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SYS Podcast Episode 165: Writer/Director Chris von Hoffmann Talks About His New Post-Apocalyptic Thriller, Drifter (transcript)

This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 165: Writer/Director Chris von Hoffmann Talks About His New Post-Apocalyptic Thriller, Drifter.


 

 

Ashley:  Welcome to episode #165 of the “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I’m Ashley Scott Meyers Screenwriter and blogger over at – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today, I’m interviewing writer and director Chris Von Hoffman. Chris recently wrote and directed a feature film called, “Drifter.” We talk about that film. And how he got to the point in his career where he was ready to write and direct a 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.

Any 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 every 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 #165.

A quick few words about what I am working on this week? So, once again, the main thing I am working on is post-production on my crime, action, thriller, feature film, “The Pinch.” I get a lot of Emails from people who seem to like these weekly updates on what I am working on? So, I try to do them as often as possible. But, honestly this week, there is not a lot to report on. I still too am not that close to “Lock-picture” on “The Pinch.” The editor is taking a final pass at the picture, just to see if there are any last bits of clean-up that he needs to do? Then I will have one final look at the picture. And then, hopefully, it will be to “Locked Picture.” So, it might even take even another week or two weeks. But we are slowly making some progress. The main thing I did last week was? I started to collect resumes from the various sound folks that I’ll need help with. This is the guy who is going to score the movie. The composer who is going to score the movie. This is the sound effects person, foly, someone whom has got to go in and add all the sound effects. And then also the dialog editor. And then also the person who mixes everything together. Basically once those three people have done their pass, the dialog, the editor, the composer, and the sound effects guy. And then someone has to go in and mix all those sounds. So, they are at their proper levels, and they all sound good together. So, those are sort of the four positions. The mixer guy will probably be also do the dialog editor, or he won’t do the sound effects. You can double up a little bit on that. So, that’s kind of what I am looking for now is? As I said, put a bunch of ads up and put word out. And I’ve been collecting resumes as I have been talking about, “The Pinch” every week on the Podcast. People have been sending me resumes, and samples and stuff. So, now I’m starting to go through them. I also have put up ads on the local Los Angles section of Craigslist, to try and find some of those people. There is a ton of you know, really talented people here in Los Angeles, that are always scrapping for work. So, hopefully I can meet some of those folks and you know, put them to work. And use their skills and their talents on this picture. Sound is definitely something I don’t do, nor do I know a whole lot about. You can probably tell from listening to this Podcast. Sound is definitely not my forte. So, I will definitely be requiring quite a bit of help on this.

Anyways, as I said, it might take a couple of more weeks to get to locked picture. But, slowly but surely, I am moving ahead. At this point, I shot the film, last July. Basically in the month of July we, maybe the last day of July. I think we literally finished shooting on the last day of July, July 31st. So. I don’t think a year in post-production on a low-budget film like this is unreasonable. You know, you just get other things because it’s super low-budget. And I don’t have a lot of money. The more money you have the more money you can throw at it. You can kind of speed up the process a little bit. You know, in a lot of cases like with these sound folks. As I said, there’s a lot of talent with the people. But, I’m not going to be able to pay them very much. As I said, this is a

super-low-budget film. So, you know, they may get a higher paying jobs, and that’s totally fine. So, you’re going to inherit some bumps in the road as we go down that. But, the bottom line is, we shot this last July. And I’m kind of thinking, you know, as long as I finish post-production within a year. I don’t think that, that is a terrible time frame. You always want things to be quicker. But, you know, that’s just kind of the process. So, I would say at this point. That’s my goal is, try and get done at least by June, or July. But, hopefully sooner. But, you know, just keeps slowly moving ahead. In any event, that’s the update for this week.

Now, let’s get into the main segment. Today, I’m interviewing. Writer, director,

Chris Von Hoffman, here is the interview.

 

 

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

 

Chris:  I appreciate you having me, thank you very much.

 

Ashley:  So, to start out, maybe you could tell us a little bit about your background? Where did you grow-up? And how did you get interested in the entertainment business?

 

Chris:  A, I grew-up in North, I grew-up in North New Jersey, suburban New Jersey. So, I was born and raised in New Jersey. I always wanted to be involved in, movies, and just Hollywood and the movies, and the film making industry, and the movies. Really just the only thing I was ever attracted to, as far back as I remember. I have memories from as far back as birth. And I was always thinking that I was going to, and my attention was focused on and really not interested in anything around, it was all the same. And so, I was like 6 years old, 7 years old, or like, is when I really started to gravitate to, and my parents would drag me along. And had a video camera, and would just film everything. Film a lot of unfinished films. And I would put my friends there. And I would put myself in them. None of them were edited because I didn’t know, I didn’t understand and I didn’t have the time. I would just shoot a lot of stuff. But I would just be constantly filming all the time. And then eventually when my dad in high school. I still loved film making, but I actually eventually tried acting. And I started with all of the free theater in high school, with all the plays and musicals. And then when I got out of high school, I went to work at the Acting Conservatory in New York, studied there for about 6 or 7 months. That was a very intense experience. And then acting opportunities after that. And then after that I just studied, or did a lot of acting classes.

 

Like, around Greenwich Village, White soldier in New York. Still I blocked plays and like did a lot of theater, a lot of small theater. No major plays, you know, pretty-unsuccessful, you know, a couple of them were somewhat successful. But then eventually I just reached a wall as an actor, and really wasn’t having much success doing it. And it really wasn’t gratifying, or satisfying to me anymore. So, I just decided to proceed with directing films, you know, total switch careers. I made a short film, and New Jersey, and I took it out and moved out to Los Angeles CA. the week after it was finished. And it started a whole new career pursuit of being a director. That was like a completely lack of change for me at the time.

 

Ashley:  Yeah. So, let’s talk about some of these short films that you were doing. Just maybe to start I like to just kinda hear? Do you feel like these short films ultimately lead into helping you get this feature film “Drifter” completed?

 

Chris:  Oh, yeah. This time, I think a lot of people are so, they, young people, young film makers, you know, want to make movies. They are so, they look at short films as, they are beneath them, they meet, and they jump into a feature film, which is garbage. It’s like a student film, and it looks like, they made it in their backyard. It’s incredibly rough around the edges. I feel they really aren’t set-up all that time making a feature film, is such a long endeavor. You’ve got to be prepared for it, as well as you can. You know, doing boot camp before you’re sent to Vietnam or something? And you know, I wanted to make as many short films as I could, as possible to prepare myself. And also to understand the nuts and bolts of film making. Rather than pursue acting. I really didn’t understand the technicalities of how films were made. And I didn’t want to come off as a schmuck. I wanted to really understand movies, and what everyone does. I just made as many shorts as possible, for like 6 years, pretty consistently. And all different lengths, and all different genres. And understanding what it is I have to offer to movies. And really contributed to that. By the time I started to director. He I didn’t feel, it felt like a really long short film. So, I knew I was ready to make the transition to it. It just felt like you know, just another movie. It didn’t feel like this big frightening endeavor. Because you guys had been making so many short films.

 

Ashley:  Yeah. I’m curious, I wonder if you could give us some like, sort of specific

nuts and bolts were you? Once you finished these short films, were you submitting it to film festivals? Where you sending them out to agents? Or were you just trying to get the

nuts and bolts down and just moving on to the next film? Was there any marketing? Of these short films once you were done?

 

Chris:  Ha, I tried everything. I pretty much tried every angle I could, to get them exposed. You know, every short film I made, I was committed to as many film festivals I could afford. And just half way submitting them to more and more festivals. But none of my short films really made it, had much success. Still when they got better technically, they filled, I guess they never really had you know, that much of best, they didn’t really do many film festivals. I mean, film festivals could accept them. There were dirt small film festivals. I love them dearly, but not for play. You know film festivals are they really didn’t embrace them very much. They just did really you know do that much for me. And in the long run, what they did do. Which really, they didn’t train me very much for film making in general. And really a difference they made. You know, don’t get too self-satisfied or something.

And really humbled me, the experience of making short films. They really didn’t have much acceptable. But they were like things in my portfolio, which I look back on them. And like, okay, that was like back at film school. My training school, and all these short films. I guess who benefitted from it in the long run.

 

Ashley:  Yeah. So, let’s dig into drifter. To start out maybe you can give us a quick log-line or pitch, what is this film all about?

 

Chris:  A, the pitch to the film, is about these two outlaw brothers out in this California desert. And they are on their way. It’s there mission to hunt down a guy, who supposedly murdered their father. And on this mission they eventually take a this temporary detour into this strange town. Find medical assistance after the younger brother is pretty badly beaten by bandits, when hijackers tried to steal their vehicle. And once they enter this town. They do find assistance, but they also find this small family that’s been a part of the town, who are cannibal savages. Who are just pure evil. They take the two brothers captive. They go on this very strange blood soaked odyssey desends into hell. The brothers try to escape there from captivity.

 

Ashley:  And where did this idea first come from?

 

Chris:  I probably got the idea from when I was 16 years old. I had the title and opening scene. And I had the overall structure of the movie. And I got time. I still got this two brothers who get stuck in a town. It was overrun by supernatural force. Sort of a literal ghost town. As opposed to overrun by cannibal savages. This was ten years later when I ended up making, you know, deciding to make this my first feature film for a micro-budget. I just made it big then cannibals instead of ghosts, for the character. Much better for budget sake. But, yeah, it started like, the initial idea was like over a decade ago. So, I pulled it out from the woodwork, you know. I hadn’t forgot about this idea, the idea of good for my first movie.

 

Ashley:  Yeah, and did you already know, like, the location? As you start to write this. Did you have any idea you could shoot it here? You could shoot it this specific location very cheaply? What elements did you kinda have in place before you started writing?

 

Chris:  Yeah, the biggest element in that we never wrote the script around, was the town. We shot like five days of shooting schedule. Which was like the entire second act in the town. You definitely have, I never knew I wanted to shoot the town. And we had scouted that location like months before it, like a year before we started filming actually. And it really, you know, it get’s ya prepared for writing process while you’re out there. It’s actually a town. It’s not media, it’s a town, like around the town. So that was like the first initial thing, the first initial thing. And we shot a promo through there. Like a few months before we started prepping the movie for the plug, make some money and we shot a promo in the town, so people saw, kind of what we were going for. It all started right there with the town.

 

Ashley:  So, let’s talk about your writing process a little bit. I always just like to get a feel for the rough writers. How much time do you spend. And it sounds like this was something that kind of percolated for many, many years. But, in general how much time do you spend outlining versus how much time do you spend actually opening up final draft and writing, you know, script pages.

 

Chris:  A, this particular movie I had a, I worked with a writing partner, who was also the lead actor in the movie. He played the younger brother. So, him and I worked on the script together. And how that works, I write most to myself, by myself. So, it was an interesting process on working with them. Essentially, I was writing, I was editing a short film at the time. I was also working on day job, so I didn’t have a lot of time before getting into it. At that time, he was writing his own version of it, the draft. And he wrote kind of a 40 page, like outline script. And then once I finally had free time. And then was when I up and was full force on that. The script I that’s sort of like, you know, took it over and Calvert wrote it and made it my own. To make it figuratively, you know, a lot of it to what I wanted to make. And I removed as much dialog as much as possible. And kind of heightened up the intensity. And had to make it thrilling and more exciting and all that. Yeah, you know, it’s kind of like why we met a time. I feel like, I don’t know? Probably I guess, it’s kind of like on and off for a few months, like, looking back, it really didn’t take that long, you know, long to define. With this movie, I was so willing to focus on making a feature film. I just wanted to get the script to a certain place. And just kind of take it from there. So my, it probably wasn’t long probably 2 or 3 months or so, to put out the script.

 

Ashley:  And what is your development process on something like this, it sounds like early on you knew that you were going to try and shoot it yourself? But, did you get feedback? You sent it to actors, do you have some friends who are writers, directors, get feedback and how do you interpret that feedback when you start to get it?

 

Chris:  A yeah, we definitely get it back in the writing process, you know, from lots of people. And definitely read and write what you may, based off of that feedback. What I was also thinking about, unfortunately, I also have to really hard core think about like budget as well. Because they were suggesting a lot of things here. I just knew because a lot of it, the budget was a sacrifice. You know, a lot of it is a lot of personal sacrifice. So, I just knew that a lot of the suggestions were good suggestions. But I just knew that they weren’t going to be realistically afforded. So, trained to be very careful with re-writes were made with the script. Because I needed to keep it as, like, nuts and bolts simple as I possibly could. I mean, so, yeah, getting the feedback isn’t very, you know, different feedback from different people. It was to show per taking in like sense in what realistically they were for. When they write them, they aren’t realistically thinking forward, but I am. Because I have to be very nice and methodical about it. What’s appropriate for that character, you know, adjusting the script, that’s a frustrating process. But, you know, afterwards.

 

Ashley:  I’m curious, I get a lot of people Emailing me, and they questions that goes something along the lines of how do you know how much something is going to cost? And I think that’s one of the great things about doing short films is? You start to kind of realize what scenes are expensive. Do you have some sort of general tips? Are there any counter intuitive things that seem like they should be cheap to shoot, but, are actually expensive than visa-versa? Some things that maybe seem like they might be expensive. But, actually are very easy and cheap to shoot?

 

Chris:  A…Um….

 

Ashley:  Maybe you could even, if you don’t have anything left? Maybe you could even think about some of the suggestions people gave you? And give some of those examples. And tell us why you thought they were too expensive.

 

Chris:  Yeah, you know, people talk about, okay well. A lot of people give those, the refer back in the movie. Doesn’t really go in a way that typical survivor movement, or a silver lining would go for. Like, at the first fact doesn’t go. Okay, we’re going to fight back. We’re going to be row. We going to make this thick character arc. We’re going to ride shotgun. And we’re going to fight these cannibals and all that. First of all, typically I wasn’t the most seen doing that, kind of third act. So, many movies and it just, really kind of bores me. And I kind of thought I would rather, I would much prefer, I would rather go another route. And make it a lot more unconventional, switch perspective on the cannibal. And anxious and much more like a nightmare’ish kind of. But a, also I just knew I wasn’t going to be able to also afford a third act like that, you know. And that’s probably why I hit the wall. Because the third act you know, was kinda section to section inside the house. And that’s why the brothers are inside the house and held captive. And you know, if it was a bigger project? I would have been more inclined perhaps to make it much more of a, you know, more of a straight forward big, you know, typical action packed, third act. But there was so much in the movie already. That I can sort of just roll that. I just knew that it wasn’t going to work out, ya know? To be that way.

 

Ashley:  And how do you approach screenplay structure. You’re throwing around a lot of terms, you know, “First act” “Middle act” “Third act.” How do you approach screenplay structure? Are you a Blake Schnider fan, Sidfield fan, what do you think about screenplay structure in general.

 

Chris:  Yeah, I think I, I’m always trying to make something. Which I do love straight forward linear story telling. And I do believe in pre-extra structure. I am trying to, I mean, it is unconventional and kinda twisty, just is. I still feel like there is pre-act structure, to a skeletal structure. But there is still a three-act structure. But, I’m trying to, I’m not really interested in avant-garde film making. Like I really want to make, I really do believe in that pre-bolt three-act structure. I like to make it as simple as possible. That just gives me enough room. I just need plenty of room to just you know, kind of go nuts aesthetic. I really believe in, you know, super 4 structures.

 

Ashley:  Now, as far as genre goes, was there a particular reason that you wanted to do a film. I mean it’s kinda like a post-apocalyptic “Mad Max” sort of a genre, correct?

 

Chris:  Yeah.

 

Ashley:  And so, was there a particular reason you wanted to sort of exclude? Was it a sort of creative decision, was it business decision, had you told, or talked to some distributors? And said, “Hey, these movies are selling in the marketplace.” What was sort of your motivation for this particular genre?

 

Chris:  A, I definitely a feel like a mix of all that. I mean, I think a post-apocalyptic movie and the reason why there are so many of them? A lot of terrible low budget post-apocalyptic movies, and there are a lot of them. And it is a market in and of itself.

And I knew that, that was a good backdrop to use. Because it always is a niche market. And have a contract that is familiar, and everyone love a cannibal in the desert. And going off and let people, you know, and let all that self, you know, can get eye catching to you know, the horror, websites and all that. So I got to cash in on that. And maybe that sort of DNA. And then I kinda went through a faze, because I made a couple of other. I was trying to get a piece of film made, back in chapter 13. But also it took place in the desert, with a similar tone to it. And that was very unsuccessful trying to get money for it. So, I just sort of took the inspiration from that movie, took that sort of backdrop. And then cranked it up a little bit. And then gave it a more futuristic look to it, and put in zombies. Sort of kind of tone. I challenged myself with a, you know, the desert backdrop. I’ve always been fascinated by the desert. And there is just something very, it is very cheap to shoot as well. Yeah, it was just a mix of greater a lot of things.

 

Ashley:  Yeah. I’m curious, even specifically like you said, there’s this sort of sudden niche of these “Post-Apocalyptic cannibal” movies. How do you even know about that? Are these films that you watch, and you enjoy personally? Have you worked for distributors, talked to distributors? Precisely how did you zone in on that? How did you know that, that was a sudden niche for that, that might be popular?

 

Chris:  I remember, just, I, we definitely were talking about what I needed a distributor when I needed this. Trapped movie, there really wasn’t that much of a strategy. I was just so desperate to make it, the film. I just had to make it, a film that length. We didn’t start getting, you know, a sales agent and a distributor, until well after the fact. While we were filming, and you know, on post- production. So, I just watched, you know, an enormous amount of movies. And I love genre movies. And I was talking about, you know, desert post-apocalyptic movies, and I just see them all over the place. Okay, well, I see all these movies get made. And they all seem to get released. But, So let me just I do sort of my own commentary, making it kind of my own commentary on, what’s wrong with these like you know, kind of  like, “Red Box.” You know, straight to video, desert, you know, post-apocalyptic. Do like my version of that movie. Like it’s sort of the commentary on it, those movies. So, by deconstructing those movies. In a way that I truly get. But also, we got to do a movie called, “The Composition” a similar tone and feel to it. And that maybe was like a major influence. Because after all the way through. And I just loved Howie, very ambiguous with the place, and do it. That woods, you got a visceral. And I knew I wanted to work with the director of “The Drifter.” Um…

 

Ashley:  So, this, let’s talk about

 

Chris:  The, right.

 

Ashley:  So, let’s talk about the financing of this film. Once you were on the project or done writing the script. What were your steps to actually raising money to bring this to production?

 

Chris:  Well, I guess it was sort of like a sort of very sloppy unconventional way. I didn’t have that much of a mutual on this movie. I’m not very savy with a you know, business things, and raising money. So, it was very, you know, sort of like a screw over. But, eventually we tried india campaign. We put together a whole pitch package for him, you know, the video pitch and all that. Shop piece for O’Connell he did some stuff for us as well.

I felt that we had a pretty good presentation for him. When you know, I had, I just had nobody. It was completely unsuccessful. And we couldn’t even raise, like, $1000.00. And we were trying to get $20.000.00 at the time. And it was just, nobody wanted it. You know others thought it was cool, but they just didn’t want to you know, enjoy it. This was not the right place for it, right there, you know. It’s not the exact money. We’re just trying to take a wack out of and make a little micro-budget cannibal thriller, that’s all. We needed a bigger hook than that I guess? To get money on that? But that was really unsuccessful, ridiculously unsuccessful, it was embarrassing.

So, then after that, we had a couple of other investors, they were going to come on-board. And then they dropped out at the last minute. But it was like, fun little picture. We just did not scrape up, you know, also having kind of personal factors. I borrowed a few thousand dollars from this guy, and the person came on-board and helped out. And it was a very, like unconventional, very like sloppy process. Like just scraping enough, just scraping by, getting. The moment I got enough money to move forward, I did. Because once you start moving forward and people follow you? And they know that you are actually making this movie, regardless of the fail the funding campaign. You know, things started to snowball. When people started to walk in and come on-board, you know, and that. But, it was still was a major struggle with financially.

 

Ashley:  These people that you’re getting to invest. They’re friends and family? Who are these people specifically?

 

Chris:  Yeah, the major side investor a friend of mine. Who put in, a chunk of the budget really. I’d known him for a couple of years. I mean, he’s a an incredibly selfless, just genuine amazing human being. And he just, was always helping us out. Not just like initially. In the beginning he gave us some start-up funds. But, also just helping out, helping us a lot then. On the bank mire in the middle of production. And even like, one time we had our camera fried. He had to get a

back-up camera. He had to get his wallet out and pay for it right there. He was always just helping out. But, helping us out were, or whenever we needed it, was just and incredible act for production.

 

Ashley:  Yeah. So, how can people see “Drifter” do you know what the release schedule is going to be?

 

Chris:  Yeah, we’re doing a free sneak preview at UCLA, at February 12 and Thursday evening. And then Feb. 24th. The next night it begins it’s L.A. echelon on Hollywood Blvd. For about

1 week, and then on Feb. 28th is one of those ITunes, Video On Demand, Amazon, and all that. I think it’s going to come out on DVD and BlueRay sometime in June. And then it’s also Australia, now on DVD. And then March, they’re Germany, Demark, once you get there, U.K. and then from there, the Middle East.

 

Ashley:  I’m curious, what point did you find a distributor? And how did you get the distributor on-board?

 

Chris:  We a, the moment I finished filming the movie. Well, we hadn’t edited yet. We had a phenomenal foundation, they really believed in the film from day one. Who believed in me, who was just an incredible, again, I think, an incredible human being. I’m sure it was an affordable project and of me. And so, he was like really im-picturing the film.

And while we were filming. It just, you know, talking about it. Managing distributors is one thing, as much as possible. And then I finished the film. I cut a trailer for the American Film Market. So, that he can show it to the international film fest. And then it got jacked and broke the chain. They showed the trailer to all the distributors, and all these different buyers. You know, a lot saw the movie. And he was getting lots of people interested, just possible showed the trailer. And then within a month after the movie. We found out we were in jeopardy of from the time of the actual media came

on board, and then working on the lights. And then after that, a bunch of international territories, and international distributors started. Send the film off to world wide distribution. Which was the you know, very cool.

 

Ashley:  That’s great. So, what’s the best way for people to get ahold of you? And to keep up with what you’re doing? If you’re on Twitter, or Facebook, a blog. Anything you’re comfortable sharing. You can just give us that now, and I’ll put that all in the show notes. People can click over and check it out.

 

Chris:  Yeah, check out I just started Twitter, there’s really nothing on there, just thought I’d come out and Tweet about the movie.

 

Ashley:  And what is your Twitter handle?

 

Chris:   A but the main reason I use it. I’m trying to remember what it is? I mean, it’s, I @cbhoffmann with two “n’s” I mean, just got my name Twitter, okay.

 

Ashley:  Perfect.

 

Chris:  For me that’s the main thing I use. I’m also on InstraGram. And the idea is to look up my name, and it’ll come up right away, on both outlets. Those specific names.

 

Ashley:  Perfect. So, I’ll gather that stuff and I’ll put it in the show notes so people can click over to that. Well Chris congratulations to this film. I really appreciate you coming on and talking with me today.

 

Chris:  Absolutely.

 

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

 

Chris:  Well thank you so much, man.

 

Ashley:  Sure, bye.

 

 

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As a bonus, if your script receives a grade of “Recommend” from one of our readers. You get a free Email and Fax Blast to my list of industry contacts. This is the exact same Email and Fax Blast I use myself to promote my own screenplays. 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 new material.

So, if you want a professional evaluation of your screenplay for a very reasonable price? Check out – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/consultants.

On the next episode of the Podcast, I’m going to be interviewing Tony Bill. He’s had a long successful career. Which includes winning a “Best Picture Academy Award” for “The Sting.” We talk all about his career which includes his current projects. And how he finds screenplays to option and produce. It’s a great insight into the thought process of a successful producer. He’s exactly the type of producer that as screenwriters you should be networking with, and meeting, and trying to understand what he’s looking for. So, we can potentially provide that script to him. So, keep an eye out for that episode next week.

Anyway, that’s the show, thank you for listening.

 

 

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