Ashley: Welcome to Episode #240 of the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger of the www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing legendary filmmaker Larry Cohen. He’s had a great career as a screenwriter writing such films as Phone Booth and Guilty as Sin and Maniac Cop, but has also written and directed a slew of classic B films such as Black Caesar It’s Alive and The Stuff. He’s a fascinating guy and gives an inspiring at least to me interview, so stay tuned for that. 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 #240. 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 a quick couple of words about what I’m working on. As mentioned over the last couple of weeks, I’m in the final stages of getting my crime, thriller feature film, The Pinch out into the world. This is gonna be the last announcement about our world premier which is gonna be at Action on Film in Las Vegas on Wednesday August, 22nd at 10:00 pm in the Brenden Theater which is located in the Palms Casino, again which is in Las Vegas. If you live in the area or close to the area and would like to see the film please do check that out. I will link to the information in the show notes. And if you do show up for the screening please do just stop by and say hello. I’ll definitely be there and it will be fun to talk to some people that listen to the podcast.
If you can’t make the screening in Vegas but still would like to see The Pinch, for a limited time I’m gonna be selling it directly from the website. Just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/thepinch. I’m gonna keep it for sale on the website for the next couple of weeks and then I’ll be rolling it out on iTunes and Amazon after that. I’m gonna try and get the release all set up to happen after the festival screening. That’s what I’m working towards. Last week I worked on getting the deliverables to the aggregator and to one of the distributors. There’s quite a bit of work just to get things in place. Specifically my editor was able to create my DCP. A DCP is just a standardized video format that can be played in movie theaters across the world. We created this DCP files, and it’s multiple files.
It’s basically like one directory and it’s got like six or seven files in it. I think it ended up being about 25 gigs. So I took all those files at DCP, put it on his 30 gig film drive and I mailed that into TAG. TAG is a service which helps you facilitate film screenings in regular movie theaters. So I’m gonna try and at least set up one screening for here in Los Angeles. Obviously I live in Los Angeles so it will be easy for me to go to that one and promote it and hopefully bring some people out. We’ll just see. I have no idea if there’s any interest in actually going to a live performance at this movie. But I think it would be an interesting test so I’m gearing up towards that. Again, I sent in the DCP to TAG and just working through that. What happens on that…and then I’m still a little unclear what the process is.
I have not been through it yet but basically they have everything they need for me. We picked a potential theater which is gonna be somewhere in the North Hollywood area, and then they have to go to the theater and see if they can set something up. That’s sort of what they are doing. That’s the value that they’re adding to the equation is they have pre-existing relationships with these various theaters. So basically I picked a day, I picked a time and then they’re gonna go back and say, “Okay, do you guys have a theater available that we could use?” And then they’re gonna sell like a minimum threshold and basically I’ve got to sell x number of tickets. I’m not exactly sure what that is at this point, but basically I’m gonna have to sell x number of tickets and if we meet that threshold then the screening will take place.
And this can be run…as I said TAG has relationships with theaters across the country so they can be run anywhere. They key though is you just need someone from the film production to show up at the theater and kind of run the event. So I don’t know how practical that will be outside of LA but at least in LA I should be able to pull one of these off. Anyways, that’s the theatrical screening. The next piece off this is obviously Amazons and iTunes and I’m using an aggregator for that. There’s quite a bit of paper work. They sent me a bunch of spreadsheets which I have a whole bunch of different pages within those spreadsheets. All the different platforms have slightly different paper work. They have slightly different ways of laying out the genre so you check what genre it is but it’s not like they all have the same genres.
Some of them have slightly different ones. So you got to work through these spreadsheets, kind of fill out that information. Then there’s a bunch of other just deliverable stuff. I mentioned the trailer. I recut that a little bit and we did the sound, did a little bit on the video. That was done a couple of weeks ago, so that’s in place. That’s a part of getting the deliverables ready is the trailer for this. Also they sent me a list of the different poster sizes. Each one of these platforms- Amazon, iTunes, I think Vudu, Google Play. There’s a number of these and they all have slightly different requirements on the art work. My outstanding poster designer had to recut the poster into different sizes. Thank you Michael for that.
Basically just working through…basically they just send you this long list of deliverables and you just start working through at getting everything up there. There was a close caption file that they needed so I got that made. I found a place that we do it fairly cheaply although my aggregator is telling me that they have seen other people use the same service and it may or may not work. I don’t wanna mention them right now. We’ll see if the close caption file actually does end up working for this or not, but it was pretty inexpensive. And then the big thing is the 4k file. I mean, there’s this 84 minute movie file which is high resolution 4k file and that is literally over 400 gigs. So this aggregator has the service where you can upload large files but at least with my internet connection I was not able to upload but they had it eventually died and was going on for days.
I was trying to upload this thing so I’m gonna ultimately have to put it on a hard drive. They’re located in Hollywood which is not too far from where I live so might drive it down there if I wanna get it down there quick. Or I’ll just drop it in the mail or take a day or two just to mail it down there. So that’s the other option that I’m weighing. But the bottom line is I’ve got to get these other deliverables in place first and then once I have all those set then I’ve got to actually deliver the 4k finished movie file to them so that they have that. Anyway, that’s what I’m working on. Now let’s get into the main segment. Today I am interviewing legendary filmmaker Larry Cohen. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Larry to the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Larry: Well, I’m glad to be here.
Ashley: So, to start out maybe you can tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up and how did you get interested in the entertainment business?
Larry: I grew up in Washington Heights, New York City up in Manhattan and loved going to the movies. In fact in those days the movies were double features and the movies changed every week. People don’t realize it but first when movies used to open on Wednesday, play through Sunday and they’d be gone. Monday and Tuesday was pictures day [inaudible 00:08:19] movies and then Wednesday the first thing features would start again and then they would play for five days and you didn’t see them, they were gone. It was almost like television today. Big movies with stars, whether there was [inaudible 00:08:35] Humphrey Bogart and they all played at five days and they were gone. So I went to the movies, I didn’t wanna miss anything. I was crazy about going to movies.
The managers usually had to throw me out of the theater when it got dark. I knew I always wanted to do that. When I was eight years old I was drawing my own comic books with pretty intricate stories and I started writing very early on.
Ashley: What do you think attracted you to storytelling? What was it about story telling that just attracted you?
Larry: I don’t know. It was just something I could do. You do what you can do, if you’re good at baseball or basketball or whatever. I was good at stories.
Ashley: What were some of your first steps to actually turning this into a career? You were going I assume high school doing these comics and stuff. When did you say, “Okay, this is something I might be able to actually make a career out of?” What were some of those first steps?
Larry: Well, I was in college and I started writing things and taking them around. Fortunately I was in New York City so I didn’t have to travel all the way from Kansas City or something. I was there and New York was the center of those days live television actually. You know, if you keep writing and keep submitting, someday somebody will buy something.
Ashley: Let’s talk about your transition from writer to writer-director. Through the 1960s you were working as a television writer, you were creating shows. Why did you decide to make that transition from just writer to writer-director?
Larry: Well, I segwayed writing for television into writing features. I wrote the sequel to the Magnificent Seven [inaudible 00:10:27] the Magnificent Seven and a bunch of other features. I was getting very good money at the time, a couple of hundred thousand a script, which is we’re talking about today’s equivalent would probably be some hundred thousand dollars. So I was doing very well, but I didn’t like the movies that were being made. They didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to be. The director’s didn’t handle the scripts pretty well and they would change things or omit things. Sometimes I would go to the set and talk to the directors and they didn’t like it. They didn’t like it when you came around. You were not welcome.
In live television you were welcome because they had to have you around because they had to change the script to set the time period. Sometimes a story would be too long or too short and in the day of the shoot you’d have to be on the set changing things. So you were always welcome in live television. When I went to film television you weren’t welcome anymore and you weren’t welcome in theatrical features because the directors were afraid to talk to the actors or something. So I didn’t like that pressure and I didn’t like the pictures that were being made, and so I had a choice to just be a disgruntled writer and stumble on Hollywood taking their money and being unhappy like so many writers, or else making it change and making my own movies.
I didn’t find it that difficult to do. Once I made my mind up to do it I found people to give me some money and let me make a picture and I was only interested in doing it if they could get out of the way and not come around and let me make my own movie, which is what happened.
Ashley: Okay. Maybe we can talk about that a little bit. How did you? Obviously at this point you had a pretty significant track record as a writer. But how did you get people to give you money basically without any oversight, what was the pitch on that?
Larry: Well, the first pitches I had the script all written so they could see what they were getting. The first pitch that I directed I went to a TV producer named Nick Vanoff who was producing things like Hollywood Palace and he was a successful television producer and he kind of wanted to dip his toe into features. I said, “Listen, I’ll make these pictures for you. You can give me the money. If you don’t get the money back I’ll write you a free screenplay. So that sounded like a reasonable deal to him and he gave me some seed money, not enough to make the whole picture and finish it but enough to get started. And that’s what I did.
I shot the picture and then I had to go find the rest of the money which meant slopping around with 10 years of picture and 10 years of track [inaudible 00:13:23] for people for a couple of [inaudible 00:13:29] till I finally found the guy who would give me the rest of the money so I could paint the laboratories and get the movie out of [inaudible 00:13:36] and actually deliver a finished picture. But it was my picture. I had written and directed it and controlled every scene and edited the picture my way and there was nobody’s input but myself. To his credit Nick Vanoff never asked me to write that free screenplay although he never got his investment back.
Ashley: Why did you decide on these B movies like Black Caesar, Hell Up in Harlem? Was that a creative decision, those were the type of movies you liked to write and direct, was it a business decision, those were the types of movies you thought you could get financed and could potentially make a profit. What was your thinking in sort of trying to do this B movies?
Larry: I never thought of them as B movies. I just thought of them as movies. I didn’t think that James Cagney and Public Enemy or Edward G. Robinson or Caesar were B movies. They were gangster movies at Warner Brothers. Black Caesar was a gangster movie. It only took place in Harlem. What was wrong with getting some black actors in some work for a change. I never thought of them as anything but [inaudible 00:14:49] movies. And they were good movies and people liked them. They still play today, 45 years later. People like them, they’re still out. They just came out with New Blu-Rays I think. So what can I tell you? Who knows what a B movie is. Many of the so called A movies are long forgotten and some of the B movies are classics today.
Ashley: Yeah, absolutely. I guess it was just that you were not necessarily connected with a studio and so you were getting these thing financed independently. Is that correct?
Larry: Well, [inaudible 00:15:24] International gave me they money for the Black Caesar movies. Warner Brothers gave me the money for it. So I got money from major studios. But usually they gave it to you on the sleigh. Sometimes these were none union pictures, the studios had to give you the money surreptitiously. But they were still giving you the money and the cheque cleared. They just didn’t want it known publicly that they were financing these pictures because they were outside of union regulations. But I couldn’t make the pictures as union Hollywood pictures because they would have cost three or four times as much as I could actually make the picture for. I always felt the reason I can make a movie, you give me the budget that you make the picture for at the studio and tell me and then I’d say, “Well, I can give you the same picture with the same taste for one third of that,” and I did.
Ashley: Let’s talk about your writing process a little bit. When you’re writing a screenplay how much time do you spend preparing to write, doing the outline, index cards versus actually in the screenplay and writing the dialogue and description and stuff.
Larry: Yeah, absolutely none. I just start writing.
Larry: When I’m writing pictures for myself I don’t do outlines. I don’t work out everything in advance. I have a good idea, I kind of know where it’s going, I often don’t know where it’s gonna end but I wanna find out. So every day when I go back to work I’m anxious to write because I don’t know what’s next gonna happen and I wanna find out what the characters are gonna do and where the story is going and I just can’t wait to get back to work again and find out what pops out of my own picture. But when I work at a studio for a development deal which I’ve done over the years because I like to cut off the money for the studios then you have you go and outline everything with them and then answer all their questions beforehand.
By the time you get finished you really don’t even wanna write it anymore. You’ve talked about it too much. There’s a difference between painting a picture. Just go out there with a bunch of paint and you create your painting and you do what you wanna do or else buying one of those kits where it’s all numbers and if you paint, paint number seven brown and number 8 or 12 grey or green and another one blue. You’re gonna get a picture of a cow on a pasture when you get all finished. But who the hell likes to paint a picture that way? That’s what writing in the studio is like.
Ashley: So when you’ve got your idea, you start writing your script, are you one of the types of writers that writes 12, 16 hours a day and gets that first draft done quickly, are you someone who writes a few pages every day over a longer period of time?
Larry: I usually used to write three or four hours. That the limit I could do and I would be able to write 20 pages.
Ashley: 20 pages…wow, In three or four hours! Okay.
Larry: Yes, so in a week I could write a script.
Ashley: Okay, and then how much rewriting would you typically do on one of these scripts?
Larry: Not much.
Ashley: So you felt like you nailed it with that first draft.
Larry: Yeah, I really did. I mean, I made some changes then when I would direct the picture I would make changes as I went along. Sometimes I would realize I didn’t need scenes, I could combine the scenes and if there was too much dialogue get the point across with less conversation and more action. I would make changes on set dramatically. I always came up with new things because I found out the actors had certain skills or certain personality traits that I wanted to introduce into the character. So I would let the actors go and improvise things with them and there’s a lot of improvising on the set. I was writing all the time I was directing and then when I was in the editing room it was kind of another writing process.
The editing process to me is akin to the writing process. You’re creating the movie and you’re doing it by yourself more or less. You write alone, you edit pretty much alone. Maybe you have an assistant editor with you to clean up the mess in the editing room but it’s a very personal thing.
Ashley: When you’re writing something that you know you’re gonna be directing, and you said you’re not doing a ton of rewrites. Do you give this script…do you have any trusted producers or anybody that you give this script and get any notes on or you just trust your instincts solely?
Larry: I don’t get any input from anybody except the actors when I hire them. Usually they go right along with me. But I more or less do it all by myself. I know that most of the pictures are supposed to be collaborative but that doesn’t interest me.
Ashley: So how do you approach screenplay structure? There’s the Syd Field very classic three-act structure. Do you go in it with those things in mind or is it more of a free form process?
Larry: It’s certainly free form. I’ve never read any of those books. I’ve picked up a couple of them but after a couple of pages I put them down. I don’t like that seminar with the guy who runs all over the world.
Ashley: Yeah, Robert McKee.
Larry: Yeah, what’s his name, Robert McKee?
Larry: Well, he’s a man who’s never sold a script in his entire life. I mean, he’s been around for 40 years and never sold anything and he’s telling everybody how to write scripts, and he’s telling everybody to follow Casablanca. I mean, Casablanca is the most irregular script that you can think of. It all takes place in one location [inaudible 00:21:21] Café. It’s really a stage play and it’s a marvel of the director Michael Curtiz who kept it moving and kept it exciting and the cast in it was wonderful. But the script itself it absolutely makes no sense. The whole picture makes absolutely no sense. The letters of transit were taken from murdered German couriers at Peter Lorre and anybody who has the letters of transit could be arrested.
But on the same token anybody who has the letters of transcript can leave on an airplane. I mean, that doesn’t make any sense at all. Also there’s no such thing as letters of transit, they never existed. It’s all made up. And then when they go to the airport at the end of the picture [inaudible 00:22:05] at the airport when they get there, there’s no security whatsoever. There’s nobody there. The airport’s empty. There’s the plane, anybody could just walk on the plane. There isn’t a single guard, there isn’t a single immigration person, there’s nothing. They just walk on the plane. What’s all this fuss about the letters of transit? What’s the picture all about? It makes no sense at all. But it’s a wonderful picture because the actors are so great and some of the dialogue is wonderful.
But the picture doesn’t make any sense and here’s this guy teaching us on the laws of making movies. There are no laws of making movies. As a matter of fact McKee’s courses which I’ve been taking my studio executives expensively have done more to harm the Motion Picture Industry than just about any other thing that I could think of. If you’re going to pitch something and it doesn’t follow what they learned at the Robert McKee class they’re not interested in it. It’s a terrible example and all these fool executives who have no talent anyway, they take Robert McKee’s course and the next thing you know, there! My wife wanted to take Robert McKee’s course some years ago. About I don’t know, 15, 20 years ago.
She took Robert McKee’s class. I paid for it. Two weeks later she was hired at MGM as a script reader. This girl had never seen any movie, she wasn’t interested in movies. She was from the family that was not movie goers. She’d never even seen pictures like The On The Waterfront or [inaudible 00:23:46] or anything. She had no background. You could have given her the script for Gone With The Wind and she wouldn’t have known the picture had been made and yet they had her reading scripts at the studio because she took Robert McKee’s course. It was the stupidest thing I have ever felt.
Ashley: Yeah, I took it a few years ago. It was a mixed bag but I did find it interesting. You should go take it and you should heckle him because that would actually be very entertaining.
Larry: He’s a very intolerant person. He wouldn’t like it if I heckled him.
Ashley: [laughs] So just jumping back to some of these films, how do you approach genre requirements? Do you ever get any push from any of the distributors or anything like that, like we need more action in this action film, we need more horror in this horror film? Is there anything ever like that that you interact with on sort of the distribution end?
Larry: I’ve gotten that back from some of the distributors and some of the movies themselves there was too much of comedy in the movie and not enough horror. But that’s a Larry Cohen movie. That’s the kind of movies I make. I make movies that are thrillers that have a great degree of comedy in them as well. That’s what I make. I don’t make pictures where people jump out of the closet and stare at a bunch of teenagers to death. I don’t like gore, I don’t like torture porn and I don’t like pictures with blood baths. That’s not me.
Ashley: So you keep referring to some of your work as you’re working for the studios and stuff and just how sort of demoralizing it is when they give you terrible notes and it becomes a sort of screenwriting by committee. Has that gotten any easier over the course of your career? I mean now that you kind of have your own career as a writer-director and as you say you’re kind of just showing up to some of these studio projects more for the pay cheque. Has it gotten any easier for you to go through that process?
Larry: Well, when I do things with the studio it’s generally I sell them the script that I’ve already written. I’m selling them something that they can read and buy. When I sold Phone Booth it was completely written, so is Cellular and the other ones I have sold after that were all completely written. I did do one development, the one at Warner Brothers. They paid me $500,000 for a script, and then when I delivered it they never even read the script. I talked to the producer about the script, he became aware that he never even read the script and I said, “Didn’t you read this?” He said, “Well, I was exposed to it.” I said… [inaudible 00:26:20] by the way. I said, “Joel, you mean to say you took $500,000 of Warner’s money and spent it and gave it to me and then you couldn’t read the script. He didn’t have any answer for that. What can I tell you? I thought it was so irresponsible and so ridiculous. However I did enjoy the $500,000.
Ashley: No doubt. What’s your take on nature versus nurture? How important is talent, just sort of inborn talent to being a screenwriter versus persistence and hard work?
Larry: Talent is everything but of course there’s an awful lot of bad scripts. You go to the movies constantly or watch them on television or on cable and there’s an awful lot of bad scripts…an awful lot of bad movies. I mean, today everything is special effects. Explosions, crashes. And today if there’s any need for a logical progression of where do you go from point A to point B or solve the crime or track down the bad guy, all they do is sit down at a laptop, punch out a bunch of numbers and all of a sudden it tells them exactly where to go to catch the bad guy. There’s no cleverness, there’s no intricate working out of progression. It’s all solved immediately on the internet.
I think that’s the stupidest, easiest way to avoid doing any creative work. So let the computer do all the work for you and then you just go on to the next explosion and the next car chase, the next fight, martial battle or whatever it is. Every movie looks just like every other movie. You sit in the theater and the trailers come on and every trailer looks just like the previous trailer. And all the special effects are done by the same special effects people. So all the movies look alike.
Ashley: Yeah. What advice do you have for people trying to break in these days?
Larry: Well, the same advice you always have. If you wanna be a writer you write. You wanna be a champion tennis player you play tennis every day, you know what I’m saying? If you wanna be an Olympic champion you run every day. You wanna be a writer you write every day. I know many, many writers in my career who are just at home waiting for someone to hire them and pay them to write. It never was my bag. I was always writing because I wanted to tell stories. I had these ideas I wanted to put them down on paper and get on and write the next one and the next one after that. But many of my friends over the years, they wouldn’t do anything unless they were paid to do it. And most of their careers went down the drain eventually and they’re forgotten.
Ashley: What have you seen recently that you felt was really great? I know we’re sort of in this golden age of television. Are there any TV shows you’ve been watching recently that was great, any movies you’ve seen recently that you felt were really good?
Larry: I like a number of the Coen Brothers movies over the years even though I don’t know how to spell “Coen” properly. And I liked Get Out last year although that picture made no sense. That was a picture that played very well, it was very entertaining but it’s totally illogical. The first scene is a black man, he’s walking down the street. They pull up in a car, they drag him over and throw him in the trunk and that’s it. Next thing he’s a zombie. And now this other guy the girl has to sleep with him for six months first before they bring him home and they [inaudible 00:29:47] anyway and drag him down to the basement. So what’s the sense of it? Why didn’t they just kidnap him like everybody else?
Why did they have to romance him, why did she have to have sex with him? And how come in the closet there’s pictures of her with five other black guys that she obviously was sleeping with? Why did she put an awful lot of time in it in order to get a black guy to her house? The other people just kidnap once. There’s no logic, no sense at all, but it’s a very entertaining movie.
Ashley: Yeah, so how can people see King Cohen? I just watched the documentary, very entertaining. And it really goes into a lot of depth on a lot of the things we’ve touched on here. So maybe you can talk about that a little bit. Do you know what the release schedule is gonna be like for it?
Larry: It’s playing in some theaters now. I hear it’s playing next week in New York and then it will be streaming and then it will be on different websites and you can order it over the internet from Netflix or Amazon or whatever. It will be all over there. People will probably see the picture most because that’s where everybody is seeing everything nowadays.
Ashley: And how do you think the documentary…I mean, it’s a documentary based on your career. How do you think it turned out?
Larry: It’s alright. It missed out on a lot of 20s but I didn’t have anything to do with it. I didn’t control it or approve any of their input except to do the interviews. I didn’t tell them who else to get, I didn’t tell them to get Scorsese or anybody else. They went out and found the people who wanted to talk about me. They missed out on Tarantino, they missed out on many people that would have been happy to be a participant. Anyway, but I thought that it was a pretty good movie. I could do another movie just filling in all the things that were left out.
Ashley: Yeah, for sure. I found it very entertaining and just really got through a lot of information about your things. But I agree, there’re some omissions like you just mentioned. What’s the best way for people to keep up with what you’re doing? Twitter, Facebook, a blog, anything you’re comfortable sharing. Do you use any of those social media type services?
Larry: No. No, I don’t. To tell you the truth I haven’t got time to waste on all that stuff. I’m writing my own stuff and that takes a lot of my time. I don’t wanna communicate with a lot of people that I don’t know. It’s just like that. I wouldn’t want phone calls from 50 people every day that I don’t know. God bless them. I’m glad they would like to talk to me but I haven’t got time.
Larry: Hopefully my one phone call hopefully today wasn’t too much of an intrusion. Larry, I really appreciate your coming on and talking with me today. As I said I watched the documentary. It’s just thoroughly entertaining and you’re doing [inaudible 00:32:34] work. I’ve enjoyed your movies, enjoyed the documentary and thank you very much.
Larry: Well, I’m hoping that young people will see the documentary and try and follow in my footsteps. Make that picture, control every part of it and be happy with the results of your film, because I got 20 features that I’m very proud of and another 26 pictures that I wrote and got made that I’m not so proud of. I guess having 46 feature pictures and seven television series that I created and a couple of plays I did abroad while in Broadway. I’ve had a nice career and I’m not finished yet. I guess the next project is 10 episodes of a one hour thriller series called High Concept which is all written already. I’ve written all the 10 of them and some of the best stuff I’ve ever done and I’m hoping we’ll get it on Netflix or Hulu or some place very soon and I’ll be back rolling again.
Ashley: Perfect. I look forward to seeing that when it’s finished. Once again Larry, I really appreciate your coming on and talking with me today.
Larry: Thanks a lot for doing it and bye bye.
Ashley: Thank you, bye.
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On the next episode of the podcast I’m gonna be interviewing writer-director Lou Simon who I had on previously in Episode 137. Check out that episode if you haven’t already as we talk about her background and how she got started as a filmmaker. And then in next week’s episode we’re really gonna dig into the nuts and bolts of her latest thriller film which is called Three. Keep an eye out for that episode next week. To wrap things up I just wanna touch on a few things from today’s interview with Larry. First I highly recommend the documentary that they just did on him. That was sort of the pretext to this whole interview. It’s called King Cohen. It really goes into some very entertaining parts of his career and as a do it yourself or like myself it was inspiring seeing some of the behind the scenes from some of these very famous movies.
So definitely check that out if you get a chance. I also thought it was interesting to hear his take on studio screenwriting. I think so many screenwriters don’t fully appreciate how difficult it can be not just in terms of getting the jobs, obviously that’s incredibly hard, but even getting those paid screenwriting jobs. They’re not always what you would think they are. They’re not always what they’re cracked up to be and I think hearing Larry’s experience with that is really insightful and especially if you’re coming into this business and not really understanding how it works. The story he told about a producer who paid him to write a script and the producer never even bothered to read it.
Sometimes these things happen and these things are not super-efficient. Sometimes mistakes are made and that’s the way things work and I totally get what Larry kind of has come to the same conclusion I think that maybe I have, is that sometimes doing your own thing is a better solution because you just get to do whatever you want. I look at a guy like him and knowing what I know about the industry that the high level screenwriting jobs can be really soul sucking. I feel like he’s a great template of how to make a good living because he’s written some big studio films but also be creatively fulfilled by doing some of these low budget B-movies where he gets to really put his heart and soul into it and doesn’t have to listen to a bunch of studio executives giving him notes.
One other thing I wanted to touch on, part of the reason why I ask essentially the same questions of every screenwriter is so you can hear the differences in their approach. Same questions each week but hopefully we get different answers. I’ve never heard…I mean, I’ve been doing these interviews, we’re pushing up now on 250 episodes. I have never heard of a screenwriter who essentially gets no notes from anyone and also does no rewriting. Obviously you have to find your own process. That’s not a process I would recommend for anyone but by the same token you have to find your own process and nobody can tell you what’s gonna work best for you. Larry has done this over and over again and so he has found that that’s what produces the best results for him and that’s great.
That’s what we have to do as writers. We have to design our own process, our own way of getting the script written so that it is the best that we can do. Part of my process is getting notes from other writers. Part of my process is definitely different, doing a lot of outlining, structuring it out and doing a lot of outlining, getting notes, going back in there and doing a rewrite. That’s to me how I feel like I produce my best work. But Larry is different and you can’t argue with success. So I don’t wanna sit here and say, “This is how you should do it,” because that’s not what I’m trying to do. I’m not trying to show Larry as a template for your own writing process and I’m certainly not trying to do that because my process is quite different from Larry’s.
I’m certainly not trying to say that you have to follow my process. I think the big take away for me is that everybody’s process is different. And again that’s the point of me asking sort of these same questions of every screenwriter that comes on, but we get slightly different answers. In Larry’s case I’d say we got more than slightly different answers. We got very different answers. But almost always everybody has a slightly different process. And again the point is to find your own process. It’s not to necessarily follow someone else’s process. Anyway, that’s the show, thank you for listening.