Ashley: Welcome to episode #179 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 Co-Founder, of “Script Fest.” Bob Schultz. We talk about Script Fest. a bit. But we also dig into his own writing career. He has two feature films coming out this year. And we dig into exactly how he made those films happen. So, stay tuned for that interview.
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So, now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m interviewing Screenwriter, and Co-Founder of “Script Fest” Bob Schultz Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Bob to, the “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I really appreciate you coming on the show and talking with me today.
Bob: thanks for having me, I’m thrilled to be back.
Ashley: So, you came on the Podcast believe it or not, almost 2 years ago, Episode #87. And we talked a lot of and all about the “Pitch Fest.” and pitching in general. So, I’m just going to link to that in the show notes. And I’m encourage people to check that Podcast episode out. You talk about a lot of the history with the “Pitch Fest.” and how all that works. I just wanted to touch, when is your “Pitch Fest.” this year? I think we can get those dates in case people are wondering when that’s going on.
Bob: Sure. We are back in Burbank California at the Marriot once again. It’s our 14th annual Fest. and we’ll be there June 23rd through 25th through 2017.
Ashley: Great, perfect, perfect. And for people who listen to this episode after that date. Is there some sort of general logic to when you run these events, just for 2018, 2019, and beyond, roughly when they will be held. Or when they’ll be holding them at certain times. Anything that people can just kind of figure out.
Bob: Typically we are in May each year, May through June. We try to keep it around the same time each year, so people can sort of plan their visits. This year, we’ve moved to June because of some problems with the hotel. We decided to surrender our May date, and move onto June, just to be good team players. And so, it looks like, plus in May 2018 probably.
Ashley: Okay, perfect, perfect. So, you were a screenwriter as well as running “Pitch Fest.” So, I wanted to dive into two of your current feature films. The first one is, Hershel Gordon Louise, is “Blood Mania.” Maybe to start out you can kind of just give us the pitch or log-line for that.
Bob: Sure. I mean, “Blood Mania” came from the, it was a straight up offer of work. I made some contacts in Calgary Alberta Canada film industry. It was working on some previous projects. One of the contacts there had a contact at Hershel Gordon Louis, who was known as the “God Father of Gore.” He’s a horror movie legend, epic legend. Died suddenly last year. But so, they wanted to interview an anthology movie basically. 4 short horror stories, maybe like “Creepshow” or like “Twilight Zone the Movie” this sort of thing. And they wanted me to write one the same. So, they approached me and asked would I work with Hershel Gordon Louis? I had essentially said, any chance to work with one of my idols is fine by me. They had Michael Barryman, and Paul Sero. And so, I said, “Sure.” And so, I wrote a short for it. And it was hard work, it’s, as someone who worked really hard on spec. scripts. And wanted to be a writer for so long, and for so many years. Getting offered a higher job to me. Was like the greatest thing in the world because you can then start considering yourself well off. First, the screenplay. And then secondly, the writing of your name on a check. Which is really a nice little treat for a writer. So, yeah, I was thrilled to write it, and the movies. And recently it was distributed and is doing pretty well from what I understand.
Ashley: You mentioned just a second ago, that you had made contact with them over the years in Canada. Maybe you could talk about how you made those contacts? I think that would be interesting because that’s sort of the million dollar question is? How do you get yourself in the position, these people know you, and offer you these jobs.
Bob: You know what? The, answer to that question? Is, to always be working on it, always be networking. What was it? In Glenn Gary, Glenn Rossi, NBC, always be ABC, always be closing. It is the film industry, an industry about relationships. And I like to say that, everyone you meet. You’re striving for friendships with an agenda. You know, like, you want to be able to work with somebody in the future. If you have a need, or if they have a need. You want to be someone they would think of. So, it’s important to be yourself, be professional, shake hands with people, have a good sense of humor, be honest, be direct, you know. All these things that they tell you to do in job interviews, basically you need to do all the time. And particularly for writers. Who are, can be very reclusive, or isolating of themselves. It’s even more important to. Whenever you do that at a festival, or at a networking event or something? To force yourself to go out and shake hands and say, “Hello to everyone you meet.” I met these folks coincidentally.
You know, it’s like they were friends of friends, or someone ran a horror convention. And decided they wanted to be the guest, and instead of just saying “Yes” and then leaving the conversation there. And so, what are you interested in? What do you work on when you’re not working on the convention? It becomes critical to just make sure that the, very few people will post something. I am looking for a writer. They said they will contact the writer if they already know, and who they can trust to produce a screenplay for them. So, I met them, and then I maintained contact with them, for as long as it took. And I’m still in touch with them.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, perfect, perfect. So, maybe we could talk a little bit about your other film, “Break Down Lane.” Again, maybe to start out, you can kinda give us an overview or pitch of that film.
Bob: Sure. I wrote “Break Down” on a spec. script. A zombie movie. Basically a woman driving through the desert, car breaks down, she’s stuck out there all by herself with her car, and the zombies. What she has to do is? Push the empty, broken down car through the desert as a life boat, for when the zombies come. The way I conceptualized it, and the way the movie turned out, aren’t exactly the same? Some of our money people decided they want some changes. And they made those changes. But, the important thing is, once again, it was contacts we made. I was a producer on a movie called, “Below Zero” with Signe Olynyk. And that movie took us around the world on a festival tour. And during the festival tour, I met people who could help, and were brought on “Break Down Lane.” And so, “Break Down Lane”, got produced. Now, Like I said, it’s not the movie I originally envisioned. But, that’s the nature of film making. It’s just, the script is, step one, you know, and what follows is going to require the input of everyone else. The producers, the director, the location, the costume designer, the stars, to everyone, everyone has some say. And as a result, you want to work with something that’s not isn’t 100% what you intended. But, hopefully make audiences happy.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. And maybe, discuss too, you Co-Directed “Break Down Lane.” Maybe you can tell us a little bit about how you got on as a director. I get this a lot, from writers hand. Hey, I got this piece, I want to direct it too. How should I approach producers? And I’m always leery to recommend that they, you know, attach themselves as a director. When they don’t have a you know, professional experience directing. So, maybe you can talk about how you were able to get on as a Co-Director on this?
Bob: A, well, ultimately as the one person, who was looking to maintain my original vision. I had some difficulty convincing others. And the others said, okay, why don’t you just record this and show us what you mean, you needed. To be honest with you, I see myself as a writer, a lot more than a director. And given the opportunity to direct again. I would probably say, No, no, please, go ahead find a director. I’ll be happy to provide it. It’s not where my skill set lies, or my passion lies. But, I can only learn that by doing it. And so, it’s important to. I think it’s important to make compromises when you’re a writer. And the directors kind of have the final say. So, he’s, a writer who’s insisting on directing something themselves. I think typically, those who insist up directing stuff themselves are really trying to protect their script. Or protect their story, the way they see it. And my advice to them, is to typically, I think a better idea is, for you to write something else that you are not so passionate about, it turning out exactly the way you want it. And let someone else direct it.
As you said, Ashley, that you actually have very little influence over the process, if you’re just starting out. So, to insist that you’re going to be the director, to make it, is a deal maker or breaker. It means the deal is probably going to break. So, I think it’s better to take to write a script that you’re willing to give a way. In order to sort of build some of the political capital that you’ll need in order to direct the one you want to direct.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. I want to back-up and just touch on something you just mentioned. You said, I think you said, did you Co-produce a film, and took this film to film festivals around the world? Is that correct?
Bob: Yes, that’s right.
Ashley: Okay, what was the name of that film?
Bob: “Below Zero.”
Ashley: “Below Zero.” Okay. And so, maybe you could talk about that, even just stepping back a little bit. Maybe you could talk about that film a little? But, in terms of how you got that one produced? And how you did it? A lot of these, I get a lot of writers, they do a short film. And it doesn’t quite go, you know, viral, and they think that’s a, you know, it means it is not a success. And I feel that there is a lot of stuff in these films that people may never hear of outside of the industry. But what you’re talking about, again, you get them into a few festivals, is kind of just stepping stones, to kind of that, sort of first point in the industry. Where they can start to actually start to meet people. And a short film, or even a feature film will, a low budget feature film festival. So, maybe you could just tell us a little bit about that? What happened to that film? How successful was it? And how did you get it produced?
Bob: Sure. My producing partner, Sidney Aunit, she is the creator of “The Pitch Fest” and we operate it together. She’s also my go to for scripts that I wrote. I think it’s very important to have a network of who you are close to, that their opinions you trust. And usually the scripts together is one person, or a writing group or whatever? So, I went through a little bit of a rough patch, there for a bit. I wrote a couple of scripts, that very similar project, just got produced, and got distributed with big names. So basically, my scripts just died on the vine. I wrote one, about a mall cop, that was ready to go at a “Imagine Entertainment.” It was all set-up, and then, Paul Blart was suddenly getting produced and I’m not Kevin James. So, I don’t have that kind of impact. So, my project just died. And I was really frustrated, and really feeling down on myself. And then Sidney contacted me. And said, “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do?!” We’re each going to write a script. That has, that is very low-budget, very few locations, very small cast. And based on that, we’ll go, we’ll each write a script, and we’ll produce it ourselves. No more of this waiting around for “Imagine Entertainment” just say no.” We’re just going to go ahead and make it ourselves. So, she went off and wrote, “Below Zero.” And I went off and wrote
“Break Down Lane.” And we did “Below Zero” first. And it turned out, amazing. It’s a really, really, good film. We got good cast, and got into all kinds of festivals for it. And based on the festivals, that’s how we launched from there. So, we got it produced because we wrote the screenplay specifically to get produced. Under circumstances that we could provide. I encourage anyone who wrote, and wants to take this course of action in their career.
To assess their lives, see what they have access to? Just you, who can rate, what is the production value of a film. Without necessarily having a budget. Like, if I were to do it again? I would know that my uncle has a Ferrari, know that my mother is the sort of the company of the church. So, if I could write something that took place at a country church. With a car chase involving a Ferrari. With very little additional expense added to my budget. Listing for free, but it adds production value to the movies. So, write something with a, micro-budget and direct and produce it yourself. Like, just go ahead and do it. All producing is, it’s a very, very, long, “To Do List.” Think of everything you’re going to need, hire people, you get crew, you keep, you’re all ready to go. And so, “Below Zero” for open some doors. And “Break Down Lane” opened a few, closed a few, and her, “Blood Mania” brought the same. And I’m working on a couple of, I have one now, that is out to producers with produce credits. You know, good producers, and it’s getting representation, plus, for my own sake. I am producing a short that I wrote as well, an animated short. I never worked in that before, but I think it’s important to always be generating material. Whether it’s screenplays, or films, or shorts, or whatever it is? All of them generating material. Because, it’s easier to steer a ship that’s in motion, than to start from a stop.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, excellent advice. So, let’s talk just a minute about your writing process? I’d be curious to just kind of hear how you work? How much time do you spend in the outlining stage, versus the actual opening up of “Final Draft” and writing script pages.
Bob: HA! I spend about 0.00 minutes on the out-lining process. I am not the example you want to hold up in front of new writers. I say that with full knowledge. I also teach screenwriting at a college out here in Arizona. And I teach the importance of structure. And I think structure is critical in story-telling. But, I also get an electric charge out of that creation process. So, I like to sit down and do what we refer to as “Dirty Deer Headlights Writing.” It’s like driving in a car with dirty headlights, and only see a foot in front of you. And sometimes that means, you wind up someplace exciting that you’ve never seen before. And sometimes it means you slam into the wall. You know, it’s, when I finish a script first. I call it a first draft, I call it a “Zero Draft.” It’s like no one gets to see it. It’s usually in 200 some odd pages long. And it’s flabby. It’s structure is all out of wack. The character arc, is no good, the theme is muddy. But how that helps me is? I also get to know my characters better. Because I sort of follow them around until they do something interesting. And I sort of get to discover new ideas and thoughts that I hadn’t thought of before. And so, I tend to like “Zero Draft.” And then whittle it down into a structure. That’s just what works best for me. I don’t know if you, or anybody, or if any of your listeners have experienced this? But, I’ll write something, and write a joke, a punch line to a joke. And I’ll burst out laughing right there at my computer. Because it surprised me. And I start thinking, Well, how could I be surprised if it’s out of my brain, through my fingers and into my computer. There’s no way I should have been. I’ve had that moment of, that thrilling moment of discovery. And yet I did. So, and I don’t want to get all floppy, and philosophical about it, I’m just channeling something else. But the reality is, by sort of throwing myself into the world of the screenplay, instead of outlining. I get to discover these things that entertain and delight me. And I’m a big believe is the first draft of the script. Of the audience that matters the most is yourself.
As soon as you start sending scripts out to consultants, or producers, or actors or agents or whatever? Or else they are going to come back with notes, and it starts becoming. It starts longing to the world. It doesn’t just belong to you.
First draft I wrote, or write for Bob to be entertained by. And then, after that, it becomes a compromise between Bob and this other person, that they make points look like ideas.
Ashley: So tell me, what do you have before you open up “Final Draft” Do you have like a log-line? Do you have just a loose beginning, middle, and end in your head? Do you start with character, and then find your story? What do you start with not going in with an outline?
Bob: It varies from time to time, usually, like for example, I break down the theme. There usually is a theme I want to explore. So, I start with theme, and with the theme, I sort of devise characters by circumstances that would allow me to sort of pick at that theme. With my current script, all I had was a title. The one I’m working right now, is called, “Hitlersaurus.” Hitler’s great, it seemed T-Rex, right. It literally a one word hit. You can sit down with basically any executive and say, “Hitlersaurus!!” And they will either say, “Let me read that.” Or they’ll say, “Get out of my office!” Those are the really only 2 options. Which is just great, I mean, both give you information. If someone’s not really going to sort of 100% get behind a movie called, “Hitlersaurus” with an exclamation point! Then you don’t want them to be a part of your project anyway. So, I had a title, and I decided, that it would be fun to do certain things with the script. I mean, clearly it can’t be a heart-wrenching drama with Hitlerasaurus. So, you kind of get the tone already. I mean, you get what it’s going to be, and then at the same time. Where do you go with the story? What are the steps in the story? What are the beats that have to be done? And I just sort of let the script write itself. So, you start with story, the protagonist, enter the protagonist, this is such a person, and she has these fatal flaws that she has to over-come. And, you assign the fatal flaw. It has to be a lesson she can learn while in the pursuit of the Tyrannosaurus Rex, with a mustache. So, it’s, so you know, it’s a, it’s important I think, for writers in-particular. To, even if you’re writing something like, “Sharkanado” or you’re writing something like “Hitlersaurus.” As writers, we try, we consider it important to have metaphor, and theme, and to say something about the world. Even if the theme is kinda silly. I think of it as, kinda like when I need to give my dog a pill. And I wrap the pill in a piece of bread. My message is, with the pill. Something fun to swallow is the bread, like Hitlersaurus, hey, stick it in there. So, like, some of that stuff is fun. You know, just for me, just for that one out of a million people, that are going to go see a movie they are going to get the message. But, it’s important to have it in there. So, there’s no reason to sort of dismiss any movie, or any TV series, or any book, or whatever you’re writing. As writers we have to put trust to make that writing good and entertaining, and stuff, that people want to see.
Ashley: Yeah. So just, going back to “Break Down Lane”, for a second. Just like through your process. When did you decide that was a Zombie movie. Because that’s a very particular type of film. And if you just start writing. Again, maybe just get, shed a little light on the process with that one?
Bob: Sure, sure, Okay. So, the break down, with “Break Down Lane.” The theme I wanted to explore, was not so much it was a direct point I wanted to make. It was more sort of examining a human tendency, a human trait, right? And so, I was fascinated by the relationship of that humans have with technology. I was fascinated by how Cindy and I can be 4ft apart from each other and we’ll send each other text messages. Even though I can just look up from my screen and say, hey, what do you think about this?
And so, that’s bad, that sort of separates us from each other using technology. However, on the flip side of that, I have a nephew who, lives in Anchorage, Alaska. And I never get to interact with him directly. But, we both, because we have the taste of a 16-year-old boy, when it comes to pop-culture. We both love the TV show,
“The Flash” right. And in season 1, they finally got to “Gorilla Grog” the giant psychic gorilla, who interacts with people, favorite bad guy. And so, I’m texting with my nephew, I can’t believe it’s Grog night. And Grog, finally comes on TV, pause the TV. And I take a selfie of myself with the TV behind me. Just like, hey, it’s me and Grog, and I send it to James. Several hours later, when the episode is now being screened in Anchorage. He takes a picture of himself with the exact same thing, and sends it back to me. It’s a great way to stay in touch with my family, who’s far, far, away, using technology. I interact with my brothers all the time, even though I’m 1000’s of miles away from each of them. So, that use of technology will both separate and bring together humans. That was something I was very interested in. So, I decided to have this woman trapped in the desert. And the only person she can interact with, is the person on the OnStar System in her car. Who’s in his office, way back someplace south. So, she winds up falling in love with this guy. Which is great, but that’s how technology brings us together. But, she also has a boyfriend. Who she only communicates through text. She uses that to separate herself. So, she doesn’t like people to have characters who are miss tropic in that way. To represent the humanity that sort of bothers her. I chose to use zombies because they can be a faceless hoard that seemed pretty harmless until they get close to you. And I think that sort of responded well to her personality, in that way. I think that, I mean, it is very particular type of movie.
But I think that it is a tradition of using zombies in that way. I really believe that, when they are making that “Dawn of the Dead.” When George Romero is making that dead, and he’s, his zombies are sort of humans that are stripped down to their most elemental, fundamental nature, with no ego whatsoever. And then have them all shuffle mindlessly to the mall. I feel like he was saying something about humanity. That he knew about our, how we interact with our America, and about, even about malls, specifically, particularly about malls, and the mall culture. So, I think that it’s important to, I think it’s not as far reaching as a thing. Also, I really kinda dig zombies, so you know. Step 1 can be, what theme do I want to explore? Step 2 can be, how do I best use zombies to explore that theme? You know, it’s, I mean, I’m not doing zombies by choice Shoreline producing is not about zombies either. But, it suited the horror genre. Which I am a fan of since I was a kid. And it allowed me to sort of explore my theme a little bit more.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, okay. So, let’s again dig into this writing process a little bit. So, when you get going on a script. How many pages per day can you churn out with what’s a good day for you? And do you typically have an 8-hours? Or do you like an hour or two? And then work on other projects. What does that sort of writing when you sort of get into the flow of things, look like for you?
Bob: When I get into the flow of things, I will write 16 hours in a day. And then, not again for
2 and a ½ days. It’s one of these, once I get the momentum going I never, never, ever, ever, want to stop. And then, if I have it in front of you. Look I’m not gonna promise. But, when I’m writing and I have it, a day job. I will call in sick to work if it’s going well. It’s like, it’s too precious an experience to finally be, you don’t know? You always hear about it on shows like “Wild” and other projects that involve drug use. Once you get that high, you’re always chasing that high again. You know, for me, the high is, I see the story in my head.
And I just, I’m writing it, and I feel powerful before I just need to have it happen. And on those times when I do stop writing and go to a day job, or do something else? My brain, is always like, I can’t believe I left my characters in that situation. I gotta get back and save them, you know. So, I sort of wind up in this like weird reality, and fantasy world at the same time while I’m doing it. It’s what I strive for, and what I love. Protect the bad side, yes, you can’t overwrite also. You can just write every little detail of every little thing. So, I also recommend, I have this experience on the shorts that I am producing now, as well as writing for “Blood Mania.” Where it was just supposed to be one quarter of a movie. So, it couldn’t be more than 25-30 pages, that it forces you to write economically. So, I recommend to anyone, any writers. Think of what your weakness is? And try to write a project that will force you to face that weakness. I over write so, writing shorts helps me fix that problem. If you tend to write all dialog, tend to write dialog heavy. Write a screenplay that has no dialog. If you tend to not write realistic dialog, write a short where two people are sitting at dinner. And they can’t do anything except talk to each other. You know, it becomes, you know, you have sort of, look it’s a competitive world out there. If you want to find a screenplay in L.A. California, walk into Starbucks. And everybody, at every table, as well as the barista, or people who aren’t at work yet. They are all going to have a screenplay for ya. And I don’t think I have to tell you there’s no shortages of Starbucks in L.A.
Bob: So, it’s critical to make sure that you are, that your talent and your skills are 100%. Which means, facing your flaws at the right light, and fixing them however you need to.
Ashley: So, when you have these 16 hour bursts, how many pages were you turning out during this 16 hours?
Bob: I’ll turn out 20-25 pages. Sometimes I’ll turn out 3. And then I’ll also fall into the trap of re-reading what I’ve written so far. So, my first 25-30 pages tend to be extraordinarily great and tight early. Because I rewrite them as I go. And every time I sit down at the computer. I will rewrite them again, and again. And then, when you get to the Roundtable, 60-65 notes in my
re-write screenwriter file. Gee, write something funny here. Or, you know, introducing, you know, I introduce character Joe, on page 75, you know, make sure you go back and do something with him earlier. But I hear it for this, you sort of back track it. And that’s why that draft’s “Zero.” No one gets to see because it is, it looks like I printed out a sheets of papers. And then threw them down the stairs, and picked them up in the wrong order, it’s a complete disaster. But then, when I finally get what I consider to be a good first draft. It feels like a million bucks, there’s nothing quite like it.
Ashley: Yeah. So, then let’s talk about your development process. Once you have that draft, that you know, feels like is pretty competent. What is your development look like? Do you have some trusted friends, to send it out to. And then how do you get those notes back?
Bob: Yeah, I have, the first one who reads everything I write is Sydney. Because, as much as a, I believe structure is important, she is exceptional at identifying specifically where the structure went wrong. And gives good suggestions how to fix it. There are a couple, or script consultants that I know too well at the time. And then, beyond that, it’s sort of a case-by-case.
If I write a horror movie that has friends in the horror industry. That I think, at that can speak specifically to the horror experience. Kinda like Hitlerasaurus, it’ll be more of a tongue-in-cheek, kind of action adventure comedy monster movie. There are other people that think they seem to know what I am going through with that as well, and so on and so forth. With, “Scarecrow” the first short book I’m producing. I’ve given that to people I’m just acquaintances with. Because it’s easy, if I say, you have a short of 10 pages sent to me. And I’ll send my 10 pages to them. It’s real easy to quickly turn it around. It’s not as much as a position as you have a full length one. The important thing is, I think is, just, not only to have a collection of people who are very close to you. I mean, that’s important as well. But, also to have a wide-reaching network as well. It needs to be broad as shallow, but with a connection that’s deep, with people who are, who you trust and are, who trust you. And for those of your listeners who are new to writing? I know it can be really scary, to give somebody something to read and get back critiques. But, it is important to build up that calluses on you soles, like being able to accept that pain and don’t just give your script to your mom. Or give your script to somebody that’s not experienced in developing screenplays. It’s important that you are interacting with people who can tell you what you don’t want to hear, but that’s important for you.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, good advice for sure. So, a couple of years ago, you did an,
“Ask anything?” Thread on “Read It.” And I was just looking through it, and I thought there were some great questions, and great answers that you gave us. So, I’m just going to run through some of those. And I kinda might re-phrase so, I apologize to anybody if I, you know, edit their question? But, I just thought there were some really good questions. And the first one that I noticed. And I’ll just kind of read it, but it, I think it could even be updated. At someone who sometimes sees a potential of movies, just from an elevator pitch. How do you envision the definition of a promising film idea? Changing in the next ten years? Especially with the birth of burgeoning television industry and heavy Indie Film presence on NetFlix, and now we have Hulu, and Amazon-Prime. A whole bunch of these services. So, what do you see as so sort of the evolving pitch, and how to make it a compelling pitch. As these other services really gain some traction.
Bob: You know, it’s a really difficult time. When you start bringing up things, like NetFlix and stuff along. Because, I mean, even NetFlix, which continues to have the reputation of being a place of for Indie Films to go, and so on. I feel like it, it’s a little bit of an outdated notion. I think NetFlix, makes most of it’s money on existing intellectual property, it’s like the big studio. The big studio, I mean, I love NetFlix, and I would marry it, if it was legal to, it, it’s amazing. But, if you look at my recent review it’s going to be “MysteryScience Theatre3000”, or something, current existing IP. It’s going to be Luke Cage, it’s an IP. It’s gonna be you know,
“The West Wing.” Which, you know, been around for 1000 years. It’s going to be these same things. And you wind up seeing NetFlix as a place to go for your independent film, I think is starting to become a little less reliable. I mean, it’s hard to follow movies on NetFlix. You know, it’s not easy. So, all that’s going to come up is? Suggestions for you. And they are going to look at the suggestions of things. And some of them are going to be, many of them are good, but others are fantastic. But, it’s going to be hard for me to get my own movie in front of fresh eyes, who aren’t specifically seeing, or seeking it out. So, when I’m hearing pitches, I think in terms of? Let’s assume for the moment? That the person pitching has written an excellent script. I mean, you sort of have to sort of assume that case.
Otherwise I don’t want it regardless, right? So, what I’m thinking in terms of is, how do I get somebody interested in seeing that movie? How do I get someone to say, that’s the one, click! So, sometimes that means a real catchy title. Sometimes it means, one enduring image, because I’m on NetFlix, just the one frame comes up. You know, and if it’s too guys like this, getting ready to fight each other? You know, it’s an action movie. And if it’s two guys doing this, I know it’s a love story. You know, that’s like, that’s all the information you get on NetFlix, a majority of the time. So, It needs to be something that’s very catchy, and very hooky. So, that’s going to give ya a nice hook. Otherwise, I think that, it’s smart to do develop a tone television project. NetFlix, and Hulu, and Amazon, are fantastic for binge watching. And I think that it’s the way people consume content now a days, is by the binge watching. And so, for writers that’s exciting. You can write a 12 chapter story, you can write like a book. It becomes more of a challenge to get that produced. But, if you write it well, than you are going to find more people who are interested in doing that. I think that it’s critical to also in your pitch like, the fewer words, the better. I think it is going to be better, and very important for me too. Because I’m going to need to turn-around and sell to other people. And I need to do that in as few words as possible. You know, it’s a joke that people make all the time, about how I’m writing something more complicated. And why is it that you need to be able to say it in 3 words. Why does everything has to be so high concept? And the answer is? It only has to be high-concept if you want to raise the money to make it. You know, or it’s only important to, unfortunately we are in a business where things aren’t spent just to produce. So, it becomes critical to impress the people who are looking for reasons to say, no. They don’t want to write a check that will eventually never come back to them. So, it’s going to be important to make or pick these words smart. When I mentioned “Hitlersaurus” earlier. It’s a 1 page, it’s a 1 word pitch. When they came to me for “Blood Mania.” The pitch for my story was brief, but even more importantly, they knew that they could talk to me because I speak the language. So, it’s difficult to say, here’s the advice on how to break in. Here’s the advice on what to write if you want to break in. And how to pitch if you want to break in. Because, you’ll post this Podcast And then 6 months from the time you put it up, all the answers will be obsolete.
Bob: You know, things are moving that quickly. So, again with that serious ship that’s already in motion. It’s important to write what’s important to you, and to write and to keep going, and going, and going, and going. And then, if you have a feature and someone says, I want a, someone says, I want a feature. I’m sorry, you have a feature, someone says they want a TV series, of course you can adapt that and sort of make it, and it works great. You never bet on what we’re going to do, who you’re going to meet that’s going to resonate with somebody. A friend of mine, I don’t want to say too much. Because I don’t want to, because I don’t think anything is official yet? But, a friend of mine, often teaches screenwriting. And he used a specific movie, to teach structure. And this movie is not a slam-bang-blockbuster hit. It was a moderately successful movie for Michael J. Fox. In the 1980’s. And so, he’d seen the movie 1000 times. Because he teaches it for his class. And he ran into somebody, he could tell. Because he was developing this movie into a series. And he just happens to have the only person in the world with cyclopedic knowledge of this movie that’s, you know, and. So, he’s like I’m you guy! You know, and so, all of a sudden, this project is moving forward. Just because he keeps his writing skills up. And he can produce this thing.
But, also because everything he does sort of steers back towards trying to work on his career. I think that’s the service commitment you need. I encounter writers all the time, that are just like, eh, I just feel like writing 1 screenplay, I want to see where I can go with it? And I encourage people, and whoever wants to write should write. I just feel like, the people they are competing with? Those people are saying, I want to do this for the rest of my life. And I’m willing to do whatever it takes to do that. And that’s a difficult problem to overcome if that’s your competition?
Ashley: Yeah, for sure. I’m curious, if at the Pitch Fest. You’ve seen an up-kick you know, in television. There’s a lot more TV series getting produced every year. Are you seeing more executives coming to the Pitch Fest. looking for TV series and pilot episodes?
Bob: TV episodes, excuse me, TV series, pilot episodes, web series, are extremely popular. I think it’s, they’re lower risk, and they can easily be turned into series. Like “Broad City” was, see, and a few others. It’s also a good exercise in writing economically. And sort of being flexible, and the medium that you want, or project to go out. But yes, we see executives who are looking for more, and more of that. But really, I think, look, I mean, executives, agents, mangers, everybody who can help get your movie made, is really just like you, if you’re a writer. They, came to Hollywood, because they wanted to make interesting and exciting stories that spoke to them. And I think a lot of the executives are, if they are looking for TV, it’s because they love TV. They are looking for features, it’s because they love features. And if they are looking for horror, it’s because they love horror. It’s really important for everyone remember that when we say executives are saving the industry. It’s our break-in, we’re just talking about people. You know, people who, look, I’m not going to lie to you. I tried to go into the movies 3 times a week, you know, I see, and if there is nothing new out, that I’m particularly interested in? I’ll see something I’m slightly interested in today. Or, I will go to a, I mean, for example, tonight, I’m going to Veta Alamony is showing, “Raise Arizona.” Which I’ve never seen on the big screen. I love the Cohn Brothers, of “Raising Arizona” so, I’m going. And you get to interact with other film fans. So, I get another look at a movie you know. But, it’s important to always be building that life around you. It’s just, you’re diving head first into a pool. Sometimes, you can’t see the bottom, and I know, they say to go feet first, the first time. But, a, sometimes it’s just is, I forgot what your question was?
Ashley: No, yeah, yeah. I was fascinated by it, exactly, more.
Bob: No, no.
Ashley: Exactly, but the flip side, of my question is? Are you seeing more writers coming to the Pitch Fest. with TV pitches? And I ask this question, because I have had other people on where we just discuss this, and I wrote a script. “Consort.” Script Analysis Service, through
“Selling Your Screenplay.” And I honestly don’t feel like there is still more, it’s mostly feature films. Now that might be partly because that’s what I’m about. So, maybe it’s kind of somewhat self-fulfilling. But are you, you seem more, and more writers interested in TV and coming with TV pitches coming in with web series, pilots.
Bob: I think that the numbers stick pretty close to the same. Which is mostly feature films still. But, a lot more of the questions that I get are? What’s a good structure for a pilot, and for a season for a series and so on and so on. And so, I think it’s a good move, becoming part of it. Sort of working its way, and people are recognizing that, that’s an option for them. And sort of figuring it out, how to do it. But, I don’t think it’s sort of this effects that we see at Pitch Fest. are necessarily series yet? But, they’ve got the people that are getting into it now. What many more of them are TV oriented.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. Okay so, this is another question, from the Read Thread. And this is one I get a lot, so I’ll, be curious to hear your take on it?
What are your thoughts about pitching a screenplay backed-up by additional material. In an example of spectacular location shots, set in story boards, maybe a video or scene or a poster/trailer? What is your take on that?
Bob: In someone’s office, the rules are a little bit different. But, my feeling on this is? I prefer a pitch that hasn’t got none of those things. If they are available, and I’m interested in the pitch, the first time, I may ask for some of those materials. With the exception of maybe an animation project. So, that character doesn’t define parts of it. But, by and large. I am not only interested, in the screenplay, of the person’s writing, I’m interested in the person. I want to interact with the writer on a level of what is this person going to be somebody I want to work with under extremely stressful circumstances, for a long period of time, for what a production is. And so, I’m sort of assessing that person. And instead of assessing them, I’m watching them rolling up visual-aid, or monkeying around with his DVD player, or whatever else? I’m not getting that personal contact with them. And so, I think that it’s important for me. Like, the first step in
Pitch Fest. that I’ve heard, is? Over-coming nerves, to sit down and terrified of the pitch, and embarrass everything. Just calm down, “Hi, I’m Bob. Tell me a little bit about yourself.” I want to get an assessment of the person. If their writing’s no good, it’s going to end at that point anyway. I don’t care how good you are, or your supporting materials are, a bad script is a bad script. I’m going to have to bring on someone to re-write it, then I will. And if I’m going to have to high another director, he’s going to have to have his own idea about what locations and all this other stuff. So, to me, I think that a writer needs to be strong on writing, and all the other stuff, is for later stage. Yeah, it’s like asking someone to go away for the weekend on the first date. You don’t do it, the first date just get to know each other a little bit. And that’s what the pitch is, and then mutually, if wanting to get to know a bit more for the materials and everything, by then I’ll ask. But, until I read that script and the script is great. I’m not going to go to any effort to learn anything about beyond the script.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, sound advice. So, this was a question? I thought was really interesting, and worth exploring. It’s, very, very, long, but, basically it, the person laid out what was sort of a plan to getting his micro-budget film produced. And it went something like, the effect of you know, write a feature script, you know, write a 12 part web-series, and then produce a trailer, use the trailer to promote the Kick-Starter, he had this whole list. And then essentially your advice was? I would bump each item down a number and add this to the top, Start building your audience now. Maybe you can talk about that a little bit. What exactly do you mean by building an audience? And how can people do this?
Bob: Whether your project gets a theatrical release, or it goes straight to home video, or is on Amazon, or it’s on NetFlix, or it’s on Hulu, or whatever way it’s gone? You’re going to be competing against the same competition, you’re going to be against the same competition. And that competition, is going to out match you in very, very, very, important ways. Okay so, for example, right now, what’s the big movie right now, that’s out? We’ve already.
Ashley: Yeah, “Guardians of the Galaxy 2.”
Bob: Okay, “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” is out right now. If you have a movie. If you have a small independent film in theaters right now. All the advertising 3 out of every 5 screens, every multi-plex, all the posters, the standies, the popcorn tubs that have drawings on the sides of it, the action figures, everything their kids are talking about, it’s going to be
“Guardians of the Galaxy 2” right, no matter what. In a couple of months
“Guardians of the Galaxy 2” will be on NetFlix, or where ever it will land. Now, if you have a movie going into NetFlix, or onto iTunes. What pops-up, the first thing that’s going to pop-up on your screen is still going to be, “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” if it’s on iTunes. Rent it from us, you know, and so you’re still competing against it, but not going to put, what is that,
Ashley: Yeah, that’s my micro-budget film, on post-production right now, that’s it.
Bob: And it looks great, a perfect example. So if, “The Pinch” hits NetFlix the same time as the same day as “Guardians of the Galaxy 2.” Or hits iTunes the same day as
“Guardians of the Galaxy 2.” You’re not going to have anyone sure to say, “Rent “The Pinch” it’s got better than renting “Guardians of the Galaxy 2.” They just have the money for placement, and that’s just how it’s going to go. So, the only thing that you have, that we have as independent film makers have is? Those big studio egos. Don’t have is sort of a grassroots, one-on-one relationship with our peoples. So, let’s say, you wrote a zombie movie. It’s critical to get on your zombie movie, if your time frame is 3 years before it’s out. Then you have 3 years to join every zombie and horror related group on Facebook. You have time to join every horror, and zombie related organization in your town. Some places have horror lovers conventions or Comic-Cons, or whatever it is? All the time you have those 3 years to, I don’t know, go to film festivals in your area. And of course, want to one-on-one start meeting people, and getting them to know you. It’s like, “Hi, I’m Bob Schultz.” Not, “Hi I’m Bob Schultz, like my Facebook page.” Another thing that I do, is everyone I meet, I go on Google. My favorite Google alert for that person, that every day I get words from Google saying, John Smith just showed up in you know, this web page, it looks like his movie is going, or whatever. So I, send him an Email, hey congratulations, I saw your movie is going. You know whatever it is, you build up this network of people, so that over the course of all these years, you are building up a personal network of people, who will support you, when it comes to me. You’re not even simply talking financially. Although, that’s great if you do it financially, through Kick-Starter. It’s not just financially, it’s also emotionally. And it’s also using their social networks to get the word out there as well. So, you start to build and build, and you build, and you build, and you start getting people interested in you. And if you want to get rid of and be really ambitus about it, start a zombie newsletter. You know, start a webpage, with all the zombie news, and stick to print. And so, you get subscribers to that. And those subscribers are going to be interested in your newsletter, and filling up those, it could be George-Romero has new movie, a new “28 Days Later” movie.
Well, when’s these sequels coming out? “The Pinch” is, says it’s coming out. So, like you just, become one of the news items. Anything you can do to sort of build from a grassroots level. Build your audience. So, when the time comes. Hey, my movie’s out everyone. Like, oh, my God, I want to see it. And that’s sort of how you build up. But, you can’t have that first contact with people, here’s what you can be with me. Like if, what you’re doing is fantastic, with your Podcast, with your newsletter, and so on, to get the word out, “The Pinch” for people who are trust you, who are already think that, you’ve written something of value. The first time you have contact with someone, it’s, BUY “THE PINCH!!” Eh, I’m not going to buy “The Pinch” I don’t even know who you are? You know, it amounts to cold-calling and if you can get a few thousand, maybe in a five-figures, or within a six figures of people, who will get excited about your film, the movie, or your series, whatever? It just helps me, the snowball rolling down the hill. But, how much easier it is with a great big snowball. The snow ball is already this big when you start out. And so, when that guy, you can’t compete with them, good ones, it doesn’t matter. I guess you have to do it over a long period of time.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. I’m curious, and I talk about this, and “The Pinch” is a good example. I did do a Kick-Starter Campaign. And a vast majority of the Kick Starter money came from
“Selling Your Screenplay Podcast” listeners. So, you know, thank you to those listeners. And I’m curious, do you, was that sort of money your motivation for starting “Pitch Fest” was to sort of get yourself in the flow of things. And meeting executives, and is that part of your own brand building, and audience building.
Bob: Yeah. I mean, one of the reasons that I got involved was to make these contacts. I also, I mean, when Sydney invented it, I also firmly believe in the procedure. And I believe in helping other writers. I’ve done, I think all writers should help other writers. Instead of waiting for someone to help them, then returning the favor, someone’s got to go first. So I, many of the contacts I’ve had hit source with, has been through Pitch Fest. People who have hired me to come teach. In places all around the world. I met through Pitch Fest. It’s a networking job. And it’s also, it’s not all for nothing. I mean Sidney and I put on a great event. It’s valuable to demonstrate that if I can, if we can create something, very good from the ground up. And that shows a certain amount of fortitude, and commitment that is critical in taking a movie from the page to the screen.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, for sure. So, this is another question? It was kind of long winded. And so, I will just summarize it. But, It was basically from an aspiring screenwriter, outside of the
United States. And he just talks about some of his, you know, potential problems he didn’t he was older, so he couldn’t be in. He felt he couldn’t be an intern. And he didn’t you know, have any connections. And I would be curious to get your advice? I get a lot of screenwriters from outside of the U.S. This screenwriter. Judging from his question? Looked to me, like, his English was perfect, it was perfectly written. There was like, no translation problems. And I think that’s a big step up from someone outside of the U.S. And probably, there’s two answers. If your English is perfect then there’s probably one answer? If your English is not perfect, there’s another answer. But, maybe you could talk about that? What is your advice to people, you know, outside of the U.S. Maybe they don’t have a lot of money to invest in, in online classes, online, you know, Pitch Fest. or whatever they can do online. What do you recommend to them, those folks. And how they can potentially get their careers going?
Bob: I recommend, if they’re not busy the weekend of June 23 2017, to come to
“The Pitch Fest” in L.A. But, other advice, I give is this? It’s, I know it sounds like a cliché? But, turning your challenges into buds and features. It’s not just a bud, it’s a feature, is great advice. Okay. If you are from another country. That means you have absolutely no access to scenery that is expensive for anyone else to get to, right? That means, you don’t have access to, a different tone, voice. Maybe different funding also that others would not have access to. Or a, for example, Romania, last time I checked, Romania, the dollar was 4:1 on the list. So, anything that would cost a dollar, here, cost $0.25 Cents there. So, if you can raise $25,000.00, you can operate as if you have $100,000.00 budget. So, try to find things that cause you to have an advantage. And I mean, we live in a day and age now, even since that AMA, we live in a day and age now, things have changed. I mean every one of us, can carry in our pockets, a fully functional camera, that you can write a short at. To shoot your own stuff. “Tangerine” was a short that was Oscar nominated a couple of years ago. Shot all on the iPhone. So, not living in the U.S. should not be a hindrance now. The process is going to be difficult. And if you write something to shoot, and you put it up there online. You can do a, do any of you know, or are familiar with Betty Alverez? She directed “The Evil Dead” movie, remake.
Ashley: No, no.
Bob: A few years back they did a remake, of “Evil Dead” and Betty directed it. And he got that job by, sitting down and creating a shot film where aliens invade. And he used after effects, and all this stuff. And made a really cool little short, that looked like great. And it got to Sam Remy and they said, this could be your guy, he’s got a great eye, so he got the job. All just sitting down doing this himself. As it turns out he was an American, he may have been in Mexico? Even if he was in America, or Mexico, Romania, Australia. Stationed at the North Pole. That’s something you can do, and YouTube gets everywhere. You know, so there’s no reason for you to sort of think, Oh, gee because I’m not in America anymore. Unfortunately, if you’re not willing to come and grow that network here? You need to use your strengths, and other skills that you have. And use the internet. If you said, you never wanted to be a director, but I had to, to read my script, that’s great. I have been a writer by choice, producer by necessity, for 5 years now. The producing part only came. Because I wanted to be a writer. And so, that’s the skill. What I’m saying is find whatever country you’re from, assuming your English is pretty flawless. Whatever country you’re from. Figure out something that is unique to that country, write a short, that exploits that thing that is unique to your country. And, put it out on YouTube. And say people will be interested, you know. You can make contact through lots of way you can make contact. Selling your play, you can put up and you can tell time. You know, so use the opportunities that are there to say. Here’s what I’ve done, here’s what I can do. Even though, I cannot in America, I got an opportunity.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. Good advice. So, this is another question, I get a lot of? I’d be curious to get your take on it? It basically is, a similar form of this. But, is L.A. really the best place to go, if you want to be a film maker. Sort of, you know, the other permutation that is, do I really have to move to L.A. to be a screenwriter? I’d be curious just to get your take on this?
Bob: A, if you want to work in television, the answer pretty much is 100% yes! Just because it’s a staff job, you have to show-up for work, and work’s in L.A. So, you don’t want to fly in every day. But for a feature, I mean, I’m not going to lie, there are still people in the industry. Who sort of take, whether or not living in L.A. Seriously?! They, either they see it as, a commitment, a commitment to yourself, a commitment to the industry. I can’t explain why? But, the reality is this. You live in a day and age where, I mean, you know what, just to cover your bases. Here’s what I recommend? Go to L.A. once, get a mailbox, get a 323 area code, get a 323 phone number for your phone, and then go back home. You know, if you can get representation in L.A. that’s great too. But, people who call you, and you say, hey you know, I’d love to have a meeting with you tomorrow. Ah, geez you know what? I’m visiting my folks now, I’m outta town, can I make it next Tuesday? And then run home and get on Cheap-O-Air, and fly outta L.A. I mean, I think it’s early 20th Century thinking. But, I think they are probably still plenty of executives that still use Faxes. So, that is also 20th Century thinking.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. One of the things I’ve found, just being in L.A. And you’ve lived in L.A. for quite a long time, didn’t you?
Bob: Yeah, I hated every minute of if.
Ashley: Is that right? I don’t know, I love L.A. It hasn’t been a hardship for me. One of the things, you know, you just run into people in the industry. And it’s very easy to just bump into these people. And not have to have forced conversations with them. You just, I do “Adventure Guides” through the YMCA with my 7-year old daughter. And it’s so easy, you know a bunch of the other dads, some of them work in the industry, you know, just through this. Yeah, you know, there was no planning in that. That’s just the way it is in L.A. So, you just get to know some of these people. And I just, it seems like there is a lot of intangible reasons to be in L.A. That are really valuable, and they are hard to quantify.
Bob: I agree with you there. I think that there are advantages to living in L.A. for sure. Basically, what you said. The biggest one is, I think. I was in L.A. for meetings one time. I was at Starbucks and three people behind me in the line at Starbucks. We’re in Studio City, there was Quentin Tarantino. That doesn’t necessarily happen in, you know, Boise Idaho. You know, but, and so, of course I bought Quentin Tarantino’s coffee for him. So, my run in with Tarantino is a hit or a miss, that was the whole thing. Totally worth the $4.00 bucks. But, just the same, it’s that sort of thing that you can always be on, and be in it. It is a huge advantage, living out in L.A. When I was in L.A. it just got up town for me. I had a lot of people who love L.A. and when I’m there, I enjoy it to, because I don’t live there. But it’s, I couldn’t write particularly well there? Like my creativity was stymied. And it didn’t go particularly well for me. So, if I’m there it’s easier to network, to get scripts that I can’t write in front of people. Or if I’m someplace else,
when I can write better. Than I can get the scripts together. Then I go to L.A. I mean, right now, I’m stationed, I’m based in Phoenix. So, if I need to go to L.A. I can be there in a day. I can be there in a matter of hours if necessary. And so, I find what’s best for me. But, if I think anyone is saying, the reason I wasn’t successful, is I didn’t move to L.A. Is probably fooling themselves a little bit. Because there are opportunities, every decision you make has pros and cons. to figure out what cons, can you face, given your strengths.
What pros can you take advantage of? Because they boost some of your weaknesses. And that’s going to be different for everybody, every person.
Ashley: Yeah, sure. So, how can people see Hershel Louis Gordon movies? “Blood Mania” and “Break Down Lane?” Are they on iTunes? Any place they are available, I can link to those in the show notes.
Bob: Yeah, I’ll send you the links, ”Blood Mania” is on Amazon. And I think? I need to find exactly where for “Break Down Lane.” So, I don’t have the answer on that.
Ashley: No problem, I will get that tomorrow, and I’ll put that in the show notes. So, a just a quick to wrap up the interview. What’s the best way for people to just keep up with you, and the Script Fest. You can mention Twitter, Facebook, your website, whatever you’re comfortable sharing. And again, I’ll round all that stuff up and put it in the show notes.
Bob: Sure, I just, anyone can Email me. it’s – Bob@scriptfest.com, I love answering questions, and whatever else. You can follow at our, just if you look at, if you search “Great American Pitch Fest. on Facebook, you’ll find our Facebook page. Twitter is, @thepitchfest and personally on Twitter I am @pitchfestbob.
Ashley: Perfect. I’ll grab all that stuff. And once again, maybe just tell us the dates for
For the Pitch Fest In Burbank, Los Angeles California, here in a couple of weeks.
Bob: Sure, the Pitch Fest. is at the Burbank Marriot Hotel and Convention Center,
June 23rd through the 25th 2017. The schedule is @Scriptfest.com. And once again, if you have any questions? @Scriptfestbob, we’ll hook ya up.
Ashley: Perfect, perfect, I really appreciate it Bob. I had a scheduling conflict this year, I’m out of town. But next year, I definitely want to come up, I’ve never been. So, I look forward to actually meeting you in person one day soon.
Bob: See that you do.
Ashley: Perfect, we’ll talk to ya later, Bye.
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The readers will evaluate your script on six key factors.
- Over All Craft – Which includes – Formatting, spelling, and Grammar.
Every script will receive a grade of – Pass, Consider, or Recommend, which should help you roughly understand where you script might rank if you were to submit it to a production company or agency.
We can provide an analysis on feature films or television scripts. We also do proof reading without any analysis. We will also look at a treatment or outline and give you an analysis, or give you the same analysis that I just talked about on the treatment or synapsis. So, if you are looking to vet some of your projects. This is a great way to do it.
We will also write a log-line and synapsis for you. You can add this service to an analysis or you can simply purchase service as a stand-alone product.
As a bonus, if your script gets a 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 Blast Service I use myself to promote my own scripts. And it is 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.
In the next episode of the Podcast, I’m going to be interviewing screenwriter, Tom Heinz. Who wrote the film, “Mother’s Day.” It stars Julia Roberts and Jennifer Aniston, among many other great actors. He has an interesting story on how he broke in. He had a long career working with the great Director and Producer, Gary Marshall. We talk through exactly how he establish that relationship. And how that really embossed him into a lot of writing assignments over the years. So, keep an eye out for that episode next week.
To wrap things up, I just want to touch on a few things on today’s interview with Bob. I’ve mentioned this a number of times on the Podcast. But, I think it’s worth repeating here. It in the business, sort of online business start-up world. There is this phrase that gets tossed around. And that’s called, “An unfair advantage.” It basically means, a person or company has some sort of advantage over the competition, because of some particular experience or resource. And I’ll just give you a quick example. Let’s say someone worked as a pool cleaner during their summer vacation, during college.
Then after graduating, working as a computer programmer for a number of years. They start looking around and trying to come up with ideas for creating their own app. And they were back to their days as a pool cleaner and they were remembering some of the challenges, that pool cleaners face. And they come up with an idea, that could help solve this particular problem, that all pool cleaners have. That person with the programming skills and experience as a pool cleaner. Has what’s called an “Unfair advantage, over other programmers or companies. At trying to create pool cleaners. Because he has a real working knowledge of the problems that pool cleaners face. Plus he probably also still has some contacts app. And they remember back to their days as a pool cleaner. And they remember some of challenges that pool cleaners faced. And they come up with an idea, that could help solve this particular problem, that pool cleaners have. That person with their programming skills and experience. The pool cleaner has what’s called, “Unfair advantage over other programmers, or companies trying to create apps. for pool cleaners. Because he has a real working knowledge of the problems that pool cleaners face. Plus he probably also still has some contacts in the Pool Cleaning Industry. So, he can utilize those contacts to help beta-test his app. And eventually even using those contacts to help market his app.
So, in the example I just mentioned, just replace the words, “Programmer”, and writing skills, hopefully if you want to be a screenwriter, you have some writing skills to bring to the table. And then replace “Pool Cleaner” to your own particular experiences.
I’ll give you another quick example. The spec. script I am almost finishing up right now. It’s sort of a horror thriller. Which takes place at a tech. start-up company. I’ve worked at a number of tech. start-ups over the years. So, I understand how these companies operate. So, it’s going to be hard for someone, to write this particular script to have worked at a start-up. But, the real key here is, understanding what sort of experiences you have. And how you can use those to your advantage in your life. There’s the old advice that gets tossed around a lot, write what you know. I think in some ways, that’s what they are talking about when that advice is given. It’s not necessarily a literal write what you know. But, use what you know, what your experiences you have, that are very specific, and particular, to you. You, use those experiences to texture your writing, to make your kind of writing that feels more-fuller, a world build. And all those things will really come in handy as the actual screenplay.
So, now let’s take that step even further. Which I think is really running into somewhat, you know, Bob has done with his two projects that are coming out this year. Forget about the actual writing of the screenplay. Is there any way that you can use your specific experiences in life, or at work? Anything that you have, as your unfair advantage, to sell your screenplays. Bob, has some of my skills in networking. I mean, just creating, an event like, “Script Fest.” takes a lot of networking in getting all those executives to come to the event. So, he’s created a whole event around networking. And he’s really got a big part of this strategy. Again, I think it probably comes more naturally to him, networking to him, then maybe a lot of us. We don’t necessarily feel as outgoing or friendly or inability to network as Bob does. And again, I’m not say everybody has to create their own “Script Fest.” or anybody has to create their own situation that uses their own experiences. As mentioned, I’ve worked with a number of start-ups, over the years. So, launching something like, “Selling Your Screenplay” is a very natural fit for me. We talked about this on the Podcast before. Like, “Selling Your Screenplay” It has very directly helped my own screenwriting career. I’ve optioned scripts through the producers I’ve met, through “Selling Your Screenplay.” I’ve gotten writing assignments as well, through some of the people I’ve met through “Selling Your Screenplay.”
So, all of these things, have sort of helped. And again, But I think Bob’s own script possibility has helped his career as well. I keep talking about on the Podcast, week after week. I keep coming on and talking about producing your own material. I think I’m talking about that a lot lately now because that’s sort of the focus of my own career. I’m spending a lot of time producing my own feature film, “The Pinch.” But, you know, I don’t want to make it seem like that’s the only way to succeed, or that’s the best way to succeed. But, for me, it was a very natural fit. And again, I’ve learned numerous run businesses over the years, including, “Selling Your Screenplay.” And all those skills, managing people. And managing time, managing money. All those skills, are what producing is all about. So again, producing was a fairly special fit for me. Talking to Bob, I think it was a fairly natural fit for him as well. I mean, producing an event like, “Script Fest.” Is as you know, a huge undertaking. And I’m sure a lot of the skills he has used, producing “Script Fest.” Are very translatable to producing a future feature film. And again, it’s about managing time, money, and people. Really, that’s what running a business is all about. And producing a movie is really just about running a business for a particular amount of time. So again, these are all skills he has, he is a very natural fit. And again, it doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s the only road you have to take. Like this might not be such a good fit, producing might not be a good fit for you. But, if it’s not what can you do, to give yourself, that unfair advantage. Just throw out some examples here, if you work in sales, maybe your good at cold calling? And so, maybe you should pick-up the phone and start cold-calling production companies and pitching them your material. If you work as a lawyer, maybe you could offer your legal services to producers, network with producers that way. Get to know producers by offering them something that has value. Again, all producers at some time or other are going to need legal services. So, that could be a very natural fit. If you have a thing for bookkeeping, and accounting. Producers are going to need these types of skills. And maybe that’s a way for you to just network and get to know producers. And then you can start to hopefully down the road, maybe even pitch them something of your own projects? I mean, this is kind of an out there example, but I wanted to just try and come up with some examples that are not so clean cut. It seems like, the lawyer, the legal service, this is a pretty you know, straight forward idea to come up with. What if you’re a horse trainer, you could maybe move to the Los Angeles area, and start to offer your horses up for free boarding at the market rate. To producers who are making films that need horses. I mean, there’s just a million things that an infinite number of ideas that you could come up with. And it’s going to be very specific to your situation. So, think about what you have. And think about how you, that might be something you know, a producer could use. And maybe you can find a way to offer your services up? I mean, again, these ideas, maybe they’re not going to specifically work for you. But just be creative. Come up with ideas, and get yourself out there. The advice that I see tossed around so often, just write a good, great script, it’s a very steep mountain to climb, is it possible, to make that work? Of course, I mean, some people are able to just write a script, focus soully on script. Write it, that script takes off, and that launches your career, It does happen to people. And certainly, one angle. And again, it’s a very, very, steep mountain to climb. If you just put yourself in the position of saying, I’m just going to add light there to the competition. I mean, all the greatest writers in the world, in this day and age, are descending on Hollywood, with a script. And you know, it’s literally the greatest writers in the world come here and try to make a living at this. So, that’s just a really steep mountain to climb. Just say, I’m going to be a better writer. I’m going to out write all these other writers. Hopefully, you’re a good writer. Hopefully you’re a great writer. And I can be a piece of it.
But, there’s a lot of great writers out there that are not making it, making a living from being a writer. And again, finding that unfair advantage. And having the great writing, coupled with some of the other angle, I think is a winning combination. And just really, again, something to think about. It’s going to be very specific to you, and your skills and situations.
Anyway, that’s the show, thank you for listening.