Ashley: Welcome to Episode #235 of the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger of the www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing writer-director Ryan Bellgardt who just did a film called The Jurassic Games. Ryan is a filmmaker living and working in Oklahoma, so it’s another great story about a guy who’s far from Los Angeles. We talk about his career running a production company in Oklahoma and how he has been able to use that experience to produce The Jurassic Games which is his third feature film. Stay tuned for that 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 or sharing 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 #235. 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.
A quick few words about what I’m working on. As mentioned over the last couple of weeks, The Pinch, the crime feature film that I wrote, directed and produced last year is at least for a limited time available for sale on the website. Just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/thepinch. The Pinch is all one word and it’s all lower case. I’m gonna keep it for sale on the website for a couple of more weeks and then I will be rolling it out to iTunes and Amazon after that. Also for just an extra five dollars you can bundle the film The Pinch with the three-hour webinar that I did on making the film. I go into great detail about every aspect of the production, the writing, everything about this film, writing the screenplay, raising the money, producing the film. This is a great chance to see the completed film and also see the behind the scenes of how I actually made it.
Again if you’d like to check out The Pinch go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/thepinch and of course I will link to it in the show notes as well. In terms of my own writing I am going to finish doing the rewrite on my kid’s animated show. I’ve been talking about that one over the last few weeks. I did a draft, got some notes last week from my writers group and so now I’m just implementing those notes. I should be done with that within the next couple of days and then I’ll start sending that out to producers. I mentioned that I’ve been doing some rewriting on the kid’s live action mystery show that I wrote earlier in this year. I’m still waiting to get some notes back from a producer on that project so I think I will be spending some more time on that in the near future but I just have not heard back from that producer yet.
And then I’ve been talking with another producer about possibly producing the low budget sexy thriller that I wrote over a year ago. The intention with this script originally was to sort of shoot it low budget like The Pinch. Maybe a little bit of a bigger budget, maybe try and get a little bit of cast in it but basically kind of just do what I did with The Pinch on that. So I got a producer I’ve been talking with about that, so hopefully over the next couple of weeks I’m gonna start jumping back on that really tightening up the script. The script definitely needs some work. I never really polished the script up as well as I thought it could be polished up just because I was sort of waiting to see where I was gonna land in terms of production and budget and these kinds of things. That’s gonna be a lot of the rewriting.
The script right now I think is like 100 pages or 105 pages and I’ve got to get it down to like 90 pages. So there’s a lot of stripping on that. There’s definitely some character moments and story bits that probably need a little polish as well. I’d say that’s kind is my big assignment that I’m gonna be taking on writing wise here in the next couple of weeks once I get some of these other things out of the way. So lots of rewriting I would say is in my near future. This is kind of a good sign. You just always wanna polish these scripts up and polish your work up, make it as good as possible, get it to the point where you feel confident sending it out. So lots of rewriting on these projects in the next couple of weeks and then we’ll kind of see how all that lands and then hopefully I’ll be able to start to get some of these things to production.
So that’s what I’m working on. Now let’s get into the main segment. Today I am interviewing writer-director producer Ryan Bellgardt. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Ryan to the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Ryan: It’s my pleasure, thanks for having me.
Ashley: 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?
Ryan: Well, I’m from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. I’ve lived here my entire life. I started about…wow, it’s been about…20 years ago now I got into the radio business and started doing morning radio and I really kind of got my start writing for that, writing a lot of comedy skits and thing like that and I learned from a really talented mentor about that. That kind of grew as I went into more of production side of things, I started getting into video production and I got into 3D Animation and things like that. And so fast forward 20 years later and here I am now using kind of all of those skills that I learned to now write and direct movies.
Ashley: And you’re still in Oklahoma City right now?
Ryan: I am. Yea, we’re based in Oklahoma City.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. What would you say was sort of your first foray making that transition from radio into film? How did you make that? What were those steps, what did those steps look like?
Ryan: Well, I kind of went from radio into television because those worlds kind of live together and I have radio clients that were asking me to do television commercials for them. So I started doing…I picked up a camera and figured it out and I started doing television commercials and from there I got involved in a company called Boiling Point Media which is my company now that I’m currently the president of and we just started doing all kinds of video productions for corporate clients, television commercials, and then we ended up doing…I’m a little bit out of order but I know it doesn’t matter too much, but we also ended up doing some interstitials on television, a local television channel. We did a thing where we would host the Saturday night movies and so we would write and produce little five minute kind of interstitials that would go on kind of like a dinner and a movie kind of thing.
And then from there we asked the TV station if they would let us do a half hour special and they did. So we ended up doing half hour kind of narrative specials that would go on during the [inaudible 00:07:04] because they would go on during the holidays when the news team didn’t wanna work, they couldn’t work so they would throw one hour. And it was cool because they gave us no restrictions other than it had to be appropriate for broadcast television but we really did anything we wanted to, so we ended up writing those things more like little movies. We did one that was nominated for a regional Amy and then we did another one after that that won an Amy Award and I was like, “Wow, this is like really fun, I love doing this.” So I think that from that point we had done a lot of video work but I had a friend of mine named Josh McKinney who is now the director of photography on our movies.
I saw a movie he made with a friend of his for a very low budget but it looked really really good and they had done it on DSLRs and I was like, “You know, I think I can do that.” From there about five years ago we made our first movie which is Army of Frankensteins which I wrote the screenplay for that one and then we went on to make Gremlin and then we went on to make Jurassic Games and now where working on our fourth one. So it just kind of snow balled from there.
Ashley: So as you were starting out your career in radio were you on the same sort of commercial side where you were producing so it was very technical, you were like producing audio commercials for clients?
Ryan: Yeah, that’s correct. And even during that time I had a little home recording studio in my house so I was very much involved with the technical side of things so I did learn a lot of the technical side of producing stuff whether it be radio, music even. And then using the same muscles in the brain to move from that to then producing a video or CGI animation even. To me it’s just like I wanted to create stuff in any way that I could create stuff whether it be audio or visual or whatever was very appealing to me and I just loved doing it. I loved the process of doing that.
Ashley: Was there anything in the back of your mind that, “Hey, I love movies, really I wanna do movies,” or it was just a very much organic process of just slowly going along and realizing that you are in a position to do movies?
Ryan: I think everybody loves movies. I grew up loving movies and I’ve been influenced by movies more than I can probably even imagine. Honestly I imagined myself being a film composer. Like I love music, I went to school for music and I thought that I would maybe…if I was in film it was always kind of a dream to be a film composer. When I found myself organically in a position to direct movies I thought to myself, “Well okay, I can be a film composer now because I’m making my own movie. I can hire myself to be the composer.” It turned out that that was just way too much work and a terrible idea and I found a great composer named David Hamilton who came in and taught me a really valuable lesson inadvertently, that I need to be able to surround myself with people that are better than me at all these stuff and then the movies will be a lot better, rather than trying to do everything by myself.
So that was cool and it’s been really fun working with David and he kind of showed me that I had no business trying to be a film composer when guys like David are out there who are really, really good at it.
Ashley: One of the things that I noticed, you three movies- Gremlin, The Army of Frankensteins and now The Jurassic Games, they’re very much sort of genre pieces. I’m not even sure who the distributor is, but is it Uncork’d Entertainment, I think at least at Gremlin, correct?
Ashley: They feel like that type of a movie. Living in Oklahoma, how did you even know, came up with an idea like Army of Frankensteins, how did you know that it would even be marketable? How did you even know that that was something that would be possible?
Ashley: We didn’t. I think a lot of this business is definitely hard work and perspiration and inspiration and all those things that they say but it’s also luck. I think we had kind of just like there was something in the water or something because when we came up with idea for Army of Frankensteins we were joking around a little bit with our buddies here and we were saying that…we were thinking of the twilight books and we were like, “You know an army of vampires,” and somebody said, “You never see an army of the lumbering old classic Frankenstein monsters, wouldn’t that be funny.” And then another guy said, “Oh yeah, throw them back into the civil war or something.” And I’m like, “Wow!” So it was one of those damn ideas that just wouldn’t die.
We kept having ideas to go with it and I finally had five or six pages of just notes we would write down at lunch until finally I was like, “I think I can write this into a story, into a screenplay.” And I did. It took me a while to write the story and I kind of used the notecard method of planning out scenes and I had an outline and stuff and then the screenplay itself didn’t take that long. Once we got into that we just said, “Hey, we’re gonna make this thing.” And we did. My company at the time Boiling Point Media, I was in charge of the production team here so we just kind of decided on nights and weekends we would scrunch up the resources to put this thing together and we did. So when it was in the process of being made like I said we just kind of…[laughs] terrible pun but lightning sort of struck and there was five or six other Frankenstein movies that were being made around the same time.
I think you know I, Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein, Frankensteins Army, there was a lot of them and people were starting to mention those movies and they would mention ours too. I remember an article on Fangoria about all those movies and they mentioned ours and we were just like over the moon, like, “Wow, this is great. They’re talking about Frankenstein.” We got really lucky and then because of the buzz around that stuff sales agents started to reach out to us and say, “Hey, do you have anyone representing your movie?” And we didn’t know anybody anywhere outside of Oklahoma so we were thrilled to be able to hook up with our sales agent now who’s still with us- High Octane Pictures and Galen Christy. They did a great job with helping us sell Army of Frankensteins.
I learned a ton about the business side of filmmaking from that experience, and when it came to time to make Gremlin I was like, “Hey, what can we make that will really knock their socks off from a buyer’s perspective, like a distributor?” So we worked together with our sales agent to come up with a concept and the script and the story of Gremlin and the kind of stuff Gremlin had in it was appealing to buyers and then we amped that up times 20 on Jurassic Games where then High Octane came to me and said, “Hey, we wanna make a dinosaur movie with convicts and we know our buyers are gonna like that, we’ve been doing surveys, we’ve been talking to them, they want dinosaurs big time right now and pitcher stuff. So I then came back and said, “Okay, well here’s a couple of ideas. Here’s an idea about dinosaurs and convicts.”
They were like, “No, that won’t work in this territory,” and I was kind of starting to lose a little bit of heart because I was like, “Well, I don’t know how to make this idea work in a way that I love the idea.” I kind of liked it, I thought it was crazy but I always wanted to add one more thing to it. It’s kind of like, yeah there’s an army of Frankenstein’s but an army of Frankenstein’s in the civil war, that’s like…I wanted to do the same thing with everything I make. It was kind of like adding an extra piece and I remember coming up with the idea of what if the dinosaurs are virtual, what if it’s a game and they’re trying to survive in a game? What if it’s kind of like the running mare in which [inaudible 00:14:09] future where they’re on television and death row inmates are now being executed on TV and it’s controversial and the way they’re doing it is this outlanders game show where they’re having to survive against dinosaurs.
I remember thinking that. I remember thinking I was gonna pitch that to our sales agent and I hear his say, “Nah, nah, nah.” And I pitched it and they were like, “Oh, that’s great, I love it! That’s a great idea. You got already player one coming out so it’s tied in with all the stuff.” And so once they kind of gave me the okay, then I just started writing. A guy named Adam Hampton who was also plays Anthony Tucker in the movie is a great actor and director in his own right. He went with me many nights to Buffalo Wild Wings over the course of about a month or so and we hushed out this Jurassic Games story. I really like his writing. He’s kind of in the local scene here known for very good dialogue and very good character development and so that was something that I felt I was a little bit weaker at but I felt like I could do fun action stuff so I brought him in to help me.
I think that the result of that is Jurassic Games that might be a little deeper and more complex and it has a little bit more layers to the story that I think people are seeing it now and they’re kind of like, “Well, I thought this was gonna be really stupid but it’s actually kind of interesting.”
Ashley: So let’s take a step back and kind of run through the three films. Maybe just to start out in case people don’t know, maybe just give us a quick pitch to the Jurassic Games. Do you have a log line for that that you can just give us?
Ryan: Well, I do but I’ll try to remember it off the top of my head. It’s basically in the near future 10 death row inmates must survive a deadly game show between dinosaurs and each other. Whoever survives gets their freedom and all the rest will be executed by lethal injection. That’s basically the gist of it.
Ashley: The other question I had again just looking at sort of your resume of films, especially for low budget films, they’re heavy on special effects. Were you doing special effects in your commercial and industrial work so you had some sort of a back ground and knowledge of this and know what you could do on a budget?
Ryan: Yeah, kind of. About 10 years ago I started learning visual effects as just a hobby just because it was something that I really thought was the ultimate playground. You can have a blank canvas and literally if you knew how to use that software you can make anything you can dream up. That to me was the coolest idea so I started learning it just in my free time. It took me a long time. It took me literally 10 years before I felt anywhere confident enough to be able to do something like Gremlin which is our second movie which featured about 150 shots of a CGI character. Even then I had to hire someone to help me to do the animation. We hired Stephani Roche who came in and did all the character animation because I just wasn’t very good at it.
But still going through that movie and doing all those visual effect shots gave me the confidence and the understanding on how to do it and then when it came time for Jurassic Games we hired on three or four more specialist people that could help us do all the visual effect shots and then Jurassic Games is about 700 visual effect shots so it was ambitious and a lot of work but the team pulled it off somehow. It’s a miracle kind of.
Ashley: Yeah, so let’s talk about your writing process. You just described, it sounds like you’re just sort of spit-balling ideas and I guess with Galen at the [inaudible 00:17:37] so you’re coming up with an outline. Once you have a solid outline how long does it take you then to write up the script? We’re talking a week, we’re talking a month?
Ryan: Man, I wrote the Jurassic Games script in three days and it was because my outline was really pretty much the script. The actual like going into final draft and formatting everything really didn’t take me very long because all I was really doing was tweaking a little bit of dialogue or coming up with some dialogue. But like really every single scene had been note-carded before that. So the technique that I like to use is that we will spitball the ideas and it always starts with like, “Okay, this is one page or two pages just random thoughts,” and then as we have our meetings wherever we’re going with whoever I’m writing with we’ll just like you said spitball ideas back and forth until I’ve got enough of those idea that I can start formulating a plot or a story. And then it takes quite a bit of time.
I probably spend three or four months on just doing that stuff until I’ve figured out that okay, I’m at the note card stage where I start with maybe 20 note cards and then hitting all my main beats and then I start filling in note cards. I might have had like 40 note cards that were…I try to make them kind of like each scene is a notecard but obviously there’s a lot more scenes than 40 scenes but this one with Jurassic Games was so kind of like…we spent so much time in that phase of it that when I actually sat down to write the scripts it only took me three days. I was kind of like, once I sat down I didn’t really get up for three days. It was very quick, and then I wrote that first draft which I consider a vomit draft anyway, and then once I sent that over to Galen to look at he starts to kind of go through and red line stuff and change stuff. I’m not so worried that my first draft needs to be perfect or great.
It just needs to be there. It just needs to get from point A to point B. And then we’ll go in and we’ll change it and we probably went through three or four revisions in drafts. Maybe revision four is the one we ended up shooting but I think by the time we had done this many movies and this many scripts I was very aware of writing only what I needed and writing scenes that I…I was kind of editing the movie as I was writing the scripts to make sure that the movie was really, really, really tight. I just didn’t want anyone to ever say, “Well, it’s kind of slow and boring.” That’s issues that I had with the previous two films where especially Army of Frankensteins ran an hour and 50 minutes. It was just like it’s 20 minutes too long. I think that I tried to make Gremlin tighter and tighter too but even part of Gremlin people criticized about being slow and I was like there’s no way Jurassic Game is gonna be slow.
It’s not. It’s not gonna be…so I just did everything I could to in the edit make it as tight as I could so much that I was worried the movie was gonna be too short. There wasn’t a whole lot of stuff to cut out when we were trying to make it tighter. It was a really fun movie to write because the story could have been told from a few different perspectives. It could have been told from inside the game, it could have been told from the point of view of the producers and it could have been told from the point of view from someone at home watching. It’s always fun to sort of paint the different moments that would be told from when and where. I was a little bit worried that the movie would end up being choppy or hard to follow because we were weaving in and out of these different places that the story could be told from.
We’re weaving two story lines together which have to kind of come together at the end. I think that when I saw the first rough edit of it I was like, “Well, it actually looks pretty good.” So I was pretty happy because I was worried that it was gonna be very choppy and hard to follow.
Ashley: So you keep talking about this team and having this meetings as you’re developing the outline. Maybe you can describe who is in those meetings. Obviously Galen, you’ve mentioned him, but who else is sort of part of this team, this development team that you have?
Ryan: Well, the key guys on my team are Josh McKinney and then [inaudible 00:21:38] who have been with me from the very beginning. And Andy does a lot of editing and coloring and Josh does the DP work and camera work and Andy does too but those guys have been instrumental in just being idea guys with me from the very, very beginning and they were my writing partners on Army of Frankensteins and even through Gremlin and then Jurassic Games they were more involved with the production side of it and on the writing side of it it was more Galen and Christie who is the sales agent and then Adam Hampton who was the writer. He also was the lead actor in the movie but he’s also a writer and local director. He was the guy…the three of us, Adam and I were ones that did most of the throwing stuff against the wall and coming up with characters and all that stuff.
And Galen was there to just sort of, like any time I had notes or updates he would guide me through that process. What’s great about Galen is that he’s so in touch with what buyers want that it was very easy for him to see a flaw in our scripts that he would be like, “Hey, avoid this because certain territories don’t like this.” So we’re making a sales movie that is hopefully as appealing as possible to every territory that’s out there that can buy movies, but me as a writer and as a filmmaker I still wanna make this not just some kind of cookie cutter thing. I wanna make it interesting. I wanna tell a good story. I love genre movies, I grew up on Hollywood Blockbusters and stuff like that, so I’m not trying to make a bad movie or a B movie. I’m trying to make…I wanna make The Avengers if I can but I don’t have the same kind of resources.
So I’m doing the best I can to make a Hollywood type movie, and action, fun, adventure, popcorn type movie with a small budget. That’s gonna be perceived as a B movie no matter what, but I’m really proud of that. Those core guys in the team plus everybody else that works on the movie is like kind of believed in Jurassic Games so much that they gave everything into it and so to me it feels like something that ended up being a little bit better than the [inaudible 00:23:32], you know what I’m saying?
Ashley: Yeah, absolutely. I’m curious, is Galen in Oklahoma or this was like via Skype or Telephone that you…
Ryan: Yeah, Galen’s in…he’s based out of Los Angeles.
Ashley: So it wasn’t in person meetings with him?
Ryan: Well, there were. He comes and visits us sometimes or I’d go out there sometimes but yeah, mostly it’s telephone. Like I would send him a draft and he’d be on the plane, he’d read it and then he’d call me and…there a joke I made about Gremlin is that he would call and say something like, “Oh man, I read the script for Gremlin and I just love it, it’s fantastic.” And then for two hours he would tell me everything he wanted me to change about it [laughs]. But still he was great and I listen. I want his input. I want other people’s input because I don’t think that without it these things would be nearly as successful as they are.
Ashley: Yeah, for sure. I’m curious too, you mentioned that he would often say, “Yeah, this isn’t gonna fly in this territory and this might fly in this territory.” Can you give us some specifics on that, like some specific examples of things that maybe you were thinking of putting in the movie but had to dial back because maybe it would hurt the sales potential. I think that would be fascinating for screenwriters to hear.
Ryan: Yeah, one that I can think of at the top of my head is we knew that we wanted to kind of like with Jurassic Games aim for Asia because Asia’s huge. Japan and China are huge markets. And so we were coming up with a scene at the end where I thought it was pretty just okay well, let’s have them eating take out at the end. They were eating something, it didn’t matter what they were eating but I thought, “This would be a nice little nod, we’ll just have them eating take out.” And I thought, “But you know what, I’m gonna call Galen and make sure that there’s nothing weird about this or whatever.” And so I called him and he said, “Oh, I’m so glad you called me because whatever you do, I think it’s a good idea to do takeout, whatever you do, do not have a chopstick sticking just sticking into the rice up out of the rice.” I was like, “Okay, why?”
And he goes, “I’m pretty sure that’s some kind of bad luck symbol for death or something like that.” And I was like, “Okay well, they won’t do that.” So there was that, there was also like…I think in my script it was the 15th Jurassic Games, and he was like, “Can you make it the 8th Jurassic Games?” And I’m like, yeah, it didn’t matter.” And he said, “Yeah, because eight is a really lucky number in Japan.” So it’s stuff like that. There’re things that I’m always told to avoid and they’re cultural things that you wouldn’t really think about like I’ve been told that time travel is something to avoid. So even though our first movie had time travel in it but I didn’t know at the time but time travel in Asian countries can be considered taboo because of their religious beliefs and things like that.
So time travel, anything like resurrecting a body from the dead, really a lot of stuff that was in Army of Frankensteins was taboo in Asia and so it didn’t do very well in Asia. That’s why I said, “Okay, I’m gonna make my next movie where it has the best chance to do the best in can in every territory, so I’m gonna avoid certain things. And then just the types of people you cast kind of matters. It’s just good to have some diversity in the cast to represent some of the other territories and things like that. Yeah, it’s weird stuff that you wouldn’t ever really think about, like stuff that’s good luck or bad luck that in American culture just doesn’t mean anything.
Ashley: Yeah. And was there anything sort of the typical stuff like language, nudity, violence, blood, are those ever conversations that you talk about with Galen?
Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. For Army of Frankensteins and Gremlin we kind of were going for more of an R kind of rating as far as the gore and language. I asked him about nudity because I don’t really have any issues with it but I said, “You know, do you think we need it, do you think we don’t?” He said, “I personally I’m not a fan of it unless it serves the story or there’s a reason for it,” and he goes, “I’d just say avoid it because why give them something to censor?” And the same kind of goes with gore. If something is over gory and they have to censor out 20 minutes in the movie then they’re not gonna buy in say the Philippines. I know there was a scene in Gremlin that was a scene of a creature coming out of a character stomach kind of like [inaudible 00:27:53] and I thought like, “Well, I did the best I could on the CG and that didn’t look very real but here it is.”
It ended up being edited out of the movie in the Philippines and I was like, “Why,” and they said because they just thought it was there for censorship and they censored it. When I remember about my eight year old son, he was helping me work on that scene and he was like, “It doesn’t look very real dad.” And I’m like, “I know, but it’s the best I can do.” So it’s funny to me that they censored it in another country but again with Jurassic Games we are going for more of a PG 13 and just kind of like again broadening our audience to the most possible territories and people that can watch it. There’s not much language, I don’t think we’ve done nudity yet in any of our movies. It’s not because we’re against nudity, it’s just because the stories never call for nudity.
Ashley: So what does the relationship look like between your company and High Octane Pictures? For this particular one did they finance the movie, do they give you a minimum guarantee or is it more just based on the relationship that you have with Galen?
Ryan: Well, it is based on the relationship we have with Galen and Boiling Point Media is my company and we’re basically a production company so we could like [inaudible 00:28:59] a movie. If you had a script or a budget and an idea we could then, even if you didn’t have a script we could take your concept and if you have the budget we can completely turn it into a finished movie. That’s how we do it here. Galen is a sales agent and distributor so he sells movies to different territories including domestically and then they also have the ability to distribute their own movies which they’re getting into more and more. And so our companies sort of just have partnered up in that with that relationship and we’ve worked together enough now that he trusts us to be able to deliver on budget and on time and we just have a very close kind of friendship and working relationship.
With Jurassic Games they financed Jurassic Games and came to us with a budget and said that, “Here’s what we want this movie to be made for, can you do it?” And we were like, “No, but we’ll try.” So that was kind of what happened. I think investors are very happy, Galen’s very happy and we got the movie done on time so that makes me very happy.
Ashley: Yeah. And it seems like too one thing that kicked off this whole sort of relationship with Galen was somehow getting the Frankenstein movie listed as you said in these other things. And you’re in Oklahoma, and I’m just curious as you said that I was thinking, how did you get like you were on some sort of Fangoria or something listed with these other Frankenstein movies. How did you even get your movie out there enough to even be listed? Do you have a publicist or something that was out there trying to do something? How did you even get listed with these other movies?
Ryan: Galen told me…well, we were on IMDb. I just put the movie on IMDb and on IMDb Pro and I know Galen and what those sales agents do is that they will just kind of scour IMDb for things that are fresh on there and if it fits what they’re looking for they’ll reach out because they’re looking for content. If your content is fortunate enough to march what people are looking for which Army of Frankensteins was crazy enough and had the Frankenstein thing going on that I was approached by three or four sales agents at the time. So it was just strictly IMDb. I know that as it was starting to pick up a little bit of buzz with our trailer that we made, we were starting to get more inquiries on our Facebook page. We have a Facebook page too that people would reach out to us on
I know our distributor ended up being [inaudible 00:31:14] for Army of Frankenstein’s and they reached out to us on Facebook. I talk a lot about this and people have a lot of hard time saying, “Hey, how come my movies, I’m trying to give it to everyone and no one seems interested,” and I kind of keep thinking to myself, “Well, if you’re making what they want they will find you.” That’s the trick though is how do you know what they want? I think having a relationship with a sales agent who’s got a lot of connections with buyers, they’re daily talking about what they’re wanting. And it changes all the time. Sometimes they want Western, a year ago they didn’t want anything to do with Westerns but now they’re saying, “Hey, do you have Western?” So it just changes and you have to sort of be ahead of it.
They’re really good at predicting trends or if you know Jurassic World is coming out this summer so they’re like, “Hey, dinosaur movies are gonna be hot, everyone’s gonna be talking about them and we’re gonna do a dinosaur movie too. That’s kind of why Jurassic Games happened. So I’m thinking what’s my advice for someone out there trying to write and get their stuff discovered or work done, produced. For me it was like well no one’s gonna buy Army of Frankenstein the script, I was gonna make it myself. But then we did make it and it ended up getting the attention it did which allowed us to then have that relationship with the sales agent that allowed us to make movies that were closer to what buyers were looking for. And so now it’s almost like I would never write a script without having that information beforehand as to what somebody wants.
It’s not necessarily that they’re giving me a script even as much as like I know that for example a company might be wanting a dragon movie and they’re willing to pay a lot for a good dragon movie but they don’t have any idea of what kind of dragon movie, it’s just a dragon movie. So I can then pitch them five or six different dragon movie ideas and they can say, “Yeah, this will work the best,” and then from that idea I can go ahead and write a screenplay and they’re not necessarily so involved in the screenplay, they just want a good dragon movie with a lot of cool dragon trailer moments.
Ashley: Yeah, for sure. So one other question just going back to those early days. These distributors are reaching out to you or the sales agents are reaching out to you and Galen is one of them. Why did you go with Galen over these other three or four sales agents? What was it about him that you liked?
Ryan: What I liked about Galen was that he was small at the time. They were small and we were small and I just felt like we had a connection when we talked on the phone and we sort of had the same philosophy on what kind of makes something happen, and he liked the movie which I know he probably says that about every movie he tries to sign. He said something to me that made me want to work with him. It was, “Look, we don’t just want Army of Frankensteins, we want you guys and we want to work with you guys on every movie that you do moving forward. That was a different attitude than I was getting from some of the other agents that were just more like, “Hey look, this movie might do okay, so we’ll take it with us to the American film market and see if we get any bites.
That was just a lot different from the attitude that Galen came…Galen came to me with more of like a partnership attitude and I knew that they had come from bigger companies and they were like, “We wanna make a more filmmaker friendly company that would be…” Because you know you hear lots of stories about sales agents and distributors who take advantage of filmmakers and it’s not as easy to do. Especially as a filmmaker you want your stuff out there so you’ll kind of just sign up for anything and I think that the thing that we’ve been very fortunate about with High Octane and Galen is that they really did. Everything that they said they were gonna do they did and the money came and the opportunities came and we just kept working together and it’s been great.
Ashley: Yeah, so are there any ideas that are on the horizon? You mentioned like Westerns were not hot last year, now people are looking around for Westerns. Are there some things that writers should maybe be thinking about, some ideas that you’re starting to hear from sales agents or something to says, “Hey, these movies are getting hot now?” I’m just curious what those things might be.
Ryan: Well, I can’t say exactly what’s hot this very moment because like I said it changes a lot and I’m no expert in that. But I can tell you there’re things that I’ve been sort of told as generalities. If you’re trying to make a movie like this, like a sales movie, all you really have to do is think about how it translates to another culture. So if you imagine like American comedies and dramas don’t always translate very well to other cultures because…well comedy is easy because jokes that are funny to us makes zero sense to somebody at the Philippines or something like that. I think that’s why comedies are a hard sell internationally. Horror and sci-fi always do really well because if you think about the concept of dinosaurs eating people, it’s very primal. You don’t have to necessarily translate that or describe it.
That’s why horror does well, because it’s a monster or guy chasing a group of people that are secluded. Galen always likes those kinds of movies, they always do well internationally. So they’re always thinking about the international translatability of the movie. So that’s one thing to keep in mind. How do you make the movie look like a Hollywood movie whether it’s the highest production value you can get if you have city creatures with crumbling buildings or a big giant dinosaur eating somebody and it looks pretty decent. That is worth a lot. If you can pull that off then you’re getting this Hollywood kind of look and I think the whole idea here is that you’re sort of convincing the people that watch this trailer that, “Hey, this is a Hollywood movie.” If it looks super low budget or really bad then I think that’s potential for less sales.
Of course people on YouTube are gonna say everything look terrible so I’m not talking about them, I’m talking about the people that are buying these movies will look at something like The Jurassic Games and say, “That quality is enough for my audience to think that this is worth buying.” So there’s that and so like, well why dinosaur and giant Gremlin monsters? Well, that’s because I don’t have the money to put Brad Pitt in my movie or a big recognizable star, so the dinosaur is the star, the Gremlin monster is the star. I remember reading an article about movies without big names in them, they weren’t being bought by Walmart. This was around the time that we did Army of Frankensteins and I was just discouraged because I was like, “Oh no, does this mean Army of Frankensteins isn’t gonna be in Walmart?”
Galen said, “What are you talking about, you do have a big star in your movie.” I was like, “Who?” And he said, “Frankenstein!” I think that’s the key there. It’s like how can you write something into your script that’s gonna be a big draw without the name? So you can’t get Brad Pitt into your movie, but what can you put into your movie that everybody knows and if familiar with and can relate to? Frankenstein monster is definitely that. The answer was definitely that. I think that’s something to think about if you want to make a movie like this.
Ashley: For sure. So can you tell us what the release schedule for Jurassic Games is gonna be? When is it gonna be out and how can people see it?
Ryan: It’s gonna be released on VOD June 12th and streaming June 12th and then it will be on DVD in stores and other outlets, Amazon, places like that on July 3rd I believe. Yes, July 3rd.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. What’s the best way for people to keep up with what you’re doing? Website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, anything you’re comfortable sharing I’ll round up for the show notes.
Ryan: Sure, if you wanna find me on Twitter or Facebook I’m usually there. Facebook mostly but it’s just real easy, it’s just Ryan Bellgardt. There’s only one of me that I know of so R-Y-A-N B-E-L-L-G-A-R-D-T. So yeah, just shoot me a message on either of those. I love talking filmmaking with people and it’s funny because sometimes what people will send me their ideas or their pitches or their scripts and at first I was like a little hesitant to pass those along but Galen was like, “Heck no man, I’m always looking for stuff.” So he’ll tell you if it’s no good but on the chance that it’s good I’ll be happy to pass along stuff, so that might be a terrible idea to open that invitation. [laughs].
Ashley: Yeah exactly, you may get 10,000 emails.
Ryan: I don’t know.
Ashley: Well cool. Ryan, I really appreciate it. This has been a great interview, lots of great information. It’s fascinating too to hear someone not in LA because I get so many emails from people that are not in LA saying, “Hey, can I make a go at this, I’m I gonna be able to write or direct or produce or something?” You’re a living proof that it’s possible.
Ryan: You can. I say that a lot. I’ve been out to LA a few times and I’ve heard people out in LA say, “Hey, why aren’t you out here doing this and I realized kind of then that the only real difference between the people in LA doing it and the people anywhere else doing it is that they’re there and we’re here. I think there’s sort of a little bit of stigma maybe that, “Well, I’m just in Oklahoma and I can’t do this because the real people doing it are in Los Angeles or in New York or something. I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I mean, I can end with this, and I’ll try to keep it PG here but one of my favorite disses that we get is when people comment on our trailer or our movies and say, “I can’t believe Hollywood is putting out [inaudible 00:40:46] like this.”
And I’m like, “Wow, that’s awesome, they thought our movie was a Hollywood movie.” and we did it all here in Oklahoma, with Oklahoma people, with Oklahoma talent and casting crew and that kind of stuff can be done anywhere, in any state. With the technology that’s available today and just with the local talent and local film scenes that are going on now there’s absolutely no reason why. No one has ever once said, “Well, your movie wasn’t made in California, we don’t want it.” It doesn’t matter. If you’re making the right kind of movie it doesn’t matter where it was made.
Ashley: Yeah, for sure. Well, Ryan again, I really appreciate your time. Congratulations on getting this film finished and I look forward to talking with you again soon when you have another film.
Ryan: Thanks sir, I sure appreciate you.
Ashley: Perfect, thank you Ryan. Will talk to you later.
Ryan: Alright thanks.
I just wanna talk quickly about SYS Select. It’s a service for screenwriters to help them sell their screenplays and get writing assignments. The first part of the service is the SYS Select screenplay database. Screenwriters 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 in the system looking for screenplays right now. I launched this service at the beginning of this year and we’ve already started to see some success stories. You can check out SYS Podcast Episode #222 with Steve Deering. He was the first official success story to come out of the SYS Select database. You can learn about all of this by going to www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com.
When you join SYS Select you get access to the screenplay database that I just mentioned along with all the other services that we’re providing to SYS Select members. Those services include the monthly newsletter that goes out to our list of 400 producers who are actively seeking writers and screenplays. Each SYS Select member can pitch one screenplay in this monthly newsletter. We also 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 leads run the game, there’s producers looking for specific types of spec script to producers looking to hire a screenwriter to write up one of their ideas or properties.
They’re are looking for shots, they’re looking for features, TVs and web series pilots, all types of different projects. If you sign up for SYS Select you’ll get these leads emailed directly to you several times per week. Also you can get access to the SYS Select forum where we will help you with your log line and query letter and answer any screen writing related questions that you might have. Also in the forum are all the recorded screenwriting classes that I’ve done over the years, so you’ll have access to all of those as well. The classes cover every part of the writing process from concept to outlining to the first act, second act, third act as well as other topics like writing short films and pitching your projects in person. Once again, if this sounds like something you would like to learn more about please go to www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com.
On the next episode of the podcast I’m gonna be interviewing writer-director York Alec Shackleton who just did a feature film called 211 starring Nicholas Cage. We talk through his early years as a professional snowboarder and the doing some edgy documentaries and how he was able to turn those experiences into a career as a feature film director. Keep an eye out for that episode next week. So just to wrap thing up I wanna touch on a few things from today’s interview with Ryan. There’s a number of great lessons here. I thought one thing that was really interesting was Ryan’s description of how he got into special effects. So much of creative pursuits whether it be writing scripts, making a film an art project, any of these sort of creative pursuits. So much of it starts sort of with a curiosity and an interest in learning how to some of these things.
I think what Ryan did with the special effects, that was such a smart thing to do. He did not become an expert at special effects, he did not become the guy that’s creating high end special effects but he learned how to do it on his own in his spare time enough that he understood the process. Maybe he wasn’t necessarily the best person at it but by getting that real world experience actually doing some special effects for a super low budget film, he learned the process and probably learned how to pick good artists and how to find people that really do understand and that are really good at that process. I just think that’s so important for everything we are doing. This is a creative pursuit and it’s got to come with just sort of an interest and a curiosity and the ability just to go out there and just learn in our spare time.
That’s just a great lesson for all of us because so much of these projects and I think this is a good example, is it’s not just about the script. Especially this is a very special effect obviously it’s got dinosaurs, CGI dinosaurs so it’s such a great sort of marrying of the two skills, screenwriting, all his producing experience plus I guess the three skills, plus this background as well in CGI and computer graphics and special effects and that sort of stuff. So again, any way we can take these low budget projects and sort of combine them with some other talents and skills and stuff, it gives it the effect of being higher budget or being a bigger studio level type of a film. I would highly recommend this if you’re at all interested in sci-fi and effects heavy movies.
I would highly recommend checking this one out because this is really a great example of a low budget film that really has a lot of production value and looks really, really good. So if you’re at all interested in this kind of film and potentially writing this type of script again I would highly recommend checking this out. Really watch it, look at the details, look at the script and look at the details on the special effects and sort of understand what can be done on a lower budget and how it’s gonna ultimately turn out and look because again that can really, really impact your writing and hopefully make it better if you have some of the same skills and interests. Anyway, that’s the show, thank you for listening.