This is a transcript of SYS 442 – How To Pitch To Producers With David Zuckerman.
Welcome to Episode 442 of the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger with sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today, I’m interviewing producer David Zuckerman. He is a producer. So, we talk about his career and how he has found screenplays to produce but he’s also the founder and owner of VPF – The Virtual Pitch Fest. And he’s graciously agreed to be a sponsor of our SYS six figure screenplay contest and give away some free pitches to the winners and runners up of the contest. So, check out the contest page for those details sellingyourscreenplay.com/contest. And in fact, at the end of the interview, he tells listeners how they can get a free pitch through his service just by emailing him, he’s going to give away a few, so that’s nice, some real tangible items for screenwriters looking to help market their material so stay tuned for that interview.
SYS’s six figure screenplay contest is still open for submissions, but this is the final week, just go to sellingyourscreenplay.com/contest. Our final deadline is July 31st. We’re looking for low budget shorts and features. I’m defining low budget as less than six figures. In other words, less than 1 million US dollars. We got lots of industry judges reading the scripts in the later rounds, we’re giving away 1000s in cash and prizes. If you want to submit to the contest or learn more about it just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/contest. Also, this year we are running an in-person Film Festival in tandem with our screenplay contest. It’s for low budget films produced for less than 1 million US dollars. We have a features and shorts category just like the screenplay contest. And we have lots of industry judges who are going to be looking at these films and helping with that. So again, just like our screenplay contest, the festival is going to take place in Hollywood, California from October 7th to the 9th. If you have a finished film or know someone who does, please send them our way www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/festival, you’ll see a link to FilmFreeway, we’re actually taking all the submissions for the film festival through FilmFreeway. So, you can find us on FilmFreeway as well.
Once again, if this sounds like something that you’d like to learn more about, or perhaps even entered, just go to sellingyourscreenplay.com/contest for the contest, and sellingyourscreenplay.com/festival for the festival. 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. Any websites or links that I mentioned the podcast can be found on my blog in the show notes. I also publish a transcript with every episode in case you’d rather read the show or look at something later on. You can find all the podcast show notes at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast and then just look for episode number 442. 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. Just put in your email address and I’ll send you a new lesson once per week for five weeks. Along with a bunch of bonus lessons. I teach the whole process of how to sell your screenplay in that guide. I’ll teach you how to write a professional logline and query letter and how to find agents managers and producers who are looking for material, really 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 producer and founder of Virtual Pitch Fest – David Zuckerman. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome, David to the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
David: I’m really happy to be here. I love doing podcasts.
Ashley: So, to start out, maybe you can tell us a little bit about your background. Where do you grow up? And how did you get interested in the entertainment business?
David: Well, I grew up on the mean streets of Pacific Palisades. So rough time there, you know, like surfers versus surfers and all that. So, I got interested from a very, very young age in the movie business and primarily because of two reasons. My grandfather who was a pretty famous author turns screenwriter and my mom, who my grandfather wrote a book about that then became many movies and television series. And I really looked up to my grandfather, of course, I looked up to my mom as well. What the franchise was Gidgit, so she was one of the first female surfers to hit the waves in Malibu, and he wrote a book about her life. You know, it was a novel but it was based on what was going on down there at the time. And it was really seminal, it was 1957 and it became an instant bestseller, it was beating out on the road. And I really looked up to you know, all that and admired my grandfather who was like an old school, you know, German guy, but, you know, he was cool and very intelligent.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So okay, so you’re growing up in Pacific Palisades, then what were some of these first steps to turn this into an actual career? Did you think you were going to ultimately be a writer either, how did you find your niche in producing?
David: I did some time off of college. So, I was a couple years into UCLA and I was getting a little bored. And I worked on a couple movies to give me myself a sense of what it would be like. So, I was lucky enough to work on a movie called best seller. That was with Brian Dennehy and James Woods. And I also worked on a movie called Assassination that my cousin Pancho produced. And that was with Charles Bronson towards the end of his career. So, I had a sense of what it was like to be on set. But even with that, I really started out wanting to be a screenwriter. And I had some minimal success, you know, some options and so on. But when I was reading my friend’s scripts, or scripts that I thought were really good, I didn’t think I was as good as they were. So, I decided to get into producing, frankly. And I found that to be something that just sort of, like, organically really worked out for me, I found it a lot easier to tell other people what to do than to actually do it myself. But you know, writing is tough. Ironically, like I’ve gone back into, you’re now writing and I want to get into writing and directing again after having produced a bunch of movies.
Ashley: Tell me about some of your first credits I noticed on IMDb, Catalina Trust is your first producer credit as a feature. Just how did you get that produced? What was sort of the magic sauce there and getting that film made?
David: It was interesting, I think I had put out an ad for a grip for a short film I was doing and a guy called me named Harry Hope ends up being one of the nephews of Bob Hope, you know, the comedian. And he was a real cool guy. I couldn’t get on the job, because I already hired someone. And then he was like an angel a couple of months later, he for some reason, gave me a call. And he said; Hey, based on our conversation, I think you’d be a good fit for this movie that I hear is in need of a producer. And he set me up with this guy named Todd Hagopian. And who had put the money together for this film called Catalina Trust. And he asked me if I wanted to produce and I said yes. And so, it was a hired hand on that. And then the same investment group wanted to do another movie within two weeks of wrapping Catalina Trust and that movie was Chump Change. So, I went ahead and produced that. And that was a movie that was picked up by Miramax. And we had some nice faces in it like Kim Matheson and Jerry Stiller. And you know, Tracy Laura is actually in the romantic lead. And she was quite good and quite fun to work with. And so that did quite well, we shot that in Milwaukee.
Ashley: And it’s fascinating to hear you say that I’m a big proponent telling writers get out there, you know, produce a short and stuff. And it sounds like you know, just doing some of these shorts and just doing stuff you meet so many people just getting out there and doing stuff as opposed to sitting in your room and just typing away at script pages.
David: Yes. And, you know, I did put money in, you know, decent money into the shorts and my own money into one of them. And it looked really well, really good. You know, from a production standpoint. So, people were looking at that and like, gosh, how did you only do that for you know, $8,000. And so, then I got hired from these folks on Young and the Restless that were wanting to do a short. And it was like a $50,000 budget or something like that, longer film, and it ended up, you know, with winning a huge film festival that was one of those that if you won, you would be considered for, you know, the Nicole, I’m sorry, Oscar. And so that, I guess, gave me some notice as well. And so those two films, yes. I mean, I think it’s correct, that getting yourself out there and doing it, but doing it well. Also, and I knew enough, you know, because my family was surrounded in the business that you don’t always get second chances. So, whatever you put out there and has to be good. And at least one respect, you know, like the writing has to be really good. The directing has to be really good, or the production has to be really good. And if one of those are good, then you have a shot of moving up and meeting people. And going to the next level.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So more recently, you produced a movie, the fourth noble truth. And actually, we’re going to screen this at the film festival in October. Talk about that one a little bit. How did that one come about? How did you ultimately get that produced? And this is a much later stage of your producing career now so you know, maybe we can hear that story.
David: Sure. I was still looking and this was maybe about eight years ago now that I was still looking for a film. I had done a film called Strictly Sexual for a very low budget. That became the number one watch film on Hulu for like eight years so it didn’t really, really well for my investors, so I was looking for another project that would be similar that they might want to invest in. And my buddy Gary McDonald, who is Writers Guild member, and he was a good friend of mine. And he was really into meditation. And he had written a script about meditation. So, you know, one of those really difficult ones to think of, you know, how do you do the Scripture about meditation, but the story was interesting, it was about a movie star who’s in trouble with the law, is kind of a bad boy. And his lawyers suggest that he do private meditation instruction, because he knows the judge loves his meditation teacher. So, when I’m looking for a movie that I can shoot for, you know, under 500,000, let’s say, under 250,000, under 100,000, I’m looking for a good story that has minimal cast members, and also has minimal locations, and both strictly sexual and the fourth Noble Truth fit that bill. And it was also a very nice challenge to try to bring the idea of meditation and what that means, you know, to be more accessible for folks and Harry Hamlin ended up starring in it, Kristen Kerr was a female lead, and she was in my movie Strictly Sexual. You know, she’s got world class chops. She has Class A, you know, could have been a huge star, I think she, you know, decided to become a mom and take care of her kids and all that. But she’s quite compelling. So, that’s how that came about. I liked the script. I talked to Gary and we said, yeah, let’s do this.
Ashley: And so, you’re going along with your career, you’re producing these films, at what point did Virtual Pitch Fest come up? And maybe we can sort of start to talk about that a little bit? You know, what is Virtual Pitch Fest? And when did you establish it? Well,
David: Virtual Pitch Fest, and we like to use acronym VPF these days, was started, Gosh, 15 years ago. And I was just starting to do some script consulting at the time, I was also working as Head of Development for a company called Silver Lion films where I had production supervised Crocodile Dundee in LA, I had worked a lot on a Man on Fire with Denzel Washington. But in the mean, time, I was thinking about, what do I want to do when I move out of development and strike out on my own work. And so, I started a company called script coach that does script coverage. And we still offer that we don’t really advertise it much anymore. And I was working with clients who I would help perfect scripts with. And then they would ask me, what do I do now? You know, and I didn’t really have a great answer for, you know, what do you do now? You’re an unknown writer. And I was thinking about this, while being invited to these script events, you know, they would have these writer events like the LA screenwriting Expo, and they would have pitch events as part of those conferences. So, at its height, the LA screenwriting Expo had like 4500, folks, you know, writers coming from all over the place, they spent a lot of money from lodging, airfare, such a part of that conference was, you know, I would be invited with other industry pros to hear five-minute pitches that they would pay 25 bucks a pop for. And I started to think about how would I be able to make this more friendly, you know, for the writer, the pros, really have more of an interest, I realized in reading something rather than hearing you pitch. You know, of course, if you’re a great pitcher, you know, it helps. But at the end of the day, they’re just going to ask you to see a query letter or something like that. And I just thought about; hey, you know, let’s try to find a way to move this experience online. And there was a gal friend of mine, Katie Coyle, who really helped me with this at the time as well. She’s a co-founder, she’s no longer working with us. She went off and had a kid and all that about 10 years ago, that I am indebted to her like, a lot. And anyway, so we just started gathering pros. We pitched the idea. We built the website, and we wanted to try to make it a realistic situation. We didn’t want to blow smoke up. Any writers, you know what, and the way that we went about that was through the query letter, because it used to be, you’d send query letters through the mail, snail mail, and, you know, a development person would probably just throw it in the trash or they might look at it, you know, and you’d send a self-addressed stamped envelope. We just moved that into the realm of the online world and it was a lot cheaper instead of you know, only $5 a pitch, it’s no less than $10 a pitch, you get the guaranteed response back. So, every time that you send a pitch to someone, and you can pick and choose who you want to send to, you’ll definitely get an email response back saying; hey, please send me a script, or no, thank you. So was that access, and that guaranteed response is particularly the axis that like really inspired me, you know, it’s like, again, going back to my grandfather, who had to emigrate from Germany, you know, in the 30s, and stuff and start out to, again, sort of like without much. And, you know, America gave him that access gave him the ability to improve himself and to start his career over here. And that’s been my inspiration for sort of having a more democratic approach for writers, we don’t really get much into, you know, evaluating the scripts, and so on, we do have a hotness contest of the most requested scripts of the month, where winners will get free pitches, but mostly, we’re just about getting me access. So, and that’s really important, you know, for writers to have. So, they know that they’re now interacting and actually connecting with an industry professional. So, it really came out of that live pitch experience. And then, you know, a few years after we started the website, we unfortunately had the big, you know, real estate crash. And that, combined with the success of Virtual Pitch Fest sort of ended the whole life event experience, and you rarely see these anymore, especially again, after COVID. So, yeah, and I’m really blessed. I mean, to have the website, I have some great people that work for him, we have like 500, industry pros that participate. And we’ve had a lot of success stories that I’m really proud of, you know.
Ashley: And I’m curious, one of the things that I’ve recommended over the years, and I use this myself as a screenwriter is, you know, people always want you to have a good number of like, really high end companies in your database. And so, you can get access to them. Whereas if you just send them a cold query letter yourself, they’re probably not going to even read it. But maybe there’s some other tips, or there’s some other ins and outs of this that you can kind of tell our audience about. And I’ll just on the flip side, as I said, it seemed like there’s a lot of good access to companies. But are there some companies that maybe you would say, you know, certain writers go this direction? Or is there a way for, you know, a TV writer can use it a little differently than a than a feature writer? Just maybe there’s some tips on how to use the system.
David: Yeah, absolutely. So, I would say like, the reason that the pros use our website is, you know, the fact that they can post their credits, and they can post what it is that they’re looking for. And they are protected. So, the writer, when the writer signs the Agree to Terms and Conditions page, it covers the Pro and the writer. So, the pros have felt protected, this has been vetted, like by DreamWorks, and so forth, you know, so that’s one reason why they prefer to use Virtual Pitch Fest as the accepted platform for receiving material. Another reason that they like to use Virtual Pitch Fest is that it’s very convenient and easy for them. So, they log on to their account, when they’ve received a pitch, they can read the three-paragraph pitch, and then they can click yes or no, and they also will have a record of it. So, both the writer and the pro have a built-in tracking system on Virtual Pitch Fest, so you can track where you pitch a script to? Who said yes and said no, etc. Yeah.
Ashley: So, I’m wondering, do you have any tips on pitching? Are there particular genres that do better through your system? Are there particular types of scripts that might do better? You got any tips just in terms of that?
David: Yeah. And I first wanted to address, you know, the strategy idea, you know, that you asked me about before, in terms of like, well, I know we, there’s a lot of big companies, yes. And we do have a lot of television companies on there as well, and companies that are looking for both TV and film, and that’s searchable once you register. No matter what I tend to advise people and always seems that people love to pitch to the big players, you know, but that wouldn’t be necessarily my recommendation. I think that it’s a good idea to spread it out a bit. And sometimes the small independent producer is your best ally, especially if you’re a new writer. Now. It’s not just new writers that use the website we’ve had. We have Writers Guild members on there, we have experienced members but particularly for the new writer who may not have a lot of connections, it’s almost a little bit better to produce like the small, I’m sorry, to pitch the smaller or more medium sized companies and or also pitch agents and managers, we also have agents and managers who are looking to represent writers. In terms of the question regarding the script genres, and so forth, and what’s popular, I think it’s just always the same, you’re going to hear the same story all the time, but it never, there’s always these exceptions. So, you’re always going to hear that comedy is more difficult, because it doesn’t translate internationally. But action does, and don’t write a movie about the movie business or, you know, you don’t do a period. I mean, there’s so many exceptions to it that, at the end of the day, every pro in Hollywood is going to be looking for a good script, and if they’re not, if their company doesn’t want it, like because they have something similar, they will send it to another pro, you know, because you know that they want to get some credit, maybe that company would give them some type of fee for showing them that script. So, at the end of the day, it’s about good stories. And I know that it’s a cliché. From my experience in development and producing, you know, I silver line films I mentioned. So, I was there for a few years. And, you know, we would solicit scripts, you know, from everyone, we would get submissions from CAA ICM, Lee Morris, we would also get submissions from the neighbor or the friend, you know, who happened to have a script for us to cover. And what I realized is, no matter where the scripts are coming from, about one in every 50, I ended up optioning, didn’t matter, you know, if I got 50 scripts from CAA or 50, scripts from the neighborhood, it just didn’t seem to matter whatsoever. And that’s just because a good script is really hard to find. So out of the one in 50, I’d be interested in one in 25, but I ended up optioning, one in 50, because I like to track this, you know, and see what the statistics would be. And I’ve talked to many pros, because I’m able to converse with them, because they’re members of Virtual Pitch Fest, and I found that it’s the same thing, you know. So, you know, just because you’re wrapped at a big agency doesn’t mean you’re going to have a good script, you know. So, I just recommend really working hard on your craft, and also making sure that you’re sending out really good stuff. And the only way to make sure that in my way of thinking is to have 7 out of 10 readers who know what they’re talking about, really like your script. And you got to find about 10 readers, and some of those readers can be script consultants, you know, script consultants that you trust. Some can be actors that you trust, who are in the business writers, directors, but once you get to that 7 out of 10, I think it’s ready pitch. It’s not all that different from, you know, selling toothpaste, you know, in a sense, the way that I found it, the way that works for me, I don’t like to send scripts out. I don’t like to make films where I don’t have that statistic in place first. So, I know I have a pretty good shot at people liking the movie.
Ashley: Do you have any tips as far as the actual query letter? Do you recommend you know, tips on writing the logline? Do you put a little background information about yourself? What is involved in this query letter that’s going through your system?
David: Sure. First, I want to make sure that if I’m sending a query to somebody that first you know, I’ve done my research, and they are looking for this type of material, and you can find that out on the website itself. And then I like to introduce myself right off the bat. And in terms of prior successes, I think if you sold or options, something, you’ve published the best-selling book, not a self-published one, but some, you know, one that was actually best-selling, or you’ve won a medium to large script contest. I think that’s really important. Even if you are a semi-finalist in a medium sized or large one, it’s worth mentioning, because that gets my attention as a producer, and I know it gets others attention. So, I would put that in the very first like three sentence opener. Hi, my name is David Z. And I’d like to pitch to you this rom com called David and Ashley hit the streets and have a lot of fun together watching movies.
Ashley: It’s not really compelling.
David: Well, you know, we have to talk about the blonde bombshell.
Ashley: Yeah, that’s true.
David: Anyway, then I will say, Oh, in my history. I’ve you know, I actually have recently optioned something to XYZ company and I actually won the Sundance Film Festival semi-finalist award for my script. You know, whatever. that’s going to get the attention of folks. And it doesn’t have to be Sundance really, I mean, if you win any screen competition, and like, I know you guys run one, and you know, anything that gets over like 100 entries, then you win it, that’s something to be proud of. And I would mention, as long as you’re not like this thing like tenable, you know, just try to, if you have can just try to pick the top two or three. And then in the second paragraph, the first thing I like to do is compare the film to recent box office successes. Now, that you have to do research here to make sure their box office successes. Sometimes, if it’s a critical success, and not a box office success, that’s also okay. But you’re better off, you know, when pitching a TV series or a movie to try to find a couple of comparisons of films that actually made money and so that, you know, you want to try to look around Box Office Mojo or IMDb Pro, just do a little research, you know, before you start comparing your series. And then the important part here is now you got to pitch your script. So, a couple, one rule is don’t give away the ending at the end, okay? You want to keep your object in mind. And this is where some writers, you know, when you’re in the middle of it, you kind of forget, well, what’s objects here. The object is, or a producer or an agent, whoever you pitch to, to request the script. That’s it. It’s not to make the movie, you know, it’s such a great query, it is to say; yes, please send me the script. And anybody really, with any story is capable of writing a good query letter where someone will say; yes, please send me the script. And so, in order to make a query letter compelling, you don’t give away the ending. And in my point of view, you want to lead from a character’s perspective, you don’t want your pitch to be plot driven. Because if its plot driven, people tend to just get confused. But if you lead with a compelling character, then the reader sucked in from the get go. So, I always recommend, you know, like, start with that lead and follow the story through that lead’s perspective. Now, that means you’re not going to be able to explain everything about your movie, but you’re going to be able to tell the most important parts of it, because the most important part of the film, generally are about the hero. Now, someone might say, well, I have an ensemble script. And I wouldn’t say to you, I have no idea how to pitch, that’s not my forte. Because I as a reader, I have a really hard time hitting on ensemble scripts, but like, some of them are great look at The Big Chill, for example. So sometimes I’m like, I don’t know, if I have said yes to this particular script. So, I haven’t quite wrap my head around how you necessarily pitch an ensemble. But even in some of the ensembles, for example, The Big Chill, you can kind of figure out who the lead is by within the ensemble by who changes the most who has the most complete arc and who learns the most from it, you know, so in The Big Chill, it’s probably the X disc jockey that is the guy who’s maybe the lead, so you’d probably try to pitch it from that person’s perspective. So that character is really the most important thing. I’ve gotten confirmation from this, you know, from other professionals when I’ve been on panels and had a chance to meet them. Another rule of mine when it comes to scripts in general, and something that you want to try to explain in the query is that, your hero has to have a very concrete practical goal. And that has to be explained again, you don’t want to give away that ending whether or not he or she achieves it. And that practical goal should be tied to the characters learning experience. In other words, whatever the character learns, at the end, he achieved his practical goal because of that, so we would call that an emotional goal. You know, so, Wizard of Oz is a great example, when the movie starts, you know, Dorothy says; ‘I want to be someplace over the rainbow’ you know, that is saying that she’s not happy where she is, she has not accepted her life, you know? And by the end of the movie, she has through her journey, you know, she has realized that there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, and then now she’s happened, you know, and she had to go through a bunch of steps to make that realization. So, when she realizes that she wants to go home, that’s when she is free from Oz, so to speak. So that’s like a really good example I like to use because most people have seen Wizard of Oz. I don’t know about the young people these days, sometimes I’m like, have you seen like, they haven’t seen Top Gun yet. You know, like, have you seen Maverick? They’re like, I haven’t seen Top Gun. I’m like, well, you can see Top Gun. And then, you know, but yeah, I try to use that example.
Ashley: Yeah, Wizard of Oz is classic. Yeah, hopefully people have seen that. So, do you recommend putting…because one question I get a lot from people is, well, if I don’t have any credits, you know, what do I do? And I generally tell them, you know, if you’re a lawyer, and you’re writing a law-and-order episode, you know, that’s pertinent information. So, if there’s some way of telling the producer, why you’re the perfect writer for this particular script, I usually recommend it, but what do you say on that topic?
David: I think it really depends. If it’s specific to a legal case, you know, it’s the last story. Yes, I think, because in our society, we tend to value the doctor, the lawyer, the psychologist, perhaps. But also, we love the word “New” in our society. So, you can spin it by saying, I’m a Brand-new Writer, you know, and I’ve been really working on my craft, and I’m finally hitting people off. So that’s also compelling, because people are like; Oh, new I want to see, nobody seen this before. So, I like that word “new”. When it comes to being a new writer, a writer that hasn’t met anyone yet, doesn’t have the connections, I think that can be quite compelling.
Ashley: You keep mentioning too, you don’t recommend giving away the ending. And I get this is a question that I get quite often. And my response actually speaks to something that you’re speaking to is, when someone asked me that, well, should I give away the ending in the query? My response is, if it’s going to, because the point of it is to get them to request the script. So, giving away the ending is going to help you get them to request the script. That’s the answer. There’s not a; Don’t give it away or give it away. It’s all about trying to get that script request.
David: Correct. Yeah, I guess I just find that if you can have them wanting to know who done it, you know, by the end of the query, that maybe there’s a better shot. Now, maybe there are some, some films that you want to you want would want to know how it ends, you know, I mean, there are some films where we know how it ends, you know, that are based on real life experiences, you know, that people have had so you know, maybe in those cases, it gives the person an idea of what it is getting themselves into, for example, with a biography. You know, biography, film scripts are very hard to write because you can’t you don’t want to tell the whole story of someone’s life, that’s too difficult. You, you have two hours in which to tell a part of someone’s life, you know, so maybe in a situation like that, it would be beneficial. And I’m sure, because you’re saying sometimes it has benefited folks that there are other instances that I haven’t thought of.
Ashley: And you know we come on, obviously, I’m, you know, selling services to screenwriters, you’re selling services screeners. Are there some of these other services, not yours, and not mine, that you would recommend to writers? Like, are there some other things that you think writers should be doing in addition to our services?
David: I think that submitting to script competitions is a really good idea. Because some of these competitions, even offer other services, and if you like a coverage or rating or something like that, or in the least sometimes it offers a connection, you might get a letter back from someone, you know; hey, we really liked it, and it made the quarters but I’m sorry, didn’t mean, reached the semis. But I think it that is like a really good idea to pick, I don’t know, maybe 10 to 20. You know, I think a writer should start out the year with a budget and realize that it is going to cost some money to market yourself. And I definitely would put Virtual Pitch Fest in there, because you are automatically going to get a connection with someone you know, and you can pick and choose who it is that you want to send or pitching script to. I would also recommend screencasts there’s also the blacklist which is out there. What the blacklist did was they improved inktips model, you know, Inktip had this website, and I think they still do where you post a script and then you hope and industry professional peruses through the database and maybe requests it and then blacklist came along and said, you can do that plus we’ll give you a rating. But I have heard some concerns from writers that the ratings aren’t consistent. But you know, I mean it maybe that should be part of someone’s budget. I think that you know, finding one of those other spots if they like and, you know, again, allocating some money also for good script coaches. You know what I mean, to make sure that if you’re getting some rejections, maybe you need to relook at it and rewrite. You know, so, it’s like, figure out what your budget is at the beginning of the year, and try to allocate money towards each, you know, especially emphasizing the website that you like, best or a couple websites you like best. And I don’t know, what do you think 10-20 competitions?
Ashley: Yeah, I agree. Yeah, sometimes writers, they feel a little too skeptical. And you know, they feel like they’re a little too tight. Because at the end of the day, you don’t want to spend money that you need for food and rent. But you do want to spend money, just like spending money on an education or any of these other things, find the things that work for you. The other thing I recommend, and I can say this with my own career, you never know what’s going to work for you. And so, trying a variety of services is probably the first step, don’t spend a ton of money on any one service, try a bunch of them and see which one seems to resonate with you, you like the most, it just feels like a good connection.
David: I agree. You know, where we like to differentiate ourselves is with that access, the guaranteed access. And that’s what why we feel people have been compelled year after year to continue using Virtual Pitch Fest. That’s because we have this, you know, 500 pros on there, you can pick and choose who you want to pitch. And that’s going to be based on what they produced and what they say they’re looking for, you send them a pitch. And within five days, you must get a response of; Yes, send me the script, or no thanks. And they have to give an explanation as to why they’re passing. And that’s through like boxes that are that they can check off. And so that access itself even is a win for the writer. Because most of the time, if you have a good story, and even if it’s not right for that production company, they will sometimes say; Hey, stay in touch, you know what I mean? This is a really good story. But we have something similar, we’d like to see another one or I know someone else that likes it. So, you’re getting yourself connected, just by doing those pitching. I think that that’s less so when you post your script on a website, and you hope someone will look at it, you know, you’re not immediately getting connected. And I think script competitions is also sort of like an immediate connect, because they have to read it, right? They’re having to read it. It’s like, unlike a couple of the sites I’ve mentioned, you know, maybe they’ll peruse it, maybe they won’t. But if somebody sends a script to like six figure competition, it’s going to get read, and it’s going to get read by some pretty experienced, talented professionals, you know. So, you’re getting that connection. And I think that connection is what’s important. You have to get yourself out there, like we were talking about earlier in terms of producing. Yeah, I produced a couple of short films, and then boom, I was off to the races with features. Now I could have never predicted that, but you know, what I have learned in my years, if I’ve learned nothing else is, it’s much easier, and I’m much more likely to meet people. If I’m not in my apartment, you know what I mean?
Ashley: Yeah, no kidding. I’m curious too, what one thing I recommended. This was years ago, I did one of these where you pitch to a producer, but it was through, I think, at that point, Skype, but there’s an actual producer, and is basically what you’re talking about this. And one of the things that occurred to me, and I’ve recommended this to writers, and I think it could kind of work, it would be the same recommendation for your service is, you know, it’s all about networking and making these like real connections. And I think if somebody pitched over and over again, to the same people, they would start to remember that person. And if they liked their material, even as you say, and I don’t think writers, especially when they’re getting in, they fully like they think there’s this very binary thing is the script is either good, or it’s bad. And if it’s good, it’s going to get produced, and it just doesn’t work like that. And you know, by pushing these by continuously, like, if they come up with a strategy, and they find 5 or 10 producers on your site, and then over the course of the next two years, they always are pitching them, they’re always sending them, those producers will start to remember them, and they might resonate, and then eventually say; oh, I didn’t really like that other pitch, but the writers seem cool. And then they get the next pitch. And so, you know what, I’ll give this writer a chance because they’ve started to build up that rapport. And it could definitely work what you’re talking about, but even face to face, I think getting to know is a way of getting to know people in a real way.
David: I know Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. I mean that you’re absolutely right about that.
Ashley: So, well. Perfect, perfect. So how can people find VPF maybe you can kind of give us the link there.
David: So, they would go to VirtualPitchFest.com and you can register for free and kind of check the site out and then our we have a starting price is $55 for five pitches. We have a 10-pitch package which is 90 And then we have a 25-pitch package, which is 195. However, we run deals all the time. We run those through Facebook and Twitter. And so, if you’re looking, and sometimes we just posted on the website, you know; hey, we’re running a deal. So, the per pitch price is even lower than what it might seem to be, for a lot of the time.
Ashley: Gotcha, gotcha. Is there anything you’ve seen recently, I just like to wrap up the interview by asking the guests. Is there anything you’ve seen recently, HBO, Netflix, Hulu, that you thought was really great, and maybe a screenwriting audience to check it out?
David: Well, there’s so many good series, or I like the limited series, you know, because they’re to me, it’s almost like a movie. It’s like, you know, you it’s like an 8-10-hour movie. And if you like it, you get hooked, and you get to binge. And so any, like Narcos, I love for example. I think Narcos is one of the best, you know, limited series that they’ve put out several seasons of them. Recently, there was a film, I’m sorry, limited series, and it was about a gal who, it was a murder thing. And it was like I think it was in a Mormon community. I’m forgetting the name of it. But that was quite enjoyable for me. Let me think about some of the movies. Because I watch movies, you know, all the time. You know, first of all, as a member of the Producers Guild, I get invited to screenings, and then I’m always looking on Amazon, you know, to watch new movies. I think that the house of Gucci was something that I liked. I know that it didn’t have a wonderful ending. A lot of people didn’t think but I did like that some quite a bit. And I liked Licorice Pizza to a degree I thought the writing was interesting, you know. And, you know, it kind of captured some of the essence of the 1970s in a good way. So those films come to mind. I think there’s more.
Ashley: Those are great recommendations, yeah exhaustive list. But yeah, that’s those are some great ones that that people can check out. What’s the best way for people to keep up with what you’re doing? Twitter, Facebook, a blog, anything you’re comfortable sharing, I will round up for the show notes.
David: Sure. Well, once they register for free, you know, on Virtual Pitch Fest, they’ll be on our mailing list. And so, we at times will promote other companies like 60-year script competition, sometimes stuck on a cover fly in Screen craft. So, we will promote other folks sometimes. And so, it keeps people you know, in the loop a little bit, I think our writers like that. And also, to maybe join Facebook or Twitter, because we not only sometimes post stories that are relevant that are in the news regarding screenwriting and filmmaking, but we post when new pros sign up, which happens on a daily basis. And we also post the winners of our monthly hotlist contests and we post deals on Facebook, we don’t post the deals on Twitter, but we post them on Facebook.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. Well, as I said, I’ll round all that stuff up for the show notes. Well, David, I really appreciate you coming on the show and talking to me today, lots of great information and hopefully some people will check out your site.
David: You know, I really appreciate it, you know, I hope they do. And, you know, if anybody has any questions, they can reach out to me at [email protected] You know, if they ended up coming to me through this podcast, you know, I’ll send them a free pitch so they can try it out if they like.
Ashley: Okay, very nice. Yeah, I’m sure you’ll get a couple of people.
David: Just mention Ashley Meyers send me an email or you know, and we take it from there.
Ashley: Perfect, perfect. Yeah, very generous. Thank you.
David: I can extend that for let’s say a couple of weeks, you know, from the date that you post the video.
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 starting introductory price, you’re getting three full analyses, which is actually the same price as our three-pack analysis bundle. So, you’re essentially getting the course for free when you buy the three analyses that come with it. And to be clear, you’re getting our full analysis with this package. The other version doesn’t have the analysis. So, you’ll have to find some friends or colleagues who will do the feedback portion of the course with you. I’m letting SYS select members do this version of the course for free. So, if you’re a member of SYS select you already have access to it. You also might consider that as an option if you join SYS select you will get the course as part of that membership too. A big piece of this course is accountability. Once you start the course, you’ll get an email every Sunday with that week’s assignment. And if you don’t complete it, we’ll follow up with another reminder the next week, it’s easy to pause the course if you need to take some time off. But as long as you’re enrolled, you’ll continue to get reminders for each section until it’s completed. The objective of the course is to get you through it in six months so that you have a completed 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 the 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 Producer Kim Adelman. She’s written a book about producing shorts and how they can help a young filmmakers career. If you listen to this podcast often, you’ll know that I’m a big proponent of short films, I think it’s a great way for writers to get some credits especially early in their careers. So, we have a great talk next week on short films, how to write them, how to get them produced and what you can do with them and how they can help your career. So, keep an eye out for that episode next week. That’s our show. Thank you for listening.