This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 221: Writer / Director Gordy Hoffman Talks About His Short Film, Dog Bowl.
Ashley: Welcome to Episode #221 of the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger of the www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing screenwriter and director Gordy Hoffman. He is the screenwriter who runs the BlueCat screenwriting competition. He did a short film recently called Dog Bowl which is now available on Amazon Prime. If you haven’t checked it out already I highly recommend you do that. If you see the film it will add some additional context to the discussion that Gordy and I have. We talk about the film, the story, how he made the film, all of that stuff. So if you get a chance, definitely check out the film and then come back and listen to the interview.
If you find this episode viable, 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 #221.
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, director Gordy Hoffman. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Gordy to the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. Thanks again for coming on the show and talking with me today.
Gordy: Of course, I’m happy to be back.
Ashley: So this is your third appearance on the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I will refer people back to the previous episodes. We had two great interviews where we had a wide ranging discussions. Episode 27 and 95, I’ll link to those on the show notes. This is gonna be kind of a free willing conversation. The first thing we’re gonna talk about today is the article from IndieWire with J.J Abrams. I will link to it in the show notes. The headline for the article is this, and I think this is sort of important. The headline is: J.J Abrams Star Wars fans who didn’t like Last Jedi are threatened by women characters. Kind of a salacious headline, but maybe we can talk a little bit about the issue of diversity in Hollywood. What’s your thoughts on it and how important do you think this issue is?
Gordy: Well, it’s very important. I mean, it’s my belief that everybody is endowed with the same amount of talent. It’s not distributed inequitably. There’s talent that goes across all lines of diversity, gender, everything. The fact is that certain gender and certain ethnicities have been getting a preference over the years or whatever from cultural whatever it is. I’m not gonna get into how it is. But the fact that we’re now starting to create more access…I just went by a billboard, Rachel Morrison first woman nominated for an Oscar for cinematography. That’s just shocking to me. How are males better at using a camera than women? It just doesn’t make…it’s baffling that that’s what happened.
But now she got nominated and these movies…I’m gonna go see Black Panther tonight and Ryan Kugler is amazing. The guy, all of his pictures have been so good, so well done. This is what’s making cinema better, is access. I’ve heard some people sort of say, “Where am I gonna be, and this is usually a white male, a straight white male or a white male writer or an actor for example saying, “Where am I gonna be?” I think actually in that article J.J Abrams mentions a tweet by Franklin Leonard. You can probably pick it out of there but it says basically the people that have had privilege once equity kicks in they start feeling oppressed. They start feeling oppression and they start feeling what other people have been experiencing all along. Like, “Wait a minute,” you know. But the thing is is that I love it because it basically says, “Write a better script!”
If you write a beautiful script no one’s ever gonna be like, “Well, it’s not your turn anymore.” If we’re talking about equity, if we’re talking about everything made on merit, which is what people want, then your writing is still gonna break through. That’s what I believe. People can argue something else but I don’t think that anyone…I think, yeah, you might not be able to get a job or you might not have the same playing field. If the playing field is unequal and it favored you before, now you might have to write a better script oh poor baby. It’s like write a better script and hang with, and then cinema will come…I think cinema is gonna come back huge because of all of this movement of allowing more women and more diversity, more different ethnicities and different stories coming from these people and from everybody and the difference voices.
It only makes everything better. The movies are better….The thing with J.J Abrams is I think…I don’t know if people are taking what he’s saying the right way. I don’t know exactly what he meant. I think when I first looked at it it looked like he was saying that people didn’t understand The Last Jedi or there was a blow back to The Last Jedi because people are uncomfortable with female protagonists, female characters and female arks driving the narrative and their actions driving the narrative. The Rose character, Laura Jones character. And I don’t think that that’s true. I don’t know if that’s what he’s saying, I don’t wanna totally throw him under the bus, but on some level it does sound like he’s saying the audiences aren’t ready for this, and I disagree.
I mean, Black Panther is out of control. Get Out made almost as much as Dunkirk last year. It was almost, almost…it was like I don’t know, $10,000 less that Dunkirk or something like that and it was on a thousand less screens. But more important like what he was talking about with women, Wonder Woman was the number three movie last year. Beauty and the Beast was a love story too, but number three was Wonder Woman. It was a Color Pop movie but it was a Wonder Woman. Directed by a woman, third. Look at the Oscars. The Oscars, it’s Lady Jane…no, Lady Bird excuse me. Lady Bird, Shape of Water, Three Billboards, all female protagonists. They are all the central characters are women!
Those are not science fiction movies, they’re not action movies, okay. But when you’re talking about profitable movies and you’re talking about big or small, it’s just not the case. And then all you have to do is go back to Force Awakens and that was clearly a female protagonist and there was not the same blow back. So I think the thing that I…I mean, what do you think? I don’t wanna keep going…because I know you had an opinion.
Ashley: I think everything you’re saying is fair in terms of…One of the things I always get a little bit hesitant to go after like an article like this, we don’t have the transcript of the conversation between J.J Abrams and this. Especially the headline. Clearly whoever wrote that headline, it’s a salacious headline and they’re sort of trying to imply that if you didn’t like Last Jedi you’re a misogynist. I’m not sure from reading the article that that’s clear. Number one as I said, this isn’t like a transcript of an interview from J.J Abrams. It’s kind of a put together piece. But I think that that’s fair criticism. I think we have to be able to criticize things and we can’t be labelled a racist or a misogynist just because we don’t like something.
Now again in the context of this article there was some specific quotes from outright people and there was a whole story about these outright people going to [inaudible 00:09:55] and lowering the thing. That’s part of the context of what he’s saying. But I agree with that is we can’t get stuck in a place where we’re afraid to level reasonable criticism or we will be labeled a racist or a misogynist. And we had this conversation yesterday. I frankly think Rogue One was the far superior of the new three Star Wars movies, then the…I get them confused, the last Jedi. I thought the Last Jedi, I frankly enjoyed it slightly more than the Force Awakens. But I really thought Rogue One was excellent and that has a female protagonist too.
I don’t think you can level that criticism that I don’t like female protagonists. I thought Wonder Woman was excellent, I thought Get Out was excellent. I have not seen Black Panther yet. I don’t think it will be fair to label me as a misogynist, but I didn’t think the…I mean the Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, I thought they were better than episodes one, two and three, but I didn’t think they were anywhere near as good as episodes four, five and six. I definitely think episode whatever it is Rogue One was better than episodes six and seven or seven and eight I guess.
Gordy: Yeah, and I agree. Rogue One I think out of all of them, while I enjoyed The Force Awakens I think Rogue One just because it was a different story I just…I think what was exciting for me was like, “Oh, this is like Star Wars, this is the world of Star Wars. I understand the context but this is totally different than the look [inaudible 00:11:28], you know, the whole trajectory that’s been running through these nine pictures. And absolutely, I agree. I don’t think it’s fair to be black and white about this article and say, “J.J Abrams said this.” I think it’s very true that there is this outright obviously box and lots of divisiveness online around all sorts of things.
I think that they look at a movie like this and they see diversity in the characters and in the casting and they jump on it because they know it’s just gonna cause a big controversy, so they…it’s like you’re just doing this to…It is to just stir things up. I think that that’s part of what he’s reacting to. He’s saying there’s a blow back because the world has in this movie is not the world of the three, because if you go back and watch episode four, the fairly first Star Wars, it’s like people…it’s so white. It’s so white it’s like people are pale. Everybody’s the same and it’s sort of funny, but it also speaks a lot to a world that it wasn’t really reflecting. It was refracting at some place because everyone was white apparently.
But I think it’s great that now that there is the diversity, it’s reflected in the casting and everything. It is real what happened, but I do feel like it was curious to me. I think that the larger sort of getting back to what I think we’re talking about the podcast is like better screenwriting and better storytelling. I don’t think it’s wise for me as an artist, as a writer, as a director or a producer or whatever job I’m involved with to go back to the audience and say, “Well, you just didn’t get it and that’s why it didn’t work out for you. You weren’t comfortable with it.” My habit is the responsibility is on me and so when I see disconnect like when I had my first person who worked for me at BlueCat, they came in and they said, “I saw people and they go that Friday and they said social media, twitter is freaking out about the new movie.
And we jumped on there and we saw all these people that were disappointed in the movie. And then I started to read about it, and then I saw it twice. You knew that it was an emotion…they weren’t emotionally connecting. It’s just a fact. It’s just what happened, okay? We’re never gonna make…Kubrick maybe is out there on his own or something, but everybody’s gonna have to make movies and do things and some of the work is gonna be better than others. It’s just some of them are gonna connect and some of them are not gonna connect and that’s it. To start pointing fingers, I just think it’s a bad habit. I hope everyone can look at it, I think give J.J Abrams a break.
He’s probably being very protective of…It’s also unfair that there are people that are just trying to cause trouble and they’re going on rant tomatoes and they’re just going to do that because they’re these all right people or whatever. I mean, that sort of a bummer and that’s awful that it’s happening. But I think what I think a lot if you go to the comments on that article, or the comments to the article that’s been shared around everywhere, I think a lot of people are responding, not from that place of, “Well, it was the outright,” or whatever. They’re responding like, “No, I didn’t connect to the movie emotionally and this is why. I connected to these other movies that had female protagonists, so you’re telling me something that’s confusing me.” And so I hope that they take a step back.
To me it’s been great for me to look at it because I want to…it just reminds me again, it’s not the reader’s fault if they don’t get your movie. It’s like if they don’t understand your script, it’s the universe is telling you, “You need to keep working on your script,” because when I took…like were talking about Dog Bowl. By the time I was done writing the script for Dog Bowl, everybody was like, “This is great!” There was no confusion, there was no [inaudible 00:16:32] notes. Everybody thought it was special, I thought it was special and it was ready to be shot. You never have that problem when you still people are going, “Aah,” and then I would say like, “Well, you just don’t get it.” If people don’t understand Dog Bowl and they go, “Well, I just…” and I go, “I know, it’s confusing.”
I don’t back away from it. I own my work. I’m kind of going on a ramp but I thought of like how professional athletes respond to a bad game. Like when they disappoint fans. They don’t go, “Well, if you worked as hard as me…” you know, they don’t blame the fans and they don’t usually…Sometimes they blame the officials and rightfully so, but mostly when professional athletes don’t achieve what they want or don’t win the game, they usually say, “I have to look at my performance and go back, work harder in the off season and we’re gonna come back and try and win next year. It’s like we didn’t play well enough.” That was a little….and I think that that’s really how…because I know if I don’t acknowledge that maybe I have work to do then what am I gonna change about my script?
What am I gonna change about the story? I don’t have any opportunity to develop anything if I just go, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” So then I’m back to my script and I’m back to my perfect script and my perfect ideas. And where do I go? But if they listen and they go, “Okay, what was it that people…what happened? What were some of the choices that we made that made people disconnect from this in the way that they didn’t disconnect from the Force Awakens? Why did they connect? Why are they connecting with the Black Panther but they didn’t connect to The Last Jedi? Is it a different audience? It’s still a comic book sci-fi Fantastic audience and…so anyways. But it’s a great discussion because I think it also brings back the discussion of diversity and how people shouldn’t be threatened by this.
They should welcome this and they should encourage this. Start writing characters that are not white. I know that people like…think about it. It’s like you have a protagonist in the script you’re working on right now, do they have to be white? Be creative. Reflect the world that we’re in. It’s not social justice warrior stuff. It’s not affirmative action or anything. I think it’s just being creative and it’s being authentic. Reflect the world we’re in, be creative and welcome this because it makes everybody, all of our stories better. It’s so exiting Black Panther and what’s happening with Black Panther.
It’s so exciting because it’s only movies like Get Out, movies like Black Panther, movies like The Force Awakens, they open everybody up to like, “Hey, look!” Females can lead sci-fi movies. African Americans can do superhero movies, you know what I mean? The whole thing. It’s all good man!
Ashley: Yeah, and so there’s a couple of interesting pieces of that, what you just said. Maybe we can dig into those. I think that’s part of the trouble. Forget about J.J Abrams but just as a screenwriter, we’re always getting criticism for our scripts and we’re always trying to determine what criticism to listen to and not. I think that’s part of the position J.J Abrams is, because sometimes people come to your script and they’re criticism is not valid. In the case of the outright, they have an agenda that they’re pushing. Now again on a more practical level of ourselves, and I think like this podcast is a good example. This podcast is not meant for everybody.
A lot of people, the majority of the people are gonna listen to this podcast and just say, “What are these guys even talking about?” They’re not screenwriters, they’re not interested in the movie business. And so in some ways it can be okay. Where is that line as a screenwriter? You can create something that is for a specific smaller niche of people. Maybe you create something that’s not for everyone. And I think that can be okay too. But where do you draw that line? That’s the tricky part. Where do you draw that line? These people over here don’t get it and maybe they’re never gonna get it. Maybe it’s on you but it also could be that it’s just not for them.
Gordy: Absolutely. I mean, you don’t absolutely take every bit of feedback. I was working on a project, I circulated it in the last week to about four or five people and you take in stuff but you listen and you’re like, “Okay, well, why didn’t they understand that part?” I’m not gonna get rid of it like they’re telling me to, but clearly they don’t really care for it. And I just remembered that. I file that away. I don’t necessarily have to take action right then, it’s just I just feel like it all paints a picture. I don’t feel like everything is actionable. You don’t have to act on every single last thing. We’re setting aside the idiot alright. Set aside that stuff because that’s sort of…
We all can agree that we’re not talking about trying to please them too, Like all that…I don’t even know what that is. We’re just gonna move that off the discussion and just focus on getting notes and getting responses and how people…A lot of it comes down to I didn’t care, I didn’t understand. You know, I didn’t understand and I didn’t care. That’s really the bottom, like sort of the core of everything, and so I can’t take every single note. And yeah, you’re like I’ve written something that I wanna direct that I’m close. I’m getting there to the point where I’m gonna have a draft that I’m gonna be able to really go after making it. And there’s stuff in there that’s not everybody’s cup of tea.
It’s just sort of…it’s okay to have choices and get feedback and be like, “God, it’s just too much. I don’t know if I need to see that.” And you go well, that’s what the character’s doing and I totally understand why that could be not your cup of tea, because it is sort of a personal thing. It happens in Dog Bowl. Dog Bowl definitely some people rubs people the wrong way. Some of the things in it, people are like, “I don’t know if that was necessary, what is that?” They don’t follow her, they don’t like her whatever. But yeah, you can’t respond to every single person. But along the way the mosaic of everything that comes in, I try to respect it and keep it on my canvas.
I don’t just go, “Okay, 50% of what you just said I’m never gonna consider again because sometimes later on you could have somebody come around four months later and say something and you’re like, “You know what, that guy said that and he also didn’t know what that was and at that time I just said it aside and now you brought that up and then all of a sudden the note from four months ago and they come together and all of a sudden you’re like you have suddenly something opens up. And so I think it’s just respecting and just trying to not…you know with BlueCat we give feedback to everybody who enters. We’ve gotten really good over the years. We have a really strong reader staff and I trust my readers, we’ve worked really hard to build this staff and understand how to hire them.
So generally people don’t ever complain when we give them notes on their script and these are amateur writers. But yeah, we always get a couple, maybe more than a couple people really reacting to it. They blame the reader, they attack the qualifications of the reader et cetera. So yeah, I think that ultimately I would… as general to sum all that up, I think is to air on the side of respecting the note as opposed to proactively trying to quickly dismiss notes. I would let them sit on your desk a little while or for a long while. For me that’s always served me well and that’s probably one of the reasons that when I saw the J.J Abrams thing over the weekend, it was so counter to how I advise writers and how I work myself.
It was like, “Wow, that’s not what happened. You clearly don’t have a universal response like Get Out or Black Panther, so it’s not time to start qualifying your audience or your reader and saying they weren’t qualified or they had a problem and that’s their problem. And I don’t know if he’s doing that, but it sounded a little bit like that.
Ashley: Yeah, I know. That I do agree with. So let’s dig into your film Dog Bowl. It’s available now on Amazon Prime so if you subscribe to Amazon Prime you can go watch it right now for free. Last time you were on the podcast we talked quite a bit about how you raised the money for this, for Kickstarter, so again I’ll refer people to that episode. That was episode 95 so I’ll link to that in the show notes if they kind of want to get the nuts and bolts of your Kickstarter’s campaign. Maybe to start out, so I thought today we’re gonna actually dig in to some specific stuff. I have some very specific questions about this story and just exactly what you said. These are notes, so I’d be curious to see how you react to some of the criticism that I give your film. But maybe to start out you can give us a pitch or a log line for this film.
Gordy: Well, I think the log line is a heartbroken girl who is stumbling around in life, impulsively steals a service dog vest off of a dog at a dog park and after she’s stolen it and taken it home with her, it sets of a chain of events that ultimately lead her to an awakening about herself and her identity.
Ashley: Perfect. And so do you have like an artistic or an artist statement or some sort of…something you were trying to accomplish. Maybe we can talk about the themes you were trying to explore. Is a grand metaphor for loneliness, an allegory for finding a connection with a human. Maybe you can start right there. You can tell us as an artist what you were trying to accomplish.
Gordy: I think it started off as like a social commentary on emotional support dogs or something like that [laughs]. I saw somebody in Malibu with a dog and they sort of budged in front of me in a line at a store. It’s like I sort of had that contempt of they were holding their dog with their little vest on and I was like, “That would be really great shot if you added some woman like stole the vest off the dog and ran away with it.” That was where the idea came from and I just followed that idea because I thought that that was creative. I wasn’t really trying to say anything about…I love dogs and people that have service dog vests is fine . It just inspired that idea. Then it just got very personal.
I had just written a Christmas movie and that had been very emotional. It was like a G-rated Christmas movie and I love it. I worked on it for a while and then I just started writing this character and I kind of like went unhinged a little bit with writing her because I was trying to find out what kind of character would steal a vest off of a service dog. I was just trying to find that person and I ended up finding that it was really sort of me. Most everything gets back when I dig deep into the drafts I usually discover myself. That’s really what’s going on. It’s sort of like…And it ends up being about the journey that we all take in life. That’s what it ultimately…I think that’s where it ends up and it says those things…
I don’t ever really chase any kind of theme. I don’t really say, “Ooh, I’m gonna write about this, I wanna say this.” And then at the end you can kind of walk away from Dog Bowl with these ideas about that. But it became very personal. It became very much a I was really digging into my own isolation, my own loneliness, my own problems with intimacy. I think really a universal story about…I mean, I was telling the story and it was being informed by me and my experience but I think it ultimately speaks to everybody. We are sort of always looking for a connection and we want to find our partners. We wanna find people to work with, we love our families. We’re social and that’s sort of wanting closeness and wanting intimacy. And then the struggle around that.
And so once I discovered that this woman in this movie had this struggle, for myself I had to be like, “What about you?” That’s really helped me keep pushing the story forward and keep a strong spine to it. So yeah, that’s where it was.
Ashley: So I’m curious in what you just said. I’m a little bit surprised, the way you described it, the story came first and then you found the character as opposed to…I think a lot of screenwriters they start out with an interesting character and then they build the story around that. Is that typical, is the way you just described it typical of how you write scripts? You come up with a story and then you find the character or you come up with a character and then you find the story?
Gordy: I usually come up with an idea and then when I start developing the story the character starts to develop alongside that. They kind of go hand in hand. I did not know where this was going when I had the idea. I did not know what was gonna happen in the movie and what was gonna be revealed. So I kept digging as I kept rewriting this thing over and over again, digging as to find like, what is this gonna be? What’s the story, what is this gonna be? Yeah, I didn’t know. I just knew the idea of a woman steals a vest off of a service dog. Like I said, I came out of this period of working like on a real PG world.
I was writing this thing and I was really…and so I sat down and the first time in a long time I was like I can write anything. So I just kind of exploded with this very, very rambunctious character. But when I started all that and wrote that stuff, it really did start to speak back to me. So that was really what it was.
Ashley: Okay, so let’s talk about your writing process a little bit. We can talk specifically about Dog Bowl, but if Dog Bowl was different than other scripts maybe we can mention that. How much time do you spend preparing to write as opposed to actually writing? There’s the outline stage and then you open up final draft and start writing. Specifically the Dog Bowl. How much did you spend on each phase and then how much total time does it take to write the script first outlining?
Gordy: Well, I didn’t outline Dog Bowl. I started writing stuff and let it kind of go because I knew it was a character piece. So I just wrote. I was like, and then she just did certain things and I knew she was gonna steal the vest off the dog, and then I just started to go from there and I started to make things up. So I wrote like I sort of banged out a rough draft and then I just started working on how it was gonna end or how it was gonna get there and what this was gonna be about. It took me several drafts and talking to people. It took me probably about…on and off about a year to like when it finally cracked open for me. I had lunch with a friend and they said, “Well, what if,” and they sort of mentioned something when I was talking about my project and they kind of lit some candle and I was like, “Oh,” and it came out to me.
That’s not necessarily how I work all the time, but sometimes I just sit down, but the other times I would come up with a path. I came up with an idea just recently. I have a producer that want to work with me and we’re trying to find the thing that we both wanna do and he wants me to write a script for him. I think that this particular thing I am gonna write out of synopsis and sort of bang out. Because of the nature of it I feel like I don’t wanna just kind of…I would like to have sort of road maps. So I’m not adverse at all to doing an outline and planning something out but I do think that sometimes with the character piece like Dog Bowl or like Love Lies or some other things. Like I have certain pieces I just know it’s like you don’t plan it.
You just sit down and you let the emotional motor inside you and all of your collected emotional experiences that are in your unconscious and your subconscious come out in the writing process and be like, okay, where are these human beings gonna go with this dilemma? And a lot of people, they can’t write like that and they don’t wanna write like that. It does require a certain amount of awareness and a certain amount of surrender and it feels like a lot more work but ultimately you do come up with…I mean a lot of the things in Dog Bowl that are in the film, a film that was selected for Sundance and got me a really nice job, a screenwriting job and everything were made up when I was sitting in the chair with my fingers on the keyboard.
They were not planned. I just was like, “Okay, what else can she do? What would happen right now? And then I would just let myself. I drop the filter and write something, and a lot of times that stuff doesn’t end up in the movie, but often times it does because when we’re in the act of writing it’s coming from a different part of our instrument than if we are outlining. Outlining is something else. I think it’s closer that I used to think, I think there’s a lot of creativity that can come from writing this synopsis or talking about something. You’ll still be in a [inaudible 00:37:06]. Its still you, but I do feel like when we’re in the moment of and we’re connected to the characters in our writing and they’re talking and acting on the page, there is something very immediate about that and we do come up with a lot of things in the moment like that that are fun.
Ashley: Yeah, for sure. So let’s talk about your development process. Once you have a draft of this done that you are happy with, what do you typically do? Do you have some trusted writer friends you send it to? What does that process look like and then ultimately how do you interpret the notes? And we’ve covered some of that already, but maybe we can talk about this one specifically. Who did you send it to, what kind of notes did you get back and then what did you do with those notes?
Gordy: Well, I think this Dog Bowl is developed like anything else. I usually get to a point where I kind of want somebody to read it because I know that they’re gonna give me some reaction that I can do something with. There’s a certain amount of writing that I have to do before that happens but it doesn’t have to be. I can still understand that my movie is in trouble or it’s not there or not even close, but I do want to start to get somebody to react to it and be like, “Is that work?” I have this documentary that I’m developing and I put together a pitch book to raise money. And I was at the printer’s earlier today and it was the first time that they were printing at and they were showing me a test.
The people at the desk were like, “Wow, I hope you get this made.” They were actually reacting to it and I was like, “Well, that’s a good sign.” They were like…that’s what it is. It’s like I wanna get some of that feedback and then you also learn like, “Oh, did you like that?” And it’s like, “No,” [laughs] and you’re like, “Oh.” It’s like you get that stuff and then you keep going. And then I always get to a point where as soon as I have a script that’s…I wanna have a table reading. I love table readings and I think people don’t really regularly do that. I do a lot of them because I think that they’re so illuminating and you can just tell. You do a table reading and even if you’re with a bunch of friends that don’t really wanna…or a bunch of people that are scared to tell you anything or whatever, you can tell when they’re just like, “Okay, I got some of it, some of it I didn’t get,” and they’re like…
And you always think you’re further along and then you have a table reading and it’s like a bucket of cold water. You’re like, “This isn’t really kick ass dude, you need to…” And then what’s great is that you come back, you have another table reading. And that what it was. With Dog Bowl I had a table reading early after I’d finally gotten draft I was like, “So what do you guys think?” And everybody had a million comments and no one was walking out like, “Hey, let’s shoot tomorrow!” I was like, “Man, you’re in the weeds. This is like average of shit. It’s just not good. And I knew it wasn’t but it was like…You really know it when you have a table reading. And then [laughs] later on…you know it’s such a great feeling when you have a table reading and you’ve solved all the problems and you’ve closed all the holes and you’ve crushed it.
And then you have a table reading and everyone’s like…they just surrender. They’re like, “Take me away, I’m done. This is awesome!” And you’re like, “Wow!” And I tell people that’s what you should do. It’s like until everybody around you…you can do this if you live in Richmond, if you live in Dallas, you live in Eugene, you live in Main, you in Paris, you live in Hong Kong, you can get people around a table, and eventually you wanna get to a point where everybody goes, “Wow, this is really good,” and they don’t. And you understand that you finally have gotten it. And I don’t think people have the patience to get there. They wanna like maybe attack the reader or something or they’re just like, “Okay, I wanna start another script.” But the only way to move forward is to be patient and actually stick with it longer.
Ashley: Yeah. Let’s just describe the table reads a little bit for people that have never participated in something like that. Maybe you can sort of describe how they operate and then even some of the logistics of how you go about setting them up.
Gordy: Okay, you call Domino’s Pizza and you order…
Ashley: No, that’s a part of it. That’s a legitimate part of it.
Gordy: Well, it’s always good to have like…
Ashley: A case of beer and a pizza.
Gordy: I don’t know about beer because people will probably get hammered and they might start not paying attention to the script but maybe. I donno a beer would probably work too. I think we’ve had wine at a couple of table readings for BlueCat winners. But generally I tried it…you know it’s funny in LA you think people don’t eat, but I swear to God, no matter what you get in LA, if you put it out there it’s gonzo at the end of the…It’s like not there at the end of the table reading no matter what it is. Pizza, whatever. Yeah, bottles of water are always…You have to have water and maybe some food is nice. You get there and you always try and get good people. You try and get people…
It’s okay to get whoever but you learn that’s it’s like, “Okay, who are the reliable people? Who are the people that are gonna show up, that are gonna read the script in advance? Who are the really…do I know any actors, do I know good actors? Do I know anybody with really good reading voice or whatever? I have a friend of mine who I met in an Italian class who just has this radio voice and he was like, “Yeah, I think I might wanna get into voice overs.” And now he’s done a bunch of my table readings as the narrator. He’s not an actor, he’s not in the film business but he’s perfect for like he loves to do the table readings. I also have had a woman who does public radio in LA too.
You start developing relationships. Anyways, so you bring everybody together and you always get the script to them in advance and tell then to read it. You assign the roles and everything else. It’s really important hopefully to get people to read it in advance and then you get there and you just read it, you have somebody read the narration and they go around the table and it’s really nice because it’s usually a page a minute, so if you have 129 paged script it’s probably gonna be a two hour and 10 minute reading unless it’s all dialogue. Sometimes scripts are written a little faster if they’re just basically transcripts or dialogue but most table readings will be a page a minute unless there is all tones of description and then it will go on longer. But basically a page a minute, so you can plan out.
If you have a 90 paged script it’s gonna be an hour and a half. And then afterwards, you know, a lot of people try and get up and leave and it’s very difficult to get people to talk. Sometimes in LA it’s a little easier because people are more used to people wanting feedback and they’re sort of more…But even in LA people tend to be like at the end of the table reading they’ll be like, “Yeah, so that was great Bobby!” They’ll really be awkwardly pulling out their cell phones and sort of…they don’t really know, they don’t wanna be like, “Man, I didn’t understand. After page 20 I was totally lost!” They’re not gonna say that at the table because you’re in front of everybody. But hopefully what happens with me is I try and draw out comments.
I get somebody to start talking and then somebody else realizes, other people in the room realize, “Oh, I can actually say that I didn’t understand this or I didn’t like this character or I didn’t know what was going on or I really like that thing or I didn’t believe the logic of that or whatever. And so there is an art to drawing out the discussions and getting people to start talking. That always takes a little bit. I remember doing a table reading in Chicago. We were just there for a little bit with another writer. We did a table reading with these actors that were brought together by another friend of mine, an old friend of mine from Chicago who’s also an actor. So he brought together all of these people, and they’re all people that had been acting in Chicago. At the end of the reading it was like trying to get them to talk was just difficult.
They just wouldn’t…it was no different situation but anyways. We laughed and it was like, “Okay, well, there you go,” and then we left and we later found out well, when we went to the bar next door we had a great discussion. I thought, “Why didn’t we have the discussion while we were there, like when the writer and I were there?” But when they got over there they got away from us and they had a cocktail or had a Martini, suddenly they were talking about the script for an hour and they broke down everything that they had a problem with. So that’s what you want. You wanna try and get the right people at the table, but it’s very, very simple. It doesn’t have to be perfect and then hopefully you can really tell people, “Please tell me what you think about this script.”
But even if you just read it, the writer hearing how you’re describing things and how the characters are speaking, you’ll immediately go, “Oh my God!” You’ll hear, “That doesn’t sound right,” and, “God, they’re talking too long, why did I write that monologue, cut that out.” So it’s so valuable and I think a lot of people…it’s hard because you do have to ask people for their time and it might feel very unnatural. And writers are loners, we like to be by ourselves and we do all of our work by ourselves. So it is a little bit of a social activity but I strongly, strongly recommend it.
Ashley: Yeah, I’m in a writers group and it works similar to what you’re describing. Do you invite other writers and producers out to listen, to sit in the audience or maybe even read parts just to get feedback from them as well?
Gordy: Yeah, absolutely. You should not be [inaudible 00:48:01]. You don’t wanna bring that person in that you really want them to read it at the end unless they’re very favorable and you have a good relationship with them. But absolutely! It’s always good and I’m glad that you brought that up. It’s always good to have extra people that are not reading because they get to sit back and just listen so you have another level of detachment and objectivity there and they’re able to really just kind of listen to it. That’s very helpful.
Ashley: So now I’ve got a bunch of my sort of very specific screen writing questions about Dog Bowl and just to warn the audience, I’m not gonna worry about spoilers. If you are concerned about spoilers turn this podcast off, go watch the movie then come back. I don’t wanna tailor or hamper our conversation because we’re afraid of spoiling. And there’s definitely a surprise ending and we’re gonna talk about that. So if you’re worried about spoilers this is your chance to turn it off. So the first question is, how do you approach screenplay structure? Are you a fan of Blake Snyder’s, Syd Field? Do you at all try and come up with that three act structure when you’re going and then ultimately the question is, how did you structure Dog Bowl?
Gordy: Okay, I don’t really know the Blake Snyder. I know Save The Cat. I understand the principle of Save The Cat. We want the audience to like our protagonist so I totally agree with that principle. When it’s done in a very obvious way it disrupts the flow. Often times writers will put it in there and if you’ve seen the beginning of Three Billboards you can see a very overt sort of Save the Cat Moment in there that I felt like was distracting and felt very contrived actually. But anyways, Blake Snyder’s great and Syd Field obviously the three-act structure and I wrote Love Lies being very mindful of page 10, page 30, page 60, page 90. I had like a three-act thing for me and I understand that.
I had written a number of things where I don’t even pay attention. I didn’t even think about it. I’m just writing a story and then I later sort of…and I really I’m constructing the journeys of the characters and making sure that they pay off in a really strong gratifying way at the end and that’s really the laws that I’m trying to follow and I don’t really know the acts are [laughs]. It’s just this epic thing and I think the thing that I just wrote, the job that I got out Dog Bowl for this director and this company and it’s a very good job. This thing that I wrote, I don’t know where the acts are. There’s almost like there’s water shed chapter things I guess that happened but it doesn’t follow a Syd Field thing.
But I mean, the thing that I was just talking about earlier where I was gonna write up this synopsis, I definitely would think like, “Okay, what are the acts,” because it helps me. So I definitely follow that and I would…Dog Bowl because it was a shot, and I mean, it’s a long shot but it’s still a short film. I wasn’t thinking about that. I was just thinking about the character journey and the conflict and paying that off and what is the ending and everything else, but it ended up being like a four act show. There was like four acts to it. She’s confused…I mean, obviously everyone’s watched it that are listening to this hopefully. So there’s the four acts and the thing is I haven’t watched it like yesterday, so…but there was four acts.
It was like before she gets the vest, when she gets the vest, wearing the vest and then the aftermath of taking it off of her. So it was like there was different stages to Debra’s journey. And so when I got down to the end of finishing this script and being ready for the movie, I did recognize that I had four chapters, but they were really like sort of four little small acts of like this is the first act and then those were where…the typical page 30 act breaks, the inciting incident I guess would be when it comes to about three or four minutes in, but this is when she takes the vest. So it’s like I guess she takes the vest and then she wears it and then she takes it off or she discovers…I don’t remember how I broke it up but I remember four acts, so yeah.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. So let’s talk about the opening scenes and that would be everything before she steals the vest. I just wanna kind of get your thoughts. I’m just gonna bounce some things off, you get your thoughts on it. One of the things that I see…I mean, there’s like the famous screenwriting advice is that you don’t want those scenes that…you want scenes that push the story forward, but also develop character and the best scenes do both. And I felt like your scenes before she steals the vest, they were essentially character settings. I mean, you’re setting the tone and the mood and stuff, but there’s not really what I would call story hooks until she steals the vest.
Now the thing that I felt worked with this was you made what I would say very strong choices in that the scenes, all this lackluster sex with these random dudes, I mean, that’s not just sort of a…like me and my wife were watching this thing last night and you’re gonna have a reaction to that because it’s so out there and just so sort of…graphic is the wrong word. But what I see a lot of times especially in amateur scripts is there’s the scenes and yeah they’re developing character but they’re not strong choices. So maybe you can talk about that. I guess the first part of the question is, what is your take on this idea of developing character and stories simultaneously or just developing character sort of before that inciting incident? And then ultimately what was your motivation for choosing these four or five scenes that did develop the character?
Gordy: Right, I mean, I think that you can develop story and character at the same time. If it’s happening, if it’s the nature of how you’re gonna tell the story it can all be happening at the same time. But generally the beginning of your movie, the audience is going to give you full…like they’re gonna give you a free pass to tell them what the world is. And so it’s time for exposition. They’re not like, what’s going on, give me a story. They wanna see, “Where am I, what’s going on, who is this person I’m supposed to care about,” and that introduction is okay and we can see like okay, this is who she is, this is her character, this is how she thinks about herself. I think generally you do not have to start telling a story immediately.
You obviously start…you are telling the story in terms of like, “Well, what’s going on?” I mean, the beginning of China Town it’s like we’re immediately thrown in to like what does this guy do, what’s he like, how is he gonna respond at things, and we immediately start seeing what Jake Gittes values are, what his profession is, who his co-workers are, what’s going on. It ends up being a part of the story because that driver ends up doing something for him later in the movie, but it is ultimately is still expositional. But the stuff that I used, yeah, I used the motion image. It’s the most efficient, effective way his character is in action showing pictures, so I rely a lot on pictures for my movies.
I think it allows the audience to become active and they’re not passive. They’re not being told stuff about people. They have to look and be like, “Okay, this girl is eating peanut butter and she’s sharing it with her dog but then she’s using the same fork and it’s going back into her mouth. So some of the audience is going, “I do that all the time with my dog,” and then the other half of the audience is like, “Argh, gross, how is she doing that?” But how much information you’re getting from that, you’re getting like, okay, maybe she’s weird, she loves her dog totally, the dog’s like awesome, she’s connected to the dog. This is really important. This is information we need.
And then she goes to work and she’s working really hard and then there’s the dish guy just randomly cups [inaudible 00:57:40] and she doesn’t do anything. So it’s like we’re like, “Okay, what’s going on with her?” But that kind of information not only does it say, “Who is this girl,” but it hooks the audience. It creates a question in the audience mind of like, “Why did she let him just do that, what’s going on here?” And these are the things…I had probably three or four more of these expositional, visual scenes for Debra that I cut out of the script and then that we didn’t use because we didn’t need to. One person observed early. They said the scene with her during the peanut butter with the dog is like that’s everything. You don’t even need to show anymore after that for Debra. But there’s other things about her intimacy and how she was relating to the world that was as important.
Ashley: Yeah, perfect. So another choice that you made and I’d be curious t get your thoughts on this. Towards the end of the film, the protagonist takes the small transistor device thingy to some sort of a lab and she talks to several people and they’re kind of giving her explanations. It reminded me a lot of that movie, that [inaudible 00:58:56] where it was very visual but you had a hard time following the actual logistics of what was going on. I was a little bit confused. I didn’t know where she was. Was this like some sort of government lab or was it just her doctor and what exactly were they saying? You concentrate on just the emotional reactions of these people through these things.
And again, maybe you can talk about your intentions there especially given the conversation we just had maybe not being or wanting everything, you know, doing, getting feedback. I’m sure somebody must have…I haven’t read the scripts so maybe the script is written differently, but I’m sure somebody must have given you that feedback through your development process and I’m just curios why you made the choice that you did.
Gordy: I think that that sequence, it’s not totally expository. It’s not totally clear. I think in the script they must have said JPL Laboratory or something like that up in Pasadena or something like that. They go up to [inaudible 00:59:59] I think it was in. By the time we shot it it was like it’s just something that’s representative of that she finds this thing, she goes to the hardware store, the guy says, “This is something that is for seizures.” And then she takes it and she’s confused by it. She goes to some sort of academic place and this guy takes her in a sequence, he takes her over to another place and now she’s talking to a very, very authoritative person in a lab coat. So it’s clearly like this is like science.
We don’t know if these are doctors, we don’t know if they’re physicists, we don’t know if they’re JPL, we don’t know what this is. But clearly she’s taking it to some sort of authority figures because she’s confused about what it is. She’s found it in the vest, she doesn’t know what it is, and then this guy had told her at the technical store, the radio shack, he’s basically said this is a transmitter used for people that get seizures and it’s supposed to alert people if they fall or the get in trouble. This makes her scared. The whole idea is that she’s created some alarm in her of like, “I stole this off of somebody that actually needs it.” So she’s gone to find more help. That’s what that sequence is. It’s definitely not…there’s not a lot of hand-holding in there, but it is very representative of like…the only thing that…and I believe you probably walked away with this, your wife probably walked away with this.
She’s gone to some sort of place to get some sort of official explanation as to what this thing is. And that’s really all I care about. I don’t care if…everybody can have their own impressions. That’s what it is. It allows the audience to fill in. They can go, “Oh, there a hospital,” or “No, that’s a lab, didn’t you know that was a lab?” Everybody comes up with their own interpretation but as long as it advances the story of she’s gone to some authority figures, the authority figures the woman, the actress Gerald, she goes, “There’s no problem, we’ve already got a hold of the person, they’re totally okay.” And she goes, “Are you sure?” And she’s like, “Yep, you’re all set.” And then she goes home and she’s totally relieved.
So that’s what that sequence was and I totally appreciate the fact that you might get a little lost. It’s not air tight logic. If you start looking into Dog Bowl and the sci-fi rules around this transmitter and everything else, it’s a loop. It becomes more allegorical as it keeps going but it is this sort of hunt that she’s on to sort of being like, “What’s going on?”
Ashley: Yeah, and just a quick shout out, my wife actually worked with Rodney Hobbs who played the clerk in this. She worked years ago at a law firm with him and so we were just watching this unbeknownst to us that he was even in it.
Gordy: He’s in a lot of stuff. He was one of our…we were very lucky to get Rodney because he’s done guest parts and his IMDb is four pages long He’s a very, very…and if you listen to his…a lot of the dialogue I wrote for those technical scenes was totally nonsense dialogue. If you actually listen to what Rodney is saying it’s total gobbledygook. But both Gerald Prescott who plays the scientist, she was on…another person I had that was amazing, she was on Walking Dead, she’s been on a million things. Her dialogue too is totally nonsense crap and a lot of the scientist in the end, it’s all made up.
But I knew if I get somebody like Rodney who was so good, he would make it…so you don’t even know what he said but it sounded like you got what he said because he nailed the intention of it but it was deliberately like totally gobbledygook but Rodney was able to totally nail it. He was awesome.
Ashley: Yeah, so one other question that relates to the same thing in that final scene was I never quite understood if your protagonist…it seemed like she felt bad that she had stolen this vest and that’s why she ended up going to this lab. But I never quite got that. Did she feel bad about it, was she sorry she had stolen this? She wanted to make sure that the person…like she seemed relieved when the doctor said, “Okay, they’ve already got another vest and it’s all good.” But I was just curious, again, it was a clear choice that you made, you didn’t have a line. It could have been just one line and it would have cleared that up, but you left it just with a little bit vague.
Gordy: Well, I think yeah. I think I’m relying in that sequence because it’s a shot that she’s concerned. So I’m hoping that her performance is selling at what we’re doing there. I think at the end where there’s a lot more dialogue and there is a lot more explaining I guess. She has a line, “What about these people on the ground?” She’s very distressed about that she [inaudible 01:05:30] absent. Hopefully it is that she feels remorse about potentially she stole this vest and then she finds this thing and then this guy tells her…and yeah. So hopefully you will gather that from her performance that she is concerned definitely. But yeah…
Ashley: That was the gist of it. I just was curious if…
Gordy: I think it’s legitimate if you got lost there. I think it’s a legitimate comment because it did not get in every film festival in the world and I believe that there were plenty of film festivals that watched it and they were like, “What is this?” and they didn’t get it or they got lost or they turned it off or whatever, but thank God enough people did watch it and liked it.
Ashley: Yea, so and another question that sort of relates to screenplay structure. You kind of mentioned it just a moment ago. There’s the scene where the doctor comes out of the lab and basically says everything’s okay, the person who had the vest has a new vest. She then goes home and is asleep and the doctor’s then banging on her door saying, “Hey, would you show us where you found the vest.” And I’m curious, again I’d just be curious to get your thoughts on it would have been more efficient, maybe that’s the right word, to just have the doctor come and say, “Listen, instead of giving the whole spill about they found the vest, they’re okay, coming out and saying, “Hey, this vest is not of this world, can you show us where you found it,” or “Can you show us the vest, show us where you found it,” and skip that little scene. What does that do for us by taking that starter step, going back into the apartment? What does that do for us like screenwriting-wise?
Gordy: Well, I don’t think that they really know what’s going on. I’m explaining the movie, so if it’s not clear why that they come later on, it’s supposed to sort of like…they obviously are keeping this thing that they don’t know what it is and they’ve made up some BS to make her go away. This is me explaining the movie, so I mean obviously that’s…but they don’t…you know, the reason why there’s a starter step is that in my mind the scientists don’t really know what they have and they’ve reached out to somebody up in Mountain View and they called them and said, “I actually don’t know what this is,” and so why did they send her home, why don’t they keep her there while this is all going on. There’s questions around that but it’s sort of…
Gordy: In my mind it worked fine. This was not a criticism, it worked fine. I think in my mind what it did, the starter step, it helped to raise the stakes because you get this sort of moment where oh everything’s okay and then by the way everything’s not okay. If you went straight to the punch you would have that raising of the stakes.
Gordy: Absolutely, yeah, there’s this false reprieve. It’s like, “oh, everything’s seemingly okay.” It’s all a lie. And that’s something that I’m sure Blake Snyder has in his Beat Sheet somewhere.
Ashley: It is. It’s the false victory.
Gordy: Yeah, it’s like she sort of goes home, she throws the coat on the floor. It’s like, “I didn’t kill her, she’s good,” and then you immediately have this…it’s one of the best moments I think in the show in sort of it’s effectiveness, is they’re opening up the door and there they are in the middle of the night and they’re like, “You didn’t tell us everything.” It’s so B- movie sci-fi but it’s triggering and totally effective because of the false victory and then he just have that moment and then suddenly you’re at the end and you’re at your finale.
Ashley: And I wanna make this clear too, I find that the movies that I have the most criticism and comments are the movies I enjoy the most. So if I have nothing to say about your movie that means I just didn’t get it and I have nothing to say. So all of this criticism comes from a place of saying, “Yeah, I really did enjoy this, and believe me, my wife sitting next to me, she has no problem going on Facebook in the evenings when we’re watching TV and she was riveted as well and she watched the whole thing from start to finish without going on Facebook one time. If I had one criticism, actually I take that back. Once we saw Rodney, we did pause it and we went on IMDb and we were just looking at that and his things and then she sent him a text and said, “Hey, we just saw you on this,” and he had nothing but good things to say about it as well.
So if I had one criticism, because all these other stuff has been more of I was just curious about. If I had one criticism in the film it would be the ending. It felt like it took this sort of sci-fi turn and it didn’t feel completely set up. And again, I’d be curious to get your intentions on that and sort of why you felt like in your mind anyways this worked to go from something that was not…and I went back and watched it again before the interview. I did not see anything that set up the sci-fi ending. There were no clues or things to point to what that it. It was totally unexpected.
Gordy: Well, the ending is that she discovers that her genealogy is not completely human and that she has some sort of DNA or some sort of…her birthright is not completely…she has some sort of alien stuff in her that is sort of like…And that’s the reveal. That’s sort of the reveal is that her genealogy is not human. And that at some point millions of years ago there is something that the DNA in those people walking around that are not completely, they’re not totally human. They have something else going on inside them. And that is ultimately sort of this is an allegory or some sort of metaphor for people feeling different and people… ”Sometimes I feel like I’m an alien, no one understands me,” and that’s what that is. That’s what the reveal is, is that she is…
Her behavior, there’s nothing that says that she’s like, there’s nothing overt that says other planet or anything, but all along if you watch the movie she is doing things that show that she’s not completely…she’s sort of not wired right. There’s something different about her and she’s sort of acting like…I don’t know, like a version of Mork or something. You know how Mork and Mindy, Mork was always…I know people don’t even know what that show is probably, but aliens are…they struggle with everything is and that’s what I was hoping was…that’s why she is sort of doing this. We see these stuff, this behavior and we go, “Why is she doing that?’ But it’s because she’s sort of off.
So she lets them touch her and she feeds with the dog and she drinks water out of the dog bowl. It’s all sort of…initially our reaction is, “God, she’s weird,” or, “She doesn’t like herself,” but in the end we realize it’s like no, she’s different and she’s just being sort of alien, so she’s having these…And then the stuff with the dogs, [inaudible 01:12:59] her dog is watching her the whole movie and he’s having sort of like…And the other dogs that she comes across they also…like the dog that is it the end of the movie that she has taken the service dog vest off of and then that first scene, the dog looks at her when she approaches him and the dog takes a step back. So the dogs are all having these reactions to her too and they’re looking at her.
So a sum total of all of the behavior of how the dogs and her own behavior, how she’s slapping her boyfriend. She doesn’t know how…nothing’s conventional with her. That’s the call back for me, is like yes, there’s nothing that…It definitely, and I think this is another reason why people don’t like the movie is that…and trust me, I mean, people like the movie, people like Dog Bowl. I know I keep saying that but I’m just trying to be fair that it got to many festivals but it did not get into every one and not everybody likes Dog Bowl and I think one of the reasons is that it does take a tone or is it genre shift in the movie that is unexpected.
Some people think it’s awesome and I think other people it makes them kind of go, “What is this?” and they don’t like it. It kind of is too…it throws them out of their comfort zone or it’s not that they’re not comfortable, it just doesn’t work for them and that’s…I think it’s totally legitimate for people to have that experience because it is a weird movie. It’s a weird movie, it’s strange and thank God for Marci Miller who played the girl because she’s an extraordinary actress. If you did not have her playing, you would not be able to look at it and see. Marci is so different from Debra. She’s a completely very lovely, well spoken, courteous girl from the Mid-West and totally not like Debra.
But one of her favorite scenes was the scene in the alley by the dumpster which is one of the scenes that sometimes puts people off because she said that so, Debra. She just is out there and then the guy walks away and she’s like, “Where did you go?” It’s like she doesn’t even…she’s just having a totally alien reaction to what…she’s just out there, she’s like, “This is awesome,” you know? And then he leaves and she’s like, “What!” She’s confused and she always liked that scene which is always like I always thought it was interesting, but it was because it really does reflect…it’s total Debra and Debra is not from here. So that’s why she’s having a…but it ended up being this lovely commentary on how some of us, all of us have felt different at times and we’ve also felt hurt by that.
I think that that’s why a lot of people really connect to the movie because they’re like, “I totally I’m like her, I’ve done that,” and I feel like that sometimes. And then you realize that once we found out what we love to do and who we are we find out that we’re special I guess like she finds out, like this is who you are. Once she has that knowledge it’s like, I know where I’m from. And she just has a big smile on her face at the end of the movie because it’s like…That’s what I, I think that’s the journey for everybody. And we might have to do that journey a few times in life. We might have to do it several times in life but we know what that journey is and it’s always worth it and at the end we’ll be like, “Oh, I do have a purpose,” and I think she has clarity at the end.
Ashley: Yeah, for sure. So I always like to wrap the interviews, there’s so much great TV on Netflix, Hulu, all of these. Is there anything that you’ve recently watched that you felt was just outstanding that you would recommend to our audience?
Gordy: Okay, other than starting to watch Mission Impossible again, the old episodes I started to watch them. I think they are either on Netflix or Hulu or something really easy. But I started to watch the beginning of that and they’re incredible. They’re so awesome and they’re done so well and they’re very complex and I had to find myself reading the synopsis. But I just really enjoyed them. I was shocked at how…I was like, “These are so good, how did they write these stuff?” I know that that’s an old show but I…
Ashley: I know, that’s a great recommendation. That’s totally [crosstalk]
Gordy: I’m sure a lot of people have never watched it but it’s like…and there’s like over a hundred episodes and I just started watching them and you’re just like, “Wow, this is a bad ass little show and it’s really inspiring because it’s very, very different. And I also loved Baskets. You know the show with Louis Anderson and Zach Galifianakis. A lot of people haven’t watched that show. I don’t know, maybe the marking is not there for people or something. There’s just so much TV but if you like comedy and that’s a little bit different. I think it’s hilarious, I think it’s brilliant and Zach Galifianakis is just…he plays two brothers, they’re twins, so he’s basically doing…and Louis Anderson is playing their mother and he won an Amy. Louis Anderson won an Amy for it.
It’s an amazing show. So that’s an amazing show. And then the other thing that I think people should watch is Black-ish. I don’t think people…I know a lot of people do watch it, but a lot of people that I talk to never…I don’t ever find anybody watches it. Everybody I go, “Do you watch Black-ish?” And I’m telling you, that is a bad ass, all in the family level…That’s why it’s got all the awards and it’s gonna be on for a while and [inaudible 01:19:24] has a spin off with the daughter called Grown-ish which I have not watched. But Black-ish is just…it is amazing. It’s really…it’s brilliant, the acting is brilliant, the ideas are brilliant. It’s incredibly funny, it’s very honest, it’s very risky. Some of the shows you’re like, “Wow!” You’re like, “Okay, this is what this is about?” Or, “This is what the jokes are gonna be about?”
And they just go there and it’s so truthful. I think it’s a show that people just think, “Oh,” and sadly that’s what it just is. They go, “Well, that’s a black show or whatever or something. Some of the audience they think of like, I donno, some show with Will Smith or something and they think it’s a silly show that’s not like what it really is. I think people do know about Black-ish, but I would highly recommend Black-ish to writers, to people writing comedy, to people who love television, people writing television. So those are three of them, Black-ish, Baskets and Mission Impossible.
Ashley: All good recommendations. I’ll definitely check those out because these are all things that I have not seen. So what’s going on at BlueCat? Maybe you can kind of talk about that a little bit. You’d mentioned you have a deadline approaching on that. But maybe you can just tell us what you’re doing over at BlueCat and list some deadlines for people.
Gordy: Okay, well BlueCat is a screenplay competition. We’re at www.bluecatscreenplay.com, you’ll have the link. We just passed our final deadline on February 20th for screenplays. We are still accepting short films, we have a late deadline for short films, March 18th. I’m not sure when this podcast is going up but that’s when that deadline is. We just passed…we open again for submission September 1st. We always accept…BlueCat is always open for submissions in September, October, November every year. We just finished something off but once we open again in September it will be annual in the fall, so whenever you listen to this podcast if it be whatever time of the year or years from now, BlueCat is always open in the fall for submissions.
We’ve been around for 20 years now. We started in 1998. Everybody who enters BlueCat gets written feedback. If you’re wondering where I get all of my comments and opinions on feedback and writing and everything else it’s because I’ve been judging BlueCat for 20 years and also talking to writers about their work for almost as long and so I know about that process and I’m also in the WGA. I’m a professional writer myself and a filmmaker, so all of that sort of rounds up the picture of my perspective on all these things, so…
Ashley: Perfect, and I noticed too that you do a number of workshops around the world. Maybe you can just talk about those. You have any workshops coming up. And this episode probably won’t air until you’re in the [inaudible 01:22:33] so maybe not specific dates but even if it’s anything coming up in the summer.
Gordy: Yeah, I mean, generally you know you can find it on the website. Sometimes when I’m in New York, I’m in another city I will do one on one script consultations, I do workshops, I love to teach even when I don’t need to teach for money I always teach a class because it enriches me as a writer. I taught a class last year at USLA and I love teaching because it humbles me and I feel obligated to give it away and to help other writers. I love the discussion…it’s always about my craft, and I think that…I advice anyone who can teach and has the opportunity to teach to do that. Yeah, so I have like…sometimes I’ll have an online Skype class, I will sometimes have in person workshops in Los Angeles, but generally a lot of that information is found on the BlueCat website.
But in general I do love teaching because it keeps me green and I keep learning and every time I have to tell somebody about something it affirms things for me. It’s the same thing we were talking about earlier, what we were talking about how J.J Abrams was processing the feedback for the movie that he produced. We were able to spark that discussion about how we take feedback and how we create equity for ourselves and how we develop our careers and our scripts going forward with that equity.
Ashley: Yeah, perfect. And is there any other things you wanna just mention a twitter account, Facebook page. I will get www.bluecatscreenplay.com and I’ll put that in the show notes but if there’s any other places that you frequent we can mention those as well and I’ll get those for the show notes.
Gordy: People can find me on BlueCat and if you wanna watch Dog Bowl it’s on [inaudible 01:24:33]. I wrote a movie called Love Lies that was about 15 years ago, that some people like. You can also find that streaming online as well. Like I said, you can find me through googling me, and BlueCat’s pretty much everywhere where you have social media everywhere. I have a lot of videos on YouTube too and I donno if we monetize those or not, it’s a not a pitch to go there and do that but if you just wanna learn we have a lot of content. We’ve had some great bloggers for us. I’ve written a lot of blogs, so if you are a story teller and you’re struggling on anything there’s a lot of topics that we cover that are out there that are free. It’s all free.
Ashley: Yeah, perfect. Well, Gordy, always a pleasure to talk with you. I wish you luck. More with Dog Bowl and whatever project you’re working on next.
Gordy: Thank you.
Ashley: Cool man, will talk to you later.
Gordy: Talk to you soon.
I just wanna mention a new service that I recently launched at Selling Your Screenplay. I built the SYS Select Screenplay data base. Screenwriters can upload their screenplays along with a log line, synopsis and other pertinent information like budget and genre and then producers search for and hopefully find screenplays that they wanna produce. Dozens of producers are already in the system looking for screenplays and we’ve already had our first success story where a producer optioned a screenplay. To learn more about this service just go to www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com. When you join SYS Select you get access to the screenplay database that I just mentioned, but you also get a whole host of other products and services.
Those services include a monthly newsletter that goes out to our list of over 400 producers who are actively seeking writers and screenplays. Each SYS Select member can pitch one screenplay in this monthly newsletter. We also have screenwriting leads. We have partnered with one of the premier paid screenwriting leads sites so I can syndicate their leads to SYS Select members. There are lots of great paid leads coming in each week from our partner. Recently we’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 screenwriter 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 specs script, to producers looking to hire a screenwriter to write up one of their ideas or properties. Producers are looking for shots, features, TVs and web series pilots. It’s a huge array of different types of projects that these producers are looking for and these leads are exclusive to our partner and SYS Select members. Also as a member of SYS Select you will get help with your log line and query letter. We have a screenwriting forum where you can post your log line, post your query letter and you will get some notes on that to help improve those. Also in the forum are recorded screenwriting classes that I’ve done over the last couple of years, so you can find out all about those by just going to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/online-classes just to see all the online classes that are available. Once again, if this sounds like something you would like to learn more about or potentially sign up for just go to www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com.
On the next episode of the podcast I’m going to be interviewing Steve Deering. Steve reads screenplays for the SYS Select analysis service and he’d recently just optioned a screenplay through the new SYS Select database He’s been reading screenplays for various companies for years so he’s got a lot of great insight about what makes a screenplay work, so we’re gonna talk about that and then we’ll also talk about this recent option that he got through the SYS Select screenplay database. Keep an eye out for that episode next week. Anyway, that’s the show, thank you for listening.