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SYS Podcast Episode 265: Writer/Director Archie Borders On His New Indy Romance, Under the Eiffel Tower (transcript)

This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 265: Writer/Director Archie Borders On His New Indy Romance, Under the Eiffel Tower.


Ashley: Welcome to Episode #265 of the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screen writer and blogger over at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing writer-director Archie Borders who just did a feature film called Under The Eiffel Tower. We talk through his career, how he started out and how he got to the point where he is now writing and directing feature films, so stay tuned for that interview. If you find this episode valuable 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. Over on iTunes I wanna thank Matt Javed who left me a very nice review.

Thank you Matt, it is appreciated to see some people getting a lot of value out of the podcast, so thank you very much for leaving those reviews. If you have a minute, please do go to iTunes and leave some feedback. If there’s a comment you wanna make to me privately and not want it to be public, you’re welcome to do that as well. You can always send me feedback to info@sellingyourscreenplay.com. But this public feedback, it really does help just get the podcast listed in more places. It’s sort of social proof and so the feedback really is important within the iTunes ecosystem. So again, if you have a minute, please do just leave a comment. Those are really very much appreciated. And again, a big thanks for Matt for taking a few minutes out of his day to leave that very, very nice comment.

Any websites or links that I mentioned in the podcast can be found on my blog in the show notes. I also publish a transcript with every episode in case 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 265. 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 logline 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 writer-director Archie Borders, here is the interview.

Ashley: Welcome Archie to the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.

Archie: No problem. Thanks for having me.

Ashley: So to start out, maybe you can just give us a quick overview of your background. Where did you grow up and how did you get interested in the entertainment business?

Archie: Sure. Yeah, I grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, moved to Louisville, Kentucky when I was a little older, always loved movies, was a movie nuts. But unlike some of the bigger media markets there was not a lot of film schools or things like that around so I had a neighborhood Repertory Theater, the Kentucky Theater in Lexington, I’m gonna give it a plug, that showed everything. You know, it showed Casa Blanca, it showed Fellini, it showed Antononio, everybody. It was an education that normally a young man from the south Midwest would not get, so it was a real gem of a theater.

Ashley: That’s fantastic. And so what were some of the first steps actually turning this into a career for you?

Archie: Well, you know, you don’t know what you don’t know and I didn’t know anybody in the business and nobody in my family knew anything about the film business, so you kind of do it yourself. I made my own short films, I did a lot of little things. I ended up going to a film school- Southern Illinois Film School in Carbondale, Illinois where Steve James, he did the director of Hoop Dreams went, Carl Ellsworth, a few other folks. And then when I got out, again I knew nobody in the business so I went back home to kinda regroup back to Louisville, Kentucky, and thought… I was really inspired, frankly, by what Spike Lee was doing, and Brooklyn doing it himself, that kind of thing. So I kind of put together my own film. I decided to make the cheapest possible movie I could.

I set my first film which was a movie, a little $20,000 movie called The Reception To Follow. It all takes place in one day at a wedding and the whole movie took place in a bathroom. So I had to build one set, cast would go in and out, I kind of made it like a mini Robert Altman movie, and I was fortunate. I somehow got the name of John Pearson, who was Spike Lee’s producers rep and he also found Michael Moore and Richard Linklater and he liked it. And he liked my first film, he sold it to the Sundance Channel, it became one of their first acquisitions and then I was kind of off and running. I was like, “Oh, this is easy. I did it from Louisville. I can just keep doing it from Louisville.” So I’ve been doing it from here ever since.

Ashley: Wow, that’s a great story. And I get a lot of screenwriters and filmmakers from outside of LA, so it’s inspiring to hear someone tell their story who’s not in Los Angeles. So let’s dig into your latest film…

Archie: Yeah, it’s fun to talk about.

Ashley: Yeah, no, for sure. So let’s dig into your latest film Under The Eiffel Tower. Maybe to start out you can give us a quick pitch or a logline. What is that film all about?

Archie: It is about Stewart, who is a middle aged bourbon salesman from Kentucky who was kind of desperate at loose ends, he gets invited along [inaudible 00:05:34] family vacation to Paris, and in just kind of a set of a peak of romanticism proposes to his best friend’s daughter when they’re under the Eiffel Tower. And she’s 24 and he’s 50.

Ashley: [laughter] Got you. And it doesn’t go as planned I assume?

Archie: It does not go well. No, it does not.

Ashley: And so where did this story come from? What was the genesis of the idea for this?

Archie: It was inspired by a true story. I had a friend, I was working on another project with him, he was a location manager on it, we were setting up the production office during pre-pro and we were just swapping really sad terrifying tales of all the bad relationships we’d been in and he told me about one where he invited himself along on his family’s or his girlfriend’s family’s vacation to Paris. It’s a two week vacation and on the first day of the vacation he did exactly what happened to the movie, proposes got rejected and then you know, you can’t take that back, so you’re stuck there. So that was really the impetus for it.

Ashley: [laughter] Yeah, at least wait till the last day of vacation before you do that.

Archie: Exactly.

Ashley: What was it that appealed to you about this story? Like what was it that just when this guy is telling you his sort of true life story, what was it that you thought, “Wow, this would make a good movie?”

Archie: Well, it’s funny. That in itself was not necessarily would make a good movie because, when you’re in your twenties or thirties or whenever that happened, it’s romantic and it’s funny and you can joke about it, but it doesn’t really make a complete screenplay. What made it interesting to me was years later going, “Well, what if this guy was not in his mid-twenties or something like that, but he was 50 and really at loose ends. Then it becomes doubly pathetic and then it becomes a commentary on somebody is just so desperate they see this as their only chance of happiness. So this guy has a long way to go. It was exciting to take a guy who was literally at his bottom and then have him have to claw his way back up to become… to enter into what is essentially a normal male-female kind of relationship where he can actually relate to somebody his own age.

Ashley: Yeah. So, let’s talk about your writing process a little bit. I noticed on IMDb you have shared credit with Judith Godrèche and David Henry. Maybe you can just describe what each one of you guys contributed to the screenplay and sort of how all that worked.

Archie: Sure. Right. Well, the initial screenplay was written by Dave and I. David, he’s a writer, he wrote a really wonderful book called Furious Cool about Richard Pryor a few years back and he wrote the last film I did with me, a movie called Pleased To Meet Me. We co-wrote that together. So we had written the initial drafts of the screenplay, and taking it along and got it in pretty much good shape and where we were able to take it out and we took it through our casting agent and went right out to Matt and Judith. I had seen Matt of course in everything because he’s in everything as a supporting actor, and Judith I had seen in the overnight. So we got it to them, and they both jumped aboard. So that became a whole other part of the writing process.

Once we had them on board, some of my favorite memories of the… we would jump on the phone, all four of us because we’re all over the place. We’re all in different parts of the country, and we would just talk through a character and we would talk through different things as minor as the character’s name all the way up to the ending. So they jumped in and helped shape the characters from that point. So it was really, I don’t know how traditional a screenwriting process that is but, it went from script to discussion to we we’re on set and that collaboration continued right on through production.

Ashley: Yeah, sure. So, maybe just briefly you can describe sort of how you and David work together, actually writing the screenplay. I’m always curious just to hear like what tools did you use, were you in different rooms, do you divide up scenes, do you outline and then divide up scenes? Maybe just talk about that actual process because I know there’s a lot of screenwriters listening to this that collaborate with other people and it’s always interesting to hear how other people make it work.

Archie: Yeah. Well, Dave and I always start off with once we have the idea, we go out and we talk about it endlessly, we talk about the possible ways it could go, we talk about the characters first, how we like the challenge of the characters and then the structure just sort of starts to appear from that point, and once we have that, for example on Eiffel Tower, I wrote the first 45 pages. I just went off after we had discussed all this, I locked myself away, write it then I’d come back, he takes it, he goes, “That’s great!” we discuss it, he goes off and writes it and then we just keep going. So once we finally have a draft, and the draft can take anywhere from a month to six months depending on how much revisions you wanna do.

Once we have it where we both liking it, at that point you can barely tell who wrote what. It really is a genuine collaboration. So by the time we get into a place where we’re close to production, it’s like putting icing on the rest of it.

Ashley: Yeah. I’m curious, do you have a way of managing when you guys have different opinions about something? How do you work through when both of you don’t necessarily agree on a choice for an actor or a character or dialogue or the story or whatever, how do you work through those issues between you and David?

Archie: We’ve been fortunate, we’ve never had any major disagreements in the sense that we were like, “I’m right, you’re wrong, we’re at a stalemate.” We always end up going, “What’s the best thing for the story? What really pushes it forward?” And If somebody is really set on one particular thing, I trust David enough, and then you trust your actors enough later, hopefully, to follow through on that. So we’ve not ever been in a place where we were like we just butted heads and we couldn’t get through it. If we did, my guess is we’d have to step away for a bit, let everything calm down and then go back in and be as objective as possible, which is always tough.

Ashley: Yeah, sure. So once you guys had this draft done, what were your next steps? Did you go out and try and raise money, did you go out and try and find some other producing partners? Maybe just walk us through that briefly of what the steps were involved getting these actors attached and raising the money.

Archie: Right. Well, I have my own production company here in Kentucky. We don’t do just movies, we also do national commercials and things like that. So the production process of it, we have… we’re fortunate in that we can put a little development money to start the ball rolling. So we may do a bourbon ad for Brown Forman or something like that and we’d plough that money back into the development or something like that. So we do those kinds of things, that’s how we start. Once we have some kind of development process, we will usually either hire a casting agent. I don’t have an agent myself, I have a good lawyer and I use her all the time and I would recommend every writer to have a great lawyer.

But what we did is we went ahead and hired a casting agent that we worked with a lot. We had the script ready, we had some money that we both were ready to put in and we have some private equity that we’ve used on other movies and we’ll use on our future movies too, ready on standby. Once we took it out to… we approached UTA- United Talent and they recommended Matt, and I had known Matt’s work and looked at it and he liked the script, agreed to it and his first question was, “Do you got the money?”[Laughter]. And I was fortunately able to go, “Yes, I have some money, I’ve got the money, we’ve got enough equity partners and we can move forward.”

Then we went out to Judith and then Judith came back to us and she had the relationship with The Orchard from The Overnight. When they came on board it was kind of a… it was a real blessing because suddenly you’re not doing everything, suddenly you’ve got partners that you can work with who I loved the stuff they had done previously, I liked them and they were like, “We wanna make the movie.” So I mean, that’s kind of the dream scenario really. Suddenly you can take some of the administrative stuff off your plate and just be a filmmaker. So I realized that’s a rare thing, it doesn’t always happen that way but it did on this one and it’s been a pretty wonderful process so far.

Ashley: Yeah, for sure. So how can people see Under The Eiffel Tower? Do you know what the release schedule is going to be like?

Archie: Yeah, it comes out… it starts next Friday. We’ll be out in LA for the Premier’s next week and then I think it comes out on the eighth… no that’s not right, yes it is right, the eighth and then it goes out on streaming platforms on the twelfth I believe.

Ashley: Okay, well perfect. What’s the best way for people to keep up with what you’re doing? Twitter, a blog, Facebook, anything you’re comfortable sharing I’ll around up for the show notes.

Archie: Yeah, I mean definitely the Facebook. We’ve got my personal page but my company 180 also has a Facebook page. I do tweet, I don’t tweet probably as much as I should. I feel a little bit like a… yeah, lewd eye sometimes, but that’s probably the best way.

Ashley: Yeah. So well, perfect, Archie. I really appreciate you coming on and talking with me today. Good luck with this film and all your future films.

Archie: Thanks very much. I really appreciate it.

Ashley: Thank you. We’ll 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 logline, 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 more 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 are 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 gamut.

There’s producers looking for a specific type of spec script to producers looking to hire a screenwriter to write up one of their ideas or properties. They’re looking for shorts, they’re looking for features, TV 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 logline and query letter and answer any screenwriting 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, the 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 Alex Ferrari, who runs Indie Film Hustle, which is both a blog and a podcast. We talk about some of the new stuff that he’s working on including his new book. He also has a new streaming platform for indie filmmakers where they can list their films and people can of course, consume that content and of course, his latest feature film that he just wrote and directed, we cover all of that. I interviewed Alex before on the podcast on Episode number #210. So if you haven’t checked that out already, do check it out before next week and of course I will link to it in the show notes.

So just keep an eye out for that episode with Alex next week. To wrap things up I just wanna touch on a few things from today’s interview with Archie. I think it’s fascinating that he’s not living in Los Angeles and yet is still making independent films at a very high level. I get a lot of emails from people just asking, “Is this possible? Can you live outside of Los Angeles?” and I think it’s really interesting to look at how he’s doing it. In his case he’s running his own production company and a lot of that production work of course is not feature films it was whatever he can get locally, whether that be commercials or whatever else. I think this gives you a great background in producing media, so I think it’s a real good fit if you’re not gonna live in LA, really honing those production skills is a smart idea.

If you remember back to Episode number #235 where I interviewed Oklahoma filmmaker, Ryan Bellgardt about his film Jurassic Games, he was in a very similar situation. He had his own physical production company, in his case in Oklahoma, it was the same sort of thing, doing commercials, that kind of stuff, but again, just honing his craft and getting real, real good at physical production and that gave him a great background to then do the feature film. So again, if you’re looking… if you’re not in Los Angeles, and you’re looking for things that can kind of compliment your screenwriting, you’re getting a job at a local production company, just networking with your local filmmakers is a smart thing to do because there are some talented people out there and there are some people that are not in Los Angeles that are actually out there making independent films, so always keep your eyes open. Anyway, that’s the show. Thank you for listening.