This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 100: User Submitted Questions Answered And How To Break In And Build A Long Lasting Screenwriting Career.
Selling Your Screenplay Podcast – #100
Questions – Answered
(Typewriter Keys Tapping)
Ashley: Welcome to episode 100 of “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, Screenwriter and Blogger, over at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m going to be answering a host of reader submitted questions. And at the end I’m going to be summarizing some of those lessons that I have learned while doing this Podcast. So stay tuned for that.
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A couple of quick notes, any websites or links that I mention in the Podcast, can be found in my blog or in the show notes. I also publish a transcript with every episode incase you would rather read the show, or look up something later on. You can find all the Podcast show notes at – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast. And then just look for episode #100.
So, let’s get into the user submitted questions.
The first question was submitted by a guy named Kurt, here’s his question?
Kurt: Even when the film is such an art form. Do you think we, as screenwriters, having a responsibility when it comes to this social messages in our stories?
Ashley: I thought about this question for a while, and I think there’s sort of two parts to it. Um, you know, as screenwriters, we are responsible for a lot of the messaging in our stories. And we should think that through very carefully. You know, film is, that’s one of the great things about it, it can affect a lot of people, it can reach a lot of people. So, I definitely think we should take notice of what messages we are portraying in our stories and things, and think that through. But, at the end of the day. I think movies more than anything, should be entertaining. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten less and less patient with these sort of, you know, social message movies. Although, very artistic movies. But it seems like, in my 20’s, I was able to watch them, these movies, a little bit. It, I just enjoyed them more, and I get more out of them. But, as I’ve gotten older, it’s like, when I watch movies now I really just generally want to be entertained. I don’t know, there can’t be some artistic messages, or social messages in there? But the more, the most important criteria for me, is to just be at entertained and some movies, at Michael Moore is at a prime example. I think he is at, his messages obviously have big social messages component. But he also has a very funny and packages them in a way that they are all also very entertaining. And so, to me, the number one thing is just making sure that it is entertaining. Obviously you want to be conscious of what messages you are putting out into the world. But I just think, above and beyond everything else, just make sure it’s entertaining.
But ultimately you need to find someone that’s gonna find this movie and most likely. The person that’s going to find it, is someone who thinks they can actually make their money back. So, you want to be careful about how much, you know, you’re strong arming your social messages into your films. And keep some idea, that this is some big business movies are expensive to make. Even on a micro-budget. There’s quite a bit of time and energy and energy money that goes into it through producing and marketing it. So, it’s gotta be entertaining, it’s got to be something the people would want to watch. So, I would say, keep that in mind.
The next question was, submitted by – Leo.
Leo: How tracking boards impact mood writer’s ability to break into, and certainly screenwriters, screenwriting isn’t learned, the skill by which we write. A candidate should get better with each new script. However, as writers become and submit scripts to various companies, it’s inevitable they will start building a history. Passes that would be able to build with other companies. Does the history tarnish a writer’s reputation? And would get read reguardless of quality of success scripts. And who goes on to say, Corey Mandell mentioned, that this at a passing past interview. So, definitely go back and look and listen to the episode. I think it was the first interview Corey Mandell. So, if you want to learn more about that, go ahead and listen to that. But, here’s the thing? I think that some people get too, I mean, you don’t ever want to submit junk. You want to make sure that scripts are decent. And mine, looks like your first, your second, your third script is probably not that good. You know, you might consider entering it in a couple of contests. Enter in a half dozen contests with that first, second or third scripts. See If you get any positive reaction there. Before you start go submitting. I do think there is an element of that. But I think this idea of that these companies are sharing the information. Keep in mind that these companies are in competition with each other. So, their ability to and desire to share information from company to company I think is probably over, it’s over height I can’t just? I really doubt these studios are all sharing these lists. I mean, certainly within a company there might be a list? The other thing to think about, if you’re just starting out? You know, these tracking boards, are sort of high level script. There are scripts that have been submitted by agents that can be tracked. Probably certainly with it there are companies that are covers that get shared from department to department to department. Or company to company into subsidiary company. There are probably some of this, but not high level submissions. When you first started out, you know, that it will be submitted to “Fox Studios” and the companies that are under Fox and Universal. You are gonna be submitted to independent producers. You’re going to be submitting to low-level assistants. Who are trying to break into the business themselves. You don’t know the people who are going to read scripts from barely new writers. So, and I don’t, those people are barely connected in a way. I mean, it’s like, when you are submitting to that low-level assistant, he’s got a hundred scripts on his desk. He’s read the first five or ten, pages of your script. And if he doesn’t like it, he’s just going to move on to the next script. And he’s not going to waste his time keying it in to some database that’s going to track you. So, I wouldn’t really wouldn’t be that concerned about this. A lot of the stuff when people are talking about these tracking boards and talking about these lists? I mean, stuff like, “The Black List” goes out. And you know, it’s shared across companies, and people understand that there are scripts that are people indeed submitting. The agents and they are submitting scripts they like, so there are some shared stuff. And getting on the Black List is obviously a good thing. And there might be some stuff development of executives that are sharing across companies.
But again, these are high levels missions that what people that are just starting out. Because you’re not going to get these high level agents are not going to be reading your scripts. Even if you’re lucky to get your script to as assistant to an assistant to read your script. As I said, I can’t see them really sharing that much information with everybody. So, there’s two parts to the answers, yes, you don’t want to submit junk. You want to make sure your scripts are up to industry standards. You don’t submit to some coverage services, submit to some kind of contest. You know, and just get a feel for if your scripts are maybe getting to the second round, or third round. If they are at least getting some positive response from somebody? To me that’s enough to start to say, maybe it’s time to start some major production companies. But I wouldn’t get too caught up in this idea. And you’re somehow going to get black-balled from, if you submit some bad scripts. And you’re going to get ultimately black-balled.
The second part of Neil’s questions was, how do you handle re-writes? Often when I’m doing re-writes in the back of my mind. I’m always working, that by fixing one thing, I may break something else. I’m working from some strategies and tactics that help me make the re-write process more effective and efficient. So, I am in complete agreement with, to be honest. I hate doing re-writes, I find them very difficult. Especially when there are bigger points, structural points where you are re-arranging thought points and re-arranging story lines and writing whole stories. As you say, you can effect one thing and unravels the other thing. So, the one thing that I do? Especially with my spec. scripts, is I really try and outline all the plot. I do a lot about my outline. I say, I feel like my structure and my story was really, really tight. And hopefully that means, I won’t have to go back and do major adjustments to the structure of this script. There might be some scenes that might need to be re-written. There might be some smaller tweaks that need to be re-written. Some characters, but hopefully the structure is sound. And get that by doing a really, really detailed outline. Making sure you’ve spent it, on your outline. Now, there are still occasions where you get through, you do a lot of outlining it. And you write the script, and for whatever reason, things are still not working. And I suggest, and I do this with myself. I will go back, and if I don’t have to adjust major plot points? I go back into the outline. I open up the outline and even redo the outline. You know, I’ll go back to the script. I just might outline so then it’s accurate. And then I’ll start re-arranging it, the outline. And then I’ll go back to the script. And I’ll even put in some page numbers so I’ll know and have a feel for where things are? And then again I start the pacing in the outline. And then I’ll go back to the script and start cutting and pasting scenes, deleting scenes. Maybe even putting in some place holders. Of course there’s gonna be a scene here the does such and such. And you can go back and rewrite it. The outline for me makes during the, writes easier when you are adjusting those big sort of macro-things: The structure, the arcs. Once you get into the scene level, then it’s much easier to go into the script.
So, the next question is, from a guy named – Gordon Miller, he’s from Russia. So, he had a series of long questions, and I’m just going to para-phrase them. He lives in Russia, he has started to network a little bit, with Canadian, and U.K. producers. (Coughing) So, He’s asking?
Gordon: Do you think I should take a trip over to Canada to try and network with some of these producers?
He’s also asking. Take your director who is also a stage actor he knows. He’s asking, if he should approach that particular actor? And I get these types of questions quite frequently, and the bottom line of this question is? If you have someone very specific in mind, an actor, very specific in mind for his script, director or producer? Some very specific person in mind. And he wants to approach them? And you know, if you feel like you have the personality you have, and you’re good at just talking to and chatting up people you don’t know? I guess this can work? I would say it’s kind of a low percentage play, it might work? But it might not? And I get Emails like this quite often where people are, how can I contact this specific person, director? Because I know that they would be interested in my material.
The first thing is, you really don’t know? What that director, or actor, or producer, is interested in? You may see some of their other films. They could be totally sick of those other ones, those other films. And may want to go in a totally different direction? Putting all your eggs in one director, that’s really going hard at it for a director. I just think it’s a low percentage play. It might work? But most likely, you’re really not going to get any face time with that person. Even if you do? There’s a high probability that they got their own projects they are working on. So they are not going to be interested in taking on a new project. So, it’s just so many things that are so potentially could throw a wrench in that scenario. So, I just think it’s too narrow. You really should open yourself up to a bunch of different people. And try and contact a bunch of different people. And when I say a bunch, I’m not talking about five or ten. I mean, dozens and dozens, hundreds, if not thousands of companies. And be pitching to a broad spectrum of people. You just don’t know what people are going want and what they are not gonna want? No matter what they’ve done in their past careers. They maybe trying to go in a completely different direction. So, this feels very narrow. And he says in his question, he has the resources to go to Canada and stuff. It’s like I would probably put that in other directions. You don’t go to Los Angeles, if you go to someplace like L.A.? You might be able to set-up all of that, meetings. Again, you’re going to have to be personable, get on the phone, cold call a couple of companies. Tell them you’re going to be in town. If you cold call, let’s say you cold call, 200 companies over the course of like two weeks. You cold call two hundred companies, I’d be willing you bet? You will set-up two or three, if you’re good on the phone. You could set-up two or three, maybe four meetings. Do your research, find companies, smaller companies that might be willing to work with a new writer. I would suggest going to AFM, or if you’re in another country, there are film markets in there. ComicCon, there’s a big film market in it. There’s film markets all over the world. PACon is a big one? The film market is here in Los Angeles, it’s in Santa Monica. It just happened a couple of weeks ago, in November, late October early November. So, I think going to those type of conferences, and you might even find that the producers and directors that you are interested in might even be at one of these events. So, you might actually get a shot to talk to them? But if that doesn’t work out? Still got dozens of other producers to potentially talk to as well. So, find the candidate in the U.K. and go, find the right one to meet with. The particular director, it seems like a low percentage play. If you’re super outgoing and feel super confident with just chatting people up? You know, you never know what’s going to work? The last thing I hate to tell anybody, no, this is never going to work. As you just never know about that one? It seems like a low percentage play.
So, Gordon is asking from a genre point of view? How do I pitch and market my screenplay, across the divide? Which is, I consider an outdoor bunch of drama, not action. Action adventure in the style of, “River Wild” or “Into the Wild.” The three films mentioned are, adventure dramas. But most contests and pitch sessions only offer action adventure genre for a category.
My script, does not film continual action like “Mad Max” “Terminator” Ironman feature genre. My script is structured more like, “Witness” which I do consider an action adventure film.
So, I mean, I think this is a good question? And I get these question quite often. If, you know, you’re submitted to something like, “Ink Tip” or something? Or made for a contest, “The Black List” I think, a lot of the times they will have specific genres for. What genre is this script in? And a, I think on Ink Tip, you can actually pick-up two genre: Pick a primary genre, and secondary genre. But, I think, to me, Dennis is describing this, it seems to me clear. This is definitely a drama. Like, if you’re pigeon holed, your choices are actually better. As your, drama, go with drama. It, “Into the Wild” is definitely a drama, yet it takes place in the wild, and outside and stuff. But it’s definitely a drama, kind of an Indie drama. So, I would definitely pick, for this particular project go with drama. But the key with any of these things. Is just choosing the best scenario. And, I mean, they key is thinking about the films that are similar to it? That he has done, that Dennis has done. Go in something like IMDB and look at how they are mentioned on IMDB? I would get, a lot of the times on IMDB they will have multiple genres. But look at the first one that’s mentioned. My guess, is go, “Into the Wild” drama is going to be yeah, one of the first dramas that’s mentioned, if not the first one mentioned. So, I would say use that as a templet. Or check out what is soliciting for the type of movie you’re doing that are similar to it. Try and choosing the best one from there.
John: I received an analysis back from a reader from a different company. It said my screenplay was “Riddled with incomplete sentences” I have read multiple articles from sources saying that this is acceptable practice? I read some screenplays that use incomplete sentences, where do you stand?
Ashley: Again, there’s no, there’s two parts to this question? Or sort of two parts to the answer.
Number 1, you never want to take one person’s opinion too seriously. I mean, you’re just getting one person’s opinion. If you send it out for analysis, and you’re getting it back. That’s one person’s opinion, which may or may not be valid? And frankly it doesn’t matter who that person is? It’s Spielberg if you submit your script and he happens to be your friend and he reads your script. And comes back with some analysis and says something is not working. He may or may not be wrong? Nobody knows everything, nobody is like, the grandmaster, or has this? It’s highly subjective thing that we do in this business of screenwriting. This rapid, keep that in mind. Then other reasons, I mean, at Selling Your Screenplay, we have a three-pack. Which is three leads, and that was one of the reasons why I created that. Was because I felt like it would be a good way to get some feedback, through three different readers. And that’s for what you want to do. If you really feel like, this reader maybe is not correct? Submit to a couple of other readers, and see what other feedback you get from them. If you start to get feedback that something is not working from three readers, or two out of three readers. I think it’s worth considering a little more, and they feel something is not quite right.
Now, let’s talk specifically about what John is saying here? He’s talking about incomplete sentences. When I moved to Hollywood, in mid-90’s. Shane Black was the talk of the town. Everybody was reading his scripts: “Lethal Weapon” “The Last Boy Scout” myself included I bought those screenplays. He used a lot of incomplete sentences. Now, in today’s he wouldn’t use one word sentences. He uses, he has a very stylized way of writing. So, Um, you know, it can be viewed and used quite well. Screenwriting is, you know, is it’s own art form. So there are no real rules, there are anything you can do to convey meaning and emotion.
It is within the bounds. So, you don’t necessarily use complete sentences. However, one of the things I will say, when I got here, I’d been in the 90’s. I’d reached Shane Black’s scripts that were very, very good. And his writing was very stylized. Or I was just reading “Friends” scripts, or I was reading scripts for agencies. I was reading any scripts I could get my hands on then. Get my hands on real amateurs, and that’s what it was like. And there were a lot of people trying to emulate Shane Black’s style back then. And it got really tedious and really annoying. And all these one word sentences, and incomplete sentences, you know? It just made it really hard to read, and it became very tedious. And it was so clearly sort of someone trying to rip-off a style. Shane Black has it, that’s his style. He’s very good at it, so, I would warn you to be careful about the style you’re creating for yourself. It may be rubbing people the wrong way. And you may think it’s super cool, and super trendy. But, it may just be really, really annoying. And the bottom line, is that, it may not be conveying the meaning you think it’s conveying. That’s really the plea. Is that, with any kind of writing. But screenwriters especially use it, maybe conveying specific things that are happening. And emotions, and characters and dialog, so you may just want to be careful and not be too stylized, to the point where you actually annoying your readers.
Gideon wrote in, he asked?
Gideon: Often times on your Podcast, you talk about what you’ve been up to, before the interview starts. Sometimes you’re a bit critical of the directors and producers that you work with. My question is, have they, any of these people heard your Podcast and gotten upset with some of the things you’ve said?
Ashley: That’s a good question. I don’t think very many producers out there work, listen to this Podcast. So, no one’s ever mentioned anything like that. I heard what you said about me in a Podcast, so maybe that’s a good thing. I am careful to be somewhat anonymous, I don’t mention any names. And in fact I try not to even mention the specific project that I’m working on. I don’t title the project. So, it’s a little bit anonymous. So, I think that helps a little bit. But, you know, the Gilmore is saying somewhat critical. I feel like I am actually pretty, I feel like I’m that critical. I’ve said a lot worse, believe me. So, I don’t feel like I’m that critical. But, here’s the thing, Anything I say on the Podcast, honestly, I would say to you the person’s face. In fact, a lot of the things I’ve talked about on the Podcast are argues I’ve had with people. I don’t have a problem having friendly arguments with these producers. And everyone’s passionate, and has their point of view. And hopefully that’s why people like me. Because I give them my honest opinion. So, a lot of these producers, and directors that may sounds critical of them? That I’ve mentioned, I don’t need this, sounds like critical, frankly. I’m amazed that Gilmore thinks I’ve been overly critical, because I haven’t been overly critical. But anything I’ve said on the Podcast has been said, I’ve probably said to them? Producer, or directly to their face. And if it’s not something I’ve actually said it. So, something I actually would say, so? I’m not, I don’t think I’m really overly critical of, and I think hopefully that’s more of the reasons people like working with me? It’s because, you know, I don’t just necessarily roll over and give them the answer they want to hear. I give people my honest opinion. Ultimately, I realize, this is a business, you know, about whoever raises the money. Whoever has the money, has the power. So, the producer, is raising the money, and then the ones who have access to it, to the financing. And then they are the ones who ultimately get to make the decisions, that’s the bottom line. When I’m raising the money and I’m making, when I’m raising the money.
Then I’m the one making the decisions. And then that becomes about my decision making. But, if the producer is raising the money, than ultimately at the end of the day, it’s their decision. And I’m very much in agreement with them on that, and that’s how it should be. You know, when money’s on the line, that person is their asses on the line. And so it’s their bed, they ultimately have to be the one to make the decisions. I give people my opinions, and they can take them or leave them. But, a, that’s kinda how it goes down. And hey, you have to be aware of that as a screenwriter, that you know, you’re submitting a script. And you can argue passionately for your point of view. But if the producer is the one with the money. Then they ultimately are the ones asked to make the decision. Because it’s their money, that’s going to be lost.
So Brian asks me,
Brian: With character introductions, how much is too little, how much is too much? How do you prefer, simple straight forward physical description from the director? For whom they would like to cast? Or one that adds a little bit more about a character in addition to the physical description?
Ashley: I mean it’s really hard to say without actually seeing some actual full character description. I really tend to write very short concise descriptions. Maybe a few words that describe the person. But I try to keep it as tight as possible. I would say, you know, any kind of a question like this? The best thing you can do is, go and open up a few screenplays. Read screenplays that have been produced by professional writers. Open those scripts up and see how they use characters. And see how their descriptions flow? Are they long, are they short? And just get a feel for them. So that way, pretty much in every instance, screenwriting broadity is key. So, when in doubt less. Just be really thoughtful with your words. And this is with anything with screenwriting character descriptions dialog. You know, just, action descriptions. Because you know, anything, be thoughtful about the words you use. But, broadity, I think, is key, less is often times more.
Um, so the second question Brian asks me?
Brian: Does the antagonist have to be likeable?
Ashley: You know, I think this is kinda like a very common screenwriting argument? Well, a, no, a of course the screen protagonist doesn’t have to be likeable? He’s got to be relatable in some way. You know, people have to be like, to connect to a, to get behind a screen. You know, you have to be emotionally invested in it. I’m trying to think of an example? Again, I suppose you would have a really bad protagonist, than a good antagonist? Or at least, you can relish and see the protagonist, he’ll get his come-upance, or something like that? You gotta be, you the audience and when you have yourself a screenplay. To your reader, they have to be emotionally invested in your screenplay. So, I would say, the protagonist, you know, really needs to be relatable, something, someway, you can play to him. You don’t necessarily like him, or respect him. You have to relate to him in some way. And I think Tony Soprano was one example I just thought of? Um, that would be a good example. In the very first scene, in the Sopranos, I’ve even watched that show. Tony is like chasing this guy down, and they beat him up. So, you don’t like the guy. But you very quickly, you understand him.
He’s dealing with the pressures of his life and his family, his business, and he loves his family, so he’s relatable. You know, we all have work pressures, maybe not gangsters beating you up? You know, but, we have work pressures, and we all have family pressures. And we all, you know, love our families. So he’s a very relatable character. And he’s, not only is he having problems, he’s kind of acknowledging those problems. He goes and gets counseling. And he talks through some of these, these problems. So, he’s relatable, in some way? In somebody, I don’t think we’re going to like him so much. As much as we relate to him. As we all have similar problems. So, I would definitely think that through and make sure your protagonist is at the very least relatable. At least likeable, but I think at least should be relatable.
Okay, Christopher has a couple of questions here? First part one is?
Christopher: Under what conditions would getting work or getting screenplay happen? Could it be the conditions would only occur if an agent manner, the writer has delivered would assume a grand script to one or more production companies. Introductory decides that they want to buy the script.
Ashley: So, yeah, I mean, I think Christopher is pretty on the money with that. I mean, pretty much to get there, so called, “Bidding War.” Or going, you pretty much need an agent to get your script you know, it’s got to be a top level agent who can get your script to high level production companies. You have the resources to bid this thing up. It’s Hollywood, so, anything is possible? So, I never want to make, say, absolutes. I don’t remember off the top of my head ever feeling of a bidding war that wasn’t orchestrated by a top level agent. If anybody has heard of one, Email me? I’d be curious to kind of see how that went down. But I’ve never heard of that? I definitely, a, over the years hear about it, these bidding wars. Always a top level agent. They are very strategic about who they send it to. And they send it out to the five big companies. And they start working the phones, “Hey, I got an offer?” Hey, here, what did you do to get it? The deadlines, the agent gives him a deadline. Okay, you gotta give us an answer by noon tomorrow! And all of a sudden they get a little bit of a fury. The script has an above, it can get a bidding war going. Truthfully, even at the highest level, you know, as I was thinking about this question before the Podcast. I don’t really, it doesn’t seem like there are as many of these bidding wars as there are used to be. And maybe it’s just because I’m not paying attention like I used to be? But it just seems like back in the day, you hear about these bidding wars. You know, truthfully enough, you know, these companies would go. And they would get on these scripts. And I don’t really remember even that many of the scripts. Like whether the scripts ever got produced or became good movies? And so maybe that was more the things as a production companies have kind of realized that these bidding wars rarely did good for the production company. I mean, I don’t remember any scripts? I don’t know, maybe some Shane Black scripts, back in the day? I don’t know, but, in any event? This seems like the same sort of situation exists, where there’s a lot of these bidding wars on these big properties. Or these big scripts anymore, or so? I think the days have definitely cooled down, even at the highest level. But I, never, as I said, never heard of a bidding war happening from an unrepresented writer. I just, the unrepresented writer isn’t going to have the connections. Again, if you have someone like John Austin or Shane Black, really, you know, a top level screenwriter that kind of had the connection. I suppose maybe they could orchestrate a bidding war on their own? I’ve never heard of that happening. You know, but, an unrepresented writer is typically not going to have the connections to get to these big production companies. They are lucky they can get to the Assistant-to-the-Assistant to read the script. So, there really would be no way of orchestrating this feeding frenzy that you need to start a bidding war. But, then again, it’s Hollywood. So, anything is possible, who knows?
The second part of Chris’s question –
Christopher: I designed a plethora of Italian merchandising for my family friend’s screenplay. While I wait the seven trillion years necessary for it to sell? Would I be shooting myself in the foot if I mentioned in a given pitch to a production company. That crafted merchandise exists?
Ashley: Well, I just lost my place a little bit. Products but I would be adding a little bit. It’s a grandest mach up. Okay, so he actually mailed me, and he actually had some pictures, of this: Toys, candy, and stuff. That tie-ins for his screenplay. So, I hate to answer this question for Christopher? I get this question a lot, people will Email me. They’ll have a trailer that they shot. They’ll hard work, they’ll, you know toy tie-in, these food tie-ins. You know, all kinds of different things, they’ll mostly get is artwork though. A trailer, sometimes will say 30% of the time, it’s a trailer. And then, most of the time it’s like some sort of artwork. Whether it be sketches or animated thing they might have sketches. Or they might have, just have a poster a find or something like that? And then sometimes its virtual tie-ins. And here’s the thing, and as I said, the reason why I hesitate, Christopher to answer it? Christopher’s artwork of this merchandise actually works really good, It’s really stylized and cool. It has a, like a 1950’s vibe. So, I’m assuming I can, it can go with his screenplay? It goes with this tone and vibe of this screenplay? 99.999999% of the time, when people send me their artwork. And their tie-ins and trailers? They are so amateurish, and websites a lot of the times people will send me a clear link to my website. These things are so amateurish, that it’s not going to help them any. So, 99.999999% of the time, I would say, do not include any of these things. Keep in mind, when you are submitting to people in high in Hollywood. The people in Hollywood, whether, the people in Hollywood are used to dealing with the top artists in the world, top graphic designers in the world, the top merchandisers in the world. So, if you submit something that’s amateurish? All it does is give them the impression that your screenplay is also amateurish too. And again, I thought Christopher’s stuff was kinda cool. So this is like one of those cool rare exceptions that I think, hey, this guy, it could actually help. But, most of the time, really can say this. Unless you do this professionally, unless you are a, maybe a director here in your hometown? You shoot commercials, you shoot, you know, local infomercials. So you know your trailers are going to be really, really tough and top notch. You are a digital artist, and you know your artwork is professional quality. Don’t even consider submitting it, any of this other stuff! Because it’s just going to make it look amateurish. And I probably wouldn’t submit it, like you do on Email quarries. I would probably not attach it, I would probably mention it in the quarry letter. Put it on a website via an entry, and then just write a little paragraph. “Hey, I’ve create some tie-in merchandise here, you can make then.” Click over, that way, just and see especially with cold quarry letters that jam their inboxes full of big image and slow them down. You never know if they are looking at this stuff in their phone? It might be really annoying if you send a bunch of big attached files. And so I wouldn’t attach anything to your Email, especially if it’s a cold Email. I would probably just mention it in a text with a link to a website. And then if they are interested, there is a potential to look at it.
But, then, again, if you are considering this? And you do it? Visibility or not? You really don’t know if it’s not, it’s not a problem or not? So don’t do it!
Okay, McKay asks?
McKay: I know, you mostly deal with immuring writers with original content. But what about a new writer, writing spec. sequels for studios that want it, a sequel. But having trouble finding the writer the best story to further their properties? I have two FOX projects completed, properties they wanted to develop, how do I approach this studio with the right people off a studio?
Ashley: So, I think I did? I just met them. One of the reasons I’m happy to answer this question? This is enough of I get quite frequently. It’s, you’re just limiting yourself. I mean, first off, your property can only sell to that one company. So, just selling a screenplay, the odds are astronomically small typically anyway. And there’s thousands of companies that are potential. If you write strictly a spec. script based on any, you know, existing property. So you can sell it to anybody in the whole world. You create it from scratch. You can sell it to thousands potentially, companies. So, even the odds are thousands of companies potentially, your odds are still astronomically small of actually selling your script. So, when you write a script, that can only be purchased by one company in the entire world. Your odds are, you know, one, one thousandth, astronomically small. So, your odds again, I’m, even smaller. They are even a small fraction of astronomically small. So, keep that in mind when you’re kinda pursuing these things. Everything is a numbers game. You want to give yourself the best chance of selling stuff, not the smallest chances. So, here’s the first problem of, for legal reasons, I don’t think these companies like, FOX, I don’t think for legal reasons, I don’t think they will even work with your project. If you send it to them, they would just throw it in the trash and send you back a letter saying, “Did not work with the contents, don’t know who you are, please don’t submit to us!” Because, if they read your script, and any part of, or any loose ideas from your script appears in the project they eventually develop. You may try and come back and sue them. So, you know, this is a prime sort of situation that they would really want to avoid. So, I don’t think these, anybody at the company is ever going to look at your project. Unless you know somebody there, personally? I don’t think you would even get a read. So, keep that in mind.
There’s also, I often get people submitting, I also get people asking me? Is there legal problems writing spec. scripts. Will you get in legal trouble with? There is no trouble problems. I mean, you could get, and take those scripts. There is no legal problems writing the spec. script based on an existing property. Because they have apprentice for spec. scripts, selling it actually making money with it, the script. You can do a lot with it, I say, if this is something you really want to make and you think you have a really good take on it? I’d say, enter it in a bunch of contests. That’s probably what I would do something like this. Make it, you could potentially put it on something like the “Black List” something like “Ink Tip” I don’t think would work. My own blast service, probably I wouldn’t waste time with that. I probably would go with the “Black List.” I would go with contests, because the contests and the “Black List” are not necessarily care about its existing property. So, I, they’re not going to care, they’re just going to read the script and give you, your scores. And if you get some notoriety from the “Black List” or one of these contests. That might be enough of a door for someone at the studios to actually read the script. As far as my, the service I offer is, Emails and faxes to producers.
My guess is no producers would even read this script because they’re going to realize, that even if they read the script, and like it? It’s very unlikely that they would ever get the rights to make it, this movie. So, it would be a waste of their time to even read the script. I mean, from a producers standpoint, looking at all these quarry letters coming in. And thinking, well, most scripts are terrible. So, just by virtue of the fact that most scripts are terrible, this script is probably terrible too. And even if it’s not terrible, I spend the time reading it? I will probably never be able to produce it anyways. So, it’s a double not. Why would a producer even read the script? So, I would not use my Email and Fax Blast Services, probably not use “Ink Tip.” “Ink Tip” as I said is for the producers who are looking for material to produce. Easily there, I don’t think the producers on “Ink Tip” would be interested in this? But I think the “Black List” would. I think the contest would be without, enter it there, I don’t think they would care about it’s. You’re not going to get in trouble for a sequel, you know, or to the “Advengers.” You’re not going to get in trouble for it, if you enter the contest, or submitting to the “Black List” if the script is really good. Hopefully you’ll get some high scores in there? Hopefully you’ll win one of those contests, or always place high on the list. And that might be enough where someone might at FOX Studios say, “Hey, we’re having trouble developing this part, let’s take a little bit of this script. And let’s sign a release form and then we might be able to get you in?” But, I don’t think you’ll ever get this script ever submitted to FOX Studios, without some sort of credential behind the script. So, keep that in mind, you’ll be really limiting yourself by doing this. But it can work as a writing sample. You know, if you really pack, if you think you really have a great take, on something like that. Again, this can work as a writing sample. But the chances of ever selling it? Is, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, small.
Richard: Is it really necessary to give out your phone number to producers once a submission is made? A spec. script that he gave them his Email address.
Ashley: So, I mean, nothing is necessary. I mean, nothing is written in stone. You don’t have to give them your Email, your phone number. But, I have found that when I have submitted scripts with cold quarry letters, and I have submit my phone number. Sometimes, for whatever reason? A producer will just pick-up the phone and call me. So, I think it just gives people one more way to get in touch with you.
The second part of Richard’s question?
Richard: If you sell a script, how do you get paid? Pay-Pal, or this, they send you a check?
Ashley: I’ve never heard of Pay-Pal for a script. Every script I’ve ever sold, has either been a check, or wire transfer to my bank account. I mean, you’re just selling a script. It’s not a sizable amount of money. So, you’re not going to want to pay with like, PayPal, user or anything like that. So every script that I’ve ever sold has either just been a check or wire transfer. So most likely that’s how you’ll get paid.
Brian is asking?
Brian: I’m a screenwriter and a novelist, 4 novels in, 3 on the way. I’ve written 15 scripts and they have produced one myself on a low-budget, but not the worse film ever made. It’s currently in distribution on Amazon Video. Although I have targeted Michael Criton type style, I haven’t had much success breaking into a certain bunch of other producers? And I’m willing to share and modify my work in the interest of achieving production. I don’t have money to invest in special services in order to achieve this. But, I believe that my work could be commercially successful with the right support. Any specific suggestions?
Ashley: So, yeah, I mean, my specific instructions would be, my free guide, www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide. That’s kind of a work genre, but that’s kind of a, just a guide to selling your screenplay, I would check out that. But two or three, it sounds like you’re doing a lot of the right things. You went and produced an ultra-low-budget film. I think that’s a great thing to do. You know, I think it’s sad, you just might be doing more of the same. Keep producing more movies, keep writing more scripts, submit it to more producers. It sounds like you have a clear idea about who these producers are? Hopefully there are several dozen of them you talked to and targeted. Try to get in situations where you meet the artists who attend SciFi conventions that these guys are going to go to. Maybe try and go and meet some of them. Just anything you can think of to try and get into their world. Follow these people on Twitter, start to interact with them on Twitter. Follow them on Facebook if possible, interact with them on Facebook. Just try and network with these people if possible. And see if they are going to go to, you know, American Film Odyssey? You could set-up a meeting, cold call their company and see if you can set-up a meeting or something? I think one of the, I think, as I said, sadly I don’t have any like, you know, “Silver Bullets.” It’s just, you know, going to solve all your problems. But, I think ultimately, you need to keep doing what you’re doing, keep doing more of it. You know, another idea I just had, but, potentially something on YouTube, doing something? The bottom line is, you gotta create something that has some measure of success, to get these producers eye. To get them interested in you, you gotta get them thinking, “Hey, this guy’s got something interesting.” And how to do that? Produce something on YouTube, you can get it to have a few million viewers? Then all of sudden, it’s “Hey, this guy’s got a bunch of fans on YouTube. Maybe he does have something interesting to say?” Everyone thinks that their script could become commercially successful. You know, including these people producers you’re trying to meet. They have their own projects that they are trying to be commercially successful. So, you know, to get them to stop, and put down their own project, except what you’re working on, projects? It’s gonna take something extra special. And as I said, do something on YouTube. Just doing more of the same. Trying to meet these people, interact with these people, is probably the best way to go.
Mary: I’m working on a screenplay inspired by historical events. My antagonist is a lesser known infamous gangster from the prohibition era. If I’m writing about a known person from over 50 years ago? Do I need to get his life rights?
Ashley: I get these types of questions a lot. I’ve not done a lot of writing on historical events using historical characters. So, this is not something I’ve really researched a lot? I’m not a lawyer, so I hate to answer these types of legal questions? I know that there can be some issues with using real people in your script. So, you probably should talk to a lawyer where you can do some serious online research and kind of give and get a sort of understanding what that entails. As I said, I haven’t done it, and I’m not a lawyer, so I’m really hesitant to giving out legal advice on this. But I do know that there can be some issues. So, think it through and do some research and maybe even potentially even talk to a lawyer about it.
Casey: Often you ask your guests, when the writers should just throw in the towel and give up on their dream as a screenwriter? I’m more interested in understanding when a writer should throw in the towel on just trying to sell script number one and begin working on script number two?
Ashley: Many of us have full time jobs to pay the bills. And used every waking moment time to write. I recently finished my first screenplay in multiple nights now. I find myself spending every waking hour doing research, career, and networking. So, you know, you should never throw in the towel. First off, I think I spend a lot of time asking people when they should throw in the towel with their dream of being a screenwriter. But his question is a good one. You should never throw in the towel on trying to sell a screenplay. And you know, I have screenplays that are over ten years old. And on occasion I’ll still send them out. I’ll see something, some sort of lead I’ll get the “Ink Tip” newsletter. And someone is looking for a script that I wrote ten or twelve years ago, and I’ll still send it out. So, I don’t ever thrown in the towel on a particular script. But you should be dividing your time more evenly. I mean, you’ve got to start writing another script. I would say, at the most, you want to spend 50:50. So, spend half your time marketing, half your time writing. So, just budget your time better. I mean, don’t spend every waking moment, you know trying to market your own script, or any single script. I’d say, you always got to be writing material and always improving as a writer. I would say, the split probably should be 50:50. You know, and maybe me, realize use three days to write, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays spend your time marketing. Just voice a clear break. But, you need to do something to use your time a little bit better. Because you do need to produce more material.
Now, there’s another part of it? That I think is important to understand. I would actually argue, that when only have one bullet in one screenplay? You should probably be spending like 95% of your time on writing. And only 5% of your time on marketing. But once you have like, three or four very solid scripts. Which may be like you eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, twelve screenplay you’ve written. And you know, that might take you three years or longer. I mean, Oliver Stone, I read a bi-line on him. I think, “Platoon was his tenth or eleventh screenplay script. That was the first that kind of got him some work, and got him going, as a screenwriter. So, you can take a dozen scripts, or so, and take up to three or four years, until you really have something that’s worth sending out. So, keep that in mind, the fact that you’ve only written one script, is not that good of a sign. You need to get more stuff going, you need to get more material out there. So that you can just, cover more ground. Bases, I mean, in one of the newsletters I mention quite often, I get that. There’s very specific scripts people are looking for? If you’ve only written one script. You got to go weeks with making a submission. Because you’re not, one script is not going to make the criteria for some of what those producers are looking for. So, at this stage of the game, obviously go and spend 95% of your time on writing. 5% of your time on marketing. As you’ve written a few more scripts, once you’ve gotten up to the day where you’ve written five or ten scripts. And you feel, two, or three, or four of them are really solid. You know, you’ve gotten some other people in the industry, to say that they are solid. Some final placement in some contests. Then maybe a couple of scores on the Black List. You’ve gotten some recognition, this scripts are up to industry standards. Then you want to start to divide your time. More like I’d say, 50:50. As you move along, you’d? But right now, with just one script, you’d probably want to spend 95% or more? You really just want to get up the point where you have: two, three, four, five solid scripts. One script is really not going to matter or cut it. So, once you have that, than yes, spend it 50:50. But never go into this marketing mode, where you’re doing nothing but marketing your scripts. I think that would be a big mistake. Ultimately we are all writers, and we have to be writing. So, keep that in mind, don’t just spend 100% of your time marketing, just always be writing.
Victor: Do industry companies welcome new material spec. scripts? Or would they rather not receive it as a, or do they already have their own projects based on either their own scripts. Or very successful works from other mediums that you know: books, video games.
Ashley: You know, I think there are, I kind of get what Victor is going for here? I do think that ultimately, like mostly, everybody kinda wants to discover the next great thing. Everyone is kind of an optimist and kinda feels like, you know, maybe this? Maybe they are going to find that diamond in the rough? And a break that new screenwriter into the industry. Everybody’s, you know, open up that script, they just hope that this is just going to blow them away. So, I do think that, you know, most people, agents, producers and stuff. They do want to read new material and they want to find new material. It just becomes kind of a logistical things. Most scripts are not that good. And so, it just becomes like a logistical thing that really successful people, really successful agents put out serious directors, actors. They are very, very busy doing a lot of stuff. And anybody who is successful, just has a lot of stuff going on. So, it’s not just that feasible for them to read, you know, a thousand screenplays in a year. It depends on the given year final. And then the various companies and agencies do different things. I mean, they have more than one level readers and stuff get embedded and stuff. But, I do think there is this common idea. Most people in the industry, they do want to find news stuff, they do want to read new stuff. But it just becomes legitimacy difficult. And so you gotta kind of try and think that through. The people who are really going to be looking for new material. They are going to be lower level agents. Because they are the ones that have the time. They are the ones that are kind of vetting this stuff. Should this?
The second part of this question is?
Victor: Should your screenplay warrant particular genres or not? Others for example, I have read, it’s bad to write Sci-Fy Fantasy screenplays? Unfortunately I have very few screenplays in this genre.
Ashley: I mean, I don’t really know about that question? A, I think mixing genres can work? I mean, Do, I mean, an action/comedy or you know, an action/western. So, I think mixing genres can work fine, I mean, I’m not sure who Victor is talking to? But, you know, sci-fy and Fantasy scripts are perfectly good genre scripts. You just have to find the right producer? Not all producers want to do sci-fy/fantasy? But, a lot of them do, so you just have to find the producers who are looking for the type of material that you’re writing. Maybe any of the main stream genres, you know, action, you know drama, sci-fy thrillers, you know, horror/comedy. Any of those genres are perfectly good genres and there’s definitely a market for them. There are producers who are looking for that type of stuff.
Part three of Victor’s question?
Victor: if you manage to sign with a manager, or whatever? Will they give you feedback on your script or screenplays?
Ashley: I would say, agents probably not. Agents are more concerned with closing the deals and getting the deals done. I think typically in this case, in this day and age, managers are a little bit more about career development, than they are, that’s probably where you’ll get the most notes. Keep in mind, your relationship with your agent or manager will be unique to you. It’s, there’s no hard and fast rule’s in this business. And the relationship that you have, will be different than the relationship another writer may have with his agent or manager. I’ve had agents and managers, in my experience. I had one manager, probably a few different agents. I mean, most of the agents I have had, kind of did give me something, but not a lot of feedback. But there was definitely some feedback about my scripts from my agents. And you know, the managers, I had one manager for several years who would, who was really good with script development. And he really, and not just good feedback, he. We would sit down and he, we would come up with. I was working with a writing partner at the time. We would come up with a whole series of ideas. And we would talk about those ideas with our manager. And we would start writing. Every one of the ideas we would get notes. We would write an outline, we would get notes from the manager. So, it just depends? Your relationship is going to be specific to that person. And their own skills, and their own interest, and their own time. And how much they want to spend developing material with you? So, I definitely think if you have a good agent and a good manager, certainly some feedback you’ll always get from them. But how much, will have to depend on what sort of relationship you have with them? So,
Part 4 of Victor’s question?
Victor: This final question has caused me much debate. Some say it is possible, others say it’s not? Is it possible to sell a screenplay if you don’t live in Los Angeles, or even in the U.S.? Say, I’ve read somewhere that it is, but only if you have a Los Angeles based agent, while you live somewhere else? I read that it didn’t matter? Agents and management will never represent someone who doesn’t live in Los Angeles. Which of those is true?
And actually Veronica wrote, literally it was the next Email that I got, she wrote in with a question?
Veronica: I have a question to lay more to career and screenwriting, here it is? What is the chance for a non-American writer who doesn’t live in the American Territories to the south, held her creations in the U.S.?
Ashley: So, you know, again. This is the entertainment industry, it’s Hollywood. So there’s no hard fast rules to this business. There have definitely been writers who have broken in from, you know, far-away places, anything can happen? So, I never want to talk about absolutes. Well, no, you never break in if you don’t live in L.A. you definitely can, there have definitely been people on there. I had Chris Sparly, I think he lives in Rhode Island? And he broke in from Rhode Island, I think he’s still lives in Rhode Island? So, he’s definitely not in L.A. He wasn’t in the L.A. scene. But he was making small independent movies, he was writing scripts, he was trying to Email people, get his stuff out there. And he eventually broke in and he has a nice career now. So, I know that this can happen. But living in L.A., I mean, you know, I’ve said this already on this Podcast once! But, the chances of breaking in and selling your script are infinitely better. Are very, very, very, small. So, living in L.A. can improve your odds. And again, I think you want to do anything that can improve your odds. There is so many tangible things, for somebody like me, who does, there’s so many dis-tangible things that you won’t really realize unless you actually live here. You’re coming up here for a week or two, yeah, it can kinda help. You’re just living here. I mean, it’s a, my wife taught, my wife, I have two daughters. And she got into one of these, “Lead-up” groups, through, www.leadup.com and one of the other mothers has a son and her son and my daughter became friends, so we became friends of the couple. And the guy she was actually a producer. And her husband is a director. And so, we actually have become friends with them. And you know, we went and the short films that I recently did. It’s a, good with him, we became friends and we went and did a short film together. It turned out pretty well and went and got a, some film festivals. And you know, that’s like, those types of connections just happen. My wife has not make it in this industry in anyway. And like I said, she met this other woman and became friends with her. And she a producer, and her husband is a director, and now we became friends and it’s just sort of intangible things.
I mention my writers group, on the Podcast quite a bit and often. And it’s like, you know, if you form a writers group, in Minnesota? I think it can be helpful, but, you know, it’s like the actors that are in this right now. The writers group, one of the leads comes regular to the meetings. She had a pretty good role in that. “Maybe Swingers.” There are people that are in the actors in the room, they have like, real roles, and they’re doing real roles. Actors, there are like, some real world actors that come out and read the scripts in our writers groups. And you know, there are other actors in the writers group that produce credits. And they are working in the business. So, and it’s not that hard to start a writers group like that in Los Angeles. If you’re in Minnesota, I think you’re going to have a hard time finding a writers group with credits. You know, produced credits, and get them into your group. And I think it’s going to be hard to find actors to read the material you have. You know, real actors who have produced credits. So, there’s so much, so many tangible things that can help by being in Los Angeles. So, this is just a handful of things that I thought of off the top of my head. I mean, I’ve been here for almost 20 years. There’s just countless little things that we run into people, we meet people that are in the business. And you’re just not going to get that in the south. And it’s hard to really quantify all that, and those as I said, there’s just the tangible things like, hey you can meet people, and you can just you know, when I Email my quarry blog? A lot of the times maybe I don’t option the script to somebody. But they say, hey, that’s me today at the coffee shop.
So we can go around and meet people. And that just builds your network and those relationship. And yeah, you can get on Skype and you can have a conference call with them. But it’s not the same thing as actually meeting someone in person shaking their hand, looking them in the eye. And just sitting there casually having a conversation with them for an hour, hour and a half. So, to answer your question, is it possible? Absolutely, as I said, I would rather encourage you, I think it would be? I’ve had Chris Farley twice on the Podcast, and we talk about how he broke into the business on the first episode. Go back and find that episode on Chris Farley, who definitely was not in Los Angeles. Broke in from outside of Los Angeles. And the way he did it? He could do it from anywhere in the world, frankly. You know, he just sent letters and Emails. And, he was really a hustler, he was making movies and writing scripts and that’s how he broke in. Because he was just working really hard. But it didn’t really matter where he was? But, I would argue, but I think we did even talk about this on that episode. I think he agrees that you know, yes, he was able to do it. But, price goes up a lot if you move to Los Angeles. So, keep that in mind, if you really want to be a professional screenwriter. You might want to consider doing everything you can to improve your odds. And moving to Los Angeles is definitely one of those things. But, you know, it can still be done if you’re not in Los Angeles.
So John had a whole bunch of quick questions? So, I will just run through them quickly.
John: In the 80’s the studio system collapsed, the stars immerged. Since you’ve been in Hollywood, what has been the biggest change?
Ashley: I’m not really sure, that I agree with that assessment? That the studio system collapsed, and the stars immerged, that’s really his question? Since you’ve been in Hollywood, what has been the biggest change?
I would say, for me? And someone who’s kinda worked in the independent film world. A, the collapse of the DVM in the studios definitely felt it, hurt them. But it didn’t cripple them, like it didn’t put them out of business. And the collapse of the DVD market, It’s really like, the people are kind of like on the peripheral issue, which is the people. You know, myself and the people that are the producers that I’ve worked with. A lot of those companies, that with the collapse of the DVD market. It literally put them out of business, so they are no longer in business. A lot of them are no longer in the entertainment industry. They went off and became lawyers, or business people, or something else? And that was like a lot of these independent films. Go look up, “Dish Dogs” the first script I ever sold. And then that’s a prime example of a movie that was made in the late 90’s, early 2000’s. And it got some sort of hokey awards. But for all intents and purposes, that was a movie specifically made for the DVD market. And without the DVD market, those movies are not getting made. And that’s a lot of the scripts I was selling. So, I was, that’s been the biggest change. In 1995, and that was when I got out here, I think that’s when I got out here? It might have been ’96 or ’97? I’m pretty sure it w as ’95, it was the year of the “English Patient” won “Best Picture.” And all five of the fifth films that were nominated for an Academy Award, Best Picture that year? They were all independent films. As I remember after that, as I said, but whether it was ’95 or ’96? I remember after that, they, there was this big rush of, you know, let’s make those kinds of films. And I was just submitting scripts back then. It was like, “The Hollywood Reporter” there was “Backstage West” there was this thing called, “Drama log.” These publications, these physical, like newspaper publications that we would get. And they would have script requests.
Producers would request scripts, and that was, it really heated up the market. And I remember sending out scripts for this, I would like, go check these trade magazines. And I would find, at least now a days, “Ink Tip and on my own sites – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com we’re pushing out leads, charging for those leads. But that thing you could get pretty much free. You could go down, once a week I would go down to the public library and look through all these things. It was the “Daily Variety” as I said, “Backstage West” was one of them. And then the other was “Drama Log.” And you could find in the backs of those, there was a whole class on them, which helped me look for scripts. And I remember, some weeks, I might send off 7 or 8? I think there were leads, like, ten scripts. I was to submit ten scripts, I would find ten companies in a week that were looking for scripts. I would send them off, and a, more. And again, I feel like some of that was spurred on by that. The year “English Patient” won that for Best Picture. I’d say that’s been the biggest change. Is really just the independent genre of movies, things have REALLY gone down and budgets have gone down. And “Dish Dogs” the movie I talked about, that was like, a two million dollar budget. And I’m just not seeing that anymore. You know, with no DVD market, those movies now days two million dollars genre movies. They were made for back in the year 2000? Now I would say that movies are getting made for $100,000.00 you know? Less that $500,000.00, I think two hundred thousand dollars, the year they’re making those movies now for, not 2 million dollars. Listen, with that, means the writers are making a lot less. As well as those independent films. A lot of people, as I said, are loosing their money, and going out of business.
So, number two of John’s question?
John: Do agents have these same powers they had when you were in Hollywood?
Ashley: I mean, that’s really hard to say. I never really had a great agent. Yeah, I mentioned a couple a questions ago, I’ve had agents and managers, I don’t know? If their power has really changed or not?
Part 3 is?
John: How are we reason, in terms of producers do need to adapt their stories to a new generation of readers, good or bad?
Ashley: I mean, I definitely think this is probably something to always be considered? I mean, the studios love, they love the younger demographic. That like, 18-35 demographic. I think there’s a variety of advertising reasons that you want to get them, those people. There’s a variety of reasons why advertisers want to get to those people. Most of those people go to the movies, those people spend money. Things that they advertise to. So, I do think we need to be sort of at least somewhat hip to young culture. I think their understanding to what it’s all about. To write scripts, I think that are going to be mass marketing. And big studio films, they need that demographic to draw an audience. You definitely want to keep that in mind.
And John also asks?
John: The “Save the Cat Structure” beats “Claws” every time for every film to be alike.
Ashley: I don’t think so? There needs to be kind of male. I hear a lot of negative reactions to “Save the Cat” so if anything, I think there’s a lot of films purposely trying to avoid this, “Save the Cat” beats? The “Save the Cat” beats you know, it’s, if it’s used well? Nothing bad, it’s not like a bad thing, it’s just sometimes they get a little hokey. Because people try to strong arm their way into it. A, but I don’t think all films are alike. And I think there’s a lot of different films. And good films and bad films. It’s pretty much how it’s always been.
John: Since you started doing SYS – Selling Your Screenplay? What has been the most common screenplay that you get from screenwriters participating in the Log-on? In a quarry you keep making that again?
Ashley: You know, I got this question from John and I really thought about it a long time, long and hard. And I don’t really think so, I mean, I’ve been impressed with sort of the level of ideas that have been submitted through Selling Your Screenplay. There’s a wide variety of stuff, everything, from soup to nuts. Some very personal social issue message, dramas, you know, to high concept action, high concept comedy thrillers. So, not so much, I mean, I don’t see a common log-in that just keeps getting submitted.
His question number 6?
John: What was the most original screenplay log-line you ever got?
Ashley: So, I mean again, sort of thinking back on what I just said. I don’t remember the most original log-line? But generally impressed with the level of log-lines and quarry letters that I get through the form, I mean, it’s very rare that I get one that I just think, yeah, this is never going to work. Or this, this writer really is just going down the wrong road with this. Most of the time people will come with new original ideas. And some of them might think I’m better than others maybe? But, I don’t know, what I would consider them originals? Quite often I will read one? And think, this is actually really a high concept marketable idea. I would maybe say like, less than 10% of the time, maybe 5% of the time. So, one out of twenty, I will read and say? Yes, this is actually really a high concept marketable idea. And I would say, the other ideas that sell, I don’t necessarily read them and think, that they are not good? I just think, just not high concept marketable ideas. Or as high concept marketable ideas. Some are okay, and good and if the execution of the script is good. A, that can work, and I don’t think I am great at coming up with high concept ideas either. So, I don’t think many of my ideas would like, pop-out. And say, “Wow, that’s a great idea.” Hopefully, my execution is somewhat good. And that’s why I’ve been able to sell some scripts.
So, part seven of his questions?
John: What was the most original screenplay or log-line you ever got that’s sold?
Ashley: So, you know, this is a good question. I think one of the things that I think, and I include myself in it? When I was first starting out. You kept, you had this sort of very black and white view of how you think things are going to work. If I write this script, it will get sold. By right, you know, it’s just kinda black and white. The writer gets hooked, and then things will get sold. It’s not really that simple. Off the top of my head? Just trying to think of what scripts have been actually sold through the Selling Your Screenplay Service. I’ve sold a script through my own Blast Service, since I’ve been doing the Podcast. Back in late 2013, I talked about it on the Podcast. Go look at some of those episodes, late in 2013. I don’t think it was necessarily the most original screenplay, or original log-line or anything? It’s just, it was pretty low budget, and it fit the criteria the producers were looking for. I did a blast for a guy named, Han and I’m going to have him on the Podcast. And this is just in the last couple of weeks. He, I actually did a blast for him and he sold his script, outright sold it to them the producer just in the last couple of weeks. Through the Selling Your Screenplay Email and Fax Blast. And again, I’m going to have him again on the Podcast in a, and I’ll ask him this question? But I’m pretty sure he would agree. It’s not like the idea of it was super original? It was just a thriller, and it was pretty low-budget. So, it can be produced on a modest budget. And those are sort of the things that get a script sold. I don’t know, you know? John is kinda asking what was the most original screenplay log-on that ever got sold? It was like, just being original doesn’t mean necessarily going to be sold? It’s really more the other things. The things I really try to talk about it on the Podcast is? You know, thinking through some of the things, these other things. What is the market for this script? Is it going to be, you know, can it be produced at a modest budget? Because that’s going to be much, much, more important than even the level of the quality of the screenplay. You might have the greatest screenplay ever written, but if the producer can’t afford to make it? It’s not really going to help it. And not every producer has access to unlimited funds. Even if they have the right script. I mean, some producers don’t have access to them, a lot of money. So, they have to be sure they want to produce movies. But they have to choose something that can be produced on a $200,000.00 – $500.000.00 budget. And so, they are just going to pick the best script that they can be showing within budget. They are not going to pick a script, they are going to be picking the best script. It might even have a particular genre? A producer might have a particular distributors that they have relationships with that want thrillers. That want to sell thrillers with a certain distributors. And tell them, “I want a thriller.” Han’s script as I said, was kind of a low-budget, sort of domestic thriller. So, the producer he sold it to, that might have been the movie he felt he could sell. He might not have thought it was the best script? I don’t know, maybe he did? I doubt it, he probably thought it was a good script. And could shine on a budget, and that’s why he sold it. So, that’s why I kind of think about? Don’t worry so much about being original? I would worry more about some of the practical considerations. Because they could be more important than just plain ole’ originality.
Alright, Ken asks? How many genre scripts sold most to leased?
Ashley: I kinda just covered that, I mean, I think, as far as the independent genre films go? It’s kinda what you would think. It’s kinda, you know, thrillers, its action, um, your low-budget action scripts. And then you might get into comedies. But dramas are pretty far down on that. Obviously, we’re going to talk about studio scripts, it’s a different thing. I do see, I think, thrillers, and action scripts. Probably at the studio level of probable bets for studio spec. scripts. So, keep that in mind. I think comedy’s got way down, have a niche. But dramas are well there on the studio level. Dramas are just not a lot of dramas produced, they’re just not going to make that much money. So, keep that in mind if you’re writing a drama, it may be a tough thing to sell.
I don’t know what John has asked me with one, number nine of these questions?
John: Is it awful to deal with emerging writers who can’t take advice?
Ashley: You know, I honestly again, I’ve been fairly impressed with the people I’ve dealt with on Selling Your Screenplay/Select program, offering suggestions. You know, every now and then I get someone who is a little annoys and honoree. But most everyone gets, and wants to learn and sell scripts and get better. And I include myself in this. It’s not like my advice is not, you know, that bad. I could be wrong? About any of these things, take all these answers with a grain of salt. But I really, I have no, I have not run into tons and tons of fanatics, just simple “I can’t take advice.” Yeah, there have been a few, and I’ve been pretty impressed with the people who have joined, Selling Your Screenplay/Select. Most of them, as I have said, they want to sell their script. And reasonable, and hopefully I offer reasonable criticism. And most people seem grateful for it. So, I don’t really have a lot of experience with immerging screenwriters who just can’t take advice? After all, these years have really, really, interesting quarry’s, quarry loggers. Do you feel people are really original or is everything just repeat over and over again? Or have given any new ideas?
So John sounded really cynical? Um, you know, he don’t get that I kinda answered this? I mean I suppose that I could say nothing is new as the sun? But, again, I, with the log-on submitted to –
Selling Your Screenplay/Select, I’ve been pretty impressed with the most interesting ideas, and some new ideas. And I have been down some path over and over again. So, no I don’t feel like I, originality is a problem. I don’t think most people, and I’m trying to think of some really derivative of ideas, very rarely. Off the top of my head I can’t think of a single top. Where I read a single log-on and say, “This is just so cool derivative of this movie!” Or they’re trying to copy this movie. Something like that, I, this is very rare. Sometimes there are log-on’s where I might say, I’m trying to think of an example. But there are sometimes a log-on is where a comparison to an example will be clearly made somewhat similar. But, no, I just, don’t think originality is a problem. I think most people are pretty good. They have to go into screenwriting, with some original ideas. And that doesn’t seem to be a problem.
So, Jane asks?
Jane: What is the best movie you ever read and why?
Ashley: And then she says, “Casablanca.” “Casablanca?” “Casablanca” is pretty good. I have to say, I would definitely recommend going back and watching “Casablanca.” I’d watch it a couple of times within the last year or so. And, it’s a pretty solid piece of work, it’s definitely worth checking out. You know, I’m just, you know, my favorite screenplay is? The best screenplay you’ve ever read/watched? There’s definitely some standouts, I’ve talked about this before, I mean, before I read the script, or “Source Code.” Now with the last, it’s probably been a few years, but I’ve read, I would highly recommend that script. It’s an excellent sort of Sci-Fi contained Sci-Fi screenplay. And that’s a screenplay that gets mentioned in a lot of movies I have with producers, I will ask them? What do you figure you’re working for? And that’s very common. And “Source Code” is a very, very, common movie that gets mentioned. So, I would definitely read the script. “The Source Code.” I think it’s a really excellent screenplay, and as I said, it’s a screenplay that gets mentioned quite a bit often. The movie, I thought was okay, but not great. But the screenplay I thought was real excellent and like I said, forget about what I think, because I could be completely wrong. I do know that the screenplay for, “Source Code” gets made to me quite often when I’m inter-facing with producers. And I ask them, “What kind of stuff are you looking for?” If there was a particular script, you know, that you have? All your source code, it’s contained, so it can be made on a reasonable budget. It’s Sci-Fi action. So, it’s something that has a broad appeal, you can sell it wide. So, that’s a movie that gets brought up. So I would definitely check that out. Check out that screenplay if you haven’t?
Devin: I’m curious, have you found any writing resources, classes, seminars, books to be invaluable? There’s a time where a screenwriter will use everything out there. And most folks discuss breaking into the business, how they got an agent or manager? Or how they got their current project made. I would love to know if there is anything craft related that you found useful?
Ashley: So, I mean, let’s talk a little bit about “Save the Cat Bite” by Rob Schnider. I fully recommend his three books, you know, there an easy read. And they are pretty inexpensive. You can probably pick them up for less than $10.00 on Amazon. So, I would definitely recommend reading the three book series, “Save the Cat Bite” books. Um, Sophie Field’s screenplay was kind of a classic screenplay writing book. If you haven’t read that, I highly definitely check it out. I don’t know that I would go back to that one. I mean, I read it when I first started. I don’t know if I have ever gone back to it, after reading it. But, it definitely kind of gives you that free structure. I had never really heard of an ad structure? The App. Breaks, and the point and stuff. And he goes and digs it out. And he’s real clear. With that sort of three ad paragraph, the second ad break, and the break. So, just a, if you’ve never read his screenplay and you’re new to screenwriting, definitely check it out. Again, I mean, at this day and age, you can get these books, you might be able to get them on Kindle version, even less? But, for probably less than $10.00 you can pick them up. Go buy this book and they’re pretty easy read so? Definitely check that out. Another book that got recommended to me? And I do go back to this book occasionally. I believe, “The Art of Dramatic Writing.” He’s real big, Ed Sigfield was real into structure. The artist is the other side of the coin. He’s real big into character. So, I actually think those two books really complement each other. I’ve been, well, because as I said, I read, really sort of into character, and understanding how that’s going to play into your story. So, reading those two books really felt good. To really go back and help my creative writing, I think is useful.
Devin also asks?
Devin: So, is there anything you like, that you would have done differently? Starting your career, knowing what you know now?
Ashley: I talked about this a bit on the Podcast. I definitely think by starting out now. I would try and get more into distribution, more into the business side of things work. This has definitely changed a lot since I started out in the mid, to late ‘90’s. So, take that with a grain of salt. I was starting out, back in the mid, to late ‘90’s, it would be a different ball game. I would definitely do a, I started out writing now in 2015. I don’t know, I would probably be a little more aggressive in making independent film, making YouTube videos. And just trying to do as much stuff as possible. As I do think, as I said, I started back in, whatever it was? ’95, ’96, ’97?
Other than that vintage. Definitely try and get a job, any level job at a distribution company. They understand the business side of. I’d like to do a bit more of that side, talk about the lessons I have learned. That’s probably what I would do, would be to learn more about distribution and the business side of movie making. Because that can really help your writing. And it can potentially give you an additive for your writing. If you know those distributors, you can produce any type of films. You can get hooked up with any directors and producers. And movies are making money, and you can use it to make movies.
Anyway, so that’s all the questions. I really appreciate everyone for sending those in.
Ashley: A quick plug for SYS Screenwriting Analysis Service. It’s a really economical way to get high quality professional evaluation on your screenplay. When you buy a 3-Pack, you get evaluations – $67.00 per script, for feature films; $55.00 for tele-plays. All the readers have professional experience reading for: Studios, production companies, agencies, contests, and managers. You can read a short bio on each reader on our website. And you can pick the one you think is best fit for your script. Turn-around-time is usually a few days, but rarely more than a week. The readers will evaluate your script on six key factors.
- Over all crafts – which includes – Formatting, spelling and grammar
Every script will receive a grade of – Pass, Fail, or Recommend. Which should help you roughly understand where your script might lay if you were to submit it to a production company or agency. We provide analysis on features and television scripts. We also do proof reading without any analysis. We also look at a treatment or outline and give you the same analysis on it. So, if you’re looking to vet some of your projects. This is a great way to do it. Or if all you have is this short treatment. We’ll also write a log-on and synapsis for your script. You can add this service to the analysis for, or you can simply purchase this as a stand-alone product. As a bonus, if your script receives a “Recommend” from one of our readers you get a free Email and Fax Blast to my listing Industry contacts. This is the exact same blast service I use myself to promote my own script. And it’s the same service I sell on the website. It’s wa great way for you to get your script into the hands of producers who are looking for new material. So, if you’re looking for a professional evaluation of your screenplay at a very reasonable price? Check out-
On the next episode of the Podcast, I’m gonna be interviewing Alister McGraw and
Oak Harvest, who recently wrote a horror film called, “Diabolical” so keep your eye out for that episode next week.
So, wrap things up for the week, I thought it might be interesting to try and boil down some of my own thoughts from doing all of these interviews. I feel like I’ve slowly honed my own strategy on what people should be doing to break into the business. I get a ton of Emails from people, what should I do? Should I enter this contest, should I use this this service? What should I do with this script? What should I do with this short script?
So, I’m just constantly re-evaluating my own strategy is? So, I’m kinda going to lay it out. Keep in mind what I’m about to say is a “Work in progress” it may change, it may become outdated or obsolete. But, this is what I think can work for most people right now. I talked about all of this before on the Podcast, but I thought it might be worth just bringing it all together and really summing it up in one concise place, so here it goes.
A lot of my thinking has come from the two conversations I’ve had with Corey Mandell on the Podcast. I would encourage you to listen to those episodes, especially the second one. I’ll link to it in the show notes. Corey said, and I totally agree with him, when he’s saying here. Corey’s basically saying to the effect of that. To break into the studio level screenwriter. You need to write an incredibly original script that is totally unique to you. Writing another hard knock-off is topped as a spec. because it is, there is so many good ones floating around. Again, I agree with this strategy to become a working studio level screenwriter. It’s probably how most studio level screenwriters break-in, they’re wrote something hopefully original, off-the-wall. Something that was unlike anything else people were writing. They weren’t trying to chase fads, or trends, or write another, “Die Hard.” You know, they were doing something totally original, it got the attention of an agent or manager. That got them in the door, then they got into a production company is through those agents and managers connections. If you are extraordinarily talented writer, I think this can work? Or, if you’re pretty talented, writer and you get some amount of luck, I think this can also work? But then again, it might not?
There are two problems that I see with this strategy. Number one, most of us, and I’m having to include myself in that group. Are not extraordinary writers. And when I say, extraordinary talented writers, I’m referring to the folks at the very top of the profession. Guys like, Quentin Tarantino, Aaron Sorkin. Go read any Quentin Tarantino script, just pops on the page. The writing is crispy, it’s clean, it’s clear, it’s vivid, it’s original, it’s interesting. There’s a bunch of Quentin Tarantino scripts in the SYS Script Library, you can download them for free. Definitely go an check it out. His writing is so extraordinary that his success would was almost destine, yes! He had to work hard, yes, he had to be persistent, and I’m quite sure he had a lot of struggles along the way. But his writing really is that good. It didn’t take much to be recognized, at least he certainly didn’t need much work bought to succeed, he’s just that good.
When most people start out, again I include myself in this group. We all think we all in this club. Exclusively, extraordinary writers, when I got out there after college and moved to L.A. I thought, I was, I’m not sure why I thought I was? Considering I had never really written anything, I certainly had never been identified by anybody as having any aptitude for writing? But, whatever youthful thoughtful euphemism that I was super talented, and this was going to be easy. I thought, I’d come out here, write a bunch of scripts, and go that direction.
Then there was the second group of people. Those that are pretty talented, but because it’s such a super competitive environment. They need a dash of luck to push them over the hump. There’s quite a few people in this group. One thing that’s quite common, in the screenwriting world. Is, a screenwriter will have success in their late 20’s and into their 30’s. But by the time they get to their 40’s, or 50’s their careers start to fade. My hypothesis is, just a hypothesis of wondering why this is happening? My hypothesis is that a lot of these people that probably really, really smart, pretty talented, but the also got to look a little bit of luck. Because once the luck runs out, they are at a loss of what? Do you know how to keep your careers going? It’s a very, very competitive environment. There’s no room for more talented people out there, than there are jobs. So, making it on your writing talent alone, is a very, very tough thing to do. And once you start needing to rely on luck, it becomes very difficult way to engineer.
You really can’t count on luck. And yes, luck is preparation, a made up opportunity, I get that. The fact of the matter is? There is tons and tons and tons of super smart people out there trying to be screenwriters. They are all prepared, I don’t believe that I or anyone, most other people. Even really smart people can out write everyone else. Again, there’s a very finite number of people, of Quentin Tarantino’s in the world. They can just out write the rest of us, they’re writing is that good. Most of us, I just don’t believe it, your writing talent alone is going to be enough to get you over that hump. So, the advice, just write a great script. To me, that just falls short. It’s much, much, much, more complicated equation than that. As an aside, that’s one of the things I talked about this in the questions in the Podcast today that I was answering. But, should you move to L.A. or succeed from L.A. That’s one of the other things about living in L.A. that you can’t quite understand until you’re here, living here. You know, you meet these super smart people and they are all struggling to break in. And it’s like, “Whoa!” If they can’t make it, how on earth am I ever on earth going to make it?
So, I worry that there are probably a lot of pretty talented people out there who, throw in the towel before they’ve really taken a shot. If you come out to L.A. and you’re around for three years. If you’re one of the grossly gifted writers that are Quentin Tarantino, you will probably make it, there’s no guarantees, but probably. But there’s gotta be a lot of talented folks who don’t quite get over that hump. The pretty talented, but they don’t get that dash of good fortune. And I think I’ve seen this happen. I’ve talked about this on the Podcast with Corey Mandell. I’ve mentioned my cousin, I think? He’s kind of a real good case study of a very typical, “Wanna be” screenwriter. They get out of college, they move out here, they try to drive for a few years, it doesn’t work out, and they move back home. He went to Dartmouth and he came out here after writing, right after college. He drove and came out here to L.A. for a few years. He kicked around, he wrote a few scripts. One of the scripts I read, and I thought it was very good. But after a few years he didn’t get any traction, so he went back to law school. He got a near perfect score on his LSAC. And the reason I am mentioning Dartmouth, and the near perfect score on the LSAC, is just to make the point that he’s really smart. I mean, we’re not talking about someone who’s a dullard. We’re not dealing with a, someone, who didn’t have the raw materials to do this, I think he did, I think he had the talent. I think it’s safe to say he’s not grossly gifted like Quentin Tarantino. But, he’s super smart, and wrote at least one good script that I read. My hypothesis is, if he had, had even just one small success. He might have been more likely to stick it out for a few years and actually get some traction. Just selling your option, at any level is something. It can give you a boost confidence, which can be enough to keep you on this path. After two or three years of some success it’s very hard for most people to continue. Actually my cousin is probably smarter than me, and is probably and a more talented writer. But I’m a little bit more pragmatic, a bit more persistent, so? I optioned and sold my first script, right around the three year mark, upon moving to L.A. and that kept me going. And I think I’m like a lot of people. I’m from Annapolis Maryland, I grew-up there. There were no screenwriters around that? There were no real artist that I knew, writers of any kind that I knew. I mean, the people that were successful in my community. That was like the doctors and the lawyers. So, I really didn’t have any sort of point of reference of someone being an artist. Doing something creative, or that actually being successful. And I’m sure there’s a lot of people that think this as well. When I started to tell people, “Oh, I’m going to go out to L.A. and be a screenwriter.” People who roll their eyes, this kind of, you know, they think you’re crazy. “Well, good luck with that?!” And you know, that’s a tough thing to sort of have on your shoulders. And by actually selling a script, I kinda got over that, and kept me going.
It was enough of a success for me to think, yeah, I can do this! And all those people rolling their eyes, they started to take notice. And some of those people are my family. Maybe this can actually work, maybe I can? And most of these people were probably like me. They had no point of reference, no known screenwriters that they don’t know any artists, writers, musicians, they don’t know any of these people. So, it seems we’re very much a part of “Pie in the sky.”
So, again, I sold that first script, and it was in enough of a success that it keep me going. Now, whether the screenwriting career I described was, whatever it looks like? Is better than being a high paid attorney, which is where my cousin is now. It’s perhaps debatable, but that’s a debate for another day. I do understand, I mean, that don’t necessarily won’t be able to write and say, “Well, gee, you know, he’s better off doing this.” That’s a distinct possibility. He’s now a high paid attorney. And frankly, he’s probably making more money than he ever would have made as a screenwriter. Ironically, about the same time I sold my first script. I actually took the LSAC Test and didn’t score very well on it. So, my opportunities were not quite as great as my cousin’s. I’m not if this is a good thing or bad thing. But I stuck it out, he didn’t. One of the reason’s I stuck it out? Was because my opportunities were simply not as great as his, he’s smarter and more talented. So, smart people have lots more opportunities. And they are not just going to bang their heads against a wall and effort. They are going to find things to do. So, they are going to be successful at these other things, and they are going to pursue them.
So, that to me is the question. If you’re in this middle, where you’re smart and pretty talented, but not gloriously talented. What should you do? You can try and write that totally original studio spec. script, hopefully it will work out for you. But if you feel like you’re not getting as much traction as you would like? I would encourage you to come back and listen to what I am about to propose.
I want to be clear here too. I do believe you need to have a certain amount of talent to do this. Otherwise it’s just never going to work at any level. Talent is a very broad term, I know that’s a discussion for another day. Hopefully, you at least understand what I am getting at? Even without a long discussion on what exactly talent is. I don’t want to stop and start trying to dissect what I mean by talent. What I think is important though. Is, we need to roughly determine our talent level and we need to do that as quickly as possible. So, we can either move on or continue to pursue this screenwriting.
So, now I’m going to lay out what I think is the best strategy. Which minimizes the need for luck. And is the best strategy but for all but the most talented among us. I talk about this a lot on the Podcast, if you’re just starting out, spent a year writing short films. Write one short film per month and market it aggressively. I talk about this in some detail in the Podcast – episode #4. So go have a listen to that, if you want to get into the specifics of how to market your short film script. There are tons of people who are producing shorts these days. There are a lot of avenues, on-line avenues, film festivals, a lot of avenues for short films. So, if you write like, twelve of them, and you market them. You’ll get some produced, yes, there’s going to be some hard work writing and then marketing those scripts. You’re not going to make a lot of money, if any, from selling these scripts. I don’t even know if you can call them sales in most cases. But, they’ll make connections, some of these films will get film festivals will get building your resume. And listen to what I am saying here. This doesn’t require much luck. A lot of these people that are looking for scripts are looking to get over. There are not a lot of, ton of competition. There’s not a ton of writing competition. There is obviously other writers writing short film scripts, submitting to producers looking for a few shorts. But the competition, because there is no pay, the top screenwriters are not working in this arena.
So, you don’t need to write the greatest script in the world. You just need to write something that’s, can be shot on a low budget. You can shoot it with a small cast. You need to write something that’s, you know, pretty good. And you don’t need a lot of luck to actually have one of these things get produced. It’ll also be fun to actually see your script get turned into a film too. I mean, some of the most fun I have ever had as a screenwriter? Should be on a set, and being a part of productions, where I was the writer. It’s incredibly gratifying as an artist, just seeing your work actually get performed by actors and seeing it get produced. It’s a great rewarding experience to get to see the practical aspect of production. And how your script changes for the better and worse. Because of these practical production things. So, it would just be a great experience. And you’ll start to get a sense of where you fall talent wise? If you do this, if you write twelve short scripts and you market them aggressively for a year. And you can’t find anyone to produce them? I think that’s starting to be a clear indication that maybe screenwriting isn’t for you. And that’s the thing. Just because you don’t succeed, after two or three rounds at the studio level? That doesn’t mean, in my mind anyway, that you don’t have the talent to be a screenwriter. And that’s an important distinction. Hopefully after a year of writing shorts, you’ve had a few of them produced. And at least one or two of them turned out pretty well. So, you’re starting to get a sense of that you can actually do this.
So, let’s move onto the next level, that’s what I talk about, a time on this Podcast. That’s writing a low-budget genre film. Limited location, limited cast action/thriller/horror scripts. Maybe even some comedy too? But, we’re still a ways from a total original spec. It doesn’t stand a chance of ever being produced. My advice, is to write things that are easy to produce. Again, I talk about these films and entering them. And a lot of these folk films, so hopefully you’ll listen to this Podcast, you know what I am talking about here. And I don’t need to spend a lot of time trying to define these low-budget genre films. Go back and listen to my Podcast, there’s a hundred episodes now, you can go back and listen to. You’ll have a pretty good understanding if you listen to the half of those episodes, of what I am talking about. So, hopefully you can write two or three of these spec. scripts per year. Even with working a full-time job. If you’re serious about screenwriting, I think you can and should be able to maintain that pace. Two or three spec. scripts per year, even working a full-time job. So, now you’ve got a few feature scripts to go out and start marketing aggressively. I get it, I don’t want to spend a lot of time right now, talking about how to market these scripts aggressively. Because I spend a ton of time through-out the Podcast talking about that. I’m running a free webinar on that on December 9th where I’ll, I will get into the details of how to market your script. Again, it’s completely free, I’ll link to it in the show notes – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/freewebinar. And go sign-up for that. Also my free guides – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide is another great place to start if you’re listening to this. And you’re wondering how do I market my script?
So, it’s not going to be easy, but there are a ton of these movies being made. Actually a ton of these low-budget genre movies we mentioned here. And the standards are not that high, just the script does have to be that great. It has to be solid, it has to be good, it has to be conformed to the budget restrictions that these producers are looking for. So, with some perseverance, a few years of doing this? Hopefully you’ll start to option or sell a few of these scripts. And that will be enough success to give you the confidence to keep going. Notice too, we are not relying on a lot of luck. At the end of the day, always, is going to be someone some luck when you sell feature film script. But, we are minimizing that part of the equation. If one of these films can break out, you’re off to the races. The studios will be calling you, so that’s the idea. The idea is not to write these low budget genre films and then just keep writing and selling these low-budget genre films. The idea is to write really, really, good ones. Ones that get the attention of the studios. With this strategy, you’ll go as far as your talent will take you. And there won’t be any wondering, did I have the talent? Did I not have the talent? You’ll be pretty much know.
If you can’t write an option, and eventually sell one of these low-budget genre films. It’s a probable good indication that maybe screenwriting isn’t for you? Again, if you’re writing these low-budget genre scripts. They don’t have to be great, they just have to be solid. If you do this for a couple of years and you’re not getting any traction? If you can’t succeed in this arena? I don’t think there’s any chance that you’ll ever succeed at the studio level. So, I think this is a rather way that you can get an indication too.
I got a bunch of these shorts made, but then I was never able to get any of these scripts made, why? Maybe, screenwriting isn’t for you? Again, there’s not a lot of luck in this equation. And I think there is a tradition of this actually working, all the way up to the highest levels. The trick from the guys that did, “Toxic Avenger” The “Troma Guys” a bunch of these campy
low-budget movies. Roger Corman, is another example, of someone for 40 years or so, he’s been making these super low-budget movies. But there’s a kind of successful type that started out with the “Troma Guys,” with Roger Corman. I think James Camron actually started out with Roger Corman? I think, the guys who did, “Guardians of the Galaxy” I think he started out working for Troma. The film I just watched, I watched a film called, “Follower of the Dead” that a great example of really elevated horror film. It was really, really well done. And my guess is he’s probably going to be getting all sorts of offers from studio, well, full production companies right now. So, this can definitely work as a strategy, to get yourself to that studio level. It’s not about writing the “B’s” for the rest of your life.
Now this “B” level, that I am currently stuck. But that’s the great thing, stuck here not because no one is holding me back? So, and so, won’t give me a break. I feel like I’ve actually gone as far as my talent will take me. In fact, to be perfectly honest, I won’t be going any further. The thing is, I know, a lot of people, and I have a lot of connections. If I had something that was truly awesome I’d be in a good position to get it out there. And I’m still hopeful, I’m an optimist. I still think I have it in me. Maybe I can write that awesome script. Maybe this next script I can write is going to be the one that pushes me over the top? But the great thing is, I’m in a really good position to get that script made first. It’s not going to require this huge dose of luck to get that script read. I know people, I’ve made connections, I know distributors, I know producers, I know directors. So, I’ve slowly built up a nice career, and it’s all been because I’ve been able to have some successes along the way. That gave me a little room and the confidence to move to the next level. I was never in the sort of position where I’m just sitting in the middle of the dark wondering? Gee, what’s going on? Can I do this? What should I do next? By having these small successes, it really builds your confidence. And it helps you move to that next level.
I often get Emails from folks who have written a lot of scripts, but never got anywhere with any of them. If you are one of those people? I would urge you to take a step back or several steps back and perhaps spend a year writing short films. So, you can either get some credits, get them aboard something. And if you can’t get it, than it might be time to move on to something else. If you can’t succeed, that’s going to be the easiest place to succeed, other than short films. That’s going to be the easiest place that you can know if you have any talent at all? If you can’t succeed in it at pool, than you probably cannot succeed in any of the pools. Because that’s going to be the easiest house. People who are producing shorts at a very, very, fast clip. They just need scripts to produce. So, these directors are producing and are hungry for material.
I realize too, it’s not all so black and white. I know there are a lot of factors, it’s a complex equation. I don’t want it to seem like it’s, you know, this studio born. And you have this talent, and it’s gonna work, and it’s, it is a complex equation. I’m just trying to build up some of my thoughts up into it on this Podcast episode. Hopefully, it’ll help some people.
For me, write some low-budget genre scripts and see them get produced. Then to keep writing these high level studio spec’s which will probably never see the light of day. Maybe other people are different? I’ve really, as I’ve said, the highlights of my career, not been in writing. But what I consider are my best script that never got produced, the highlights of my career? Have actually been, seeing my script get produced for better, for worse. Some of the movies didn’t turn out that well. But, never the less, seeing the ones get produced are the great satisfaction. And just as an artist, the action of seeing these things through to completion. And I also, and this is a very, very important point. I also think that, there is what I am going to call, “The George Harrison Effect.” George Harrison was clear and that was also clear, not as gifted as John Lennon, or Paul McCartney. But because he was in the Beatles and got paid to play. It gave him the opportunity to develop and improve. And by the time the Beatles broke-up. He was writing songs every bit as the other two guys. I would argue, his album, “All Things Must Pass.” Is actually the best solo album that any of the Beatles put out after they broke-up. If you have never listened to it? Go check it out, it’s awesome! But, if he hadn’t been around to develop over many, many years. We would never have heard of him. And that’s exactly what I’m getting at. Having these small successes, will allow you to develop and continue to improve. So, I really believe this strategy is not just good for the individual who makes it work for him or herself. It is good for all of us who, love movies. Because people will be allowed to shine through and reach their potential. And that’s really what it’s all about, it’s about reaching your potential. It’s about maximizing the talent you do have. Sometimes that might take a while. Sometimes it might take a while for the talent to develop. To really know if you have the talent or not. And I think that’s incredibly sound, who knows? Maybe it’s sad to know you don’t have the talent. I’ll leave that for you to decide.
So, I just want to thank everyone for listening to episode #100, the special 100th episode. Obviously, one of my main goals with the Podcast is to promote the “Selling Your Screenplay Services” that I offer. But I am also a screenwriter, and someone who’s trying to figure out, I’m someone who’s trying to help other people. I get a lot of Emails from people, especially lately as the Podcast has grown, and gone on. I began to get a tremendous amounts of Emails from people thanking me. And they seem to be really getting some value out of it. And I’m really appreciative of that. Because that’s really what it’s all about. I really enjoy getting those Emails, people telling me, you’re doing a great job. You’re really helping me with this. That’s really at the end of the day, what it is all about. So, hopefully you’re getting something out of this. I really appreciate everyone who listens to this, I mean, the Podcast wouldn’t be worth doing if no one was listening. So, thank you if you’ve made it to this. This episode is probably is probably pushing up on two-two and a half hours now? So, thank you for listening all the way through, through to the end. I really do hope that this inspires some people. And gets you out there, gets you writing, and gets your career going. If you do have some success, please let me know. I love hearing the success stories. So, thank you for listening.