This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 070: Writer / Director Terry Jastrow Talks About His New Film The Squeeze.
Welcome to episode 70 of the SYS podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Myers, screenwriter and blogger over at sellingyourscreenplay.com.
In this episodes main segment I’m interviewing Terry Jastrow about his latest film ‘The Squeeze’ starring Jeremy Sumter. We dig in into some of the details about how he wrote this film and how he got it produced so stay tuned for that.
If you find this episode valuable, please help me out by giving me a review in iTunes or leaving me a comment on YouTube or re-tweeting the Podcast on Twitter or liking us on Facebook. These social media shares really do help spread the word about the Podcast so they are very much appreciated.
A couple of quick notes – any websites or links that I mention in a podcast can be found on my blog in a show notes. You can find all the podcast show notes at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcasts and then just look for episode No.70. Also if you want my free guide “How to a sell screenplay in 5 weeks?”, you can pick that up by going to www.SellingYourScreenplay.com/guide. It is completely free, you just put in your email address and I will send you a new lesson once per week for five weeks along with bunch of bonus lessons. I teach the whole process of how to sell your screen play in that guide, how to write a professional log line occurring letter, how to find agents, managers and producers who are looking for material. It really is everything you need to know about how to sell your screenplay. Just go to SellingYourScreenplay.com/guide.
Also a new plug for the new SYS – screenwriting analysis service. It’s a really economical way to find a high quality professional script notes. All the readers have experience reading for studios, production companies, agencies and contests. The readers are partnered with the keepers of the industry. They’re exactly the same people who are going to read their scripts at the companies you submit to. The readers will evaluate your script on several key factors like concept and premise, structure, character, dialogue ad long ability. Every script will get a grade or pass – consider or recommend.
And I’m also offering a bonus. If you get a recommend from one reader you get a free e-mail and fax to my list of industry contacts. This is the exact same blast service I use myself to promote my script. It’s the same service I sell on the website. It’s a great way to get your script into the hands of producers who are looking to get movies made.
I’ve been running this analysis service now for two months and some recommends started to come through. We had our first recommend this past week so I’m curious to see how this blasts turn out. I know that blasts I’m doing are very powerful so with good quality script behind it I have high hopes for these writers.
Also on the website you can read a quick bio on each reader and pick the one who you would like to read your screenplay. One question I’ve been getting lately is about our studio reader pack. Right now it’s on sale for just 199 dollars, so that’s less for 67 dollars per script.
It’s as flexible as you want to make it. You can buy it and have one reader read three scripts. You can have 3 readers read 3 different scripts. You can have 3 readers read the same script. You can have 1 reader read the script. You can have notes and then send it back; do a bunch of notes, send it back to the same reader, send it back to a different reader. So it’s really very flexible.
As I said you just buy them, the 3 pack. When you buy the 3 pack, as I said, it’s only 67 dollars and you can use it however you want. You can use it all at once, you can use it in the course of any number of months that you would like.
So if you want a professional script evaluation on your screenplay on a very reasonable price check out www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/consultance.
Just a quick few words on what I’m working on. I’m finishing up the quick re-write on my modified thriller script. I’ve talked about this in couple of last episodes of the podcast. I should have that back. I should have the re-write done, have it back to the director hopefully by the end of the week. He will probably have a few more notes, hopefully they’ll be minor and I’ll just have to polish that quickly.
But once I’m done with this toward the end of the week, I’ll be back to my mob action thriller script. As I mentioned last time I’m a full draft done, I’ve put the last third in my writer’s group last week. I got some good notes on it so I’m going to implement a lot of those notes in the next couple of weeks. I would say, probably mid-May, I will have a draft of it done.
I did an e-mail and fax blast last week for a horror comedy script I wrote a couple of years ago. I had good luck with the script. I optioned it a while back but the producers could never get it funded so it came back to me after the auction elapsed.
I actually got a paid writing assignment from that blast I did a couple of years ago when I sent it out and I also actually optioned another script. Producer read this whole horror-comedy. You know, liked it but wasn’t crazy about it and wanted to see what else I had; and ended up reading a teen comedy that I’ve written with a writing partner and ended up auctioning that script.
So you just never know where these blast are going to lead, they just lead to other sorts of projects and other opportunities, not just the sale or auction of that specific script.
Anyway, we’ll see how that turns out.
So now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m interviewing Terry Jastrow about his latest film, ‘The Squeeze’. Here’s the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Terry to the SYS podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show.
Terry: Happy to be here with you.
Ashley: So let’s dig in into your recent film ‘The Squeeze’. It stars Jeremy S. Maybe you can give us a quick log line or pitch of the film, just for the people who haven’t seen the trailer yet.
Terry: OK, happy to. ‘The Squeeze’ is a film about big gamblers and a young fellow, sort of a modest boy from the small rural town. He’s got 21,22 and he comes from a dysfunctional family, and he has to step up and be the man of the family. He’s got uncommon skills and one thing he can do is play golf so he goes out to this town to play the city championship. It’s just a one event and he basically wins it by dozen shots.
And there’s a big kind gambler that’s driving across the country from Mississippi to Las Vegas. He hears about this on the radio, turns from the highway, goes to this golf shop in this community and looks for the champion and they point out to the boy that looks more like a pizza delivery boy and the gambler, he’s name is Riverboat; I don’t need him, I need the guy that won. They say : ‘He’s the winner’! And anyway, that boy’s name is Oggy, they start playing matches and he never losses. They run out of town, they go to Las Vegas, they get involved with a big time Vegas gambler by the name of Jimmy Diamond and the matches grow to a million dollar match. Jimmy goes to Oggy’s room the night before the match and says: ‘If you don’t lose the match tomorrow you’re going to be at the bottom of the nearest swimming pool’- a death threat. Oggy tries to flee. He’s caught by his gambler, Riverboat. He tells Riverboat about the death treat and Riverboat says: ‘I’ve got one more piece of information for you. If you don’t win the match tomorrow I will kill you.’ And that’s the Squeeze’ because that’s what they do.
Ashley: Yeah, perfect, perfect. That’s very good summing up the story. SO that’s great. I’ll link to the trailer in the show notes.
Where did this idea come from?
Terry: My wife is Ann Archer, the wonderful Oscar nominated, Golden globe winning actress, ‘Fatal attraction’, ‘Clear and Present Danger’, ‘Patriot Games’ and all of that. And we were sitting with really good friends of ours in Las Vegas, a woman by the name of Chris Flatt, who is one of the Senior Executives at Wynn Las Vegas in charge of sales and marketing. And her husband was a modest and lovely and polite fellow by the name of Keith Flatt. I knew he was also from a small town in Texas and I knew he played a little golf. And we say, “Well Keith, tell us a little bit about your background”, and he sat there and told us this story. And I’m like “What the hell! That is a movie!”
And so I’ve always loved you know, sort of the romantic, almost larger than life gamblers. Some of my favorite movies are ‘The Sting’, ‘The Color of Money’, ‘Hustler’ and some of those. So I just couldn’t resist the idea of going and doing this movie. It’s kind of a blend between ‘The Sting’ and ‘Tin Cup’.
Ashley: Yeah. I’m curious. I wrote a baseball comedy screenplay a few years ago and one of the things I’ve gotten some pushback from producers is that baseball isn’t nearly as international as some sports like soccer and basketball. So a lot of producers they feel like the foreign markets are fairly limited for a baseball film. Did you get any sort of pushback like that, this being a golf movie?
Terry: Yeah, that’s a very fair question and you know, American baseball is what it is and frankly, so is American football and other sports. Things like basketball are beginning to emerge elsewhere. Golf has about 80 million players around the world and about half of them are here in the United States. But the point is I was kind of aware of that and did everything I could to make it not a golf movie but a caper. So I’ve always positioned it as a caper and a story of big time gamblers. Because when you see it, more than half of the movie is intriguing and back room negotiations between big time gamblers. So I don’t think it’s a golf movie but is a movie that’s got really interesting golf in it.
Ashley: Okay. And that was kind of leading to my next question. I wonder if you have some advice for people who are thinking about writing a sports movie or even specifically, a golf movie. Is that kind of your answer? Is that try and push it more towards the caper aspect or some other aspect so that the sport takes a backseat?
Terry: That’s a very fair question. I think you’re being thoughtful for the listeners and consumers to ask this question. Because you know on the average, about 50% of all revenue of a movie comes from the international sales, that is to say non-US or non-North American. And you know, American sports just don’t travel. They don’t care really about, as we were saying, baseball or football. They don’t play it, they don’t understand it; they don’t care. They have their own forms of sports. Soccer, cycling and whatever else it is they call football. So I think you got it going in eyes wide open. An American story that has sports in it could have limited or no appeal internationally. So you’ve immediately cut 50% of your potential revenue. It’s not a very good business to do movies that have sports in it. If it’s a television program and you have a specific television outlet whether it’s cable or network, that’s another thing. But you know, actually sports themes and the movie business are not a good mix.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. Okay, so let’s go through your writing process a little bit. Maybe you can just tell us sort of what your process is to write a screenplay. How long did it take you to write the script and when did you finish it?
Terry: Well, first of all the fundamental essence that propelled me and continues to and always will propel me is fundamental storytelling. I think the thing that trumps all cards when it comes to movies and television programs for that matter, regardless of budget and regardless of cast, is a good story well told. And I had the great, good fortune in the early part of my life to be a producer and director at ABC Sports under the legendary Executive Producer, Roone Arledge, who created Wide World of Sports and founded Monday Night Football and made the Olympic Games sort of the universal television phenomenon that it is.
Roone Arledge had a wonderful mantra that actually began all of the episodes of ABC’s World Wide Sports and it’s this – It’s the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat. The human drama about athletic competition. At a very early age, as a young producer and director I learned sort of the best practices at story telling. And however varied the stories are, and there’s an infinite variety of stories. There are some fundamental things about story telling that you need to know that have to do with protagonist and antagonist, setting the plot and complicating the plot and story arc et cetera. Frankly, I will tell you one of the huge legs up is that I came upon a seminar and a book first, that was written by Robert McKee. It’s called ‘Story’, one word, ‘Story’. It’s a book, and he does seminars.
Ashley: I just took his seminar. Just two weeks ago I took his seminar in Los Angeles so yes, he’s still out there doing them.
Terry: Now you know, I’ve done four of them. As you know, there is a lot to download and assimilate but I think it’s really a huge leg, tremendously insightful and inspirational with writers. Because you know, while you sit down at a blank piece of paper and it’s due, your pen or your word processor and a blank sheet and it goes to imagination. But nonetheless, there are basic fundamental things in the craft that you at least need to know, that you could tussle on ultimately in the end. But it’s important to have kind of a general idea of when it’s done, usually how it’s done.
Ashley: Okay. So when did you start writing this specific screenplay?
Terry: I started writing it about three years ago after we heard that story. I’m going to guess it took me on the order of about a year. Writers use a variety of things for inspiration but let’s just say as a start, there is the true story, there is research and there is imagination and others. So you get the basic underline to a story, you go out and research and interview people and find out all you can about this genre, et cetera. And then you have your own imagination. Of the three, my favorite is research. I did think that there’s so many riches that you could find when you really get out there and push and shove and study. Get really sort of lost in the story. So l love that process. And finally it took me about a year to cobble together the story. That is usually the case, it was way too long, something along the line of 200 pages. But that’s another thing about story telling. I think you basically get it all out there. I love the story of Leonardo Da Vinci, talking about how he made the great statue of the David in Florence. He said I got a huge block of marble, and I cut everything away, that wasn’t the David. And I think that’s a beautiful way to describe screenplay writing because you took all your assets, assimilate it and then you trim it down. And then it got to be about 120 pages, then writing becomes rewriting. So trimming, I love actors and I taught acting, and I table reading, it’s a tremendous insight into where your script is. What’s working, what’s not working, what’s boring, what’s funny and what’s not? So I love table reading. And I have to say the whole thing sort of was hitting on two years from the beginning of ‘’okay, let’s go work on it’’ to “okay, we got a shooting script”.
Ashley: I wonder if you can just real quickly tell us just, what does that research look like? I mean did you find some professional golf gamblers and have lunch with them? What exactly did you do for the research stage?
Terry: Yeah well, there’s always plenty of books and always plenty of people to interview. But in this case when we talk about these notorious gamblers, professional gamblers – you know in the forties, fifties, sixties and maybe in the early seventies. There are people like Titanic Thompson, Amarillo Slim, Minnesota Fats and Jimmy the Greek Snider and others. I’m pretty sure all of them are no longer with us. But they’re really interesting characters and that kind of will get almost like Bonnie and Clyde. So I read every book and every article I could find on them.
And I talked to a number of people still alive and played against them and lost money against them and what they would do and what they were like and what was their lure. So the answer to your question would be, every article, every book and thank God today for Google, you can find a lot at, and then find that people who played against them and knew them and hung out with them and you begin to get a pretty good picture of them with all those resources.
Ashley: Yeah. So maybe you can just briefly tell us how can people see ‘The Squeeze’ and when is it coming out and where is it going to be available?
Terry: Well, thanks for the question. There’s a couple of answers to them. One is … actually the first place that someone can see the movie is next Thursday, on the sixteenth, April 16; we’re doing a very pioneering and new thing with Groupon, the online sort of daily marketer. And Groupon loves the entertainment product and they sold movies whereby you could get a ticket and go to your local AMC or you buy a DVD. But for the first time on Groupon, you can buy a movie to screen and on a digital download capacity. So in an agreement with Vimeo, you can go April 16th before the actual public release in theatre and you can buy ‘The Squeeze’ as a digital download, and you own it on your server and you can watch it. It’s also offered with different things. One of them is Tom Watson’s Great Golf Instructional and another offer is a Tea Time in your area. But basically that’s April 16th next Thursday.
And then next Friday, April 17th is available in selected theatres here in Los Angeles. It’s at a theatre in AMC out in Pasadena and on Video on Demand. Important lesson because when recent polls with the American audience, when asked ‘’where do you watch your movie?’’, ninety percent would say ‘’at home’’. So video on demand has emerged and will continue to merge as a really important market place for a movie. But also everybody wants their movies in a theatre and that’s a good place to be on April 17th as well.
Ashley: Perfect, perfect! Well Terry, you’ve been very generous with your time. I appreciate you coming on the show.
Terry: You bet! Best of luck to you!
Ashley: Best of luck to you too! Take it easy.
A quick plug from an email and fax blast service. I’m running a special right now where you can purchase one third of the blast for a little more than $50. The total is around 6,000 contexts so this first one third is still around 2,000 contexts so it’s a solid number of producers. I’ve done this just to lower the barrier of entries so that people can check out this service without having to invest a whole lot of money upfront. The one thing that hasn’t changed, I still require that you join SYS Select which at the time of this recording $24.99 per month. The reason I require this part of the process is that I’m going to personally look at your log on inquiry letter and help you make them as good as possible. This is really for everyone’s benefit. I want to make sure that the query letters and log lines are well written before I send them out to my list. The people receiving these email queries can unsubscribe to these blasts so sending out a half-baked query letters will just burn the list up which of course will hurt everyone who might want to use this service in the future.
So the one third of the blast plus one month of SYS Select is $78.00. You’re free to cancel the SYS Select membership after you get your log on inquiry letter in place. So that’s just $78.00, basically at a blast, 2,000 industry context and then of course you can buy the other two thirds of the blast if you find that this is working well for you. Hopefully it will. So if you want to give it a try, now is the time. Anyway check out sellingyourscreenplay.com/blast.
In the next episode of SYS podcast, I’m going to be interviewing Jorge Gonzales who works at the Tracking Board. They have a whole host of services for screenwriters including a script contest. And the script contest is really putting up some remarkable numbers on how many of their writers that win or place highly in the contest, how many of them end up getting representation y Jorge about those numbers and kind of what they all mean. So if you’re interested in potentially signing up for their contest, again it’s the Tracking Board contest, definitely check out that episode. That will be next week so keep an eye for for that.
Anyway, that’s the show. Thank you for listening.