Selling Your Screenplay Podcast – #97
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Ashley: Welcome to episode #97 of the, “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers Screenwriters and blogger, over at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing Gustavo Cooper, who recently wrote a horror thriller film called, “June.” It’s another great example of low-budget genre film. We dig into the details of how he got this film made. And we also talk a bit about his career and how he got started as a writer and director, so stay tuned for that.
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A couple of quick notes than, any websites or links that I mention in the Podcast. Can be found on my blog and in the show notes. I also publish a transcript with every episode, in case you would rather read the show, or look something else up later on. You can find all my Podcast show notes at – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast. And then just look for episode #97.
If you want my free guide, “How to Sell Your Screenplay in 5 Weeks.” You can pick that up by going to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide. It’s completely free, you just put in your Email address. And I’ll send you a new lesson once per week for five weeks. Along with a bunch of bonus lessons. I teach the whole process of how to sell your screenplay in that guide. How to write a professional log-on, and quarry letter, how to find agents, managers and producers who are looking for new material. It really is everything you need to know to sell you screenplay. Again, just go to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide.
A quick few words about what I am working on. I’ve been working on editing the teaser/trailer. I’ve mentioned before, I have a crime action, thriller that I’m working on producing next year. And I’m going to launch a kick-starter campaign. So I shot a trailer a few weeks ago. I’m now in the process of editing it. It’s kind of a rough version of it. I’ve been working with a sound editor, to hopefully improve the sound quality and just do a sound edit. Also, all the incidental music, sound effects, that kinda thing. That’s not something I’m an expert at. So I’m just hopefully getting that expert’s opinion on that?
I did a little bit of quick research, and it looks like on Kick-Starter, launching in January. And having it end in February. So that means, probably we’ll be launching somewhere in that second week in January. And then it will end in the second week in February. You run for 30 days. That seems like the best distance, statistically speaking. That seems like the best time to launch a Kick-Starter campaign. So that’s kinda what we’re shooting for? It looks like the holidays, November, December, are I imagined are, in terms of getting your Kick-Starter campaign funded. It was, those were the worst months, and that stands to reason. People get busy with the holidays and stuff. So, I’m not in any rush. So I’m thinking I’ll just launch my Kick-Starter campaign January. And then I’ll be shooting in April or May? Something like that, once we have all the money together. That will be February. And then a couple months of pre-production. Then getting the cast, scouting location and all that stuff. So, if they go way out, March, April. And then shooting maybe mid-April, or early May? It would kinda be the time line. I’m working on right now.
I’m still waiting to get some notes back from the producers who are, who wrote the comedy spoof. I’ve been talking about this, the last couple of weeks on the Podcast. I wrote a script for them. It’s like probably spoof, and one of the producers, his wife had a baby. So, he’s tied up with that, which is completely understandable. The other producer did call me, just said he’s be busy with the one producer having the baby. And then just busy on some other thing? So, they’re getting me some notes, he seems reasonable positive for the script, he sounds like the main thing is just a. It’s a spoof. So it’s really got to be very broad comedy. It’s like the main notes. We just have to go and enlarge it, with the comedy. So that’s kind of what I’m going to be dong on the next pass. But I don’t have the notes back yet? But hopefully this week I’ll have them back, those notes back and I’ll be back into that script. Anyway, that’s what I’m working on.
So, now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m interviewing Gustavo Cooper, he wrote a film called, “June” It’s a horror thriller genre script. I think it’s an interesting film to look at in terms of what is selling in this marketplace. So check that out if you get it, get the chance. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Gustavo to the, “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I really appreciate you coming on the show.
Gustavo: Thanks for having me, this is exciting.
Ashley: To start out, maybe you could give us just a little background, kinda how you got into the entertainment industry. And eventually worked your way up to writing and directing this latest film, “June?”
Gustavo: So, the thing I’m going to tell you a little bit of a backstory on the writing. So excited, it all stemmed from skateboarding. I grew-up with skateboarded, skateboarding for almost 16 years. And the way that’s fondly the way you got recognized. Was by making your little videos, you know? And like sending videos out, with me and my friends and stuff. Whether I try to out do them? You know, you had to figure out how to edit. You had to figure out how to shoot, so you could see what we were doing. And then, you know, the better quality, you know the better, chance you had of it being saw. So, that’s how I got into film making. It sort of escalated from filming my friends, to getting offers to have my own skate show, my own skate brands. To saying, “Oh, wow, I can do this and make money.” And I made music videos, and hey, I should probably go to school for this. And then all of a sudden, it kept escalating, and escalating. So, won some work doing a music video style. And I was like, at that point, I felt I really wanted to try to tell a story. Because I, that’s hard, you know? It went from shorts, you know, doing some shorts to going, oh, well, let’s try doing something right along another format. And then, it was sort of this progression evolution of wanting to challenge myself, over and over, and over, you know?
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, yeah. At what point was it, did you go from being a hobby-ness to actually going? You mentioned you did some music videos. Were you actually getting jobs, paid jobs? As such, as music videos?
Gustavo: Yeah, yeah. I did, let’s see, before that first year. I did about 177 commercials.
Ashley: Maybe you could tell us a little bit about the short films that you did. Did you enter into the contests? What did you do to kind of promote those films? And move your career along with them?
Gustavo: The short film?
Ashley: Yeah, yeah.
Gustavo: Yeah. I, the first film was kinda word of mouth. The way it got me even more recognition was a film called, “Albert Road.” And that was the zombie apocalypse take. It took, based on a time during the 1960’s – 1970’s, civil rights movement. Like, what if the zombie apocalypse was broke out, during that time period? And the gin cut south. So, it was like a different, sort of an idea. And I think we did a really great job. What people sort of took marvels to be known. And that allowed me to be my first feature.
Ashley: Okay, okay. And what exactly did you do? Did you just put it out on YouTube? Tell all your friends to pass it on to their friends? Is that how the way of marketing?
Gustavo: No, I think, the festival route.
Ashley: Okay, you did festivals, okay.
Gustavo: Yeah, we did the festival route. We also did, I did that too though. I did a bunch of little vignettes myself. And then it got costed, and then soon, bloggers. And then, you know, they are still producing to this day, that see that. And, you know, Gustavo, you should do, something or other? It’s sort of that calling card stuff. There’s a part for me.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, okay, great. So let’s dig into your latest film, “June,” kind of a horror/thriller film. Maybe you can start out, you can give us quick pitch or a log-line of it. In case people haven’t seen the trailer yet?
Gustavo: Well, “June,” is a story about an orphan child that is surrounded by zombie. The Social Security System I guess, she is in and out of foster-care/foster homes. Okay, and she’s a ten year old, who has, mainly a really hard time making friends. But, she has an imaginary friend. That, is actually another soul, living inside her. And she treats it like, this dog on a leash. And you know, the dog just wants to be loved and to find it’s place in the world. That’s sort of what this film is. It’s about this little girl, who has this really scary animal, you know, inside of her that when the emotional wall comes down, it terrorizes people.
Ashley: U-huh. And maybe you could tell or take us through the process of writing the script. Let’s start out just with, just like where did the idea come from for this?
Gustavo: Um, it actually came from a, you know, a couple of different things. “Akyra,” “Firestarter,” “Candy Bites herself,” The actress I really fell in love with? In not so much, she did try, in another movie. And I thought this would be really great. I mean, other than it would be so interesting. I had a personal interest with the film itself. I spent a little bit of time in foster-care. And you know, as a kid, I was very angry. And I knew, like, that anger was very powerful. And, it is not something, It is something that needs to be controlled. And the idea with it? What if you couldn’t? It’s sort of like the hope. What if you just couldn’t control that? Or you’re another thing. There is a bunch of different influences in, it all seems to cumulate at the same time for me.
Ashley: I’m curious, I spend a lot of time as a screenwriter talking to producers. And I’m trying to figure out, what it is they want? How much of that kind of thing influenced it? And as an example, I mean, this is kind of a horror/thriller. I think there’s definitely kind of a commercial angle to something like this. How much did that play into, is it just kind of the movie you wanted to tell? Have it have some commercial liability? Or the?
Gustavo: A, yeah. I think my, without sounding like a potential case I linked the commercial side. My sense tends to feel like some little sticker. Like a normal indie film, and I am awfully glad to be there. My commercial background, and my music video background. I had to make a little bit of money off of it, really big, you know? So, “June” I appreciate you saying that. I think I could have done even more commercialized. I was definitely living in the time and research that I had. And the producers really did a great job. And when the co-writer, Sharon, Sharon Cobb. When we approached this, we definitely had more of a movie. You know, it wasn’t the movie we wanted to make. Wasn’t necessarily, how do we sell this really cool idea? You know what I mean, we just. I made the short and got everyone really excited about the proof of concept. And then after I made the proof of concept. And that’s when we wrote the script, the feature and everyone got it and got excited about that idea. So, I think really? The proof of concept is what really stemmed everything. And it was sort of this down and dirty tele-kinesis Ghana.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So, take us through the writing process a little bit? You mentioned your co-writer, Sharon and Cobb. I have written scripts with other people. So you know what? I’m always curious to hear how other co-writing partnerships go? Do you all sit around in the same room, spit-balling ideas? One person is at the computer and different things? Do you assign different things? How does that process work for you guys. And how does it work specifically for this script?
Gustavo: Well, Sharon is located I, she is located in Florida. So, the script is a. The writing process was, is a bit different. You know, a, it’s kinda different? We work in shifts, you know, so like, generally what happens is? I dump out this idea, I come to Sharon with it? Sharon says, “Alright, I like it.” “I don’t like this” “I like that” “I like this” “This is what we can do.” And then, she works on it.
Ashley: When you say, dump out that idea. Is it like, in a word? A far, is it like, you send her an Email? This sort of loose outline story. Or do you actually like, pump out a first draft of a script and send it out to her?
Gustavo: A no, we work, in a sort of big. We are a big hand of treatments. And beat sheets, so, it’s something like on a beat sheet. We work out the beats. Then we pump it up. Get this own-ness, Not unlike this treatment. And, by the time we have our treatment, we have our movie. You know, we’re just simply filling in the gaps at that point. And that’s sort of how we’ve been working together, working back and forth for the last couple of years. We just finished another movie. A, it’s was scheduled to do, back in December. “The separation from Sharon” That was, you know, the nerve of separation there, been living there just under a year. The separation from Sharon, seemed a lot harder to do, until some occasions. Because we are a lot of the same room, and. You don’t really doubt that face-to-face interaction that can articulate the thing that you want to do, you know what I mean? So, it’s a bit of a write something down, you know. But it worked similar so far.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So, okay, let’s take it, sorta to the next step. You guys wrote this script. You mentioned the shortened kind of a proof of concept. What was your next step? When you finished the feature film script. Who did you take it to and how did you actually start to get it out there? And raise the money for this?
Gustavo: A, for the concept of what I did? Is, a, I told Raven Banner, it was the leasing partner. They said in Canada, I would do the spot. I wanted to do this, this proof of concept. And they said, “Okay, great.” That sounds cool, but you only have a month. Because you’re going to go in. So, a, good luck. So, I kinda got this a, I got the money from this, from a guy. Who, was a generalist producer, friend of mine, and he set me up. And we shot the proof of concept. And I turned it in to the guys. And then it got shot and put together that quickly. So, from that point, we went to Berlin, we got a permit. Got super excited, hey, this is the next movie we’re doing. We’re shooting it, made it even better, with even better backing. Everyone said, “Holy Shit!” If we want to see what this is, I’ll start putting in some pre-sales or pre-sides. Or anything we slide back, our home better ground. And went and shot the movie. Got an investor on board. Because we saw a, you know, the opportunity. I guess in that, the next thing, three months later we were shooting a movie. That’s kinda how it got going.
Ashley: And take us through a little, just quickly, how did you get this investor? What kind of relationship did you have with that person, how did you get him on board?
Gustavo: Um, he was a fan of the short, “Velvet Road.” And he’s a friend of a friend. And he’s actually a figure of Hasberg, Jackie Hasberg, who came on ultimately. He was lucky to produce the film.
Ashley: And when you started, talk about getting some of these pre-sales, at that point, did you have some cast? When were they attached to it, were they just this?
Gustavo: Just the girl.
Ashley: Okay, just the little girl. But the cast would be nothing like that?
Gustavo: No. Katherine wasn’t, attached to it yet. Katherine, Victoria Kat wasn’t attached yet. Eddie Seng wasn’t attached yet. Then it was later on when we got those guys to a, come in and in the process. Na, I think you sort of won them over. In now this, they were really excited about seeing some of my work. And the people involved, and you know, what else came together.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, and it sounds like you had this distributor, or already on board as well? As you were shooting the movie. Basically the distributor going.
Gustavo: Basically we had a sales agent, we didn’t have a distributor.
Ashley: Okay, okay, okay.
Gustavo: He was a sales agent.
Ashley: Okay. Um, and take us through, once you’re done with the film? Did you guys send it to some film festivals? There’s a lot of them, horror film festivals out there. Did you go to any festivals? Or do anything like that?
Gustavo: Sorry, sorry, um. Yeah, a, we did, we didn’t do much with the festival, a, you know, from whatever? It’s actually being released over, October 6th. So, by time we finished the film. And how quickly they wanted it released? We literally had like, a month or two. And by the time that happened? Yeah, it was pretty much, I’ll take it, you know, anything? But we do have a bunch of interest. So it was like, you know, exciting at the time. But I’m, fortunately missed it and the festival rounds.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, sure, sure. So tell me? What’s next for you? Betcha’ got another film, bet it’s another similar horror/thriller type of movie?
Gustavo: This is actually, going to be like, I would say, my first real horror. This is going to be, my real intension is to scare the audience. To get the audience on their toes. And so, it’s going to have some family like theme, you know. And to the servant, emotional things I like to play off of. And the loneliness, and do separation response, a traditional family, things that inside definitely, a lot scarier.
Ashley: Okay, okay. And how did you get that one lined up? Or was that based on your success with this one? Or, did you shoot another proof of concept?
Gustavo: That was based on it.
Ashley: Okay, okay. The script, you said? And your writing partner and that?
Ashley: Check that out?
Ashley: Maybe you could take us through this, of getting the script up and out to. And who did you send it to, and get it.
Gustavo: Um, this one was not through Christy or anything like that. In fact this one was actually from a friend of a friend. Like a friend told me that, some guys are looking for a movie to shoot? And I shot a script over. And they loved it. Next thing you know, he was out optioning, and we were off to the races.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, perfect, perfect. Okay, so that’s interesting. So, maybe you could tell us quickly? How can people see “Jean” when’s the release date? You know, Video on Demand, the Optipole, the release dates. You can just spit out and we will be…
Gustavo: A, yeah. October 6th, goes to ITunes and I think just all the BIB’s outlets. And Boxes control.
Ashley: Okay, perfect, perfect. And I always like to end the interviews, with just asking people. How, people can keep up you? If you have a Twitter handle, you can mention it. MAD, a Facebook page, a blog. Anything real, really you feel comfortable sharing. Just let us know? And people can join on along and keep up with you.
Gustavo: Yeah, um. You would follow me on Twitter. @Gustavoseeker and Facebook is L. Gustavo Seeker, that’s what I sell my stuff on YouTube.
Ashley: Alright, perfect, perfect, all around. And that stuff up, and as I’m “See June” has a Facebook and a Twitter account yeah.
Gustavo: Yeah, I already have everything there. I think it’s seeing the movie. At the movie.
Ashley: Alright, perfect, perfect. Round that stuff up and put it in the show notes. Gustavo, again, well done with the movie, I watched it a few days ago. I enjoyed it, thoroughly, well done on it. I wish you luck on it. And, thanks for coming on in and talking to me.
Gustavo: Yeah, I appreciate it thanks for having me and I’m glad you enjoyed it.
Ashley: Thank you, we’ll talk to ya later.
Gustavo: Alright, take care.
Ashley: I just want to mention two things that I’m doing at “Selling Your Screenplay” to help screenwriters find producers who are looking for new material. First I’ve created a monthly newsletter that will be sent directly to producers. Every member of this SYS Select can commit one log-on per month, per newsletter. I went and I Emailed my large database I put together of producers. I talk about this quite often. I have a pretty wide base of producers that I sell Email and Fax Blast to that database. So I just went and I Emailed that log-on database of producers. And I said, “I run this screenplay, would you like to be in it” Would you like to be directed to see a monthly newsletter? From the screenwriters at – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com, and we’ll Email it to you. And so far I’ve had thousands of producers on this list that we’re sending to. But so far I’ve had close to two hundred, I think we’re at about 170-180 producers, so far have signed up to receive this newsletter. And these producers, you know, again, they’ve explicitly said, “Yes.” They would like to receive pitches from screenwriters. They are actively looking for new material. So, these are real good fits for this kind of thing. They are waiting for this newsletter, so if you have a log-on this is a good way to get it out there to producers. And also got to join SYS Select, which you can do by going to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/select. And secondly I’ve partnered with one of premier paid Screenwriting Lead Services, so I can syndicate their leads to SYS Select members. There are also lots of great paid leads coming in to us through this partner. We are currently receiving, I would say, anywhere from eight to twelve high quality paid leads per week. These are producers, the leads are from producers and production companies who are actively looking for screenwriters. They are either looking for screenwriters, spec. scripts to produce, or in a lot of cases? They are looking to hire a screenwriter for a specific project they are currently working on. Maybe they have a treatment, maybe they have a book that they have optioned. And then they need a screenwriter to turn it into a screenplay. Those are the sorts of leads that are coming in. There are occasionally projects that are looking for shorts. That’s a great way if you have shorts, or short scripts. That’s a great way to get it out there. But really there are a lot of stuff, a lot of very specific types of leads. You know the producer, might have for a particular actor, or a particular occasion. So they are looking for scripts that might fit those leads, very specific types of leads. And if you have a script that might fit what they need? You have a real good shot at actually getting read and considered. Because these leads are not going out to, you know, everybody in Hollywood. They are only going out to one or going out to SYS Select numbers. So, if you want to learn more about that, just go to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/select. Again that’s – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/select.
Also I recently started and set up a success stories page. For people who have used various SYS Select Services. I’ve had some success with them. So if you want to check out what other people are saying about SYS Select? Go to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/success, again, that’s – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/success. Also, if you have had some success with one of the services that we offer? Please do let me know. It’s very inspiring to hear these success stories. So I would love to hear your experience with the SYS Select Services. It’s sometimes very hard to follow up with everybody. And I know that there are people out there who have optioned stuff. And I don’t necessarily ever hear about it? Because sometimes I’ll hear about it, you know, six months later. This on a whim, or this one will come back and do another blast. Oh, yeah, I ended up optioning my first scripts with them. And now I’m doing another blast. So, I know there’s got to be people out there having some success with the services I am offering. But I don’t necessarily know about it? So, if you don’t mind sharing your story? Please do Email me, I’d love to hear it! If it’s, you know, if you’ve got something sold. And produced, I’d love to hear from you, and actually get you on the Podcast. So you can actually walk through how that all transpired. These are great stories to share. They’re inspiring. And they are very, a, nuts and bolts. And help a lot of other writers.
So, next week on the Podcast, I’m going to be interviewing, screenwriter – Dan Kaye. He recently wrote a horror thriller script, called, “Pay the Ghost.” Which stars Nicholas Cage. This is another great interview. We dig into the story of a specific movie that he just wrote and produced, called, “Pay the Ghost.” And we also dig into his early part of his career, his background. Kind of how he got into the business? And how he eventually got to the point where he is writing it. A screenplay that stars Nicholas Cage. So, keep an eye out for that episode, so, next week.
So, just a quick reminder about the up-coming 100th episode I mentioned? This last week I mentioned, again, I thought I’d mentioned? I thought it would be an interesting episode to answer some questions? So, if we have a screenwriting questions? Please send them in and I’ll answer them on the Podcast, the 100th episode, Podcast episode. Put something in the subject line, like, “100th Episode Question.” I want to do something a little different for the 100th episode. I thought this might be something fun to try. No question’s too tough, as long as it’s screenwriting related. Any questions about Podcasts, past episodes may be, something that wasn’t clear? And just general screenwriting related questions? Techniques about writing, something about marketing? About marketing your screenplays. Really anything that disguise, that anything screenwriting related? Just Email me those questions in to me. My Email address is – [email protected]. Again, put something in the subject line, like, “100th Podcast Episode” just so I know that you want that question answered.
Anyway, that’s the show, thank you for listening.