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SYS Podcast Episode 394: With Writer/Actor Brea Grant (transcript)

This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 394: With Writer/Actor Brea Grant.


Ashley: Welcome to Episode #394 of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Myers, screenwriter and blogger over at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I am interviewing Brea Grant, who just wrote and starred in a feature thriller called Lucky. She’s been acting for years, has a ton of acting credits, but this week we talk about her writing and how she was able to use her acting experience to help get this project produced. So stay tuned for that interview. If you find this episode valuable, please help me out by giving me reviews 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 are very much appreciated.

Any websites or links that are mentioned on 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. You can find all podcast show notes at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast, and then just look for Episode number #394. 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 whole 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 a quick few words about what I have been working on. So we finally signed with a sales agent on The Rideshare Killer. And a sales agent is really just an intermediary between us and the distributor, but the idea is that the sales agents have long standing relationships with the distributors and so hopefully they can get us moving a little further into the pipeline than we would be able to do ourselves since we do not have those same relationships with distributors.

So right now, that is kind of our angle. Our festival run is basically winding down and mainly just because it’s been so disappointing as I have been talking about on the podcast the last few weeks. Even the festivals we’ve gotten into have been a big disappointment. Some of the festivals have been postponed into next year, so at this point we just figured we might as well get moving with distribution. I don’t see a lot coming out of the festivals for us. So as I said, we signed with the sales agent that we liked, so he is out trying to sell our movie. He is pretty confident, I mean, they are always confident at the beginning but we will see. But he’s pretty confident that he’ll be able to at least find some deals for us.

So wish us luck and we keep our fingers crossed and hopefully we’ll have distribution soon so everyone can check the film out. I’ve started to write a spec script, a sci-fi epic, which I mentioned a few weeks on the podcast. I’m starting to learn a little bit more about the Unreal Engine, which is a video game engine that can also be used to create films. So hopefully I’ll have that spec done soon, that’s given me something just creative to work on. I’m in the early stages, so it could be a couple of months before I have a draft on that. And I think I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, but if you have any experience with working with the Unreal Engine for film, definitely drop me a line. I’d love to hear what your experience with it is like.

If you entered the contest, we are reviewing all the screenplays. We’ll have a second round announcement, September 27th, so keep an eye out for that. We got lots of great screenplays. I’m starting to send them out to all of our industry judges, get some feedback back from them. And as I said, we’ll be making our first announcement of the second round scripts, September 27th. I’m gonna run my own festival next year. I think these festivals as I mentioned, are really just not very well run. So I’m kind of thinking I can add some value to the festival scene. If you’ve ever run a festival or volunteered at a festival, or even just attended a lot of festivals, I’d love to hear from you, what your experience is like.

What are the things you liked, what are the things you didn’t like? Really, anything that could be potentially helpful to someone that’s now planning their own festival. You have some experience in festivals, definitely drop me a line. The other thing is, is I’m gonna need… I’m planning on doing the festival, basically I could do the contest, which is I’m going to get at least two people to view every submission. Obviously with scripts, it’s readers reading the scripts. With the films, we’ll be having people view it. So if you have any, if this sounds something interesting or you have any interest in being a viewer for the contest, drop me a line as well. I haven’t figured out all the economics of it, how much I’m gonna be able to pay for this, but there’ll probably be some token amount that I can afford to pay for the first round viewers.

But if you have any interest in that, just seeing some submissions through a film festival and then giving those movies a grade, I’ll create some sort of a little scorecard for the films so that we can grade them and then start to make heads and tails about which are the ones that are the best fit for the contest. Anyways, any of this sounds interesting, definitely drop me a line. Again, it’s just info@sellingyourscreenplay.com. So that’s what I’ve been working on, now let’s get into the main segment. Today I am interviewing actor and writer Brea Grant. Here is the interview.

Ashley: Welcome Brea to the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.

Brea: Yeah, 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’d you get interested in the entertainment business?

Brea: I grew up in Texas, in a small town in Northeast, Texas called Marshall. Then I kind… I mean, I didn’t really know anyone in the industry. I went to college, I got a degree in, an undergrad and a master’s degree in American studies, but decided I didn’t want to do that anymore. And so I just moved to LA and decided to pursue… I moved out originally thinking I would either pursue acting or producing. Those were the two things I was sort of interested in, and then my acting career took off. I was on Friday Night Lights, and then I did a season of NBC show Heroes, in 2008. And that kind of solidified me in the acting world for many years.

Ashley: Okay, perfect. So let’s dig into some of that. Maybe you can… I get a lot of emails from people looking to move to LA. Maybe you can give us a quick… where did you land and do you have any tips for people that are looking at moving to LA when they don’t know anybody in the industry? Where do you think they should live, and just some sort of basic landing tips?

Brea: Oh my God. Well, I moved to LA in 2006. So, it’s very different now. I don’t know where I live. I live in Echo Park, which I think is great. I’ve lived there for a long time. But I just found a place on Craigslist and it worked out okay. My best friend at the time moved with me for a few months to get me settled. And yeah, I mean, what I did when I first got to LA, I will say I kind of wasn’t sure how long I was gonna wanna stay. I made a big… I’m a big journaler and I’m a big, I like to kind of organize my life. So I made this big spreadsheet and I was like, okay, every day I have to do something to further my career here or else I shouldn’t be here.

So every day, I mean, pursuing acting, it was like am I gonna go on an audition? Am I gonna submit myself online for something? Am I gonna learn a monologue that I might need later? Things especially very beginning actors sort of need to have. To try to get tape or write a scene or something like that. And so that was sort of my beginning plan. The very beginning plan. And then just trying to find, LA is such a spread out city. It’s kind of a scary place to be, especially me being a real small town girl, and I very much am still. I feel like I like to know my neighbors. I like to have my posse that I hang out with all the time. So it’s kind of like finding that crew that you think you can trust and rely on. And it took me a lot of years.

I would say it took me at least five years to find the people that I am currently friends with, and now I’ve been friends with them for 10 years or so, and I can rely on them for anything, and they’re the people I trust. And they kind of come from all different ranges of backgrounds and have different careers. Like I mean, one is much more of an actress and one is much more of a producer, and like we just kind of have all started relying on each other for stuff. You find the people you trust, I think is really important. It’s probably not the first people you you’ll meet. I feel like when I moved to LA, I had that like, you know, you go to college and the first few people you meet in your first class, you’re like, “These are gonna be my best friends.”

But then six months later, you’re like, “I don’t even remember those people’s names [laughs]. And that’s kind of how I feel about my first few years out there.

Ashley: Got you. Got you. So let’s talk about some of the first few credits. It looks like you did a feature first called, You’re so Dead, and then you mentioned Friday Night Lights. Just take us through, what are those initial first steps to actually getting into those auditions and getting cast on those projects?

Brea: So part of it was, I took a lot of acting classes, which anyone, no matter what you’re producing, if you can… or if you’re a writer, if you’re a director, if you’re an actor, you should be doing that craft as often as possible. So I took… I just, I was in a lot of different acting classes. I… the very first movie, which I don’t think ever came out, and probably shouldn’t ever come out and hopefully buried [laughs]. I had a couple, I did a bunch of shorts and stuff like student shorts and stuff like that, and I did that movie as well. And a couple other small movies that just, I don’t think ever saw the light of day. And that was, I was in an acting class and got an agent and manager through that acting class, because a lot of classes in LA will set up sort of these workshops things where you go and you read for agents or managers.

And that’s what I did. I got one after being there. I actually had an agent in Texas because I was taking acting classes, and we were kept for a long time and they were great, and they found me an acting class. And then I found my manager, my first manager out of an acting class in LA. I mean, I know a lot of people cold call and cold send stuff. I’ve never found any success in doing that. And then, yeah. And then, yeah, I mean there’s a lot of online places. I don’t, I’m not, again, like I’ve been on the acting game for a minute, and definitely haven’t been submitting myself, but there are places you can definitely self-submit. And I mean, it’s interesting too, I will say this, like there are people that I know from my first acting classes in LA 15 years ago.

And when I’ve been casting movies as a director, because now I write and direct mostly, they’ll reach out and be like, can I audition for your movie? And I’m like, “Yes, because I remember you. I remember you’re good.” And so those connections are important and not necessarily like, maybe they’re not important 15 years ago, but they are the people that you think about 15 years later, because of course I remember these people from these classes. This is like a very formative time for me as a creator in LA.

Ashley: Yeah, for sure. So let’s dig into your latest film Lucky, which you wrote and also starred in. Maybe you can give us a quick pitch or a logline. What is this film all about?

Brea: It’s about a woman who is dealing with sort of violent stalkers, keep showing up to her house every night and no one believes her. And then when they do start to believe her, they’re like, yeah, of course that’s normal. It’s just the way it is. So it’s sort of, we’ve been calling it like a surrealist slasher movie. So it’s horror genre, but with a bit of a tongue in cheek approach.

Ashley: I got you. And where did this idea come from? What was sort of the genesis of this story?

Brea: I mean, the scenes in the movie are, I mean, it’s a lot about violence against women and I pulled a lot from just being a woman living in America, but also a personal event that happened to me, and I think writing this movie was an important process for me. It was me trying to deal with a violent event that happened to me with a stranger and dealing with the courts, dealing with the police, dealing with all these systems you have to go through when something happens to you like that. And so I had something bigger to say, but also I wanted to deal with my own pain, which I think a lot of writers are doing all of the time, whether we realize it or not.

Ashley: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. So let’s talk about your writing process a little bit. Where do you typically write, when do you typically write? Are you, do you need to go to Starbucks and have that ambient noise? Do you have a home office? Are you the writer that writes first thing in the morning, or do you write in the middle of the night? What does just sort of your writing schedule look like?

Brea: Now, first thing in the morning, every single day. Every day I get up, sometimes I’ll do a workout first and have some breakfast and then do it. But if I’m on something that I’m really trying to finish, I get up before everyone else gets up, where no one can email me, no one can talk to me, and my boyfriend is not awake. I walk the dog and then I start writing until I’m done. I have a very strict schedule though, because I am a person who could write all day every day if I… It would make me happy to do that, but I also know, I think it would be counterproductive at the end of the day. So I’m, I very much have a goal every day of how much I’m going to write, what script I’m writing on, what is the project I need to do and where I need to get. Usually for me it’s the page counts.

So I’m like, I know I could write five pages a day. I could, but they wouldn’t be great. So I said, I usually have a goal of two, two and a half pages a day every morning. Which means I can [inaudible 00:13:28] quite a few scripts and then I started going back over them then the goal sort of changed. I have a home office but I like to write in my living room on the couch [laughs]. I never use my office. And during the pandemic I started going and writing in a park. That kind of helps me with my process. I meet a couple of other writer friends there in the mornings. We get there somewhere between like 9:00 and 10:30. I’ve usually done a little bit of writing before they get there. I’m such a morning person.

And we started feeding the squirrels at the park and now we go to the park every morning, we have these squirrel friends that join us. It’s kind of amazing. I’ve developed a very weird writing process. I’m not, I don’t like being precious about things and I’m not waiting for like a means to hit. I think it’s very much a, it is a job you go and you clock in and it’s the job I get paid to do. So even when I’m not getting paid to do a script, I know eventually I will. So this is my job.

Ashley: Year. Yeah, for sure. How much time do you spend outlining versus actually opening up final draft and cranking out script pages?

Brea: Hey, it depends on the project. I have a couple of projects I’m working on with other people and those ones we do a ton of outlining, because it just doesn’t make sense to start writing when you have multiple writers on a project. But if I’m giving myself way less outlining, I sign that my first is a vomit draft, and then after that I go back and do a lot more tweaking. I also generally during final draft, I write verbatim.

Ashley: Oh, I get you. Okay. Well good. That’s a nice little plug for fade in.

Brea: Yes.

Ashley: And what does your development process look like? It sounds like you have some other writer friends, but when you get this vomit draft, or even a little bit more polished draft, what does that look like for you? And how do you handle notes? I’m always curious to hear from writers how they take notes and how they take notes that they don’t necessarily agree with.

Brea: Yeah. I mean, I have friends that I trust that I send my drafts to. I have about three or four friends that will read my stuff. And depending on the project, I know kind of who to send it to and who can respond and will respond quickly and who will give me just really positive feedback and who will rip it apart. So when I know what I really need, I kind of choose who I’m gonna send it to based on that. And then I of course send it to my manager. So I think because I come from an acting background, which in acting in the world of acting, if you’re… you want notes as an actor, because you want it to be collaborative. You wanna make sure you’re giving what you think you’re giving. And so notes as an actor, I always feel like was a good thing.

Like if someone could be like, “Oh, I see you doing this, could you do this?” Or whatever the notes are, because it is such a collaborative process I think. And so for writing, I kind of view it the same way. I’m not fussy about my, about the notes. I’m excited to get notes, I’m excited to see what people think and if I disagree with them, I just don’t take them. I’m not… I mean, I know, I usually know the story I’m trying to tell. And if they’re giving me notes saying, “You’re not telling this story,” then that’s something I should be very aware of. If I’m not doing the thing I think I’ve set out to do. But if they’re… by this point I have friends who don’t give me notes that don’t have to do with my story. But with… it happens with obviously in development or when you’re trying to sell a script, you get a lot of notes. That a necessary part of the story.

Ashley: Did you write this script specifically as a star vehicle for yourself?

Brea: I did not, no. I actually thought for a long time I might direct it, and then the company that bought it, Epic, really wanted… they had done a movie with Natasha Kermani and they, when they read the script, they were like, we want Natasha to direct and we want you to star. And I was like, “You know, I didn’t really write it for me to star in,” but Natasha was very adamant. She’d see me in the role, but that’s what she was told that the movie was going to be. And I loved her. We already knew each other before the process, so I ended up doing it. I was not planning on it. I think it’s a very different character from my actual personality.

Ashley: Got you. So take us a step back. I sort of missed just a little bit of what you just said there. Who did you take the script to? It sounds like, and did you take it to a bunch of people? And these were the folks that liked it the most or were the most serious, but take us through that process. Once you had a draft, how did you actually get it to this production company and start to get the ball rolling on actually getting it into pre-production and ultimately production?

Brea: I mean, so to me, a couple of years to get the draft done, so maybe two years of working on it. And then it was at a couple of different places. So it was at a few places that at the end of the day we parted ways for whatever reason. Usually because two different places specifically that I felt like the notes and the ways they wanted me to change it weren’t true to what I was trying to say. So I took it elsewhere. And then I had a friend who was in development at Epic Pictures. He had asked me if I had anything because he’s a fan of my writing and I sent it over. And they were like, “Yes, this is what we want.” And I hadn’t… there were a couple places that were interested at that moment, but Epic was very quick to send me a contract.

We want this, will you sign this contract? Which to me is what happens when someone’s actually really excited. They wanna get that movie made, they wanna actually, they don’t wanna send you a bunch of notes and have you do a bunch of free work. They will send you a contract and get the movie and then maybe have you do some notes, but they’re not excited about having to do free notes if they’re not… I just think that’s a red flag for me now.

Ashley: Yeah, I feel the same way, you say that. I feel the same way, you’re right. It sounds like with Epic Pictures that was a preexisting, some sort of a connection that probably you had made as an actor. Were these other companies that you parted ways, was that sort of your, that was your template, was you were just sending it out to the people that you, the connections you had made basically in your career as an actor?

Brea: Sure, but also I’m a comic book writer. I’ve been writing graphic novels since 2009. So I have a… so and that world crosses over in more ways than you think. So I had some connections through that. And then I also had directed, I wrote and directed a movie in 2013, and I wrote a little series for Nerdist. So I’ve been writing and directing through this whole time since for about 10 years now. So it’s connections through all of those kinds of things. But yeah, all preexisting relationships, all people who usually come to me and ask me like, “Oh, do you have anything, we’re looking?” Or I’m like, “Oh, I have something, would you be interested?” And that kind of thing.

Ashley: Got you. Got you. I always just like to end up the interview by asking the guest if there’s anything that you’ve seen lately that you thought was really good, maybe went a little under the radar. Anything from Netflix, Hulu, HBO, that you’ve seen recently that you thought writers maybe should check out.

Brea: Well, I’m in pre-production for a movie right now, so I haven’t seen anything [laughs].

Ashley: Okay. No worries.

Brea: I start shooting on Monday. But I am, I actually weirdly started watching a show called Patriot on Amazon at night when I’m just… and it kind of felt like it went under the radar. It’s I would say Coen Brothers mixed with Wes Anderson, if you can describe something that. It’s great, and I think particularly for writers, it’s very great. All the storylines kind of combine in this really weird way. And for those interested in cinematography, I actually think it’s like one of the best looking shows I’ve seen in a really long time. So you have to look into that.

Ashley: Okay, perfect. Yeah, Patriot. And how can people see your new film, Lucky? Do you know what the release schedule is gonna be like?

Brea: I do. Well, we’re out. We’re on Shutter. You can currently catch it on Shutter, which there’s a bunch of great movies on there I could recommend as well. But then we’re out on BluRay and DVD on August 3rd.

Ashley: Perfect. 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 roundup for the show notes.

Brea: I’ve left everything, which would be my suggestion to all writers [laughs]. Except for Instagram. I’m on Instagram.

Ashley: You are on Instagram. Okay. Perfect. Perfect. So perfect, I’ll round up for the show notes. Well Brea, I really appreciate you coming on and talking to me today. Congratulations getting this film done and good luck with all your future projects.

Brea: All right, thank you.

Ashley: Thank you. Will talk to you later. Bye.

SYS’s From Concept to Completion Screenwriting Course is now available. Just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/screenwritingcourse. It will take you through every part of writing a screenplay, coming up with a concept, outlining, writing the opening pages, the first act, second act, third act, and then rewriting. And then there’s even a module at the end on marketing your screenplay once it’s polished and ready to be sent out. We’re offering this course in two different versions. The first version you get the course, plus you get three analyses from an SYS reader. You’ll get one analysis on your outline and then you’ll get two analyses on your first draft of your screenplay. This is just our introductory price.

You’re getting three full analyses, which is actually the same price as our three-pack analysis bundle. So you’re essentially getting the course for free when you buy the three analyses that come with it. And to be clear, you’re getting our full analysis with this package. The other version doesn’t have the analysis, so you’ll have to find some friends or colleagues who will do the feedback portion of the course with you. I’m letting SYS Select members do this version of the course for free. So if you’re a member of SYS Select, you already have access to it. You also might consider that as an option. If you join SYS Select, you will get the course as part of that membership too. A big piece of this course is accountability. Once you start the course, you’ll get an email every Sunday with that week’s assignment.

And if you don’t complete it, we’ll follow up with another reminder the next week. It’s easy to pause the course if you need to take some time off, but as long as you’re enrolled, you’ll continue to get reminders for each section until it’s completed. The objective of the course is to get you through it in six months, so that you have a completed polished screenplay ready be sent out. So if you have an idea for a screenplay and you’re having a hard time getting it done, this course might be exactly what you need. If this sounds like something you’d like to learn more about, just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/screenwritingcourse. It’s all one word, all lower case.

I will of course link to the course in the show notes, and I will put a link to the course on the homepage up in the right hand side bar. On the next episode of the podcast, I’m gonna be interviewing actor Courtney Gains. You might remember him from Children of the Corn or Back to the Future. He’s been acting for years and has an impressive resume, including a number of films that are coming out soon. So we talk about those a bit, as well as talking about his journey, getting cast in Children of the Corn and getting cast in Back to the Future. And again, how he’s been able to turn this into a career that spanned almost 40 years. The episode is gonna be my crossover episode with my other podcast, The Right Cast.

This episode, I actually recorded for the actor podcast. So it’s more actor centric than what you would normally hear on Selling Your Screenplay. But I thought it still might be interesting to screen writers, and it will kind of give you a flavor of what the interviews look like over on The Right Cast. So if this is interesting to you then I’d say, definitely check out again my other podcast, www.therightcast.com. Anyways, keep an eye out for that episode next week. That’s the show, thank you for listening.