This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 085: Writer Director Keith Miller Talks About His New Film Five Star.
Selling Your Screenplay Podcast #85
(Typewriter Key tapping)
Ashley: Welcome to episode 85 of “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers writer and blogger over at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing Keith Miller who wrote and directed an urban crime drama called, “Five Star.” It’s a prime example of a hot, high quality, low-budget film. So stay tuned for that. This episode is brought to you by, “Final Draft.” Industry standard screenwriting software. Final Draft is used by top studios and production companies worldwide. As well as today’s best screenwriters, like Aaron Sorkin, J.J. Abrams, Nancy Myers, Matt Divino, Zack Penn and many more. Get a copy of Final Draft for your desktop or mobile device and start writing now. Visit www.finaldraft.com now for more information.
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A couple of quick notes, any websites related to things I’ve mentioned in the Podcast can be found on the blog and the show notes. I also publish a transcript of the episode if you would rather read the show or look up something later on. You can find all the other Podcast show notes at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast. And then just look for episode #85.
A couple of quick updates, I continually build up the SYS Script Library. Last week I added, “The Game of Throws” script, “The Lost Pilot” script, and a “30 Rock- Pilot” script. These scripts were sent in again by writer Brook Brooklyn. And so thank you very much Brook, for sending those scripts into me. If you have a screenplay you don’t see listed in the SYS Script Library? Please do Email it to me. I’ve got some people who I do want to list their own scripts in the library. This is not really what this is for, this is for producer’s scripts and it’s just a way for educational tools. Though there are some legal complexities with to do with people who are not producing scripts. So I don’t want really to get into that at this point. So, please if you have any scripts? If you have any scripts and you don’t want them, send them into the SYS Script Library and they are produced movies, please do send them all along and I will get them posted. Right now we have about a thousand scripts, and there’s well over a thousand scripts in the library. Many hit movies, many award winning scripts, feature films, a lot of TV pilot scripts. All the scripts are PDF format so you can download and read them on whatever device you use. Just go to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/library.
I just want to mention two free webinar I’m doing on Wednesday – August 12. It’s called, “How to Effectively Market Your Screenplay and Sell It.” I’m going to be going through all those various online channels that are available for script and screenwriters. I’m going to give my unfiltered opinion of them. I get questions all the time, like, does the “Black List” works, does it work? Which contests should I enter? I’ve tried pretty much every marketing channel available. Don’t be discouraged, and I’m going to give you my unfiltered opinion about each one. And tell you which ones I think are the best ones.
A lot of what I am going to say, isn’t something I would say in a public Podcast. So, if you are interested in that kind of stuff, definitely sign-up for it. Again it’s completely free, this webinar is completely free, its’ going to be August 12. Even if you can’t make it to the live event. Don’t worry, sign-up and I’m going to Email record the event and then I’m going to Email everybody who signed-up with a link to it. So you will be able to listen to it at your convenience at any time in the future. To sign-up just go to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/freewebinar. And “free webinar” is all lower case and all one word. That’s just – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/freewebinar. Of course I will also link that in the show notes. So if you can’t remember that? Just go to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast and look for episode #85 and go to the webinar in there.
So now let’s get into the main segment, today I’m with Keith Meyer and here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome to the, “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast, I really appreciate you coming on the show.
Keith: Thanks for having me, glad to be here.
Ashley: So, I think to start, maybe you could just give our listeners a quick over view of your career in the entertainment industry. Kind of everything, take us up to the point where you wrote and directed “Five Star” and then we’ll dig into that specifically. But just, you know, take us back as far as you want to go and how you got interested in film and got to the point where you’re now writing and directing feature films.
Keith: Yeah, sure. I wouldn’t go to film school, I went to art school. I was a painter for about 20 years before I even considered serious making any movies. And then, about 2005-2006 I. My paintings had become more and more narrative. So I got more and more interested in film making as a potential. Because before then, to be honest, it seemed impossible to me. The idea of making a feature film. You know, it’s kind of like, so you point a camera, and what do you do, and how do you get people. And you write a script and how do you get money? Always, very kind of mysterious. But then I just kind of figuring it out. To say, like, yeah just do it I guess? And so I tried to make a movie back in 2005, with a very low budget. You know, out in New Mexico. But yeah, I, what ended up making a movie. It turned out to be a 30 minute short from a future screenplay. That didn’t see much light of day, went to a couple of festivals, but. That was kind of my introduction to the process. You know, like learning on the set, how to do that, then the editing process. And then subsequent to that, I probably made 20 or 30 short, shorts, some documentary styles and some more narrative style. And I got more and more interested in the kind of intersection of narratives and documentaries kind of associated gage realism. And those kinds of movies, I still make any kind of sense in movies. But for me personally was, interested in those types of movies that kind of touched on reality, with strong narratives structure. So, the, my first one was, “Welcome to Pine Hill.” That came out of a short. Which came out of a real life incident which me and the lead had an hour and a half documentary that’s the lead to that. So that wasn’t, you know, was a unique intro to feature film making. Was that, I had to know what it would make and what the process would be and I did not know how long it would take?
How would it be, just to I was really, doing messing around with, welcome to. And that was shot in 2003 to 2010. And then the lead character in, “Welcome to Pine Hill.” I was hanging out with him one day and he was there trying to meet this guy. And started generating the bloods, we were bouncers together. And then he introduces me to, you know, Ford Green. And we did a one hour on camera conversation. And I edited it down to two minute peaks, called,
“Gang Banging 101.” And that lead to we both liked the way that turned out. And we had nothing to do with one another. Another thing, he was there to complement, I thought he was a great presence on screen. So I said, “Okay.” Let’s work together on a feature.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, okay. I want to dive in, just a couple of things into what you said. So this first 30 minute film that you did. You were intending that to be a feature. But just through your naivety you shot this thing and it was edited down, all they had was 30 minutes. Is that kind of the idea?
Keith: Yeah, yeah, exactly, you know, the really helpful thing about that? That process there was, since I didn’t know how to do a lot? I was lucky that I wasn’t tied down to rules. But then of course, you know, that was far and away, the best things I learned. Is that I had written a script that I specifically and I shot a movie, very specifically. But then I edited it, were three separate things. You write something, you shoot something and you edit something. It’s all based on what you have, not what you wish to have. So, when I was first editing the feature that I kinda figured it out? Around 60 minutes because you don’t get kind of a mess of material. But when I really had to edit it around performance and the shot quality. Kind of like an emotional card, tease and all that kinda thing. I really had to change the tone of the movie. Because the performances were, I would not have a good enough director. You know, you get the tone of the performances I wanted to I had to edit it to the material that was there. Which was, that was my big lesson. Actually, you write, that’s one thing you shoot from, you have to edit. And you have to edit the thing that you have, you know, not what you wrote. I mean, there are directors that do that, but I don’t do that.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, and this sounds all very do it yourself. It sounds like you were shooting, and you were doing the editing, and is that correct? You were pretty much doing everything?
Keith: No, I shot a couple of things I needed. But that one and most of the stuff I did not shoot. But I did produce, edit, scale, got through everything along those lines. And write, the shooting I, my main focus, even though I wasn’t aware of this? That first piece consciously I felt I was a bit more aware of it. Had really been performance, so I felt like if I had a ball with the camera I couldn’t get the drip I wanted. The emotional connection with the performance. And so I, and then I’m just not a DP a good, I’m just not a cinematographer and the technical side for me. I was always just in the way. And a lot of people I teach came to know me through the reference collection which of course was I was a part of. So I just wiped away their shot. And so I said, “Okay, no, you do that part and I’ll do, I’ll just work on the content and performance.” I would much rather see a poorly shot, good performance, than quite a washout performance scene.
Ashely: Yeah, yeah. So, one of the things, and what is with one of these I recommend. I get a lot of novice film makers coming to me with a script. And one of the things I always recommend is? You know, write some short works, or I’d be curious to hear your take on that? I think people get caught in this trap of thinking that, if their short doesn’t go viral and doesn’t lead to some sort of a big deal. Then it’s a failure and really try to impress upon them that it’s not really the point. It’s really just small baby steps. And I mean, it sound like it’s kind of the direction you went. Slowly getting to the point where you got a feature film. So, maybe you could speak to that? That is how these short films eventually lead to you writing and directing feature films?
Keith: Yeah, you know, I looked at one of the things I’ve, and the things you really said. And the things I always see, people having ideas that are kind of what they’re gonna do when? And I think, you know, you don’t know what you’re gonna do when? Yeah, you may really get true bit style, but like me, like every frame to be planned out. Or you’re going to be that kind of director that has a story board or even, you know, crazier. So I think, the only people that know what type of film maker you are? And that’s the vision you have. To beyond that it really does matter is about making movies. And you know, you kind of bump against the edges of how you think, and how you react, and direct and royal situations by actually directing. And frankly right now, It’s don’t think it’s much difficult, much less impossible to make a movie on your own. There’s, everyone’s got a solo and everyone has high movie or whatever it is? A please offerings, and I think, you know, for me the first thing is you believing you want to make a movie. Take a scene and just shoot a single scene, even if it’s not a short. The single scene could maybe realize, you know what? I really don’t know how to make a person or people? That’s just who I am dialog. And send it in, it’s not review any. Somebody sits there and you find where the movie actual when bumping up against there. Not sitting in a room trying to make a movie that going to be awesome. Because, you know, it might be, be who cares? But until you actually do it? And then actually building it? You realize, like, oh, you know what I like? I don’t like long takes. I like back and forth, master shots take. It’s like hand held whip backs. I like, you know, and the way you people think of it. Or damn it, I don’t like it! You people breaks, I could. You know?
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. Okay, so let’s go ahead and let’s move into your latest film, “Five Star.” Perhaps to start out about that, perhaps you could give us a log-line, or a pitch of the film. I always link to the film trailer in the show notes, so that people can definitely check that out. But maybe for people who haven’t seen the trailer yet? You can give us a quick pitch.
Keith: Sure. “Five Star” this is kind of the particular one we have working. But “Five Star” story, maybe a five star in general, was going to mentor, until killed by a stray bullet and takes mentor’s son under his wing. And the mentor says, his son and the older guy who is going to get up in duty who was going to mentor now. He had been estranged since he left home very young. But the young guy has to see what to do with his life. If he wants to follow in his father’s footsteps. If he want to turn blood. And if he wants to run drug packages to make money on the streets or not? And then slowly he kind of comes to it might not have been a stray bullet. But at the certain time this five star general played Quimo. And he is, he has a wife and four kids and he’s trying to conduct away he can go straight. Get out of the cripple or whatever? Quino is played by Primo. Primo who’s actually a five star general when a young boy of 12 meets and a lot of this movie is based very much on real life. So I make the distinction, which is documentary element and scripted element. But the ark of the story is completely scripted in order, the scenes are scripted, it is observational, you know, hanging out with people and their expression.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. And so, let’s go through that writing process, just a little bit. You talked about just a minute ago how you met Primo through this little documentary? That you made a documentary. Now take us through the writing process so, you’re meeting with Primo and you’re writing things down. Or are you just following him around and sort of a slice of life type of a thing? And taking notes as you follow him around maybe? You can walk us through maybe the process of writing?
Keith: Sure. I didn’t, I didn’t, I never took notes, and I didn’t follow him around. We basically, hang out, and you know, just hung out with him and talking. And so the, I had before he met me he wanted to do a movie that had the underlying theme of what it meant to be a man. You know, I think the concept the next question, the contemporary man can have so much thought and you know, a man of your job and hang out and be that simple. You know, and because of it, being touched as always. And if it is, it’s always simple for Primo. Because he’s a very tough guy. So, when I was hanging out with him, he would tell me something. Situations for a while, every details and specific sceneries. Came out of those kinds of situations. But then the large story art and the architecture of the story. And that pulled the other characters were written by me. You know, so what I tried to do is take this very, realistic setting and put and eye of structure to it. Because you know, when I work, when we’re shooting a movie, writing a movie, it doesn’t feel like reality to me, I just call, “Cut.” and we begin there. I really want it to feel real, so with using those specific elements brought that out. So the writing process was in terms of going back to the crux in the bad what I had to do with Pima was tied in duct. And the more I got to know kind of like parts of art are related, these are also. As far as his personal history, just laid into lots of people.
Ashley: And was there, I mean, was there, the obvious criminal as you know, element question. Was there any concern on his part, you know, now he gets a little bit of a spotlight on him? And the police might come in, or was he real resident to talk about certain things?
Keith: You know, the anytime GI is the element. You know if he is right, he is not really. He is not facts that we cut out to protect the not so innocent. There is nothing revealed, there is nothing, you know, very general Essen, he is, if he came after him, no. I did not do any of that criminal stuff anymore. So it’s not an issue. It is more about getting, it’s not really a movie about generalize, it’s a movie set in the lives of gang members. But it’s a very intimate human story and that was the sort of focus. So, that was an issue, I mean, checking with the other people. Who he is associated with. And they were like, yeah, that’s fine, you know. It would be the difference. After that it was really, and I said to him, really early on. That if we’re going to do this? You know, you really have to take emotional risks. You have to really get into being the beggar in front of the camera. You know, it’s not just like being the tough guy that’s easy, right there. The other stuff is harder.
Keith: He’s very opened to that ya know? And he’s a very easy going guy. I’m adaptive that way. And that’s the sense I run.
Ashley: So tell me, take us through the writing process? How you are with getting it, ideas. And then even just the nuts and bolts I find interesting. Do you know, when you’re in a writing groove, do you write six hours and day or eight hours a day? You know, for six months to get the script pounded out? Or do you write a couple of hours a day? What’s your writing schedule?
Keith: A, you know, I mean, we are in the middle of writing next movie right now. And I’m kinda like write every day. Sitting down and try and to spend as much time as I could. I wake-up in the morning and tempted to do that every morning. The artist waiting to write and write three pages. Or just set-up free-flowing, and then I’ll sit down. I use CellText Software. I will write out specific scenes. And with “Five Star” I did, I wrote out specific scenes. A lot of them were just like, they get in fight and I would kind of bookmark it and do specific dialog later. And, you know, with “Five Star” and “Pontail” I used very clearly in the closing scenes. And I had some very like them, maybe islands, I knew I was going to stop in and see I was filling them in as I went through the writing process. And it seems like she, in this, you know, documentary style. A lot of the scenes where just stay in that kind of, they get into a fight. But, then specifically, word-for-word kind of written. So, yeah. The ending script is the, “Five Star” ending I think was about 40 pages, 30 pages. But then along out of the scene there’s dialog in it that I didn’t actually write down, but went on. So, I would tell them what to say and what the dialog will be. And I don’t give in the actors or the crew the whole script until we are getting ready to shoot that scene.
Ashley: So the whole thing, the finished script for “Five Star” was only 40 pages. And then filling in?
Ashley: It was a lot of impromptu stuff that you just have in your head? Where does this stuff come from?
Keith: Because you, it comes from my head, yeah.
Ashley: Huh, huh, okay. Well that’s yeah.
Keith: So a lot of it was like, he gives it to me the basic set-up of this. And, you know, you go down that road. But, you know, what I was, very interested in. I like the way real people talk, and they don’t see that in movies as such. I sign up people tend to get to the point, very articulately in the movies, because they are good writers, you know what I mean? And the people circulate around an idea. And then kind of almost get to it. And I was interested in that and a lot of the similarlies or whatever you want to call it? Like, that’s what I was going for and the feel of everyday life and the fabric of everyday life.
Ashely: Okay, okay. Okay, so now you’ve finished the script. What was the next step? After you’re done with the script? You know, raising money, getting the crew together. Kind of take us through that process of taking it from script to actual production, raising the money to do all that stuff.
Keith: Sure, when we had the crew of, “Welcome to Pine Hill.” Mostly they were good friends of mine from the “Brooklyn Film Makers Collective.” And they all had a very positive experience with that. And were all excited about the outcome. It was like a little movie made from almost nothing, not literally. We had really close to nothing. And got the solution and from one, five I think? Around, I thought it would be, like real? Let me know? And quite a bit of them. So it’s kind of easier to get the crew together and that. And I had a million people’s idea, and I had like a story idea, and you know, pitch for it. And the crew was there early, really difficult. To where as you know, had direction, and production time. That all took time. I had kind of a rough time with that. And in terms of the budget? My budget had weeks, for most movies, than in like, “Pine Hills.” Like I said there was no budget, so it didn’t matter. The budget, people had said, “Hey, its business.” and business will a bunch of people said, “Alright.” I don’t know them, I want to invest in that. And “Welcome to Pine Hill.” And so he didn’t say to them, “That’s great, you can because of that. “ This next film, he was, it was very, very, low budget movie. “Five Star.” And so it wasn’t like we had investors. We made the investors, we went to people who had a little bit of extra money and they were interested in being a part of what was going on. They were interested in being part of it. And so they kind of offered themselves up. And a lot of the crew, we didn’t do a disservice star, we did an incoming time. Which means, that everyone who worked on the film, would be like half their pay was an investment in cash to the movie. And it turned out we got the best investors we could offer. Almost always people who work themselves. Like full payment, they chose that. And some chose that as, most people chose the money. But, if these, if it wasn’t less than 50-50 for that. Getting the money actually happened very quickly. Then I finally said, “Yes, we’re definitely going to do this!” It was with this, right around the time, “Pine Hills” came out, that in theaters and on Netflix. You know, those two that happened. It was a pretty good to be doing something with people I had wished I had known. You know, so we could respond, and you can. He kind of directed me through this second film. Which was I guess one of those things that you hope the first movie does good.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, perfect. I think that’s a great story. Just, it really shows getting out there and starting with that first feature is really what kind of lead into that. This one I think that’s a great tip. One thing I really wanted to talk about. Is the cast in this movie, because the acting was excellent, and a super low budget movie. When the acting is bad the movie is bad. And it seems like, I mean, with Primo obviously he’s not a professional actor. But, I’m assuming a lot of these other people are not professional actors too? But you still got really great performances. So maybe you could talk about just the casting of this? Because again, I think this would be very valuable for people to hear how you, just the logistics of it, and how you went about casting it. Ultimately getting the performances from these actors.
Keith: Casting these actors was really the key. John, you know, John had done, I had met John because he appeared in a short movie and it was called, “Mosquito.” And he was a very serious, talented actor.
You know, Jeromy said, “John needs to come in for passing for the audition.” And I said, “Is John good?” and he said, “You’re darn, you know, I’ll kinda let you decide? But?” John had only come in to audition. And John showed up as promised and nailed all the auditions. But you know, you see John is standing there affixed with a beautiful combination. And John could just try already, you know, he immediately like an old brother, father, son kind of a core. And I just, he was a key and was what I wanted. You know, we did audition probably like 70 people for that role. And I think for all of the roles. We auditioned quite a few people. And you know, what I felt like was if I offered to really do it? Like then to change who they are? Or if they really change who they are. If every role you don’t recognize them? That’s not what I was going for. Because I want them deep into who they are really. Like, you know, the audition started long before they were given any lines. So, the method to my madness or whatever? Like I got Rhonda, who played the mother, she was the most natural actress. But you know, she has that slight bordering of an accent. She has that kind of a slight. She’s pretty, she’s tough as shit, she’s gonna like, not taken anything from you. In fact, I found out, and one by one all of the media actors we met were like she put the life in his hands when John, Quima, and Casey are there talking like someone they met. Casey’s like, yeah, she’s tough. Is she right for me? And things like that are like, yeah, she feels right. So a lot of that cast were chosen that way. It mostly was a feeling, and even if they weren’t turning back to what I would call true moxy. Walking out of the movie, cost more for head shot. If nothing else, it didn’t. I wanted to feel that in this day in before I got there. And then, on set, you know, again, along this specifics of the line, like Casey said that for example. We fell apart at that crucial part. And then John comes back and this is the little package or less or whatever? And I really needed him to sound threatening from a long distance. Get up and walk him through it, get a bunch of tape. And he kind of got it. The same thing with the site of the long argument between John and his mother Wanda. There is a lot in there that’s specifically written or laid out to them so that, I knew that John is kind of naïve, obviously gotten into fights with his mom and Wanda is the mother of a teenage who’s obviously gotten into a fight. You know, like I said, that’s where we’re working from. It’s not imaginary stuff here. That’s what I undo very long tapes, idea, what I gotta, like write shorter sets here and there, so it’s safe for the actor. You know, I think that’s the set the actors are recorded taking a risk, an emotional risk. You know, it’s just one person has to get it right, right. The BP has to definitely get the right feel. Locked into the ones that can go out there and said, try to prove it’s safe, as safe as possible.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. No, all good tips. Okay, so now you finished the film. Take us through a little bit of just? Did you, I mean, this just feels very much like, sort of an Indi Drama can do well at festivals. Did you guys, I mean, did the festivals take, the festivals, did you take you ultimately find your distributor for this?
Keith: A yeah, we did we tried to roles in. We tried Echo, and they were enthusiastic, reach out to a very quickly and yeah, they said they would put in some competition. You know it’s a perfect movie and having like all the cast and crew at the premiere with it was really great. So it was an easy pick from it. And we got a lot of really great and ourselves. We ridged them and really started talking to people that now and immediately without a top star is a really tough sell. But we won an award for going out and trying that film. We played the, “Grennich” and went out and started winning awards around so?
When we finally got an offer from, “Accelerator” which really was great. You see, Sundance International Cable TV to be on in Europe and South America. You know, it just kind of happened, naturally put on this sound gage and the producers? It just kind of worked, but didn’t know about it? And, you know, to be honest, it’s like a lot of distributors said, “Yes.” I love your movie but we don’t know what to do with it? Because it doesn’t have an easy log-line, you know, it’s not, “Dogs in the Park.” Or you know, or “World’s Fair.” It just might, or just my little introduction up at the beginning. It took me longer than people have to, it’s not an elevator pitch, unless you’re going on the freedom tower or whatever they call it? Ya, know? So, I think to a lot of you people and places it would be a little tough, I mean, they said, “I love movies at the most I don’t know what to do with it?” But Accelerator has a, they were really enthusiastic about the movie. You know, they are aware of it. This is not going to be like, “The Blair Witch Project.” They’re not going to have mud or something? Or someone else’s interests in it. Our movie they believe strongly in it, and issued in it, are going to sit down. I think a lot of our people handled it in a way itself is complex, and real, and honest, and very intimate and in a way that, you know, I don’t think I see very often if ever. And that was kinda the theme that sold them. It’s not like a, you know, holy cow, this is going to be big, and like sensational. This is more like, uh, there ya go, that’s the thing? It sold itself, you know, I don’t know if I can send you advice, that’s the way it works for us.
Ashley: Okay, yeah, yeah. I’m curious, a lot of the festivals, you always kinda hear there’s somewhat kind of political, were these just cold submissions to these festivals try that. And you got in, did you sales agent know someone over there? Just maybe we could talk a little bit about the process of getting into these big good festivals?
Keith: Yeah. The sales agent had nothing to do with the festivals that was all us. If “Welcome to Pine Hill” won the lottery, but just a cold submission. But we wanted a bunch of movies with good class and we got submitted by our sales person. Which is very reputable, by the distributor there? So, check into these movies was a little bit easier. And you know, we all, a bunch of these American Festivals released it in time to be heard. Me, and “Welcome to Pine Hill” at the time, you know, we sent them an Email. They responded, “Hey, Welcome to Pine Hill.” I didn’t have any meetings, are you interested? You said, I said, you know, we always have to ask if you ever want to waiver from? We wouldn’t get it and sometimes we would, which we did. And, you know, I think that they are political. I wouldn’t over emphasize that, now that I’ve been through it with the committee. I think that, you know, the politics of if you see it twice or not? But then again, I think that it’s real. And all sets are really know one another. The real trick is one, the next one is going to know. But on the other side, we’ll watch a lot of movies and if your movie’s boring within the first ten minutes. They make a premier, they’ve already worked by it. And, you know, like a lot of festivals we went to, they were just cold. Like we were told that they, would say, like, “I saw your movie, and I really want a program.” And it was that simple. I didn’t, you know, people would say, “Boy, these guys are getting into all these festivals?” But, for a few people I paid towards these festivals. So I started, I think we probably have gotten 70 selections. And so the idea that, that’s it’s just like a cake walk once you get done. Like an anyway, you’re not sure from Sundance to Morocco you can. Yeah, we were definitely fun, we probably didn’t attract Sundance then Caan rejected us. Yeah, there’s a lot more rejections than there is. I of course didn’t take it personally.
But I just have to watch the lines. Hey, you know, okay this, another festival. And there’s a lot of those festivals on which honestly this wouldn’t be the best move before. Even if I wanted to go to them. Now, I don’t know about the folks at “Caan” but, some of these festivals were just? You can imagine the air. And people would be like, what is this and why am I here? How did I come to this festival? So?
Ashley: So, thank you for sharing that. I think rejection is part of the process in this business in. There’s no shame in it.
Keith: And you just have to get used to it. It is, and it can be hard, no matter how seasoned you are.
Ashley: So let’s talk about where people can see, “Five Star.” Release schedule is it? It’s going to, it’s going to be theatrical or gonna be, Video On Demand, just tell us whenever it’s coming out.
Keith: Sure, it’s gonna be released, July 24th at ISM Theater in New York, in Manhattan. And coming out on July 31st at the in Hollywood California in LA. And I already told you at the time – On Demand and so ITunes, and Amazon and whoever digital. You’re going to find that? The movie hasn’t released to the website, we’ll post it there. The links are live there the ones IFC Tour and under this sudden link under the ITunes trailer, which will eventually be the ITunes download or whatever stream.
Ashley: Yeah, okay. Buddy I always like to end the interviews. Is there some way people can kind of follow you? If you have a blog, or Twitter account, or Facebook account or? I mentioned your Twitter handle, or whatever you feel comfortable with sharing. Just so people can kind of follow along with your new films.
Keith: Yeah, sure. [email protected] Email or check if that’s the case?
Ashley: I’ll check, and double check and pull submissions and show notes so I’ll get all stuff and shore it up.
Keith: Okay. Yeah, so thank so much and keep writing. Probably find me, the movie itself has a Facebook page and a Twitter. I can say about the quality, I don’t keep track of Twitter? They can like me or friend me on Facebook, or I’m not too sharp on that stuff? But there’s a bunch of new work on Instagram and I don’t do too much movie stuff on YouTube. But if you want a few pictures, that’s where to go?
Ashley: Okay, perfect, perfect. Okay, this has been a great interview. I really enjoyed your movie, well done on that. So I wish you luck on that. And as I said, this has been a great interview. I really appreciate you coming on and talking with me.
Keith: Thanks so much for having me. Good talking to ya.
Ashley: We’ll talk again. See ya later, good luck.
Ashley: Just want to mention two things during, “Selling Your Screenplay.” To help writers get their scripts into the hands of producers and sell their screenplays.
First, we’ve created a monthly newsletter that will be sent directly to producers every month. Every member of SYS will have to consider that one log-line per newsletter. I went and Emailed my large data bases of producers and asked them if they would like to receive this monthly newsletter of pitches. So far we have well over 150 producers who have signed-up to receive it. These producers are hungry for material and happy to read scripts from you and writers. So, if you want to participate in this monthly newsletter and get your script in the hands of lots of producers? Sign-up at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/select.
And secondly, we are now fielding needs from producers for screenwriters. We are doing a lot of outreach to try and bring in request from producers, and screenwriters. Last week we had more than 10 paid screenwriter leads. These are producers, production companies who are actively looking to buy material or looking to hire screenwriters for a specific project. If you sign-up for SYS Select, you will get these Emailed directly to, so, several times per week.
Here are a couple of real examples from last weeks’ leads. We had a production company looking for screenwriter to adapt a book into a screenplay. This is a fairly common occurrence, a lot of people who go into screenwriting, think they are going to be spending their time writing and giving them their own ideas. But in all likelihood? If you become a professional screenwriter? It will be doing paid writing assignments for production companies or producers. Either adapting a novel, like in this case. Or most likely, writing a screenplay based on a treatment or an adaptation that you are presented with. This is really the vast majority of the screenwriting world, is working with a producer and writing their ideas. Into a fully, flushed out screenplay. So, again this is a nice little lead. There be great practice, this would be a paid lead, so they have some budget to pay the writer. But you know, this is a great chance to just sort of get in and get your foot in the door. And get yourself actual professional work as a writer.
We open up another production company looking for a short script that has a female protagonist. It is dark and edgy. I’ve talked about this many times in the past. There isn’t a ton of money in short films. But there are lots of people out there making them. So these sorts of leads are exactly the kind you want to find. If you have some short screenplays. They, these are great for getting experience, they’re great for getting produced credits, a lot of these shorts have producers who are aggressive, they will wind up on IADB so you should get an IMDB writing credit. They will submit them to film festivals. And you can go to film festivals and network. See your stuff performed on a big screen. You can also hopefully be on set. You can see how actors are interpreting your words. So just doing shorts is just a great way. It is really fairly easy. There is leads, as I said, coming in through us. This services I’ve seen them on leads for shorts tips. And I see a lot of leads for shorts on Craigslist. So there’s really a ton of people out there looking for short scripts. And as I said, as a writer, you’re not going to make a lot of money doing them. But, you definitely can get some credits, and they can be good credits when you get into film festivals and that.
As I said, get an IADB. Like I said, these are looking for leads in these storylines. This is a lead I’ve seen quite often from different production companies. There is quite a bit of production money coming out of China right now. So there are a number of producers who are looking for screenplays with elements that play well and with Chinese audiences. So keep this in mind as you are writing your next screenplay. There are some criteria, and I’m not an expert at this? I really don’t know exactly what all the criteria is? But one of the big things is, censorship. China is not a free and open society, like we have here in the United States. This money is coming from the government. And in a lot of cases and or the government is not coming from the government. They are going to need to pass the government censors. And again, I’m not an expert at this. So I don’t know exactly what that entails. At some point I’ll try and have a producer on who’s producing this type of material. As I said, I see these type of leads quite often. And it would be interesting, just from my own education. To just find out just exactly what the criteria is? It can’t be negative towards Chinese society, you know. You’re not going to find scripts or movies about fighting the Chinese government, or over throwing tyranny. That stuff is not going to work. But they want Chinese storylines, they do want action, and they do want adventure. The same sorts of stuff that plays here in the United States, but not the stuff the government is necessarily going to look down on.
Anyway, this is just a small smattering of the leads from last week. A lot out of these leads is still very much active, so if you join SYS Select right now. You can still submit to them. And of course we will be bringing you new leads each and every week. So to sign-up, again, just go to –
In the next episode of the Podcast, I’m going to be interviewing Claudia Fa. Who directed an independent Viking film called, “Northmen, A Viking Saga.” She is originally from Switzerland, and is now living and working in Hollywood. We walked through his entire career and it really goes back to his childhood when he and his cousin started making basically little short films, home movies, short films when he was very, very, young, like in junior high. And slowly his career grew from there. So, it’s an interesting interview. Just to hear someone really all the way through their entire career, until the point where they are directing. You know, pretty large budget feature films. So, keep an eye out for that episode next week.
So to wrap things up I just want to touch on a few things from todays’ interview with Keith. The thing that really impressed me about Keith? Was just how artful he was, and sort of how serious and professional he took this. He talked about, you know, seeing 70 actors for a specific role, doing that kind of casting. And if you ever worked in a low budget film, it’s like an enormous amount of just time and effort it takes. But that’s the kind of sort of professionalism that is needed to make a low budget independent film work. If you are considering doing a low budget independent film? Especially one that is more on sort of the artistic side, the drama side. I would say definitely check this film out. Because this is about as good as it’s going to get. The performances are great, it looks great, sounds great. And when you’re doing a low budget film. I mean, I’ve done it, a bunch of low budget films. Really from just mirally super low budget, you know, up to dollar films. And I can tell you, doing a film this low budget? It is difficult for it to turn out this well. It has nothing to do with the writing necessarily. Just getting performances out of actors that are not professional actors. Getting, you know, high quality lighting, and Cinematography out of a DP who did not pay a huge amount of money. To getting good sound when you not paying your sound guy a huge amount of money. Now I don’t know exactly how much pay, if you paid these people the rate of his friends. But, this is a real good example of sort. I would say that, top of the key for, you know, low budget independent films. This is a real good example of that. So if you are considering doing your own film, definitely check this out. Really look at this, and listen to this interview, because I get the sense just from listening and talking to him just how professional he is and just how artistic, and caring he is for this project. And that’s what it takes. There is the ole’ good, old, fast, cheap. And this was cheap and it was good. So, it’s not going to be fast, he really put a lot of effect into this project and it shows. You watch it and you can tell, this is an artfully done film. Anyway, that is the show, thank you for listening.