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SYS Podcast Episode 125: Writer / Director / Producer Daniel Zirilli Talks About His New Action Film Crossing Point (transcript)

This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 125: Writer / Director / Producer Daniel Zirilli Talks About His New Action Film Crossing Point.


(Typewriter Keys Tapping)

 

Ashley:  Welcome to episode #125 of the “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, Screenwriter and Blogger over at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing Writer/Director and Producer – Daniel Zirilli. Look him up on IMDb if you haven’t already done so already. He’s done more than ten movies in the last five years. He’s very open to reading new material from new writers. In fact, he gives out his Email address on the show. And invites writers to submit to him. So, stay tuned for that.

If you find this episode valuable, please help me out by giving me a review in 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 word out there about the Podcast. And are very much appreciated.

Any websites or links that I mention in the Podcast. Can be found on my blog or in the show notes. I also publish a transcript with every episode, in case you would rather read the show, or look up something else later on? You can find all the Podcast episode show notes at – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast. And then just look for episode #125.

I just want to mention a free webinar that I’m doing on Wednesday June 8th 2016 at 10:00a.m. It’s called, “How to Effectively Market Your Screenplay and Sell it.’ I’m going to go through all of the various online channels that are available to screenwriters. And give you my unfiltered opinion of them. I get questions all the time, like, does the “Black List” work? Or does “Ink Tip” work? Or which contest should I enter? I’ve tried pretty much every marketing channel available to screenwriters. And I’m going to share my experiences with them. Again, this webinar is completely free. Don’t worry if you can’t make the live event? I’ll be recording this event. So, if you see a sign-up, you’ll get a link to the recorded event after it happens. To sign-up, just go to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/freewebinar. Again, that’s – www.sellinghyourscreenplay.com/freewebinar. I will of course link to in the show notes. Also, if you are already on my Email list, you don’t need to sign-up again. Anyone on my Email list already will be getting the information so they can attend this free webinar as well.

A quick few words about what I am working on this week? Probably no surprise, you’ve been listening to this Podcast for the last couple of months. Once again, the main thing I’m doing, is pre-production for my crime action thriller script “The Pinch.” I ran my first big casting session last week. Trying to find the two leads for the film. I got a lot of great actors auditioning. So, that’s going very well. I feel like a got a lot of good choices. I’m going to start doing some “Call-Backs” over the next couple of weeks. Once I get these two leads cast. I think the other casting should go and fall into place. All the other parts are like, you know, maybe three days of filming/ four days of filming, one day of filming. So, all the other parts are small. But these two leads, I pretty much need all, almost every single day of filming. So, I want to get them cast as, so I can get the past possible I can get into the spots. And then I will start to cast the other roles as well. There are a lot of parallels between actors and writers. It’s fascinating to just watch this sort of play out.

And just see dozens of actors just all fighting for a role in this micro-budget film. With writers, you know, it’s not dissimilar, we’re all fighting for the attention of producers who were making films, low-budget films. So, you know, we’re trying to do, the actors are trying to do casting on the same budget. They are showing up by the dozens. And coming in really reading the material, and ultimately it’s ultimately, I look at these actors. And you know, there’s a lot of actors, we probably read, let’s say 70 actors. And you know, at least probably ten of them seemed like really good actors. That they could do the part. So, maybe five people per each role. And so, then you start to try and figure out, who was the best person? Because, you know, out of that 70 people. A solid you know, ten of them were good, good solid actors. How do you figure out, how do you just decide, who you are going to cast? And a lot of it starts to trickle down to some of the other things besides just the acting. I mean, they all did a great, performance with these scenes. And so, a lot of it starts to become the other things, like: you know, their personality, did they seem cool with the fact that it’s going to be a micro-budget film. I mean, there’s going to be some road bumps, some speed bumps and some. Just things are not going to go as smoothly as possible. We don’t have unlimited funds. So, you know, at least we have, at often times throw money at a problem to get it fixed. We’re not going to have that luxury. So, you know, I’ve got to get actors that are kind of okay with that. And okay working in an environment that may have a few bumps here and there. So, that’s a big thing, you know. I’m trying to find actors that are easy to work with. that take direction, and all of these other things start to play in. To once you get to the point where you have a bunch of actors who like. Again, there’s some parallels there with screenwriting. I’m not exactly sure, since I have not really been on the producer’s side of this equation? As far as getting scripts, I’m obviously a writer, so I’m setting my stuff out. But, I’ve never been a producer accepting material. But, I wonder what it looks like from the producer’s end? Because now, I kind of know from the producer/actor stand point. I can kinda know what that looks like. And I just can’t help but think that, you know, a lot of these actors will be a whole lot better off, going out and producing something themselves. And putting themselves into the lead role. Because as I said, a lot of these actors were very good. You know, you think about just the amount of effort and energy, you prepare for this things. You have to drive down there, you take a few hours to go down there and audition. And you add up all that time and money. And I wonder if maybe they couldn’t just shoot something themselves? Something like a micro-budget film themselves? If that would be a better use of resources? And again, I throw that out there to writers as well. I wonder if writers would be better off spent just going out there and producing stuff.

Anyways, I’m slowing getting stuff, the logistical stuff worked out as well. I will continue to do casting over the next couple of weeks. So, I will hopefully have those two leads cast here say, in the next two or three weeks.

I’ve been trying to figure out the insurance issues on the production. It’s a bit complicated. I’ve been getting some quotes on insurance. And the quotes are kind of all over the map? And now I’m starting to understand why? What I’m finding is that, you know, like any insurance policy. Simply they can make them as almost cheap as you want. But then they don’t really cover much of anything. So, there’s two things that you’re getting insurance for on a feature film like this. Number one, is just like property, damage and you know, if a PA is in the middle of the day driving his car, the insurance will cover that. But you know, on set, it’s someone breaks, if something breaks on location. You know, maybe a window gets broken and busted, or if the camera gets broken? Really any kind of stuff like that. That’s one set of insurance, as I said, it’s property damage, and that’s fairly inexpensive. I’ve got quotes on that, that are less than $500.00 for the whole production. So, that’s fairly inexpensive. You know, the equipment that we are using on this production is not super expensive. We’re not using hundreds of thousands of dollars-worth of equipment. I think the camera is worth, you know, $5000.00-$6.000.00. You know, with the light packet and stuff. But all total, the total value of this stuff is probably maybe – $10,000.00 or $20,000.00 worth of equipment. So, there’s not a huge amount of equipment we are using. And therefore, for that insurance is fairly inexpensive. But the big thing about the property insurance, is you need it to rent stuff. If you go to a rental house here in L.A. they are going to want to see that. That paperwork that you actually do have insurance, just in case any of the stuff you rent gets broken. They want to make sure they get their stuff back, or if they don’t get it back? At least have an insurance claim to go after. So, you need that insurance claim, and as I said, this is pretty inexpensive to get that. So, that’s not a problem, but bigger issues is the workers comp. insurance. And here in California, I mean, I’m not really sure about the rest of the country? But here in California, you are definitely supposed to have it, or something like that. That quote is definitely more expensive. And again, it’s kinda like all over the map and you know, there’s different levels, there’s different ranges of how much it is? But when you really need that, for when someone gets hurt obviously. If somebody actually does accidentally gets hurt on set, you can and want to make sure your covered. You know, you cross your fingers, hope that nobody gets hurt. But, if something does happen to someone, you want to make sure you have the insurance. So that, you know, they’re covered. Their medical bills and whatever, you know, lost wages and if they can’t work for a while. You want to make sure you have insurance to cover that. So, that’s the quote I’m trying to get now. And as I said, it’s complicated. Because it’s not always an apples to apples comparison. So, anyway, that’s one of the things that I’m working on. I hope to kinda get all this stuff worked out in the next couple of weeks.

I have four locations in this script. I’m, I’ve got one location locked. So that’s great, I’ve got to get three more locations on. I’ve got good leads on them, the other two locations. And so, I’ll hopefully have those locked in the next week or so? So, that will give me three of my four locations. And then the other location is the house, which is old, probably half or maybe it’ll be a little more than half of it. Or shooting I’m figure out right now, eight shooting days. I actually did hire a first AD he’s actually breaking up the script. So, hopefully by next week on the Podcast I will have an actual schedule firm from my first AD. And I will know more precisely. But just from my glancing at the script, I don’t think I’m going to need his house for eight days. But I’m kinda going to punt a little bit on that and you know, wait until maybe a week or two out before filming. Just go make some offers to people that are selling it, renting a house or selling a house. And see if I can’t find something. One that hasn’t rented it out just yet, and say, “Oh, okay, fine I’ll take a thousand bucks for it for the eight days.” So, you know, that’s kind of what I’m waiting to see. I do have a couple of back-up plans. My wife’s grandfather lives fairly close by, he has a house that we could potentially use. And worse case, scenario too, we could have been potentially. My house is too out of L.A. so there is a couple of down sides to it. But if worse comes to worse? And I’m not able to find another house. I can actually use my house. So that’s kinda making sure, I do have locations that give me the confidence to wait till maybe a week or two before the production to try and find the house. As long as I know I have a couple of them as back-ups that will work. Then you know, I’m not going to be too stressed out about it. If I don’t find anything that will, I’ll just have to use my house if worse comes to worse. But, a that’s my plan, as I said. Just still plugging away at finding locations. Going up and doing some casting sessions. And all the other things, doing a lot of Emails with various other crew members positions. Getting those, as I said, I did hire my first AD. I guess I hired him actually a couple of weeks ago, but I just sent him the script this week. And so, that’s why he’s going to start breaking that down. So, anyways, things are moving along nicely. Basically I’ve got a little less than two months now to get this thing prepped. We’re starting July 9th, so that’s our sort of “Drop Dead.” We begin shooting date. So, anyways, that’s what I’m working on slowly but surely I’m getting this together.

So, now let’s get into the main segment. Today, I’m interviewing, Writer/Director/Producer –  Daniel Zirilli here is the interview.

 

[11:11]

 

Ashley:  Welcome Daniel to the “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast” I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.

 

Daniel:  Oh, sure, thanks for having me.

 

Ashley:  So, to start out, maybe you could just give us a quick overview of your background in the entertainment industry. Just how you broke in and maybe talk a little bit about how you got some of your first professional jobs?

 

Daniel:  Yeah, no problem. I grew up in Lahoya, San Diego California, and I grew-up and went to Pepperdine and I thought I was just going to be a lawyer. And then I started writing screenplays. I took screenwriting classes at Pepperdine. And I loved it, fortunately I ended up graduating a Switch Communication/Creative Writing. The first screenplay I ever wrote got me a job on an often closed studio in find a screenplay. And that got me entry into a position where I worked my way from the bottom.

 

Ashley:  Okay, okay. Perfect, perfect. And maybe talk about that first sale a little bit. How did you find the buyers for that script?

 

Daniel:  Well you know, when I was at Pepperdine, I started directing music videos, and working on my own stuff that I was shooting. This company called, “Windmill Entertainment Everytime.” They did music videos as well. And that’s how I started connecting with them, and they read my first screenplay, it wasn’t a sale. But it got me that first job, and then about a decade directing music videos. I directed about 250 music videos, and about 100 rock videos as well. And started working with the “Rolling Stones.” And doing documentaries for Michael Jackson. Then after spending that much time in the music videos and then started telling long form stories. Like long full on feature films. Then my first movie called, “Winner Takes All.” And that had a bunch of rappers in it. My new video days were that type of sales, more pleasant harmonies, I did work at AMG remind me rappers that were there every time. That was my first script that I co-wrote and directed called, “My First Solomon.” From there I just did, I’d written about 25 screenplays, and maybe ten of them had been made. And yeah, that’s kinda like I worked my way up production from the bottom. And then started my own club to highlight some of my writing.

 

Ashley:  Yeah, yeah, and maybe we could back-up even just a little bit further. So, how did you get those first music videos? Were they just like, you know, you out hustling local bands shooting on no budget? You can talk about some of those first videos that you started doing and found your way.

 

Daniel:  Sure, very early on, I realized that if you not what you talk about, but what you could prove on your reels. So, I started shooting in the first music video, that I directed actually. I used $800.00 of actually my own money. And I shot in 35mm. And filmed enough I developed a song. And then a producer produced a song, I’m actually live, it’s true. I used to sit, when I was younger. And so, I shot that in a couple of labels it was on. I remember it was on a Friday something like that, I finished it. And edited it, my friend David’s in his garage. I directed it, and it was my song, I kind of did something. And by sundown I had a record company. Monday morning they hired me, for $10,000.00 to direct a music video for them. They didn’t want to sign me as an artist. But, it turned out weird, but pretty cool. And so, I did a bunch of ten, fifteen, twenty-five, music videos. And then I started, I can only talk about it now actually. Because I started doing documentaries for Michael Jackson dances. And he hired me to photograph these poppers, lockers and break dancers. And they paid me to establish these I was producing these for Michael Jackson. Had me direct these surreal documentaries. The Rolling Stones caught wind of that. And I did a test shoot for a video lounge CD-ROM which was huge in the ‘90’s, cutting edge video. At the time, David, said, “Yo.” But then at the time I had his video in the garage. From there, I ended up producing five videos shoots with the Rolling Stones. And did the whole “Stones Video Lounge.” So, I worked with Mick Jagger during that. So, after two years I formed my own company. “Pop Art Syntax” in 1990. Which came from Pepperdine. I was working for Rolling Stones and others, including the Jacksons. And was like, okay, this is working out pretty well.

 

Ashley:  Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay, that’s a great story, very inspiring. So, let’s dig into “Crossing Point.” Maybe to start out you can give us a quick pitch or a log-line. Just kinda tell us what the film’s about? For people who haven’t seen it yet?

 

Daniel:  Yeah. So, “Crossing Point” is about a character who goes down, crosses over into Mexico and Baja with his girlfriend. And she’s half Latino and she gets kidnapped. And we are to basically a phone call from a car phone, that he’s got 24 hours, 14 hours to get across the border with the backpack full of illegal drugs or they’re going to kill his girlfriend. So, it’s this kind of gritty crime drama. Or action film, where a guy’s racing against time to save his girlfriend. And I didn’t make it easy on production. Because we move constantly feel basically there is tons ofs locations. And characters are constantly on the move. And you know, I think it’s a hard edge drama that’s very realistic. A, I spent, down in Mexico, 50 times. Like I said, I grew up in Lahoya. So, not very far away. I was very interested in making him real and a realistic movie. There’s Mexico and Baha, which out of the two. The detective in Tijuana plays one of the heroes. So, it’s not just a location film. And a bad Latino character. Whatever it’s fellows progress is Tijuana police track her down and try and help this guy from the sidelines. He makes it there across the border.

 

Ashley:  Yeah, yeah. So, let’s dig into this a little bit, as far as the script and screenplay goes. How did you find this screenplay? Did you know these writers from beforehand? Maybe just tell us sort of exactly how you found it?

 

Daniel:  Yeah. So, Shawn Loche, the, incidentally. He’s kind of the lead character, who co-wrote the screenplay. He approached me, the director of the movie. And there, in the beginning, I got non-reality going on, on the screenplay. Since I had spent so much time in Mexico. And sort of wrapped the screen credibility, I wanted to make sure the script was extremely legit as well. You know, as far as, I did a polish and rewrite on this. Then hired the director, and did a polish on the screenplay. Which I did, and from there, you know, we had a couple of different offers to produce the movie. You know, Atlanta, and other places, they’re depending on how much? Hell no! Movies can’t be made in Atlanta. It needs to be gritty Baja Mexico, Tijuana, on a script. And part of it has been positive about the movie, is that it is very legit. It is very super incredible and it works for Hollywood I believe. So, normally the development costs. It’s too shook up, the two sides of it, tried to make it realistic and compelling. And so, you know, again I am the writer as well so, if there is a lack of screenplay that I get attached to, not always. It’s good, a lot of it, which I had done. My career has been providing, and so, that’s how it all came together.

 

Ashley:  Yeah, yeah. Okay, so you said, he approached you about this project. What exactly does that mean? You know, he cold called your office, he was a friend of a friend? What was it, so I am just kind of getting at that in a sense that, what other writers can do to approach producers and directors like you? So??

 

Daniel:  Absolutely. Well, one thing I said, it that I am very, very opened to leading synapsis and pitches, and film scripts. I get sent probably at least, I don’t know? 30 pitches a month? And I’ll have enough a day. For screenplays, I’ll usually read a page, or paragraph or something? Then if I like it, I’ll request a script. Primarily, I’m going through action right now, it’s my genre that I am focused on. But in this case, I’m with another producer, who knew my work, who knew me. Introduced me to Shawn, when Shawn and I hit it off right away. On a plane, I took him down there for a location peer out. So, in terms of like breaking in? And then I’m very much a “Do it yourself” kinda guy. I’ve never really had a real manager? I didn’t know that kind of person in Hollywood when I started. I thank a good lawyer for stepping up. On it so far made it in Hollywood. I never really thought about it? When a director writes it. Growing-up I did write a lot. So, I kinda put myself out there, looking for screenplays. And you know, if anyone has any and wants to send them? You have a website, or?

 

Ashley:  Yeah, no. We’ll definitely, no, no, yeah, at the end. Now, you may regret doing it. But, yeah at the end I’ll definitely wrap all that stuff up. And that will be my final question? You give out your contact information. I’m curious, one thing I get a lot of, from writers. Is, they want to direct their script, or maybe they’re an actor and want to star in their script. And I’m always leery to recommend such a thing. Because I think that will hurt their chances of actually selling the script. And how did that play into this particular. I mean, he came into you with this project. Obviously he wasn’t an actor who wanted to star in it? Did that, did you have to look at his, is it real. Did you have to make sure he had the acting chops. Did that give you some pause to, or concern when you were first introduced to him?

 

Daniel:  Yeah, I totally understand that, and I believe you’re right. You know, 95% of the time, Shawn, actually didn’t want to star in it originally. And he started looking at it with other people in shock and a great look. He had a strong, he did stuff like that. He had done a 17-year old small action thing. I actually really had to convince him to do it. I knew right away he could play the role maybe. Because he had covered it in the script, you know, in kind of a character very similar to him. The good looking guy, with acting chops, he had a bit of an accent that we worked around a bit. He’s from Europe. But, you know, I believe in the lead from the beginning. So, we did look at other names and other people. And none of those were a big name actor, that’s right, he can play the lead. And we surrounded him as you know. See he was a good actor, you know, Tom Sizemore, and you know, guys like that. But, a, and so I convinced him to do it. So it wasn’t, I wasn’t forced or pressured at all. Something that I came to truly. The realization that Shewn was the right guy for the role. And I’m glad I made that choice, and he agreed. It wasn’t easy to do, just play the role. You know you love it for yourself, but I know, I can direct and guide you through this role, I can see it, and I can keep it excellent. But he has acting chops, you know, he’s sympathetic and he cares and everything. I know that sounded like there are excellent actors all around. But I’m glad we stuck with him.

 

Ashley:  Yeah, yeah. So, I’m curious, and you kinda were hinting at it just a moment ago? Saying, you’re kinda looking for action scripts. And this is a very commercial high concept premise. And so I wonder, sort of, how much does that play into you’re taking on a project? Obviously there are some projects that are going to be more commercially viable. You must sometimes read scripts that you really like? But you don’t think necessarily that they might get financed. So, maybe talk about sort of the practicality of what you’re looking for and what you think is actually selling?

 

Daniel:  Absolutely. So, I did about four or five years ago. I sort of did this play where the lines were drawn. Along what seems to me, do you want to view. Do you want to come to USC and meet stars and make action movies? We’ll give you XYZ budget. And so, what I did was, I came up with a subject, between me and 20 writers. We pitched ten of them, we ended up getting commissioned to write five screenplays, and we made four out of five of those movies. I drafted two of them, and the director finished the other two of them. Including the and so that process of going through sometimes alliances. I mean, you sort of search for action stars will be in the movie with the sort of online kind of presence. With people that cement action thriller. I kinda focus on action for about the last five years. You see the structure of the action movies. I mean, I’m always looking for you know, good concepts. That have eight to ten action sequences in it. You know, kind of good story structure, how I write screenplays and a good hook. Now, right now the kind of movie, the straight movie that may have a little bit of an out look to me? Rising movies that are on the market right now, kind of a good genre right now. I do like the sort of taking the, “Bourne Supremacy” kind of movie star of acting action movies. Where it has it’s strong dramatic actor in the lead that goes above the action areas. So, the other path that somebody picks that gives you something. I can tell by the synapsis usually, if it’s something I’m interested in. It’s because my focus has been narrow. I’ve got a lot of specific movies. I have done seven or eight movies in the last two years. In fact, three movies that I have directed are all coming out within two months of each other, “Crossing Point” and “Time Rushing.” It should be another action movie. “Timing” I should have another movie, so, called, “The Agent Connection I directed and co-wrote. But, Tom Sizemore got into it. So, you got to develop a screenplay, which is a huge reason why I am giving up, and my focus on action; good story, good drama. And in my narrow thinking trying to get back to it. Things that are out of my genre. Something out of my genre would produce money out of it, or whatever. In terms of what I directed, very focused on a very specific type of action movie. You know, the action script. And when writers submit something to me, or if it’s close? And I think it’s good, than sometime we’ll get together. So, the whole, you know, you’re excited about what we do. Then I’ll show you what we do, constantly look for I guess? You write a really solid letter, a really good hook for your screenplay. Then dig those hooks into development, and if we’re close? Then we’re 80% there. You know, I’ll cover the last 20% to make it something that’s viable. Something that I want to direct and produce. And then if it’s 50% there? Then we have some school to come back to work on something else. But, we, I can’t take something that’s 20 airlines that’s 80 yards. I need a screenplay to be 80% there. And I don’t mind helping develop that last 20%.

 

Ashley:  Yeah, yeah. Now, are there some common problems you see, like, let’s say they’ve made it through the editing process. Someone pitches you something that it sounds like something that you might, that you would be interested in pursuing. And then you get the script and you say, “Eh, this is only as, you say, 20% or 15% there.” Are there common reasons why that script is only 20% or 15% there? One issue you just said, that I can potentially see through. For instance is, you said, 8 to 10 action scenes. Some are fighters are not quite clear, about all action movies must have ten action sequences in it. But maybe there’s just some common problems that you see in scripts that are only 20% rating, or 50% there?

 

Daniel:  Yeah, for sure. The one thing I think a lot of writers do is? They put way too many characters. Especially sort of the whole action range. You know, like you can hand me one old man to another. Great books, you write a long, you cut them down and you make them as tight as possible and with a whole story, which works. I think a lot of others try stories, and never quite get a movie right. You know, a talent, they have enough action scenes. At least 300 people on elephants jumble and stuff, come on! You see how scenes have gotten? 50% of the script, and then you put 300 people on elephants in a war. That just doesn’t make any sense? I think focusing on the storyline. Making characters who you don’t need characters. You need two nice solid leads, you know, creating good characters and relationships. You know, you have to be a little bit possible to have it. You have to have some redeeming qualities. Than you have to focus on them. So, I would say, you know, have a clear mind. Not bogged down with unnecessary characters. Having good structure, you know like I said, eight to ten action sequences. Both action sequences can be, you know,

hand-to-hand combat, gun plays, you know, hard core, you know, action movies, not talking heads. Like I said, it’s not talking heads. I really love it when I got em’ I feel like the producers, you know? I don’t, I’m not surprised, you know, if you keep it in a warehouse in one location? I don’t know, I don’t want that kind of a screenplay. There are some examples of ways the great scripts are basically one of. For the most part I want one of a wide variety of locations, I want to keep it moving, I want a goddess, and fresh, and not cliché, you know. You know, so long cliché, look at it, figure out a way to break down the cliché and put another twist on it. You know, you have to have for me, one big hook. You know, something, original. There’s gotta be some kind of structure to put together. You know, it hard to do a regular block of regular writing. And done lots of different similarities. But, have something fresh that stands out and hooks. And then, like I said, don’t bog it down with unnecessary characters and too much known flack, tracks, and flash forwards and things like that. I’ve gotten involved in a lot of films with directors that have flash backs and stuff, fast forwards. And for me the flash back has to have or be twenty times more important than the normal scenes to put it in there. Like, maybe the one flash back but to bog it down with back and forth with two flash backs and all this other stuff. And that is a crutch set-up a lot of people use that I cut out right away. And when you set-up a story, you often run into that, and flash backs for the most part. You transfer and slow down the screenplay. So, limit the characters, focus on your needs. Create, you know, not your typical scene and scenarios. Put something in, obviously, you won’t spend time seeing. You know, find and create your own hook and then write it sharply. If you write it long screenplay, cut it down. In my world, 90 minutes or more, 85 to 90. If you similarize your characters, then typically the action needs to be together action standard. However, 85 or minus type scripts. You know, should the action extended, even my rough cuts come up about 105 minutes, around

85 to 90, which speeds up the action. And the action sequences need to be long. So, if you got the big destruction, which you need to have. I believe in differences, and you can elongate the action. I sort of set-up my parameters, again, everybody, every producer/director may have their own lay down. Very specific action, and a big hook, good characters, and you know, that’s sort of the break-down of a good idea. I’ve done a lot of movies now.

 

Ashley:  No, no, that’s excellent information. I want to talk just briefly about what sort of the, okay, you found this screenplay for “Crossing Point” and then what were the steps in terms of working with the writer as far as business wise? Did you option the script? Or did you just take it to some, you know, some financiers and get the thing financed? Just what does that look like? On a non-studio action movie?

 

Daniel:  Yeah. I mean, this is some partner theater option screenplay from the original writers. You know, who wrote the screenplay, and from there we had the rights in which to write the pilot script. We hired the director first, with an idea I had. And a policy to rewrite the script. But, it’s there, a quick treatment. I don’t want to step on any toes that I had spent a month, like I said, rewriting, checking in, opening up a dialog, it was very important to the history and credible. It was very important to me for the script to be legit. So, it was optioned by then, we developed it together, a bit of polish on it. From there we shopped it to the various distributors, financed as much as possible. We got into scenarios where we could shoot it exact in the state of this one. I gathered the cast mostly and shoot right near our location. And in Atlanta, someone wanted to be in Detroit? What, it’s in Baja? Why does it have to be shot in Baja? No, it didn’t have to be, this is the movie I want to make. Just so proud of “Crossing Point.” I’ve directed over 20 movies now, and “Crossing Point” is my best movie. So, I think it worked out real well, in terms of we picked the right location. We wanted Baja for this.

 

Ashley:  So, how can people see this, “Crossing Point” do you know the release schedule?

 

Daniel:  A, yeah. It comes out on May 3rd 2016, I know it’s on 19th of the month. I’m not sure if it’s coming to the actual or not. The distributor knows more about that. But it should be everywhere May 30 in general. ITunes, will be releasing it from there, about 11:00 components will have it. I’m signed on, really if you look on the schedule. Look out for it on May 3rd. It’ll be out in a while. In the mean time people can find it.

 

Ashley:  Yeah, yeah. As I mentioned, the final question I like to ask my guest is just? How can people contact you, and really anything you feel comfortable sharing. I will put those in the show notes as well. You have an Email address, Twitter page if you on Twitter, or Facebook page, a blog, really anything you’re comfortable with?

 

Daniel:  Yeah, yeah. That’s fine, like I said, I’m around and stuff. You know I started, having contacts and everything. You need to stay somewhat available to people, again I would say, if anybody wanted to contact me, is, focus on action or the other stuff that was spoken of. Try to pitch me on things that work for me. It’s the only way, it’s real easy. Don’t go with stuff outside of my genre, because that’s what I am focused on. As far as the best way to get a hold of me? That’s fine, I’m on Facebook, it’s Daniel Zirilli how I spell my last name – Z-i-r-i-l-l-I you can send me a friend request. I have 1500 friend requests I have not responded to them yet? So, I’ve looked at them all. Of which you mentioned your show I will try to approve you right away. And then I’ve posted some blog post, my work there. In fact, when I’m looking for scripts, it’s like a Facebook with Email with the greatest resources you need. The other way is, to send me a direct Email at – popartfilm@ericE.net. Yes, I know that surfing at the film school. But I rather have Email control. So, those are the ways to contact me. But I don’t want a full script. It’s easier to leave me a

log-line or a one-page synapsis. And if I like it, I will quickly process it, then if I like the screenplay, if it’s close, 80% there and if it has a good hook? I will give you an options way. And then from there have lots of finances, and distributors who want to do movies with you, and will get them made. If ya got a good role and you have a good actor in mind? We could talk to a distributor and find out and put it together from there. And it will go quickly, but, I’m always looking for good action series. So, out of a thousand.

 

Ashley:  Perfect, perfect. Well, this is an excellent interview, lots of great advice. I wish you luck with your film. And anytime you want to come on with when you’ve done your next film. Please let me know, I’ll be happy to have you back on to talk about that film.

 

Daniel:  Yeah, I would love to maybe this summer, talk about IMDb connections, Steven Segal, Michael, I like how they directed and co-wrote some of these, we’ll talk about these in a couple of months. But thank you very much.

 

Ashley:  Yeah, yeah.

 

Daniel:  Any chance? Alright. Take care.

 

Ashley:  Alright, talk to ya later.

 

[36:45]

 

Ashley:  I just want to mention two things I’m doing at “Selling Your Screenplay.” to help screenwriters find producers who are looking for material. First, I’ve created a monthly newsletter, that will be sent directly to producers. Every member of SYS Select can send one log-line per newsletter. I went and Emailed my large database of producers and asked them if they wanted to receive this monthly newsletter of pitches? So far, I have well over 300 producers who are signed up to receive it. These producers are hungry for material and are happy to read scripts from new writers. So, if you want to participate in this pitch newsletter? And get your script into the hands of lots of producers. Sign-up at – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/select. Again, that’s – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/select.

And secondly, I’m partnering with one of the premier screenwriter sites, so I can syndicate it, there leads to SYS Select Members. There are lots of great paid leads coming in each week from our partner. Usually, I’ve been getting about 10-12 new high quality paid leads each week. 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 leads Emailed directly to you several times per week. These leads run the gambit from production companies looking for specific spec. script. Producers looking to hire a screenwriter to write up one of their ideas. There are shorts, feature films, producer, there are producers looking for shorts, features. There are producers looking for TV and web series pilots. So, it’s a huge aray of different types of projects. No matter what kind of project you’re working on? I’m sure you’ll find some of these leads that are pertinent to you? And these leads are exclusive to our partner and of course to our SYS Select Members, to sign-up, go to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/select. Again, that’s – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/select.

I also recently set-up a success stories page, for people who have had success through the various SYS Select Services. If you want to check that out? Just go to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/success.

So, in the next episode of the Podcast, I’m going to be interviewing Dave Bollis. Dave is a screenwriter who lives outside of Philadelphia. He’s got an interesting story to share. He also runs his own Podcast called, of all things, “The Dave Bollis Podcast.” He’s interviewed dozens of, I think he’s well over 100 episodes with his Podcast. He’s even done dozens of film makers, screenwriters, so I highly encourage you to check that out as well. He actually interviewed me on his Podcast too. So, I’ll link to that in the show notes, that episode came out a couple of weeks ago. And then the episode I recorded where I am interviewing him, that’s going to come out next week on SYS Select Podcast. He’s done a great job networking and interviewing film makers in his local area outside of Philadelphia. So, he’s got a lot of great practical tips on how you can do that If you’re outside of L.A. He’s got a lot of great tips on how you can potentially meet film makers in your area? Just start to network, he’s created a writers group. He’s done a lot of great stuff. And we talk about a lot of it on the Podcast. So, keep your eye out for that episode next week.

So, to wrap things up, I want to touch on some things on today’s interview with Daniel Zirilli. Obviously I love to hear stories like these. He just went out and started shooting videos. And he spent his own money to get started and worked his way up like that. I think that’s a great temperament and great frame for looking into this business. I mean, I talk about this almost every single episode. While doing shorts, doing videos, getting out there and doing stuff. At whatever level you can afford to do? It is really just a great way to learn and to network and to get yourself out there. As promised, he did give out his Email address on the Podcast. So, feel free to Email him. However, I want to caution you?! He clearly stated that he’s looking for action scripts. So please, don’t waste your time, or his pitching him other stuff at this time. You’ll be respectful, he is being very generous, basically just saying his video pitches. He gave out his Email address. So, you know, just be considerate of his time. And don’t send him your quarky Indie drama. Obviously, that’s not what he’s looking for. So, there’s really no need to send that to him. There’s an old adage, act professional and you will be treated professionally. So, please keep that in mind as you submit to him, or really any other person or producer. Just act professionally. And that will go a long way to actually getting to them, these producers. And to be taken seriously.

One interesting note, Daniel is a pretty big supporter who’s on my Email and Fax Blast list to producers. So, that’s a service that I sell that you could have your quarry letter blasted out to producers. He’s actually on this list. He’s also one of the producers who optioned to receive the monthly SYS Select newsletter. And again, I just mentioned that a moment ago. That is a newsletter that everyone who is a member of SYS Select gets to submit it, a log-line sent over to him, and the other 300 producers who are on this list. So, these producers who are, he’s not a guy, he’s an IMDb Pro with this Email address. And I point this out, because I get a lot of people saying how can I sell my script? And that’s like the first, simple-ist, cheapest, thing I recommend, IMDb Pro. And this is like an actual real world example. IMDb Pro, I think it’s like $15.00 a month. I think they give you like a two-week free trial, so you have access with absolutely no money. I think you could probably sign-up at least for two weeks. And create a database of producers like him. And you can start to pitch them. And that would be literally free, because I think they give you a free trial, but you could get it as a gift for a month or something? For only $15.00. So, there’s a lot of people like him on IMDb Pro. Also obviously on my lists as well. He’s not a hard guy, to pitch. And he’s very much someone who’s looking for interesting material. He’s precisely the type of producer, you know, I told and talk about this a lot on the Podcast. But he’s precisely the type of producers you want to network. He is someone who is clearly making movies. And he’s also willing and open to read new material from just about anybody who pitches him something? That he thinks sounds interesting. Though, if you really think about it? Those guys are really out there, there’s probably hundreds, if not thousands of guys like him out there, they are making movies. And looking for new material. The key is just building on that list and getting them to know those producers. So, again, this is the real world example, I would highly recommend going on IMDb Pro. And looking around at those types of, clicking and scrolling around. Looking at these types of projects. Perhaps look at other projects that are similar with other producers and see if you can’t get on their Email list? Because they might not also be willing to accept pitches.

Anyway, I hope this was helpful? As I said, I really enjoyed talking to him. There’s just a lot of really great information that he gave us today. And it’s inspiring to do, and get you writing, and maybe we’ll just get you out there using your own stuff too. I think that’s a really great way to go.

Anyway, that is the show, thank you for listening.

 

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[43:40]