This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 409 – Save The Cat, The Blair Witch Project and Nickelodeon .
Ashley Meyers: Welcome to Episode 409 of selling your screenplay Podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyer, screenwriter and blogger sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I am interviewing Jaime Nash. He is a writer who’s made a career out of working far from Hollywood. He lives in Maryland. And he talks about how he was able to break into the business all while working a regular job as a computer programmer again in Maryland. He also wrote the TV version of “Blake Snyder Saved the Cat”. So, we talk about that, as well. If you’re interested in TV writing, it’s another inspiring story from a guy who never moved to Hollywood but still got a career as a screenwriter. So, stay tuned for that interview. If you find this episode valuable, please help me out by give me a review in iTunes or leave 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 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 on. And find all the podcast show notes at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast. And then just look for episode number 409. If you want my free guide “How to Sell a Screenplay in Five Weeks”, you can pick that up by going to 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. Teach the whole process of how to sell your screenplay in that guide. I’ll teach you how to write a professional logline inquiry letter, and how to find agents, managers and producers who are looking for material really is everything you need to know to sell your screenplay, just go to sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide.
So, a quick few word about, what I’m working on. I’ve been working on a couple of things over the last couple of weeks, we’re still getting all the deliverables together for the Rideshare Killer, still waiting on the poster, I did hear back from them. And they said they’ll have kind of a first draft to us next Wednesday. My editor had some issues with the 5.1 surround sound, which so he had to go back to the sound editor, get some new files, something to do with the way they were laid out on the tracks. He just needed them condensed, certain files condensed onto different tracks, these sorts of things are pretty normal, and usually pretty straightforward to take care of. We did get into another film festival with the Rideshare Killer. But of course, it’s all online because of COVID. We are still entered into two festivals that were supposed to take place sometime this fall but those ones actually got pushed back into the new year. So, we’re still in play with to festivals fingers crossed that we will actually get to have our movie screened at a festival. As I said, at this point we’ve gotten into numerous festivals, I think it’s about seven festivals we’ve gotten into and I’m not sure any of them have actually screened our film. So, hopefully the ones that push their dates back, they did it so that they could have safe you know, with COVID safe, in person meeting. So, fingers crossed at this point will already have distribution. So, I’m not sure it matters but that would be nice. And I know I’ve been ranting and raving about this for months now about how disappointed we are with the film festival scene. It really is a shame just you know film festivals have a really scamy sort of reputation, in general. And it’s no wonder it’s, you know the people running these festivals really, most of them put forth very, very little effort. And I’m starting actually to look at theatres for the film festival that I’m going to run next year. In fact, I looked at one that I really liked last Sunday, so I’m going to try and negotiate a price and figure out the dates. So, we’ll see how that goes but it’s just a little small, little 50- person Theatre in East LA sort of East Hollywood area, and it was going to be perfect, but there’s a lot of those theatres around. So, that’s kind of the way I am leaning. If you have any connections to a theatre or a local theatre here in Los Angeles, definitely reach out to me because I’m definitely still in the looking phase of all of this. And I’m getting ready to launch, this is the other big thing I’ve been working on over the last couple of weeks, I’m getting ready to launch my Tik Tok channel in a real way. My kids are on Tik Tok and I created a Tik Tok channel, now it’s probably been six or nine months ago, and I just put up some silly videos just kind of trying to get a feel for it. So, there’s not really a lot up there but I have recently hired an editor and he’s going back through the archives of my podcast, and he’s cutting up these episodes into 32nd bites. And there’s some you know, there’s a certain sort of aesthetic or style that these Tik Tok videos have so he’s converting in there. Yeah, there’s oftentimes they put the actual words people are saying they’ll put those on the screen so you can kind of read along, there’s music added there’s the way they have transitions, and cuts and fades and stuff so, and also the big thing is the format it’s Tik Tok is created to shoot on your phone. So, it has that more vertical format as opposed to the widescreen format. So that’s obviously my podcasts are more of the old school, more-boxy letterbox format not even that right, really. They’re just more of the boxy form I’m at that I’m using so they need to be converted into that more vertical format, which takes a little bit time anyways though, but I am starting to get this up and running. I really like Tik Tok and I’m very bullish on it, sort of for the future. It’s very community driven. And what I mean by this is that you start out by just watching a bunch of videos and liking videos, that are interesting to you. And then you start getting fed videos in a particular niche. And then you start to learn who are the players in that niche that you like, and that resonate with you. And so, then you start following those people.
So now that I’ve been on tick tock for a few months, you know, I’m getting a lot of the people that I really like, I watch their videos, I like their videos, and so then I get more of their videos. And in this case, and I’ve talked about this a little bit, in this case, one of the things that I’m really exploring on Tik Tok is cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin. And, of course, as I mentioned, NFTs, and there’s just, there’s a lot of guys on there, sharing information, and just kind of learning. So, it’s a great way just to kind of get in there and learn. And as I said, you sort of become a part of the community. And I’ve left comments, just a little random, comments and people, you know, they do respond, most of these creators respond very quickly to your comments. So, as I said, has a real community feel to it, and that’s why I’m hoping something like Selling Your Screenplay, could find a home there and find some subscribers and followers because, you know it is such a community thing. And as I said, at this point I watch it, maybe 15,20,30 minutes a day, I’ll just go on there at night, you know in bed or whatever. And, and just check out as I said, I’ve been learning a lot about cryptocurrencies and NFT’s on there. But I also think is a great tool for screenwriters to experiment and learn with and nothing to do with what I’m doing. I’m just as I said, going to be putting more of the podcasts sort of another marketing channel for Selling Your Screenplay. But I think it could be a great tool for screenwriters, again, to experiment to make things to create things and get them out there because it’s such short form content, the videos, I think they just opened up, it’s like three minutes, but really Tik Toks, or like a minute or less. I think now you’re allowed to go to three minutes. But it’s because it’s such short form content, it makes you really figure out exactly what you’re trying to do with the video. And you only have enough time really to do one thing, really well. And I’ll give you an example; there is a trend that was going around this past summer where the video it would be shot, someone would be holding their phone shooting kind of in a public place, would be a bunch of people and some hip young dancer would walk up to a crowd of people and kind of show them some dance moves. And they wouldn’t really get them at all you know, and they wouldn’t really you could tell they would kind of fumble around with the dance moves. And then this would be like maybe 10 seconds where you see this, and then the other 20 seconds, the music would really pick up and the guy would start dancing and then all of a sudden, this other person would start dancing and it would just be sort of this synchronized dancing, and it has sort of a feel that sort of climactic feel of a movie, there’s just sort of this anticipation and fulfilment, it’s very satisfying when you watch this. And again, you watch it over and over, it’s the same joke. It’s basically the same punchline, every time a guy walks up and they would mix it up a little bit. Sometimes a guy or a girl walks up you know is that they’re always super hip, wearing their little dance outfits and they walk up to the to the group. And sometimes it’ll be one person, sometimes be group people but then as I said, it turns into the synchronized dancing, much like sort of the climax of a movie. And again, you get that same anticipation, they sort of are able to build up the anticipation with that 10 seconds. And then they have this satisfying climax. In this other you know, 10 seconds as the entire group of people, one person or group of people dives into this synchronized dancing.
And as I said, it’s just those are movie moments that are captured in one minute. And that’s a great exercise for screenwriters to kind of figure out how to make those movies, those moments work and how to make people feel in actual motion. Because ultimately, that’s what it is, as I said, it’s the anticipation you see the guy always showing the dance moves, or what’s going to happen is, are they going to be able to dance, are they going to be able to pick up the dancers, we of course, we know that they are just much like we know the ending to a lot of movies, but it’s satisfying seeing that journey, and it’s satisfying, actually seeing that pay off. So again, it’s just I think it could be a really great tool, and especially for people, you know comedy writers, I think it could be a great again, a great tool because it’s you only have time to hit that one joke. You know, if you were a comedy writer, and you wrote up little bits and then shot them little jokes, little bits, comedy bits, you’d have to get to the punchline and you’ve got to make sure it’s super concise. And then this is the other big piece of Tik Tok is of course, the community feedback you know, you upload a video and you will get some views on that video and hopefully, you’ll get some likes and the more likes, the more views you get, it can kind of go viral and take off and that’s fantastic because you’re getting that feedback right off the bat. Oh, you did a video with this joke. This joke didn’t quite land, you know was it just the algorithm or was it just maybe the writing wasn’t as good and if you do this over and over again, and kind of get good at it, I think it could really help your writing because again, it forces you to be super concise with what you’re trying to do. Anyways, all that to say I’m definitely very bullish on Tik Tok. If you’re on Tik Tok definitely like some of my videos subscribe to my channel that’s all part of you know getting into the algorithm and getting more likes. So again, if you’re on Tik Tok, you know, like some of my videos subscribe, and if you’re not on Tik Tok, I highly recommend that you do. My channel name is just literally my name, Ashley Scott Meyers. As I said, you know, the first videos are just some silly videos I did with my kids. But over the next couple of weeks, in the last couple weeks, I’ve been starting to post some of the going back and I’m going to start early in the podcast. So, if you haven’t heard a lot of the episodes from like, let’s say the first 100 episodes, I’m going to hit those hard and try and get those up on Tik Tok. This would be a good way and I’m you know, we’re going to pull out sort of the pithy bits, the most-pithy most important 30 seconds, one-minute bits, we’re going to pull those out of the podcast episodes and publish them.
Again, if you’re not on Tik Tok highly recommend that you do, if you are on tick tock definitely give my channel, give it a look Ashley Scott Meyers. And then you can you can learn about it yourself I highly encourage you to create your own Tik Tok channel and as I said, start creating your own Tik Tok videos, I will put a link on sellingyourscreenplay.com. so, you can just click over to it. I think it’s is basically Tik Tok, if you want to go on your browser, it’s TikTok.com/and then the little @ sign and then my name, Ashley Scott Meyers. So. TikTok.com/@Ashley Scott Meyers. Again, I’ll put that link in, on the actual selling your screenplay in the upper right-hand corner if you want to click over to it but definitely check out Tik Tok if you have not already done so. So, now let’s get into the main segment today, I am interviewing writer Jamie Nash. Here is the interview.
Ashley Meyers: Welcome Jamie to the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Jamie Nash: Yep, thanks for having me. I’ve been looking forward to it.
Ashley Meyers: Perfect, perfect. So, to start out, maybe you can tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grew up? And how do you get interested in the entertainment business?
Jamie Nash: I took the career path of being a computer programmer. That’s how I got into it. I grew up in Maryland, I’ve been interested in film forever, I tried to write when I was a kid. But honestly, I couldn’t type that was the problem. But then when the internet kind of showed up when I was a computer programmer and stuff, I was able to do a lot of research, able to get a lot of the info about screenwriting, in particular and I started to dabble as a hobby. And long story short, I was able to get my first script produced, which was an independent film called “Altered”. Altered, was directed by Eduardo Sanchez. It was his first movie after the “Blair Witch” project. I sent it out to LA to a producer and it turned out that Ed lived a half an hour from my house here in Maryland. And we became collaborators ever since, and my first few movies were horror movies. But since then, I’ve worked all over the place and a lot of the movies I do actually are kid’s movies. I’ve done a lot of stuff for Nickelodeon. So, it’s kind of equally balanced like, my IMDb is half horror, half Nickelodeon.
Ashley Meyers: Yeah, I noticed that. So, just let’s dig into a couple of those things. So, you’re living in Maryland working in IT, it sounds like, who did you start to send these scripts to? Did you get like back then how it craved directory? Did you use IMDb Pro? Just talk about that. What was your sort of initial reaching out and how did you find addresses or even people to send to?
Jamie Nash: Yeah, back then it was about 2004. It was Hollywood creative directory 100%. I actually created a spam program being a programmer, and I spammed like 500 to 1000 email addresses, and I just used to be relentless about it. The thing I always talked about that I did, I created a thing that tracked what they were looking at. So, it tracked like if they were clicking, I think I’d have a PDF link in my bio. And I used to get those really scary messages like cease and desist, if you do this again, we’ll get our lawyers on you. And then I’d watch and they were still clicking on my script behind the scenes, so.
Ashley Meyers: That is interesting. And essentially, you say that too, because I have a background in programming as well. And I scraped the Hollywood creative directory as well, back then you could download I think, I think you could download like an actual PDF or some sort of a thing onto your computer and it was fairly easy to back then to just go through and parse. And I think I got scooped up literally every single email address back then, whatever it was, so that’s interesting. There were other people thinking right along the same lines. And yeah, I sold a few things that way as well. So, let’s talk about that. So, you have these addresses, how many letters are you sending out? That’s always the big thing with. So, needless to say, I’m a big proponent of cold query letters. But it does take a certain amount of volume and I don’t think people understand the volume. Oftentimes I get emails, oh, I sent it to 15 people, and none of them got back to me, and that’s you’re just not getting enough volume to for cold query letters. So, talk about that a little bit, what sort of volume did you have to do to actually get a response?
Jamie Nash: No, you and I are on the same wavelength for sure. I’m a volume guy, I believe volume projects, volume, sending queries, everything. But this was 2004 so, the numbers are skewed. Because email was just kind of showing up there. And in a weird sort of way, it was like people who had email or would accept email were there. But I would say, I was getting an 8 to 15% return rate. That was good and that was just to read, you know, as like, maybe eight out of hundred would read. And I was probably sending out anywhere between 400 to 800 queries at a time, per project at different times. So, you know it was something like, anywhere between 400 to 800, depending on the project.
Ashley Meyers: Gotcha. Are there some tips you can give us about writing effective subject line, writing an effective query letter, logline? Can you give us any tips on that?
Jamie Nash: Again, you know it’s been a long time, but I’ll tell you what I did. I used to always, do a regarding, you know regarding something, just to kind of see if that tricked them a little bit, you know, sometimes they think oh, there’s a reply to somebody thing. Usually, I wouldn’t put query in there, I wouldn’t just because I didn’t want them to see query and delete it, I want them to at least look, you know even if it was an accident, I kept it super short, and I do novel writing too and they there’s a whole forum for that. And it’s much longer, and they have a whole kind of culture around queries but I think it’s screenwriting, logline title. And it really, honestly the things that work for that, or really high concept, they almost work like a joke. And it just has to be so clever that the person reacts to it, you know they just say I got to react to this person. Execution dependent stuff doesn’t work quite as well in the old query world. So, I think it’s really important to kind of hit him with that, set up punch line of log line, you know and a good title.
Ashley Meyers: Yeah, for sure. Okay so, as you’re moving along in your career, how many other so, you make friends with Edward Sanchez, it sounds like you’ve done a number of films with him. But then this Nickelodeon stuff, were you able to sell other scripts using this cold query blast just independent of any of these other leads, or these other contacts you made?
Jamie Nash: I was, I always say that I had to break in like six or seven times, and I still am breaking in today. But that’s kind of what, I was most proud of like it showed me, it kind of killed that imposter syndrome, right. Because I did it multiple times and not just using the same tree of connections. I had to go through many different trees. So yeah, I remember I optioned a script, I remember my big first option was a $10,000 option. It was super, you know I was like, wow, I got $10,000 for some dumb thing I wrote, you know I was so excited. And then I optioned another script that eventually got made through another chain. And that would actually, again, this is 2004. So, I apologize for the old advice. But it was actually through a website I was part of, and somebody found my logline on a website, and contacted me and eventually option, the script and the movie got made. And I got it, it was non-union at the time. I’m union now but back then it wasn’t. But I remember was union money. So that was a pretty big deal at the time. So anyway, I had a few different things and then what you really find is after you sell, the same people come back to you over and over, and over. So, if you can get six sales, initial sales, you’ll probably get follow on work from those six people, those people will come back to you when, it’s time for assignments, when it’s time for rewrites and it’s time for pitches. Those people that you work with will come back to you, there’ll be your people.
Ashley Meyers: Do you still continue to send out cold query letters and try and just get new? I’m it sounds like as you said, you’ve had these six may be different connections that you’ve made or broken six times, are you trying to break into seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th or are you just relying now on your network?
Jamie Nash: No, it’s little the same and a little different. So, I take a lot of generals, you know I do the, so I’ve had, you know, 60 to 100 generals in the last five, six years. Those people don’t really remember me. So, my queries to them are kind of like cold queries, even though they’re not, you know they sneak to the next level and that, hey, remember you met with me? And then I pitched them. So, it’s similar but different like, it’s never usually completely cold anymore. There’s usually like at least a little bit of warmth, even if it’s just lukewarm. There’s something there that they’re not completely cold anymore.
Ashley Meyers: Gotcha, gotcha. Okay so, as you’re progressing along, did at some point, you get an agent and manager, you’re starting to sell some scripts, maybe talk about that a little bit, at what point did you get an agent manager?
Jamie Nash: Yeah, I got a manager pretty quickly, on the way that manager didn’t do much for me, it was my first experience with oh, getting a manager didn’t mean much, I still was cold querying. They got scripts they wouldn’t send out. They didn’t send me for all the meetings. They weren’t getting me generals. So, I was still cold querying, you know, you still have to work your butt off, when you get these reps. I went through a couple different managers over the years, some good, some not, some that I had to move on from, and I eventually got an agent and how the agent really worked. So, there’s two sides of it. One, on one hand, the manager was about I think the first ones probably came through querying, let me think about that. No, my first one actually came and this is honestly the Blake Snyder advice, you need to get a success before you get a manager or an agent like, it’s much easier to make a splash somehow. And then they come to you or they hear about you or you have something to pitch than it is just a cold query. That said, I probably got a manager through a cold query I’m trying to remember. But for the most part, my agents and managers came from, my agents and managers came after I was successful. And in something it read more recently, they just come from me asking the people I’m working with. Hey, I’m looking for a manager, you know and usually people love to help you with that, if you’re already working with, you know you can’t really just jump on your LinkedIn and find some producer and say, hey, can you help me find a manager, they’re not going to help you. But if there’s somebody that’s working with you, and you’re doing each other favors, they’re usually more than happy to connect you with, you know good people they know. And they’re almost proud to introduce you to those people and be part of your journey.
Ashley Meyers: And how have you found things have changed for you in terms of networking, and getting assignments and that sort of stuff? Now that you have an agent who is pretty good, do you still find you’re out beating the bush getting a lot of the work for yourself?
Jamie Nash: I do. I do, actually. And that’s no slight to, my agent or manager either. I think no matter who, unless you’re like JJ Abrams, or Shonda Rhimes, or something like that, and they probably even have to kind of make things happen on their own. I think you still have to work it every day I mean, I’m working it every day. I mean, before this call, I was probably trying to set up some generals on my own, I was trying to mix some things up, I was trying to do an extra network. So, I think you still have to keep working it even when you get that agent or manager. It’s just you have a couple more tools that you can use, then to do the work.
Ashley Meyers: Yeah, for sure. So, let’s talk about those generals a little bit. You’re trying to set these general meetings up, is it the same sort of thing it’s a cold query letter, and you just introduce yourself? Hey, these are my credits. This is who I am. Would you have any interest in taking a general meeting? Are you pitching a particular project, what does that look like? How do you actually get those set up?
Jamie Nash: Yeah, the ones I’m thinking of are people I’ve had generals with before, but maybe lost touch with, you know so, for the most part, my generals come after I send a script out, and people pass but like the writing, and usually that is where I lean on a manager or an agent to then go and make follow up calls and say, okay it’s a pass, can this guy at least meet with you. So, usually those do happen through reps. However, I found that people are very open to meeting especially these days, especially after COVID and the lockdown and zoom. I think there’s an approach to querying for generals as opposed to querying for like, read my script like, I think there is an approach to just hey, I’m a new writer, I’d love to hear what you’re up to, stuff like that. I mean, maybe something to put in your query, you know here’s the thing. I think I that’s the way I do it like, when I query people with a script, I might put and if you’re feeling really generous, or you don’t have time to read, I’d love to just meet and hear what you’re up to or something like that. I don’t know how many if you don’t have a rep, how many hits you’ll get, but again, it’s a volume business. If you send out 400 maybe you’ll get four or five.
Ashley Meyers: So, why have you not moved to Los Angeles? Do you feel like it could be beneficial to your career spending more time out here or do you feel just like it’s just as good to be in Maryland?
Jamie Nash: No, no, it would have been much better had I moved? I have a few reasons, kind of why didn’t, I started a little late, you know as a computer programmer, so I was a little late. And I kept my day job for a while, I kept my day job, probably about 2008-2009. And when I finally quit my day job, it just so happened to coincided with my son being born. And the two just kind of knocked each other out of the LA kind of thing. But I will say, because I take a lot of meetings in LA and every time I go, and I take generals in LA or do pitches, I do so well, and it feels so much so easier. And I always, think how much easier life would have been had I been in LA, there’s no doubt that it would have been easier. I’ve always made up for it by again, by volume, I’m somebody that writes like six screenplays a year. And people would say, why do you write six screenplays a year that’s a lot? And it’s because I need to constantly be in the people’s minds, in the conversation. And I think if I was in LA, I would just do that by meeting them for lunch, by showing up at meetings like, you know I probably would have taken one or two of those scripts, and just done a lot more meetings. Now, I’m always trying to force meetings and force connections. My way in the door right now, it’s always been is by the content I create and getting that in front of people.
Ashley Meyers: So, let’s talk about your book, “Save the Cat Writes” for TV. How did you get involved with the Save the Cat folks?
Jamie Nash: Yeah. So, I actually back in 2005-2006ish. I wrote a script with Blake Snyder, the writer of the original “Save the Cat Book”. And it was before he wrote, Save the Cat that I read a script with him. And he was using all the terminology on me and I just thought it was some Hollywood jargon or something. And he really wasn’t enforcing it, he just uses it in conversation like, well, they always lost when we get to the bad guys close in. And I’d be like, you know, I guess is what everybody in Hollywood says. So, I kind of learned it from an early, you know a very early stage, and even the notecard stuff, he called that a 10-20-10. He’s like, okay well, let’s do a 10-20-10 next, and I was like, I don’t know what that is, and he was like oh, it’s note cards. And I was like, okay, and I just thought these were standard terms. So anyway, I wrote a script with them, I was an early adopter of Save the Cat for that reason. And as years went on, I kept in touch with the people that now run Save the Cat, who were you know, it’s a guy, BJ Markel who actually was friends with Blake, who’s good friends. And he’s kind of like the main guy that’s running the ship over there, him and his buddy, Jason who’s kind of newer. Anyway, they brought me in on classes, I’ve been teaching classes there, I’ve written blogs there. They’ve always been a big supporter of me, and I’m a big supporter of them. And when it came time to write the TV book, it just so happened that I teach screenwriting, and I’ve been teaching a lot of television, pilot writing, and things like that. And I kind of had come up with some of my own systems based on Save the Cat, that I use to teach college students story pilots.
Ashley Meyers: Yeah. So, maybe just for take a step back for people, maybe if they’re not familiar. Hopefully, most of the audience is familiar with Blake Snyder, but maybe you can take a step back and kind of just give us an overview and like, you know 30 seconds, 60 seconds, what is the Save the Cat? Just give us sort of a logline for that?
Jamie Nash: Yeah, sure thing. So, the bulk of it is the thing that most people know. It’s really a template to it’s the 15 beats are a template to fill out your story structure. So, it has things like you start with an opening image, you do a setup, there’s a catalyst, and there’s some debate that happens with the hero. The break into two, the hero goes to the fun and games, which is the trailer moments in your movie, there’s a midpoint. That’s like a false victory that then raises the stakes to the bad guys close in, you get is all is lost moment. The Cure goes through a dark knight of the soul. They break into three and the finale happens and you have a closing image. I skipped a couple beats but it kind of gives you the idea, super quickly. It’s a template you can fill out that helps you organize your outlining, basically that’s the bulk of it. There’s other things but that’s the most the key thing most people know it for.
Ashley Meyers: Yeah, and that’s what people take. And I always feel like that I mean, that’s definitely a significant portion of the book. But there’s so much other just practical advice that he gives like, for him that’s oftentimes counterintuitive, especially to new writers, like for instance going into a coffee shop and just pitching the person next to you, your movie idea and seeing how they react to it like, that’s such great advice, but it’s so counterintuitive for most new writers. So, I always recommend the book to people, but there’s a lot more in it than just this template. But that’s certainly sort of, I’d say, the meat of it.
Jamie Nash: You’re right. And especially for its time, it was I wouldn’t say, revolutionary, but it was a little different than Robert McKee or something, and that it approached it from write your loglines first, come up with your pitch first. Have irony in your pitch, have a great title, think of your movie poster, it had those kinds of things running all through it.
Ashley Meyers: Yeah, the same but different. It’s a ton of those, yeah. So, the big push back on Blake Snyder and frankly, Syd Field all of these guys, is that there’s a certain formula to it and it can make the screenplay formulaic you know, and we’ve certainly seen some of these movies that feel very formulaic. But what how do you sort of push back on that criticism, how do you answer that criticism that discontent to lead writers down a path that could lead to them creating a script that doesn’t feel organic and original?
Jamie Nash: First of all, I believe that there’s an infinite amount, of choices for what you can do as a setup, like I could say, do a set up, and it should set up a character’s home, you know homework and play, it should set up the six things that need fixing, there’s an infinite amount of things that are in there, and what I write versus what Shonda Rhimes would fill that out with, versus what JJ Abrams, or Aaron Sorkin, or Spike Lee or anybody is going to be vastly, infinitely different. And if, you look at some movies that I’ve seen, that You Save the Cat, or some people I’ve heard like, I’ve heard Dallas Buyers Club, the writer of that You Save the Cat. And then I heard the writer of Wreck-it Ralph, You Save the Cat. I’ve heard Issa Rae; say she used the or at least she recommends it and her master class. So, there’s all different voices that don’t fall into the same formula really, there’s just there’s so many creative choices in between those little beats. And the other thing I’d say is, this stuff is really Blake Snyder didn’t invent anything. He just, he just codified things he saw already, that were already starting to be codified Hero’s Journey, and storytelling. Syd field Robert McKee, all that stuff was in a blender, that Blake Snyder than kind of had his own spin on.
Ashley Meyers: Yeah. So, then take us past “Save the Cat” to “Save the Cat Writes TV”, how do you apply some of these lessons from the original Save the Cat to television writing?
Jamie Nash: Yeah, and it’s, it’s actually very different. So, if you have Save the Cat, and you think, oh, I’ve Save the Cat, I don’t need to get Save the Cat TV, and you want to write a pilot, I highly recommend. First of all, you get Save the Cat TV because I wrote it and you should get it. But it is very different. There are a lot of differences when you write a pilot, in my book in particular, again, it’s very much emphasizing your career like what you should do in your career. I didn’t write it for Shonda Rhimes, and Aaron Sorkin and Greg Berlanti and whoever else, I wrote it for people trying to break into television, trying to come up with a writing sample. That’s who the books written for. And the whole book is based on how you should think about your writing sample like, what it needs to do, how it needs to do it, how it needs to construct it. And there are things that are different, and I’ll just give you one just to give you an example, I’ll throw one thing out. So, it’s Save the Cat there’s basically an act one and act two, and act three, and the Act Three is the finale is the thing. So, what I realized analyzing a lot of shows and teaching a lot of students is a lot of pilots don’t have a finale, they end on the break into three, because what happens is, your hero goes through this horrible moment, some new piece of information comes up, and they say oh, I know what I need to do and that’s the cliffhanger for next week. So, if you were forcing yourself into a Save the Cat Model, you may not and not all do that, some do have a finale, but a lot of them once the hero makes the decision to make some big bold move into a new world. That’s where the pilot breaks into the second episode, and then the second episode takes place in that new world. So, there are a lot of like subtle differences. Pilots generally, follow the same storytelling models but there is a lot of flexibility and as I say, wonkiness in the television format. Especially, the pilot writing format, and pilots are really hard to write.
Ashley Meyers: Yeah, one thing I noticed I was in a writer’s group for years and people would bring in TV pilots. And it sort of speaks to what you’re saying but it always seemed like not always but a lot of times the pilot was sort of atypical of what the show would actually be because it’s trying to set all this stuff up. And I always felt it was a mistake because correct me if I’m wrong, you want to get out of the pilot, understanding what the series is and what an episode is actually going to feel like and look like. And sometimes people just spend too much time not, and it sort of speaks to what you’re saying is, is that correct the correct model or is that the incorrect model?
Jamie Nash: Yeah. No, I think you’re absolutely right. And I think especially, as people like us who are trying to break into TV, or we’re trying to land a writer’s room job, I think it’s key that your show is a pitch first and foremost. And as a pitch, it has to be an example of what your show feels like week to week, because that’s all the executive is ever going to read about the show, they’re just going to read a pilot. So, if you don’t have the cool stuff, like what’s cool about your show, in your pilot, it’s a failed pitch, right. Additionally, though writers need to do other things when they’re trying to break in because this could be a writer sample. So, I really believe that pilots have to be you on a plate like, pilots have to say something about you, the writer, when you’re writing them to break in or as writing samples, and it’s a big mistake, to not do that to like to like kind of imitate something else or do something. Because it’s almost like, your interview, your pitch. It’s all these different things. And it also all of those things ended has to be a great example of how to tell a story. And all of those things have to come together to make a great writing sample that, will land you a cool writer’s room gig. So, that’s what the books really focused on. It’s focused on trying to stick all those different landings.
Ashley Meyers: So, I just like to wrap up the interviews by asking the guest, is there anything you’ve seen recently, Netflix, HBO, Hulu, that you think screenwriters should really check out?
Jamie Nash: It’s screenwriters really check out his, that’s where you stumped me. I was going to say, because I don’t know if screenwriters to really check it out. But yeah, they should, but that I was a big fan. And again, I’m a horror guy. So, I was a fan of Midnight Mass. I watched that on Netflix recently I was I was a big fan of that, I think it did a really good job. Now, that’s a limited series. So, it’s kind of a unique thing that probably writers shouldn’t do. Because at least when I’ve been in pitch meetings, you know, they’re going to hit a Home Run. They want seven seasons of Home Run they don’t just want one season. So, if you’re going to bust through all the so now, I’m telling you why not to watch it. But no again, it’s a really good show I think it does a lot of neat things within the horror genre but it is a limited series. And I like Dope Sick, I’ve been watching Dope Sick on Hulu, which is another limited series. I don’t know what it is, I’m doing limited series these days. But I think Dope Sick a really good example of like, how to adapt a true story into like a serialized limited series format.
Ashley Meyers: Gotcha. How can people buy Save the Cat Writes TV, it’s available everywhere, Amazon, all the normal places?
Jamie Nash: All the normal places. Amazon is probably where most people buy it. You can get it anywhere. It’s at all the bookstores.
Ashley Meyers: Perfect. And what’s the best way for people to just keep up with what you do? Twitter, Facebook, a blog, Instagram, anything you’re comfortable sharing. I will round up for the show notes.
Jamie Nash: Sure thing. Twitter is where I’m most active. And I have a lot of followers and stuff and I interact all the time. So, @Jamie_Nash is my Twitter. That’s the best one.
Ashley Meyers: Gotcha. Perfect, perfect. And as I was doing a little research before this interview, it sounds like you host a podcast as well. Are you still hosting a podcast?
Jamie Nash: I do. I do.
Ashley Meyers: And how can people find that?
Jamie Nash: Yeah, it’s called “Writers Blockbusters” and if you just throw it in your Google box, if you look for Writers Blockbusters, it’s a podcast for basically, we break down movies often using Save the Cat. Our most recent one is Ghostbusters. I think we’re doing Dune next week. So, we break down, it’s not just Save the Cat either. I say save the cat because I’m Save the Cat guy so, a lot of times that jargon comes in, but we try to mix it up. So, it’s not too redundant. We use different techniques and talk about different aspects of a script kind of like the question you just asked me, what should what should writers be watching, and y is kind of what we do.
Ashley Meyers: Gotcha. Gotcha. Well, Jamie, I really appreciate you taking some time to talk with me today. It’s been a fascinating interview. Congratulations, all your success and look forward to hearing and following your career.
Jamie Nash: Yeah, thanks for having me. This was a lot of fun.
Ashley Meyers: So, perfect. Thank you. We’ll talk to you later.
Jamie Nash: Bye.
Ashley Meyers: Bye.
SYS is 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 us why 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 power screenplay ready to 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 lowercase. 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 sidebar. On the next episode of the podcast, I’m going to be interviewing writer, director Christian Nielsen, who just wrote and directed a feature thriller called “Dash Cam”. We talked in depth about this film, how he wrote it and how he was able to put it all together and get it produced. So, keep an eye out for that episode next week. That’s our show. Thank you for listening.