This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 329: With Actor/Producer Jamie Bernadette.
Ashley: Welcome to Episode #329 of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger over at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing Jamie Bernadette who is an actress and also a producer who just produced and starred in a horror film called Dead by Dawn. She is a modern-day scream queen. She stars in a ton of these types of horror films and in fact she’s been in a few of the films that have been highlighted on this podcast, including 4/20 Massacre. It’s an interesting interview as we see the script and the project through an actor’s eyes who is also a producer, so really interesting. So stay tuned for that interview.
The SYS Six-Figure screenplay contest is now open for submissions. Just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/contest. The early bird discount runs through May 31st. I tried to make all the deadlines as intuitive as possible, so the early bird deadline ends May 31st and then the regular deadline ends a month later on June 30th, and then another month after that the late deadline ends on July 31st. The idea for the contest was simple, find the best low produce scripts and present them to the industry. I’m defining low budget as less than $1,000,000. In other words, six figures or less. If you have any questions about how to figure out the budget of your screenplay, I created a video which you can find on the landing page which will help you estimate your budget.
Here’s how the contest is going to work. Every submission will get read by at least three professional readers. These are readers I’ve hired to read the scripts in the first round. Each reader will give each script a quick assessment, which you can actually purchase if you’d like to see these and get some quick feedback on your script. Then the scripts that stand out from the first round will move into the second round where I will disseminate the scripts to the industry judges. The industry judges will grade the scripts and we will choose the winners from the ones that stand out among those scripts. We’re giving away thousands in cash and prizes to the winners. I’ve lined up about 40 industry pros as judges.
They’re listed on the contest landing page with links to their IMDb pages. These are real filmmakers who are making movies and the reason many of these folks are willing to be judges in a contest like this is because they’re hoping to find material for themselves to produce. So hopefully it’s just a win-win for both the writers and the producers who get to read this material. Once again, if this sounds like something you’d like to learn more about or perhaps enter, just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/contest. 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 #329. 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.
So now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m interviewing actor-producer Jamie. Bernadette. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Jamie to the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Jamie: Oh, thanks for having me.
Ashley: So to start out, maybe you can tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up and how did you get interested in the entertainment business?
Jamie: I grew up in Illinois in a small town and I guess I was interested since I was a child. I would watch movies and wanna be in them or act them out. So I think I knew what I was gonna do from a very young age.
Ashley: And so what were some of the steps? You’re growing up, I imagine you’re doing like theater productions at school, you know, Summer Stock and that kinda stuff. Maybe talk about that transition. What did you do as you get through high school to actually turn this into a professional career? Did you go to college, major in theater? Maybe talk about some of those steps just a little bit.
Jamie: Yeah, I did some theater, community theater as I was growing up and I also did theater in high school and then I went out to Los Angeles after that and just drove out and made the decision. I made it quickly in like four days and just packed up my car and left. And I had hardly any money. I had $600 and two friends in LA. That’s just kinda how my personality is, I think I just make decisions very quickly and tend to not put a lot of too much thought. I think thinking can be a disease when people think too much and they need to just act. I don’t know, it’s just my philosophy on life and how I operate. So yeah, I made the decision fast.
Ashley: Yeah, perfect. So I get a lot of screenwriters… and myself, I’m from Maryland, so I made that same journey years ago and so I always get a lot of people just asking some basic tips. Where did you end up? I ended up in North Hollywood and that’s actually still my advice to this day. It’s sort of centrally located in LA. Maybe you can give some advice. Where did you end up? Is there a specific area for someone who shows up in LA with only $600 in their bank account? Is there a place you recommend that’s relatively safe, still centrally located to the places that someone like yourself would wanna be?
Jamie: Yeah, I mean I would recommend Studio City, North Hollywood has some nice areas for sure, Burbank, Glendale is nice. Yeah, I think just a little on the outside. A lot of people tend to go into central Hollywood because that’s, they think that’s what they need to do and it’s kinda crazy down there and I wouldn’t… and parking’s crazy and it’s just, it’s a little… it can be a little sketchy. So that I wouldn’t recommend. And Downtown LA also is… I’ve seen someone move here and go to Downtown LA as well and I wouldn’t recommend that. It’s sketchy as well. So yeah, just I would stay… You’re still centrally located when you’re in places like Glendale and Studio City. You don’t need to be right in the heart of it, but you’re very, very close and I think people who aren’t from here don’t realize that.
Ashley:. Yeah, for sure. Okay. So maybe you can give us a couple of tips too just for someone who’s landing in LA. What was your first job and how did you start to get some acting gigs? Did you do… again, and my experience maybe is a little longer ago, but for most of the people sort of when I was getting here in the ‘90s it was going down to [inaudible 00:06:49], getting some extra work, getting your SAG card. What are people doing now? What’s sort of the gist of starting that career, arriving and getting things going?
Jamie: I would recommend the same thing actually. I mean, I’m always a fan of actors doing extra work. I mean, some will dissuade you from doing it, but I don’t really understand that because yeah, you can get your SAG card like you mentioned, you get paid three times on a union pay stub and you’re eligible to join the union. Also, you have an opportunity to watch A-listers in action. I mean, you can learn a lot. If you’re new in acting and you go and you watch these actors yeah, it’s a free acting class and you’re getting paid. Also there’s chances of upgrade. Like a lot of times you can end up being upgraded to a principal role just by being there and being an extra, so that’s good too.
I also think it helps with the nerves a lot. So like, you know, of course everyone’s always a little nervous to get on a big set like that, so if you do extra work, you’re getting used to being in that environment and I think it can help with the nerves if you’ve been there quite a bit, if that makes sense.
Ashley: Yeah. No, it totally does. And I recommend… as a screenwriter, I recommend it to writers. It was great experience for me as a writer to be on set. As a writer, we’re gonna actually spend very little time on set, so getting some of that on set experience… and people don’t realize too. I actually was on Space Jam, maybe I’m dating myself, but we were just walking down onto the field, Michael Jordan was there and it was all very casual. So you actually really got to see sort of film production. And again, as someone from Maryland, this was a really eye-opening experience. You had just graduated college and no experience. So anyways, I think it could be… your experience is great and I think that’s actually a great recommendation for not just actors but writers, directors, producers, really anyone that wants to be in the business. Getting on set and seeing that.
I’m with you, I never really understood why people kind of were dissuading it. Certainly it’s just kind of a stop gap of a job as you’re arriving here. Anyway, so let’s dig into your latest film Dead by Dawn. Maybe you can kinda tell us what that film’s all about. Do you have a pitch or a log line on that one?
Jamie: Sure. I mean, I can tell you what it’s about. It’s about a girl who’s assaulted and she arrives at a stranger’s home, like in the country, and he’s about to commit suicide. So he has his own story going on. The two of them connect and he lets her in and everything, and then three villains show up. I’m one of the villains, and we want the girl. So it’s basically, that’s the whole it. They’re trying to get the girl and inside they’re trying to stop them.
Ashley: Yeah. Perfect. So how did you get involved with this project? Was this a script that you just came in contact with, you liked it? Did you know the writer? Maybe can talk a little bit about that process.
Jamie: I didn’t know Sean Cain, the director, but he knew of my work and he just cast me. He offered me the role. So we just met for a quick lunch and talked and yeah. So it worked out, I loved the script. I loved the role. It was great to play a villain. I’m often the final girl like protagonist roles, so it was nice to have a, just a change and play this crazy villain. So yeah, that was it.
Ashley: Okay. And so how do people typically get scripts to you? Do you have an agent, is it just through contacts, industry people? And again, this comes from just a screenwriter question. Screenwriters are always asking me, “How do I get this actor attached to my project?” So, you know, you’re an actor, you’re in the horror space. I can see some people listening to this saying, “Hey, well how could I get someone like Jamie attached to my project?” How do scripts get to you, typically?
Jamie: Yeah, I mean some do go through my manager, Sharon King. If you have IMDb pro her information is on my profile on IMDb. Also, I do have scripts sent to me directly through Facebook and stuff like that. I do like to keep in touch with my fans and things, so I am pretty open to that. What I’ll do is I will do like a prescreening first when someone offers me something and then if I want it to go further, then I’ll refer them to Sharon, my manager, to do the contract and everything.
Ashley: Okay. So you mentioned that this was kind of a different role as an actor and I think that’s something that writers and frankly directors really listen to. But what else about the script did you like, what else sort of spoke to you? And even just in general, taking a step back, you read a lot of scripts, what are some of the things you see that writers do that you actually really like and say, “Wow, this is something that I think writers should do more of?”
Jamie: I think character building without it being been shoved down your throat, without… with avoiding the exposition type dialogue, where, let me tell you my whole backstory sitting over coffee or something, but where you can see the character building and it’s happening throughout the action in the script. I do notice that a lot and I like that style for sure. I don’t know, some scripts just grab you. It’s interesting and what is it about those scripts that grab you? How could I even put that into words? Because I have been sent hundreds and hundreds of scripts. I’ve probably read hundreds, maybe a thousand. So I don’t know, some just grab you.
Ashley: Are there some things, and this is sort of the flip side to this question, are there some things that you see often that you think, “I don’t think writers should do those things?”
Jamie: The exposition type dialogue that I was meantioning before, when they’re like, “Oh well, I came from this and I did this before this and that,” and it’s just this whole big paragraph. I’m just like, tell it throughout the story in little ways. And you don’t… and too spoon-feeding an audience rather like… an audience kinda likes to be taken on a journey I think, and they like to figure things out on their own, like… and some writers won’t give the audience enough credit. They really spoon-feed them and baby step them every step of the way. Like let them do some of the work.
Ashley: So when you were going through this process, you’re getting cast, once you’re brought on as a producer, I’m sure preproduction is ramping up, were there ever some issues with the script, like some things you thought needed to be changed? And I’m just always curious to see how actors sort of work with the writers, work with the directors on little tweaks or anything like that. How do you navigate that? Especially it sounds like you’re being brought onto a project where you’re kinda the outsider bringing in. Obviously you wanna be cordial, you don’t wanna be obnoxious or rude about it. But how do you negotiate those things and how do you navigate those relationships making suggestions?
Jamie: Well, in every film one of the first things I ask is, “Do you want this dialogue word for word? Are you open for very minor alterations?” And usually I’ll get a yes.
Ashley: Is that what you want as an actor? Is that what you typically want? You want the director to say, “Yeah, I want it word for word” or you want him to say, “Well, I don’t mind some tweaks here and there?”
Jamie: Now for… I have to modify this. For television I never ask that, it’s always word for word. Unless they tell you otherwise you are word for word and they will jump in and stop you if you [inaudible 00:14:23] the word. But for like independent films, I usually find there’s more leeway. And I usually find that it’s a lot of times the director will have written it. I usually find that they’re pretty open to changes and they’re not married word to word to the script. So if you kinda make it your own, but stick to what they said but make it your own they’re fine with it. I’ve never been… I won’t say I’ve never had otherwise, I have before. But yeah, usually they kinda let you alter it in minor ways.
But yeah, I wouldn’t do anything, any alterations that are major without asking them first or talking to them about it because that could be insulting to them or you don’t wanna yeah, come across like you know more than them. It’s their baby, you know. So I always respect the writer for sure.
Ashley: Yeah. Okay. So were you brought into this process once you got cast? Did he already have the money or did you guys have to go out and raise the money? And can you give any insight just how he was able to raise the money for the film?
Jamie: He had the money already actually. And yeah, I was brought in as an actor and then because I produced before I ended up helping Sean quite a bit with some things and like casting for example. So yeah, he had the money already. He has investors that he…
Ashley: I got you.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. So what is your maybe just some general advice for screenwriters, people rolling into town just exactly like you did years ago with just a few bucks in their pocket? What do you suggest to them? What’s their best course of action once they find a place to stay and maybe get some sort of a temp job to kinda keep them going?
Jamie: For screenwriters or…
Ashley: Yeah. Screenwriters, actors, to really anybody.
Jamie: Yeah. I mean, I can’t say too much for screenwriters, but I mean for actors, yeah. Get into an acting school that not one that maybe your friends are recommending, but one that casting directors look at that has respect in the industry that they look at and go, “Oh, we know that school.” Because if you’re gonna spend the money, you might as well spend it on a school that is respected and known and you may get jobs from. So that… but I wouldn’t stay in, but my own personal, I wouldn’t stay in acting school for years and years. I feel like some of the schools really milk that. I mean, they can keep you coming, they keep getting paid. So you have to remember that too. And some schools are not good and they will teach you bad habits.
So like I said, you wanna pick one that’s known and respected in the industry. And you can ask people and you’ll find out pretty quickly, you’ll hear the same names. Or ask a casting director if you get the chance. I’m sure they’d be happy to help. Ask an agent would definitely happy to help. But yeah, so you wanna be where two of people recommending their friends for kickbacks or stuff like that. So it’s just so much to learn. Like I feel like it would take a book to cover everything I need to say for advice right now to give. And yeah like…
Ashley: No, I think that’s some sound advice and I think that’s… yeah. Yeah, I think that’s sound advice. I think it’s applicable to screenwriting as well. I mean there’s definitely courses and those sorts of things, communities, workshops that you can get involved in. Is there anything you’ve seen recently? I just like to wrap up the interviews by asking the guests, is there anything you’ve seen recently that you thought was maybe a little under the radar that maybe deserved a little extra attention? Anything you’ve been watching on Netflix, Hulu that you can recommend to our listeners?
Jamie: Gosh, I’m thinking that has… because I’ve been watching like things that are popular, so I’m trying to think of something.
Ashley: What’s something you just liked, even if it was popular?
Jamie: I saw The Conjuring not that long ago and I was blown away because I actually… I had just seen… I know it’s an older film, but I had just seen it and I was like, “Wow, this is amazing, so well done.”
Ashley: For sure.
Ashley: Yeah, that’s a great recommendation. How can people see Dead by Dawn? Do you know what the release schedule is gonna be like?
Jamie: Yeah, it’s April 7th. It’s on all Video On Demand outlets. So like Amazon, iTunes, Hulu, it’ll be on all those for rent and to buy. It’s also… there’s DVD sales too for DVD collectors and things.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. And what’s the best way for people to keep up with what you’re doing? Twitter, Facebook, a blog, anything you’re comfortable sharing I will round up for the show notes.
Jamie: Yeah, sure. I’m on Instagram, spelled just like my name Jamie Bernadette. I’m a verified account so you can find me pretty easily. I’m very active on there because into photography and stuff. And then I’m on Twitter, Jamie Bernadette without the E on the end and it’s verified so you can find me. I’m on Facebook, I have a private account but I have it open to the public so it’s a page, a personal page, but I have it open to the public and everything so you can follow me on there.
Ashley: Okay, well perfect. Jamie, as I said, I’ll round that stuff up for the show notes. Thanks for taking a few minutes today to talk with me. Good luck with this film and good luck with your future films as well.
Jamie: Yeah, thank you so much. Thanks for having mem.
Ashley: Perfect. Thank you. We’ll talk to you later.
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 Alan Trezza. I interviewed him a few years ago on the podcast in Episode Number #83 so have a listen to that if you haven’t already heard it as he gives sort of his backstory and how he broke into the industry in that episode. Next week we’re gonna talk about his latest screenplay, which was produced into a film called We Summon the Darkness, a horror film. So keep an eye out for that episode next week. That’s the show. Thank you for listening.