This is a transcript of the podcast: SYS Podcast Episode 019: An Interview With ScreenCraft.org co-founder John Rhodes about Drive, The Grey, and Ender’s Game.
Welcome to episode 19 of the ‘sellingyourscrenplay’ podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Myers, screenwriter and blogger over at sellingyourscreenplay.com.
In this episode’s main segment I interview one of screencraft.org’s founders John Rhodes. John worked in development for many years and we discuss some of the films he worked on during his career including: ‘Drive’, ‘The Grey’ and ‘Enders Game’. There are some great lessons to learn from hearing how these projects were developed; so stay tuned for that.
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A quick few words about what I’m working on. As I mentioned over the last few episodes, I did a blast for my recently completed limited location horror thriller screenplay. And so now I’m fielding the replies. I’ve had a few people like the script but so far no one is actually in a position to option it and produce the film. But sometimes these things take months, so I’m still very hopeful. I mentioned this too on the podcast; I talked recently with a bunch of producers who are looking for limited location sci-fi thrillers. So I began to write a sci-fi thriller script. Again, I’m gonna keep it so it’s fairly simple, fairly contained so it’ll be easy to shoot. I’ve got it all outlined and I actually started writing pages for it in the last couple of days. So this seems to be something I’m hearing quite a bit from the producers. So I think there will be producers eager to take a look at this once I’m done.
So now, let’s get into the main segment. Today, I’m interviewing John Rhodes. He’s one of the founders of screencraft.org which runs a bunch of screenwriting competitions and also offers development services to screenwriters.
John worked in development in several production companies and we talk about some of the projects he worked on including ‘Drive’, ‘The Grey’ and ‘Ender’s Game’.
Here’s the interview;
Ashley: Welcome John to the ‘sellingyourscreen’ podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show.
John: Great. Thank you for having me Ashley.
Ashley: So, to start out, I wonder if you could give us a quick overview of your career in the entertainment industry?Just how you got started and how you ended up where you are today.
John: Well, so I started out as many do, as an unpaid intern. I started as an intern in a company called ‘OddLot Entertainment’ and that’s a private production company and financier. And as an intern I read a screenplay there called ‘Drive’ and got to see that film from scripts to screen, through the development process and production process which was a great learning experience, a kind of introduction for me into the entertainment industry. We went out to do a film called ‘Ender’s game’ which is an adaption of the same fiction novel.
And then I went over to be assistant to the CEO of a film distributor, ‘Open Road Films’ which is a co-venture of AMC and Rego, the two largest theatre chains in the country. And that was a really great experience. I feel grateful for everything that I learned there. I was also acquisition coordinator helping choose films to distribute to a wide audience in theaters across the country.
And seeing that side of the business was very eye opening ‘cause that is really where the rubbers meet the road, where tickets are sold for the seats and films reach the audience. That part of the business gave me a real insight into what kind of film, like why a film gets made; really understanding the ecomic realities of what goes into green lighting a film.
I then worked for Media Talent Group which is a management company. Our clients were Angelina Jolie, Nicole Kidman, Billy Bob Thorton, Amber Heard and I was there for a little less than a year before I left to start my own screenplay developing consulting site screencraft.org.
So that’s my art so far in this town. I’ve been here for just under five years. It’s been a really great ride so far.
Ashley: Perfect. So I think that sums up. I want to begin, to a couple of actual films that you helped to develop. Let’s start with ‘Drive’ since you’ve mentioned that one. Maybe walk us through the very early process. I think there might be a lot of screenwriters wondering: ‘Hey, I’ve got a script. How can I get a script to a company that will develop it? Get talent attached, get director attached? You know, how did you discover that script? Just walk us through the process, really as far back as you can take us in that process.
John: OK. So I was an intern when that came through and that was I guess a pretty good place to start because a lot of these screenplays, they are discovered, ‘Drive’ is written by Hossein Amini; he’s a producer-screenwriter with some real credits under his belt and some Hollywood credibility. He has an agent and a manager and he adapted ‘Drive’ which was a novella, a short novel. And that screenplay; it was great. I mean that’s really where it starts. It was a really good screenplay, there are few elements here that point to, I think, some trends in Hollywood now.
One, it was based on publish novel. And executives of ‘Green light’ films are much more confident to ‘Green light’ something that is much more based on intellectual property these days. You know, we see that trend all over the place now – adaptation and sequels. So that was one element.
But when the project came together…;
Ashley: I wonder if I could just cut in there. So did he adapted, did he take the initiative and find, read the book, option it from the original author and then write it on spec? Or did he find or the producer hired him to write that original, original script based on the novel? And then, in that case, the producer would probably option the source material?
John: Yeah, my guess is the latter, but I really don’t know. That’s a great question and I want to dig into that actually. My guess is probably the latter. Especially, a writer like Hossein, who has a few major credits under his belt, he’s probably not going out and optioning projects on his own and writing them on spec. I have a feeling, that his agent or manager connected him to a producer that wanted to adapt that novel.
Ashley: Point that I would like to make about that is how popular was the novel of ‘Drive’? I get a lot of screenwriters e-mailing me, saying : ‘ I’ve just self-published my novel and I know that Hollywood wants to adapt stuff and …; you know, a self-published novel that has no real success behind it, is not necessarily any giving you a leg up on something.’
So I have not heard about the novel drive, not heard about the novel ‘Drive’ before the movie came out. I’m not really, I don’t read a lot of fiction novels, so perhaps I would heard about it. So how successful was the novel ‘Drive’?
John: Yeah, good question. It wasn’t really a blockbuster. I mean, it’s a novella, it’s like a tiny; I think it’s like 60-70 page book and it didn’t have a big fan base. But James Sallis, the writer, does have a big fan base. He is a very established author with quite a wide body of work. And I think, ultimately yes, producers want to find something that has a little bit of a built audience or really …; even if it’s a small audience, a passionate audience that loves the material. That, you know, can only help you.
It’s kind like a double sword. I get that question a lot to. Writers ask me: ‘Should I self –publish? My story is a novel and then adapted it to a screenplay ‘cause that’s something people are buying these days. That can sometimes hurt you more than it can help because without, you know, a publisher behind you..; and unless it gains you a real audience and readership sometimes it’ll make the project look smaller if you just have a published book with 3 Amazon reviews, something like that. That won’t necessarily help you.
Ashley: So, let’s jump back into that. So you guys, as a production company, or I should say – he’s got the script written. How does he get into your production company?
John: So yeah, the writer, it was actually , Marc Platt, over at the universal producing deal had the project and Ryan Gosling loved it. So Ryan Gosling was attached from get go when Marc Platt, the producer, had it. And Mark asked Ryan: ‘Who do you want to direct it’? And Ryan shows Nick Refn, the Danish director. So that was like a package deal that came to us. It came to us through WME, William Morris agency, and that came and it also came…; it actually came through relationships with both films, so that’s an interesting trend also in the industry now. You’ll see these little alliances of production companies and foreign sales companies that work together and kind of form a mini-eco studio system that can have the equity, foreign pre-sales, and then ally themselves with a studio producer.
So that’s really how that came to be. It came from one of the packaging agents at WME. They gave it to me as an intern to cover it, that’s what happens a lot in these production companies, you know – they’ll have the assistants or interns reading all this material, dozens of scripts per week, often times packaged with talent attached and if it gets a favorite coverage it kind of gets a bump on the ladder to the creative executive and then to director of development and then to the EVP of development whose job it is to essentially green light this films and bring it to the financier and say : ‘ I want to really want to champion this as a project that I will be successful for us.
Ashley: So when, as an intern, you’re reading this script, how much of, sort of, these additional elements are you aware of? Like in this case, Ryan Gosling was attached, you know, the director, you also mentioned that there is some international sales, sort of, built into this production company; How much of that are you aware of as intern reading this script, as sort of first one reading the script? How much, does that color, sort of your decision?
John: A lot, a lot. I mean, ultimately, a screenplay need to be great on its own, but the biggest thing I learned on ‘Drive’ is how much of directors vision brings up to the script and how much it transforms with on the page and to a real cinematic experience. And that’s huge because in the hand of any director ‘Drive’ would have been a very different film. So, yeah, all those elements are part of the package, you have the script and usually a printed out e-mail with a brief summary of the script’s attachments. So in this case, it was Nick Refn, the director, Marc Platt-the producer, and Ryan Gosling, the star; and that was it.
And so we, as a financier, in a foreign sales company, we’re evaluating the market potential and also, the creative, you know, quality of the project.
So, I read it. I knew Ryan Gosling’s body of work, I didn’t really know Nick Refn, so I watched Refn’s ‘Bronson’ that night, because I really wanted to impress my boss, and show him that I was really taking this consideration seriously, doing my diligence and research and I was really blown away with Nick Refn’s work. He did this film called ‘Bronson’ which is just so visceral and powerful, also poetic and visually stunning and great soundtrack. I was really.., I saw that he was a director with a real couture vision and I thought: ‘Wao! He could take a fairly commercial screenplay like ‘Drive’ which has a just great opening sequence; if you..; even if you read it it’s so engaging: a driver awaiting a police and listening to a basketball game and timing it, so when the game gets out he can blend in the crowd…; that happens all in the first 10 pages and I was hooked when I was reading it.
So, yeah, yeah. You consider all those elements and the more you know, I think, better judgment you can make.
Ashley: I wonder if there is, during your time at this, as intern reading this sort of first level of reader, did you come across project that had some really significant attachments but you read the script and you were like: ‘Oh my God. This is just absolutely, God awful. Was there that sort of thing or even just look warning – Gee, this is just not great, but has all this great attachments?
John: Absolutely, absolutely. And it’s tough, especially if it’s the director you really admire and love but you read the script and you’re just not impressed. It’s tough – yes, certainly. I mean some major scripts came through. Some we passed on which we wished we hadn’t and some we passed on and was glad we did. And you know, like friends and I read a script, it was called “Our idiot brother” starring, Paul Rudd was attached and I think it had some money attached to it and maybe some other stars. I think Rashida Jones was attached at that time. Anyway, I really liked it and I recommended that we do it, but I passed it off and my boss also didn’t like it passed on and glad we did, because it did really poorly at the Box Office. That’s just a small example and in my young career seeing a project that I really loved on the page but, movie alternately was not a commercial success. And who knows there are so many elements that go into a successful movie. From the screenplay, to the directing, to the acting, to the marketing which is incredibly important for selling tickets and the movie’s performance opening weekend, that takes its value over the whole life of the film in a huge way. That’s the one thing I learnt working in distribution.
Ashley: Ok, Let’s go on and talk about “The Great”. That was a film that you and I talked about over lunch a couple of weeks ago and I thought it was a film I have never heard of and at some point, it popped up and I actually just checked at least as of today, April 30th 2014. It is still available. It was not on my radar until I saw it and I thought it was a really good film and one as I said kind of below the radar. So, maybe walk us through that project.
John: Sure, Yeah, so in that project, I was working on acquisitions as a domestic film distributor and what distributors do is they buy finished films or films that are in production and they buy the exclusive rights to distribute those films over a given period. It is usually 10 or 20 years. Then there is different distribution windows, the actual release which is in theatres and lasts in theatres for like say 5-6 weeks, sometimes less and then it moves to the blue ray and DVD market and then you move into your premium cable and pay TV and then free TV and then subscription video on demand which is like networks. So, we came on board and acquired that. So, I wasn’t really a part of the development fore say. Although, I was in production when acquired and we did have a little bit of notes on the ending edited to change how it ends a little bit. The ending is a little different than it is in the script. I read the script to evaluate the movie as it was in production and we couldn’t screen it yet and it was a fantastic script, and Joe Carnahan, what a strong director and what a personality!! It was a pleasure getting to know him and seeing the whole process in production and seeing the daily footage and seeing how it came together in the edit.
But we evaluated that purely on commercial potential. Open road films price itself in seeing as great films, but their number one concern is to make money for their shareholders that are owned by 2 largest distributor chain in the country and they need to find movies that will make money alternately. So the whole deal with that was, figuring out what was the right price for us to pay for that movie. What was the right deal that we can negotiate, that would make the distributors some money and that all pins down to me alternately. Joe Carnahan is a great director, but he might not be at the level of a top director who could on his own sell a film.
Ashley: One thing you mentioned to me, as we talked about this film before was the actual meeting that Joe Carnahan had. I actually saw him speak when his first movie blurred his acting and came out, it was an IFPC screen independent film screen and he was actually there. And I remember, I watched the movie, I thought it was not a great movie, but then he came on and talked and like you, I was really impressed with him as a person and he is just a larger than life character and I often wonder, how much that impacts one career. Just being able to get in a room and, he is one of these guys who is full of energy and very personable and always has a ready remark and I wonder how much that has been able to do, sort of, as I said keep his career going as opposed to judging Joe’s acting talent.
John: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, this is a people business and the people who are good in a room and can sell their project with passion and vision, those are the people that get attention. There is no doubt that he is a larger than life character and he knows a lot of stories about him too and his brother is Michael Carnahan. So he comes from an entertainment family. They are both working in this business and his brother is the writer behind ‘World War Z, ‘State of play’ and ‘The Kingdom’. His sister actually, is a development executive, as well . So I got to meet the whole family, as that was in production.
Yes, but the big kick away that I got from ‘The Grey’ was, how important an A list star is to get a movie made because without Liam Neeson, the film would have been really hard to market. What is interesting is, If you haven’t seen the film, it is actually kind of slow, meditative, existential, man versus nature drama set in the artic wilderness. But, we marketed it, because we needed to sell tickets and have a meaningful opening week in box office. We marketed it as a very down the middle action movie with Liam Neeson punching walls and planes crashing and they selected all of the most high caliber action footage from the movie to pack into one trailer to really sell it as an action movie. But it’s not, it’s really not. It was intentionally, in a sense, it was intentionally mismarked to sell tickets. And in the video now, it’s found a different audience I think, maybe a slightly a higher bravo audience, who really find Joe’s artistic vision in it really appealing. But anyway, Liam Neeson was essential in getting that movie made, because he is a big star, especially after ‘Taken’ he has emerged as a kind of unlikely, aging action star. His face was on the poster and he was also able to sell that movie in forums. Selling forums means you sell the rights of the movie to be distributed in different countries and often times more in sales it really ends upon A list stars as well, because that’s what sells the movie.
Ashley: Sure, Let’s talk a bit about the ‘Ender’s Game’ that came out fairly recently and maybe walk us through your part of the process in that film.
John: Yeah. ‘Ender’s Game’ is a sci-fi adventure, I think, based on a Novel by Orson Scott Card which was published in the 80’s and since become a real favorite and have in some schools. I read it when I was in middle school and what a great story, about a young boy, who is a genius and the fate of the world is on his shoulders and he is trained as a military genius to lead this epic army of human beings against this alien threat. Its set in the far future, when we have inter planetary travel and that film was in development for a long time , there was multiple studios, Warner Bros and Parks I believe and it went through different iterations and proved really difficult to develop; One because of the very interior Journey of a young boy’s psychology. It has child actors too, which every producer shys away from child actors, because they are expensive one and you have less hours that you can work them and they have to have their parents with them and it is also harder to sell a movie with child actors because there are not many famous child actors, they all grow up very quickly before long.
So, we overcame all those difficulties and found a fantastic, creative visionary in Gavin Hood who is the writer and director. The screenplay was through probably 4 or 5 different writers. But we took in and started over. The screenplay was in turn around. When a script is in turnaround, it means that a studio has invested money in developing it, but, ultimately decided that they are not gonna produce it. But, they have a couple of hundred thousand dollars’ worth of money invested into different drafts of the screenplay and optioning, undermining into actual property and so to revert it to another studio to someone else to take over the project, they have to basically buy it out. So, we had to buy it out for ‘X’ hundred thousand dollars, because it had already a lot of investment into it.
So only way was to have Gavin Hood start it all. I was part of the writing process. I was collating notes from different drafts, I was scheduling the meetings, was assistant to the producer. I was sitting down with Gavin and putting together these visual presentations. He was taking to pitch to the investors and visual effects houses and it was a really cool process to work with someone of that caliber. Gavin was an interesting choice because his film ‘Tsotsi’ is Academy award winning foreign film and he is South African, was a very small drama about a boy. But then Gavin also went on to do ‘Wolverine’ which is a massive ten poll super hero movie from Fox. So maybe we saw in him having both the strengths. Being able to do a small drama with children and being able to do a ten poll big budget block buster. So , he really leveraged both those skills into ‘Ender’s Game’ and it’s a good film. It had a solid response. It has its critics and it has its fans. But ultimately, its Gavin Hood’s biggest independent film ever made, because it was truly independent and it had close to a hundred million dollar budget.
Ashley: Wow! So, at the beginning you talked about working for a distributor and kind of getting some idea about why scripts. Although, they get made, I wonder if you can give us some tips and I know that there are a lot of writers out there that are not in a position to get Liam Neeson attached to their screenplays. Obviously you can and that’s great for you. But, I wonder if there is some sort of more down to earth tips that you can give us from your perspective to writers who are, you know, maybe they have written a few scripts, maybe they have auctioned few things, maybe they have a general manager, they are definitely run short of their first career.
John: Yeah! Good question. I mean , getting A list attached to your screenplay and for a writer, who is in the middle of the business, is next to impossible. Ultimately though, the script needs to go through the proper channels and those channels are through an Agent , usually through a Manager first and then through an Agent and then out to talent. Often times talent won’t consider a screenplay or even read it, unless, there is a cash offer on the table. So, most screen writers can’t make a multimillion dollar cash offer themselves. So, they need to have the screenplay auctioned by a producer and producers, where do they get screen plays? From all different sources. But, mainly through Agents and Managers who are the ones developing and then pitching the material around town. There is thousands of screenplays, that get considered and passed on every week in this town and going through the right channels is really the best way to do it. There’s a pretty sophisticated machinery out here for processing creative material. And getting into those channels isn’t always easy but once in, it has a fair shot at being considered by the big players in town.
Ashley: For myself and you, because you worked in production companies, I had a couple of Agents, couple of Managers, but they’ve never been real good in getting my stuff out there and I ‘ve had a fair amount of success going directly to producers, basically skipping Agents, Managers. Having that said, I don’t typically get to the companies that have big, as you mentioned deals with universal or something like that or independent producers and those producers are more likely to be open to new writers than representation and stuff.
John: Yeah. And that’s an actually a good point. There are very different levels of productions in town. There aren’t small many projects. They aren’t looking for A lists in town and there are just made for TV movies and there’s made for home video movies. And so there is a whole level of different size, different scale productions. Often time people ask me ‘Hey, has my script a shot at having made’, and I always say, ‘look, there’s an audience for every level script out there’. There’s an audience for every single movie. Sometimes there’s an audience of one. You might be the only person that understands and likes your story. Probably not though. Probably there are likeminded people out there. The broader you get with your story, the wider appeal that it has, the bigger budget that I can get potentially command. So, the question isn’t ‘Can a movie get made’. The question is ‘At what scale can it get made’. And the economic dictates on what gets made. And often times, that’s just comparing it to other films. That’s exactly the reason why people are always asking ‘why is Hollywood making same movies over and over again’. Well, because, it’s a proven market and it’s a lower risk to make those movies and when you are putting millions of dollars, sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars into a movie, you better be damn sure to see most that money back and it’s a pretty serious decision.
Ashley: Yeah! That’s an excellent point. It is just a matter of figuring out what scale. Because in this stage you can just shoot your movie on your ipad for no dollars and your movie gets made. The question is how much persistence and how hard you want to work getting it made. Whether it makes money is perhaps is a different story but anything can be made in this day.
John: Exactly! And anything is getting made, which is why distributors are having a pretty intense role in the business now, so that they can sit back and basically screen all of the content being produced. And kind of making sure that the projects they believe have the most commercial potential and they are not taking much of the risk. I mean, they are putting up risks in terms of marketing dollars which is by the way, can be very expensive. Most movies spend sometimes more than their budget in marketing dollars. ‘The Grey’ was a roughly 20 million dollar film and we spent over 20 million dollar marketing it. Because that’s what it takes. You have go to get trailers in theatres, You have to get TV spots on major TV networks and buy billboards across the country . ‘The Grey’ opened, and I learned a lot about distribution strategy and one of the big strategies on releasing a film is picking a release date. That’s something I didn’t realize, that there’s actually a big difference in dates throughout the year of when people go to see movies. And traditionally January is seen as the dumping ground, when none of the Big movies come out in January because of some reason of really low attendance month in theatres. But, I think this is a testament to my Boss, Tom who is the CEO of Open Road films. He used to see distribution in Lion’s Gate and he really saw an opportunity to open a film in January, a film like ‘The Grey’ when there was really nothing else out there similar to it and it opened as the number one movie that weekend.
Ashley: So, let’s talk a little bit about what you are working on now, Screencraft, maybe you can sort of give us your elevator pitch. What it is, what kind of service is offered to the screen writers and really how best can screen writers use those services.
John: Yeah! I started Screencraft about a year and half ago with my business partner Cameron who was a Development Assistant at Lion’s Gate and he is now a freelance script reader for an Institute and several major Agencies and Production Companies in town. Actually he interned briefly and was a script reader for us at Open Road films few years ago. I just read his notes and I read a lot of coverage from all kinds of readers from interns to professional, script readers to other assistance even to executive screened notes , Cameron just came an showed us about anyone’s I read. So, I talked to him and said, ‘Look, we should get into a screenplay consulting and it’s a passion that both of us share and we have a lot connection in the industry and this we can do. So, we started screencraft.org and started offering development services for screen writers and we offer notes. We also have a screen writing contests. Our mission is to connect good screenplays with good producers and production companies that we know in town.
Ashley: So, tell us little bit about the contest. What different type of contests do you have and maybe some of the entry dates.
John: Sure, We have got 4 journo specific contest. And the reason we’ve gone journo specific is because, we saw a need for that. There is a lot of screen writing contests out there. Some of them reliable, some of them not. We heard a complaint that people would enter some of the major contests and wouldn’t feel like their scripts were getting fair evaluation. Because, maybe they were a raunchy comedy or maybe they were really edgy and dark horror films. Let’s face it, One of those, maybe journo specific screenplays isn’t gonna win exposure or blue cad. One of the top screen writing company auditions. So, we thought, let’s do a smaller journo specific contests, tailor the judges and the price packages to that journo and see if that can help you. So, we started with our Horror contest. We have a comedy contest and an action thriller contest and a family friendly contest. So that are our 4 journos that we chose. We chose them because we know that there are specific journo with specific production companies that are specializing in the journos and that may have demonstrated commercial potential and real kind of mixed audience is out there for all of those journos. Anyway, our horror contest is in second year. We have had fantastic success, getting some really specific, horror specific judges. Our Judges include Scott Henderson who is one of the top Agents at Paradigm Talent Agency and represents James Wan and Leigh Wannell. James Wan, ofcourse you know did ‘Saw’ and ‘Insidious’ and ‘The Conjuring’.
• We have Andrew Wilson, who is Clive Barker’s manager. We have Amotz Zachai, who is John Carpenter’s manager. We have, Jessica Hall who is the Senior Vice President at Blumhouse , the company behind Paranormal Activity, The Purge and Sinister and then we have Lucy Mukerjee who is the Vice President of Production at After Dark Films, which is one of the major horror production companies in town. We really have the top Hollywood representatives evaluating these screenplays. Similarly we have our comedy contests which is currently accepting entries .. open franchise. Now, … we have executives from Happy Madison who is Adam Sandler’s company, from Montecito Picture Company which is the company for I LOVE YOU MAN, UP IN THE AIR, OLD SCHOOL, NO STRINGS ATTACHED, We have Mark O’Connor, from Green Hat Films which did THE HANGOVER, PROJECT X and DUE DATE. We have Patton Oswalt’s manager, we have development executive from Funny or Die, we have the producer of Napoleon Dynamite, we have manager at Kaplan/Perrone and 3 Arts and staff writer at Nerdist Industries. So , we have a great kind of cross section of comedy industry and the top production company executives involved in that. So, that’s why we chose journo specific stuff, so that it eliminates journo bias and it also allows us to tailor the price Package specific to journo film.
Ashley: Perfect, So, one of the questions I get quite often from people emailing me is, ‘should I enter contests’ and I feel a lot of people have this idea that, they can win a contest, they career will be off to the moon and even if it is one of the most recorded contest, you can go through the rest of the winners from past years and some of them have made it, but some of them have definitely not made it. So, I just wonder, what if someone realistic expect to win your contest even read them on the other top year contest. What can they expect? How can that help their career? How can they use that to really want their forward progress in their career?
John: Well, Great question. I am a realist and I have to be very honest and this might burst some bubbles out there. But, the chances of you getting your script made into a film are very very low. The chances are very low. It’s one in hundreds of thousands. There are so many screenplays out here and it takes so much money to get a movie produced. At the end of the day, a screenplay is an invitation to collaborate. It’s a blue print for a director to put his vision on it. And there are so many creative minds involved for getting a film made. A, the chances of you seeing your movie produced into the movie you envisioned, is pretty much zero. It’s gonna transform and take on a new life under creative visions. Unless you are a director and you get a producer behind you, to give you full execution of your vision, like Henderson, one of these directors who really can execute your envision, Its gonna go and transform and become something probably different than you envisioned and that’s fine although your works.. is made it on to the screen. So, it’s a good question that what do contests do.
Contests are a way to get your screenplay in front of people who are industry professionals and who have the real decision making powers to get your script made. The chances of it actually getting made, very low. But, contests are really a way for you to as a writer to get exposure. There are a lot of success stories coming out of every single contest. There is a very small percentage of success stories in this industry and a lot of people climbing their way with scripts and it takes years sometimes. But that said, there are a lot of great success stories. There are writers who have been discovered through these top contest. Was discovered through script. There’s great success stories coming out of these as well. It’s our ambition to generate some very specific success stories through our journo contest and we’ve assembled what we believe to be top and most influential people in the journeys around this contest. So, we are a very young company and we have been here for less than 2 years and we anticipate some really exciting success stories. We have already had some small successes, writers we have discovered who have done representations and whose projects have been auctioned. But, we would live to see nothing more than some of our writers go on up to get their screenplays to the screen and to see some big stories come out of our contests.
Ashley: One of the things that, as I mentioned earlier, did really aggressive contact and that how I’ve really auctioned. So, pretty much everything I’ve done. One of the things that contests can and definitely good for is, if you won something in a prestigious contest, you can mention that to your crew and it gives you a little bit of credential and for the money that you spend in the contest, you can get build up few credentials. Even, in one or two semi finals placing in the contest. Its more than a lot of people have. That’s one angle, just to use some very limited exposure in a contest, still use it to your advantage. The other thing you mentioned earlier in an interview, you mentioned ‘Drive’ was a book and I think that’s probably I’m hiring, but there’s a lot of producers that have auctioned books and they might not have a big budget to adapt that book and that’s where someone maybe wins a contest might get exposure to get a producer and maybe some not. The producer might have some material there and script that he wrote and that might be a potential way of breaking in and writing some stuff, maybe for free as the producer have no budget. So there might be some really hard work involved. I think that’s another thing contests can, as you said can get exposure to these producers that have the material written that they don’t have a big budget to hire an A list writer.
John: Absolutely. You know, one thing about a point that I wanted to make, and that is that often times contests are gonna get your specific project auctioned. But, they will expose you as a screen writer and you need writer to potentially be hired to do a re-write of someone’s script or to adapt a novel that they want often times. At least the producers on our contests want to meet these writers to discover writers that they can have as part of a team of people that they can reach out to paid writing gigs. Sometimes the most important thing is, I encounter a lot of screen writers who are so fixated on their one project and they pour their soul into this one project, and that’s a wonderful thing and that’s great but, the most successful writers out here are flexible and they know, if you get too hung up on your one passion or project, you are gonna miss opportunities. I’m sure everyone has heard this a thousand times, but you have got to have 4, 5, 10 screen plays under your belt. Because, if you got lucky enough to get a meeting with a producer or a top manager and they like your script, but don’t see enough potential in it, they might ask you what else you have. So, you’ve got to have stuff in your back pocket to give them.
Ashley: Sure. Ashley, you’ve been very generous and this has been enlightening for me and really appreciate your coming on the broadcast. I wonder, if you can quickly tell us, if people want to contact you or some of your services, what is the best way to contact you , your email, twitter, that kind of thing.
John: Yeah, sure. Follow us on twitter, screencrafting. handle. We are on facebook. You can email me [email protected] and checkout our websites screencraft.org and look for contests Thank you as always great to talk to you.
Ashley: I may call back to show you the notes of this show and then check out all the stuff that you just mentioned. Once again I appreciate, Thank You for coming on.
John: Absolutely, My pleasure. Thank You Ashley
Just a quick look for my upcoming class: How to write a killer first act for your screen play? I’ll be running an online class on May 31st at 10:00 AM PST. Go online to view if you have an internet connection or even with just a phone line you can participate. You can actually listen to the audio portion of the call through a normal telephone. So you actually don’t even need to be online. Just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/classes to know more about it. Also, last month’s class, I did, I taught on how to write awesome opening pages. The class is recorded. So, if you’ve missed it and want to check it out , just go to www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com
Members of ‘SYS Select’ get access to all our recorded classes. Currently there are 7 in our class library as well as all the live online classes like the one on May 31st. So check that out if you are interested.
In next week’s broadcast, I’ll be interviewing, Jerrol LeBaron. Jerrol LeBaron is the founder of inkTip. InkTip is a great way for screen writers to market their materials. It really works andis not too expensive either. In the interview Jerrrol gives some great marketing tips to screen writers. So, you not gonna want to miss this interview if you are trying to figure out how to best market your scripts. In this episode’s writing words section, just wanted to talk about a bunch of similar emails that I constantly get. I get emails from people asking about specific services like inkTip, like contest and they all basically go the same way. Should I enter this contest, should I enter that contest, should I try the black list and one of the things that you gonna find is you’ve got get out there and do something. you’ve got to just start trying stuff and what works and I’ve mentioned this before on the broad, I continue to get these emails and I’m always kind of curious, kind of why people aresending them to me. Like I said, the main way you’re gonna move ahead is not by being too cautious, its by getting out there and sending stuff. There is some cost involved, there are something like the black lists, probably on the higher end of the cost. You are basically going to be like a $150 to get a script up there from a month or two and get a couple of overviews. But in the scheme of things when you think about the potential upside, selling a script, you can make potentially tens of thousands, if not hundred thousand dollars. So, spending some money on these things, is just part of the process. Now, again I mentioned this in the broadcast, if you are lucky enough to be able to move to Los Angeles, I would say from my experience, is talking to screen writers that are successful. The no.1 ways screen writers broke in by getting lower paying jobs in the industry, networking and moving their way up. That’s certainly the good way to do and view how, if you are young, you have responsibility and can move to LA. I definitely recommend that you do that . That really is the best way to get going and get your career going. But, if you are not in a position to do that , you’ve got to get out there and try stuff and they key with marketing is, it’s not a matter of like hitting the key ones. The Key is getting out there are trying a bunch of things. Most stuff is gonna fail but that is fine, that’s all part of the process, cause once something starts to work, you push in that direction and you keep pushing harder in that direction and that is how things are gonna start to click for you. You’re gonna have a lot of failures, but you need only one success to get things off the ground.
Anyways, i hope this episode was valuable.
Thank You and that’s it.