Ashley: Welcome to Episode #300 of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger over at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing my good friend and often writing partner Nathan Ives. He was on before on Episode Number #18 so if you haven’t listened to that it might be worth checking out. I will link to that in the show notes. He just did a really cool documentary about artists who aren’t super famous but are making a living from their art. Hopefully you consider yourself an artist so this topic is interesting to you. We talk about the making of the documentary as well as dig into some of the more philosophical issues around making a living as an artist.
I thought this would be a great way of celebrating SYS’s 300th episode. Nathan and I went to collage together in North Carolina and moved out here in the mid-1990s. We actually sold our first script together, a film called Dish Dogs which was produced in the early 2000’s. So hopefully you’ll find this interview as interesting as I did. And again, please do check out his excellent new documentary. I think most listeners of this podcast will get as much out of it as I did. Anyway, 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. 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 #300.
I continually build out the SYS script library, we’ve got hundreds of teleplays already in the library. The SYS script library is completely free, all the script are in PDF format so you can download them and read them on whatever device you use. If you have a screenplay that you do not see listed in the script library please do email those screenplays to me and I will add them to the library. Again, the Selling Your Screenplay library is all just community generated. People send me scripts, I post them in the SYS library. So please do use this as a free resource. And again, if you see scripts that you have on your hard drive that we don’t have listed in the library just email them to me, firstname.lastname@example.org and I will add those to the library.
I occasionally get script requests for specific scripts that I don’t have in the library. In almost all cases the person has done all the basic stuff like googling and poking around some of the other script resources and of course they’ve looked through the SYS script library and know that we don’t already have it. So they will sometimes email and say, “Hey, can find this script,” or, “Do you know anyone… how I could find… you know anyone I could contact to find this script?” So before emailing me please do look at those things. Do a basic google search, do poke around. But if you do have a script request feel free to email that to me as well and I I’m thinking maybe I’ll just announce it here on the podcast and maybe someone will have that script.
Recently I had a writer ask for the Bringing Up Baby screenplay, so if you have that one please do email it to me and again, I will add it to the library and let this screenwriter know. Again, if you’re looking for a specific screenplay do a google search, see if you can find it, go to the SYS script library see if it’s there, if you don’t see it listed and you can’t find it just drop me an email again, email@example.com and we’ll see if we can continue to build the library and really find the scripts that people want. Anyways, if you wanna check that out just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/library.
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 its 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 is everything you need to know to sell your screenplay just got to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide.
So now let’s get into the main segment. Today I am interviewing writer-director Nathan Ives. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Nat to the Selling Your Screenplay podcast, thanks for coming on the show again.
Nathan: I appreciate being here.
Ashley: So you were on Episode Number #18 I will refer people to that. We probably got in more into your backstory and stuff, we will skip that stuff today and go into your new project. You’ve just completed a documentary. Maybe to start out you can just give us a logline or a pitch, what is this new documentary all about?
Nathan: It’s basically about… it’s called Somewhere In The Middle and it’s about working artists who aren’t household names like superstars, but they make a legitimate living through their art so they own a home, they raise their family whatever like that so they don’t have… they’re doing their work as some side job, it’s their primary source of income.
Ashley: Where did this idea come from?
Nathan: You know, I was, I’ve been a Griffin House fan for some time. I discovered him on Spotify and I went to a bunch of his shows and eventually wound up sort of talking to him, talking about films and music and stuff and we were chatting one day after and show and he said, he was in New York and he was playing at the City Winery in New York, it was a sold out show and I think the City Winery is like 400-500 people so it’s a decent sized venue and he said this happens all the time. This couple came up to him after the show and they were like, “Man, we just love your music, we just think you’re fantastic. We just know you’re gonna make it someday.” And we both kinda laughed about it but Griffin has been making his living in music since he was 22 and he’s in early 40’s now and you know he’s got a house in Nashville and he’s got two kids and his wife and it’s their primary source of income.
But it’s so funny that people say to him, “We know you’re gonna make it someday,” when he’s living a life that I mean, many people in the world would probably kill to have. But in the eyes of a lot of people he hasn’t really made it because he’s not superstar yet. So it really got me thinking about what success means as an artist and what does that mean. Are you only successful if you’re a superstar or are you successful if you’re making a living for your family or you’re making a living for yourself [inaudible 00:06:02] and you’re happy doing it? I really wanted to explore that and it’s kinda what we did.
Ashley: Perfect. Maybe you can just run through, so you have Griffin House as one of the artists, maybe you can just run through quickly, who are the other artists that you have in this documentary?
Nathan: Sure. We have Griffin House who is a singer, songwriter, we have Aaron Tap who’s a guitar player, he’s currently a guitar player for Matt Nathanson and does a lot of his own work as well. We have a sculptor Jeff Nishinaka, he’s a paper sculptor. We have Jasika Nicole, she’s an actress, probably know her from Friends and a bunch of other stuff. She’s currently on The Good Doctor. And then lastly we have a painter by the name Dan McCaw.
Ashley: And how did you actually find these artists? You just kinda described how you found Griffin House and maybe you can even dive in a little bit deeper on that because it’s not like you just went up to him the first time you met him and said, “Hey, you wanna be in my documentary?” There was some sort of relationship established. Maybe take us back and what did that look like because didn’t you have him do some songs in another movie so that’s what established some sort of professional relationship?
Nathan: Yeah, exactly. She did. I did a movie called A New York Christmas and that film we needed a song for the final credits and that and [inaudible 00:07:19] it was kind of bringing us out of the relationships in the film and into the credits, sort of a finale and so I reached out to Griffin and said, “Would you be willing to just write something for this film?” He was, luckily. And so that really started us on a professional working relationship and then after that anytime that he was in town I would go see his shows of course, so we would sit after, chat and talk. And just to be honest, I wouldn’t say we were necessarily friends, we we’re not sending Christmas cards but certainly we’d see each other or chat and stuff like that. So it’s really where that came from is that relationship, working with him on the film.
Ashley: Okay. So then like the paper artist or the paper sculptor, how did you find them [crosstalk]?
Nathan: The paper sculptor, the director of photography I’ve used on all my films, I used him on this and he said, “Hey, I know this paper sculptor who’d be great,” and so through Kenneth Stipe, my director of photography, he introduced me to Jeff Nishinaka who is an incredible paper sculptor, if you Google him you’ll find him. And then Jeff said, “Oh! I think this is a great project, maybe my friend Dan would be another good subject.” So he introduced me to Dan McCaw, the painter. It’s always really just sort of one and the next and Jessica Nicole, like Griffin and I had worked with on another film and so I reached out to her for that.
Then Aaron Tap, the final artist and musician is… so I’m good friends with Matt Nathanson’s tour manager and Aaron Tap is Matt Nathanson’s guitar player and so my friend said, “Aaron I think would be great for this documentary if you’re interested in interviewing him.” And sure enough I really loved what all of them had to say and Aaron was definitely one of my favorites as far as just his candor and his funny way of looking at the world.
Ashley: What kind of pushback did you get from any artist, were there a bunch of artists that you reached out to and they said, “No, thanks.” And was there any pushback from these? I’m just asking because if here’s someone that wants to approach these artists for any number of reasons, I’m certainly sure the woman that’s on a TV show is very busy, she’s probably getting requests for interviews all the time. What does it actually look like when you approach them?
Nathan: It was interesting. That I was careful about, and I actually did eight interviews, I guess, and I kept five. I didn’t get a lot of pushback form the folks but what I did do when I did the film is I went up to them and said, “I’d like to use you for this documentary but you’ll have approval.” I didn’t just say, “Sign here, sign this agreement and I can do whatever I want.” I said,“ Look, let me interview you, let me put the film together, I’ll send it to you and then you can sign the contract or whatever.” And so that I think was very helpful in making them more comfortable. They knew that I wasn’t just gonna tape whatever it was and misrepresent them or cut pieces that they didn’t mean what they said, that kind of thing.
And luckily when I sent the final edit, if you will, before it went all over the post work, they all approved it and enjoyed it.
Ashley: And there were no notes from any of the artists?
Nathan: There were definitely notes, for sure. I mean, there was… I’d say each one of them had a note or two, luckily nothing too extensive but you know I remember one of the artists mentioned a company that he used to work with that he didn’t work with anymore so he asked that we take that line out. Luckily, it was sort of smaller stuff that wasn’t the meat of the matter or sort of little things here and there, “Oh, I’d rather you didn’t say how much I make.” I could find no problem to these things, but luckily nothing of real substance.
Ashley: And your plan, since you had eight artists and only really needed five, your plan was if one of them just completely just didn’t want it you could just cut them out and make the documentary without them. Was that sort of the thinking?
Nathan: That was sort of the thinking but also having not done a documentary before I wasn’t sure, I didn’t know if I need eight artists to really make this thing wok or if I needed five, and I realized as I started putting it together and I started building it that it probably would need about five. So for two reasons, one is that I would have plenty of material but secondly I knew that you might have an artist who [inaudible 00:11:31] or maybe the interview didn’t fit with what the documentary became, that kinda thing.
Ashley: I got you. In documentaries you often see the credit ‘written by’, this is a podcast for screenwriters, so what does that actually mean. When you say you’ve written a documentary what does that actually mean? Are you scripting things out beforehand, are you coming up with an outline beforehand that’s part of the writing job and then through the editing process you actually piece it together? Maybe you can talk through that. You’ve written a lot of fictional scripts so maybe you can kinda compare the two and just sort of tell us what that actually means to be a writer of a documentary.
Nathan: Yeah. It’s funny, I’ve actually thought about that too. In the past I’ve seen documentaries and thought, “Written by, why would you write that?” And it’s funny, after doing one I would say you do write it. They have written a good bit of the narratives. When you write a narrative you’re coming up with pieces of a story. You’re coming up with characters, you’re coming up with your structure, your dialogue, everything like that and I would say it’s a bigger undertaking to write a narrative script in some ways. With a documentary you’re basically given the pieces and then you have to put it together. You have to structure it, you have to keep the pacing going… so you definitely are writing you’re just given the information.
I don’t know how else to put it but I, as I said, I used to think it’s kinda ridiculous that you write a documentary but now I’d say you definitely do. You have to structure, you have to write what’s your theme, what are you trying to say, what ae you trying to… all the things you go through with a narrative script, you really go through with a documentary as well.
Ashley: Was there ever any lines, like so you’re in your mind writing, was there ever any lines or instances where somebody said something but you thought, “Oh, they just said it a little bit differently.” Is that part of the process, going to him and saying, “Hey, can you say it a little bit differently?” Or your just trying to push people in a direction?
Nathan: I really tried not to do that. I think I had 18 questions. I kinda wanted to keep it fairly concise knowing that they were probably going different directions from the questions but no, I really wanted to keep it kind of true to who they were so I think a couple of times I might have said, “Can you say that again?” because they might have stumbled over a line or something like that but I really didn’t try to push them in any direction. I just kinda said. “Yo, let’s go,” and luckily they were all, I think one of the things that hopefully people will find from the documentary is they were all very candid and very honest and open and I think that really is, if anything makes it interesting, is that.
Ashley: Let’s talk about the actual production. What does something like this actually need to go out like just physically? What do you need to go do the interviews and…?
Nathan: Yeah, the interviews it was me and Ken and one production assistant.
Ashley: Ken is the DP?
Nathan: Sorry, Ken Stipe is the DP. And so it was really just the three of us, we were a three-man crew and I bought this little task cam sound recorder, it’s about 400 bucks maybe, 450 bucks at Qatar Center and I literally just set it sort of three or four feet in front of my subjects on a deck of cards so it was pointing up a little bit, that was my sound, amazingly in some ways. I did one interview and then I sent the sound files off to a buddy of mine, he’s a sound designer and he put it in his machine and said, “Yeah, theses will be fine,” and we got to work. But it really was just the three of us.
Ashley: Okay. Then what kind of camera was Ken using?
Nathan: Ken was using a Sony F30, I think. I think it’s a couple of years old, definitely a professional grade Sony camera.
Ashley: Then what did the PA actually do?
Nathan: The PA was really there to do a few things but help Ken with moving lights around, stuff like that. So we all did sort of the interview but we did a good bit of the whole footage of the artist’s hanging or we would do the guitar player playing and that kinda thing. And so it was a good bit of the light moving, that kinda thing. The PA was really there to write all that stuff, what [inaudible 00:15:32].
Ashley: I got you. Then on the post-production side what did you need in terms of post-production to put this together?
Nathan: I was super lucky. The guys who produced this documentary with me, they are a post-production house and I’ve used them on two of my films. I really like those guys, they’re great and I just have had a good working relationship with them. I approached them before it started and I said, “Hey, would you guys be willing to go in with me on this?” We basically worked out a deal where I paid them a certain amount upfront then they reduced their overall fee and then they get the first like $4,000 of money that comes in from it and that would complete their fee and then they own 25% of the film. The first $4,000 goes to them then the… I’ve got about 24 or 25 my wife and I financed the rest of it, so we’ve got about $25,000 in it.
So the first $4,000 goes to them, the next $25,000 will come back to us and anything past that if we’re lucky enough to be profitable, will be split 75% to New Films which is my wife and I and 25% to [inaudible 00:16:40].
Ashley: Okay. Let’s take a step back and just think about… this sort of has philosophical implications, I mean, you’re an artist, you’re creating a documentary so what lessons do you learn as an artist? Was there some things you took away from these guys that you said, “Wow! That’s really poignant?”
Nathan: Yeah, without question. I think hopefully as people watch it everybody will bring away something from it, but I think there’s a lot of really great just little nuggets of stuff here and there, somebody will say something and you like, “Oh! Of course.” But overall I think what people don’t realize about being a working artist is that it is a job and people say it’s not a job. It’s definitely a job and across the board all of them at some time or another and sometimes now have been doing art for other people. They’ve been hired to paint a painting or they’ve been hired to act a film or a TV show and you’re not necessarily doing your own art, you’re doing art for someone else. It’s not that it’s not enjoyable, sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad.
But it’s not, I think, what people expect it to be as far as you just sit down or you play what you wanna play, I think that’s reserved for a very, very small fraction of super stars. I think probably The Rolling Stones go in the studio and they play what they want… I’m guessing.
Ashley: [laughs] Just a hunch.
Nathan: Just a hunch. I’m just guessing that that’s probably the case. I think for that level, sure you kinda do what you want, but everybody below that and somewhere in the middle, sometimes sure they’re doing their own art, but other times they’re doing art for other people and that’s a very different thing than what a lot of people think it is.
Ashley: Yeah and that’s a very poignant thing for screenwriters because I think a lot of screenwriters go into this thinking, “I’m just gonna write my story and send it off. I’m gonna be on the beach send it off,” and that’s not really how screenwriting works either is that most screenwriting is actually writing for a producer. They come with the book, they come with an idea and you’re actually just basically working for them.
Nathan: 100% or you’re either hired to write something like that, let’s say you’re writing for somebody else so you’re not really, it’s not your vision, it’s not maybe something you really wanna write but you write it because you’re getting paid to do it. Or you’ve written something that you just did because you love and is really you and is great and you sell it to a producer and that producer re-writes it and then the director re-writes it and then the crafts services person re-writes it and by the time it’s on the screen you don’t even recognize it. And that differently, but I would say just as frustrating, if not more frustrating than being hired to write something that maybe you don’t really wanna write.
I’d say yeah that’s a… I have to say having worked as a… for about two and a half years the majority of my income was from writing and producing and writing and producing stuff that some of them I liked, some of them I didn’t. I gotta say there’s things that about, we are a business that’s completely outside the entertainment industry and you’re having the choice between working full time writing for someone else and doing this other business which is a boat salvage business. I’ve always loved power boats and kinda get into that but I gotta tell you given the choice between writing a script for somebody else and going down to the shop and taking boat motors and doing that, I think I would take a boat motor.
Nathan: I don’t know.
Ashley: Were there any big surprises? You were6 interviewing these things, you’re going with probably some ideas and stuff, were there any surprises, just things that just surprised you? It may be nothing to do with the artists or anything else but did anything surprise you, just stands out?
Nathan: Yeah, I think so. I think there were a few things. I think that I was surprised… I guess I kinda knew to some extent that it is a job and stuff like that, but I was surprised at how much each one of the artists really hammered on that. Like it’s a job and the other thing that was occurring to me was that all of these artists had times when they were struggling artists when they were working at restaurants, they were working here, working there. One question I did ask was, “what was the turning point of when you went from being a struggling artist to something happened and you went on to this?” They all could really specifically say, “This is when I went from really being a struggling artist to making a living at it.” It was really interesting to hear.
I think everybody has that. I think every working artist has that moment but it needs an important piece because I think for most people who are still struggling and maybe still doing their art but having to do another job on the side to pay the bills or something like that, hopefully it gives them some inspiration or some hope or there’s this point, there’s moments, you work towards this thing and it’s not necessarily something that… it’s not something you plan but it’s something that you keep working toward your art and then the world happens around you and something happens then you move on and one of the best examples was that Jessica Nicole who’s been a very successful working actor for some time.
She was in New York, she was working as a receptionist and she thought, “I’m not in New York to work as a receptionist,“ so she quit her job and she was just trying to find anything she could find acting-wise to make some money. She was stealing money from her roommate’s laundry jar to buy something off Wendy’s Menu and she saw an audition for a backstage west for Big Foot the musical and she was like, “Boy, now, beggars can’t be choosers.” So she goes to the Big Foot The musical audition, she gets it [inaudible 00:22:26] this very off, off, off, Broadway thing and she’s in the chorus and has one line in the whole thing and she’s singing.
Well, she does that and then a month later after it’s all done she gets a call from somebody who was in the audience and they were like, “You know, a friend of mine is doing this play and we think you’d be great for the lead. Would you mind if I passes on your information?” Sure enough she goes and auditions for this thing and it’s a pretty big, not huge, but a pretty big production, and she gets it and then from that she got an agent, a manager and things really took off. She say’s in the documentary as a joke, she says, “Boy, I like telling my story because it would’ve been really easy not to go to the Big Foot musical audition.” But had she not gone to that who knows? I think it’s an important point.
Ashley: When I watched it, it was amazing how just persistent and committed these people were. And they were willing to go through a lot of tough times to try and get to try and get to the other side. And as you say, there was a lot of hardship and struggling that all these artists went through and that should not be forgotten that that’s gonna be part of the process.
Nathan: Without question. And also that those hard times and frustrations continue. I think one of the things that really came out of it too was how really cyclical being a working artist can be and I think Jeff Nishinaka really said it best. He said, “You know, there have been years that I’ve made $20,000 and the next year I’ll make $200,000 and then for three years I’ll make $30,000.” And he’s like, “The one good year I’ll pay all the credit card debt that I had from the three bad years before that.” It is very cyclic and you have to be a certain kind of person to be able to do that and it’s not easy.
Ashley: Yeah. Do you think these artists… you keep saying well, there’s this sort of super star level, do you think these artists are still ambitious and still trying to reach that super star level, is that part of the equation? Or is a guy like Griffin House, is he okay being sort of a B-level rock star or whatever?
Nathan: I think that… it’s interesting, and I guess when you ask what really surprised me, I was a little surprised at how content they all seemed. That’s not to say that they didn’t wasn’t to grow as artists and perhaps have a tribute or love to play in front of 2000 people instead of 500 people, but overall these five artists were generally pretty content I think with what they had achieved and where they are in their lives. That was a little bit of a surprise. I think it’s sort of cliché to think that everybody wants to be a superstar. And again, it’s not that they weren’t driven or didn’t want to grow as artists and so forth but they yeah, they were surprisingly content, I think.
Ashley: Making this documentary would you have some tips for aspiring artists? If someone comes to you, after seeing this documentary, if someone comes up to you and says, “Hey, I watched your documentary, really loved it. What should I do? What’s the tip for me there at the beginning stages of this journey?”
Nathan: It was a question I asked all five of the artists at the end of the documentary and I’ll leave their answers for them, but watch it. I think… well, it’s probably a tricky question around me, but I would say a few things. I would say that you really have to… as an artist understand that, I think if you wanna be an artist who is completely true to his or herself and only does the art they wanna do on whatever that is, the painting, it’s a script, it’s a film, it’s a song, If you’re trying to make a living at it with that attitude you have about a one in I would say 10 million chances.
Ashley: Are you saying I got a chance.
Nathan: So you’re saying I got a chance. Exactly. Just because I think that I would say as an aspiring artist if you’re really lucky you’ll wind up somewhere in the middle like these artists. You’re making a living out of it but you’re probably gonna do a good bit of stuff that maybe isn’t your favorite thing or something you’d rather not do but you need to pay your mortgage, you need to support your family, you need to support yourself. So I would say, more than anything as an aspiring artist be realistic with where you might wind up if you’re lucky. Not that you shouldn’t shoot for the stars, you absolutely should and perhaps you have the talent to do that, but be realistic with your goals. And I think really maybe more than anything else I would say, a lot of hard work, a lot of just hard times.
But perhaps the best advice I can give would be, whatever your chosen area of art is find people who are making a living with that type of art and reach out, email them. Just say, “Hey, I’m an aspiring sculptor and I know that you’re making a living out of it and I would love to hear your take on it and maybe you can give me some advice.” I would be willing to bet that at least half the people you reach out to will probably get back to you and say, “Here’s my story,” or maybe even jump on the phone or something like that. I really think that’s the most important thing is talk to people who are doing it.
Ashley: And this is a conversation that you and I have had as friends numerous times about that sort of balancing act between, I wouldn’t say business, but between you as an artist doing what you creatively wanna do and then doing work for other people. Did this change your perspective at all, going through that? I mean, because this is the heart of the thing, you’re literally an artist making a documentary so it’s a sort of mega thing. You’re going into this trying to create a documentary obviously to make money, there’s sort of a practical side. Has it changed your perspective? What are you gonna do on your next project? Has this documentary maybe given you a pivot or some insight into how you should approach things as an artist?
Nathan: It most definitely has. I think the most important thing it did for me, having done both, having done projects that were… I did It’s Not You It’s Me, was the first film I directed, with all the shortcomings I’m still very proud of it. But it was very… I wrote it and directed it and I raised the money for it so it was really my project. After that I did projects for other people and that was fun as well for different reasons. But I think after doing this I’m in a fortunate situation because I don’t have to rely completely on my art in filmmaking to make a living. I think more than anything after doing this I realized that before I go into any project I really need to step back and figure out why I’m doing it and if it’s worth it for me.
And that’s not the same when somebody comes and says, “I want you to direct this movie or write this movie for me,” and maybe I’m not crazy about it but they’re gonna pay me money to do it and that’s going to go in my kid’s collage fund or it’s going to go into a family trip or something like that. It may not be something I wanna write but I can say okay, but it would be great to have that money and that’s the reason I’m doing it. Because I think if I go into it with that idea this is why I’m doing this project it will really help me to do the project and not feel like “Well, I hate this,” or “This is terrible, I don’t wanna be doing this,” or something like that, no. I signed up to do it, here’s why I signed up to do it, I’m very clear on why I’m doing it.
Anyway, there will be other projects that are all mine again and I’ll say, “I’m doing this and I know it may or may not be profitable. I know there’s a good chance it won’t be profitable but I’m doing it because it’s something that I really feel that I want to do and something that I will be proud of and it’s an area that I wanna explore.”
Ashley: And I wonder… now we’re just spit balling here, this is just something that occurs to me. I wonder how much of it is age, because I find myself in a similar situation where I just… and I go on a podcast every week and basically tell people, “You gotta be a little bit practical, think about the market place, think about the genre, think about some of those business decisions as you’re writing your script.” And it’s sort of a balancing act. But I wonder how much of it is age. I think maybe in your 20s maybe into your 30s you might be a little more up for writing a producer’s script. As now, I don’t know like, I don’t spend any time trying to get producers to hire me to write their script. If someone comes to me and if and it falls on my lap I might take that up.
But some of that is just purely age because back in the day I would see that oh a producer has a blog and they want somebody to just… I don’t even respond. I don’t even try to contact those producers. But maybe, how much of it is age, how much of it is just your place in life? Would you recommend something different for someone really younger? And I’m getting at this because I go on a podcast every week and I’m really practical in telling people, but there is that sort of fine line. Where is that line between doing what you don’t want and doing what you do want? And how much of it do you think is just the perspective you now have with age?
Nathan: I mean, a lot of it has to do with age, but I think… I guess I feel fortunate, my life was a rollercoaster and [inaudible 00:31:85] for year and then I got married when I was 42. And that just changed a lot and I’m more content than I’ve ever been and I think in my 20’s I was so… 20’s into my 30’s, I think I was so attached to achieving that greatness to give myself some identity. If I can just make this film, if I did win an Oscar, it would give me the identity and people would like me and I would be there. And after getting married and having kids, my family is really my identity. I feel very comfortable and very happy in that. It has freed me to I guess sort of back up and really make decisions on the art I do.
And so yeah, I think definitely a lot of it is age, but I can also see somebody in their 20’s and who is… whether it’s a family or it’s something else that has given them some ground and has given them some self-assurance, you know, finding that same thing.
Ashley: Yeah. And I wonder because we’ve taken some of those hard knocks and so it galvanizes sort of out thinking and that, because we went through exactly that with Dish Dogs, and this is a good story. We optioned the script. The option basically had elapsed and the producers had not paid us to extend it and we knew they had completely rewritten the script. So at that point we could have just pulled the rug out from under, and you and I had that conversation, should we take the money, and we were in our 20’s [laughs], should we take the money and let them [inaudible 00:33:29] without a script, take the money or get the script back and persevere. And there was very little… we had that discussion, but there was very little discussion.
We basically just said, let’s take the money. We get a credit, we get the money. We knew the movie wasn’t good, bad or whatever, we knew it was gonna be our movie. We knew at that point it was rewritten. And looking back on it, I’ve never really regretted it. I don’t look back on that and regret it. It was demoralizing but it was… Honestly speaking looking but at it now, wouldn’t have changed our lives at all if we would have turned that down. If we had taken the script like truthly, it really wouldn’t have had that big of an impact on our lives. But at the time it seemed huge, we were so proud of ourselves to write the script, option it and then ultimately sell it. We knew it was gonna be produced, I think that was another big factor.
We knew that yes we could take the script back, but we also knew that they were gonna actually produce it so we were gonna get the money and have a produced credit. Taking some of those hard knocks, I don’t know whether that’s necessarily a bad thing in your 20s, so that you actually get to that point where you have that perspective.
Nathan: I couldn’t agree more. I think that the hard knocks and the ups and the downs and the being broke and all that stuff, it does build who you are. It gives you some appreciation too when you do get to do a small documentary that you really love and you really enjoy and it’s something that you wanna do. I also think something I would learn from that is just the true joy of exploring something that’s important to you and especially if it’s an important subject to me because I am an artist and I’ve been a working artist and to be able to explore that without outside the walls of people saying, “Oh, they look like this,” or, “They look like that,” there’s a real joy to doing a project like this. There is just… it’s you. Someday my kids will watch this hopefully and go, “Wow, this one of the products.”
Ashley: Let’s talk about distribution and festivals. Did you enter some film festivals with these?
Nathan: We did. We entered I don’t know, probably 10 or so festivals. We’ve been trying about five so far so see where that goes. I kind of went higher, middle-level festivals, that might have been a mistake. I sort of shot for the festivals that have been around for 20 or 30 years or bigger cities or stuff like that. So yeah, I guess that makes [inaudible 00:35:50] about festivals. I think they have value, but from a distribution stand point and from making money I don’t know that they have a lot of value unless it’s the top tier.
Ashley: Yeah. And so how did you ultimately find your distributor?
Nathan: Well, actually, so I’m self-distributing. We don’t have a distributor. What we decided to do and having been through a number of films and distributors, I’m sure there’re good distributors out there, I’m sure of it, but… [crosstalk].
Nathan: With the amount of money we have, which isn’t much, we have I think around about $25,000 in the entire budget. I kinda felt, you know what, I’d rather hold on to the distribution rights and so we will release on October 8th, we’re releasing on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play I think wanted a platform as well. And then we’ve hired a PR company and we’re gonna do about two months or PR around the film, you know, getting on podcasts like these and doing interviews and things like that. My hope is that… and probably some Facebook ads, that kind of thing as well. But my hope is that because the budget is so small and because Amazon is such a huge platform, then it can be profitable. I would be happy to come back in six months or so and I can tell you if [inaudible 00:37:13].
Ashley: I just like to wrap up the interviews just to get some recommendations. These are just anything you’ve seen lately, Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, at the theater. Just what’s something that you’ve seen that you think screenwriters would… maybe something a little under the radar that screenwriters would get something out of? Anything in the last year or two you’ve seen that you really liked.
Nathan: Yeah, unfortunately having two small kids, I’ve got a two and half year old and a one year old so I don’t get to see a lot of movies. But it’s not [inaudible 00:37:43] Hollywood. I really loved it. I like [inaudible 00:37:49] I’m a fan. I’m always amazed at how well he can, I mean, he’ll have 25 minute scenes that at riveting. You just can’t take your eyes away. It’s just these long drawn out scenes and he’s able to piece these things together and he just does things that I just think, “How did he get away with that? How did he make that work?” And it does. It works beautifully, and I’ve just been… I guess [inaudible 00:38:16] one of the artists he does what he wants to do and he does it very well. So yeah, I really enjoyed that. That was really great.
Ashley: Perfect. How can people follow you? That’s my final question. Twitter, Facebook, a blog, a website, anything you’re comfortable sharing I’ll round up for the show notes, you can tell us that now.
Nathan: Yeah, it’d be great. So www.newfilms.com is the best place. For the documentary, one of the big things with Amazon is the reviews and the likes and the [inaudible 00:38:48]. If people would order I think it should be 3.99 on Amazon, if you’d order on Amazon and leave us a review whether you liked it or didn’t like it I just love to hear honest reviews about the film. Yeah www.newfilms.com and thank you very much.
Ashley: Perfect. Well Nat, I appreciate your coming in and doing the interview. Good luck with this film and good luck with all your future films.
Nathan: Thanks a lot.
Ashley: I just wanna talk quickly about SYS Select. It’s a service for screenwriters to help them sell their screenplays and get writing assignments. The first part of the service is the SYS Select Screenplay database. Screenwriters upload their screenplays along with a logline, synopsis and other pertinent information like budget and genre and then producers search for and hopefully find screenplays they wanna produce. Dozens of producers are in the system looking for screenplays right now. There have been a number of success stories come out of this service. You can find out about all the SYS Select successes by going to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/success. Also on SYS Podcast Episode #222. I talk with Steve Deering who was the first official success story to come out of the SYS Select database.
When you join SYS Select you get success to the screenplay database along with all the other services that we’re providing to SYS Select members. These services include the Newsletter, the monthly newsletter goes out to a list of over 400 producers who are actively seeking writers and screenplays. Each SYS Select member can pitch one screenplay in this monthly newsletter. We also provide screenwriting leads. We have partnered with one of the premiere paid screenwriting leads services 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 10 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, features, TV and web series, pilots- all types of projects. If you sign up for SYS Select you get these leads emailed directly to you several times per week. Also you 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. We also have a number of screenwriting classes that are recorded and available in the SYS Select forum. These are all the classes that I’ve done over the years. So you’ll have access to those whenever you want once you join.
The classes cover every part of writing your screenplay 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’d like to learn more about please got to www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com.
On the next episode of the podcast I’m gonna be interviewing another good friend of mine, Bernie Rao. He’s a talented Portuguese filmmaker who’s been living mostly in New Zealand over the last few years. The more astute listeners of this podcast will notice that Bernie was also the cinematographer on my film, The Pinch. That’s actually how we met, and we will talk briefly about how we got introduced to each other and ultimately formed this friendship and continue to stay in touch today. And it’s always just fun to have people that I know come on the podcast, and it’s even more interesting, they come through a publicist. Both Nat and Bernie, they were using a publicist and actually those publicists, they contact me because I’m on their list just through the podcast.
That’s how I get a lot of the interviews, is from these various publicists. So it’s just always fun when one of the publicists sends me an email form a filmmaker that I actually know, and I’m always happy to have these filmmakers on. He just did a short, quirky horror film… sorry, it’s not a short film, he just did a quirky feature horror film called Killer Sofa. He’s a real do-it-yourself filmmaker, has lots of insight for us. He really is from top to bottom excellent writer, excellent filmmaker, so he can give us a lot of interesting information and a lot of insight. So keep an eye out for that episode next week. That’s the show, thank you for listening.