This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 241: Writer/Director Lou Simon On Her Latest Thriller Feature Film, ‘3’.
Ashley: Welcome to Episode #241 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 Lou Simon who I had on previously on Episode Number #137. Check that out if you haven’t already as we talk about her background in that episode. Today we are going to talk in depth about her latest film called Three, so stay tuned for that interview.
A quick note from this week’s sponsor Short Scripts. Their final deadline for this year’s screenplay contest is midnight August 31st. They have a feature category, a TV category and a shots category. Short Scripts is going to run a mini logline contest for SYS listeners and the winner of this logline contest will get one free entry into one of their main contests. Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with Selling Your Screenplay in the subject line and a 25 word logline in the body of the email by Thursday, August 30th 2018. Short Scripts will sign you up for their free newsletter and give away one free entry into their contest. Again, just send an email to email@example.com with Selling Your Screenplay in the subject line and your 25 word logline in the body of the email. I will put all of this in the show notes, so just go to Episode Number #241 and you will see all of this information there.
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 #241. 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 filmmaker Lou Simon. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome back Lou to the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show and talking with me today.
Lou: I’m so glad you have me back.
Ashley: So you were on the podcast about two years ago and I’m gonna refer people back to that episode. It’s Episode Number #137. I will link to it in the show notes. In that episode we talk about sort of your genesis, how you got into the industry transition from a lawyer to a filmmaker. So I will refer people to that. Today I think we’ll just dig right into your latest film Three. To start out maybe you can give us a quick logline or a pitch. What is your most recent film all about?
Lou: Well, Three is the story of a man and a woman who decide to kidnap the alleged rapist of the woman, that decide that they’re gonna kidnap him and they’re gonna extract his confession on video because he has concocted an alibi and so he’s getting scot-free. So they are gonna do whatever it takes to get the confession. The problem is that there are moments where there is doubt whether he actually did it or not.
Ashley: Perfect: Where did this idea come from…what was sort of the genesis of it?
Lou: It was a combination of things that just kind of came together at the same time. I was looking to do a script that had a very limited cast, very limited locations. Also my dear friend Aniela McGuinness had to bow out of my last movie because she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and I had promised her that she was gonna be fine and that I was gonna write a script just for her. So I was looking for something for her to do and I had done the movie Bound, remember that one?
Ashley: Yeah, sure.
Lou: Something like that. Something along those sides of having it just for some reason to be broken with that person. I still didn’t really have it completely together as to what would be a reason, and then all of a sudden after her double mastectomy she pulls out a picture of herself topless as a form of empowerment. I got that but at the same time I was kind of like a little shocked by it. I thought, “Well, that’s a really powerful image,” and only my crazy mind could turn that even darker. I started thinking about rape and having that be a side effect from like the insult added to injury in a rape and the rest just kind of came together after that.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. So, on your previous films Hazmat and ALL Girls Weekend, both of those films were distributed by Uncork’d Entertainment. This one is going through Uncork’d as well. I wonder if you can talk about that relationship a little bit. I interview a lot of filmmakers that are coming through Uncork’d so I think the listeners are well versed in sort of what material they do. I even had Keith who is the CEO over at Uncork’d, I even had him on for an episode to kind of…
Lou: I know, I listened to that one. He said he loved me. I have the proof [laughs].
Ashley: So yeah, I’d be curious to kind of hear what your relationship is with him. Maybe we can take it back to Hazmat since that was your first film working with him. How did you meet him to begin with?
Lou: Through a sales agent. At the time he had just started…maybe had been around maybe like a year or two. So it sounded a little bit risky. There wasn’t a lot that you could gauge from previous sales whether we were gonna be able to get our money back or not. But the fact that he avoided Blockbuster I was just like “This guy really knows what he’s doing.” So we were a little scared but we decided to go through with it when the sales agent said that we should. And then it worked out really well. Hazmat to date I get a cheque every three months. So I’m very glad we took that chance.
Ashley: Yeah, sure. So then on the second film with All Girls Weekend, did you just go and complete that film and then take it back to Keith or did you work with him a little bit before you actually shot the film?
Lou: No, I just completed it on my own. To be honest I didn’t even take that to him either. I was at a point I was like thinking that he wouldn’t wanna do it again. So I didn’t bring that to him. I had another sales agent and that sales agent brought it to him. He said, “Why didn’t you just come to me directly?” I was like, “I don’t know, it didn’t even occur to me.” I felt like he wouldn’t wanna talk to me directly. I figured he would wanna talk to the sales agents. And so by the time that I did Three I was like, “Okay, now I know I can go to Keith directly,” and I just went to him and I was like, “Okay, before I give it to the sales agent, what do you think?” I was very pleasantly surprised that he liked it and he wanted it.
Ashley: Yeah, perfect. So you didn’t go to him though before you shot the film? Again, you completed the film and then took it to him once you had at least a rough cut or something to show him?
Lou: I remember, I’m pretty sure that I saw that he had a couple of rape-revenge films, but I’m almost positive that I asked him…I know I asked my sales agent. I don’t know if I asked him but I’m almost positive I did. I did ask him how do they do in sales. Like is that a popular genre that would do well in sales and he said, “They do well for me”. So I did the same with my sales agent and said, “Okay, if I make this film, this what it’s about, will sell internationally?” And that was less of a positive response but I thought we were doing it at a budget that was low enough that we could recover it even if our international sales weren’t that great.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. So let’s talk about your writing process a little bit. We did dive into that in sort of at least a general sense in Episode #137. Again, I’ll link to that in the show notes. But maybe we can talk about the writing of Three. Maybe to start out you can just talk about sort of your outlining phase verse opening up the script and writing it. How much time did you spend outlining the script and how much time did you spend actually writing it?
Lou: I think this script really should be the “what not to do” [laughs] for the writers because what happened was I thought of the idea, the general idea like in 2015 some time. I had the idea, I approached the actors that I thought would be good in it because since it was such a small character it really had to be [inaudible 00:10:02] because the script was written for her. But it was who else I was gonna cast and I had two other actors in mind. I actually approached them before I wrote it and made sure that they were interested. I knew that I didn’t have a large budget so it wasn’t like I was gonna start getting big names or something like that. But I thought about it for a long time, I kept changing the story in my head. That’s always my process.
I do take a long time to actually sit down and write because I wanna make sure that I know everything’s that’s gonna happen before I write it. So whenever I had an idea I would write it down in my notes. I have an app on my phone where I write down every thought that comes to my head. I watch a lot of films to get more ideas. Generally I had a pretty basic idea what was gonna happen in terms of where the twists were gonna be. But in April I actually went and scouted the location and I actually got the crew, had most of the cast and I started writing the script. I had already set everything up to start filming on July 6th.
Ashley: This was in March?
Lou: This was in March and we had no script. So a month before, like in June after I had already seen the location and I knew what the place looked like, so I wrote the script just to that location. And everybody could say, “When are we gonna see the script?” I’m like, “No, I’m working on another draft of it but it will be ready, it will be ready.” It was in June like almost a month to the day before we were sent to [inaudible 00:11:59] that I finally wrote the script.
Ashley: Okay, nice…waiting till that last minute. So you just mentioned that you had some sort of an app to collect ideas that come through. What app do you use? I’d just be curious to hear more about that.
Lou: It’s just a basic app that has like two blue notes, shopping list. It’s like a very…there’s like 20 of them that you could use but I have one folder that’s called “Store Ideas”. Every time I [inaudible 00:12:31] probably be like 100 pages long.
Ashley: Okay, yeah. And I’m curious just in terms of specifically with this story, how does this fit into like the Me Too movement? I mean, you have a woman accusing a man of rape, a man trying to deny it. How did that play into it? I’d be curious to hear if you got any pushback or anything on the distribution end. Was that a concern for Keith or was that potentially a selling point for the movie or does it have any bearing on it at all?
Lou: I mean, he didn’t say anything one way or the other, so I didn’t wanna think I don’t think it works for him. When I started thinking of the idea and even when we filmed it there wasn’t a Me Too movement. Part of the reason why I thought that I kind of wanted to write this story was because in 2015 and 2016 there were like several cases where men were found guilty of rape and then were given really like nothing…six months’ time served. The judges would say, “Well, we didn’t wanna ruin their lives?” And it’s like are you kidding, her life was ruined for the rest of her life and [inaudible 00:13:49] and served a few years in jail for this? So like a lot of women I was really, really outraged that it had become so trivialized.
I remember a girl in South Florida that was raped by four boys and they got nothing more than just a couple of months in juvenile. But I mean, that girl is scarred for life. Though at that time nobody was talking about it and it’s kind of weird how this has now become such a huge thing because now I’m just another voice but it’s still a voice that I’m glad and I had the opportunity to have a voice and say, no, that that it’s important that we take victims seriously. There’s a lot of that in the script where he’s like, “Did it really happen?” The timing couldn’t have been more fortuitous I guess [inaudible 00:14:46] at the same time.
Ashley: Yeah, so you mentioned at one point you asked your distributor about I guess it’s a horror sub-genre, a rape revenge sub-genre. Maybe you could talk about your researching of that a little bit. What did you find out about that sub-genre in general and how did you approach writing this script to give it some original twist, you know, building on the sub-genre but also giving it some original twists?
Lou: I mean for me obviously the most famous one is [inaudible 00:15:20] right? This is not that, so I don’t want people to think that they’re gonna watch this film and they’re gonna see that. This is far from that. Even the rape scene is very mild. It’s not something that’s gonna be gruesome for people to watch because it lasts forever. It’s not that. It’s maybe more [inaudible 00:15:45] of that, and there isn’t a bunch of people being killed because she’s getting back to everybody. This is more of a thriller…it’s psychological thriller. Somebody called this a psychological horror the day and I think that’s fits very well. So it’s more…it’s kind of a [inaudible 00:16:05] game between the guy who was kidnapped and his kidnappers.
It’s primarily the man who’s doing the interrogation and he wasn’t there. He is caught in the middle of whether to believe her or whether to believe this man who’s saying he’s innocent. It’s a lot more about the twist and turns about like who’s telling the truth, who to believe. There’s some bit of torture because that’s what…each time that he meets with the guy just that much more dangerous to the man, but it’s not about the torture. The torture is just a reason to get him to tell the truth or tell a lie. But it’s very different
Ashley: Yeah. And I’m curious, when you had the film finished, did you get any push back from Keith or any other distributors, was there any changes that needed to be made or at that stage you’ve got a completed film and maybe they’re gonna change the trailer or the poster but they’re not gonna mess with the finished film?
Lou: Yeah I mean, my experience there so much [inaudible 00:17:13] out there right now but I don’t think they have time to give that kind of feedback. I think they watch a trailer, they’ll watch 10 minutes into the movie, if by that time you haven’t grabbed their attention they don’t try at all and all you’re gonna get is a pass. They’re not gonna sit there and repeat back or tell you make this change or make that change. Unless you have a personal relationship, like maybe now after three films you can be like, “Hey, I really like this but I don’t this, could you repeat that. Even then I doubt it. I mean, he has so many movies for him to choose that he doesn’t need to give that much work to anyone thing. Of course he knows we’re limited in budget, these shoots are terrible, so expensive. You have to make the best project you can the first time because more than likely you’re not gonna get any kind of feedback that you can use to make it better.
Ashley: Yeah. So I’m curious if we can talk just a little bit about raising the money for this. It sounds like you had everything pretty much in place before you even wrote the script which is probably a little unusual. But maybe you can talk to that. Are you just taking your money from All Girls Weekend, reinvesting that, are you going out and getting new financiers? Maybe talk a little bit about just how you finance these projects.
Lou: This is still from when we’re making Hazmat actually. Hazmat did really, really well. So maybe between new sales from All Girls Weekend and then sales still pending…everything that we made on Hazmat did not get reinvested completely to All Girls Weekend. We still had money left over from that and then the new sales from All Girls Weekend film. It’s about the same budget as All Girls Weekend.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. What advice would you have for people that are trying to break into the business? What would you recommend that a young screenwriter go and do?
Lou: Get another job [laughs] go do copy writing. I don’t know. To be honest I don’t know if I’ve broken in. To me I’m still just doing my own thing. Other than a couple of [inaudible 00:19:26] to other people on the indie level I can’t really say I’ve broken in. So if they find out they should tell me.
Ashley: Perfect. What’s next for you, what do you have on the docket coming up?
Lou: I’m shooting in September my segment of a horror anthology with all female co-directors, which is going to be fun. It’s kind of fun collaborating with women. And then for the next year I have a documentary which is completely different. It’s about saving the elephants in Thailand and besides that I’m probably going to be developing the script that I have about…it’s more of a sci-fi horror, it’s about after the end of the world a man wakes up and he’s the only man alive in a colony of all women.
Ashley: So you just mentioned that you still feel like you’re still trying to break in or trying to get ahead. When you finish scripts, or do you have script out there, are you still like pursuing that as an angle? You’re a filmmaker on the one hand but you’re also trying to pursue just screenwriting as a screenwriter, you will be the writer and nothing else?
Lou: In theory yes, but I’ll be honest. I’m I really doing the work to…I mean, that’s a full time job even on itself. Then the films really take up so much time. Producing is probably 9% of what I do and so by the time that I complete production I am worn, and then go through the whole post-production process and then the film festival run and then the sales and the marketing I really don’t have time to pursue my career as a screenwriter or as a director by itself. That would require like another one of me because art films just take up so much of my time. Unless somebody watches one of my films and says, “I love the way she writes,” it’s not gonna happen because I just don’t have time to really be out there to a meeting and all that stuff. I barely have time to sleep sometimes.
Ashley: Yeah, I understand completely. What is your goal like long term, five years, 10 years down the road when you come back on the podcast and we’re talking like if everything goes according to plan what do you see yourself doing in five or 10 years?
Lou: I would love to be able to be making [inaudible 00:22:03] type of films. I definitely like the horror/thriller genre. I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. But it would be great to be doing it for a studio, even if it’s not like a major studio, or a bigger production company where I don’t have to be the person that takes care of everything, no. From development all the way to sales and marketing, so that I can maybe spend more time doing the creative stuff and less time on the business stuff because creative is probably 10% of my time. The business part of it is 90%.
Ashley: Yeah, for sure. I just like to wrap up the interviews by asking the guest what they’ve seen recently that they really like. We’re in this golden age of TV, maybe there’s some TV shows you’ve enjoyed recently. Just anything you’ve watched that you thought would be interesting to screenwriters.
Lou: I do feel like I did see something recently that was really, really good. The Autopsy of Jane Doe. That was really good, really effective. Talk about something you can do on a small budget, even though the special effects were really good and it has a really good name talent. But it was basically two characters for the most part in one location and it was so well done and so effective. I think that if you’re gonna be making your own film that’s a really good one to watch to get ideas on how to do a contained thriller that’s still as effective as if you had millions of dollars.
Ashley: Perfect. Yeah, I have not heard of that so I’ll check that one out. Do you know what the release schedule is gonna be like for Three? How can people check it out?
Lou: It comes out tomorrow, August 7th on VOD and then it’s gonna be on DVD on September 11th.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. What’s the best way for people to keep up with what you’re doing? Twitter, Facebook, a blog, anything you’re comfortable sharing I’ll round up for the show notes but you can tell us that stuff now.
Lou: Well, everything is either under…it’s in our website [inaudible 00:24:13] movies.com, but you can usually just use @Miss Lou Simon. Usually that’s about all my handles and everything.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. Well Lou, I appreciate your coming on and talking with me. Again, good luck with this film and I look forward to hearing about your next film.
Lou: Thank you.
Ashley: Thank you, will talk to you later.
Lou: Bye Ashley.
Ashley: 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 Mike Mayhall. He’s an actor and writer and recently co-wrote and directed a limited series TV show called Bronx SIU. He also lives in Louisiana so he’s far from Hollywood. We talk about how he got the show going and we also talk about his life as an actor and a writer living outside of Hollywood. Keep an eye out for that episode next week. Anyway, that’s the show, thank you for listening.