This is a transcript of SYS 447 – 80’s Horror Movie The Bloody Man With Daniel Benedict.
Welcome to Episode 447 of the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger over at sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing writer director Daniel Benedict who just did a cool 80s throwback horror film called The Bloody Man. We talk about his career and how he was able to get this latest film produced. He has some great actors from the 80s horror movies. So, we talked about that how he was able to get them in his film, so stay tuned for that interview. If you find this episode valuable, please help me out by giving me a review in iTunes or leave me a comment on YouTube or retweeting the podcast on Twitter, or liking or sharing it on Facebook. These social media shares really do help spread word about the podcast, so they’re very much appreciated. Any websites or links that I mentioned in the podcast can be found on my blog in the show notes. I also publish a transcript with every episode in case you’d rather read the show or look at something later on. You can find all the podcast show notes at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast and then just look for episode number 447. 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. 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 writer director Daniel Benedict, here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Daniel to the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Daniel: Hey, thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Ashley: So, to start out, maybe tell us a little bit about your background. Where do you grow up? And how did you get interested in the entertainment business?
Daniel: So, I am from Kentucky, I still live here. Growing up, I always was fascinated with I don’t know, artsy things, I guess, like creative things. I always wanted to make commercials, like in middle school where I found like a paper from like my middle school, like a career class or something and said; What do you want to be when you grow up? And I put a commercial-artists being like, I wanted to make television commercials. And I get to do that now. Which is amazing. And so, I’ve always been interested in that. I played in bands over the years an made crappy home movies and stuff and, and had to make the covers for them and the music videos. So, I’ve always done that sort of creative thing. And going to conventions and meeting other filmmakers and artists and things. It helps keep me motivated, I guess.
Ashley: So, let’s dig into that a little bit. So, were you a film major in college? How did you get this career going? Where you’re doing TV commercials, and when you say you’re working these, you’re directing these TV commercials, and that’s sort of your core business. And then you’re doing these feature films sort of on the side to continue to push that end of your career?
Daniel: Yeah, so I got a job being a graphic designer for uniforms for a company, and I saw a job listing for car commercials, like somebody needed some car commercials made. And I like, you know, that sounds kind of fun. I want to get into that. And I kind of show up at my interview with just like, literally an arm full of just like random stuff. Like here’s a DVD that you know, of a movie that I did. Here’s some artwork and stuff. And it was totally unprofessional for me to do that, I guess, but it worked. So, they hired me. So, I started you know, making car commercials which led to you know, other freelance work.
Ashley: Where did you get the background just to be able to edit and to you know, do all this stuff. I mean, you went in here, you obviously you could work the camera. I mean, where did you pick up those skills that you felt competent up to go in and pitch yourself to this car company?
Daniel: So yeah, so in high school, and shortly thereafter, like my main focus was like, being a rock star, I guess I had a band and we did albums and I wanted to do music videos. So, I just forced myself to learn editing to do that and I’ve edited back on like VHS to VHS like systems and stuff back in the day, but around 2000 I edited my first movie on a computer and it was like, this is amazing, you can just pull this over here.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. So, let’s talk about your recent film The Bloody Man starring Tuesday Knight and Lisa Wilcox, maybe to start out, you can give us a quick pitch or logline, what is this film all about?
Daniel: So, it’s a movie set in the 80s. It’s about a family and the child in particular, who loses his mom, and has to deal with all the things that come with that. And he’s struggling with all of his relationships at school, and he’s really into toys and comic books and cartoons and stuff. And he has this comic and like he, accidentally through the comic summons this is being called the bloody man that terrorizes his family. And they have to learn how to kind of come together and resolve their family dynamic in order to beat the villain.
Ashley: Gotcha. And so where did this idea come from? What was sort of the genesis of this this story?
Daniel: So, when I was eight years old, eight or nine, I was in second grade I checked out all these any kind of ghost story book or any kind of like Monster Book from my school’s library, I’d always check them out. And I guess I wanted to make my own. So, like, I wrote these stories called The Bloody Man in elementary school, and my wife and I found them, you know, years later back in 2014, and we read them and they were terrible. I mean, they’re ridiculous story and grammar and didn’t make sense. But we were like, you know, our next thing should be this, it’d be awesome to rewrite this and make it and so yeah, so a child wrote it.
Ashley: Came up with the idea. Very nice. Okay, so let’s talk about the writing of the screenplay. I noticed on IMDb, you’d have a shared writing credit on this with Casey Clark. Maybe you can talk about that relationship a little bit? What how do you guys work together? Are you in the same room? Do you do index cards together? And then go off and write your own scenes? Do you trade scenes back and forth? Maybe just describe sort of your collaboration how you guys work together? What tools you use, anything that would be helpful.
Daniel: Okay, so yeah. Cassie and I, when we did this, we were in the same room, we brainstorm, we would jot down ideas. And if we were separately, if we had any ideas, we would put him in our phone or something, but we would we definitely together, like drew out an outline, make note cards, and you know, our plot points and structure and all that stuff together. But as far as writing, we would write separately, I would stay up late. I’m a night owl. So, I would stay up really late however many pages I could, the next day, she would come in, read what I wrote, go back, edit, tweak, whatever, delete, and then pick up from where I left off, and then write more until you know, she was done. And then that night, I would do the same, you know, go back and edit. And we did that took us about a year I think to over a year, year and a half, I think to write that. And we are late friend, Dean Stephen who’s who was our kind of our editor for this, he would butcher, we would send him pages and scripts and stuff and he would just mutilate it and you know, make it better. And I met him at a power con convention. He was the head writer on the 2002 human cartoon and hilarious guy, very good at what he does. So, I we owe a lot of the script to him. But yeah, one of my favorite things when you first read the first draft, he wrote back and he was like, I’m 10 pages in and I have no idea what the bleep this movie is about. So, yeah.
Ashley: You mentioned just the plot points in the structure. What do you sort of adhere to or are you a Blake Snyder fan Syd field, what is sort of your structure look like? How do you structure a screenplay?
Daniel: As basic as, you know, as normal as possible, we try to you know, adhere to the just save the cat kind of a thing. We didn’t try to think outside too much. I mean, that movie ended up being kind of long but no, we wanted all of our points to be pretty much on page blank. This needs to happen. We try to stick to that, as much as possible.
Ashley: What are some lessons you learned from writing this screenplay?
Daniel: That it’s always good to have people help you write it, it’s great that people read it and give you advice and never like, always listen to advice, don’t ever think that you’re 100%. Right? You know what I mean?
Ashley: And just what is your development process look like? It sounds like you had this established writer kind of reviewing your pages? Did you write this knowing you were going to go and produce it yourself? Did you have actors in mind? Did you get feedback from them? But what is the sort of the overall development process look like as you went through doing the rewrites?
Daniel: We always knew that we would be making it ourselves. Well, honestly, when we first had the idea, we were like, this was back in 2014. Stranger Things didn’t exist, there wasn’t a lot of like 80s stuff out there. There was maybe like one or two like throwback movies like that. So, we thought or at least I did, I was like, you know, this is a good idea, we’ll make an 80s movie, like, but we’ll make it now. But we’ll make it like an 80s Movie. And so like, I thought that that would be kind of a selling point. So, you know, maybe we could take this to somebody somewhere and they would be like, that’s a great idea. But the time we got to writing it, while we were writing it, Stranger Things was announced Season One, and we were kind of like, man, but at that point, we kind of already thought that we would be making it ourselves. Just where we were and we didn’t live out in California, or Atlanta or anyplace. But anyway, as far as actors, Cassie and I were huge convention nuts. We were always at any regional or even further away conventions, horror conventions, especially. And so, we built the thought of relationships and met a lot of people and became friends with a lot of people, and especially Lisa and Tuesday. And whenever we gave them or we had mentioned, we’re like, hey, we were writing this thing, would you guys be interested in reading it and seeing your interest? And they were like, absolutely. And when they did, they were like we’re in, we love this, you know, it’s charming script and etc. And so, I kind of had, I’ve always kind of had those two in mind, especially Lisa. Because I’d made a bunch of short films and features and stuff, you know, throughout my life, a lot of super zero budget stuff. But like in 2010, I was at a convention, I know conventions existed. And then in 2010, I came across like, the website for a local convention in Louisville. And I was like, oh, you can meet like actors from like, movies that are like at a place like that’s awesome. So, I went there, and I met Lisa, just as a fan, just getting an autograph. And I saw the other filmmakers, artists and actors and stuff. And I was like, this is awesome. So, I’m going to buckle down, and I’m going to one day have a movie with nightmare actors in it. And then Lisa being the one that I met there, and so a couple of movies later, it happened. So, it’s a good ending to the story.
Ashley: Yeah. And that brings up a couple of good questions. So, Tuesday Knight, you met her in sort of a similar way she was doing these conventions, and you just would go up to her and eventually got to know her?
Daniel: Yeah, we met her in Texas. Her and her mom, and then we were in Chicago. And by this point, we were more friends with a lot of those people. And we were talking to Tuesday, we’re like, Hey, you remember meeting us in Texas, and we were like, we’re making a movie. And she had just put out like a new album or a new EP or something. And I was like, would love you know, this, we’re making this 80s movie, I would love to have one of your songs, you know, can we license it for the soundtrack? And she was like, sure, it sounds great. And she’s like, can I read the script? And I was like, Sure. And like I said earlier, she loved it. And she was like, I want to be in it. I was like, okay, let’s do it. And she wrote two songs for me. According to songs for the movie, and then we used a couple others from the 80s, her previous albums and…
Ashley: And so maybe you can give us some tips on going to these conventions and approaching these actors and what is actually appropriate. I mean, I’m sure that these actors, sometimes weird folks show up. And you know, these actors maybe don’t quite know what to do. And so there must be some line, you don’t want to be too friendly. But by the same token, you got to get to know these people and network a little bit. Maybe you can talk about that dynamic a little bit, you show up as a fan, but ultimately, you’re looking to really network as a peer.
Daniel: Well, I have to give most of the credit to Cassie, my wife, she is the one that is good with people having conversations, but I guess just maybe don’t be a weirdo. I mean, I feel like I’m a weirdo. So, like, I guess just speak naturally be genuine. Just be yourself. Don’t be nervous, I suppose. I never, only once was a truly starstruck. And that was when I met Alan Oppenheimer, he was the voice of Skeletor on the original Human cartoon, and I was at a convention doing the interviews. And when I went up to him and started interviewing him on camera, he started talking, and like the sound of his voice, and he’s just like, the characters for me, man. And like, I went back, I reverted to my childhood. I was like, so like, giddy and excited and like, just overcome. But anyway, I’m getting off point, but yeah, they are human beings like the rest of us. They’re all everyone that I’ve met has been really nice and kind and I don’t think that they fake it. I don’t think they’re doing it just to sell you an autograph. I think they really enjoy meeting fans and at the convention, so.
Ashley: Yeah, and so, once you had the script on it sounds like you do in the networking with the cast? What were your next steps? How did you guys ultimately raise money and put this project together?
Daniel: Besides like, you know, selling organs and maxing out credit cards and stuff which we you know, pretty much did anyway but maybe Kickstarter, it’s kind of overdone these days, I guess. But we did it and we were successful. We had a couple other people help us financially, you know, donate and kind of invest in our film. And if we were able to get enough money and use our own to like to squeak by and still make the movie that we pretty much wanted to make.
Ashley: So, talk about once you had the film done, what was your avenue to finding a distributor? I think we connected through a distributor that reaches out to me and you know, proposes me interview for the movie, but how did you ultimately get the distributor? Did you go to festivals that you do a festival run? And I’m curious since you’re in this and I asked this sort of for my own horror film somewhat I’ve never been to one of these horror conventions, do you go back now as a filmmaker and try and promote your film at the same horror conventions that you’ve been going to but just talk about that a little bit you know, film festivals, how do you get your distributor and then what have you done to promote the film including anything at these conventions?
Daniel: So yeah, conventions are a great way to meet people. And you know, distribution companies are there and they have booths set up and you can meet people that way. You know, there’s the internet is a great tool it’s the interest the best and worst things ever happened to humanity. But for this, we had a movie distributed by them before bunny back in 2015. And so, I already knew those guys. And we got a bunch of solicitations from distributors, I guess maybe putting it on IMDb, companies search out films that way and also you know at conventions as well but we talked to several and just had such a good relationship with wild eye that we just decided to work together again. But yeah, just find somebody online. You know, go to Walmart and look at that DVD cover and see who distributes what and find their website and contact you know, just doesn’t hurt to reach out, you may send out 100 emails and get two responses. But you know, better than zero.
Ashley: Did you go to film festivals with this? Did you try and do a festival run?
Daniel: A little bit with buddy that I mentioned earlier, we submitted it everywhere, just trying to get people biting on it, then a lot of rejections, but it did go a lot. It did go to a lot of film fest, but this one, we were kind of more selective. We were the goal wasn’t really to like do the film, best surrogate, the goal was to just get it made and get it out there. And just distributed. But we did pick a few like horehound and which is just the best part convention there around.
Ashley: What do you say you did the car convention? Do you get a booth and try and sell DVDs? Or do you actually try and promote the film that way? Or is it just you do a screening like a film festival type of a thing?
Daniel: Both. It just depends. I mean, like our lives are so hectic and we you know, we have four kids under four. So, like that we don’t get to do that very often. But we have when there’s something semi close, like in Lexington or Louisville or you know, maybe up in Indianapolis or Nashville or wherever, you know, we will get a booth ourselves and try to connect it with our audience or sell our stuff or whatever. But not too often. More so like there’s the Toronto Film Festival, let’s try to submit it to that and get rejected, and say that we submitted it. But yeah.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So, perfect. What advice do you have for filmmakers like yourself screenwriters trying to break in? Do you have any just really sage advice you can offer to them?
Daniel: I would never take any advice for me to say sage advice? Write what you are passionate about, write what makes you happy, write something that you want to see. Because if you want to see it, and chances are somebody else would want to see it. But then on the same or on the other side of that coin, I would say, I see a lot of stuff. And I’m guilty of it as well, like you put yourself into your writing or into your movies. A lot of times people will like write the protagonist in their movie is like who they see themselves or who they see themselves for who they want themselves to be. And like a fantasy world, which is cool. But sometimes, like just kind of comes through and you’re like, yeah, that doesn’t work. But I would just say just go ahead.
Ashley: Well, I wonder, you know, you sit on the one hand, you know, write something that you would want to see because there’s most likely other people. And that’s obviously great advice. I wonder though how much in this particular case, you wanted to do this 80s movie, do you ever kick yourself and then as someone who has to help produce this thing, you know, you’re making your life a lot harder making it an 80s movie with the clothes and the car, you know, just especially low budget, you’re making things a little bit more difficult for yourself, how much did that when you’re getting your producer head? How much do you weigh those types of things?
Daniel: Like, during the process or after?
Ashley: Throughout, before the process, during the process, and then after the process. I mean, did this occur to you. You’ve produced enough you must have known that doing something that was a period piece like that was definitely going to raise production costs a little bit.
Daniel: Yeah, well, you know, I knew that it would be a bigger challenge, especially with like set pieces and stuff. And then like, when we wrote the script, I started big. And you know, normally I would try to write around what I have available or what our limitations are with this one, I was just like, let’s just write the moon and see what happens and see how much we have to pull back. And so, you know, during production, we had to have all 80s cars and people had to not be wearing anything that wasn’t 80s or at least not on the script stuff. And so beforehand, I wasn’t too worried about it. I just thought that it would come together. I was like I’ve got a lot of 80s stuff myself and I’ve got a lot of friends and we’ll go to thrift stores and flea markets and stuff. But during, it was really tough to keep track of everything you know, we had like Master lists of like, of everything, props and decor and costumes, etc., and hair, ever actor had their own like, info sheet and like, their hair had to be like this and you know, and so it was kind of a nightmare, Cassie did a wonderful job producing and taking care of all of that organization. But when you have, for one little example, like we had, there’s a scene where the, there’s a car crash, there’s an accident scene, and we’re in a neighborhood. And even though we let all the neighbors know that we were filming and what we were doing and stuff and if they could kind of keep their cars and trucks like away or in the garage or whatever, they didn’t so, you’ve got these scenes where there’s 2015 pickup truck right there in your shot, so you’ve got to try to put somebody in front of it or mask it out later, or you know, whatever. So, I guess it’s maybe editing was a bigger nightmare than in the filming. But yeah, I wouldn’t want to do that again.
Ashley: Yeah, I think that sums up. Yeah, yeah. So well, how can people see The Boddy Man, you know what the release schedule is going to be like?
Daniel: It was released on Amazon Today, you can rent it or purchase it, or at least in the US? There was another list of cable companies like VOD and stuff, Vudu, I think, either today or that or on or around today. So, at least right now, Amazon.
Ashley: Okay. Perfect, then what’s the best way for people to keep up with what you’re doing and contact you potentially Twitter, Facebook, a blog, anything you’re comfortable sharing? I’ll round up for the show notes.
Daniel: Yeah, we posted a Facebook and Instagram. It’s just read cereal films red serial films, it is spelled you know, like a serial number or serial killer. And then redserialfilms.com is our website.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. Yeah, I’ll put those in the show notes. Have you seen anything recently that you thought was really great that you can recommend to our screenwriting audience, anything on Netflix, Hulu, HBO, anything you think that your screenwriters could maybe benefit from checking out?
Daniel: Like, you know, it’s just maybe more cheesy than, or not thinking through like writing. But like, the last Spider Man was totally awesome. And then the latest, would say the Marvel movie just came out that I love, Dr. Strange. And I know that it’s kind of, you know, people, you know, people that are in the screenwriting don’t necessarily, like want to hear about like, Marvel movies, but I really enjoyed those.
Ashley: Yeah, those are good recommendations. Yeah, for sure. So perfect. Well, Daniel, I really appreciate you coming on this show today and talking with me. Good luck with this film. And good luck with all your future films as well.
Daniel: Thank you so, so much, and it’s great to meet you.
Ashley: Hey, thank you. We’ll talk to you later. Bye.
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On the next episode of the podcast, I’m going to be interviewing writer director producing brothers, Diego and Julio, they just did a really cool horror film called American Carnage. They’ve done a good number of short films as well as a bunch of features. So, we talked through all of that their careers, how they’ve gotten their films made, and then of course, how they got this latest film produced as well. So, keep an eye out for that episode next week. That’s our show. Thank you for listening.