Ashley: Welcome to the “Selling Your Screenplay” podcast. I’m Ashley Scott
Meyers, screenwriter and blogger over at sellingyourscreenplay.com. In this
episode’s main segment, I’m going to be interviewing producer and
screenwriter Richard Botto. He’s also an entrepreneur and the CEO of Stage
32, which is an online community for all creative types. He’s got some real
inspiring things to say, as well as some real nuts and bolts information
about how to find producers looking for material. So, stay tuned for that.
If you find this episode valuable, please help me out by giving me a review
in iTunes or if you’re watching this on YouTube, please give it a “Like”
and leave a comment. I want to 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
I got a bunch of nice iTunes reviews this week, so I’d like to thank
“Cthulhu,” “Brian Stump,” and “FMDXER” [SP]. Thanks to you three for giving
me some nice comments on iTunes. And over at YouTube, thanks to “Ginger
Shine” and “Captain Squint,” who left nice comments over there as well.
A couple of quick notes. Any websites or links that I mention in the
podcast can be found on the blog and 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. This is episode 12, so just look
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. You just put in your e-mail 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 Log Line and Query Letter: How to Find
Agents, Managers and Producers Who are Looking for Material.”
It really is everything you need to know to sell your screenplay. Just go
A few quick words about what I’m working on. I’m still pushing my various
options along. I heard from the director this past week on my sci-fi
thriller. He’s starting to do some storyboards for it, so I took that as a
My one location, sexy thriller screenplay, which I optioned in November, is
hanging on by a thread. It was just a 90-day option, so it’s basically
expired. But the producer still seems interested, so I’m not sending it out
to anyone else yet. The producer does have a director interested, but I’m
not sure how interested he really is. They keep asking me logic questions
about the story.
So, to me, that indicates that the director is not sold on the script yet.
She basically has to pay some more money to extend the option, so that’s
why she’s delaying. I suspect if this director backs out, she won’t renew
I really like the producer. So, I’m hoping that she does re-option it.
She’s got some good credit, so it’d be nice to work with her. We’ll see how
that one turns out, hopefully in the next week or so.
The other thing I mentioned in the last episode of the podcast is my dark
romantic comedy, which I just finished and I’m starting to send out now. I
did a blast to my agent’s and manager’s list and got a handful of
responses, but I haven’t heard anything back from any of those yet.
I’m going to do a blast to the producers, a producer’s blast to the script,
probably in the next week. So, we’ll see how that goes. As I mentioned last
time, too, I have uploaded it to The Black List site, but I didn’t buy a
review. So far, it got one download, which I think was from the
agent/manager blast. Because I put the link in that query letter and the
download came right after I did the blast.
I’m actually going to be interviewing Franklin Leonard who runs The Black
List site, so keep an eye out for that episode in the next couple of weeks.
If you have any questions you want to ask him, please e-mail them to me.
I find the site a bit confusing right now, so I have lots of questions
myself. Hopefully, I can figure it out because I do think, eventually, this
could be a great resource for screenwriters. He definitely has some really
top-notch agents and producers on the site. So, it’s a good way to really
get to sort of the top of the food chain in the screenwriting industry.
I got a call from a producer who bought my film noir script last year, I
mentioned that on the podcast. He’s looking for a low-budget family film, a
few locations that can be shot quickly and easily. I didn’t have anything
written, so I cooked up an idea and sent it to him.
He seemed to like it, so that might turn into something as well. It took a
day or two to really hone this idea and come up with a solid log line and
short synopsis. I actually have two young daughters, so while I haven’t
written any family films now; now that I have children, it’s something I
would like to do.
My four-year-old watches a ton of Disney movies and writing something that
she could actually watch would be a lot of fun. So, even if this producer
doesn’t end up paying me to write this idea, I think I’ll probably try and
write a family-friendly script as my spec.
I had a meet and greet with a producer a couple of weeks ago, too. He read
my one-location sexy thriller screenplay and liked it enough to bring me
and talk with me.
One of the things he said that his company was looking for was easy to
shoot sci-fi scripts. He mentioned “Source Code” as a great example of the
film that they really wanted to find. If you haven’t seen it yet, you
should check it out.
He also said he had read the script and saw the film and felt like the
script was actually better than the film. So, I found the script and
uploaded it to the “Selling Your Screenplay” library. Hopefully, I’ll get a
chance to read it in the next couple of weeks. You can find it in the
“Selling Your Screenplay” library at sellingyourscreenplay.com/library.
One of the things he really liked about “Source Code” was the fact that
characters felt really well-developed. And he felt like a lot of the sci-fi
thrillers he reads don’t have very well-developed characters.
So, this is a good tip. There’s a market for limited location, easy to
shoot sci-fi thrillers with well-developed characters.
Another couple of films he mentioned as good examples were a film called
“Primer,” which I haven’t seen yet and a film called “Time Crimes,” which
is a Spanish film. Check those out if you’re looking for an interesting
film to watch.
I just watched “Time Crimes” and thought it was really excellent. It’s a
really gripping, interesting, it could be done on a really low budget. It’s
a very simple story, very few locations. There’s only, really, three, four
actors in the whole thing. So, it’s a really excellent example of making
the most out of some really simple locations and a small cast, so check
that out if you can.
So, now, let’s get into the main segment. As I mentioned at the top of the
show, Richard Botto is a producer, writer, entrepreneur and CEO of Stage
32. Here is the interview.
Thank you, Richard, for coming on the “Selling Your Screenplay” podcast.
It’s great to have you here.
Richard: Great to be here, Ashley. Always great to talk to you.
Ashley: So, maybe you can just give us a little bit of a background on
Stage 32, in case some of our listeners haven’t heard about it. Just how
did it get started and what it offers to people today?
Richard: Sure. Stage 32 was kind of bred out of a necessity or a need that
I recognized back in, probably around 2010, 2011. And it kind of stemmed
from my own needs as a creator. And I guess I could say, needs and
challenges as a creator, as a screenwriter, producer and an actor.
You know, one of the things that I recognized is that the networking aspect
of the business, in my opinion, as it related to online, was lacking. You
didn’t have many social media sites that really catered well to a creator’s
LinkedIn, to me, is more of a white-collar kind of a site as far as who
it’s beneficial for, I guess I could say. Facebook, friends and family.
Ashley: I’m always hesitant on Facebook. You know, I have had people
contact me and try and friend me and stuff. And I’m like “Does this person
really want to see pictures of my kids” as a professional contact?
Richard: And that’s the thing. The very little time I spent on Facebook,
when I would speak to colleagues in the business, it would inevitably turn
from business to pictures of their kids and their cats and their dogs. It
wasn’t very productive as far as the business end was concerned. Building
personal relationships? Sure, but definitely not for furthering your career
or making the contacts necessary to get your career to the next level.
So, I felt like there was a void there. And I’ve always also been a big fan
and a big proponent of continuing education. That you never stop learning
and you never perfect your craft, you just continue to hone it.
So, my goal, very early on, was to create a network where it would have the
social media aspect of it and be a social media site for film, television,
theater, creators, no matter level you’re at. No matter how much you’ve
So, people all over the world can connect to make the world a little bit
smaller, people are connected 24/7/365. But then, also, to bring an
educational aspect into this site and to offer classes. It’s easier for
people who live in L.A. and New York and if you wanted to find acting
classes and really good ones.
Maybe not so much for people or the people around the world or to find a
writing group. To find that support necessary to further your education as
well. So, I wanted to have that aspect as part of the site and make it more
than just a social media site and make it an educational hub as well. And
we have to wait until we built up a community to bring that aspect in. But
now, we’re starting to bring classes and labs and things of that nature
into this site.
That’s really where it was bred from and that was the, sort of impetus
behind it. And then, the idea of course, like I just said, was to keep
people connected and then get them educated and offer opportunity. I guess
the three key points were connection, opportunity and the ability to make
the connections that would keep people in the game. [inaudible at 00:10:35]
keep people in the game.
Ashley: So, maybe you can go through, sort of, how you see people using
this site and maybe some real specifics. Like how can somebody get on there
and what they should do. I’m sure there are some certain things that are
like etiquette, don’t just start spamming people with requests to read your
Just give us sort of an overview of how a screenwriter, even an actor or a
producer or a director can get on there and use the site effectively?
Richard: Sure. And I’m glad you mentioned the spam and all that. The whole
idea was to create an environment that was overwhelmingly positive and that
was sort of gift for a [inaudible at 00:11:09] environment.
And I’m really proud to say, it’s one of the things I’m most proud of about
the site, is that that is the environment, it’s overwhelmingly positive.
We’ve had to kick very few people off or warn very few people for spamming
and for, you know, abusing the sort of the privilege of being able to
communicate with people all over the world.
To step back, it is a free site. It’s very easy to sign up. There’s no
membership fees. You just create a profile. You could upload your
screenplays, your log lines, your synopses. Or if you’re an actor, your
reels or a director, your reel.
And then, it’s all about getting out there. I think the biggest mistake
that all of us make as creators is that we spend so much time honing our
craft and so little time getting our talents out there and it’s especially
true of screenwriters.
Screenwriters have the tendency, of course, to write a great screenplay, to
push it and nudge it along a little bit. And if they’re not getting the
response they want, really, then they go back and they write another one.
That’s a huge mistake because if you feel like you have a good product, you
really need to get it out there. But for a lot of screenwriters, the
problem is, of course, “Who do I connect with? Who do I network with?”
Well, on this site, there are managers, there are agents. There are
[inaudible at 00:12:31] other writers. And what screenwriters on the site
have done is they create writing groups within the site. They share log
lines, they share pages. They share entire scripts and they help critique
one another, they help one another.
And then, they go out and they network. They put their log lines and their
synopses and the screenplays themselves onto their profile page. And they
go out and promote that.
So, within the site, we have the Stage 32 Lounge and of course, there’s a
screenwriting section for that. It’s actually one of our most popular
sections of the site and one that has the most activity.
We have about 50,000 screenwriters on the site right now. We also have
novelists who are looking to either adapt their novel or finding somebody
to adapt their novel. We have a ton of writers on the site and they’re
incredibly creative, remarkably active and as selfless as they come. It’s
just an incredibly welcoming and supportive screenwriting community on the
And I’m particularly proud of that as a screenwriter. Because I did feel
like that was lacking on [inaudible at 00:13:44]. There are some
screenwriting boards out there and some other forums out there, but I find
that they really skew to the negative a lot of the time. Things get out of
control, there’s a lot of bitterness and anger and stuff that comes into
these forums that I just don’t feel is conducive to keeping people
positive. And keeping people in a mindset that this is an achievable thing
that that they’re trying to do.
As creators, we hear “No” all the time. That’s hard enough, that’s enough
of a struggle. It knocks a lot of people out of the game. But it’s much
worse if you’re involved in a community or an environment where there’s so
Ashley: Let’s go back to the Lounge just for a second and sort of explain
what that is. Is it basically like a Twitter feed where anybody can write a
post and then they somehow flag it as being in the Lounge? Do you go to the
Lounge and write a post? Again, what’s the etiquette of that? How do you
get involved with something like that?
I haven’t used it, so I’m not sure exactly what it is or what it even looks
like or how to physically use it. But then, I’d also like to hear just some
sort of guidelines.
Richard: It’s more forums than I would say a Twitter feed. There are a
million topics on there, you can go in. And again, it’s sort of as far as
the environment is concerned and the etiquette is concerned, what I say is
that a “give first, take second” sort of environment and mentality we try
So, what we ask people to do is if they sign up, it’s fine to go into the
lounge and say “Hey, I’m looking for a manager and an agent and here’s what
I have.” That’s fine, solicit feedback and see what comes back to you.
But we also ask people to go into the lounge and to look at the topics,
look at what people have posted and contribute. Because let’s face it, most
writers have something to contribute. You look at people that will go in
and say “Hey, here’s my log line. I’m having a problem with it. What do you
think?” And you’ll get 60 responses. People coming and saying “You should
try this” or “What are you doing in this” and “Maybe you’re missing this.”
It goes on all the time. It encompasses all things screenwriting. So, the
etiquette is just, again, not to be repetitive and I think it should be
this way whether you’re online or offline, is to be a giver first and a
But you’ve got to be active. Here’s the thing, you get a lot of people that
come onto these sites and they stand in the shadows. And all they do is
read these posts and they don’t really participate and it’s a mistake; it
really is. It’s a huge mistake.
Because first of all, you’re not being visible and if you’re not visible,
opportunity is not going to come to you. Second of all, you can’t be afraid
to ask questions. And that’s what the lounge is all about, is creating this
inviting environment where there are no stupid questions. We’re all here to
help one another and we’re here to work together, to help each other
realize our dreams.
And that’s the environment of the lounge. But if you’re not active in it,
you’re not going to get anything out of it.
Ashley: Sure. So, as far as approaching an agent or a producer on the site.
I mean, if an agent or a producer has signed up for your site, what are
they actually looking for? It stands to reason that they’re looking to meet
I mean, if they’re a literary agent and they joined Stage 32, they’re
looking for writers. So, how do you approach them? What would be a good way
to connect with them?
Richard: Well, throughout the site, you can search by profession. What a
lot of writers will do is that they’ll search by producers sometimes in
their area, sometimes out of their area. Because really, in a lot of ways,
it doesn’t matter if the producer is in your area. And they’ll look through
There’s also a “Find Work” section on the site will producers will list
their needs if they’re looking for a specific screenplay or something in a
specific genre; they’ll post that. So, that’s another way to find them.
The producers also have their own lounge area, where they’ll post what
they’re looking for. It’s all–
Ashley: Are screenwriters allowed to go into the producers lounge and post
Richard: Yeah, you can go anywhere. And you can subscribe to any lounge
category as well. And what I mean by that is if you subscribe to it,
anytime there’s a new post in that lounge, you’ll get an e-mail on it. If
you subscribe, you can also subscribe to an individual topic. So, if you’re
not necessarily participating in that topic but you’re following it, you’ll
get an update every time that somebody makes a new post in that thread.
So, there’s a million ways to connect with producers, connect with
managers, connect with agents. And the other thing that can’t be undersold
here, screenwriters, in general, you know this as well as anyone, Ashley. A
lot of the success, sometimes, that a screenwriter will realize is working
with other screenwriters…if I’m working with you. I’m kind of getting all
over the place here, but let me put it this way.
I’m working with you, Ashley. You know some people in the industry, I know
some people in the industry. You’re reading my script, you’re helping me
along with my stuff, I’m helping you with all of your stuff. You have your
contacts, I have my contacts.
If I feel like your script fits something that I know a manager is looking
for, obviously, I could pass that along. That’s part of the networking
process and that happens all the time in this business. It’s the contacts
that you make sometimes within your own writing group, that lead to the
passing along of a script to a manager or producer that has a need.
That happens all the time on the site as well. So, you can’t underestimate
that aspect. A lot of people come into this site and they have the blinders
on. They come in and they say “Well, I’ve got a script. Let me go find a
manager or a producer” and they kind of go at it full-throttle that way.
And it’s not the greatest approach. What happens inside this site and I’ve
heard this many times, especially from managers. Because sometimes,
managers in this business, literary managers in Hollywood and in New York
are inside Stage 32. They have a profile. But they’ll list themselves as
producers as opposed to managers, because they don’t want to get bombarded.
But then what they’ll do is they’ll go into the screenwriting lounge and
look at who’s posting what. Look who’s being active and who seems to have
smarts about the business. People that are helping other people.
And then, they’ll go and look at their profile and they’ll look at their
log lines and they’ll look at what they have posted. And then, they’ll
contact them and say “Hey, I want to read that script.”
So, that’s sort of a reverse-engineering kind of thing of how it works, in
a way. Where the manager or the producer that pursues the screenwriter of
the site. So, it’s another reason why I always say “Be visible, be active.”
Because you just never know when somebody is going to be looking at your
profile or looking at what you’re saying or being impressed by what you’re
saying, to look further into what you’re doing.
Ashley: Sure. I want to ask one question and merely playing Devil’s
Advocate here because it’s not something that I worry about, but I know I
get a lot of e-mails on this topic, so I’ll just throw it out to you. Are a
lot of writers worried about uploading a log line or synopsis because
they’re afraid someone’s going to steal their idea? And again, I want to
emphasize that every log line I have is publicly available on
AshleyMeyers.com, so I’m not the least bit worried about anybody stealing
But how do you deal with that? Is there a way of tracking who is actually
seeing your log line or downloaded your script or downloaded your synopsis?
Or can you block certain people or segments?
Richard: Let me answer the second part first. Unlike LinkedIn, where it’s
who looked at your profile, we don’t have that feature in the site. And the
reason we don’t have that feature is, my feeling is that it’s a privacy
thing. I want everybody to feel secure in that sort of privacy aspect of
And I think it’s important. As far as who’s downloading it or who’s looking
at and putting up, worrying about who’s looking at it or who’s downloading
it or whatever. Again, it’s the whole argument that’s gone on since the
beginning of time. “I’m worried about somebody stealing my ideas,” you have
to register your work. That’s the bottom line. You have to register your
work with the WGA West and the Library of Congress. Double up, protect
yourself, it’s worth the investment. It costs under $100 to do both.
And at that point, you’ve got to get your work out there. I’ve written
screenplays where I’ve gotten sometimes, even if just a query lasts 30 to
40 to 50 to 60 requests. And I can’t be worried about who’s reading it. I
can’t be worried about that maybe this is a small production company and
who are they passing it on to? Where else it is going?
You’ve got [inaudible at 00:22:57] to get your work out there. The idea is
to get it seen. But you have to protect it, you know?
I went to the Austin Film Festival a couple of years ago and I was sitting
in a session with Lawrence Kasdan, of course, is the famous director writer
of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Body Heat” and
And this question gets asked every time you go down to Austin and you go to
one of these screenwriting festivals, this question gets asked almost every
single session. “How do I know that my work is not going to get stolen?”
And Lawrence sat there and said and I’m quoting this, “I can’t believe
you’re asking me this fucking question. If you’re asking me this question,
you know what? Your work isn’t good enough. Because you don’t even know
enough to register it and to protect it. How do you register and protect
it?” And the girl said “I don’t know.”
He said “Well, then you’re a fool.” And he didn’t mean to be mean, but he
was making a point. We write to get [inaudible at 00:24:03]. They get their
work sold or optioned or produced, whatever the heck it is, but you’ve got
to get it out there.
Ashley: I’m totally on board with that.
Richard: Yeah. You have to get your log lines up there. You have to put
your scripts up there if you want. If you’re that worried about it, put
your log line and your synopsis up there. If you don’t want to put the
whole script, then wait for somebody to come along and request it. And then
do your due diligence on who’s requesting it.
That’s fine as well, but I even think that’s overkill. Register your work
and get the damn thing out there.
Ashley: I totally agree. So, are there some specific, sort of, success
stories that you can point to on Stage 32?
Richard: Yeah. We’ve had a ton and they come in by the day. Just stick with
sort of the screenwriting ones. Very recently, we had two, one that’s just
fantastic. I’ll get to that one in a second, but we just had one this week.
A writer in Ireland who has been writing for a really long time had a
couple of shorts produced but nothing major. And was ready to give up the
ghost; he’s been writing for, I believe, 15, 17 years. And [inaudible at
00:25:23] at the time to write any longer because he had to put food on the
table and his job was taking up so much of his time, basically.
And he felt like he had given it a shot and was at the end of it now. And
he saw a post from a producer in New York who was looking for dramas, of
all things, because nobody wants to make dramas. That’s the [inaudible at
00:25:40] in Hollywood right now. Maybe the studios, but other people are
And he had a family drama, an Irish family drama that he sent along. And
this producer looked at, I believe, 40 scripts from Stage 32 members, he
got 40 submissions. And he picked this one. Put a money option down on it.
And he’s in the middle of putting the cast and crew together and funds
together and it’s almost already done.
This guy is going to be a paid writer. He’s being flown to New York next
Ashley: That’s fantastic.
Richard: I’ll give you another really quick one that I just think is
fascinating, it’s one that happened a few months ago. There was a writer in
Canada, let me back up. There was a producer and filmmaker in India and he
used to work in Hollywood and made quite a few films in Hollywood and he
was putting together a World War II drama. And he put a lot of money in.
He was having a problem writing the action scenes for this script, they
weren’t working. It was a pretty long, sort of epic film, about 150-page
script and he could not get the action scenes down. So, he went onto Stage
32, made a post about it, asked people to send some samples of their
This writer in Canada, again, the same type of thing. Ten-year vet, I guess
you can say not so much as a veteran as much as a ten-year struggling
writer. Somebody, again, who had flown close to the sun a couple of times
with a couple of scripts but didn’t get them made.
And this filmmaker in India, producer in India picked him to write the
battle scenes. Enjoyed the writing so much, he had him do a polish on the
rest of the script. Made him a co-writer on the script.
They hired an actor out of the UK who has [inaudible at 00:27:41] some
Disney films and has worked on some other Hollywood productions, as well as
some English productions. And they are now in production with this film,
they have already secured worldwide distribution on it.
And this was another writer that was kind of at the end of it, really and
down on it. Now, he’s going to be a co-writer on a feature film.
Ashley: That’s great, that’s fantastic. So, it sounds like both of those
were a producer going on Stage 32 and specifically requesting stuff. Is
there an easy way for screenwriters to get specifically to those script
Richard: Oh, yeah. These requests will either be posted in the Stage 32
Lounge or they’ll be posted in the “Find Work” section. Obviously it’s up
to, again, the person, the writer to be logging in every day, to be active
every day. To be checking those sections every day.
Because you never know when they’re going to be posted. There’s always new
projects being posted and there’s always people looking for material.
Everybody has a need on that site and a lot of times, it’s a producer or a
director looking for a script.
Ashley: I wonder if that wouldn’t be a tool that you guys could built out,
though, so that you could somehow get those script requests. I know I get a
ton of e-mails from people that are like “Hey, should I use ink tips?
Should I use these others?” And that’s the service that they provide.
And if you had a facility to somehow pull out just the specific script
requests and then send out e-mails, you could probably charge for that
service. But even if you weren’t going to charge, it would be something
that I think a lot of writers would find useful.
Richard: Yeah, I think it’s a slippery slope. I mean, I think when you
start talking about [inaudible at 00:29:32] and The Black List, things of
that nature, they provide a specific service. And there are, as been
discussed had [inaudible at 00:29:43], there are positives and negatives to
all of them.
I think that we do try to make it extremely easy with the “Find Work”
section. Like, for example, you can go in there and you can say, you can
actually search by screenwriting. So, in other words, every single post
regarding a need for a screenwriter will come up and you’ll be able to
search that way.
So, it is pretty easy to do. I understand where you’re coming from and it’s
definitely a bit of a different model and something to consider. But again,
I think you would agree that all of those services have their positives and
their negatives. I don’t know if any of them have been completely perfected
But, you know, it’s an ever-evolving thing. For example, we partnered up
with The Happy Writers and Joey Tuccio over there who does an amazing job
with writers. He’s been doing online PitchFests [SP] for a couple of years.
He’s helped hundreds of writers secure deals and find representation, get
options, get sold. You name it.
And everything that a screenwriter is hoping to do, he sort of facilitated
through his PitchFest services and we’ve joined forces with him to run
PitchFest. We’re on number 10, which is coming in a couple of weekends.
There will be top executives from UTA, WME, Disney, Fox, Paramount Insurge.
There’s a bunch of them.
There have been nine so far and over 20 of the writers…I’ve landed
representation, landed development meetings, secured options then sold.
It’s been incredible. I mean, for three months, to have three writers
basically take the next step, it’s been incredibly rewarding.
To me, that’s a service that is sort of greater than a peer service or sort
of a matchmaking service that may or may not happen. So, that’s why I think
with the “Find Work” section and being able to hook up producer with
screenwriter, director with screenwriter. Where there is a specific need
and they are actually requesting a script, like I said, in a specific genre
or in a specific budget range or whatever.
I think that is more of, the puzzle pieces are going to come together much
easier, quicker and cleaner that way than maybe through an [inaudible at
00:32:37] or a Black List where it’s being reviewed and it’s being looked
at in a different way, it’s a different model.
But then again, with these pitches, this is a direct Skype pitch face to
face with the executive. You’re able to sit there. To me, that’s much more
valuable and I also think there’s much more of an instant gratification
thing there. And I also think that if you’re going to get success off of
it, it’s going to come much more quickly. Because right there, on the spot,
the executive can then, after hearing your pitch, request your script.
So, that’s a service that I have much more of an interest in, if that makes
Ashley: Sure. That’s probably a good segue. You mentioned that you guys are
offering education in classes in some of the other services. Let’s talk a
bit about that. Are there any specific classes that are coming up that
writers could get in on?
Richard: Yes. We introduced, over the second half or maybe I should say the
fourth quarter of 2013, we started introducing many educational aspects for
this site. And one of them was our “Next Level” webinar series.
We’ve had a couple gear towards writers so far. We had one on finding a
manager and an agent with Lee Jessup, who is one of the top screenwriting
consultants out here in Hollywood, she’s fantastic. She is going to be
teaching a class for us coming up soon. We’re going to be announcing that
very shortly. It’ll be a four-week class that I just think will help
writers fully understand what they need to do to get noticed. To hook a
producer, hook a manager.
It’s going to cover every single aspect of that. Including query letters
and synopses which I think is incredibly under-served. A lot of writers and
I certainly do, have a very hard time writing a synopsis and a log line.
And it’s much easier to write the script than it is to boil it down to one
page or a few paragraphs.
But it’s also going to be a class on navigating the waters. “How do you get
noticed, how do you get a leg up” kind of a thing. Lee [inaudible at
00:34:54] for a couple of months, which I’ve read. It’s awesome, so she’s
great for that class.
We have a screenwriting lab that is going to be starting in the middle of
February. That one was by invite only. So far, we had to keep that one
small, we’re only keeping it to 20 people. But we’re going to introduce
more of those last. That one’s actually being taught by Garrick Dion, who
was one of the producers on “Drive” and is one of the top guns over at BOLD
Films. Fantastic teacher, just a great guy–
Ashley: How does a lab work? It’s one meeting a week for a few months? How
does something like that take place?
Richard: That particular lab is an eight-week lab and it meets once a week
for two hours. And Garrick constructs and gives feedback, it’s all done via
video. And there’s obviously Q&A sessions at the end of each class and a
review of the work every week and things of that nature.
So, it’s very hands-on, you get to communicate with Garrick throughout via
e-mail or other methods which he provides. And it’s just a very hands-on
class. And what’s great about it is you can be anywhere in the world to
take it. And we’re going to be introducing a lot more of those.
We also have a webinar in sitcom writing, which takes place, I believe,
next Wednesday or Thursday. And that’s one of the goals; we’re going to be
doing much more with [inaudible at 00:36:38] writers and we’ll have a
couple of announcements regarding that over the next couple of weeks. I
just can’t reveal them quite yet.
Ashley: Sure. Is there a specific URL on Stage 32, like Stage32.com/classes
that they can go and learn more about these?
Richard: Yes. If you go on Stage 32 and this going is to evolve as well
over the next few weeks and it’s also part of an announcement we’ll be
making. We have just a whole bunch of things in the pipeline.
But for the time being, if you go to Stage 32 and you go under “Learn” on
the top menu bar, you’ll see all the webinars and the other educational
items we offer. And then, the PitchFest information is under the top menu
bar under “Creative Fests.” And you can even go back and see all the ones
that we’ve run in the past and all the executives that we’ve had in. It’s
just a Murderer’s Row of talking.
Ashley: I’ll link to all of those in the show notes. We can put the links
so people can get to them. So, let’s take off the CEO cap for a minute and
just talk about your own writing. What you’ve done and the success you’ve
had and how you’ve had that success?
Richard: Sure. Well, I’ve been writing, I used to edit “Razor” Magazine, so
I was always involved in the writing world. I’ve always been a writer,
going all the way back to high school and beyond. And wanted to write
screenplays and made that transition after the Razor years.
During the Razor years, I was producing. And I was involved something
called “Another Happy Day” right after we had shut down Razor, which was
filmed at, like, a Sundance in 2011 and starred Demi Moore and Ellen Barkin
and Ellen Burstyn and Kate Bosworth, etc., etc. It was directed by Sam
During that period was when I started to write and was working with some of
the producers on that film and some people that I had met during that
process. And that, again, networking came into play. People that I had kind
of connected with who connected me to other people during that time.
I had written a few screenplays. And at one point, we were in pre-
production on the development on one and I had raised a couple of million
dollars to get a film called “Rockets Red Glare” off the ground. And we had
feelers out, actresses.
It was all going along very well and it was the type of thing where it was
a writer’s dream because not only was I staying on as a producer, but I had
fellow producers who were totally on the board with the project, with the
writing and didn’t want to change a thing.
So, it was just a dream. And we had the whole project together. And one
producer, for lack of better way of putting it, started playing “Whose
stick is bigger” with another producer and the entire thing fell apart.
And it was a tough lesson. And it was one of those things that happens in
this business and it happens all the time. I stole this, sort of, motto or
creed or whatever you want to call it, from my cousin who worked in the
music business 30 years, that it’s nothing until it’s something.
I kind of take that to heart and I think all creators should. Because
again, it’s very tough to pull a movie together.
Ashley: So, your movie that went to Sundance, how did you raise the money
for that? I always get questions from writers just wondering “Hey, I’ve
written a script. I want to try and produce it myself. How should I go
about raising the money?” Do you have any tips for people who want to raise
money to shoot their script?
Richard: That particular one that went to Sundance, it wasn’t my film, it
was Mandalay Vision, it was a much bigger film. Mandalay Vision was
involved and Celine Rattray who was running Mandalay Vision at the time was
who I was working with closely.
If you look at that movie, you’ll see, as it is with the case of most
independent films these days, there’s a ton of producers and executive
producers on the film and we all had sort of a role in getting the money
in. Trying to find some of the last little bits of financing. But also,
piecing together the puzzles of where to shoot and how to get this thing
done in basically five weeks.
And you had stars of the caliber that I was talking about before working
for scale. And that’s pretty much what we had. We had all these actors and
actresses working for nothing. A very different kind of thing.
For “Rockets Red Glare” which was my film and which was going to be under
my production company banner along with the other producers. We, one of the
producers that was involved went to his own investors. I went to investors
that were involved with “Another Happy Day” and some other people that I
knew had interest in films.
I talked to other people I knew that had worked on other various films and
got contacts from them. Again, it was a big networking thing. I worked the
phones constantly and the e-mails constantly.
And we found people who bought in. We found people who believed in what we
were doing. And the intent with “Rockets Red Glare” was to take it to
Sundance. And we had to run it by the script guy, people who make the
decisions up there and who are involved in the decision making and they
were real bullish on the script as well.
So, it was the type of thing that the investors understood that we had not
only a game plan to get this done and to attract the type of talent that
could make this a high-profile film, especially for an independent,
especially for a drama and an independent film.
But that there was an endgame or a goal with this to get it into the
festivals and especially a high-end goal of getting it into Sundance. So,
we were able to get a lot of people behind that.
And if wasn’t for ego and hubris, it probably would have gotten done. But
that’s how we went about getting the money.
Ashley: And specifically, what does that mean? Were they sophisticated film
investors that you had networked with? Was it rich doctors who wanted to
get involved in the film industry? What kind of people?
Richard: It was a combination. Some of the people had been involved with
“Another Happy Day,” so it wasn’t their first rodeo. And quite a few of the
people that were involved in “Another Happy Day” have been involved in
other Mandalay films before, in other films before.
So, they were, I guess you could use the word “seasoned” a little bit as
far as how the whole process worked. There was no surprises or anything
like that. But then, we also had first-timers and we had people that just
wanted to get into the business and wanted to get a taste.
I think that the key to it all, I think the mistake that people make when
they’re trying to put their own film together, the biggest mistake they
make is they’re not realistic with the budget. They’re not savvy on the tax
incentives they can get.
They overshoot. And we were very realistic with this budget. We were at
$3.5 million for the budget. And at that time, we were talking about maybe
shooting it in Connecticut which had major tax incentives at the time. If
not, maybe in Michigan. There were only a couple, probably, external shots
that would have had to been shot in New York and that wouldn’t have cost a
hell of a lot [inaudible at 00:44:35] a huge chunk of the film.
And we had to make Michigan or Connecticut look like the suburbs of Queens
and we felt we could do that. And it’s a matter of just knowing what you
can do. What is the bare minimum? How do I get this down? What sacrifices
do I make? Even within the script itself.
If I need to get this done, I can’t be too precious about certain scenes.
If I have this gigantic fireworks show on the Hudson, which I had in the
script, I have to figure out, is there a way to film that cheap? Or do we
change the scene a little bit or do we change the location? You can’t be
precious about it.
And then, once you do all that, you need to have somebody that is really
wise and savvy on putting a budget together. And go in on the low end.
You have to put investors in a spot, especially the seasoned ones, because
they know better. Where they can look at this thing and say “Yeah, I see an
avenue-backed.” You either break even or profitability.
Ashley: So, let’s talk about some of your recent options and successes. I
know you’ve done a couple of blasts through my service, so I kind of wanted
to just maybe get your thoughts on that and how you thought that went?
Richard: Your service is fantastic.
Ashley: Thank you.
Richard: It’s terrific and I was happy to use it. Actually, speaking of
“Rockets,” I think that was the one that I had pushed through the service,
I think it was actually before all this came down and the response was
enormous. And did it again for a [inaudible at 00:46:22] called “Midnight”
which is sort of a dark and Gothic retelling of the Cinderella story. It’s
based on The Brothers Grimm version, which is much darker and more graphic.
And that actually led to a non-exclusive option. It was a no-money option,
so I don’t give away exclusives to no-money, so it was a non-exclusive
option. But a terrific response there. So, that was fantastic.
And then the other one that’s still in development right now is “The End
Game,” which I met my producer on that through Stage 32, which, again, if
that isn’t the biggest testimonial I can give, I don’t know what is.
She brought the deal to Millennium Entertainment, which is the distribution
arm of Millennium Films. We have a handshake deal there. Pending
attachments, we’re trying to work with casting director now and with some
people who are looking to put some development money into this thing to get
those attachments necessary to make the deal and get Millennium into
[inaudible at 00:47:30] to pre-sell the film. That happened all through
So, that’s fun and exciting as well. And yeah, it’s like everything else,
Ashley. As you know, your options really are as limited as you make them.
With the advent of the Internet and things like your service and being able
to network for free on a site like Stage 32, there’s no room for excuses.
There really isn’t.
There’s a million different ways to get your work out there and to brand
yourself, which is a mistake, I think, writers make. You’ve got to get out
there and brand yourself and be visible. So, yeah, I would recommend to
anybody who has a script that is polished and is ready to go and has a
clear log line. That you feel really confident about to look at Ashley’s
service because it’s perfect.
Ashley: Thank you. So, is there some place that people can contact you? Is
there a good way, you’re on Twitter or something? If people have any
questions or just want to network with you, is there some place they can
Richard: Yeah, absolutely. First of all, when you sign up to Stage 32,
you’ll my see my mug on your wall immediately. It’s the first post you see
and you’ll see me welcoming you to the community and telling you a little
bit about and giving you some helpful links to get started.
And of course, anybody can reach me through Stage 32 just by posting to me
or shooting me a message or whatever. On Facebook, where I hate to say, I’m
not a big proponent of Facebook, although for business, it’s a little
different. Which is Facebook/Stage32. And on Twitter, I run our Twitter
account. I also use it as my personal account. And that is @Stage32online.
And, yeah. I’m extremely accessible and very visible on the site. I do try
to respond to everybody. It’s tough with almost 250,000 on the site now.
But I do my best to get back to everybody and respond to everybody in a
timely manner and help out wherever I can always.
Ashley: It’s great. I’ll just pull back the curtain a little bit and tell a
quick story. You and I met, really, it’s just a great example, I think, of
networking. And I actually had a guest author on my blog and he was using
your service. And you must have a Google Alert when someone mentions Stage
32 or something.
And you had actually read a couple of my blog posts and then, we just
connected that way. So, that’s what I always preach to everybody. I mean,
you’re obviously, I would say, the best example of this. You’re a CEO,
you’ve started a company. And it’s not only helping other writers, but it’s
also helping your own writers. So, that’s just inspiring and great to do.
And to some degree, that’s what I’m hopefully doing with
sellingyourscreenplay.com, too. Is I’m getting out there and creating a
brand and a name for myself.
Richard: And you are. You’re being way too humble. Really, before I started
Stage 32 and I was just writing, you were one of the blogs, you were a go-
to destination to me. Every day, to go and read. Not only to read what you
were posting, but by the way, to go through the archives and look at some
of the posts you had made about query letter and synopses and all that.
The variety and the wealth of information was incredibly helpful to me
Ashley: Thank you for that.
Richard: And you just do an incredible job. And again, it just illustrates
again…I think so many people feel like the industry right now, that it’s
harder than ever, things are worse than ever. Every generation says that.
You can go back and read things, even. Go Google some screenwriting
articles from the ’80s and you’ll see people talking about it.
And this was the late ’80s when you started getting these million-dollar
scripts. $2 million and $4 million and everything like that, but people
felt like it was so hard to break in.
To me, there are so many avenues now. You have so many ways to get your
work out there. Distribution, the proliferation of distribution channels
and new networks. You name it. Every day, it seems like something else is
You’ve got Amazon going into original programming, Netflix, it’s just going
to continue and continue.
There are a million opportunities out there. But even more than that, we’re
at such an advantage over the screenwriting generation maybe that came
before. Is that the amount of information that’s out there on the Internet,
the amount of good people like yourself who are taking the time to educate
and to inform and to constantly be updating and provide materials for
writers, is just enormous.
And if you’re making excuses. I had said to somebody this morning, I
actually was having this conversation. I go “Look, while you’re making
excuses, other people are going out and getting it done.” And that’s the
The people that are really working it and working it hard. We had a
screenwriter that actually posted on [inaudible at 00:52:45] the other day.
He got a film made with Open Road Productions. He had been working forever.
He just wrote an article for “Script Magazine,” too. Very well done.
And his whole point was that “As bad as it got for me, as many times that I
got beaten down or I thought that something good was going to happen or
somebody told me they were interested and then disappeared on me or then
came back and said ‘Nah, I’m not really interested.'” He goes “As down as I
got, I never stopped working. And that’s the key, you can’t stop. You’ve
got to do it every day, you’ve got to be out there every day.
Even if you don’t feel like writing that day. I’m not one of these people
that has to say “All right, well force out five pages.” You’re not writing
that day? Go online and educate yourself a little bit more about what’s
going on the business, what’s selling. Go read a blog. Go do something.
But keep your mind stimulated and keep moving forward. When you lay your
head down on the pillow that night, say to yourself “I accomplished
something today” even if it’s just gaining a little bit more knowledge.
Ashley: Well said. On that point, we’ll end. But I couldn’t agree more.
That’s what it’s all about. Is just getting out there. Good things will
happen to people who are just out there doing stuff and getting better and
Ashley: Richard, I really appreciate it. You’ve been very generous with
your time. Thank you for coming on. It’s just been great. We’ve covered a
lot of ground. So, hopefully, people will find this informative.
Richard: I appreciate it, Ashley. Keep doing what you’re doing. I love
everything that you do and this was a real pleasure and an honor for me.
Ashley: Thank you.
Just a quick plug for an upcoming class that I’m running through Selling
Your Screenplay. I’m bringing Alan Katz, who I interviewed in episode 6 of
the podcast, to teach a class on pitching.
Every screenwriter needs to know how to pitch, even if you’re not doing
formal pitching to producers. Understanding how to pitch is an essential
skill to have. Every meeting you ever have with a producer on some level is
a pitch. Maybe it’s you pitching your next product.
Maybe you meet someone at a coffee shop and they ask you what you’re asking
on. You’ll need to be able to pitch. There are also a lot of these
PitchFests out there that you can pay to go to, so this can help with that,
Alan is an experienced writer who has sold many pitches, both on TV and the
feature world. He was a producer and writer on the HBO series “Tales From
the Crypt,” among many other projects. To learn more, go to
In today’s “Writing Words” section, I just wanted to build on something
that Richard talked about. One of the things he mentioned is just how much
opportunity really exists out there today. There are so many ways of
marketing your material, it can seem a bit overwhelming.
But one of the keys to marketing is trying a lot of different stuff and
seeing what works for you. So, go out there and try Stage 32, try Twitter,
try Facebook. Try all these various online services like my Blast service
and InkTip and see what works for you. And then, if you see some success
with one method, really push hard in that direction.
That’s basically what you’re seeing me do. I’ve had success with cold query
letters, so I keep repeating that process over and over again. But I’m
always trying new stuff, too.
Different people will find success with different methods. It just depends
on your personality, your skill set and your talents. There is no one way
that will work for everyone.
I heard someone use this compass vs. map metaphor the other day, which I
think really is a good way to look at the advice that I and other
screenwriting teachers give. Nothing that I or anyone else says should be
looked at as a map to success.
As I said, there is no such thing as one single map that’s just going to
work for everyone. It’s not a map. But it can serve as a compass pointing
you in the right direction. So, hopefully, that’s how you’re taking this
advice. And hopefully, today, me and Richard have given you at least a
little bit of wisdom that can keep you going in the right direction.
Thanks for listening. That’s our show.