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SYS 488 – From Assistant Editor To Filmmaker With Bomani J. Story (transcript)

This is a transcript of SYS 488 – From Assistant Editor To Filmmaker With Bomani J. Story .


Welcome to Episode 488 of the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger with sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I am interviewing writer-director Bomani Story who just did a cool horror film called The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster, some modern take on the classic Frankenstein story. It’s got a great story on how he was able to get this script produced and get himself on as the director. He started out for a company working as an assistant editor. But he kept writing scripts and eventually the company he was working for read his script, liked it and decided to produce it. We go into great detail about how this came together for him, as well as talk about the early part of his career and how he got started. So, stay tuned for that interview.

SYS is a six-figure screenplay contest is open for submissions, just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/contest. Our final deadline is July 31st. So, if your script is ready, definitely submit now. 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. We have a short film script category as well 30 pages or less. So, if you have a low budget short script, by all means submit that too. I’ve got a number of industry judges who are looking specifically for short scripts, so hopefully we can find some homes for these short screenplays. You want to submit to the contest or learn more about it just go to sellingyourscreenplay.com/contest. 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 it 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 Podcasts 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/podcasts and then just look for episode 488. If you want my free guide How to Sell a Screenplay in five weeks, you can get that 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 Bomani Story. Here is the interview.

Ashley

Welcome Bomani to the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.

Bomani Story 

Oh, no problem, man. No problem.

Ashley 

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?

Bomani Story 

I grew up back about an hour east outside of LA. And I was doing film stuff in my high school. After I did that, you know, my mother pointed out to me that I have an interest in that I should pursue it so. And I did like it. So, I went into community college and took the film program there for two years. And then I transferred to USC to finish out doing film there. And basically, been cutting with my teeth in it ever since. Yeah, I wrote my first feature length screenplay called Rocksteady Row that went to slam dance, and then won the Jury in the audience were there and yeah, took off from there.

Ashley 

Perfect. I’m curious just as a USC grad obviously, that’s your most esteemed film program in the country. Now looking back on it, you’ve been out for a while. What is your recommendation if a young you know high school or that’s interested in film as you are comes to you and says, what do you think do I spend the money on film school? Do I just go out there and start making some films? What is your advice to these folks?

Bomani Story 

Well, for me, I loved film school, you know, and I loved going to SC. And you know, it’s like, I just loved my film trajectory. I loved it in high school, I loved it in community college, I loved it at SC. Honestly, it always kind of comes down to the person you know, for me personally, SC was a godsend. It really opened up like the tools and it made me kind of be in a concentrated environment with filmmakers, people who are pursuing this in order to you know, whether it’s passing different films to each other and like exploring and opening us up that way. And you know, building the craft and trying things experimenting and it’s a perfect environment for you to be able to experiment and fail as well. You know, so for me like I loved USC, I thought it was great. You know, just like of course there’s always the story you can take the tuition and go try to make your own film, you know, but like I don’t know, I enjoyed the time there and what a game.

Ashley 

Yeah, yeah, perfect. Perfect. So, I’m curious on IMDb. It looks like you have done a lot of editing and a lot of work in the camera department. Maybe you can talk about that a little bit. So, you graduate from USC, how did you get some of these early jobs in the business?

Bomani Story 

Yeah, you know, I was stumbling around trying to find…

Ashley 

That’s pretty much the right answer. Exactly. I hope people really hear that, because that’s the truth.

Bomani Story 

Yeah, you know, I was writing my own short films on the side, and like writing features, like trying to, hopefully get something that clicks. In the meanwhile, I found assistant editing as my backbone, you know, to stay alive. And you know, it’s like as a tool, you know, that’s one thing, I will say, it’s a good thing, finding some kind of, like a tool or a craft that you can do while unless you know, unless you break out immediately, then do your own thing. But like, if you’re like me, where you know, you’re trying to break in, and it took a little bit more time, it’s just like, you need something to keep you alive that pays fairly well, you know, like, so assistant editing happened to be that and it allowed me to control my time be flexible and still be able to write.

Ashley 

Gotcha, yeah. And so, talk about that a little bit your transition from assistant editor to writer director, you’re obviously doing these shorts, you are, I’m sure writing some feature film scripts at this, did you use some of those contexts, and I always, you get a lot of people, I hear from a lot of people that are in these positions, these assistant positions. And, you know, how do you actually traverse that landscape without being too pushy? Hey, you know, I’m Assistant Editor, but you know, in my free time, I’m the director, how do you do that without being annoying and being in a professional setting?

Bomani Story 

First and foremost, make sure you do your job. You know, make sure you do that. So that way you’re less annoying. But weirdly enough, the producers that got onto the script, I was aiming for. And then they had the script while I was aiming for, they got past the script. And it happened to be, you know, the stuff that’s in the vein that they wanted to create. So, like, it was one of those things where no waste of time, you know, I was getting off doing AE work. And I landed in a place that happened to also be doing the types of movies that I wanted to do at least for the scripts, you know, and so that worked out beautifully.

Ashley 

Yeah, yeah. So, I’m curious, and this is just your opinion, but you know, how much okay, so they read the script, obviously, they liked the script, and then they put this thing into production. But how much of it was just knowing you having that relationship already with you, they knew you were a stand-up guy, they knew you were professional? And how much do you think that impacted them? Saying, you know, what, let’s go with this project, as opposed to any number of other projects, they might have some other scripts that they like, but they don’t know the right or like they did you? How much do you think that impacted their decision?

Bomani Story 

From what I hear, it sounds like it impacted it quite a bit. Because, you know, people will look at you a certain way, you know, depending on who you are, and like, and then you are able to, once they see once they read material or see something in a new light, then they’re going to start asking question because it’s almost like meeting a new person, right? Like, we didn’t know you had this under your belt. And then once I pitched to them, you know, walked through my pitch for the project, then I felt like they really responded to what I was doing, you know, and they really respond to what I wanted to accomplish. So I think like, understanding that, you know, this is like, obviously, you’re seeing one way when you’re doing something, but it’s like, once you introduced you know, the something that changes the element or changes the weather in the room, like, then you get an opportunity to show yourself again, you’ve already shown that you have backbone, that you show up on time that you notice that you do a job and you’re not just you know, you don’t care about the job, you know, you care about something else, you’re fucking off, you’re not doing that. And so, I’ve already was able to show my track record there as a professional, but also as a creative with a good idea and hopefully a great script, you know, that they would be interested in.

Ashley 

Yeah, yeah, for sure. So, let’s dig into your latest film, The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster. Maybe to start out you can just give us a quick overview. What is sort of the logline or the pitch for this film?

Bomani Story 

I’d say it’s a modern take, inspiration by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the book, contemporary lens through the eyes of a teenage black girl.

Ashley 

Okay, and so where did this idea come from? Obviously, we’re all sort of familiar with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. But what was sort of the genesis of this idea where you would take this reenter modern sort of reinterpretation of the story?

Bomani Story 

Yeah, I mean, it was a lot of different things. I mean, obviously, it was the literature. One thing was for sure that I wanted to make sure I was taking all my inspirations from the literature and not necessarily, you know, it’s like other movies outside like, you know, it’s alive and you know, that kind of stuff. But like, mostly I wanted this story to be interpreted from the literature itself. And also, big influences. I have two big sisters who, you know, mentored me when I was little and so like, I wanted to do right by them in this movie. And so, it was a lot of those things.

Speaker 2

Now what do you mean do right by them in the movie?

Bomani Story 

A lot of the female characters were inspired by. So, yeah, so it was a mixture of those things.

Ashley 

Gotcha, gotcha. So, let’s just talk about your writing process for a minute. What is your writing process look like? Do you write in the morning? Do you write late at night? Do you go to Starbucks, you need the ambient noise? You have a home office? Just how do you go about sort of getting pen to paper?

Bomani Story 

Right now because, you know, while writing this, and then you know, so my first movie that I did, I have to work, I have to get up really fucking early. And I write before I go to work, and then I go to work. And then you know, I’m kind of meta writing in my head, like, you know, it’s like, well, I’m at job. And then when I come home, I finish off when I’m supposed to accomplish. You know, I remember reading about Mr. Leonard and his process. And he was always kind of like, yeah, I wake up. And before I turn on the coffee, I write two pages or something like that. And he would do stuff like that. And so that really spoke to me, as well, Stephen King’s kind of, like, he said, I mean, when I read his book, he didn’t more but the legend was like, he was doing five pages a day or something like that. I kind of just was setting a goal like that for myself, where I’m like, okay, like, I’m getting up early. Before I do breakfast, before I do anything, or whatever, I’m going to, you know, I’m going to write a certain amount, and I’m going to make sure I hit a certain limit every day that I that I feel is right, and so that was kind of like my process for this.

Ashley 

Yeah, yeah. And I’ve heard Jack London, his famous I can’t remember is 1000 publishable words a day or 2000 what the number was, but there’s a lot of writers out there that have that real strict discipline of just churning out the pages because it is hard work. How much time do you spend preparing to write versus in final draft, you know, how much time is spent on the index cards outlining? And then how much time is actually spent in Final Draft cranking out script pages for you?

Bomani Story 

Yeah, I mean, I’m not really an index card guy, I’m more of just like, you know, Word Document Outline, you know, where I’m just kind of like, writing this page, I guess you’d call it a treatment, you know, I was like, I do like treatments. And like, I do that. And then you know, it’s like, obviously, there’s research that I’m doing. And so, yeah, I would say, you know, measure twice, cut once, you know, it’s like, a lot of meta thinking, you know what I mean? And like researching and jabbing ideas down in my little journal about stuff, and then I start getting into the thick of it with the writing, of course, like, you know, there’s always going to be rewrites, and re ironing or whatever. But I tried to think things through a little bit, which can be dangerous for writers.

Ashley 

So, on this film, I just timewise what are we talking like the outlining stage, that took us six months to sort of outline and let the idea percolate. And then six months to write it, just I’m just curious is roughly.

Bomani Story 

God, I wish I had like an exact number of how long it took to write, I only have like, around the ballpark of the time, I know, I pretty much finished a draft around 2018. And I might have started like, earlier in the year or whatever, you know, around either 17 or early 18, maybe 16. But like, I know, it’s around the 2016 to 2018 range was when it was kind of popping off.

Ashley 

And what is your development process look like? Once you have a draft that you feel competent to show others, do you have some writer, actor, director, producer friends that you get out? Do you send it out to and get notes? Just what does that development process look like for you?

Bomani Story 

It depends, like, I’ll show it to like a couple people, I don’t really like to expose it to too many people, you know, it’s like, I kind of give it to my manager, and you know, get his thoughts and then I get, you know, like some of my, one or two friends just to kind of get their temperature on it, you know, so like, just to see kind of what how people are reacting to it, you know, but other than that, you know, it’s like, I don’t really like to expose too, I’m very particular, just like, so, it’s like, I might give it to one actor and see what do they think, you know, might give it to someone who’s the director and be like, what did I think and, you know, obviously my manager and just kind of just see how different people feel about it, because I think that’s important.

Ashley 

Yeah, yeah, for sure. Do you know what the release schedule is going to be like for your film? When is it coming out? And how can people check it out?

Bomani Story 

Yeah, you know, June 9thinto theaters.

Ashley 

Theaters. Gotcha. Perfect. And what’s the best way for people to keep up with what you’re doing? Anything you’re comfortable sharing Twitter, Facebook, a blog, Instagram. I will put that in the show notes.

Bomani Story 

Yeah, I’m on Instagram Stories. That’s where you could find me.

Ashley 

Perfect. Well, I really appreciate you coming on and talking with me today. Good luck with this film and good luck with all your future films as well.

Bomani Story 

Yeah. Awesome. Thank you so much.

Ashley 

Hey, thank you. We’ll talk to you later. Bye.

I just want to talk quickly about SYS Select. It’s a service for screenwriters to help them sell their screenplays and get writing assignments. The first part of the service is the SYS select screenplay database. Screenwriters upload their screenplays, along with a logline, synopsis and other pertinent information like budget and genre, and then producers search for and hopefully find screenplays they want to produce. Dozens of producers are in the system looking for screenplays right now. There have been a number of success stories come out of the service. You can find out about all the SYS select successes by going to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/success. Also, on SYS podcast episode 222. I talk with Steve Dearing, who was the first official success story to come out of the SYS select database. When you join SYS select you get access to the screenplay database along with all the other services that we’re providing to SYS select members. These services include the newsletter, this monthly newsletter goes out to a list of over 400 producers who are actively seeking writers and screenplays. Each SYS select member can pitch one screenplay in this monthly newsletter. We also provide screenwriting leads, we have partnered with one of the premier paid screenwriting leads services so I can syndicate their leads to SYS select members, there are lots of great paid leads coming in each week from our partner. Recently, we’ve been getting five to 10 high quality paid leads per week. These leads run the gamut. There are producers looking for a specific type of spec script to producers looking to hire a screenwriter to write up one of their ideas or properties. They’re looking for shorts, features, TV, and web series pilots all types of projects. If you sign up for SYS select, you’ll get these leads emailed directly to you several times per week. Also, you get access to the SYS select forum, where we will help you with your logline and query letter and answer any screenwriting related questions that you might have. We also have a number of screenwriting classes that are recorded and available in the SYS select forum. These are all the classes that I’ve done over the years, so you’ll have access to those whenever you want once you join. The classes cover every part of writing your screenplay, from concept to outlining to the first act, second act, third act, as well as other topics like writing short films, and pitching your projects in person. Once again, if this sounds like something you’d like to learn more about, please go to www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com. Again, that is sellingyourscreenplayselect.com. On the next episode of the podcast, I’m going to be interviewing Daniel icedq, whose horror anthology series The Dead Hour is being released on Tubi and Amazon. We talk about this series how it all came together for him. This is a project that he and some of his buddies originally Bootstrapped. They did a couple of episodes went back out were able to raise some money just over time they were able to build this into a bigger and bigger production just by doing some episodes, some really low budget episodes and just kind of letting it snowball from there. And now as I said it’s being released on Tubi and Amazon here in the next couple of weeks. So, stay tuned for that episode next week. We will dig into The Dead Hour. That’s the show. Thank you for listening.