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SYS Podcast Episode 160: Screenwriter And Director Alexander Babaev Talks About His New Horror Thriller, Bornless Ones (transcript)

This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 160: Screenwriter And Director Alexander Babaev Talks About His New Horror Thriller, Bornless Ones.


 

Ashley: Welcome to episode #160 of the “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I’m Ashley Scott Meyers Screenwriter and blogger over at – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today, I’m interviewing screenwriter and director Alexander Babev. He just did a horror/thriller film called, “The Bornless Ones.” We walk through his early days as a student, a film student, and how he eventually came into writing and directing this first feature film. 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 about the Podcast and are very much appreciated.
And websites or links that I mention in the Podcast can be found on my blog in the show notes. I also publish a transcript with each episode. In case you would rather read the show or look up something else up later-on. Just go to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast, and look for episode #160.
If you would like my free guide, “How to Sell Your Screenplay in 5 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 a week for 5 weeks. Along with a bunch of free bonus lessons. I teach the whole process of how to sell your screenplay in that guide. How to write a professional log-line and quarry letter. How to find agents, managers and producers who are looking for new material. It really is everything you need to know to sell your screenplay. Just go to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide.
A quick few words about what I am working on? Once again, I am working on is post-production on my crime/action/thriller feature film, “The Pinch.” I’m going to be doing a
re-shoot this Sunday. I’m going to be doing a quick day of re-shoots. It’s going to be establishing shots, some close-ups, some inserts, just to kind of make the movie flow together, kinda bridge some gaps. You know, when you’re on the day of actual shooting. I had friend who was actually a writer/director. He gave me the one piece of advice he gave me before we started shooting and was? You know, really make sure you get all a lot of inserts. Because they are always useful in editing. And I tried to do that, as much as I could. But I definitely missed some. Inserts are pretty easy to get. Especially on the day you are shooting. Because it’s just a matter of dragging the camera over there and getting a few seconds of footage on a close-up of a gun. Under a close-up of some feet, you know. Just something to kind of give the editor a little bit a way of editing a way from stuff. Sometimes there’s some bad sound, bad performance, you know, something goes wrong in the main master. Or the close-up. But, if you have some of these close-ups. It’s just a good way to kind of get around some of that. So, there’s just a couple of places where we need these inserts. As I said, they are not that hard to do, they are just a little harder now, to do. You know, since we’re not in production mode. But, I basically have a camera guy. It’s just basically going to be me and the camera guy. And we’re going to go out and get us establishing shots. Some exteriors of buildings, just to kind of, as I said, bridge some of those gaps. And kind of reinforce some of those situations where people aren’t quite sure what building is this? Or where are, or what office are they in? And we will get these establishing shots.
And then we use them a couple of times in the movie to kind of set that up. And then as I said, a couple of inserts. There’s one, I have one actress coming out. And we are going to do those A. The shot that we missed. And I really would have liked to get. And I think it’s going to be worth getting. I think that’s probably the most difficult shot I’m going to get. But, it’s basically the bad guys go into the house. So, we’re going to see the door close and then we’re going to pan over. And we are going to see her walking toward the house. And this just sets up some of the tension. She’s basically walking into it, a trap. So, that’s the idea. So, we just, for whatever reason? We weren’t able to get that shot on the day we shot it. But, it just doesn’t work the way we shot it. We did it from a different angle. And as I said, it just didn’t quite work. Just the geography of the way the house is laid out and stuff. It makes it feel a little bit too cramped. And the time just doesn’t quite work in the edited version we have. Anyway, so that’s this Sunday. But things are going along. I’m very, very, close to having a locked picture. I think once we get these inserts, we’ll probably pump out another draft of the rough cut. And hopefully that will be pretty much locked picture. There might be a few other tweaks. So, hopefully in another week or two I will be at a locked picture. And then we’ll be moving on from there. So, that’s the main thing I’m working on.

 

 

So, now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m interviewing screenwriter and director Alexander Babaev. Here is the interview.

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

Alex: Hey, man, thanks for having me, sorry.

Ashley: No problem. So, maybe to start out you can give us just a little bit of background. Of kind of how you got into the entertainment industry? Maybe even take us back to your, you know, your formative years as a child. Were you one of these kids running around shooting films of, with your parent’s video camera. Just you know, kind of give us your back story.

Alex: A, yeah. I was one of those guys. But, I grew-up in a small town of Russia. So, you know, I’ve always dreamed of becoming a film maker. But, just like, the film industry just doesn’t exist in my town. So, you know, because, you know, a film maker where I grew-up it’s like something from your dreams. You know, something miraculous. So, yeah, I really, I shot a few things when I was like, a kid. And, the whole thing, you know, went to college, a struggling economy, and then international business. And you know, kind of got me sucked in and. There was no normal, I didn’t even think, it’s actually, you know, possible to become a film maker. You know, because I was in Russia, and there’s no one shooting films out there. And then I came over here, for, to study English, actually. It was a little bit for a few months. And I met some people who were actually doing it, and stuff like that. They were shooting movies and writing screenplays. And I was like, oh my God, it’s actually amazing. It’s not something, it’s not impossible. And I found my school, just go to the New York Film Academy, so, I applied there. I was like 22, I think, already when I started. So, yeah, I got in The New York Film Academy, film making.
And after that, I just, you know, I always try hard to get something done. And you know, I was struggling with finding the right idea and stuff like that.

Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So, I notice on your IMDb page, you have a ton of short films that you worked on, and various positions, First AD, you’ve also written and directed some of those short films. Maybe you can talk about those a little bit. That’s something I recommend to film makers as a coming up. I’m just curious to get your take on how all those short films helped you, and helped build and shape your career.

Alex: Sure. So, a year from the Academy is like a very hands-on school. So, when you get there, I have nothing to do with film making what so ever. I had no idea what a camera is, what a director is, what is a DP. So, what they do, they basically toss you on set, they give you, like you know, your collaborators, people you work with, and for. And like the old four crew kinda, four person crew, go around town and shoot whatever we can. I think I shot about 5 to 6 short films. And 2 of them were actually short, in which I would invest some money. I think my first big, you know, big short film was $4000.00, and $10,000.00. And basically, like all of my experience that I got in school. After school, I shot a few music videos. And, my focus was to shoot a
feature film. Basically, whatever it is, just do, you know, when your first feature film. Like a desk for a director. If you are able to find money, you’re able to finish, you know, a screenplay. And you are actually able to make it happen. It’s kind of a test for me. And it was my first goal, to do that. But, you know, shorts only that it helped me so much. Because I met some people. On the way to this feature film. You know, one of the partners, who also plays Jesse in the film. His name is Devin Gootsoff. He was the guy I cast in one of my short films. And he was actually the guy who came over to me after I finished school. And he was like, man, I have access to this house in Tennessee in the woods, let’s write a screenplay. You know let’s write a screenplay, around the house. And I was like, sure man, let’s do it. So, that’s how we started.

Ashley: Okay, perfect. And I noticed too, you edited Bornless. We’ll get into that. Are all of these skills, things you acquired, at The New York Film Academy? Just, you had taken an editing class. You learned a little about that.

Alex: Pretty much. And then I also saved all my shorts. And then when I get out of school, I had to pay bills and stuff. So, I started working on any set that I could. Basically somehow, I never worked as an A.D, I just got through this first A.D’ing gig. And I already shot 20-25 projects, the First A.D. And I was producing, you know Russian music videos. And I would edit a lot of stuff, that I was First A.D. Because I had some skills, left over from school. They weren’t as experienced as I am. So, they would be like, since you know the film. You would be willing to edit it as well? I was like, sure. But, actually it’s about work. Just for once I didn’t want to edit it myself. I really wanted to have like a collaborator, and step in and work with me. And bring in some creativity, and it didn’t work out for us.

Ashley: Yeah. Now, let’s talk just briefly a minute about those early jobs as First A.D. Getting the gigs as directing music videos and stuff. How did you get those gigs? You know, again, I have a lot of people coming to “Selling Your Screenplay.” Just, that want that first kind of break into the industry.
And maybe you could give us specifically, a little background on how you got those job? And were they even pay jobs? Because I’m sure some of them early on probably weren’t even paid.

Alex: Well, some of them were paid, for sure. And especially the first A.D. gigs. Basically I would do favors for my friends. So they could work on my set, and prep after for free. I’m still doing this, like I’m shooting a short film next week. And it’s for a production company, the budget is very tight. And I can call people, and I worked on yours, please work for me, for free. It’s time, work for mine, my part, and I will work on yours, you know, next month. And we still do it. But first, I’m kinda in a unique position. I’m Russian, and I have a lot of connections in Russia. That I got like here already. Because people from Russia come here. Meet me somehow, you know, people start talking and we’re looking for someone Russian/American. Set-up something here, get a good recommend, bla, bla, bla. So, they would reach out to me. And that’s how we started. But, the First A.D. at first I did a lot for my classmates. And then, you know, I was kind of like, the go to guy in school. You know, if you want someone to First A.D. a film. I would be like a project, that’s where I was. You know, because of feature school. And then, in just like, you know, the world came out, work came out. I tried a few fish films. Actually what happened, was well, I had a crew right. My people that I always worked with. We all shot “Bornless Ones.” They would get you know on-board of their projects. And I would get them aboard my projects, the only projects I work on. And so, like this family crew, family feel, we just all try and get each other as much gigs as we can. And you know, that’s pretty much it. Was just working all the time, just every project that I could.

Ashley: Perfect, perfect. So, let’s dig into “Bornless Ones.” Maybe to start out you can give us a pitch or a log-line of the film. And I always link to the trailer, so people can check that out. But, maybe just a quick pitch for people.

Alex: Yes. So, “Bornless Ones, “ is about Emily, who, her mom recently died. And she has take full responsibility over her little brother. Who is suffering with a Cerebral Palsy, like a really bad, Cerebral Palsy. So, basically, it’s hard for her to take care of him. So, what she does, with her and her fiancée, Jesse. They purchase like an Expensive house in the woods next to the institution. Which is actually researching those types of disabilities. So, they move out there. With some other friends that are fixing and rebuilding the house. And when they get to the house they find a bunch of demonic signs all over the place. And, the first thing they do is get rid of the demonic symbols. And by doing that, they unleash the demons they were summoning in this house by the lady who used to live there before. Poor woman she has summoned the demons to kill her daughter. To heal her, because her daughter was dying. But it never worked out. So, the demons were trapped there. You know, because the house is blocked by those symbols we found in the house. When they get rid of them, they release the demons and the first person to be possessed, is Zack, the boy who is. So, what happens to him is? He starts walking, and he’s able to talk. But, for the price of being possessed. And then the demons moved forward in reverse and they all struggle to survive. You know, their darkest stuff like that.

Ashley: Perfect, perfect. So, where did this idea come from? You had mentioned that your partner had access to the house. But, where did sort of the idea come from, for a script come from?

Alex: So, we knew we wanted to do a horror film. We knew we wanted something very contained. But we were trying to find some kind of mythology. Behind, like behind whatever was happening. So, I started researching a lot. You know, spending days. And I found this the mythology. Which just based on the book, called, “Gradia” there was the original name of the film as well. It’s basically talking about demonology, is a science. It’s like closest book to like, it’s a go to book. What book for every demonology in person people. So, it was paired reading with “King Solomon.” Who was a wizard in some legends. And he created this book with several one or two demons in this book. You can see they live in hell. Because someone summoned them. And they all served different purposes. So, you basically can summon them to help you to heal someone, to get yourself some knowledge. And I found it very interesting, I’d never r eally seen this Mythology being used in horror films. And every demon has his specific, procedural, like an assignment they have. That’s how you can control them. It’s like you summon them by using those ones. And so, you know, we had a house. And we knew we needed something, to create something like that. So, people are trapped in a house. Now everything was, I actually watched “The Prisoners” with Hugh Jackman, and Jake Gyllenhall. And there was this disabled boy. By using this character, they create a lot of suspense and a lot of nice, you know, unique plot points. I felt a disabled person that has so much, you know, on the scale, being possessed. But, being able to talk, and walk, or you know, keep being what you are. Which is,
Cerebral Palsy is like the worst thing ever. Because you can actually understand that’s happening around you, you just can’t you know, control your muscles. So, you can express yourself anyhow. So those, you know, those few things came together. We actually lost the house that we originally had, we just found another one, you know. But yeah, it’s like a perfect example of backwards producing pretty much. When you have someone, something and you create a story around it. And you research, you know, all together.

Ashley: Did you still end up shooting it in Tennessee?

Alex: No, no. We shot it here, 40 miles away from us, in Los Angeles California.

Ashley: Okay, okay. Perfect, perfect. So, I’m curious you mentioned, you said, “Well, we wanted to do a whole horror film. Why did you just decide on that? What was your logic behind deciding early on that you did want to do a horror film?

Alex: Just based on my knowledge of the film making industry. The easiest thing to shoot is the horror film. Just because it’s usually a contained you know, story. It just it’s limited cast, it’s limited number of locations. And we knew that, we could not afford any “A” list or “B” lister to be in our film. So, there’s, you know, and you have to go with a general film. Like at this point, you have to shoot a giant film to sell, and have them out there, there’s audience for them. And if you want to shoot, “La, La, Land” you know, with “A” listers. There’s no way you’re going to succeed. It’s probably going to be shot somewhere. So, that’ why I knew I’m still not sure if it’s true or not? It’s just you know, what people talk about. And I’m really, I’m just love horror films, I am a fan. And basically when you create a film like that. I think all you want is? Some people sound or just what you feel, with beer and popcorn, you know, and just enjoy it. It should be unique, you know, using and it was never a film that was supposed to be revolutionary, you know. But changing people’s lives. It was just this amusing piece of you know, of a nice well done horror film. That we wanted to have, like a roller coaster.
And I really wanted to get like this 80’s kind of feeling in it. So, there’s almost no CGI, every ode block. Everything, you know, is made, you know, it’s special. Because there’s no visual effects. And also there’s so much
PG-13 horror out there right now. That I really wanted to create something with, you know, with dark comedy, with sex, with what, a lot of blood, with gore. Just go, you know, all the way in that. So, that’s why we decided to go with a horror film.

Ashley: Yeah. Now, in some of these short films. They had done, had you done horror films? One of the things that struck me about this film. And I think it was really well written, well structured, all this was great. But like the special effects, were really good. Especially for a low budget horror movie. Sometimes the can get super cheese ball. And you did a good job, and who ever your make-up artist was? They did a good job, they were very, very convincing. Was that something you kinda had a background? In, like you had a special effects guy you knew you could count on going into this?

Alex: Ohh, not really, honestly. I shot one horror film that wasn’t really heavy on make-up. But, then I just go and visit a set. Her name was Christina Ellery and she was attached to another project. And I just saw some stuff that she did. And she was just like, starting out as well. To become like this key make-up artist, you know. She creates a lot of amazing creatures. And you know, just great looking prosthetics. And basically, I knew what the film was about, you know. So, when we were budgeting the film. I was like, hey guys, you know, we need to spend as much money as we can on special effects. Because this is our unique thing. This is something we have to make sure it’s going to look good, it’s going to look nice, you know. Because lighting, ehh… if it looks beautiful, it’s beautiful. But, I was specifically took, spent more money on special effects than for equipment for example. Or for like, you know, better lenses. Because we knew this was a selling point. But we’re all watching this stuff, everybody’s watching this stuff, especially if it’s well done.

Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So, let’s talk about your writing process a little bit. I would be curious, how much time do you spend preparing to write, versus actually opening up “Final Draft” and writing the script. Basically the outline stage, the thinking stage, the outline stage, verse the actual typing into Final Draft stage.

Alex: So, I’d say, it always difference, sometimes I would, you know. I wrote this lesson script of mine, and in two weeks. And I did an outline of it all. It’s a first draft of course. You know, the thing is pretty decent. So for “Bornless Ones” I think I researched for about a month. You know, all the demonic mythology and stuff and that. There was no outline to it. It was just something we have the general idea. And I was like this, just go for it. Because we need it to go as quick as possible. Because, you know, using the momentum and I was very lucky with my friends, willing to kind of invest in the film. Even though they were not from the film industry, and are not. And basically they were ready to give me money just a little bit of money. When there was no straight deal. So, there never was any “Greenlight” process. It was just something like I knew I had the money and I need to finish it as soon as possible, so we can start production. I think totally we spent about four months for like a total. But, there was never like, an outline. And I think I finished it, the first draft in a month and a half after the research was finished. You know, I was just sitting there handing pages to my producer.
Like ten pages today, then in two weeks, you know, like twenty more pages. Then we started, you know, developing it after.

Ashley: Okay. And so once you get into a groove right? Anything like that. How much do you write per day? Do you write, is it page count? Do you write for eight hours, ten hours. What does your actual day look like when you’re writing?

Alex: I try to just try to spend as much time as I can. If I know I need to get something done. It’s good as possible. I just wake-up at 8:00a.m. And I have breakfast and I sit down and write until evening. You know, with breaks for lunch and stuff, when I can of course. And sometimes I would, it’s weird, you know, depends. I would sit the whole day and just write one page. Which is shit, and sometimes you sit down and you write 20 pages a day, and those are pretty decent. It’s how I finished it. And when I finish a script. I have no, like the first draft, I had no idea. I’m going to finish today. I was just typing, and typing, and then I was at the end. Then I realized, I’d just finished the script. I think I wrote 15 pages then, that day. But, sometimes you just spend a week and you write two pages. And still I think it’s, you know, everyone.

Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So let’s talk about some of the genre requirements. You knew you were gonna make a horror film. Are there certain things? Did you talk with someone, some of the distributors? I mean, like action films, it’s very common for a distributor to say, “You need an action scene every ten pages.” And I would imagine there’s probably a laundry list of things that horror movies need to contain as well. And I’m curious how you approach that? Was it more just instinct, or do you watch a lot of horror movies, you’re a horror movie fan. Or was there some real you know, a light post you sort of had to hit along the way.

Alex: The thing is, didn’t have any connections in Hollywood. I just was straight out of
film school. And I just went completely with my instinct. What I wanted to do is? Have shit start happening as soon as possible. You know, all I wanted to do is? Set-up the situation and actors and just you know. And get them into this, the world of possession. And I think it actually, think it worked out. So, honestly, I mean I read books of course, in school and after school. I used to say the cabellar as your beat sheet. But, no, I did really know like, there was no structure for me. There should be something happening every five minutes. I just went with it, you know, just completely, I just relied on my instincts.

Ashley: Okay, okay. And what is your development process. It’s like you mentioned, you didn’t know you were going to finish. You typed “The End” did you then go back and you know, do some polishing on it, before you got notes. Or did you just, you know, Emailed it off to your partner and start doing that development process.

Alex: The first draft, always to my partner. I knew it needed polishing as well. Because usually you would change stuff on the way when you go to the end of the script. Then you got to go back and read the stuff. Though I finished the first draft, sent it to my producer, knowing I need to polish a lot of things in the beginning. And then we started. There was, I think the most difficult thing in horror films is? Also the rules. Because a lot of them. A lot of horror films, are worse right now. There is no explanation what so ever. The thing that happens is, that happens at this moment. And so, it always pisses me off, trying to figure out how to explain to everyone.
About why this person is being possessed at this point, at that particular moment. Like you know, where the ghost appears in your, next to your bed at this moment. And it’s always the difficult part, the most difficult things to say, to do. Because you’re creating the whole world, right? It’s on you. And so, yeah, I think we have like six tracks total. The first one, the second one, which is me and my partner. And then we started sending it out to other people, that worked with us. You know, one producer, My DB, that I wasn’t attached to, you know, in the early stage. And yeah, we just were writing, and writing, and writing. And I had some troubles with the ending. And one day we, just went to my producer’s place with a few friends. And we started brainstorming for three hours. We just to nail the ending, you know, it actually happened, and we worked it out. And I think that’s when everything, you know, got into it’s places. Is when we lost time, when we jumped straight into production.

Ashley: Okay, okay. And you mentioned, this felt like a well structured film. As you say, once you kinda got that ball rolling, it moved very nicely. And I’m curious, you mentioned,
“Save the Cat.” Are there some other books that you’ve read that you would recommend to up and coming screenwriters?

Alex: Not exactly for screenwriters. Because I’ve read a few. I don’t think I have used a any advice from other books, apart from “Save the Cat.” The “Save the Cat” is very technical, and sometimes I think that’s what you need to you know, organize yourself. Because you can do whatever you want. Like no one ever tells you what to do. Well, there’s no formula, for creating a script, right? But, they kind of give you a story. And I knew an approximate structure of what to do where, and when it’s better to this plot, of turning this way. I basically only used,
“Save the Cat.” I can’t say I really relied on it as well. Just, I knew the book, and I would sometimes read what they say about structure. You know, it’s right kind of work it out when my script when. And I think I did rewrite some, just like, you know, shift things around just to hit the structure a little better.

Ashley: And, just a couple of follow-up questions on the movie. Is someone in your life, brother, sister, cousin, aunt, uncle, have Cerebral Palsy (CP)? Like, I’ve never had a family member, or a friend that had that disability. So, it would be tough for me to write that. How did you get into that, and what did you learn about it? Was it just research? Or did you actually know someone that had that ailment?

Alex: It was research, also my wife, she used to study as a special psychologist in Russia. And she would, her entire class would go to the institutions and hospitals when where they take care of people with Cerebral Palsy (CP), mental disease and disabilities. And she would just tell me stories. So, that’s where I based my research on as well. I knew just a little bit around. Because my wife was going to those places. But, I don’t have and I thank God I don’t have anyone who has that. I have one friend who broke his neck. Which is the same, you kind of got the same thing. He was like 25 when he broke his neck. And then the impulse from his brain cannot go through his spine anymore, so he can’t control his muscles. So, he really influenced me. He was the coolest, and like the most funny guy in the world. He was, he is my friend. I’m not going to say I based the character on him or anything like that. But, I think there was some influence from there.

Ashley: Okay, another question? And I get a lot of screenwriters from outside of the U.S. even outside English speaking countries. You had mentioned that you came over here, I guess at 22 to study English. So, English is not your first language. Are there any tips for writers that want to, you know, potentially write in English? Do you have some sort of process? Do you feel at all self-conscious when you’re writing in English? Is there a process, you have somebody? I get a lot of people, they want to use the proof-reading service. And I’m always hesitant, because the service is not really that, it’s not quite meant for that. But, I’d just be curious to get your thoughts, you know, on coming here from another country. Not necessarily speaking the language fluently, and still making a good go of it in Hollywood.

Alex: Yeah, I think, your language skills is not the most important thing when you’re writing a screenplay. So, it’s still above structure. So I do overs, I just write everything that I feel. I have enough vocabulary to explain where I want. But, sometimes, it feels a little querky, you know, it feels a little off. And what I do, I just send them to my friends that are willing to help me out that free, because they are, you know, I help them out, they help me out. I just send it over to them. And sometimes I’ll be like and I feel like this line could be set, you know, so much different. And just, like, sound better. And we would brainstorm it, and I would also do the same with the actors, for example. So, when we have a table read, I’m just like, guys, I know, it’s not my first language, I wrote the whole thing. So, please if you feel like there’s a way for you to express what we want here differently and a better way. Just please let me know. You know, I’m trying to collaborate with everyone, that’s how that happens.

Ashley: Okay, okay. Perfect, perfect. So, now you had mentioned, that it sounded like this was kind of a little bit of a reversal. As typically someone, finishes the script. And then goes out and tries to raise money as, it sounds like you already had some of that funding in place. Maybe you can just speak a little bit about how you got those people to, you know, have confidence in you. And agreeing to put up some money. And just, what was that process like, exactly?

Alex: I can say that I was very lucky. And first of all the producer of the film. Also starred, he works in IT. And so, he wanted to act. I wanted to direct. And you know, with basically reached an agreement. I would allow him in the film. And he’s the guy who would tell me the first time about the cabin in the woods. And so, you know, we both did the whole thing together. And people sent money in too. I put some money in, all my money is well a chunk. And then I just had a few friends, who are, you know, like, there are people who are just interested in the industry. And they have nothing to do with it. They work in a completely different area, like, retail. But, they’ve had some money, and they were just interested to become a producer. To have a part of this, of the whole, you know, magic film making thing. And I was just, why do I have to be able to convince them to, you know, invest in me. And tell them that, you know, we’ll get ya the money back. And I’m doing all I can, work every day on my life to try and become what I. Honestly I was just super lucky. It’s, I think there’s a formula for how to raise money for your first film, or for the second one. Because I didn’t have any production, two productions, no pre-sales. I had no business plan, I had no idea what I’m going to do after I finish the film, even after post. We had no idea, we just went through IFM and showed the trailer to everyone we could.

Ashley: Okay, and that’s how you eventually got hooked up with your distributor, correct?

Alex: Yes, we went through AFM. We knocked on every door. With the last trailer, I cut myself. And we showed it to everyone we could. And then we had a few sales reps. That were with me, that were willing to represent us. And then we, you know, we met with them. And signed a contract with one of them. It’s called, “High Octane Pictures.” And then, she goes too fast and sells the film. And that’s how we got an offer from “UnCorked” And now UnCorked is showing our film here in the U.S.

Ashley: Okay. Did you do anything with festivals, there’s like a whole horror film, you know horror film festivals, specific to horror films and stuff. Did you try and approach some of those? And go that route at first?

Alex: We did, we actually did after a camera ready. Because basically, when AFM happened which is, “American Film Market.” I was, I didn’t really have a look cut yet. Because I spent a lot time working with editors. And it didn’t work out, somehow? And so, I had to start from scratch. And you know, AFM was coming. And we wanted to get the film out there already. So, we went there, talked to people. And then I finished the film. And then we started applying to festivals. Because October was coming, which is Halloween. Of course it was half a year before I apply. And we applied, honestly we’re not, we run out of money. And it feels like festivals are not expensive, and they are not really. But, if you’re talking about Ten Festivals. It’s already about $600.00, you know. So, we applied for 10 different festivals, and we got into 3 of them. One is Puerto Rico – Horror Film Festival. Another one is The Night of Horror at Stratus Sydney. And we had a premier in Los Angeles California, through Downtown Lincoln Festival, so.

Ashley: Okay. So, how did you hone in on those ten festivals to apply to?

Alex: Just, we usually use, without the box. With www.withoutthebox.com, they have everything together, you just find the right festivals for you. And you apply to it. Bullet screener, very, very, simple and sometimes the response is very quickly. Sometimes they don’t respond ever. But, you have to pay a fee anyway. And so, it’s an unusual process, and it’s like, you know.

Ashley: Yeah. Let’s just get into the scope. So, you went to AFM with, was that in 2015 or 2016? I guess we just had the 2016. So, how many years sort of has it been or has this been going on?

Alex: Yeah, it was 2015.

Ashley: Okay.

Alex: Yeah, so what was 2015, and from there, went to, few other markets. We actually sold Malaysia, and Indonesia, Brunae, and we had a Nation-wide theatrical release in Malaysia. Which was 65 theatres. Which was a pretty cool idea, didn’t know about it. A, someone just reached out on their Facebook, “Man, I just watched your film.” I was like, “What!!” I was like, yeah, it was like through a different title, completely different artwork.
And then I just went to show times of my film in different theaters they were in, in Malaysia. And it was just like, Mudtrain, Magnificent 7, and my film. And it was crazy, it was like for a month. They had so, they were screening the tenth, ten times a day. You know, it was a nice film.

Ashley: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s great. So, do you know the release schedule here in the United States, and I guess elsewhere for the film when will it be Online and ONDEMAND? And when will it be, maybe at a local theater? Do you know what’s going to happen?

Alex: Yes, So, it’s coming out on the VOD February 10 2017. Also it’s going to be in some select theaters in Los Angeles California. I don’t know which ones? Or we don’t have this information yet? But, it’s going to be out in some theaters on February 10 as well, the
10th and the other country that is releasing us? Is Germany, it’s a very big company as well. A very big distributor. But, they haven’t told us the dates yet?

Ashley: Okay, perfect.

Alex: DVD is coming in a month after the DOD release.

Ashley: Okay, okay. And, are you on Facebook, Twitter? I always just like to end the interview by asking the guest how people can follow along with what they are doing? So, Facebook, Twitter, blog, or anything you’re comfortable sharing? I will put in the show notes, and you can mention that.

Alex: Sure, yes. I’m on Facebook, and at InstaGram, @AlexanderBabaev, I’m very accessible. Oh, you know, to anyone who wants to print something out and I’m always willing to help out other film makers.

Ashley: Okay, perfect, perfect. Well, Alex I really appreciate this excellent interview. Really well done on the film, and I wish you the best of luck with it.

Alex: Thank you sir. Oh, what else to ask, thank you man.

Ashley: Thank you we’ll talk to ya later.

 

 

Ashley: I just want to mention two things I am doing at “Selling Your Screenplay” to help screenwriters find producers that are looking for new material.
First I’ve created a monthly newsletter that will be sent directly to producers. Every member of SYS Select can submit one log-line per newsletter, per month. I went and Emailed my large database of Industry contacts and asked them if they would like to receive this newsletter of monthly pitches. So far I have well over 350 producers who have signed-up to receive it. These producers are hungry for new material and are happy to read scripts from new writers. So, if you would like to participate in this pitch newsletter and get your script into the hands of lots of producers. Sign-up at – www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com, that’s – www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com.
And secondly I’ve contacted and partnered with one of the premier paid screenwriting leads sites. So I can syndicate their leads onto SYS Select members. There are lots of great paid leads coming in each week from our partner. Recently I’ve been getting about ten to twelve high quality paid screenwriting leads per 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 to you directly several times per week. These leads run the gambit from production companies looking for a specific type of spec. script. To producers looking to hire a screenwriter to write up one of their ideas. Producers are looking for shorts, features, TV and web series pilots, it’s a huge aray of different types of projects that these producers are looking for. And these leads are exclusive to our partner and
SYS Select members. To sign-up again, go to – www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com, again that’s – www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com
So, to wrap things up, I want to touch on a few things from today’s interview with Alex. You know, I talk about this so, often. That maybe it sound a little bit like a broken record. So, if you listen to this Podcast a lot. You will, or might feel that way. But, here’s another guy, he didn’t wait for opportunity to come to him. He just went out and created opportunity for himself. Now, and this is fantastic, and this is really what I recommend everybody do. Really go and look at him, look him up on IMDb. And look at what his credits are, and look at his background. And I would highly recommend to going and checking out this movie. It’s a really well done, I mean, for a super-low-budget film. It’s a really, really well done film. And I think, even if you’re not into this type of film, horror movies, or thriller movies. Even if you are not into this type of movie. As a student of film, and a student of screenwriting. It’s worth looking at this film and kind of just looking at the things he did well. And understanding them. The production value of this film is really, really very high. Considering, you know, it was done on a very, very,
low-budget. So again, I think this is a great film to watch just purely as a screenwriter or a
film maker as a kind of CG. How did he go about doing this? Where did he spend his time and his money? And how did he bring all this together. Now, I will warn you, and I talked about this before on the Podcast as well. One of the things I can tell you from my own Email and Fax Blast Service. Lots of people, purchase that. And I do these Email and Fax Blast. But the big thing, is? The people that have had success, people that have sold scripts through my Email and Fax Blast, option scripts. You know, have gotten writing assignments through my scripts. In almost every single case, the person who has had success? Is somebody that has some prior experience as a screenwriter. Now, it doesn’t have to be huge experience. But, it has to be some sort of experience for the most part. There probably have been a few success stories that have trickled in, that are not necessarily someone with a lot of experience.
But, for the most part, people who have the most success, are the people with experience. And I think going and looking at Alex’s resume. He was doing a lot of shorts, and working on shorts. Not just writing and directing shorts. But he was just doing other, you know, jobs on these short films. Whether that be:
First A.D., or whatever, Grip, Gaffer, Cinematographer, editor. I mean, he didn’t, he just had a lot of varied experience. In production experience. And I think that really shows nicely on his film. And so, I would urge you, like I hear a lot of people, the less people. They go and they take a loan off their house. Or they max out their credit cards and make their feature film. And they submit to Sundance, and then it’s a disaster. And I think that’s not what I’m encouraging. I’m encouraging people to go out and make opportunities for themselves. But, you should do it in a smart way. And the smart way is? Looking at Alex’s resume, and see how he did it. This
feature film is not just you know, a shot in the dark. He has a lot of experience. And he was able to make this work because of the experience. And I think doing shot films is a great way to get that experience. You just learn, you learn from your mistakes. You become better as a film maker. You learn the in’s and outs of film production. And ultimately you build up to doing that feature film. I mean, I think if you guys get to look him up on IMDb? I think he’s written and directed a half dozen, close to a half dozen shorts. And then as I said, he’s worked that other shorts just to other capacities. So, he has a lot of physical production experience. And then, you know, hopefully, you’re a screenwriter. Most people who listen to this Podcast are screenwriters. So, you can marry that. You know, experience in production with a background in screenwriting. I think you could produce a good short film. And then eventually, hopefully, a good feature film. But I worry when I hear somebody’s story, you know, doing the feature film and putting it on credit cards, or mortgaging their house, something like that. I think that’s an awful big risk. And especially if you don’t have that experience. You don’t quite know what you’re doing? There’s going to be a lot of learning curve. And most likely your film is not going to be that great. And that’s fine. Because that’s part of the learning process. I’m sure Alex, I’m sure his first short film wasn’t that good. But, after a few years of working at it. And now he’s done this feature film. Which is very, very, very, good.
So, anyway, that’s the show, thank you for listening.

 

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