This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 068: Screenwriter Tim Ogletree Talks About His New Movie, The Walking Deceased.
Welcome to episode 68 of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger, over at sellingyourscreenplay.com. Just a quick note, I didn’t do an episode last week. I was away on vacation. I was hoping to get one out but didn’t have time. So you didn’t miss an episode; I just didn’t put one out.
In this episode’s main segment, I’m interviewing Tim Ogletree. He recently wrote and starred in a zombie comedy called The Walking Deceased. We get into the specifics of how he got into the business of how he got this film made so stay tuned for that.
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I’d like to thank over on ITunes. I got two nice reviews. I’d like to thank Toya Hawkins and Steadfast Hart. Thank you for those nice reviews. These ITunes reviews really do help. It helps get the podcasts listed in more places in ITunes so it reaches a broader audience. Also if you subscribe to the podcast, then you’ll get the new episodes downloaded to your phone each week so that’s a nice convenient way to stay current on the podcasts. And from what I’ve heard, the number of subscribers also helps you rankings within ITunes. So again, that just helps get the podcasts spread out a little bit broader. So if you don’t mind, please subscribe to the Selling Your Screenplay podcast in ITunes.
A couple of quick notes, any websites or links that I mention 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/podcasts and then just look for episode 68. 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 inquiry 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. Again, just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide.
Also, a quick plug for the new sys screenwriting analysis service. It’s a really economical way to get a high-quality professional script evaluation on your script. All the readers have experience reading for studios, production companies, agencies, or contests. The readers I’ve partnered with are the gatekeepers. They’re exactly the same people who are going to be reading your scripts at the companies you submit to. The readers will evaluate your script on several key factors like concept and premise, structure, character, dialog, and marketability. Every script will get a grade of pass, consider, or recommend, and I’m offering a bonus, if you get one recommend from a reader, you get a free email and fax blast to my list of industry contacts. This is the exact same blast service I use myself to promote my scripts and it’s the same service I sell on the website. It’s a great way to get your script into the hands of producers who are looking to make movies.
If you listen to this podcast regularly, you’ll notice that I’ve actually changed it. It used to be two recommends, then it was a consider and a recommend. Now it’s just flat if you get one recommend from one reader, I’m going to do the blast from you. What I’m finding is it’s very, very difficult to get a recommend so once someone does get a recommend even from just one reader, I feel pretty confident that it’s a pretty good script so I’m happy to do the blast and get it into the hands of producers. I’ve been running this service for now about two months and we actually had our first recommend this past week. Getting a recommendation from a reader really is a big deal. I mean, these readers are seasons; they’ve read a ton of material so they don’t give out recommends very often, but when they do, it really is a big deal. So congratulations to the writer who received this recommend last week. The writer is going to do a quick polish on the script using the reader’s notes and then we’re going to blast it out in the next couple of weeks. I’ll let everyone know how that goes. Hopefully in a couple of weeks we’ll have an option or at least some sort of a good result for that writer.
Also on the website you can read a quick bio on each of the readers and you can pick the one who you would like to read your screenplay. One question I’ve been getting a lot is about our studio reader three-pack. Right now it’s on sale for just $199. So that’s less than $67 per script read. I dare anyone to find a better value in the industry. There really is nowhere that I know of where you can get a seasoned reader to read your script for less than $67 and get three to four pages of solid good notes. People have been asking about how they can use this three-pack. It can be used anywhere you want. You can send three different scripts to three different readers; you can send the same script to three different readers, or you can send one script to a reader, wait for the notes on it and do a rewrite, send it back to the same reader or another reader, do another rewrite and then send it again to the same or another reader. Really it’s any combination you’d like is fine with me. So you can buy this three-pack and you can just use it. There is no expiration date or anything like that. If you want to buy the three-pack you do save a significant amount of money by buying the three-pack. You can buy it and then you can basically just bank these reads and you can use them over the course of the next weeks or months. As I said, it’s any number of scripts, any combination of three scripts and three readers. So it’s very, very flexible. So again, if you want a professional evaluation of your screenplay at a very reasonable price, check out www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/consultants.
I’ve want to take a quick minute and just mention a few things that I’m seeing with these scripts that are coming in for analysis. Keep in mind I’m not reading the scripts, but I am just taking a quick glance at them to make sure they’re formatted properly, and a lot aren’t even formatted properly. I had to refund one guy who basically sent a 120-page novel and wanted a script evaluation on it. It amazes me how many people send in stuff that’s half-baked. And this isn’t a writing talent issue; it’s just an effort issue. Don’t waste your money or my reader’s time having them tell you about formatting issues. I mean, that’s a waste. Figure this stuff out on your own. It’s really not that hard. I mean, just buying something like “Final Draft” that will get you 99 percent there as far as formatting so figure out the basics on your own and then submit a script to my analysis service or any analysis service or a producer or an agent or manager for that matter. Get the sort of fundamental basics down. That’s not what this service is for, and you really should just learn that stuff on your own.
Another thing I’m seeing which is sort of related to this is that there are an awful lot of scripts coming in that are way over 120 pages, and this is a big problem. Now I want to preface what I want to say by saying there are no hard and fast rules on screenwriting. So you can do anything you want, and if the script is good enough, it probably won’t matter. Whenever people are talking about script length and what’s an appropriate length, is this page count too high. You know movies like “The God father” and “Titanic” and the Shashank Redemption come up, all those scripts were well over 120 pages; there’s no doubt. But I think this is such bad advice because the fact of the matter is 99.999999 percent of the people who are listening to this podcast aren’t writing something even remotely as good as “The Godfather” but yet probably 50 percent of the people listening to this podcast think that they are. So that’s a huge disconnect, and telling people that if you write something as good as “The Godfather” page count doesn’t matter. It’s true, but the fact of the matter is you’re probably not writing something as good as “The Godfather”. What I’m trying to do at Selling Your Screenplay is provide a legitimate path for people to succeed as screenwriters without having to write something as good as The Godfather. If you haven’t already done this, go with me up on IMDB and check out my credits. It will be abundantly obvious that I’ve never written anything as well as The Godfather, not even close, but I’m optioning and selling scripts. So that’s the good news. You don’t have to write something as good as The Godfather to sell a few scripts. So that to me is the real question. How do you sell a script if you’re not able to write something as good as The Godfather? If you’re writing something as good as The Godfather, God bless you. You don’t need to listen to this podcast. You don’t need to listen to any podcasts, just write your script. Put it up on the black list, put it on Ink tip. Offers will be rolling in.
One of the easiest things—and this is sort of the thing so that’s the question—how do you sell a script if you’re not able to write something as good as The Godfather? I’ll tell you one of the easiest things you can do; you can cut your screenplay down to a lean hundred pages or even ninety pages. Get rid of the bloat and it will make it a much easier read. Really listen to that. That’s one of the easiest ways to make a script better without getting into dialog, rewriting dialog or restructuring it or developing characters. One of the easiest ways to make your script better is to simply condense it, cut it down. Get rid of the bloat. The last few scripts I’ve written have been between 80 and 90 pages, and I haven’t had one producer tell me they’re too short. Literally my horror/thriller I’ve mentioned a couple of times; I’ve optioned it a couple of times. It’s 83 pages. I’ve optioned it to two different producers. None of them have said oh gee, this thing is just way too short. If anything, when I talk to producers about the page length, they’re thankful it’s short because it means it’s going to be a little bit cheaper to shoot. There is a cutoff. You can’t turn in a 60-page script and call it a feature film. That’s not going to work. I don’t exactly know where that cutoff is—72 pages, 75 pages, 80 pages, maybe 83 pages might be the bottom end, but somewhere in the 80 to 90-pages, as I said, I haven’t had any problems. I think 83 pages is the shortest script I’ve had. I haven’t had anybody say the script is just way too short.
I want to tell a quick story. A few years ago back in the late 90’s, I was flying back from—I’m originally from Annapolis, Maryland and went back for Thanksgiving or Christmas break—I’m flying back and they were showing Jackie Brown as the movie. This was back in ’97. So there were no choices of movies. It was like they played one movie. Your choices were listening to country music or watching the one movie that they were going to show. And I had seen Jackie Brown when it was released in the theatres a few months earlier. It seemed kind of boring to me. It was a little bit slow, and I wasn’t that crazy about it. So I got on the plane and they announced they were showing Jackie Brown. I was not that happy about it, but, as I said, there were no other choices. So I put on the headphones and I watched the movie. I watch it and I get done. I’m like man that was actually a pretty good movie. But then I looked at my watch. In the theatre, this movie was about two-and-a-half hours. I look at my watch on the plane. The airplane version of the movie was like 90 minutes, maybe a hundred minutes. They had really cut it down. The thing moved quicker. I really thought it was a much better movie.
I recently watched The Wolf of Wall Street. I mean, that thing is close to three hours and that was just my thought as I’m watching it. It’s like it’s very indulgent. It was a pretty entertaining movie and you kind of waded through some of the slow parks. I can pretty much tell you if you can cut the Wolf of Wall Street, it was a good movie but it would have been a really good movie if you cut that thing down to 110 minutes. You know it’s Martin Scorcezzi, he’s got a lot of clout. He can basically do what he wants, good for him. I think that movie could be improved by cutting it down. I’m going to take that a step further, and I’m going to have him in here and I know this is going to make a lot of film purists’ ears bleed but I think even great films like The Godfather, Titanic, and the Shashank Redemption could be made even better if they were cut down a bit. You can’t possibly tell me that there is not one minute of bloat in 172 minutes of the Godfather that couldn’t be trimmed out and make that film just a little bit better. Nothing is perfect. Everything can be improved, and as I said, one of the easiest ways to make your script better is to simply cut it down. So even if you have something as good as The Godfather, you know what, it can probably be better by cutting it down to a lean hundred pages. Anyway, I think that’s enough about screenplay length.
A quick few words about what I’m working on, I’m writing a limited location action thriller screenplay. I’m just about done, a very rough draft. So hopefully in a month or two I’ll have it polished up and ready to send out. I met a director last Friday. This was a guy whom I sent a cold email to with my sci-fi thriller script a couple of months ago. He read it; he liked it and it looks like I’m going to give him basically a free option for nine months. We seem to get along well enough that he seemed to be in the same mindset as me of really wanting to just get movies made almost at any level. So while we were meeting I pitched him my mob action thriller which I’m almost done, and he really seemed to respond to the idea. One of the things that I’m pitching is it’s literally like maybe eighty percent in one house and maybe 70 percent or so, just two actors in that one house. So it’s a very, very contained script. For just two actors and one location, it’s got a good bit of action, a good bit of thriller so we can even probably market it as a sort of a mob action movie, and this is something that a lot of producers are really interested in. Action movies play well worldwide especially action movies that can be shot on a budget. The movie I did last year, Ninja Apocalypse, that’s basically what it was. It was a really low-budget action movie, and those movies can play internationally. You don’t need a lot of dialog. There is not a lot of characterization necessary. You can have that stuff in there, but action plays everywhere. Everybody understands action. Comedy, not so much; it’s more difficult to translate that stuff. So I just want to point out a couple of things. This is just so important. Living in Los Angeles I get that question a lot. Should I move to Los Angeles? This is a prime example where living in Los Angeles and being able to actually meet with him in person is so important. We could have talked on the phone; if we had talked on the phone, I’m sure I would have optioned this script to him. We would have gotten along, but just sitting in a coffee shop for an hour, meeting someone casually in a coffee shop, just chatting to them, getting to know them, if you’re on a phone call it’s a different experience. You’re like talking specifically about a specific thing. We would have talked specifically about the script and hung up the phone. Just sitting in a coffee shop, there is no rush; I got to know him a little bit. He has kids. I have kids; just some of the other projects that he’s working on, it just was a much more different situation. As I said, out of that conversation, I start to sort of talk about sort of my overall goals just to get some stuff into production of really writing some low-budget stuff just so I can get some more films made. I really want to see films made. I mean, if you listen to this podcast you know I’ve got a lot of stuff optioned but getting stuff from option to actually getting produced is a big thing. I just feel like if I write some really simple stuff, it will have a better chance of getting produced. He was into that. He liked that idea so I think that was just a little bit of bonding that took place. This is what these email and fax blasts are all about. It’s about building these relationships, meeting people, and who knows, maybe I’ll never hear from the guy again, but I sense that I will. I sense that if we can continue to work together, he likes my writing and that’s the real value. I found someone who likes my writing. He wants to work with me, and hopefully those kinds of relationships are built. There are other people out there over the years that I’ve met exactly the same way. That’s to me the real value of these fax blasts. There’s a very slim chance that he’ll actually be able to get my sci-fi thriller going. I mean, you never know, but getting any movie is a challenge so that’s not a knock on him in any way. I mean, it’s just difficult to get a movie made. But building that relationship and finding someone to work with, that’s the real value.
So now let’s get into the main segment. Here’s the interview with Tim Ogletree.
Ashley: Welcome, Tim, to the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show.
Tim: Thanks for having me, Ashley.
Ashley: So to start out, I wonder if you can give us a quick overview of your career in the entertainment industry. Kind of bring us up, everything sort of before The Walking Deceased, kind of how you got started, film school or no film school, all that kind of stuff.
Tim: I definitely went to film school. I grew up kind of on stage in church and stuff and I had originally wanted to be an actor when I grew up. My parents were like no, you’re going to go to college and get a job. [Inaudible 0:17:26.4] I graduated in three-and-a-half years. The UCLA program which is kind of a study abroad program for entertainment industry-focused students. You go there and intern and take a couple classes. There some opportunities to get your feet wet in the industry in LA which is a pretty [inaudible 0:18:14.1]
Ashley: So just to clarify, so you didn’t do any writing on Supernatural Activity. That was an acting role?
Tim: That was just acting. It kind of allowed me some freedom with my character [inaudible 0:23:57.8]
Ashley: And just how did you get that acting role? I’m just curious. You had an agent as an actor and you auditioned and got the role? How did you get that role?
Tim: I didn’t have an agent but I did audition [inaudible 0:24:29.6] I prepared for it. But that was a really cool experience to learn a role and how to be in a feature film.
Ashley: Okay. So then take us up to The Walking Deceased. So you’ve met this producer; you start working with him developing this idea and then how did that—actually let’s take a step back—maybe you can give us sort of your pitch or your log line for the Walking Deceased just for people who maybe have not seen the movie yet. You can just pitch it to them real quick.
Tim: The Walking Deceased is a parity of the zombie genre as a whole. It takes kind of the favorite characters from any major zombie pop culture movie and obviously The Walking Dead TV show and kind of puts them all in one blow [inaudible 0:25:34.5] There is a sheriff who wakes up in a coma and somehow survives [inaudible 0:25:46.4]
Ashley: I watched the movie a couple nights ago. There is a lot of funny stuff in there. That’s kind of the first question I have. You call it sort of a spook. It’s definitely—as you say, there is a lot of winks at some of the other horror movies, but it didn’t feel totally like a spook. Like when someone says a spook, I think of the Naked Gun movies where they’re like literally doing things like are just done for laughs, whereas I didn’t feel like that quite had this. So how do you sort of see this fitting in?
Tim: That’s actually [inaudible 0:27:11.3] we were trying to separate ourselves from [inaudible 0:27:19.5] we wanted to bring a fresh work to it and have it be original and not copying exactly [inaudible 0:27:53.4] we took most of these archetypal characters from kind of the zombie genre and gave them their own story. Pretty much every zombie has the same sort of survival story. [Inaudible 0:29:06.4] Twenty-two Jump Street was making fun of these action movies. I wanted it to be somewhat similar to that.
Ashley: As I said, there is a lot of funny stuff in there, but it felt like there were also some real stakes where these characters were legitimately trying to get out of the situation. A typical spoof you just mentioned, Scary Movie and Airplane. Those movies are great for what they are, but there are really no stakes in them. The people are just doing things that are completely ridiculous and that’s the humor in them and this definitely didn’t feel quite like that.
Tim: [Inaudible 0:30:154.4]
Ashley: I’m curious—and this is one thing that occurred to me just before even watching the movie. I see the poster and kind of get a gist of what this is. How did movies like Sean of the Dead and Zombie land play into this because I’m curious if you’ve ever got any push-back or anybody saying or comparing you to these movies? I mean, those were obviously successful movies. Sean of the Dead is very, very well-loved. Zombie land too, a lot of people really like that. Did you ever get any push-back when you’re writing this script, people comparing you?
Tim: Oh for sure. [Inaudible 0:31:30.1]
Ashley: I wonder if you can walk us through sort of just the writing process. Talk about just the process. As I started to get to earlier, you met this producer and what was that like back and forth? How many drafts did you do and how long was that process?
Tim: The initial draft was actually really fast. I think I started on it just kind of [inaudible 0:34:09.0] the first draft was a freebie and I literally just wrote as much as I could every single day [inaudible 0:34:59.0] as a writer you should be writing every day no matter what it is. Generally if you’re writing a short story, novel, screenplay, whatever, just work on it each and every day. [Inaudible 0:35:13.7]
Ashley: How many drafts do you think you ended up writing of this?
Tim: I think once production started I was on my fourth or fifth draft. The third was the one that really [inaudible 0:37:08.0] they read the third draft which was by far the best. That really brought it to the table [inaudible 0:37:22.4] Then once we were in pre-production things change depending on the location, the actors we were working with, maybe they bring something else to the table you hadn’t written into the character yet [inaudible 0:37:45.4]
Ashley: So do you have any insight into the financing of this movie like how did the producer go about actually raising the money? Did he already have some contacts? What was sort of the gist of that angle?
Tim: [Inaudible 0:39:22.7]
Ashley: Just to be clear, who was the producer whom you met on Paranormal Activity? What was his name?
Tim: [Inaudible 0:42:00.0]
Ashley: So then just quickly maybe you can tell us when the movie’s coming out, how people will be able to see it, if they want to check it out, is Video on Demand going to get any kind of theatrical release?
Tim: Yes. [Inaudible 0:42:40.9] It will be released this coming March 20 and it will be released in select theatres around the nation in LA, San Francisco, Phoenix, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and Chicago. [Inaudible 0:43:02.8]
Ashley: I always like to wrap up the interviews where people just kind of tell people how people can follow you. If you’re on Twitter, maybe you can just mention your Twitter handle or Facebook. If you’re on Facebook, mention your Facebook URL or if you do a blog—anything really you feel comfortable sharing. Just give it to us now and then I will link to it in the show notes. But then people can just follow along with what you’re doing in the future.
Tim: Sure. My personal Twitter is @cinoglesell and then the movie Twitter is [inaudible 0:44:26.1]
Ashley: I will link to that in the show notes. Tim, you’ve been very generous with your time. This has been a great interview. I really appreciate it.
Tim: Absolutely. [Inaudible 0:44:49.3]
Ashley: I think you gave quite a bit today so I really do appreciate it. Good luck with the film.
Tim: Thank you so much.
Ashley: Thank you. We’ll talk to you later.
In the next episode of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast, I’m going to be interviewing John Jarrell again. That will be part two in the three-part series; the last one was the last episode so have a listen to that hopefully before the next episode. Anyway, keep an eye out for that next week.
To wrap things up, I want to touch on a few things from today’s interview with Tim. I think this is another great example of someone who really just went out and made things happen for himself. We sort of ran out of time during the interview, but I actually think the last part was the most interesting when he started talking about how he raised the money for the film and got it made. I’ve said it before on the podcast and I’ll say it again. I really believe the key to success in this business is being proactive and going out there and getting things done for yourself like Tim and his partner did. Not an agent, not a manager, not even your own mother is going to care about your own career like you do so you’ve really got to be the champion for your career and you’ve got to be the one that goes out there and makes it happen. It’s really up to you if you want to succeed or not.
Anyway, that’s the show. Thank you for listening.