Welcome to episode 113 of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger over at sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing writer and producer Gabriel Campisi. He just did a horror movie called Little Dead Riding Hood. He’s been working in the industry for years starting out working various crew positions and eventually doing his own low-budget independent film. He’s written a book on writing business plans for Indi producers so he’s got a lot of great information to share today so stay tuned for that.
If you find this episode valuable please help me out by giving me a review in ITunes or leaving a comment on YouTube or re-tweeting the podcast on Twitter or liking it on Facebook. These social media shares really do help spread the word about the podcast so they’re very much appreciated.
Just a quick note on that, a lot of the people who listen to this podcast probably have liked the Selling Your Screenplay Facebook page. I’ve noticed—and I am kind of just curious to see what people do. I’ve noticed the Facebook gives you a statistic that basically says how many people saw this post, and I can tell essentially like for every like that I get, it seems to show it to another fifty people. So I can see in absolute clear terms that getting these likes really helps spread it along. I think there is like three thousand people that have liked the Selling Your Screenplay Facebook page, and I would say if I’m lucky, the best posts when I publish them—basically I publish the podcast episode through there. The best posts usually end up getting like, as I said, something like shown to X number of people. The best I’ve seen is like right around a thousand so about one-third of my three thousand people that have actually liked the page, but I can definitely see the more likes the thing gets, the more Facebook seems to show it to other people. So if you’re on Facebook and you don’t mind just hitting the like button, I would be just curious to just see how far I could push that. As I said, it’s very easy to just see in very concrete terms that these likes really do help get the Facebook posts spread. So if you have a minute and you see my post on Facebook and you don’t mind, just give it a like. I’d be curious to see how far I can actually push it.
A couple of quick notes, any websites or links that I mention on 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 the podcasts show notes at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcasts and then just look for episode 113.
I want to mention too a free webinar that I’m doing on Wednesday, March 2 at 10:00 AM so this episode is going to be published on Monday. So really it’s just in two days, and I’ve done this same webinar before. It’s called “How to Effectively Market Your Screenplay and Sell it.” I’m going to go through all the various online channels that are available to screenwriters and give you my unfiltered opinion on them. I get questions all the time like does the black list work? Does Inktip work? What contests should I enter? I’ve tried pretty much every marketing channel available to screenwriters. Some I’ve had success with; others I have not, and I’m basically just go through them and kind of give you my opinion and talk about how I think they can be used effectively and maybe some things that are not so effective about them. So if you’re curious about all these various marketing channels that are available to screenwriters, definitely sign up for this webinar. Again, it’s completely free. You just put in your email address and then you will get an email basically with all the log-in information. This webinar is all on line. You don’t go anywhere so you can watch it. You can log in on your mobile phone, your IPhone; I think your Android phone. Obviously you can get it on your computer as well. It’s going to be 10:00 AM Wednesday, March 2. That’s 10:00 AM Pacific time. There will be a recorded version as well so if you can’t make that specific time, still sign up for it and then after it is over I will email it out to everyone and basically give them a link to the recorded version of the webinar. So that’s going to be again March 2 just in a couple of days, and I will probably run it again. So if you’re listening to this after March 2, don’t worry. I probably will run the webinar again. Just keep an eye out for it. To sign up just go to sellingyourscreenplay.com/freewebinar. Again, that’s sellingyourscreenplay.com/freewebinar. Just put in your name and email address. Then, as I said, you’ll get an email right back from us basically saying here’s how to log into the webinar and we’ll have the link and the log-in information.
If you’re already on my email list for one reason for another, if you’re already registered, I will send out the information to basically everybody on my email list and try and get them if you want to come and join us for the webinar. So you don’t have to do anything further if you’re already on my email list.
So a quick few words about what I’m working on, my Kick-Starter campaign is officially over. As I’m recording this I’m one week out from the actual end date. So Kick-Starter has sent out an email basically saying that the money will transfer after two weeks. So I still haven’t actually seen the money transfer to my account, but I can look in there and see how many credit card errors there were, and there were not very many, only a handful of credit card errors so most of the credit cards went through. I think it’s about eight to ten per cent that Kick-Starter is going to take and then I think the rest of the money they’ll just transfer along. I want to thank the final few backers. Last week the episode—as I said, I recorded it on Monday. The Kick-Starter ended on that Tuesday, the day after I recorded the last episode. So there are a bunch of people that came in at the last minute and contributed to the campaign. So I just want to take a minute and thank those people. Thank you, Mike Bagat; thank you, Karen. Thank you, Jeanne-Marie Masoloratz. Thank you Sharice N. Wong. Thank you Gillian Russing. Thank you Victoria Cosell, Sunil Betra, [Inaudible 0:06:01.3]
As I mentioned last week I’m going to be doing one last podcast update, one specific Kick-Starter podcast update which will kind of be like a roundup, and I actually made a bunch of notes. I kind of jotted down some notes last week so I have this in pretty good shape. I just want to get through the whole process, the money transferring. I want to start to actually give some of the rewards. I’ve started to already give out some of the rewards, but for the most part, you’re not going to send the rewards—I don’t think you’re supposed to send them until the money actually gets transferred—I think things can always go wrong. So I’m just basically waiting for that two-week period. As you listen to this podcast episode, we’re actually about the two-week period, but as I’m recording it, I’m only a week out. I just want to get through the process and then I’ll have kind of one final Kick-Starter update post which will hopefully round up everything, all the lessons I’ve learned. So keep an eye out for that. I will definitely announce it on the podcast when it becomes available. It will be a podcast episode, but I think it will be another one of those special episodes that will release on a Wednesday or Thursday.
I have started loosely on pre-production for this film. I’m having lunch with a producer friend of mine this week, and I had a lengthy Skype call with another producer over the weekend, really talking about cast and casting it and potentially raising a little more money. I mean this is always the issue I’ve found with all independent films. There are always a few more investors that you can bring on board. There are always a few more people that are saying oh yeah, I’ll invest some money. So at this point I basically have the money. I can shoot my movie. If we are able to raise some more money that’s potentially great because you can put more money into the cast. You can increase the production value. Basically what I have is pretty much my goal. I mean I have basically about $27,000 so $25,000 will probably go into the shooting of the movie and then two thousand dollars will probably be sort of for the marketing which will essentially be mostly just submission fees to film festivals. So that will probably be about that extra two thousand. Anything over the $25,000, but right now the idea is to produce the movie on 420,000 and then spend about five thousand dollars probably on one actor, get somebody as famous as possible some name actor that will work. As I said, if we can raise a little bit more money, then we’ll be able to keep the budget the same probably still at that $20,000 range and then if we can raise like another five, ten or fifteen thousand, then that will probably again just go to cast. You would be amazed who you can get to work for like a thousand dollars a day. You can get some pretty famous actors with some name recognition. So it would be nice even in a super low-budget or micro budget film like this. I would be nice to get somebody, even just one or maybe two people like that. You’ve kind of heard maybe they had a TV show in the 90’s or maybe they’ve done some big movies, some smaller parts in big movies, people you recognize, people that may be in the twilight of their career so they’re willing to come out and just do work on a cool project so just depends again on how much money ultimately we are able to raise for that. I don’t want to wait around. Basically, as I said, I have the money through the Kick-Starter and through the money I raised before the Kick-
Starter basically to shoot this thing. So I’ll probably spend another month. I’ve got to do another rewrite on the script. I’ve got to start to figure out sort of the logistics. Right now in terms of shooting date we’re thinking probably May, June, July, somewhere in that time frame. The Skype call I had with the producer, he was saying that was a great time to shoot that in May, June, or July. You can oftentimes get TV actors who want to do a feature film, and if they like the scripts, they might come on board. They might be willing to work fairly cheaply since they have a real paid gig or TV show. Sometimes those actors aren’t concerned about the money. You might be able to get somebody like that. Right now that’s kind of the tentative plan. Things will probably change as we go forward, but basically that’s the tentative plan, shoot in like May, June, or maybe even in July, hopefully May or June. As I said, I’ve got to get the script in order and then start to get the dates locked down and the locations and all that great stuff. So hopefully things will keep rolling along.
So the other thing I was working on this week, I’m still polishing up my TV pilot, just trying to watch some movies from that era and get a sort of feel of the era and that’s going to be very important. As mentioned before it takes place in the 1960’s music scene in Southern California so just trying to really pepper it with those little bits of fashion and just the little bits from that year to make it feel more authentic. So that’s kind of what I’m trying to do. Anyway, that’s what I’m working on.
So now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m interviewing writer Gabriel Campisi. Here is the interview.
Ashley Meyers: Welcome, Gabriel, to the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show today.
Gabriel Campisi: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it very much. Thank you.
Ashley: So to start out, maybe you can tell us a little bit about your background, kind of how you got started in the entertainment industry and maybe talk a little bit about some of your first writing credits.
Gabriel Campisi: This goes back many, many years. I started as a kid with Super-8 millimeter film. We didn’t have bigger cameras back then. That’s really where it started as a kid. First of all, I saw Star Wars when I was about eight or nine years old. That’s really where I got the bug for this and started making super-8 millimeter films. As a kid during high school [inaudible 0:11:52.9] from national contests which surprised me which was really exciting when it happened. Right off the bat right out of high school I did start working in Hollywood on the ground level. I actually started as a production assistant; worked my way up to the camera, grip work, electrical work. I’ve actually been in the trenches as a crew member. So I’ve been in Hollywood for a long time, but as far as writing, it’s real neat, an extension of that creativity from doing super-8 millimeter films, this wanting to tell stories, and over the years I’ve had a couple of books out that I have written. I wrote for the university newspaper, have had short stories published in small press, a creative thing so I’ve been there for awhile actually.
Ashley: Okay, so let’s talk about just like your first credit as a writer. In IMDB it looks like it’s called “The law”. Maybe you can just give us a little background on how you actually got that film, how you wrote the script and then actually sold that script.
Gabriel: Interesting event, it seems like ages ago that that would happen, but the first one I wrote [inaudible 0:13:15.3] super-8 millimeter film that was a much bigger project [inaudible 0:13:22.3] when it happened, but it was based on a creative thing that wanted to [inaudible 0:13:32.6] short film that I was doing, something bigger, something solid, something longer, a feature film. I was very young as well. I had a lot of friends in the industry, crew members, writing guys, camera guys, both of them actually put together with a lot of friends that actually contributed to the budget actually. Part of it was financial; the other part was equity investment actually where [inaudible 0:14:03.2] equipment and things like that so it was shot relatively cheap. But we managed to pull it off. We wrote the script; it was pretty ambitious which they [inaudible 0:14:15.1] and things like that and we pulled it off.
Ashley: What did you do with that film once it was done? Were you able to find some distribution for it?
Gabriel: We did a limited distribution. This again goes back so many years on the small film. What we really did with it was get into the film festival circuit. What we wanted to do was try and get it out there and show people what we could do. I went to several [inaudible 0:14:41.0] film festivals. It placed in almost all of them. Some of them were first place; some were third place. Some were different categories. Some really did open up a lot of doors. It did get distribution for awhile on video on VHS. It didn’t get on television or anything but kind of VHS—again tells how old I am, but the success with that one really was a step up and we were able to show what we could do as filmmakers and me as a writer and filmmaker as well.
Ashley: It sounds like most of the people who worked on this were the people that you had been meeting working basically as crew for these other films, just friends, people you met along the way. Is that correct?
Gabriel: Absolutely correct. Everybody I knew I had been working with in the industry and I’m very fortunate to meet a lot of good people [inaudible 0:15:39.4] talked to about doing projects and [inaudible 0:15:43.4] bigger and better doing it ourselves. I saw the perfect opportunity to take advantage of that, and when I came up with a project, everybody jumped on it and wanted to work on it. So that’s how that came about.
Ashley: So one of the things that I noticed in your biography was you wrote a book, the Independent Filmmaker’s Guide to Writing a Business Plan for Investors. I just wanted to talk about that for a minute. Maybe you can give us some tips. There are a lot of screenwriters who come to me that are trying to raise money basically to shoot their own films. So maybe we can just talk about film financing for a minute and sort of some tips on how if someone is just an independent producer and they’ve read in a script how they can go about potentially getting financing and I guess a business plan is part of that package.
Gabriel: Well, the financing part of any motion picture, any film, independent or studio level or whatever is a whole different ball game from screenwriting. When we do screenwriting or doing storytelling, it’s a creative endeavor. When we go to the financing part, the person will really have to shift gears and now we’re looking at a financial plan. We’re looking at facts and figures, numbers, reports, things like that, and it’s a whole different world. It’s one of the reasons I actually wrote the book. I had a foot in both worlds, and I had them come to me and start asking the same questions, can we do this or that. I started helping people, friends of mine get financing for a lot of their films. That’s where the genesis came for the book. People started saying I should write a book about this, but to answer your question, today a lot of people go to Go-Go, Kick-Starter, that’s one way to go about it. If you want to go the traditional route and look for equity investment in your films, you need to become very familiar with the finance or what I recommend to screenwriters or anyone who is the creative type, find a partner. Find a production partner, someone who knows that side of the business because it’s not easy to do. You’re literally asking people to give money to a project in the hopes that it will make some money back. So I would literally read some books on it. It can be done. People do it all the time, get financing. Is it easy? No, it’s not. The biggest thing I would say is really get educated on it, and again, it’s one of the reasons I wrote the book. For the reason to help some people who want to do that.
Ashley: I’ve had some writers who were also producers and produced their own film and one of the things—I’m forgetting his name—but one of the points he made was when he went out to raise financing, he tried not to make it a typical investment with a great ROI. It was much more about being a part of a cool project.
Ashley: And getting to some people that just wanted to be involved in something like this. I mean is that part of a strategy? I mean realistically can you find investors and actually honestly tell them I think you’re going to get a ten per cent return on this investment?
Gabriel: The first part about what you said is absolutely true. I find a lot of investors that want to invest in movies. They like the glitz and the glamor. They like Hollywood. They like the movie stars, the limousines, the paparazzi. They like that world. They want to be a part of it, and a lot of them will gravitate towards that. Absolutely, the first part of your question, yes. We call it the dog and pony show and put on a dog and pony show for the investor, bring them down, show him and take him to the studio, have them meet the stars, whatever it takes. Give them a taste of what they’re looking for, that this is real in hopes that might interest them. The part about the ten per cent return, when you’re making a movie traditionally [inaudible 0:20:07.0] invested, you have to be careful about promising a return. It depends on your finance model, but it’s very difficult to guarantee anything. You try to mitigate risks as much as you can when you deal with an investor, you deal with a movie by mitigating risk, and you want to get the right actors so it’s patched. You want to make sure your budget sits. If you’ve been to a movie you deal with sales agents and they tell you maybe if you get five or ten million dollars that it’s going to be tops, you don’t want to shoot it for twenty million because you’re not going to [inaudible 0:20:44.2] your money back. So that’s what I mean, let’s analyse the market, there are so many factors you have to analyse. It can get a little complicated. You’ve got to be careful about paying back.
Ashley: Do you have any tips, really anything from soup to nuts, any tips on just how to go about finding investors or potential investors. This is always the big thing. Typically you start out with your friends and family and then hey, do you know anyone who might kind of go from there. Are there any strategies to finding people who are interested in investing in a movie?
Gabriel: There are entities out there that actually would be open to something like this, a lot of asset management companies, for example while they don’t necessarily advertise it, but asset management companies will basically deal with people who have a lot of money and always putting it in different stocks or whatever. Sometimes we can know them well enough they could say hey, would you like to diversify your portfolio? We have something interesting. We have this motion picture; we have this or that. That is one way, but it’s very interesting you ask that because in the last book I wrote, the second edition, I interviewed a dozen people in part two of my book which were different filmmakers at different levels, small independent filmmakers all the way up to Jerry [Inaudible 0:22:14.3] who has an Oscar or Steven Spielberg for Schindler’s list, people like this [inaudible 0:22:21.0] and I asked them all the same question that you just asked, where are the investors? That’s the big question, and what I’ll tell you is this: Most people when they have the line on investors—inaudible 0:22:38.0] I’m talking private equity, someone is going to put up hard cash, a lot of people keep that information secret and keep it to themselves, and the reason for that is let’s say you go to someone who will finance your movie, you are able to get money from him and be able to do a good business relationship, [inaudible 0:22:57.4] find out about that person, now everybody’s going to him. Now he might not give you any more money. It’s the same thing for everybody. So a lot of times when people find these financiers, they tend to keep them pretty guarded. The big answer that everybody I talked to, the same thing and makes the best sense is you have to network, network, and network. [Inaudible 0:23:27.2] we’re doing this; we’re going to make a movie. We’re looking for money and [inaudible 0:23:33.9] business plan or you prospect this or whatever you want to do, your pitch package and then just start letting people know it, talking to people, meetings. You never know who’s going to come up with that money. It might be a studio. It might be a small production company. It might be a rich uncle who owns [inaudible 0:23:56.4] across town. You have no idea; you get a lot of money and don’t know what to do with it. So the answer is you never know who that money’s going to come from, and in my book part two is very interesting about every person it’s the same thing—where do you get the money? Every person has a different answer.
Ashley: So let’s dig into Little Dead Riding Hood for a moment. I want to just bridge sort of the gap between—obviously you had this sort of business life and then you also made this film in the 90’s, maybe you can just take us briefly through those years, what you were doing between The Law and Little Dead Riding Hood, just a way of some sense of sort of the scope of your work and what all you’re doing. Have you been writing other scripts? Have you been producing other movies?
Gabriel: Sure. Like I said, I started when I was very young. As a teenager in high school I was doing super-8 millimeter films with film festivals. When I got older I was doing 16-millimeter and then I started shooting video. Then in my 20’s for some reason life happened and I shifted more towards film finance area of all this and for many years dealing with film financing, dealing with plans, dealing with hedge funds and different finance entities. We had a lot of different partners, and I think a lot of that was I got married; I had children, a security thing and took care of everyone so that made more sense financially at the time because trying to get into writing and directing took a long time with no certainty that things would work out. So I think I took an easier route for a minute, but when things started happening over several years I said I think I’ll go back to what I love which was writing, producing and directing and actually doing the movie. Several years ago that’s what happened. I actually came back. During the big gap there, mostly doing film financing, during which I wrote two editions of the film financing book, the business plan book, and I did do writing. A lot of it was ghost writing. I did get hired to do ghost writing. I also did screenplays. I also [inaudible 0:26:31.9] to write some screenplays. I did a television pilot, two of them as a matter of fact, but for some reason—a lot of those things don’t get made. They got partial funding, they got X amount of money and we were going to development, they’ll hire you. Okay, so I’m on the team but it didn’t go all the way for some people. That happens all the time. The last few years I finally said okay, I’m going back to what I love and that’s where we are today.
Ashley: Okay, so let’s dig into Little Dead Riding Hood. To start out maybe you could give us a quick pitch or log line of the film. I will always link to the trailer so people can check that out, but maybe you can just kind of pitch it for the folks that are listening.
Gabriel: Little Dead Riding Hood is the story about a small town sheriff—[Inaudible 0:27:20.6] is the actor—a small town of Stillwater it’s called, and he starts to see a surge of wolf attacks. Wolves start attacking all the people in the town. First it gets one, then the other. It’s no big deal. It happens every now and then, and then it’s another one and then another one. Things are getting out of control. All of this happens right after the mysterious “wolf lady”. They call her the wolf lady commits suicide. They find her dead body [inaudible 0:27:52.2] correlate to the grandmother in Little Red Riding Hood. The police start investigating and don’t know that the old woman, the grandmother, is actually the supernatural keeper of the forest. She makes sure that [inaudible 0:28:09.5] that the creatures of the night were kept at bay, away from humans. So she did kill herself, but it wasn’t for selfish reasons. What happened was she knew that a den mother [inaudible 0:28:27.0] would be appearing soon during the autumn equinox in a few days, and she was afraid she would not be able to keep her at bay. So the only way she could protect the humans is to pass on her powers to the younger generation which was her granddaughter who correlates to Little Red Riding Hood. The only way to do that was [inaudible 0:28:51.4] kill her and bury her. We see that in the movie. So basically the granddaughter finally comes out of her grave as part of this ritual and she is basically a zombie with powers, thus the name, Little Dead Riding Hood. It alludes to her being a zombie-type creature. [Inaudible 0:29:18.0] saves the day, but the granddaughter, Little Red Riding Hood or Little Dead Riding Hood doesn’t even know what’s going on. She doesn’t know the full extent of what happened to her or how to control her new powers. So she’s learning; so she becomes a reluctant hero. The movie is actually her origin story—and remember we were talking about doing a sequel and doing more with it—towards the end of the story, she learns enough to get the job done and we see a final connecting battle between her and this supernatural den mother. The battle takes place in the center of town. There’s a big, big battle towards the end. That’s it in a nutshell.
Ashley: So that’s great. Where did this idea come from?
Gabriel: The idea actually was the genesis of the character. I worked with some comic artists [inaudible 0:30:14.1] we did The Adventures of the Living Corpse which is a movie put out by [inaudible 0:30:31.7] we always tossed ideas around, and one of them actually came up with a drawing. He actually did it almost as a joke. I thought it looked so cool. This would be a movie; this was so awesome. So basically it was the drawings that my friend actually did. They have credit in the movie too for characters created by [inaudible 0:31:05.6] as well, but as far as a screenplay, I took that and ran with it and decided it would be really cool so I had to explore what would make a cool story for this character [inaudible 0:31:19.8] doing it in the past, doing it in the present day but that’s where it originated.
Ashley: I wonder if we could just walk through your writing process and we can talk specifically about Little Dead Riding Hood. How long does it take you to write a script once you kind of have that seed of an idea? How much do you write per day? How much time do you spend outlining, all that kind of stuff. I’m always curious to hear from writers.
Gabriel: Actually an outline is pretty crucial. We want to lay it out and make sure it makes sense especially when you have multiple characters or character arcs. You want to step back and look at it. I’m not going to do my own chicken scratch and then call it because no one understands what I’m doing. These are notes just for myself. I’ll tell you the hardest part is sitting down to start writing. That is really the hardest because it’s a blank page on the word processor, but once it starts, once you fade in and do the location and you start writing—it may take a few hours; it may take a few days—but once it starts taking off and coming together, then that’s all I want to do. I don’t want to get away from my computer until the script is done. It can take almost ten drafts—I think over ten drafts for Little Dead Riding Hood. There’s no such thing as arriving. You write one draft, okay, this is one draft. It’s constant rewriting. It’s perpetual rewriting, rewriting, rewriting, and I compare it to when you’ve got a block of granite or a big cement block or something, you chisel it. You want to get a face out of it or a statue, that’s what the blank page is, literally the big blocks, and as you chisel it, you’re constantly chiselling. You’re trying to get the eyeballs, the nose, or the hair. You don’t just do it once; you’re going to do it many times until it’s to what you want. So that’s what happens to the script. You get the first half; can I get from point A to point B to point C to point D? Can I put a thread through all these elements, through the characters, through the locations, through the plot points? Can I get a thread through it? I don’t care how awkward it is. I don’t care how little sense it makes, but as long as I can get a thread through it, the first draft is accomplished. I’m not even going to let anyone read that. That’s for me to read, but now I go back and go again. Then I do the next one. I kind of mold it a little bit better and then I’ll do it again, again, and again. Each time I take into consideration the different elements. Okay, I need to flesh out this character more. I need to re-sequence it so it will make sense. Okay this is too long, anything to try to shorten this. I analyse the notes. So I make even new notes constantly, the maps let’s say to make sure it’s making sense. One of the things from Little Dead Riding Hood is when I turn over the first drafts to [inaudible 0:34:32.8] the producer of the movie, some of the comments with that, they kind of see who the den mother was, who the big bad wolf was. We don’t know who she is until the very end. So they think they need to fix that, I say sure. There are ways to do it. (1) I could make it be someone else arbitrarily make it be someone else and then go back and fix it where [inaudible 0:35:01.4] cookie crumbs along the way so it makes sense or throw in the red herring, throw in another character and make that into [inaudible 0:35:12.0] So I actually went back and did a red herring so that’s an example of how it gets constantly rewritten, rewritten, rewritten.
Ashley: So how much time do you spend before you write this first draft? How much time would you say you spend outlining the script?
Gabriel: To be honest the answer is either one or the other which it depends on whether I’m writing it on spec [inaudible 0:35:38.0] and believe it or not it puts on a different sense of pressure on it. If I am writing it on spec I might take a little longer. I might be a little lazy about it, but if there’s a little bit of pressure, hey, we’ve got to get this done; we’re going to go into production or we’ll read the next step or whatever when you put the pressure on. As far as writing the first draft, the first draft takes several weeks. It takes several weeks to get the first draft. The first draft is not presentable but it takes the very, very rough draft to get it started. After that it’s a matter of just polishing it and that could be another seven weeks or several months.
Ashley: Just roughly you’re saying this outline—just a ballpark—the outline takes a month or so to outline it and then it takes you a month or so to write that first draft.
Gabriel: No, the outline might take me—If I’m really inspired I can do it in a few hours, the outline, but as far as the first draft, a very rough draft, it can take two-and-a-half to four weeks, but an outline usually—that’s if you’re inspired—there’s got to be inspiration in it. It’s got to be something really right. There’s got to be a reason to write. I’ve turned down screenplay assignments or projects I had no interest in. I’ve been approached hey, can you write this? I go what is it? We’ll pay you this much money depending on what it is and I look at the material. I go back and say I’m the wrong person for this. I’d love to take the money, but I have no interest in the subject matter and I’m just not the right person. I don’t want to do something that I’m not going to be good for anyway. So there has to be inspiration in it. I think you really have to want to do–you have to be excited about it. If you don’t have that, I don’t see why you’d want to write it. There’s no inspiration.
Ashley: So take me through the process of this specific script. So you’ve written Little Dead Riding Hood; you have a draft that you’re happy with. You start to show people. What were those steps now to actually get this movie funded and produced?
Gabriel: Believe it or not I do know the producers that financed this and everything [inaudible 0:38:13.7] screenwriter on this one. I actually picked from the story. I went in with a synopsis which is a one-pager, not even eight or ten pages, and one page. That’s what they wanted. I’m very fortunate because I deal with these comic guys that do amazing artwork. When I first did the character, I said what? [Inaudible 0:38:41.8] So we went over it and a few days later or maybe a few weeks later there was an eight-act breakdown. [Inaudible 0:39:12.4] We’ll go from there.
Ashley: So this was basically an assignment. Once they liked your pitch they hired you and let you write the script.
Gabriel: Right. But [inaudible 0:39:31.3] assignment but was a spec script. It was a direct sale. I’m the actual writer. It’s funny how they look at it. If they find something else, it’s a screenplay buy but if you’re the actual originator [inaudible 0:39:45.2] I did write the screenplay until I knew they would definitely go for it. I don’t think every writer has that luxury. I think I’m lucky because I know the producers that I work with because I’m a producer myself. So I’m able to gauge [inaudible 0:40:09.3] If you’re just the writer and you don’t have the production contacts, you have to get that screenplay written no matter what. You have to do that right away before you show it to anyone, not only for it to work and you try to get a sale, but if you sell the treatment and in a production company a lot of times you’re going to lose control after that. They might not hire you to do the actual screenplay. [Inaudible 0:40:35.7] studio and you say hey, where’s that ten-page treatment, we love it. We’ll buy it. Okay, you’re happy. You got your money; you might get a story buy credit but okay someone else is going to write it. I see that all the time with people. It’s like [inaudible 0:40:49.9] write the screenplay, you must write it.
Ashley: So I ask this question to a lot of writers that come on the podcast—and it’s something that I struggle with as a writer—you just talked about a note that you got about the big bad wolf and you gave them a couple of scenarios, but how do you deal with notes as a writer and not just for this project but all the projects you’ve worked on when you get notes from people that you think are absolutely ridiculous? How do you deal with that?
Gabriel: That’s a great question. I’ll tell you this. I know several screenwriters and filmmakers in Hollywood, and I’m going to tell you ones who have success and go on to have a lot of success and the ones that don’t. You have to be able to be flexible. I know some writers that will say I think you should remove this character or we think you should do this or that, they go crazy. Don’t touch my script; that’s the way it is. If you can’t be flexible they don’t want to work with you. It’s not a legal thing or anything. Well, it is for the pro writer, the writers who have [inaudible 0:42:03.8] they don’t want your script. I understand; I used to be there when I first started writing twenty years ago. I think I probably had the same attitude. The answer is–of course you don’t just say oh go ahead and do what you want with it. No, you have to consider it. If it seems ridiculous, okay, guys, why did you want to do this? Engage in conversation with them. Well, this, this, and this. I see your point. Okay, but let me tell you my point. Let me tell you why I think it won’t work. Why, because of this, this, and this. I didn’t think of that. Okay. The answer is you have to–and I’ve done it many times and I did it with this screenplay as well—I had to engage in conversation with logic. You want to do that. I see why you want to do that but I don’t think it will work and here’s why. They might say well, we think you have to do this because of this reason. You go back and forth, and at the end of the day you’re diplomatic enough and you’re able to block and what you’re saying makes sense and it’s logical, you can [inaudible 0:43:11.7] what you’re saying, for the most part you’re going to win, okay, great! Do that. If they end up saying no for whatever reason that we don’t know, go with the ones writing the paycheck. Sometimes it’s a bad thing. At some point some people will choose to either go with it or walk away, but you have to ask if you want to get the movie made or not, things like that. So different people might react differently.
Ashley: I think that sums it up. You have to be flexible. That kind of sums it up at the end of the day. So how can people see Little Dead Riding Hood? Is it coming out on VOD? Is it going to get [inaudible 0:43:54.8]
Gabriel: First let me say it just came out. It is on VOD. It’s on Dish Network, Direct TV, it’s on amazon.com; it’s on ITunes, X-Box. It’s available at Wal-Mart [inaudible 0:44:13.7] so it’s everywhere; I’ve seen it everywhere. So if you walk into Wal-Mart or I think Target has it as well, Best Buy they have it, but if not amazon.com, ITunes and Video-On-Demand. It’s going to be on Netflix later too. It’s not on there yet but it will be.
Ashley: I always like to end the interviews just by asking the guest if they wouldn’t mind sharing their Twitter handle or Facebook page or their blog or really whatever you feel comfortable just in case someone listens to the interview and potentially wants to kind of follow you and keep up with what you’re working on, on Twitter, Facebook, or have a blog or anything like that?
Gabriel: Absolutely! I’m on Twitter. [Inaudible 0:45:02.7] I have to go on and look.
Ashley: I’ll do a search and I’ll put it in the show notes so people can click over there. I’ll track that down as long as I know you’re on there.
Gabriel: I’m on Facebook as well. I do have a website. It’s gabrielcampisi.com. I try to update it with the news articles coming out, interviews, [inaudible 0:45:25.0] post photos all the time and what we’re doing. I now have links to Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and a bunch of other places.
Ashley: Perfect. So that’s great! I’ll round all that stuff up, and I will link to that in the show notes.
Well, Gabriel, I really appreciate this interview. Good luck with the film. I really appreciate you coming on. Interesting interview, I really learned a lot. So I know that the people who listen to this will as well.
Gabriel: Thank you so much. I appreciate you having me. I appreciate it very much and I had a lot of fun. Thank you so much.
Ashley: Thank you. We’ll talk to you later.
Gabriel: Okay. Take care.
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 think I have well over now 250 producers who have signed up to receive this newsletter. These producers are hungry for material and happy to read scripts from the writers. So if you want to participate in this pitch newsletter and get your script into the hands of lots of producers, sign up at sellingyourscreenplay.com/select. Again, that sellingyourscreenplay.com/select, and really think about what I’m saying here. These are 250 producers who have explicitly said they want to hear pitches every month. So these are really the producers that you want to interface with. These are not cold emails; we’re not just blasting this out to the entire world. These are producers who said yes, I’m in the market for material and I’m willing to look at these new writers who may or may not even have representation, etc. It gives us a great opportunity just to get your log line in front of some producers.
Secondly, I’ve partnered with one of the premiere paid screenwriting lead sites so I can syndicate the [inaudible 0:47:12.2] by Sys Select members. There are lots of great paid leads coming in each week from our partner. Recently I have 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 ideas. There are shorts, features, producers looking for TV. There are producers looking for shorts, features, producers looking for TV and web series pilots. It is a huge array of different types of projects so most likely if you’re a screenwriter, whether you’re writing TV or web series or features or shorts even, you will be able to find some submissions each week that are applicable to you. These leads are exclusive to our partner and Sys Select members. Again, to sign up go to sellingyourscreenplay.com/select where I actually have the domain name sellingyourscreenplayselect.com. I think you can go to either one of those. Again, I have linked everything in the show notes sellingyourscreenplay.com or just find this podcast episode 113 and look for the link in the show notes.
I recently set up a success stories page for people who have had success through the various Sys Select services. So if you want to check out what some of the other people who have tried our services are saying, just go to sellingyourscreenplay.com/success.
So next week on the podcast I’m going to be interviewing writer and director Alfonzo Poiart who did a film called Two Rabbits? This is an incredibly stylized, kind of like a pulp fiction action thriller type of a script. I really enjoyed the movie. I would recommend it. I think it’s available now so you could probably see this movie before the interview next week. I think it’s available on demand. Again, it’s called Two Rabbits. I think he’s from Brazil. He started working his way up, just basically learned how to do motion graphics and slowly got into the industry and worked his way up. Now he is writing and directing films. This movie that I’m going to be talking to him about is a film called Two Rabbits. He just directed a movie with Anthony Hopkins and I think he’s called Solas. So he’s got a real career going now, and so we talk through the very, very beginning stages of his career. As I said, very modest, just learned how to do motion graphics on his own and started doing that for local television where he lived. So keep an eye out for that episode next week.
So to wrap things up, I just want to touch on a few things from today’s interview with Gabriel. I mean there is lots of great information. We covered a lot of stuff in this. I think it’s a great point working various crew positions. That’s a great way to get on set and learn the mechanics of how movies are made and work your way up. Obviously I talk about this nearly every week getting out there and just doing your own independent feature film. Again, go look at Gabriel’s credits on IMDB. You’ll see his first film that he wrote and directed. He just talked about it. It’s super low-budget but it got him kind of going. It was not one of these films that blew up. It was not [inaudible 0:50:27.8] or Brothers McMullen, but it was enough to kind of get his career going and that’s just so important. I think people go into these things thinking that they’re going to get this huge studio deal. That’s not always realistic, and that’s not always a bad thing. You could still have success with these independent films even if they don’t go viral or really blow up. They can still give you solid credit. So I think that’s why I’m so bullish on them and continue to recommend them.
I also think it’s really listening to what Gabriel said about being flexible. Again, I talk about this quite often on the podcast and what Gabriel just said is exactly correct. The working screenwriters, for the most part, are easy to get along with, and they’re open to suggestions from other people are going to make compromises to the material. That’s just so important because film is a collaborative process. If you’re not the one that’s raising the money and bringing the money, you’re always going to be subservient to someone. That’s just the way it is. You’re always going to have a producer and potentially a director that are ahead of you. Ultimately their ideas, for better or for worse, they may want you to implement them, and if you’re unwilling to do that, they will find a writer who is. That’s just kind of the way it is. So I would say definitely keep this in mind as you pursue your own career. I think it’s one or the other reasons why I’m so bullish on independent film is when you’re making a your own independent film even if it’s a short, that would be one of the most creatively fulfilling moments of your career even if you do it at a super low budget because you won’t have all of these other forces dictating what should happen with your script. Maybe one day I’ll just do a whole episode on sort of my ventures in screenwriting. You can go look me up on IMDB and pretty much every script that I just sold got drastically rewritten by the producers and the director. In my opinion it was made worse, but who knows, I’m just too close to the material, but the bottom line is the scripts that I’ve just sold and haven’t had anything to do with the production, those have been creatively very unfulfilling because, as I said, for the most part, they are at best fifty per cent of my script was thrown out the window and in some cases I’d say more than that. Again, it’s something to keep in mind and really listen and think about as you develop your own career. There is no point in spending a lot of time trying to accomplish something that’s not even really what you ultimately want. I do feel like there are a lot of writers. I’ll get emails from people like hey, I just wrote this script, and I want to send it out but how can I make sure that I direct it? How can I make sure that my vision is ultimately the one that they film and protect my script? You know I think those people are just in the wrong business. What I tell them—I’ll tell it to anyone listening to this now—you’ve got to go out and raise the money. If that’s your attitude, you’ve got to be the one who goes and raises the money and then you control everything. You have the pursestrings. You will be able to make all these creative decisions as well, but other than that, if you’re working for someone or someone buys your script or hires you to write a script, you’re basically an employee. Yes, you’re an artist, and yes, you’re creative, but there are a lot of compromises that do have to be made. Really listen to what Gabriel’s saying. Writers that he knows that are working in this industry are very, very flexible.
Anyway, that’s the show. Thank you for listening.