This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 021: An Interview With Screenwriter Andrew Kole.
Ashley Meyers: Welcome to Episode 21 of 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 talking with screenwriter Andrew Kole. Andrew has one produced credit and several other projects close to going into production. And he only began screenwriting a few short years ago. He’s a real hustler and great at networking, and at today’s interview he shares some great tips on how to meet producers who are actively looking for material so stay tuned for that!
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A couple of quick notes, any websites or links that I mention in the podcast can be found on my blog or 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. Also, if you want my free guide “How To Sell A Screenplay in Five Weeks”, you can pick that up by going to sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide. It’s completely free. You just put in your email address, and I’ll send you a new lesson once per week for five weeks along with a bunch of bonus lessons. I teach the whole process of how to sell your screenplay in that guide, 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 to sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide.
A few quick notes about what I’m working on, nothing really new this week to report on. I’ve begun writing a limited location sci-fi thriller. I’m done with the first 27 pages. It’s a short first act so it’s actually a little bit into the second act. I’m putting this first section up in my writers group next week. While I’m working on the spec script, I’m also trying to come up with a good high-concept low-budget family script idea. Pretty much every producer I talk with says that family films are still selling well. I’ve never written one. But we’ll see. I’ve got a meeting today on my horror comedy script. This is actually a script that I blasted out almost a year and a half ago. The producer read it and liked it but wasn’t really ready to produce a feature film at the time. When I finished my most recent horror thriller script, I sent him an email pitching him that new script, and he replied that he was still interested in the first script I sent him so we’re going to meet and talk it over today. This is a good example how these follow-up emails, even more than a year later, can actually re-ignite some interest in a screenplay. I don’t think he has much of a budget to produce the movie so I’m not sure if this will turn into much, but we will see.
Now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m going to be interviewing screenwriter Andrew Kole. He’s got some really specific actionable advice about how to go out and meet producers. Here is the interview.
Ashley Meyers: Welcome, Andrew, to the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I really appreciate your coming on the show.
Andrew Kole: Thank you for having me.
Ashley Meyers: So, to start out, maybe you could just give us a quick overview of your background, how you got into the entertainment industry and what you’ve done that has led up to your selling your first script and now getting close to selling your second script.
Andrew Kole: Let’s establish the fact that I’m old, closest to death, so I started a long time ago. I came to LA in the early 70’s and I did a sports magazine called LA Sports. I sold the magazine; I flipped the magazine after a year, and I was on a beach and I saw a guy sitting there who was reading it. And I asked him if he enjoyed the magazine. He said yes. He said you know a lot about sports. I said, you know, kind of. And he said would you be interested in meeting me for lunch. So I got invited to a lunch in Warner Brothers, and they had a film called One On One. It was a basketball movie by Robbie Benson, and they basically vaulted it. They needed to figure out what to do with One-On-One. They asked me what I would do. I got a job from them to go on the road and kind of promote it. My suggestion was to promote it to coaches and try to get some comments from them so the sportscasters would pick it up because I didn’t know anything about movie reviewing. I only knew about sports guys. The first three or four people I went to see, Jerry Tarcanian who you might know from UNLV, and Gene Cat who was in Cincinnati. Basically nobody said anything. I go to Louisville, Kentucky. I meet with Denny Crumb, former coach at UCLA, head of the Louisville Cardinals, and he doesn’t say much. Next morning front page of the paper, not the sports pages, but the paper Crumb sees truth in film about college athletics which was basically corruption and all the payoffs and all that stuff and how the system works. That caused 109 local sportscasters to ask for a clip. In those days you had to actually send them out in an envelope. It got picked up on Wide World of Sports, etc. And all of a sudden, I went from not knowing what I was doing to smart according to the studios. They felt like they wanted to offer me a job. I came in and they asked me what I wanted to do, and I could have picked production but God, I didn’t know so I said promotion. I end up in the publicity promotion department and really had no idea what I’m doing, not much that I really enjoyed until I start working on Burt Reynolds movie Hooper where he jumps the car over the gorge and with another guy named Bob Kavaloff and some other people who were now starting to do this. I go and secure a product placement deal cross-promotion for Hooper where they put up a ton of money to promote the movie you won’t believe you park and fly, jumping over the gorge. So that was kind of the beginning of the product placement. So, again, I was told no one would do it because basically the unions put all the product in the films, and the guys have the use of free cars and food. Their garages were filled with everything you’d see in a movie. I, on the set of Hooper, also met my former wife, and she was an art director with a company called Siniger and still around. She was really good. We went off on our own and started doing movie advertising, Private Benjamin, Superman, 50 films in three or four years. Sold their company and went to New York to do Broadway advertising and worked on Steven Sondheim’s pseudo head flick, never quite made it, Woman of the Year, all that stuff. So that was kind of my introduction to the world of entertainment. I got out of it for a number of years in another career that was horrible, and after that career ended and a variety of other things, I ended up in Aspen Colorado on Labor Day 1998 with an ex-girlfriend, Barbara, who is now married to my friend, Richard, not that that has anything to do with it. Anyway, the next day we’re sitting at this coffee place and she says boy I’d love to live here. We opened the paper. I said sure, let’s stay for a year. So we decided to move here. So we rent a place that day. I came back October 8. Barbara comes back in December, and we stayed for the year. At the end of the year I write a letter to the editor about something that was going on. And the guy who ran the local radio station thought the letter was really funny and asked me if I wanted to do a Sunday radio show which nobody listens. But I happened to be lucky, and I was able to talk about the legalization of marijuana. And there was a bunch of kids, these twelve kids who were breaking into houses and stealing liquor and then they stole guns and started robbing stores and I knew them. I had coached basketball at the high school. And I just got lucky. So the show did well enough that I was then invited to a meeting where this guy offered me an afternoon drive time talk show on the radio which I thought was cool, and as we did the deal, his question to me was So how long have you been doing this? And I said five shows. He said no, I mean your career. And I said that would be five shows. But next week I’ll have ten shows when I start. So I went on the radio and was doing okay. I don’t really know what I’m doing. I’m stumbling along; people are calling, and we got into this conversation about how white bred the Valley was. So I decided to have a contest to whomever could call in, and I offered a great dinner at Pinions, this really upscale restaurant, 250-dollar dinner for two type of thing. Whoever could name the most Blacks or African-Americans in the Roaring Fork Valley. The phones did not stop ringing either with naming people or my favorite guy who called me up to say that you’re kind of a racist. I said why am I a racist. He said well, the nature of your question. I said I’m just pointing out how white-bred the Roaring Fork Valley is, that there is no real diversity here. And he said, well, you know, the way you did it, the show you do, you’re very controversial and I think—you know—you’re a racist. I said if that’s what you think. So now let me guess, Nate, Steve, Lamont—he starts naming people because he wants to win dinner. That led me to taking the show in a different direction where I decided I would just push every button I could. We got threatened with a suit from Ross Perrot for something we did. I just kept going crazy. It was phenomenal. I got fired, and the day I got fired, the next day a friend of mine was running Grassroots TV which is a public access TV, actually one of the first in the country, maybe the first which five stations who argue that they are the first, and he said you should come here and do your show. And I said I got in a lot of trouble there, and he said yeah, we have no FCC rates. I don’t care what you do as long as you have got some way to generate some money for the station. So because it was a .org, I wasn’t allowed to sell advertising, but I came up with an idea to have sponsors basically brought to you by whoever would be or I had people sponsoring nonprofits. There was a guy named Bergie Wineglass, Boogie who was the same guy who was the main character in the Barry Leavenson movie, and he lived in Aspen. He had a thing called the Buddy program. He would go on and do a spot, and the spot would be proud sponsor of the buddy program and they would do a spot for that and Grassroottv.org and I started generating money. Well, we did amazingly well, just way better than you would think to the point that even when the board didn’t like me, I was generating so much money for them, they weren’t going to throw me off which also made me a little crazy because I basically figured I could do anything I wanted to do. I did the shows for ten years. I did 1417 shows over that period, and everyone on from big politicians to women abducted by aliens. So, how did that get me into writing? In 2004, Spaulding Gray was in town for the HBO Comedy Arts Festival. Spaulding Gray wrote “Monster in the Box,” “Women of Cambodia.” He was on the show. We’re talking and he says, “you should do what I do. You should go be a performer and sit at a table. And I said I’m not a performer; that’s too weird for me. He said, you do this show every day. I said I basically ad lib the show every day. I do not—I really don’t have notes. I take the local paper; I look at it an hour over coffee, and then I future out what I’m going to do. I have my guests. I usually start off by saying what do you want to talk about? And if I don’t like what they want to talk about, I’ll pick up some other topic. Anyway, he dies; he jumps off the Staten Island ferry and commits suicide. The next year I decided to do a salute to Spaulding Gray. So now I guess it’s 2006 and I decided to read short stories and tell stories. I wrote a book of short stories in 1999 that nobody wanted. They were either not good (which is one possibility). I was told that I wasn’t famous nor dead, therefore, no one bought books of short stories. So I started telling the stories. I’m two or three days into it; I get a call from the new guy who runs Theatre Aspen who was with the Globe Theatre in San Diego. And he said I’d love to read your book of short stories. And I went right, I have no one else who wants to read it. I give him a thing; he calls me and he says, you know, let’s have coffee. He said you should turn this into a play. It would be interesting. Theatre Aspen, we want to try to do one new playwright and one new production a year, and this has got some potential. So I go sure. Well—you know—five weeks later, I call and then I go so do you want to read it? He asks me for coffee and he said read what? And I said “my play”. He said, well, you can’t write a play in thirty days. I said I didn’t know that. How long does it take to write a play? And he goes, you know, it could be a year. Again, I didn’t know that. So he said, let me read what you’ve got. So he read it and he said, “you know, it’s actually pretty good. I suggest a few tweaks, and let’s do a live reading this summer. So, this is 2005, and I’m like cool. So we’re getting ready to do the live reading. We’re two weeks away from it, and you know live readings are kind of weird in general. We have some local actors, and two weeks before it, the cast of Smoky Joe’s Café comes on to promote their Theatre Aspen show which is—Theatre Aspen has a great theatre program—and they bring in acts from all over because it’s Aspen and they spend money. So they asked me what else I do, and I tell them about this live reading. So they say, well, why don’t we do it for you. So not only do I get the cast from Smokey Joe’s Café to do it, I end up with that they rehearse the stupid thing. And it comes off it was great. It came off great. So the next year they produced the play. It was called “Seemed like a good idea at the time.” It’s a three-week run there so we did great. It was a lot of fun. I was there obviously every night. Fast forward, I keep writing another play getting done, and now it’s May 11, 2009. I’ve written a bunch of theatre things, got another thing done, and I wrote another play called “Meeting Spencer” which we were getting ready to do. And I got a call from a guy in LA that said I have a friend; he’s got Chinese money. He’s got Occidental Studio, but he doesn’t have a script. The script fell out. He’s looking for a contained story, not too many characters and not too many sets. I think he told me you had one. Now I met this guy in a lift going up to ski. So I felt like he was my best friend. You’re on a lift for twenty minutes you talk for whatever reason that’s what we talked about. Anyway, he calls me. I mean, that’s how screwy this is. I get up off my couch. I’m watching wwe wrestling. Luckily I can DVR it, and I go into my office and get my final draft, and I convert my play, “Meeting Spence”. I don’t have a movie named Meeting Spence with my friend, Andrew De La Plant whom I’ve known since camp. We were camp counselors together about forty years before. Anyway, I go in. I convert it into a film. I write a little bit more, send it in. Tuesday morning, May 12. Wednesday, May 13, he calls at the end of the day and says you’re one of the three finalists. We’re going to the director, Malcolm Mobray in London to see which one he wants to make, and I’m like, that’s pretty cool. Monday they call up and say you’re the winner. We want to buy your piece. Now it’s May 18. July 5, whatever the hell, they start production and by August 1 they’re done. That is 81 days from my call to let’s wrap.
Ashley Meyers: It’s too bad it doesn’t always happen like that.
Andrew Kole: Yeah, that’s not a lot. It doesn’t happen a lot. So I’m thinking I wrote a play that got made. I wrote a movie. You know, this isn’t that hard. Now I know it’s incredibly hard because I worked on the other side of it—you know—in the marketing side, and I understand that—So I decide to write from what I like which are ensemble comedies, and I write another one, write a few. A couple of big agencies are looking at stuff for me I knew basically from my connections in Aspen—not that people come through that town and you meet them. I used to hang out at this coffee shop called Victoria’s, and I had my little table in the corner and that was the deal. Anyway, so my feedback is nobody’s buying ensemble comedy, very hard to sell, you’re not well-known etc. Wait until “Meeting Spencer” comes out. So Meeting Spencer comes out, and we don’t necessarily do much business. We get good reviews or pretty good reviews. We win best screenplay at the Milan International Film Festival. So that’s cool. I have a six-pound marble horse on my table. So I decide to start writing bigger stuff because I’m being told you need to write big stuff. So I write a bunch of big stuff, and I’m introduced to Casian Elwes and a bunch of other people, and I’m moving along. But no one is making anything.
Ashley Meyers: You’re still in Aspen; you’re still doing your TV show.
Andrew Kole: I stopped doing my TV show in 2011. Now I’m just writing. So basically since that time I have written thirteen film strips and a bunch of different things because I like to write. I’ve found something I really like to do, and you don’t have to do much but get up, walk into your office from 8:30 to 4:30 or 5:00. I write. I decide—actually my mother passes away, Meeting Spencer opens up in New York—I stayed in Aspen another year and decided I wanted to give it a real shot and come to LA. Now I lived in LA until ’83 or ’84, whatever the hell it was. I think if you’re going to write, you need to be here because even though I knew a lot of people, it’s tough. This is a very hard business. So far I’ve been amazingly lucky, limited skill but really lucky. I come here and I find out none of that stuff works. The big stuff’s not going to work; the ensemble stuff’s not going to work. So I go to AFM. AFM is the American Film Mart, not because I think I’m selling a movie because I don’t have anything to sell, but because I had the movie made and I thought okay, let’s see what everyone’s doing. And I meet a guy there who has a company called California Pictures, and he’s got this poster for this movie selling. And for some reason he says what do you think about it? I told him how horrible it was because, from a marketing side, it was just horrible. And we struck up a nice conversation. I told him what I would do with it if I were him, etc. I then get a call from a friend of mine who wants me to meet someone who might be interested in some of my stuff from a producing side. And it turns out to be the same guy I met at AFM. Talk about luck or coincidence. We talk, we talk, we talk. He is interested in a project based on a book De La Plan wrote called “Midnight Mass.” So they look at trying to put the money together to come back and buy that from us. It doesn’t really happen. Another year goes by, maybe a little less, and I decide a whole different tack. Now all I’m doing is walking into places saying tell me what you’re doing? Tell me what you want to make. Tell me what you’re budget is. I want to write something for you if I don’t have it already. I got one good connection which turned into a script I’m doing called “Rescue Mutts”, an animated movie about dogs. That was good. And then I went back to the guy at AFM, that I met at AFM from California Pictures and said so what are you guys want to make next? And they said we want to make an action/adventure movie at 800,000 to a million and two. And I said okay, so I go home. I think about it. I come up with an idea, and I go back to see them and I go, so here’s my idea. It’s called Future Weapon. I’m going to match up Magnificent Seven and Streets of Fire. He said that sounds interesting. Would you mind writing a few pages. I’m like, well, here, I have pages. So show him twenty to thirty pages. He tells me what he thinks, etc. And if things go well—and I always say if things go well—until they do, we’re scheduled to start shooting this summer. So I kind of took a completely different tack. I went—to me, I’m a big leaper. I leap and I feel the net will appear—because what’s the worst thing that can happen to you. My personality luckily is that nature. So I follow that up with going to another small company, and I think they’re going to go make another one of my films starting in the Fall or Winter—I guess Winter here is November—and that’s been my new tack, finding companies that are specific to what you want to make, writing something specifically for them, coming on the backside of as a producer, helping them with their marketing layout so that when I walk in, here’s my script; here’s what I would do as your marketing claim. Here’s your one sheet. You know, I can tell you what your trailer should look like. Here’s how I would approach this. Here’s what product cross-promotion we can do, etc. because that’s what I did. That’s the one thing I actually know something about. Writing, what do I know?
Ashley Meyers: Let’s take a step back here first. A couple things that occurred to me. How many guys—I’m always kind of curious—people when they tell sort of success stories, I always like to hear about the failures that go along with it. How many people did you talk to and it didn’t result in any kind of a meeting or didn’t result in any kind of a thing because it always seems like people—you know—how many people—
Andrew Kole: I bought a three-day pass to go up to the rooms. I walked into every room. Some of them would say no, we don’t do our own—my first question was do you make your own movies? Are you a production company also? If they said no, I went hey, thanks, I appreciate it and I left. If they said yes, my next question was what kind of stuff do you make? And they were happy to talk about what they make because they’re selling them there. And my next question was usually what kind of budgets? And they’ll usually tell you. And then they’ll go why? And I’ll say I’m a writer, and if you’re into—you know—movies about retired couples who like to go camping, I have a movie called “Old People Camping”. Or tell me what you’re looking for? And along the way, the people who I found most receptive I took the cards, and followed up with and kept going back. I have probably a list of twenty small production companies that I—if I live that long—believe I could do business with in the next years. I keep in contact with them. I follow up with emails. When I did Future Weapon, I said, hey, I just made a deal on this. I still love to do something with you. Has anything changed? Have you changed your budgets? Have you changed what you want to do? I am a—I think—a networking fool. If I’m sitting at Earth Café and having a nice coffee and the guy behind me is talking about his new movie, I will turn around, introduce myself and say I’m a writer. I’m just curious what are you doing? And if they don’t want to talk to me, they’ll go well, you know, I don’t really want to talk to you about it. I’m like okay. But I would say, for every ten times I do that, 9.5 will talk to you. They’ll talk. And what do writers want to do? They all want to tell you what they’re doing. I’m not asking them, like, tell me about your family. I’m saying tell me how fabulous you are and what projects you’re doing. And I develop relationships that way.
Ashley Meyers: Just a ballpark, how many different companies are at AFM that you walked into. Just roughly are we talking about a hundred? Are we talking fifty?
Andrew Kole: Oh no, I say—I don’t know if there are probably 500 companies there, but from a production side, I do my research. I go my first day. I pull out this book and see who does production first so I kind of know. And I look at what floors they’re on, and I create a sheet for each floor with the name of the contact supposedly, what room number they’re in. So when I walk in there, if they’re interested, I will then put a check mark and take their card and make notes or put an X and move on. I would say I walked into sometimes three days, fifty to seventy-five—that were production companies. I walk into anybody I go by because I’m thinking who knows, maybe they weren’t a production company, and now they are a production company. So I would say I probably hit 150 people, and I probably have a reasonably decent conversation with 50 and I probably have a tighter conversation with 20, and then ten of them, I might go back and have another conversation before they leave town. That’s how much I drill down.
Ashley Meyers: How much is the three-day pass?
Andrew Kole: I think the pass was 250 or 300 dollars.
Ashley Meyers: It’s all-inclusive. It gets you into the screening?
Andrew Kole: No, it gets you usually on the floor so you can go there and hang out downstairs and make it. You could have a career just by watching everyone during lunch in the lobby. But it puts you on the floor, and there’s a seven-day pass which doesn’t interest me. The other pass interests me because I want to go on the floor and talk to them. The first couple of days we really consume with selling their product. It’s a seller-buyer market so I don’t want to be there until they’re done with that part. The next part for the guys that do produce stuff, they’re interested in saying maybe there’s a film they can find. Maybe there’s a writer. Maybe there’s whatever. I don’t think there is many of me doing it because I kind of always ask at the end saying so how many people come and do what I’m doing with you? For every twenty times I think I get eighteen no’s, basically one out of ten that walk in. I don’t even know if there are that many. I met three or four people who were doing kind of what I was doing and that was it, and there’s a lot of people. But you’ve got to also be organized. You also have to be comfortable. It’s cold calling. It’s like selling.
Ashley Meyers: It’s door-to-door sales.
Andrew Kole: Or door-to-door introductions. So you don’t have to have a lot of lines ready or any of that stuff, what you have to do is you have to be able to say hey, this is what I do. I’d love to do something with you. What do you do? Would you look at something I did if it was specific to what you want to do? Horror was really big for a while, still is. I wrote a supernatural movie which I got a bunch of bites and reads on, and that’s one of the companies that potentially is going to do it. So I had scripts in hand. And I also say what do you want to do?
Ashley Meyers: Let’s dig into that a little bit. Are there any other trends that you saw from these AFM companies?
Andrew Kole: I tell you what I learned. The first take-away was everyone is concerned with European sales. Comedies don’t translate well into Europe. First of all, American comedies, it’s hard. The nuance of comedy, if you’re dubbing it or subtitling, it does not work. So if you’re writing an ensemble or a comedy, you’re numbers are greatly reduced. Two things they like. Action and horror or supernatural is kind of leaning in there a little bit. I would say those are the two big draws. Dramas, they say they like them, but they hardly make them because no one’s making money. Drama is kind of like the after-dinner port. It’s nice to have, but—you know—not everyone is drinking Port..
Ashley Meyers: Did they mention anything else aside from just the raw genre like we want something for this actor or something that—
Andrew Kole: They usually have the actors. What they have is budgets. They’ll make stuff 500,000 and below, a million two and below. We stay in the three and four-million-dollar range. Some of them are bigger. There are a number of sales agents that are also will match funds so if I want to make a movie, let’s say, for a million dollars, and I have a half a million. I can walk into a half dozen, and probably all of them would want to be in the deal, and they would say what have you got? I’d say I’ve got a half million bucks. Who are your actors? And I’d say I have got a half million bucks. And they go okay, we’re interested in partnering with you. Then they want to know your actors; they want to know your director. Most of the directors who are doing these low-budget things, nobody knows who the hell they are. There are certain actors that are known as work for money, bag of cash, and there are some pretty good names. So are the guys you can maybe chase, and here’s why they like that. If you attach a certain actor, let’s say Clive Owen. Let’s say Nicholas Cage, better guy. Nicholas Cage here whatever he’s doing, probably costs you a million and change to get him, but you can almost do pre-sales on the million and change. So what they want to do is they want to go out and get an actor that they can do pre-sales on in Canada or wherever it is so that they basically—you know—if the movie is going to cost them a million, they want to try to have all the rights sold for a million. They want to be almost even before they get started. And it depends on who’s in it. Christian Slader was in that market doing a lot of stuff. Matt Dillon’s got value. While Matt Dillon’s not huge here, is not going to open a film here, he plays very well there. That’s what they want to know. So knowing who you think could play your characters and then knowing who is in that bag of cash—I don’t mean literally—bag of cash thing, and if they like the script, you maybe get them for a little less and part of the back end. There are very, very creative ways to do that. Studios, you can’t. Studios, you’re in their formula. You either follow their formula or they don’t want anything to do with you.
Ashley Meyers: Have you thought about that for next year to try and put together a package with some financing and some actors attached and do the same basic drill, walking in and try to sell something like that.
Andrew Kole: Well, I have except I think starting July 1, I’m going to have a financing partner for my stuff. Through all my conversation I stumbled into someone who I’ve gotten very friendly with, who I’ve been doing some marketing stuff with on a completely different nature who said, you know, maybe we’ll go into business with you and put some money up for you to make a couple of your small films. So that’s where I am with that. At the same time, I will go back to AFM no matter what I’m doing because my attitude is for 300 bucks or whatever it was, you just don’t know who you’re going to run into. I just don’t know who I am going to meet. You meet one person—you know, my opinion is you go ten years and you meet one person in ten years, you’re way ahead. It’s hard to meet people and get into meeting with them, but they’re there. They’re all sitting there. They’re all at their tables, and except for when they have a meeting, they’re sitting there basically eating Snickers watching their trailers. So they’re open to it.
Ashley Meyers: Maybe we could take a step back to two people who live in Los Angeles and understand what AFM is, there are probably a lot of people who haven’t heard of AFM. It stands for American Film Market, but maybe you could explain kind of what it is and the films that are there because if you go to their website or get their yearly brochure, there are a bunch of films and some of the have big actors. I mean, you might see a Robert De Niro in a film and you’re like gee, that film never got released.
Andrew Kole: The American Film Market is basically where you offer up your movies to foreign buyers. So the foreign buyers Germany, this one now when I’m rambling through all the rooms looking at the sales agents, these are all the guys who sell the foreign rights for the most part. American writes, I don’t know how much American rights stuff is done there. And I have to tell you the first time I went there, I put my name in and wondered what the hell was going on. I just knew that they were people who made movies and I thought, okay, I will go spend 300 bucks and do that because my attitude is when I came here, and I was fortunate enough that I didn’t need to go work another job, I could write and work the business. I allocated x number of dollars for a variety of things—services such as Inktip and your service, sell your screenplay and Virtual Pitch Fast and Blacklist and all that. So I decided I’ll go play on all those. I’ll go into all those playgrounds. And I thought okay, what else? I went to a couple of pitching events. I actually met someone there who introduced me to Casian Elwes. So it was certainly worth it. But it wasn’t what I wanted to do, and there were people who had never had a movie made for the most part, who didn’t really have much of a calling card. So while my movie might not be my best calling card, probably my marketing experience at Warner’s or what I did is always an interesting conversation for some of these companies. Because even if they buy a movie, they’ve got to figure out how to sell it. And they’re not great at it sometimes. So that’s kind of my AFM—you probably know more about AFM than I do.
Ashley Meyers: The thing that I always find interesting is you don’t find the big studio films, it’s purely independent films, and it’s always surprising to see certain actors. As you say, a lot of these actors, their kids need to go to college too. They’re usually not the top A listers, but they’re just guys that are just slightly below that starring in these movies that you’ve never heard of, and there’s a whole crop of them.
Andrew Kole: A lot of people you’ve seen from—you know—Tom Everett Scott, people you’ve seen on TV or in movies where they’ve played the second or third lead, now they’re the lead. And then you get some big people like you said, for whatever reason, maybe it’s a company that does a lot of business with De Niro on a different level, and they’re like, hey, you know, we’d love you to be in this movie. It doesn’t mean that they’re on the screen for 90 minutes. They could be on the screen for 12 minutes but it’s the best name to put up there.
Ashley Meyers: You mentioned Pitch Fast. You mentioned all these online services like mine and Inktip, is there anything else you’ve tried that either has worked or even just something that you’ve tried that completely did not work?
Andrew Kole: The thing that really worked for me, which I didn’t actually try and stumbled into, I walk my dog every morning in Beverly Hills because I live there. We go on a three-mile walk, and we met the people from Woogaroo. Woogaroo is Michael Eisner’s digital company. So I’m now with my writing partner Cory Rawlins. We have a project that they’re looking at for TV. I walk by. They say hello to the dog. We were talking. They said you guys look like you’re something. Who are you? And they told me what they did. I probably knew them for six months before I ever talked to them about looking at something of mine because I didn’t have anything for them. But then I found out that they were going to move into scripting stuff, and the person they hired to run that department turns out to be a woman that was with Comedy Central when I was doing my TV show at HBO Comedy during HBO Comedy Week, and she had been on my TV set. I mean, again, I’m big on luck. I think you can make your own luck to some degree, but yes, so my basic what you are saying what else do I do? I keep my head up and look around for people who I can meet. I go to a lot of the WGA events. If there’s an event, I’ll go. I go to a lot of screenings. I don’t go to the movie theaters; I’d rather go to the writers guild because I don’t know who I’m going to meet. They have sometimes some great talks afterwards and you get to say hi and who knows what you’re doing next? So big failures—you know—everyone who I’ve walked in, basically said I’d love to read your stuff and then went no. There are dozens of them because I’ve been fortunate enough to get people to read stuff. Why didn’t they like it? They’ll give you a nice—you know—it doesn’t fit in our budget. It doesn’t fit this, if you had this. My attitude was okay, if I had something else, would you look at it, and if they say yes, it’s a win. If they say well, we’re not really looking, one of those, I’m like okay. I shift. I have a big list of everyone that I talk to. I kind of put them—you know—I might erase the star next to it and just leave them on the list. You don’t know where anyone’s going to go next. People are shifting jobs so what else do I do? I read the trades because I like to see where people are going and what they’re doing and they’ve shifted gears sometimes, and someone’s at a new place and they now are moved up to development. I might call them and go, hey, I read this. Here’s what I’ve done so far. Would be curious if you would be interested in having coffee. I’m very big on coffee. I was the king of coffee in Aspen. I strive to be the king of coffee in Los Angeles.
Ashley Meyers: Have you made any effort to try and find an agent or a manager?
Andrew Kole: I have. I’ve had some interest mostly from the agency side, but I didn’t think anyone that could do more for me than I was doing because I just felt that I’m one of fifty to them or more and I’m one of one to me. Now, with that said, I did come up with another way to play this. I’ve partnered with somebody on my “Rescue Mutt” script which is this animated dog movie, they are represented by a good agency, and I’ve agreed that the agency could represent me and that piece. So, and now would they want to represent me across the board? Maybe. Do I want them to represent me across the board? Maybe. I kind of like the idea of partnering with people that have some representation that fits what I’m doing so that story is threefold. I’ve got three different pieces with three different potential deals the same way. They could represent the project. So they’re very focused on their client which is my partner in it, and they’re focused on the project. So someone would say who’s representing your projects, I get to name three big agencies in a way as opposed to Bob Smith who’s a great guy, but no one knows him. I think I would like a really good manager. I’ve not met anyone through anybody that I think does what I do or would be better than me at it in a way. But with this new kind of co-production deal, you know, that might lead me down a different road. So I’ve been two years. For two years, I’m not doing bad. That’s how I feel about it.
Ashley Meyers: So, Andy, you’ve been very generous with your time. I really appreciate this. You’ve given us some really good tips. I think a lot of writers will be able to listen to this and get some actionable advice, and you might just see a horde of writers down at AFM next year.
Andrew Kole: I figured that, but now I figured I’ve kind of got my little foot in the door so I can do a little tour, an
AFM tour—you know—come with me and we’ll walk around together.
Ashley Meyers: I’ll sign up for sure. Well, thank you again, Andrew for coming on.
Andrew Kole: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it. By the way, I would just like to point out, you did an email blast to me on one of my scripts where I’ve got literally fifteen people reading it at this moment. So that was pretty good which is why I say I kind of like to spread it out because you don’t know what’s going to work where. And one thing because this was a little comedy, kind of a younger comedy as opposed to a drama or a horror film so I wanted to thank you because that turned out to be a good move for me and I appreciate it.
Ashley Meyers: No problem. Glad to do it.
Andrew Kole: Thanks Okay.
Ashley Meyers: Just a quick plug for my upcoming class how to write a killer first act for your screenplay, I’ll be running the online class May 31 at 10:00 AM Pacific Standard Time. It’s all on line so if you have an Internet connection or even just a phone line, you can participate. You can listen to the audio portion of the call through the normal telephone. So you don’t actually need to be on line. I’m going to be doing a deep dive into the first acts of Back to the Future and Legally Blonde. Both of these screenplays have first acts, and in this class, we’re going to talk about all the reasons why and how you can apply those lessons to your own writing. Just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/classes to learn more about it. If you’re listening to this episode after May 31, that’s not a problem as I’ll be recording the class. And you can check it out any time you’d like by joining Sys Select. To learn more about that, just go to sellingyourscreenplayselect.com.
In next week’s episode, I’m going to be interviewing Jason Scoggans of the Scoggan’s report and also the co-founder of specscout.com. He has worked as a screenwriter, manager so he’s got some great tips for writers who are looking for representation. So keep an eye out for that.
In today’s Writing Words section, I want to talk a bit further about Andrew’s strategy, but first, I just want to make sure everyone understands what AFM is. Several of the films I’ve written have gone to AFM. I’m pretty sure my most recent film, Ninja Apocalypse will be showing there this November, but if you don’t live in LA or work in the film business, you’ve probably never heard of it. AFM stands for American Film Market, and that’s exactly what it is. It’s a film market where film buyers from all over the world come to Santa Monica and potentially buy films for their markets. For instance, you might have a representative from Brazil who buys films to show on Brazilian television. What you find is that the vast majority of films made each year are not studio movies that you’ve heard of, but they are actually independent genre films, action films, thrillers, horror films, even some comedies and dramas. They’ll oftentimes have actors you’ve heard of, and the budgets will be in the millions of dollars. Check out their website, americanfilmmarket.com. I’ll link to their site in the show notes. There is a section on their site where you can see some of the movies that have been shown there. Scroll through that list and have a look at them. I think you’ll be amazed at how many films have a lot of big-name stars in them, but you’ve never actually heard of the film.
Now let’s talk a bit about what Andrew did. Andrew is a real outgoing guy who has the gift of gab. He’s good at in-person sales, and to make his strategy work, you’ve got to be good at in-person sales. If you don’t feel comfortable walking into AFM and pitching to people, that doesn’t mean you can’t be a screenwriter. I don’t think I could do this. I certainly couldn’t do it as well as Andrew has done it although I am considering giving this a try next November.
I interviewed Jeannie Bowerman who is a screenwriter and editor of Script Magazine in Episode 11, and she’s networking through her job and using social media. She knows more people in the industry than anyone I know. There are tons of ways to get out there and do the sales and marketing. In fact, there are probably tons of ways to get your material out there that I haven’t even thought of. So maybe something totally new can be your way of breaking in. But what you’ve got to do is take a step back and really try and evaluate your talents and skills and find some form of sales and marketing that works for you. You don’t have to do what I do which is a ton of cold emails and faxes, and you don’t have to do what Andrew does either. But you’ve got to do something more than just write and write and write. You’ve got to spend time on sales and marketing.
Anyway, that’s this week’s episode.