This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 414 – From Youtube Shorts to the Comedy Soulmates (2021). .
Welcome to Episode 414 of the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger with sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I am interviewing Stephanie Lynn and Alexandria Case. They are actors turned writers. They started off writing material for themselves so that they had some great parts to act in. And they started off with doing shorts this way, collaborating and writing them and then starring in them. And now they have their first feature film out it is a film called Soulmate. So, we’re going to talk through that film, how they got their start in the business, how they met, became partners, how they ultimately collaborated, and then ultimate how they got this feature film Soulmate produced, so stay tuned for that interview. If you find this episode valuable, please help me out by giving me a review in iTunes or leaving a comment on YouTube or retweeting the podcast on Twitter or liking or sharing it on Facebook. These social media shares really do help spread word about the podcast, so they’re very much appreciated. I’ve also started cutting up the podcast into small little 30 second clips and posting those on Tik Tok and Instagram and Facebook in the reels section, and also in the YouTube short section. So, if you see any of those two, I’d be curious to just get some feedback on them. But please, you know, give them a like too if you happen to see them and enjoy them and feel like they’re worthy of like. Any websites or links that I mentioned in the podcast can be found in 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. Go find all the podcast show notes at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast and then just look for episode number 414. 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. I teach the whole process of how to sell your screenplay in that guide. 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 is everything you need to know to sell your screenplay just go to sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide. So, now let’s get into the main segment today. I’m interviewing writers and actresses Stephanie Lynn and Alexandria case here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Alexandria and Stephanie to the Selling your Screenplay Podcast. I really appreciate you guys coming on the show with me today. 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? And just to keep things clear, maybe Alexandria, you go first, and then Stephanie, you can follow up with your sort of origin story?
Alexandria: Sure, yeah. I have been acting and very creative ever since I was a little kid. You know, we did a lot of, I have a younger brother. And I oftentimes would do a lot of sketches and reenactments, we’d reenact moments from our favorite movies. My parents had a lot of dinner parties. And so, we would be the entertainment a lot of time doing that. So, it always sort of bossing around and loved writing. I always wrote scripts and little poems, and was always creative in that sense ever since I was young, always involved in theatre, in high school and everything like that. So yeah.
Ashley: Perfect. Perfect. And what is your origin story, Stephanie, where are you from?
Stephanie: I’m also from Vermont. And similar, grew up in small town needed to entertain myself a lot of the time because we lived in a house kind of far away from any anyone else. So, I wrote a lot of stories and put on plays in my house. A play that I wrote was actually selected to be the seventh-grade play, which was very exciting. So, I got to sort of direct my own play. And get that scene on stage at a really young age. So that was really fun. And I think I just fell in love with storytelling, and I sort of diverted from that path for a little while I went to school and was going to be a lawyer. And then I realized that what I really loved about the idea of being a lawyer was the manipulation of language for purpose and storytelling. Law just didn’t really feel creative enough for me. So, I quickly jumped ship and started auditioning and writing screenplays and never looked back.
Ashley: And I’m curious, did you guys know each other in Vermont is that coincidental? You both grew up there and then met later in life?
Alexandria: We did not know each other in Vermont. I grew up in Woodstock, Vermont, which is about an hour and a half, two hours south of Montpelier. So maybe we played each other in sports, but we did not know each other there. We actually met when we were both in New York City with on a commercial shoot one day and the casting director. You know, we’ve all got on this van at 6am in the morning, the casting director said oh, you will get along. You’re both from Vermont. Stephanie and I sort of looked at each other, and we were like, Oh my gosh. So that’s how we initially met.
Stephanie: So, we became instant friends. And then we actually ran into each other in Los Angeles right after I had moved about six months before Alexandra moved, and we ran into each other at a Best Buy. And so that was fate basically saying that we needed to be in each other’s lives.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. And I noticed on IMDb, one of your first credits as writers was girl, say on Valentine’s Day, which you guys did together. Was that your first project together as writers and producers?
Stephanie: Was that our first sketch? Or did we do the Halloween one first? I can’t remember. I think it was the Valentine’s Day.
Alexandria: I think it was Valentine’s Day. Yeah, I think so.
Ashley: And how did you guys start to make that transition? So, you both are starting to act? You’re getting out there as actors? Did you like what are some of those first steps? It sounds like Stephanie, you had been writing all along but did you go and get screenwriting books? Did you go and try and get an agent? Like what were some of the first steps of sort of moving from actors to actor and writer?
Stephanie: We both got books for sure. And started studying the specifics of screenwriting. But I think at first, we also just thought, oh, we can just do this. And I think some of the first things that we tried to write were pretty terrible. Because we didn’t really know a lot about structure yet. And so it was definitely a learning process for that. But we, you know, we had a sense for dialogue, because we were reading a million scripts all the time, auditioning nonstop. And we just, we were both feeling disappointed with a lot of the roles that we were going out for in Hollywood, so many just Girl of the week and just did these silly stuff. And we thought, hey, we could do better and we could write our own things and show that we can be funny and show that we have different sides to ourselves. So that was really I think the spark.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, so that’s probably a good segue into your new film, feature film called Soulmates. Maybe we can dig into that for a few minutes. To start out, maybe give us a quick pitch or logline, what is your new film Soulmates all about?
Alexandria: Ashley, I just wanted to mention to you when Stephanie and I first started collaborating, I wanted to say that you know, Stephanie also is a very talented singer. And I feel like we both were doing music videos at the time and Stephanie was doing music videos, and I actually had written this comical rap video and that was really the first thing that I feel like as the creative I wrote that I actually went from an idea to writing to putting it up on YouTube. And it got like a couple views and so forth. But that’s definitely how I personally segued into writing. Comedy is always been a big part of my life and writing comedy, you know, parody music videos to sketches to eventually bigger and bigger things like leading up to the feature film.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, for sure. So, let’s dig into Soulmates some your feature film. Maybe you can just give us a quick pitch or logline. What does this film all about?
Stephanie: Alexandria, you do it.
Alexandria: Yeah, I was like, it’s hard. Yeah, Soulmates is about two best girlfriends who live in this very codependent relationship. They’re sort of each other’s everything. And there’s an out of stater fiancé who comes into the picture. And he works for this Corporation also trying to take over the maple syrup industry in Vermont. So, he kind of comes between the two friends.
Ashley: Gotcha. And where did this idea come from? What was sort of the genesis of this this story idea?
Stephanie: We were at the time when we first started writing this, we were roommates and we were ourselves in this funny codependent best friendship that we realize a lot of our friends kind of had similar situations because, you know, in this day and age after college, no one has any money. So, everyone’s living with their friends for a really long time. And then our other friends would call us and say what are you guys doing on Saturday night for dinner? And so, everything was us as this couple. And we had this moment where we realized what would we do if one of us met someone and our best friendship that is our lifeline is going to implode and we won’t know how to live without each other. So that was kind of the initial spark and then we both really wanted to write a story that took place in Vermont where we grew up and we both really, really love our state that shaped us and we thought, we came up with the maple syrup story because we had read some articles about a real corporation that the maple syrup industry was feeling nervous about because they were coming in and buying up hundreds of 1000s of acres of trees and just vacuum pumping the syrup and doing it with these million dollar distillers and it was, you know, sort of scary to this family farm industry. So, we thought; Oh, that’s a great idea for a plot. So, we put all the pieces together and wrote a film.
Ashley: Gotcha, gotcha.
Alexandria: I think I was going to say it’s also important, I think for Stephanie and I to write something about strong female friendship where the two lead women aren’t fighting over the guy or the job, you know, it’s really more of a buddy comedy than anything else. And I think that was important, because after reading, you know, so many scripts, it was always sort of a catfight between these two girls. And I think we wanted to tell a story, because our friendship is so strong, you know, and that friendship is something that, you know, is like a lifetime bond and can really be something solid for life, when it’s not always two women against each other. You can support each other.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, for sure. It’s a breath of fresh air. So, let’s talk about your actual collaboration. It sounds like when you started this, at least, you guys were living in the same apartment. So how did you actually go about writing this? Do you sit in the same room, come up with the outline together and then divide up the scenes to start cranking out script pages, maybe just walk us through your sort of collaborative process.
Alexandria: When we first started, we would go outside the apartment, we went to a cafe down the street, and we did write the entire film together, we did not really break it up. We didn’t sit next to each other and write all of the scenes together. I think we started mostly talking about Bo Hayes and then eventually it sort of segued into writing scenes for the film. And it definitely went through a lot of drafts, we had friends read it and give us notes and friends of the industry, you know, sort of streamlining in that story.
Stephanie: Yeah, we really learned a lot about the writing process and about fine tuning our own writing processes. Through writing this film, because the first draft we wrote, we just sat down and we started the beginning. And we had a very, very loose outline, but not as specific as we work now for sure. And then we just wrote and so when we had our first reader give us notes, we had a friend who read for the blacklist. So, he offered to read our script for us. And he just really gently said, You guys really need to revisit a structure. And we completely agreed. And we realized that we it had just been kind of our get it out draft. And we just had all these funny ideas. And we wanted everything in there. And in the end, pretty much all of those ideas got cut. Talk about killing your darlings. So yeah, we went back, and we really structured it out. And then we had everything on note cards, and we put it up on the wall. And we’d move things around. And we figure out how to put the pieces together in a much more specific way. And so, we have we learned a lot we really grew up as writers through this writing this film, we went from completely not really knowing what we were doing, I think to being actual working in a I don’t want to say correct, because everybody has a different process. But we actually had a process.
Alexandria: We have process now. It was definitely a growing up experience. One of our early notes I remember him telling us was movie(ize) it you know, really punching it and making it like movie(ize). Bigger.
Stephanie: Yeah, make it bigger. Like, think of the most extreme thing that could happen in this circumstance.
Ashley: Gotcha. And so, it sounds like you guys are close friends. So that’s obviously a good foundation. But what do you guys do when you have an idea that the other one doesn’t necessarily agree with, how do you get past those moments of, you know, just disagreement, no matter how small or big?
Stephanie: I think that was one reason why a lot of times working together on the entire process did take a really long time. And it was challenging, because we would have moments where we would be stuck on an idea for an hour trying to figure out how to get around us having a different opinion about it, but we would always get to a common ground, and then it would be better for that collaboration.
Ashley: So, let’s talk about your development process a little bit. It sounds like you have the one friend from the blacklist, and you did a number of rewrites. Were there ever any notes that you didn’t agree with? And again, I’m just curious how writers sort of interpret sometimes you send it out to somebody and you don’t get the reaction you’re expecting or maybe don’t even agree with? How do you parse through all of these notes? It sounds like your blacklist reader friend gave you a note that really resonated with you but were there some notes that maybe didn’t? And how do you sort of figure out which notes are worth addressing and which ones aren’t?
Alexandria: I mean, I think at that time, we were so grateful to have people read it and grateful, you know, that that’s people’s time, and for their notes, and we would sort of take all the notes, you know, with gratitude and say thank you. And then you know, Stephanie, and I would go back privately and sort of go through them. And, you know, okay, what do we think about this? No, this would make it better, you know, or this one doesn’t resonate with us. And, you know, we didn’t take every single note everyone gave us, it was really sort of, you know, a learning lesson in keeping true to our script and our vision, but also being open to people making it a having their notes make it a better story.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah.
Stephanie: At the end of the day, we ended up optioning, the script to Argent Pictures, and we know one of their notes with the option was we want to buy this, but we will only buy it if you do A, B and C to the film. So that was an interesting learning experience because then, you know, you have to make the decision where these are outside notes that you have to take, or you sell it to somebody else. And we really liked their notes. And we ended up feeling like it was enhancing the film to take the notes. So, it was great. And we said yes. But you know, that is it was just an interesting moment of, okay, this is that time when your producers tell you, you have to do this. And then you don’t really have a creative, say, one way or the other, you just have to do it.
Alexandria: And I think that was also it’s nice to be able to be open and flexible. Because when Stephanie and I first came up with this concept, we’re like, it’s going to be so indie and super edgy and female forward. And while it is still female forward, I do feel like it’s definitely more of a PG 13 rating and more of a family friendly film. And, you know, that might not have been our initial intention. But it did end up being a notes we incorporated and yeah, we were able to sell it and to make the film in Vermont, which was also something that was really important to us. And we really wanted to do so. So, it’s sort of a bit of a given take working with the producers on that. But we were overall, I think everyone was very happy with how things came out.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So, let’s take a step back. You mentioned that you got it to this company, and they optioned it. So just take a step back where you finish your draft of the screenplay, what were some of those initial steps to actually get the screenplay out there and start marketing it? Did you have, as actors, do you have agents and managers that you could send it to and they could get it up? But just walk us through that you have a script now that you guys are competent in? What were those first steps to actually get it out into the market?
Stephanie: Well, at first, we tried to go through our agents and managers, and everyone kind of told us the same thing. They said, You guys aren’t name actors. So, you’re not going to be able to get this made and be in it. But we can probably get it to somebody, and they’ll make it with someone else if you guys are okay with that avenue. So, when we first started sending it out, we were really, really set on wanting to be in the film. And so that, of course made it a lot more challenging. And so, we kind of told no, by a lot of people. So, then we decided we’re going to make this film ourselves. So, don’t you want to tell?
Alexandria: Yeah, I mean, I was just going to say, for people listening, I never had an agent or a manager. And that was always something that was tricky. So, you don’t need that to make this happen. Yeah, Stephanie and I were like, we’re going to go gangbusters, we’re going to do this ourselves. We did start with a crowdfunding campaign on seed and spark, where we raised our initial sort of nest egg for this film. And I think it was also a sitting down, we made a list of any, you know, actors, writers, producers, who had any connections to Vermont, or New England in general, we made a list of companies, you know, because we didn’t have the money. So, we thought, what can we get for free and we had Carhart on willing to donate some clothes. We had free bread from a bakery in Vermont for set. We had [Inaudible] neighbor who was going to let us use you know, we sort of started compiling a list of how we could realistically make this for a small amount of money. And we spent, probably at least a year doing phone calls to in Vermont and just pitching it to literally anyone who would listen.
Stephanie: We’d made a connection with one of our neighbors, who was actually an assistant director. She worked on a bunch of films. She actually used to be an assistant for Nora Ephron and so she just had a ton of I have experience with big, awesome films. And she kind of took us under her wing. Her name is Katherine McDonald. And she was very sweet. And she actually helped us do a breakdown of the film and figure out how many days we could shoot it in. And she helped us to eliminate some unnecessary characters just to save money. And so, we actually had this amazing gem of an experience to get to see how to produce our own indie film. And then we didn’t end up having to actually do that, which was great as well. But we got to learn so much about the process. And so, we were really going home, we were going to do this ourselves. And we were just in the practice of calling everybody and asking advice, and just reaching out to anyone and everyone because we’ve been doing this crowdfunding and then so Alexandria, who is just the best at this, she, I mean, we could never have done this film. I mean, for location, she just walked into the mayor’s office, like can we shoot in here? I mean, she is so great.
Alexandria: And they totally let us.
Stephanie: But yeah, so she was just chatting with her a different neighbor. And do you want to tell it?
Alexandria: Yeah, he was my neighbor, I found out worked for a company that did film financing. And I thought, oh, my gosh, I said, we were calling people to finance our film and can we just sit down, take you to coffee and just ask you questions, because we’re getting a lot of nos and dead phone calls. And he said, you know, absolutely. He said, why don’t you come by our office, and it turned out that he was working with Argent Pictures, and we sat down. And initially the meeting was just Stephanie and I asking, you know, how do you guys do this? And how do you do this? And how can we make our phone pitch better when we’re calling people and to get investors? And they said, well, we’d love to read your scripts. And that’s sort of how it happened. So, we passed on the script to them. The other producers who didn’t meet are this amazing husband and wife, couple who were moving to Los Angeles from Colorado. So, our film is, you know, Vermont, small rural Vermont town, and they were moving from Colorado mountain town. So, I feel like they just immediately got the vibe and sort of the small-town mountain vibe that that we were going for a new those towns that we were writing about. So, we were very fortunate in that sense of they just sort of saw the vision right away when they read the script. We were always on the same page about that.
Stephanie: So then, they said, can we all get lunch when they move to LA, and we got lunch with them, and they said, how would you like us to make your movie? And we almost passed out. We were so excited. And they loved the idea of us being in it, which was also really exciting. And such a surprise, because we’ve been told no by everybody else. But they loved the idea of two actual real life best friends who really are from Vermont playing these roles.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, that’s a fantastic story. I’m curious. And I know this is probably hard for you guys to gauge. But I’m curious, as you went into this meeting with these folks, you at this point, you had done a good bit of producing it sounds like you have lined up some, you know, free food at the bakery or whatever you had done some producing, and how much do you think that impacted their decision to go ahead and fund the movie and produce it, you know, how much of a benefit was having all that experience sort of having that in your basket when you went in for that meeting?
Stephanie: I think that was definitely a huge benefit. And I think that we had a really solid pitch packet at that point, with all of our what we already had for funding and what we thought we could take this for. And, you know, we knew the answers to a lot of the difficult questions that we hadn’t known a few years before we started really hustling in on our own. And I think that we sold them on the idea of making this movie in Vermont, the way that we plan to make it and then they just had the ability to put more funds into it that we wouldn’t have been able to do ourselves and really make it kind of a dream come true situation. But I feel they fell in love with our whole vision.
Alexandria: We also had a low budget pretty structured out, you know, with from our other neighbor that Stephanie mentioned, Katherine McDonald’s, you know, we really had a solid budget of how to do this for a lower end budget. And I think that was appealing to them, but also the fact that Steph and I were like, you know, we’re ready to hit the ground running. We’re down to location scout, we’re down to get Vermont behind this. I mean, we had we I feel like they could see that we were just ready to go in, you know, pitch in, all hands on deck. And I think that that was also appealing for them as well.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, for sure. I’m curious, just real quickly. How do you just compare shooting in Los Angeles versus Shooting in Vermont? I always just like to get people sort of just take, you guys have certainly done a lot of production here in LA as actors. But once you go to Vermont, how did the two compare? What are the advantages of Vermont? And what are the advantages of LA and disadvantages?
Alexandria: I mean, I’ll say personally, for me shooting on a location is always my favorite, because everyone was staying in this same hotel, everyone… you’re there 100%, you don’t have the other distractions around you, you’re not coming home to this and that, that distract you from it. I feel like everyone was there, there was such a huge sense of community onset, because everyone was, you know, flew in from all parts across America to be in Vermont, and it was so beautiful. And we shot there in the fall. And I think there’s something special about being on location that everyone, you know, you just get everyone together. And there’s that sense of that, whereas shooting in Los Angeles, everyone’s coming to and from their homes, and there’s distractions and you know, traffic, it just feels different. And I think that that really that sense of community comes through our movie because of shooting on location in Vermont.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, for sure. I just like to wrap up these interviews by asking the guests if there’s anything they’ve seen recently, Netflix, Hulu, HBO, is there anything you’ve seen recently that you could recommend to our audience of screenwriters?
Alexandria: Yes. I would say White Lotus on HBO Max is amazing. And I loved it.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. I haven’t checked that out. So that’s a good recommendation.
Alexandria: It’s great.
Ashley: So how can people see Soulmates?
Alexandria: Yeah, it’s on Amazon Prime. It’s on Google Play. It’s on Apple iTunes, Red Box on demands, Direct TV.
Stephanie: Basically, anywhere you can rent a film online, you can find Soulmate.
Ashley: And what’s the best way for people to keep up with what you guys are doing? Twitter, Facebook, blog, anything you’re comfortable sharing, I will round up for the show notes.
Stephanie: Sure, I am at Stephanie Lynn official on Instagram, and that’s kind of my most updated social media.
Alexandria: Agree. Instagram, I’m at Case balls of fire.
Ashley: Perfect. Perfect, perfect. I will get those links and put those in the show notes so people can click over. Congratulations on getting this film done. I look forward to following your careers and hearing what you guys are up to next.
Alexandria: Thank you so much, Ashley.
Ashley: Thank you. We’ll talk to you guys later. Bye.
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On the next episode of the podcast, I’m going to be interviewing screenwriter Rosalyn Mur, she has worked on a number of Hallmark and lifetime type of movies of the week. In fact, she got her start winning a contest with one of these types of movies of the week that actually went on to be produced because she had won this contest and really done her homework work and really understand sort of how the genre worked. Very insightful. She’s got a lot of great information. She’s also a Canadian writer. She’s built an impressive list of credit all while living up in Canada. I know I have listeners of this podcast that live outside of Los Angeles. So, she’s got some real interesting takes on that as well. So, keep an eye out for that episode next week. That’s our show. Thank you for listening.