This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 315: Writer/Director Adriana Maggs.
Ashley: Welcome to Episode #315 of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger over at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing writer director Adriana Maggs who just completed a film called Goalie, which is a bio pic on legendary NHL goaltender Terry Sawchuk. She’s got a great story about how this film came together, so stay tuned for that. We also talk about the early part of her career and how she broke into the industry. She is a Canadian filmmaker, so if you’re from Canada, this will be especially interesting to you as she explains a bit how the filmmaking system works up in Canada. So stay tuned for that interview.
If you find this episode valuable, please help me out by giving me a review on 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 #315.
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.
Quick few words about what I’m working on. I’m still putting together the Kickstarter campaign for The Rideshare Killer, which is what I’m doing this week. The video is pretty much done, just putting together the actual Kickstarter page and the rewards, all that sort of stuff. Although hopefully as you’re listening to this, the Kickstarter campaign will actually be going and released as I record these a couple of weeks early. So I will be sending out some more real-time announcements once I get a little closer to the date. But again, if you’re listening to this, most likely that Kickstarter campaign is going on right now or has finished. To recap, if you’ve missed a few episodes of the podcast, I shot a mystery thriller film in December and now we’ve got to raise some money for post-production through Kickstarter.
I’ve got the domain name set up, so check that link. If it goes to a place holder landing page, that means the campaign hasn’t started. If it goes to the official movie webpage that means that the Kickstarter has ended and we’ve redirected the URL to our official website. And if it goes to our Kickstarter page, then obviously that means that the Kickstarter campaign is running. So check that out if you have any interest in learning more about The Rideshare Killer. Again, the URL is www.theridesharekiller.com. Literally www.theridesharekiller.com. Since we shot the entire film I used a good bit of the footage in the Kickstarter video and have a little short teaser trailer at the end of that Kickstarter video as well. So if you’re interested in seeing the video, learning more about the project, perhaps even contributing, that would be greatly appreciated.
Anything you do to help is again, really greatly appreciated. Just go to the www.ridesharekiller.com. If you can’t contribute monetarily, no problem at all, just maybe pass the link on or just tell your friends, anybody you know that’s into cool little indie horror films. They might think this is a cool little film and just be interested in learning more about it. Any friends, family, anybody you know that’s into horror films, indie horror films. Please just pass along the Kickstarter link or the website link and just help us build a little awareness for the project. Anyway, wish us luck. Hopefully we’ll be able to raise the money to get through post-production. And again, that URL is www.theridesharekiller.com.
So that’s the main thing I’ve been working on here the last… really the last few months. But hopefully we’ll get this Kickstarter campaign finished and then we’ll really dive into post production. So now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m interviewing writer director Adriana Maggs. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Adriana to the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Adriana: I appreciate being here. Thank you for having me.
Ashley: So to start out, maybe you could tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up and how did you get interested in the entertainment business?
Adriana: I grew up in Newfoundland, Canada, which is… it’s the… it’s a place that that musical Come From Away, is set. I don’t know, it’s like that put us on the map. Other than that, it’s the most Eastern province in the Island on the East coast of Canada.
Ashley: Gotcha. Perfect. And so how did you actually get interested in this and how did you start to turn this into an actual career?
Adriana: Well, it’s interesting. Sometimes I think when you come from small places you can take advantage of a lot of the opportunities that they have in film and you can kind of become a bigger fish in a small pond before you go to a larger place. It’s kind of an advantage of people who come from creative, small communities. So that’s kind of what I did. My dad’s a writer, so I always did want to take part in that.
Ashley: And what kind of writer was he?
Adriana: He’s a poet. I know. He’s funny. He was in the Air Force and then he became a poet. Long story [laughs].
Ashley: Okay. So let’s break that down a little bit. You’re living in this small community. How did… I get a lot of people emailing me from small communities all over the world. How did you reach out to that small community? How did you get involved with those small local filmmaking communities and just start to gain some reputation, and how did you become the big fish in the small pond?
Adriana: It’s funny because we have, I don’t know what they have in the United States, but we had something called NIFCO and it was Newfoundland Independent Film Co-op. It was kind of this magical place. I just loved to talk about it. They had this philosophy that anybody who wanted to make a five-minute film could make a five-minute film. And it was really inexpensive and you could go in and you could take editing courses. So we did all that. Basically, I made a short film and sent it to some festivals and kind of kept going that way. I did go to York University for screenwriting. So when I went home to Newfoundland, it was easy to take advantage of those things. And I made a film and now we pitched a television show to CBC, me and my girlfriend, and we got a pilot, and then it got canceled. But you knowwe were kinda on our way then.
Ashley: Yeah. So let’s talk about that. I think that would be interesting for people to hear. How did you get that pilot? So you and your friend you write this pilot script. How did you get that… yourself into a position where you’ve got meetings to even pitch the project?
Adriana: Well, we were taking a workshop, a kind of a film writing workshop, and the man who was heading up the workshop was a local producer, his name is Paul Pope, and we had kind of talked about this screenplay, this half hour comedy that we had written. He was like, “Well, do you wanna pitch it?” We were like, “No, we’re way too shy.” And he was like, “Well, you know what, if you’re not gonna pitch it then you might as well get out of this business.” So we did pitch it and… even though we didn’t want to, and then a producer took it on and… So that producer kind of had the contact to go to CBC, which is our local public broadcaster in Canada. And they… yeah, we lucked, we really lucked into that. They, they did make it.
Ashley: Nice. And then how did you get that next step? You did this pilot, the pilot got canceled. How did you get onto that next show and actually start the ball rolling? Did you get an agent manager at this point?
Adriana: Yeah, that’s how I got an agent. And then we had some… there are local people in Newfoundland who had careers in Canada. Like there was a wonderful sketch comedy troupe, oddly enough, and a woman named Mary Walsh who kind of noticed us. So then she brought us onto her sketch comedy show and that had a season and a half and some Christmas movies since. She was really like… we kind of… she’s like the mother of us all, you know what I mean? She kind of took us under her wing and raised us up. We owe a lot to her. And she became a connection. Like a successful comedian in Canada. It was really fantastic.
Ashley: Yeah. So just talk briefly, just in general, if there’s a writer out there in Canada and they’re looking to get an agent and manager, what advice would you have for them? In the United States, and maybe it’s very similar in Canada, you can send cold emails, you can get a reference from a friend, you can go to pitch fest. What are some of the ways that people can get agents and managers in Canada?
Adriana: It’s the same. Yeah, that’s what you have to do. You’ve gotta find… In Canada there’s a lot of kind of those co-ops where people make films. There are competitions where you can submit short film scripts and if they like them, they’ll make them. I would say short films are the way to start always. I don’t know… I mean, we have some fantastic schools here too that they have like six-month programs or one-year programs, Canadian Film Center, there’s Humber College. They do bring in agents at the end, and people can get agents that way, but that’s not what I did. I just say like short films, that’s how you’re gonna get there and get attention.
Ashley: Yeah. Okay. And one of the things I know from talking to a lot of European filmmakers is… and in the United States is not like this, but in a lot of the European countries there’s government money where the government funds art house films or whatever. Do you guys have that in Canada? And I ask because I see a lot of producers saying we need Canadian writers. Are there tax incentives, are there things that the Canadian government does to help Canadian writers? Because I often see producers looking for scripts specifically from Canadian writers.
Adriana: Do you mean American producers?
Ashley: Well, it’s a good question, I don’t know. But there are producers that come through my system and I’m not necessarily clear on whether they’re Canadian or not, but it seems like there’s some sort of tax credit or something that they’re piping into so that they have to have a Canadian writer.
Adriana: Yes. Okay. So we do…. The NIFCO Newfoundland Independent Film Club I’m talking about, there’s the same, there’s a version of that in Ontario. I don’t know if there’s a version of that in every province, but there’s a version of that in most provinces, I think. And those are government funded. So that’s a government fund. And then, yeah, we have amazing tax credits up here. Even if we do sell shows in the US they’re probably gonna be made up here anyway because of… I know you have Atlanta and you have Canada and maybe New Mexico, like, you know what I mean? We have a lot of help from the Canadian government. It’s like big incentive, all provinces have their different tax credits or equity that they’ll put into films.
But yeah, I think you do have to trigger with Canadian writers and I believe that you have to even partner with Canadian producers.
Ashley: Gotcha. Okay. Well, perfect. Let’s talk about your latest film Goalie starring Mark O’Brien and Kevin Pollak. Maybe to start out, you can give us a quick pitch or a logline from that film. What’s that film all about?
Adriana: That film is about Terry Sawchuk was probably the best NHL goalie to ever play the game. It explores his victory on the ice and as well his unhappy life in a way, if you will. So it kind of explores celebrity and how happiness comes from within, I guess is what you could say.
Ashley: Okay. Yeah, perfect. And so how did you get involved with this project? Was this a spec script that you decided to write and then get it produced, did a producer come to you with the idea?
Adriana: This is gonna be so unhelpful to people who wanna get their scripts sold. But my dad wrote a book of poems about Terry Sawchuk, which is kind of not rhyming poems. My uncle was in the NHL and my dad actually taught him how to play hockey, he was his younger brother. And yeah, so he always kind of had this affection for or the lore of hockey. And it does mean a lot to Canadians, those… it’s like the Greeks have their gods and the Norse have their gods and we have our hockey players. It’s like Canada’s cold and these are warriors on the ice. So we do have that mystical love of hockey. He did as well. And he just got obsessed with Terry Sawchuk and the hauntedness of his life in a way.
So he went and interviewed many, many, many players. He didn’t write rhyming poems as much as he just sat back and listened to these men who themselves were aging and they had been huge once and now they had… they were… their bodies betrayed them and they had all this time to look back on their lives and think about those glory days, if you will. And also, to reflect on Terry Sawchuk and to kind of gather meaning from his really difficult life. My sister and I, Jane Maggs is my sister we co-wrote the screenplay, we were reading this book and it was exquisite. Like it was just, it was a movie already as I was reading it. And I had a film at Sundance at the time and when I got home from Sundance a producer in Ontario was like, “What do you think your next film should be?” This is Danny Iron who ended up producing Goalie.
And I was like, “I think maybe this is what it should be.” I talked to my sister about it and she was like, “Yeah,” she was feeling the same, this haunted feeling about this book. And I was like, “We have to watch this book on a screen.” So we talked to my dad and we were like, “Hey, let’s adapt this book and make it into a movie.” He was like, “Go for it.” I think there were some men who wanted to do it as well, but he might’ve rather them, but we were his kids so he didn’t have a choice. So that’s the advice [inaudible 00:15:08] your dad.
Ashley: Yeah. So, no, no, that’s a great story. Let’s talk about your collaboration with your sister Jane. Maybe you can talk about how that went down. Did you guys sit in a room and come up with an outline, were you guys doing it via Skype or some other means? Maybe just walk through that process of… did you make index cards and then divide them up and you each wrote a couple of scenes then come together? Maybe just describe your process of collaboration.
Adriana: Well, actually I work with her a lot. We have a similar sensibility. She’s actually living in LA now and I’m in Toronto so I’m kind of really suffering without her here. But usually we’re in the same room and honestly, we were everywhere. Because then we went to Colorado to see my uncle, the one that was in the NHL and I remember we wrote… I remember being in a coffee shop waiting for him to come and pick us up because we didn’t know where we were in Crystola, Colorado. And we just kind of, I don’t know, we had a really good time exploring this character. We had a difficult time… the book is called Night Work: The Sawchuk Poems, I don’t know, it’s probably on Amazon or something like that.
But if you read it, what you’ll realize is it’s so impressionistic and it’s so… it just goes from interview to interview to interview. We did end up having a difficult time making that into a film because… I know people have done really already poetic films before of poetry, but we didn’t really wanna do that so we ended up optioning a second book, which is by a man named David Dupuis, and it’s Terry Sawchuk’s family authorized biography. So that book had a sequential events of his life. And these sequential events of Terry Sawchuk’s life don’t add up to a happy kind of beautiful ending. It ends badly. Like, he was killed in a fight and… yeah. It’s really interesting.
We didn’t wanna make a bio pic of him necessarily, because what my father’s book was doing was exploring these themes and they kind of went beyond his life to explore aging and the cruelty of time and also the benefit of time and this kind of an uplifting realization out of… God, you know, when you look back at this life, this was an incredible life. We stuck with the tone and the themes and the beauty of my dad’s stuff while we also depended heavily on David Dupuis’ events. And we made something that we hope reflected this beautiful life, because a life is often so much more than the events that add up.
Ashley: Yeah, sure. So for the most part, it sounds like when she was in Canada, you were in Canada, you guys get in the same room and one of you guys is on the keyboard and just typing stuff out.
Adriana: Yeah. And one of us holds the kids away and one of us [laughs]… yeah, definitely. But we are very much like… Okay, hold on, I’m gonna show you. This is like a [inaudible 00:18:43] of a different show. It’s like, you know what I mean? We’re very much like put up the cards and yes, of course we love, I love Save The Cat, the screenwriting book [crosstalk]. You gotta, know the tools so gotta break them, you can’t… but yeah, I’m a big proponent of reading everything you can on screenwriting. I think it’s very helpful.
Ashley: Yeah. As am I. Take us through your process a little bit. How much time, so you had the books and stuff, but how much time did you spend outlining, and then how much time did you spend actually in final draft typing out dialogue and scene descriptions?
Adriana: We actually used Movie Magic [laughs]. Actually, no, now she’s into final draft.
Ashley: Oh, is she!
Adriana: Something happened with the new Mac system. I don’t know what it is, but yeah. This is terrible to say and this is another thing that maybe I don’t know if this happens so much in the United States, but it was seven years. And it wasn’t necessarily seven years because we weren’t ready, but it was it takes that long to raise the money. But we were rewriting and rewriting up until we went to camera and beyond.
Ashley: Yeah. Let me just see here. Okay. So, now you’ve guys have… Let’s talk about your development process. You’ve got these seven years you’re going through. You must have produced some drafts. Who do you send the script out to and who do you get notes from? And I’d be curious like what did your father have to say about the script and did you get notes from him and how do you take those notes and incorporate them into your script?
Adriana: With my dad it was like long, long talks about theme and long talks about… because the… I wanted people to feel when they saw the movie the way that I felt when I read the book. So I really had to get in and I had to get into what he believed was at the core of this book. I was on the phone with him a lot, and I think he did feel like we made a lot of missteps and he really didn’t… he was not into some of the kind of locker room humor, but then the locker room humor came from my uncle. So it was like we kinda had to mitigate that a little bit. And we did want light moments in the script, but yeah we… and he ended up kind of… I really think it was my step mom that told him to love it and he kind of let it go. But we did have a lot of conversations for sure.
Ashley: Yeah. And so were you working with this Daniel Iron? Were you working with him early in the process as well and he was giving you notes?
Adriana: Definitely. Yeah. He was a producer and he was on from the beginning and he was… he would give us notes. Then we had Telefilm which is Canada’s funder. Telefilm is another government organization and they will come in during the development phase and they will fund the development, and if they… if you’re doing a good job or I guess… They don’t get terribly involved in the group creative, but they decide whether they’re gonna fund your film or not. It’s probably like it has a lot to do with what actors you get too. They read a lot of drafts. There was a gentleman at Telefilm, James Luscombe who was very helpful and we had notes, we had a lot of notes.
Ashley: And how do you take those notes? And one of the questions I always pose to people because I’m guilty of this myself. If you get a note that’s just absolutely terrible, you just don’t agree with it, how do you approach that? Do you try and as nicely as possible talk to the person giving you the notes? Do you try and implement it? Maybe talk about that a little.
Adriana: Well, it’s funny because it’s very… Like I work in television a lot, and on television, you take the note. I don’t know why it’s different with features a little bit because you have to be really clear on your central message and what you’re doing because something can so easily become a story that you don’t wanna tell, and if you don’t… I had a wonderful advice from a show runner that I worked for, that I worked for a lot Tassie Cameron and it was like, ”If you don’t understand the note, don’t do the note,” because if… sometimes it just takes a… it’s just a little bit of communication and clarification and then you might rewrite the whole thing. And you have to learn.
It’s a really amazing thing to learn how to take notes because when you’re a young writer, I know for me my tendency was to like page one rewrite if there was… you know what I mean? I’m like, how am I gonna deal with that, I can’t do with that, start all over. And that’s not what anyone wants you to do. So I think it is about communicating with the people that are giving you notes. You have to.
Ashley: Yeah. Perfect. So I wanna take sort of a step backwards. How did you meet Daniel Iron? Maybe you can talk about that. I know now that you’re talking about him as a producer and stuff there’s gonna be lots of screenwriters to go, “How can I find that producer like him that’s connected, believes in the project?” Maybe you can just tell us your story. How did you and Daniel meet originally?
Adriana: God, I think he contacted me when I got back from Sundance.
Ashley: So you’d never met him before?
Adriana: Well, I hadn’t met him, but I knew who he was. He produced Sarah Polly’s Away From Her, which was a beautiful film, it won an Oscar for adapted screenplay, I believe. And so he had a reputation as somebody who loved artistic films and artistic freedom, maybe more so than commercial appeal, so I’m like, “That’s my guy.” It’s terrible to say, but sometimes you just… Listen, I’d make an Avengers, but no one’s asking me. It’s like, I just want… you wanna kind of do your own thing when you can and you do… in television, you compromise so much. So it’s kind of awesome to be able to try and get your own vision out there. He’s not a producer. There are different kinds of producers.
There are producers that give a tremendous amount of notes and there are producers that give a few notes, and there are producers that are excited and they wanna work with you to make something incredible and their notes are helpful, and then it also seems like there are producers that you can go astray with because they’ll note you to death. You know what I mean? And he’s a good one. He kind of stays back and wants it to be beautiful, is excited to help make it beautiful.
Ashley: Yeah. Perfect. Maybe you could talk just a little bit about getting Kevin Pollok involved in the project. Anything… I know I get questions a lot. How can I get this actor or that actor attached to my project? What was that process like? Did you guys already have funding in place before you got him or was getting the funding in place part of that process?
Adriana: He was instrumental in getting the funding. They really wanted to know… I can’t really even talk about Kevin until I talk about Mark O’Brien because Mark O’Brien is who plays Terry Sawchuk. He’s actually from Newfoundland, the same place that I’m from. And he… it’s funny, like my sister and wrote this for Mark. We wrote it for Mark and Mark at the time, thank God it took seven years, but if we hadn’t… sorry, my cat just… there’s a cat right here, I promise. But yeah, so because he was not a huge star at the time, we went through… we had thought about different actors that could play the role and that was fine, it was fine, but it was always Mark. Like he’s perfect.
I mean, he is a hockey player. He’s an amazing hockey player. So we didn’t have to do the I, Tonya and CG his face over and he learned how to be a goalie the way that Terry was a goalie and he’s just amazing. So he, in the time that we had written it sky rocketed in his career which was amazing for us because then by the time we were ready to do it Telefilm was like, “Oh yeah. He’s amazing. Let’s get Mark.” And Mark was friends with Kevin. Or Mark had worked with Kevin or I don’t even… I think it was like they had done an improv workshop together or something like this, and he was really interested in working with Kevin. So we were like, we don’t really know who should play Jack Adams, you know what I mean?
But it was important, I guess, that it was someone with chops and someone who’s amazing. So it was really Mark that got Kevin.
Ashley: I got you. Well that’s good to know. And I think that’s a great story. That one thing often leads to another and there’s often with these projects there is kind of a domino effect. Once you get that ball rolling, things can kind of start to happen. So I just like to end the interview by just asking the guests something that maybe they’ve seen recently that they thought was really great. Again, this podcast is for screenwriters. Are there anything on Netflix, Hulu, HBO or something in the theater that maybe was a little under the radar that you thought was really excellent and screenwriters should pay attention to?
Adriana: You know, all I want to say is Fleabag and I know you probably get it all the time.
Ashley: No, you’re the first person to actually, yeah, to mention that. I haven’t seen it so I’ll put that on my list for sure.
Adriana: You have to see it. And then you have to see the first season and the first season is amazing. And then you have to see the second season because it’s [inaudible 00:29:16] season is a masterpiece. It’s a masterpiece. And sometimes I love watching interviews with Phoebe Waller-Bridge and sometimes I can’t even do it because I’m just so jealous. Like she’s incredible. And it’s so amazing to see a woman writing about a woman behaving badly, because sometimes it feels men are allowed to and it’s not as cool as when women do, but whatever, she’s amazing.
Ashley: Yeah. Perfect. Well I’ll definitely check that out. How can people see Goalie? Do you know what the release schedule is gonna be like?
Adriana: It’s coming out on January 31st. It’s gonna be in theaters. I don’t have all the information about what theaters it’s gonna be in. And I think then it’s kind of just gonna be available. Like in Canada, it’s on iTunes and it’s just gonna have sales. It’s on streaming sites in Canada. So I’m sure that’s how most people are gonna see it. Or actually the airplane, everyone sends me pictures of watching it on the airplane.
Ashley: Perfect. 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 will round up for the show notes.
Adriana: Yeah, I’m on Twitter. I’m on Instagram. I’m on Facebook.
Ashley: Oh, Instagram too. Okay. And what’s just… do you know what your handle is off the top of your head?
Adriana: It’s @adey_maggs on Twitter.
Ashley: Perfect. Sounds good. I will round that stuff up and as I said, I’ll put links in the show notes. Well, I really appreciate you coming on and talking with me today. Good luck with this film and good luck with your next films as well.
Adriana: Thank you so much for having me. Have a great Friday night.
Ashley: No problem. You too. Thank you. We’ll talk to you later.
Adriana: Take care.
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On the next episode of the podcast, I’m gonna be interviewing Martin Gooch about his new film Atomic Apocalypse. It’s a low budget sci-fi action film that looks fantastic. Martin has been on the podcast previously as well. So check out those episodes if you wanna learn a little bit about… learn a little more about his background.
He’s a real in-the-trenches filmmaking, consistently making films. As I said, he’s already been on this podcast twice before. And in fact, on Episode Number #17, that was the first time I had Martin on. He had actually just completed two Indie features then. And then Episode Number #204 he had completed another one and then now he’s got yet another film. So he’s really doing the work, getting films out there. They look great. The budgets are continuously going up. So I’m real excited to welcome him back. And again, if you wanna learn more about him, he was on Episode Number #17 and Episode Number #204. I will link to those in the show notes, so keep an eye out for that episode next week. Anyway, that’s the show. Thank you for listening.