Welcome to Episode 42 of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyer, screen writer and blogger over at www.SellingYourScreenplay.com.
In this episode’s main segment, I’m interviewing Danny Bramson who is a producer on a recent film ‘Jimi: All is by my side’. It’s a bio on Jimi Hendrix’s early career so stay tuned 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 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 42.
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So now let’s get in to the main segment. Today I’m talking with producer Danny Bramson. Here is the interview:
Ashley: Welcome Danny to the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me.
Danny: Thank you man and I’m absolutely honored to be with you.
Ashley: So to start out, I wonder if you can give us just a quick, 2 minute overview of your career and kinda how you got into the entertainment industry and ended up producing your latest film?
Danny: Thank you. I started working concerts what turned out to be the back theatre at the Universal studios. And as I worked, the first show I booked I was 18 and it was the ‘Great for dead’. And I came from UCLA School; the same month I graduated I turned 21 and they gave me the theatre. And over 7-8 years and 1000 concerts ranging from David Bowie to Frank Sinatra – they gave me when I turned 25 my own record label. And I was fortunate enough to sign Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
And learning the record business behind that break through first album started the torpedoes and with that my love of film and film music was the wind fall of that record. I started putting together and producing film scores and their societies soundtracks. I wanted to bring the contemporary artists and the artists that I cherished into the world of composing as opposite to contributing that proverbial hit song or the title song.
And the first I did was with Neil Young and he’s record let the first bad movie made on 100 S Thompson. Then I did ‘Where the Buffalo Roam’ with Bill Murray and progressed through the years and putting together James Brown with Devo for Dan Aykroyd’s ‘Doctor Detroit’ and George Omarosa ‘Scarface’.
And so film and music has always been a deep and profound love of mine and the marriage of the two art forms but I re-vied and suffered to live in that in every drop of the hat.
Ashley: That’s great. So you found Tom Petty before he was, you know, Tom Petty. And I’m always curious to hear for those sorts of stories. Was it..?; I mean you were in the music business, you were probably looking for thousands of musicians over the course of these years. Did you realize or did you or people around you realize that he was just a monumental talent?
Danny: Tom’s talent, when I first saw him, dear friend of mine and collaborator of course, a great man, the great director Cameron Crow, he and I, when we two met were always the youngest two guys in the living room and we were absolute jointed in hip and first and foremost music and true music fans. And we went off one night and saw Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Tom’s marriage of the inspiration to the Birds and Bob Dylan with that kind of energy and soulful bottom of the Stones at their finest, just dreamy completely.
But you know, and so watching his slow progress with those first two underserved records that he had put together with the band; opportunity being at the right place at the right time and having established a relationship with him an year before when I had them come up to one of my Bob Dylan concerts at the amphitheater and afterwards introducing them together for the first time.
We kept an eye on one another and we ran into contractual issues with that first contract of his; you know, even with my inexperience amongst the pillars of the record industry and starting out with my new label – he trusted me and took a chance on me and my passion and my honest and my relentless trusting entrustment with him. And then, again, you know, his genius mascarated the production of our first record together with him, the torpedoes, he drew from all of those influences and Tom’s maturation into the song writer that we all know conically now and it’s wonderful of you to say that. Thank you.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. OK, so let’s go ahead and let’s talk about your most recent film which you produced. It’s called Jimi: All is by My Side, about Jimi Hendrix, I guess before he became famous, stars Benjamin and it was written and directed by Academy Award Winner John Ridley. So maybe you can just give us a brief overview of kind of how you got involved in that project.
Danny: My long, long time agent and friend called me one day, after we’ve done 30-35 films and he phoned me up and he goes look: ‘I’m handing you a script. I’m not going to tell you word about it. I don’t one any of your pre-conceived notions. I just want you to read this thing and see if it moves you. Call me as soon as you read it.’ And that was unique in all the years of our relationship.
So as soon as I sat down, started reading and of course by page 8 I noticed the main characters name Jimi James. You can imagine my, you know, proverbial eye roll; but about 20 pages in I was so taken by the screenplay and the dialogue and the poetry of the screenwriters uses of two muses in Jimi’s life; most notably Linda Keats. I just consumed the script and it was the ultimate page turner for me.
An hour later I phoned my agent, said ‘OK man, you own. I got to meet this guy’. We sat down at lunch the next day, John and I, with at the time the sole producers on the film, Sean McKitrrick and Jeff Culotta, again, not familiar with. And that lunch turned into dinner. WE went about maybe 5-6 hours.
The first thing I asked John was because I had a lot of notes on every page and was armed with so many questions and I think for the first 10 minutes I bombarded them with : ‘Did you ever go on the road?; Did you ever play an instrument?; Did you ever wake up next to Alan..?’ Have you ever been in a recording studio? Did you ever play with a band?’ ; because the first draft – it felt so organic and real and incredible; the world that I knew and lived in and so not in a pretentious way.
And you know, rooted in that loft; or under served a year in Jimi’s life; and that fertile, you know, all the toxic environment of London, and it’s cultural and sexual and musical. It was such a fertile environment and something that I so wanted to jump head hands and feed into the mind and explore. And interpret;
Ashley: So I’m curious and John, I don’t know a lot about him but, my assumption is all these things that you liked about the script – ‘have you ever played an instrument’?
Danny: No, he answered no to every one of that machine gun fired questions – he answered no. And it’s his master end of research and his perception and his knowledge. And you know with that sublime power of his screenplay and…; the poetry of his dialogue and his words; I just hoped to match and compliment his stages; and portrayal
Ashley: As a producer were you involve at all at raising money? I’m always curios how these films just film like a business stand point, kind of come about.
Danny: You’re right. This is my first Indy feature. I’ve never ever swam or transferred in waters, you know, this financially shallow before. Our entire budget, we began with I think the presumed budget of 4 million dollars; an upcoming film fueled by my ambition for the musical titles that complimented and influenced and surrounded Hendrix within that cold London society.
We came in, in final, with about 5 million dollars, and with those financial limitations I’d never had so much ambition with so little wallet. But in this case of course I had to spend and invest time and energy in guiding those cue principle in dusters across this river but I hope that John’s vision looks over that overall budget.
Ashley: I get a lot of legal questions and obviously you’re not a lawyer either but maybe you can just speak to this specific project. I get people asking me about writing a screenplay that revolves around sort of historical character like Jimi Hendrix and what’s involved with getting the rights. Did you guys need to get some rights from his estate or is it more generic, you used the information that’s publically available so you don’t have to get the rights?
Danny: You answered the question. I’m not a lawyer, legally – I’ve surround myself with those experts that I’m not even close to matching up with and in that case I think generally, you’re spot on when there’s an historical figure and iconography like Hendrix. It allowed and joint this..; obviously we were well aware of the Hendrix’s well standing reluctance to allowing Jimi’s original songs for any unauthorized Hendrix theme films. Therefore we never sought out Jimi’s hits like the one he had for the pop festival and with those Hendrix standard songs out of the equation from the top gravitated towards musical design as more as an interpretation of Jimi’s development as guitarist principally and that the English musical and cultural informed, influenced inspired and propelled him.
And I must say the creative challenge was staggering underscored every and each moment the responsibility to get it right.
Ashley: So I wonder just to wrap things up – what’s the best way for people to watch Jimi : All is by MY Side? Is it going to be released theatrically, is it going to be on video on demand soon?
Danny: Thank you for asking. It’s going to be released a week from tomorrow, on the 26 of September in 16 major cities here in North America and then expanding following week to many more cities and theatres and taking off from there. So it’ll play throughout October, September 26 I’m sure through October and let’s see how the audience embraces it and how long this film can run. And then I think it will come out to the obvious Video on Demand, Pay per view, and Cable and Netflix platforms probably say mid to late January and onward from next year.
Ashley: Perfect, perfect. I mean, you’re a fascinating guy. You’re really; you’ve been and witnessed history first hands. So this is been very interesting. I wonder what’s the best way for people just to keep up with you, do you blog or are you on Twitter? If anybody wants to just kind of follow what you’re doing;
Danny: Well thank you. I sincerely appreciate those words. I’m not an expert; I’m not politer at Twitter yet; I would probably say Google or the various searches and what comes up. I don’t normally to press and self-promotion at all. It’s probably why I had such a long and genuine career but I do appreciate that and I appreciate anyone reaching out.
Ashley: Perfect, perfect. Well Danny, you’ve been very generous with your time. I really appreciate you coming on today. Thank you so much.
Danny: Thank you Ashley.
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In the next episode of Selling Your Screenplay podcast I’m going to be interviewing Bobby Rowe and Zack Andrews. They recently wrote and directed a found footage horror thriller script called ‘The Houses October Built’.
It’s a fascinating interview; they shot a really low budget version of their film using credit card to finance it and then they got some heat from version and were able to go and shot a much higher budget professional version.
It’s a great success story and they go into some real detail about how it all comes together. So, keep an eye out for that episode next week.
To wrap things up I just want to touch on some things from today’s interview with Danny. One thing that really stood out to me was the comment that he made about how authentic the script felt to him. This is really something to consider with your own righting. Danny is a music insider who really knows that world and the writer was able to convey that sense of authenticity in the script; especially a period, a bio piece like this – part of what you’re doing is creating a world and apparently the writer was able to successfully pull it off.
So I just really would advise you if you’re writing something like this – go back, really do your research, maybe get it to some people that lived in that specific world and can really color some of the details in for you. ‘Cause in some level, I’m just saying you got to really work; just sort of authenticity has to work for a film like this or the whole thing is just not going to feel right.
Anyway, that’s the show. Thanks you for listening.