This is the transcript from SYS Podcast Episode 007: An Interview With Screenwriter Jacob Stuart. To listen or watch the original podcast or to see the full show notes check out the original blog post for the podcast episode.
Ashley: Welcome to the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I’m Ashley
Scott Meyers screenwriter and blogger over at selling
sellingyourscreenplay.com. In this episode’s main segment, I’m
going to be talking with filmmaker Jacob Stuart. He runs
Screenwriting Staffing Utopia and has numerous writing credits
including many award-winning shorts. I’m going to be talking to
him about the importance of getting some quality first credits
and how which helped his career so stay tuned for that.
If you find this episode valuable, please give me a review and iTunes
or if you’re watching this on YouTube, please give it a like and
leave it a comment. I’m really trying improve this podcast so
some honest constructive feedback is very much appreciated.
Please also share these podcast episodes with anyone who you think
could get some value out of them. If you have a screenwriting
related blog, please link to the podcast, or if you’re on
Twitter or Facebook, please share with your friends.
You can find a full blog post at sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast.
This really is how word spread on the Internet so it’s greatly
I’d like to thank some of the folks who liked the podcast and
commented on it. In iTunes UK section I got a nice review from
SuperBadHulk she actually left a review in September, but I
didn’t know how to find a review from other countries. He’s in
the UK so thank you for that. And over an Australian version of
iTunes I got a nicer view from LazMan01. Thank you for that.
Again he left a review after the first episode but I didn’t know
to check comments mother countries.
And over at YouTube I like to think of Ginger [Schein], [Ayden]
Green, Keith K and Pamela [Wildorf]. Pamela asked how long a
short script should be. In today’s main segment I’m going to be
interviewing Jacob who has a lot more experience with shorts
than I do and he’ll answer this question in more depth.
But the quick answer is basically this, what you want to do is look
at Craigslist and look at what people are asking for but in
general the shorter the better. If you keep it to 3 to 5 pages
and one maybe two locations and two maybe 3 to 4 actors, it’s
something that could be shot on a Saturday and edited on a
Sunday. When you’re submitting to film festivals it really
doesn’t matter how long or how short the short film is. A five-
minute short is basically the same as a 25 minute short.
In fact short films that are very short are probably easier to
program and fit into the schedule so I think there’s a good
chance that a really short, short film would have a better
chance of getting into a festival. This is definitely a case
where you want quality over quantity. You want to make sure the
script is really tight and really good and just cut, cut, cut
and make it as lean as possible. Just make sure the content is
interesting and unique and it’s well written.
And in terms of IMDb, they all count the same it doesn’t matter
whether you short as five minutes or 25 minutes it will look the
same on IMDb. So from a producer standpoint, they’ll get more
bang for their buck with a five-minute short than a 25 minute
short. If the producer finds a script he likes, he’s not going
to toss it because it’s too short but if he finds something he
likes that’s too long, he very well might not have the resources
to produce it. So from a writer standpoint, I think you’ll have
an easier time getting a five-minute script produced than a 25
minute script produced.
Also I recently created a three part video series which I posted on
YouTube about how to find these sorts of leads and how to
automate a lot of the process. I literally do a screen cast and
show you exactly how to find producers looking for screenplays
especially shorts and how to automate the process so you can
easily find these leads. I’ll link to it in the show notes.
So for whatever reason the people that watch the podcast over at
YouTube seem much more active in commenting than people who
listen via iTunes. I suspect it’s because YouTube allows episode
level comments while iTunes just allows comments on the podcast
in general. You can’t actually comment on a specific episode.
In any event to try to generate some iTunes reviews, I’m going to be
giving away one free email fax blast to everyone who leaves a
review on iTunes from now until the end of January. This fax
email blast is the same blast I use for my own screenplays and
it’s the same blast that I sell on my blog. So just leave me an
honest review on iTunes and then during the first episode in
February I’ll randomly pick a winner and they’ll have their
choice of either a free agents and managers blast, or a free
Also I’ll be picking a name from everyone who has posted a comment
including the people who have already posted so if you’ve
already posted a comment, you are already entered to win. I’m
not a lawyer, so I really don’t know all the legal ramifications
of a contest like this but I’ll just say this: void where
So if you listen to this on iTunes, please do leave me a comment and
rate this podcast. Thank you. A couple of quick notes, any
websites or links that I mentioned in the podcast can be found
in my blog on 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.
The transcripts usually take a week to produce so sometimes the
episode will go live and the transcript won’t be available for a
week afterwards. I apologize for that. It takes a week to get
the transcript created so really depends how far in advance I’m
able to record the podcast. I usually end up recording on a
Friday and releasing it on the Monday so the transcript will
usually be available by the following Friday.
You can find a podcast show notes at
www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcasts. Also if you want my free
guide, “How to Sell Your 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, how to write a professional [inaudible 05:44] and query
letter, how to find agency managers and producers who are
looking for material, it really is everything you need to know
to sell your screenplay. Just go to
A quick few words about what I’m working on, I’m currently writing a
spec comedy screenplay which I would say is going a little
sideways. It’s not really working that well and I’m not so sure
it was such a great idea but I’m probably two thirds of the way
through so I’m going to push through and see if I can salvage
it. I think I have a good ending so hopefully that will carry
It’s not really like anything else I’ve read which is the main reason
I wanted to write it. It will give me some additional variety.
It’s kind of a dark romantic comedy, but the other thing I’m
working on his polishing up a sci-fi thriller screenplay that I
wrote several years ago. I always liked the script but never
really did a lot with it. I guess I had scripts I liked better
or thought could be sold more easily so I never really did a big
push to get this one out there.
I’m going to finish polishing the script up this week and blast it
out next week using my email and fax blasts service. I’ve
honestly never tried to sell a script like this so I’m not sure
how well it’s going to be received. It’s not super high budget
but it’s not something you could do for a few hundred thousand
dollars either, so we’ll see.
So now let’s get to the main segment. Today I talk with filmmaker
Jacob Stuart. He’s a real hustler and entrepreneur and a
produced a screenwriter. Here’s the interview.
Thank you, Jacob for coming on the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I
really appreciate you taking some time to talk with me.
Jacob: Yeah absolutely. I’m looking forward to it.
Ashley: So let’s just start out maybe by giving the listeners sort of a
brief sort of background of how you got started in the business
and what you’ve done up until now.
Jacob: Yeah absolutely. Well I went to film school at the [Log Ages
Film School] in 2009-2010. My concentration was in
screenwriting. There wasn’t a lot of teaching in screenwriting
at that school so I kind of had to do a lot of teaching myself
and finding my way and working on set and finding a bunch of
But I found a lot of success since then and I been very blessed
because of that. A lot of my success has come from short films.
I’ve won awards for [my shorts]. I’ve had scripts sold, features
and some shorts. I’ve had a script optioned that was attached
with Warner Bros. Because of the short I got a screenwriting
agent and now I partner with a gentleman who was one of the
executive directors for the Academy Awards in 2000 running
Screenwriting Staffing Utopia which sends out leads daily for
people looking to pay screenwriters to work and to sell the
Ashley: Great so maybe we could break down that even a little bit.
Maybe you could tell us one of sort of your first major shorts
that you wrote and kind of go through the process of how you did
it and what it actually ended up doing for you.
Jacob: Yeah absolutely. My first short as far success was a short
script that was under 20 minutes called Montana and it was
actually my thesis film for the LA Film School. But there was
some controversy with the storyline and budget and so forth so I
decided to not use any of the resources from the school because
I had funding do it on my own, so I flew out to Ohio and shot
the entire film.
But not only did I write it but I had to produce it and assistant
direct it. I mean pretty much everything from lighting to all of
that and budgeting, being the line producer so I got my hands
with understanding how hard it is not just to make a film but a
short film, but it’s very rewarding. And once that film got made
I had an extreme amount of success. It got into three
international film festivals, won an award in Houston, had two
print newspapers that wrote about it, it got me on the radio,
and most importantly it had a two week run on TV which was
extremely exciting because it had so much credentials to have an
award next [inaudible 09:51] film festivals and [network], being
on the radio and have people garner attention and so forth. So
Montana was probably the first one that launched my career.
Ashley: So yeah, that sounds good. Let’s break that down. So what was
the budget a little bit on Montana?
Jacob: The budget was 15,000. Almost 5000 of that was done in LA until
we realized we couldn’t shoot it. So when I went to Ohio I had
10 grand to work with that short which I find pretty . . . is a
very nice amount for a short.
Ashley: Sure and it’s [inaudible 10:22] 20 minutes you said?
Jacob: Yeah 10 to 20 minutes.
Ashley: So how did you end up getting you on television? What was the
process there and where did they run on TV?
Jacob: Well we had someone who worked on the crew who was like a PA on
[Whitewater] community TV in Indiana which airs in 12 different
cities and they said okay you have to send a submission form
which is like that with most TV. Of course you send in a DVD but
you have to fill out all this information and once it submitted
they review it and they decide if they want it and accepted it
which was fantastic.
Ashley: And do you think winning some awards at festivals was that a
part of the process? And do you think that actually help to get
Jacob: Oh yeah absolutely. That came [three months] after the
festivals. I mean anyone who is familiar with film festivals
especially the larger ones when you fill out submissions for
that, they want to know how you placed, or were you nominated,
did you win? Because a lot of larger film festivals they want to
know someone else has recognized your work and it’s the same
with TV as well. They want to know someone else has recognized
Ashley: Was there any money? Did this TV station end up paying you some
money to air the show?
Jacob: No this one didn’t. I mean there’s been some. I’ve had some
friends who’ve done that and they’ve gotten money. I had a
director friend who did a short and it airs on PBS twice a year
and a $2000 check for each time so four grand. That’s amazing
for a short script.
Ashley: Yeah sure. So what kind of format did it fit in? Was it like a
show that showed award winning short films? Or what was the sort
of format of the show that it aired in?
Jacob: Exactly, they like to take local, well when I say local I say
stuff in the Midwest and show good shorts or comedy standups or
something trying to expose some of the talent there. And since
the film was shot in Ohio and Indiana they of course loved that.
Ashley: I see I see. So let’s take a step back to the festivals, you
said you got into three festivals. How many festivals if you
don’t mind sharing that information? One of the things I really
like to do on my blog is sort of demystify the process and I
know for myself as an independent film producer is that to get
into three festivals means you probably submitted to 30
festivals. Some curious how many festivals did you actually
submit to and sort of what was a ratio of getting accepted?
Jacob: I submitted to probably eight or nine and the thing was I
submitted as soon as I did the film, I started submitting. And I
got rejected by I want to say three or four. It wasn’t until a
year later that it just seemed like I was being accepted,
accepted, and accepted. And yes it’s a lot of trial and error. I
had one film festival that put me on their slate and decided
they didn’t have enough time and tossed me, so it’s always up
Ashley: Was there anything sort of political to get into the festivals
that you did, or was it a cold submission that they liked and
they took it? Or did you have some sort of contact at the
Jacob: No, it was just doing your research [inaudible 13:34] or online
and finding festivals that might be more willing to accept this
kind of film and filling it out and sending it in and there it’s
$50-60 that’s part of the budget just to submit.
Ashley: Yeah so okay. Can you tell us sort of the ripple effect that
Montana had for your career? Helping you get an agent, helping
you sell a feature, what kind of happened to your career after
Montana had a little bit of success?
Jacob: Absolutely, in that kind of year without Montana receiving
those awards I worked on all sorts of stuff. I worked on shows
with NBC, TLC, A&E, doing basic things and I kind of had to put
screenwriting on the back burner because it wasn’t really making
money as far screenwriting goes, but once all that stuff started
happening with Montana, I think that stuff was online, I was on
IMDb, I networked with producers and so forth, so when I was
sending out resumes or anything even on Craigslist or [inaudible
14:36] looking a higher screenwriter I could say I’m an award-
winning produced screenwriter.
I had a sample to show [them], I had a video reel, so all that stuff
[inaudible 14:48] gave me a little bit of credibility, but once
I optioned a feature script called “Color Blind” with Warner
brothers attached, I was sending out information trying to get
an agent. Well I’d a few interesting . . . you know targeting an
agent is a lot of objections but [inaudible 15:04] literary
agency I contacted said hey I like your scripts. What else do
you have? And she was going to my information and said hey you
have a successful short, can I watch it? Absolutely so I sent it
Once she saw it the next day she called and said I love it, great
writing, great dialogue, great story. I want to bring you on. So
guess what? She pretty much represented four of my scripts, two
of them were shorts. She actually sold one of my shorts called
“O Brother” which is back in 2012. But once getting an agent
So since then I’ve sold four shorts. Of course I’ve sold some
features too and I’ve worked with production company and
development but each time you have something produced, it’s just
another credit to add which gives you more interest [in the
community] but it all started with Montana absolutely.
Ashley: So you said that this agent contacted you. How did she find
Jacob: She didn’t find me. I went through and you can do everything
from IMDbPro, just looking up agents and sending out blind
queries. At least have two features they say and send it out and
she read the script and fortunately looked me up, saw about
Montana, and said can I see, and I sent it to her.
Ashley: I see. I see. So maybe let’s take a step back and tell us about
how did you option the script to Warner Brothers, the “Color
Jacob: With this script in particular I actually put on [Ink Tip]. Ink
Tip is just a wonderful service. And I had a producer who wanted
to put three films on a slate to take place in Chicago; this
film took place in Chicago. Optioned it, it still being optioned
and pushed around, but they have Warner Brothers on the back end
and yeah that’s pretty much how that one got optioned.
Ashley: I see through Ink Tip. And you mentioned too you had sold a
Jacob: Yeah I just sold a feature in June [I believe] “Crossing
Flowers to Mongol Heat” and that was another one that kind of
just networking and talking to people and see who is interested
in what and one of my biggest things that I’m a firm believer in
these days is if you’re trying to get produced work or selling
your stuff is to keep the budget minimal, keep the location,
keep all that down and this one was called “Crossing Flowers”
and it takes place in a hotel with three actors. That’s it. And
of course with budgets these days, people would love that.
One interesting thing about “Crossing Flowers” was I wrote a short
called “The Motel” back in 2011. It was 12 pages, I got a sold
in 2012, but I kind of like the whole idea of being in a motel
so I decided to make a feature on that. So that’s another good
reason to do shorts as well, kind of helps to think outside the
Ashley: I wonder if you could does break the process down a little bit.
You said you did some networking to get “Crossing Flowers” sold
what exactly was that networking?
Jacob: One of the things that I do with Screenwriting Staffing Utopia
is I have a bunch of recruiters talking to producers and
cinematographers and actors and so forth and a lot of people if
you worked on set your PA, your craft service guy is a director
the next day. He’s directing his own stuff. And I’m constantly
contacting companies, are you looking for a writer? Are you
looking for this?
And [script] screenwriting staffing is becoming so big now I have
people contact me, whether it’s an actor New Jersey who’s been
looking for a role and he has the connections to make the film
but he was looking for an artsy kind of role. So I got in
contact with him, we networked, he loved the film, he thought it
was something he could act in, he had the resources to get a
named actor, and that’s what they’re pushing for now.
So this is about to never dismiss someone who is not a producer. I
think that’s the biggest misconception. It’s like only network
with producers. No everyone is important in this industry
especially when selling a script.
Ashley: Sure so maybe take us back to the Screenwriting Staffing
Utopia. How did you get that started and sort of what is that
and what is the background on that?
Jacob: Like I said, after I finished film school I had debt and a
degree and I didn’t feel like I had a lot of… Well they taught
me the basics of how to write a story, how to do dialogue, but
no one taught me how to sell a script or how to look for work.
What’s the point of knowing the [act] structure if you don’t
know how to get to work out there?
So I literally had to teach myself. I mean tons of books, asking tons
of people, finding mentors, and searching all over online for
places who are looking for that kind of stuff, and luckily there
are some good resources out there like an Ink Tip for instance
where they kind of are the middleman between those two.
But that was back in 2009, 2010, they’re starting now to have more
examples. There wasn’t a lot then. So it was a lot of just
finding this stuff and finding it for years and years and I
finally realized that by doing this I know all the places to
look, I have the connections [to things], I have the emails, and
I know how to search for these [inaudible 20:29] and once you
know you have that database you no longer have to search for it.
They come looking for you.
And I said so many screenwriters don’t know how to sell their work. I
talked to screenwriters all the time who have up to 30
screenplays but can’t sell one of them. It could be the story,
maybe they don’t have the right story, but most of the time they
just don’t know where to begin, where to sell.
So that’s what we do at Screenwriting Staffing. We send you the
information. If you’re a premium member, you get a daily, people
looking for screenwriter, looking to sell a screenplay, or could
be as simple as someone looking to partner. We cater to novice
writers all the way up to WTA Writers. And it’s simple. You
don’t have to search the Web all day. You don’t have to go onto
Craigslist where you don’t know these people. It says straight
to your email. That’s it. Done.
Ashley: I actually had a similar experience. I actually got a master
degree from [Sea Sun] in communications with an emphasis on
screenwriting. And it was exactly what you’re saying where there
were no classes on actually how to sell, or even classes on how
to write a query letter, how to write a log [out], it was all
very the hero with 1000 faces and all this sort of very
theoretical stuff and I think colleges and universities do
themselves a big disservice and really I was exactly in the same
position and that’s kind of why I started
sellingyourscreenplay.com because I felt the same way that you
do that it was very, very little information and help about how
to actually go about selling something.
Ashley: So let’s take a step back to the shorts that you sold. You
don’t have to tell us specifically but what’s a range for
somebody to expect when they write a short film? How much can
expect to earn? How many pages were these shorts and roughly
what kind of range in dollar amount can someone expect to get?
Jacob: Well like I said before, I write all my short scripts. Montana
was little different, but the ones I have sold have been limited
to two locations. So if you’re going to sell shorts with maybe
four or five actors max; one or two locations under 10 pages
assuming it’s a page a minute, you got expect that the company
itself has a low budget, they’re on a shoestring and they’re not
going to be pitching out a bunch of money to make this.
So I’ve [inaudible 22:48] never made more than 100 dollars but I’ve
never made less than 65 either. I always tell people that are
writing shorts don’t expect any more than 500 dollars. It’s a
short film and most people who go into shorter films who are
directors and photographers are doing it for the same reason
that you are to get credits to get to the festivals on and on
and on. So be reasonable. Don’t expect WTA rates.
I mean Pixar and Disney do shorts all the time but they’re contacting
their own writers. They’re not throwing an ad up on Craigslist
saying shorts. And one of the things about at Screenwriting
Staffing is I’ve been so surprised about how many people are
wanting to do shorts now especially like actors and [inaudible
23:32] so forth from wanting to find the right project.
So I kind of see if they’re looking into buying a short or not. I’ve
never come to SSU seeing anyone wanting to buy a short for more
than $500 and I see a lot who are looking to not buy but there
is a money there. People are willing to pay, and if you can just
even make $25 or $50 on a short pay, [inaudible 23:56]
something. That’s important for a novice screenwriter or even an
experienced screenwriter you know.
Ashley: No, I totally agree even $100 or as you say $50 all of a sudden
you are professional. Maybe if it’s not a super high budget but
the bottom line is someone has given you money for writing and
that’s a big threshold to cross going from a novice with no
credits to someone that’s actually professional.
Jacob: Oh, absolutely. I mean you’re being paid to be a screenwriter
and that’s what’s important. I mean that’s everyone’s goal.
Ashley: So when you’re finding these leads on Craigslist or wherever,
your Screenwriting Staffing Utopia, are there certain questions
that you ask and that our listeners could potentially ask to
kind of ferret out the better ones from the worst ones? I mean
one thing that I found over the years and I’m sure you have too,
there are a lot of people with the good intentions. I’m not
really one conspiracy theorists that people are out to rip
writers off or anything else but there are a lot of people out
there that have good intentions but they’re not necessarily that
I’ve been a part since I’ve been out here, a lot of productions where
the thing just never quite materializes properly and I’m sure
the last thing you want to do is give someone a script for $25
and have them not make it because of whole point of this is not
the $25 dollars, it’s to get a credit. Is there some red flags
that you’ve seen from people that you say yeah this guy doesn’t
really seem that credible? Maybe the way the ads are written,
maybe just talking to the people, anything we can look out for?
Jacob: Yeah absolutely. I don’t use Craigslist much anymore. I use it
for personal work but never really for SSU work but when I
contact these companies or they contact me, one of the most
important things is have they produced anything? Have they shown
an effort to produce something? There are a lot of… okay let
me back up. One of the first things I tell people with shorter
films is if a film student is looking for a short, do it. Give
it away because they’re going to make it. They have the
equipment at the school, they have the drive, they have the
inspiration, and they have some talent, they’ve got the mentors
at the school, do it. Let them do it.
And same with actors. One of the things I do say with actors is a lot
of actors now they’re not getting the roles so they are looking
for short so that they can act in it. I think that’s great but
actors, most doctors don’t know exactly how [inaudible 26:25]
filmmaking process works so I would be a little careful if you
just have an actor but you don’t have anything lined up and
there is no offense to them but a lot of them just don’t
I always recommend selling to cinematographers and VPs. They have the
lighting, they have the cameras, they even have long mics and
all that, they can make a sale. Are they directors? Are they
creative geniuses? Maybe not. They have it to make it so you
know that’s going to be made.
And of course you got a production company, I was like to see do they
have credits? How have they made something? What is their
website? Is it a professional website? Then you know that’s how
the going to make the film as well. Maybe talk to some of the
phone, talk to them on emails, see how they compose themselves
or can even put a sentence together and so forth?
And you can kind of see what I’m saying but I will say with short
films from the shorts that our members have sold, I’ve sold, or
my friends have sold, most of them get made. Like I said I’ve
sold four shorts in one year. Two of them have been made, the
other is in preproduction, and that’s a 50 percent turnaround.
I think that’s great. Feature films don’t get made that quickly. I
think most people are looking for shorts are going to do it, are
going to jump into it, they have the best intentions in mind
like you said. The red flags are people who when they post
something it could be on [Mandy] or Craigslist or anything when
you’re just saying looking for shorts blah, blah, blah.
I mean real people are putting the jobs that they want how many
pages, the festivals that they want to submit in. I mean these
people already have it lined up. The only thing they’re missing
is the script so if you see that that’s good. I know some people
will roll their eyes. Oh, I’m looking to submit it to Cannes.
Don’t necessarily roll your eyes. At least they’ve have a goal
with what they want to do with the short so that’s kind of the
things I look at.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, yeah sure, so I’m curious too. You’re located in
Las Vegas, correct?
Jacob: Yes I was located in LA for four years and have been in Las
Vegas for six, seven months now.
Ashley: Okay and have you found living outside of LA as far as keeping
your career moving forward and that kind of stuff. Has it been a
hindrance to live five, six hours away?
Jacob: No definitely not. Since I’ve been doing screenwriting I lived
in Ohio, I lived in Indiana, I lived in Texas, and now I’m
living in Nevada and that’s after living for years in LA. When
it comes to working on set, of course LA all day. When it comes
to writing absolutely not. I tell people you don’t have to live
in LA. I mean Sony people are paying through PayPal and working
online and sending the scripts over, sending [tweet] hey can you
work on this?
A lot of times you don’t really have to meet. And with Skype now and
all that you know you can still do your face-to-face time and
another thing is inspiration. I know it’s so hard, and some
writers that have gone through this, I wasn’t one of them, to
stay inspired in LA. It’s very, very difficult. For me, I kind
of like the quiet. I don’t see any… Sorry go ahead
Ashley: No, go ahead and finish.
Jacob: Oh I was good to say most of our demographics for SSU is
probably only about 40 percent from LA. You have people from all
over the world. And being the middleman with the company and the
writer, we see who hires who, who buys what, and the last
project we just did was someone in LA who hired someone in
Flint, Michigan and they never met each other, so I mean they
contracted right? So that is an example. I think with TV you do,
absolutely. But would feature films, I don’t think it’s
Ashley: So I’m curious. I know with my own I’ve not done a lot with
shorts but I know I definitely worked on the independent films
and lower budget independent films. One of the things I always
find is that people are not paying a lot but sometimes they
expect a lot in terms of rewrites and that kind of stuff. How do
you handle something like that? A producer who wants to pay you
$100 but wants 100 hours’ worth of rewrites.
Jacob: Now that’s a great question. It’s difficult. I guess if you’re
going to sell a short . . . yeah it’s a difficult question. They
do. They want the short, they like it, but are saying hey we
only have this bedroom for the location, or hey this dialogue
[inaudible 31:06] hey can you change this, or we have this actor
who’s Hispanic, can you change him from being Caucasian to
Hispanic or whatever and they ask for all this and sometimes
yeah the pay is so you kind of have to . . . I think as a writer
you have to decide how important is it to make the 100 and how
important is it to see this film be made?
And if someone’s willing to put out $100 for a short, I don’t think
it’s too much to ask to say hey you asking for five or six
hours. I need $10 an hour for this [inaudible 31:39]. I’ve said
that when I’ve written features. I’ve said okay all due two
drafts and they’re bombarding me with this sort of [informal]
draft. I’m like hey I’ll be happy to help you, but you’re going
to have to pay for my services.
But no, that’s a really struggling thing with shorts and this done
across the line but a lot of times when you’re dealing with
filmmakers who are starting out who want to do a short, they’re
not very experienced either and they don’t know what to expect
and they don’t understand the importance of a script and a
screenwriter so you need to stick up for yourself. You need to
say hey this requires time, or say I do want this changed. This
works. You either take it for what it is and not . . . But every
screenwriter needs to be flexible because it doesn’t matter if
you’re working with Universal Studios or not you going to have
to expect to rewrite so you need to go into that but stick up
Ashley: I’m curious are there contracts? Obviously when there’s such a
little bit about money you can’t very well afford to pay a
lawyer to look at a contract. So do most these producers have
some contract they want you to sign to sign the rights over to
the script, or is it just a handshake?
Jacob: Again I’m going to back to [inaudible 32:53] the four short I
sold back last year. Two of them I made a contract. You can go
on WGA’s website and you can get a standard contract. I do have
an agent who is also an attorney. I don’t usually have them look
over the shorts. The shorts [inaudible 33:10] but for feature-
length, yes. You are talking about a lot of money. But you can
get the contracts online just as simple as saying here is the
compensation, on and on and on, sign, and that’s it. I’ve only
had one short that I was just pretty much… They wanted it
[paid] through PayPal. That’s it. But I did have one company
that was in Albuquerque who had all that and they were ready. I
think the contract was seven pages and I was like, you paying me
Ashley: It’s longer than the actual short.
Jacob: It is longer and it kind of scared me I have to be honest
because it’s like why my signing off here? This is a seven-page
contract. Yes. But you just have to read between the lines and
like I said I would always have a contract not because of the
payment but because you need the writers credit. You getting
paid out low, the most important thing is that you’re being
credited as a screenwriter.
Let me tell you, I have seen contracts where it says you will be
credited screenplay and there is going to be co-writers. Like
the directors is going to get co-writer credit. You got to be
careful on that because they’re going to try to take advantage
of you. And unlike you I don’t think everyone’s out to get
screenwriters. Absolutely not but they are out there every once
in a while.
Ashley: Yeah for sure and I would say that’s absolutely the most
critical piece of the contract is making sure that you get
writing credit or at the very least you understand what writing
credit you’re going to get so you go into it with your eyes
Jacob: Yeah, it’s so important and I should touched on that were
earlier. It’s so important and I don’t think it wasn’t purposely
done but I’ve done contracts where I didn’t see that and it
might have just been forgotten and just assumed. Of course
you’re going to screenwriting credit but trust me I speak up
like, hey it might’ve been accident but somewhere in this we
need to say I’ll be credited as screenwriter or screenplay.
That’s another thing I always tell writers put information on
WGA and know what certain credits mean-storyline, co-writer–
make sure you get credit appropriately.
Ashley: Perfect so that’s great Jacob. Let’s go ahead and wrap this up.
We’ve been going for a while. I’m curious if you just have maybe
a couple of tips for people that are looking to do shorts, maybe
just one or two quick tips you could give us and we’ll leave it
Jacob: Absolutely. If you’re looking to sell the short, keep the
budget low, keep the characters low, keep the locations, keep
all that, keep your pages [lead] down too. Film festivals have
to cram in a bunch of shorts. They don’t want 30 to 40 minutes.
Keep it under 20 and I always say 10 and know your audience,
know the producer that you’re pitching it to.
If you’re looking to produce your own short, it’s really important
that you understand the filmmaking process and work within your
budget. Don’t expect a lot of money on shorts but make sure you
get the writing credit. That is the most important thing because
that is what’s going to launch your career. That’s going to be
the most credible piece of your career.
Ashley: Perfect is there someplace that Montana is online? I can link
to it in the show notes? Is this something people can go and
Jacob: You can watch the trailer online. I can send that link. I don’t
have that but if you go on my video reel which is on Vimeo, I
think it’s Jacob N. Stuart screenwriter, it’s about seven
minutes of my video reel and probably 65 to 70 percent of that
is shorts and a lot of that contains Montana so you can go on
there and kind of see.
Ashley: Perfect. You can email that link and I’ll put in the show
notes. I wonder are there any very famous shorts that are on
YouTube that you might recommend that the audience go and watch.
Jacob: Yeah, absolutely. There is a UCLA one called “Voodoo” and it’s
an animation one that’s phenomenal and is probably about four
minutes and I can’t think of the name but I can email it to you
but there is one about two Israelis and two Pakistanis who are
at war but a soccer game is on and how they come together. There
is no dialogue at all, it’s just action and it’s just amazing.
But you can go on YouTube and type in best short films or Academy
Award short films, watch those, and just see there is no
subtext, there is no subplot, [inaudible 37:31]. They show the
characters, the conflicts, who they are, and they get out and
that’s it. It’s that simple.
Ashley: Perfect. Well once again, Jacob, I really appreciate you taking
the time to talk with me. I think it’s been very formative. I
know I’ve learned a lot so hopefully the audience has learned
Jacob: All right. Good talking to you. I will talk to you later.
Ashley: Jacob is going to be teaching class on December 14th at the
Selling Your Screenplay classes. It’s going to be all about the
specific nuts and bolts of writing, selling, and producing a
short screenplay. As you can tell from the interview he’s quite
a bit experience doing short films so I think this will be a
very educational class. If you take this class, you will come
away with everything you need to know to write, sell, and
produce short screenplays. If you’re looking to get your first
few writing credits, you’re not going to want to miss this
class. I’m looking forward to myself. I think I’m going to learn
If you like to learn more about this class go to
www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/classes. All the classes that I do
are recorded and posted in the Selling Your Screenplay forum.
I’m slowly building a nice library of online classes. I
currently have three classes that you can watch at any time by
joining SYS Select. The first class is called “Choosing a
Marketable Concept” and it covers everything you need to know to
find a concept that can sell.
I really believe that this is one of the most overlooked and critical
steps in the screenwriting process. If you fail at this step,
everything you do afterwards can be a big waste of time.
The second class is called “Before You Begin to Write Your
Screenplay” and covers all the preparation you should do before
you actually begin writing your screenplay. If you struggle with
structure or your script falls apart towards the end, it’s
usually because you didn’t spend enough time really planning
And the third class actor, director, and writer Paul Murray teaches
“Actor Bait: How to Write a Screenplay That Actors Will Love.”
If you’d like to learn about how you can view any of these
classes or sign up for the next class that Jacob is teaching,
just going to SellingYourScreenplaySelect.com.
In the next episode I’m going to be dissecting the film Identity
Thief. It was written by screenwriter and podcaster Craig Mazin.
Craig is one half of the Scriptnotes Podcast and they’re always
reviewing other people screenplays so I thought it would be fun
to review one of his.
I think there are a lot of lessons we can learn from this film both
good and bad. It’s currently available on HBO Go, so if you have
a moment try to check it out before the next podcast which will
be released on December 16th.
So in this episode’s Writing Words section, I wanted to talk about
one of the main takeaways that I got from the interview with
Jacob. A few years ago I was at a screenwriting conference and I
watched a panel with the two original show runners from the
television show Smallville. One of the things that they said
that really resonated with me is that to be a successful writer
you have to be very entrepreneurial, and I really believe this.
When you start writing is screenplay, you’re really starting a small
business. A lot of things entrepreneurs think about when
starting their business are the same sorts of things that
writers should be thinking about.
One of the things that impresses me about Jacob is how
entrepreneurial he is. Look at what he’s done. Obviously he
learned a lot about physical production and directing and
producing some of his shorts, but he’s created a whole service
screenwriting staffing [and] utopia that helps screenwriters
sell the material. And the offshoot of that is that he’s talking
with producers were looking for material so he’s not only
helping other screenwriters, he’s helping himself as a
And to some degree I’ve done the same thing with
sellingyourscreenplay.com. I’ve gotten to know several producers
through my site too and have started to build relationships with
them. So the point is being a screenwriter isn’t just about
writing. You’ve got to be out there trying all sorts of things
to get your career moving. I’ve actually thought about this a
good bit lately. I’ve been trying to come up with some sort of
service that independent producers would find valuable.
If I could create a podcast or a blog or some sort of all iPhone app
that helped independent producers, I’d be on the front lines
with them, meeting them, networking with them, and hopefully
pitching my screenplays. So far I just haven’t quite figured it
out what that high-quality content would be to attract a
producers but I’m thinking about it. If anyone has any ideas,
let me know, or better yet if you have a great idea like this,
take action and get it rolling. So that’s the episode. I hope
you found interesting. As always, thank you for listening.