Ashley: Welcome to Episode #282 of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screen writer and blogger over at www.sellingyourccreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing writer- director Liam O Mochain who just did a film called Lost and Found, which is an arthouse comedy drama. He had a very interesting approach to shooting this film. The film has several interconnected stories, so he shot each story on its own and then edited them together into one cohesive feature film. This took place over the course of many, many months so it’s another great example of someone getting creative on how to shoot a film on the budget they have and just getting out there and making things happen for themselves at whatever level they can do it. 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 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 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 #282. 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.
A quick few words about what I’m working on. I’m trying to get my next project going, it’s a horror-thriller, I’ve been talking about it on the podcast for the last few months. Last week I had a meeting with the other two producers and we started to actually put some pieces in place. We have a budget, so that’s a good first step, and now we’ve got to start building a team and finish with the fundraising. One of the producers had a friend who was also an actor and he actually… that actor actually owns a house in the San Fernando Valley which is where we’re gonna shoot this, and that house is actually a perfect location for one of our main locations in this movie. These are just the kind of things that come up during these production meetings and we actually just… he called his buddy up and we went over there, took a look at the house and at least with first pass it seemed like this particular actor was interested in letting us shoot there, assuming he could have a role in the film and be a part of it.
That’s a good first step, but those are kinds of things that I’ve gotta just get in place. And then on the fundraising part we have about two thirds of the money in place, so I’m thinking I’ll probably do another Kickstarter Campaign to raise that last one third of the budget. So I’ve got to start planning that and get that worked out. Kickstarter Campaign, if you’ve listened to this podcast for a while, you know I didn’t want it for The Pinch and it’s a lot of work so I’ve got to really think that through and plan that out. I’m also thinking on this one I’m gonna try and at least get some of the cast in place. As I said some of the other pieces I will try and get in place as well just to make the package a little fuller when I go to Kickstarter.
I’m hoping that will just make it seem a little bit more legitimate. Obviously I’ve done a Kickstarter before and I was able to successfully get that film finished, so that hopefully just adds to the package that I’m putting up on Kickstarter. I’m not a first time on Kickstarter, so hopefully that will add something, but I just wanna have a bunch of the pieces in place. It will make the pre-production a little bit easier having those people in place, and hopefully it will help the Kickstarter. The more people I can bring on to the team before the Kickstarter, the more chance there is of them spreading it to their contacts and to the people that they know. So I just think it potentially could give me the chance of raising a little bit more money for this film. And we have some stretch calls that we’re thinking about too.
Basically the budget is gonna be about $75,000 on this, and then we’re hoping that’s gonna be sort of the production budget without any name cast. But we’re hoping we can get to like $100,000, which would give us $20,000 or $25,000 just to put into some name cast. You’d really be amazed, you can get some people that you’ve heard of, some reputable actors that have pretty good resumes for that kind of a budgeted film just depending on where they are in their career and what they think of the script and what they think of the package and that stuff. So potentially that’s what we’re gonna try and do, get to the 75k that will give us enough money to go out and shoot this movie. And then if we can do more than that then it will give us some money to put towards cast as well.
That’s where I am on that project. As I said the next main thing is putting some of those pieces in place and then planning out the Kickstarter. I’ll certainly have more details as that develops. On the feature film- The Pinch, the crime thriller which I finished last year, the sales are starting to really slow down through the various VOD platforms that we’re on. Ninety percent of the money from VOD has come from Amazon Prime, so keep that in mind if you’re thinking about putting your own movie up on this VOD platforms. I think I’ve kinda run my course on Amazon Prime as the money was flowing in at a pretty nice clip for the first few months and then I would say six or eight weeks ago it really started to slow down. It seems like a lot of the success with Amazon is having them recommend your film to other people as they search through Amazon Prime.
Now that it’s a few months old it seems like they’re not doing that as much. So maybe when something is new they kinda give you a little boost to see what kind of feedback and see what kind of interest that film generates and then they slowly back off it. So what I’m thinking, maybe I can do like a little bit of a re-launch here. If you wanna do me a favor, if you listen to this podcast and get some value out of it and wanna kinda help me out, go to Amazon Prime and also if you do Amazon Prime. If you do Amazon Prime, just go there, watch the movie and write an honest review of it. It’s all included with their Amazon Prime membership, so if you do Amazon Prime, it doesn’t cost you anything extra to watch The Pinch.
I’m hoping that maybe with some renewed interest, if I can get a bunch of new people watching it, get a bunch of new reviews, hopefully those reviews will be good. I’m just seeing if I can relaunch and kinda jumpstart it and get it back into that Amazon algorithm where it’s getting recommended. I’m gonna do a few other things behind the scenes, I’ll definitely do some tweets and some Facebook posts about this, get some of my friends to go. But definitely if you listen to this podcast and you’ve been thinking, “Gee, I should check that film out,” please do. Just go to Amazon Prime, give the film a watch and write a review, and then I’ll certainly repost the results if this thing, whether it relaunched, if I can get a bunch of reviews and it doesn’t kind of relaunch it in the Amazon algorithm, I’m happy to report that as well.
I’m sure that will be helpful to other filmmakers. So please if you have a minute and you use Amazon, please do go watch the film and write a review. It is greatly appreciated. We’re available on several VOD platforms including iTunes, Google Play and of course Amazon Prime. And that should be available on the USA, Canada and the UK. Also I’m selling the film- The Pinch directly from my website, so if you wanna just buy it directly from me, that’s always appreciated because then there’s no cut. Amazon and these other sort of middle men don’t take any of the cut, so it’s great if you just wanna buy it directly from me. All you have to do is just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/thepinch. It’s all lower case. I will link to that in the show notes.
And if you buy it from me you can also buy the three-hour webinar which I did, called 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 of course post-production. I put quite a bit of time in preparing for this webinar, so if you’re thinking about making a micro-budget film I think this webinar will be very educational for you. Again, that’s www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/thepinch. Anyway, that’s what I’m working on, so now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m interviewing writer-director Liam O Mochain, here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Liam to the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Liam: Thank you so much 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?
Liam: I am from Galway in the west of Ireland in a small, little village, small area of Gal Port, which is an Irish speaking community. I grew up speaking Irish and there was no theater, there was no cinema, there was nothing really that was like a local community center and that was why we put on plays and different stuff like that. So I was so far removed from the entertainment industry or any industry for that matter [laughs] except for seeing stuff on TV, like at our one channel black and white TV for the first couple of years of my life. And then we got a second channel and then colored TV and we felt we were fantastic, you know? I studied theater first in 1991. I went and I studied theater in Galway and then I studied theater in Dublin with the Gaiety School of Acting where Galway was with Galway Youth Theater, then Gaiety School of Acting and then The National Youth Theater.
And from that I kinda put on role plays and put on plays and then got involved in radio, writing stuff for radio and producing radio shows and then we got a new TV channel in Ireland in Gaelic called TG4, which is one of the [inaudible 00:09:35] and that came in the mid to late 90’s. I used to produce a lot of TV segments and TV shows for them. Usually I bought movies and I’d go to film festivals around the world and it would be me on my own with the camera and a microphone and I’d have to come back with either a 10 minute segment or a full half hour, and that was fantastic training.
Ashley: Sure. Yeah. Okay, so let’s talk about your doing these TV segments and that as you say, fantastic training just to learn how to edit and cut and shoot and that kind of stuff. When did you start to actually turn this into a career as an actor, as a writer and director?
Liam: Well, while I was doing that I was also producing radio shows as well. I’ve around in radio for twenty- something years to try and make some money and at the same time I was getting parts and short movies and TV sketch shows and feature films as an actor. But you know, as an actor you’re always waiting for work, so you kinda wanna create stuff yourself. I’d written a short movie in ’95, ’96 that got made and it was like a half-hour short. I learnt from that that even in shorts there are certain rules and the shorter the short the better. So if you have something that’s… my short was called Fortune, it was 25 minutes and I found out after it was made that it was too long, that people want something preferably under 15 minutes or under 10 minutes.
Now, at the same time it still went to a lot of the film festivals around the world and won awards. But for TV, for getting it on TV it just didn’t get on. Only in Ireland and in the UK did it go on TV. It didn’t go elsewhere because it was as I said it was too long. So after that I wrote a feature film called The Book That Wrote Itself and I was shopping around trying to find a director in Ireland to make the film. And I have people like Kirsten Sheridan who’s made Disco Pigs, and who’s made loads of other movies to do with… and she and other people all said to me, “You know the script really well, you know exactly what you want, you’re telling us which shot, which you don’t normally do to a director. Say well, “This is the shot that I think should be in it.” She said, “You really need to do this.”
So by accident I became a film director, but I would kind of describe myself as a film maker, because filmmaker is somebody who’s there from the beginning to the end and there may be many different jobs that you do. I don’t know if that’s too long an answer for you.
Ashley: No, that’s great. Yeah, that’s fantastic. So how did you ultimately raise the money for that first feature? You’re pitching the script and trying to get a director. How did you actually get in a position to direct that?
Liam: Well, basically I decided it was gonna be done quite low budget. In the UK there was a really fantastic [inaudible 00:12:18] by Chris Jones and Genevieve Jolliffe. I think that was their names, and they did a book called The Guerilla Filmmaker’s Handbook. And that was an excellent tool. This is before you could find stuff on the internet. And in that book was a big, massive book with a CD ROM on it. And it just told you every aspect of filmmaking.
Ashley: Let’s dig into your latest film- Lost and Found. Maybe to start out you can give us a quick logline or pitch for that film.
Liam: Lost and Found is seven inter-connected stories set in and around a Lost and Found office of an Irish train station. All the stories are inspired by true stories and the first story is set in the Lost and Found office of this train station over one day and all the people who come in are the main characters of the other stories, and then characters jump in and out of each other’s story. Sometimes some of the characters are the main character in one, a support to another and maybe [inaudible 00:13:17] in something else. So it’s people and items and it’s all… all of the stories in all the segments have a team of something lost or found.
Ashley: I got you. And so where did this story come from? What’s sort of the genesis of this?
Liam: Well, basically I had my second feature film, which was done in 2007 and went to lots of film festivals from ’07 to ’09 and was released in lots of different places. I wanted to take a break after that because features can take a [inaudible 00:13:48] and it takes so much time. I take two to three years between making the film and getting an agent. I just needed a break from that. So I went and I made a short movie called Covet, which is based on one of the 10 Commandments- thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s husband or wife. And I did that. We short it for two days and it was a 10 minute short, and it was just really amazing experience to have to go and do something in that sort of short amount of time and have a full film and a full story and its own sort of story and stuff.
And I just really liked it and I just thought, “People make shorts and then they put them out there and then they’re gone and you never hear about them again. And when you make a feature you spend so much time doing it that you kinda get tired of the process. So I thought, why not mix the two together? And also I’d been inspired by movies like Short Cops and [inaudible 00:14:39] and lots of all the different portmanteau, anthology films. So I thought I would put the two together and I would make films like short movies, like segments and I’ll do them over x amount of years. Also would be I could work on the scripts year by year and I know it would be able to put money on the screen much better by doing it over that sort of period of time. Because if I had to do it at one go I wouldn’t have had the same money or time to do it.
Ashley: Yeah, so how long did it take you to shoot this project?
Liam: We were shooting for three to four days every year for five years, and normally we would do it on the May or June Bank holiday weekend, because a lot of them had the department like the DP, the production designer and the costume designer and the sound people and all the main crew. They were working on major TV shows in Ireland like Penny Dreadful, like Vikings and lots of big shows like that, so they would get the weekend off, the Bank Holiday weekend off. So I always, once it was good weather [inaudible 00:15:43] of good weather to be able to do it. That’s why I always picked that and everybody knew they were coming back pretty much that same weekend every year.
Ashley: Did you know… like you wrote that into the story, are these people getting older in age or you just wrote like these actors basically shoot one complete story in that three of four day period and the next year you do a totally different story that…
Liam: Yes, yes. Some of them yes. I mean, the stories like the train station one at the ticket somewhere where the guy begging and also the will- the story of the will and the funeral home. They were filmed together because one person’s the main character in one and then he’s a support in the other one, and then the girl is the main in one and support in the other, so it made sense to do them together and also I wouldn’t be worried about trying to get the same actors to come back. And then the same with The Proposal and The Wedding. I did those together as well and they were done in two, so most of those stories took two days to shoot, and then the grand opening one, the bar one was a three and a half day.
That was done on its own because we needed to change the outside of the pub every single day and we couldn’t do it earlier in the two days because we needed different looks and it would take time to do it. So that one was done one on its own as was the Lost and Found story, the first story that you see. But that one was filmed last so that we would know which characters, I knew which characters I wanted to bring back and which may be loose ends that I may have to tie up as well. So most of the time it was one to two depending on the story that we needed to tell and how long it would take.
Ashley: Yeah, because that would be one of my big worries, especially not so much with the crew but with the talent just that someone goes off and has a baby and isn’t acting anymore and you never hear from them again. You might get backed into a corner.
Liam: I know because on the previous feature I did, which was called WC which set in the toilets of a late night jazz bar. I decided to come back six months later and one of the actors that said, “Oh, I’m gonna shoot in the jazz bar itself. I felt I needed to get out of the toilet. We needed to show other stuff so you could cut away.” And I asked a lot of the actors to come back like six months later and they all came back. One guy, I said to him, “Do you look the same?” He said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I look the same.” And then the next day I see him on a TV show being interviewed and he’d gone from having long hair to having no hair. And I rang him and said, “You don’t look the same!” He said, “I kinda do.” I said, “No you don’t. You don’t have any hair [laughter].” Yeah, so that could happen.
Ashley: Yeah, for sure. So let’s talk about your writing process a little bit. Where do you typically write and when do you typically write?
Liam: Well, like I think most writers and people who write scripts there’s no one way or one rule and what I do is probably not quite the same as what other people do. I procrastinate a lot. I do everything but turn the computer on. I’ll do things I really don’t wanna do just so I don’t turn the computer on. But once I turn the computer on I’ll say, “You know what, I’ll sit down and write for half an hour.” I may end up sitting for five hours. And then I feel fantastic afterwards. I feel like it’s like therapy. I write a treatment first, like quite a detailed treatment and then I’ll break that down and then I’ll send myself… in today’s age with technology, I’ll send myself texts of dialogue or notes or different stuff I write on pieces of paper and then I’ll correlate all of those together and then sit down and actually write the script.
But on this type of thing I was doing them maybe one to two stories each year. So it wasn’t as daunting knowing that you didn’t have to have a hundred pages or whatever in one go. I needed to have 12 to 15 pages and that was I gave myself a month to six weeks to work on those and it was a really lovely process and a really nice time.
Ashley: Yeah. What does your development process look like? When you have a rough draft do you have some trusted friends that you send it to and get notes and then do rewriting based on those notes? How do you develop these projects?
Liam: Well, on most scripts, yeah, I would… on the feature film ones I would write a draft. I would write a copy of drafts, I’d show it to people and then a lot of the times I would hire a script editor to work with me on the script and then the first notes would come in and usually it’s like, “No, I’m not changing anything, I’m not doing that, I’m not doing that,” and then you kind of come down and read the notes again and, “Okay, fine, maybe I agree with that, maybe I don’t agree with this.” And then you take some time out and do another draft and send it back and back and forth until you’re both pretty happy with it. But I think it’s very important if you’re working with a script editor to work with a script editor who’s the right person and the right genre for the script that you’re doing.
Because I think if you got somebody that didn’t really have an idea of the type of material that you’re writing, you’re at a loss. But for this time project I would have written the script and gave it to the people who work on the film to look at. They would give me notes or tell me what they thought about it. But these stories are sort of there’s one plot. There’s no sub-plots really as such in it. So it was a different process to writing a straight feature film.
Ashley: Yeah. And I was gonna ask about that. How do you approach screenplay structure and something like that? Do you know ultimately you’re gonna be editing these things together weaving them or is it one story and then one story?
Liam: I just did them one story at a time and then when I was about to shoot them then I would decide, I knew who the main characters were and then I would decide which people or which characters or which actors I was gonna take from other stories to play the other parts. If it didn’t go well they could be this, they could be that or we don’t know what job they have, so let’s give them this job and maybe that would make me think about them in a different way. So it was kind of very much everything was done very much at the same time from writing it to casting it to doing all that kind of stuff. And then sometimes when a segment was finished I might have an actor who would have just had one line or maybe not even a line, and just an expressionery look and that kind of set me off on maybe something within one of the other stories about what that person could be the main character in this one instead or maybe whoever I’ve even been thinking of, you know what I mean?
Ashley: Sure. What advice do you have for screenwriters that are looking to break into the business?
Liam: I think write [laughs] which is what people always say. Write, write, write. Keep writing, don’t be afraid to write. I’ve known a lot of writers who’ve written stuff and they’ve never shown it to anybody and they call themselves writers. And they never send it out and I think they’re just afraid of what people will say. I think don’t be afraid to write but also don’t be afraid to show it to people and expect the unexpected. Maybe it will be fantastic, maybe it won’t, but you won’t know unless you keep writing and keep at it. Also write about what you know, which is what everybody says as well and this is so true. Write about what you know or try to write about what you know.
Ashley: Yeah, sound advice. What have you seen recently that you thought was really great? Anything at the movies or on Netflix or anything that you’ve seen that you really liked?
Liam: Could You Ever Forgive Me just was really fantastic, and the reason I loved it so much is because I’m a big fan of Richard E Grant and I love Withnail and I which is a movie he was in in the mid ‘80s. In a way it felt like it was a continuation of his character from that other movie over 30 years ago. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Withnail and I, it’s a cool classic. It’s really… you should watch it, the script is fantastic. I think it’s Bruce Robinson who wrote and directed it, who I think he was nominated for an Oscar for the movie about Cambodia in the late ‘70s. He wrote that and I think he was nominated for that and then he got to make the movie himself. So Could You Ever Forgive Me I really liked. I do like [inaudible 00:23:57].
It’s really funny too and I think as well that a lot of comedians are exceptional, straight actors because they have so much… the need to be funny and they have so much energy that when you trap that by not allowing it to be funny you get this intensity that comes across that you may not get from other people. Now, that’s not always… not every comedian can act, but a lot of them can. I love that movie. I mean, there’s so many movies I see I can’t think of any other at the top of my head. Bites. Bites was good but…
Liam: I thought Bites was good as well but it depressed me. I think the message is what really depressed me. But yeah, and Spot Light last year I just thought wasn’t an extraordinary film and a big short. I’m going back a year because I can’t think of what I’ve seen recently, I haven’t seen too many things.
Ashley: Yeah, no, those are great recommendations. How can people see Lost and Found, do you know what the release schedule is gonna be like?
Liam: Yes. Lost and Found is out now in Boston, San Francisco and Prince Edward Ireland in Canada and it did so well over the weekend in Boston that it’s being held over for another week. And then this week, March 29th, it’s opening in New York City in Kew Garden Cinemas. It’s in New York, in Albany, New York, Toronto, Edmonton and Calgary. And then on the 12th of April it’s in Chicago and Washington, and then on the 19th it’s in Los Angeles and Long Beach.
Ashley: Perfect. And 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.
Liam: Yeah, I’m on Twitter, I don’t know if you’ll be able to find my handle but let me see here. My Lost and Found page is… let me just bring it up here. It’s The Film Lost and Found so with a big T, a big F a big L and a big S. The Film Lost and Found. But also if you type into Google or whatever Lost and Found Irish film, it’s the only Irish movie that will come up. But there’s a lot of movies called Lost and Found, I only realized that after I made the film. There’s so many other movies with that same title [laughs], you know?
Ashley: Yeah, sure. Well, Liam, I really appreciate you coming on the show and talking with me today. Good luck with this film and good luck with your future projects.
Liam: Brilliant. Thank you Ashley so much and thank you for taking the time to talk to me.
Ashley: Thank you, will talk to you later.
A quick plug for the SYS Screenwriting Analysis service. It’s a really economical way to get a high quality professional evaluation on your screenplay. When you buy our three pack you get evaluations at just $67 per script for feature films and just $55 for teleplays. All the readers have professional experience reading for studios, production companies, contests and agencies. You can read a short bio on each reader on our website and you can pick the reader who you think is the best fit for your script. Turnaround time is usually just a few days but rarely more than a week. The readers will evaluate your script on six key factors-concept, character, structure and marketability, tone and overall craft which includes formatting, spelling and grammar.
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 your logline and synopsis for you, you can add this logline and synopsis writing service to an analysis or you can simply purchase this service as a 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 database 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 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 monthly newsletter that 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 Justin Kelly and Savannah Knoop. They just co-wrote a semi-autobiographical film called JT LeRoy, which Savannah actually lived… she lived this life and then wrote a book about her experience, so it’s a great example of just two people coming together. She wrote this book, he was a filmmaker coming together, collaborating and getting this film out there. So keep an eye out for that episode next week. That’s the show, thank you for listening.