This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 257: Writer / Director Paulina Lagudi Talks About Her Family Film, Mail Order Monster.
Ashley: Welcome to Episode #257 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 Paulina Lagudi. She’s another great example of someone who did a bunch of short films and eventually parlayed that experience into doing a feature film. Her latest feature film is a film called Mail Order Monster. We really dig into how that film came together for her and what she did with these shorts and kind of worked her way up to writing and directing feature films. 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 #257. 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 my feature film The Pinch, the crime thriller film which I just finished up this year. We officially launched on Amazon last week so we’re available to buy, rent or stream for free if you do Amazon Prime. And this week we also are now released on iTunes so if you’re more of an Apple person than an Amazon person we are now available in iTunes.
And then next week we’ll be releasing on Google play. There were a number of very nice reviews on Amazon last week so thank you to everyone who did write a review. It is very helpful in both iTunes and Amazon if you do write a review, so if you have a few minutes and a few seconds and wouldn’t mind doing this it is very much appreciated. Those reviews will help the film get recommended as people are watching other films, downloading other films. If I have a lot of reviews for my film they will try and figure out what films these people like and they’ll sort of try and match it with their algorithm. So getting a lot of reviews is very very helpful not just for me but any independent filmmaker.
So definitely support not just me but anybody out there who you listen to. I mean all the people that come on this podcast, they’re sharing their time, they’re coming and they’re telling their stories. So any of these films that you watch, if you do enjoy them even a little bit I would just encourage you again, not just for me but for all these independent filmmakers. Go on Amazon, go on iTunes, wherever you watch the film…Netflix, wherever and just take a minute to write a review because it really does help. Also I’m selling the film directly from my website at www.sellinyourscreenplay.com/thepinch. If you buy it from there you can also add in the three-hour webinar I did on the making of The Pinch.
I cover every part of the process of making this film, writing the screenplay, raising the money, pre-production, production and post-production. I put quite a lot of time into preparing for this webinar, so I think it could be very helpful if you’re thinking about making your own micro-budget film. I think this will be very, very educational. Again, I go through the entire process. I’m pretty granular on the detail I give in terms of how much money I raise and exactly where I spent that money, all the things that I ran into, the problems I ran into and how I solved those problems. And even a lot of just commentary by me on what I would do differently on my next film. Again, if you’re interested in potentially making your own micro-budget film I think that would probably be helpful to you.
I’m still rewriting my horror-thriller film. I’m into the third act so it’s definitely getting close. I’m really trying to polish it up, take some time, not rush through it, but ended up being a much bigger rewrite than I had originally planned. I wouldn’t say it was a page one rewrite but all said and done I would probably have rewritten more than half of the script. So it just has taken a lot of time just to get through it. But again I wanna give it that time because this is the project that I plan on spending the better part of the next year working on. So I think this is a smart thing for me to do is to really try and make the script as good as possible. There were definitely things with The Pinch as I got through it, there were little things here and there I said, “I should have done this a little different, should have done that a little different.”
So I just wanna think these things through if I’m gonna be producing this on a fairly low budget. Just being creative, solving some of these problems that I’m having in a way that doesn’t cost a lot of money that I can still do it for the budget that I think I’ll be able to raise. Some of this just takes time to sort of work out those problems. So that’s what I’m working on. So now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m interviewing writer-director Paulina Lagudi. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Paulina to The Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show and talking with me today.
Paulina: Thanks 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?
Paulina: Yeah. I actually started out as a competitive dancer growing up. So it was a really weird transition on how I ended up getting into filmmaking and writing and what not. Turns out I had a really terrible foot injury, went to performing dance high school. Right before college I kind of threw everything in a bit of a loop. I always knew I wanted to go to Chapman University anI knew they had a really great film program and theater program, so I gave it a shot, gave it an audition and I ended up getting in, which is super, super cool. I didn’t really know it taught about writing and filmmaking at the time. Actually what’s so funny is I applied to the screenwriting program after my first year and totally didn’t get in. So I always find that really funny now. But after…
Ashley: I’m sorry, so you applied but didn’t get into the screenwriting program but got into the filmmaking program?
Paulina: I got into the theater program. I worked with the filmmakers a lot because I ended up on set but I had no idea, growing up as a dancer and no one in my family is in the entertainment industry, I didn’t even understand how indie filmmaking even worked. I was like you can make a film for I don’t know…$100,000 or under a million dollars was crazy. So after college, after I graduated I ended up meeting my now fiancé on a film set. He’s a cinematographer and pretty much he was the first person to tell me like, “Oh, you have ideas, we can make them.” I was like, “Oh, okay.” I really started to delve into writing then, watched everything I could, really got an understanding of what films and stories I gravitated towards, what my style was, and yeah, I’m still figuring that out today. But from there I just started creating films.
I started creating works. So my very first short film was a little comedy, I co-wrote it with a friend. But after that the one that I feel like I really started to hone into who I am as a filmmaker is a short film called This Is How and the original script is 13 pages and the sheeting script was a page and a half and it’s a 12 minute shot. So that kind of was like a really great lesson in screen writing for me in the sense of like I…especially living with a cinematographer. When you start out you tend to overwrite and you tend to overwrite…you tend to write in all the shots and write in what the audience sees instead of just really writing the story. And then also coming from a theater background I used to write all the internal dialogue and everything that these characters were feeling instead of leaving that to the audience to experience on their own.
Ashley: Let’s talk about the shots just for a second. How did you raise money for them, were they self-funded? And then ultimately what did you do to promote them? Did you enter them into film festivals, what was sort of that path with those?
Paulina: Yeah, so I did Kickstarter for two and then I self-funded This Is How. Film Festivals were big. This Is How got into Holly Shots…this was awesome because that’s such a great festival for short films. And then my film after that Holly’s Girl is still in festivals even though we short in 2016. We’re gonna be in a festival on Saturday, the REEL Recovery film festival. That one is about eating disorders, and that one’s another one where it’s a four paged script but ends up being around like nine minutes long as well. So it kind of threw the whole a page a minute thing on a [inaudible 00:08:56]. But yeah, for that it was…you know, the shots are great because you really get to experiment.
You don’t have to follow as much of a structure as you do with features and it’s a really great…it was a good lesson for me as a writer but also as a director to create a lot of limitations on myself so writing the script but then as the director for these shots being like, “Okay, I’m going to try and limit the whole show into being in total like eight shots or six shots or something like that. So I really got to play with storytelling with composition and camera movement, instead of really spoon feeding audiences, I try to do that as little as possible because I hate it as a viewer. So I really try to…my first drafts always sucked, there’s a lot of spoon feeding going on [laughs]. But my goal with this script is to try and script as much away as possible and I worked on that a lot with the shot which helped me a lot with the feature.
Ashley: Have you been writing other features as you’re writing, directing and producing these shots have you also written some feature films and have you tried to like sell those scripts or get financing for those outside of sort of the independent realm?
Paulina: Yeah, not personally. I really didn’t start to get into writing. I doubled a bit with writing the feature for This Is How, but it was more of a writing exercise. I didn’t try writing and then selling those scripts. I honestly didn’t even consider myself a writer until I wrote Mail Order Monster. And what’s funny now is after that movie I’ve now been hired to write a feature script. So now I’m like strictly a writer on another project which is kind of funny. But what’s interesting is because I didn’t really consider myself a writer, when I started writing Mail Order Monster or after I purchased the title and the original script of Mail Order Monster from Marc Prey I knew that I wanted to develop it into something that I could really do a bit more.
I took it to a few different writers and it was just…on a low budget movie I was just like, “Man, I can’t pay these people and then still…You know, it was just economically it didn’t make a lot of sense. So I said, “Okay, I’m gonna take a stab at this. And then I took it to a writer friend or someone who would possibly be interested in writing it and they pretty much told me I should give up writing. They were like, “This is the worst thing, just leave it to a professional.” I was like, “Well, now that you said that I’m gonna write this script [laughs]. I’m actually gonna do a really good job now.” And so I wrote a draft, sold the script in six months.
Ashley: Okay. So let’s dig into Mail Order Monster a bit. Maybe to start out you can just give us a quick pitch or a logline. What is that film all about?
Paulina: I like to look up the logline real quick [laughs], the IMDb one does so much better than how I say it. So the logline for Mail Order Monster is a girl seeks help and guidance from a robot Monster to cope with the bullies at school and her father’s new marriage.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. So how did you get involved with this script? You mentioned you optioned it from Marc Prey. I assume he must have written the first draft. So how did you find that script and what did that look like- your relationship with him?
Paulina: Yeah, so actually it’s really interesting. I was hired to line produce in the movie called Mail Order Monster under a different director-producer. The budget was really, really low. The script was the original Marc Prey script. I think it had actually gone through a couple of drafts at that point. The movie lost funding even after I’d done all this work for it as a line producer and then before a month before I was supposed to go out and shoot the director-producer lost all the funding. I knew the option that he had had on the script was running out and I loved the title. I’d really been interested and had some people that were interested in the feature with me.
I said, “Okay, the title based on what my distributor friends were telling me is really good and family films right now are kind of taking…they’re a great way for any filmmakers to take a leap into the market for a genre film. I never thought I would do a family film so I bought the script. I didn’t even option it, I bought it flat out. Bought all the rights to it because I knew I was gonna rewrite it. So I bought it flat out and the original script is about a young boy whose parents separate and they get back together, who has a bully. But it was a story that was more about a boy overcoming the bullies, and it was more focused on that and dealing with his parents separating but they get back together.
I thought it was super sweet and everything like that and the monster just comes to life as soon as it comes out of the box, so there was no coming to life moment in the script. As much as I enjoyed it I was like it’s not a story that I relate to and I feel like today there’re so many blended families and I come from a blended family. I wanna tell a story that is a nice owe to the ‘90s family films that we love but at the same time we’re putting it in a world of the modern family. Then I wrote eight drafts and the first draft is so different but every time I got to the draft that we ended up shooting it just became more and more and more personal. The one thing I say helped me so much on my script, obviously got a lot of people to read it, got a lot of notes, but I got an editor to read it and that was game changing.
So now I always tell everyone, if you have a script, yes get other writers, get producers, get directors to read it, but get an editor to read your script. They’re story teller, they are the ones trimming the fat in post and I knew as an indie filmmaker I’m not gonna have the money to do reshoots and pick-ups. It’s a lot cheaper for me to do a rewrite than to go back and reshoot because just a scene isn’t working. So that was number one for me. I always have editors reading my scripts now along with other people. But they’re just a really key position that I think that not a lot of people, screenwriters specifically don’t always utilize.
Ashley: Yeah. I’m curious on something you just said, as you were line producing this original version or getting ready to, you mentioned something about distributors. Distributors seem to like the title and like the idea. How did you get those relationships with the distributors? Maybe you can describe that just a little bit.
Paulina: I mean, as soon as I got into just knowing I wanted to make my own stuff, I have been very active and just meeting people online, film specific which is Stacy Perks website and there’s a whole [inaudible 00:15:25] distributors in the entire industry that is interested in making films and also TV series. She has forum there. I went to AFM by myself and met people and so I just did as much as I could on my own just to start building relationships and sort of having an understanding of the market. The worst thing is that someone makes a film with an idea of the market, but not really doing their research and they get…they’re hit with a lot of hard facts after they’ve already invested and made a movie and things that they could have probably done a little differently or mistakes that they could have gotten around if they had just done their research a little bit more ahead of time.
So based on just a couple of people…it wasn’t anything crazy. Just a couple of different distributors that I had spoken to that I had met through friends of friends and just wanted to get to know them and really just talk to them not from a pitch perspective on anything, I just wanted to talk to them from like, “Hey, explain to me what your job is like and what it’s like to be a distributor and your frustrations and if you could tell filmmakers who haven’t made a film yet anything like what would that be?” And then I’d mention to them, “There’s this film Mail Order Monster…” They were like, “That’s a great title. It’s a great title.” That’s the one thing they kept saying. I was like, “Interesting, interesting.” So that’s how I ended up getting more involved in that title even after [crosstalk].
Ashley: And so do tell, like you said you asked them like, “What are some of your frustrations?” What was their answer to that?
Paulina: A big thing is the very thing I said, which is so many filmmakers getting hit with these hard facts about the industry after they’ve already made a film. They make their film and then they go to the market and they try and sell it and they’re like, “No!” everything now, even more so when I was starting my research to get this movie going, so much has to be done ahead of time. Building your audience, do that ahead of time. Really get to know who you’re talking to and start that dialogue with your audience before you’ve even spent a dime on your movie. Really, the more that you can show proof of audience and the more that you can show proof of market and you start marketing your movie and building that up the better, the better, the better.
Also story is everything. I know we always say, “That’s been forever.” Really it’s everything because now people get this name actors in their movie and that name actor doesn’t wanna do a tweet or doesn’t wanna do an Instagram post about it, it’s like they were never in it, you know what I mean? Most names are going to VOD anyway.
Ashley: Yeah, so you mentioned building an audience early. Maybe you can describe that. What are sort of some tactical tips to actually build an audience before you make your movie?
Paulina: I think for a first time filmmaker, if you’re looking to make a film, most of the times people go towards the drama. If you’re gonna do that there’s a completely different strategy to your film than doing a genre film. I highly recommend starting with a genre film and being very specific about that genre. So for mine it’s not just family films, it’s blended family films. So reaching out to step parents, reaching out to step children, anti-bullying campaigns, really understanding who those people are and I had a whole Google spread sheet of all these different outlets of people to reach out to during the process. Even for me on my movie I think I could have started things way, way earlier but hindsight is 20/20.
Now I [inaudible 00:18:58] differently. So before making a genre film like say for instance a sci-fi film, right, what exactly is a sci-fi story? Is it based on like a video game? Is it based on some sort or IP that you can start getting that through social media specifically? Can you start building a conversation? So much of the old way of thinking with films is, “Oh, don’t really send any information about your film until after it’s made.” That’s gone. Unless it’s like an Oscar movie to be honest which even then that’s kind of going away. For indie films start building up that brand because you’re building a brand, you’re selling a product, start building that as soon as possible.
Ashley: Did you do a Kickstarter for this film?
Paulina: No, this is all privately funded.
Ashley: I see. So then what did you do to reach out? That totally makes sense…so you would find an organization that’s anti-bullying organization and then as you were starting to produce this film you’d reach out to them. What do you say…just, “Hey, I’m a filmmaker, I’m doing an anti-bullying film, would you guys like to sponsor, would you like to be involved?” What does that actually look like?
Paulina: Honestly, it’s usually just like, “Would you like to be involved when the film comes out, would you like to do some cross promotion?” That happened a lot for me with blended family podcasts or blogs. I got into Step Parent Magazine just by myself from reaching out and they were all about it. A lot of the times too if you’re a niche film like these outlets you need content. So if you still directly talking to their audience you’ve done their job for them. You’re like, “Hey, here’s my movie, here’s the story. Post it and they’re like, “Yay, thank you.” And even if you’re doing it ahead of time and you don’t have anything to send them yet you at least are getting on their radar, you know, who should I stay in contact with, what kind of content would you like me to send you when the movie is done, how would you like to get involved.
It’s just creating that conversation or you don’t even have to reach out to them yet but at least start building that list of people so when the time does come, like when you have your trailer or your teaser and the movie is not totally done yet or you’re towards that end of post you can start reaching out so that way that marketing process is like rocking and rolling.
Ashley: Yeah. How did you even learn to even to what you just described? You have a background in PR…
Paulina: Not at all.
Ashley: Did some of these distributors suggest to start making this list? How did you even get the idea to do that?
Paulina: Honestly I [laughs]…I come from a business background in the sense of like my dad runs a business and I’ve always just been very interested in business. I watch a lot of…being a person that is very much involved in social media and Instagram, I see businesses start up on Instagram or Facebook and you see how they thrive and it’s like what are they doing, why do they have more followers and this one doesn’t? So I have an understanding just from being curious. And then from asking distributors those questions. What’s funny is distributors now are really having a hard time because they’re having to do the exact same thing you as the filmmaker are doing. They’re gonna have to find that audience, so they’re hiring the PR company and they’re getting the press but they’re really relying on you as a filmmaker to find the audience.
That’s why people say it’s the old way of thinking of, “Oh, throw a name star in there and they’ll give you their audience.” Yes and no because unless they’re fully gone whole and if at all the time in the world they’re not working anymore to invest and always post about your movie, they’ll do a post and tweet, but it’s that constant, like that last sweat, five second when people scroll. So it’s really up to you as the filmmaker to reach out to the people that are gonna write the reviews because that’s number one, they’re gonna give you those stars and they’re gonna be the ones that say, “Wow, I really connected to this film, I then sent it to my friend and sent it to my family. The great thing about films is they’re not cars.
They really do appreciate over time if…like I’m lucky I’ve got a 12 year old girl who’s a phenomenal actress. She’ll grow and be something great I know it. I’m young to my career, maybe I’ll go off and do things in this film or mean something more in five years or whatever. But films stay around. They constantly as long as you just keep that going and the audience is there and you keep that conversation going it will have a life. I think what happens is so many filmmakers kill their film before they really even gave it a chance to thrive whether it’s they keep it in post-production too long, they don’t reach out to…they don’t specifically define their audience ahead of time which is why you get a lot of again they end up in post so long as they’re trying to find their audience in the post production once they get a distributor.
Or once the release happens they just stop marketing. You know, like, “Oh, it’s out there now, I’ve done it.” And it’s like no, it’s a film, it’s out there, keep it going. There’s no reason why…and also too I think that’s why it’s important to make films that you truly care about and subjects that you really care about because I think that’s gonna keep…it’s really time consuming and it can be kind of disheartening sometimes and exhausting but that’s gonna be that thing that keeps you going is when you get those texts or you get those messages from people that have watched it and they just say how much it’s meant to them and you’re like, “Aw, this is really cool!” I guess [inaudible 00:24:21].
Ashley: So let’s talk about Marc and that relationship you have with him buying the script. When you went into this did he know that you were gonna substantially rewrite it? Did you have those conversations and he was okay with it? Did he like the finished film? I’m just always curious to see how the writers perceive their own material when it gets done.
Paulina: Yeah. We had a conversation on that. He knew…he’s a great professional writer in the sense that he understands when his script is bought I’m gonna [inaudible 00:24:58]. It’s like I’ve watched movies where I’m the writer on it and it’s not my script at all. And that’s just the essence of filmmaking, you know what I mean? That’s the nature of what it is. If you’re a writer that is so adamant about word for word your script needs to be on screen, write a book or direct it yourself. When you have another director that comes in they’re gonna put…they’re the story teller. When you have an editor that comes in and the director really [inaudible 00:25:25] everyone’s gonna put their piece into the story and it’s gonna develop into something outside of yourself.
That’s always what I like to say. Sure, Marc wrote a script, sure I wrote a script, but then this turned into something that is really beyond that. People have gotten things out of it that I didn’t even initially intend. So Mark was a great spot. He knew, I was like, “I’m pretty much gonna change and make it more about my story.” I said, “I’m definitely keeping the title, I’m keeping the names of the characters which I did. The parents I changed the names, but I think I kept a couple of the names of the parents but the main characters I kept the names. Now, the thing that is different is the monster in his script was given a completely different name where I wanted to make it just a little bit more because it’s a family movie, just to make a little bit more but also really show the symbolism of the movie of Mail Order Monster and it being mom and the monster and the spirit of the mom and the whole [inaudible 00:26:24].
So yeah, but Marc’s great. He’s awesome, I think he’s just been hired recently to write…his script’s actually been optioned by someone else and he’s doing some rewrites on another feature. He really understands the family market and writing scripts for the family genre for sure.
Ashley: Good, perfect. And one of the things like whenever someone is preparing for a low budget feature film, one of like the tenets is don’t have kids in your movie. I’m curious if that was ever something that came up and was it difficult working with kids on a low budget project and how did that all work out?
Paulina: Yeah, I don’t know if I just got lucky or maybe I did the right thing. I got the best kids. One thing I will say really helped me and I was told by as lot of the parents that no one does this is that during the call backs I interviewed the parents because I knew it’s my first time directing a feature, it’s my first time working with kids, I wanna know who the parents are because I’m gonna be shooting…I shot this in Kentucky so I’m gonna be far away from anywhere, so I wanna make sure whoever is on set with me like they’ve got my back and they’re gonna trust me. I got the best parents in the world and I knew it. Sometimes you interview these people and I interviewed some parents and I was like, “I don’t know if I’m gonna want you on set with me.”
So as much as I’m lucky because I got the most talented actors, I got the perfect actors for the role but I also got the best family with her. So that was a big thing. Working with the kids was great because they always hit their marks, they were very, very professional and they were just the right…I think because we moved so quickly, I mean we were shooting like 13 scenes in eight hours if not less hours every day. That constant being in the moment and moving I think allowed emotions to come up so much easier than having to rehearse and rehearse and getting stuck in a rehearsal of how they were saying the lines. So it allowed things to just really be on the surface. Also just kids are like that.
A lot of it too came down to when you’re moving so fast you’re just like, “This is what you’re doing…and so that strong just like direction I guess because I have no time not to I think just to really allow everyone to get on board especially the kids and be like, “Okay.” They just understand how to take direction in that way. So yeah.
Ashley: So let’s talk about…you’ve got your script, you’ve rewritten it and now the next step is going out and raising the money. Let’s just talk briefly, maybe you can give some tips to people that are sort of in that position where now they’ve got a script they wanna write it or they wanna direct it, they wanna produce it. How do you go about raising the money and maybe you can kind of tell people things that worked, things that didn’t work and what you would suggest?
Paulina: Yeah, so in my case in particular I made sure that I had…I wasn’t gonna buy this script and I wasn’t going to go on this venture if I didn’t know that I already had people that were interested in investing in something already. So that was a big thing for me. Again like reverse engineer the process ahead of time. Like if I didn’t have anyone or people that from my background or people I’ve known in my life that knew I was into films and they wanted to invest in something because business people they…everyone wants to make a movie. If I didn’t have that I would have never bought the script and I would have never been here with Mail Order Monster. So I always suggest really have an understanding of your relationships and your contacts ahead of time before you go down this venture.
Two, I utilize tax incentives a lot. That’s why we shot in Kentucky and I was very adamant about creating a solid business plan that was attractive to investors regardless if the film made money, so that was good. By doing that I made my investors active investors instead of passive. So the way you do that is you make them members of the LLC. So many filmmakers, they have the producers as they own the LLC, they own the movie and the investors are passive, so they really don’t get to write off the investment as a business investment. They write it off as an investment loss. So if they write it off as a business loss the first year when you’re shooting because you know it makes money the first year of shooting, they actually are federally able to have a tax benefit as well as the State tax benefit of Kentucky.
So that’s a big thing. Second, I was very adamant about getting the movie done quickly and out because the worst thing for investors is to invest in something and then four years later, three years later, two years later they finally get to see the finished script or the finished film. With us it was we shot it in July, we finished it in December, we sold it to our sales agent in January, premiered at the market in February, sold territories, premiered in Portland in October, distributed in the US in November and that’s less than a year from it being done. So for that it make like this…and they got the tax incentive back from Kentucky in February. So it’s kind of like this nice, fluid rolling out of the film so they get to feel like something’s actually happening.
I’m very transparent on everything, but the more you can create that feeling that you didn’t just take the money and run regardless of the success of the film people are just gonna wanna invest in you because they know that you are honest and you’re on it. That’s a big thing because you know, it’s all about trust. People understand, business people know investing in a movie, investing in real estate, investing in a restaurant, it’s all risky. They understand that. It’s not up to you to prove them wrong about that or to make them think that, “Oh, I know I said you’re gonna make a bunch of money but…” They understand. It’s more or less than investing in you and what are you going to do with this investment. How are you handling it?
Too many filmmakers completely drop the ball with that and they can’t go back to those people which sucks. This is a career. It’s a marathon. I don’t want this one movie to be it. So that’s one thing that I would really say is do really try and reverse engineer the process as much as possible and think about what would it be like for you as an investor and make that experience as positive and fun as possible. These people have invested in a movie. Make it fun, you know. So, yeah [laughs].
Ashley: So let’s talk about festivals for a minute. You mentioned right now you’re up with Mail Order Monster at the Portland Film Festival. Maybe you can just talk about the submission process to festivals. I’m curious too with all your experience doing short films, did you get to know a lot of the program directors and stuff which then maybe helps you get your films into the festivals? But maybe just talk about that because I know that rejection is part of this process and I always like to just kind of give people a sense of the scope. How many festivals did you submit to and how many did you get accepted to. Just sharing that I think will be helpful to other people knowing that okay…because we’re all gonna get, no matter how good your film is you’re not gonna get into every festival.
Paulina: And do you know what’s so great about that is the thing is a lot of the time, when I started out with my shots and submitting to festivals I took every rejection very hard… [inaudible 00:33:29] I go to these festivals, I’ve seen what they do. It’s not about your film, it’s about the program for that year. And that’s the thing is often times the programmers…I also help judge the Sherman Oaks Film Festival as well so I get to see a lot of the submissions come in and I understand the programing for that year. Often times the programmers in the festival they want to curate a specific set of topics every year. So no matter how great your film is, if it doesn’t fit their program it doesn’t fit their program. So just do your research.
One thing I definitely did not do with my shots which I wish I had done is I didn’t do enough research on my festivals beforehand. Which festivals are really gonna be great for your film from a networking perspective and to help you really get the life out of that short film, because a lot of short films are about a very specific topic. There’re often a lot of festival out there that wanna curate films with that topic. So definitely do that. Do not take any sort of rejection personally. If you take it personally this whole entire business is gonna be a big issue for you. So just keep rolling through it. With Mail Order Monster we never really even intended to do festivals. But the reason we did do a couple, we submitted to a couple is we made sure that they screened either right before the release or just during the release.
So often times indie filmmakers make the mistake where they get into a festival with their feature film and they don’t have distribution yet and it’s not a Sundance and it’s not a tier one festival. If you’re gonna do a tier two and under festival with your feature, have distribution, use that festival for marketing for your release because after that tier two, tier three festival press comes out everyone forgets about your movie and all of that audience that you built is gone unless you’ve found a way to really actively [inaudible 00:35:25] and be able to keep that conversation going. So it’s often really hard. So it’s great. Here is people that can come to the festival and Portland will say, “Hey, come to the screening if you can’t see it it’s coming out November 6th.
Here we are on Instagram, this is where you can find us. That’s something I really encourage people to do. People often have this misunderstanding where, “Oh, you can’t have a distributor before you go into a festival.” It’s very, very wrong. Or you can’t be released before you go into a festival. Tier two, tier three festivals, they want good stuff. So if your feature or your shot fits in the program it doesn’t matter if it’s already screened before. And you can ask them and they’ll tell you. I hope that answers your question…yeah.
Ashley: One follow up question I would have is…and I just went through this process. My film behind me is The Pinch and I submitted to a number of festivals. I found it very difficult to be able to tell if the festival was good or not or even worth my time or not. Like you just said is it good for networking and these kind of things. How do you actually tell? Like going on Film Freeway, they have a bunch of feedback but nobody ever gives negative feedback. I just found very rare that I found any negative feedback on any festivals.
Paulina: And often times too because they’ll go on those reviews and they’ll find a way to kind of get rid of them. A really interesting way to go about it, it might take a little bit more work is find the films that have screened in the past and reach out to a couple of those filmmakers. Some of them may not have attended but for the ones that have attended they’ll really be able to give you an understanding. And have it be films that you really respect too because if it’s a little film where it’s like maybe it’s their first film any festival is gonna be a big joy. But if it’s a film with a filmmaker that does festivals, they do work, there’s someone that you respect and they’re like, “Listen, this is a great festival, definitely attend, I was able to get all of this information.”
Definitely that’s a great resource you can say this is a great festival. Don’t be afraid also…you know, there’re so many filmmaker groups on Facebook, don’t be afraid to just blatantly blast out, “Hey guys, I wanna submit to this festival, anyone got any feedback?” Especially if it’s one that’s a little bit more well-known. There is something…I don’t know if you’re…are you in Los Angeles [inaudible 00:37:44]?
Ashley: Yeah, correct. Yeah.
Paulina: Yes, so the Hollywood Shots Film…it’s like a film festival but they do a rule out of screenings and they also have this I guess program where they’ll watch your film and they’ll curate the festivals. They’ll curate a whole program of festivals that will be so great for your shot, one that will really elevate your career. All of the different press that they can do for it. It costs a fee but they essentially become like this team that programs an entire for your film so you don’t end up getting into festivasl or submitting to festivals where you throw money away. They’ll even help you give feedback on like, “Hey, this is how you need to change the edit because if you just change this one little tweak you’ll get into all these festivals and it’s this one thing right now that’s holding you back.”
So it’s really worth it. It’s a little bit of an investment. I think it’s like a couple of hundred dollars for a consultation that will last like four hours and she’ll give you the run down. She’s…what’s her name again, oh my God, it’s Kimberly Brown I think. She’s a programmer for Tribeca. She’s been on there, I think she’s even done programming for Sundance for a long time. She’s one of the original programmers for LA Film Festival. So she created Hollywood Shots because she was frustrated that so many filmmakers were just wasting money on film submissions and just kind of throwing money away especially with short films. So that’s definitely something that I would recommend that’s very specific, but if you want something that’s a little bit more cost effective and you can just do it on your own, feel free to reach out.
Find those filmmakers on IMDb Pro or Facebook. So many people would be happy to give that information. I did that for sales agents. I would reach out to the filmmakers that have worked with certain sales agents and I’d call them, email them and we’d have conversations and they’d say, “Listen, this person robbed me or this person’s amazing.”
Ashley: Yeah, good advice. So how can people see Mail Order Monster, you know what the release schedule is gonna be like? I think you mentioned it a second ago but we’ll just wrap it up now.
Paulina: Yes. So November 6th it comes out on I believe iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Microsoft, Vudu, all those great streaming platforms. And it comes out somewhere else which is pretty cool and recognizable in 2019. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say that yet [laughs] because the distributors haven’t really announced it and I should allow them to do that but November 6th is the date. I would say go [inaudible 00:40:03] and then feel good and watch the movie.
Ashley: [laughs] Perfect. And what’s the best way for people to keep up with what you’re doing, Twitter, Facebook, blog, anything you’re comfortable sharing you can just tell us that now and I’ll round that up for the show notes.
Paulina: Yeah, I’m a big Instagram and Facebook proponent so @Paulina Lagudi for me personally and then you can also find me through the movie @ Mail Order Monster, that’s both through Facebook and Instagram or www.mailordermonster.com [inaudible 00:40:28].
Ashley: Okay, perfect. Well, Paulina I really appreciate your coming on and talking with me today. Good luck with this film and all your future films.
Paulina: Thank you so much Ashley.
Ashley: Thank you, will talk to you later. Bye.
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.
So next week when I publish the episode is the week of Christmas. I’m not sure if I’m gonna publish an episode then. I just got to kind of see what my schedule works out for. I’d like to and I’m thinking maybe I’ll do something kind of a little different than I do on the normal episodes, just something to keep the episodes flowing but maybe not an interview. But I haven’t quite decided on that so it might be an episode on Christmas but definitely the week after which is the week of New Year’s. I think December 31st is that Monday which will be the last episode of the year. So keep an eye out for that episode. I’ll try and do kind of a recap of kind of what I did for this year and we will also have another interview although not entirely sure who that interview will be at this point, but anyways, that’s the show for today, thank you for listening.