Ashley: Welcome to Episode #304 of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger over at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing Heather and Jason DeVan. They just did a film called Along Came the Devil 2, which is a sequel to their earlier film. We talk through the original film, how that got made and then ultimately how this sequel came to be as well, 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.
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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’ll teach the whole process of how to sell your screenplay in the 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 Heather and Jason DeVan. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Heather and Jason to the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Jason: Thanks for having us.
Heather: Thanks Ashley for having us.
Ashley: 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? And Heather, why don’t you go first and then Jason we’ll circle back to you in a minute.
Heather: I was actually born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia and by the time I was 18 years old I started travelling internationally as a model. I landed in Los Angeles when I was 21 and a couple… literally a couple of weeks later Jason and I met. And then we’ve been together ever since in that background of things. And then being in LA and working as an actress, I did a lot of commercials and we got married and started a family.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. Jason, maybe give us the same sort of scoop on you and bring us up to speed.
Jason: Okay, yeah. I’ll try and keep it brief. I’m from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I was your typical kid who grew up in the 80s, raised probably by my TV set. My parents probably didn’t want me watching as much TV and movies as I did, but that’s what I loved doing. I had a passion for writing and just dreaming about just someday being a part of the industry which I probably didn’t even know what the industry wanted at the time. I found my way out to New York and then LA doing some video game work, that’s space two and three in acting and some commercials and things like that, until I found my true passion which was writing and directing and working on our own films.
Heather: Which we discovered together.
Jason: Which we were together by that time.
Ashley: I see. Heather when you moved out to LA though, was that sort of your intention, you wanted to segue from modelling into acting?
Heather: Exactly. Yeah. I actually had a room-mate her name, I’m gonna shout her out… I had a room-mate in Paris who was an actress, her name is Amy Smart and she… I’d always wanted to sort of be an actress. I did some acting but it wasn’t until I met her and the way that she talked the difference between modelling and acting that I was like this is what I want to do. And then I got this gig in LA to fly out for a few days for something and I literally did the job and called my dad and I was like, “I think I’m gonna move out here”. So I lived there ever since.
Ashley: Perfect. It’s interesting that you guys both… Jason you are saying that the writing directing is kinda your passion and Heather you’re going from modelling to acting and finally finding your passion. Neither one of you have mentioned producing, but that’s also a big part of this. I’m curious, how does that sort of fit into the overall picture? Is producing something you’re passionate about or is it something you do just to try and get these projects off the ground?
Heather: Producing is my favorite part of the whole process to be honest with you. Besides I think once we’ve started having… someone once said to me producing is a lot like being a mom and this… it’s kind of the truth. Because when you run a household it kinda is the same thing as like running a set.
So it’s gonna work together and my biggest accomplishment I’d say like in my entire life is being a mom. We have three boys and our oldest is 19 and our youngest being 12, he was in the film actually playing Xander, and I just… you kind of like, as you’re producing you [inaudible 00:05:33] all of the cast and the crew and it just… you take care of them like they’re your family.
Ashley: Yeah. So let’s just talk… [crosstalk]. I’m sorry, go ahead.
Jason: I was gonna say as a producer you’re definitely…you learn to spin a lot of plates and you learn a lot from… especially as a… you know, when you are first producing you learn from your mistakes and correct them on your next project. It’s just a process that you learn trial and error and you learn and you get better.
Heather: And you learn to appreciate your mistakes.
Ashley: Sure, so just talk briefly just for a few… just for a minute or so, talk about your first feature film Mindless. Maybe you can just talk about how you got that project off the ground.
Jason: Well, with that one we were approached by Michael Biehn and he asked us if we would be interested… he asked me if I’d be interested in directing it and I said, “Sure, let me look at the script.” It was actually two different scripts and I turned down the one film because it just wasn’t kinda our cup of tea, and then the other one I thought was really good, I just wanted to know if I could do some re-writes. They we’re like, “Oh, we have to check with the writer.” And then the writer said, “Well I have to look at the re-writes,” and I ended up hitting it off with the writer and that’s kind of how we fell into it. We did that movie and that movie, it hit some obstacles so I don’t believe it ever came out, they had to put it on hold.
But we didn’t have anything kind of to do when it came to that producing side of that, but that’s when Heather…
Heather: I came on as a producer.
Jason: When you came on board we didn’t have like control of where we could take it, distribution. It kinda was between their company. It wasn’t a DeVan Clan Production, but that’s when Heather and I realized… to do this.
Heather: Yeah, we had…
Ashley: So just comment real quickly, so this guy Michael Biehn that approached you, how did you get in a position where guys like him are approaching you asking you to direct these projects? Just how did you wind that up? Is it from commercial directing, did you have some sort of background that way? Maybe just give us a little insight there.
Heather: Okay, go ahead.
Jason: Oh, well, so with Michael, my son Tristan had booked a movie called The Girl, where Michael Biehn played his father and Michael Biehn is the Michael Biehn from Terminator and Aliens and all that. I was fortunate enough as an actor in Hollywood to have some good mentors, one being Jay Russell, the movie director, so I knew my way around the camera and set pretty good. I was on set one day and you know how when people are mic-ed up and they can hear everything that’s going on set.
I was in one of the scenes and I was actually just telling my son, “The camera’s gonna be here, make sure you’re open to camera, and they’ll probably shoot you on this lens,” not knowing that they were all standing, sitting behind the monitor kinda listening. And my wife and Michael’s wife were talking and they asked… I guess my wife kinda threw me into the fire by saying, “Oh, yeah, my husband is gonna direct some…” [laughs]. So, next thing I know they are asking me to do the next film and that’s how that pretty much came about.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. Yeah, that’s a great classic Hollywood story, so, no, thank you for sharing that. Let’s dig in to your latest film Along Came the Devil 2. Maybe to start out you can just give us a quick pitch or a logline, what is this film all about?
Jason: This one is about a sister coming home to find out what happened to her family, her aunt and younger sister. When she comes home to this town there’s definitely a secret going on that has a lot to do with her possession and her path that she is unaware of is her own mother and her own family. Her estranged father is actually back in town when she comes home, waiting for her and meets with her and then we take the film into a completely different direction to wow the fans.
Heather: The film opens up with a phone call from her aunt telling her that she needs to come home, so she rushes home to find that her aunt and her sister are completely missing. And the reverend of the town knows something, but he’s not sharing what he knows with her and she’s just… her whole mission is kinda find out what’s happening, and then a lot, a lot happens along the way [laughter].
Ashley: I got you. So this is a sequel…
Jason: [laughs] We raise the stakes.
Ashley: This is a sequel to…
Heather: It is a sequel.
Ashley: …yeah, previous film. When you did the first film were you always planning on doing a sequel? Was it sort of you envisioned this maybe two or three or four films in this series? How did you approach that with that first film?
Heather: We approached it hoping to do sequel, not knowing that we were gonna be doing one this soon, but we definitely… it was in our minds that we were writing to do a sequel, for sure.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. So let’s talk…
Jason: And the first one’s based on true events.
Ashley: Oh, Okay. So…
Jason: So we were able… during the first one, we were able to… coming into part two branch off and take it into the direction we really wanted to take it as writers and creators.
Ashley: I see. Perfect. Let’s talk about your writing process. It looks like at least on the first script you guys collaborated and then in this one it looks like Jason you had the writing duties. Maybe you can talk a little bit about your collaboration. And I’m especially interested to hear a married couple collaborating. How do you navigate when there’s disagreements and that kind of stuff? Maybe just talk through that process a little bit.
Jason: I think the work flow kinda comes… normally I have like the ideas, like the concept of where we wanna take it from start to finish and on this one we knew we wanted to take… we wanted to surprise the fans and really scare them and it has a very much shining feel to it. So when we finished the treatment, when we dove into the script, we… Heather and I work really well together and she’s really good at taking something maybe I’ll say and adding her touch to it and vice versa. That’s what we enjoy, is feeling like when we write or have a script that we have a man and a woman’s touch to it, so that the reader or the audience is feeling kind of like both sides and that’s just something that we enjoy doing together, I think.
Heather: I will say being at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com in internet what helps us as writers is starting off with a treatment. I really feel like a treatment is so important because it builds the beginning, middle and end of the story and then you just add the dialogue in between. So for us that is in it communication as well.
Ashley: Yeah. How much time do you spend on that treatment verses how much time do you spend actually in final draft writing the script?
Heather: It just depends on the…
Jason: Yeah, I’d like to give examples for this one. For this movie we were on a time schedule so we had six months but we had so many notes and so many ideas from part one that we were able to carry over to part two and answer questions. It made it a lot easier to do the treatment that we knew what we wanted from start to finish and then we were able to tighten up our scripts fast. So honestly in this case, and then not most cases, but this one it took about two weeks because we just literally locked ourselves in and went to work writing full days. I mean, I don’t even know what hours that our day were but it was a lot of writing.
Whereas in other cases you may write a script and then have a distribution company like Legendary tell you, “We love this but what if you change the roles around?” then you’re writing again for another like two to three months on another script, which is an example of another one we’re working on [laughs].
Ashley: It sounds like you guys had something in place with this one, where you had sort of the production company set up and the funding in place, and so then, you just basically had six months to write it, is that kind of… and that was based on sort of the first film?
Jason: Yeah, we trying… we basically had our distribution from part one, say that part, you know, that it’s doing so well, how soon can you get started on part two? Then that’s kinda when we dropped everything and got the ball rolling.
Heather: We had six months to do the whole film from writing, producing, pre-production, post-production.
Ashley: Okay, Wow, so… yeah.
Heather: We literally only had… we didn’t have much time to write the script at all which is another thing that helped because we didn’t second guess ourselves. A lot of times as writers you can second guess yourself or you can do rewrites, we didn’t have time for that so… and we feel like it helped.
Jason: Yeah, but then… and being a director, I knew that I could work with my actors and really get their input on…
Heather: On set.
Jason: Like what they were feeling, what direction they want me to take it, if we were on the same page or not, the way they played it. A lot of trust that we have with our actors, like Bruce Davison… They’re really good at what they do and they’re professional so I made it [inaudible 00:15:10] and we knew we had something. And we know we have something special with this one so we think everyone is really gonna enjoy this one.
Ashley: Yeah, hopefully so. Was there any back and forth, I’m always just curious to hear about the development processes. It sounds like there just wasn’t time, but was there any back and forth with the distributor about notes you sent them? After two weeks you had a version of the script you sent it to them, did you get any notes back where you had to rewrite for them or they were a little bit more hands off?
Jason: No. That was the surprising thing was our distribution fully trusted us. They said, “Just go do what you do, we trust you,” and it was kind of a [inaudible 00:15:49] thing where they were all on board and they hadn’t even seen the script or knew what we were gonna do. They were just trusting us to make a good…
Heather: We saw a great relationship with them on the first one that it was just… the industry is a lot about trust. It really is, whatever you… whoever you are working with.
Ashley: I got you. So what does that actually look like? They’ve got your first film, it’s doing well, it’s making money, do they then come back to you and say, “Okay, we’ll write you a minimum guarantee for this much money to go and produce the film?” Do they actually put in hard dollars into the budget? What does that actually look like just in terms of the deal?
Jason: Absolutely, so that… if your film is doing well, like in our case, they come back and they give you your MG upfront which is basically telling you like you know… which a lot of distribution companies in today’s market will not do.A lot of times you’ll finish a film and will be looking for an MG and you may not necessarily get it at all or you may get a smaller MG than what they used to do back in the day. And in our case, we got a substantial MG with our distribution company which allowed us to get started and get rolling on the film and get it done.
Ashley: Yeah. And so I’m a big proponent of building these relationships with these distributors and I talk about this quite often on my podcast. Maybe you can talk a little bit about that. What was… with the first movie Along Came the Devil, just the first one, how did you find this distributor? Did you do the film festival route, get a little buzz that way, did you just approach them, called, did you have relationships prior to this? Maybe talk about that a little bit because I think that sounds like it’s really the crux of a lot of what independent film making is all about.
Jason: Yeah, absolutely. And like I said this is all our, you know, this is technically our first film that we were taking to distribution, so we had the naivety… we thought, “Oh we are gonna make this film and a distribution company is gonna want it right away in part one and…” so we didn’t know to do film festivals or anything and basically we decided okay let’s start getting it in the film festivals when it was fully completed and Cinequest Film Festival was one of our first ones we got in. When we did that, that’s when we started generating distribution companies interested in taking our film.
So definitely if you are doing an independent film, view festivals if you can, and like anything, don’t be discouraged if festivals don’t get you in. A lot of times a lot of fest… the bigger festivals are all who are having it in with certain festivals but it only takes one yes if you just wanna get your film out there and get it seen, especially if you believe in it. Because so many times I have a lot of filmmaker friends that say, “Oh I got turned down by this festival and this festival and…”
It’s not always the case of that their film wasn’t good enough to get in. Sometimes they’ve already had a certain amounts of films that they’ve selected that were coming in regardless and theirs didn’t get in, so try not to be discouraged if your film doesn’t get in just keep… find a festival that you can get it into. Find a way that you can get it in front of a distribution person, at the AFM, at some kind of market, any way you can. But you have to believe in it to get others to believe in it as well.
Heather: And like Jason said, you only need one yes. You’re gonna hear a lot of no’s, but you only need a ‘yes’.
Ashley: Yeah, sound advice for sure. How can people see Along Came the Devil 2? Do you know what the release schedule is gonna be like?
Heather: It comes out October 11th and it’s in select theatres and on all VOD’s. You can pre-order right now on iTunes, it’s gonna be on Amazon Prime, [inaudible 00:19:51] I forget, they’re all…
Jason: Pretty much all [inaudible 00:19:51].
Heather: Yeah, all [inaudible 00:19:52] and Video on Demand.
Jason: And you can check out part one on Hulu and [crosstalk].
Heather: And I would suggest watching part one first because it really would… I mean, part two you can watch on its own too but then it goes right into it, so it’s kinda neat.
Jason: Definitely the sequencing.
Ashley: Yeah, perfect. What’s the best way for people to keep up with what you guys are doing, Twitter, Facebook, blog, anything you’re comfortable sharing I’ll round up for the show notes.
Heather: We mostly share a lot of our stuff on Instagram which our company is @devanclanproductions and then @alongcamethedevilthemovie. We are on Twitter as DeVan Clan and Facebook as well DeVan Clan Productions, or Along Came the Devil the movie.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. I will round that stuff up for the show notes, Jason and Heather I really appreciate you guys coming on and talking with me. Congratulations on this film and I look forward to talking to you again when you have your next film ready.
Heather: Awesome, thanks so much Ashley.
Jason: Our pleasure. Thank you.
Heather: Have a great day.
Ashley: You too, thank you, we’ll talk to you guys later.
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 screenplay along with the logline, synopsis and other pertinent information like budget and genre, and then producers search for and hopefully find screen plays 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 the 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 access to the screenplay database along with all the other services that we are 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 are looking for shorts, features, TV and web series, pilots all types of projects. If you sign up for SYS Select, you’ll 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 go to www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com.
On the next episode of the podcast I’m gonna be interviewing Wendy McColm who is a real do-it-yourself filmmaker who’s done dozens of short films and now has her first feature film out, the indie dramedy Birds Without Feathers. She built a decent following on YouTube with her short film, so we talk about that a little bit. And then we also dig into her new feature film and how she was able to get that produced, so keep an eye out for that episode next week. That’s our show, thank you for listening.