This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 413 – Making Deadlock (2021) An Action Movie Starring Bruce Willis .
Welcome to Episode 413 of the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger at sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I am interviewing Writer-Director Jared Cohn, about his new film Deadlock, starring Bruce Willis. Jared was on the podcast before and episode 188. So, check out that episode if you haven’t already heard it, as we talk about his early career, how he kind of broke into the business. But this week, we’re going to be diving into his new Bruce Willis film, as I said, it’s called Deadlock and how he was able to get that project and make it all come together. So, stay tuned for that interview.
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So quick few words about what I’m working on. The main thing I’ve been working on the last couple of weeks is getting ready for the film festival that I am going to be running next year. It’s planned for October 7 through October 9, 2022. I’ve been talking about this for a while now on the podcast. But I actually am getting very close to having everything set up and actually officially launching my plan is to start accepting submissions in late January or early February. And we’ll also be launching the SYS a screenplay contest at that time as well. So, keep an eye out for that. Right now, I’m just talking with some industry contacts that I have to see who might want to come on and help out as being a judge for the film festival. You know, some of the same people that I’ve used as judges for the screenplay contest some new people as well. Anyways, this is moving along nicely. And hopefully I’ll have some big announcements here in the next couple of weeks about all of that and when the actual launching of it is. We did get our poster back for the rideshare killer. I’ll be sharing that on social media to check out our Twitter page, Facebook page for selling your screenplay. I’ll post that stuff over there, have a look at it. I’m very happy how it turned out, very excited to show the poster to everybody. We’re still trying to get everything ready in terms of our deliverables for our official release, which at this point, I’d say is probably going to be you know, March(ish). So still a probably a couple months away. But definitely keep an eye out for that. And as I said, I’ll hopefully have some more announcements here in the coming weeks on all of that. But I’m just excited to get the film finished and kind of get it out there and just kind of see what sort of reception the film gets. I’ve been talking about this too, in terms of NFT’s and crypto and how I can kind of incorporate that into what I’m going to be doing with RSK. I might actually do an experiment, I’ve sort of been toying with the idea of doing an experiment with my previous film, the pinch just minting a NFT or two, not really doing much of a launch really just launching just doing a couple NFT’s for the pinch, just to get through the process. So, I understand the process, there’s still not a lot of really good information, helpful information on how to actually do this, which is part of the problem. It’s very, very early with all this NFT stuff. So that’s probably what I’m going to do is I’ll probably create an NFT or two, maybe three, four or five for the pitch just to kind of see how it goes. And then I’ve got hopefully some bigger plans for the rideshare killer and what I’m going to do with that with NFT’s. So, stay tuned for all that. As I said, hopefully in the next couple weeks. I’ll have some announcements about all of that. So now let’s get into the main segment. today. I’m interviewing writer-director Jared Cohn, here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome back Jared to the selling your screenplay podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me again.
Jared: Yeah, thank you so much for having me. You know, it was great. Speaking last time and you know, I always say I appreciate people like you that promote independent film.
Ashley: Happy to do it, happy to do it. So, as I mentioned you were on the podcast before Episode number 188. We talked about your film Devil’s Domain. So, I would refer people back to that episode we got into sort of your backstory, how you got into the business. And then today we’re going to talk more about your new film Deadlock, starring Bruce Willis. So maybe to start out you can give us a quick pitch or a logline, what is this new film all about?
Jared: So. Yeah, I mean Deadlock, it’s funny because it originally it was called reactor. It’s one of those projects I was running around Hollywood for years trying to pitch so for me, part of it will always be Reactor to me. Deadlock is new it’s but I think Deadlock is a great title, I think. I don’t know who came up with it but what it’s about is basically a guy whose kids were like wrongly imprisoned so he’s really wants to get revenge against the system. So, he winds up holding up this power dam and basically starts releasing the opening the floodgates and flooding the town until the police admit what they did was wrong, you know, to get his kid out of jail.
Ashley: So, where did this story come from? What was sort of the genesis of this story?
Jared: You know, I had some sort of meetings around town just talking to people, different people about, you know, what kind of stuff they were looking for and I took a little pit, you know, oh, well, you know, keep it contained, you know, write a role, you know, that someone like a Bruce Willis or can come in, you know, shoot all this stuff in one day. And so, it was kind of crafted with what I thought would work, you know, with the people that I knew to pitch to. And that’s been a good, that approach has helped me certainly in quite a few other endeavors as well. Sort of, you know, writing what works, you know, it’s an action movie, but it’s not an action movie that you need, you know, hundreds of army guys and 25 Explosions like it’s you still got the guns, you still got the, you know, the guys shooting and running and jumping and fighting and doing all this stuff, but it’s contained.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So let me just touch on something you mentioned just a moment ago, you said you had written this script several years ago and pitched it around town and not gotten a you know, gotten out in a green light. Maybe you can talk about that process a little bit. So, when you had this idea, you wrote this spec script, you started taking it out. What is a guy like you at this point, you had a bunch of credits, you had a bunch of contacts industry, what did you do with the script just on that first initial trying to get it made?
Jared: I’ll be completely honest. When I first you know, wrote it, I was talking to one producer, and he was you know, write this. So, I took the time I wrote it, I wrote it on spec, turned it in, and he said, all right, I’m going to take it, I’m going to shop it and then you’re like, you just, you know, he sent a PDF and you know, he prayed to the unit, the movie guy, or whatever. And you wait, and then find this company passed, that company passed. Oh, this company thinks you should change it, you know, on this. And then you’re like, well, if I do all this work, rewriting it, are they going to make it? They’re like, well, no guarantee. Like, alright, well, let me just, I’m in it this deep. So let me keep going. So, I rewrote it. And then it got optioned by like, a good company. And I’m like, yeah. They are calling me, we’re going to get, you know, we’re going to get put so and so. And this, that, and he’s big names in the movie. And I’m like, I thought I was like, yeah, finally, you know, I’ve been on this script for years in Hollywood, and now I feel like the script might be even a little dated or whatever. And then of course, I get a phone call, like, shortly after, like, yeah, you know, all that cool stuff. We just told you that was going to happen. Forget about it. It’s not. And then so back to square zero, square one. And so, you know, living life, working whatever and; hey, you know, another guy asked me, do you have any action scripts, you know, and I go; Well, you know, I got this one and then and, you know, option just ran out and here you go, and we like it, we’re going to make it and at that point, I’m like, okay, great, you know, but I’m not…I don’t get excited anymore. Just because I’ve had too many false hopes, you know, false stuff. And then you know, the paperwork starts materializing, and I actually went out to Georgia to shoot it like a year before, but they couldn’t get a location. So, I thought the whole idea was going to fall apart. Because it was originally written to be set at a nuclear power plant. Nobody could get a nuclear power plant. So, I thought they sent me packing back to LA. And I didn’t hear anything for a month or so. And I’m just like, yep, back to square zero. And then they call me in, like, we got a power dam, it’s really dope, it’s water down. And I’m like, at first, I’m like, how am I going to make it? That’s a completely different movie. You know, luckily, you know, one of the producers was like; Look, just make it work. Right, you know, change, whatever, you got to change. Because, you know, we got Bruce Willis, you know, they like the script, his cam likes the script. So, you know, flesh it out more and make it work at a water dan. So, I did that. And I’ll also let me all I also got to give a shout out to Cam Canon who help me with a rewrite, as I share a writing credit with on the script. And he’s a great guy, he did a… So, it’s like I wrote the first draft, he wrote the second draft. And then I wrote the draft that changes it from nuclear energy reactor to a water gas. So, it’s like, we tag team it. And, you know, without him, we wouldn’t have been able to get made. So, it was a German. I mean, honestly, it was like, eight years, I think. I think I wrote the first-first draft eight years ago or so.
Ashley: Wow. Wow. I’m curious. So, as you option this script early on, and as you were talking to the second batch or third batch of producers, is it always just assumed, I mean, you have a good resume now of projects that you’ve directed, but as a writer that just assume that you’re also going to be the director on this project? Or is that something you negotiate along the way? And how do you sort of put yourself first in line to direct it? How do you sort of negotiate that beat?
Jared: Great question. I mean, you got to lock in, you got to fight, you got to say it tooth and nail, like, I’m directing this. And like, because as soon as you say; Yeah, well, you know, I really want to direct but you know, if someone bigger comes along and then I’ll not direct, but I mean, for me, directing is like that’s what I want to you know, that’s what I do best I feel and what I want to do most. So, if it’s my script, then I make sure that in the writers’ deal that there’s some legal language that says, you know, I am also going direct this movie.
Ashley: Gotcha, gotcha. So, let’s talk about your writing process. And you mentioned Cam Cannon and maybe you can talk about that a little bit. So, you wrote this first draft, how did you meet Cam? And then what do you pitch to him? Like, how do you sort of bring him into the fold of doing a rewrite on a script that you’ve written? did was he involved in the conceptual phase at all, he just started with this, maybe could describe that relationship a little bit, and how it works.
Jared: It’s funny that I mean, I met him at a completely different meaning, he was the head of development. And I think I went and I went in with reactor. And when he was a, at a big company, and there was interest. And they were another company that was also going to option it. I talked to Cam and he’s like; Hey, look, man, you know, I really liked the script. But to be honest with you, like, this is a situation at the company I’m at now. You know, they were sort of preoccupied with some other projects. So, and I just got along with him we met up for like, you know, for launch and he’s like; Look, let me take you know…I think he said something to the effect of, you know, he could take you know, crack at the script. And you got some people you could take it to so I said; sure, man, you know, look, I mean, I got nothing to lose, you know, I mean, I just had a PDF and FTX file he took a crack at it and I got that draft to some to you know, someone else like none of the plans, like ever worked like it was it… You know, I was supposed to get it to, that they were supposed to option, this company A and they were supposed to make it like that didn’t work. You know, this… We’re supposed to run into it. Like, the way it happened was just kind of out of the blue, not out of blue, but it was just because of all these other things, but not. But like it was just the universe just kicking us across the field.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, gotcha. So, let’s talk about your writing process a little bit. Where do you typically write? When do you typically write? Do you write at home, you got a home office, you need to go to Starbucks and have that ambient noise? And you know, you write in the morning, you write at night, what is your writing schedule look like when you get into the groove of actually pumping out some script pages?
Jared: You know, I used to do the coffee shop, Starbucks thing. Every once in a while, I’ll show up at a Starbucks with, you know, my laptop, but to be honest with you, I write best. And I think from home, you know, I wake up, I make myself a coffee. And I sort of, I got to, you know, get myself into that has headspace and I’ve been in on sometimes it’s a struggle, man, some days I wake up, and I have some coffee, and I just, I can’t write today, I can’t do it. I don’t have it in me. And then some days, I’m like, I have to write, you know, I have to push myself to write, you know, like I write all the scripts 50 or so, it’s never easy, you know? And then you write the first draft. And of course, you got to rewrite the first draft.
Ashley: I’m curious, you mentioned earlier in the interview, you were talking about sort of where this idea came from. And it came from very much sort of a practical place, talking to producers and trying to come up with an active thing. So, at what point do you start to get a handle on some of the creative things that you want to say, you know, you’ve got these sort of practical things you want to action film, you want to keep it contained. But what were some of the creative issues, the character, the story? What did you kind of get a hold of, and where did that come from? Like, where did some of these creative decisions come from for you?
Jared: So, I mean, I always write for, you know, an actor like to for a lead role. Because again, I know if you can write, or for a bad guy, you know, but if you got a couple roles in there, that are really good and juicy, that actor is going to want to play because that at the end of the day, it’s about getting that name, actor, and you just need one, you know, like you need, but you need like, depending on the budget, like if it’s someone like Bruce or if you can, if you can secure the talent. And if you can write a role, write a movie, regardless of what the plot, you know, the plot or the genre, but if the actor reads it, and is like, I want to act that role, like I want to play that character, because that character is cool. And I want to be seen on screen, like, you know, like that. That’s a good approach for the writers to a write a role juicy that guys want to be and girls want to be with, you know, or vice versa. And these days, you know, all sorts of synonyms and so. But if you write that role, man, then actor is going to want to play, hopefully.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So then again, talk about some of these creative decisions. So, what did you get a handle on? First, it sounds like you started with a nuclear reactor whatever. But what were some of these things? And what was some of the inspiration just getting to those creative decisions where that story came from? I mean, it sounded to me a lot like Dog Day Afternoon when you started pitched it sort of a modern-day version of Dog Day Afternoon.
Jared: Yeah, I mean, with the nuclear reactor, like, I was, like, you know, there hasn’t really been movies, where a guy is like, threatening to melt down a town. So, that was kind of the like, ‘let me try and be original’ moment. And let me write a movie where a guy takes over a nuclear power plant and he threatens to meltdown, and at one point in the draft at the end of the movie, he pushed the red button, the whole town blew up. And, you know, he went out like the Joker and then of course, you know, that’s not the Hollywood ending. That’s not the good ending. So, it’s like, you know, kind of went more traditional, you know, where the good guy wins, he gets the girl blah, blah, blah, and it went that direction. But I really wanted to be like a rough anti-hero guy that is sort of an everyday kind of guy, but he you know, he is ex-military, of course, because I wanted to fit into that genre box too of the action movies that are being made for that budget range, you know, with like, you know, Nicolas Cage, like I knew the companies that I was pitching it to. And I knew the budgets that they were going to spend. And I knew if I came out with an $80 million script that I wouldn’t be able to get that movie made. But I knew if I came out with a script that had all the action elements that was contained, that had the juicy roles, a good character that you can shoot out in a day or two in one location, then that’s the formula, you know.
Ashley: So, you mentioned that we kind of skipped ahead, you kind of gave this story about how this actually got into production. But at one point, you mentioned sort of Bruce Willis, and that he had read the script, and his camp was excited about the script. But maybe you could talk about that a little bit. I get a ton of emails from people all the time. Hey, how can I get this actor attached? Or how can I get this director attached? Just talk about that a little bit? How did you guys get to Bruce Willis? Do you have a pre-existing relationship? Did your producer had he worked with him before? But how does someone go about getting you know, a really big heavy hitter in Hollywood attached to your script and interested in your script? And I understand the juicy role definitely plays a part of it. But just the logistics, did you guys hire a casting director that had a relationship with his agent? Maybe just talk about that for a little bit?
Jared: No, it’s such a tricky… it’s either really tricky, or really easy. And it’s either like somebody knows the guy, somebody knows his camp, someone who can get the script in, you can always approach it. The thing is, though, you can always and so in this situation happened to be one of the producers knew him and worked with him. And they just came off a Bruce Willis film and they were like, what else do you got? And at that my script is having to be ready at the right time. That’s how the producer got Bruce but for you know, for if you don’t have that personal relationship, then you know, of course, you can go to IMDb Pro and reach out to the agent and you know, make a cash offer. But I’ll be I’ll be completely honest, like, it’s really who you know, it’s like the Rolodex because you get, these agents will it’s almost like they don’t want the deals to happen because they put up so much obstacles and but if you have a direct line on a name actor, then that’s the best way to go and start having real conversations with them.
Ashley: Gotcha, gotcha. Yeah, that’s sound advice for sure. I always just like to wrap up the interviews by asking the guest, is there anything you’ve seen recently that you thought screenwriters can really benefit from Netflix, Hulu, HBO? Are there any movies or TV shows out that you really thought maybe were a little under the radar, but we’re really excellent could recommend to our listeners?
Jared: I mean, man, I watch a lot. You know, I think the way I like to answer the question is, you know, if you’re a writer, and you want to write, you know, sci fi movies, and watch sci fi movies, you know, watch the great ones, you know, contact and, you know, rivals, and just watch that and see if there’s a way that, you know, if you want to write Lifetime movies, watch a lot of Lifetime movies, like, if you want to write contained, you know, budgeted action movies, you know, watch those, see what they do, take those elements, take elements from other movies you like and take what works for you. And kind of, you know, mix and match and write something that that people are familiar, that they can read, and they’re familiar, and they understand it, they understand how to use it, because people send me scripts all the time. It’s like, and some are like, oh, I’ve got a drama set in, you know, the 1800s. You know, I’m like, this is like, why are you sending me this?…know who you’re pitching to and know what, like, it’s taken me 20 years to figure out what kind of, you know, movies to write, or that I should write, like, I can go off and there’s movies that I love to write a, you know, some sort of love story or not, I mean, not that I’d love to write that. But, you know, I can go off and write all these movies that I think would be cool, but I want to go off and write movies that I think would be cool and that would make financial sense and would attract an actor and have a good chance of getting produced.
Ashley: Yeah. Sound Advice. Sound Advice, for sure. How can people see Deadlock? Do you know what the release schedule is going to be, like? When is it going to be available?
Jared: December 3rd, it’s dropping. I think it’ll be on Amazon and, oh, you know, probably a bunch of other platforms. Red Box, I think. Maybe, maybe. But yeah, I would probably say Amazon for sure because they have everything.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. No doubt. 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’ll round up for the show notes.
Jared: Yeah. I’m trying to boost my Instagram. So, you know, @JaredCohen1, so yeah, definitely, you know, I post movie stuff. And you know, you can find me there. You can shoot me a message there. You can tell me I suck there, like I get a lot.
Ashley: Is that right? No worries. So, perfect Jared, 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.
Jared: Alright, thank you so much. Thank you.
Ashley: Thank you. We’ll talk to you later. Bye.
I just want to 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 want to produce. Dozens of producers are in the system looking for screenplays right now. There have been a number of success stories come out of the service. You can find out about all the SYS select successes by going to sellingyourscreenplay.com/success. Also, on SYS podcast episode 222. I talked with Steve Dearing, 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, this 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 premier 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 5 to 10 high quality paid leads per week. These leads run the gamut. There are 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’re 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 sellingyourscreenplayselect.com. Again, that is sellingyourscreenplayselect.com. On the next episode of the podcast, I’m going to be interviewing Stephanie Lynn and Alexandria case. They are actors turned writers. They started out by writing material for themselves so that they had something cool to act in. They did a bunch of shorts, good number of shorts, we talked a little bit about those. But now they have their first feature film which they wrote and also starred in It’s a film called ‘Soulmate’. So next week, we’re they’re going to come on the show tell us how they were able to turn their acting careers into also writers and start to write some material, how that all happened, and then ultimately how they were able to get this first feature film produced so keep an eye out for that episode next week. That’s our show. Thank you for listening.