Ashley: Welcome to Episode #220 of the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger of the www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing screenwriter Alston Ramsay and his director brother Julius Ramsay. Stay tuned for that interview. They just did a cool high-concept thriller called Midnighters and we talk through the process of how they got that film produced. A quick bit of follow up, I just wanna mention that Steven Coogan who recently wrote, produced and directed and acted in a film called Dance Baby Dance, he wrote a book about his entire process of writing, directing, producing this film. I will link to it in the show notes. You can buy it over on Amazon.com.
Interviewed Steven on Episode 214, so if you wanna get a little context and a little backstory about this film definitely go check that out. Steven was very generous with his time, came on, gave a lot of real inside information on how he got that film produced. I think it’s an interesting episode and now with the addition of this book it can really give you some good insight into this entire filmmaking process. Once again I’ll link to it in the show notes. If you have any interest in checking that out. If you find this episode viable, please help me out by giving me a review in iTunes or leaving 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 or 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 #220. 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, you 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 a professional log line and query 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. So now let’s get into the main segment. Today I am interviewing writer and director brothers Julius and Alston Ramsay. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Julius and Alston into the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I really appreciate you guys coming on the show with me today.
Julius & Alston: Thank you, it’s an honor 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. Julius why don’t you start first and then we’ll go to Alston.
Julius: Sure, we grew up in North Carolina and I was always interested in film and television since I was a young child. I discovered filmmaking when I was in college and I realized that that was the career that I wanted to go into and I wanted to be a director. So after college I moved out to Los Angeles and I wound up getting work originally as an editor, and because I’d read a lot of biographies about directors who started out as editors. I started working in the venue that I could get my foot in the door which was reality television and documentary TV shows and worked in that for about five years before switching over into scripted and worked on shows like Alias, Battlestar Galactica, Flash Forward and The Walking Dead. The Walking Dead is where I began to direct professionally for television.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. And maybe you could just tell us quickly, how did you get that first job as an editor and did you have an editing skill set that you got from college or that you got from doing shots? How did you even get that experience enough that you felt qualified to start applying to these jobs as an editor?
Julius: [laughs] Yeah, to be perfectly honest I really saved my way into my first job. I kind of exaggerated the amount of experience I had and I was hired for a night job. I bought a book a book about how to run edits, I worked on them a little bit in college but not very much because the technology was still early. I managed to kind of…as they say if they could see you make it…I just sort of stayed by for a couple of months and taught myself everything that I needed to know about the technical side of editing. By the time they realized what was going on I was good enough and I was invaluable enough to show that they really wanted me and I was a big part of their team. My advice would be keep your foot in the door no matter what you have to do to get there. There’re no rules.
Ashley: Yeah. So Alston, maybe you give us kind of the same overview of your trajectory and how you ultimately ended up writing this script.
Alston: Sure. Well, given that Jul and I are brothers I also grew up in [inaudible 00:05:14] in North Carolina and was exposed at a pretty early age to films and particularly horror and thrillers because Jul would be bringing about every horror there was at the video store. I would be the kid brother watching stuff that I really probably should not have been watching at that age. So as I went through college I gravitated towards writing in the journalistic sense for one of the newspapers. I was a magazine editor right after college and then I was a speech writer in Washington DC at the Pentagon for four years and in Afghanistan for a year.
While I was doing that I was speech writing, so still in the writing world but also as a hobby I was reading screenplays, I read books about screenplays, I took Robert McKee screenwriting seminar which I think everyone in Hollywood has probably taken at one point or another, to include Jul. He’s actually is probably the one that pointed me toward it in the first place. So after business school I was trying to decide what direction to go and I decided I was gonna move here to pursue screenwriting fulltime because it was just one of those things that I’d been through at the edge of the back of my mind where the timing was right that I kind of realized if I didn’t give it a try I was gonna regret it for the rest of my life and always wonder if that was something I could have done.
So yeah, I moved to here and it helped to have Jul already here, already established and we went to work on the screenplay for this movie.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. So yeah, let’s dig into Midnighters. Maybe to start out you can give us…Alston maybe this is a question for you but I suppose Julius could probably answer it too. Maybe you can just give us a quick log line or pitch for the film.
Alston: Jul’s better at the pitches. I’m gonna let him do that one.
Ashley: Alright, let’s hear it.
Alston: Sure, the film takes place on New Year’s Eve. It’s about a not-so-happily married couple driving home from a New Year’s Eve party. They get into a car accident and hit and kill a man in the road only to discover that the man was carrying a gun and a piece of paper with their home address written on it…shenanigans [inaudible 00:07:38].
Ashley: Yeah, so where did this idea come from? What was sort of the genesis of the idea?
Alston: Sure, when I first moved here we had the idea that we wanted to make a film and we had certain parameters. All these types of movies we wanted to be primarily in one location, a limited cast and Jul and I, our sensibilities and…we can discuss that later, we kind of wanted to do something with [inaudible 00:08:09] reality and was more of a psychological thriller, a psychological horror that wasn’t focused on ghosts or slashers or anything like that. So we came up with a list of ideas. One of them was kind of inspired by this really twisted true story of a nurse driving at home one night and he would hit a homeless guy and he went halfway through the wind shield.
She goes home and the guy’s still alive, stuck in the wind shield and he begs for help but lives out over the course of 24, 48 hours. I mentioned that idea and the article was years old and it just always stuck in my head and strangely enough Jul had read the same article and had also remembered it. That was very much like a rough starting point for our story. A lot of that was also in the…just the idea of people can be…you know, regular people can find themselves in circumstances where they do things that are extraordinarily awful to a point that’s shocking in some respect. That was really the genesis of the idea and then it went through many, many iterations from there and involved of direction from Jul on his vision for how he saw the film.
Ashley: It sounds like your intention from the start, and you can correct me if I’m wrong, was to write this and then Julius would direct it and you guys would produce it together. It was not something that you were looking to necessarily sell to a production company, is that correct?
Alston: That’s correct. It was a joint project that was always gonna be something that I wrote that he was going to direct. Our original thought…I don’t think we were intending to produce it ourselves. We just got to a certain point and I think this is the reality with a lot of independent films and a lot of first time features is that it was not something that felt it would happen on a timeline that we liked unless we sort of did it ourselves. I have a background, I went to business school so I had a background with startup fundraising and angel fundraising which piecing together the financing for a small independent film is very similar to that.
So we learned a lot by going through the process of meeting with production companies that do this kind of films and wrapping our minds around the budgets for them and sort of figuring out how do you make a film feel bigger than it might actually be on the budget sheet.
Ashley: Yeah, so let’s dig into your writing process a little bit. Maybe you can just tell us, how much time did you spend mulling things over, doing the outline, versus how much time were you actually in final draft writing the script?
Alston: A lot more time mulling. A whole lot more time mulling. With this one, Jul and I had worked out the big bits together and then…you know, part of the outline together and then I had outlined it more…My normal process which outside of that sort of the initial part of me, the normal process is I think about things and it’s in my head for a while…one month, two months, three months. When I start to sit down to really put it all on note cards, at that point I already feel like I know the major bits of the story, like in my head I know the characters, so that I map it out on bold note card method, the [inaudible 00:12:05] method which is it works to some extent and then you have to improvise a bit.
That’s a month long process to actual writing. I don’t know if it’s healthy or not but every one of the screenplays I’ve written it’s kind of been a 10 day to 2 week just crushing 12 hours a day, not really sleeping and powering through the first draft. And then with this film, after the first draft it went through a lot of revisions to…that was more like I think a blue print in a frameworks and then Jul has a lot of ideas on the characters and the tone and all the things that are really in the bucket of a director. That led to a number of rewrites there. Then there’s another rewriting process once we were actually in Rhode Island where we filmed and we had out actors there.
When you start to see the way that they were performing and what they were doing with the characters, we leveraged that and because we shot the film mostly in order, we were able to see that early on and sort of adjust the characters and the art later in the script or later in the actual shoot.
Ashley: Yeah. So Julius, maybe this is a good question for you. What were some of the things that you maybe didn’t like about the first draft and maybe sort of the notes that you gave him? We can talk specifically about that, but I think it will be interesting for screenwriters to hear kind of the director’s perspective on what things may be working for you in this story and ultimately how did you guys change those?
Julius: Well, it was all a collaborative process. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t like something and made him to it or he wanted to do something and I didn’t wanna do. Usually we got pretty quickly on the same page. I would say the biggest change from the original draft of the screenplay which was a note kind of given to us by somebody else that had read the script but that I agreed with and that Alston agreed with too is that we has a different ending, we had a different character than the character that wins out in the end. We had a different character went out and survived and we wound up. I think the original draft of the screenplay, it didn’t have as much there being like one specific, clear protagonist to the film.
It was a little more ambiguous and not that it’s like super defined that there’s a clear protagonist that I think now there is. That was a big change and when we made that shift we wound up as a result changing the ending of the film to have a different character went out.
Ashley: Okay, I think that’s a great example. So you guys mentioned at the top of the interview sort of your sensibilities. You wanted to do a contained thriller, not something that was necessarily magical or supernatural. I’m curious, what went into that thought process? Had you guys talked to some distributors and they said this is the kind of movie we’re looking for, was this just purely artistic, you know, this is just the movie we wanna make? What went into your thought process about sort of deciding that you didn’t wanna make a supernatural horror versus what you ended up making?
Julius: That was really our own preference. I guess personally I think we feel that the market is over-saturated with films that are so heavily reliant upon gimmicks. We wanted to make a film that was much more rooted in character drama and didn’t rely on that other stuff. Not that there’s anything wrong with that other stuff. There’s such great material out there and I’ve worked on some wonderful shows that deal with supernatural and science fiction, but just to make our first film we wanted to do something that was more grounded and that had a more realistic sensibility to it.
Alston: And I think some of the films we were looking at whether it’s the Hitchcock can or Danny Boyle Shallow Grave or The Coen Brothers too. A number of their films there. They’re just in that category and there’s a real challenge with the element of psychological horror. It’s just it’s more difficult I think in some respect and I think that was a challenge as filmmakers that we wanted to take on.
Ashley: I’m curious too and I get a lot of the people who listen to this podcast have writing partners. You guys are on a slightly different situation that Julius is the director, Alston’s the writer and you guys are also brothers so obviously you’ve known each other your whole life. But I’m curious if there ever are any moments where you just don’t agree. Ultimately how do you get over those huddles?
Alston: Sure, there’re moments when we don’t agree. I feel like the arguments we have through the process, a lot of them have been on the business front. On the creative front, I mean, it’s hard for me to think of any…definitely not major disagreements. I think maybe that’s because from a creative standpoint we come from the same place and I think we were sort of raised on the same movies and the reason for that in my case is because children and movies from the video spectrum, that was our local joint and I watched them because I was too young to drive to the movies myself or anything. So I think we have a lot of shared creativity there.
Ashley: Yeah, so let’s talk about some of this…I’m sorry, did I cut you off?
Alston: I was just gonna ask if Jul had anything to add on that front.
Julius: No, I totally agree.
Ashley: Okay, so let’s talk about you mentioned that when you had the script finished you started to have some meetings with companies. Maybe you can just tell us how you were able to get these meetings. What did that look like? Was it a cold phone call, was it someone in your network from working in the industry? What did that actually look like in terms of just getting those initial meetings with companies which just sounds like they didn’t necessarily pen out, but I’m sure those meetings at least were valuable in some ways and I know that there’ll be people are wondering how you got those.
Alston: True. They were primarily through my contacts in the entertainment industry. I had representation and I had managers and I knew various producers and what not, so I would say they all kind of came through. I fought in the business for 17 years so I knew quite a few people that we were able to get in and meet with.
Ashley: Yeah, so let’s talk about raising money. Maybe we can just go through at least in broad strokes how you guys were able to raise money and hopefully give some tips and tricks to people that want to take this path themselves.
Alston: Sure, so in business school I focused on entrepreneurship and then immediately afterwards was involved in a startup that was doing an angel fundraising round and for people that weren’t in the business and startup world. An angel round is your earliest round of funding that’s really speed money to kind of get off the ground before you get into any of the venture capital and big money. That is almost always going to be friends and friends of friends and friends of friends of friends. And so I put together a financial presentation that was very much based on the business school style of fundraising for small businesses.
I think the reality is the MBA may have harmed me in some respect that the kind of people that financed a movie or are going to give money for a startup, they’re generally the kind of people that yes they wanna see numbers in spreadsheets but they also know it’s a high risk investment. Particularly when it comes to film. They’re savvy enough investors to know that there is a good chance you’re gonna lose your money because statistically that’s the nature of independent film. But we really did it the normal way that you do startups or independent film where there’s friends of friends of friends of friends and lots of cold calls and lots of rejections and taking any amount of money because you can eventually piece it together to reach a budget for which you can make it a film.
At the same time another thing we did, we got our hands on other budgets for low budget films and we really started to understand, okay what is money getting spent on and where can we save money, what are we willing to take risk on and where do we wanna have a fuller budget to sort of execute the vision. So on one hand we’re raising money and bringing that number up, on the other hand we’re taking the budget and we’re cutting things and bringing that number down until they eventually meet in the middle where you’re like, “Well, we’ve got enough money to go out and make this.
And then [inaudible 00:22:16] gets into production decisions on…we filmed on Rhode Island because they have a good [inaudible 00:22:22] set up but also because a state like that everything’s a bit cheaper, from your catering to your location to your actual day rates. You can make less money go a lot further in the filmmaking world.
Ashley: What did your pitch look like to these people? It sounds like there’s a lot of folks who are friends of friends. So they’re not people you necessarily know. Maybe you can just kind of go over again, maybe just in broad strokes what your pitch looked like just to help other people who potentially wanna try and do this as well.
Alston: Sure. It was a power point deck. The whole thing…I don’t know, was it 15 or 20 slides maybe with five or 10 back ups. You have the creative side which are here is the story, here is the team and in terms of a team it helped a lot that Jul has been in the industry and has credit for a number of big shows. We didn’t have cash attached at that point, certainly if you had any cash members attached you would want them in the deck and then we had some other smaller films that had done well that sort of showed comparables, we had some estimates for potential revenue based research on the internet. You can find figures if you look hard enough and you can estimate on a lot of things.
So we had some spread sheets to kind of run out what the figures might look like over the next several years through the different revenue streams whether that’s Video on Demand or the theatrical or streaming. It’s a fast changing world but those numbers are out there are close enough if you dig deep. There’s the financial component, we have the creative component. I think the team was the most important thing and that’s the same with startups as well is that people that are gonna invest in something like this, they’re going to invest in the people more so than anything else because as I said, they know it’s high risk, they know that the payoff might be a whole lot and might not be much.
It’s hard to tell, but if you have a really strong team, whether that’s the producers, the writers, the directors or actors, you wanna highlight that as much as possible.
Ashley: Yeah, and I’m curious. Ultimately giving those sort of financial model like oh well, this independent film made this much money. Like I’ve seen a lot of these decks over the years and as being someone in the industry I frankly roll my eyes when people…because people always cherry pick. The Indie films that made 100 million dollar, they were made for a million dollars made 100 million dollars. And so I always think that’s a little bit strange. Do you think that that actually affected this? What I’ve always found with people that invest in low budget Indie films is there’s a lot of other things they’re interested in besides just pure RLI, whether that be getting a small role in the film or whether that be just being involved, going to the premier, being involved in something that’s cool. Ultimately what do you think it was that got people to invest in this? Obviously the team is important, but are there any other things?
Julius: For us I think that was the primary thing. Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right about cherry picking your…call it your paranormal activity, it’s the highest RLI I think of any film in the history of the movie business. I mean, what other things are we focused on that are not necessarily those massive blockbusters that came from low budgets like a Blair Witch project or something, but we focused on just through a lot of meetings and just people we knew. If you have films made for [inaudible 00:26:30] budgets, the returns look different because you don’t need Blair Witch to make back your money. So the economics, if you get the budget down to the right point do look different. And so I agree you don’t wanna cherry pick.
But I think there is an expectation that even if people know that hey this could go many different directions, they still wanna see that you’ve spoke through the finances, that you thought through the worst case scenarios, the middle scenario and the best case scenario. I would not advice to highlight those smashing, smashing blockbusters too much because as you say people roll their eyes at that because they know but picking some other films that people haven’t necessarily heard of that did well financially, that’s a little bit more in the ball pack I think.
Ashley: Yeah, so how can people see Midnighters, do you know what the…
Alston: We also had the script that we sent people and there are people that haven’t read scripts before but people that are gonna invest in these movies they can read. They can read a script, they can enjoy it. I think that’s an important part of it and I think there’s also the issue of transparency just in all fronts and throughout the whole process. We’ve sent them updates every few months on every step of the process and I think as you said there’s a lot of things that people are interested in beyond the pure finances. I think the feedback I’ve gotten from people that did invest, they said they really enjoyed [inaudible 00:28:11] that might be on like really esoteric topics because it’s fascinating to hear how does a [inaudible 00:28:18] process of a film work. It’s a scoring process of the film work.
And then everyone got to come for the premier at the Los Angeles Film Festival which is at the ArcLight Culver City, so it was seeing a movie that people invested in on a 300 person theater on a screen on the ArcLight. Pretty cool experience with everyone involved.
Ashley: Yeah, for sure. So how can people see Midnighters? Do you know what the release schedule is gonna be?
Alston: Sure, it’s coming out on March 2nd. It’s gonna be released in seven theaters initially nationwide like New York, LA, Atlanta, Denver, Philadelphia and I think Kansas City maybe. But it’s also gonna be released simultaneously on Paper View and Video on Demand and iTunes I think. So yeah, there’ a whole bunch of different ways. The best thing to do is to go to the IFC Midnight film page or they can check out our website Midnightersfilm.com and that’s got a lot of the information.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. I will get the Midnighters website and I’ll put that in the show notes. Are there any other whether it would be social media channels or anything you’re comfortable sharing that people can just follow to keep up with what you’re doing? Twitter, Facebook, blog, anything that you might want people to know about. You can mention those now and everyone can grab them.
Alston: Sure, we have a Midnighter’s Film Instagram and a Midnighter’s Film twitter. You can just go to Midnighter’s Film on Instagram, twitter or Facebook. All three of those are active and are gonna contain information about [inaudible 00:30:06].
Ashley: Okay, perfect. I’ll get those and I’ll put those in the show…
Alston: They’re constantly being updated with some behind the scene stuff.
Ashley: Okay, nice. So I’ll get that and put it in the show notes. Thank you guys, good luck with this film and I really appreciate you guys coming on and talking with me today.
Alston: Okay, thank you so much.
Julius: It’s a pleasure, we enjoyed it.
Ashley: Thank you, will talk to you guys later.
A quick plug for the SYS screen writing analysis service. It’s a really economical way to get a high quality professional evaluation on your screenplay. When you buy our three pack you get evaluations at just $67 per screenplay for feature films, and just $55 for teleplays. All the readers have professional experience reading for studios, production companies, contests and agencies. You can read a short bio on each reader on our website and you can pick the reader who you think is the best fit for your script. Turnaround time is usually just a few days, but rarely more than a week. The readers will evaluate your script on six key factors—concept, character, structure, marketability, tone and overall craft, which includes formatting, spelling and grammar.
Every script will get a grade of pass, consider or recommend, which should help you roughly understand where your script might rank if you were to submit it to a production company or agency. We can provide an analysis on features or television scripts. We also do proof reading without any analysis. We will also look at a treatment or outline and give you the same analysis on it. So if you’re looking to vet some of your project ideas, this is a great way to do it. We will also write a logline and synopsis for you. You can add this log line synopsis service to an analysis, or you can simply purchase this service as standalone product.
As a bonus, if your screenplay gets a recommend or a consider from one of our readers, you get to list the screenplay in the new SYS Select data base, which is a data base for producers to find screenplays and a big part of our SYS Select program. This is a new service but we’ve already got producers in the system looking for screenplays. As a further bonus, if your script gets a recommend from one of our readers your screenplay will get included in our monthly Best Of newsletter. Each month we sound out a newsletter that highlights the best screenplays that have come through our script analysis service. This monthly newsletter goes out to our list of over 400 producers who are actively looking for material.
So this is another great way to get your material out there. So if you want a professional evaluation of your screenplay at a very reasonable price, check out www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/consultants. On the next episode of the podcast I’m gonna be interviewing Gordy Hoffman. He is a screenwriter and he also runs the BlueCats Screenwriting Competition. He did a short film called Dog Bull which is available on Amazon Prime. If you have a minute definitely check that out. That will give you a lot of context to the interview next week as we talk about a lot of the story writing the scripts, some of the story decisions that he made and then of course there’s the making of that short film.
I will link to it on the show notes but if you have a minute, I think it’s about 20-25 minutes short film. Again if you’re already signed up for Amazon Prime there’s no additional cost. You can just go there and watch it. So definitely check that out if you have a minute as the interview will make a lot more sense if you’ve actually seen the film. Keep an eye out for that episode next week. To wrap things up this week I wanna do something a little bit differently than I normally do at the end of the episodes. This past week I saw an article and I’m gonna talk about that. This article, it’s an article from a blog and I will link to it in the show notes. But the article was called…the title of the blog article really sums up the whole thing but I’ll get into some of the details.
The blog article was called Stop Trying To Be Original and Be Prolific Instead. It’s on a site called Prolifico, again I’ll link to it in the show notes. The title sort of sums it up but there’s a quick summary at the end of the article that I wanna mention. It goes something like this- Never equate being highly prolific with a low level of creative quality. Some of the world’s greatest artists, writers and thinkers are hugely productive people. Creators are notoriously bad at knowing when their work has merit or not merit, so don’t sweat about how good your work is, just show it to your audience and the will tell you. Stop obsessing. Don’t endlessly pick over the bones of your idea. If you do you’re in danger of experiencing perfection paralysis.
But while you shouldn’t over-analyze, you should always do the best possible work you can do. Don’t put half-baked flabby ideas out there unless you’re happy with just your mum’s opinion, which of course is gonna be thumbs up. Remember, the first ideas are always the most conventional. To get to the really original or radical stuff, keep digging and keep producing. That’s part of the process, is just producing a lot of material is gonna get you down to that point where you’re producing probably your best material. As I said, sometimes this seems counter intuitive whereas producing last means you’ll produce higher quality. I don’t think with creative pursuits that that’s actually true.
There’s a bunch of pieces to this so I just wanna dissect those a little bit. Again first, I think the biggest conception that if you produce a lot then the quality will automatically suffer…again, no one is saying push out a bunch of half-baked stuff. You wanna make sure that your stuff is as good as you can make it. But with every project you do again, that’s gonna make you a little bit better, a little bit sharper and it’s gonna get a little bit deeper into kind of what you’re trying to do. Just don’t endlessly obsess over trying to write the perfect screenplay. You’re much better off getting that screenplay to a point where it’s as good as you feel like you can make it, being honest with yourself and then moving on to another screenplay.
It’s much better to have three, four, five slightly imperfect screenplays than spending all your time trying to produce this one perfect screenplay because the fact of the matter is you’re never gonna have that perfect screenplay. It’s never gonna be perfect. I wanna give kind of a practical example of this. Few years ago…and I had the podcast on so if you go back and listen I think it was two or three years ago. At one point a producer hired me to write a script. He has kind of an idea, and when I say an idea he had maybe about a half page of sort of a summary of an idea. He needed the full feature-length script, so 90 paged script written within six days. So I bashed this script out literally starting with his one paragraph, turning it into a fully fleshed out screenplay in six days, wrote the script, gave it to him and he was pretty happy with it.
But the big thing that was interesting to me was I took this script into my writers group and most of the time…not most of the time, every time I’ve ever presented something in the writers group I always spent a lot more than six days on it. I was amazed at the reaction I got from this material. A lot of people really liked it and the reaction I got was generally very positive. I would say it was much more positive than much of the material that I’ve spent many, many months laboring over. This was a real insight. Again, really going to the heart of that idea that lots of quantity doesn’t necessarily detract from quality. I’ve brought in tones of scripts there that have gone over like a lead balloon and some of those scripts I have really thought they were gonna…I thought they were good, I thought that people are gonna like them, you go in there…
Again it goes to this other idea that creatives are not always that great at assessing their own work and understanding the viability of it. So creating something, making it as good as you can, not endlessly overwriting it and then getting it out to your audience. I mean, if you’re a screenwriter, that audience is gonna be the producers, an agent, the manager, maybe script contests, maybe submitting it through services like my own Selling Your Screenplay services. That’s your audience. That’s getting it out there. I’m always surprised too…and again, this is kind of just another example. I’m always surprised to buy…when a producer reads one of my scripts and really likes it, over the years I’ve often tried to put them on to another script.
Like I’ll say, “Yeah, I have this one that you really like, but I also have this other one. There’s a bunch of reasons for this. Sometimes it’s a budgetary thing where the producer really likes a script but he doesn’t think he can raise that much money so I push him another script but I’ve always been amazed that once a producer hooks in to one of my scripts, it’s very rare that I’m able to get them to flip to another script and be just as passionate about another one of my scripts. Again from where I sit, some of my scripts maybe I think are better than others, but where these producers and stuff, they’ll read one of my scripts and maybe I don’t think it’s my greatest script, and they would just love it for whatever reason and then I’ll give them one that I think is a superior script and they’ll be like, “No, I don’t like that one.”
So again, it’s very tough for artists to access their own material. Really keep that in mind as you are producing and writing your own stuff. Think about too some of the most successful filmmakers of our time- Woody Allen, Steven Spielberg are two names that come to mind. These guys have produced a ton of content over the years. They’re always working on new stuff, they’re always putting out new films. They’re relentless in their constant pursuit to get new stuff out into the world. Every film they do, it’s not necessarily a big hit or a home run. They have some [inaudible 00:39:21] on their resume too. That really goes to this idea of just don’t be a perfectionist. Keep pushing stuff out there.
That’s what’s gonna ultimately get you to your best work. The ability to constantly push stuff out there is a big part of the screenwriting equation and the good news, and I think to me this is sort of what’s hopeful about reading an article like this. The good news is that at least to some degree, we have the ability to control this. We can all just be more disciplined and work harder and produce more stuff. And even more good news is that the vast majority of the people who wanna be writers who are out there, they aren’t willing to be super disciplined and super persistent. I can’t tell you over the years how many people that really wanna be screenwriters, they’ve written one script and they think that’s enough to launch a professional career.
Maybe you can find some examples out there that was enough where someone wrote a great first spec script that got them an agent, that agent got them work and their careers were off and running, but I would say that’s the exception not the rule. And so again, if you’re willing to take that extra step and grind through one, two, three, four, a dozen, two dozen scripts, you give yourself a leg up. And again, we’re in control of that. At least to some degree our work ethic and our persistence is stuff that we can control. If you’re willing to do that work you are in a good position. You have a leg up on the other people, most of who will not be willing to do that work.
My big take away from this article is the simple question, “How am I going to be able to produce the best work of my career?” Anyone at any level should be thinking about this. As artists we all wanna produce our best work. There’s always those sort of periods in an artist’s career looking back, Picasso, Shakespeare, whoever the great artist was, where sort of there’s this period where they produced their best work, their most prolific period. Often if you look at that period, again it comes with not just quality but it also comes with quantity. It’s such an important point. So on a practical level how do we do that? For me again, I just need to push myself harder. I need to be more prolific.
I mentioned this last week. I finished my most recent writing assignment on the kids TV show but I’m gonna continue to write. I’m just gonna keep writing some spec scripts. In my case for right now I think that means some short scripts I’m gonna pump out. But anyway, the main thing is just keep writing stuff. Whatever you’re working on, increase that output just a little bit. Be a little more productive. And as The Pinch winds down, again just pushing this back on me as I wind sown with The Pinch, I’m still working on the poster, I’m still polishing up the trailer, getting some of those things in line and then I’m gonna have sort of a marketing blitz. I’m gonna go out to other podcasts, I’m gonna try and get as much PR for my film as possible.
That’s all gonna take time right before as I start to sell the movie, but once all that comes to an end, I would say I would probably be the summer. I’ve got to really be ready to dig in and try something new, whether that be another feature film or maybe some short films. I just wanna keep the momentum going that I’ve built with The Pinch and keep being prolific and keep pushing stuff out into the world. I think if we’re just thinking about this, I’m thinking about this. We all get a little bit lazy at times. The Pinch was a huge amount of work, I still don’t know how much money, obviously I haven’t even started selling it so I don’t quite know what the film is gonna like in the end and that’s gonna be a big factor I would say, going and doing another feature film, trying to figure out what that is.
But again, I’m sitting here trying to figure out how can I sort of get myself ready for that next feature film. Again for me that’s gonna be short films but all of us, there’s got to be things we could be doing, extra things we could be doing, being just a little more productive and raising that output, the quantity of output just a little more because ultimately I do think that will help the quality. Hopefully wherever you are in you’re screenwriting or filmmaking journey you can take something away from this. I’ll link to the article definitely check that out and just read through it. Anyway, that’s the show, thank you for listening.