This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 083: Screenwriter / Producer Alan Trezza Talks About His New Film Burying The Ex.
Selling You Screenplay Podcast #83
(Typewriter keys tapping)
Ashley: Welcome to episode #83 of this, “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I’m Ashley Scott Meyers I’m a screenwriter/ blogger over at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com today I’m interviewing Allen Trezza, he wrote a film called, “Bearing the Ax” which was directed by Bill Donte and Allen did a great job on putting this project together. Basically he had the script sent it out, he had a good reaction. People seemed to really like it. But, he wasn’t getting any traffic record towards getting the movie produced myself. So, he basically went out there and started producing the movie myself. And eventually, he got this movie off the ground. So it’s an excellent lesson on screenwriting determination. So, stay tuned for that.
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A couple of quick notes, any websites that I said or mentioned in the Podcast can be found on my blog or in the show notes. I really publish a transcript with every episode, in case you would rather read the show, or look-up something later on. You can find all of the Podcast show notes at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast and then just look for every episode and #83.
A couple of quick updates about the blog. I added a bunch of screenplays last week. SYS Full Script Library, including Rose Mary’s Baby.” “Birdman” “The Theory of Everything” “Jurassic Park” and a “Breaking Bad – Episode script.” These were sent in by Screenwriter – Brooklyn Hunt. And so thank you very much Brooklyn, for sending these scripts along. If you have a bunch of screenplays that you don’t see listed in the SYS Script Library, please do mail them to me and I will add them to the library. The SYS Script Library is completely free. All the scripts are in pdf format so you can download them, and read them on whatever device you normally read things on? And they work on IPhones and I read a lot of scripts on my IPad. You can read it on Kindle. They are just standard pdf’s so they should work pretty well on just about any electronic devices these days. And to download any of these scripts, I think we have a well over one thousand scripts now in the SYS Script Library, the SYS Script Library. Just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/library again that’s www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/library. And this is a library of scripts and screenplay, again, that’s all for free they are all in pdf format. Just need to be downloaded.
Also I published a new blog post this past week, called, “Screenwriting contest” I get a lot of questions about what screenplay contest to enter? And you know, when are the deadlines? Are they worth entering? So I just made a list of some of the top contests that, you know, I’ve heard are pretty good. They’re run, many of the contests are people that I have interviewed on the Podcast. So I recommend them, I think they’re as nine or ten contests that are on this list? If you’re looking to enter some of these contests? Definitely check that out. Again, I think these are all pretty reputable contests. They are contests that I would feel comfortable entering if I was entering my scripts in the contest. The URL for this post is a bit unwieldy so, you can just probably find it if you go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com use the search box and type in, “Screenplay Contests” Or I will link to it in the show notes. So again, just find the show notes –
www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcastepisode83 and I will put a direct link in the show notes to it this blog post. Looking to learn more about screenwriting contests? And you are looking to figure out which ones are reputable? This is the list of 9 or 10 of them, reputable screenplay contests that are worth entering. Also a quick plug for “LA Screenwriter”, you may have noticed that this Podcast is now also appearing on “LA Screenwriter.” LA Screenwriter has a lot of great content for screen writers. So if you are looking to read some more screenwriter blog posts, or just some interesting articles on screenwriting. Definitely check out the, “LA Screenwriter” they have also put together a weekly Email so you can sign-up for that Email list. And then they will send you an Email with the content from the previous week. So if you just want to be reminded of what posts they are publishing, it’s a good quick way to get something in your Email, flip through it. To see if there are any good articles that are interesting to you. Just sign-up for their Email list at, it’s all free, there site is free, obviously this Podcast is free and it’s appearing on over there. Their URL is www.la./screenwriter.com so do check that out if you’re looking for some great screenwriting content.
If you want my free guide, “How to selling a screenplay in five weeks.” You can pick that up by going to www.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-on, career letter, how to find agents, managers, producers, who are looking for material. It really is everything you need to know, to sell your screenplay. By just going to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide.
I just want to mention two things, I’m doing at, “Selling Your Screenplay” to help screenwriters get their scripts into the hands of producers and sell their screenplays. First, we created a monthly newsletter that will be sent directly to producers. Every member of SYS Select will have to submit one log-on per newsletter. Which is one log-on I permit months, since it goes out monthly. I want to Email my large data-base of producers and ask them if they would like to receive this monthly newsletter of pitches. So, far I have well over 120 producers who have signed up to receive it. These producers are hungry for material and are happy to receive it. Read scripts from new writers, again, this is very much, it’s not a cold quarry letter. It’s not a quarry letter to someone who does already know the list. These people have specifically said, “Yes,” to wanting to read material from a, “Selling Your Screenplay Writer.” So it’s a great way just to get in there and network and potentially meet some new producers. Who are opened to new material from new writers. You want to participate in the pitch newsletter? And get your script into the hands of some of these producers? Sign-up at – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/select.
And secondly, whenever a few promising leads from a few producers for screenwriters, we’re doing a lot of outreach to bring in requests from producers for screenwriters. Last week we had more than ten page screenwriters and leads. These are producers and production companies who are actively looking to buy material or are looking to hire a screenwriter for a specific project. If you sign-up for SYS Select, you’ll get these Emailed directly to you several times per week. Here are a couple of real examples from last week’s leads.
We had a novelist looking to hire a screenwriter to adapt their novel into a screenplay. This is a nice writing assignment, I think quite a few of these types of leads at various sources a week. We get some of these types of leads I see them over at “Ink tip.” This is fairly common, where be a novelist want to convert his novel into a screenplay.
Or a producer who has optioned a novel and needs a screenwriter to write that novel into a screenplay format. These are quite common, I think this is, you know? If you’re looking to be a professional screenwriter, this is the type of thing the job you are probably going to get some of, as you work your way up, a nice lead. Another lead we had come in, we had a production company come in and put two screenwriters to it. They got two different treatments, in both screenplays. Though apparently, this production company gave written out. They have stories and have written them into treatments. I’m not sure how detailed the treatments are? But they have written them into treatments. Which just basically like a vision, usually it’s a five to ten page sort of an outline version of the screenplay. One is an action adventure story, the other is a drama, and now they need to hire two different screenwriters potentially. To take these treatments and turn them into screenplays. Again, this is a paid writing assignment.
We had another producer seeking four-twenty pot comedy scripts. This is a popular niche right now. Again, I’ve seen quite a few of these types of leads out there. Basically they want a screenplay. You know, a comedy, a, “Pineapple Express” is one of these. Only the top of the key be for this type of thing. Basically it’s screenplay that revolves around marijuana in that whole marijuana subculture. And you know, “Cheech & Chong and the Pineapple express” there’s a whole history of these films in Hollywood. They are generally very broad in comedies, I think one of the things that stirred interest is, the legalization of marijuana. Obviously as marijuana becomes more and more legal, movies will become more and more accepted. And I think there will be potentially a bigger market for these types of scripts. So, again if you have written this type of script ready to go? This would be a great lead to submit to. Anyway, this is just a small smattering of the leads from last week. A lot of these leads are still very much active. So if you join SYS now, you can still submit to them. Of course we will be bringing you new leads coming in the week as well. To sign-up, go to –
A quick few words about what I’m working on? I’m, I’ve had two options this past week. The first one was an Indian company that I’ve been dealing with, for probably a couple of years. I was always hesitant to option the script to them for a variety of reasons. And I’ll kinda outline what of them, I ended up doing with them. But, big basically, what they wanted to do was? They wanted to option, just because India likes me. Just because they wanted to option the new write to make this movie in the Hindi Language, Which is of course the language of India. And there would be no distribution or anything else outside of their, that circle. So, they basically said, was? You can’t, they said they wanted to option me to write them. But ultimately, if they can get financing for their film, we’ll purchase this, those Hindi rights, no other rights. So, they would allow me, as the screen writer, to keep the rights if, Jewish language rights, or whatever? And you know, any other rights that I ever wanted to sell. Just not the Hindi, Indian and Hindu rights, they would make that movie in Hindi. And they seem to think there is an essential safe assurance that these movies don’t get distributed outside of India. So, the producer did not think that this would be a problem for me to then go about rights, selling rights? I was a little bit hesitant and skeptical? And frankly I still am? I think, there’s going to be a lot of producers that are hesitant too. And I’ve had a couple of these companies, were I had a guy last year who wanted to option the Turkish rights and make a movie in Turkey. Turkish rights, that didn’t work through. But this guy with the Hindi rights, so, we’ve been Emailing back and forth just over the year. And then finally, this a script I’ve had for a few years. I haven’t sold it, I have optioned it a couple of times, but I haven’t sold it. So I finally said, “Listen, if you were to pay me enough that I might not even care if I could never sell any of the other rights.” So, we basically cut a deal. Basically a free option. I think it’s for six, I think it’s for eighteen months. It’s a free option for eighteen months. But there’s some real important stipulations in this option. He will then, if any time in his eighteen months he can exercise the option and basically pay me for the script. And he buys the rights, he’s only buying the Hindi rights. So once again, I maintain the rights to sell the script elsewhere. And but there’s a couple of stipulations in there that are very important. It is a free option for eighteen months. However, I have the right to cancel the option at any time. If I get another producer interested in the script, who doesn’t want me to sell the Hindi rights. So this basically, I will get it as kind of a free role. It’s not a great option, in terms of, you know, moving my career up. But if he ends up exercising his option he will pay me. And frankly, he’s going to pay me more than a lot of the companies I’ve dealt with, with this script. It’s a pretty low budget script, so I’m not going to make a lot of money. He’s actually going to pay me a decent some if he exercises his option, and that’s a big if? I know that I basically get a free role, so if I need another producer, and who want to, you know, produce it for the English? So basically for the rest of the world, as in the world; U.S., Europe, Southeast Asia. He doesn’t like the fact that sold that option his Hindu rights. I can in writing send this guy an Email and say, “Listen, I know your option is going to be void, I’m not, I’m going to cancel that option agreement.” So that felt very much like a free role. If he gets it set-up and pays me for the script rate? At the very least I get to keep the English language rights. And I figure, if nothing else I could go produce it myself, even if I couldn’t find a producer. I am skeptical, once I sell these Hindu rights, I am skeptical about it, that I will be able to sell it to another producer. I asked a few producers I know, I asked them about it? And you know, they didn’t have a firm answer, but they were like, “Gee, I don’t know?” “I’ve never dealt with that, gee?” “Gee, I don’t know about that?” So they were not that overly optimistic that day as a producer would take these things, these rights? Buy the script once I already, and keep in mind, if this guy buys? They are going to go and make this movie, already basically be a movie version in the universe. It wouldn’t be in English, it would be in Hindi. But there would be this other version of the film, so? Generally when producers option a script, they are optioning it, you know, in perpetuity, they are purchasing a script. When optioning it, they purchase a script, they are actually exercising optioning it and making a movie. They are buying all rights in the known universe in perpetuity but a little bit of a carve-out, so? But I figure it’s really, I can’t lose at this point. This guy buys a script and makes a movie, no one in this country is ever going to see it obviously. So, that’s potentially bad for me. I won’t necessarily get a good credit. But I will retain those rights, and even if I can’t sell to another producer. You know, if I ever got the gumption I could go and produce this movie. It’s a script I always liked, it’s a horror/comedy script. I always liked it, so I thought it needs a little bit of a bigger budget than what I think I could potentially raise myself right now. So it would have to be the main reason I haven’t done it. But I do think the reason it’s a good script, and so, that’s one option. I said to this India production company. I’m not sure I have the all the answers on this? It’s really, I’m just going to try, and we’ll just see what happens on it, with this?
The other option was at actually through, “Ink Tip” this was the first. I had a couple of hit or misses on “Ink Tip” But I have used “Ink Tip” pretty consistently now, probably three years. And this is the first real option. And this is a pretty, this is a script I’ve mentioned say, it’s kind of a horror/comedy/sci-fi horror script. I wrote it last summer, I put it up in my writers group. Another writer in my writers group, I sent it out. I didn’t send it out to my list to all the people I know. I didn’t end up optioning it, so another writer in the writers group, who had a listen, who had heard of it within the group, he liked it. And he wants to direct something, so he was like, well maybe I can take a pass at this script? At this point this was probably my best shot. Last January/February this point, I said, “Sure.” Because at this point I wasn’t doing anything with the script. So he took a pass, I think he just some good stuff. You really made it much tamer, he changed the ending, which I think was a good, very much stronger ending. And really stripped out all the, a lot of the complexy and shot at a lower budget. And then he went and put it on and obviously but it up as a co-producer, so me and his name is on it. Ink Tip and a couple of downloads on Ink Tip, and we actually had. This was our second one, we actually met another producer maybe a month ago? And that ended up not working out, now. But this producer contacted me, this was actually the first producer. About one, two months ago, he contacted me and we have just been talking to him for a while. And finally now he says, yeah, I think I can, I’m going to go ahead and option this. So the contact is basically all figured out. My lawyer’s working on it, the data, we’re sending that off. Should I sign it and send it today, so that’s pretty much all done. So that’s two, as I said, those are the two options I’ve got going. I feel pretty good about this one. I mean this is, I’m not sure this guy is going to get it going or not? But it’s a very short option. It isn’t a free option, but it’s only for two months and then after two months he has to pay us, I think $1000.00 for another six months. So, typically these independent kind of producers, giving then two months, he’ll be able to get it out to his contacts. He’ll be out and able to figure out if he’s getting some traction with it? And if he’s getting some traction he can kick us a few bucks and then extend the option out and try and get the movie produced. So, again it’s kind of a not, it’s kind of a no situation I figure. It’s only a two month option is a very, very, short period of time. But it should be enough time to know if he is going to be able to get some traction. The one downside, was this actually the script I was thinking of shooting myself with this actual writing partner. He wants to direct something. We were thinking of trying to make it even lower, lower a micro budget and shooting it ourselves. So obviously this puts us sort of back on that. If this guy is now got it for two months and potentially another six months if he starts to see some tractions. So, that’s kind of on hold. But again, I feel it’s kind of a pretty decent option. This guy’s going to, he’s got some credits of things he’s done. On some decent movies he’s done in the past. So, I feel pretty good about that.
The last thing I want to mention quickly was the “Black List” I mentioned this in last weeks’ Podcast. I put up my mob/action/thriller script back from the “Black List” with a rating of a 4 which was a bad rating. I also got a rating of an eight which was a pretty good rating. So that made my rating a six. And that’s an average of six was enough to get me into the, “Top List” so last week, what I recorded last Monday I had gotten the Ink Rating of previous Thursday. How did I get any downloads? But since then I’ve actually had, I’ve gotten a few downloads. So I recorded a Podcast episode last week. And I said, “Gee, I’ve got an average of a six and I haven’t got any downloads.” The next day I actually got three downloads. So that was Tuesday after the recorded Podcast, I got three downloads out there and I got one more download the following day. So that was four downloads total, and that’s pretty much it. So now it’s been five days, it’s now Monday again, I’m recording this again. So it’s been five days since last Wednesday I’ve gotten one download. So it’s, there’s been four industry downloads, since, now it’s coming up on a week and half since I’ve got that. Got on the, “Top List” I’ve had four downloads. That’s not terrible, if I had gotten four downloads per week I would think, that’s pretty good. Manner that’s been five days since the downloads I don’t know what that’s going to be? Two or three days Wednesdays are big days that put producers download stuff. I’m just not honestly sure, but I don’t think that’s terrible.
Because like I said, four downloads per week I don’t think would be terrible as well when you’re on the, “Top List.” I think four downloads total is probably not that great. But again we’ll just have to see? Many in the industry pros have gone back and given the elated. So, I kind of hoping, I was going to buy, in order to stay on the “Top List” you need to keep getting ratings. Because you’re only on the monthly Top List for the month that you got your two high ratings. So, an average of a six whatever it is now is let’s say, another twenty days or something? I will fall out of the Top List unless I continue to get decent ratings. So I’m hoping that somebody in these industry people will come back and give me a rating. I can buy the ratings, I can get more reviews, and buy the rating I feel like your chances of getting a high rating from an industry professional, and frank, I feel like a much greater from a jaded script, like the reader history professionals. I can’t believe that they are going to waste their time and reading a script that they don’t like. So, they read the first five or ten or twenty pages. If they don’t like it they’ll put it aside. I can’t believe they would then go and give the script a bad rating when they’ve only gone and read only ten or fifteen pages. So my hunch is that the industry pro’s typically give much higher ratings than the paid analysts. So I’m hoping in the next you know, I’ll keep it up for another few weeks and a month maybe then we’ll see if I continue to get some more downloads. If I don’t get any downloads, if I don’t get four downloads, than obviously I’ll just take it down. But I’ll probably get a couple of downloads in there anyway, I hope with some ratings. If you can get four ratings of above it’s the sort of the site average is. Which is, I think like five points, seven or nine or something like that? So a six is definitely above that average. If you can take and stay above that sort of average score, than if you get four ratings like it? Then you can make the last, you can make the quarter. If you got three ratings above it, the average you can make the quarter. So the more good ratings I can get, I can keep this script forward to the top. And again, I hope it will continue to get downloads. But it’s actually that mention the scripts that sci-fi/thriller script that was just optioned. I’m actually thinking this one, this is a mob/action/thriller and I’m kinda thinking this one might be the one I try. I’ve actually already started to put some feelers out and that, gone out to some actors that I know, gone out to a producer, had a meeting last week with him. So I’m actually starting to talk about maybe producing this one myself on a micro-budget. We’ll see how that shakes out myself, but in the meantime, just going to keep “Black Listing” it. But I am definitely reporting back. Just too kinda let people how that is all going?
So now let’s get into the main segment, today I’m interviewing, Allen Trezzna here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Allen to the show on, “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I really appreciate you coming on the show.
Allen: Thanks Ashley I’m very happy to be here.
Ashely: Maybe to start out you could give us a quick overview of you and your career in the entertainment industry? Kind of how you got your start. And you know, how you finally openly got this film made?
Allen: Sure, alright, I started at a really, really early age. And was actually age old 11 when I saw, “Clockwork Orange.” For the first time and that. I realized that, that movie just wasn’t about big action and spectacle that it could be a whole other and a whole lot more.
And quickly built into the, I saw every Stanley Kubrick movie I could get my hands on. And then just went from there, sure. And then studied it in college. And then after I graduated, I quickly moved out there to L.A. I was from New York originally. And I got my first job in the industry as an assistant for Miramax. Which really wasn’t my favorite film at the time. This was mid too early to late ‘90’s. And I was always writing, maybe because I had a penchant for it. I really loved the challenge of it, the exploring things, news and issues. I was always that adventure kid. And I was in two and half years of bugging people to read my stuff. My boss, really took to this one script called, “Baseline” which was what described as a gritty sports drama. It was set in the world of women’s tennis. Now, sounds like a really odd pitch? However, during my high school years I was at a number of Tennis Academies. And I saw just how much, how intense and sort of drama filled that world was. And there hadn’t really been a movie about it, that so? It just sort of sprang from me and I wrote the script really quickly for me. It took about six weeks. So, my boss after reading it, he may be looked at three, four, or five scripts of mine. We took to them, and she managed to kick it off the ranks and sold it to Mira Max Film.
Ashley: Huh? And you’re still working as an assistant at Miramax while selling this film to Miramax?
Allen: I was yes, and it was a really interesting time? Because in between answering phone calls and typing up notes for my boss. We had this sort of stop and go through a note meeting on my own script. So, it was a very interesting time. And her name is Robbie Brenner, she’s the producer of the “Dallas Friars Club.” Which was incidentally, was one of the first scripts she gave me to read. When I got the, first job I was given for her. Which goes to show you, and your listeners, that if you want to make a movie it’s a marathon, it’s not a sprint. So, and that’s something I learned from her. It that you have to constantly sort of pick yourself up, don’t take “No” for an answer, don’t let anything discourage you, If you truly believe in something, it will get made. And that’s a hurdle for me. Obstacles and the rejection is just part of getting a movie made. It’s all part of it, it’s not just sitting down and writing it, that’s just the beginning. When you really start hearing the “No’s”, and the looks, and the slammed in the face. You should sort of realize, okay this is part of it. I’m in the middle of this thing. And now I can’t get a positive, every “No” I hear, this is just one more step closer to hearing a “Yes.”
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, so when everyone dives into something, some of what you just said? A little bit deeper. You said you were an assistant at Miramax, maybe just for our listeners tell us exactly what that entails? What for you reading scripts, were you getting coffee? Were you sitting in on development meetings? Just skip, just a flavor what that job was like for people. So people can kind of understand how that helped, or maybe you can even comment. Did that job, you know, help your writing, hurt your writing, or how did that influence you?
Allen: Yeah, well, you know, the assistant gig in Hollywood there’s the lowest rung on the totem pole. It’s also for a one of the most thankless jobs a person can have. However, I don’t know of anyone who’s broken in without someone going through that trial of fire. So basically, they easily start about 8:00a.m. And you get a call from your boss. Or you know, a note from your boss. You know, asking if you read the script that came in the night before does it have the right markings on it. I can’t wait to get into the office and talk about at the airing. Is that it? And then from there it’s answering every phone call, its scheduling meetings, a lot of the time it’s writing of notes. It’s reading screenplays, it’s very, very, intense environment to work in. But also it is probably one of the best ways to learn how producing really works.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, for sure. Over this one, how many years did you do this job?
Allen: I was in this for about four years.
Ashley: And how many scripts do you think you read in those four years?
Allen: I wish I could say a number on it? But easily anyway, you know, just anything around several hundred and possibly thousands?
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. And even taking a step back from before that? How did you get this job as an assistant? Because even though those jobs as thankless as they are those are hard to get. If you could just tell us quickly kind of how you got that assistant job?
Allen: Sure. The universe in the first place. And then during my senior year I was always in the. I realize people were not exactly going to be lining up at my door with job offers. I have to sort of make it happen on my own. So, I put together a list of producers and production companies who make films that I really admired and liked. And one of those producers was a man named Carrie Wood. Carrie is responsible for the careers of M. Knight Shavalon, John Favro, he is the producer of the movie, “Kid” with Carmandy and Lenny Carwright directed. He also produced on the screen. And when I sort of looked back on his work, here’s a guy who I would love to work with. Because his taste is so impeccable. And thankfully he was in New York. So I cold called his offices. And managed to score a, “We’ll see meeting.” With his Development Executive and she really liked me. She liked that I was really new, and that she was working on at the time. And offered me an internship. And I believe I was interning there thirty days, four days a week. And then I graduated from college and then I moved out to Los Angeles. His Development person and put together a list of people I should meet with. And Walt Ringer, whom I met with had just been promoted at Miramax as a possible link? So when I came out here to, one of the first calls I made. And thankfully she was looking for someone. Apparently I had gotten a really good recommendation from Carrie Wood. And that was my first start.
Ashley: And so when you got your first start, when you’re working as an intern still in college that was unpaid work? You’re basically there for just the experience, is that correct?
Allen: Yep. For the experience and for the credit.
Ashley: Okay, yeah, yeah, perfect. I’m curious, what ever happened to the script, “Baseline” that first specs. Fail that you had? Is that still around?
Allen: Gosh, gee, I wish I knew? I believe that Miramax sold all the bits to that. What happened was, it was a novel I passed a producer on it? A guy named Henry Kennetti who later went on to produce some of the movies, “Wedding Crashers.” And I did a few drafts, that they sent me to Florida, that was a Nick Florentary kind of thing? The company where Andrea Agassi taught. On a research trip, and that was fantastic, that was a full day in Florida. Sort of traveling around, the instructors and the students. And it added a real flavor and what the life style really is?
And I think what happened was a movie came out, it was called, “Wimbledon” with Paul Buttonly and Kirsten Dunst and it didn’t exactly light fire at the box office? But I think that kinda took some wind out of the sails for the project. The end.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, I played tennis in college until I left. Tennis, I still play today. I still play tennis every now and then. Yeah, I love tennis, but I think we’ve seen the end. I think there have been a few movies over the years and they always pretty much tank, so? I just don’t know if there’s a market for tennis movies?
So you mentioned that, “Baseline” was a, you said your boss had read 4, 5, or 6 of them, your other scripts that you had written. And she had really took to this one. So how many of these scripts from the time you sold, “Baseline” was that, how many scripts had you written. I assume they were all, but a few probably you didn’t show your boss. Because you didn’t think they were ready?
Allen: Yeah, to tell you the truth, I used to know the number of them. But I think “Baseline” was number 5? Not exactly sure, I would have to go back and look at my library? But it has them lined up in date order. I think it was 5?
Ashley: Okay, okay, that’s good to know. Okay let’s go ahead and dig into this your most recent script? That just got produced, it’s called, “Bury the ex” maybe start out, you can give us a preview?
Allen: A, yeah Barroneck.
Ashley: Barronese, I apologize, yeah. Barry S. yes. Maybe to start out you can give us a quick pitch or a log-on for the film. I will wait for the trailer. Mission notes so people can tell, get it that way. But maybe you can just give us quick pitch so we can kinda understand what it’s all about?
Allen: Oh. The thing is, sorry. It’s in Los Angles and it’s about a guy, Max. Who’s a horror fictionado. He’s in a relationship with a girl named Evelyn. She’s beautiful, concerned about the environment, and intelligent, but it just might not be the perfect pair? And when they decide to move in together it really becomes evident that they are not meant to be together. On the day that Max is about to break-up with Evelyn, he learns that she’s been in a horrible accident and dies. So Max mourns her passing for a few months and ends up meeting the girl of his dreams one night. Whom she shares all of his interest and he thinks he just might have a soul mate? But as fate would have it, the same night Evelyn comes back from the dead and she confronts them together. So now our hero finds himself in this love triangle with the girl of his dreams and his ex from the grave. Complications ensue and hilarity and it makes for a really fun, good time.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, okay. So where did this idea come from? How did you kinda formulate this idea?
Allen: Well, for as long as I loved movies, I love the horror genre most of all. Simply because of the whole experience of feeling scared, exhilarated, elated, everything, everything,
All those emotions that horror films stir up. I just loved, it one of those simple things, it’s why I fell in love with horror. Though I would, every once in a while I would do a little horror marathon on the weekends. Just going through every sort of genre: Slasher, zombie, vampire. And then one weekend, taken out all the old zombie movies I used to love. I realized that the best ones were the ones who used the zombies as a theme of something greater. George Remiro’s – “Living Dead” who was about racially. It’s really about the people trying to foster by each other and not really the zombies outside. “Dawn of the Dead” which takes on at a shopping mall, which is really about consumerism than it is about? How these beings are flocked and doomed at this mall. And then, most recently, “28 Days Later.” Which Danny Baldwin is elected. It’s about the curer of disease, diseases through blood. And then I started to think? Well, you know what would really be a great metaphor? Is for the zombie genre, would be relationships that just won’t die. And what better for the metaphor than a human or who parts slowly decay and blood starts to go away, and this just sort of tough mess.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So, I always just like to ask the writers kind of when you were thinking about this story, what came first? So, I admit may you just answered this? But, what came first? Did you have to have this idea about a love story? Or did you have the idea for the zombies?
Allen: The first endings I believed what popped up was an ex-girl friend who is decaying, showing up at a characters door. Something that they were close together. Not quite realize, that she’s dead, or deceased or falling apart. But only to realizing she’s back and that their love has been given a second chance. I believe that ending’s the first one. And then there’s a line of dialog in the film where one character says, there’s a freakin’ Tim Burton movie in the living room. That’s the second from my team. So, that image of the girl showing up as a zombie, yet half dream because she’s reunited with her love. And then that’s that. A little one liner, they said it was two things that popped into my mind.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. I curious if, obviously you’ve seen a lot of these zombie movies. And then one of the things that occurred to me? Was, I couldn’t think of a single zombie movie where the zombie, she has like, intelligence and some sense of understanding of her situation. Typically zombies are you know, by definition: zombies. Kind of mindless zombies. So, you know, how did that play into it? Did you think about the conventions you used? Did you think about breaking them? We’ll know more about this metaphor out of the change in love. And that’s just how come it never worked out.
Allen: Yeah, I mean, when she tells you, I will be able to communicate and talk and move around she’s basically the one same person she was while she was alive. However, her time has passed. Is how I would describe it? I pulled it in and direct Ashley Green who stars as Evelyn. She’s the same person, but everything sort of, her love is dialed up to ten. And then her energy is dialed up to ten and then also her jealously is dialed up also, which is dialed up to ten. And all of that sort of informs who the character was.
Ashley: Okay, so let’s talk about sort of how this film from Openward got made? And I am DB with a list of short that you wrote and directed, did, was that a first step to getting this feature film produced?
Allen: Yes, in a lot of ways, it was. When I came upon the idea I thought something like this with a theme this clear, could work as both as a short film and as a long form film. So, I had always wanted to direct a short film. I had directed other third short, so most of them boost, but nothing really serious with a maxial swift. And so I really wanted to make that leap. And when I came up with this idea I wrote it out as a short film, which was a 15 minutes. And my friends and I got together and got really good casting director, named Brad Gilmore. Who was both the casting director on the feature version. And we got a very interested cast, and we shot the short in three days, over a three day weekend. And I just had the time of my life. I thought it was brilliant, one of the best experiences I had. And after that was done, we played it at several festivals and we played at “Comic-Con – San Diego.” We played in New York, we played in Portland. And the responses was always great. And so I knew I had something that audiences thought was unique and also relatable in some strange ways. So I started back down and to adapt it, and quickly realized I had to basically throw away the short film and start over. And it took about six months of writing and revising, but at the end of six months I had a 98 script that I sold. Very strongly looked monotone, it had its own thing. There are slight similarities to the short film. I think maybe a scene or two that almost might be identical. But it sort of works out its own. Both persons work as their own on their own.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. Since, take us through the process. Now that you’ve got the short film, you’ve got some festivals, you’ve now reached writing a feature film script. What exactly did you do with it? That ultimately led it to being sold and reduced?
Allen: Well, this is going back five years. It sounds like you have to be in it for the long haul. From sometimes that is to remember everything that happened. After I had finished the feature length script with it, I gave it to my manager and ME Bob Sebonnie with a Magnet Management, and he’s fantastic. We left a lot of great writers and always really believed in me, the early days when I sold, “Baseline” and he read it, I think, over the course of lunch, I think? I remember Emailing it to him and I remember it, an hour and a half later came an Email back. Saying, this was fantastic, such a fun read, I finished it in like 45 minutes. I loved the electrical outlet, which basically means shoot it out to the pound and see who bites? See who buys it? Unfortunately, like I said, this was going back five years ago? And people really loved it. The scripted thought it was really hysterical. But people didn’t think that about whether it was marketable? They didn’t think there was an audience for them. So that’s kinda frustrating, but I think that the meeting and did the water cooler of which they could mean, the studios, and companies, and new leads when you market it. It was a bottle of water while you wait. And then they bring you in, and you meet the executives and you talk for maybe 15 minutes and then they say, we love your script we’ll keep in touch, bye-bye. So, as I said, there were no sort of viable audience for it. In fact people really dug it and kind of remembered me. And I decided that, if they’re not going to make it? Than I’m going to have to make it. Because I was really going to believe in this thing. So I spent the next five years trying and putting the thing together. And the first step was finding a director who matched this tone. This very specific tone, perfectly. And the first name that came to mind is Joe Donte because of his films like, “Gremlins” “The Howling” and “The Burn” No one does dark comedy better. No one can do horror and comedy better. And I managed to get through to his agent, David Garsh. Who I had met in passing and I was on all kinds of phone calls with during that time as an assistant.
Thinking later, I can use this. And Joe responded to this very quickly. Maybe within four or five days. And before I knew it, I was sitting down talking to Joe Donte about the project. And I was ready for him to give me pages of notes, was ready for him to tell me the change or to change everything. I was ready for him to tell me, “Well, kid the guy and a zombie and the girl? Will she be normal? Or can we set it somewhere else in L.A.?” But nothing like that happened. He was on board fully, he wanted to keep the warranty here, change a scene there. But other than that. The script he ended up shooting was pretty much the script he had read, which never happens.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, yeah, fantastic. So,
Allen: After getting him on board, I started to go with who had volunteered and back to the production company that had liked it. And was up to the task. And so zombies were not seen as marketable. Even after the walking dead came out. I would re-approach and they would say, yeah, this is great and yet we know it’s the number one show on TV but, it’s a television show and this is a movie, it’s different. Then a movie call, “Warm bodies.” Came out, which would a romance with a voice zombie, and that didn’t carry very well. And so, did, “Zombieland.” I would re-approach after each one of them, these movies would come out. And hear the same thing that yeah, well, you know? It’s a trend and it’s going to be over just as quickly as it began. It’s just not going to happen. And it wasn’t until a movie called, “World War 3” came out with Brad Pitt was actually now in a zombie film. And it ended up being his highest grossing film in his career. That we were basically off and running within a matter of weeks. That the money had come in through it was working with a company called, “Art Image.” And another company called, “Scooty Woot” and our Executive Producer Kathy Enowlays was able to get it to pictures. Who managed to finance the film. And we were in production offices in a number of weeks. So, a five year journey of hearing no, and no, and no, and no. And then over the course of a week then you’re basically in free production. It’s something that I couldn’t explain? But I owe Brad his special thanks in the credits because it’s all ultimately his decision to do it. A zombie movie that hit, that got our movie, “Green lighted.”
Ashely: Yeah, yeah. That’s a fantastic story and I really hope other screen writers out there are listening to this. I mean, you essentially are the one who put this project on your shoulders and carried it to the finish line. And that’s very important. I think a lot of writers have this idea that write a script send it to their agent and wait for something and the checks to start rolling in. And that’s not always quite how it happens. I want to go back and touch on a couple of things. So, it’s a. when you met with Joe Donte? I definitely understand he read the script, that’s all good. And then you said basically he was on board. I’m just for clarification, exactly what does that mean? When you say, “He’s on board.” Did he sign like a letter of intent? Did he come into these meetings? Did you start going around to these meetings with Joe Donte in tow? What exactly does that look like when he jumped up on board?
Allen: Well, when he attaches himself to a film project. It’s really always an intent. It’s really always implied. I never really seen a letter or an agreement, saying, “I am attached to so-and-so project?” That might come later, when financing is dependent on it. But in sort of the early stages it basically means he’s signed on as the director of the project. I will show up at any meeting or any lunch that is you need me at. And I will talk about my vision for this. I will talk about how it is to make this movie. And how I can make it on a low budget. So that’s basically what that entails. So, Joe Donte attended meetings with me. We tried early on to attach a cast to make the package even more enticing to financers. So Joe would attend casting sessions. And he really put a lot of love and sight into this thing. I appreciate it, and it all ended working out for us.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, and another thing, and this kinda just sort a on the edge of this project and perhaps other projects. I mean, you sound like such a hustle for it, I’m wondering if there wasn’t some other projects similar to this one that you were working on and maybe they didn’t take off. And this one talking about this one ultimately got made. But do you have other projects that you’re basically doing the same thing with that maybe didn’t quite materialize like this one?
Allen: I wrote some of the things at the same time as the script, “Burying the Ex.” Was going out. I had, had another script called, “Sanctuary.” Which is an exorcism script. As I said before I love horror movies and I love every genre of the horror movies banner. And another one of my favorites is the demonic possession films. And I had, had this idea of using demonic possession at as a metaphor for the anxiety for and the fear and the pain that we feel from time to time. We just can’t pinpoint, but we know it’s somewhere inside us. And I decided to take that and infuse it into a similar demonic possession film. About a girl in her twenties who’s experiencing horrible nightmares, panic attacks, depression. And sort of goes on this journey to find out who she is and why she’s this way. She ends up in New Orleans. Where she is taken in by this detective for the Vatican. Who tell her, we know why you’re feeling the way you feel. It’s because there’s a demon that’s taken possession of you. And if you don’t train with us, if you don’t take control of this demon. The demon will take over you. And that’s what we do here, we teach you to take control of the demon. And use its strength to fight people who have given in to the demon. So it’s a bit along the lines of the, “Matrix” with “Blade” thrown in there and also “Whomped” and around the time there. When it was the other movie was going out it would sort of catch fire. But I ended up selling that, to “Paramount Pictures.” Which Joel Silva, the director of the “Matrix” producing it. And it’s currently in development, right now. Paramount’s really kinda excited about it, may very well be made. We very well, will hope it will get the green light.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, for sure. So, let’s just quickly wrap up here and maybe you can just tell us, tell people where, “Burying the Ex” is going to be playing? Kinda how they can see it if you know the dates it’s gonna be released?
Allen: Yeah, “Burying the Ex” comes out June 19th, Friday – June 19th. It’s playing at AMC Theatres across the country. For anyone who lives in L.A. it’s going to be playing at the Universal City Walk, this is a great theatre. It’s also playing in New York at the AMCM Empire on 42nd Street. And AMC Theatres across the country, so hopefully be available on ITunes and Video on Demand. Joe Donte and I ask everyone if they can to please watch it in the theatres because it’s just that fun experience. There’s so many great gags that work so well on the big screen. And we’ve seen it several times with audiences, and it really kills. The laughs, they really come fast and they don’t stop till the ending. So we really hope everyone really enjoys it.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, perfect. So I guess like the final question, I guess I can wrap up? How can people contact you? Or follow along with what you’re doing? Do you have a Twitter handle you can mention that, or a Facebook page or a blog? Really, whatever you feel comfortable, maybe people can just kinda follow along with what you’re doing in the future.
Allen: A yeah. You sort of know me, I like to keep private. I like my work to speak for itself. As I said, there’s “Mean” and “Sanctuary” and all the projects that I work are extremely personal. If anyone wants to know anything about me they can just watch the movies. I think they need to ask it as sort of a biography of who I am and what I’m going through at a given time. So I don’t have a Twitter handle, I don’t have Facebook, I’m rarely on Email. I’m sort of always working on the next thing and trying to infuse what I’m doing and what I’m going through at the time, experiencing that next thing. It saves on the energy bill.
Ashley: No, no, fair enough, fair enough. So, Allen you’ve been very generous for you time I really appreciate it. You coming on and talking about it with us today. I really enjoyed the movie, so well done on that front and I really wish you luck with it.
Allen: Thanks so much. And best of luck on all the little things and try not to get discouraged. Just remember that, it’s all part of it, the rejection, it’s going to come. I don’t care who you are its all parts of the process. And at last all parts of the process. And the frustration and starting from scratch, it’s all part of writing.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah.
Allen: If you’re not a part of and not experiencing all of that, than you’re not writing.
Ashely: Truer words have never been spoken. So, thank you very much, Allen.
Allen: No problem, Ashley and thank you so much.
Ashley: Thank you we’ll talk to ya later.
Allen: Okay, bye-bye.
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In the next episode of “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast” I’m going to be interviewing “Tony Ellupis” who write an Indi drama a thriller called, “Safe Flight” he talks very openly about it with me, about how he got this movie made? And he talks quite a bit about how he got his career started. So keep an eye out for that episode next week.
To wrap things up I just want to go through a few things from today’s interview with Allen. I think so many newer writers think that if you? If they get their screenplay to the right people and they like it, it means that it will get produced and their career will take off. But really listen to what Allen said today. You know, he’s been working in the industry for years. He had contacts, he knew the right people, he got his script to the right people. And really listen to what he was saying, how those people can be so called, and “The right people” read his script and then he did like it. But then the script still didn’t take off and until he got there and got behind it and got really started producing it.
This is such an important point, so many people he knew were screenwriters, they really over valued the sort of idea of the script. Gee, if I could just get it to the right person? And it’s just, not always that simple. Even a really good script often times don’t end up getting produced. Even the greatest scripts that means for whatever reason, they don’t quite hit the mark. Or they don’t quite have? Someone at the production company doesn’t quite get behind this. It’s just a very common complicated equation. Why something gets made? And it’s not always just the quality of the writing that determines that. This is not a bad thing. I mean, there’s a lot of factors that goes into making a movie that is extremely expensive. Certain production companies have certain histories with distributors that can distribute certain things, types of films. There’s certain templates and models that these companies use that they have done films in the past. Some of them have failed and some have not? And some have exceeded so they are always trying to reproduce the successes. And maybe this script, maybe they will look and say, “Wow” this is great writing, I really love this script. But it doesn’t quite fit the template of what has worked for us in the past. And so we can’t go and get behind it. So it’s a very complex equation, and I think so often these new writers. Man, if I could just get my script to the right person. And that’s where I think this questions so often? How do I get an agent? You know, how do I get an agent, that’s like the best one of those common questions? I think so often misses the point, because getting an agent does not mean things are going to be smooth sailing. Or getting your script into the hands of the so called, “Right people” or the producers and even if they like the script. That doesn’t mean it’s just going to take off. And just everything is just going to, you know, all downhill from there. It still can take a while and it can go beyond hard work. Allen had the right contacts, he had a script that people read and liked and it was just sputtering. And it didn’t stop sputtering until he basically got in there and started producing it. So that’s really part of it, the job as a successful screenwriter. Sometimes you have to step in there and you got to be a producer too. You got to start to put the project together. You got to start raising money. You got to go out and try and find a director. You got to start actually being your producer on the project. No one is going to be as passionate about your project as you are. And so sometimes you’ve got to just step-up and take the plunge and start producing your own stuff. You know, just sitting in your apartment just writing scripts, script, after script, after script. Waiting for your agent to call, waiting for a producer to call you. Who wants to run out and raise the money and funds? That can be a very long wait sometimes. So, really listen to this Podcast and think about what Allen did. And think about how you could apply it to your own situation. Maybe you don’t have the resources that Allen had. But that’s fine, I totally get it, get that. But maybe there’s resources that you have, you got to get your IPhone, write something that you can shoot into your IPhone. Get something done, get some credit, get bored, get something investible, and expand your options. I really genuinely believe and I talk about this a lot in the Podcast. You’re going out and chances such a great way to kind of get your feet wet. Get some on-set experience, get some sort of practical experience. Get a lot of questions, like when I say, “Gee, write something that is micro-budget or low budget.” I get it. The big question from people is, “Gee, how do I know how much something is going to cost?” The way you’re going to know how much something is going to cost? Is by doing some short, a lot of it is common sense. But a lot of it is just going out there and doing it. The shorts and scene and how scenes are shot, and producing a short. Produce a five or ten minute short in your spare time. Write something, go out and produce it. There’s a list on “Craigslist” for a Cinematographer. Put an ad out on Craigslist for some actors. And do something? That’s how you’re going to learn. By producing something. Even a short, you got to learn. Gee, this scene is what I thought was so simple, these scenes were really tough. It was tough to find this very specific location. And it was tough to get actors to pull-off these types of jokes. And you’ll really start to understand how the mechanics of this works. And that will kind of benefit your writing. Aside from just getting some friends and gaining some vessel those of networking. Just seeing the practical side of production can really help. You as a writer. Anyway, taking a step back from what Allen did. I applaud him for what Allen did out there. And again, this producing this movie. Everybody was saying, Gee I really loved this movie, they liked the script. But, I can’t help ya, and so he didn’t just sit back and just wait for somebody to finally step up. He just went and stepped up himself. So really consider that as you are spending that time writing, maybe you could also be spending some time producing.
Anyway, that’s the show, thank you for listening.