This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 087: Bob Schultz Talks About The Great American Pitch Fest.
Selling Your Screen Play Podcast – #87
(Typewriter Keys Tapping)
Ashley: Welcome to episode #87 of Selling Your Screenplay Podcast, I’m Ashley Scott Myers, screenwriter and blogger over at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing Bob Schultz, who is one of the founders of the, “Great American Pitch Fest.” We discuss how, “Great American Pitch Fest” works, and how to get the most out of them? So stay tuned for that.
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www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast, and then just look for episode #87.
A couple of quick updates, I continually build out the SYS Script Library. Last week I added –
“The Expendables” and “Sex Drive” Tim Teats sent them into me. And so thank you Tim for those. If you have a screenplay that you do not see listed in the SYS Script Library? Please do Email it to me. The SYS Script Library is completely free and we have over a thousand scripts in the library. Many hit movies, award winners, television shows. All the scripts are in PDF format, so you can download and read them on whatever device you use. Just go to, www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/library.
If you want to get my free guide, “How to Sell a Screenplay in 5 Weeks?” You can pick that up by going to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide. It’s completely free, just put in your Email address and I’ll send it to you. You’ll get a new lesson once a 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-on and quarry letter. How to find agents and producers who are looking for material. It really is everything you need to know, to sell your screenplay. Just go to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide.
A quick few words about what I’m working on? So I talked about my script on the “Black List?” Over the last few weeks. Where it’s an action thriller, it got a rating of a 4 and a rating of an 8, which averaged out to a 6. Which was enough to make, “The Top List.” So as of this date, as I am recording this, on August 17th. More than this, I now have 5 pro downloads. And the most recent, pro-download, the person actually came back and gave me another rating. They gave me a rating of 6. So, it basically didn’t help me, nor hurt me, it just maintained my average of a 6. I did contact support with a couple of questions?
To get some clarification of a few things. If you get two ratings now, that are very divergent? The two, if you pay for two readers to read your script. You get ratings that are wildly different, I think its two points different, so? Obviously a four and an eight, they are very different. But I think like a four or a seven, that things are divergent enough. They will give you another read at half price. So, instead of $50.00 it would be $25.00. And they just, and I never reached out to need that. I contacted them and said, “Oh yeah, that was correct.” And so, they did give me a credit for that. So I could buy another read for $25.00 instead of $50.00.
Also when I had Franklin Lenard, he mentioned a newsletter that went out once a week and all the scripts that got a rating of an 8 or better were in this newsletter. So, obviously my script got a 4 or an 8, that’s 1-8. So I was curious if the newsletter went out? And when it went out? And the support on the back said it went out, I think at the beginning of the week. So, I think I got my rating in the mail, I think it was, Thursday. So, I think it would have gone out the following Monday. And this kind of makes sense. Because I actually got three pro-downloads, I think, like the following Tuesday. So I got the rating on a Thursday, and then like a Tuesday I got three
Pro-downloads. This was the biggest single source blog post I got. So I am guessing that I am gotten confirmation, I’m guessing that was from the newsletter? Now, on that Monday. Anyway, now my listing time expires any day now, so I’m just going to let it expire. It’s going to fall off the “Top List” on the day, if it hasn’t already. It probably has because these ratings are over a month old now. So that’s basically that? I’m also not sure if I’m going to scrap the “Black List” real soon? I’m working on another spec. now. So, in three or four months I’ll start marketing that. And I’ll start mentioning it on the Podcast. Then we’ll see if I put it on the “Black List?” I just got to digest how this all went down.
So in the mean time I’ve been working on getting this project together. Right now I’m planning on doing it, directing and producing it myself. I’ve been working on this for about a month. But I’ve held off, but now I’m announcing it on the Podcast. I was afraid that if something went wrong, I’d look silly. For someone who says I was gonna do it, and then not actually following through. But at this point I feel pretty good about it. I’ve got some interest from some investors, which are, I’ll talk about in a second. And perhaps this extern layer of accountability from listeners asking me what’s going on with this project? Is actually a good thing, maybe it’ll keep me motivated and me going and really help me see this thing through to completion. So the plan is to work on the next few months raising the money to shoot this film. And then the plan is to shoot it in the early 2016, probably February or March 2016. I’m going to personally invest in this movie myself. I’ll be putting in a sizable check and it will probably end up being a bigger. I will probably wind up being the single biggest investor in this film. But I am going to try and get more investors as well obviously. What I have been doing so far is? And this is something to consider? If you are thinking about producing your own material? What I have been doing, I’ve been going to actors I have met earlier over the years. Some of these actors I know pretty well. Some of them are unknown, not so well. But, just people I have corresponded with. Maybe met a couple times. So, these actors and seeing if they would like to invest in the movie. And also play one of the leading roles in the film? Actors get a tremendous amount of value of being in a feature film. So it stands to reason they might be interested in investing in something like this? So right now I’ve got the main lead characters, and I’ve also got a minor role from a fairly new actor. But, he would like to be in the film. So, he’s willing to throw in some money. And like I said, I’ve got another actor who, really likes the lead role. And is willing to invest in the movie to see it, this thing to completion.
And obviously the actors have to be right for the role. So, I’m only reaching out to actors that are? It’s a sort of slow methodical way, and I’m not like reaching out to five actors for the same role. I have known certain actors, well this actor might be right for this role and I’m reaching out to them. And kind of gauging their interest. Then if they say, “No” then perhaps I’ll reach out to some other actors. So once that all shakes out? Then I’m going to run a kick-starter campaign for the rest of the money. I’m very curious to see how well I can do with a kick-starter campaign? I would really like it as a model, it’s a way of sort of pre-selling a film and seeing if there is any interest in it before you even make it? And obviously it’s a way of generating interest in the film before you even make it. So hopefully by then, when you can get your film completed there will already be a little bit of recognition for it, for this film.
I’ve become friends with Michael Startiani, whom I interviewed in episode #64. If you remember that episode, he is a writer and former actor. And he was on one of the “Bachelorette.” Spin-off shows. So he’s got a decent social media following. And he’s also got one of his friend’s who’s also on the Bachelorette is interested in acting in the film too. So, I’m casting them as the two Hench-men, who work for this mob boss. I’m hoping that between my own following and their following we can raise a decent amount of money on the kick-starter. And hopefully I can add a few more like them to the cast. Who have a good social media following. And are really, really willing to pitch in and help with the kick-starter campaign. And hopefully this will really help this thing get off the ground. See, my goal is to have for the kick-starter campaign, maybe October, maybe November. We’ll just see how long this, the first faze of this goes? The project is really the money talking to me. People getting investors and then whatever we need left. We are going to kick-starter force. So, stay tuned for that.
Also we will be looking for support with the stack goes live. A couple of months ago I talked about my baseball colleague on the Podcast. And I’ve gotten a bunch of mail from people offering to help out with one thing or another? It’s really all kinds of different Emails. Just offering suggestions, people just offering to help out with the film. I just want to thank everybody who reached out more, reached out for that, it is very much appreciated. It also got me thinking? I got such a great reaction from that mention. I’m thinking there is probably lots of talented people who might want to get involved in this current project I’m working on? So, I welcome any help that I can get? Please reach out to me if you want to help out. It’s very much appreciated. Specifically what I am looking for right now is an actress, probably aged 30 to 45? She plays the wife of the main character. Who is about 45 years old. You know, somewhere in that 30, 35, 40 year old range, who has a large social media following. I want an actress who has a large social media following. Who can help out with the kick-starter campaign. And you know, you have to be really into it, you have to be really into go to your art and really help out. She has to be more than just a, having a big social media following. You have to have a large social media following. For this to work you have to have a large social media following and you have to be really willing to bang on it. And try and get interest from you and your followers. But really any actress who would add value to this package really would be welcome. There is a variety of roles still available. Also I plan on shooting it, a teaser trailer in the next month or so? I’m looking to work also with all sorts of production crew, sound guys, an editor, cinematographer, this is an action thriller script. So, hopefully, a cinematographer who has experience shooting, thrillers, action thrillers, on a low-budget obviously would be ideal. But, this play, I’m in the early process of this. So, whatever your talent or skill is and would like to help out on this project? Please do drop me an Email. Anyway, I hope this will be interesting and perhaps inspirational for people to follow along with.
As I go through this process. Hopefully it will just be a kind of a nice kick-start study that people can look to. It’s going to go over as I said, probably by the time the process is done? I’ll probably will be a year-long, by the time I raise the money, the kick-start campaign, produce the film, get through post in. I’ll be lucky to be done with this thing by next summer. I am recording this now, in August, so? We’ll be lucky to be done by then, so August 2016 through this whole process. So, I think this will be kind of a case study people can go back. They can look at it and hopefully learn from it. And I mean, this will be the good, the bad and the ugly on it. Doing this live, and real time. It’s not going to be retrospective of “Hey” here’s how this turned out great. This thing might totally flop. So maybe if it does? We can learn from the mistakes I’m about to make as well. If you’ve ever been down this road and doing micro-budget films? I mean, things can get really, really tough at times. So there’s definitely going to be some tough times ahead with this project. Now, if things don’t go as planned when you’re talking about micro-budgeting films. A lot of things come up? Some of these actors that say they’re going to invest some of their money will drop out. Some, you know, the money for the kick-start campaign will fall through. Some of the things you get during the crew members, things come up and then they get paid jobs and higher paid jobs and better jobs and they have to go off. So, there’s a lot of moving parts producing a feature film. So, I’m sure there are some tough, tough roads ahead. But again, hopefully it will be an interesting case study for people. So, wish me luck.
So, now let’s get into the main segment. Today, I’m interviewing Bob Schultz from, “The Great American Pitch Fest.” Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Bob, to “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I really appreciate you coming on the show.
Bob: Thanks for having me, I’m really happy to be here.
Ashley: So, to start out, I wonder? If you could give us a quick overview of your career in the entertainment industry? You know, how you got started, and eventually came to creating “Pitch Fest.” And that “Script Fest.?”
Bob: Yeah, I think the, an early time, the early period of my career, has, was, is a very typical story. Loved movies growing-up, loved TV, always watched and love to get involved with writing and storytelling. My degree is in English. There is not a lot to be done with a career where I can quote Jessie Choser from memory? So, I decided to sit down at and actually putting some words down on paper. I came to screenwriting late though. I wanted to write stories, books, and I sort of loved the magic of movies. And didn’t want to ruin that for myself. But as I came into learn about the structure and the minimalist way that you conduct a screenplay. The act of writing a screenplay is, really came to appeal to me on its own. It, and if it wasn’t part of a problems of getting a movie made. Eventually I, I produced, “Below Zero.” Written by my producing partner, Sidney Alleneck, and other scripts produced and optioned along the way. Next thing I knew, here I was, a screenwriting career and a screenwriting conference.
Ashley: Okay, then. Tell us how did the screenwriting conference sort of dove tail in on this screenwriting career?
Bob: On Father’s Day, that day, a good writer makes an excellent procrastinator. We, as writers, always find the way, the best way to get your house cleaned is to have a deadline on a screenplay due. So, when we decided to start a screenwriting conference at a pitching event? That was a great way to avoid my deadlines mostly. I was at a conference maybe, twelve or thirteen years ago. And then it had some hic-ups and some problems. And so, my partner said, “We can do something better here.” So she came to me to ask for volunteers? And I latched on and here we are thirteen years later. We’ve done, this year, at the end of this year? Between, The “Great American Pitch Fest.” The, “Great Canadian Pitch Fest. “ And the, “Great British Pitch Fest.” In London, we will have done twenty, “Pitch Fests” in twelve years. Not to mention producing two movies along the way, and doing our own writing as well. It’s been a little bit of a crazy roller coaster ride. But, we’re really proud of everything we’ve done.
Ashley: Yeah. Okay, so let’s dig into your writing career a little bit, just to get a little background on you? So, it sounds like you were writing when you got out of college? And you had an English degree. You started to write novels, and then slowly transferred into screenplay writing?
Bob: Yeah, short stories mostly. And then, but my love for movies gave me an innate sense of structure without ever having, actually having any education. And if I had, had a notion of where to start and end a scene? Where to start and end a story. What the beginning and end of the story should be and look like? So, I sat down and wrote a screenplay, which, if you had asked me back then? Was a guaranteed award winner, ask me today? It’s the worst thing ever written. Now, we all write page one after our first time and think we have just redesigned the entire world. So, I learned, I picked up some great books, I picked up Vicky Cane’s book, “How to Write a Movie in 21 Days.” I picked up “Save the Cats.” Started teaching myself, started learning humility that comes from, other people can know more than I do, and go about what I’m doing. And I just started cranking them out. I wrote primarily horrors at first. I think not only did I watch a lot of horrors as a kid. But, I think it’s a community that’s very enthusiastic about the genre. And as a member of the tribe myself, I thought they would probably be forgiving of me if I had some flaws in my script. And here we are now, the latest one I’ve written is a comedy, but I still have a fondness for horror back then.
Ashley: And let’s look through some of those specifics. So you’ve written some of those horror scripts. Take us through maybe some of the first option, the first sale, just the first little bit of success as a screenwriter. How did you actually do that? Was it pitching? Was it query letters? What was the basic first success you had?
Bob: You know, I think it was true then and it’s true now? I don’t know it’s always been true. It’s, a lot of it is who you know? The connections you’ve made, the networking you have done, that I had done. That doesn’t just come from a place of, you here’s something that you can do for me. Query letters I think are very effective for a lot of people. But, you’re sort of entering into a relationship with someone where you’re saying, I have something that I want you to buy from me. And there is automatically that defensiveness, or that you become part of the crowd. But the, it was, the early days of the internet. There was some chat rooms, there was some development of users who were just going out there and talking about screenwriting.
And every night I would go online and chat with people. I ended up in Up State New York, 3000 miles away from L.A. And so I couldn’t just go networking functions and mixers. So I’d go down there and sit and I would talk. And I would say, here’s what I just finished writing. And someone said, you need to work, you really need to work on the log-line. And I would say, what’s a log-line? You know, and I know what working is. It’s just that, oh, that’s what a
log-line is? Basically this is how you get in it. So, it was never a place of, please read my romantic comedy, please read my horror, it was, here’s. I had writers block today, or I had a great read through today, or I wrote myself into a corner today. And talking with other writers and development executives and that. The process is sort of being part of a community. And then, coincidentally, when I went to my first pitching event. One of the guys from the chat room went to hear pitches. He was like, “Oh my God, you BOB!!” And it was not, I did not sit down and say, it’s a story about Bob, and bla, and bla, bla. Which was all these log-line pitches sort of fit into. Because, “How ya been, great to see ya. What’d you just finish? Oh, really?” and “Send it to me.” “Thanks, I will.” And so that turned into, “That script is on option?” But they like enough, what I had done, to say. “Well, we have this script that came in from a writer that we hired that really wasn’t that good. Try re-writing on it?” So I got this, some hired work on that. When I was there they had optioned a, an unpublished novel, from a guy who wrote this? It was a giant horror story, you know, “Jaws” eel and they said, “We want so much for this book. Here’s, have you ever done adaptions before?” And since I had done no adaptions. I said, “I do adaptions all the time.” You know, and that and they let me do it. And I read the book and now I did it. So, it comes from all you know, networking, and learn from that is? How critical it is to know as many people as possible, in as short a time as possible, and become friendly with them on a professional level. So that you’re not just saying, me, me, me, I’m the one you should hire. They say, I like Bob, so I like working with Bob, let’s see what Bob can do for us?
Ashley: A-huh. I wonder too? Have you had any success? I mean, the relationship you just described? Is you know, you form it online, but ultimately you need that actual in person, in that action. Have you had any success with meeting people online? And it never actually going, or goes to in person meeting. Where you just meet someone online and they eventually hire you to do something? Or, you’ve written them, or they when they option one of your scripts? I’m just curious, if you, if that step is mandatory, in your opinion?
Bob: In my opinion? It is extremely critical. Mandatory, not one to say mandatory as you and I speak across the internet, we’ve never met in person. And I know, it’s and it’s becoming more and more the case every day that you can do more and more through technology. But, speaking of somebody who is better used to a few movies. It’s a very, very stressful time to produce a movie. Its two years of at least of extreme stress. And building a team that works well together. And building and knowing this, that’s over all, for writers specifically. Someone who can take notes, who internet notes who is fearless, who will stand-up for them. And believes in the story and in the end the decision goes the other way. So be professional and get it all done. Those things are all important. But also there’s that indefinable, that undefinable something that just comes from two people who can get along as an adult person, you know? And there’s also the definable, some people just don’t like to wear deodorant. (Sniffing). And when you’re shopping for office space or a production office? You’ve got a small space, because you don’t want spend a lot of money on behind-the-scenes stuff. You want to put it all on the screen.
So, I would never hire a writer for a project that isn’t a “Go project” without meeting them in person. Even if I love their script, and their script was the best thing they’ve ever written! That’s awesome. But, I mean, you know L.A.? If you want to get a script, go out and hail a cab and ask the driver for theirs. They are not hard to come by. So, when I’m building a team, I want the best combination of good writing and good writer. Do you understand what I’m saying there?
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, yeah, no, yeah, absolutely. Okay, so let’s dig into “Pitch Fest.” And, “Script Fest.” And talk about that a little bit. And so, maybe to start out you could just tell us sort a, what it is and for people that don’t know anything about it? Just sort a pitch us, “Pitch Fest.”
Bob: Well, I’ll start with “Script Fest.”
Bob: We are extremely proud of what we offer writers. As writers ourselves, we want to make sure that we are providing opportunities for other writers. It is our philosophy that improving spec. screenwriting across the board will improve opportunities for individual specs. Screenwriters, individuals, individually. So we want, we make it a very important part of our process. That our, other writers that come, have opportunities to improve their craft. We have classes on certain structure. We have classes about character. We have classes on a good ending. We have classes on log-lines, pitching, on your Legal-rights. So we have all this stuff, so that the writers that come. So that they aren’t just plan coming into Hollywood thinking they can become super-stars. We’re helping people build a career in writing. We also offer the opportunity to meet working screenwriters. Just in the last couple of years, we’ve had Shane Black, we’ve had the writing staff from “Better Call Us All”, we’ve had Deabelo Cody, last year. We’ve had people who are working on online series, traditional series, cable series, we’ve had movie writers. We’ve had a fewer video game writers than I would have liked. But, we want to explore all of these opportunities for anyone to come in. We have people who have, we’ve had David Reynolds every year, who wrote, “Finding Nemo.” “The Emperor’s New Groove.” When you can have the guy who wrote Iron Man, the guy who wrote “Lethal Weapon”, the guy who wrote, “Finding Nemo” in the same room with each other. You would never know what’s going to just pop out of that situation?
The kind to it all at the end of the day. The, “Great American Pitch Fest.” Has been going on for twelve years, as I said. We’ve been in Canada and Great Britain a little bit shorter amount of time. We offer writers the opportunity to pitch their script. And make that, and build up their network that I was talking about. It’s 120 companies typically, in a typical year. Of pitching all day long for five minute meetings. Most writers get in, they’ve never heard of? I don’t know, say, 12-25 meetings in a course of a day. And then a cocktail party where they can pitch up to more people. And we have a success rate, when it comes to, as far as script requests are concerned, higher than 90%. People that sit down and give pitches, and people who have prepped properly enough? That, you’ve got the executives that are sitting across from us. Looking for what they want. And you learn how to pitch these people well enough that, script request go out, go out, go out, and go out all day long. But whether or not those scripts get options or if they get hired, is as writing samples and so on? That’s more between the executive and the writer themselves? That’s, we provide an opportunity for the relationship to grow. But we don’t monitor it beyond that, very close.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So let’s dig into that number? You said, “12 to 25 pitches per day.” What is sort of the determining factor that might slow a writer down because of the 12 or 25. Or keep you from picking-up and pitching to all 125 of these companies?
Bob: Well, time is the factor for picking up all 120 companies. I mean, just doing the math quick in my head? At 120 x 5 minutes a meeting = is 600 minutes, that’s 10 hours, if it’s just one guy and with 120 meetings to go to. The main factor that slows people down, is a decision on their part? Strategy, we have great camaraderie, we have a large variety of companies. Not only in what they are looking for? What genre they are in? What medium they are in? But also the size of the companies themselves. This past year we had, “Gersh” we had “Willie Morrison” in the past we’ve had, you know, “Warner Brothers” some years. We’ve have “3 Arts Media” of “Three Arts Media” who have done, who does, “Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” We have “Circle of Confusion” who do all sorts of things. We have the company who does walking dead. So, you know, we have all these big companies, which sort of put stars on a lot of writers eyes, you know? They get dazzled and they want to pitch to these companies. Alright, let me back it up.
The system works this way? In the main ball room there’s a 120 companies. Out in the hall way outside, there’s lines to represent each company. And everyone who comes, gets a directory and the directory is a profile for each one of the companies. So, you show up, you look at the directory as in Disney (which is #30 in the directory), you stand in line. You go to line number 30, which says, Disney. And when you walk into the room, table number 30 is Disney. So, people have gotten this directory and they have looked through all the different companies and so forth. Some of these are big companies, like the ones I’ve described? And some of them are smaller companies. Which either have, you know, exclusive deals with some of the studios. There are managers who are just hanging out their shingle. After leaving a big firm, that kinda thing? And without that razzle, dazzle factor. Those lines tend to be shorter. And so people get to pitch more of them. If people really only want to pitch the big companies? When we had then Imagine Entertainment, their line was long. And so people are missing the opportunities to pitch to smaller companies. It’s each individual can decide how their own career starts out? As far as I’m Concerned.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Bob: But, in my opinion, it makes more sense to pitch to smaller companies. But, if I have never sold a screenplay? What good does it do to pitch a company that has Stephen Spielberg on speed dial? You know? But people love it, and they will love the opportunity to pitch to these companies. Some of them have had great opportunities. I mean, we had someone come up to me after just the other day. And was at the Pitch Fest. Last May and said, “I just set-up a personal meeting at William Morris, thanks to you guys. And I’m just like, jumping on, and high-fiving the guy through Email, ya know? It’s really great. But it’s not, but that’s what it’s about. If they get more than 30 if they strategize right.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. Okay, so you said that there is some preparation? Is it like you Email them a PDF document on the Friday before the Pitch Fest. Do you have some classes that say, listen, if you have this genre, you should go to these companies? What kind of prep-work do you do to maximize this opportunity?
Bob: We, advise the writers on what companies to go too individually. We also offer private consultation. Where there’s a party, you can sit down with gurus and experts and so on. And get a lot of individualized attention. But, before the event we Email everybody in the directory and let them decide who they want. The directory isn’t just, here’s the company at the table their sitting at? It includes information like, Email address you can reach the person. What they are looking for? What they’ve done in the past? What they’re not looking for? Budget ranges? What they are doing in the future? Their favorite movies? You know, general advice. So, if a writer sits down and really reads that directory? They can say, alright, I want to, my “A-List” is
Tables: 12, 25, 30. My “B-List” is: 10, 15, 35, or whatever? And then the ones I absolutely do not want to see are the ones over here. And typically, people get enough pitches in at the end of the day. They are saying, I’m not even sure if I wanted to meet table #95, but I got the time so I mine as well meet them. And we advise that, because you never know? I write a horror movie, this guy might be in for a romantic comedy. I sit down with them and say, “You know? Look I may not have a romantic comedy, but I would just like to get to know you, learn about your thing. And now you’ve made a connection, which is important for the networking. And who knows, two weeks from now? This guy hasn’t taken another job with a company that isn’t looking for horror? And now he’s gonna be thinking of ya. You know, when his boss is looking for one.
Ashley: And that’s never a problem from the executive’s standpoint. If a writer goes in there and he’s got nothing but horror scripts. And they do, you know, family scripts. The executives don’t know, why the heck did you send that guy in there for? There’s, they don’t mind ya, coming in and pitching stuff that even they can never make it.
Bob: I think they mind, if people coming in and pitching stuff, that you really got to try. I got this really bad zombie movie that only eats babies? And we’re trying to do Mickey Mouse. But they don’t have a problem with you sitting down and saying, “Tell me a little bit more about yourself? Tell me about the career you’re selling? An executive is just like anyone else, unless they are talking about themselves. And then with those five minutes you can pitch your scripts, or you can pitch yourself, or you can just make a connection with somebody? Or just saying, what’s your favorite movie? And then talk about that. It helps a lot to down the line, if I’ve written something. And then call or Email the guy, and say, I’ve got something right for you. Can I send it to you? Rather than having to go to another “Pitch Fest.” And start all over again, every year. If you’re on the second step, instead of the first. First you’re ahead of everyone who’s on the first step or the zero step. So don’t go in there and pitch something bad, just have a conversation.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, sure, okay. It’s a nice, nice, tip. Alright, so let’s talk about the classes a little bit, with the Script Fest. You mentioned some like Shane Black. We need to talk a little bit specifically as a group, what these classes are? And who teaches them to, and what people can get out of them?
Bob: Sure. The combination of working writers, producers, agents/managers and gurus. And it depends, it changes from year to year. I mean, every year there are new people entering the scene with new structure ideas, which we are happy to embrace.
We almost always have something from, “Save the Cat Organization.” We had Blake before he died. We brought in Jose Solarno, Moysius now? Our PS ographer from “Page” is in every year. But then, the working screenwriters are the ones who tend to attract more people. Even in the guru’s I think? Pitching class is accepted, people want to pitch, and they love to learn how? But when, you know, you find writers. As in all industry, in every aspect of our industry. A passion, I’m sure you’ve seen it, is? Some people are thrilled to give back. And some people aren’t that really thrilled to give back. And its fine, some people work really, really hard to get where they are. And if they don’t want to spend their Sunday/Saturday afternoon talking to a bunch of newbies? That’s totally fine. But, you meet guys like Shane, you said you’re going to do a panel class from 1:00p.m. to 2:30p.m. And he’s still there at 5:00p.m. Just sitting on a box chatting with people. He just wants to share the knowledge that he has and enjoy it. And if a guy who often is interviewing Shane Black? He’s the best, because I’ve said, “Hey, Shane, how’s it going?” And 45 minutes later he’s done answering the question. And as he left, that was a great interview, Bob. And I didn’t do anything. But, it’s great when you find someone like Shane, like Deablo, like the “Better Call Staff.” Who are saying, remember what it was like to be where you are, other writers. And who are happy to help you reach down and to help pull you up around the leg, it’s really inspirational.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, for sure. So, now, okay, there’s the Pitch, and then there’s the classes. I also noticed on your website there’s some luncheons that and some other things? So maybe you can just talk briefly about some of these other things that go on? Aside from the classes and the pitching?
Bob: Sure. I mean, we try to give every opportunity possible for networking to go on while we’re there. Important not just to me, executives in agents, managers, working writers. It’s also important to meet your fellow writers. We’ve had writing partnerships come out of our bend. We’ve had writing groups form out of the events. We’ve had, you know, we work with script chat, we work with some other networking organizations to sort of build it up. And the people, the luncheons are, because people need to eat. And why people scatter over to McDonald’s and Starbucks all over the map. When we can have them there talking to each other and learning about their writing experience. But we have the luncheons, we have the private consults. We have parties each night, like: Friday night, Saturday Night, and Monday night. We have cocktail parties. Most of these things are included in the basic ticket with some costing extra, just to cover our own costs. It turns out to be a lot of fun. And I’ve made professional connections and personal friends out of this opportunity. So I grab a drink and say, “Hey, how’s it going?” So, writers tend to be isolated a lot of the time? So, getting them to sort of come out of the shell and just talk to somebody and say, “Hello.” And shake hands. Sometimes it’s a little bit of a chore. But, the writers that we’ve met, who have been successful. Have had that balance between good writing and the ability to be an interesting person to be around. So it’s a good opportunity to practice if you’re not good at that sort of thing?
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, for sure. Okay, let dig into some actual pitches? I mean, you’ve been doing this for, as you’ve said, twenty events over the twelve years. So, maybe you could just talk about some actual tips, you know. Some of the things you’ve seen people doing wrong. And then we’ll talk about maybe, the things people actually do right?
But what are some things that you see writers come in, and then they want to pitch to an executive. And they’re doing it wrong, and you tell them, writers, don’t do this, and this?
Bob: In the construct of the pitch, and “Pitch Fest.” People hear the word, “Five” or “Five minutes.” Plan a five minute pitch that is always a mistake. You don’t want to give a five minute speech to somebody about your script. I’m a writer myself, I know the instinct is? If I had known that 90 seconds, I wouldn’t have told ya 90 pages. But it’s unfortunately, the reality of the game is, especially at a “Pitch Fest.” And the executive is here at 100 pitches every day. He just doesn’t want to be talked at, he’s just going to go glazed over. I think keeping your story, think about the conversation. You’ve got to hook the guy, hook the executive and then let the executive talk and ask questions. So, the pieces of advice I would give is, short, and know your script. Both from a story perspective and from a structure perspective, and character perspective. They’ll say, what happens at the end of act 1, as a question? And I assume you don’t know the answer to that, than I would say, you don’t know your craft very well. But the most successful pitch I ever had on a personal level, was ten words long. The script I just finished the first draft, and I have it out to get notes on and bring it back. I expect to be a one word pitch. I’ll say the pitch and in that one word, It’ll be the title of the movie, It’ll explain, It’ll illustrate tone of the movie, It’ll illustrate the genre of the movie. And immediately the executive will either say, “I want to hear more.” Or “No way, not for me.” So why waste anyone’s time when one word will do the trick. I know plenty of people who’ll say, “Okay, on page one, you’re gonna ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba.” And then, four and half there is, and then as you, at the end of Act 1. This happens, you know? And executives just want to know this. Know what they, if they can’t sell it to an audience or their boss? If you can’t sell it to them, quickly and efficiently. So, make it short, make it snappy, and use your own personality. If it’s a funny script, be funny. If it’s a scary script, convey that with your voice. If it’s romantic, don’t be afraid to say so. The, if you are nervous about it? Or expressing your personality? Or what’s going into that one word, or whatever, include this information. The protagonist, the title, the genre, the protagonist, the goal, or the obstacle that stands in the way. And get it all in, in under a minute if you can? So that they can ask the questions, and better bills. If they can ask questions, it means they’re interested. If you can answer them, then the script.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. What’s the one word pitch, can you tell us what that one word is?
Bob: Okay. Hitler Saurus.
Ashley: (Chuckling). There ya go, that’s good. That is a good pitch, excellent, excellent.
Bob: Fun to write.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah.
Bob: I haven’t pitched it to anybody yet? So I can’t tell ya whether it is successful or not? The one pitch was, I got a request every single time. It was, the movie was actually, the same concept that made it the title. It wasn’t ripped off or anything. It was, oh well, whatever?
But I sat down with people, and I said, “Vampires in Alaska.” And they go, “Huh?” And I’d say, “Six months of darkness.” And they’d go, “Ah” and I’d go, “It’s called “Frost bite.” And they’d say, “Send it to me.” Because I told them the concept, the hook, I told them why it worked. And it’s called, “Frost Bite.” Sure, that’s kind of a funny kind of like, there was a funny tongue-in-cheek element to it? It wasn’t trying to be, you know, frost you or anything?
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Bob: And if that’s what they’re looking for? They’ll say it to me, if it’s not? Then they’ll say, no, it’s not for us? I really loved you’re pitch, ya know? And so, you get, if you can get comfortable with pitching? You become less nervous about what the actual words are that you said. And more about the joy of writing. Joy is contagious, if you can sit down with someone and go, “Oh, I’ve had the hardest time with this script, it’s awful.” You know, don’t waste your time, that’s what they’re going to believe. Instead, say, “Oh, man, I just saw, “Mad Max Fury Road” it is so crazy, so much energy inside it, let’s go!” I don’t care if they hate action movies, your joy is contagious. They will start thinking, okay, you know, maybe I will? Well it’s the same thing with a script. What you bring to the table is what you’re going to see sort of the front and back of you a lot of the time.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Na, I like your pitch for the vampire movie. That does add illustrates a very clear hook. And as you say, they’re either going to like it, or not like it.
Ashley: So your recommendation is about what minutes of pitch and basically four minutes of letting them ask questions? Is that kinda sum it up?
Bob: Yeah, if you can have two seconds of pitching, I think that, of your initial pitch, that’s great. I mean, that gives you time in the beginning to say, “Hi, I’m Bob, nice to meet ya. How’s it going so far today? Yeah, can I give ya a bottle of water or something? I can swing by, I know you’ve been talking all day. Hey, I saw that your company produced, oh, you know, “X-Mocking Jay.” I thought it was GREAT! You know, I really enjoyed it. It’s a real sleeper, and I’m sure I hope it doesn’t get buried by the “Avengers?” Yeah, me too, I was really happy to work on it, I was really proud of it. Hey, while we’re talking, let me say this to you? Hitler Saurus.”
Ashley: (Chuckling) Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Bob: What the hell is “Hitler Saurus?” How ya say, well? Its Hitler’s brain, they put it into a
T-rex and he rampages across Europe. In the end he has to battle a cyborg FDR in order to free the world. You know? And I say, okay, that’s just sort of ridiculous. I have to spend time writing it, I had to spend time reading it. And then you make sure your first three pages are awesome so they keep turning pages. But it’s, that’s how I see pitches. You go maybe a minute, minute and a half of getting to know ya. Thirty second pitch, ten second pitch, and then pitch, followed by questions.
Ashley: Okay, okay. So then, what can we expect from these questions? Well, you just said, like see our first Act break. Maybe you could rattle off quite a few other questions? Just so writers can maybe prepare for the potential questions they’re going to get from these executives?
Bob: Sure. It’s hard to prepare for? Because the questions are a, they are a wide range of questions depending on the individual need of the executive. Or, the company that is there representing. It becomes important for writers to listen for what they are actually asking? Beyond the words they are using? If someone says, what happens after the end of the first act? They could really be asking? Do you really know your craft well enough to divide and create a story in a way that I can sell? If they say, what’s the end, what happens at the end? That’s a direct question, what happens at the end? The end is, the answer to that question is? What happens at the end? The answer to the question does not, hey, if you read the script you’ll find out? That’s terrible advice. It’s like trying to buy a car, and the other person not letting you test drive it. But other questions could include, you know, if a partner is right for a reason, Denise Weatherspoon, you know, and the answer is always yes. The question the person is asking is, just for general knowledge? The person is asking that because they stand no hope of getting a script to read. You know, they could say that the question was, this at the end, instead of X happening. Or, what happens instead? Even if you hate the “Y” idea, they could be just be testing? How you take notes, or how you would be in a story meeting. So you could say, that’s an interesting idea. But, what happens earlier in the script pays off. So then you need to determine what are they trying to accomplish by it, by that note? You know what I mean? Try to cut budget? Are they trying to use a location that they have access to or whatever? So you need to say, well, you could do this instead? Maybe that suggestion hopefully satisfies you creatively. But also achieves the goal they are trying to reach from it.
So to answer your question, it’s hard to prepare other than just knowing everything you can about your story, about your characters, about your structure. It’s important to be able to answer those questions. Because executives are going to have different priorities. There’s many different opinions and approaches as there are people working in Hollywood, and people not working in Hollywood is an even bigger number. But it’s very important you go, and just know your stuff. And you come for the questions you don’t know. Don’t try to win it, just say, I’m really not sure how to answer that question? But I’ll tell you this? And say something positive about the script.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. It sounds like you just got to get in there and mix it up with the executives and kind of see what happens? And you get better and better as you do more of it, thinking on your feet. Let’s talk about the different companies, and how a writer might choose which company to pitch? What are these, I’ve done a lot of cold quarry letters in my time. And I even went to my first early jobs’ it was with a production company. I can’t remember if it was the one that produced the, “Sean Connery” movie where, he was the voice of the dragon? I can’t even remember what it was called? But anyways, they had produced that movie. So they were just inundated with pitches that were similar to that. You know, with the CGI monster in it. It was like, they didn’t want to do anymore of those things. They had already done that, they wanted less. So I found it difficult to really predict, like just because a company has already done these movies? You know, I get that, though my own service, people have? Well, can I just submit my proposal to companies that do comedy’s? Well I’m like, you can do that. Go on and do pro, but you got to research these companies. But I don’t know that they will just tell you what they are looking for right now? So maybe you could talk about, a little bit about how you choose which companies of this, the rest of the 120. Which ones you should go to, and which ones you shouldn’t?
Bob: Sure, and that, in the directory we ask specifically what are you looking specifically to produce? So that helps.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, yeah,
Bob: So they’re telling you what they’re looking for. But in a more general sense, I am as a pro am giving you IV-Pro is a tremendously valuable resource, I agree. But also valuable is getting the knowledge of the industry as a whole. The first thing I do every morning. After I get a bowl of cereal, is sit down with that bowl of cereal and read Deadline because you, there’s www.deadline.com, there’s: Variety, there’s Hollywood Reporter, there’s all these Hollywood industry publications that are online now. That you start to gain an awareness of what, were the industry is as a whole is going. But, also you learn what an agent from William and Morris needs were to hang his shingle someplace. You also learn when AMC want, HBO wants to move away from the, “Soprano’s” and towards “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” You know, you learn when Netflix can, Netflix is saying, okay, were going to do “Orange in Black”, which is amazing. We’re going to do, “House of Cards.” And then they are going to do? Then all of a sudden, they suddenly decide to reach to learn it. Sort of switch there tune, from these original things to little things like, “House of Cards.” Which is an adaptation and “Orange and Black” which is an adaptation. To picking up actual shows, they picked-up already, “Arrested Development” they picked-up, I don’t know if they picked-up “Project Earth?” I think somebody else got “The Mindy Project?” Who picked up “The Mindy Project?” But, shows that have existing fan bases and all. So, if I’m going to still do original stuff, with Bill Jack Horseman. Which is really wild and out there. But if I’m going to go to Netflix for the pitch? I’m not going to go to them and say, I have, “Battlestar Galactica.” Unless I have actual “Battlestar Galactica.” Because they are picking up shows that have family bases. And also you get to know about the individual players. A great piece of advice that my group set up, that they give is? Learn about the people you are going to be pitching, and learn what’s important to them? And in the age of Google, you can find anything. If you’re looking at, if you’re saying to yourself? Okay, I want to pitch to. Circle of Confusion?” What I am giving Pro, you can learn who the players are in “Circle of Confusion.” You know? And then you can Google those names. And you’ll find, here’s so and so at the fundraiser for Alzheimer’s is at. Such and so at the “Producers Guild Awards.” Standing next to John Smith. And you know, see to it that they really get along and they work together so and so. When you know specifics about the person. You’re really interested in this person? To a particular charity or whatever. That’s an opportunity for you, or whatever? Say, if you have an appropriate script, see what I think? This can really raise awareness. Or you can say, you know, I saw you, and I really wanted to work with Linda Caring and I’ve got a script that would be great for her. Would you mind taking a look at it, or so? Why? It’s a question of doing you homework. We are in an industry where everybody thinks they can do the job. People you ask, people who are out on the street right now. Do you think you’d be able to write a screenplay? And they would say, have you seen the crap made today? Of course I can write a screenplay. It’s not true, but your still in competition with 50 million people of unfair advantage of, you know, Tom Cruise’s dog walker. Which is the way in sometimes, you know? So, get to know the people you’re talking to. And think of them as people, don’t think of this industry as this monolith. You have to sort of chip away at it. Find someone you want to work with, like the same way you try to help find a wife.
You don’t try to find someone and beg and plead with them to marry you? It’s like someone, you’re in it together, you know? I think that’s the best way to fit and have a movie made and feel satisfying experience at the same time.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, so are there like any types of scripts that you see working better, in this kind of a “Pitch Fest.” Format. And what I mean by that? Like, at “Ink-tip” You know, it’s kind of those lower budgeted, you know, independent films. I don’t think, “Ink-tip” has a lot of success selling $100 million dollar blockbuster scripts. I think, like on the “Black List” It seems like the scripts that get a lot of those on “Black List” are more of these sort of dramatic. A lot of these sort of historical dramas. Which may not necessarily work if in the market place. But they get some hype on “Black List.” So is there any sort of pattern to the scripts from the success stories you’ve seen. Is there any pattern to the scripts you’ve seen that come thorough the “Pitch Fest?” Some scripts work better for whatever reason?
Bob: It’s a business. So, if the movies you love cost $300 million dollars to make? And the ones you write cost $3 million dollars to make? You need to prove to the world that you are worth having someone give you $300 million dollars to. That’s why low-budget movies work best. As far as have the greatest success rate. With regards to of options and sales. For brand new rookie buyers. It’s because you’re much lower risk proposition for the business people. If you have a million dollar script. With a few very, very, rare exception. J.K. Rowling had never written a script before? She also had seven “Harry Potter” books that had made a tremendous trillions of dollars across the world to prove that there was an audience there for her projects. Now if you happen to know “Brad Pitt” you’re going to be worth more money if you get Brad Pitt to attach himself to your movie, that’s just reality. But, these lower-budget scripts are, I personally think create somebody thrives under duress. The more restrictions you have, the more creative you need to be about solving your creative problems. And I think script issues are better for it. I mentioned “Mocking” earlier, 3 year old budget. Really dealt with some heavy competition. From some really smart sci-fi. Last night I watched one of the movies from the “Do Class Brothers.” “The One I Love” Which is pretty new I think? But it’s a pretty interesting, talking about relationships. Love and how people are crazy in love in the beginning. And how they sort of grow out of love, and how to sort of recapture that. In a really interesting and fun loving way, very low budget. Pretty much one location. It’s a, it doesn’t have horror, it doesn’t have to be sci-fi. But low-budget helps in what? If your goal is to write this $300 million dollar blockbuster movie, think of those low-budget movies as stepping stones to that goal. You don’t have to say, you’re going to sell one and wash your hands of it? I think that’s it. I think that it’s very important that you recognize that you’re still working on and striving towards that goal, writing your dream project. But, even the Wakowski’s they wrote the “Matrix” and “The Why Assis.” I can’t give you that kind of money for this, and “The Matrix.” Go show me that you’re worth it. So then he went and wrote “Bound.” Which is an amazingly great film of all. It’s like, “Patience” and really well shot and everything. They made a ton of money relative to budget. And low and behold they got, “The Matrix” green lit. Mr. Knowlin made “Momento” before he made “Batman” You know, you have to, you sorta have to earn your stripes. Before the, no just gives you stripes. Stripes are something you buy.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. And I wonder if we could talk about the type of people that you’ve seen have the most success at “Pitch Fest.” I mean, it just seems like the most logical thing, like someone who’s done a lot of like sales, rather than be say tell-a-marketing sales. The in person, a professional salesman probably would be a real good candidate to be able to do very, very well at at a conference like this. So maybe talk about just some of the people, you know, backgrounds. And who you see as the most success from that perspective.
Bob: I’d say, good sales, I’d say a good sales background is helpful. And if you were to take some of these, you know, habits of highly effective people or something course. That would be very useful in your pitching. But not necessarily just to say, “Hi, how are ya?” Guy, not this slimy six hundred teeth grin when he smiles. It’s also the listening aspect of it, its joy and enthusiasm aspect of it. And then it’s continuing to follow-up and not just following up letter saying, I sent you my script six weeks ago? Have you had a chance to read it yet? You say, you know, we have, geez? A dozen, two dozen people who have worked either have come to the event, or who worked it directly. Consulting with scripts, who made the quarter finals of the “Page Awards.” And “Nickels”, which were both announced last week. And, they are part of my network. And I don’t consider them, they can’t be there to get my movies produced? But, that’s my problem, or whatever? I just write to them and say, “Hey, we’ve got this new event coming up, you want to buy a ticket?” I see their name on that list, and I write to them and say, “Congratulations, that’s awesome, good for you!” You know, and the same thing happens in reverse, when the “Better Call Salvo” guys call, wrote a script with us last year? You better believe we sent them an Email saying, “Congratulations on all those Emmy Nominations.” you know? It’s not just what you can do for me? It’s recognizing success in your, in other people. It’s no selfish thoughts, it’s I’m really glad to see people I really like succeeding. And I’m even glad seeing people I don’t like very well succeeding. Especially if their projects are really awesome. So, you need, it’s not a question of I’m working on my screenwriting for an hour today. It’s a career, you got to be shooting off tweets saying, “Joe Blow just got an Emmy Nomination, I’m so proud of him. At Pitch Fest.” I’m proud of him, I met him at Luck, or whatever? You never know when you’re going to find that opportunity to make more friends. One of the executives on one of the events. Who isn’t looking for anything but admiration. We happen to follow each other on Twitter. And I just tweeted a quote from that run. My favorite movie of all time by the way. Two different quotes from that run. Just for fun one day? Then he responds with another tweet from another one. Far as I can say, I was coming up with another one to retweet. Then all of a sudden, this guy in my network. And when I say to Pitch Fest. And I say? Hey, I’ve got two words for you? You know, and were like buddies now. That’s what you want, and so, that personality and that aspect of sales. Where someone can sit with you and you feel like you’ve know each other your whole life. Is much more effective than anyone who says, you know, buy the free undercoating for your car, you know?
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So are their some specific success stories you can talk about? You know, some people who have already optioned or sold something through the Pitch Fest.?
Bob: Sure, I mean, as of, I mentioned over people who have advanced from the “Pages” and the “Nickels” Which is our biggest thing, and very proud of. And the fellow from that is, his agent meeting. Not this past Pitch? But the other four, he had a guy who had two of his scripts optioned by the same company. And one of those has already been produced, and is out. His name Scotty Mowen and he is an AMAZING writer!
Who has a tremendous love, and a lot of fun, and also has that personality. You chat with him and I don’t care if your favorite movie is “Remains of the Day.” He’ll sit down and say the words, “Zombie Cheerleader Scene.” And you’ll go? “I’ve got to read this! And dude I want you to be my best man at my wedding!” He just has that sort of engaging personality. So, he wrote, “East Asylum.” Okay, say what you want about Chuck Yago, it makes a ton of money and they get movies produced fast. So, that’s awesome, he sold for us. I’m going to send out that it is ready as a matter of fact? So, a, we had them, we had the first “Pitch Fest. Ever attended by Dean Bowerman, who runs “Script Chat.”
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, I know.
Bob: And, yeah. We were her first “Pitch Fest.” And she, we still remain friends to this day. I consider her success story and based on she learned from “Pitch Fest.” She went out and she talked to the, “Slavery by Any Other Name.” Surprise when it author and it went and the opportunity to adapt that script. So, it’s hard to quantify the success stories exactly. Because so many of them come from great opportunities, representation, that kind of thing. People feel like it’s a failure at Pitch Fest. If they don’t whip out a check-book right away. They want to see that juicy check. But that’s not how it works, that’s not how any of the industry works. You meet people, you get to know them, and then six months later after having sort of kind of talking back and forth. They are going to give you an opportunity here? So, to use a term, from the 1980’s? Roladex is the people who are building, are the value we offer to buyers.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Bob: Ya know?
Ashley: Sure, let’s talk a minute about the executives. We talked about this in sort of a pre-interview, so sort of maybe we can talk about that for a second? What of the big knocks that I hear on “Pitch Fests.” Is, hey, these executives are all very junior executives. They’re not the decision makers. And maybe you can speak to that? Because I really feel that people are really short sided when they talk like that. These junior executives, are going to be the senior executives. It might take five years. Or that kind of trajectory of a screenwriting career that is looking five or ten years down the road. So, maybe you could talk about just who exactly are these executives? And what kind of real value can a writers get from these executives?
Bob: A yeah, I think that myself felt the same way. That I think a, I’m a Boston Red Socks fan. And so I think of baseball fans in the same as opening day season. Your team loses Opening Day and it’s, Oh, that’s it season’s over, ruined. There’s still 167 more games to go. It’s a marathon, ya know?
Bob: And not a sprint. And still some who say, I don’t want to speak to junior executives, especially when they are juniors themselves, or rookies themselves. I think are not really taking a realistic look at it, at the opportunities they have. These junior executives, are all junior executives for a company.
Because they tend to become senior executives at a company. And when a senior executive, every person in the world is going to be shaking their hand and slapping them on the back at the same time. When you’re getting on board with someone? Who you, and the studio’s executives have the same goals. They want to find that perfect script to bring to their boss, to earn them that will earn them that promotion. You want to provide that perfect script to someone. Whose, even though you don’t have that track record. To say, this is great anyway, and run with it. You have the same goals. Say you don’t want to speak to a junior executive? That’s like me running out of gas and saying I’m not wanting to speak to a gas station attendant. It doesn’t make any sense, you know? So, the, they will advance their careers with you, and you will advance you career with them. And so you climb the ladder together. Instead of hoping that someone all the way up at the top of the ladder. Will throw you a rope and pull you up. It seems like a much more effective strategy to me. I mean, granted, there are people out there, who junior executive. Who really means, the nephew of the janitor, who really can’t get anything made? But our anyway, when we say, “Junior Executive?” We mean, “The Assistant to the Development Executive.” Or, “The Assistant to the Agent.” Or junior agent or something like that, who has? If they don’t have the power to make decisions? They have the ear of the person who can. And that’s what we need to project that out if you’re a writer.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, yeah. For sure. I had a meeting few months ago with, and she was literally the, “Receptionist/Assistant to the Senior Executive there. And she is like trying to find scripts to bring to her boss so that she can do exactly what you’re saying. And she has it there on the Sony Lot. And it’s like, those are exactly the types of people that you are going to be one day she will be find that script and hopefully she will go. And you will ride her coat tails as her career goes up, your career will go up with it. So.
Bob: And you know what else? If you get to the high ranking development executive? She’s the one reading the script anyway.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah.
Bob: The assistant is the one who will say, read this and tell me what you think? So why not just go right to the “Horses mouth?”
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, yeah. For sure. And what if everything’s in the pre-interview we talked a little bit like, you know, how Pitch Fest. Fit in with the over-all marketing plan. Maybe you could talk about that? You’re a writer too, so? I wonder? You know, what other marketing channels do you use as a screenwriter? And how do you see Pitch Fests fitting into the sort of over-all marketing plan that a screenwriter might use.
Bob: I do everything I can, and I don’t do enough. It’s, go to Facebook, if you’re not on Facebook go to, first of all. Get out of 1985. Go to Facebook and on the search function? Type in the word, “Screenwriting” and join every single group that comes up. You’re building that network, you’re going to find people, and yeah, it can sort of fill up your feed and you can get a bunch of people who sort of spam out six, send out post out the same post to six different boards.
Do that on Facebook, do that on Twitter, follow every screenwriter you like on Twitter, every company you like, screenwriters you don’t like, people who made movies, TV shows that you like, even like some shows have Twitter accounts for the characters, themselves, follow that. Follow everything, read it. Read, “Deadline” every day. Send Emails congratulating people’s successes, or even if something’s a failure, you can send an Email. Some sort of Tweet or something? You know, I am, if you see a movie one weekend? Then it is great, but then no one else goes and sees it. The people that made the movie are, they find tremendous value in a fan saying, “So, 200 million people are just wrong because they missed out on the greatest move. And this is what it is.” You know, it’s a, and if you can join any communities on, I don’t know, I’m not on or all that familiar with “InstaGram.” And with some of the other ones? I’m pretty confident saying, Google Plus is not going to help you very much. But everything else, you know, join whatever communities you can. And
Ashley: (Chuckling) Yeah.
Bob: And participate in them, as a screenwriting/sub-writing, you know, just participate in them too. Don’t just like, read and look, say, “I saw this movie and it was? This twist in the script was just really great.” Or, I just finished a scene, could you read it? Or, I just, and the other piece of advice? Never stop writing. If you don’t have a project you’re interested in? There’s an organization that will, called, “Create 50.” (That’s with a five zero.) And they are doing a project now, which is going to be like? Fifty short films which are going to be like strung together. And they are soliciting 2-page shorts. So they’re like be part of this. Read up on it, see what the details are? And do it, it costs $5.00 to submit it. And maybe you will have a meeting with the editor? It forces you to keep oil in the engine, you know, so? And there will be other writers, and other producers. And “Ten Talia” wrote, “Silence of the Lambs” as one of the judges on this thing. You think they might like your script? Think they can, sort of turn that spark into a flame? It’s important just to not think? My destination is here, and I’m here as a straight line. You have to sort of fill everything in. And hope, and hope that opportunities sort of arise and sort of grow where they weren’t expecting it.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, yeah. For sure. So I always like to just wrap up the interviews by asking how people can follow along with you? You can mention your Twitter Handle? Obviously you can add in “The Script Fest” website. And that kind of thing. I’ll get it, everything and link to it in the show notes. But, is there something your particularly active with, whether it be: a blog, or Facebook, or Twitter, or whatever you feel comfortable sharing?
Bob: Um, my Twitter Handle is – @thepitchfest. I personally at www.pitchfest.com,
www.scriptfest.com is where we do most of our updates and so on? I am, we are starting to try and build up a newsletter, which will be all content no advertising for people to sort of learn how to improve their craft, and so on. We have a Facebook page, which is JAPF. Just search for the “Great American Pitch Fest.” And it will come up. And any writers who want to pitch us ideas? Send us a log-lines, you can send them directly to [email protected] and a.
Ashley: What would be the purpose of sending you a log-line? As a producer you might want to read it and produce it?
Bob: As a producer, we might want to read the script and see if we want to produce it? Even if it’s an if it’s something we might be unable or uninterested in producing? We know a producer who might be interested in it? We’d be happy to make an introduction. And he might even be interested in reading the script. To make sure we are not vouching for someone who doesn’t have their craft down better yet? But,
Ashley: That’s very generous. So you’re going to get a lot of (Laughing).
Bob: That’s okay, it never hurts, and it’s what it’s all about. They’re on the same level as I am, and earlier and later. It’s important to build the whole community, you know what I mean?
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. Perfect, perfect. And maybe you can just tell us the dates of your Canadian, and you’re U.K. and your U.S. Just roughly because I know, where we’re recording this, in late July 2015. People will be listening to this forever, but maybe just a rough dates, of when those events takes place? So people kind of know what to plan in the planner?
Bob: Sure. We’re planning the London Script Fest. Is part of the London Script Writers Festival, which happens in October. We’re also planning on something this October, October 2015. To just sort of have a set of smaller events, through the course of the year. The Fest. In L.A. and then our big L.A. event, which is in the spring every year. Late May or early June, depending on the availability at the hotel? That’s with over 120 companies, and two full days of classes. And all kinds of opportunities there. So that will be May or June. Just working on the contract now, with the hotel. Once we get it signed we’ll make an announcement right away so people can look us up, book their flights.
Ashley: Perfect, perfect. Bob this has been a great interview. I’ve enjoyed it, heard a lot about, I’ve never been to Pitch Fest. I’ve always wanted to try one out. So this has been educational for me, and I’m sure a lot of other people as well. So, I really appreciate it, you taking the time to talk with me.
Bob: Thanks Ashley, coming up next year, we’ll give you a tip around the house.
Ashley: Perfect, perfect. Thank you very much Bob, I appreciate it.
Bob: Alright, bye.
Ashley: Take it easy. Just want to mention the two things that I’m doing at Selling Your Screenplay. I would like to help screenwriters, get their scripts into the hands of producers and sell their scripts and screenplays. First, we’ve created a monthly newsletter that will be sent directly to producers. Every member of SYS Select can submit one log-line per newsletter.
I read an Email in my blog, which is a data-base of producers and ask them if they would like to receive this monthly newsletter of pitches? So far we have about a hundred and sixty producers who have signed up to receive it. These are producers who are hungry for material and happy to read scripts from new writers. So if you want to participate in this pitch, just go to –
www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/select, and you can learn more about how this newsletter works.
And secondly, we are now fielding leads from producers for screenwriters. We are doing a lot of outreaching. Doing a lot of requests from producers for screenwriters. Last week we had more than ten pages of screenwriting leads. These are producers and production companies who are actively looking to buy material. Or who are looking to hire a screenwriter for a specific project. If you sign up for SYS Select, you will get these Emailed directly to you several times per week.
Here are a couple of real examples of leads from last weeks’ leads. We had a Swedish production company looking for something that can be shot in Sweden. This is a very niche lead, but if you have something that would work? For a Swedish production company. This would be a great lead to submit to. They were open to any genre. They had a couple of suggestions of movies that they liked. But they were pretty opened to any genre. But they just wanted something they could use. The breath taking Swedish backdrop, you know, Swedish one of the backdrop for this film. We had a production company in Beverly Hills looking for features in any genre. But they wanted scripts that could be made on a smaller budget. This is a real reoccurring theme. There’s a lot of production feature film production these days, especially for feature films that can be made on a modest budget. We had a production company looking for action adventure or thriller scripts that could resonate with both a Chinese audience as well as a U.S. audience. I’ve mentioned this numerous times on the Podcast before. There’s a lot of production funding coming out of China right now. But there are a lot of films that are need to play in for play to a Chinese audience. So if you have something that could be a cross over?
One pitch that I got from a producers several months ago? As a sort of example, of one of these films was, it was a mafia, a Chinese mafia script. Kinda like the “Godfather.” But instead, you know, Italian immigrants coming to New York City in the early 1900’s. It was Chinese immigrants coming to San Francisco. And lives up in the Chinese mob. And that’s something that, you know, would play well to Chinese audiences. It could potentially play well to American audiences. That was one example, it was a book that had been written. And the producer was talking to me about potentially adapting them, the book into a screenplay. So that was sort of an example, of what these types of these leads are looking for. When they say they want something that resonates with Chinese audiences as well as U.S. audiences.
We had a bunch of leads for short scripts: Comedies, dramas, thrillers. A lot of producers looking for short. So if you have some shorts are a great way to meet these producers. Some of these producers are even paying for shorts. You have to make a lot of money for short dollars, $200.00 maybe? Up to $500.00 for a short script. But, a, you can, and there is some kind of budget for these scripts. Again, I talked about this a lot, on the Podcast. Shorts are a great way to get your career started. A great way to get into film festivals. It’s a great way to get DB credits.
Anyway, that’s just a small smattering of the leads from last week. A lot of these leads are still very much active, so if you join SYS Select now. You can still submit to them. And of course we’ll bring more new leads in the coming week as well. To sign-up, just go to –
In the next episode of the Podcast, I’m going to be interviewing Jamari Havier who wrote and directed, “Did the Big Game.” Which stars – Samuel L. Jackson. We dig into his career and how he eventually got into a position to write and direct a move that stars a big Hollywood star like Samuel L. Jackson. So keep an eye out for that episode next week.
To wrap things up, I just want to touch on a few things from today’s interview with Bob. I get a lot of questions from people asking me about these various line services. These various, that’s line services in just various I guess? Various service to two screenwriters. I just did my webinar in which I went through all of these various services. If there is one thing I can say, from my own career as a screenwriter? And please do look me up by INDB, you can see my credits and see what I’ve done, if you haven’t already done that. If it’s the one thing that I can really say, as been a big part of any auctions or sales I’ve had. Is that I just go out and I try a lot of things. I’ve never been super skeptical. Which is, gee, is this going to work? This sort of, you know, paralysis where you sit there and over think things. And you know, I get screenwriters saying, “Well, gee, does the Pitch Fest. Work? Gee, does this work?” It’s like, the best way you’re going to be able to figure it out if these things work? Is by going and doing it. I mean, yes, sometimes they are going to cause a little bit of money. And yes, you’re going to be feel like you’ve wasted your money, it’s not gonna have the desired effects. But, you know, every single thing, every single online channel, whether it be “Pitch Fest.” Or “Ink-Tip” or my own, SYS Select. Not everything is going to work equally for everyone. And it’s a very subtle differences in each one of these panels. And it’s hard to really quantify why something worked for one person and not another? I mean, for myself as I’ve said, I’d be over my career I’ve tried a lot, lots and lots of things for whatever reason? Cold quarry letters to producers seems to work for me. But that’s not necessarily going to work for everyone. Knee deep angle for most of them, for people for most of them person. So, you just got to get out there and try stuff. That’s really I’d say my biggest piece of advice, try everything to see what works. And figure out where you fit in and figure out what you do well. And see if there is not something, some channel that can fit in with your skills and your talents. And just like Bob described, if you’re good at pitching in person? If you’re a people person or talker? These are exactly the people you want meeting you. You want to get into something, like a Pitch Fest. You want to talk to people, pitch them your idea. Listen to them, talk to them about what they are looking for. Even if they don’t request any scripts. You were to go to one of these Pitch Fests, spend a minute or two or if you get five minutes? Spend a minute or two pitching your thing and then to listen. And then follow up with questions. Well, what kind of material are you looking for? What’s an example of a script you liked from last year, two years ago? What is an example of a script you would really, really like? Or like to have produced? Liked to have found the one at these Pitch Fests? And these producers will tell you, these executives will tell you. You can look up those movies, you can read them and just kind of get that out of there. Even if they don’t request a script or even if they do? They request the script but don’t buy it? If you just go and see people and talk to people and learn something about what real development is? That they are looking for? That will be worth the price of admission. And these things can subtle help you as you go through your next script and decide? God, what am I going to write next? These sort of subtle things in there. These are not conscious, having these things in the background, in the back of your mind. Can really, really help you to decide. Hey what’s the best specs. Script for me to write next? I’ve got this list of five, ten or twenty ideas, which one should I write? This education, this firm education can really help you over the course of, you know, months, and years, and decades. That can really help you start to hone your skills and hone what spec. script you write.
Anyway, that’s the show, thank you for listening.