whole art exhibit set up so people can see the artwork that inspired it. There’s even behind-the-scenes pictures and stuff that show how the monsters came together and one of the monsters from the film will be there so people can take pictures with it which is really cool because when you see these things up close and personal, it’s amazing just how cool they look and how real they actually are from whatever angle you look at them at. There will be merchandise that’s exclusive to the tour like certain art prints and T-shirts and things like that that you can only get if you see one of the tour stops. All of that is for fifteen dollars. If you go see a 3D movie at the Arc Light on a Saturday it’s twenty bucks. So we’re keeping the prices completely standard and fair even though we’re offering people this big experience. So it’s not about necessarily making money, it’s about raising awareness to the film because we’re confident that the word-of-mouth is going to be extremely positive from anybody who sees this and by giving back to the fans which has always been the priority here and that’s why this company exists and why we have had the success we have had. Like when I do a convention I don’t charge my autograph. I never have. I don’t charge for pictures of me. It’s always free. I’m the only one at those conventions who does that, and I’ve always done it that way. As I see it, if you’re going to stand in line for a few hours just to meet me because you bought my movie and you want me to sign it, how can I now say it’s thirty dollars for me to write my autograph on that? I get why people do it. They’ve got to make a living, but we only get to do this and exist because of these fans and they’re so fiercely loyal and wonderful and supportive so that’s why with this tour, we easily could have charged forty dollars a general admission ticket. There’s a fifty-dollar ticket VIP option but all that does is secure the fifty-dollar hard print. So if you get that ticket, you’re basically just buying the art print and your ticket is free. So it’s not about gouging the fans for money; it’s about giving them something special and letting them know that you care and there’s nothing else like this out there. Look, I’m happy when somebody’s going to give me 90 minutes of their time to watch something I made, but it is heartbreaking when you put four years into a movie and your own money’s on the line and you’re like here’s the trailer. They say that looks awesome! When is it on Netflix? Well, it’s on VOD right now and it’s on DVD with all this extra stuff that we made ourselves for free and it’s in theatres. I don’t do that; I only watch things on Netflix. But we don’t get anything for that so it’s hard. But at least our fan base, for the most part, the real fans, they would never tire at one of our movies or bit torrent it. That’s not to say millions of others don’t do that to us and it sucks. That would be a whole other conversation, but what other career would somebody steal from you and feel that they’re entitled to come up and tell you that to your face, and if you say something back or get mad about it, you are the asshole, not them because they were entitled to that product because they wanted to steal. That’s why they deserved it for free. It wasn’t out here in this country yet. It was going to take another two months and I wanted it now so I stole it because the technology is such that I can steal it and fuck you! Every time that I’ve tried to tell people how personally that affects us and how sometimes we come so close to having it close down and never make another movie again because it’s a business, we lose our investors’ money and the distributor doesn’t make the money back and make a profit, they don’t care that five million people stole it and loved it, it’s the ones who pay to see it legally, that’s all that matters to them. But it’s heartbreaking. We had a podcast called the movie credits. I think it’s up to number one TV and filmmaking podcasts. We at one time had a filmmaker on who was pro piracy which was a whole ridiculous discussion and it’s almost like you were in the middle of a riot and are into looting stores, standing out in front of your store saying go ahead and take my shit. Man, I’m with you because you just don’t want to get hurt. That’s what it was because the pirates fucking hate when filmmakers say don’t steal my stuff.
Ashley: I’ll just throw this idea out there. I’ve taken enough of your time so we’re definitely going long, but I’d just be curious to hear your thoughts. I actually wrote a script called downwiththismovieforfree.com and one of the things that the Internet is great for is all this piracy and people sharing content, so I basically wrote this script downwiththismovieforfree.com. That’s literally the title of it and I literally had that domain name. But then what I did was I just wrote in. I have a bunch of other online businesses and I just basically wrote those into the script. So the idea is that you want people to pirate this and steal it and pass it along because it’s really just wrapped in as a product placement for my other products that I’m selling.
Adam: I think that’s great. If that’s what you’re doing, that’s awesome! But now if I gave you three million dollars to product that and you put it on line whether you did it or somebody else did and everybody stole it and you say to me dear, I’m really sorry but you lost your three million dollars but everybody really liked it and how popular it is. Now here’s my new one. You want to invest in it? I would not only tell you to go fuck yourself but I would blackball you to everyone else I know.
Ashley: No. Absolutely.
Adam: There are certain things, and we put out so much free content, so much short films, the podcasts, two hours every week with huge celebrities whether it’s celebrities telling their candid life stories about their careers that you cannot hear anywhere else, it’s for free on Deep Nation and ITunes every week Joe Lynch and I do this podcast and we have half a million listeners a week, and then those same people will turn around and steal our movies. It’s like what more can I give you to just get you to see what I do legally. We could easily charge for that podcast at this point, easily. They use it in film schools, UCLA, we’ve heard from students that the teachers reference the podcasts but it’s free. It is very hard but I think the line has been blurred. The music industry, the way that they’ve handled it is accepting very few artists are actually going to make money off of their music. Again, they know that. They can tour, and they can sell T-shirts at these tours and that’s how they make money. So good if everybody’s file sharing because it’s hopefully going to get them to come see the show. But with movies and TV it’s not that simple. It’s not going to go away.
Ashley: Don’t you think there’s an element of what I was getting at with this downloadthismovieforfree.com is that you could start to package some of these elements into your film just knowing that there is going to be a certain amount of piracy and making it—I would say that’s kind of almost like the front end—getting money from corporate sponsors or product placement, really taking that to another level.
Adam: Let me ask you this, when you watched Digging Up the Marrow, let’s say you loved it. You steal it on line and you see the movie, we also made Hatchet, Frozen and two seasons of the TV show called Holliston, would you just steal those too? Or would you say buy those because I liked this one.
Ashley: I totally get your point about piracy and I don’t steal movies and I’ve really have never stolen movies. I suppose when I was a kid I probably stole some software and I totally get it. I think it is reprehensible but you’re using your example of Digging Up the Marrow. Maybe there were some masks that you could sell. Maybe you could sell those monster masks. Maybe there’s a whole peripheral business behind that movie that maybe people aren’t necessarily doing or thinking about now. I’m just throwing out ideas. Again, we’re just spitballing an idea here.
Adam: We do have an online store with T-shirts and posters and all that other stuff but I’m a filmmaker. I’m an artist and I spent years and years and millions of dollars of other people’s money that are trusting me to make these things and tell these stories. I’m not in the T-shirt business. So that money that we make from the T-shirts and the masks and other things that get made, all that goes right back into the studio to pay the rent and keep this place going. If we make enough so we can actually pay rent and there’s a little bit left over, then that goes into the next movie. It’s never gone into our pockets. It’s hard at this level to ever justify it. Some people will say I never would have paid to see that anyway. Well, that’s fine but up until this technology existed and though people say it’s good word of mouth, by people pirating it, it’s good word of mouth. So how did the world exist until this time? Wasn’t there still word of mouth by word of mouth and isn’t there Twitter and Facebook and all these other things. So we get so much for free in the hopes that people will say you know what, look at all of this they gave me, fuck it, I’ll see this legally. I’ll spend the six dollars on VOD or the dollar on ITunes, whatever it might be. It really would get the difference and that’s the same like the positive fan base, they’re so willing to support us because they love what we do and they’ve been with us for years and years now. They understand that through their support, the next one’s going to get made. We’re very lucky and very fortunate because not a lot of other people have that. My heart breaks for first-time filmmakers and everybody’s so busy villainizing which, in hindsight, anybody who tries to say that they weren’t right has their head up their ass because look what happened in the music industry. They stood alone trying to say this wasn’t right. You can’t just take our music without asking us. Everybody turned them into a villain. Let’s look at it and compare it to the movie industry which how Hollywood didn’t see that we were next in line, I don’t know. But if you’re a first-line filmmaker, if you wrote a script and you sent it to me here at AriScope and I said I believe in this and I like your reel, your short film; I believe you can direct this. We’re going to give you 1.5 million dollars and your dream’s going to come true and you’re going to get to make your movies. And everybody stole it, you’re not going to work again, not with us and not with anybody we know. It’s just the business of it, even if their movie was great. If we didn’t get the money back and we all lost our money and went out of business, it’s done. But a lot of people don’t care. If the technology exists and they can just push this button instead of that button and steal it, they’ll steal it. Until Hollywood starts prosecuting more people publicly for it, it’s going to keep going. You don’t walk into Best Buy and steal something because there’s a really good chance you’re going to get caught at the door by Security. But like movies, it’s like one in a million chances that you’re going to be the one that they come after because they can. They can go after everybody. If they can trace the IP they can find them. But it’s such an epidemic that they don’t. So I feel bad–and I’ve seen it happen where a lot of first-time filmmakers make great movies that were critically [not understood 1:12:12.7] but did well at festivals. But everybody else I ever meet talks about likes, but they didn’t do any business and they lost money and now they can’t work again. It’s sad. Thankfully when I hit it was with Hatchet in 2007 and this epidemic was not as bad as it was. It’s just such a hard thing to talk about because the people who do it get so mad if you say ouch. And the most confusing part of all of it is the human part of it. Why is it okay to kick somebody but if they say ow, that hurts, now they’re an asshole and they’re entitled and they’re arrogant. I mean, Frozen was getting torrented like crazy and the deal with Frozen was that if we had—I don’t know the number—if we hit a certain average supposedly the movie would have expanded and they would have put marketing money behind it. Like a million people stole it in the first two days that it opened in theatres. It was because we had done so many festivals and one of those screeners got out and that was it. So I spoke out on Twitter and said hey, look, if you stole and you liked it, please go on and buy a ticket at some theatre that’s showing it because if we can hit a certain per screen average, it will change the life of not just this movie but everybody who worked on it. And no, we don’t get that money but we will get much bigger opportunities. So if you liked it, please consider buying it. The first three responses I got, the first one was “fuck you, you greedy Jew. Don’t you have enough money.” The second one was “We only steal your movies because we like them so you should be thanking us.” And then the third one was “I pay 45 dollars a month for high-speed Internet, you owe me this.” New York Magazine watched that happen to me and called me up and asked to do a story on it, and that just made it even worse because they want to put a real person behind what everybody thinks is a victim of crime. Everyone thinks they’re sticking it to the man and that if you have a career making movies, you’re rich. I mean, even now, nine movies, two seasons of a TV show later, all these awards, all this success, there are moments in time and we’re all broke. Thankfully I don’t have children or whatever, but one guy has a wife and two kids. It’s like we don’t know how we’re even going to get by sometimes. That’s the reality of it. Maybe one day we’ll make something that blows up so big and gets that marketing that’s going to buy that opening release or whatever, but it hasn’t happened yet. I’m very lucky that I get to do this for a career. I’m very grateful for the success I’ve had and I’m beyond grateful for the fans I have because they are real fans. Man, are they awesome!
Ashley: Maybe it’s because I’m in the industry but those responses you got on Twitter are absolutely ridiculous arguments. Maybe, as I said, I’m in the industry, I don’t think there’s any legitimate moral or ethical argument like if you just want to say I’m a thief and I don’t care, that’s fine but you can’t make any kind of a legitimate moral argument that somehow stealing someone’s stuff is correct.
Adam: I don’t know how big the audience is for your project but there’s somebody right now listening who hates me for saying all this, and if you’re hearing me right now and you disagree with me and you think it’s okay. And you want to make your case for why it’s okay, your case that is full of holes, do it. Write in and explain yourself why it’s okay what you do. But with our podcast the reach is so massive I couldn’t believe the response that I got. What was odd was that the filmmaker who was pro Internet piracy, we got such a horrible response to that where their followers were all pirates. Of course, if the filmmaker is going to endorse what you do, you’re going to point to them and follow them and say hey, they know what’s up like they’re a good guy. Then they all started listening to our podcast and anybody who said they were against piracy, they would just go after them on Twitter, fuck you. You suck. You don’t know anything. But one of her cases was that it’s good for word of mouth and you should only be so lucky to have a movie braced by the pirating community. Well, if that’s true, then why, when we speak out against piracy do they punish us by sending Joe and I links to our films that they just uploaded. Literally they’ll upload Hatchet III or Season of Holliston and then send us the link on Twitter with a smiley face or a fuck you? There’s something bigger wrong here. It’s a hard issue because it’s a humanity issue. There are people who just don’t know the difference. There are kids who their friends told them, oh, you want to see Transformers, here, I’ll send you the link. They don’t know any different. They don’t realize; they just want to see Transformers and there’s the link and cool. I get that, and that’s why I do bother to talk about it because I do hear some people consistently say I never realized who I was actually stealing from or what I was doing and I won’t do it anymore. One person who did this and says you know what, I’m not going to do that anymore. I’ll pay the three dollars or six dollars, whatever it might be, then it was worth it. But it’s a hard issue to deal with. I would have loved to have done more festivals with Marrow but I went there with it in hand and I left with it in hand. Here we are eighteen days out from release and everything online claiming that we can download it here, nobody has it because it’s right here, right now in my hand and I’m the only one who has it. That’s what it has come down to. Now when it hits VOD on the 20th, two hours later it will be everywhere. There’s nothing we can do about that but at least we got it this far and for that I’m grateful.
Ashley: Well, it’s been a great interview. As I said, you’ve given me a lot of time. There were a lot of great points on here. I really appreciate it, Adam. Maybe just to wrap things up, you can just tell us your Twitter handle, Facebook page; if you have a blog you can mention that, anything if people just want to follow your career or see what you’re up to, give us that information now.
Adam: Sure. I’m on Twitter. It’s @adam_fn@adam_fn_green since there’s a million Adam Greens on there, that was the best I could do when I got my handle a hundred years ago. And then my website, though, is ariescope.com. That’s the website for the company, what we do here. That’s A R I E s c o p e.com There are 60 or 73 short films, web series, blogs, news, videos, all the trailers to our movies and, of course, there is also the buy stuff store where you can buy any of the movies on DVD or Blu-Ray, autographs, Amazon posters, all that stuff is there, but that’s the best way to stay up on what’s going on especially with the release of Digging Up the Marrow because as I said, there are going to be more cities announced and more appearances announced and all that stuff will be listed there. And I’m on Facebook too if you just type adamgreen. It’s a fan page, but I’m the one who actually operates that and who responds to everybody. The fan base had grown too big and you have people on a private page, they cap you at 5,000 friends so that’s why it’s a fan page. And the other good thing for everybody listening who does work in the industry, the good thing about the fan page is that it’s the same thing as the other page. But you can make it so people can’t private message you so that way anything that’s pout there is public and they’re accountable for it. That really massively curbs any weirdoes or people who are going to send you their pitches or scripts and stuff—and that’s a good thing to close on too. I know as somebody who’s still struggling no matter what it might look like and getting my start how hard it is just to get somebody to read your script and you know it is good, that it’s not bad like all the other ones that are out there. It’s great. I know how heartbreaking that is that the people you want to have read it won’t read it. But it’s become a legal issue. If somebody sent me a script and I read it or even accept it, and they can prove that it got to me, and it’s a script about weir wolves, then I make a movie about weir wolves in the next couple years or even 20 years from now, they could come after me and try to sue me and say you stole my idea because I sent you that script. Now they’re not going to win but I’m not going to want my name dragged through the mud either. So there are a lot of people who have made their livings off of suing producers for bullshit stuff, these frivolous lawsuits and they get settlements out of court to make it go away. So that’s why there is no way to get me a script. Like if you want me to read something, you’ve got to go through my agent and my lawyer and stuff. I mean everything’s documented that way. You can’t send me something on Twitter or email, and I know you who are listening right now are not the person who’s going to do that, but unfortunately there’s somebody else who is. So I can’t have that. That’s why, but also, think about this, when you want to send your script, send it to somebody like a producer or a director who doesn’t direct their own material. I basically just direct what I write for the most part. I’m not looking for other scripts. I have enough of my own that I’m trying to get made. So I’m not the right one to be sending it to. But I’m sure there are other directors out there and other production companies who are constantly looking for new material. So those are the people you want to try to get your stuff in front of. But it’s hard and I know how hard it is, but you’ve got to just find the way to get people’s attention. YouTube is a great way now to do that. Make something awesome and hopefully it catches on. Like I said early on, the fact that I work in a genre that has conventions and I can go there and present my stuff really, really helps launch this whole thing. I’m lucky that horror is my love, but if you’re working in a different genre, I don’t know. But if you do work in horror, go to the conventions, meet people, talk to them. You can go to a horror convention and with minimal effort you will leave there with at least five good friends. There are no nicer people on the planet than horror fans, better than Star Wars geeks, better than sci-fi geeks, all of it, and I love all those people too because I’m one of them. Horror people, especially if you’re one of them, they know, and they’re so happy to meet you and be your friend and talk to you. It doesn’t matter how scary they look or all the tattoos and the black eyeliner and all that stuff, that’s them but go. Go to a convention; they’re everywhere. In almost every city there’s a convention at least once a year and try it out. I think you’ll be very happy with the results because we are a community unlike any other genre and those conventions are a huge part of it.
Ashley: For sure. Well, Adam, as I said, this has been a great interview. We definitely ran a little long but very interesting, lots of great tips. You just kind of laid out your story and I think there are a lot of great tips for people to take from that. So I really appreciate your coming on. I wish you the best too with Digging Up the Marrow. I hope it goes well for you.
Adam: Thank you very much, and thanks for having me on.
Ashley: I’m going to be teaching another sysselect class called Writing a Great Second Act for your screenplay. The second act is usually the most difficult part of writing a screenplay. It can be a real slog. Obviously the first act and the third act are incredibly important, but if your second act doesn’t work, your script is going to be dead in the water. So if you’re having trouble with the second act, check out this class. I’m going to be giving numerous tips and tricks about how to get through the second act and make it all work. I’m going to be reviewing the second acts of Legally Blonde and Back to the Future, scripts that both have excellent second acts to demonstrate all the lessons that I’ll be teaching. I’m someone who really learns a lot by seeing actual examples. So that’s what I’ll be doing in the class. The class is going to take place on Saturday, March 7 at 10:00 AM Pacific time. If you’d like to learn more about the class, go to sellingyourscreenplay.com/classes. Also, if you’re listening to this after the class has taken place, no problem. I will record the class too and put it in the sysselect forum. In fact, all the classes that I have taught are recorded in the forum for sysselect members. There are more than a dozen classes in there now. To learn more about sysselect, just go to www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com. Again, though, to sign up for the class, just go to sellingyourscreenplay.com/classes.
The biggest take-away for me today talking with Adam—and I hope for everyone listening to this—is just how much Adam hustles to get things done. I mean, he’s literally hustling so much that he’s passing out from exhaustion. Hopefully you’ve had a chance to look at his IMDB page. I think most people would agree he’s pretty successful. He’s got a bunch of movies under his belt and even a TV show that he’s written and produced and starred in. But you heard him; things can get pretty lean even for someone at his level. So he still has to hustle like mad to continue to make a living as a filmmaker. I think there are a lot of newer writers who have this idyllic vision of what being a screenwriter is like. You know, they think they’re going to get up in the morning, have a nice cup of coffee, read the paper, take the dog out for a leisurely walk and then get to their computer by about 10:00 and write for a few hours and call it a day. I suppose there are a few people out there who are lucky enough to have this sort of life, but it’s nobody that I know. Hopefully from listening to Adam’s interview, you can see at least for some successful filmmakers, the hustle never stops. The hard work never really gets any easier.
Anyway, that’s the show. Thank you for listening.