This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 040: An Interview With Writer Director Markus Blunder.
Welcome to Episode 40 of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyer, screen writer and blogger over at SellingYourScreenplay.com.
In this episode’s main segment, I’m interviewing Markus Blunder. Markus is a writer and director. He recently completed a feature film called Autumn Blood. And we dig in to some of the specifics about how that film came about so stay tuned for that.
If you find this episode valuable, please help me out by giving me a review in iTunes or leaving a comment on YouTube, or re-twitting the podcast on Twitter or liking it on Facebook. These social media shares really do help spread the word about the podcast so they are very much appreciated.
A couple of quick notes, any websites or links that I mentioned in the podcast can be found on my blog in 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/podcast and then just look for Episode number 40.
Also, if you want my free guide on how to sell your screenplay in five weeks you can pick that up by going to SellingYourScreenplay.com/guide. It’s completely free, you just put in your email address and I’ll send you a new lesson once per week for 5 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 logline 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.
Just a quick update about what I’m working on. I have a few people email me and asked me about some of the comments I made on the last episode. About the option I recently dig with a producer on my film nor mystery screenplay. He wants to make some major changes to the screenplay that I don’t agree with so just some of the emails I got was why are you willing to work with this producer if you think he’s going to make a lousy film? The problem I’m facing is an ager problem for screenwriters. If you’re ever going to be a professional writer, you will face it.
I remember when I optioned my first screenplay Dish Dogs. At that time I was reading Jack London. If you haven’t read it I highly recommend you check it out. It is a great book for writers to read for a whole variety of reasons. And I’m gonna talk about one of the reasons right now. About halfway through the book, the character Martin Eden begins to sell a few poems but the editors drastically rewrite them. The character of Martin Eden was absolutely outraged.
I realized that I was reading this book, as I’ve said writing Dish Dogs was being optioned and the producers there were starting there were starting to do some rewrites on Dish Dogs then I realized that that was where I was in my career. I had just optioned my first script and I thought that I was off the big leagues but then the producers started to rewrite my script and in my opinion destroy it. And unfortunately, I just never been or nobody get pass that point in my career. So part of the answer to this question is simply that a professional writer must man up and take the professional gigs, at least offer it. It’s not like I’ve got dozens of offers where producers wanna option my script and not make changes to them. This process is painful as it is. It’s part of screen writing, so you got to be prepared for it if you’re serious to but having a career as a screenwriter.
I think another part of the equation is that I’m an eternal optimist. Before you really get in to the needy greedy of the situation, I guess I just didn’t realize how bad things are going to get in terms of the rewrite. So while I knew that this producer wanted to make some big changes before he sign the option agreement, I just… I guess I didn’t think it through enough.
One thing that I like about this producer though, is that he’s a real hustler and I have no doubt that he’s gonna produce a few movies of the next decade. He’s smart, he’s motivated, he’s so… he’s gonna make some films. And that’s a lot more than I can say for most people I meet in this town. So, at some point you gotta just try to attach your wagon to a train that is actually going to leave the station. And so, maybe it is a deal with the devil in some ways but you know, it’s not like there’s a lot of other options.
They said that most of the producers or wanna be producers that I meet. I’m not just convinced that they’re really gonna make a movie. This guy’s gonna make some movies. It may not be my movie but he’s gonna make some movies. So that’s an important point and it’s something to really consider when you’re working with poeple as how serious they are. Looking at it, honestly; how likely do you really think it is they’re gonna make a movie. This guy will make some more movies. You know, if you’re gonna go into business with someone, it might as well be someone who actually is gonna get it done.
But I would take it that the main reason that I signed this option agreement and went into business with this producer is because at some level we get along with each other. This may seem odd considering what I’ve described. But we’re still on speaking terms and while we don’t agree with each other on the creative level, we are still communicating. And I feel like we still communicate pretty well and that’s a lot more that I can say for some of the other producers that I dealt with. Many of the producers that I’ve worked with I told them what I think of their ideas and they’ve gotten quite offended. And for century I’ve never heard of them again. So this producer, he doesn’t like what I’m saying but he’s still talking to me and potentially listening to what I’m saying. And that’s a big thing.
And from the very start when we met each other, we had a good rapport. A good back and forth where we could speak honestly to each other and we didn’t take it personally or get offended. And I can’t tell you how important that is. Working with people that you communicate with even if you don’t get along, it s very very important. So we had that going for us.
Ultimately I think, I can write a script that he’d like but it’s essentially writing him a completely new screenplay which I’m open to. But it’s gonna take many months. So that’s the issue now. He wants something in a couple of weeks and I don’t feel like i can make the major changes that he wants that quickly. He thinks it’s simple and easy to implement. And at this point, it’s not even that I think his ideas are worse than mine or anything like that. It’s just really that I don’t think I can write him a decent script with this huge changes in just a couple of weeks. There’s a variety of reasons why he needs a script quickly and they’re perfectly legitimate reasons. I won’t necessarily want to get in to all that now. But producers are on a tight schedule. They do have certain deadlines that they need to make. There are certain things that are going on, meetings where he’s involved in. So there are some reasons why he needs it quickly but I just don’t think I can deliver a good script in that time frame.
So, we’ve at least come to some sort of a temporary resolution which I think actually works well for both of us. He’s gonna take a pass at the script. He’s gonna get final draft open up the script and start making his changes. Maybe he’ll be able to write something he’s happy with in a week or two. We’ll see. As I said, after today’s conversation we’re still communicating well so I’m still hopeful that he’ll realize that to write a really good script is really gonna take some time. And he’ll come back to me and he’ll let me help him whip it in the shape. And that’s the great thing. As I said, I think we’re still communicating well and I definitely was very clear to him to listen, if you want some help on the script I’m here to help and I’m happy to dig in and do the rewrite you want. So, I’m kinda hoping that it’s kinda my help now is that he’ll do this pass that he’s gonna do and he’ll decide that it’s not that great and he’ll come back to me and then we kinda get to work. But’s gonna take months, I mean it’s basically a page 1 rewrite. You know, that’s fine. You got to write a script for the producer on some level. But it’s just not something that I can do that quickly and I think he understands that and he kinda understands my position. We’ll see how that it turns out.
Just assin’ aside, I’m gonna be skipping this section in the podcast where I give updates for probably the next eight weeks. I’ve got a ton on podcast interviews recorded. So I’m actually batting them out. I’m recording all; basically the footer and the header which is the part like I’m doing right now; talking in front of the camera. I’m basically going through all these interviews that I’ve recorded. And I’m just recording that front piece and back piece in a big batch. I’m doing it all this week.
I just want to see there’s not a more efficient way to do this, the podcast. And then I don’t have to worry that every week producing a new episode. I’ll have 8 of them in the can. It takes us up to I think about the Thanksgiving. So, there will be some things that I’m gonna lose like this section but as I said I just wanna see if it’s not a more efficient way to produce the podcast. Just pass them out maybe once every month or every other month and upload them. On your end, you’re not gonna see a lot of difference, I’m still gonna just basically set them to publish on Monday every week. So, they’d be publishing at the same time but I’m actually producing the episodes ahead of time. And in some cases, the episodes will be 8 weeks old by the time you actually listen to it, so obviously I’m not gonna have this kind of real time updates of my own career for a little while. Anyways, let’s go ahead and get into the main interview. Today, I’m gonna be talking with director and writer Markus Bluder. Here is the interview:
Ashley: Welcome Markus to the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show.
Markus: Hey, same here. Thanks for having me.
Ashley: So, to start out, I wonder if you can give us a quick overview of your career and how you got in to the entertainment industry.
Markus: I started in the childhood. As a kid I already have my own art room… I had like couple of old PDAF cameras… I was converting Polaroid cameras into multi polaroid cameras and I can make a short… a short stunt in the film screen… It didn’t came very crafty in a way… I like to get my hands on cameras and stuff… and it … so, I had night jobs… From night jobs I was working restaurants and bars… And at daytime, I was volunteering for a production company. Then [inaudible] who’d be working on American productions. Big American productions shooting out here in Europe. The money I made I invested in producing, writing and directing short film. That led to winning a few awards internationally for short films. Made us … and then I got picked up by a headhunter who invited me to come to an 8 full week to meet production houses that works …
Ashley: Perfect. Perfect. So, let’s talk about your latest film Autumn Blood which you directed, produced and co-wrote. Maybe you can give us the log lines for incase people haven’t seen the trailer yet.
Markus: Sorry, I didn’t hear you completely.
Ashley: Sure. So, let’s talk about your latest film Autumn Blood. I wonder if you can give us the log lines for the filming case people have not seen the trailer yet.
Markus: Oh yeah. Of course, yeah. Basically Autumn Blood is about 2 young children growing up in a very remote mountain farm. The father had passed away years ago. He was murdered by another guy. And the children continue to live with their mama up in the mountain. Years later, the mom died of hardship, from just working. Working for the kids in very hard circumstances. She died and the children decide not to talk about it with anyone so they wouldn’t be separated by social services. And they buried their mom and continued with their lives. But they didn’t know is that the death of the father had a dark pre-history in the village close by. And that dark history catches up with them now that they are unprotected by their father and mother. And they have to face for their lives in emotionally and physically.
[line connection issue]
Ashley: I was just gonna say it sounds similar to something like Winter’s Bone.
Markus: Yeah yeah, I love Winter’s Bone, excellent film and it’s a great show comparison.
Ashley: Maybe you can kinda tell us where the story came from. How did you get involved with the script and how did you get involved with the story.
Markus: Basically, I myself grew up in a small remote town in out and I used to spend all my childhood on remote mountain farm, in a small remote mountain village that has only like 7 farms. And I always remember that there were things people didn’t talk about… things that had happened before in the small town. Stories of in greed and sexual abuse and I always remember that it kind of… it always was very scary to me. and other kids. Then I was about 27. I met again a girl that I courted, used to get out with me out there in that remote region and we talked about how the kids would really be scared of all those dark stories of murders, of thieves of wilderness we call the guys who hunting the enemy down without permission. And then you know even it was inconvenient she told me a very personal story of her life; that something had happened to her and that never really got; she never really felt to talk about. Well nobody really talks about it; kind of buried. And felt only later, 20 or 50 years later to be able to talk about it. And that’s why I want to tell this story. It’s basically like a true story.
Ashley: You co-wrote the film with writer Steven Barton. I wonder if you can maybe talk just quickly about the sort of logistics of working with him and how did that worked out. Did he write the first draft and then you took a pass at it or vice versa or did you guys just sit in the same room and write it?
Markus: Basically I wrote the story outline and that was over from the United States. It was necessary to write the story in the outside environment rather than in a big city.
And he came over and we would sit down every day with books for about 2 weeks and then he left back to LA. It was convenient there to finalize the track and polish it and;
It was a great cooperation. Steven is a great writer.
Ashley: I wonder if you can just speak briefly to how did you guys go about raising the money for this. I’m always just curious; I get a lot of writers asking me ” hey I’ve written a script I want to produce it myself. Maybe some tips for writers and producers about how can they can raise the money.
Markus: In Europe, there’s some kind of incentive …which gives you tax credit and we also have Phillip put in grace by the government making sure that the local film industry culturally gets developed further … and also economically so that people in the film industry can further develop their craft and their job. I think we also have called these routes, even when I had just developed another script, that was called ‘Cross your heart’, a beautiful dark love tale, between a teenage boy and very mysterious girl that he encountered in the mountains; and I was raising the money for this script, and I realized that in this particular part it was getting short, too short and I dropped the tone for the time being and I always wanted to do this; I always wanted to tell the story of my friend but I was a little bit scared because of a very dark siege, and I finally said: ‘No, wow, this story should be told and Steven came over and he wrote the whole thing in 6 weeks and then I had only about 8 weeks to raise the money; it started counting and prepping.
The way I financed it is almost entirely private entity with exception of local tax credit. As a tip from a vital producer, write the best script you can write because I think there’s lot of demand out there for great stories and good scripts and I want you to feel you have it. Don’t be shy to approach any routes, look up producers you like, things that you relate to, that you believe can relate to your sensibility and try to compass them through social media, whatever you know, official channels, agency.
All the roads lead to Rome, but this one has to lead you well, but you have to have a good script. There’s always money out there for great content, you know?
Ashley: So what’s the best way for people to watch ‘Autumn blood’? Is it going to get a theatrical release, is it available on video on demand?
Markus: Right now, we actually are having a theatrical release. Our distributor, our American distributor has headline our release, September 19 in selected cities including L.A. and New York. WE also have a day and date release.
WE also have video on demand. We have almost every platform taking on ‘Autumn blood’.
Ashley: OK, great. So what’s the best way people to follow up on you? Are you on twitter, do you have a blog or website? You can just tell us what that is and I can put it in the show notes for people to click over.
Markus: In the moment, we have Facebook ‘Autumn blood’ page and we are building our twitter page. Facebook has all the other links.
Ashley: Perfect, perfect. I’ll definitely track that down and list that in the show notes if anybody wants to follow.
Markus, you’ve been very generous with your time. It’s been very interesting. I really appreciate you coming on and talking with me today.
Markus: Same here. Thanks for the time and thanks for looking at our film and talking about it. Again, again, we’re always looking for great scripts, me and my partners, and myself so don’t be shy.
Ashley: Perfect, will do. Thank you much Markus.
I’m going to be running another online class called ‘Before you begin to write your screenplay’. I’m going to be discussing various steps you should be taking before you begin to actually write your screenplay. I’ll be showing you the exact process that I use.
I see to many screenwriters who begin writing before they’re ready and what happens is that they end up with a screenplay just chalk full of problems. And once that first draft is written it becomes difficult to fix problems that could have been easily fixed in the outlining stage.
This class is a second one in a series of classes that I’m doing, that will guide you through the entire screen writing process, from coming up with a marketable concept to outlining and writing your screenplay, to marketing your screenplay to agents and producers.
If you missed the first class I recorded it and have put it in the SYS selected form; feel free to listen to it at your leisure.
This class is going to be on Saturday on October 18, at 10 a.m. Pacific Time. If you like to learn more about this class go to www.Sellingyourscreenplay.com/classes. Like the last class, I will also be recording this one so if you listen to this after October 18, again, that’s not a problem. The classes are recorded and put into SYS select, the SYS library.
So you can check these out really at any time in the future and to learn more about SYS select just go to www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com.
In the next episode of Selling your Screenplay podcast I’m going to be interviewing Alejandro Siri and Johnny T. Silver. Their first spec sale is recently produced and they go into some major detail about how they got that script sold.
These are really two hard working and smart guys and they have a lot of great information to share so keep an eye for that episode next week.
To wrap things up I just want to talk about few thing from today’s interview with Markus. I’ve gotten in with the publicist who is promoting movies similar to Markus Blender’s ‘Autumn Blood’ and they’re passing me a lot of these interviews that you hear on these podcasts.
It’s been a great asset to the podcast because I feel like I’m getting really good people to interview and obviously they’re getting some publicity for their current films. So, it’s a fantastic relationship.
However, sometimes, like today they don’t give me enough time to conduct the interviews, so I do apologize for not going in deeply for some answers as I normally like to do.
And one of those things that I kind of got into, but I didn’t get a lot further was about the financing of this film.
He talked about grants and European financing. This is something I don’t know virtually nothing about so I will try and get someone onto the podcast in the future that knows more about this and really drill people down into it, even just for my own education. I think it’s interesting and important to understand how European films are financed.
One of the things I feel like is becoming more clear to me is, especially with this sorts of independent genre of films, is that you’ve got to either be a director or you’ve got to be real in with the director, like the co-writer of this film I just talked about with Markus.
I almost feel like being a writer is like being a song writer but not being a performer where if you write and direct you’re more of complete package.
You’ll be seeing more of this over the next few weeks in the interviews I’m going to be sharing. There are a lot of writer-director combinations or writer –producer combinations. It just seems like that’s the best way to really start to take control of your career. So I’ve been considering this and figuring out what sort of angle I should take to move more into this direction. I have done some producing so I really think I need to probably do more of that and when I say producing, really what that means is going out and raising the money, but even if you want to be a writer-director, at the beginning stages it also means you’re going to be raising money yourself; probably doing some shorts, doing something that Markus mentioned here, doing some shorts, getting in some press and some publicity for those shorts.
But it’s really going to involve you writing, directing, probably also producing your own material.
So if you’re listening to this I would say just to keep that in mind and just ponder that as you go forward.
Anyway, that’s the show. Thank you for listening.