This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 404 – Producing a Movie Through Inktip .
Ashley: Welcome to Episode #404 of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger over at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I am interviewing director Matt Patterson, who just did a cool low budget psychological thriller called Apartment 413. We dig into this project and how he was able to get it produced, so stay tuned for that interview. Also at the end of the show, I have some of my own commentary about the new Netflix hit Squid Game. So stay tuned for that as well. 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 re-tweeting 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 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 #404. 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 its everything you need to know to sell your screenplay. Just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide. So now let’s get into the main segment. Today I am interviewing director Matt Patterson. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Matt to the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Matt: Oh, thanks Ashley. Thanks for letting me be here.
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?
Matt: Yeah, sure. No problem. So I grew up in Texas, went to school in LA. I went to Pepperdine University and I actually majored in theater directing. My plan was I wanted to do both theater and film. Unfortunately when I moved to LA, I didn’t realize that LA was kind of a theater drought as far as like a lot of productions compared to other places. Then I went to film school, so I was in the LA Film School. So I learned how to work with actors first and to work, like break down scripts and stage plays in undergrad. Then I got to learn how to actually do the technical stuff at film school and work around LA. I did a lot of music videos and commercial shoots. I was actually an AC when I first started.
Then my wife and I moved to Austin because we couldn’t afford a house in LA, and this was in 2004. So we moved back to Texas, to Austin, which was booming at the time with film and everything else, zero theater though. So I’ve done pretty much just film and commercial video productions since I’ve been here.
Ashley: Perfect. So let’s talk about some of your early efforts career-wise. I noticed that you’ve done a number of shorts. You’ve written some, directed some, produce some. So maybe we can just talk about the shorts just for a minute. First off, how did you fund these shorts, and then ultimately how did you promote them and kind of use them as a stepping stone?
Matt: Yeah, that’s a great question. So shorts are always a mixed bag because you, what’s the purpose, where’s it going? You don’t wanna put a ton of money into it because it’s not like we have a bunch of shorts channels that are paying a ton of money for them. So a lot of it was get together with friends, 48 hour film project, I’m a huge fan of that. I was actually working as a creative director at a place where we were doing about 30 videos a month and this was a way that we would get, break away from like all the stuff we had to do and get together as a team and do something creative. So did a lot of 48 hour film project, short films. Then and then I’ve also been lucky enough to get hired to do some narrative short films internationally.
So I was able to do some in Malta and Estonia. And really the only purpose was, hey, can you do something that’s socially relevant that can cause, start conversations? So that was really awesome for me to be able to not just immerse myself in another culture, work with crew from that culture for feedback, is it’s good, it’s not, does it make sense, casting out there and ultimately flying out there and directing these shorts with budgets that I would not normally be allowed to work with. So 50, $60,000 for a five-minute short. That really helped me grow as not just a director, but also writer trying to figure out, how do I write something for a culture that I didn’t grow up in?
So consuming as much of their content as possible, having lots of great conversations, and listening to feedback, not just from my AD or producer over there, but the actors themselves and ultimately trying to make something that is way bigger than myself and even outside of my own cultural background. So I think that really helped.
Ashley: Yeah. I’m curious. So you’re in LA, you get the, you move back to Austin. And then did you start to get some of these gigs? I’m curious, how did you get these gigs? Did you get an agent as a director? What was sort of your entry level position? Did you have enough coming out of film school to kind of find an agent as a director, and then again, how did you ultimately get these gigs doing these shorts?
Matt: Yeah, no, that’s really complicated. No, I still don’t have an agent. There’s no agent involved. I’ve tried.
Ashley: [laughs] I understand.
Matt: The general thing is yeah, keep making stuff and then maybe we can do something together when you start making money. So it’s kind of that like, you need to start making money on your own before we’re interested in taking some of it from you. But no, it was actually writing. Writing is what got me in the door for everything. So my senior thesis in undergrad was writing my own stage play, a full-length stage play, and that really got me started on writing bigger stuff. Then Austin is a fairly small town when it comes to film. So if you start participating in some stuff around town, working, crewing on other people’s projects, usually for free, you start to meet people that are doing more stuff, and I started offering to help with writing scripts.
I was sending some stuff out that I had and people started hiring me to help them write short films or even feature films. So that’s really what started this group that sends me around the world. I wrote like six or seven short films that they produced without me and then eventually they were like, “You know what, you should just be directing these instead of just writing them.” So that’s how that transitioned from writing into directing. Then for the features that I’ve written, it also started with a friend who said, “Hey, I’d love to work with you on other stuff. I got an idea for a film, but I don’t know how to write it on my own.” So we co-wrote stuff.
So I was able to co-write the feature, An Ordinary Family and Dragon Day with my two friends, Mike Akel and Jeffrey Travis. And then we produced both of those back to back in the same year. That’s what really transitioned around 2010 for me into saying, “You know what, I could just keep doing this I think.”
Ashley: Got you. What did you guys do with Ordinary Family and Dragon Day? Did you find a distributor, do the film festival route, and has that like led to something, has it opened some doors for you?
Matt: Yeah. An Ordinary Family had probably the most successful run as far as festivals go. We got into almost 40 festivals around the world.
Ashley: Oh, wow. Congratulations. That’s awesome.
Matt: Yeah. Thank you. We won the best feature film at the New Orleans Film Festival that year. We were in the narrative competition of the top 10 films that they chose for the LA Film Festival, that’s where it premiered. And we were able to go all around the world into Canada, Australia. So we got into some really great festivals. That was huge, being able to meet people, make some contacts that way and also just a boost of confidence honestly. And I co-wrote that and produced it. So that was my first feature to produce as well. Then two months later I produced, we shot Dragon Day, which I co-wrote and also produced and I was also the DP for. So I wore quite a few hats on that one with my buddy Jeffrey, who I co-wrote it with and he directed.
Both of those got distributed, one was through FilmBuff and the other one was through Entertainment One. No real big money back, but it’s out there. We’ve had some really great response.
Ashley: So yeah. Well, perfect. So let’s dig into your latest film, Apartment 413 starring Brea Grant, who I actually had on the podcast literally a few weeks ago to talk about her film. She just did a film called Lucky, which I think she wrote and then also starred in. So we just talked to her about that. I guess she’s one of the main actors in this film, Apartment 413 as well. So maybe just start out, you can just give us a quick pitch or a logline. What is Apartment 413 all about?
Matt: Yeah. So it follows Marco who is out of work, looking for work, and we look for work now on our computer, so you don’t have to leave the house. I think everybody resonates with that over the last year of not leaving the house [laughs].
Ashley: Unfortunately, yeah.
Matt: Yeah. We didn’t realize how [inaudible 00:09:06] it was gonna be when we shot right before lockdown. And his girlfriend Brea…. Dana, who Brea plays, Nick Saenz plays Marco excellently, they’re both amazing. He’s looking for work, can’t find it. And while he’s at home, all these strange things start happening. Post-It notes start appearing. He finds a burner phone that’s telling him his girlfriend’s cheating on him and it doesn’t even have batteries in it. So he doesn’t know who’s calling him, and basically is just as descending into what might be insanity. We’re not sure exactly what’s happening to him, but it’s putting his pregnant girlfriend at risk. So more than finding a job, it’s ultimately about trying to find out what’s wrong with Marco.
Ashley: Got you. So it looks like in this case, the screenplay was written by a fellow named Ron Maede. Maybe you can talk a little bit about that. How did you meet Ron and ultimately, how did you get involved with this project?
Matt: Yeah, so I had been trying to get a few things off the ground like everybody, and stuff just falls apart for various reasons. And I started wondering, maybe I’m the problem. Maybe I should stop writing stuff and just find something somebody else had done. And I have huge respect for writers, not just being one, but also I started in theater where you rarely are directing things that you wrote, and I think that… I was never good at team sports. So film to me is my team sport. I am not an auteur. I’m not the like maker of all things. I really believe that every person has a craft and voice to add to stuff. I was like, “You know what, I’m just gonna start looking for other stuff that somebody else has written that I can bring my own fingerprints to.”
So I actually signed up with InkTip and I was like, “Oh, I’m just gonna check out…” I had seen them at various film festivals with booths set up saying, “Hey, we’ve got fresh screenplays. They’re up for three months and then gone. Check them out.” So I signed up, got verified as a producer. They did actually contact people to make sure I’d actually made stuff. So they’re very protective of the writers, which I really appreciated. Then they have kind of a check-the-box thing. Like, hey, I’m looking for something micro budget, couple main actors, one or two main locations, maybe something genre that I could make with a limited budget and just get something made to have fun and do it with the people that I like working with.
And I found Ron’s script and it was great. So we worked for about a year on some rewrites just to really hone it in. Then, and he’s such a great guy. He was just, he thought I was prank calling him when I called him. He was like, “Holy crap, somebody actually read my screenplay and wants to make it.” I was like, “No, this is for real.” He was an absolute dream to work with, flying him out, having him be there for the table read in the first few days of shooting. Then Brea actually, I met at the LA Film Festival when we premiered An Ordinary Family. She had come to see it through a mutual friend, and we struck up a friendship for years. And when I got the screenplay, I actually sent it to Brea as a sanity check because I really trust her judgment and experience.
She basically said, “Yeah, you need to make this,” and said, “If you don’t cast me, I’ll kill you.” So that was kind of how it happened.
Ashley: So maybe you can talk about that development process, working with Ron for a year. How did that process work? Did you guys ever get in the same room? Were you passing notes back and forth? Maybe you can talk even some specific things that you felt maybe needed to be changed?
Matt: Yeah. So he was in LA, I was in Austin and I was working on a lot of projects and stuff, so we weren’t able to meet in person. So we did a lot of phone calls, and then I won him over by some of the sending him links to the films that I’d made, that I’d written. So he trusted me as not just a director, but a writer as well. Yeah, we would just powwow and work through stuff. I had a couple other people reading things, giving some basic notes. Probably the biggest change, there were two. Some of it is just the reveals of the realities of shooting in a small space. Ron had never made a movie before, and so he didn’t know the impact of what he wrote on the page, what it would actually have to take to do in real life especially with a tight budget and timetable.
And so we worked on trying to tweak some of that and also get rid of some of the repetitiveness of some things and add some layers, rearrange some things. But the biggest thing was if the, and I don’t wanna give away the ending, but the way that the story ends for Marco, it kind of happened and it was over. Instead there’s this big reveal of what’s going on with Marco. And I got this great note from a buddy of mine who’s a professor at UT or screenwriting in Texas State University, and he was like, “No, no, no, we need, the audience needs to sit in it for a while with Marco. Make him have to live with what we learn, because ultimately his decision at the end, we have to see him wrestle with it and then make that decision.”
That was probably the best note we got, and that allowed us to have an extra breathing space at the end to watch him make this final decision that love it or hate it, it’s the one he makes.
Ashley: Do you have any advice for screenwriter when they’re taking notes? I mean, I’m sure you’ve been on the other end where you’re just the writer and they’re giving you notes. But do you have any advice for writers that get notes from a director or a producer, and how do you handle those notes, and how do you handle notes that maybe you don’t even necessarily agree with? But maybe you have a little advice just on how people can kind of take notes when they’ve got a director in their ear.
Matt: I think part of it is realizing you’re now part of a team. And for me, it’s that adage of like, a movie gets written three times, the writer on set, and then in editing. And being able to say, “You know what? I had an idea for how this would go,” but being able to kind of let go. The same way as a director, you get there and you have at actors and crew and everybody’s putting their things in it and unexpected things happen. And kind of being able to say, “All right, these are the things that I’m gonna put my foot down on, like I don’t wanna change on,” but being open with the rest. Because honestly, some of the best changes and stuff happens when other people have thoughts. Also you get really stupid feedback.
So knowing when to push back and just nod and sometimes just talking it through works its way out. I was developing a script at UTA that ultimately fell apart, which is why we made Apartment 413. And I was doing so many rewrites based on their packaging departments notes that after about six weeks and four drafts of just working nonstop trying to, I honestly didn’t know what was written anymore. I was so confused. So, and if I could go back to myself today and tell myself then, it would probably be like, “It’s okay to say, hold on. Like say, wait, I need you to explain to me why we’re doing this,” because at some point changes are just changes to be changes and you need to be able to have a good conversation and a relationship to be able to say like, “Hold on, can we talk through this?”
Maybe it’s something that you didn’t think of and you to be not precious about it because it may be better or work, help something else makes the sense, and other times pushback, like I wish I had done when I was working with UTA and just being able to say “No, this, I don’t understand why we’re doing this.” Instead, I was caught up in being excited about making a movie at UTA [laughs].
Ashley: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Okay. So once you guys worked through this script for a year, what were the next steps to actually getting it into production? You had a draft, it sounds like you were comfortable with that draft. So what were those next steps to start to raise the money and just start to put the project together?
Matt: The biggest thing was I knew being contained, being low budget, and being constrained, really two main actors. There’s a few more that are throughout, but, and honestly there’s one actor who’s in every single scene. He has to carry it. That’s Nicholas Saenz, who we ended up casting. So Marco’s character, I told Ron the writer, I was like, “We’re not gonna make this if we don’t find Marco.” Because this needs to be somebody that can carry the whole movie, can be somebody that we like, but also are mad at and are frustrated with, and journey… he has a full range. I mean, who doesn’t wanna play crazy? So it’s like, oh, this is gonna be easy to cast. And oh my gosh, it took so long to find somebody that was right and then available and good work for the budget.
Ultimately I’m so glad we landed with Nick because he’s actually leaving, driving today to Mexico for another feature that he’s acting in. And he’s just such a talent, I’m excited to see him explode more. Brea is fantastic, period. I knew she was gonna be great and she delivered flawlessly. She’s wonderful. But once I landed both of those, that was when, okay. So it was just raising money. I’ve done this a few times before, so it’s finding some people that are okay with losing money in exchange for making a movie and be able to say, “Yeah, at the end of the day we made something, we’re proud of it, and if we never make money back, that’s fine. This was a valuable investment in just saying, hey, we were a part of something.”
So once we got the actors, bringing in the money and then it was just setting up the crew and let’s go.
Ashley: Got you. Where did you guys shoot? Did you shoot in Austin or did you shoot out in LA?
Matt: We did. No, we shot in Austin.
Ashley: Was your lead, did he… was he cast out of LA? Does he live in LA or was he someone in Austin, an actor in Austin?
Matt: [laugh] When I cast him, he was in Austin, but by the time we shot, he had moved to LA. So I had to fly him back out and put him up while he was here.
Ashley: Got you. So can you talk us through a little bit about, I totally get what you’re saying. I’ve made independent films and trying to raising money and not promising some ridiculous ROI and showing people, Blair Witch Project and how much money that made. Like I understand, that with things, but how do you go about that? Who are those people that you approached like that, “Hey, we may not make our money back, but we’re gonna make something cool.” How do you find those people that are particularly interested in, is, because obviously it’s not that easy to find people that are interested in making cool things that have no chance of making your money back.
Matt: No, I think a lot of it’s just trying to be aware of who your network is. I mean, especially with independent film, everything is your network. So if you never are engaging with other people, it’s gonna be impossible to make a movie. You need locations, you need props, you need equipment, you need crew, you need all this stuff. So the guys that I made An Ordinary Family and Dragon Day with, they really took me under their wing on helping to raise funds because they’d made features before. That’s where I learned this technique. It’s like look, we’re gonna do this like wine and cheese, like two buck Chuck and Costco cheese thing. We’re gonna invite the people that we have a network with that we know may have a little disposable income. Like we’re not talking about millionaires.
We’re talking about people that they are able to save money each year and maybe donate to things a little bit here and there, but like they support us as people. Try to get them in there and ask, “Is there anybody else that you know that you would want to invite?” Then maybe do two or three rounds of those meetings and just say, “Hey first with just your friends, like friendly ears, here’s what we wanna do. You know us, you know we’re gonna finish it, you know we’re gonna work hard. Is anybody in?” Then having somebody there to help prime the pump that you’ve already got a guarantee on to say like, “Yeah, I’ll throw in a few grand here, five grand, 10 grand.
Every time we’ve done that, we’ve been able to raise at least the production budget in just a couple meetings of just meeting with people. Then obviously the paperwork and following through and getting all that stuff is boring and annoying. But I really think it’s, you’ve got to have a network of people, and they don’t have to be rich. We have people that put in a thousand dollars, we have people that put in $20,000, but you get enough of them together and you can make an indie feature. Not everybody’s gonna get paid a ton, not everybody’s gonna, nobody’s getting rich off of it, but you have to know what budget you can do it for confidently and then raise to that.
Ashley: I’m curious. As you were talking, it occurs to me that there’s a big difference between LA and Austin. I’ve lived in LA pretty much my whole professional life. Do you find there’s any difference when you’re out pitching people? I mean, everybody in LA is so jaded and so sort of consumed by the film industry. You’re not gonna, it’s not gonna be cool or a surprise. Like I could invite every friend I know over and they’re all in the film business. So it’s a little bit of a different ask. Do you find that to be an advantage living in Austin? Because these friends that are in your network, they probably think making a movie is like really cool. They’re not probably not nearly as jaded.
Matt: No, that’s a really good point. I wouldn’t invite filmmakers because every filmmaker I know is struggling to get something made and doesn’t have any money. So that’s gonna be like an empty room, like that’s pointless [laughs]. No, you wanna invite the people that have the boring jobs, that are always saying like, “Oh, I wish I was involved in something exciting,” or just, “I wish I had a passion,” or whatever.” Those are the people that you can say, “Hey, you can be an executive producer on a movie and not like huge. We’re not gonna have like a giant red carpet. I can’t guarantee any of that, but I can guarantee that you can say, “Hey, I helped make a movie and it’s available streaming and you wanna watch it?”
It’s really a [inaudible 00:22:54] but Austin is totally different from LA. When I lived in LA, you’re right, everybody was jaded. You would go, we’d go shoot somewhere and the neighbor would do their leaf blower until you could pay them to turn it off because they wanted, they know. Austin’s totally different. We’re the city that made Slacker and we’ve got all the people that, they’re just, it’s more of a bootstraps mentality. You’ve got people that are just like, “Yeah, okay, let’s do it. I’ll give you four weeks of my time.”
Ashley: I’m curious. How does shooting in Austin compare to shooting in LA? I’ve found again, my whole professional career has pretty much been in LA, we have an abundance of talent here because pretty much everybody in the world is coming here. So all the cast and crew, it’s easy to find people. You’ll really experience people. The downside, again it goes back to this jaded thing. Every location you’ve run into those, the neighbors who start the lawnmower and the leaf blower. So there’s all those sorts of things. Getting locations, you show up, they just had CBS shoot a TV show there and they were paying them $5,000 a day in their little coffee shop. So when you show up and offer them 200, it doesn’t quite resonate with them.
So maybe you compare, have you shot anything in LA or do you have any maybe thoughts on that? How does it compare shooting in Austin versus shooting in LA? Maybe even some of these international productions you’ve talked about. I wonder how those compare.
Matt: It’s really night and day. I’ve shot a lot in LA back when I lived there, but I’ve also shot a bunch of… we shot Dragon Day just outside of LA, up at the Mountain High Ski Resort, and then we shot some in LA. And you’re right, the biggest restraint or constraint is in Austin we don’t have permits. So you can shoot anywhere. The only places you have to have permits to shoot is on government property and it’s free. You just have to fill out a form and get approved. It’s like super filmmaker-friendly. So there’s no permit fee that you have to pay. There’s obviously rules of like you need public safety. So you may be doing some things you have to hire some off-duty police officers for, or apply for a road closure, but again, most of the time those are free.
So that is a huge relief on the budget right there. Then plus everybody’s not jaded. You don’t have people shooting everywhere all the time, because most of the work in Austin now is commercial. So it’s a lot of sound stage or on locations in like restaurants or bars in downtown. So like for instance, our apartment complex, we were able to shoot there. They gave us two empty apartments that hadn’t been rented that were next door to each other. One we could stage in, and then the other one we could shoot in for six weeks for free.
Matt: Yeah. And it took…
Ashley: Just because they wanted… the landlord just thought, “Hey, it’d be cool to have a movie in my apartment.”
Matt: Yes, exactly. They were like, “You know what, we’re remodeling them, it’s gonna take a little while anyway. You guys go ahead and do it and then we’ll remodel it when you’re done. So we don’t even care how you leave it.” They just wanted to be a part of it. They were like, “Oh, that’s really cool. Like our apartment complex name will be in the credits?” I’m like, “Yeah, of course.” But we had to go to several places to find that because there were ones that were like, “Oh yeah, sure, $15,000. Like why don’t we just rent it, it’s cheaper than that.” And Airbnb was way too expensive. So no, it’s really just my producer John Michael and I making tons of phone calls, foot traffic, getting out there, knocking on doors and getting all those favors together so that we could make it as cheap as possible.
But yeah, no permits, places let you film for free. That’s the biggest deal. And we do have the crew. The crew is here. We’ve got Walker, Texas Ranger shooting here right now. We just, we had Leftovers that was here. We’ve got Fear of the Walking Dead shooting here. So we have a ton of crew here as well.
Ashley: Yeah. So maybe it is a little bit of the best of both worlds. You have a big, a creative city like Austin. I’ve heard similar things about Portland, some of the sort of more creative bends about cities. So I like to end the interviews just by asking my guests, what have you seen recently that you thought was really great that screenwriters could get something out of? HBO, Hulu, Netflix? Is there anything that you’ve seen that you really liked, thought the writing was really outstanding?
Matt: Yeah. So it’s not a feature, it’s a series, but it’s Ted Lasso.
Ashley: Oh, okay. Yeah, people have been talking about it.
Matt: Have you seen it?
Ashley: I have not checked it out yet.
Matt: I haven’t watched the second season yet. We’re re-watching the first one to then watch the second. We watched it when it first came out last year, and it’s on Apple TV and they do the week to week release, which so not used to anymore. So it’s frustrating to watch, but it is so elegantly written. The characters are so well-drawn. Not just the actors, but like you can see what was written for these characters. You can see that this was a group of people writing this together, working their butts off to make sure that it was really well done. And man, there’s so much hope in it, all the characters. Nobody’s bad. Like even the bad characters they allow to have some good. So everything is, it just feels nice, but there’s plenty of tension, it’s crass, it’s funny.
Like there’s no lack of any of the things you need to make a good story, but watching it has really made me challenge myself on something I’m writing right now, is just saying like, “How can I make this like… how can I make my main character more just good? Just inherently good?” Like there’s something infectious about Ted Lasso that made me wanna carry that through in my own work.
Ashley: Yeah, good recommendation, for sure. How can people see Apartment 413? Do you know what the roll schedule is gonna be like?
Matt: Yeah. So Friday September 17th, it’s supposed to go internet-wide. It should be available on some of the like ad-based streaming things, like Tubi, Crackle, things like that, as well as Amazon Prime, Google Play. Kings of Horror is doing a screening on YouTube that you can watch and chat with the cast on the 17th. Yeah. So pretty much any of your usual suspects, as far as the streaming options.
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, put the show notes so people can kind of just keep up with you.
Matt: Yeah, sure. You can check me out on Twitter and Instagram @matterpro.
Ashley: Perfect. Well, Matt, I really appreciate you coming on and talking with me. Good luck with this film and good luck with all your future films as well.
Matt: Ashley, I really appreciate it. Thank you.
Ashley: Thank you. Take it easy.
Matt: Yeah, you too.
Ashley: I just wanna talk quickly about SYS Select. It’s a service for screenwriters to help them sell their screenplays and get writing assignments. The first part of the service is the SYS Select screenplay database. Screenwriters upload their screenplays along with a logline, synopsis and other pertinent information like budget and genre, and then producers search for and hopefully find screenplays they wanna produce. Dozens of producers are in the system looking for screenplays right now. There have been a number of success stories come out of this service, you can find out about all the SYS Select successes by going to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/success. Also on SYS Podcast Episode #222, I talk with Steve Deering who was the first official success story to come out of the SYS Select database.
When you join SYS Select you get access to the screenplay database along with all the other services that we’re providing to SYS Select members. These services include the newsletter, the monthly newsletter goes out to a list of over 400 producers who are actively seeking writers and screenplays. Each SYS Select member can pitch one screenplay in this monthly newsletter. We also provide screenwriting leads, we have partnered with one of the premiere paid screenwriting leads services, so I can syndicate their leads to SYS Select members. There are lots of great paid leads coming in each week from our partner, recently we’ve been getting five to 10 high quality paid leads per week. These leads run the gamut.
There’s producers looking for a specific type of spec script to producers looking to hire a screenwriter to write up one of their ideas or properties. They are looking for shorts, features, TV and web series, pilots, all types of projects. If you sign up for SYS Select, you’ll get these leads emailed directly to you several times per week. Also, you get access to the SYS Select forum where we will help you with your logline and query letter and answer any screenwriting related questions that you might have. We also have a number of screenwriting classes that are recorded and available in the SYS Select forum. These are all the classes that I’ve done over the years, so you’ll have access to those whenever you want once you join.
The classes cover every part of writing your screenplay from concept to outlining, to the first act, second act, third act as well as other topics like writing short films and pitching your projects in person. Once again, if this sounds like something you’d like to learn more about, please go to www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com. On the next episode of the podcast, I’m gonna be interviewing producer Daemon Hillin. He’s an accomplished producer with dozens of credits. Next week, he comes on to talk about a film he produced called Apache Junction. He’s a real hustler and he talks about the early part of his career in the entertainment business and how he was able to transition into the role as a producer.
Of course, we talk a little bit about how he finds scripts, how he finds screenwriters for the films that he does produce. So he’s got a lot of interesting information for screenwriters. So keep an eye out for that episode next week. So I’ve been watching with my family, the new Netflix hit Squid Games, and I had a couple of thoughts on it. I’m only about halfway through it, so no spoilers here. Just gonna be kind of a high-level commentary. I’m certainly not an expert on South Korean cinema. In fact, I’m sort of the opposite, I know literally nothing about South Korean cinema, but I thought it was interesting. The two sort of exposures recently to South Korean cinema are obviously Squid Game and the movie that won the academy awards a couple of years ago, Parasite, which I’ve watched.
I think they’re very similar sort of in their tone and sort of even what they’re getting at thematically. At the core, it’s sort of about the social stratification of society. Sort of very, very flawed poor people versus these sort of vacuous elites, this sort of vacuous elite class. And they don’t sugar coat it, interesting, in Parasite or Squid Game. We here in the United States, we tend to sugarcoat our protagonists a little bit, but they don’t sugarcoat it at all. The protagonist in Squid Game is very, very flawed, flawed individual. He literally steals money from his sick mom and goes gambling, ends up losing it, buys an incredibly inappropriate gift for his daughter sort of by accident for his young, like eight-year-old daughter’s birthday.
So they don’t sugar coat it. I mean, going into this thing, you see sort of how flawed this guy really is. I sort of think about my own script that I’m writing. I’ve mentioned this on the podcast, I’m writing the sci-fi script and at its core, it’s sort of similar about the social stratification of society. I’m having trouble making my protagonist as flawed as they did in the Squid Game. In my story, it’s sort of, I sort of came up with this idea, like what would be some bad jobs in the future? So this sort of sci-fi ideas, there’s this guy and his wife are living on this remote sort of colony on the planet Mercury harvesting solar power. They’re close to the sun, they can get a lot of solar power.
So this is the thing, but this is obviously not a great life living out there. So that’s sort of the focus of the story. I thought it was interesting not to get too political, or should I say not trying not to get too political. Everything here in the United States is very, very politicized. We have a similar film that came out last summer called The Hunt. Definitely check it out. Yeah, I didn’t think it was a great film, but it was an interesting film and pretty well done. I thought it made fun of both sides Republican and Democrats pretty equally. So it’s definitely worth checking it out. But it was essentially the same movie as Squid Game, except it’s sort of the American political climate was sort of draped on top of it.
So I think as a society, I think we’re kind of dealing with a lot of the same issues, the social stratification that we see in something like a Squid Game. As I said, everything here is just so politicized, but I think a lot of the things that we see as politicization of issues, oftentimes is the same sort of social stratification. Like the GameStop stock. If you were following that earlier in the year, the GameStop stock, cryptocurrencies, the rise of somebody like Joe Rogan, even BLM and frankly, even Trumpism. I mean, certainly nobody thinks these people going to Trump rallies are the elites. So I just, I wonder in this country, like in this country it’s so difficult not to politicize things.
And as I said, with The Hunt, they politicized it and I felt like instead of being real characters that we see in the Squid Game, they became caricatures. I actually think in some ways that’s what’s happened in their political climate. Democrats see sort of caricatures of Republicans and Republicans see caricatures of Democrats. So for me that was one lesson, I’m trying not to politicize my screenplay, but that’s a creative choice. Obviously you can choose to politicize it and maybe try and make some sort of political commentary. So I don’t think there’s any right or wrong there, but you do have to be careful as I said, in this country. But I think the main lesson that I take away from it is really make your protagonist as flawed as possible.
I’m going through this as I write this script, it’s a lot of the same things, no one’s gonna like him, and I can’t make him too bad or people aren’t going to feel sympathy or make, he’s not gonna be sympathetic. These are a lot of the same insecurities we have in real life. But we have to push harder to find these flaws. I actually think if I can do this with this script, my character will be more dimensional in a real way. He will be flawed, and that will part of, that will actually enhance sympathy when he overcomes these flaws. But again, there’s sort of, even knowing this there’s this reaction that I feel to not make my protagonist too bad. And I would be afraid, maybe I shouldn’t be, but I would be afraid to make him as bad as what we see in Squid Game.
But we probably shouldn’t. So I’m gonna be leaning into that a little bit and trying to push harder and make my protagonist more flawed. Anyways, that’s the show. Thank you for listening.