Ashley: Welcome to episode #196 of the “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I’m
Ashley Scott Meyers Screenwriter and Blogger over at – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today, I’m interviewing Writer/Director, Actor, Producer and even Editor, Griff Furst. At first he did a film called, “Cold Moon” and we talk about through that process. It was based on a book, which Griff optioned. But, the screenplay for that raised the money for films. So, we talked through every aspect of that, and how this film came to be. So, stay tuned for that interview.
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If you would like my free guide, “How to Sell Your Screenplay in 5 Weeks?” You can pick that up by going to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide. It’s completely free, you just put in your Email address and I’ll send you a new lesson, once a week for 5 weeks. Along with a bunch of free bonus lessons. I teach the whole process of how to sell your screenplay in that guide. How to write a professional log-line and quarry letter. How to find agents, managers and producers who are looking for new material. It really is everything you need to know to sell your screenplay. Just go to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide.
A quick few words about what I’m working on this week? A quick update on “The Pinch” my crime, action, thriller feature film, I’m finishing up on. All the special effects shots are in, and are colored. And I got the hard drive with all the files, the special effects files, as well as the main file for the film. I got that back from my colorist last week. So, all the color correction is officially done. I took that hard drive over to my editor, with all of the effects shots, obviously the color version of the film, all the closing credits, the opening credits, closing credits, got that to the editor. So, he’s just basically piecing the film back together, all the video elements. And then, I’m still waiting on sound, that is moving ahead, I’d say as well. My dialog editor, is almost done, with his part. At this point it’s really just more that the dialog editor, in that he’s doing, filling in any elements or audio holes to make sure everything works together. So, there’s a number of just technical things that he’s doing for me, just to get everything up to speed. And then, the final step, once he’s done, I’ll know, a week or two that, that piece will be done. And then the final step, with the audio mix is done. But, I’ll have a mixer ready to go. He’s going to take the sound design, the score, and bring in the dialog editor to present. And then he’s just going to mix everything together, to make sure the levels, are all properly, it’s all leveled off. And then, he will produce all the different tracks, the audio tracks. I’ll bring those back to the editor. By that time hopefully, my editor will be done with the video portion. And then he will just dump, he will just drop in the audio portion of the film.
And then basically, we’ll be done. And then, it’s just a matter of out putting this film. And start sending it to the distributors. So, you know, slowly but surely it is moving along.
I did a webinar last month called, “The Pinch” Producing a micro-budget feature film.” Where I go into great detail on how exactly I wrote directed and produced this micro-budget film. Specifically, I talk about how to write a micro-budget screenplay. How to raise money to shoot you micro-budget screenplay. Which includes a lot of information, how to run a successful Kick-Starter Campaign. Which I did for “The Pinch.” And then I also dig into pre-production, production, and of course post-production. The webinar is about 3 hours long. So, there’s a ton of very practical information in it. I worked hard putting this webinar together, so I am charging a small fee for it. But, if you’re looking to write, direct, and or produce a micro-budget film. I think this could really help you out. There are a ton of directors, and producers out there who are looking for the next great microbudget script. So, even if you’re just writer who’s looking to understand this market, better. I think this webinar would be very valuable for you as well. Even if you don’t necessarily want to be a producer on your own projects. I think writing scripts, that can be shot on a micro-budget level is a great way to meet up and coming directors, and producers get some of your written work produced. You can find this webinar at – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/thepinch. And “The Pinch” is all one word, all lower case. So, www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/thepinch. I will of course link to it in the show notes, as well. So, you can get that there. But, if this sounds like something that might be interesting for, check it out.
So, now let’s get into the main segment. Today, I’m interviewing screenwriter and director, Griff Furst. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Griff to, the “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I really appreciate you coming on the show and talking with me today.
Griff: Yeah, thanks for having me Ashley, it’s good to be here.
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 industry?
Griff: So, I grew-up in Los Angeles California. And I’ve been around the entertainment industry for as long as I can remember. Because my father was in the business. So, I would be going to the set with him ever since I was a really little kid. Actually, I have some picture, in my office sitting on his lap in the Director’s Chair. I was in, he was pretty famous in the ‘80’s, during that time. We had some offers to act, along-side, with him, as his son. And some pretty successful sit-coms and such. But I got a little bit of stage fright. I didn’t, I knew I wanted to be an actor as an adult, when I was a kid. But, I didn’t want to be a child actor. I was more into sports, friends and school, and all that stuff. So, I didn’t start working in the industry, until I was about 17, and just graduated from high school. My father was directing a movie, he put me in a little small part. And then after that it was just auditioning and studying, and all that jazz. And I only acted for about 8 years.
I was just an actor. And then a company, called, “The Asylum.” Which maybe from one you’re familiar with? They cast me in a movie. I was acting in a movie, for them. And the Executive Producer, was on set, and he said, “How would you like to direct on of these things? I was what, 24 years old, or something like that. So, I said, “Sure.” So, even though I hadn’t really considered directing, I knew how to do it. Because I grew-up on set. And I studied scene study, and all that stuff. So, I directed one of those, it did well for them. I directed several more. And then other people started asking me to direct, I directed some shorts, that got into some festivals. And then I started just this path, in the TV movie world. And it just pursued it, it sort of just found me. I just started getting one TV movie after another, after another. And I started to think? I do love doing the TV movies. Because they’re quick turn-around. You get make a lot of content. And you still get to create your artistic vision. But, of course when I start, I wanted to tell the stories that I wanted to tell. So, I started making movies. So, I reined it in a bit, and I started pursuing property I was interested in, Full Moon, being one of those properties, and acquired the rights. Novel was the story I really loved. And just kind of got back on that track. And I still do a lot of TV movies. Because it’s a huge market, I really enjoy it, and I’m good at it. But, I also have this pile of intellectual property, about called, “Cold Moon.” So, that’s the very short version. But, it was all just any producer? Kind of one method to be sure. You don’t just go and get a degree and all of a sudden you’re a producer. It’s like because I know they do very differentness and they found their way to where they are, in a very different way. My way was almost fate, so here we are.
Ashley: A. When did you transition to start writing? When did you direct this first Asylum. Did you write that?
Griff: I’ve always loved reading, and in school I didn’t have much interest in traditional schooling then. Although, I was in it, I always got “A+’s” in English, just because I loved literature. I always read a lot even when I was a kid, I always studied. I mean, I was reading screenplays since again, before I could remember. So, and I studied the hell out of writing. Every book on screenwriting, I’ve definitely consumed, I have my favorites. So, I think writing since before I was directing. Just out of probably, I submitted to a few people, and tried to sell them. But, as I read more, the more I understood the craft more and more. Where I just started writing. I realized that I’m pretty damn good at it. Just because of taking the time to understand it, to understand how to tell a story in the proper structure. And emotionally a pack away. So again, I never borrowed from, I kept on being a writer. But, I really enjoyed doing it. And it’s almost easier for me to create something that I want to do from scratch that to go out and try to find it on the “Black List” or although I’ll do that too. I just love writing, working on 3 different screenplays right now.
Ashley: Huh, nice. Now I noticed too on and with “Cold Moon” and several of your other projects. Not only did you write, direct, and produce, but you also edited. When did you pick-up these skills for editing. Was that just self-taught?
Griff: again just going along, just started doing some editing? Sometimes, sometimes, my brother gave me a 2001 iMac, that I think crashed every other move. So, I think it took me about 6 months to edit like a 20-minute short film. I was pretty-efficient after that. I’ve seen moved onto Apple and Premier. But, it is also self-taught.
Noticed, working with the editors so much of it is just, kind of your own natural instinct and tuition. Anybody can teach themselves, I mean, software isn’t that complicated. Some of the more technical online stuff is. But, I just seem to have a really solid intuition for pacing, and performance. I actually; don’t like cutting my own stuff. And I been trying to discipline myself not to edit my own stuff. But, on “Cold Moon” it was a limited budget, so I wanted to spend a long time in post, which we did. We spent almost a year in post. So, I didn’t want to pay somebody for a year, to edit that movie. So, I just stayed with it. But, my last 3 I had a very talented editor with me. Because they weren’t year-long post kind of movies.
Ashley: Okay, perfect, perfect. So, maybe you can dig in now, to “Cold Moon” and this is your latest, writing, directing, producing, and editing project. Maybe just to start out, you can just talk about the premise for, what is sort of the log-line or the pitch for this film?
Griff: So, the log-line, is a tale of super-natural vengeance. And that is pretty much what it is. You know, there’s this odd crime that happens in a small town. And there’s the debate over of who might have caused it? And it reminds that the novel, and then, the screenplay remind me of a little bit of “Pyscho.” Because it is, if you look at it, it is the perfect screenplay structure. But, it’s very unconventional, because we, it’s a wide demo-movie kind of starts off as? And we find out who did it. But, half-way through the movie. And then there’s this eventual decline of the lead antagonist. And we are trying to decipher whether what is happening is happening in the real world. Even if it is super-natural, or if it all just happening, in this tormented man’s mind. So, it’s really a haunting story, but different from kind of the conjuring “Anabell” of Lungren House is doing. Because it’s really focusing on the downward spiral of a town, and an individual. As opposed to haunted house setting, where the house is haunted and you have to get out, and you can’t get out, it’s not like that. But it’s a kindred spirit I guess.
Ashley: So, this is a book, that you read, that you liked. And then you said, you optioned it from the author. Maybe you can talk about that process a lot. I get people Emailing me, quite often saying, oh you know, I read this book I really love. But, how do you recommend that I go and actually get the movie rights to this. So, maybe you can just talk a little bit to how you found the book? And ultimately how you tracked down the author, and were able to option the movie rights?
Griff: Absolutely. I love this topic, because it transcends screenwriting, and then anything else we do. Because I just do it, you know, I’m a entrepreneur as well. So, it’s like, if I have an idea, you just do it. I have a friend who’s a screenwriter, working on the same screenplay for 10 years. And it’s like dude, just write the fuckin’ screenplay! I don’t know if I can cuss? I do. So, I was, you know, if I see somet’80hing, and I haven’t an inclination on its own, I won’t do it. I want to be involved in it. I just go after it, until I get a “Yes” or a “No.” And depending on how bad I want it? If I don’t get “No” I’ll keep going. But, in this particular-instance, I was watching “Beetlejuice.” And I hadn’t seen it in probably 10 years. I was just, I loved the movie so much, I loved it as a kid, I loved it when I re-watched it, it’s such a unique story. So, I looked at the writers and I saw that one of them was a gentleman, named, “Michael McDowell, looked him up. He wrote all sort of, “A Nightmare Before Christmas” and some “Tales From the Dark Side” and some really cool stuff. But then it didn’t blow-up to the level of Stephen King. So, I researched him, and found out that he, had written.
I’d say, about 20 novels that were pretty beloved in the ‘80’s. And were well known then, but he just didn’t get, “It” misery level of Stephen King. But, he was almost on to him in the ‘80’s, good friends and a lot of the masters of horror knew him, know who Michael is. Anyhow so, I researched him, read a bunch of his novels, just to see what they were like? And I started reading them, I wanted to take down all of them. But, they were all fantastic, I love that they were so, well written. And so, I called, the rights holder, and I just started negotiated price. I said, “I really love this material, I really love what Michael did.” But all came there. I read all his literature. So, I knew everything about it. Which the rights really appreciated that I had such clear affinity for, her late client. But anyhow, I chose a couple of them that I optioned. And I decided to start with “Cold Moon.” I just thought that was the most ready for the format, for feature, it just felt like a screenplay.
Ashley: Okay. And so just, maybe just give us some specifics. It says, you said you tracked down the rights holder. What exactly does that mean exact? You were looking in the back of the book for the publisher, Google, and that route. How exactly did you track down the rights holder?
Griff: You sort of, I purchased and found a lot of really, interesting property over the years. And it’s always a little bit different. I think in this case, I just read about the author, and read about him. Anyway, anything I could find online. And then I think it was Wikipedia or something like that, I saw it, his partner. His name, I think, was Lawrence Sonic, MTI. He was teaching me at Boston University. So, I went with Boston University, website. I found Lawrence contact, I sent him Email, he was very sweet. He replied to me, and said, I should talk to this person. Who was like actually the agents that represents the rights. One of those small boutique agencies, a woman who ended up becoming a pretty close friend of mine. Because we are working together a lot. But, I called her and that’s it. And I had my letters drafted up. They purchased an author agreement. And we, that was in October, and we were shooting by December I think?
Ashley: Okay. And maybe you could just give us some, even just ball-park it? It doesn’t necessarily be like specifics about this deal. But, just sort of general ball-park figures of what this looks like? How long, how much do you pay, or something like this. Or just how long do you, are you able to get them, the movie rights. Like, if you don’t make the movie, do you lose the rights, at some point. Just some sort of specifics to the contracts. So, people can kind of have an idea what they are getting into, if they want to pursue this.
Griff: For sure. Well, you can really do anything, anything you want to be. There’s no rules I don’t think with contracts. But, I know as far as what’s customary, is. It really depends on the level of the property you want to, if it’s a self-published thing? It’s not a very well-known novel? Then you may not have to pay anything for the rights. You know, I paid, I’ve optioned something for a dollar. And I’ve optioned something for $3500.00. And I’ve purchased something for $5000.00, and I’ve purchased something for $500,000.00. As far as the option/purchase agreement, generally you find the material. You see, you know, what level it’s at, how much attention it’s getting. Obviously, if it’s a hot New York Times Best Seller Novel. You had better come in with some heat. If you want to actually secure that. If it’s a friend’s book, that you’ve found. A book that’s great and kind of forgotten about.
You can probably make a deal on it. You’re going to have to use your own common sense, to gauge what the value of that property, or where he is. And then, what is customary is, to fill-out an agreement. And your option can be anything, where from you know, 3 months. I’ve done, the shortest option I’ve done is 3 months, the longest was 21 months. To err pick a purchase price for that length of time, that the option to purchase the script. And then, in that same contract there will be a purchase price. So, you know, you option it for $1000.00 and then, in sometime in the next 18 months. You just decide that you want to make it? You then owe the writer $100,000.00. or whatever it is? But, that’s how you start, but then again, it depends on the level of the literature and how much attention it has in it? You might be able to buy the rights, to make the movie for $5000.00. Or sometimes, it’s going to cost $500,000.00. If it’s a New York Times Best Seller, or something like that.
Ashley: Yeah, okay. So, let’s dig into the deal.
Griff: And also, the author rights, and also the authors. I’m sorry, I like this subject. Because I’ve dealt with different authors. So, authors actually; have more popular books, and the licenses cheaper for me because they love film makers. And you have other authors like Steven Cootz. Who doesn’t, he actually he doesn’t like film makers. He doesn’t think they will do his books justice. So, it’s like, if you want to get one of his books. He’s going to charge you an arm and a leg. Just because he doesn’t like film makers, not necessarily love them. I mean, he has interviews with them. Where he just talks smack about screenplays or whatever? So, it’s like, fuck it, you don’t have to pay him, a lot more for his, because he doesn’t want you to make it. But, Stephen King, is very friendly. Like he’ll give us a deal, I think, like a dollar off option. You know, they want to make one of his short films.
Ashley: A yeah, short stories, I’m sure, yeah, yeah. So, let’s dig into “Cold Moon” and your writing process a little bit. Maybe you could just talk about what your day looks like when you get into the point where your starting to write. How much time do you spend outlining and maybe even talk specifically about this, as an adaptation. Did you read through the book and make a bunch of notes for an outline, was the book sort of your outline. And then, how much time do you spend in actually opening up Final Draft and actually writing script pages.
Griff: In this one, I typically like to collaborate, and I feel like I collaborated with a gentleman Ax Schnider, on this one. But, part of the reason I like going, is not only because it was ready to do a screenplay. But it’s so much resemblance of a screenplay. There was a lot of dialog, a lot of really great dialog written into the novel, which was attracted to me. It was written in 3 act structury. Even though it was a 310-page novel. So, a lot of it for me, which is, why I have Michael actually, even though he is at least credited as the writer on the screenplay. Because I really felt that was the right thing to do. Because I just edited it well. You know, pretty much everything in the script, is just in there, abridged version, of what the novel was. But, I’m writing a few other things right now. And typically what I do is? I research it, research, and research, and research, and research, and research. Whatever the subject is? I’m dealing until I feel like I’m full of information. And then, I throw it down into being outline format. ]
All beat out, Act 1, 2, and 3, until I feel like I, that’s a really, really, nice story. And then I will jump into the screenplay. And I typically try different things. I know some people suggest, simple, about time, and I’ll turn off your phone. I’m more kind of a binge guy.
So, it’s like, when I take on a project, I just binge. I’ll spend, you know, I’ll do 20 hours straight, writing. Maybe only get 20 pages done. But, I’ll get it done a lot faster. I prefer that than, I’m going to write the screenplay over the next 6 months. I write the screenplay this month. And I’m going to do whatever it takes to get it done.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So, what is your development process look like? Once you have that first draft. 1. How do you know it’s time to show to people? And then, who do you show it to? Do you have a network of producers, that you work with? Your network of other writers, what does that look like, and then ultimately, what do you do with these notes that you get back from people
Griff: Yeah, you know what? If you trust the people, right? There’s the I really respect, and others that I respect. You know, I’ve been leaning on my brother recently. Even though he’s not a writer, he’s a composer. But, he has really great sensibilities. He’s not looking at it, from a technical stand-point, or even from a, I’m educated about screenwriting stand-point. But he just inherently knows, just like me. He’s been around it his whole life for 40 years. So, apparently he has some ideas that work. I just go to writers, I have a friend who teaches at the university of Missouri. And he teaches screenwriting, so I sent it to him. He’s really good at structural stuff. I have another one, who is a writer, he’s fantastic at dialog, and so, I sent it to him. So, I pick people, whom I think the story fits their sensibilities. And I even have them take a look at it, and tell me what they think? And also, on Final Draft, and I will throw the a couple of bucks. And I’ll say, “Hey, do an additional dialog polish, or if I missed anything? Or hey, can you look at the guy who’s really going to take screen directional, and make it more concise. You know lose the adjectives, and consolidating words. And I’ll say, hey, can I give you, you know, a few bucks to take down a screenplay, screen direction. Because it’s a little, it’s a little long winded, and stuff like that. So, usually I’ll just pick people and have them do that, and then shoot it back to me.
Ashley: Okay, okay. So, you won’t necessarily get a bunch of notes and then go and try to implement those notes, yourself it sounds like.
Griff: Well, it’s, if in that process, because what if somebody’s doing dialog or looking at the screenplay, they typically also give me notes about what they like, or didn’t like about the project. And if the same note comes up twice, then I know I have a problem. You know, so I usually do get a fair amount of people. By the time I’m ready to start sending it to agents and actors. I mean, at least 7 people have looked at it. And consistently I’m getting the same note. I will go back and fix that problem, you know. But, sometimes I get stuff different though, since some of it is taste, and some of it is where it gets fixed when my script doctors do their polish and all that stuff.
Ashley: So, with this particular movie called, “Cold Moon” I’m curious, if you went into it, I mean, it comes across as kind of a super-natural, thriller, and that seems like a genre that is marketable. How much of that put into your decision into you know, when you’re reading all these books that this fellow has written. And you decide this one can be a movie, that I think I can get finance. I think it could find an audience, go and find an audience.
Griff: Well, I think that all of Michael’s material is marketable. But, funny enough, he started in raising money for this project, because this movie was shot on equity. We actually funded a different movie. We funded a movie, that was a crime/thriller, it was like an Indie art film festival drama. And I absolutely, loved that screenplay. But, we got to a point, where we weren’t getting any level of star that we wanted to attach. Because it was more of a drama we needed an “A-List” actor. We were having a hard time attaching an “A-List” actor value that we needed. So, we made a decision very far into the shooting process to switch the project we were funding from that one, to “Cold Moon,” Because “Cold Moon” was just genre that people were going to see. Just like what’s happening now with horror. It’s like horror is, horror is one of the only things that’s performing at the box office. I think people like to be in that theatrical environment to see a scary movie, and drama on television is so damn good. That it’s hard to get people these days, to pay for a ticket or rent a drama, no matter how good it is. You know, even for big actors, it’s like they’re I’m surprised that Darrin Aronofsky’s “Mother” isn’t tracking better, because it is a horror film. But, he’s, anyway, I’m getting off the subject here.
Ashley: No, I’m getting excited about that one too, so. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Griff: Yeah, so, yeah absolutely came into it, it’s a genre kind of with a built-in audience. Because it was one of my favorite genres, I’m a huge horror fan. And I have had an extensive VHS collection from when I was like, 8 years old. I started watching “Nightmare on Elm Street” “Friday the 13th” I’m such a huge fan of every horror movie ever made. So, it’s like, my genre, I love it. The fans are really loyal, they are going to love it too. So, that’s why I chose to go that direction. Because it was just a little scary to me to make a drama unless like I had Margot Rami, attached to it or something? You know.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So, let’s talk now, about that next step on your, when you’re done with the script. You start going out there, and it sounds like this is a little bit of a like you were already in the process of raising money for another project. But, maybe you could just talk about that process of raising money. I get a lot of screenwriters coming to me. Hey, I want to produce my own material, how can I raise money? And I know there’s no magic bullets, or anything. But, I would just be curious kind of hear about your process of what that is? How you find people to pitch to, and ultimately what your pitch looks like to them.
Griff: Sure. Well, in this particular instance I think, is more relevant. I also do a lot of work that is pre-sold. And that’s a much different scenario. Because I have a contract, that is essentially worth money. And I just don’t get that money until I deliver that movie. So, and in those cases, which is not “Cold Moon.” It’s very simple, just go to somebody who has the money, and you say, I’ll give you interest on your money, I just need you to loan it to me, until I turn in this movie. And then I cash in this piece of paper kinda thing. But, in the case of “Cold Moon.” Which I think is more common for independent film makers to take whether there is no
pre-sales. You’re making something that because you love the story. And it’s a story you want to tell. It’s really boils down to one thing, in which its just super human effort. That’s all it takes, anybody I know, a lot of people I know, that’s done it, it’s, that’s all it is, it’s super human, unrelenting, dedication to making it happen. So, when we started raising money for this one. Because we didn’t have any contracts, it was extremely difficult. Because, you’re asking everybody to take a big risk with their money.
You know, there’s no guarantee that they are going to make their money back, movies are risky. So, the film makers behind a project, this material had better be great. Because they are going to read it, I’m sure. And you had better be passionate about the piece which is, I am a, the gentleman who is raising money with me. We’re both work very much. It was a long, long, process. But, never giving up, I mean, all day,
every day, for a year we just called, everyone and anyone that we wanted to check back in with them in 99% of it was a waste of time. And you know it’s going to be a waste of time. But, you find that 1% that makes it happen for you.
Ashley: And so, are those just contacts that you had in your roll-a-dex? Is it friends of friends, Just maybe, just give a some actual specifics of what that actually looks like? I mean, on Facebook, are you pitching people. I had a guy last week, I interviewed him. He was literally pitching people on Facebook, that he may or may not have even known?
Griff: Yeah. I mean, it’s literally anytime, anything that you can think of? I mean, I was, you know, just go through, just go through my phone, you know, 1500 contacts on my phone. And anybody who is on, maybe even thought I had a lead. I’d just reach out to them. It was like, I get the same thing, even from big agencies, and managers. It’s like I would get Email now. Hey, I have these 3 really impressive actors, I have this screenplay, I need $500,000.00. And so, it comes both ways, people looking for money, against the property that doesn’t have the pre-sales. Because I hear about I guess, every day. Because I’ll get an Email from the same thing. It’s like, hey, I have a $2 Million-dollar movie. I have $1.5 Million dollars in contract. So, I’m good, I have one $1.5 Million dollars, I need an extra $500,000.00 it’s not about anything. Except, hopes, hopes that this gets into something? So, it goes both ways. And that was a lot of what it was, literally was role-a-dex and talking to people, calling people, I called everybody, I didn’t just call the people I thought only were high net individuals. I was calling, you know, old friends of mine. Just, hey have you any ideas? Sometimes they did. You know, I just met this guy, in Velencia he wanted to finance a project, why don’t you meet with him, or whatever it is? And so, we meet, and it was likely going to be a huge waste of time. Which most of the time it was. But, that’s kind of the price you got to pay, when you’re starting out. I don’t have to do that anymore, thank God. Because I have my role-a-dex of people that want to invest. So, I don’t have to look for investors anymore. Because, that’s the beauty of it. It’s like we did that, to find our investors. And now we have a group of fantastic people, who love making movies. They love making movies with us. So, there’s no more of that bull-shit. If I have to finance a project now, it’s like it’s quick because. It’s proven what we do. And so that’s the benefit of spend a year doing all the bullshit. It’s like you’re going to end up with a great relationship, with a handful of people, you know.
Ashley: Yeah. So, what is that pitch? Once you get into that meeting or phone call. What does that pitch look like? Obviously as you’ve said, that when there’s no minimum guarantee on the table, this is an incredibly steep proposition. Just what does that pitch look like? To these potentially, to investors?
Griff: I would keep it as straight forward as possible. Because if you’re pitching people, who are high net individuals. They’re going to be smart people. Who, have had success, or are having success, in business. And most, businesses are the same as, as far as internal and the financial workings, and bookkeeping, and all that stuff. So, it’s always a red flag to me when somebody pitches me something, and it’s like overly complex. Or you’re going to wire money to this bank, that it’s going to give me it doesn’t make sense, I would just run away from. And I think it goes the same for if you’re pitching investors. It’s like the people, you got to keep it simple. Because smart people can keep it simple. It’s like investment is a simple, simple thing. So, any tricks or, any you know, the one that I love. Which is just like this is the matching funds. You know, it’s like, people. Oh, it’s like he gave me 50%, they give me 50%. I have never heard of that working before. And people call me and pitch it to me, all the time. I have 50% of funds, and 50% of funds. That’s not a thing, it’s like, this sounds like a thing. But, people call me all the time with this bullshit. And then if you look into it. That you know, that matching funds thing. It all of a sudden, just falls apart. If you have half a brain. It’s like they start telling you, these weird scenarios, business doesn’t work like that. It’s like, just keep it simple. You don’t need 100-page contract, like all this crazy stuff. It’s like nobody wants to do business like that.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. I’m curious with this film since you have a relationship with places like you saw this script done. And you started to get a cast. Did you go out to some of those places and try to get a minimum guarantee up front. Or you just didn’t want anybody to, and if you wanted to make and that was that.
Griff: Yeah, yeah. We, I didn’t go out for, I didn’t look for this condition at all the time. We were making a thing, and we were making our thing to go to festivals, and that was it. And so, I didn’t approach anybody else until this film was done. And we started going to festivals. And distributors, again, national to return to festivals. To see it, yeah. I didn’t reach out to, they didn’t want any pre-sales on this movie.
Ashley: Okay, perfect, so how can people see “Cold Moon” do you know what the release schedule is going to be like?
Griff: I do yeah. It’s coming out on October 5, 2017, in theatres. It’s going to be in 12 cities. It’s going to be: Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Houston, we also added too, New Orleans, And we also added too Boston. We were constantly posting stuff on the Twitter page. Which is @ColdMoon movie. And you can also get it off mine, which is @GEFurst, that’s constantly the updates. So, it’s coming out theatrically, October 6th which is a Friday. And the following Tuesday it’s coming out on, DOD, it’s coming out on, every platform you can think of: iTunes, DirectTV, all that stuff. Anything where you pay for video ONDEMAND. In January, It’s coming out on Blue-Ray and DVD, and it will be available everywhere Blue-Ray and DVD are sold. And then in May, it’s coming out, on television. Which is a deal we’re in the middle of now, so I’m not sure, it’s network, but that’s another cable hit, basic cable, I recommend seeing it in the theater for sure.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, sure. Okay Griff I, really appreciate this, I will get those links for the Twitter, your twitter, account. I’ll get those from you and put those in the show notes. I really appreciate you taking the time out to talk with me, and good luck with this film.
Griff: Yeah, thanks Ashley, good to talk to you too, man.
Ashley: I just want to mention two things I am doing at “Selling Your Screenplay” to help screenwriters find producers that are looking for new material.
First, I’ve created a monthly newsletter that will be sent directly to producers. Every member of SYS Select can submit one log-line per newsletter, per month. I went and Emailed my large database of Industry contacts and asked them if they would like to receive this newsletter of monthly pitches. So far I have well over 400 producers who have signed-up to receive it. These producers are hungry for new material and are happy to read scripts from new writers. So, if you would like to participate in this pitch newsletter and get your script into the hands of lots of producers. Sign-up at – www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com, that’s – www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com.
And secondly, I’ve contacted one of the premier paid screenwriting leads sites. So, I can syndicate their leads onto SYS Select members. There are lots of great paid leads coming in each week from our partner. Recently I’ve been getting about ten to twelve high quality paid screenwriting leads per week. These are producers and production companies who are actively looking to buy material. Or are looking to hire a screenwriter for a specific project that they are developing. If you sign-up for SYS Select you’ll get these leads Emailed to you directly several times per week. These leads run the gambit from production companies looking for a specific type of spec. script. To producers looking to hire a screenwriter to write up one of their ideas. Producers are looking for shorts, features, TV and web series pilots, it’s a huge aray of different types of projects that these producers are looking for. And these leads are exclusive to our partner and
On the next episode of the Podcast I’m going to be interviewing, writer/producer
Dan Defilippo, who recently did a re-make of the Francis Ford Coppola film “Dementia 13.” Which was sort of a cult film from the 1960’s. So, we talked through that process. How he went about getting the rights to the film. About writing a script, and using and getting the money and the project off the ground. So, keep an eye out for that episode next week.
To wrap things up, I just want to touch on a few things from today’s interview with Griff. One thing that really stood out to me, was his comment. That raising money for a film, just ultimately took a super human effort. And so, that’s it, just super human effort. And from what I’ve seen of independent film. But, it really does sound made up. When you really dig down to like the nuts and bolts of it, of how these films got produced. Usually there is one or two people that just puts it on their back and just carries it through to the finish line. When these things do come together? It usually just seems like a miracle.
I’ve been, as a writer, I’ve been involved with some of these projects, as a producer. It’s well, it just feels like a miracle. When all the plans, it feels like are aligned, and something just opens up, and then all of a sudden. You raise the money, the film is moving into the greenlight, and into production. But again, at the center of these miracles, is usually just the one or two person who can through sheer force of will, want to make it happen. And keep in mind, as he makes it through this process successfully, they had moments of doubt. And they had moments of they felt like it was never going to happen. So, if you start this process you’re going through this process and have these feelings, those are part of the process. Feeling like it’s never going to end feeling like you’re never going to see it. But, that’s the thing, the people who succeed. They personally work through those moments. They got over those moments. And that’s ultimately what separated the winners from the losers, it’s just that perseverance. It’s putting those feeling aside when you feel, when everything feels wrong, when it feels hopeless. Pushing those feelings aside and continuing forward.
One other point of clarification, I just want to make, from something that Griff said, he mentioned having a piece of paper that was worth money, and getting a loan against that. In case you don’t know? What he’s basically talking about there. Is what’s called, “The minimum guarantee from a distributor. And basically, a distributor will look at the film, before it’s produced. So, they’ll be looking at a screenplay. Probably looking at who’s directing it, who’s producing it? And mostly what they are going to look at is? Who is the cast, what actors are involved in it, in this project? And namely it’s actors that have some main recognition. Not necessarily, they are not necessarily concerned with the quality of the actor’s, as much as how famous they are? And how much they are going to be able to help sell the movie. And then they will, the distributor will make, a decision and a determination based on their experience, in the marketplace. And based on what you have, as far as the package. And they will try and come up with a number of what they think the film is actually worth? And again, in the current landscape and it will determine that by the cast. But, once they have some sort of a basic understanding, of what they think the film is worth? If they have a good relationship with the producer. They may offer you what’s called, “The minimum guarantee.” Which is a contract, it’s a signed contract. But, says the distributor promises to pay X number of dollars once the film is delivered. So, as far as independent film goes. That’s really what you want to get. You want to be in a position where you have a relationships with distributors. You take your package. But, before you produce the film, and you get these guarantees. And some of it, Griff is talking about that pre-sales. That’s going to involve pre-sales, you might have a distributor that will give you a “Minimum guarantee.” Based on some of their pre-sales. I think it would be the distributor will probably go out and make those pre-sales for you. And then once the start to see that there is some interest in the marketplace, again that might help them decide what the minimum guarantee is for this film. But, that’s what you really want. Because needless to say, it takes down the risk of the film. You know, let’s just say, you get a minimum guarantee just to make the math easy. For a million dollars on a film. Then you know, if you spend less than a million dollars, you stand a good, a real good chance of making some profit, and all your money back, plus payback your investors.. Depending on like, your investors, and a little bit of profit. So, really decreases the risk, now there is always risk. From the distributors going out of business. You can deliver the film and the distributor can refuses to pay. So, it’s not just a relationship with the producer and the distributor. But, it’s a two-way street. You have to know these distributors well enough to trust them. That these agreements that they sign are actually will be enforceable. And that the distributor will actually be willing to stand behind it.
So, that’s really one of the keys, and most of the film, in my experience in the time, when a distributor makes money from, I’m sorry. When a producer makes money from an independent film. I don’t know? That I’ve ever, I mean, these films do exist. Something like “The Blare Witch Project.” There are films
“Paranormal Activity.” Where the producer just went out and made the film, without any kind of minimum guarantee, and then they were able to sell it, and obviously make a lot of money. Those are kind of the top of the example. In terms of that. But, most of the people you talk to who make money benefit from the film. Getting these minimum guarantees, up front. Because they are not going to make the film, if they can’t think that they are not going to do something? The thing is risky just making the film without a minimum guarantee. And put all their potential investors money at risk. The risk, it sounds like Griff, that’s basically what he went and did. Now, he has a lot of experience, he has a lot of relationships. So, he may have known that he can make a good quality film. And he may have the relationships, he feels confident. He can still go out, and sell it. But, certainly when you’re early in the process, without those relationships with the distributors. It’s going to be tough to make your money back on an independent film. Again, cast is going to be the single biggest issue.
So, two things I want to relate back to “The Pinch” because I think all this stuff. Hopefully, sort of will, you can see it, actually in practice, in what I’m doing with, “The Pinch.” I feel like me talking about “The Pinch” on the Podcast. Hopefully that is demystifying the process a lot. For the people that are listening to this. And so, you know, there is, if you’ve never been involved in the process of film production. But you’re hoping this is something you might want to pursue? Hopefully just listening to these Podcasts, listening to what I’m doing. It just kind of breaks it down, a little bit. And you see that I’m just a guy, I’m just trying and stumbling my way through. I’ve never been the main producer on a feature film either. So, I’m just kinda learning as I go along in this process. And hopefully my experience will educate you enough that you maybe feel that you can go through this as well. It’s still going to require super-human effort. But, hopefully all goes sort of mysterious things that you don’t know about? Hopefully, I can demystify some of it for you. By talking about the film. But, also, one of my big goals, with, “The Pinch” is? To be able to approach distributors with it. And even if I don’t get it, a deal from, “The Pinch” The distributors, hopefully it will be enough to at least start to build a relationship with them. You know, maybe it won’t be this film. Maybe I’ll go back with a second film. And they’ll start to see, this guy’s making pretty decent films. Maybe we should try and cut some sort of deal with him? Again, if I just start to pitch “The Pinch” to distributors. I’ve got some other projects that I’m working on. I will also kind of bring those up and say, hey, you don’t like “The Pinch” but what if I’d like to present this package. Is there any chance of getting a minimum guarantee? So, this is all again, sort of a part of my own process, of not just becoming a screenwriter. But a producer, and screenwriter. And hopefully, others will listen. This Podcast can kind of cover and come along for it as well.
Anyway, that is the show, thank you for listening.