Ashley: Welcome to Episode #202 of the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger of the www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing writer, director, producer Justin Price. He’s written, directed and produced four films just this year alone. He’s got a ton of really valuable insight into the whole process of low budget independent filmmaking, including writing a low-budget screenplay. Stay tuned for that interview.
If you find this episode valuable, please help me out by giving me a review in iTunes or leaving me a comment on YouTube, or retweeting the podcast on twitter or liking it on Facebook. These social media shares really do help spread word about the podcast, so they’re very much appreciated. Any websites or links that I mention in the podcast can be found on my blog in the show notes. I also publish a transcript with every episode incase you’d rather read the show or look at something later on.
You can find all the podcast show notes at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast, and then just look for episode number #202. If you want my free guide, How to Sell a Screenplay in Five Weeks, you can pick that up by going to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide. It’s completely free, just put in your email address and I’ll send you a new lesson once per week for five weeks, along with a bunch of bonus lessons. I teach the whole process of how to sell your screenplay in that guide. I’ll teach you how to write to write a professional log-on and creative letter and how to find agents, managers and producers who are looking for material. Really it’s everything you need to know to sell your screenplay. Just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide.
Quick few words about what I’m working on, quick update on The Pinch, the crime-action, thriller feature film that I am finishing up on. So my sound mix is finished, I picked up the drives from my mixer last week with all the various sound elements, which means basically there is a stereo version of the audio. There is a 5.1 surround sound version of the audio and then there is what’s called an M&E track, which stands for Music and Effects. It includes all the sound like the music, the songs the score, the sound design. The sound design is the stuff like the doors opening, the gunshots, footsteps etc. But the M&E track does not include the dialogue. So there’s no actors talking.
This is important because I’ll need this for international distribution when a foreign country wants to show the film, they will get their own actors and they will actually dub the film into their language and so they need all the sound but not the dialogues. And so then they’ll use that M&E track, they will record their actors speaking in their native tongues, doing the dubbing and then they will lay in that information, those dialogue tracks into their version of the film, and that’s what they would actually display. So, that’s just one of the deliverable items that distributors look for.
So now I’ve got to meet up with my editor and put the whole thing together. I’m not sure how long this will take, but probably not more than a couple of weeks, and then I’ll be officially done, at least for now. You never know what changes a distributor might come back and want me to make down the road. I suppose there’s always a chance that I might have to go in and make some changes, but by large I’m hoping to wrap this thing up in the next couple of weeks. That’s nice. It’s a good feeling just getting it that much further along and as I said, really getting close to the finish line.
I’ve been emailing with distributors and trying to figure out the whole landscape of distribution. Like I have my big list of producers, agents and managers, screen writers, I also have a large list of distributors. When I was building those other lists of producers, agents and managers, I also built a list of distributors as well. So that was the first thing I did. I sent out an email blast to a whole bunch of distributors. I think that list, it’s at least a few thousand distributors or a few thousand email addresses on there. And then in the email all I did was just basically pitch the film or log-on, told them a little bit about the film, some of the actors that were in it. The main thing that was in there is the official trailer, which I launched maybe a month ago now. The trailer was on YouTube, so then they could just click over and get a look at the trailer, but I make them respond to that email, so I don’t send them the screener without them responding.
Out of those emails I probably got maybe 25 to 30 companies who responded and asked to see the screener, and now some of those have started to come back. I’d say I probably got five or six companies that have expressed at least some interest in the film. So I’m emailing back and forth with some of them. Some of those companies wanted to schedule a conference call, so I’ve got a couple of conference calls this week to talk to those distributors. I should know a little bit more in the next couple of weeks how that’s all gonna shake out.
As I mentioned last week, a couple of actual deals have filtered in where the company said, we will distribute this and they’ve sent me their deal memos. So I’m trying to just figure out that. Right now the two offers that I’ve actually had are fairly similar, which is to say there’s no advance or minimum guarantee. So I’m just trying to figure out if these sorts of deals are better than self-distribution. So far it’s hard for me to really tell. That’s what I’m wresting with, just trying to figure out if I’ll see more money with self-distribution or more money with signing with one of these distributors. But anyways, I’m exploring options and kind of trying to get a little bit of more information on how all that works.
The next piece of this is the film festivals. I’m just gonna run through what I did the past few days, but I wanna be clear. I’m not throwing this out as a ‘How to’ guide. I could be doing this completely wrong. You could have some better ideas and better experiences. I’ve really only submitted to film festivals for one of my other films and that was back in 2011. I really haven’t done a lot of the sales and marketing of a feature film other than that one film in 2011. Most of the films I’ve wrote down, I just been the writer. So you write the script and then the producers handle all these sort of stuff. Again, this is not me offering any sort of advice. I’m just kind of telling you what I did and hopefully you can learn something from it.
I think sharing information is great. But you may even have some suggestions or ideas. Please let me know what those are. I’m happy to hear them. Okay, so here’s what I’ve done. The big thing that people tell me about festivals is if you know the programming director, and that’s basically the person that decides what films get slotted into their film festival, you know that person, if you know someone within the festival who knows that person, that gives you an exponentially higher chance of getting accepted into that festival. And that’s obvious, I mean, everything in life depends somewhat on who you know. And so, if you know the right people you can always kind of get a little bit of favoritism.
So, the first thing I did was I emailed pretty much everyone I know who’s in the entertainment business and just asked them if they knew any festival programmers. I even put this out on the podcast a few weeks ago, probably been a few months now, just asking people, “Hey, if you know anyone in the festivals who’d be having a recommendation for festivals email.” Well, I’ve gotten some great suggestions about what festivals I should enter. So far I have not had anybody email me that they know a festival programmer. I don’t know, I guess I’m a little bit surprised by this. I’m certainly not the most connected person in Hollywood, but I do know a good number of people in the business. It seems like the festivals and the festival programmers, they don’t sort of run in the same circles of maybe like the filmmakers or the screenwriting circles that maybe I run into.
In any event though, I’m moving forward regardless. The next thing I did was I signed up for an account with FilmFreeway. And this is just a website. I think it’s literally www.filmfreeway.com. This is just a website that basically arrogates the submission of film festivals, makes it very easy. You basically enter in all your project information, in this case The Pinch, the log-line, the screener, there’s a Vimeo. I have an almost complete screener on Vimeo that is available. Obviously it’s password protected. I don’t necessarily want people to see this but I’m okay as far as just submitting to film festivals.
Most festivals are happy to look at works and progress. This one if far enough along that I feel like it’s pretty…they’ll be able to gauge whether it’s a good fit for their festivals or not. This makes it very easy to submit to the festivals through FilmFreeway. One thing that I noticed once I signed up for my account with FilmFreeway was that they had this promotional service for filmmakers where you basically pay a little bit of money and then they will promote your film to festival directors. I think they have it set up here. There’s a whole bunch of different payment options and different things. But I think they have an email that goes out once a week and when the festival directors log into FilmFreeway I think there’s some space where they show little ads for these various films.
The idea is that the film festivals will see your film, they will maybe research it a little bit although in this case I don’t know how much research really goes on. The bottom line is they will send you coupon codes to enter to their festival. At least that’s the idea. This actually worked pretty well. I bought the cheapest package that they had available, so it was like $25 and I’d say I’ve had probably 50 film festivals send me coupon codes. The coupon codes ranged in value from 10 percent off. I think that was the…maybe there was a 5 percent, but I think 10 percent was about the skimpiest one. But one of them was a literally 100 percent off, just so you can submit to festival for free. I think there was one that was 90 or 95 percent. Some 80 percents or 85 percent. I think there was one that was 85 percent.
But the vast majority of the coupon codes I would say were in the 30-50 percent range and I would say 50 percent seemed to be like a real solemn number. I bet half of the emails that I got from these festival directors were offering me like a 50 percent coupon code still. Still though for the $25 I paid FilmFreeway, this seemed like a pretty good value. I heard from another filmmaker, we were sort of comparing notes, he has an independent film and he thought that this service was new to FilmFreeway, something that they just started offering. So if you’re listening to this podcast episode far in the future, things may have drastically changed. I don’t know, but at least right now, this feels like a service that does have some value and it’s so inexpensive.
For the 25 bucks, even if I got nothing it would have been interesting to try. But the fact of the matter is I did get a good number of coupon codes. I felt like that actually worked very well and was good value. Okay, so I got a whole bunch of coupon codes for various film festivals. None of the big festivals that you’ve heard of semi coupon codes. I mean, no Sundance or South by Southwest. Nothing like that. And that’s not surprising, but there were a few festivals that fit in with what I’m trying to do with my film. I’ll kind of explain that now and how I use these coupon codes. I wanted festivals that took place between December 2017 which is pretty much right now and June 2018. There was like a six-month window that I’m kind of looking for at my festival run.
I’m figuring if I don’t have any distribution in place by June 2018, I’ll probably just go with the self-distribution row. This will give me a few months to hopefully build a little momentum, get my film out there. Maybe I’ll meet some distributors now with these emails and conference calls I’m having. Maybe I’ll meet someone on the festival route. If that isn’t paying out, at least I’ll kind of be done with the festivals in June 2018 and then I can start really doing my self-distribution. But the other thing is once you start looking that far out, if I start to get some traction through festivals, if I win some awards, the other thing, the big thing I’ve heard is a lot of times when you go to festivals, other festival programmers will be at the other festivals and they may come up to you and say, “Hey, submit to our festival, here’s a coupon code.”
I’m hoping that just keeping the festivals to like a six month window will allow me to kind of get the ball rolling, and then I can submit to more festivals like…if it looks like the festival circuit is working well for my film, in March or April I can go back and do another round of festival submissions, which would cover like January 2018 to December 2018. That’s kind of my plan. Again, I don’t know if that’s a great idea or a great plan, but that was just my thinking for now. There’s sort of a three pronged attack that I’m trying to do with the festivals. Number one I wanted to find a few festivals in the local Los Angeles area. Number two, I wanted to find some festivals that specialize in genre fair as my film is a low budget crime-thriller.
And number three, I wanted to collect at least a few laurels so that I can put those on a poster and kind of say, “My film is an award winning film.“ Even if it’s a half-baked festival that no one has heard about, if I can do it cheaply enough, I do think that there is some benefit from just getting into multiple festivals and getting that exposure. Those are sort of the three different types of festivals I’m gonna be going after. And then I would say there was another handful of festivals that just friends…and there was a few people that emailed me through this podcast just, “Hey, I went to this festival, it’s well run, it’s good.” There was a handful of festivals there that I looked at, and I think only one or two of them fit my criteria of that December to June window. I can’t remember all of them, but in the event there’s a handful, maybe two or three festivals that I submitted to just purely because my friends had said this is a really great festival.
Again, these are not big festivals you’ve heard of but they’re well run festivals that I have filmmaking friends and people tell me that they were good, so there’s a handful of those. What I wanted to avoid at least for the local…I’d say especially for the local Los Angeles festivals and the genre festivals was sort of the sort of small new festivals that don’t really have any audience show up. There are a lot of festivals out there where literally the only people on the audience are the people who made the film. I mean, everyone starts somewhere, so those festivals I think do have a place and as I said, just in terms of collecting laurels, I don’t think that’s a bad way to go and I’m gonna talk about that more in a minute.
But for the LA festivals and the genre festivals, festivals that potentially I’m going to try and go to, I don’t need to see my movie again, but I’m happy to go and watch my movie with other people. I get to see how they’re reacting to it, answer some questions afterwards. And promoting the film to those people and also promoting Selling Your Screenplay, that’s a big part of this as well as I’ve talked about it in the podcast. Also any opportunities I get to promote Selling Your Screenplay just all sort of ties in with the making of this film. So to start, all I did was go on FilmFreeway and used their search box for Los Angeles. They have a bunch of different sort of advanced options where you can toggle different things. And I can’t remember but I think I put in the date ranges as well.
So I did like a search for Los Angeles films within that December to June date range and then festivals started popping. And there’s dozens, I mean, maybe even hundreds. But there was lots of festivals that came up. For the genre festivals, I simply went to google and typed in stuff like best genre film festivals, best thriller film festivals and what Google showed me there was a bunch typically like Blogpost, Filmmaker Magazine, those types of sites. They’ve done over the years lists of film festivals that are worth the submission fee and genre film festivals. So I would just basically go look at those lists and then cross reference that with the festivals in FilmFreeway and try and determine if it was a god fit for my film.
The main things I was looking for, and I’m just gonna again just describe sort of what shook out as my criteria for…and again, this is really the genre festivals and the festivals in LA. Once I was going to the festivals that were just I’m just trying to get some laurels, the criteria was a little bit different. But for the LA festivals and the genre festivals, the first thing I looked at was the pictures on FilmFreeway, the festival organizers can upload a bunch of pictures, and I would look at them to see if there were pictures of the crowds of people watching the screenings. In many cases all they would post is pictures of people sitting on stage answering questions. I’ve been to those film festivals and again, those are typically where the film makers show up. They put them on the stage but there’s almost nobody in the actual audience.
If they want pictures of actual audience members, it gave me a little pause…just a little bit of cause for concern, this seems like a little bit of a clue. The other thing I would look at is the website. A lot of the festival websites were well designed and well maintained. So that’s something that I felt was sort of a clue. If they have a really sleek website, someone’s putting some money and some time and some effort into that and hopefully that same effort gets put into running their festival. The twitter account…and the reason I looked at twitter more than Facebook, most film festivals had a Facebook link. I would say a good number, like maybe 70 percent had a twitter account. Then the reason I was more interested in twitter than Facebook was because on twitter it’s very quick and easy to see how many people they’re following and how many people are following them.
And again, I take this as a really good sign if they have thousands of followers, it looks like their twitter account is active. I just look at this as any festival that spends time and energy promoting their festival through twitter and social media. That to me was a good indication. The last thing that I found myself looking at a lot was how many years the film festival has been in business. In most cases, if a festival has been around for 10 plus or certainly 20 plus years, they’ve usually met the above criteria. Those three things I’ve just mentioned–the pictures, the website, the twitter account, usually I could just look at how many years they’ve been in business and if it’s like 10years or 20 years, 15 years…if it’s a good good number of years, they would almost always sort of fit those other criteria as having a bunch of pictures with lots of audience members, a good website and a twitter account.
That became really one of the key factors when I was deciding which festivals to submit to. Now, FilmFreeway has reviews that people can leave about the festivals but I found this basically useless. Literally, I never saw a single negative comment. Almost all festivals, even festivals that are in their first year, which obviously defies logic, seemed to have comments on them. I don’t quite know what’s up with the FilmFreeway comments section. I don’t know if maybe the film festival organizers, maybe they’re allowed to remove negative reviews. I don’t know, but it just seemed very odd, and again it made it very very difficult to really count on the reviews for anything, because as I said, literally I never saw a single one…and at this point I’ve looked at dozens of film festivals, I never saw a single one that was negative.
So the film festival reviews on FilmFreeway were not as helpful as I had hoped. I had heard that Withoutabox is the other companies you can submit to film festivals, and people would tell me that FilmFreeway has reviews. So I was like, I was excited to actually look at that but I did not find that helpful. Again, I’d be curious to hear from someone else if maybe I was just looking at it wrong or something. Or if someone’s actually found that part of the FilmFreeway site helpful. Okay so, through this process I just described I found probably six or seven festivals in the local Los Angeles area to submit to, and probably six or seven genre festivals that seem to be a good fit. The big this I was running into with the genre festivals, when you start to go to genre festivals and talk about genre festivals, it was almost predominantly specifically horror.
They’d be called like Horror Fest or Horror Night or something. And when you would dig into the descriptions, a lot of them say, “We’re open to all genre films.” You know, genre films action, thrillers and this and that. But a lot of them seem very specific to horrors. My film is not a horror film, so I didn’t think that those festivals, if they were really concentrating on horror were good fits. I tried to find genre festivals that were at least open to other genres besides just horror films. And there seemed to be a good number of them, so this wasn’t terribly difficult but that was the only thing that took a little bit of time just digging around. There’s really no other way to do this until I go to the website and kind of read about them and just figure out what the festival’s all about.
Some of it you can tell with the pictures…it’s a bunch of like really gory looking pictures these other films and stuff. But sometimes I would just say, when you go to the website, there’ll be like about the festival or something and you can kind of say, “We’re celebrating genre fair.” Not just horror or something and I would choose some of those. Okay, so then the next step was trying to find some festivals that I felt like I had a really good chance of getting into and collecting those laurels that I could use in marketing and doing so as cheaply as possible. That became the main criteria for this next stage, was just finding festivals that were cheap. And really again, newer festivals like some of these gets reversed- the one I just talked about. Newer festivals seemed like a good fit for this because a lot of the newer festivals have very very low entrance fees and combined with some of these coupon codes which I’m about to talk to, I was able to find some festivals that I felt like I had a good chance of getting into and it didn’t cost me a lot of money.
So again, this is where I went back to those coupon codes that I mentioned earlier. I started clicking through those emails that had been sent, and basically again, I signed up for this promotional thing through FilmFreeway, and then what would happen was FilmFreeway would basically send me an email, “Hey, the Joe Blow Film Festival would like to offer you this coupon code. They saw your notice and would like to offer you this coupon code.” And then there’d be a link basically to click on and submit to that festival, and it would take you back to FilmFreeway. But there was an individual email from each one of these festivals. So I just started clicking through those and trying to find which ones would be a good fit. And again one of the main criteria here was just purely price.
I mean, I’m not really expecting to go to any of these festivals, I’m really just submitting to a bunch and just see what happens. And if they’re cheap enough, what do you really have to lose. I probably found maybe four, five six, festivals through those coupon codes and then I started to get more familiar throughout this process, more familiar with the FilmFreeway search interface, and I just mentioned they have a bunch of switches that you can toggle on and off. And one of the things that you can search for is by submission fee. So I turned that…literally at one point I turned it all the way down to zero. So let’s just see festivals that are free. Then I think I turned it up to $5 or $10. But again, these are festivals I’m not necessarily expecting to attend or get much out of. So it’s just a matter of just getting some momentum and getting accepted to a bunch of festivals.
To do it as cheaply as possible seemed like the number one criteria here. I wasn’t concerned with how long they’ve been in business. If anything you would want some newer festivals that don’t have a lot of submissions, don’t charge a lot. If they were cheap enough, I figured how could I go wrong? I think I found again, three, four, five festivals that were literally free. Some of them may or may not even be quite applicable to The Pinch but I figured if it’s free I’ll just submit and see what happens. They weren’t always super clear about what they were looking for, so I think that’s a problem and they should be…especially if you’re gonna be free, you should really be super clear about what you’re looking for. In a lot of cases they were not so. In those cases it was free, I just sort of…”I’ll just see what happens.”
Again I got a handful of festivals there. All total I spent $700 and submitted to 27 festivals. You can do the math on that. Again, the LA festivals, the genre festivals, those were ranging in price from probably like $20, $30 up to maybe $50, $60 per submission. And then again, these other sort of the lower end festivals were arranged in prices. I don’t think for the ones where I was just trying to crack laurels, I don’t think I submitted to any of those that were much above $20. Most of those were like $5, free, $10. With the coupon code they might be like $30 then you get a 50 percent coupon code, so then that would be $15.
Anyway, so that’s kind of the process that I went through and sort of my thought process. If anyone has any questions about anything, feel free to email me and ask me. I’m happy to answer any questions about this whole process or really anything on the film. If you have some suggestions or ideas for me again, please email those to me, I’d love to hear them. Obviously you have experience with film festivals. If you know any programming directors by all means email that as well. I’ll be happy to submit to it. I’m always happy to hear from people who are willing to share knowledge. So thank you to anybody who’s willing to do that.
So now, let’s get into the main segment of the podcast. Today I am interviewing writer, director, producer Justin Price. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Justin to the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Justin: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me, it’s such a blessing.
Ashley: So, maybe to start out, you can just tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up and how did you get interested in the entertainment business?
Justin: I grew up in Georgia and then I moved to LA and it was just really one of those things where I wanted to cut my teeth in acting. I wanted to kind of get in front of the camera and also behind the camera. I just got so fascinated with all aspects of filmmaking. I think being a millennial if you will, I was able to sort of grow up in the age where the internet caught up to your creativity. I was able to see a lot of things, make videos for YouTube, make videos for Vimeo and etc. and use these sort of phones and smaller cameras HP20s and digital and sort of that became the thing. I remember recording my first movie on an HP20 and having my cast members sort of going, “What are you shooting on?” This camera’s the size of a phone. And this is before the iPhone had broke out, and it’s before it became sort of a thing.
And so I got laughed off sets. Some of my actors quit because they didn’t believe we were doing a real movie because the cameras had to be huge back then, you know the Panasonic DVX. It was huge. If you didn’t have a bunch of things sticking on it, it wasn’t a camera. What is this, it’s not a real movie. It was very odd for me because it just taught me a lot. It taught me that Hollywood was just full of people who have a lot of dreams and you had to find those people. You had to find the people who were passionate, because a lot of people stuck with me and I work with those people now.
It helped me understand a lot because I was getting cast as the wrapper, the basketball player, the soldier, just a lot of tight casting going on, and I was like, “Man, I wanna be a super hero or I wanna go to space.” But I just couldn’t do those roles and so I just started writing my own thing and we started recording on stuff and it’s just weird. It’s been such an odd journey for me. So I kind of took the energy of those first films and that move and the passion of making films and kind of that’s how my career has expanded from there.
Ashley: Perfect. Let me dig into a couple of things that you said there. How old were you when you moved out to LA and had you done any filmmaking, acting, filmmaking in Georgia before you came out here?
Justin: I was like 17 or 16. What happened was in Georgia, I went to school, I graduated really early. You can do that now for some reason. I went to school with some people in theater and what not and they all said, “Hey, we should go to bigger schools.” So I went to New York first. As soon as I went to New York it didn’t work out for me. New York wasn’t my vibe. Came back to Georgia, I said I should go to LA. So then I went to LA. The only thing I did in Georgia before going to LA was I just recorded a lot of family reunions. I recorded a lot of…I know this is gonna sound odd but I recorded a lot of funerals, and by a lot I mean two or three because I don’t particularly like funerals. But I did it because I thought everyone would want these moments. The Eulogy speech, you know what I mean? The family members getting up and talking about what this person meant to them.
It was really one of those things where I saw how those moments translated because afterwards people…before I had they didn’t want it, but afterwards that’s when everyone asked for it, “Hey, did you record the speech, did you record that moment, did you get this and did you get that.” And so it just kind of became one of those things where it was, wow, this is a very very impactful medium. And then I took that and recorded me and my friends playing around. So like I broke up with my girlfriend and I recorded the reason why. I went in and I had my cousin Lee Daniels had to play the girl because we didn’t have any girls around. So my cousin Lee Daniels was the girl and I was the guy and I was like, “You know, you broke my heart.” And then he was like, “Why baby?” Whatever…it was just funny. So I kind of gave that too as a DVD which I guess is pretty much a tactic.
Ashley: I’m sure she loved it. She’ll cherish it forever.
Justin: He obviously doesn’t have that DVD anymore, that would be….I made a playlist…That kind of stuff. That was like how I coped with not wanting to type stuff, not wanting to do papers. Any school project was a DVD for me. I hated papers. There was always an easy cup out. I’d do a movie for you.
Ashley: So when you arrived in LA, what were some of the first steps? It sound like acting was sort of your first foray into the business. Tell us exactly what you did when you got to LA. Like how did you first get those acting jobs? I know when I got to LA I went down to the [Inaudible 00:29:53] casting, started doing extra work. Maybe just give us some nuts and bolts of those steps of actually getting into the industry.
Justin: It’s so crazy. The first thing I did was I got there and I was just completely shocked and I didn’t know where to go. I just asked a bunch of people and they gave me a lot of sites, Actors Access, Mandy, LA Casting. And then the next thing I did was I think…this is pretty much the Hollywood playbook, I went and found an agent/boutique manager, who charged me for head shots. That was like the next step, right? You go there and get the latest head shot, black and white or something like that. And then from there I was supposed to get booked on a lot of shows as long as I paid for this class, which I never paid for classes, because I just didn’t see the benefit of that, but I did get the boutique manager guy.
The first thing I did was extra work on I believe the prices rate. And I had nothing to do at acting, but it was like, this is cool. I get to walk in here and clap, everyone having a good time. I was like this set is small enough but on TV this place looks huge. But in real life it’s like, you know, it’s very small. And then I did music videos, I was clapping again. I did something else and I was clapping. And then there was a lot of student films, I think at this time USC, UCLA, it was really popping.
Ashley: And how are you getting these…
Justin: Actors Access, LA Casting, Craigslist, Mandy.com, none of these came from my boutique manager. All these came from me just pretty much emailing, submitting for 20s, it look 18 or whatever. They would just give me calls but…because at the time I think if you just had time they were like, cool. And I had time, so I was like I’m gonna make time even if it’s just for a short film I’m gonna drive to Burbank and be there all day. Because I was like I have nothing else to do really, so I might as well do this as much as I can. But early enough I wasn’t even out there for probably two weeks and then I landed a movie role in a film that was done by this Hispanic company called Laguna.
They flew me to Texas and I got paid like $8,000 to $10,000, it’s pretty crazy…to be a wrapper, but still it was like my first movie, it’s like a DVD movie, which again back then was the joint. If you had a DVD movie, you were doing it. You were gonna be in Blockbusters…balls. Everyone was like, Oh, shit he’s in Blockbuster!” So yeah, that became like my thing. So I got that role and from that role I for some reason never stopped working. Everyone called me. Like a Dennis Rodman movie, they wanted me to be a villain on the bad team. I got called for like just all kind of roles like that. Just smaller roles. TV, NCIS or Bones or…
I was just getting called and a bigger agent called me from LA. I mean, it just kind of blossomed from there and I stopped acting because I saw where that trajectory was taking me but I could have kept going. I just said, you know what, I’m not gonna do this. I’m not gonna be cast as whatever. Wrap guy, comedy guy…I’m just gonna start making my own joints. And so I got with the company man I just started making my own films.
Ashley: Okay, let’s dig into that just a little bit. During this time you were acting, did you start writing scripts and start talking to people and saying, “Hey, I’m also a writer I also wanna be a director.” How did you sort of take that leap from actor to writer, director, producer?
Justin: That’s a phenomenal question. This is what I find interesting and what I tell other people [Inaudible 00:33:44] or the up and coming aspiring creatives. Always say yes. What happened to me was I met people who saw me in film, they saw me working a lot, and I saw them on set and they were like, “Man, I really wanna do a film.” And I was like, “Well, what’s stopping you?” And they were like, “I don’t know, just, I don’t know.” And I was like, “Well that sounds like we just need to figure it out.” So I literally [chuckles]…I went to Samuel French I got a book, I think it was something about screenplays. I didn’t read it. I just wanted to go buy because I was told to buy it and then I just went home. And I said, you know what, this doesn’t seem too hard really, because I saw a screenplay like a script. It gives you like an example or a sample of a script.
I just said, I’m just gonna write something. And I just started writing and typing. I’ve never even written a script before. And the format was off because I did it in Microsoft word. And then once I discovered final draft, I said, “Oh my God, they do it for you. What is this? I don’t need to know the margins. This is amazing. This is just tidy.” And then it became a lot easier for me. And it just flowed out of me, because I was just typing…as an actor, I was just typing stuff that I would wanna see or say, and I just typed my first screenplay. It wasn’t good, but again for what we were trying to do it was just needed to execute. We just needed to see something. It doesn’t even matter if it was great or not.
We just needed a script. We just needed to say, “Alright cool, someone wrote something. Let’s do that.” And then from that point, that became sort of like my blue print for any film I’ve made this far, like I think they call it speed rest now. That’s what it’s called in general, but you just kind of make a draft and then from there I break it down because no matter what you write, you gonna have so many ways you wanna take it. So that’s how I started my first film. I just wrote it, looked at it and then I said, “That doesn’t make sense. The second act doesn’t make sense. And this doesn’t make sense,” but at least I have something to look at as opposed to people who spend years developing the first page of the script. It’s like what do you do, I would never get to the end of this tunnel. So I just kind of just wrote it out.
Ashley: And was that The People’s Agency? Is that the…
Justin: Yeah. The People’s Agency was the first one.
Ashley: And so how did you go about getting financing and actually putting a crew together and getting it shot?
Justin: Again, that’s what so weird about it. And I think people have seen this a lot in their careers. Once you have something, people now can look at it and go, “Okay,” consume it and you can actually have a conversation. So I was spreading it around to actors and early enough, most of these actors wanted to be in something so passionately. They had funds or financing that they were throwing away to acting class, you know what I mean. Or throwing away to movement or head shots, driving back and forth to go and try to be in a film. So I said to me it never made sense. You spend 10 grand trying to become an actor. I mean, you can spend 10 grand and just act.
So that kind of was my pitch. I’d say, “Hey, you guys wanna keep spending all this random money or you guys just wanna put money together to make this film?” And I got offered money all over the place, it was crazy. I actually turned down money for that film because I wasn’t ready for it. I was like, “Okay, no I’m not ready for like $ 100,000.” Because I was thinking I had to return this money. I was like there’s no way I’m ready to return the money. I mean, you know what we’re doing right now. So I said no, which went against my whole “Always say yes mantra” and that’s probably why I messed that up because who knows, I probably would have figured something out. That took me a lot longer to figure out.
That’s how funding came. It was really, you have a script, you’re talking to people and you’d be amazed at just having the material and just being passionate about it would get you further than having a phenomenal script packaged the right way.
Ashley: So let’s dig into The 13th Friday. We can talk about that film specifically and I wanna congratulate you because I have never interviewed someone that literally has four feature films coming out in one year that you’ve written, directed and produced. That’s phenomenal. But I wanna specifically talk about The 13th Friday. For whatever reason that was the film that the publicist sent me. Maybe you can start out by just giving us say a log-on or pitch on that film.
Justin: Yeah, I’ll try my best. The 13th Friday is about these friends who go to a house that’s been cursed. A mother, she burned her daughter there because she believed her daughter was Satan reincarnate and that she left behind this sort of device that opens the gateway to hell. And these guys come in and they kind of open it and discover it and they curse themselves, and they have to sacrifice 13 people before the 13th Friday. Which 13th Friday is biblically referenced in the film and explained as a day that Satan fell from heaven. He actually fell on a particular date in Isaiah 14:12-14, which is The 13th Friday.
That’s where the reference comes from. That’s where all this imagery comes from. It’s not a slasher film. It just so happens to be something that was biblically referenced and we kind of took it and ran with it. Not to mention the story of the woman in the house, is an actual true story. She was so senile and depraved, she had a church built on her property. It’s actually a real property where there’s a house and a diocese built a church next to the house. And there’s a tunnel that ran from the house to the church so that she could pray in secret to hide from the devil. It was really really just a phenomenal story.
We took that and we made a sort of mosaic of horror scares and thrills in The 13th Friday. That was by design. The film sort of plays on everyone’s inner nightmares and what they sort of see as their fear. So we kind of just wanted to have fun with that idea.
Ashley: And so where did this idea sort of originate from? What was the genesis of it?
Justin: I think it really just comes down to whenever we start a project, I look for something interesting. And like I think the story of the woman in the house, I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve never seen just a civilian who’s a refugee from Mexico, she had this house built, she was promised this money by…it’s a long story. The story is she met a guy, he promised her money and what not, but she couldn’t have a child and she couldn’t leave the house. So she basically got pregnant and the stranger in the story is supposed to be Satan. That’s who she met in the road.
The church was built and the family that she had, everyone died. So there was no heirs to this lady’s name, there was no descendants. But there’s a lot of graveyard film stunts and such. So suppose that she had a family but the family couldn’t live and no one ever survived. Basically he said I’ll kill all of your children and that became true. I just took that story and I was like wow, this is something I would really wanna do just an actual movie on. But we decided not to just do that. I figured we’d just do something else fun with that as our sub text. And that’s what The 13th Friday stemmed from. We just kind of said, let’s do something and go with that.
When we’re making films, we have to take into consideration what our budget hinges are, what our audience is and what are we trying to portray. Because again, I got four movies coming out in this count of the year alone, so I don’t really have time to develop three years’ worth of material and really sink my teeth into it that much. I have to kind of figure out what are we trying to say, how are we trying to say it and how can we execute? That’s sort of like the basis for whenever we get a film.
Ashley: Perfect. Let’s talk about your writing process a little bit. How much time do you spend preparing to write versus opening up a final draft and actually writing? So it’s kind of the outline phase verse the actual writing phase.
Justin: My workflow is a bit weird. What I do is, I just explained this for 13th Friday. So for The 13th Friday, I wrote down key points that I wanted to see happen. I was like we need friends, I don’t want them to be teenagers, we need a device, something that links them together. We need a curse, and I was like we need ways for them all to complete themselves and we need to give then a task that normal people would not do under normal circumstances. So they needed extenuate circumstances. And so that became the bullet points, right? And I put those at the top. Then from there, I write out the lady’s story, what happened with the house and the church, and then I just start writing.
By writing I start off all of my scripts with an opening scene. And by opening scene I mean something that’s an attention grabber. Something that’s gonna be sort of the entasis for the entire script. You know like if we are gonna have a dark film, there’s gonna be a dark opening. For this film, the lady burns her daughter…for The 13th Friday. So that became…we know what we’re in for. You know what I mean. So if I did a romantic comedy, someone’s gonna break up in the beginning because that’s the kind of film we’re gonna see. Like how they break up will kind of explain the rest of my writing process.
If they break up happy, or if they break up like at a wedding or if they break up at the weeding, they break up at a funeral. It’s kind of like that will give you a hint on how the rest of my story will go because I’m kind of out running what we’re in for. Once I start with that process I just do just a speed drive. I kind of just write the first 30 pages. I think the first 30 pages for every writer that I’ve known and encountered is usually what I’d like to call the stamp pages. These are the pages that you get to, once you get to 30 you go, “Okay, where do I take these people because I’ve set up so many stories, there’s a lot of people talking but okay, wow. Where are we going? Because I got to write 60 or 50 more pages but I feel like I can’t sum this up or I feel like I can’t sum this up in the next 10.”
So the stunt pages is where a lot of people get caught, right? And it’s right around the [Inaudible 00:44:33]. From there I then go alright, I’m gonna hit the stunt pages no matter what. So I can’t have too many loose ends. Once I hit to my stunt pages I do this next thing where I just do the ending next. So I wrote the ending, so that way when I came back to the stunt pages, I knew I had to get to that ending, as opposed to trying to create ways for these people to end, and then come to, what the hell is my ending? I have no clue where I was going with the script. Once I do that, that helps me finish from page 30 to 60, 70. And the from 70 on I just kind of get lazy and go I need 10 more pages, I’m just gonna do stuff stuff stuff stuff…the ending. And then I go back through and make sure that most of that stuff made sense. So that’s kind of like how I do most of the scripts when it’s dealing with horror, if that the genre.
Ashley: So what is your day…and you’ve got so many things going on, I’m just curious, when you’re in your writing mode, do you take like entire day and just write for 8, 10, 12 hours or is it more like you’re working at some of these other films whether it be post production or production so you only get a couple hours per day. What does your day look like when you’re actually writing?
Justin: Oh my God, that’s such a great question. Again, for those listening that are aspiring to do this as a career, every day you have to multi-task towards the future, the past and the present. So, my day right now we have an interview…thank you so much for that by the way. After the interview I’m buying clothing and wardrobe for the creature film and I’m also writing the scene for the next film, but not the entire movie, just a scene because what I’m seeing for the wardrobe for the creature film, I’m like, oh my God, that is gonna have a lot of symmetry with the next film that we’re doing. So we should go ahead and start working on that as well. Like let me just get a scene done, because if we go to the caves for a creature movie, we can go to the caves for a medieval film because that is what it’s gonna be. So it’s like, let’s go ahead and map that out too. Let’s not just do one thing that I’m casting. And I’m like, okay, we’re casting for this film, then we could cast for that film.
Then we have films that are being released. Alright, Almost Amazing just came out, The Elf is coming out November 7th, 13th Friday is out. We need to make sure people see that on social media, but I need to tie that in into my day, right. And then as that’s going on, I go, right, let me type out a TV series that I wanna see, because I don’t want to miss out on the opportunity for TV right now. So much room for content and people look in Amazon and [Inaudible 00:47:18] and who. We need to start a process for that. How can we get that going? Then we have posters that need to be made for films for AFM, because we have other titles that we need to pitch. So every day and in every hour in every block, in all honesty there’s always creation.
There’s no down time and as far as script writing goes, it really just becomes…for the creature movie, if I get hired to do that, which is usually the case–I sometimes just get hired to do a film, I write a script that week. It’ll probably take me three days to just write a rough draft. Because no matter what again, just a little hint, a side note, whoever you give a script to, they’re going to have notes. So there’s no point of writing the best script. I almost just write the worst script I can write intentionally so people can feel like they did something when they’re giving me their notes. That “You know this first act was terrible.” “Yeah, it was, it was.” [chuckles] It’s just like people always have to input some form of themselves into your projects. So I just go, you know, I’m not gonna even…I’m just gonna allow that growth here and that growth there and then it always makes everybody feel better [chuckles].
Ashley: That’s so true.
Justin: That’s just a trick of the trade. That’s really like my favorite thing to do, write the worst second act you could come up with. Sometimes people love it, which bothers me, but other times it’s like, “Yeah, this was not that good. I liked the beginning but then, yeah, that’s cool.” Then they add in, “Kill that girl then remove that.”
Ashley: Let’s dig in. You keep saying that you’re referencing sort of like the next film we’re doing. Maybe you can just describe, who is this “we”? Do you have a team in place? And maybe just describe how that team functions.
Justin: Yeah, Rock n Roll. My company called Pikchure Zero Entertainment, that’s P-I-K-C-H-U-R-E. My producing partner and COO, Khu, that’s K-H-U. That’s her name. Other partners are my entertainment lawyer, David Kazaras. My other producing partner Vice President Diana Grace Congo. That’s the team, that’s the core. Every day what I do is we have a board up and we run this thing like mini DreamWorks. I’m talking Khu is handling international sales, she’s handling properties and scripts that are made I don’t have time to read and see, because we get scripts daily because we’re doing films. And then she’s also handling a lot of the selling of content and the creation of where we’re going, like, hey we need to do a horror film for this quarter. We need to do a romantic comedy, we need to do an African film, we need to do an Asian based film, we need to do a J-horror. Whatever it may be. So she’s sort of the brains of what’s happening at Pikchure Zero.
Ashley: In the case of something like 13th Friday, we got connected to a publicist and it looks like Uncork’d Entertainment is signed on as a distributor. I think they were also doing your film The Elf. Do you have a relationship with them so that they’re financing it or are at least giving you a minimum guarantee, or are you just going out and making these films essentially on spec and then trying find a distributor after the fact?
Justin: Yeah, that’s a great question. I have a phenomenal relationship with Uncork’d. What we do is sort of like a first look and that’s our relationship. So what happens is let’s take the next film. Are we looking to doing the next film and I would run it by Uncork’d, and say, I’m thinking about doing a creature film, what do you guys think about that? They may say, “No, that’s not a good idea.” Or they may say, “You know what, send over the script and let’s see what exactly you gonna do, how are you planning on doing this, because anyone could say creature film.” And then once they read it over, they say, you know what, that’s a good idea. That’s how our relationship works. It’s more like, that’s a good idea, as in we think we can do something with it if you want us to, but go out and make it.
So we had to invest in ourselves each project because…but I think the smart thing is again running it by any distributor even if it’s Alliance Gate. I think that would be a smatter play for those aspiring up and coming writers. You wanna ensure that you’re hitting the cues of what’s going on. Because before the creature movie I was going to do a doll film. Obviously the doll films became the thing. It was like $88 movies, right? So that really wouldn’t have been smart to create a doll film when the market was over saturated with doll films. So it became a thing where that becomes how you wanna go. And like I said, we’re pitching all the time. So I’m calling up Fore Digital, I’m calling up VIVO, I’m calling up whoever is listening. I [Inaudible 00:52:18] are you guys looking for something in this realm? At BET, are you guys looking for urban comedy right now, are you looking for romantic comedy? PureFlex, are you looking for Christian films. I just did a Christian film called If You’re Gone with Brittany Daniels directing for PureFlex. Are you guys looking for this type of content?
Ashley: So just as an example, you keep referencing to creature film and maybe even the doll film would be a good example to look at, but how do you come up with the idea like, okay, we need a creature film. Are you just having lunch with distributors casually and there talking about, “Oh yeah, creature films, we think that’s gonna be the next hot thing.” Where do these ideas come from?
Justin: Yeah, I’ve been in the industry now, I didn’t get into too much of my history, but I’ve actually been making…I’m almost 28 now, so I’ve been making films for the last 10 years technically speaking as far as being around distributors. Like I was around Iron Global before they were Iron Global, XYZ Films before they were XYZ, Bankside…I can just name…If you name them I was there as a young guy just sort of learning from them. I think I’ve taken that energy because I was that [Inaudible 00:53:25] Film Fest before I was at acting class. That was what I did. I went to France to learn. I went to AFM to learn. I didn’t go to be an actor. I was always a multi [Inaudible 00:53:38]. I was always ensuring I understood the business because I didn’t think it’s smart to get into something that you don’t understand how it works.
So I’ve learned just over the years how it goes. You just have to really understand the movement. Like right now for example there’s an influx of…we can already just guess what’s gonna happen around October to December. Christmas horror. So now we’re not really even talking about what people are looking for, we’re talking about in what type of way? So because of the success of Krampus, there’s been an influx of horror Christmas films that’s come back. So now people are like, alright during the holiday season everyone’s not into just seeing family movies. So you just now have to figure out what’s your space. What type of horror film would be successful? It wouldn’t make sense if you just do a horror movie about kids going to a cabin and not have a holiday theme, and try to get it sold and released during holiday season. You get my drift? And obviously if it’s a holiday film you have to have done it around July or earlier in the year because it has to be released during this time.
So I’m I already planning for the summer. I’m already planning for next August. I’m already planning for next Halloween. From that angle, you already know what you’re trying to do and then it’s just judging the tides of the waves. I mean I can just tell you know it’s gonna be an influx of family films. And I don’t have to talk to anyone, you can just already see what the market is missing. We haven’t had a Home Alone in a while. We haven’t had a Coming of Age story in a while. So there’s gonna be a lot of dramas and Coming of Age. After that, we’re gonna have a lot of biopics, a lot of JFK real stories, a lot of Nelson Mandela. That’s gonna come back. You can just kind of see fluctuating waves.
Ashley: And is there some daily ritual, like do you read the trades just to kind of keep your finger on the polls. I get that Hollywood reporter email every day and I glance through. What do you do to keep your finger on the polls of what is missing in the market?
Justin: Another great question you’re dropping down today [chuckles]. What I do is again since I’m a little bit different from….I do look at Deadline, I do look at the Halo Report, I go to IMDB a lot. The most important aspect is legit, just hang out within independent filmmakers. It’s like we are the voice of the people. As in whenever I see a bunch of my friends, a bunch of independent filmmakers putting together projects, I always find it very interesting because they’re making something that they feel is current and relevant to now. So like a movie like A Happy Death Day, they’re making that film before Happy Death Bed. They’re making films that are around millennial content taking place in college, taking place in high school.
I look at that first. I look at people are casting for. What are they trying to get made? That’s the first thing. And then the second thing I do is I just go around and I just look at what’s being sold. I just check Redbox and I go, alright, Redbox is…they’ve bought a lot of car films and they have a lot of upcoming car films. It must be a car film season, I don’t know what’s going on. So I just thought you just start looking at what people are already buying. What they’re already putting in place into the market place. And then I go, alright, obviously you can’t do that because they’ve already done it. So it wouldn’t make sense to me to make a car movie if there’s like 88 car films coming to the Redbox in the next six or seven weeks. I think again in this day and age, information is so readily available and accessible. You just have to be ready to kind of attack it and understand what you’re doing.
Ashley: I wanna take a step back…you said you had a good relationship with Uncork’d and you mentioned like XYZ Films. I mean, these are all big distributors. How did you get these relationships? And I need you to talk about specifically The 13th Friday. How did you initially forge that relationship with Uncork’d Entertainment? Because I’m sure Uncork’d Entertainment, I know several other people that are making movies for then as well. So I’m sure there’s a gazillion people trying to get their attention. Clearly they have a model set up for these types of films. And it looks like there’s always a gazillion filmmakers trying to get those spots. How did you initially get that relationship with them?
Justin: I was the first film they…well, one of the first. I don’t know if I was exactly the first but definitely one of the first if not the first film that was acquired by Uncork’d when the first initially started the company in 2012. My film The Cloth, Danny Trejo and Eric Roberts…that was the first film that they acquired. So I was the initial and I think it’s really about that. If you’re able to establish a relationship from the beginning then people know how you work, they know that you’re consistent, they understand that you’re producing high quality content, I think that’s something that really gets lost in the [Inaudible 00:58:47] in all of this. Because you can have all the information you need, you can have all the Google alerts and you can have all the advice and friends and everything else in between, but if you cannot execute, then you really are in a tough position.
And the fact that we’re able to execute a film like The 13th Friday and to pull off the high quality of just the look, the feel, effects etc. and the time, is really something that’s coveted a lot by a lot of distributors. So with Uncork’d in general, I think that they recognize filmmakers who are able to provide content that aligns with what their values are. And their values is high quality and getting it to the market place and being fair to their filmmakers. I think that’s such a model that everyone’s trying to strive to and everyone’s looking to put up because it’s very difficult to find that in a distribution realm. A company that’s honest, a company that pays out, a company that lets you know like I said, I can send a script over and they’ll tell you, “Don’t do that. I just don’t see the value in it. You can do it if you want, but don’t see where we would see value in that.”
I think for other people trying to find their niche or find a distributor like Uncork’d, I think it just comes down to executing. Executing and make a high quality film and they’ll find you and I think if you’re able to do that then sky’s the limit really. You can find whoever you want if you make a great project.
Ashley: And it’s Keith of Uncork’d, correct, he was the founder?
Ashley: And so did you know him prior to him founding Uncork’d? Did you just like send him a query letter or call him?
Justin: No, it was really just I screened the movie, I made a good film, The Cloth and a lot of people wanted it Highland Film Group…I can just go down and list the people. It was Highland, VMI, [Inaudible 01:00:43]…anyone that you can name. The Lionsgate made me an offer for the film. I had options where it seemed pretty, pretty like…at the time I had a deal from Lionsgate on the table for example. I thought to myself, man, it’s Lionsgate! This is gonna really jumpstart my career. My first film- The Cloth, putting Lionsgate on the front, people will think I made it. And then I thought about it and I listened to what their model was and I was like, you know what, I think you guys are great but you’re gonna have so many films. Are you really gonna work Nicole? Are you really gonna stop working Machete and start working Nicole, you know? So I just…I don’t know.
I met with Keith and I said, you know what, he’s getting his company started but he’s been buying from Blockbusters for 20 plus years. So, yeah, he doesn’t have a company at the moment as in the sense like, no I can’t go, let me see the films you’ve done before, but it’s not like he doesn’t understand business. And we just vibed. I talked to him and he talked to me in a way that we understood to get rid of all the bull, all the BS and it was just straight talk. That’s how it’s been this entire time. Straight talk. Like, “Hey, your movie wasn’t good enough to make money, that’s why it didn’t make any.” No sugar coating, no “Well, you know, if only you had…,” No, tells you straight up.
I think that’s how our relationship has sort of blossomed from that point forward. I run stuff by a lot of companies, but I always come back to Keith and Uncork’d and ask them first, even last, just because. For Almost Amazing I had a deal with two other companies and I was like, you know what, let me call Keith, see what he thinks or what he thinks he can do. And then he told me what he thought and I said, you know what realistically speaking, this other deal sounds great but our relationship is such that I trust what they would do because I’ve seen them work the title over new people who would supposedly work a title.
Ashley: Yeah, perfect. I just wanna run through a couple of quick things on The 13th Friday. Just some sort of technical things I’m just curious about, not really related to screen writing, but we kind of just have a real quick round here. What camera did you guys use to shoot The 13th Friday?
Justin: Shot on the Red for The 13th.
Ashley: Okay, and what does you crew look like in a film like this? Maybe what positions…I mean, how big is the crew and what are the positions you have filled?
Justin: I always make sure to have at least one sound guy, two gaffers just because lighting is difficult. Khu runs cinematography, so she probably had like an A/C and I’m probably running the camera too, because I like to hold a camera. I don’t like to sit back and yell, “Action!” Our make-up artist and obviously for [Inaudible 01:03:40] the effects. Some type of make-up person, a make-up assist. So I’d say a crew of eight to get to it. Like a crew of eight to ten. And then depending on the scenes, I like to hire out grip tracks for and etc. for larger scenes because we don’t have the time to put that together if we’re gonna have eight people on set and we’re gonna have this large hotel that we rented, then we really won’t have time to be like dilly dallying around with like one gaffer, you know what I mean? It’s just gonna take forever to light one scene.
So then we have a crew and the crew gets bigger. But using only bigger for bigger scenes. I’m not gonna hire a crew for like a living room. We can handle sitting at tables.
Ashley: How many days did you guys shoot for The 13th Friday?
Justin: For the 13th, I don’t technically know but I believe we shot it over the course of three weeks. I say over the course because I believe we shot the first two weeks, took a break and the shot another week.
Ashley: Okay. And then how long is the entire process? Once you’ve done the script basically through pre-production, production and post-production? And maybe you can just tell us the rough time line for each one of those phases.
Justin: Yeah, for pre-production I’d say it probably takes me two weeks. I do it this way, I write the script in three days. I send the script over, I make notes, so it takes me a week because by the time I get the notes back I re-adjust. So a week on the script. I produce while writing the script because I know I’m gonna have to shoot it. So I’ve already essentially in pre-production before I even put it onto the page because I know I have to do it, right? So the same month for script, preproduction, just getting it in as far as preparing and then I’d say from script to screen to completion, a movie like this would take me anywhere from four months, three months, five months. So I think for 13th it probably took four months.
Ashley: Okay. And you’re not running casting sessions, you’re doing so many…because you know actors and so you just bring the actors in to play certain roles or are you actually running casting sessions and that kind of stuff. Location, scouting…it seems like that stuff generally takes time.
Justin: It takes a while. Well, I do it while doing everything else. We’re able to multi-task and we’re able to write while looking for another location. The hotel for example, I’ve seen someone out. Quint Rogers is a guy that does a lot of location scouting for me and he just asks, “Hey, do you know any hotels?” And he would just go around and look for hotels and then I’d be writing a scene around a hotel. But the way that it works is, let’s say he can’t find the hotel, right. But he says “I found an asylum.” You know what, this takes place in an asylum. The asylum sounds just as good as the hotel. And so I go off of what the world provides me. I don’t try to make something happen. We don’t find a bank for a bank robbery, then we’re not doing the bank robbery, we’re doing something else. You see what I mean? It’s just about being adaptable in that way, so I’m able to move in that regard.
Ashley: Perfect. Maybe we can just run through your films and you can tell people how they can see them. We’ll start with The 13th Friday, the Elf, Alien Reign of Man and Almost Amazing. Maybe you can just tell us when’s the release dates and how people can find them,
Justin: Yeah, Rock n Roll. Almost Amazing is a romantic comedy. It’s out now, it’s on iTunes, Vudu, Hulu… Most of these projects are gonna be on the S-Vibes and Video on Demand. The Elf comes out November 7th 2017. That will be out everywhere. And also in Redbox on the 28th of November. So Alien Reign of Man is out in Redbox with the Elf on November 28th. Alien Reign of Man is on iTunes and Vudu and Hulu. Right now Amazon, Comcast, FandangoNOW. 13th Friday, the same thing. It’s on FandangoNOW, iTunes, Vudu, Hulu. Most of these films are gonna come to Redbox except Almost Amazing. Almost Amazing is gonna be on DVD and Walmart January 28th. That’s the only time you can get a physical copy.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. What’s the best way for people to keep up with what you’re doing? Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, anything you’re comfortable sharing. Just tell us maybe your handles there and I’ll of course round everything up and put it on the show notes, but maybe you can just tell us what is the best way. Maybe even a website. If you have a company website too I’ll include that.
Justin: I keep everything on my social media because websites…I can’t keep up with traffic. So I wanna make sure I can interact with fans. My personal fan page or site where you can keep up with me is www.facebook.com/justinpricex. J-U-S-T-I-N P-R-I-C-E-X. Just the letter X. So it’s Justinpricex on Facebook and also on Facebook it’s Pikchure Zero for our site. And then on Instagram I’m Pikchure Zero P-I-K-C-H-U-R-E Z-E-R-O. And on twitter I’m Jupiter Rings. That’s Jupiter and then Rings. That’s where you can find me. And Stage Khu S-T-A-G-E K-H-U on Instagram as well.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. Justin, you’re the busiest man in show business. I really appreciate you taking some time to talk with me. I wish you luck obviously with the Elf and all your other films. Anytime you wanna come back…
Justin: Rock and Roll. Thank you so much.
Ashley: Well talk to you later. You too, bye.
I just wanna mention two things I’m doing at Selling Your Screenplay to help the screen writers find producers who are looking for material. First I’ve created a monthly newsletter that will be sent directly to producers. Every member of SYS Select can submit one log-on per newsletter. I went and emailed my large data base of producers and I asked them if they would like to receive this monthly newsletter of pitches. So far I have around 400 producers who have signed up to receive it. These producers are hungry for material and happy to read scripts from new writers. So if you wanna participate in this pitch newsletter and get your script into the hands of lots of producers, sign up at www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com.
Secondly, I’ve partnered with one of the premier page screen writing leads sites so I can syndicate their leads to SYS Select members. There’re lots of great paid leads coming in each week from our partner. Recently I’ve been getting five to ten high quality paid leads per week. These are producers and production companies who are actively looking to buy material or who are looking to hire a screen writer for a specific project. If you sign up for SYS Select you’ll get these leads emailed directly to you several times per week. These leads run the game, from production companies looking for a specific type of spec script to producers looking to hire a screen writer to write up one of their ideas or properties. Producers are looking for shots, features, TV and web series pilots. It’s a huge array of different types of projects that the producers are looking for. These leads are of course exclusive to our partner and SYS Select members. To sign up go to www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com.
On the next episode of the podcast, I’m gonna be interviewing writer, director Jake Goldberger. He’s written and directed a new film called Almost Friends starring Freddie Highmore, Odeya Rush and Haley Joel Osment. It’s a great Coming of Age story. We walk through his career and he got this most recent film produced. So keep an eye out for that episode next week. To wrap things up I just wanna touch on a few things from today’s interview with Justin. There was a lot of really great information in this interview. I mean, he seemed to be enjoying my questions, but he was dropping a lot of value bombs throughout this interview. I hope people listening really caught at least a few of them.
Let’s start with my big takeaway. The big takeaway for me was just how much of a can-do attitude Justin had. He rolled into LA and started submitting to Craigslist and Mandy.com and started landing small acting gigs, which is great. And this can be easily adapted to screenwriting as there are lots of filmmakers on Mandy.com and Craigslist looking for scripts, especially short scripts. So again, I’ve said it 100 times before in this podcast but I’ll say it again. This is a great way to get credits. And just as Justin explains how his acting career snowballed, so might your writing career, if you get out there and try to meet new and interesting people who are making films, even if that’s on a micro-budget level.
I especially like the way Justin sort of phrased it, is that he had time and he was willing to do anything. He would go down there, sit on set, even if it was super low budget, just to kind of be working and doing stuff and meeting people. And I see so many ads, when I used to really look at Craigslist a lot, there’d be so many people that would respond to ads. They would actually create a new ad and say, “Oh this guy is not offering money, writers should get paid.” And as I was putting ads on the Craigslist through [Inaudible 01:12:29], so many people saw the negative attitudes out there of, “Oh why aren’t you paying money?” And “Writers should be paid for their…” It was like at the lowest sort of micro budget level you’ve got to cut your teeth. You’ve got to get some experience. And this is a great way to do it.
You’re not gonna make a lot of money submitting to Craigslist ads. And that’s fine because that’s not the goal hopefully it’s not to make a ton of money off of those types of submissions. It’s just simply to meet people, get some credits and move on in your career, and just really listen to the way Justin explains it. It’s just a can-do positive attitude about the whole thing. Even though again, this projects really are sort of the lowest level of filmmaking, but that’s a great place to cut your teeth. Okay so then staying with this theme of this sort of can-do attitude, I love how Justin just started talking to actors and he’s so right in his sort of logic. Why spend thousands of dollars on acting classes that are supposedly going to lead to a role on a movie? Why not just spend that money actually making a movie that you can act in?
In this case I am someone selling services to screenwriters. So really listen to what I’m saying, I mean, in the screen writing analogy I am the person that’s selling those classes and stuff to writers. In his case it was people selling stuff to actors and in my case I’m selling stuff to…So you might think I have some credibility here and really listen to what I’m saying. You are much better off spending $1,000 making a short film or even a super super low budget feature film, than you are spending $1,000 on my products and services. Keep in mind, and I consider my products and services to be the best in the industry and offer the most value to screen writers. I don’t think there’s any service out there offering more value to screenwriters than my services. But I still think that if you’re gonna spend some money, spending it on making actual short films, making feature films is more valuable than anything anybody else could offer you. I will just leave it at that.
I really love his attitude of figure-it-out. Before he made his first film, he didn’t know how to do it but he had the confidence and just the wherewithal to know that he could figure it out as he went along. That’s awesome and that’s just exactly the attitude you have to have. Since I’ve been doing The Pinch, I get a lot of emails from people now, it’s like they’re really worried about the details. How do you do this and how do you do that and it’s like, you just got to go do it and you will figure it out when it comes time. And there’s this sort of…especially in this day and age, the analysis paralysis. You can spend literally the rest of your life online, on blogs reading about how to make a movie, reading about how to cast actors, reading about how to write a script, reading about how to produce a micro budget film. You can spend your entire life doing that instead of actually doing it.
Again, Justin’s attitude was exactly the right attitude. Get out there, do it. You’ll figure it out as you go on. If you spend your time trying to prepare and read this and read that, you’re gonna be spending a lot of time reading stuff that’s not really applicable to what you’re doing. The best way to learn something is by actually doing something. Throughout this interview, again, this is just sort of my take away from this, like my own thinking and hopefully there’s something in my thought process that will be helpful to your thought process. Throughout this interview I’m looking at myself thinking, man, I’ve produced one film, The Pinch over the last like two years, including the time I took to write the script, that’s probably three years. And this guy…so I’ve done one film in the last three years that I’ve written, directed and produced. This guy has literally done four films this year alone. I’m just listening to this interview feeling like I’ve got to step up my game and that I need to just push a lot harder. One film every three years isn’t nearly enough to get the job done.
This is an important part of any kind of a creative pursuit like filmmaking. And maybe you don’t wanna be a producer and that’s fine. I think there was a ton of these lessons. If you boil them down they can be applicable to you as a screenwriter even if you don’t wanna direct and produce your own material. Because again a lot of this is just sort of a numbers game and building a system and a routine that you’re able to pump these things out. So maybe you’re not gonna produce four films next year, that’s fine. I know I’m certainly not going to. But maybe you can write four feature length scripts next year. Maybe that’s a goal. Maybe you only wrote one this year, or maybe you wrote two but again stepping up your game. I mean, Justin is directing and producing these films and he still wrote the scripts as well. There’s definitely some…if he’s writing four scripts and producing them and directing them, certainly even if you have a full time job, you should probably be able to write four scripts too. There’s just this sort of getting to talk to someone that’s actually doing it and seeing how they’re actually doing it.
That’s just fantastic to hear and again for me it just makes me feel like, gee I’ve got to step up my game and get my process done. And again with The Pinch it’s the first one that I’ve ever really been the main producer producing so I’ve learned a lot, but I need to get my process down, so at least so I can do like one movie a year or maybe get to the point where I’m doing two movies a year. Because it’s all, the more you’re writing, and again, maybe you don’t wanna write and produce, maybe you wanna write scripts. But the more scripts you have, the more chance you have of making that connection or selling that script or optioning that script to the right producer, which is gonna get you to the next level.
And there is a certain amount of just numbers. Sheer volume and numbers is what can really help. So I’ll leave that part at that. The next thing that really just impressed me about Justin was the way his process works for kind of keeping his finger on the polls of what distributors are looking for. And this is important. Again, you don’t have to be a producer and director to wanna get better at this. As a writer, if you’re writing scripts that people wanna produce, I think that’s just so so valuable. I’ll give you an example, the script that I wrote this past spring, I have talked about it on the podcast. I wrote it super low budget to kind of thinking, maybe I’ll shoot that myself. I have not even done a blast using my own blast service that’s on that. But so far I’ve had three producers, just people that I know. I did kind of send it out to people that I know. I have my own list of maybe 20, 30, maybe 40 people that I know.
So I sent it…that was my first step. And I actually never got to do a blast for the script because I actually got a bunch of interest from some of these producers. Like over the last six, nine months I’ve had three producers just express interest in this script. Again I think it’s because it was really written with a market in mind. I went to AFM last year, I talked to distributors, what are you selling, and that was really a big part of how I came up with this particular idea for a script. I don’t wanna take all the credit. I actually went with another producer friend and the actual crown of an idea was really his. It was really through brainstorming with him we were going to these meetings and talking about what can we do super low budget that these distributors are talking about?
But I really like Justin’s process. Going up to Redbox and seeing what’s in there. Just keeping your fingers sort of on the polls of what movies are being made. Listening to this podcast is a part of that because you’re seeing a lot of these independent filmmakers come on and talk about these films. Again, another great little carnal of knowledge from Justin. As an aside, during the interview we talked about Keith of the Uncork’d Entertainment. I’ve heard a number of filmmakers on this podcast who have done films that were distributed by Uncork’d Entertainment. So I reached out to Keith and it looks like I’m gonna have him on the show in a couple of weeks as well. I think that will be fascinating to get his perspective as the distributor of this film and a whole whole bunch of other films as well. Keep an eye out for that interview in a couple of weeks. Anyway, that’s the show, thank you for listening.