This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 023: An Interview with Director / Producer Jennifer Steinman.


Welcome to Episode 23 of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Myers, screenwriter and blogger of In this episode’s main segment, I’m going to be interviewing director/producer Jennifer Steinman. Steinman recently completed her feature film called Desert Runners, which is a documentary about ultra-marathon runners. In the interview, she takes us through the entire process of how she made this movie—from raising the money to finding distribution. If you ever consider producing your own screenplay, you would not want to miss this interview. So stay tune for that.

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A couple of quick notes:

Any websites or links that I mentioned in the podcast can be found on my blog and the shared notes. I also publish a transcript every episode in case you’d rather read the show or look at something later on. You can find all the podcasts, show notes at Also if you want my free guide on how to sell your screenplay in five weeks, you can pick that up by going to 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, all 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 on enquiry letter, how to find agents, managers, producers who are looking for a material. It really is everything you need to know to sell your screenplay. Just go to

So now, let’s get on to the main segment. Today, I’m interviewing Jennifer Steinman who’s a director and a producer. She’s very open about the entire filmmaking process for her second feature film called Desert Runners. Here is the interview:

Welcome Jennifer to selling your screenplay podcast. I really appreciate your coming on the show.

Jennifer: Wow thank you so much for having me.

Ashley: So to start, I wonder if you can just give us a quick overview of your career in the entertainment industry and kinda how you got to this point of making this latest documentary.

Jennifer: Sure, well I to film school as an undergraduate. I studied visual arts and film and I always really loved the editing process. That was my favorite part of it and I really loved it. To me, it was, I had a Fine Arts background which sort of felt like fledged me, like someone would hand you all these raw footage and say, here make something. And you really have to craft it. And I loved that part of the storytelling. So my background is really as an editor first. I was a film editor. I’ve been a film editor for over 20 years now. And then about 10 years ago, I decided I wanted to stop making other people’s films and start making my own. And that’s sort of how I branched into directing and started finding stories that I wanted to tell myself. But I really… most of my career as an editor, I mean I’ve worked really in everything. I’ve done a lot of TV work. Some work for independent filmmakers and I did commercials. I did a little bit of everything. And then eventually, sort of came back to my true love, which was always documentary films.

Ashley: Ok perfect. So let’s talk a little bit about Desert Runners. You know, how did you find that story and just get involved with it?

Jennifer: So I was at a conference. I helped in a nutrition conference and there was this crazy, funny, wacky Irish guy and he was the speaker at the conference. And he was, you know, in his late 50s and he announced in this conference that he had decided that at the age of 56, he was going to run the four hardest desert ultra-marathons in the world. And he kinda told the story of what those were. And I have never heard of a desert ultra-marathon before. *laughs* I have never even heard of an ultra-marathon, much less like people running 150-mile races through the deserts with backpacks on their backs. And it was insane to me. It was absolutely insane. But also, it was sort of… I had just come from the hospital. My mom had been really sick and she had been in the hospital and I remember thinking to myself, you know, my mom is not that much older than this guy and my mom doesn’t even think that she can walk around the block. Like, what makes this guy think that he can run a hundred and fifty five miles through the desert four times in one year? Kinda what is that all about? So, I’m not a runner myself. I didn’t really… the running part is interesting to me, but that wasn’t what drew me in. What really drew me in was this idea of why do some people think that they can do something that other people think is impossible. And kinda what’s that all about? Like what’s that mindset? How do we decide as human beings what is or is not possible for us. And then, why do we go about doing these things. And so, I just went up and Skyped Dave after the conference, and I said, “Have you thought at all about filming what you’re gonna do next year. When we started talking over Skype and he was in Ireland. And a couple of months later I called up my friend who was a cameraman, and I said, you know I met this crazy guy and he’s gonna do this really crazy thing and will you come with me to Ireland to see if that’s a good story? And so, we hopped on a plane and then we went to Ireland and then we spent a week with Dave and his family. And at the end of that week, we decided we were gonna go for it. And next thing we knew, we were in the desert in Chile filming this crazy ultra-marathon runners.

Ashley: Uh-huh. So at that point then, did you decide you’re gonna do the documentary and did you also find other people that were also preparing for this?

Jennifer: Yeah. It’s actually kind of a funny story. Originally we thought our story was just going to be all about Dave. So we get like a little bit… I mean we didn’t have any funding at this point. We were you know, we had enough to get a couple of plane tickets and get ourselves to Chile. So we get to the desert in Chile for the first three days and Dave gets there from Ireland and he arrives and he says, ‘you know, I really didn’t train that much.

Ashley: *laughs*

Jennifer: And we were like, what? *laughs* And he said, yeah you know, I’ve got a little bit of a stomach flu for a while and then I don’t know, things just kinda happened. I just really didn’t have that much time to train. And like he walks away, and I turn to my cameraman and I was like, ‘Oh my God! He’s not gonna make it! Like we flew all the way to Chile to make a film about this guy and he’s gonna be out on the second day, and what are we gonna do?” And I just said, start shooting everybody. Like talk to everybody you know. We gotta find some other characters and we gotta find them fast. And so, we spent those first couple of days like talking to everyone in the course and meeting all the runners. And you know, there’s people, each one of these races, there 130 – 150 people from 40 different countries. So, really interesting people from all over the world. And then we just started to meet people that we clicked with or we thought had interesting back stories or for whatever reason we just kinda got attached to certain people. And then, the next thing we knew, I think our main character sort of came out of that process.

Ashley: I see, I see. So how many people would you estimate you actually did sort of start this interview process, you had maybe a dozen or something, you narrowed it down. Cos really, there were three that you followed in the movie.

Jennifer: Yeah there were four… Four main characters in the movie. But we, I’d say, yeah we probably we started off with 15 to 20 people that we thought were interesting. And then what happened was between that first race and the second race was when we raised the money and knew that we were gonna be going to all four races. And then we sort of knew that the grand slam, which was the story of people doing all four races, that those people should really be our focus because those were the people that were gonna be there in all four deserts. And so, there were 13 people doing that. And out of those 13, these four sort of really stood out as the main characters.

Ashley: Ok, ok. So one thing I was curious about… How supportive was the organization, the race organization, obviously it’s free press for them so were they happy to help you out and give you as much access as you needed?

Jennifer: Yeah, I think nobody… you know they had media people all the time at every race doing maybe a story on one race, or a story on one runner. But this was the first  time that anybody had really wanted to go to all four races and make a film that really followed the grand slam competitors so yeah, they were very supportive. And they have been very supportive in the release of it as well.

Ashley: Ok so let’s take a step back and you talk about the financing. I think that’s one thing that’s going to be interesting to hear more about. So you went to the interview the first time basically with no funding and then you realized you had a story here so then what did you start to do to raise money?

Jennifer: You know, the documentary film world is really interesting. Right now, with the ways that people use to raise money ten years ago, a lot of those traditional sort of grant rating and things like that, a lot of those funds have dried up. Or there’s a lot more competition for them. Those are kind of rough routes to go. And so, what I’ve been doing really for my projects is you have to really think specifically of your project and your subject matter and who will that story appeal to. And this story in particular, because it was a sports story and it’s sort of an underdog story and then it’s the power of the human spirit sort of story—those messages I knew were really going to be a good match for a lot of corporate sponsors. So that was the route that we decided to go for first with our funding because we knew that a) corporate sponsors tend to have more money than a lot of other sponsors and b) if we could find someone that is aligned with our messaging, then this story can really appeal to them. And so we were really lucky that’s what happened for us. We had, in between the first and the second races, a really awesome corporate sponsor came on board. And they had supported us. They wanted to help us with all the rest of the production funds, basically enough to get us to the next three deserts.

Ashley: So you had basically one corporate sponsor for the entire film?

Jennifer: For the filming part of it. So for all the production. They sponsored the shoots.

Ashley: So can you tell us who that is?

Jennifer: Sure. Yeah. Their company is called Juice Plus. They’re a nutritional supplement company. They’re out of Memphis. So they were our main sponsor for the production part of the making of the film. And then we had some other sponsors who came on for the post production, for the editing and finishing of the film. Cliff Bar was one of those.

Ashley: Ok, so let’s dig in to that process. It’s a fiction film but I have a baseball comedy that I’m in actually. That’s one of the things that co-writer… I have a co-writer and we have been thinking about this, trying to go to some stadiums. So let’s dig in to this process of corporate sponsorship. What exactly do you do? What is your pitch to them? Number one, how do you even get a meeting with the corporation and then what exactly do you pitch and what do they get for being a corporate sponsor.

Jennifer: Oh, those are all really good questions. I wish I could tell you that there was some boiler plate way to do this, but the thing I really learned over the past couple of years is that every project is special and unique in its own way and you have to like, financing there’s not like a set of five steps to do it. It’s kinda like you have to find that perfect thing that works just right for your story. So as far as how you get a meeting, we did do a lot of cold calling and we did reach out to marketing directors of a lot of companies. But in the end, the two companies that were our main sponsors, they were through personal connections. And I think that people, my advice to people is that people always think, “Well I don’t know anybody”. But I don’t think that’s true. Everybody knows somebody because everybody knows somebody that knows somebody. And you find out who those people are by always being in conversation about your film wherever you go. Like, you talk to your hairdresser about it. You talk to the guy who picks up your dry cleaning. You talk to the guy who parks your car. I don’t know. Everywhere you go, you should always be talking about your film because you never know who knows somebody. And both these connections were through a conversation that I had with somebody else or somebody else said, oh you know I know somebody who knows somebody at that company. It’s all about networking in that way is how you get the leads.

As far as what do they get, I also think that’s a conversation you have with the sponsor because different companies want different things and have different interests. I think the biggest thing to remember is that most of the big companies that are out there right now, or even the little companies, they all have their own messaging, they all have their own branding, they all have their own personality that they want their customers to associate with them and so that’s what you’re looking for is that match. Right? So like, this particular film is really a story about ordinary people doing extraordinary things… that you don’t have to be a professional athlete to accomplish something like this… that you can be an ordinary person and with the strength of the human spirit, you can accomplish an amazing thing. And that messaging was really in alignment with both of these companies, that’s the message that they want people to feel about their brands and their products and so this messaging was a match for them. And really, at the end of the day, they don’t want much in return. Being associated with the project is enough for them because the project then goes out to the world, the project gets press, the project gets to win some awards, maybe, or get some accolades, and all of that is good for them. It’s all because they get that by association and they often don’t want or need much more than that.

Ashley: So like in the credits, it’s just literally all they get, and just physically in the credits, there’s the special thanks to such and such a sponsor. You’re not shooting some scene and putting their drink in the background or anything like that.

Jennifer: I have a one shot where I put somebody in Cliff Bar t-shirt.

Ashley: Okay.

Jennifer: And that was the thing… we had to have the logo in the movie for one second, somewhere.

Ashley: I see.

Jennifer: So I put a t-shirt on somebody and that was as far as I was willing to go to be honest. Like I think everybody has different comfort levels with product labels, depending on what they’re willing to do and not do and I would never compromise my artistic vision in any way. But I felt that putting someone on a t-shirt was worth it to me. Like that didn’t… I wasn’t gonna shoot the scene any different no matter what she was wearing. So that was fine. And again, that’s a personal choice for everybody. So there’s that one shot that I did in the whole film and then they have their logos in the end credits and that’s it.

Ashley: So is there’s any tips that you can give us once you’re able to set up the meeting and you go in to them, it sounds like it’s a lot of just describing what you just said, like hey this project is about human spirit, people are accomplishing things they didn’t think of, just getting in there and sort of being passionate about your project. That’s literally what meetings with these corporations were and then they can sort of recognize that that branding is very much in line with their branding?

Jennifer: Yeah, and they’re doing that all the time with projects like this. I think there’s a lot going on with branded… they’re calling it branded entertainment now basically. But there’s a lot of films out there that are getting made this way. It doesn’t work for every film. You know, it’s definitely finding the fit and if your project is the kind of project that could possibly fit with corporate messaging. This particular project was. My last film is a film called Mother Land and it’s a story about women who have lost their children and I took them to Africa to volunteer with children but it’s a very emotional film about grieving and healing and absolutely not a fit for a corporate sponsor at all. So that film was funded in a totally different way. And the same thing with like people have films about political issues or people have films about environmental issues, things like that. You have to find the funder that makes sense for your project, but for this project, which is a sports project, the power of the underdog project, this was a good match

Ashley: Yeah, yeah. I wonder if you could just, just for a little more detail, give us exactly things like connections, you said they were sort of someone who knew someone, can you tell us who that person was? Just so I can get a sense of how close this connection was. Was it literally your hairdresser? Who was  the person that got you into these meetings?

Jennifer: One of the runners worked for one of the companies and introduced us to the marketing directors of one company. And then, I believe my other producer had a friend who knew the guy who worked at the firm. And she was at the cocktail party talking to her friend, and her friend said, you know let me introduce you to my friend who works at the Cliff Bar. I believe that’s how that one happened. So yeah they happened  through friends of friends. I always  say, I know I said this once already, but people always say I don’t know anybody. That’s something people always say to me when I talk about financing stuff. And I always say you think you don’t know anybody but everybody knows somebody.

Ashley: Yeah yeah. Six degrees of separation.

Jennifer: Yeah, and it’s actually more like two degrees of separation so never doubt that you don’t know somebody who knows somebody.

Ashley: So right before the interview started, you talked a bit about the Kickstarter campaign. Let’s maybe talk a little bit about that cos that’s always something I get a lot of questions on… how to go about a successful one. Can you tell us how your Kickstarter, how you promoted it, and kind of just ins and outs and tricks on that.

Jennifer: Sure. So we had the corporate sponsorship that paid for all the shoots, but we didn’t have any money for the post production yet. And so when we got back, we decided to do a Kickstarter campaign to raise some money to get the editing started. And this is, gosh this back in 2010. So Kickstarter, we decided to raise and try for $25,000, which back then was a lot of money. Now, today people are raising $150,000, $200,000 on Kickstarter and doing it really successfully. But back then, it was a big deal. We raised $35,000 and that was a big, that was a lot of money for a Kickstarter project back then. And I learned so much doing it, I’m so glad we did it. It’s an enormous part of the process I think and not just for the money, but really for the audience building, which I didn’t realize what a key component that is. We had over 300 people donate to the film. We raised $35,00 and those 300 people now feel like this is their film and so they are sort of our ambassadors around the world now and they tell their friends about the film and they brag about the film and they put it on their social media and it’s been a huge part of the marketing process to have these people care about our film and be involved in it too. I really felt that Kickstarter is important in that way too, like you’re not just raising money, you’re also creating your fan base, which is a really important part of the distribution process. You know, it’s hard work. I’m not going to lie. Like that 30 days that we were up there at Kickstarter, I mean I was emailing people I was posting on Facebook every single day, I was bugging people. It’s hard work. And then in the end, when you have promised people a bunch of stuff and then you’d have 300 packages to mail out, that’s a big process. And then at the end, when you have, you know, promised people a bunch of stuff. And then you, your 300 packages to mail out like thousand things. That’s a big process too

Ashley: Yeah.. yeah.. yeah..

Jennifer : So, {any…} you really have to figure that into your budget, like, you know, that there are words you come up with for people, you really have to know how much they’re gonna cost you because that.. is a big chunk of change out of the money you raise. To like, we’re trying to gets to people, so, uhm, but out of all that being said. I was really, I never thought I would, I would ever say it was fun raising money, and that 30 days was fun. And again, it was like, it wasn’t just my friends giving money, it was the friends of friends, it was  the strangers that I didn’t know who suddenly give a thousand dollars, you know and it was like, just give you like faith in humanity or something, I don’t know. It’s just like people wanna be part of something cool and it was, you know, it was ahh, it’s really really hard but it’s fun and I think it’s really worth it for a film.

Ashley: So, so, what did you do to kind of get the ball rolling? It’s a literally you and your other producers, the other people involved with the film everywhere when you. Everyone just  starts emailing your friends and what is that email look like, hey, you know again the passion for the project is really a great story and you’re trying just get the ball rolling, please email this to your friends.

Jennifer: That’s exactly what you do. Yup, That’s exactly it. Yup. Yup. You, you, we sent out, I think we sent out an email to our lists once a week. And then post it on facebook everyday. And, and, and a lot of the posting was you know, like, you know, please give and even if you can’t please share this with your friends. Like, like, please share, please share, please share. Because even if it’s not, even if that person feels like they can’t give you 25 bucks, they feel like they can share it on their facebook page. And then you have no idea how their friends, and that’s that’s like some of the stories I was telling you before. Like uhm, you know,  I have one friend,  we were really close to our goal. We were almost there, we’re like 1200 dollars to go, and I posted my, like “we’re so close, we only need, you know, a little bit more money” and my, a friend of mine, shared it on his page and said, “please help my friend, they’re really close to their goal.” And it was one of his friends who wrote back and saw his post and said “how much do they need?” And he said, “1200 bucks” and he, this guy that I never met before, gave us 1200 bucks to hit our goal on that day. So, I like,that was my favorite story in the whole campaign. So, like things like that happened all the time.

Ashley: So, when you say your list, that’s literally the people in your, you know, your address book in your email account; friends and family. Ahm

Jennifer:  Yes, and also, I mean, I feel like everybody should have ah dat…, whoever wants to make a film should have a database. And every single time you meet someone and you get someone’s phone number or someone’s email, you should be taking in those numbers and those names and building your own database and everybody should have one. And, uhm, you know, I have a list from my first film and that gets added to the list from my second film, and gets added from my third film, and so that’s always  growing. But everytime I  go, everytime I meet people, you know, anytime, anybody gives me a business card, that business card , that information immediately goes to my database. So, that I always, I always have a list, I’m always growing my list.

Ashley: How, how big did you say your list is, at this point?

Jennifer: Wooo.. Mine’s not that big. Mine’s a couple thousand of people, I know people who got you know, 10000 people on their list. But, yeah, it should be like, you know, once you accumulate… once you starting accumulating over a couple of years, it will keep growing, you know, my right now, I think mine is at like 2500.

Ashley: Ok, so, uhm, let’s talk a bit about the promotion of the film, once it’s uhm. completed and stuff, again, I get a lot of questions about film fest, people taking their films to the festivals. You have any tips on how many festivals have you guys submit to? And how many did you get in to? One thing I always like is to kind of tell, you know, you always see the success stories of people who go to a film festival and they win and then it’s a big success. And you don’t realize that they submitted to 20 other festivals and got turned down flat. Ahm, so, I’m always curious to hear on how many festivals people submitted to. How many they got accepted to and what sort of reception, you know, tips, what can you expect going to the festivals, and that kind of thing?

Jennifer: Right. So, the festivals circuit, I mean, I also sort of think this is  something that’s happened in over the last 10 years, since the change in the economy but uhm, the festivals are really really really competitive now. There’s a lot more people making really really good film and less lots and also I think a lot of studios are using the festivals to release their films because it’s a more affordable way to do it and they get to different audience, so there’s less spots in the festivals, ahm, and more, good films and more competition, I mean, if you’re the festival director’s talking about how their number of submissions has quadrupled in a year, you know that’s the kind of thing you hear all the time. So, Ah, it’s, it’s tough, it’s tough to get in. You, you apply a lot of places and you get rejected a lot! Ahm and so, I always say to people, like you know, build some fix thick skin around that. Also, they’re highly curated, so, you don’t really know what they’re looking for that year. You don’t really know who else is applying with you. You know like, I remember one festival that I didn’t get into out with my first film, ahh, I was really surprised. I’m absolutely gonna get into that festival and then I didn’t get in. and you know,  I, I did something which you shouldn’t never get to do with which is actually ask the director for feedback about why i didn’t fit in and he said there were 3 films this year that was shot in Africa, and it was just, we couldn’t have them all. So, you just never know, like I, you know, like, it happened to be shot in Africa and there happened two more that year. So, it’s complicated how they program their festival and it’s how , and you know, you just never know why you may or may not get in, you know how I’ve gotten in that year but ahm, so, so, yeah, so, it’s a tough road, I’ll say that. Ahm, that being said. ah, when you begin this very valuable road, I think it’s sort of a, it’s definitely a, it’s like a stamp of approval on your film and a pedigree, you know it’s like going to a university, it’s like you want to go to the best one if you can.

Ashley: Exactly. Yeah.

Jennifer:  And so, you sort of step back from that, you say, ok, i didn’t get into Harvard, so, maybe  I’ll go to Columbia, ok, can I get into Columbia? Can’t get into Columbia, ok, like maybe I’m gonna get into Syracuse, you know it’s like a, you know, and and you just kind of, you take, you take your leaks and kinda go get in where you can get in. So, all that is to say ah, every festival has a specific area of interest. Ahm, and it’s totally important that when you’re planning your festival strategy that you read about every festival and you see what kind of film they like. Ahh, what their areas of interests are? And you really try to strategically, I mean, festival strategy, is just that, it’s a lot of strategy like you wanna apply to the festivals that you know like your kind of film.  And like, you’re, like, like, maybe like, you as the director, or like, that style, or like that subject matter, ahm, they all are very open about what they want and what they’re looking for, so it’s important for film makers to know that. When they’re applying, you just don’t apply blindly with every festival, that’s a waste of your time and money, basically. Ahm, so, ok, so what was the other question?

Ashley: In terms, in terms of getting into the festivals, ahm, you know, ahm, I did independent films several years ago and people kept suggesting to us, we get a producer’s rep that has some access to these… people that are actually making those decisions. Did you go that route? Ahm did you think about that or you just submitted without having any real contact at festivals?

Jennifer: Ah, for my first film, I submitted without having any contact because I didn’t have any contacts and I didn’t have any money to have a produce’s rep and you know, and that is sort of like the.. that is the catch 22 being the first time director, right… is that.. is that you don’t really have the connections that you want,  probably do not have the money that you need. Ahm and the truth is like, yeah, I like a lot of these festivals, everybody knows somebody and everybody is trying to pull a string to get somebody in because they know somebody who knows somebody and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t and the festivals swear that it doesn’t and I sort of believe them. At the end of the day I think you have to have a good film and if you have a good film, you’re gonna get in.. like, and that’s what they all say, you know they really want good films and that’s the conversation they’re having and so ahm. And I remember you know as a first time director feeling like “Ah that’s not very helpful advice!” of course, I’m trying to make a good film,  but it’s kind, it is kind of the bottom line, it’s like all you can really do is make  the best possible film that you can make and hope the people get it, hope the people like it and if.. if they, if the festivals like it you’re gonna be in and you’re gonna do that whole circuit and it’s gonna work for you, and if it’s not a festival, there’s a lot of films out there that are not festival fims.. that have great lives and do great things. It’s not the only route to go, there’s a certain kind of film that’s a festival film, ahm, that would do great on the festival circuit, and , but maybe my might even do  great out on the world, you know like my first film was a festival film. It did great at the festivals, it premiered at South By SouthWest. I won an audience award, i won other awards at festivals, it did great on the festival circuit. I couldn’t sell that film to save my life, like, like, I made no money on that film, you know, where.. and so there’s other films that are like amazing commercial successes that never made it..,  that never got into a festival ever. So, now there’s different every.. every film find its home. You know….

Ashley:  So, let’s talk about Desert’s Runner sthen, did you get any distribution on that? Ok, so, you guys.. What’s the status on the distribution?

Jennifer:  Ahm, so  Desert’s Runners we premiered it in Scotland at the Edinburgh Film Festival and then it also went to IDFA  in Amsterdam and ahm, it’s ah..  and then  it was sold in the US, it was on direct tv in the US ahm, and then it’s been doing great internationally. We probably sold it in 15 different international markets.  We sold it in Australia, we sold it in Canada..  ahm, all over Europe so ahm, it’s kinda making the rounds around the world which is cool. Ahm, and it’s about international class of characters.  So, I think that really helps .

Ashley:  And talk about that ahm, a little bit of you mentioned it , before we started the interview that you deliberately chose people and I think that’s a very important point. You deliberately chose people from around the world ahm so that you could potentially find distribution in these various countries, how important do you think that was?

Jennifer: I think it’s important and I think it was sort of a lesson that I learned on my first film was that you know on my first film I just made the movie I wanted to make and I didn’t think anything about marketing and I didn’t think anything about distribution ahm I didnIt think anything about those things being important and I just told the story I wanted to tell and now, you know, if.. And if I wanna have a career as a film maker you know you have to think about things like marketing industry distribution and a lot of that does play to my choice of subject matter now. Ahm, it doesn’t mean that I’m picking things I’m not interested in like I still.. I only make a movie if it’s a subject matter I’m really interested in. But I think that you know now, I think about it at the beginning.. who’s  gonna buy this? Where is it gonna sell? Who’s gonna be interested in it? What’s gonna, you know, who’s it gonna appeal to? Whose my audience gonna be?  And because those are all the things that funders want to know. And those are all the things that buyers wanna know. Buyers wanna know who can I sell it to? So, if you, if you, wanna make a film and you wanna get it bought,  you have to think about those things in the beginning.,  yeah, so I knew you know, one of the ways you can really make money as a film maker doing what you love and is by having your film sell in different market all over the world. And so, when I found this particular story one of the things that made it really appealing was that it was shot all over the world and it was about people who were from all over the world. So, I knew it was gonna appeal to audiences all over the world for that reason, and I knew it was a good story choice.

Ashley: So, how does it work..  you getting the corporate sponsorship? Are they investor in the films, so as you  start to recoup your money, you pay them back or they’re basically doing it just as a marketing expense?

Jennifer: For them,  it’s a marketing expense. That I mean, people do different kind of deals and.. and like I said everybody’s financing structure is different, every single film I know of is financed in different way – there’s no boilerplate way to do it and..  and people strike different deals. But from my films ahm, they’re purely sponsors. They don’ have any back end ownership at all.

Ashley : Ok. Perfect. Ahm, you know, one thing as I was watching the movie I was feeling like the Antarctica was the toughest of them and maybe it was just my interpretation of it. Actually seem like the easiest because ahm you didn’t  have the heat element. So, people weren’t you know, passing out heat exhaustion..  is that the way it seemed? The Antarctica was actually of the marathon.. of the ultra marathon was actually the easiest.

Jennifer: I think it was, I wouldn’t say it was easiest. I’d say the challenge because of the terrain and because of the.. the nature of the race was you know..  they only giving me small plots of land to run on in circles. So, imagine running a 2 mile loop for eleven hours straight.  It was a much more of a mental challenge I think than a physical one because they were you had to not go crazy running in circles for eleven hours. So, ahm, I mean that’s almost to the runner’s side that it was more challenging mentally than the other ones. It was pretty cool out there though… It was crazy.

Ashley: I’m sure it was cold. There  wasn’t the danger, I mean like the uh, the one poor girl got attack in ahm,  in Egypt and uhm, you surely wouldn’t have that kind of stuff in Antarctica as well, so there’s not that danger element as well.

Jennifer:  Weather was pretty dangerous. They would have like…  ahm, they, one of the reasons we ran close to the boat was that all of a sudden,  the weather would change drastically out of nowhere, maybe,..  it would be bright and sunny and five minutes later you hear, “Everydoby on to the boat..blizzard coming!” And you have to, like evacuate because the weather would get so extreme and so intense and then an hour later it would be gone and you could be go back out again and so..

Ashley:  So, just as we wrap this up, I wonder if there is anything that uhm, you know now from going through this experience that you wished you had known before you started and maybe that.. that wisdom could be imparted on to someone else  who’s thinking about doing a documentary like this.

Jennifer : Ahm,

Ashley: Anything that surprised you, you know, generally this project you know, you start out, the things that you think are gonna be tough aren’t that tough and the things you think are gonna be easy, end up being really really hard. Is there anything like that the kinda surprise you

Jennifer: Ah, not this time because it wasn’t my first film anymore. On my first film, for sure, but I think, I think the thing I learned on the first film was be ready for anything .Like be open for anything and so I was like that. Ahm I.. I was ready for the unexpected to happen and willing to let it happen and willing to roll with it when it did happen and I think that sort of way of being is key to being able to get these things finished. You know, ahm making a film, making an independent film is really really really hard work and if.. if not for the faint of heart and  you have to believe in it, you have to believe that this movie is gonna be finished. Because nobody else is gonna believe it if you don’t and that’s really what it’s all about. It’s about believing it in your bones that one way or the other you’re gonna finish and then try to convince everybody you meet to help you make it happen and I think that’s really the work of it you know it’s just like not.. not letting go about belief, like.. And honestly, that’s what I like so much about Desert Runners because I feel like pull up in the Desert Runners. It’s like the only thing that carries those people across that finish line is that they always believe they would make it..  and that’s the thing that like get people through the hardest most crazy painful obstacles in the world is that internal belief that like, no matter what one way or another I’m gonna finish, I’m gonna figure out how to finish and that’s.. and I feel like that’s you know I always say that at festivals or wherever when I’m talking about the film. This film is a metaphor for everything in life but particularly about film making.

Ashley: Yeah yeah for sure. So ahm.. What’s the best way for people to contact you or follow what you doing? ahm, you how they can keep up with you?

Jennifer: Yeah, they ahm, is my website and the movie website is and they can follow me on twitter  @jennyfilm.

Ashley: Perfect. Perfect. I will link to those in the show notes, so if anybody wants to find that information they can just check it out and they’ll be able to click straight over. Jennifer, you’ve been very very ahm, generous with your time I really appreciate that. This has been a very informative interview I’ve learned a lot.

Jennifer: Yeah, thank you so much for having me. Great talking to you;


Ashley: if you like to watch the movie that Jennifer and I discussed, Desert Runners, you can download it at and you can coupon code “script” for a 10% discount. I’ll link to it on the show notes just go to and look for episode 23. It really is an inspirational stories about much more than just running in marathons as Jennifer just said, it could be looked  at as a metaphor for film making and screen writing; pushing yourself to do things you don’t think you’re capable of doing. We could all use a little of that sort of inspiration. So, check it out if you get a chance.

Just a quick plug for my email and fax blast query service, just in the last year I’ve optioned 4 scripts, sold one script and got one paid writing assignment. All of this came from using my own email fax blast query service. Here’s how it works, first, you join SYS select then post your log-on and inquiry letter in the SYS select forum. I review your log-on inquiry letter and help you make them.

Then you purchase the blast and I send it out for you the emails are stamped as if they’re from you, your email address all the replies could directly back to you. You can exclude companies if there are specific companies you don’ t wanna send to. Just check out to learn more about that. Once again, I wanna thank screencraft for sponsoring this episode. They’re currently accepting submissions for their comedy screenplay contest. They have a great line up of judges; some of the best comedy producers in the business. The deadline for entry is August 1st.

Check out if you have a comedy screenplay to enter.

In the next episode of selling your screenplay podcast I am going to be interviewing screen writer Chris Sparkling. Chris is a screen writer of the film “Buried” starring Ryan Reynolds. Buried is a really interesting movie, it literally takes plays entirely in a coffin. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should definitely check it out. It will give a lot more context but also really great bit of writing.

Obviously, it takes some real creativity to make a movie that is just one actor in one very small claustrophobic location work so it’s really a master work on how to make something simple work well so keep an eye out for that interview in the next episode. So in today’s writing word segment I wanna talk a bit about a few things that Jennifer said the whole idea of sponsorship is the great angle if you could find that in your story. I can see this working even in fiction films if done correctly, I times on the podcast the writing partner and I have a baseball comedy which takes place on the minor league stadium and we’ve been exploring this angle a bit, trying to get minor stadium interested in helping finance the film, and then writing their actual team and their mascot and perhaps even some of their fans into the actual screen play.

One of the keys in independent film making right now is finding creative ways to finance the film and make it a real win for the people who were investing in movie. The old distribution models of crumbling DVD sales aren’t what they used to be cable channels aren’t paying they used to except direct sell themselves. Nowadays, when you make an independent film, for just say one million dollars you’re lucky if you make out the money back.  So, obviously the investors are left holding the bag and then obviously they didn’t want to invest in another film. No on likes to throw money away no matter how rich they are but if you could find sponsorship or high value product placement for your film then it becomes a totally different strategy the sponsors don’t care how much or how little net flix on demand or amazon prime or even something like youtube are paying they just want the film to be seen in by as many as people as possible and that’s what the internet is really great at doing. it’s great at distributing content cheaply. So this could be a real win-win for both of film makers and the investors if it was done properly. Even if the movie didn’t make the all the hard dollars that were invested in then it can still bring tremendous value to the sponsors.

I really think we can see more and more of this especially in independent films in the future anyway, that’s all for show, thank you listening