Ashley: Welcome to episode #180 of the “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I’m Ashley Scott Meyers Screenwriter and Blogger over at – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today, I’m interviewing Screenwriter, Tom Hines, who wrote the film, “Mother’s Day.” Which stars Julia Roberts, and Jennifer Aniston, among many others. He’s had a long career working with the great director and producer Dan Marshal. We talk through exactly how he got his start with Dan Marshall. So, stay tuned for that interview.
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I continue to build out the SYS Script Library. This past week, we added a whole bunch of new scripts. I want to thank Silvia Marie Lee Lewellen, who sent us the script from, “Man on Fire.” That’s been added to the library. I want to thank Drew Helmeck, who sent us the scripts for, “Aliens” and “Jeepers, Creepers.” I want to thank Sean and Smith, who sent us the script for,
”It Follows.” We also added some of the Academy Award Winning screenplays, “Moonlight Jacket” “Girl on the Train.” So, now all those are in the SYS Script Library. If you have a screenplay that you do not see listened in the script library, please do Email it to me.
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A quick few words about what I am working on this week? Once again, I’m still working on Post-Production of my crime, action, thriller, feature film, “The Pinch.” Things are moving along slowly but surely. My special effects guys have been knocking out various shots, so that’s coming along very nicely. I got a first pass last week from my sound designer, so that was cool to hear. I’m set, you know, just you know, this was microbudget. So, we just basically had, plastic guns on set that made no noise.
There were no blanks. I mean, all that stuff, shooting blanks, having muzzle flash, and all that kinda thing. All those things are all dangerous, even without shooting bullets, you’re still using something that you know, is an explosive. So, all we had on our set, was just plastic guns. So, the actors were just pretending to fire, when it was appropriate to fire the gun. So, there was no sound needed. Needless to say, these guns were made, and there was no muzzle flash, or smoke. And that’s what my special effects guys have done. They’ve added in the muzzle flash and smoke. And in this past week. The sound designer went in and added in the real gun-shot-sound to the mix. So, it’s really just integrating, and he did a lot more than just gun shots. But, that was probably the most noticeable thing was that the gun fights actually feel a lot more real now. You can actually hear real sounding guns. You know, as the action is taking place. So, it’s just really great to see that. It was exciting, and it gave the film, at least from the scenes now, 100 times, it gives them, the film a new like, it makes it interesting for me to watch again, that these sounds are getting in. But, that’s all great. I also Email my composer last week. He’s just about done, with his first pass. Hopefully I’ll get something from him this week. So again, slowly but surely these different pieces of Post-Production are coming together. I really do feel like I’m on the home stretch. Everything always goes slower than you want it. But, I do feel like I’m making forward progress. So, that’s good. I think when I went into Post-Production, last August, I basically shot this film last July. And started Post-Production, pretty much immediately, after it wrapped. So, that was last August. I was hoping to have it done. I think that was what came up in a Podcast, like last August/September. Oh, I hope to have it done in January. Obviously, I’m way behind schedule, as far as that goes. At this point, I’m very hesitant to give an ETA? But, I’d say, at this point I’m kinda shooting for August. I’ll probably be lucky be done by the end of August. But, that’s kind of roughly what I’m going for. And I’m really trying to turn things up, and push hard on that. I’ve said that before, I’ll say it again, I’ll give everyone who’s working on this in Post-Production, in that time to do a really good job. Doing a good job is more important to me, than getting it done quickly. So, I’m just now, going to push these guys. Seeing how I’m not paying them very much. Oh, how I would love to have other people with other jobs to do. So, I just want them to have the time to feel like they gave and can do a good job, as opposed to, I got to hit this sort of arbitrary deadline. So, that’s kinda my philosophy. As I said, it does feel like things are moving along forward. I don’t feel like at this point, like I’m that far behind. But, it’s really a big deal whether I finish in August, or frankly, October, November. And at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter. It’s more, just like, logical, I want to get done. I want to move on to my next project.
I mentioned a few week ago, on the Podcast, my spec. horror thriller, script. I’m still plugging away on that. Just polishing it up. I have a decent draft done. I’ve just been spending the last week or two, just kinda cleaning up that draft. I brought the 2nd, 28 pages. So, into my writers group, and got notes on that. So, now I have notes, from my writers group. I have about half a script. So, that’s given me a bunch of new notes to go in and implement. It needs, I would say, let me shoot this myself, on a micro-budget. It definitely needs quite a bit of work. And the biggest thing, is cutting it down. Right now, it’s 107 pages. Which for a micro-budget film is just way, way, too long. And this is a very important, I mean, if your script is 110 pages in. And you submitted it to a studio. Or even, you know, like an independent production company. That has, you know, a decent budget for a film. 107 pages is preferably fine for a film, there’s no define, that would be no problem. If you’re going to shoot something micro-budget, if you wanted it to get feature, I’d say, 90 pages is kinda that sweet spot. Maybe even a little less, maybe 88-86? And this thing, at 107 pages is just way too long. With a micro-budget film.
With every film, with this special one, but, get it super, super tight. You’ve got to get the thing down as much as possible. Because every page you have is just another page you’ve got to have to film. You know that, if I can cut 10-15 pages out, out of the script on 15 day shooting schedule. Just to make the math easy, and cut 15 pages out, that’s a page a day. And you’re only shooting like 5-6 pages a day. So, cutting one page, out of each one of those days is a huge amount of shooting. You want to be somewhat careful. And this is sort of my dilemma? In going through the script, and I’m looking at it, there’s not a huge savings, in cutting the length of scenes. So, if you have a 4 page scene. Let’s say, you have a 3 page scene, and you cut it down to 2 pages. That’s not going to save you a huge amount of time. Because once you got everything, set-up. If it’s like, 2 actors talking, taking a dialog scene, that’s 3 pages, you’re cutting it down to 2 pages. That’s not a huge savings. Removing whole plots and removing sub-plots, removing, you know, whole scenes locations, that’s where you save this whole different set-up. Once you get the two actors place and get the camera set-up. It’s not that big of a deal. Whether the scene is 2 pages or 3 pages, or frankly 10 pages. Because, once you’re in the flow of things, shooting is not going to take you that long, or longer. But, all I’ve got to say, is that if I’m going to shoot this micro-budget, I would definitely need to circle back and just cut this thing, way, way, down. And I’m not at this point sure exactly where it’s going to be. So, I’m just not kind of worrying about it right now. I’m just going to finish it up, in the next week or two. And then set it aside, and then I’ll come back to it. I’ll probably work on some things with “The Pinch.” My original goal was to have the script done around the time “The Pinch” was done, so that I could kinda figure out what I was going to do next? Obviously, that’s not going to happen? Then the script is going to be done and “The Pinch.” Which obviously won’t be. So, I’ve got a little bit of time, certainly now rush. But, that’s coming up now, just as I’ve got to be 100% done with “The Pinch” before I start thinking about production and starting something else. Which just doesn’t make sense to me. Move on, and just creatively, or else I’ve just got to see “The Pinch” done. As I said, just get it to where it’s 100% done. And submit it to film festivals, and maybe some distributors. And start it to really push that out there before I get going on producing something else.
But, in the mean-time, I have been circling some writing assignments. I’ve been talking with a producer about writing a script for him. So, that might be my next writing project. I can certainly do that. While I’m finishing up “The Pinch.” So that’s my thinking now. I’m still a long ways from finalizing that. But, I’m thinking that’s probably my next move. I will take a writing assignment from this producer. Assuming things go as I hoped that they would. You never know in this business, things can always fall through. But, that’s kinda my thinking, now as I take this writing assignment. Work on that for a few more months, while “The Pinch” finishes up. And then I’ll be in a good position, to kinda figure out beyond that. I really don’t want to short change “The Pinch” I want to get it done. And producers say, this is such a huge effort. I want to get the “The Pinch” done, and really submit it to film festivals. And just take it out and market it and talk to distributors, and film festivals, and really give it a chance to. I mean, I put in all this hard work into it. So, before I go and get wrapped up in another project. Just give it a chance to breath and then kinda see where it’s going to be. Anyway, that’s what I’m working on.
So, now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m interviewing, Screenwriter Tom Hines, here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Tom to, the “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I really appreciate you coming on the show and talking with me today.
Tom: Yeah, thanks for having me, Ashley, thank you.
Ashley: So, to start out, maybe you can tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up, and how did you get interested in the entertainment business?
Tom: A well, I grew-up in actually, just about 30 minutes outside of Boston. It was where I was raised. But then, went to college right down there at Boston College. And, as a kid, was all, making movies with a friend of mine, who went to Emerson College, which is quite popular communications school in Boston. But, my dad had said, when I considered Emerson, he said, “You have no idea what you want to do?” He said if you go to Emerson, you going to have to transfer when you realize you don’t want to make movies. It’s okay, so I had, I went to Boston College, and had a lot of fun for four years. And actually, got my first job at L.A. at USC. I actually met someone at BC, who was out in L.A. And they were doing a show in town, and ran inside and they said, “Why don’t come out and check out the show?” And it was called,
“Comic Strip Live Prime Time.” And it was an old FOX show, live comedy. And, they had nobody there. All these people from L.A. and nobody knew Boston. So, they hired me, as a P.A. And I went out and made, did a greenroom for the comedians, did all the shopping. And it was really like this wonderful opportunity when I was in college. To go to do that. And when it was over, the guy said, “Hey, ya ever come to L.A. you got a job.” And so, I graduated that summer, and packed up a truck and moved to L.A.
Ashley: And were you able to get a job through him?
Tom: I worked there for about 2 months. And then he “Quit the biz” as they say. And he moved to Manhattan Beach to go surfing. So, apparently he made money in something else?
Tom: I stumbled into some acting, an acting class. And, a long story short, with the dog interruption. I stuck with an acting class, as I was waiting tables. And I met, writer, producer, director, Gary Marshal.
Tom: Probably my first year waiting table at this place. His production company was right next door. And he said, “Well, you know, you’re a good waiter. You do anything else?” And I said, “Well, you know, I act a little.” And he actually called me in. You know, you go to L.A. and people make promises. But, you don’t know them from Adam? But, they say, Hey, I want ya to audition for this film. Hey, I want you to do this, hey, do this. I heard that a million times. And then someone who’d actually be making things, Gary Marshall says, “You come audition.” And he actually called. And I went and auditioned for him.
And, did some acting in a couple of films. Still, you know, still, at the restaurant. And one day, he just said, “Ya know, you’re not such a good actor, you should try other things.” And I said, “Oh, okay.” “Come work at the office. Come, you’ll hang-out, you’ll read script, maybe you can learn something else?” And he really took me under his wing. And, I became an assistant, on films like, “Runaway Bride” And he also still let me act. Because I was there and available. “It’s not that you’re talented. But, I know that you’re here. You have to be here every morning. And you won’t make a noise, just because I yell at ya.” And he also let me write jokes, some great writers, Marty Matler, Gary, who did
“Happy Days” “Laverne and Shirley” “Mork and Mindy.” These great TV shows that I got to grow-up with. And, he would always have these joke writers on set. And, Marty Matler,
Bob Runner, these guys who wrote on “Happy Days” great joke writers, they’re funny, on the fly. Gary liked having them on the set because of the actor who would be struggling with a line, or the scene was just flat. You’d write note that a joke, you got a piece of paper, and you took a shot. And Gary might change the scene, and sometimes, it worked. But sometimes he would, he was one of the few actually kept on-set writers. And that really helped my writing career really took off.
Ashley: Okay. So, when you moved to L.A. what was your intention? All your experience was with basically being a P.A. Did you say, I’m going to be an actor, or was it just I got nothing better to do? I’ll go out there and see what happens? Did you want to be a writer?
Tom: I, the one thing I thought I could do was act. And Gary said, very quickly.
“Ya, can’t act!” And just being around him. I found my real love was directing.
Tom: Around “Runaway Bride” I found, I got to sit Baltimore Maryland, Gary said, “If you don’t say a word, I’ll let ya sit in on when I’m talking to Julia Robert and Richard Gere.” And I’d sit and I’d listen him talk to these actors. And really find out what the scene was about. And get their take on it. And really find that scene. Where’s that scene that we wrote? Now, what’s the scene? And that’s what I really loved. Because I loved talented actors. I love working with that talented actors. Because they can do it so much better than I ever could. And that’s really what I thought my purpose was acting, realized quickly it was not. And Gary really helped me realize that writing and directing was really where my love was.
Ashley: Yeah, so let’s just talk about this just for a second, this relationship with Gary Marshall. Was there something, like that you, did to endear him to you. I mean, what was that? Why did he pick you? Rather than the millions of other kids that were waiting tables? Did you follow-up with him? Did you, just was there something you did, or just sort of just pure happened stance?
Tom: I think, it was a lot of happened stance. I mean, he was allergic to a lot of things. Apparently deathly allergic to vinegar and mustard. Not deathly, but it would make him swell up. And I always remembered I never brought mustard to the table. And I don’t think any of the other people ever did? And you know, I left him alone, I think. I was never pushy. I didn’t want to be pushy. And he was really, you know, I never even, pride developed about the relationship over about 6-7 months. When he was just coming off “Club Frankie and Johnny.”
And he was about to do “The Other Sister.” Or “Exit to Eden” I’m sorry, that was my first film with him, it was “Exit to Eden.” You may not remember it? It was right after Tom Cruise did
“Interview with a Vampire.” It was an Abrose novel called, “Exit to Eden”
Tom: Exit interview, and then they made it into a comedy, starring Rosie O’Donnell, and
Dan Ackroyd, it was not well received, Ashley.
Ashley: Needless to say,
Ashley: So, let’s go ahead and let’s start moving into sort of the writing. How did you segue into writing and maybe we can eventually specifically get to “Mother’s Day.”
Tom: It was really Gary being encouraging. When I started I would work in the office. And he would say, “When you’re not barring, and not waiting tables come to the office.” So, when I wasn’t working at the bar, I would go to the office. Which was right next door. And, read a script, I remember he would say, “Read a script, then you’ll do a coverage.” I’d be like, a coverage, okay, I don’t know? But, I’d do some sample coverages. Because I read coverages. And then, I read a script. I read probably 4-5 scripts. And then I found one I thought I could, that I liked. I said, “Gary, I read one, I liked.” Oh, good, you’ll write a coverage.” And I was walking out of the office. And I was in the office. And he said, “Don’t write a coverage.” I think I could really pitch it to you, right now. And you could see on his face, he’s like, “Bad idea.” And, he said, “Sure, let see what ya got?!” And I proceed to provide a minute, probably. Babble on, on what was Bla, bla, bla, bla, bla, bla, bla, bla. Bla. And then the story begins with, and I probably wasn’t even out of page 2. And he stops, and he says, “STOP, Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop.”
“Do ya know what an arc is Blimy?” An arc, he said,
“The character arc, you can’t even tell a story?! Go, and write it down.” And he explained the arc of the character. And explained really, how to pitch a script, as opposed to just ramble on in a big summary. And from there I started writing out coverages, reading more scripts. I think I learned more than anything reading scripts. Scripts that were getting made. Scripts that were being handed to Gary on the street. And some that were not very good, but still had money behind them. I learned a lot. And then eventually I sat, in you would say, as an assistant. Once you got hired as an assistant on, “Runaway Bride.” You would say, if you got joke or something, tell Marty. And Marty, Marty Atler, was this guy, Marty was with Gary since the beginning of “Happy Days” and he’s still around. And Marty was a great mentor to me. If you got something, run it by Marty. And I would always run my jokes by Marty. He would explain why something wasn’t funny. Why something wasn’t work. Why enough to do with the scene. You would think you had a line, and Marty, eh, it’s got nothing to do with the scene. And this is the great thing about people like Gary and Marty. It was on, “Princess Diaries” the first one, “Princess Diaries” and I wrote a joke. It was a scene with Larry Miller, and Ann Hathaway. And Larry Miller is playing Palo. This guy who is Princess Ann Hathaway’s hairdresser. And he’s funny over the top. And they have these big pom-pom things, and their hair. Big like Princess Leia Roll in her hair. And it was part of their make-up montage, like this do-over montage.
When, and I wrote, maybe it was 2? Wait a minute? Princess Diaries 2. And I wrote a joke, and I handed it to Marty. And I said, “I look like a moose.” And that was my line I thought would be funny for
Ann Hathaway. Now, it had been a year or 2, with me writing jokes for Marty. And Gary and Marty would tell me, why something was funny, what something was. And Marty was like, that’s not bad, that’s not bad. And Marty took it to Gary. And Gary looked at it, chuckled, Marty didn’t go, good. But, gave me the invisible thumbs up. He says, “That was Tommy, that was Tommy’s joke. And he points right at me and Gary looks at me and goes, “Huh.” And at the end of that day, and that scene made it into the movie. That joke made it into the movie. And at the end of that day, Gary said, “So, maybe you do some writing? We got some things coming up.” And he said, “Take a look at the script. If you have something funny you want to write tomorrow? Put it on a list and hand it to me in the morning.” And that one was when it began. I would write.
Ashley: Had you started to write scripts, in your spare time? Did you, how many jokes did you think you had written that had been maybe just rejected, before you came up with this one that got accepted?
Tom: A ton, really, a ton. And I probably started a couple of scripts but I never, I didn’t understand it? You know, I’d read scripts, at that point. But, I never really, you know, I didn’t read Siftio, or Robert McKeen, it was all, everything I was learning was Gary Marshall from the script. And which was a great school to go to. But, I never had that, I never had that Idea that I could finish. But, once he gave me that, and then I wrote a scene, for Stan Lee, in
“Princess Diaries 2.” I don’t even remember the, Marvel Comics Stan Lee, “Big” Stan.
Ashley: Yeah, sure.
Tom: Him and Gary went, they both went to Dewit Clinton High School, in the Bronx. So, I had befriend together. And Gary said, “I got Stan Lee, coming tomorrow, I want you to write scene for him.” And I did. a scene for the movie, ya know, the annoying, he didn’t know what to do with Stan Lee? I did a 3 stooges bit. And so, it went from a joke, to a scene, and then finally a scene I had, to a script. After a film I had, after he had done “Raising Helen.” And I went off to produce a low-budget independent film. It was a great experience, right opportunity, and Gary knew it. That’s why he said, “Go, do that. You come back, you come back to work.” But, when I showed him that film. He said, “Good, I got a script, somebody wrote, not good. Maybe you take a shot?” And that was the first time I had read a script. That there was a book called,
“Winning Sounds Like This.” It was a story about Gallaudet University’s Deaf Girls Basketball Team. And their incredible 1998 season when they went to the “Sweet 16” of the Division 3 National NCAA Tournament, Basketball. And I just found what I had thought was the movie. And the guy, the person hired to write the script. Missed, it was more of I’m copying of the book. Which is something I would have done, you know, 10 years before. Well, I’ll just take the book and copy it into 110 pages. So, I had an idea and wrote out about a 14-page treatment properly, probably my first one ever. Handed it to him, he read it, and he said, “Good.” And then he hired me to write, that script. Which I still sit on today. And hope to someday make.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So, take us through then, how many more opportunities were there before you actually got to, “Mother’s Day.”
Tom: Well, in between that, I went and directed a film of my own. It was always shopping Mother’s Day. I was always shopping, “Winning Sounds Like This.” That basketball script. And then, Gary had a, during that time, we sit down, and Gary would always have a writing team. We always had Bob Brunner, and Marty Adler. Bob has since passed away. Bob, actually helped me write, “Winning Sounds Like This.” That’s again, Gary mentoring me through his friends. He says, I’m going to put you with Brunner, he’s lonely, and he’s funny, and he knows how to write a script. And I wrote it with Bob Brunner. And again, a great experience. This is a guy who, this was past the age of copy and pasting. And I was sitting in a room with all of Bob and Bob would literally be with scissors, cutting out the old scene that we wrote. And then taping it and pasting it across the piece of paper we were working on, physically, literally cutting and pasting.
Ashley: Huh, wow.
Tom: So, that was, you know, that was part of my, it was like, this experience. And then we did Gary films like “Valentine’s Day.” And “New Years Eve.” And at that point, Bob had retired, Marty had retired. Ed, so myself, and Matt Walker, was another one, another person Gary had liked to use quite often. A very talented writer, performer, in Gary’s theater, in Burbank, California, he brought us in. And he said, “So, we’re going to write a script. I got a script, I’m doing a movie, “Valentines Day.” It’s not the right script. So, he would say, this is it. And then you would really write it to cater to Gary’s sensibilities. And those were the first opportunities to really write through a script, after wards it sounds like this.
Ashley: Okay. And that was then what turned into what would be, “Mother’s Day?”
Tom: Well, “Valentine’s Day” and “New Years Eve” we arbitrated on both, both Matt and I, didn’t get credit, arbitration rules.
Ashley: Oh, oh, okay, I see. You were writing on all these scripts all along.
Tom: Writing all along, on those scripts before. And we were on set, right. I was an
on-set writer on “Valentine’s Day” “New Years Eve” as well. And “Mother’s Day” was really supposed to be our, you know, Gary said, “This is it!” Even said, he was, “I’m not doing “Mother’s Day! But, if I do? You guys are going to be first in on the script.” and the producers, were like, well, okay, But, he said again, “I’m not doing it!!” But I said, “That’s okay, Gary.” Matt and I went to a meeting. The producers, they said, “Well, the producers are coming. So, maybe we are doing it?” “I don’t know? They’ll kill me if I do another Holiday movie.” And the producers came in. And the producers came in with a script already.
Tom: You know, it’s one of those. And Gary, and even Gary’s like, Ahhhh! They said,
“They got us!” And I said, “Well they got us, for sure.” So, “Mother’s Day” Let it begin! Was initially, in Gary’s eyes, me and says, “Hey, this is yours and Matt’s, Matt and you, this is your turn, to be first in. To be there right from the start, and write with me, always with Gary. And we made the script. We want to go, and then of course the producers roll in with another script. And Gary says, “That’s not the one I want to make.” So, we pretty much, re-wrote from page 1, “Mother’s Day.” And in many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, versions as you know. You know it, over 3 years, over the course of 3 years, many different versions.
Ashley: Yeah, so as your career is progressing. And you’re starting to get these assignments through Gary. Did you try and get an agent or a manager? Did you start to try and branch out from that?
Tom: You know, I had one agent. You know, I bless it. He I, it’s hard. But, I mean, I know how nobody in the eyes of anybody, except for Gary Marshall. You know, and that team, that
inter-herkle, nothing, you know, and it was a fantastic place to be. But, you know, as a, you know, a on-set writer. As somebody who has one script. And once again, like you’ll say, right script, right script, have to have more of that, more than one. And it really sounds like Joe, and shopping a little bit. But then, you know, it was, usually like, nobody liked, nobody was going to make a sports movie, and death, girls basketball?! Are you crazy? Alright, I’ll make it on my own someday. And the one agent I had it wasn’t working. The meeting, in essence I could have, you know, just with the people I knew. It wasn’t her fault. But, that was the best shot I had. And then I really just kinda realized, this is my world, it’s my independent world, long enough to figure it out for myself. And on “Mother’s Day” I probably could have gone out and gotten an agent. But, at that point I was kinda already not too keen on it.
Ashley: Huh, okay? I wonder if? And maybe this isn’t something you’d necessarily involved in. But, I wonder if you could talk a little bit, and I’m going to see, it’s a little different, having
Gary Marshall, you know, on the project. But, I wonder if you could talk a little bit about the cast? And how important getting that cast involved. And how important that is to a project like, “Mother’s Day.” Obviously, you know, having someone like, Julia Roberts, was literally won an Academy Award, will regarded, Jennifer Aniston, you know, has a good track record, Kate Hudson. Getting some of those people involved. Maybe you can talk about #1, How you guys got them. And #2, How important that is to a project.
Tom: Well, it’s huge, obviously, when you got. You know, the model that a lot of people use now. I mean, you got this money. But, they’re not going to release it, until they got somebody that’s going to get you world wide. And Julia Roberts, was that world-wide. And they were saying, Jennifer Aniston was kinda the world-wide, but maybe not, you know. But, and in essence, and quite obviously. Gary ran into Julia, in Malibu at a baseball game, at his grandson’s baseball game. She was at her son’s baseball game. And it was kinda just worlds collided. Because the script had been shot. At one time, one version had been shot. I personally felt that it was too early. It was like I don’t think it’s ready. But, they’re ready to go, sign them up now. And it got flat rejected, from actors, let alone them wanting to attach themselves to, even though there was money there. And then Gary ran into Julia. And Gary had stepped away from the project for a minute.
And Julia had said, “What are ya doing, dad? He’s the.” He said, “Ah, I’m thinking about “Mother’s Day.” And she said, “Oh, well, you know, I might have a window. I might work with ya?” “Oh, yeah, well, I’ll send ya a script, we’ll see?” And he called her, and he got her the script. And she read it, and she said, “Yeah, I think I can play the part of, you know, I could play something in this. Gary, if we could make it work.” He called the producers and that, and was there. And that set everything in motion. Okay, what do we need to do, to get Julia
on-board? Once they heard that Julia was on-board, Jennifer was on-board, and that’s the only time, it was Gary. You know, you’d love to say, hey, it was the script. But, you’d probably seen “Rotten Tomatoes” or read their reviews, it certainly wasn’t the script, it was written. You know, Gary made it happen, and that was the great thing about it. People showed up because they wanted to work with Gary, and that was the big thing, you know.
Ashley: So, let’s talk little bit about the collaborative process. I’ve written with other people. And I’m always just curious, to kind of hear all collaborations go down. Maybe you could talk just a little bit about that. Are you guys, are your, do you typically work when you’re collaborating in the same room. You mentioned another fellow who wrote this. Who worked on, “Mother’s Day” with. Are you guys in the same room? Do you guys divide up the scenes. Do you outline first about this? Maybe just walk through that, process a little bit.
Tom: We had a cool system, Matt Walker, and myself, and Gary. Gary would kind of be in the room. We’d all sit in the room. We’d go through the script. And then, We would kind of break up the script. And we’d go, well, we got to work on this scene. And Matt would write, Matt and I would both work on the scene. And Gary would work on his version. Ah, this dog is whining at me.
Ashley: That’s okay.
Tom: And then we’d send them to Gary and Gary would pencil them up. And then he would usually like re-write them, with like an amalgam of what he liked. You know, sometimes he had a better, you know, a better, you know, a better through line through a particular scene. You know, but Gary liked a joke. And Gary, he’d sit there, and Gary would be sitting quietly. And then you would hear, “HA!” You know, okay, so he made it known, he was a genius at blending it all together, and making it work for him. I mean, that’s what he wrote. For him, he wanted to make sure it would work for him. And I
Ashley: Yeah, yeah.
Tom: Usually the process. Other times Matt and I would go away, and write. We would just, we would be working on the script. And Gary, we would have maybe the first 30-40 pages, of you know, of the original draft. And we just used, to intending to write different scenes. We’d walk into there, What’d you work on? So, I worked on this, a good, because I worked on the other one, form. You know. And that was pretty wild. I think that was one way that Matt and I worked pretty well together.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. I’m curious, how you handle you know, when you, and maybe even take it back to pitching jokes to Marty. But, even in the situation where the area where you’ve written something. How do you kind of take the rejection? When you’ve written something and you think is really good. But they’re like, “Nah, this isn’t going to work.” And I, one of the first I ran into a great video writer when I was, when I first got to L.A. He would write morning bits. And I was like, Oh, I’ll write some jokes, for ya. And I started writing these jokes that I thought were hilarious. And he would look at them and say, “Nah, this isn’t going to work, this isn’t going to work.” And it just like, what?! Those are great!
Ashley: And how do you handle that? There had to have been moments where you disagreed with Gary? But, you know, had you, how did you navigate that water. And not be rude and still maintain a professionalism to do it.
Tom: You know, you do have to take it on the chin, as you know. And, but Gary was always good. Matt would have this script, Matt had a good joke that we would do. You’d pitch a scene, pitch a joke, Gary or Matt, or myself, if we didn’t like it in general. We would light heartedly yell, “Pull!” and then we’d just (Make skeet gun shooting noise) you know, just like you were skeet shooting. So, you would pitch a joke, and you’d wait for it, and you would hear, “Pull!”
(Gun shooting noise). Okay, moving on. You know, you just kinda take it, alright, fine, you don’t like it. And but, the one time, this story if I may? The best story that’s takes out. Which was just, on a New Years Eve. I had written a cougar joke, for Michelle Phifer. And Gary I think was a having a bad day. And I wrote a cougar joke. Michelle Phifer and Zack Efron are in this storyline. So, the big age difference, you know, says, “Cougar.” Gary says, he reads it. And we’re on set, we’re in New York City, we’re on set, honest. And he says, “Tommy, you can’t write for stars.” And I’m like, what? Huh? “You can’t write for stars! You think Michelle Phifer wants to hear a cougar joke?” And I’m like, well, in the scheme of things? She’s like,
Zack Efron. I didn’t even think, or even say that. But in my head, I’m like. And then I’m just kinda like, well, I guess she probably can. She’s 15 years younger than Gary, so? Maybe he doesn’t think “Cougar” I don’t know? I don’t know, she’s still a spring chicken. And he said, and I remember, I turned beet red! That was the only time I ever. I was like, oh, he was upset about something? And the cougar joke didn’t did not fly at all! To this day, I feel, it was a good joke.
Tom: And I remember saying, that it wasn’t the time to fight about it. I directed a film with Brian Dennehy, in 2010. And he said it, figures so he said, “Did ya write fat jokes? A guy walks down the street, and hands it to Brian Dennehy?” I’m like, “Oy, oh man!”
Tom: So, I think I spent some time just sitting in my big chair that day, feeling sorry for myself. But, ya know, Gary always knew too. “Go to work!” At the end of the day.” You guys do good, I’m sorry if. You know. But I still look, if I ever thought that, the cougar joke was funny? So, sometimes you just miss. But you think, yeah, yeah.
Ashley: So, let’s talk about now, you live in Michigan, let’s talk about that for a little bit. I get people Emailing me all the time. Hey, can I start a career and have a career outside of that, in L.A. And maybe we could just get your thoughts on that? What have you been able to do since you left L.A. and what was sort of your part in your decision for leaving. Maybe just run through some of your thoughts on whether or not writers should live in L.A., or not?
Tom: You know, I like, my nephew likes to call me, and I was still in L.A. and he calls me. He’s a junior in college. And he says, “Hey, Uncle Tom, I’m thinking about dropping out of school and moving to L.A. to be a writer. When I was still in L.A. I went. Wow, so what’s you major? He said, “Business.” I went, “Okay.” Well, why don’t you get that degree. Because a business major now a days, means you can create a business, work on your form. I’m like, you can sit in every coffee shop in L.A. and write and run your business. I said, most people been there, like me, a bunch of schmucks. You know, hoping, praying, you know, somebody walks in and they know us. Finish school! You know, and then come to L.A. I absolutely encourage people to go to L.A. And I saw on your website, you said the same. L.A. is the place to be. But, for me at my age, and with myself. My wife grew-up in Michigan, and I grew-up in a small town in Boston. And when our 2 kids were born. L.A. just changed a little bit for us. And I’m like, you start to figure out, Oh, I don’t know, is this where they’re going to grow-up and make their
life-long friends. Is this where we want them to be. We want them to grow-up big city or the small town? We pretty much just decided, small town. We want to raise them, we want our kids to have a small-town experience, so we’re going to pack-up and go. Where they’re going to make their life-long friends. So, we pulled the trigger pretty fast. And that decision, over-rode everything else. In fact, “Mother’s Day” was done, it wasn’t even happening when we moved. And then, I got a call, at, “The Monroe County Fair.” The county fair, judging pigs. And I get a call, from somebody in trouble in Atlanta. Hey, it’s, so and so, from Travel Coordinator, from “Mother’s Day.” And I’m like, “Hi, really?! From “Mother’s Day?” It literally is that bizarre. Say, we want you to come down here, next week. Gary wants you down here. I’m like, oh? Is it happening? And so, you know, it happened when I wasn’t even in L.A. Which was great. But for me as well. Like I said, I guess I left not worrying about anything. And certainly when I’d left no body was say, “No, please don’t go!” L.A. is a big town, but, Oh no, it’s, he’s leaving. They’re like, good, one less car on the 405. And for me, I really had made that decision. As an independent film maker, I directed 2 films. And I feel I’ve learned a lot, I learned a lot. And I knew that when I left, that I would have to do other things, just to support, you know, my family. But, I also knew that I could still make films. And so, leaving wasn’t that difficult for me. Because, I knew what I wanted to do. I had enough focus. I had enough experience. And I knew all of a sudden, one of the things I made was, in Flint Michigan. While I was still in L.A. and I knew that I would beat the talent pool that there was. I was first an actor. I taught an acting class here. And then we started this writers workshop. I just started this writers workshop. Because people reaching out to me, and saying. I wrote this script, well let me read it. And I read it, and I give notes. And then they turn around with the script. And they turn around in 3 weeks, That’s the time they wrote it. I was like, holy Moses, holy Maceral. I was on draft 5 with this one kid, who was writing this wrestling script. And a few other people came around. And I said, we should start a writers group. Because I can’t keep, you know, just, and not just because I can’t just read all these scripts and give all my personal opinions, I mean, you need, it takes a village, sometimes.
So, we created this great group, with really positive feedback, to help all these writers. About 15 writers right now, and actors in the group. We meet every Sunday, and we’re developing a few things out of that.
Ashley: And is that your plan now, is to try and get a script you can shoot and direct independently?
Tom: Yep. And I’m writing for one of the “Mother’s Day” Producers, Howard Bird, I’m writing a script for him. We went and touched bases in Sacramento. We’re writing kind of a fun comedy. And so, I’m not totally out of the loop there. But, really my focus has been trying to find mad stuff, and do what I had to do to pay the bills. So, when I make it back next time. I have more control over it. Because at that point in my career. I’ve really only had the say in one project. And it was the first film I directed. And my brother, a brilliant play writer, wrote that script. And after that, you know, it becomes producers, and everybody else, that has their opinions. Like I said, I’m up, Thursday, I felt that draft wasn’t ready to go. But, who am I to say? I wasn’t, I was just one of the writers, what is this it might work? And send it out. And it was flat rejected, and not that my opinion was going to matter.
Ashley: Just one of the writers, that sums it up. Just one of the writers.
Tom: I don’t think it’s ready? Just one of the writers. What do you know?! You know, you’re schmuck. Okay, alright, alright.
Tom: So, yeah, I just found some really great contacts, very passionate people, writers, actors. And a couple in-particular. But yeah, I think we’re going to develop one of them. He already wrote it, I already wrote this great TV pilot, with a comedian for the entire series, an entire season, about the Detroit Cops. And you know, it’s funny, it’s got twists, turns, it’s not, it was really impressive. He’s a good actor, I wrote it. You find these people that have lived it. They’re looking really right too.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. I wonder too? If there are any people out there that are just wondering? How to set-up their own writers group, in their own area? Maybe you can just describe, what the sort of how to, logistically, how does that writers group work? And how did you find people to be a part of it?
Tom: I should say that Bobby Moresco, Bobby Moresco is a writer/producer, directing something right now, with Cynthia Garcia. Has this group in L.A. called, “The Actors Gym” And Bobby, I don’t know if you, know Bobby? He’s one of the most passionate, she’s one of the writers of, “Crash” won the Academy Award for “Crash.” Co-Producer on the
“Million Dollar Baby.” He’s just a guy who’s lived it. He’s lived life, he was in born and lived in “Hells Kitchen” he studied theatre. He studied, you know, he studied, he studied. He has a passion for writing, and acting, and directing. And he would get this group together.
“The Actors Gym” every Saturday, in Sherman Oaks. And I do hear from the bar I worked at. And he would come in and meet at, we’d have some meetings once in a while.
And then, I saw him in the neighborhood, and I start going to this group. And, he has a rule, and I’ve adopted this rule in our group. You can bring 10 pages of a screenplay, or a TV Show, or a play. And there are actors in this group that would perform your 10 pages. And then you sit around and discuss it, and you decide, in it’s simplest terms. Is everyone interested in this story, is everyone following this story, does it make sense? Because that’s kinda where you’re at sometimes? Does it make sense? Yeah, are you interested? Sure. Do you want to see the next 10 pages? Absolutely. My goal is to just get people to finish, get through that first screenplay. And then, it’s what we say, over and over, and you know. You’re first screenplay, that’s just draft #1. But ya got to get there, you got to get to that last page. So, we go in 10 page increments, I have actors, and I just found these people, and it’s fantastic. Ed Smith, who I think from method acted for us.
Ashley: Yep, yep.
Tom: Ted is, he’s an engineer, by trade. But he can write, he writes, and writes, and writes, and writes, and writes, and writes. And he just wanted an outlet. And this is what the group has and is, it’s an outlet, and the talent’s everywhere, and that’s the cool thing. You lay out a format. Whatever, I need, I got Cal-Tech, you got this free screenwriting software. People can take that time to understand the software, read more scripts, you can find them on the IMSDb. Get an idea what that format is? And really my goal with everyone else, is just to help them find that story. It’ll help them tell that story. If you get all out, just as my brother once said, get it out there. And then we go back and start from the beginning of that 10 pages. And then, help to see if that story still works.
Ashley: Yeah. So, do you do it at someone’s house? Do you rent a little theater? How, what is the actual meeting place like?
Tom: There’s a, it’s in Monroe, a beautiful theater.
Tom: River Lake, River Raisin Place of the Arts. Tricky name, but a beautiful theater. And the River Raisin allows us, to hold our group there. They have rehearsals, studios, and other such odds. So, sometimes it’s in the theater, sometimes it’s down the street, or one of the dance studios. It’s a small, I mean, it’s a small town, Monroe, 16,000 people. But, they got a beautiful theater, and they encourage it, that’s part of it too. The theater director, that encourages it, she loves it. It’s not just a theater person, he’s a film guy. And so, we meet there every Sunday. We’ll be there again this Sunday, from 4:00p.m. – 7:00p.m. And people bring pages. And that’s the new thing. I’m like, I have no idea what it’s going to be. We said that there’s going to be a 6-week workshop. And now, we’re just discussing that we could possibly pay dues to the theater. If we could pay dues, maybe just come. And if you can’t afford dues, that’s okay. Because we can afford it. But, the theater, is opened to it. But we can give a little money to them. And they’ll open their doors for us when there’s nothing going on. Because they know we’re developing things. And encouraging people right. And you know, be creative. So.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So, yeah, that sounds fantastic. And maybe too, we can even, if there is anybody in your area that listens to the Podcast? Can act then with you. Which kind of leaves me to my next question? I just like to wrap up these interviews just by asking the guest, how people can connect with you? Facebook, Twitter, Blog, whatever you are comfortable sharing? Just you know, tell it to me now, I’ll round it up and put it in the show notes, that people can click on over to.
Tom: Yeah, great. Pretty much, I’m on Facebook, “Tom Hines.” www.facebook.com/tomhines. There’s a picture of my kids on it. Tom Hines will probably slowly but surely. I know that the River Raisin does have a group page, for our group. But, I don’t know if it’s really good? I don’t know how visible it is? But you can find me on Facebook, send me a message, say I’m interested in the group. And yeah, I add people rather than subtracting people. Which is really neat. We’re up to anywhere on weekends we average 12 to 16 people. We’ve been going now for 8 weeks. And between 4 and 6 scripts, 5 and 6 sometimes 7 scripts, 10 pages each. And actors act the words, and writers, we all sit around and just talk about it, we talk about the story. And we’re learning more about some of these people. I got film makers coming in Camera Brothers, who just came in. They’re shooting, and they’re finishing a film right now. So, like I said, Michigan I think is a really deep talent pool, and there is a lot of artist here. So, it’s cool. Both clear and keep going on it.
Ashley: So Tom, I really appreciate you time, you’ve been very generous coming on and talk with me today, I wish you luck, with all of your projects. And I just really do thank you, this has been a great interview, very insightful, you know look “Under the hood” of you know, Gary Marshall, and his whole troop.
Tom: Yeah, thanks for having me, it’s been real, real fun to just kinda reminisce about Gary.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So, as I said Tom, I wish you luck in your projects, and we’ll talk to ya later.
Tom: You too, thanks Ashley, yeah, yeah,
Ashley: I just want to mention two things I’m doing at “Selling Your Screenplay” to help screenwriters find producers who are looking for new material.
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And asked them if they would like to receive this monthly newsletter of pitches. So far, I have well over 400 producers who have signed-up to receive it. These producers are hungry for new material and are happy to read new material.
And how they get to read scripts from new writers. So, if you want to participate in this pitch newsletter? And get your script into the hands of lots of producers. Sign-up at – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/select.
And secondly, I’ve paid on of the premier paid screenwriting leads sites. You can syndicate their leads to SYS Select members. There are lots of great paid leads coming in each week from our partner. Recently I’ve been getting 10 to 12 high quality paid new leads every week. These are producers, and production companies that are actively looking to buy new material. Or are looking to hire a screenwriter for a particular project that they may be working on. If you sign-up for SYS Select, you will get these leads Emailed directly to you several times each week. These leads run the gambit of production companies looking for a specific type of spec. script.
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On the next episode of the Podcast, I’m going to be interviewing, actor and Director, Alexander Letski, he’s a Russian body builder, turned actor, star. After talking to him, he really reminds me of Arnold Schwarzenegger. And not because he’s a body builder. But, because of his “Can do” attitude. He’s just really up-beat and very positive. He’s got a lot of great information during the interview, actually. And specifically we’re talking about his latest film. And action film he’s stars in and directs called, “Black Rose.” So stay tuned for that episode next week.
Anyway, that’s the Podcast, thank you for listening