SYS Podcast Episode #252: Ari Gold
Ashley: Welcome to Episode #252 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 Ari Gold who just did a film called The Song of Sway Lake, an indie drama. We talk through his background and how he got this film produced, so 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 #252. 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, on The Pinch, the crime thriller feature which I just finished up on. We’re through with the QC, the quality control process and have been approved for iTunes, Amazon, Vudu and Google Play, so we have our official release dates for those channels. December 1st The Pinch will be available on all the various Amazon platforms, which includes Amazon Prime, the Amazon for sale so you can buy a copy and the Amazon rental so you can rent a copy I think for a few days or a week. On December 6th we’ll be available on iTunes and Google Play and then on January 19th we’ll be available on Vudu. So those are the official release dates.
I’m still looking for a possible international distributor so if you’re not in the United States just hold still and I should hopefully have some news on that in the next couple of months. If you’d like to buy The Pinch before the release date or in fact after the release date I have released it through the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. You just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/thepinch. I’ve also given you the option of buying the three hour webinar I did on the making of The Pinch where I go through every aspect of how I made the film from the script to raising money through pre-production, post-production and of course production.
So if you’re trying to do your own micro-budget feature film I think this would be incredibly helpful. Again, you can make that purchase or learn more about it by going to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/thepinch. Even after I’ve released on all the other platforms, selling directly from the website would be the best method for me at least as that way all of the money goes directly back to me the filmmaker. But if the other platforms are more convenient for you, by all means please buy it from there. Once the film starts to get released I’m hoping that people can go back and leave some positive reviews on these various sites. Getting reviews is part of how these services decide if they should recommend your film to others.
So once again I’ll be reminding you over the next couple of months but if you have a moment and can go and write a review on one of these very services as it’s released that will be very much appreciated. I’ve had a family issue I’ve been dealing with over the last couple of weeks so that set me back a little bit on the rewrite of my mystery, horror-thriller script but I’m still polishing that up and hoping to shoot early next year. I’m still doing the fundraising on that, trying to get the money in place. Had a nice conversation with Jeffrey Giles about this project a couple of weeks ago too, mostly about the cast who we could realistically get for a project like this at this budget level, and also the flip side of that is who could we get that could also really give our value project.
All actors do not necessarily work well for a mystery horror- thriller script, other actors do. So that was a good conversation. Jeffery if you remember is the producer I had on a few weeks ago who runs Automatic Entertainment, so that’s been helpful just trying to get his insight into this as early as possible. Anyway, I should have some more concrete details on this project hopefully soon. So that’s what I’ve been working on, now let’s get into the main segment. Today I am interviewing writer- director Ari Gold. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Ari to the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Ari: Thank you for having me.
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?
Ari: I grew up in San Francisco and my father is a novelist and so when I was a kid I liked to imagine that I thought of writing all by myself. I must have been imitating him and so at a certain point I realized that I was getting to like to be alone in front of a type writer or a computer and wandered towards film not knowing how…really having no idea of how one made a movie. And so the first thing I did on that front was I started writing screenplays thinking that I would write a screenplay and quickly sell it and then [inaudible 00:05:54] to be a director. It was sort of fantasy land [laughs] and eventually I realized I had to sort of get a camera in my hands which before I found was not so easy. So taking little summer classes in filmmaking hoping that maybe I had something [inaudible 00:06:21].
And so the short films I made [inaudible 00:06:30]. So I’ve written 12 screenplays now I think and I’ve made two of them and I’ve had some few options but nothing [inaudible 00:06:57] by anyone else yet. So it’s interesting to…sometimes I write thinking I’m gonna make it and sometimes I write thinking I’m gonna sell it. It’s an interesting game that we are all play as writers.
Ashley: For the short films did you do any studying on directing or producing or anything like that or with the short films did you just write a short script and then just you figured it out as you went along?
Ari: Sorry, what?
Ashley: When you were doing the short films did you take some classes on directing and producing? Did you kind of learn that maybe through film school or something or did you just dive in and just go do a bunch of short films?
Ari: In my first short films [inaudible 00:07:49] at NYU and then I made other short films on my own and then I went back to study more [inaudible 00:07:59] through which I won a student Oscar when I was at NYU. So certainly getting some guidance from teachers [inaudible 00:08:14] the features and there were some who…there was one teacher who really was supportive of my vision and [inaudible 00:08:31] a lot and I think I learned from both. It’s almost like working at the studio, I had a [inaudible 00:08:39]. I was told by my only directing teacher that my movie was not worth making and it was gonna fail and he wanted [inaudible 00:08:49] and he actually didn’t speak to me once. By the time I was making the movie and it was two years later when it was winning prizes [inaudible 00:09:01] won the prize at NYU and he came up to me and said [inaudible 00:09:04] and that was the only direction [inaudible 00:09:08] until two years later.
Ashley: Yeah, that’s a great story. So let’s talk about The Song of Sway Lake. Maybe to start out you can just give us a quick pitch or a logline. What is that film all about?
Ari: The film is [inaudible 00:09:27] that’s sort of the story. It’s really about memory and loss and death and passion and love and music and nostalgia. It’s [inaudible 00:09:57] of who we are. I was very influenced [inaudible 00:10:06] but we wanted to tell a story with a limited number of characters on a beautiful location. And so we also stepped up and challenged ourselves. We wanted to tell a story without a lot of surface plot but that allows you to split into a location through the character and shots [inaudible 00:10:44].
Ashley: Yeah, so let’s talk about your writing process on this script. Maybe you can just sort of describe the relationship with your co-writer Elizabeth Bull. I know there’s a lot of people listening to this podcast that would be interested in just kind of hearing how you guys work. Are you in the same room when you’re writing, do you divide up scenes and then go write your scenes separately and then come together. Maybe just sort of walk through that process. What does that look like when you guys were writing this together?
Ari: Yeah, we did a lot of [inaudible 00:11:27] middle and end, we knew the beginning and then we could [inaudible 00:11:42] of scenes to get part of our first draft and then Liz hammered out a draft from that first draft and then hand it back to me and [inaudible 00:11:55] going back and forth with it until we had a shooting draft. And then of course in the shooting and the editing everything was kind of written again [inaudible 00:12:05] for the premier I was adding a shot. I had a shot that I shot with my iPhone [inaudible 00:12:15] which now opens the film and that came from a very, very later process. So it’s a constant process of transformation where a screenplay is not Shakespeare. It’s a blueprint for a house that’s being made on mud [laughs]. You have to be flexible.
Ashley: So how much time did you guys spend in this sort of verbally just making out the bits as compared to actually writing the script? I’d just like to get a sense for how much time in final draft writing scenes and how much time did you spend actually outlining, getting the characters, getting the story sort of worked out?
Ari: I don’t remember exactly but I would say it was probably a few weeks of really beating it out verbally after a few hours of casually talking about the idea. But once we sat down a few weeks on “Tell me the story and I’ll tell it to you back”. And then a few weeks getting pieces of the script together and then a few more weeks getting a first draft and then once you have a first draft and it’s really something that you can start playing with and looking at it globally in terms of scene and tone. I don’t know if we succeed at this but I think it’s really helpful for writers to write quickly on the first draft because… speaking for myself I’m really self-critical and I find writing slowly I think about everything I’m writing and I question it and I lose connection with my dream mind, whereas if I write quickly I might write things that don’t quite work and don’t quite make sense, but there might be a clue in them or something beautiful in them that’s worth keeping, and then you can trust that your brain is gonna come back and fix problems later.
The logical mind once that is settled is going like, “Okay, that works or does not work,” and you see how they can fit together. Buy if that mind is in control when you’re writing then you’re gonna end up with something mechanical. So yeah, writing as quickly as possible is great when you can.
Ashley: Yeah, sound advice. Maybe you can talk just briefly about how you raised the money. You’ve got your screenplay done, what was sort of the gist in going out and raising the money for this film?
Ari: Well, I knew some people who had said they wanted to invest in my next project. So my previous film had something like 37 investors. I don’t even want to count the number of phone calls and meetings and fancy dinners that were paid for by someone else where someone would promise me a cheque and then the cheque would never come. This one was a lot easier because it was really one family that invested in it and I owe them a lot and they know it. They also wanted to not be credited, so it’s the power of relationships I guess. The movie is not expensive, it looks a lot bigger than it is. There’s no explosions clearly but people seeing the movie are shocked when I tell them how cheap it was. I’ve been playing it in New York and people just don’t understand how I got it done so cheaply. A lot had to do with not sleeping for a few years and doing a lot of things myself [laughs] .
Ashley: Sure. So how can people see The Song of Sway Lake, do you know what the release schedule is gonna be like?
Ari: Yeah, the quickest way is to go to www.swaylake.com. There’s two links, one is to the theatrical release which starts on Friday September 21st in 10 cities. If you’re not in one of those cities it will be out on digital four days later on September 25th. You can pre-order it now on iTunes and other platforms. Please go to www.swaylake.com, watch the trailer, say hello to me if you like, ask me a question if you like. As an independent filmmaker when people find you, because you’re not gonna see a big award for this movie but I think you will be moved and transported and it’s a lot cheaper than a therapy session and you’re gonna feel a little bit closer to your heart and I think if we consume…I hate the word consuming for art but if we experience more art that hope opens our heart we’re gonna have a better society.
This is a film about me connecting with the heart, moving from nostalgia from the past and through all the kind of passions and frustrations and love and obsession and friendship and moving to connection with yourself which is what you need to connect with other people, and so I hope people will experience that and so yeah, come to www.swaylake.com and…
Ashley: …and check it out. Perfect. Well Ari, I really appreciate you coming on and talking with me today. Good luck with this film and good luck with all your future films.
Ari: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it and you doing a call.
Ashley: Hey, problem. Thank you, will talk to you later.
Ari: Okay, bye.
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Every script will get a grade of pass, consider or recommend, which should help you roughly understand where your script might rank if you were to submit it to a production company or agency. We can provide an analysis on features or television scripts. We also do proofreading without any analysis. We will also look at a treatment or outline and give you the same analysis on it. So if you’re looking to vet some of your project ideas, this is a great way to do it. We will also write you a log line and synopsis for you. You can add this log line and synopsis writing service to an analysis, or you can simply purchase this service as standalone product. As a bonus if your screenplay gets a recommend or a consider from one of our readers, you get to list the screenplay in the SYS Select database which is a database for producers to find screenplays and a big part of our SYS Select program.
Producers are in the data base searching for material on a daily basis so it’s another great way to get your material in front of them. As a further bonus, if your script gets a recommend or consider from one of our readers, your screenplay will get included in our monthly Best Of newsletter. Each month we send out a newsletter that highlights the best screenplays that have come through our script analysis service. This is a monthly newsletter goes out to our list of over 400 producers who are actively looking for material. So again this is another great way to get your material out there. So if you want a professional evaluation of your screenplay at a very reasonable price, check out www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/consultants.
On the next episode of the podcast I’m gonna be interviewing writer- director Jeremy Ungar who just did a film called Ride. It’s kind of a cool drama thriller about one night with an Uber driver where things get totally out of control. We talk about his background and specifically how he got this film produced. He started off with a shot that sort of acted as a proof of concept and then he was able to go out to production companies and raise the money and get this film produced. So keep an eye out for that episode next week, we’ll dig into all that. Anyway, that’s the show for this week, thank you for listening.