Ashley: Welcome to episode #172 of the “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I’m Ashley Scott Meyers Screenwriter and Blogger over at – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today, I’m interviewing, Martin Koolhoven, who just did a western called, “Brimstone.” He’s originally from the Netherlands. And he built his reputation as a director locally first. And has now started to write and direct films for the internet and the international market. He started with short films and slowly worked his way up. And we dig into his entire career. From getting that first break, right up to his most recent film. So, stay tuned for that.
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A quick few words about what I am working on. So, once again, the main thing I’m working on is post-production, on my crime, action, thriller feature film, “The Pinch.” So, not a lot to report this week. But, I’ve just about got my entire post production team in place. And now, it’s just a matter of letting them do their thing. I got my Sound Designer, my special effects guy all set last week. Which basically meant just getting them all the files that, digital files that they need to do their job. I had a long meeting with my Sound Designer, going over all the sound elements in the film. He a lot of really cool, creative ideas about how to make the film sound really pop. So, that’s exciting just to hear that. And see that come together. And I got my composer off and running last week too, so that’s moving ahead. My colorist actually got back to me last week with a firm first pass of the color correction and color grading. So, I think that’s on track as well. So, now I just basically got to let these guys do their thing. And you know, I’ll be checking in with them occasionally. But, really now, just kinda let them do their thing, all these people. You know their experts at their particular craft. And I just want to give them the time to allow them to do a really great job. So, that’s what I’m working on.
So, now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m interviewing director, Martin Koolhoven. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Martin to, the “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I really appreciate you coming on the show and talking with me today.
Martin: Hello, nice, nice, coming on the show, thanks for having me.
Ashley: Thank you. So, to start out, maybe you can tell us a little bit about your background. Kinda how did you get interested in the entertainment industry?
Martin: I was, a child, I was already completely bonkers about the movies. And at some point, I started to realize, that the movies were actually made. And not just a thing thought up by the actors as they go along.
Martin: So, I think at some point, I must have been about 17-18, or something like that? I sort of started to slowly get, I had to say, that I might want to be, or do something in the entertainment industry. And that I first went to a type of a film school. But, not the
Film Academy in Holland. The first time I actually wanted to go there, I wasn’t accepted. So, I went to Belgium, and I, they had a film academy. Well, I stayed there for a year, and after a year, I decided to go to Amsterdam and so tried again, and got accepted. And then I was in film school. And from film school I when I actually came off film school. After film school I was working in movie, I was one of the lucky ones.
Ashley: Okay, perfect, perfect. Let’s dig into your most recent film, “Brimstone.” Maybe just to start out, you can give us a quick pitch or a log-line for the film.
Martin: Yeah, it’s a, movie about Liz, who is a young woman, who lives in the old west. And she is quite happy and she has a family. But things go terribly wrong when there is a new reverend in her church. And she immediately recognizes boys, and can see, she realizes that this is bad news. And the movie basically is about how she, and what she has to go through for what she has to do in order to survive. And to have her family survive. And it’s a movie in 4 chapters and it also tells how things, and the events led up to how things are the way that they are.
Ashley: Where did this idea come from?
Martin: It was very strange actually. I started out, with the last movie I did before. Which was, “Winter in War Time.” Which was very successful. But this one was quite successful, but this one topped them all. And it was sold well, it did well on the video market, in America. And what happens then, Hollywood started calling and England started calling. And that sort of got me warmed up to the idea of doing a movie in the English language internationally. And I had said, “No” to so many scripts.
And at some point, some producer said to me, “Okay, what is it you want to do?” And I joked, I said, you know, I’d like to do a western. And he said, “Well, why don’t you?” And then I started thinking, well, why don’t I? This is actually before a Tarantino even announced “Jangle and Chain” so. It was completely not on vogue to do a western. And it did start me thinking? If I was going to do an English spoken movie, then maybe it should be a western? Because I certain know a lot about the period. I saw all the movies. I would feel much more comfortable writing somehow a historical piece about a period that I know a whole lot about. If I were to do a contemporary movie in New York or whatever? So, that’s where it started. And that started me thinking, okay, what is it that I like about westerns? What Is it, and I came to the idea that, you know, sort of boyish idea of and the adventure and everything possible. And it’s almost an attitude that really attracted me to especially men. But then I also realized that, you know, this is of course, half of the truth. This is, you know, the purity of a different perspective. And I realized it, actually, you know, the myth of the old west. They said, is it a complete macho myth? And when I realized that, I thought, okay, I have to do a movie that shows that the other thought. It shows that Mel had the more sentiment for me. And so, that was one part of it. And the other part of it. was that I when I had decided to do, to write a western. I was also intimidated by the fact that there were so many great ones.
Martin: And I felt if I was going to do something which had no any menial value? You know, could contribute anything to the genre. It had to be, personal, it had to be something that had a lot to be to do with my cultural inheritance. And so like I say to the, I was brought up religious. And how do you say, I very strong influence on the Dutch society. We know it now, so I decided to combine those two things and that’s basically where, “Brimstone” started from.
Ashley: Yeah, now I’m curious, sort of the typical thing you hear from distributors. Or that westerns don’t play overseas. Obviously, they can play well in America. And it sounds like your very well versed in seeing a lot of these movies, and yet you’re from Europe. Are you a typical becoming because you’re, you know, you’re really into film, and you went and watched all of these films, western movies growing-up. Do a lot of you, Europeans do?
Ashley: Enjoy these westerns?
Martin: Well, the thing is that, The, I think it is, in the last year. I think the western economy being so successful. Not only are we seeing that, I don’t think we have a lot of movies that are westerns that were successful in America, to be truthful either. But, with the people in the movie industry, especially film maker, writers, directors, also acted. They have always have in the genre. And I think they, the moment I said I was going to do a western. I haven’t had so many, all actors I know, you know, Tex wanted to be in it. Everybody thought it was a wonderful idea. And I think that is always it’s been. The door seems shut, but the moment that scene seems to be a little attractive, a little opening. That I think also might wake up eventually. Because I think it’s the greatest genre there is. And I think most are interesting. Yeah.
And any, the moment something, there is, that one is successful, then everyone, you know, hopes to get their western made. And Scorsese said that he wanted to do a western. A bunch of them, that he said he wanted to do. That any director wants to do a western.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. But, do you think just the average European audience is interested in this?
Martin: Well, yeah. I mean. I didn’t know where the idea had come from that not. And when westerns were really popular, they were extremely popular in Europe. I mean, I actually they were more popular when, in the early 60’s, they were dead in America. And again, it wasn’t into that going back to the “Spaghetti westerns.” And then later, you know with Pack and Paul and all of those guys, played back in America as well. I don’t see, I think, you know, I think it’s a conception of Americans. It’s that, you know, because, it is of course an American genre. That maybe European’s don’t like them so much. But, the thing is of course, you got to us. It’s not pure, here in America, you know, because they’re the people that were actually there at that time. You know, we’re European. So, it’s somehow, you know, I think that connects us.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So, let’s talk about your writing process a little bit. How much time, as you were coming up with this idea. I’d just be curious to kinda get a sense how much time do you spend preparing to write? Verse actually write, in opening up “Final Draft” and writing the script?
Martin: Oh, I do a lot of, I start reading about things. I am watching movies that have sort of dramatically, got something to do with it. I do a lot of preparation in that sense. And then I actually, I postpone the actual lighting as long as possible. I mean, I know there are I don’t think I’m very good at preamble? When it comes to writing them. I’m not a, I always say I’ve go the soul of a film maker. I don’t have necessarily have the soul of a life. I write because I want to make movies. And I’m not very professional at, you know, to write every day. You know, sometimes I write a lot, sometimes I write a message. I’m very, it’s hard to predict right then. But, I mean, and it also what I mean when writing. Since, I hadn’t written anything from scratch, you know, a long time. I written a script speed. And I got two other ones that I made for the book. And I’ve re-written other scripts. But, the script that was from a complete writing page. I think the thing was before, that I did that. So, I was quite rough as well. It was like, it was like the book. I’ve done a lot about it. And you know, you never sloppy. So, there was a lot of, it took me quite a long time to actually write.
Ashley: Yeah, let’s talk about your development process a little bit. I’m always curious just to hear how writers work with other people. So, once you’re sort of done your first draft and you send it to. Do you have a few close friends that you send it to? Do you have an agent, manager, producers? And then how do you interpret those notes? How do you kind of look at those notes and decide which one to implement?
Martin: A, yeah. Well, I. The first one I did write was a my producer. And I own a company the produces a lot of my movies. That I go a ways now. And I’m the Writer/Director, and she’s the producer. So, that’s sort of the first one I let read. Or is my girlfriend, who is also a film maker. So, but, a it’s a, I have a bunch of people that I value, that I trust, and I let them read it. But, it’s more difficult to get at some point, you know, a little bit further.
That we perceive that, for instance what I did back out. Is that I dropped some people that I know, but it doesn’t know them, very, very, well. I respect them, you know. Because some of them all, some are first time novel, some of them are producers, you know. And I thought, you know, bring a couple of these people together, and let them read the script. And then let them talk about it, and see, you know, they can be as tough as they want to be. Because I’m not going to be there. So, I had my editor, I have to say, I mean, my movie editor, my film editor. Who I have always, you know, I’ve had since I started. I did all my movies with him. And he sort of marketed that. And he then told me what those people thought. And then that could be as tough as they wanted to be, that sort of stuff. That’s why I come up with to, better the script. I get in, and I also got in, I got sign for Beanie, with the writer. He was one of the writers, “Once Upon A Time In America.” And he also wrote, “The Gentum” I got him in that. At some point I got to, I got “Skid Doctor” from Griffin that is, I think she did, “Shakespeare in Love.” I got anything to, you know, to get that script to become better.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, sure. So, how can people see “Brimstone?” Do you know what the release schedule is going to be like?
Martin: In America, you mean?
Martin: Yeah. It’s coming out in on the 10th of March and it’s going to be in selected theaters. It’s got a small theatrical release. And then it’s going to also be on the DOD, at the same time.
Ashley: Okay. Perfect, perfect. Well Martin, I really appreciate you coming on and talking with me today. Thank you very much, and good luck with the film.
Martin: Okay, thank you, Bye-bye.
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 one of the premier paid screenwriting leads sites. So I can syndicate their leads into 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
On the next episode of the Podcast I’m going to be interviewing Barbara Morgan. She is the founder of the Boston Film Festival. They are doing a new kinda contest, this year for fictionalized Podcast scripts. Which are basically rating real plays. I had not heard of this before talking with Barbara. So, it was interesting to learn about a new market for screenwriters. There are a number of these now out there in the Podcast world. Where they are basically fictionalize stories that you know, writers have written up, and then actors will perform the voices. And then they get through the same channels basically that this Podcast is going through. Which is, you know, iTunes, and Stitcher, Soundcloud, and theirs some really high quality ones. And we’ll talk through those. We’ll talk about those next week. And we’ll also talk through some of the challenges that writers in this medium may face. Barbara and the Boston Film Festival. They are very optimistic about this as a growing market for screenwriters. That’s why they are trying to kinda getting ahead of the curve, and launch this contest for Podcast Fictionalize Podcast script. So, it’s just great to see that there is new changes in technologies. You know, there’s new markets and new places that potentially screenwriters can see their work. So, this is great news for all of us. I would encourage everyone to check out this episode next week. Again, this is something I knew nothing about before talking to Barbara. But, after talking with her, I think I have a kinda a good understanding. And it kind gets the wheels turning. You know, in my own creativity start to thinking about some potential ideas for a Podcast, a fictionalized Podcast stories. So, keep an eye out for that episode next week.
To wrap things up, I just want to touch on a few things from today’s interview with Martin. So, I think the big lesson for me? Is this whole, you start locally and build a reputation there. There’s a couple of things that you’ll find that are advantages if you are writing for a local market. But they end up being disadvantages if you are not from Hollywood, and you are trying to break into Hollywood. And those things are the language differences, and cultural differences. If you are trying to write some scripts in English, and English isn’t your native language? You’re always going to be kind of going up stream on that. And it’s going to be very difficult for a reader to just pick-up your script and kinda see through those language problems. Whereas if you’re submitting scripts to local market and you’re writing in your native language. Those things are going to be an advantage. There’s probably not as many scripts being submitted to producers in the local language, and there is going to be some film making community. So again, that can be an advantage for you. The same thing with cultural differences. There may be somethings that make perfect sense to you? Whether that’s the family structure, or neighborhoods, or how the government works? Any of these sort of cultural things, maybe very specific. And the way you understand them.
May not necessarily be the way that other people understand them outside of your area. And then again, if those things are in your script? They can be stumbling blocks to a reader in Hollywood trying to understand sort of where you’re coming from. Again though, they can be advantages if you are submitting those things to local producers. All of these things can be advantages. The local producers, if he gets a script written from someone who is not in your local area. That’s going to seem like the odd-ball script, not your script. Your script is going to make sense to them. So, I would really, really consider trying to find local film making community and trying to work your way in out there. It’s just a great way to go, and again, I think Martin is a great example of how success in your local film making community. And you will ultimately be at to break onto them, on the international scene. The big argument that I get from writers when I suggest this. Is that they are local film making community is closed to and hard to break into. It’s kind of a closed network. And you know, they don’t like necessarily the movies that they are trying to write. Again, I would really encourage you to take a step back and think this through, while your local film making community may not be easy to break into. Hollywood, isn’t easy to break into either. And especially when you compound it with somebody, and some of these other issues, like: the language, and the cultural differences that you maybe battling. So again, I would take a hard look at your local film making community. And really think about that. I think in most instances you’re going to find it’s probably better to go to a local film making community than try and branch out and go to Hollywood. When I say this too, I’m really talking about countries where English is not your primary language. If you speak fluent English, you’re probably in pretty good shape. Obviously, people in the U.K., Australia, where English is their. There may be some small cultural differences. But, between the U.K., Australia, and the United States. There may be some differences there. But because this is the language, because these folks speak fluent English. There may be cultural differences. But, the language is not going to be an issue. So, I think for the most part, American readers. In Hollywood could probably be able to read a script from the U.K. And they could kinda understand that there may be some cultural differences. But, because the language is, we’d all be there. Probably your chances of breaking would be okay. As opposed to going upstream and trying to write something that’s not in your native tongue. Again, if you speak Fluent English, you’re probably in pretty good shape. But if you’re English is not fluent I would highly encourage you to look locally for your local film making community. See if you can’t break in with that. I’ve written a couple of blog posts on this exact topic. I will link to those in the
show-notes. So, if you’re somebody who is not from the United States, and you’re trying to break into Hollywood. I would definitely say check out these two blog posts, because they go into sort of more detail on what I’m talking about here.
Anyway, that’s the show, thank you for listening.