This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 111: Screenwriter Brad Mirman Talks About His New Western Forsaken Starring Kiefer Sutherland.
Ashley Meyers: Welcome to episode 111 of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger over at sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing Brad Mirman whose most recent script, Forsaken, was recently produced and stars Keefer and Donald Sutherland. We talked of his early career and then talk about this most recent project as well so stay tuned for that.
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Over on ITunes I want to thank Andrew or 16 who left me a very nice review the last couple of weeks. Andrew, I really do appreciate that. Thank you for taking the time to leave a review. These ITunes reviews really are helpful. It helps to get the podcast listed in more places within the ITunes system so that it will reach a broader audience. Also if you subscribe to the podcast, then you’ll get the new episodes downloaded to your phone each week. That’s a nice convenient way to stay current on the podcasts, and from what I’ve heard, the number of subscribers also helps your rankings again within the ITunes system. So please do subscribe if you listen to this podcast regularly. I’m almost up to 50 reviews so if you have a moment please do take a moment and leave me a review in ITunes, you know, just a fair honest assessment of the podcast is very much appreciated.
A couple of quick notes, any websites or links that I mention in the podcast can be found on my 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 of the podcast show notes at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcasts and then just look for episode 111.
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. Again, it’s completely free. You just put in your email address and they’ll get emailed to you. Just go to sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide.
So a quick few words about what I’m working on. So the big thing that I’m still working on is my Kick-Starter campaign that’s been going on now for about four weeks. This episode that you’re listening to right now is being released on February 15, and my kick-starter campaign ends tomorrow, Tuesday, February 16 at 5:00 PM Pacific Standard Time so please if you’ve thought about contributing but just haven’t quite gotten around to it, this really is the last call. It’s going to end tomorrow at 5:00 PM. As I said, that’s Tuesday, February 16, 2016 at 5:00 PM Pacific Standard Time. This is something that Kick-Starter just makes you do when you create the campaign; you put a hard end date so there is no changing this. It is not going to be extended. There is not going to be any way of going past this time, this 5:00 PM Pacific Time. It’s going to be ending and cut off. As I’ve mentioned over the last couple of weeks, I keep adding more and more rewards. So there is a ton of rewards pretty much all the services that I sell for Selling Your Screenplay are available as a reward at a deeply discounted price. So if you want to go and check those out, definitely go have a look. Some of them have some restrictions on them in terms of how many I’m going to actually sell through that, but if you were interested in any of the Selling Your Screenplay’s services, definitely check that out. Again, if you just thought about contributing but just haven’t quite gotten around to it yet, please do check it out because tomorrow is the last day. Again, I’m just going to say that date one more time so it’s real clear. If you listen to this podcast weeks or months or years in the future, you can kind of go back and get a feel for how it all unravelled. Today, as I said, as this is released it’s Monday, February 15, 2016 and it’s going to be ending tomorrow, Tuesday, February 16 at 5:00 PM so please go and check that out. Again, there are a lot of new rewards so even if you took a look at it at the beginning of the campaign and got kind of a sense of what it was; I’ve probably tripled the number of rewards that are now offered since I first began. So please check it out again.
So the other big thing I’m working on is the TV pilot. I’ve been talking about that over the last couple of weeks as well. I did finish up the first draft last Friday. I sent it off to my partner on the project. So I’m waiting to hear from him. In presenting the pages it ended up being 27 pages for the pilot episode, I’ve never written for TV so I formatted it like a feature film. So I’m sure there are a lot of TV writers in this writers group so I’ll get some help from them in terms of breaks and those types of things. There are some specific things for formatting a TV show that I don’t really necessarily have a lot of experience with. So I hopefully will get some of those notes tomorrow, but I’m presenting this to my writers group and they’ll give me a whole bunch of notes so that will be interesting. The writers group, interestingly enough, is called Deadline Junkies and that’s actually the website. I’ll link to it in the show notes. It’s deadlinejunkies.com. Adam Strange is the guy who runs it and created the group, and he actually called it deadline junkies for this very reason to really kind of force some deadlines on writers. I’ve actually found over the years that it really does help. I am presenting this Tuesday so I really push to get those pages done. If I didn’t have that deadline I think I probably would have let it slip at least for another week. I probably would have just spent some time polishing it and stuff. So it’s good to have those deadlines. I highly recommend anybody who can join a writers group and start presenting pages to other people; it’s a great way to set a deadline. If you live in the LA area it’s Tuesday nights. Feel free to come out. There is no cost just to come out and audit the thing. You can come out and listen and give us notes, listen to my pages and the other writers’ pages and give us notes. It meets I think in Sherman Oaks right around about where the 405 and the 101 cross in the San Fernando Valley. It’s right on Ventura Boulevard right around Van Nuys Boulevard. So it meets at 7:30 on Tuesday nights. Anybody’s welcome. We’re always looking for new writers. To learn more about it just go to deadlinejunkies.com. I will link to that in the show notes, but even if you’re not in the LA area, go to the website and check it out. You can kind of get a sense of how the writers group works, how it functions, and you might even be able to create one in your local area. It’s a great resource and doesn’t cost a lot of money but it really does build a writers community, get to know actors. We have actors come and read our pages so have gotten to know a lot of actors through it as well. So it’s just a great resource. So I highly recommend it. Again, if you’re in LA you can perhaps check out ours. If you’re not in LA, check out the website and perhaps you could create one in your local area.
Anyway, so that’s what I’m working on. So now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m interviewing screenwriter and also director. He’s also directed a few feature films, Brad Mirman. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome, Brad, to the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show today.
Brad Mirman: Thanks for having me.
Ashley: So to start out, maybe you could just give us a quick overview of your background and kind of how you got into the entertainment industry and got that first break.
Brad: I think I always knew I wanted to be a writer. I started writing when I was 14 and bounced around doing other things. It wasn’t until my mid-40’s I thought one day that I should go and try to write a screenplay. I didn’t want to wake up one day at the age I am now looking back and say [inaudible 0:07:56.0] I wrote a couple screenplays. I was lucky; I optioned them, and then about three years into it I wrote this screenplay called Partners in Crime which ended up getting into a huge bidding war. That was my big first script. Even after all that, they never made that movie.
Ashley: So what were you doing out of high school and between—you said you didn’t start writing really until you were into your 30’s. What were you doing professionally?
Brad: Well, as little as possible. I lived in Europe for awhile. I was into music. I was really kind of bouncing around doing different things. I worked with my dad for awhile. It sounds hokey but when you’re kind of artistic or you have something in that, it’s going to eventually find a way to come out. [Inaudible 0:08:54.6] to eventually start writing.
Ashley: So you talk about these first couple scripts that you were able to option before you got this bidding war with Partners in Crime. Maybe you can just take us through some of the steps. So you’ve written a couple of spec scripts. How did you actually go about actually getting them optioned? Did you cold call agents and managers? Did you send letters? Did you enter contests? What was your sort of first steps?
Brad: You know, being born, raised, and growing up in LA, you meet people who know people who know somebody. You ask if you can get this script read or it goes in and a reader will read it. Then somebody calls you in. The business has changed a lot from when I started. It’s not the same model anymore. It’s actually much more difficult I think today than it was back then and that’s only economics. There just so much money flowing through the movie business back then. It’s just getting read, that’s the most important thing of this. Anything I would say it’s just get read. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re always going to make it or find a way in. I think the one difference with me; I came up with a lot of writers. We all used to hang out at the Improv and when they would write a script or whether they were just standing around having a beer or waiting for rejection letters or whatever was coming from the studio except from the financers, I’d be writing my next script, and when they were crying about not getting their movie made, I was already finished with my next script. I just kept going on from project to project back then writing and writing so I always had something going out. If you like my writing, then I want you to get back to me as quick as I can with the genre that you do like.
Ashley: So then you had these scripts, you started passing them out to acquaintances, friends, people in the industry, did you get an agent first before you started to option these scripts or were you able to option the scripts without an agent?
Brad: Really it was so long ago; I’m trying to remember. I’m pretty sure that I optioned the first couple ones without an agent [inaudible 0:11:15.4] get my first agent which was with a writers and artists agency. I meet a lot of people and they’ve written one script or something. Then they say how do I go about getting an agent? Unless it’s a really damned good script it’s going to be tough. Agents are going to want to see that you’re consistently a good writer because for a writer like me, for every produced movie that I had produced, there is probably almost an equal amount of other movies that I have been hired to do rewrites on or polishes on or development deals on [inaudible 0:11:58.3] they just never made it through the pipeline. So if you’re going to want to get into that world when you’re getting development deals or getting hired to do rewrite work, you have to have a body of work to show that you’re capable of doing that.
Ashley: Okay, so let’s dig into Forsaken for a moment. That’s your most recent film starring Keefer Sutherland. Maybe you can give us a quick pitch or log line for the film.
Brad: [Inaudible 0:12:32.1] I’ve known Keefer for twenty years, and this is actually my third project with him. It was actually Keefer who wanted to do a western. He came to me and said I think maybe a western would be a good vehicle to do something with my dad. Up to this point [inaudible 0:12:50.7] so we started kicking around ideas and came up with this idea about—characters are always interesting to me when they’re at opposite ends. It’s just a good photo ground for [inaudible 0:13:09.4] So a gunslinger who came out of the Civil War and became a gunslinger, then comes back to this small town after being away for ten years. His father is a Pentecostal reverend, that you have polar extremes right away. So I was really attracted to that idea of going into the world and then doing the traditional western, not the 1970’s or 80’s kind of westerns but more [inaudible 0:13:42.3] late 50’s or early 60’s kind of westerns.
Ashley: Maybe you could take us through your writing process and maybe we can specifically talk to Forsaken. If maybe the writing process on this is different than some of the other scripts, maybe you could point out some of those differences. Just what is your writing process look like? How long does it take you to write a script? It sounds like you basically were spitballing ideas for this, and then once you kind of had a basic idea, how much time do you spend outlining vs. writing the script, really just your whole process would be interesting.
Brad: My process is—I know a lot of other successful writers. We get together sometimes and we talk about our process and they’re as different as they can be. Mine is kind of free-form now. Any time I’ve ever spoken at a film school or something about writing, you can read all the books you want in the world, but you’ve got to find your own voice and you have to find your own way to get that voice and thought down. At the end of the day it’s whatever works the best for you. For me I can’t write an outline. I got hired to do a movie once for [inaudible 0:14:58.8] years ago, and the deal was they wanted an outline. I told them I can’t do an outline, it’s just going to become a script. I can’t stop the process. I’m going to get a line of dialog; it’s going to lead to another [inaudible 0:15:10.7] and if that’s a deal-breaker then we’ve got to deal break. We went ahead with that. For me I don’t outline that much. I get an idea. I make notes. I drop things down. I have my beginning, my middle, my end. I usually start to write. I write about ten or fifteen pages and I pick out the voices of my main characters and I throw that away. Then I’ve thought about it so long; it’s so much like giving birth. Anything I’ve ever written, the first drafts went really fast. It comes out in three to four weeks, and then I’ve got my blueprint. Then I step away from it for a week or so and come back and I read it and make notes. I cross out scenes, and I tweak up dialog. I spend more time probably on the second draft than I do on the first draft. For me it’s just about getting a structure down, and then once I have that structure down, a lot of the best twists and surprises that I’ve ever come up with, they come from some organic place in the writing. If you’re going to use an outline or 3 x 5 cards and that’s going to be your blueprint and you’re going to stick to that, I think you’re limiting yourself. You’re not leaving yourself an avenue to discover the possibility of characters will always lead you that they’re speaking to you and they’re going to lead you somewhere else that you didn’t envision going.
Ashley: So once you have a script, it sounds like you do the first draft. It takes about a month or two for the second draft. Once you have a draft that you feel reasonable confident, what does your development process look like? I mean, in this case it sounds like you were working with Keefer Sutherland on the script. Do you send it to him, get notes? Do you have other writers you send it to? Do you send it to your agent or manager? What does that development process look like with you?
Brad: Of course I send it to my agent or manager. I have a select group of friends who I send my scripts to that are going to read it that are no BS. They’re going to tell me what they think. They’re not impressed that I wrote a script. So they have no problem telling me I think this sucks or I love it but this is the problem for me. So I take all that into consideration. Obviously like on Forsaken, [inaudible 0:17:30.5] Keefer reads it. Keefer has his notes, and then you go after raising the money and then Donald has his notes of course. Then Danny Moore came in. I spent time with Danny Moore. She had notes. All actors there have notes. Their director’s going to have notes.
Ashley: Maybe you can give us a little advice when you’re involved in a project like this and someone has a note that you just think is ridiculously bad, how do you approach that? How do you kind of maybe circumvent it or how do you maybe even have to go and write some pages that you don’t think are necessarily quite right?
Brad: Without naming names, I don’t think Forsaken, I don’t know. Actually I’ve lost track now, but Forsaken is my eighteenth produced film. I’ve worked with some people—you know obviously if I’m directing the movie, I’d have a lot more say because if they don’t want to listen to me [inaudible 0:18:34.8] as the director, but there is a reason why a lot of directors don’t like the [inaudible 0:18:43.1] on this script because a lot of writers aren’t going to just sit there quietly and have their script changed in ways that fundamentally change the story. Nobody knows the story better than the writer. So there have been times where I’ve been on the set where I’ve actually blocked the thing and the director has said yea, forget about that part; don’t say that part. I’ve gone to the director and the director has said no, that’s just the way I want it. So right before the take, I also walk up to the actor and I’ll say boy, I think you’re missing an opportunity here. Then the actor goes to the director and they have their conversation. A lot of times the actor will win and you get the line back in. You have to realize that this was built on collaboration, and if you want to be an artist, then you’ve got to go be a novelist or go be a painter or a sculptor. Go do something that one person has complete control over because you’re never going to have that as a screenwriter. You’ve really have to learn as writers we’re the only ones who start with nothing. Everybody else works on a template that you’ve created, and sometimes our words are a little too precious and we hold onto things. You really have to learn when to pick your battles on the set or what you want to keep in. You’ve got to give stuff away and be able to fight for the stuff you want to keep because sometimes you’re going to get a director or an actor who are going to come in. I’ve had actors—and I’m not going to say who—when I meet them for the first time, [inaudible 0:20:29.2] discussion where there was a big lead marker and they’re x-ing out chunks of my script right in front of me. I understand when you are a first-time writer, you’re so happy to be having this made you don’t know what to say. I also believe too that if you don’t put the brakes on that right away and then you can’t because they’re going to ride roughshod over you for the rest of the production. So you have to find a way to stand up. If the actor is doing that, you have to go talk to the director. If the director’s talking about that, you have to go talk to the actor and not because you’re trying to win, it’s because you put that in your script for a reason. Now if an actor comes to you and the line is hey, you want to do something tonight and the actor says hey, what’s up? Let’s hang out tonight, is that okay, whatever it is. We want to paraphrase it like that, that’s not worth fighting about. But when [inaudible 0:21:26.9] are getting chopped out—first of all, I don’t think it’s an actor’s job ever to decide what scene stays in the movie. I mean they should be there talking to the writer about what your character is, what your character is saying or not saying. That’s valid. A director can come to you and say I don’t think we need this scene in the movie. That’s a valid thing. I don’t think an actor should be doing that.
Ashley: So once you had Forsaken, you had a script that you guys liked. Keefer Sutherland is involved. Can you talk a little bit about the process of getting that script out there and raising the money to actually make the movie?
Brad: Yeah, I mean Forsaken was a weird one in that there was a [inaudible 0:22:12.2] company that was involved, and they went out and made offers to the other actors. We were all up there. It’s no secret that during the filming the movie ran out of money. So Keefer had to put up a substantial amount of money to finish the film. Since then that’s all been taken care of, but normally what happens is that you find a financer. They put up the money. You start filming. Years ago when I started it used to be that you would go to the film markets, ASM and Berlin, and you would sell movies. You would sell off territories, and you would get minimum guarantees for each territory. That was like money in the bank and you would use that to create the budget for the movie. They would finance your movie. That model has changed so much now. It’s really difficult to finance movies that way now.
Ashley: So how can people see Forsaken? Do you know the release schedule? Is it going to be available on video on demand?
Brad: It’s released February 19. It’s released in theatres and on VOD.
Ashley: Perfect. I always like to wrap up the interviews just by asking the guests if they wouldn’t mind sharing any contact information they feel comfortable sharing, their Twitter handle, their Facebook page, blog, and I can round that stuff up just in case someone wants to get it.
Brad: I’ve got a Twitter pages at bradmirman. There is one thing I do want to talk about since it is a public forum. Have you got a minute?
Ashley: Yeah, sure. I’m all ears.
Brad: The next thing I’m going to write is I’ve been a big scuba diver for a long time, and I’m going to actually be doing something. I’ve created charity called Disabled Children’s Scuba Fund, and we raise money to take disabled veterans to warm water locations in [inaudible 0:24:16.8] so if anybody wants to take a look at it, can I give it a plug?
Ashley: Yeah, absolutely. Definitely I’ll link to it in the show notes too. Go ahead.
Brad: The website is dsscubafun.org and I just want to get the word out [inaudible 0:24:37.7] it’s a worthwhile cause.
Ashley: It sounds great.
Brad: If anybody wants to contact me I have a Twitter account @bradmirman and then Brad Mirman on Facebook.
Ashley: Perfect. As I said, I will round all that stuff up and I will put it in the show notes so people can just go to the show notes and click right over to it. Well, Brad, thank you for coming on the show. I really appreciate it, lots of great information.
Brad: Okay, thank you. I enjoyed it.
Ashley: Thank you. We’ll talk to you later.
Brad: Okay, bye.
Ashley: I just want to mention two things I’m doing at Selling Your Screenplay to help screenwriters find producers who are looking for material. First, I’ve created a monthly newsletter that will be sent directly to producers. Every member of Sys Select can submit one log line per newsletter. I went and emailed my large database of producers and asked them if they would like to receive this monthly newsletter of pitches. So far I’ve well over 200 producers who have signed up to receive this. These producers are hungry for material and happy to read scripts from new writers. Again, these are producers who I’ve contacted and said listen, do you want to receive this monthly newsletter of log lines from writers. These are real producers with credits who have expressed an interest. They want to read log lines. They want to read material. It’s not just a cold email or anything like that. So I’m slowly building this list up. I think when I started I had about a hundred or one hundred fifty, and now over the last six months I’ve built it up to 200. So I continuously tried to get new producers on to this list. Producers are requesting scripts. I sent out the one just a couple of days ago and got some feedback from producers that they were definitely looking at this and requesting scripts. Again, it’s just another quick easy way if you join Sys Select to get your log lines into the hands of producers. To learn more about this you can go to www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com and then there is just a little section on all the Sys Select services and one of them is newsletter. So that’s exactly what I’m talking about here.
Secondly, I’ve partnered one of the premiere paid screenwriting lead sites so I can syndicate their leads to Sys Select members. There are lots of great paid screenwriting leads coming in each week from our partner. Recently I’ve been getting ten to twelve high-quality paid leads per week. These are producers and production companies who are actively looking to buy material or are looking to hire a screenwriter for a specific project. If you sign up for Sys Select, you’ll get these leads emailed directly to you several times per week. These leads run the gamut from production companies looking for a specific type of spec script to producers looking to hire a screenwriter to write up one of their own ideas or perhaps a production company looking for a screenwriter to turn novel into a script, something that they’ve maybe optioned, some other literary material or some other idea that they have and they need a writer to write it up. These producers are sometimes looking for shorts, feature films, producers are looking for TV pilots, web series pilots, really a whole huge array of different types of projects that these producers are looking for. These leads are exclusive to our partner obviously and also to Sys Select members. So there is really no other way to get these leads. To sign up go to again sellingyourscreenplayselect.com. Also I just want to mention I recently set up a success stories page for people who have had success through the various Sys Select services so you can go to that on sellingyourscreenplay.com/success. So if you want to check out some of what other people have said about the Sys Select services, check out that page.
Also, if you’ve had some success with Sys Select services, please do email me. I’d love to hear your story. They’re very inspiring. Perhaps you’d want to give me a little blurb for the success page or perhaps even come on the podcast and talk about that. Over the years I have had a few people on the podcasts come and share their success stories. That’s inspiring, and it’s a great way to give back to the community. Just hearing people’s stories is inspiring to me and potentially to all of the listeners of this podcast.
Next week I’m going to be interviewing screenwriter and director Augustine. He just goes by a first name. His name is just Augustine, and he’s got a great story. I think that everybody listening to this podcast will kind of relate to his story. He started his career I guess in theatre but then he realized I can make movies and so he wrote a screenplay and directed his first feature film. He talks about this very openly on the podcast. He spent less than five thousand dollars doing this feature film, and he actually sold it. It’s actually available on Netflix so you can check it out. He talks through the whole process of how he got this movie made and some of the scenes that didn’t even sound like he had a cinematographer. He just hit the record button on the video camera and then ran in there because he was acting in it as well. He wrote it, directed it, and also produced and acted in it, which is what you’ve got to do when you’re doing a five-thousand-dollar feature. So he goes through this whole process, and he sold the film and actually made some money off it. Now he’s about seven feature films into his career, and the reason he’s on the podcast is to promote his most recent film which is called Badge of Honor, and it actually stars Martin Sheehan. So he started off with humble beginnings just shooting stuff himself and editing himself, producing it himself and slowly has built a career where now he is directing a feature film with Martin Sheehan. So it’s a great story. He’s really very open about it too. So it’s a great progression, and he really goes through all of those various steps on his career. So keep an eye out for that episode next week.
To wrap things up, I just want to touch on a few things that Brad said during the interview. One of the things that was interesting, he basically said he broke in through just living and growing up in LA, knowing a lot of people, and I think that’s a really important thing to really understand. I get the question quite often, do I really have to move to LA. Is it really that important? Can’t I submit my scripts from anywhere? You can do these online services, I mean, my own email and fax blast service, obviously you can live anywhere in the world—Inktip, the Blacklist, there are a whole bunch of these services, and they are location independent. Where you actually live has very little relevance on your ability to use these products and services, but I think what you really should have listened to is a story like Brad, you can definitely succeed if you’re not in LA. But it’s going to make your life easier if you are in LA. I mentioned earlier in this podcast the writers group. It’s like this is a pretty good writers group. A lot of the people in the group have produced credits. They have networks of people so when you start to meet these other writers in this group; you also start to meet some of the people that they know and were able to get professional actors that come in. So there is a lot of ripple effect of being in LA. Because everybody is here, there are so many people here trying to break in or people who have already broken in and are just working on their craft. You can kind of piggyback on their success and get to know those people and ride that. So again really think about this. Yes, you can succeed from LA? Yes, you can succeed, but it’s going to be a whole lot easier just being in LA and getting to know other people who are also having some success and talking to them and becoming friends with them. There are just so many benefits to that. So keep that in mind. I think it’s interesting that Brad didn’t really work in the industry it doesn’t sound like. He did live here and he knew a lot of people and was able to just that was enough, just knowing a few people and passing his scripts out to them was enough to get his career going.
I thought it was also an interesting little note. He mentioned that he was doing stand-up comedy. He was hanging out at the Improv with other screenwriters, comedians, and they would write a script and then send it out. Then they would wait for the rejections or just wait for some feedback. He said no, I just wrote them. By the time they got the rejection letter for their first script, I had already written my second script. I think that’s so important. Again, I get a lot of emails from people asking me hey, I sent my script to this production company two months ago and they never responded. What’s going on? What should I do? It’s like you shouldn’t be spending that much time worrying about where you submitted your script. Submit it, and there is probably some—you should follow up. I don’t want to say you should never follow up. I frankly don’t ever follow up. I send my script out, and I literally just forget about it. If they ever get back to me, they should. Now I think I’m probably doing that wrong. I’ve talked to some other writers and I’ve seen that there is some success in actually being able to follow up. Once you have sent your script a month later follow up. Don’t spend too much time worrying about it. In most cases you’re going to submit your script. In anything, whether it be through Inktip, whether it be through my own email and fax blast, whether it be through the blacklist, if someone finds your script on the blacklist and requests it, most of the time you’re never going to hear anything one way or another. They’re just never going to respond to you again. So you don’t want to be sitting around waiting. You’ll be waiting for the rest of your life because most of these people are never going to respond. Keep writing, and I think that’s so important what Brad said. In that interim time while other people are waiting to get feedback on their script, you could have written a whole other script and then you’ve got two scripts. Your chances of success go up with each project that you have that you can submit. If you’ve got two scripts, your chances are twice as good if you have only one script. If you’ve got ten scripts that are halfway decent and you’re submitting ten scripts around town, yo8ur chances of actually selling one of those scripts is ten times as good as just sending one script. So do keep that in mind. Again, I don’t want to overemphasize quantity over quality. The scripts do have to be a certain level. You can’t just knock out garbage. I mean having ten scripts that are complete garbage is not worth one script that’s really, really good. So there is a balance, but I find a lot of writers are probably too far on the perfectionist side and they spend far too much time on one project. A lot of people that I interview on the podcast, a lot of the people who I talk to who are having some success are much more on the side of quantity over quality. They’re pumping out a lot of scripts, and I think that’s something to really think about. As I said, Brad pretty much summed it up with his little story.
I also think it was interesting, I asked him did you get an agent, and his response was having a body of work. I think that’s so important to remember. As a screenwriter people are so afraid too. A lot of new writers say somebody is going to steal my idea. First off, no one is going to steal your idea. Second of all, who cares if they do? A screenwriting career is not one great script. It’s a collection of dozens of screenplays and so you’ve got to start looking ahead like that as a body of work. In a very practical sense what that means is exactly what Brad was talking about. How do you get an agent? Well, you need a body of work to get an agent. An agent is probably going to be that interested in you if you have one really good script. They want to see that you’ve written many. Again, in sort of a practical sense I can relate my own situation. Over the years I’ve submitted hundreds if not thousands, probably tens of thousands of query letters to agents and managers over the years. Again, most of those like 80 percent or 90 percent; you never hear anything one way or another. You get a few out of those submissions, you do get a few people requesting scripts and then out of those few people who request scripts you get an even fewer number of people, of agents and managers that actually like your script and call you back after reading something you’ve written. In every single case, I’ve probably been at this stage where I’ve submitted something, they’ve requested a script. They’ve liked the script. Over the course of my career, I’ve probably been at that stage maybe twelve times, I don’t remember exactly, but numerous times I’ve been at that stage where they’ve read a script that they like and they call me. The thing that they always say—I don’t remember a single instance where this did not occur—every single time when they read that script and they like it, they will email you, call you, and they’ll say what other stuff do you have? What other material do you have? Can I read something else that you’ve written? That’s the real make or break. In some cases I’ve sent them other scripts, and they’ve liked it. I have signed with an agent or manager; in some cases I’ve sent them some other scripts and I never heard from them again or I heard back that it wasn’t quite for them. So keep that really in mind. If your objective is to get an agent, you’ve really got to have two, probably even three, four, or five scripts because probably some of them are not going to be that great, but if you’ve only written one or two scripts in your entire life, I don’t think it’s quite time for an agent or manager. You’ve got to build up a body of work. The agents and the managers are looking to build a relationship with talented writers who can consistently produce at a high level. If you only have one script, if it was just absolutely fantastic, maybe they would take it on just on the sense they think this is just so awesome, but you probably don’t have that script so keep that in mind. That’s kind of a one in a billion type of thing. I don’t like to talk in absolutes, so yes; there are probably people who only had one script. They signed with an agent. That got them meetings because the script was so awesome. So it probably has happened but again in my own experience, the dozen or so times where I’ve kind of got to the point where the agents read something and liked something of mine, every single time they have asked for more material. They want to see what else you have. So keep that in mind. I do have an email and fax blast through my service, and I get people coming in. Oh, should I do the producers blast? Should I do the email and fax blast? In almost every instance I recommend the producers blast because if you only have one script, there is a chance that you will find a producer that just is passionate about that project and may see it through, may go and try and make it. As a producer you kind of figure you’re going to work with a lot of different writers, and if this writer can never write another good script, it’s not that big of a deal to a producer as long as they like the one script that you have that they’ve read and they like. So keep that in mind as you’re going about marketing your own material. If you only have a couple of scripts you probably need to keep writing and get to the point where you have a nice body of work so that you can show an agent a lot of high-quality material.
Anyway, that’s the show. Thank you for listening.