This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 089: Writer / Director Tony Aloupis Talks About His New Film Safelight.
(Typewriter Keys Tapping)
Ashley: Welcome to episode 89 of the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Myers, screenwriter and blogger over at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing Tony Aloupis, who wrote an Indie Drama called, “Safelight.” He talks very openly about how he got this movie made and how it jump started his career. So stay tuned for that.
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Quickly, words about what I am working on? I’m still plugging away at my crime action thriller. I’m basically in production at this point really? We’re really starting to get some of the pieces in place. I’ve got a bunch of meetings set-up this week. I’m meeting with some distributors. I’ve known them for a while now? They actually distributed film and worked in Co-Distributing relationship on another film, that I did a couple of years ago. They are actually on my Email Fax Blast List. So when I was Emailing them, during an Email blast from one of my scripts. They actually got my pitch. And Emailed me back and said, “Hey, we distributed this film that you wrote a couple of years ago. Please come in and meet with us.” I meet with them, it was probably 18 months ago. They were thinking about producing some stuff on their own. They, were looking for a writer, and so I met with them. They never quite got anything together, they were looking for a very specific idea. And I just don’t think they ever quite figured out what that idea was? So we’ve been in touch over the months but, nothing has come to fruition on it yet? On that front in terms of writing that script for them.
But, I recently watched a feature film, that a friend of mine did? Thought it was excellent! Was an action, kind of an action, a martial arts type of action film, fist-fighting type of film. You know, pretty low budget, but very, very, well done. And I mentioned to this friend, hey, I know these guys, this distributor are all, you want me to pass it along? He said, “Yeah, please do so.” So I passed it along. I just sent them an Email and said, “Hey, I have this friend who has this great film, you guys should check it out? By the way I’m working to put together my own film. So, from that, they said, “Oh, well, come in to meet with us and tell us about your film?” So I am not going to go in and talk to them. Just basically tell them what I’ve got and what I’m doing with it? And then hopefully I’m just going to listen, kind of hear their thoughts? There’s probably a bunch of things. Getting a distributor involved early is really the smartest thing you can do. A film I wrote a few years ago? Called, “Ninja Apocalypse.” You know, the quality of the film is somewhat suspect. But one of the smart things producers did, was they got distributors involved very, very early. Now remember, when they hire you to write the script. They were working with a distributor. And the distributors would dictate a lot of the script changes, a lot of the director’s script are really just from the onset of where they were dictated. What the script was going to be about and this is a really smart thing. Because distributors really understand them, markets. And they really understand them and what can sell. They understand what’s currently selling. And they understand what might sell? And in a year when you get this film done. And so, that’s kinda my hope. As I am going to meet with these guys. Obviously if I can get these guys up on board somehow, with this film? That would be ideal to actually have a distributor in place before I even shoot the movie. But even if I can’t do that, even if they just aren’t interested in this film. Hopefully they will just give me some friendly advice, and pointers on what they see and sign. I’m going to tell them about my story. I’m going to kind of pitch what I have going, in terms of actors, in terms of cast. And hopefully just get their ideas and hopefully give me some good pointers and head me in the right direction. It’s really run from soup to nuts. Who would be good to cast? And obviously this is a micro-budget film. But there are certain actors out there that might be interested in doing this? And might have some sales marketability. Different actors really, have different values. And it’s not always as intuitive as you might think, as far as obviously the actors that play the top actors. You know, Tom Cruise, obviously, it’s pretty intuitive that he’s a big box office star. But there’s a lot of sort of “B” and “C” level guys that they might be willing to be in a cool, little micro-budget film. But some of them do and some of them don’t necessarily have value in terms of foreign sales. What they can actually bring in terms of sales to the movie. So the only way to know this really, is to talk to the distributor, its numbers are constantly changing. And so the distributors might just be able to help me out on that, the front two. And say, “Listen, if you can get this guy? You’re movie you should definitely be able to make it and make your money back. And so, I’m meeting them tomorrow, of course on Monday I mean. Tomorrow, hopefully on that, the meeting will go well. I’m also meeting a Cinematographer, who also runs a production company. The whole physical production, to make it into post production. And all that kinda stuff. So, I’ll be talking to him. I’m gonna get a sense of the cost, in terms of what this is going to cost? What he’s going to charge me? I’ve got a bunch of “DP’s.” You know, everybody in Hollywood kinda knows who can shoot a film. I’m going to be talking to a bunch of different “DP’s.” But, a, this is my first movie meet tomorrow, I’d like some of the stuff he’s done. It looked pretty good. So, I think he’d be good for the project. It’s just a matter of figuring out if I can afford to pay him? And I’m meeting with one of my main actors, who hopefully this week is, well maybe not till next week? But he read the script over the weekend. He’s very much interested in this project. He’s someone I’ve been talking to for many, many months.
And he is also a writer/director/producer. He recently did a, his own full length feature film that he wrote, directed and produced, and acted in it. And so he would be a great addition to the team because he’s really kinda been down this path before. He is in the process of selling his film. He’s got distributors all lined up and he’s out there selling the film. So, again, he’s going to be a great resource. He’s a great actor as well, he’ll be very good just to have his talent as an actor. But he’s also a good business man, and will be a great asset. Just in terms of getting someone like that on board, to help me with just to make innumerable decisions, and things that need to happen. And he’s sort of been through it, very recently, just really in the last couple of years. Is when he did his independent film. Hopefully I can meet with him this week. But that meeting might not even be till next week.
I’ve also just been steadily watching kick-starter videos each night. I’ve donated to a few kick-starter campaigns over the years. And so I’m familiar with “Kick-starter” But I don’t read it regularly, watch the kick-starter movies that people are making. Or, you know, they give away a little bonuses if you donate money, they give you little kickers or kick-backs. And so I’m just reading through those trying to really just educate myself. Because that’s really going to be the first angle of it. Once I try to get someone for the physical production stuff in place. Once I get some of the actors on board, we’re going to shoot it. A teaser trailer, we’re going to shoot a little kick-starter video. We’re going to put all that out there. So, every night I try and watch, you know, spend 30 minutes before I fall asleep just watching these kick-starter videos and try to educate myself. It seems like there is a big, some of them might look at it and think? Wow, these are really well done. Some of them I’ve watched and thought, “Eh, these are kind of hacked together.” Honestly I don’t see a real big difference in the amount of money that’s getting generated. Like I’m looking at some that are for a lot of money donated to them. And their videos don’t seem that great. I haven’t seen any of those that are really terrible. But, it doesn’t seem to have correlation to how much is donated. A lot of the stuff you can’t tell, I’m curious to tell, a lot of these have $30, $40, $50,000.00 dollars. Have been funded to them, and there’s really not a whole lot of way of telling? What they did to do that? Did this person have a big following before they got started on this movie? Did they have, raise that money, that’s kind of the big question mark? Anyways though, that’s what I’m doing, educating myself on “Kick-starter.” Meeting some people hopefully, get this thing going?
So now let’s get into the main segment, today I’m interviewing Tony Aloupis. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Tony, to Selling Your Screenplay Podcast, I really appreciate you coming on the show.
Tony: Sure, it’s my pleasure, thanks for having me.
Ashley: So maybe to start, you can give us a little bit about your background. How did you get started in the entertainment industry?
Tony: I was a musician, for a, quite a long time. And towards the end of my stint as a musician, I started to become more and more interested in writing. So, being a song writer kind of lead me to write a novel, and I went from a novel, to adapting that novel, to, it was a screenplay. And then I went from there.
Ashley: Okay, okay. Tell us about that process? I get a lot of questions from people who have written novels and then they want to convert them to screenplays. Maybe you could give us some tips on that process? Did you have some success with that novel? And then did you have some success with that screenplay?
Tony: A, no success with the novel, I was working with a teacher at the time. Or, I guess a kind of one-on-one situation. And so we worked through the novel, it was really my first foray into the, you know, serious product, or you know, serious a piece. And so as I worked through that, it seemed that my narratives needed some work. And my narrator working, and my dialog was good and strong. So, being the lazy person that I am, I asked my teacher, “Well, is there anything else I can write?” I, I, I think you’d be perfect for, “Screenplays.” So, that’s kinda what I did. But that’s what I did. That my background, is but, I was a musician. And music is an art I think? Is a kind of structured creativity. And I think that’s what a screenplay is. And then extended to directing. Directing a film I think, the narrative follows that. And I’m really completely in effective if I am like, just left with no parameters, no rules, but to be creative. So, that’s what, you know, writing songs, writing a three minute or a five minute song, there’s rules, kind of regulations. There’s things that you need to do inside of that space. That’s where I thought I was most comfortable. And the fact is, screenplay format worked really well for me. Additionally I had gone to school for engineering, so my brain is always kind of left than right. You know, I have like, this technical side. And then I have with me some creative side. So, I really think that I have found my niche, and my comfort in screenwriting. So, that’s where I really kind of stumbled my way there.
Ashley: A-huh. Okay. So what did you do with this first screenplay, once you were done with that first script out of education?
Tony: Um, I just, at that time, I just kind of just do it again. I mean, my goal to begin with? Was to write as much as I could. It is something that, I had some interest in? But never really went into anywhere with that. But, it’s still something that I can do, I can produce, I think it’s, I can sell a good story. But, it truly was my first story. So, I just kinda just used that as a springboard to do, to write more.
Ashley: Perfect. And then how many scripts did you write over the course of this span? And how did you finally get one sold?
Tony: I wrote about ten scripts I’d say? And I actually, when the internet started to be more, connecting more and more people? From different industries, I think, today, I’m out on the west coast. So, I wasn’t able to go door-to-door and try to get myself an agent, or anything like that? So, I use the internet to take and connect with producers, looking for products. So, it was a actually a website at the time, called, “Ink-Tip” at the time.
Tony: Sure, I remember that, and that was a few years back. And I met the first producer. Who was associated with, “Safelight.”
At that time. And then I moved on from him. And that was how I, you know, started. By ink today, there are a lot more avenues to get your materials considered. And by curious people, you know, than there were years ago. Where you really had to go door-to-door and sell. I sort of went that route, and got it started, and yeah, here we are.
Ashley: So, okay. So, let’s take a step back. We’re gonna get into “Safelight.” Because that’s your most recent project, which you wrote and directed. But just tell me, quickly about the script for, “Sugar” was that something that you put on InkTip and found that? How did you go about getting that one sold?
Tony: Yeah, actually, “Sugar” was a write-for-hire for a producer that I was, you know, had a very good relationship with at the time. And he had the idea of, and gave me his thoughts and basically, I guess you could say, worked on it together. It’s a co-written, as I co-wrote that with the director and then she or we, actually, as I raised the money for that. So, yeah, so that one wasn’t, a kind of sold to the market. I didn’t go door-to-door to try and sell that.
Tony: The thing that he had it, interesting the idea of and he pitched the idea to some sales people. Thought it would have some leg? So then we decided to write it. He had asked me to come on board, so that’s what I did. And then, went from there, raised money for it, shot it, and that was released.
Ashley: Okay. And a couple of quick questions to clarify? How did you meet him originally? You said you had this relationship. Where did you actually meet?
Tony: That was the original person I met through Ink-Tip, regarding, “Safelight.”
Ashley: Okay, perfect. And you said you were the one who ultimately raised the money for “Sugar” maybe you can just walk us through that process a little bit?
Tony: A yeah. I had, I started, you know, a small production company here, I’m in New Jersey. And with two neighbors. One is – Carol Stark, the other is – Joe Kree. And a, and Joe is interested in financing films. And we talked, about that project, and about “Safelight.” And he seemed to like “Sugar.” For it to go faster, a smaller budget than “Safelight.” So it was something we could do quicker. So he decided to take the plunge on that. And he is the executive producer of that film.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. And I wonder, in just broader strokes, can you tell us roughly how did that movie do in the marketplace? Did you guys recoup, did you guys make a little bit of money? How did that entire money issue?
Tony: I’m not really sure? How that ended up? I don’t really, I wasn’t involved in that, as much as I am in “Safelight.” Now, the co-writer, you know, is you know, the writer.
You don’t really have access to the goings-on, you know, of getting a film, you know, post production. And then released, I know that I’ve talked to Joe about it a little bit. But I’m not really too sure that, how that did in the market?
Ashley: Okay, perfect. Now, so let’s go ahead and dig into your recent film which you learned directing with “Safelight.” And maybe you could just start out by giving us a pitch or a log-line on that? In case people have not seen the trailer? I always leave a link to the trailer in the Podcast show notes. So people can definitely check that out. But maybe you could just pitch it to us? So we kind of have an idea what we’re talking about here, and dig in to it.
Tony: That’s a lot of pressure I think? To pitch it now so early? I love pitching, wow, that’s just? It’s just difficult, I mean, I’m just kidding of course.
Ashley: In an informal law.
Tony: It’s just a pitch. So, it starts out, it does say that, a teenage boy is thrown with Cerebral Palsy (CP). Working at a beaten down truck stop. He befriends a runaway and the two go on a road trips to California life. Lonely houses along the way they come of age. And confront the problems they face in life.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. I think that’s a good pitch. I watched the movie last night. They sent me a screen copy, I really enjoyed it, well done. It’s a real interesting character. One of these things that just as we started to talk here, really surprises me? Is that you said you were from the East Coast, in New Jersey? And this is such a West Coast story. I mean, I live in Los Angeles. So I really identified. So, I’m frankly surprised that you’re from New Jersey. That whole sort of dessert lifestyle, outside of Los Angeles. Outside of sort of the city, living in the dessert. I think you captured that really well. Sort of those people, and when and why they’re out there. And sort of the direction of this, and their lives. And maybe you can speak to that a little bit? Of where this idea came from?
Tony: A sure. Well, um, that’s interesting? New Jersey has, I don’t know if you’ve ever been to New Jersey?
Ashley: Yeah, sure, I gotcha where you’re coming from, New Jersey, and I did spend some time there.
Tony: So there are such things as sections of summer in New Jersey, with which is where the script is actually written for this state. And the lighthouse is here. And one of them is actually one of the oldest ones in the country. So, a, the southern part of the state is a lot different from the middle or the north. So, it is a lot more opened kind of moral, and while not a dessert, it has, I would say, similar personalities and similar lifestyles, similar struggles. So, that’s where it all started. That, in terms of the story itself. I’m going to move over to the dessert. It’s funny, the film, there are things when, you know, as an artist you, that you write. As an artist, you don’t remember why? Or how you did these things?
And it takes someone else to point it out. And, it’s like, you know, hey, Tony, this would work real well in the dessert. Reference cowboys, you reference, you know, country music there. There’s just desolate, there’s the visuals of dust and you know, and everything that’s out in the west. And I said, “Oh, I didn’t realize?” So it was a kind of one of those things. Where you know, I was kinda slow to the? Slow to keep up eventually. So it does fit there, you know, I hope a, in a way you felt fit very well in terms of the type of people in the struggles they have in those personalities out there. But if you think the scenery is similar to parts of New Jersey so I? It just happens to translate well, actually.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, perfect, perfect. So maybe you can just take us back, where did the idea come from that is the genesis of this idea? This handicapped guy, you know, living at the truck stops and meeting the girl and all that?
Tony: Yeah, it’s a, I was taking, you know, this teacher, this writing teacher I had in New York City in the Manhattan area. In Manhattan I got there by a train, Um, you know, it was a regular class. So on the trip back from New York, there was kids on the train who had a pretty bad case of Cerebral Palsy. It seemed to me he was, it was more of a physical than anything. And it was pretty significant in its effect on his, you know, walking and getting around. There was something about the kid that struck me, and affected me. And I also saw in his face that it seemed like he had kind of, I don’t know, it just, the way I read him? Was that he kind of accepted that he did this and he went to the city every week. Or at least the day I went? Who knows he might have been going there more frequently than that? So I wrote down an idea, and then I think at the time? I was interested in partnering two characters that were kind of really different. So, for me? Anyway, new scripts, I’ll write down the idea and then if I end up coming back to the idea. Or, start to think about it? Then it becomes it becomes a script and that’s what happened with this story. So, it’s as simple as that.
Ashley: Parts of the dramatic thrust, it is the photography contest. And going out and taking pictures of the lighthouse. What or when did that sort of come in? Sounds like you really started with the characters and then backed yourself into, like a, you know, more of a, three abstructures. Who are the, it seems to operate. Because when he says, “I’m going to go out and do this thing.” They begin their journey. And so maybe it sounds like that maybe came later?
Tony: Yeah, it did. You’re 100% correct. You know, it serves as the tripster for a nice plot line for the character, a story to move. So we keep coming back to trip. And also serves as a break. From I was trying to get away from the dessert? And as the beauty of the coast, and what’s there. Which is contrasts the bleakness of their lives so much of. It was very important, and on top of that I think that, I was looking for something to actually contrast to? Is to physical imaging, and to kind of show something that was, you know, kind of beautiful and tall and strong. And to have him kind of stand next to it, the tripod. That, I don’t know, I thought it would, and I liked that visual. And I thought it might play in a really interesting way. So, that’s where that started, and obviously the road trip star a way for them to get to know each other. And so that’s kind of how that came about.
Ashley: Okay, and maybe you can just take us through out. I just like to delve into, you know, an actual writing, the actual writing process of the screenwriter? How long did it take you to write this script? What is your day-to-day like? What does your typical day look like when you’re in the process of writing?
Tony: I, if I’m full on writing? This script will take me six months. So that’s, that took me more than six months I would say, four to six? I do a lot of sat. work or preliminary work? So I need to have it really worked out before I’ll even start writing? So, for this particular story, like you said, those ads about, the story I helped develop? In terms of how outlines are identified, all my scenes, I’ll break them out into my facts. And obviously the first script I ever had pages and the first act. Starred Nick McClains in it. The fast side and then our climax and our ending. So I need to have all those things worked out completely. Then I’ll take, I’ll work on the characters, I’ll do like an extensive biography piece. And then I’ll do a relationships, I’ll write all that. I like to write first person when I do those things. And then after that’s done, I’ll go back to the scenes and I’ll create like I have on these sheet works and team work sheets that I use. I’ll go through 80 or 90 scenes that I have and I’ll do a worksheet on each one. One before I actually write. So, if I start with a light page on one, they’re useless. I need to have a lot of, or maybe useless anyhow? But I may not be more useless? So, I am a, I really need to do all my prep-work because, yeah, it’s very painful for myself. So, you know, the blank page and all. I almost like to pre-write it without putting so much pressure on myself. So that’s what I do.
Ashley: So the six month time line and that encompasses all this prep-work as well? So, it’s like.
Ashely: So three or four months up after the prep-work, you have two or three months of actual writing.
Tony: Correct, that’s right.
Ashley: How many are actually in this six month period? How many hours per day does it take you to deduce bad writing?
Tony: Um, I mean, it’s tough. I, with the prep-work, I would say, three to four at the most. I can’t do too much, like that in one sitting. So, I’m like a short bursts. I would say.
Ashley: And then you can elaborate a little bit on these worksheets? What are these worksheets that you do?
Tony: Um. I’m kind of a, from various, you know, books and from teachers. I came up with certain things that I like to identify within each scene. So, I’ll actually break it down into, you know, each scene, having a beginning, middle and end. And how I’ll identify that, climax and by the purposes of it. And identify each characters purpose within the scene. I’ll identify the central images that might be particular to that scene. Or, the central image of this script that is carrying through that scene. I like to get into the senses and that actually try to know. In “Safelight” there’s a lot of like, coffee. And there is, those things kind of put me in a, in the story a little bit more. But I like to talk about what senses are experienced within this scene. If there are then, there is not. But, then I like to remember subtext. For what works and what’s really going on in the scene. And then I type, I’ll try to, sometimes I’ll end up writing part of the scene on the worksheet itself. And that’s helpful to me as well. And then I’ll also, once I identify where I think I’m going to come into the scene. And where I’m going to get out of the scene. So I might have the beginning, middle and end? But the three will also be parts of it that won’t happen. So I might come in a little late? Or I will leave a little bit earlier than claimed.
Ashley: Okay, that sounds like an interesting approach, very interesting. So now, let’s sort of talk about, you’ve written this script. And what was sort of in that step? Once you have it and you type it out? And maybe you can take us even before you even started trying to producing? Do you have a bunch of friends, that you get feedback? Maybe sort of tell us about that first process of finishing it, sending it, awaiting feedback, rewriting it.
Tony: A yeah. Let’s see? The a, after the script is done? I don’t really, there was a time later on when I would look for more feedback, more from teachers, than anyone else. Right now, I would not necessarily do that? I would probably give it at least a, at this point? At least a, see if I was done, I didn’t actually ask for opinions on it. So, I just finished it, and done enough of it, for my liking I guess? For my tastes. And then I went ahead and tried to, you know, sell that, along with some other ones that I had. Right now, if I were to write something? Or newer things that I have, now that, that developing. Rules are likely to go out to, because I have more connections now, to people that I trust, their opinions and what they’ve done. Producers and such, to get their take on it? And in what they think might be best for this script. Or how they might change the story, or make it more marketable. And or get me to a place where I can finance it, release it, and make it more interesting, a complete story as well.
So “Safelight” was really kind of, very raw when it went out. It was not, it didn’t go through, I mean it eventually went through the process of the polish and the rewrites. But once we got in, in fact once we got cast? I mean, that’s when I really jumped back into it. And worked with the producer, the producer is mostly on treating the story. But other than that? It really was very, very, untouched.
Ashley: Alright then, take us back through that process of actually finding the producers and getting this film made. You had the script, where did you do with it? It sounds like you were going to put it out on “Ink-Tip” if you were at some point. But you, take us through the whole process?
Tony: Okay, well. Way back, it went on “Ink-tip” and that’s where I met somebody who is, or had some interest in the story. And through him, we, he and his producers tried to raise the financing for it, unfortunately, they could not. In interim we did, “Sugar” so we did “Sugar” with him, and that’s how “Sugar” was made.
I eventually moved on from that producer. And through new connections I made. I was able to meet the producer that eventually came on board. And then we financed it, you know, half year. Through our company and half through his company.
Ashley: Okay. And maybe you can tell us? You said, you had this new connection for this new producer. How did you get that new connection? Where did you meet him?
Tony: Just from being, you know, being down in L.A. and getting out there, and being introduced through, you know, the first team that was involved in this story. That’s, so that’s really where we met him. And he just happened to say, “Hey, you know, if you’re gonna look for a new producer? You know, you should talk to this guy.” Just decided before you work with him. I think he’d be interested. So.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. And you said, your company raised half the money, and then the other half raised by the other company. These sort of other producers raise the other half of the money. Maybe take us through that process again? I have a lot of screenwriters that come to me, they want to produce their own movies, so? Maybe you could just speak to raising money for independent film like this. How do you do it? And what’s, what tips can you offer?
Tony: Yeah, that’s, you know, that’s a tough question. I think that I’m, you know, I’m just incredibly fortunate, lucky, to have a partner who wants to, you know, support in every way he can. You know, projects that I’m involved with. I realize, that’s not an easy thing to find, I’m just fortunate in that regard. That, how do you find people like that? You know, a, it’s really just a matter of, I wouldn’t really call it, “Networking?” But, I met this a, meeting one and talking, and meeting another and talking. And then bringing up the projects that you have. You know, we didn’t have all the money here. I mean, we needed money from L.A. and so that connection there, that producer was really important, and his belief in them the project. Was what brought money because my only investor here would not have done. We wouldn’t been able to have enough money. So say, we did need that partner. And I think that if you can talk to people and just be as completely real as possible. About the story and what it is, and love about it. I think people can connect with that. Instead of real trying to search on sales kind of search for money. You know, investors, many people just want to hear? They might be more responsive and have more ideas about financing for you. Or as your raising money, trying to raise money for your? I think if they hear about the film and kind of love it, ya know? Kind of fall in love with the story. And really they need to fall in love with you. I mean, they, it’s really, really, important to, because they are investing. They are investing in not just a story, but investing in you and what you’re doing. And like I said, when an L.A. producer writes the stories of the story? When they want to do it? It’s important to do. We had great conversations and you know, that was that, so. No, so, I get it.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So my next questions’ kind of a two part question? This was obviously your first directorial debute. So, the first part of the question is? Where you worried that you might not be able to do a good job as a director, who had never directed feature? And then, even the second part of the question is? Did you get a push back from the producer, or even your investor? Saying, well gee, Tony, I love your script but how do we know you’re going to be able to direct it? Maybe we should get someone else? So maybe you could speak to that a little bit? How you decided you were the one to direct this?
Tony: Yeah, a, that’s a great question. I actually was not the one who made that decision. It was my L.A. producer Corey Neil. We started looking for directors, and he said to me one day, you know, maybe you should direct it? And I said, “Well, I wasn’t thinking along those lines?” Why would you think that, that is a good idea for your investor company? And I’m an investor for the film myself. And he said, “That, you know, writer/directors are definitely established category in a sense. And they exist because the writer knows his material the best. So, there are a couple of reasons. One was that we could get a director, but our budget might not be able to get as good a director as we wanted. That would really understand and do the right thing with the script story. Secondly, his head was at she had worked with a lot of directors. And he could identify certain personality traits in these directors. And he thought I would be, I had those traits. Some of those traits were not good traits. Yes, and actually most of them are not good traits. But he said, he thought I fit the bill very well. And I would be kind of, I find it pretty comfortable. And it would be talk. And so that was his decision, or his idea. And then when I talked about it with our company this year. They were, they were just supportive, it made sense to them. His, in a sense, his argument of for a, for me directing it, it made sense. So, we had support on all fronts to do this. And so I had to do at that point, was basically take it, and a crash course in directing. And, that’s what I did.
Ashley: Okay, okay. And that’s, that is the direction you seek for your career now as a writer/director? Will you write and try and sell a script? So, you’ll be pretty much writing stuff you ought to direct?
Tony: I think, I’m pretty much opened to any, I know that there are a lot of people that like to identify a writer as a writer. And not only that but he’s a writer of a certain genre. Or he’s a writer/director of, you know, dramas, or whatever that might be? I, am kinda open to all of those roles. I did, I don’t know, I felt that I fit pretty well as I know, in the directing role. I know, it wasn’t a matter of whether I enjoyed it or not? It was a matter, it was difficult, it was challenging. But I did understand what Corey said about my personality and kind of fitting into that pretty well. So I would want to continue that, in terms of writing. I’m open ideally to, I want to at least, you know, direct things that I’ve written. But I would also be interested in directing other people’s material, and other writing. And not directing as well. But, a, for any of those roles I think are fine for me. So, I don’t really try to stay, like, in one genre. I mean, do I write in one, and I have written in the past. Things have just come into my head. So, I don’t really put current, I put chains on that. Just glad to do whatever comes up. And, you know, if it happens, let’s say, they’re all comedies, then they’re all comedies. But if they’re there, then 5 different genres, then they’re 5 different genres. So, I think I answered your question?
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, no. You did. I wonder if you could briefly list off some of these traits that, that other director has? So maybe those of you can decide for yourselves if they have those kinds of traits too.
Tony: Well, I think, a, when directing? Is a lot more than, I think that occur to most people. Napolic any director does? I think he does a lot more than that, he or she does a lot more than that. People in the industry, I think, are aware of these things. I think you have to be completely focused, driven, a multi-tasker, a really good multi-tasker, you must be able to be a leader. And be a project manager. You have to run, just the film, run the set. I mean, you’re the boss. And so, you have to deal with the crew. You have to pull everyone in one direction. So, you have to communicate really well. You can be there for everyone, in terms of there’s a bit of obsessive quality in you. Your personality might have a, but also you have to be completely open and expose yourself. And not have any kind of walls up. Besides that’s really important for talent. And you just have to be willing to work until it’s done. And put everything into it. So I think those are some of the qualities that probably someone who might tell you what they know about me, at that point exactly. But, a, that’s what I’d say about it for the most part. And one of the actors in the film, and they all knew it was my first film. And Jason McGay, who was, and had a long career in TV and in film. Right now, he’s on Chicago, the show is, “Chicago P.D.” on NBC. Who plays the dad, to the main character on, “Safelight.” And he told me, he says, “Look, you’ll be fine, you’re a, a lot of directing is in the script.” And, it’s true, I mean. And actually that was one of the things that kind of surprised me? Was when we took like production, you know, and production designer. They were taking the script and they were like, okay, so you said, “Here?” This part that the house needs something to look like this? So, we’re going to be doing that. So, I was like, oh, really? Where do you get that? But, so, beyond that descriptions, but the direction saw in the movement of the story, it’s in the script. So if you stick to the script, I mean if you do a good job of scripting, a lot of the job of directing is right there for you. More than that, I’ve learned that I have a certain approach that I didn’t know at the start? And so I was told, you know, until that night? Can you see that? And a, I think it’s just the kind of thought that I have. I have been talking to Jason about it. He was considering coming on board the film it was, he was insistent on what you want this film to be? Where do you want to go with it? And you know, my feelings from the get-go was that we would go where we would go with it and we’ll see what happens? With the script, we never saw any of it, you know? We will shoot the script, but, you know, we’re not completely tied to the script. And you guys will be able to bring your creativity and your talents to the film as well. And I didn’t really know that I believed that? Until someone asked me about it. Which was another thing that was kind of interesting to me. I mean I did read obviously learning about directing a degree a lot. A lot of Eddie Kasan, read his bio and that. Really struck a lot of cords with him and me. And so taking a certain kind of approach with that. Actors was something that I found that I had a certain belief? And it seemed like, I guess you would call it, “An actor’s director?” But, that’s why I chose the deal. And so, that’s kind of how we ran it.
Ashley: So let’s move in, so now you’ve written the film, directed it, the film. You’re done with it, the film. What were your next steps, finding distribution? This strikes me as being that kind of film that would play well at a lot of film festivals. Did you guys take it to film festivals? How did sorta that shake out, finding distributor, and what your festival, what do you even went to festivals or not?
Tony: Yeah, it was interesting. We had, we actually went through two editors and two composers. So, I think that the film, what was tricky about the film? We knew about it going in, was that we had a balanced to be found between the sweet part of the film, and the gritty part of the film. And if we leaned one way too much, or rather than the other? It might not be getting the most out of the story. So our first editor, he did a great job, but at the end of the day? You know, the producers and I have discussed that we should really take a look at a new editorial. And so, while it was a difficult decision? It prolonged the process, but it was any end of any other way process. We had to find an editor that was, you know, really was able to tell the story in that way. And walk that line. And I think that we got that. And the same thing with the composition, the first composer worked with me very closely. And I had certain, being a musician, I had a certain idea for the, much of the source music. But for, also for his original music and it just didn’t work. I mean, I think that at the end of the day, it just didn’t work.
And I needed to, you know, find someone else. That would have a more popular subject to bring, have the music serve its purpose. So, it dragged, you see, I used that word, “Dragged.” It dragged, I try not, it dragged really along, the process of making that change. It was like a real slow moving boat, you know? So we changed course and along the way we did send a couple of rough-cuts out. Although we realized the film wasn’t ready yet. You know, so, at the end, when it was completed. We did submit to festivals, but we ended up deciding because of timing. For our nesters that if we didn’t have a certain festival by a certain time? We would screen it. So we had a sales agent come on board. And that was their decision, and we screened it in New York and L.A. And within a month we had a distributor. So that’s, we did end up going to, “The National Film Festival.” Where we had a premiere and then to Newport Beach, in L.A. But that was after our staff.
Ashley: Okay, perfect, perfect, perfect. So maybe you can talk to this quickly? How people can see “Safelight?” Talk about the release schedule. When is it going to be released? When is it going to be on “Video-on-Demand?”
Tony: Yeah, so. We are being released initially in North America on July 17th which is next Friday, Friday 17th. We are going to be in select theaters, select day’s theaters actually. And available “OnDemand,” and on ITunes the same day.
Ashley: Okay, okay, perfect, perfect. So, yeah. I will again, link to the trailer so people can check that out. What is the best way, I always like to end the interviews. What’s the best way for people to kinda keep up with you and what you’re doing? If you have a Twitter account, you can mention your Twitter handle? You have a blog or a Facebook page, any of that kinda stuff out there? So, a Twitter account, or Facebook page for this film I can definitely link to that, show notes too.
Tony: Yeah, a my Twitter might go? Let’s see, my Twitter, is a? @TonyAlloupis, and the film is – @TheSafelightfilm and also Safelight on Facebook, I don’t do Facebook personal page on Facebook, it’s primarily film stuff. That would probably be the easiest thing to do. As far as, our trailer is up on ITunes right now, on the Apple trailers. So we had an exclusive release last Wednesday on ITunes. For the trailer and it’s only the clip on the 17th the day of the release.
Ashley: Okay, perfect, perfect. Tony it’s been a great interview. As I said, I really enjoyed your film, so, well done my friend.
Tony: Thank you.
Ashley: A great interview, very enlightening, so, I really appreciate your time.
Tony: Thanks, thanks so much. I appreciate it.
Ashley: Thank you and good luck to you.
Tony: Alright, take care.
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In the next episode of the Podcast I’m going to be interviewing Tyler Hassel. He wrote a really cool horror, thriller, script called, “Dark Knight.” It’s a script that got on to Black List a few years ago. But it still took several years to get it produced. I go into the details of how he got his career started? How he got the script on the Black List? And ultimately how he got the script produced.
Anyway, that’s the show, thank you for listening.