Ashley Scott Meyers: Welcome to episode 110 of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger, over at sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch who wrote the film Tangerine which appeared at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. 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 on the blog in the show notes. I also publish a transcript with every episode in case you’d rather read the show or look at something later on. You can find all the podcast show notes at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcasts and then just look for episode 110.
If you want my free guide How to Sell a Screenplay in Five Weeks, you can pick that up by going to sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide. It’s completely free. You just put in your email address, and I’ll send you a new lesson once per week for five weeks along with a bunch of bonus lessons. I teach the whole process of how to sell your screenplay in that guide, how to write a professional log line inquiry letter, how to find agents, managers, and producers who are looking for material. It really is everything you need to know to sell your screenplay. Just go to sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide.
A quick few words about what I am working on, so the big thing I’m working on right now obviously is still my kick-starter campaign. As you listen to this episode, assuming you’re listening to it the first week that it’s released is the week of February 8, 2016, I’m in the final week of the campaign. At this point it’s pretty clear it’s going to be nip and tuck whether I’m able to hit my goal or not. Money is still coming in, but it’s definitely slowing down. So please if you think you might be able to contribute to the campaign, please don’t delay any long. As I said, we’re now in the final stages of this kick-starter campaign. I will link to the campaign in the show notes. Any support is much appreciated. Also I’ve added a bunch of new rewards as well so if you check out the campaign page early on in the process that first week or so, go back, give it another look. I’ve added a ton of new rewards. Many are geared specifically to screenwriters. I’m essentially selling off a lot of the Sys screenwriting services at deeply discounted prices so you can pick up a lot of the services we offer for much less money. Obviously you get to use those services normally and then Selling Your Screenplay will obviously get a contribution to help make the film happen. So it really is a win/win. I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about the kick-starter right now. I’ve been doing many podcast episodes with Kick-Starter updates on Wednesday or Thursday of every week so keep an eye out for that. Probably another one of those will be released this week probably on Wednesday or Thursday. I try and always get it out on Wednesday but usually it ends up getting out on Thursday.
I did get an update on a spoof comedy that I finished up early in January. I’ve been talking about this script really probably since October. It’s a spoof comedy. I was hired to write the script. I wrote a first draft, did some rewrites, and got that to the producers in early January. I was emailing with the producers—I don’t even remember quite how that came up—but anyway I was emailing with the producers. They emailed me at one point and said hey, would you be open to a spitballing session sometime this week just to go over a few things. It sounds like they’ve made some offers to directors, and some of these directors, one in particular, has some ideas for the script. It’s pretty normal. You know, once you get a director involved, he might help. Hopefully he’ll have some good jokes to add so there will be a little bit of rewriting there. It sounds like also they’ve done a preliminary budget on the script, and it’s a little too expensive for the money that they have. So we’re going to have to go back through the script and really try and consolidate scenes, maybe cut scenes, but really just boil this thing down a little bit so that it can be done on the budget they have. I honestly don’t know what the budget is at this point, but I’m guessing it’s well less than one million dollars, probably even less than $500,000. I really don’t know though, but whenever you’re making a movie you always want more money. There are always bigger set pieces, more actors. You always push to get as much value as you can for the money. So there are probably some sorts of extraneous things scenes. Maybe there are some scenes that are fairly expensive but don’t really serve the plot that much. Maybe it’s a spoof comedy so obviously jokes are a big part of it. Maybe there are some jokes that they don’t think are funny but would save them some money so we can cut some of those things out. So we’ll have hopefully a spitballing session with them. We’ve been talking mostly on Skype. I’ve gone into the office a few times but it’s over an hour away from where I live so I’m typically just doing it with Skype so will probably get to that this week.
Another thing I’m working on is the TV pilot. It takes place in Southern California music scene in the early 1960’s. I’ve been talking about this the last few weeks. I’m writing about ten pages per week which is what I did last week so the first week I got to page six. This week I ended up at around page 16. I’ll probably just need another week, and I’m thinking maybe two. It’s just a 30-minute TV pilot. So it will be about 25-30 pages. So I should finish a draft. As I said, I’m on page 16. So I should finish the draft this week and then I’m thinking maybe next week I will just spend a week just polishing it up. Usually I can get through that pretty quickly. So maybe mid-week or hopefully next week at this time I’ll have a rough draft, and then I’ll spend a few days polishing it up. Then I’m going to send it off to my partner on this. He’s a producer and also a writer. So I’ll be sending it to him for notes and then we’ll start on a rewrite. Hopefully he likes it pretty much as is so we can start to get this script out and then get something set up. Anyway that’s what I’m working on. Again, just keep an eye out on Wednesday or Thursday for the kick-starter update, but that’s pretty much all the projects I have going right now.
So now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m interviewing Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome, Sean, to the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me.
Sean Baker: Thank you for having me.
Ashley: So to start out, maybe you can just give us a little bit of a background, kind of how you got into the entertainment industry and it’s always interesting, at least for me to hear kind of were you one of those film kids shooting Super-8 films as a kid or shooting on VHS as a kid and just where did your love of film come about and how did you eventually make it a professional career?
Sean: I was definitely one of those stereotypes as clichés. I fell in love with film very early on, probably around first grade. So from that point on, the combination of Star Wars and then just, you know, I was into the Universal monster films at the time, and my love for this sort of genre film over the years, I made the super-8 movies. I did the VHS movies. I applied to NYU for film school. I got in, that sort of thing. It was like the regular route that you hear a lot of. It was actually right after school that I was lucky enough to actually land a job at a small publishing firm. They needed somebody for their AV department, and I fit that role. I shot a few commercials for them which allowed me to then get some commercials outside of that publishing house through some freelance work. That paid for my first independent film called Four-Letter Words which I made very early on in my early 20’s. It was shot on 35-millimeter. It was made for very little, but it definitely had a high production value. Being I was in my 20’s, and you know we all waste our time in our 20’s and we don’t realize how time is flying, it took until the year 2000 for it to actually get recognized. It was Matt Detler who is now the big guy over at ITunes movies, but at the time he was running South by Southwest and programming it. So he actually programmed and he was the first champion of my films back in the year 2000. That was that. The other part of my 20’s, I was doing a lot of AV work. I was freelance video shooting, doing sound, etc. and this weird thing happened. I actually had this other career sort of fall into my lap accidentally. I became one of the creators of a show called Greg the Bunny which is a cult comedy show with puppets that had a very long run, several incarnations. We went from IFC to Fox to IFC to MTV. I was one of the creators of it because basically my two partners and I, Spencer Shenoi and Dan Milano were fooling around one night in his place with his VHS camera and Dan doing some puppet work. We were laughing and thinking oh this is a great character for a television show. The next thing you know we put it up on Public Access which is the way you got seen back in the day before YouTube, and that opened the doors for us. We got a show on IFC. So that show was my way of keeping me afloat over the years. It was like my way that there was a steady income, not making us rich but paying rent and allowing me to make these small independent films which was my true love. After Four-Letter Words I made a film called Takeout which I co-directed with Shee Ching Zo. That got distribution through Kino Lorrimer and that lead to Prince of Broadway which led to Starlet which led to Tangerine. If you’ve ever seen that film called Living in Oblivion, that’s sort of my life, but I’ve had this other career, Greg the Bunny, which has been quite nice because it’s been keeping me in this industry working while battling to make these independents.
Ashley: So let me back up on a couple of things you just said. I’m curious. You got this job with a publishing house. You said you did a couple of commercials and stuff. Did you get these technical skills to do the shooting, was that stuff you learned at NYU or was it stuff that you just picked up in high school doing your own things? Where did you get those sorts of skills to even get that job and to be tasked with making commercials for them?
Sean: It was both high school and NYU. It was mostly to do with editing quite honestly, and I still edit to this day. That was my skill. That was my strong point was editing and post-production. So with the commercials I would have obviously hired a DP. I would hire a crew, but I was editing so that’s what I think even got me that job because I was somebody who was putting together their promo videos for their books.
Ashley: You said this first movie, Four-Letter Words, it didn’t get recognized until 2000 and that you were sort of inferring that you maybe shot it in 1995 or something. It took many, many years. How many years did it take from the time you started shooting to the time it actually got to South by Southwest?
Sean: It was actually ’96, and it took four years which at the time felt like an eternity. Now four years fly by like that. The film was written in a nonlinear structure, a nonlinear storytelling technique. It was very influenced by [inaudible 0:12:38.3 and Mystery Train. It took me years to figure out that that wasn’t appropriate for this story, and then as soon as I put the film in a linear style, we edited the film and got it into a linear storytelling style, it worked. That’s when it went to South By.
Ashley: Were you literally shooting it for four years or you shot it and edited it for four years?
Sean: Shot it, edited it—well, it took about a year to edit—and then it just sat around while it wasn’t getting into film festivals. There wasn’t much heat on it at all and plus I started getting busy with Greg the Bunny. So a lot of factors led to the fact that it just was not getting out there until a blind submission to South By never thinking it would get in, and I heard back and it got in.
Ashley: So let’s talk about Greg the Bunny, the show. Was it really as simplistic as shooting this thing on a Saturday night, throwing it up on Public Access and then IFC channel was calling you to turn it into a show? Was there some marketing, some phone calls or something that kind of got the thing going a little bit?
Sean: Well, there is always that little bit of a connection that happens with almost any project. Every time you get into a festival or any time you get a producer or an investor interested, it’s because somebody has passed the word along. That’s what happened with Greg the Bunny. We did get a blind call from William Morris. That definitely did happen from them just seeing it, but the way it got to IFC was our executive producer, Gil Holland, who at the time still is an independent sort of poster boy guru, he had several indies out at the time, one that had won Sundance I believe, and he was the one who just passed our tape along to the IFC channel. This is hot right now on Public Access if you can say that. They were the ones who, after that tape was delivered to them, they jumped on board. We were actually one of the first two original programs on IFC.
Ashley: Let’s see, I think Chris might be here so let’s see if we can add him to the conversation. So Welcome, Chris. You’re the co-writer of Tangerine. Thank you for coming on the podcast with me and talking with me today. I just did a quick overview of Sean’s background in the entertainment business. Maybe we could do the same thing with you. We can just talk about quickly how you got into the business and kind of got to the point where you were working professionally.
Chris Bergoch: The short answer is that I went to NYU film school. That’s where I met Mr. Baker right there, and we started collaborating on each other’s projects there. Before that I was one of the same cliché kids that you always hear about, nine years old, super-8 camera, making movies with the friends and having my mom film them and always knowing that there was probably nothing else I was talented enough to do so it had to be movies or nothing. Luckily I got into NYU and from there we did a show together called Greg the Bunny which started on New York Public Access—I don’t know if Sean mentioned that or not.
Ashley: He did, yes.
Chris Bergoch: I was involved with that; it had this weird life where it had five incarnations. It went from Public Access to IFC, then it jumped to Fox, then it jumped back to IFC and then to MTV. That MTV show was actually a happy accident when we didn’t get a second season because that’s what led to [inaudible 0:16:19.9]
Ashley: Okay, perfect. So let’s dig into your most recent film, Tangerine, which you guys co-wrote and Sean, you directed. Maybe to start out, you can just give us a quick log line or just a basic overview of the story. I always link to the trailer so people can definitely check that out through the show notes but maybe to start, just a quick log line.
Sean: Chris, would you like to.
Chris: Tangerine is about a working girl [inaudible 0:16:46.6] of tinsel town on Christmas Eve searching for the pimp that broke her heart, and you meet up with lots of interesting characters along the way. Ultimately it’s a film about friendship.
Ashley: Okay, good. So let’s dig in a little bit into this. One of the big things that I had heard about the film before getting in contact with you guys was that it was shot on an IPhone. As I said, this is all about Selling Your Screenplay so I don’t want to spend a lot of time on that, but I do think after watching the movie, it’s worth just talking about that for a second so people have a little bit better idea of what this actually is. Sean, I saw you in a film courage interview where you just briefly described really two main things, the steady cam that you used and the audio that you used. So maybe you can just talk a little bit about it, and again, just for a minute or two so people kind of understand technically what you were actually doing out there with the IPhone.
Sean: Well, really quickly then, we shot on the IPhone 5S; this was before the IPhone 6 came out. It was really as simple as this, an IPhone 5S with an app called Filmic Pro, and that allows you to shoot at 24 frames a second and has all of these other bells and whistles that allow you to manually control the device, and then we had an anamorphic adapter that fits over the IPhone lens and allows you to shoot in true scope. That plus a little handheld stabilizer, three things together is what we used. It really wasn’t any—people sometimes say they had a [inaudible 0:18:18.7] IPhone. Well, not really, simply just that.
Ashley: And the audio was recorded by a sound engineer.
Sean: Yes, sound was recorded the way you would record sound on any other production.
Ashley: I watched this thing on my television and it looked good on the 42-inch flat screen so it’s actually amazing what you can do as far as resolution with the IPhone.
Chris: The resolution is the same.
Sean: It was a 5S; it was the latest IPhone available when we were getting ready in 2013. I almost forget when Sean first did those tests, and he showed me those tests. I was blown away. People aren’t even going to believe this was shot on an IPhone with an adapter on it and the nice anamorphic cinematic players and all that.
Ashley: Okay, so let’s dig into the story of Tangerine. Where did this idea come from? What’s sort of the germ of this story?
Sean: When Starlet was being written, originally it was a much simpler story. Starlet was originally just going to be about more of a [inaudible 0:19:23.6] a girl who happened to be an adult film star not focusing on her career, it’s her day off. She’s just wandering the streets of LA searching for her lost dog for ninety minutes. The story evolves on Starlet, but the germ of the idea, the [inaudible 0:19:42.6] we wanted to do a story just maybe the Back Streets of LA, locales that you don’t normally see when films are taking place here. Tangerine was something about a search through the streets of LA, and we were fascinated with this corner. We were doing a time-base which is sort of an [inaudible 0:20:09.7] unofficial red light district here in LA, not so much anymore but years ago there was lots of activity out there. At times this was an interesting place visually, being people who hang out there. We just wanted to hit the streets and investigate and find a story.
Ashley: That’s what you guys literally did. You just went down to the streets and started to make friends with the people who live and work on the streets?
Sean: Basically that’s the way you have to do it. The way that I see it—and this is really the fourth film that we’re doing in this way—if you’re not from the world that you’re focusing on in your storytelling, I feel it’s like the only responsible and really just the only way of really going about doing this in a responsible way is to immerse yourself. That’s what Chris and I had to do. We actually started months earlier, almost seven to eight months earlier I believe where we didn’t even have a plot. We didn’t even have a script. We just had those simple ideas that Chris just talked about, having it take place, we knew that we wanted to show this location, and we needed a big climactic scene at Doughnut Time, but that was essentially it. We wanted to connect with the people in that neighbourhood, speak with them, and really understand what a day in the life is like there before writing the script. So we had to find those people that would help us, that would be our passports. It was also blurring the line between this research and this preliminary development. We were looking for people that we could cast at the same time. So that’s what happened. Maya Taylor and Quitana Rodriguez not only opened the door for us, but they eventually became the leads of the film.
Chris: I’ll never forget there was the day where it was Maya who introduced us to Kiki, and we met the two of them for the first time together at a [inaudible 0:22:13.7] on Highland seeing them together for the first time. It was such a contrast there. [Inaudible 0:22:23.0]
Ashley: Maybe again just for a minute, we can really get into sort of the nitty-gritty. I mean, what did this research entail? You literally just went down to the doughnut shop, ordered a couple of doughnuts and just as people walked in and out, you’d just strike up conversations with them?
Chris: Yes pretty much. A lot of the stuff that they’re telling us about doesn’t line up in the film, but it’s just getting to know our collaborators. In a way it helps us get to know characters we want to write. You always bring a little baggage into a film. For instance, I always wanted to do–there is a hotel makeshift brothel scene in the film. You say okay, I’ve had that scene in my head a long time. Sean, I know you wanted to do the carwash scene. When Sean found out I was ready to work a carwash into a film and have it serve the plot, I remember how excited he got. He was always looking for a reason to do that. A lot of the johns just go into the carwash [inaudible 0:23:31.4] motel room.
Ashley: So let’s talk a little bit about the story. You describe it as a day in the life of these people, but one thing you guys did was you definitely gave the two main characters a clear story thread. The one girl has her show and the other girl is trying to find her pimp. When did that enter into the picture? When did you start to form those as actual stories? It’s a clear linear progression with those beats.
Chris: Let me start off by saying that after we meet the girls, I would always jot down things on my I Pad and we hear about maybe Kiki wanting to or someone that’s shooting wanting to have a fight. [Inaudible 0:24:13.5] That’s very visual. Someone wants to go give somebody a beat-down. It is exciting, and when we go home to Sean’s place at the end of the night, on the I Pad you try to make sense of all these notes. Sean, I don’t know if I’m remembering these things correctly, but I think I suggested maybe that’s just the plot or if that was enough of a plot.
Sean: I remember that was the first thing that we heard that struck us as something that could be a plot, this mission to find a woman who was involved in an affair. I remember at that point we were really intrigued by that idea and we knew we could flesh it out, fictionalize it obviously because it never really even happened in real life. It was just a thought that we had heard from somebody. So we knew that we could flesh this out but I was unsure whether it was enough to carry a whole movie. So I remember calling Chris and saying so we have this one great idea but what else are we going to do for the rest of the movie? He was like no, Sean, that’s it.
Chris: That gives us the opportunity to [inaudible 0:25:20.5] plotting. So should the street [inaudible 0:25:22.4] meet these interesting characters, sort of have an urban Wizard of Oz if you will where you have all these crazy personalities on the back streets along the way. Then there’s the Christmas Eve aspect where we both wanted to do a Christmas movie, but how do you do a Christmas movie that you haven’t seen before? It just seemed like both of us were from New York. We were in LA at that time about four years, and so that was enough time to sort of have experienced a couple of Christmases here. It never really feels like Christmas and the question comes up just because it doesn’t look like Christmas doesn’t mean it isn’t Christmas. That’s sort of the key and the running theme in the film.
Ashley: So let’s talk a minute about just your writing process. You described it a little bit, taking these notes. I get a lot of people who listen to this podcast who are collaborating with someone. What is your collaboration like? Are you guys in the same room? Do you outline? You come up with a detailed outline. Just maybe describe exactly what that process looks like for the two of you guys.
Chris: There is no set way. It actually depends very much on the project. I’ll give you an example. We’re actually hired to write an action film, proper screenplay, meaning that you actually write the story first. We prefer to be in the room and do old school index cards on the wall so that we can actually see it. Sean will fill a whole wall of his apartment up with the index cards so he can switch them around and it’s very tangible. Once we write the story, then we can go our separate ways, and we can divvy up the scenes. Sean might want to have a special reason to write this and that scene. Another one called [inaudible 0:26:57.0] we actually prefer to separate and write them on our own and then kind of mix them back together and come back together once that’s done and then he can give me his scenes. I can give him my scenes, and then we can critique them and mold them that way so it’s together, separate, and back together.
Ashley: When you have a disagreement how do you guys resolve that disagreement?
Chris: I think it rarely happens, but I’ll give you an example on that action movie. I went crazy with the ending, and I went sort of like total 80’s Commando, over the top action. That’s an example where Sean was like it was a little bit too much; let’s reel this back in. He was looking at it in a whole different way. Also it made realize he was totally right. That would have been ridiculous. So it’s almost not really an argument. It’s more of just debate and something that each other has done.
Ashley: So let’s talk a little bit about kind of what you did. So you wrote the screenplay for Tangerine, and then what were your next steps? Did you already have financing in place? Did you go out and get financing?
Sean: We actually got green lit on less than a pitch. I mean, it was basically [inaudible 0:28:12.6] and I were on the phone and I said that I think I want to make a micro budget. In the past he had told me that the door was always open for him to help finance a micro budget film, and at the time I couldn’t find financing for this other film that I was trying to get off the ground which was a much higher budget, and I was panicking. I knew that Mark might be my only saving grace and so I called my savior there. I called him up and I said I think I’m ready to make this micro budget because nothing else is going on. He said well, what’s your idea? I said Santa Monica and Highland. Actually that was it. I just had to say the intersection. He happened to know about the intersection because he’s also an LA native, and so he basically green lit. Then, of course, I said now we have to start our immersion and really start our research. I think then Chris and I at that point started in a few weeks to a month or something later we actually had our first treatment ready for him.
Ashley: I want to back up a little bit. How did you build that relationship with Mark?
Sean: That’s interesting. He was actually on the jury back in ’08 at Woodstock, the Woodstock Film Festival, in which he saw my film, Prince of Broadway which was two films back, and he liked it enough to help get it—he was on the jury so he helped get it the grand prize. We just stayed in contact and basically we had the same agent. So not only are we close that way but we remained independent film friends seeing each other at festivals and just knowing that someday we’d work together.
Ashley: So let’s talk a minute about casting and working with actors who maybe don’t have a long history of professional acting. One of the tell-tale signs to an amateur film is bad acting. The acting was really good in this film and so I wonder if maybe you could give us some tips for casting people who don’t have a long acting resume and getting good performances out of them because I think for a film like this is absolutely crucial.
Sean: Well, you know, I would say that you have to find good actors; that’s the thing. I was lucky enough that Maya and Kiki were already aspiring entertainers. They had actually studied drama in Junior High or high school, both of them. So it was something they’ve always wanted to do. Now I had no idea they were as big as they are until I got them in the rooms doing what we do. We do these work shopping sessions very early on in the process. Once we had our treatment together and we started showing the fleshed-out scenes, I would put them in a room together and just have them rip on the stuff that we had already written—a few lines of dialog here, a few themes here, doing these improv sessions and seeing if they can actually perform. I remember that first workshop session that we had, they both blew me away. I wasn’t expecting it, and I think at that point it was where Chris and I then became confident enough to allow their characters to truly dominate the film. We didn’t know up to that point whether these two characters, it would become their story entirely, but it did after they really proved themselves.
Chris: You could see people like when I mentioned [inaudible 0:32:18.1] together. When you turn the camera on in front of people, they kind of freeze up sometimes. Nothing happens where it was amazing actually. They would just be the same as they were in that [inaudible 0:32:28.7]
Ashley: Were there some other people whom you met in a similar fashion. Maybe you gave them a screen test and they were not able to perform? Were there a bunch of other people and these were the two best actors so you kind of wrote the story around them?
Sean: No. We actually—again, I think it was about us just knowing that we wanted these two characters to be on this journey. That was already established. So it was just about figuring out to what percentage their stories were going to be in the film in the final product, but I must say they did have people around them and people that we also met on the street that we were attempting to have, we were hoping that they would be much larger characters in the film, but they did not have the skills that Maya and Kiki had. So it wasn’t like we could just walk up to anybody and get the performances. We actually found two very talented people from that area. Also an interesting thing I want to mention that happens when you do mix first-time performers like Maya and Kiki with seasoned vets like a James Ransome [inaudible 0:33:42.8] and has been in all of Sean’s films, and I think they rub off each other in a really cool way don’t you think, Sean where they kind of almost—
Sean: Yeah. Most definitely sometimes actors who have a heavy method or have a very specific method will rub off on the first-timers because the first-timers will pick up on their way of working. For example, if an actor who is really uses the Meisner technique in which there is a lot of repetition and definitely exercises that you can sometimes see playing themselves out while they’re acting, first-timers will just pick up on that and just repeating things as well. So it’s very interesting to mix. I love to mix first-timers and sometimes even nonprofessionals with seasoned actors.
Chris: I have also seen it go the other way where some of our actors are so used to this is the script, you’re going to say like Aaron Sorkin, every ellipsis must be hit, but then they see how freeing Sean is with the actors and how he gives them the freedom to make it their own and excites them. That might be something they’ve never been exposed to and it’s fun to see that happen.
Ashley: I want to back up just a little bit on the story point. Obviously the whole issue of transgenderism is kind of a very topical issue, and I wonder how much of that played into your decision to get involved with this story just from a marketing standpoint. Was it just something you guys were interested in exploring, or did the fact that it is somewhat timely actually push you. That might be a conversation with someone like Mark who is an investor and thinking how am I going to get my money back. Doing something timely can certainly help with that.
Sean: No, actually to tell you the truth, this is long before—not long before but it was before all of this hit the zeitgeist. We shot it in December of 2013 and January 2014, and all of our prep was in 2013. So this was pre-Laverne Cox on the cover of Newsweek. This was pre-Obama using the term transgender in a speech and pre-Katelyn [inaudible 0:36:06.9] transition. Those three things are what I consider the three most important cultural events that have gotten us to this point. It just happened to hit all after we had already shot. So we already shot and we were in post-production while all this was happening. So when we hit Sundance, it was already a hot topic. So this was something that definitely came from more of a place in which we just really came from more from our desire to continue the look and the focus on sex work because we had done it with our previous film and we wanted to do it again with this film. It happened to be that this location was sort of a red light district that was frequented by transgender sex workers. That’s what got us there.
Ashley: Then you mentioned Sundance. Maybe we can talk about that a little bit. What was the submission process like? I mean you always hear for filmmakers, it’s like you’ve got to know someone. You’ve got to have a good producer’s rep. Maybe you can talk about your experience getting into Sundance.
Sean: Sure. I made five features, and this was the first time I’ve been at Sundance. It took awhile. You know it takes awhile to get on their radar. They knew about me after Prince of Broadway, and I think that Starlet just didn’t make the cut because I gave them a very early cut. I gave them a cut that was way over two hours and wasn’t ready, and that’s the one thing. I don’t give much advice to filmmakers because I feel like I’m still in a place where I’m learning and I don’t like to give advice. But there’s one thing I have to say. Never let anybody see anything that isn’t a fine cut or very close to that mastered version that you want people to see because people don’t have the imagination you have. They have no idea what you’ll eventually turn in. I turned in a cut to Sundance with Starlet that was just way too long and it wasn’t tight in any way. I think that that again kept us on their radar. Then by the time Tangerine was ready, they were looking out for it plus, of course, the fact that [Inaudible 0:38:21.2] both Mark and Jay [Inaudible 0:38:23.9] were executive producers. That helped a lot.
Ashley: Well, what’s next for you guys? What are you guys cooking up next?
Chris: There’s a whole bunch of stuff. We definitely have a whole bunch of concepts ready to go, and there’s one in particular that we’re really excited about that takes place in Florida that actually we’re in the process of what we talked about when we hit the streets at Doughnut Time and were meeting people. That’s when we met Maya and Kiki, that’s where we’re at right now with this next one. It’s really a fun thing to do because you make all sorts of interesting new friends in the process.
Ashley: Perfect! So how can people see Tangerine?
Sean: Right now it’s everywhere. I guess the easiest would be for Netflix streaming. [Inaudible 0:30:08.7] Blu-Ray and DVD are packed with some great interviews. We have interviews but not just with the stars and the leads but every tiny bit player in the film gets a little bit of a chance to speak about their character because one of the things we try to do is even down to the guy that we see in the shower when we meet Dinah and she’s in the middle of work, she’s pulled out by Cindy. He happens to be John Goolliger who is a director who directed the [Inaudible 0:39:35.0] and [inaudible 0:39:37.2] We try to give them back stories which is like imagining what their day is when we come to see them in the story of Tangerine. So you get a chance to hear a little bit about that on Blu-ray.
Ashley: I see. Cool! So what’s the best way for people to kind of keep up with what you guys are doing? If you are on Twitter you can mention your Twitter handle. If you have a blog, a Facebook page, anything you feel comfortable sharing and I’ll round it all up and put it in the show notes. Fire away with anything so people can follow you.
Chris: It’s just my name, Chris Bergoch. You say it Bergoch but anybody’s welcome to say it any way they’d like and Tangerine Film on Twitter at Tangerine film. Also on Facebook/tangerinefilm. Sean and I run the Twitter page if anybody sees the film and want to talk about it, that’s a great way to do it.
Sean: There are a few different Facebook pages. I have my public Facebook page and all of the films that we’ve been talking about.
Chris: Officially at Tangerine Film you can find all of the—we just did a little Christmas card. You can find Mark [Inaudible 0:40:55.1] Marcus and Carrie Cox, producers, Dan Dean. By the way Shoo Ching was not only the producer on the film, but she’s Mamasan. She’s not only Mamasan but she’s continuity and she’s costume. On a small film like this we all wear a lot of hats. I don’t know how she did it. She was actually serving doughnuts to real people by the way.
Ashley: Well, perfect. Chris and Sean I really appreciate you coming on and talking with me today. I really enjoyed the film. I wish you luck and continued success with it.
Chris: Thanks for having us.
Ashley: Thank you guys, we’ll talk to you later.
Sean: Happy New Year.
Ashley: Happy New Year to you too.
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So to wrap things up, I just want to touch on a few things from today’s interview with Sean and Chris. First thing is the movie is currently on Netflix as this podcast is being published. So I would definitely check it out. Hopefully as a screenwriter you have a subscription to Netflix on demand and can catch it. It’s there for everyone to see. It’s definitely a movie that’s not for everyone. It’s very much an art film, but I definitely think it’s worth checking out especially as I said, because it is accessible through Netflix. Check it out and you can really get a good sense of what they were able to do with an IPhone and a very, very, very micro budget.
I find this very inspiring because literally every one of us pretty much everyone listening to this podcast, my guess is that they have an IPhone or something equivalent or access, at the very least access to such a camera. So any one of us could go out and do this. There is really no excuse for any of us not going out and making a movie. If you’re sending your scripts out, and you think they’re great and nobody is listening; nobody wants to read them, just go make your movie. Get an IPhone; get some sort of software that can edit video on your computer. Just go make it. It’s not going to be easy. It’s definitely not going to be a simple process, but it’s pretty straightforward. With a little creativity and ingenuity, you can do it.
Also, I want to point out another interesting thing that Sean mentioned was his relationship with Jay Duplos which originated at the Woodstock Film Festival. I think a lot of people when they start out on the independent film route; they think they are going to submit their South by Southwest. There are a couple of big festivals [inaudible 0:45:15.6] obviously, Sundance, and there are a couple of these big festivals that all filmmakers submit to and then they don’t get in there. They feel like maybe is the end or they’re not going to get the publicity that they want. I’ve never heard of the Woodstock Film Festival—I think that’s the one Sean mentioned that one of his earlier films went to—and he met Jay Duplos, and Jay Duplos then ended up helping to fund this current film. So he found another filmmaker that had some money to invest in his film, believe in him as a filmmaker and also that relationship with Jay Duplos helped him get into Sundance this year. I think it’s interesting to hear Sean saying he tried to get into Sundance with some of his other films. They didn’t get in, and I just think this really points out an important point that a filmmaking career is not about one film. It’s about a body of work. So you’ve got to get yourself in a position where you can create a body of work. Your first film is probably not going to get into Sundance. Most likely your second, third and fourth films are not going to get into Sundance either, but if you can keep producing these films and can figure out some sort of a strategy and a scenario to continue to produce films, I think that’s a great long-term strategy that can pay off. Again, it’s going to take a lot of work. That’s kind of what I’m trying to do with my own movie, The Pinch. I’m running a Kick-Starter campaign. I’m kind of testing the waters to see how easy it is to raise money on Kick-Starter. I’m investing some of my own money, but I’m not investing so much of my own money that I’m going to go bankrupt. I think that’s one other important point. I do run into a lot of filmmakers that have mortgaged their house or tapped out their credit cards. I think that’s a terrible strategy, again, because the long term you’ve got to figure out a strategy where you can rinse and repeat. You can continue to do what you’re doing and move forward, and if you get a second mortgage on your house or you max out your credit cards, that’s not a strategy that can really ever be used again. It’s a kind of a hail Mary. If the movie is a big success which is highly unlikely, then you will make out okay, but if it’s not, then you’re strapped with all this debt. While I’m a big proponent of going out there and trying to make things happen for yourself, I do think you should be cautious enough as to not get in over your head. Again, listen to what he just did. He had an IPhone; he had some sort of a lens that he could attach, some sort of a steady cam device. These are not expensive things, plus the software. You can get video editing software for a few hundred dollars. We’re talking like well less than a thousand dollars. You can probably go out and make a feature film. Again, go check out Tangerine on Netflix. You can tell it’s pretty low budget. The production value is not always great. You want to think of a story that can be told, and if it looks a little rough around the edges, it will still work. It’s not a super glossy Hollywood super hero movie. That’s not what he’s making and that’s not what this looks like. So you have to keep that in mind. Write for your budget. Write for your production value, but it’s a great film to just check out if you’re thinking of this model.
I know a lot of people who listen to this are just screenwriters; they’re not necessarily filmmakers or producers, but again, I think this strategy of sort of what I’m talking about, the idea that you can rinse and repeat and constantly turn that wheel and get more stuff out there, I think that plays into a lot of my strategy of writing low-budget genre films. These are films that are fairly easy. Again, nothing in this business is easy, but comparatively to the studio film, these low-budget genre films are fairly easy to get produced. If you get to the point where you’re good at writing them, you understand budgets and you can write these things, you can start to build again a body of work. I just really believe that that’s going to give you more chance of success. Each one of those films that get made has a chance of becoming a hit, of blowing up. There are plenty of examples of really super low-budget films becoming even just sort of minor hits, and those can kind of propel you along the way. The way you’re going to have that happen most likely is again by turning this crank and having multiple projects produced and have some sort of a strategy and positioning yourself so you can constantly write a script and actually get it to producers and actually get it produced. With these big studio movies, you’re lucky if you get one shot, and if that studio movie, maybe the script gets purchased, but the movie never gets made. Maybe the script gets purchased and maybe the movie gets made, but then it bombs, you’re kind of up the creek. Those are so difficult to make happen. It’s hard to figure out a strategy where you can just rinse and repeat or I’ll just do another one. In theory you might be able to, but it’s very, very difficult. Again, these low-budget genre films are a great way to get many, many credits and improve as a writer. Maybe that first low-budget genre film that you sell for a few thousand dollars, maybe some college kids go and make it on a $50,000 budget, maybe that movie isn’t that great, but that kind of gets you in the swing of things. You are going to learn a tremendous amount by having some of those low-budget films made, seeing sort of the production considerations, understanding what goes wrong in a production and why movies sometimes end up horrendously bad. So again, think about this. I think what Sean and Chris did with Tangerine, I think there are some real ways you can apply it if all you want to do is be a screenwriter. I think that there are some ways to sort of apply this strategy of one hat is making things happen for yourself and figuring out a long-term strategy. It’s not about one project. It’s about a body of work. As I said, what Sean and Chris are doing is about a body of work. They’ve already done several films and this film, Tangerine, has done pretty well so I’ve no doubt that now they’re going to make a bunch more. Again, my guess is if Sean can’t raise millions of dollars to do his next film, he’ll just knuckle down and he’ll go out and make another micro budget film because that’s what he does. He’s a filmmaker. He’s an artist, and he’s going to just keep plugging away and doing what he loves to do. So I think it’s terribly inspiring.
Anyway, that’s the show. Thank you for listening.