This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode: 325 With Director Lorcan Finnegan .
Ashley: Welcome to Episode #325 of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger over at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing director Lorcan Finnegan who just did a film called Vivarium, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots, so stay tuned for that interview. If you find this episode valuable, please help me out by giving me a review in iTunes or leaving me a comment on YouTube or retweeting the podcast on Twitter or liking or sharing it on Facebook. These social media shares really do help spread word about the podcast, so they’re very much appreciated.
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 #325. If you want my free guide-How To Sell a Screenplay in Five Weeks, you can pick that up by going to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide. It’s completely free, you just put in your email address and I’ll send you a new lesson once per week for five weeks along with a bunch of bonus lessons.
I teach the whole process of how to sell your screenplay in that guide. I’ll teach you how to write a professional logline and query letter and how to find agents, managers and producers who are looking for material. Really, it’s everything you need to know to sell your screenplay. Just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide.
A quick few words about what I’m working on. Obviously, like most people, I’m at home working from home with this COVID-19 lockdown. Hopefully everybody listening to this is safe at home and spending time with their family. I’m still working on my mystery thriller I shot in December, The Rideshare Killer. We did find our editor a few weeks ago and so he’s plugging away. I was able to get him the hard drive really before the lockdown really got really strict. So he’s got it, he’s working away, syncing sound and we’ve actually started to see some cuts. He’s done about the, just sort of a rough cut, but he’s basically assembled the first 20 minutes or so of the film.
So that’s exciting to see this all coming together. I’m really happy with how it looks and it’s coming together, so that’s great. We do need to start to choose some music, specifically some songs. The opening takes place at a dance club, so we sorta need to fill in that song. But just figuring out some of the music will help the editor so we can really cut the film on the beats and that sort of stuff. Really start to mesh the things together. That’ll be over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be getting more sections of the film to review, give notes on and start to look at some of the sound elements specifically like the music and the song. I’m still trying to get my next project going, but… so I’m spending some time on that, but obviously things have slowed way down with the COVID-19.
No one is really all that interested in a high-risk investment right now with so much uncertainty. I’m still sending out scripts and trying to email and call and just sort of connect with potential investors, but a lot of that it’s just not… it’s not that I’m getting a lot of no’s I’m really just getting a lot of, “Hey, can we hold off for what’s going on?” “Are you sure you’re gonna be able to do this?” The original plan was basically to try and shoot this in September, October, obviously, there’s no production going on here in Los Angeles. And I would hope we’ll be back with production in September, but, again, it’s just all the uncertainty. So I’m still kinda reaching out to people, kinda trying to get something set up so once things do go back to normal, I’ll have something ready to go.
But it’s definitely gonna be a slow thing and we just… we’re gonna just need to sort of turn a corner. Even if the restrictions don’t get completely lifted it at some point it feels like anyways or I hope, I guess that we’ll turn a corner where all of a sudden, okay, where the worst is behind us. I think everybody will feel more hopeful, and I think even, again, even if we don’t go back to work or get… the lockdown is not lifted at that moment, I think we’ll all feel a lot better. And then I just think mentally we can start to sort of think about the future and what we’re gonna be doing. But definitely not seeing a lot of action on anybody thinking more than a few days ahead, much less six months or a year and investing in something like a film.
So I’m gonna keep plugging away, but probably that’s gonna be more of a sort of back-burner project for the next month. The other big thing I’ve been working on lately is the SYS six-figure screenplay contest. It is officially launching today here April 20th. If you’d like to check it out and just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/contest. The early bird deadline goes through May 31st. It’s just $45 through May 31st, so you can save some money if you sign up before then. The idea is… the idea with this six-figure screenplay contest is to highlight great low budget screenplays and then present them to producers in the industry. So the idea is that the scripts must be able to be produced on a budget of less than $1,000,000.
In other words, their budget has to be six figures or less. We’re giving away cash and prizes to all the winners from the quarterfinalists, semifinalists, finalists and obviously the winner. With my annual budget list, I know there’s a lot of interest from producers in low budget scripts. My annual budget, I usually have been highlighting anywhere from like let’s say five to 10 scripts the last few years in this annual budget list. And I always get producers asking about it, asking to see the scripts, how can they get, how can they actually read the scripts, how can they get in touch with the writers? So again, I know that there’s some sort of built up anticipation for these sorts of things, and so hopefully we can tap into that and really present some great scripts to the industry.
I’ve lined up nearly 40 industry professionals as judges, and these are mostly producers, some actors, some writers, but mostly producers. And if they’re actors they are usually producer-actors or producer-writers or something like that. But again, these are professional industry people with industry experience. They are gonna be judging the scripts after the first round. If you wanna see exactly who those people are, I have listed them all on the contest page. So again, that’s just www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/contest and I’ve linked to all of their IMDb pages, so you can just click over and kinda get a sense for who will be the ultimate judges in this contest.
So I just wanna be, I just wanna kind of talk about how this is gonna work. What I kind of did again, this idea of a low budget screenplay contest, it sort of came from doing this annual budget list for a few years and just seeing the reaction I got from that. And so really what I tried to do was just take a step back and say, “How can I create a system to find the best scripts?” So here’s what I’ve come up with and this is, I’m trying to implement this. You know, as the years go on, if I continue to do this contest, I might make some tweaks to it, but I think, and again, this relies a lot on my experience with the script analysis service that I sell here at SYS. I kinda feel like I have a little bit of experience in this and again, that experience hopefully will really kinda help me set up this system.
So anyways, here’s how it’s gonna work. It’s gonna be open to any genre, but the scripts, as I mentioned, they must be able to be produced for less than 1 million US dollars. I’ve hired a team of professional readers to read scripts in the first round. These are gonna be, they’re not the same readers that do this SYS Script Analysis, but they’re similar readers. They have industry experience as a reader. Typically, that means reading for other contests, reading for agencies, reading for production companies, managers, that sort of experience. So those are the first-round judges. Now what I’m gonna do is every single script that comes in is gonna be read by three of those first-round judges.
Again, every single script. And each one of those judges is gonna do what I’m calling a SYS script assessment. It’s just gonna be kind of a quick way to grade the scripts on a number of factors like character, concept, structure, et cetera, et cetera. They’re just gonna grade those things. They’re gonna write a couple of sentences about the script, but mainly it’s just gonna be kind of like a little report card on the script so that these scripts can be graded, assessed, and then we can move some into the second round. You can actually, I’m setting this up so that you can actually purchase these assessments as well for an extra $10. In addition, for just $99, you can get a get a… instead of getting three script assessments, you can get two script assessments and one full script analysis.
That’s only again, $99. The full script analysis is typically $89, so again, for just an extra $10, I’m gonna give out the two other script assessments as well as entry into the contest. So that seemed like an incredible value if you’re interested in that. But even if you just wanna do the early bird deadline without any of the script assessments or the script analysis that’s just $45. Again, just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/contest. There’s some rules and just various things you might wanna look at. Again, the judges are there and I list exactly what the prize is, all that sort of stuff listed on that page. So again, every script will be read by at least three of these professional readers in the first round. Then the scripts that stand out in the first round, those will be passed along to the industry professionals in the second round.
And again, you can see all the industry professionals on the contest landing pages. Many of these industry professionals requested specific genres. They only wanna read scripts and genres that they typically work in or are interested in working in. So the script will be divided up, in the second round, they’ll be divided up based on sort of these industry professionals’ interest in a specific genre. The carrot that I dangled to these producers is that they would only read vetted scripts. Scripts that our readers read and liked and they would get first crack at optioning the script if they like it. So not only will we highlight all the scripts once we’ve chosen a winner and obviously you’ll win cash and prizes potentially. Hopefully we’ll find homes for at least some of these scripts before the contest is even over.
Because again, we’ve really kind of taken under our fold a lot of these working industry professionals who are actually people looking for scripts to produce. Anyways, again, that’s really the goal is I’m just trying to create this system that really does find the best low budget scripts and presents them to the industry. One common question that I anticipate because I get this question all the time, is something along the lines of ‘How can I tell if my screenplay could be produced for a million dollar or for less than a million dollars’? I don’t wanna go into that right now. I’ve talked about this a number of times over the years on my podcast, but I just decided to consolidate it. So I just created a short video for folks who might need a little help with this.
I kinda go into some of the ins and outs, some of the things just so you can kinda common sense or just eyeball your script and get kind of a sense of is this a million dollar project, is this a 10 million, is this a hundred million dollar? You know, kind of just ballpark. You can understand sort of what costs a lot. So again, check that out. There’s a link from the contest page www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/contest. You’ll see a section that says something to the effect of ‘Could my script be made’ or ‘how could I tell if my script could be made for a million dollars’? Then there’s a link to this YouTube video as well as just a little text kinda describing some sort of bullet points to look out on.
So again, if you don’t have any production experience or you’re kinda wondering, gee, “How do I know how much of my script could be made for?” hopefully these resources can help you out. I did debate whether this was the right time to launch something like this with COVID-19, But I felt like it was… I’ve gotten good feedback from the script analysis service that I’m running. A lot of writers are at home. They do wanna keep their screenwriting careers going. And I was actually working on getting all this stuff. There’s just a lot of logistical stuff to setting up with the contest. Just getting the workflow so the scripts come in, the scripts get passed to the readers, the scripts get graded. There’s just some like technical stuff I had to set up and I’ve been working on that stuff for months.
I actually started working on this and I think I might’ve even mentioned it on the podcast probably last October, November. Then I went and shot The Rideshare Killer in December, so that kinda put everything on hold. And then once we got into this year, I’ve kinda been putting things together and I kinda thought this would be a good launch. Again, all the actual dates are listed on the on the landing page. But again, the idea is to take entries up until about August for the next four months. We’ll be collecting entries and just kinda ramping up and then we’ll start to really grade the scripts and figure out who the winners are. September, October of this year. And then and then November, December we’ll be announcing the winners.
And again, that will fold nicely into what I do with the budget list. So we’ll be able to present all of these contest winners to the industry, to producers. And again, hopefully we’ll really find we’ll find some homes for a lot of these scripts. Anyways, so that’s basically what I’m working on here the last few weeks and probably the foreseeable future.
So now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m interviewing director Lorcan Finnegan. Here is the interview
Ashley: Welcome Lorcan to the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Lorcan: Well, thanks for having me. Much appreciated. Glad to be.
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?
Lorcan: I grew up in Dublin and I studied graphic design. And then I kinda got into motion graphics and by some… I don’t know. I think I started making kind of little animated narratives and then I started making some animated shorts. And then people liked them, I started getting jobs doing TV commercials and stuff, and then made some live action short films and yeah, it was kind of a, it wasn’t really a plan to be honest. It just sort of happened organically.
Ashley: Yeah. So let’s talk about some of those little short features that you were making. Did you promote them on film festivals, did you just put them on YouTube? How did that ultimately lead to your getting professional jobs? And when you say people hired you to make commercials, they hired you as a writer-director-producer, what were you kind of going for with these shorts that you were making? Were you going to be a writer or director, and how did you ultimately get hired?
Lorcan: Yeah, I didn’t really know what a… you know, I didn’t really realize what a director was or anything like that at the time, I was just making stuff. Me and my friends were all kind of into making some from our parents’ had little handycams and we were making sketches together and little kind of skateboarding videos and stuff like that. But because I had a little bit of a background in graphics, in motion graphics I was able to adapt things and do compidles and stuff like that. So I was just sort of making stuff for fun really initially. I’m talking about one-minute films and then like two minutes and then I applied for some… I wrote a couple of scripts because I heard that you can get some money from Screen Ireland to help you make a short film.
I was like [inaudible 00:15:05]. So I wrote a few scripts and texts and I made a short animated film called Changes. That was kind of my first things that I did before I got paid. It was a very low budget, but… and then I was putting all the stuff that I was doing up on YouTube and Vimeo and applying for every little kind of competitiony thing. I was out there I was keeping an eye on what was going on and submitting these kind of magazines, like design magazines and stuff like that as well. Yeah, and then eventually, I think it was like, this was a long time ago. So this is like the beginning of YouTube where they didn’t actually have a huge amount of content that wasn’t just sort of home recorded, very just cats falling off things and stuff like that.
So they were actually kind of pretty hungry for like reasonably well made short content that was entertaining. So they featured a lot of my stuff. So then it got loads of views and then I think some ad agencies saw my stuff and were like, “Oh, we have a commercial that we wanted in that sort of style.” So that they have it already written, you know without a script that they would have ran by their clients and be ready to go. So I just come on to direct them, direct the thing, and figure out how to make it. That was sort of how it began.
Ashley: Yeah. And so then take me through, okay, so then you’re working professionally doing these commercials. Then what was that phase like going from doing commercials to doing an actual feature film? Or maybe there were even some short films in between that, but how did you make that leap from commercial director to feature film director?
Lorcan: Well, maybe commercials were kind of… I never saw myself as making films and just narrative stuff. The commercials were kind of good fun and good practice the thing, but it was, it was sort of a sideline in a way, I mean, mentally that’s what I was thinking anyway. So I tried to do a feature film. Like Garret and I [inaudible 00:17:15] and I have a kind of course that was designed for low budget filmmaking. On the end of the course they we’re actually gonna do, it’s called the capitalist project, they we’re gonna finance three films and he was looking for a director to team up with, I was looking for a writer to team up with. So we met and we wrote a… well he wrote the feature, I had a kind of a vague idea for a film and he got into it and we submitted it and we didn’t get the financing.
It was a crazy big sci-fi that was gonna cost way too much. But we continued to collaborate then and we wrote another couple of shorts together and we submitted them, we didn’t get the money again. And then he wrote this short story on his blog called Foxes, which was then sort of a reaction to what was going on in Ireland with the housing crisis and these empty abandoned housing developments around 2005, between 2005, 2008. So I read the story and I thought it was great and I thought we should develop that into a short film because it had the nice balance of being an entertaining genre story, but also interesting political masses and interesting teens. So we did, got the financing for it.
That was the first kind of, it was like a big short, you know what I mean? Like a 16-minute short film with a budget of about € 70,000, like a five-day shoot and had some visual effects and all that kind of stuff. So that was my first sort of foray into plot. Well, although there was a lot of VFX and some automation and stuff and it looks like a live action film. I was just gonna say that got into like… I think it premiered at South by Southwest then was in Tribeca as well. It did a bunch of festivals and it won some awards and stuff. The UK agent and sort of like, okay, we’ve got this, a bit of a Maxim that we should come up with something because it’s on them. There were ideas and themes within that short story that we still kind of obsessed with that we wanted to explore a much more kind of global universal scale.
That’s what we started writing Vivarium basically from that short film.
Ashley: Okay. Perfect. Yeah, so that’s a good segue. And Vivarium is your latest feature film starring Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots. So maybe we can talk about that one a little bit. That sounds like that’s kinda the Genesis of it. What’s the logline for Vivarium?
Lorcan: Oh God, I have no idea anymore. I think it’s like a young couple are trying to buy the first home, meet a strange estate agent and end up trapped in a maze-like suburb that they… yeah, something like that.
Ashley: Okay. Yeah. Perfect. Maybe let’s talk about your relationship with Garret Shanley. How did this work? You have a story by credit shared with him and then he has screenwriting credit. So what does that actually look like from a director and writing standpoint? Like sort of just what are the logistics of you guys working? Do you guys come up with an outline together and then he goes off and writes the script? Maybe just describe that relationship so people can kinda get a feel for that.
Lorcan: It’s difficult to kind of pinpoint because these things go on for years. I mean, we started Vivarium so long ago. Well, we started it and it was supposed to be my first film but it took ages to finance. So we actually made different film called Without Name between. So on Without Name, it was like I had kind of an idea for something, and so did Garret. They both got melded together. I think it was something about like, “Oh, what of a place that could protect itself by kind of trapping an entity within it, and it’s like a one out, one in type situation.” We’d seen this documentary called Into Eternity, based on the nuclear waste program in Finland I think, like what they do to protect the area from people mining for or people going into it because the radiation is gonna be dangerous for like a hundred thousand years and what language will people even speak then?
And then I think… so we talked and had ideas like that and then Garret had ideas around Irish folk tales and their cults and just certain, you know, a character becoming completely isolated, not knowing whether his goal was escaping or he was meeting himself. So it’s difficult to tell. On that one it was, I think Garret went off and wrote scripts and was like, okay, cool, and we made it very far. So it wasn’t, we didn’t do a story by shared thing. On Vivarium I think it became so intertwined over the course of coming up with a story that it was a story by both of us, but I was gonna direct it and he was the writer. And that was just a kinda amicable thing that we’d plan on doing over like a few films. We have three films that are kind of like that, that we kinda come up with together.
The only thing is it is actually confusing for people later. People will keep crediting me as a writer and or like the… or co-writer or stuff like that. So I don’t know if it’s actually such a good idea in the long run.
Ashley: Yeah. Okay. So once you had your script, how did you go about getting this thing optioned and ultimately raise the money to get it produced?
Lorcan: We shared it with a bunch of producers via my agents and just via people who we kinda knew. Most of them said no because they thought it was too weird and too expensive. And then somebody said yeah, I think they could see your way of making it, which was kind of the European co-pro model. So that’s… it seemed like a route to production, we said, okay, and we optioned it to them. And then we discovered that the European co-pro model takes a long time, but that’s why we made it with a name.
Ashley: And so what is the European this model you’re talking about?
Lorcan: So Ireland has a tax credit of like 32%. I think I might be wrong, it might be 34 even. But so Screen Ireland can support films, like at become a financier in films. So you’re taking a chunk of money from Screen Ireland and then find European co-producers. So we have a co-producer in Denmark who was able to access Danish, film or the, yeah, the DFI, the Danish Film Institute, and also the Copenhagen Film Fund. And then another producer in Belgium who was able to access the Wallonia region funding called Wallimage. Also as a tax shelter in Belgium of 40%. So and then when you’ve got that many European countries, you can fly for Eurimages, which is like a Euro fund for European official co-productions. So we got some money from Eurimages. And then if I presales with a sales company, so XYZ Films in the US for selling the film, so they brought in some of the financing by doing presales.
Ashley: I see. Well, perfect. How can people see Vivarium? Do you know what the release schedule is gonna be like?
Lorcan: Yeah, it comes out on March 27th, so pretty soon. It was supposed to be doing a bunch of theaters all over the world, but they seem to be closing down quite rapidly. It’s like literally the worst timing ever to be releasing a film. But we’re gonna do VOD regardless. Yeah. Nightmare. It’s crazy. And actually weirdly this film is a couple stuck in a house, self-isolating with a child.
Ashley: Yeah. What’s the best way for people to keep up with what you’re doing? Twitter, Facebook, a blog, anything you’re comfortable sharing I’ll roundup for the show notes?
Lorcan: Yeah, I have a Twitter which is @LorcanFinnegan, all one word, and my Instagram is @LorcanFinnegan, all one word. So yeah, that’s L-OR-N-C-A-N-F-I-N-N-E-G-A-N. That’s where I tend to kinda keep people up to date there.
Ashley: Perfect. Sounds good. Well Lorcan, I really appreciate you taking the time out and coming on and talking with me. Good luck with this film and good luck with all your future films as well.
Lorcan: Okay, cool. Thanks. Much appreciated.
Ashley: Thank you. Yup. We’ll talk to you later. Bye.
Lorcan: Alright, cool. Bye.
Ashley: A quick plug for the SYS Screenwriting Analysis Service. It’s a really economical way to get a high-quality professional evaluation on your screenplay. When you buy our three pack, you get evaluations at just $67 per script for feature films and just $55 for teleplays. All the readers have professional experience reading for studios, production companies, contests and agencies. You can read a short bio on each reader on our website and you can pick the reader who you think is the best fit for your script. Turnaround time is usually just a few days but rarely more than a week. The readers will evaluate your script on six key factors- concept, character, structure and marketability, tone and overall craft, which includes formatting, spelling and grammar.
Every script will get a grade of pass, consider or recommend, which should help you roughly understand where your script might rank if you were to submit it to a production company or agency. We can provide an analysis on features or television scripts. We also do proofreading without any analysis. We will also look at a treatment or outline and give you the same analysis on it. So if you’re looking to vet some of your project ideas, this is a great way to do it. We will also write your logline and synopsis for you. You can add this logline and synopsis writing service to an analysis or you can simply purchase this service as a standalone product. As a bonus, if your screenplay gets a recommend or a consider from one of our readers, you get to list the screenplay in the SYS Select database, which is a database for producers to find screenplays and a big part of our SYS Select program.
Producers are in the database searching for material on a daily basis, so it’s another great way to get your material in front of them. As a further bonus, if your script gets a recommend from one of our readers, your screenplay will get included in our monthly Best Of newsletter. Each month we send out a newsletter that highlights the best screenplays that have come through our script analysis service. This is monthly newsletter that goes out to our list of over 400 producers who are actively looking for material, so again, this is another great way to get your material out there. So if you want a professional evaluation of your screenplay at a very reasonable price, check out www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/consultants.
On the next episode of the podcast, I’m gonna be interviewing director Scott Teems who just wrote and directed a film called The Quarry starring Shea Whigham and Michael Shannon. We talk about this film as well as how he broke into the industry. He’s done a lot of TV writing, so we talk a little bit about that too, and how he got staffed on Rectify and Narcos: Mexico, so keep an eye out for that episode next week. Anyway, that’s the show. Thank you for listening.