Transcript coming soon.
(Typewriter keys tapping)
Ashely: Welcome to episode #84 of “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I’m Ashely Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger over at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing Producer and Actors – Damon & J.T. Alexander, who recently produced the independent crime thriller – “Ten Cent Pistol.” The guys raised the money for this movie, so we talked quite a bit about exactly how they went about doing it. So stay tuned for that.
You find this episode useful, please help me out by giving me a review on ITunes or leaving a comment on YouTube, or retweeting the Podcast on Twitter, or liking us on Facebook. These social media shares really do help spread the word about the Podcast, they are very much appreciated.
A couple of quick notes, the links or website I mention in the Podcast can be found on my blog or in the show notes. I also publish a transcript with every episode so if you rather read the show or look-up something later on. You can find all the Podcasts show notes at – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast, and then just look for the episode #84.
A couple of quick updates, I continue to build out SYS Script Library. Last week I added, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” “The Soprano’s – Pilot Script.” And “The Madman – Pilot Script.” These were some of these were sent in by Brooklyn Henderson, once again, thank you Brooklyn for sending me some scripts. You have a bunch of screenplays you don’t see listed in the library? Please do Email them to me. The SYS Script Library is completely free, all the scripts are in PDF format. So you can download and read them on whatever device you like to use. Just go to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/library.
Last week I published the new blog post called, “Screenwriting in Software.” In it I get a lot of questions about which screenwriting software you use? And this is a good post to give you some options. The URL is a bit unwieldy, so I will link to it from the show notes if you want to check that out?
I just want to mention two free webinar I’m doing on Wednesday August 12th. It’s called, “How to Effectively Market Your Screenplay and Sell It?” I’m going to go through all the various online channels that are available to screenwriters to help them market their scripts. And I’m going to give you my unfiltered opinion of each one. I get questions all the time, like, what is the Black List? And is it effective? Have you ever used Ink Tip? Which contest should I enter? I’ve tried pretty much every marketing channel available to sell screenwriters. I’m going to go, let me go through and give you my unfiltered opinion on each one. And tell you which ones work and which ones I don’t think do work. A lot of what I am going to say is as something I would never say in a public Podcast. Again, this webinar is completely free, don’t worry if you can’t make it to the live event. I will be recording this event, if you sign-up, I’ll get you a link to the recorded event after it happed. So, to sign-up just go to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/freewebinar and where free webinar is, all lower case and all one word, so as to just – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/freewebinar. Of course I will link you to the webinar in the show notes as well so you can follow and find it there.
A quick few words about what I’m working on, I’m about the last two weeks. My script, which I put on the Black List. It renewed on July 20th so I’ll keep it active until August 20th.
After last week’s episode published, I got a whole bunch of Emails and Tweets from people on all sorts of suggestions about it. How to sort of manage my Black List, listing, all those were very helpful, I really do appreciate it. I wish to thank those people that sent those in. I still just have those four industry downloads and none of those screen people have given me a rating. So my script still sits on the Black List, with a four and an eight. One thing that Franklin Letter mention when I interviewed him on the show. And someone actually tweeted this to me, as well last week. Is that the Black List has some sort of a list that they sent out along with a list of scripts they send out to their producer contacts. And what Franklin said on my show, and the person who tweeted this to me said the same thing. Or maybe he was getting it from my show? I don’t know if he has insider information for the Black List? But, the bottom line was, there seems to be this list that the Black List sends out and your script gets one rating of an eight. Which I don’t mind, I did. You will be included in this list. I would hope that when this list gets out, I’ll hope I’ll get much more downloads. So, I don’t know when that list will as publishers will or has? Maybe that’s why I got the four downloads went up? I did get them, I just not sure, but? I am, the other big suggestion was, that people tweeted in? That if you get a rating of two ratings that are very, very different? You get a free or discounted move on your next one. Franklin again, mentioned this on the Podcast. No body contacted me about this from the Black List, I got a four and an eight. That seems like pretty “T” divergent scores? So I think I would be eligible for this but I haven’t heard? But I think, someone mentioned, hey contact the Customer Service. So I think I’m going to do that? I would like to find out about list getting official answer about this list and getting an official answer about this? About divergent scores, do you get a free or a discounted read on your next one? So I will do that in hope for the next week, say contact that Customer Service. But in the meantime I’m just going to let the script ride. Hopefully I’ll get some more industry downloads.
So now let’s get into the main segment, today I’m interviewing Damon and J.T. Alexander, here is the interview. –
Ashely: Welcome Damon and J.T. to “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I really appreciate you guys coming on the show.
Damon &J.T.: How ya doing? Thanks for having us, man.
Ashley: So let’s begin to your latest film – “Ten Cent Pistol.” Which you guys acted in and produced. Maybe to start out with you can give us a quick pitch or a log-line of the film just in case people haven’t checked out the trailer yet. I’ll always link to the trailer in the show notes. But just for people who are coming into this cold, maybe you can just give us a log line for it?
Damon & J.T.: They are two career criminals who are, you know, up against it? It ties and it kind goes long and maybe involved. And they are both interested in the girls. They are both just kinda playful brothers. And you know, kind of a little surprised when we did that.
Ashley: Okay, perfect, perfect. So how did you guys get involved with it this project?
Damon & J.T.: The project came about a couple of years back, this all started at a Mets/Dodgers game believe it or not? We were sitting next to the writer of, “Broken Climate.” And we were surprised, Michael T. Martin was his name.
I said to my brother, “Ya know? Absolutely obviously these things come down to information?” And a couple of months later I said, “Damon, Maybe this guy could write us a short little film?” It was then called, “Brotherly Love.” And then one day we woke up and decided we could make “Brotherly Love” short, it would be a full feature. And then we went out and we got the financing for it. And then came “Ten Cent Pistol.” It actually all started at the next Dodger game believe it or not?
Ashley: Huh? Perfect I believe na, yeah, I believe it. That’s great, that’s a great story. So did you guys go out and actually shoot the short script that this guy wrote and that’s sort of how the inspiration to turn it into a feature? Or in just starting to produce a feature you decided, let’s just go ahead and do it? You’re doing it and producing a short you realized this? Go ahead.
Damon & J.T.: In about, I’m sorry, we shot a scene too, and in the region where we shot it was? He wanted to make sure that Michael could actually direct, because that was one of the deals. We weren’t actually sure he could do it? So, we, not only did he, you know, write it? He, we let him direct it. He shot a scene, we loved the way it came out. And we decided that, you know, let’s do it, you know what I mean? Who could do it with the original real brothers from writing the original characters we were familiar with. So, let’s do it.
Ashely: Yeah, yeah. So how involved would you got a place with the actual creation of the story idea? Since you guys are brothers, and wanted to be brothers in the movie. Did you go to him and say, “Listen, we want something we can do together.” Like what was your relationship with it? Sort of tell us, maybe just walk us through it, through that process of developing that script with this director?
Damon & J.T.: Yeah, I mean, what we did was, we obviously wanted him to write a piece for us and we want to do a revenge type of movie. And we ended up spending much, like we weren’t going to spend a lot of time moving around the set doing one-on-ones trying to find out some of the quirks in some of the real set-up that J.T. made and I would have to be between each other. Like a shared other images that I guess every family dynamic has some sort of competitive situation going on. And Michael kinda wanted to catch that. Talking to some of the real stuff we joked. We had it on some sort of personal level. And so, yeah it was interesting days, the amniotic stage we were involved in the beginning. And what we did was, we took a lot of information and then put it on paper and such. We drafted with these guys, we felt a draft started reading to see what he was doing with it? And a, that’s kinda how it happened.
Damon & J.T.: We, he shared with me earlier that, you know, most people are very surprised how we got it made? And made it so quickly, and you know, look I didn’t? At the end of the day you have to approach it, these things with crystal abandonment. They were, people don’t tell you, people don’t say you can’t do it. But people don’t say it’s impossible. Nah Sayers, they’re going to say all that shit. And at the end of the day if you believe in yourself and you go get your money, go get your financiers. Or you cut your deal, you don’t make your movie. You know, you make it happen. And now we get the blessings, so it’s blessings widely.
And I think, you know I tend to lean on, I like a lot of the old classic films, you know? I’m kind of a bow. I think it’s a little bit of surly a lot of good quality studios out there now a days. I know, I’m not a big fan of oldies from the popcorn movies. And long story short the cost of making the movie now a days is gone down. So, really I don’t want to see anybody that can do it. Anybody can do it if you have a camera, if you have no fear and you have actors. I encourage people to shoot their own stuff. Now, make your own movies.
Damon & J.T.: Because the time is, it’s never been better. Somebody with a five deal and an IPhone, I don’t care what the deal is? “Black Magic” or whatever, whatever it is? Or your camera is? You need a camera, you need a location, you don’t even need real actors, you know? And you got a movie, ya know? Hopefully the dialog is just enough to attract enough people to say the words. But, you know what I’m saying?
Ashley: A-huh. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So let’s dig in a little bit to the actual process of raising money. I mean, in my experience in my film business, my, it’s like 99.99999% of independent film is raising the money. Once you’ve done that, you’ve pretty much all set. So maybe we can dig into that. And you can kinda tell us just how you guys raised money in it? And maybe some of the lessons that you learned.
Damon & J.T.: The number one thing in raising money is your completely fourth rite and transparency to get it. To go and pitch an investor about making profit and a lot of profit in a movie. But, it’s the first time in doing so. And I don’t care if you’re a five times a director. If that’s your pitch your angle than your making a mistake. Because the box bottom line is, people that are wealthy don’t need you making money. They need to do something that’s they feel is interesting, entertaining, that likes a movie. If they make a profit that’s even better. But, you just, the biggest mistake that I find that some producers make? They keep talking about making money, making money, making money, making money with movies. The reality is, figuring out where you can make your film in a way that you can conservatively get your investor back in mind. And figure out a way you can have a shit load of funding during the process. Not only for yourself, but for your investor and firm and everybody else involved. If you’re doing that, than you know, you’re on the right path. For us personally, I mean, to relate to money is always the difficult thing. And you just have to be very frank with people. And you have to make sure that parts are done properly. And one of the things you want to do is? To make sure when you ask for the money you know the numbers you have to have. You don’t want to keep going back to people and saying, I need more, I need more, I need more, I need more. You know, that’s just not a good method of the process. So.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So, maybe you can dig into some of those specifics like you’re talking about basically, you’re pitching to some wealthy people. And I think, that’s great advice. I’ve seen these people pitching and they have all these things like, “Hey, look at the Blair Witch Project. It was made for $50,000.00 and made 50 million.” And those kinds of things, sort of business plans are absolutely ridiculous. And so I think you’re right, of taking a more honest approach is probably a smart angle.
And it’s a better story to tell, but. Maybe you can just dig in a little bit? How did you get some of those meetings with those wealthy people who potentially might want it maybe invest in something like a film?
Damon & J.T.: Well, my background is, I do raise money, and I have raised plenty of wealth from real estate transactions, and taxes and these publically traded companies. And so I’m kinda in a, you know, I kinda know a lot of people that are in that passage. The old scenario thing that you’re who you surround yourself with. It’s true and it always has been true. And that if you’re finding yourself with people that are struggling. The chances are that you’re probably struggling. If you’re surrounding yourself with people who are not struggling, your chances are if you’re struggling you may not struggle for that much longer. Does that make sense?
Ashley: Yeah, sure, sure.
Damon & J.T.: So, the message is, don’t talk to a wealthy investor about making money and film. Take the “Blair Witch Project.” Take everything else that’s an anomalies off the table. Because the keepers of that, it makes no sense. And what they do is, equate it through buying a stock, like “Netflix” trading these stocks that are trading for a seriously high bid, it’s no different. And what you’re after, what you’re doing is? If you’re pitching an investor off of making money off of a movie, forget it. They can make money and have a lot of working control dong something else, I can vouch for that. Now if you’re pitching an investor or somebody that listens a film lasts forever, it stays around forever, it’s something that you can collect and you’ll have for a lot. Making film is like a piece of art. It’s a different situation. You own it, you have it forever, it lives forever. You can go back to it when you’re lonely, or when you want to be reminded. You know what I’m saying?
Ashley: A-huh, yeah, yeah.
Damon & J.T.: It happens to make, if it happens to make the money, great, it makes some money. It, you know, if you can get your investor even. I mean, you have a fun time, you have a good experience, they end up with something that will last forever that’s meaningful, and that’s important. I also suggest, that, you know, again depending on who the investor is? You have to know your investors. You have to know what makes that person tick. You know what’s important to them. You need to be your doctor of film making. Because you need to know how to serve that person appropriately.
Damon & J.T.: So that should mean, you should bring the producer closer to the production and have him involved. And have them, you know, I’m not saying make them a directorial choice. But have them involved in the process. Or you make a situation where it’s in your best interest to have the investor completely off the deal. As far as the day-to-day operations. But, my number one advice is, you have to know your investors. You have to know what their expectation is. You have to check your list of expectations. You’ve got to get rid of your “Blair Witch Project.” Expectations and all that other stuff. Because for every “Blair Witch” there’s, you know, five thousand movies that are close. And that’s just the reality.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So maybe just quickly you can kind of just tell us? What are these meetings look like? Are they one-on-one meetings, are they a group of people for you to sit down with and pitch to? And what do you bring to these meetings? Do you even bother with a business plan, or is it about getting in front of the room and kind of telling a story?
Damon & J.T.: Well, you, it’s all three. I was always taught mentally one-on-one whether you are pitching making a movie or whatever, look your best. I guess you can do that professionally. I suggest your shoes are shined, I don’t care if you put on a coat suit, but you better look like your put together, that the first thing. I think you get rid of, do you think you do the ritzy of the Ritz when you make 50 million dollars and your name is Brad Radner or whatever it is? So don’t act like you’ve already made it, you know? Okay, that’s the first thing.
The second thing is, yeah bring some business plans, I mean we tell them that we’ve done conversations of, this is what we want to do, what do you think? We’ve raised money on either way, you know. We’ve raised money at coffee shops, I’ve raised money in group presentations, I’ve raised money sitting in the front room of my house. It depends on who it is? The bottom line is, the only way you’re going to get money is you have to constantly be at them for it. This isn’t you only have one meeting and you ask for the money one time and you’re going to get it. You’re going to have another meeting, then after the money, hundreds of times and then two of those people will give it to you. Does that make sense?
Ashley: Yeah, it does, that’s sound advice for sure. So maybe to wrap up you can just tell us where is “Ten Cent Pistol.” Going to be released and when will it hit Video on Demand?
Damon & J.T.: It’s going to hit Video on Demand on July 24th it’s going to be in theaters in LA in North LA July 24th. It’s going to be on all platforms – ITunes, Netflix, Hulu, Flume, it’s going to be on HDMember first. We’re going live baby, we’re going wild, and a.
Damon & J.T.: We’re looking forward to it. Have you ever been to or had a chance to see the film?
Ashley: I did, I watched it a couple of nights ago. I had, thought it was very entertaining. It was well done, I mean, the production value was great. The acting, both you guys are dedicated and great job with it.
Damon & J.T.: Thank you, thank you man we appreciate it.
Ashley: Sure, sure. So the final question is, I’m sorry go ahead?
Damon & J.T.: Oh, go ahead, I’m sorry.
Ashley: I’m just. On the final question I’d just like to just ask people? How can people follow you and kind of keep up with what you’re doing? If you’re on Twitter, maybe mention your Twitter handle. If you’re on Facebook mention to your Facebook page or whatever? If you are comfortable sharing?
Damon & J.T.: Well, you can follow what’s on our Facebook page? It’s Damon Alexander and J.T. Alexander. We also have a Route 17 entertainment page wealth that they can like. And they can check out other common projects that we’re doing there as well.
Ashley: Perfect, perfect.
Damon & J.T.: We don’t update Twitter, tweeter or whatever and all that kinda stuff. You can probably do a better job with who’s in Twitter and all that.
Ashely: Yeah, yeah, so. Okay perfect, perfect. Well this has been interesting just interviewing some great advice for people that are looking to raise funding. So I appreciate you coming on and talking about it with me today.
Damon & J.T.: You got it man. You got it man, thanks.
Ashley: Thank you.
Damon & J.T.: Bye.
Ashley: A quick plug for this way screenwriting now service. It’s a real economical way to get a high quality professional evaluation of your screenplay. When you buy a three-pack get an extra for $67.00 per script for future films and just $55.00 for tele-plays. All the readers have professional experience reading for studios, production companies, contests, and agencies. You can be assured buy and treatments on our website. You can pick the reader who you think is the best fit for your script. Turn-around-time is usually just a few days. But, rarely more than a week. The readers will evaluate and rate your script on six key factors.
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We also will write a script log-line synapsis of your script. That service added onto your analysis. And we’ll also now evaluate your treatment. I had a few people ask me this. They had a five, ten or even a fifteen or twenty page treatment. And they wanted to know if we could evaluate that? Basically the means are the same criteria we use for our feature films. And of course we can do that as well. As a bonus, if your script gets a “Recommend” from a reader, you get a free Email and fax blast to my listing of industry contacts. This is the exact same blast I use myself for my own scripts. And 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 for material. So if you want a professional evaluation of your screenplay at a very reasonable price, check out – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/consultants.
In the next episode of the Podcast, I’m going to be interviewing – Keith Miller, who wrote and directed, “Urban Crime Drama, Five Star” It’s an excellent example of a high quality, low-budget independent film. He used a lot of actors. There does seem to be a ton of acting experience, but he got some great performances out of them. We talk about that, we talk about how he got this movie off the ground. We talk about writing of the script. So if you want to do one of these really low-budget independent films? I think this is a great template. So keep an eye out for that episode next week.
Just a quick note, last week I mentioned that I would be interviewing Tony Ellupe? On this week’s show. Obviously I’m, I got that switched around. I’m going to have him on the September 7th episode. I switched the schedule around a little bit so that the interviews could be better timed with the release of the films that the film makers are on promoting. So, if you’re wondering what happened to that interview? It’s in the can and it’s going to be published on September 7th. So keep an eye out for that episode in a few weeks.
To wrap things up I just want to touch on something from today’s interview with Damon and J.T. Alexander. Damon talked about how he worked in financing industry. So he kind of had contacts he could go to, to raise money for this film. And it’s not just the contacts either. But he had the sales guilt to be able to get in a room and talk to these people. And have them talking them into investing in feature film. He gave some great tips on how to go about negotiating that and how to frame that sales pitch. I think there’s an excellent tips if that’s your strategy? I normally get off some Emails and Tweets from people saying, but don’t have job that could help raise money for a movie. But that to me begs a question, why not? Why don’t you have a job that could help with a screen write and a career? Is there a day job that can help you with your passion for screenwriting? And I’m not just talking about an obvious screen production assistant job in Hollywood either. I know that a lot of people out there, they can’t move to Hollywood, they live way somewhere outside of Los Angles and that’s totally fine. Since that there’s much more creative energy less obvious so we should see this. A job a day. Damon and J.T. talked about finance, that was not specifically Los Angles. So there is one job that will probably be available in virtually every large city. And some sort of finance job, where you try to talk people into investing in mutual fund or getting people to invest in a retirement fund. Those jobs are everywhere. Where there’s a city there’s going to be investment sales jobs. So, maybe think about that, its job you could get and maybe it’s going to potentially help you meet people that have the affordable income that might help you raise the money for your feature future film.
A couple of weeks ago I had David Garret on the Podcast, he is a lawyer and a screenwriter and he explained in great detail. How his being a lawyer helped, has really helped him with his screenwriting career.
If David can turn a career as a lawyer into a launching pad for screenwriting. You can probably do something similar, you just have to be creative. Any sales or marketing job can help you with your screenwriting career. See if you can find a tele-marketing job in your small town or small city. No matter how bad this job is, if you can master phone, cold-call on phone sales? That can help you immensely, with cold calling production companies. I’ve said this on the Podcast many, many times in the past. Cold calling production companies is incredibly difficult. Because it’s you’re confronting an actual live person. But I’ve seen it work. I’ve talked to people that have made it work. It’s a great way of doing it, but you have to be good. You have to be still, and one of the ways you can get those stills is just by getting a low-level tele-marketing job. Those are really brutal jobs, they hang up on you, but if you can master that? Cold calling people and selling them something over the phone, that’s a great skill that you can very, very easily use to sell your screenplay, calling production companies. It’s very easy to apply to phone numbers on DVPro, and just Googling the company as well. The website, make a list of companies you can start cold calling. You can start meeting people just through the phone and networking through the phone if you have those skills. You know what? Any type of job doing door-to-door sales, again, these are low-level jobs and I know they can be brutal. I saw an entrepreneurial Podcast and I can’t remember the business, but it was one of those typical door-to-door sales jobs. I guess because this entrepreneur had done that earlier in his career and there was some sort of statistic, if you can master door-to-door sales? Like your chances of success in life are almost 100%. Like literally, because it’s such a brutal job that if you can get good at it? You have the persistence to stick to it. You’ll almost be assured that you will be successful in something else. And I would say, that’s a great job to have if you are a wanna be screenwriter. Getting those door-to-door sales skills. Again, knocking on someone’s door, a random person, a stranger. You just knock on the door and pitch them some, you know, product they care little about? You can master that you can learn how to pitch it, your screenplays. Learn how to talk to people that you don’t know. Get them to be excited about products. And those are great skills to have. And those are jobs that are just virtually in any, even semi-urban area in the world. There will always be door-to-door sales jobs. There’s going to be some shelves, even in a show room in a Ford when they have people come in. Even in a Ford the sales is a marketing job. I don’t care, I think it would be a great benefit to anyone who wants to be a screenwriter. And I’m not a distraction service here. I mean, if you can just get a career. You need to think about the skills you have. How can you take those skills and use them to further your screenwriting career. Using myself as an example, in the late ‘90’s I got a job working for a tech. company where I learned some programming. And that’s when I’m kinda doing the selling. I mean, that’s a prime example, meeting tons of people, doing these Podcasts, I’m meeting tons of other screenwriters. I’m networking with, you know, I interviewed Franklin Lennard and the guys from Ink Tip. It’s like starting to get to know these people and I’m taking those technical skills that I have and put those networking skills. Running blogs, running websites, marketing skills, I’m taking it, putting it and selling a screenplay. Which is having a nice residual effect on my screenwriting career. It’s opening doors as a screenwriter as well. So think about what skills you have? And think about what you’ve done a job could be that could really enhance those opportunities and those skills. I think I pretty much guarantee you have, there is some job that would be done official screenwriting in your small town. Go out and get that job. And leverage that time all you’re going to spend. Your day job, you’re going to spend eight hours, nine hours, and ten hours a day doing it. Leverage that time, make sure that time is spent.
At least a little bit of it, a least a little bit of those skills. It’s not going to be super-efficient. I don’t know, some job is going to be doing part “A” then doing part “B” but maybe part “B” could help you with your screen author. And maybe part “B” is only two hours a day? You know, leverage that time, use that time wisely. Use your day job and think about what your ultimate goals are? Just while you’re writing think about what your skill sets are? That’s alright, see if you can find a job that really suits your skills and could also potentially help your screenwriting career both. Don’t be the pessimist who writes in trying to explain to me why you can’t get a better job. Or why Damon was luck, or why does the situation have to be so much tougher than everybody else’s. Don’t waste your time writing it, an Email. Spend it, using your energy trying to think about how you can plan a career. And how you can use your skills and how you can use your current situation to your advantage, not to your detriment.
Anyway, that’s the show, thank you for listening.