This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 076: Director Screenwriter Kane Senes Talks About His New Film Echoes of War Starring William Forsythe.
Welcome to episode 76 of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger, over at Sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing Kane Senes who recently wrote and directed a film called Echoes of War, a post-Civil War drama starring William Forsyth and James Badge-Dale. We talk about exactly how he got this film produced so stay tuned for that.
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A couple of quick notes. Any websites or links that I mention in the podcast can be found on my blog 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 76.
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 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 and managers and producers who are looking for material. It really is everything you need to know to sell your screenplay. Just go to sellingyourscrenplay.com/guide.
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A quick few words about what I’m working on. I’m in the final stages of polishing out my mob action thriller screenplay. I’m doing the reading tomorrow at my writers group, and I’m sure I’ll get a bunch of great notes and then I’ll spend probably another week of rewriting it. Then I’ll start sending it out. I’m still tinkering with the sci-fi thriller script I optioned last month. I’ve mentioned this project a few times on the podcast before. I did a re-through with the director and some actors a couple weeks ago and got some notes from that. So now the director is asking for some more notes and some more rewrites. It’s nothing too major, probably just a few hours’ worth of work, but it is starting to drag on a bit. This is unfortunately a fairly common occurrence. There’s the old saying “A script is never finished, only abandoned.” Hopefully this director will be ready to abandon this script, at least the rewriting of it after this next pass.
I’m also starting to rewrite the script I finished last summer. It’s a sci-fi horror thriller screenplay. I have a writer/director friend who took a pass at the script, and we’re thinking about trying to shoot this on a micro budget. Right now as the script is written, it would be very tough to do. So I’m going to go back through the script and rewrite it and really, really keep budget in mind. We’re actually going to look at some locations this week as well. We found some places pretty close to Los Angeles that seem like they would be good for this particular script, and the people who have the locations seem very open to working with us on a micro budget. So I’m going to go out there, have a look at some of these locations. I’ve done this before in terms of looking at the location before writing the script. I think that actually writing the script when you have a specific location in mind can really help. It can really help you write the script and take advantage of a lot of the special things about the location, that there are some special little spot in this location, some room that is very specific. You can really write around that if you know you have that location. I have done this before. One of the first movies that I ever had produced was a movie called “Reunion” and we actually shot it at a friend’s house, and I knew before I wrote the script, we went to the friend and said hey, he was one of the actors in the movie. We said hey, can we shoot this movie at your house. He said sure. So I wrote the script taking advantage of every single room in the house to try and open it up a little bit. It was not a huge house. I mean, it was probably a three-bedroom house—living room, kitchen, hallway, bathroom. There was a back patio room, and literally every single room was written into the script, and I was able to do that very efficiently because I knew the location before I wrote the script. Same thing with a script I wrote called “Ninja Apocalypse”. That was produced a couple years ago, and it’s the same thing. That was actually a writing assignment. The producers had the locations, and they sent me pictures of the different places that they knew they could shoot at. And so I was able to write those in there. One of the buildings had a jail cell in the bottom of it so it was like okay, let’s come up with a situation where we can use this jail cell. There was a boiler room in this beat-up old building where they were shooting so it’s like okay, we’ll write the boiler room into the script. Again, I was really able to just use the special unique features of this location in the script, and it makes the production value much better because you’re not trying to half-ass something or fit something in. I mean, if you write something while being in a jail cell, and then you can’t find the jail cell, you’re either having to come up with something that sort of works but sort of doesn’t work, but in this particular case, as I said, I knew the locations so I was really able to tie them into the script and tie them into the story. So it’s a great thing to do. You can get your locations locked before you actually write it.
I think that’s pretty much it for what I’m working on. As I said, I’m going to do the blast. I’m going to get the notes on my current scripts tomorrow, and then I’m going to start rewriting that. I’ll be done hopefully by the time I record the next podcast and I’ll start blasting out my mob action thriller.
So now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m interviewing Kane Senes. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome, Kane, to the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show.
Kane: Thanks, Ashley; it’s good to be here.
Ashley: To start out, maybe you can tell us a little about your career, kind of how you got started in the business as a director.
Kane: Well, I’d say a fairly tried and tested kind of path in the sense that I went to film school where I studied film in Australia as part of my undergraduate degree at college, and I went to film school here in the States for two years. Upon leaving I went back home to Australia, and I worked as an assistant to the producer in The Great Gatsby which was the big film that shot there, obviously a huge production so I learned a lot from that, and while I was doing that, I wrote the script for Echoes of War. And then just—and that’s a whole other story—but as soon as that kind of got some traction through some producers in the States who found it and some actors, then we went off and made our film, but for me just making short films at school, experimenting on my own on the side, but it really kind of professionally started with assisting people in the film industry and then going off and making my own film independently.
Ashley: I want to touch on the shorts. One of the things, as I mentioned in the pre-interview, it’s literally sellingyourscreenplay.com. So I get a lot of people emailing me just saying they’re out in the middle of nowhere and they’re just trying to get some sort of a foothold in the industry, and I often recommend that the easiest thing you can do is to write a short script and find someone locally, a director or producer. You can shoot them nowadays for a hundred dollars. So I wonder if you can just take us through sort of did that help you get the money for Echoes of War and maybe just take us through sort of what you did with your shorts. I notice on IMDB they have awards. You had a couple of shorts that are listed. They have awards and stuff so maybe just take us through how you produced those and what you did with them to market them and if they actually helped your career?
Kane: Sure. Well, I always felt that I was well-supported in the sense that I made the shorts at school. You’ve got teachers there; you’ve got facilities. There are people who are one way up on your film. So that definitely helped me. I’m not saying that film school is necessary and anyway if you can get out there and make your own stuff, then that’s great. As long as you’re getting that experience, I think that’s all that really matters. For me just making the shorts, getting them out there, having to win some awards is definitely always helpful. Part of me thinks it’s kind of ridiculous, the notion of awards for art in general, but hey, I’ll take it. It’s one of those things you slap it on your kind of investment of the materials when you’re trying to build some traction for your film. So that helps and then I would say the fact that my feature was an adaptation of a short that I actually made as my thesis film in film school, that directly helped me in the sense that I could show potential investors hey, look—I’ve actually told a story that’s very similar to this on a smaller scale. I’ve worked in this world. I’ve researched this time period. The feature obviously became something different and a lot more expansive but the fact that it was a direct kind of link to this film I had made that I could show them, and I could be like imagine this, but on this kind of scale and read this script and you’ll see the correlation. So from a pitching perspective that was helpful. I can’t really speak as to how or what would have happened if I didn’t have that short. I don’t think ultimately the short was the reason why [inaudible 0:10:0.9] chose to read the script and champion it. I don’t think the short had anything to do with the actors who signed on. That was mostly from the script itself for the feature and me going and meeting with people and literally selling them on the spot as to why they should help me make this film. But I think the short helped get us in the door with some of the investors potentially although I’ve never really truly known. No one has ever said to me your short films won me over. It just was something that we added to the packet and if nothing else, to show that I had directed things before. I was a first-time feature director, but it wasn’t a first-time director.
Ashley: Very briefly you just said it was fun to get those shorts out there. Just tell us what does that exactly mean? Did you submit to film festivals? Did you send it to friends? Did your school have some outlets to get that stuff out there?
Kane: It was really just stone-cold submitting to festivals with outerbox.com. There are a lot of other ones out now but at the time that was pretty much the one I used, just word-of-mouth, asking friends and teachers and things what festivals they recommended. Basically it just was kind of me reaching out to everyone out there that I knew of and then also sending it around as a private screener and to certain individuals I wanted to see it but in terms of the festivals, yes, it was just submitting everything.
Ashley: And I always just like to get a sense of the scope. I’ve been an independent filmmaker and I’ve submitted to festivals and it’s no shame. We submitted our film probably to 20 or 30 festivals and only got into two or three so I’d be curious to get a sense of the scope of how many festivals you submitted to vs. how many you got accepted to.
Kane: I don’t remember exactly back to the shorts, but I do know that we definitely submitted to a lot more than we got accepted to. That’s always the way. So to any kind of student or young filmmaker out there who is submitting, getting knocked back from the first ten or twenty, that’s thoroughly normal. I think you’ve just got to line it up to where the festival sees the film the same way that you do and they get you and that they understand and they want it, and I don’t think there is any use in going to or in banging on the door of a festival that just kind of hasn’t got the same taste as you or doesn’t really want to believe in your film because for every one of those, there’s another one that really does and they’ll champion the film and they’ll do a lot more for you at the festival if they believe in it. So I don’t really care if I get knocked back on a festival. I mean, the one that does accept me I always have a better time at that festival anyway I feel.
Ashley: So let’s dig into the Echoes of War. Maybe to start out you can give us just a quick pitch or a log line of the script. I always link to the trailer in the show notes so people can learn about it there, but just pitch it to us in broad strokes at least.
Kane: I’ll have to remember my elevator pitch from a couple years ago now. It’s basically the story about a soldier who’s returning home from the Civil War in America, 1866. He returns home to his family in the remote countryside of Texas in the middle of nowhere, and he thinks he’s kind of going to find some peace there. He’s seen all of the horrors of war for the last five years, and instead he finds that the neighbors have been stealing from his own family while he’s been gone and stealing food because rations are low. So he takes issue with this and takes it upon himself to solve the conflict the only way that he knows how which really is through the violence that he’s been exposed to from the war. So it’s a story of kind of bringing the demons home with you and infecting this quiet piece of life that was awaiting him. Obviously it kind of goes from there.
Ashley: I’m always curious with a story like this that has really a strong sort of central character, what came first? Was it the character or was it the story as far as just coming up with this idea?
Kane: It definitely goes back to the short film which was always about I guess it started with me wanting to tell a story about the relationship between a family member who’s been away for a long time and coming back into the fold. It was always a family story but from the perspective of this one guy. So that’s where it started, and I remember back in the days where we were running a short film and pitching it. It kind of started from there and then it became about what does the family do? Well, they’re trappers. They kind of trap animals and sell their pelts in town. Then it became well, what is the conflict that grows out of this? The backdrop of the Civil War is always something that we have in mind. So for me it was creating a character, the main conflict which was him re-assimilating back to the family unit and the kind of struggles that come from that and in the world as well. They always went hand in hand and then came the actual trying to figure out what kind of story or plot, also a story that can grow out of that. So it definitely wasn’t a case of putting a story out about this guy who steals his briefcase and then figuring out the characters after. It was very much from the characters in the world [inaudible 0:16:39.2]
Ashley: I’m curious—and this was one thing that just really struck out to me as I was preparing for the interview—it sounds like you went to college here in the United States so that perhaps is part of the answer, but what was fascinating to you about the Civil War because especially what you just said, this really is a character piece and truthfully you could almost set it in any—it could be a sci-fi because it’s really just about that conflict between this guy and his family and then the other family, why did you want to use the American Civil War, and what drew you as an Australian. I’m surprised you even know that much about our American Civil War.
Kane: I definitely didn’t know that much about it until I started to research for the short film and my co-writer, John Chris is from Texas, and so I was living with him at the time when I was in college here in the States, and we got talking and wanted to do something that was turn-of-the-century. I just loved the look of that era. A lot of Terence Malik’s early films especially Days of Heaven, his second film, which at the time I was very smitten with it. I always thought of doing something around the Industrial Revolution, something like around the early 1900’s and then it was John who was like hey, what about the Civil War. I obviously had heard about it but didn’t really know kind of the details. So I researched it a lot more, and I thought if we set these forty years earlier, we’ve suddenly got this amazing backdrop about kind of the country that was torn into and what was the aftermath of that? I mean, we still feel it here today, and it’s kind of a century-and-a-half later. So that became a very interesting time period to play in because I think as a screenwriter, what you are looking for is conflict always and drama and what kind of backdrop. What better backdrop than the aftermath of a civil war, not just a war and soldiers returning home from a World War or from a conflict where Americans [inaudible 0:18:45.0] but this was actually one of the bloodiest wars in history and it was fought on American soil by Americans against Americans. That’s such an unfathomable thing these days. It still bobbles my brain that that happened. So that was something I became very enamored with—not enamored with, that’s terrible—but something that I became very lost in the research of that. I think being here while I made the short film was obviously an American film. It wasn’t something I made back in Australia. I think if that had been the case maybe it would have never been the Civil War. So I became very into American history while I was here, and I think when you are a foreigner, though, you grow up with this myth of America, it’s kind of a superpower, and you grow up in American music and films and culture especially when it comes to entertainment and so we’re always trying to figure out what is it about America. And I think I just wanted to ask that question. As soon as you ask that question you start to break it down, this notion of the American myth, and it really was founded in times like these. War is such a great kind of yardstick for measuring the history of a nation, and so I think it all kind of stemmed from that. But ultimately I like to think of it as a family drama and that’s something that’s very universal which I understood. And there is a lot of my personal views and things in there, and a lot of it is based on–I never went to war but the idea of coming home to—when I was coming home from the States and coming home to my own family in Australia and finding that things had changed while I had been gone. So that’s where it kind of grew out of as opposed to wanting to tell a historical document. But it was just great potential for a story and I think a very significant time that anyone can be interested in. It doesn’t matter where you’re from.
Ashley: Let’s talk about your writing process—and I guess we can apply it specifically to this script—how long did it take you to write the script and what does your writing process look like?
Kane: I wrote this with John Jungcress, my current scripter—we’ve written a few others since then—so I would say that we’re writing partners, we’re creative partners. I’ve written things on my own, the short films and things, but I think I enjoy it a lot more when I write with him—and I’ve written with others since too—there’s something about a partnership that for me works better just because not only do we motivate each other, but you’ve always got someone to throw ideas up at. So for us it’s just a matter of looking back at the short and saying look, I don’t think we’re done with this material. I think we’re only scratching the surface. So as soon as we had figured out how to expand the story, then it just became a matter of sketching out the outline for the film, and the way that we do that is we write down scenes on cards. We keep writing down scenes, character ideas. We stick them all up on a wall, and we tend to kind of rearrange them until it’s got some kind of order. Then we write it down as an outline of one page. Then the outline turns into a treatment and it turns into the first draft of the script. We write kind of like a tag team. So I might write a scene first and John will rewrite it or John will write a scene first and I’ll rewrite it. It’s really just a matter of going over each other’s voice and then adding our own voice and then having a first draft that we can look back on and figure out what’s working and what’s not working, and then it goes from there. Draft two is very much about kind of tightening the screws and honing in and figuring out what we both want to say. It’s pretty conventional, I think, in that sense with outlining and planning and working out the beats and working out the characters. But it’s definitely always kind of character first like talk for weeks or months on end just about characters, hey, how about a guy or woman who’s like this or a kid who’s like this and what’s their relationship to each other? Once I think we had the families formed, the story kind of came after.
Ashley: I’m curious how much of your time is spent in sort of this outlining the index cards and the prewriting vs. now we’re going to actually open up final draft and start cranking out the pages? What percentage is on each one?
Kane: I would probably say at least 60 percent is on the planning. I tend to plan a lot. I don’t know if it’s because it’s the best thing to do or if it just works for me but I think it’s possible to get lost when you’re writing a script and you’re kind of so far down the rabbit hole and then you make a change to something that affects this or that affects that and has the snowball effect, and before long you don’t really know what you really wanted to say in the first place and it’s just a big mess. I take my hat off to people who can just kind of sit down and lie on a page and just write. Definitely we work it all out first, and it changes but we like to just keep going until we can read through a ten-page treatment or a 30-page treatment and if that works as a complete story with a beginning, a middle, and an end with character art, with things that you didn’t expect and with twists and turns, if it can read as a gripping short story essentially and things make sense and we’re kind of plugging all the holes, then it’s a lot easier for us to just say right now let’s take this paragraph and turn it into a scene. And so the first draft comes very quickly in that sense. It’s literally just kind of just transcribing it, adding the dialog. It’s just kind of filling out the scene that’s already there in its barer sense. So that just makes sense for me. That’s just kind of structure that I can get my head around, and it’s a process. It really is a process. It’s like a factory line. But you know the real fun comes in from having the first draft and going right. We can now read the script and diving into that and some things that you add in the second draft change the whole thing. I don’t think that we’re ever stuck to the outline or to the treatment, but it’s definitely always next to us as we’re writing the script so that we stick to the plan at least for the first draft.
Ashley: You’ve now completed this screenplay, what were your next steps? How did you go out and start actually raising the money and actually getting this thing produced?
Kane: Well, I went to film school with a guy called Juan Luna who goes by JMR Luna, who is a producer in his own right and he’s a director too. He directed his first film last year as well. We went to school together and always said when I’ve written my feature, I’ll send it to you because he wanted to produce. So he read it and he liked it and he finally came aboard. He ended up bringing on board these three other producers. We kind of were like a unit together. So they were guys back here in Los Angeles when I was in Australia, and I was working on The Great Gatsby, and I was getting towards the end of that, and they kind of got back in touch. They said hey, what’s going on with this film? I mean, are you still going to make it? So they really wanted to do it. They saw an angle for it and had connections over here that I didn’t really have because I’d been home the two years since graduating from school, and they went to film school here at AFI which is kind of a great school. They made a lot of connections out of it and were working professionally. So yes, we basically just decided to team up. They got in the hands of good casts and directors. Emily Schweber was the one whom we ended up going with, and she’s a veteran. She has been around for years. As her career has progress, she’s gotten more into Indi films and I think she had done the big studio thing and kind of was more interested in telling these stories that needed some help to get off the ground, these kinds of little films that she really believed in. And so she was huge for us. Really, as soon as she came on board—I was still back in Australia—and she was kind of hey look, I’ve lined up a bunch of meetings with actors, and I think you really should kind of get over here and meet them all. So that was the process. About a month later I was here, and I felt like I was meeting every single actor in town, those whom I had watched on TV growing up and just people that I didn’t think I would already get to. So she really opened the doors on that, and from that point on it was just going around town and knocking on a lot of doors and talking to film investors and people who had never invested in film but who wanted to and basically money men. That’s where it grew from, and we managed to find our money that way. I definitely think it was because of the cast as opposed to—there was really no heat on me—so that’s where it stemmed from. So our casting director and our producers were brilliant key in taking the script and just putting it out to the world. We had this thing, and we were sitting on it, not really knowing what to do with it and kind of going around to people in Australia with our hats in our hands, and we raised a little bit of money that way but not really enough to make a film. Then we did a kick starter, and we made a little more money, and so we had enough to go hey, we have got enough here to get a cost break to maybe make some [inaudible 0:29:43.1] actors and the rest of our budget came from that. So that’s where I would say it started.
Ashley: No, that seems pretty thorough. So I just want to clear up a couple things, be real specific here. It sounds like you had your cast when you started to go to the money people. Maybe it was all happening simultaneously, but did you get the letters of intent from the cast and then helped you secure the funding or was it just more about selling the project?
Kane: Well, it was hand in hand. I think we got to a point where we had enough money to make a version of the film regardless what cast we had, but as we got interest from certain actors that we were able to dance on a fantasy kind of take back to some of the money that we had and say don’t put a little more because we really believed that these actors are legitimizing our project in a way where we’ll get more exposure with them apart from the fact, of course, it goes without saying that they’re great actors and they’re suitable for the film and that they would make the film better because we have their experience and what they bring to the table. I really believe that after doing this film that a known actor usually doesn’t get to where they are without some talent. Sometimes you see some actors who coast by on their looks or whatever or get a lucky break, but definitely the people that we use, there’s a reason they have charisma. As they came aboard, I feel like we were able to increase our budget a little bit, and so it was very much a simultaneous thing but not wanting to kind of make that scrappy little film and just get by, that it ended up still being very tight, and then you film like the truer sense of that term, but it definitely helped us to make it I think for a little bit more money and really the way it should have been made. I mean, we could have made it for a lot more, but it allowed us to go out and make a film and feel like we’re not really compromising anymore on what our vision was. But specifically to answer your question, it definitely was a simultaneous thing. Like I said, there were two versions of the film. There would have been the no-budget version which would have been kind of a little scary but I think we could have done it. But I’m glad we didn’t because I think we ended up making something that was able to have a life and which is now getting released and getting some kind of traction. I really do attribute that to the fact that we kept pursuing actors that would give us that kind of exposure.
Ashley: I just want to run through a couple of quick follow-ups on some of the stuff you just said. So it sounded like those producers, the one guy from your film school, and then he brought on these other producers, it sounded like they were the ones who had the connections with these money people whether it be film financiers or just independent people who wanted to invest in a movie, that was how you got most of those connections?
Kane: Money actually kind of came from everywhere. I mean, I ended up being able to raise a lot from back in Australia especially a lot of the people who we went to in the early days, like I said, when I was going from door to door and getting [inaudible 0:33:06.8] go back to some of those people once the film became more of a legitimized thing I should say. And actually that original film producer JMR Luna was the one who ended up kind of bringing about half of the funding through the kind of connection that he had. So it really kind of came from a lot of people and the other producers going around as well and bringing some things to the table, but the money definitely was a team effort, John Crisma writing as well. I was able to secure some from Texas so it kind of came in drips and drabs for about half of it and then the other half was from an investor that [inaudible 0:33:52.7] brought to the table.
Ashley: And I’m curious, it’s probably on the Internet somewhere but how much did you guys raise during your kick starter campaign?
Kane: It was like about 35 grand.
Ashley: And then just how much does a casting director of this level cost if you want to hire someone like her? And you can just give us just a ballpark figure.
Kane: I don’t know if anyone wants everyone to know what she charges it always depends on the project and any of them will say that. If a bigger film comes to a casting director, I believe their rate is higher. If a very low-budget film comes, then they’ll definitely work with you. I mean, you should be able to get a decent casting director on a low-budget film anywhere from ten to twenty grand, less if you’re a good negotiator. I think you should expect to pay ten, to twelve, to fifteen, just depends what they were going at the time. If they’re more free at that time or if it’s a quiet time, then obviously their work is a little more, but it really does come down to how much they believe in their script. Not everyone will bargain that low for everybody. They’ve got to be passionate about it.
Ashley: I’m curious. One other thing that occurred to me as I was preparing for the interview was—and I get a lot of people coming to me with historical dramas, and the one thing you did that I think was really smart was even though it was the Civil War, it was fairly contained. You didn’t need like the thousand rebel guys running across the field with a cannon. It still was fairly contained even though it was a period piece, but did you get any push-back on that. That’s always just the word on the street especially the American Civil War where it’s not only a period piece but I don’t think this is going to necessarily play in Europe or Asia or countries where they really don’t care about the American Civil War, that really could have been a knock again. Do you get any push-back on that?
Kane: Not really because I think it is set after the war. Like I said, the war is a backdrop. It’s like watching a film about a veteran who comes back from Vietnam or from World War II. It’s not necessarily about the war; it’s more about how they reassimilate into society or to their families. So I think that’s universal. I’m expecting our film to play in Europe and across the world, and there is some interest already from places like that. I think that’s more so to do with the fact that there’s a cast who recognize that there’s a story that is universal, not in the sense that it’s really just about two families trying to make do out in the countryside and it just so happens to be that there was this war that happened that kind of finished a year ago and they’re dealing with the aftermath. So I think we’re fortunate in the sense that it works both ways, that it’s a film that people who are Civil War aficionados or who are truly interested in the history of America can sink their teeth into. I think home front stories aren’t something that are told that often and especially like there might be some Vietnam stories about soldiers who return home, but you know rarely about the Civil War. I mean, we’ve all seen like Gettysburg and films like that, but this was really something else. There was something about the home front and you could say it could be any war, but I think what works specifically with this one is that it was the Civil War and here you have two families on the home front who kind of war against each other when this soldier returns. So it’s like a microcosm or mini-version of the Civil War. The Civil War itself, the nature of a civil war took on a larger meaning for us, but I definitely don’t think it’s necessary in being able to interpret the film. I think it’s really just a human story and a family story, and everyone can relate to that. So it works both ways I believe.
Ashley: Actually I do too. I was just curious especially in the early stages it doesn’t sound like you did. Where was this shot? It looked great. Was it in Texas?
Kane: It was shot in Austin, Texas which, strangely enough, is kind of where it was set, and we didn’t necessarily always think that we were going to make it there. I mean, you’ve got Louisiana, New Mexico, these states that offer great incentives, and they’re working on it in Texas but definitely not at the time that we shot the incentives weren’t great. But mostly we actually went there because my writing partner, John, had some connections there and was able to secure us some kind of ground to shoot on and things like that. But it worked out and I couldn’t have been happier to shoot there, and the crews were great and Austin is a great town. But it was definitely unusual in the sense that like you said, it looks good but its countryside. I mean, it really could have been set anywhere. But story-wise there was something very interesting about Texas. It was the furthest state away from the front lines. It’s pretty south and obviously the nature of the kind of Texan ideology, I mean, it’s the only state I mean, it was the Lone Star state. I mean, it was its own country for a while and so there’s something very specific I think to the Texan mindset. When you watch this film, you really understand there’s not a cattle rancher who does want to let go his principles. He doesn’t want to kind of compromise in any way, and I think you can attribute that in some way to a very patriotic mentality even though the guy’s not really a supporter of the Confederacy which is kind of interesting about his character I think. So story-wise it made sense, and it just so happened that they worked out a little shooting in hill country in Texas which is where the story was set. I felt like the omens were there for us.
Ashley: So how can people see Echoes of War.? Maybe you can just tell us about when it’s being released; if there will be a theatrical release, video-on-demand, all of that kind of stuff?
Kane: its theatrical and video-on-demand on the same day as they call it on May 15 through AMC theatres, and it’s a select kind of release in theatres depending on where you are. It’s coming out in Los Angeles and Burbank AMC and I think somewhere else which I’ll need to look up and confirm. We’re kind of still locking down all of that now, but New York, Houston, Dallas, and a few other places throughout the country so about ten cities in total, and then Video-on-demand, on the ITunes store. I think we’re working on a Netflix deal but that’s not locked down yet so we’ll definitely be on one of those providers and Cable although I’m not sure which cable provider yet. It will definitely be on at least a few platforms so that’s exciting. So they’ll definitely be a way to see it if people want to see it.
Ashley: And I always like to end the interviews, if people want to follow you, keep up with what you’re doing, do you have a Twitter account or Facebook page.
Kane: You can find me. It’s just my full name at kanesens, my same name on Facebook, if it’s easy to remember, you can go and look up at Echoes of War Film, but I believe it’s flm without the i. But if you just look up Echoes of War on Twitter, you’ll see it and Echoes Of War on Facebook too and also on line if you just Google it, it will come up with the cinemas that we’re going to be at, the dates and things like that.
Ashley: I’ll get all that and I’ll put it in the show notes so people can just click over to that. Well, Kane, you’ve been very generous with your time. This has been a great interview. I’ve enjoyed talking with you about this film.
Kane: Thank you. I’ve really enjoyed it too.
Ashley: Thank you. Good luck with it.
Kane: Cheers! Cheers!
Ashley: Take it easy.
Kane: Thank you very much. Bye.
Ashley: Thank you. Bye.
A quick plug for my email and fax blast service. I’m running a special right now where you can purchase one-third of the blast for a little more than fifty dollars. The total list is around six thousand contacts. So this first one-third is about two thousand contacts so still a solid number of producers. I’ve done this just to lower the barrier to entry so that people can check out the blast without having to invest a whole lot of money up front. The one thing that hasn’t changed, I still require that you join Sys Select which at the time of this recording is just $24.99 per month. The reason I require this as part of the process is that I’m going to personally look at your log line inquiry and help you make them as good as possible. This is really for everyone’s benefit. I want to make sure that the query letters and log lines are well-written before I send them out to my list. The people receiving these email queries can unsubscribe to these blasts so sending out a bunch of half-baked query letters will just burn the list up which hurts everyone who might ever want to use the service in the future. Also by getting my feedback on your log line inquiry letter, it means you response rate is going to be much higher. I’ve been doing this for awhile and have had a lot of success with cold query letters so I think getting my feedback is valuable and well worth the price of admission. So the one-third blast plus one month of Sys Select is just 78 dollars and that’s a blast more than two thousand industry producers. It’s never going to get any cheaper than this so if you’ve ever wanted to try out this service, now is definitely the time. Anyway, to check this out or to sign up, go to sellingyourscreenplay.com/blast. Again, that’s sellingyourscreenplay.com/blast.
In the next episode of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast I’m going to be interviewing John Jarrell. It’s the third installment of the interview I did a couple of months ago. You can find the first two installments on my blog. It’s episode 67 and 69 in case you want to catch up and listen to those. So keep an eye out for that episode next week.
To wrap things up, I just want to touch on something from today’s interview with Kane. I get a lot of people who want to write historical dramas, and I see these in the Sys Select forum. They’re pitching their query letter; they’re pitching their log line, and I always kind of give them a note saying listen, you know this is going to be a difficult script to sell and ultimately produce. And one of the reasons is, these historical dramas typically there’s a lot of production value meaning it’s expensive to produce. There are a lot of costumes; there is a lot of set dressing on the houses, on the locations. You need to bring in horses instead of cars. This stuff is all very, very expensive and really increases the production value and the cost of making a production like this. If you’re considering writing some sort of a historical drama or a period piece, really anything that doesn’t take place in modern times where you’re going to need to use these kinds of different types of sets and different types of clothes, different types of automobiles, maybe horses instead of cars, I would highly advise you to look at this movie because this is actually a really good example of how you can do a historical drama fairly cheaply. If you watch this movie, you’ll notice there are no big battle scenes. They talk about some of the Civil War battles that the main guy was in, and he talks about them. I’m sure from a director’s standpoint there’s always the saying, hey, I could just do a flashback and we have this big elaborate battle scene. They didn’t do that in this, and I think smartly they didn’t do it because it saves them money. So this is a great example of a movie, of a historical drama that could remain a low budget. The cast is very, very contained, maybe like nine roles total, maybe even less than that, maybe seven roles so it’s a very contained cast. There are only two main locations. There’s the house where the one family lives, the protagonist and his family lives, and then there’s the house where the antagonist and his family lives. And once you get those locations, it’s fairly easy. One of them is just like a little sort of a shack in the middle of the woods so I’m sure that they probably just found that location, and maybe they had to do a little bit of dressing. In the south, too, sometimes you find these old houses that really looked like they hadn’t been updated. Maybe you’ve got to take down some electric wires; maybe you’ve got to take a TV antenna or Dish Network or something antenna off the house, but other than that, the house looks like it was built in the mid 1800’s. So again, you don’t need a lot of production. There were some horses in this, but a lot of the scenes took place in the woods. The woods look exactly the same now as it does back in the 1800’s so you don’t have to decorate or set those woods, and most of the scenes there were no horses. There were a lot of scenes where the people would be in the woods and it would just be the people, no horses, no animals. So it was just a function of getting those costumes. Again, because the cast is so limited, you only need the seven costumes. Once you have those costumes, you’re pretty much locked in. So again, I think this is such a great example of a movie, of a historical drama, a period piece and how you can do it on a limited budget. And it feels by doing something like this, it feels kind of bigger than perhaps it is. I didn’t ask him what the exact budget was, but you can watch this and you can see it’s a pretty low budget movie, good production value. For what they did, they maximized their dollars because they didn’t have to spend $600,000 on one 30-second shot of a Civil War battle where there are cannons and horses and hundreds of men in Civil War regalia running across a field. They didn’t have to get those shots for this movie to work, and I think that’s important. Again, if you’re thinking of writing a historical drama, I would highly advise you check out this movie. Give it a look and really look at what they did and how they did it and think about maybe if your movie is a historical drama, think about maybe how you can make it more contained and simple and easier to produce because that’s going to go a long way to helping you sell your script.
Anyway, that’s the show. Thank you for listening.