Ashley Meyers: Welcome to episode 115 of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger, over at sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing writer/director Jody Wheeler and his producing partner, Steve Parker. They recently did a film called The Dark Place. We walk through how that project got off the ground and how they raised money for it 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 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 podcast show notes at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcasts and then just look for episode 115.
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A quick few words about what I’m working on, not really a ton of new updates. Not a ton of new stuff has happened since last week. I’m starting to get into the notes. I’ve got a lot of notes on the pinch, and I’m starting to get into those. I’m going to be taking a real stab at the rewrite this week and probably next week so it will probably take me maybe two weeks. That’s probably the next couple of weeks’ worth of my writing time is just polishing up the pinch. Then I will move into a short list and start really breaking this script down on more of a practical level just about shooting it.
I’ve been putting out some feelers to getting some crew together so I’ve got a couple of people to interview on that front. So that’s coming together nicely. The plan is still to shoot in July so that gives me a little bit of time to kind of ramp things up. I’ve mentioned this before, but through the Kick-Starter campaign one of the greatest sort of side benefits of running a Kick-Starter campaign is just meeting a lot of folks, and I had a lot of folks offer to help out on the film, people who had various technical skills, production skills that they were willing to offer up to help in a film so that was greatly appreciated. So it just occurs to me that there are probably a lot of people out here who may be listening to this podcast. If you have any experience working in production, please do—and this sounds like an interesting project to work on, please do just drop me an email. It’s [email protected] and perhaps you can come and work on The Pinch. So as I said, I’ve got a lot of great people through the Kick-Starter campaign. So I’m sure there are other people out there as well. So don’t hesitate to just drop me an email. Obviously we’re going to shoot here in Los Angeles so if you’re not in Los Angeles, depending on your skill set, that might not work for you, but just drop me an email and just start a conversation. It’s [email protected].
Anyway, that’s what I’m working on. So now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m interviewing writer/director Jody Wheeler and his producing partner Steve Parker.
Welcome, Steve and Jody, to the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I really appreciate you guys coming on the show and talking with me today.
Jody Wheeler: Thank you very much. Thanks for having us.
Steve Parker: My pleasure.
Ashley: Let’s start out; maybe you guys can just give us a quick overview of your careers. Just kind of the early days, how you got interested in film and in those first few credits all the way up through The Dark Place and then we’ll drill down specifically into The Dark Place, but just give us a little overview of kind of your careers and how you got into the entertainment industry.
Jody: Steve, do you want to go first?
Steve: Sure. So I did it by being a movie buff and eventually deciding that I wanted to get up out of the seat and see if I couldn’t do it better.
Jody: I’ve been attending Frame line and other independent film festivals in my home or San Francisco for more years than I care to count and spent many years watching as much as a hundred features a year and finally decided I wanted to make them. I actually have a day job at a tech company in Silicon Valley and so this is actually sort of a second career of sorts.
Ashley: Okay and I wonder if we can just clarify a couple things. So you said you’ve been watching these films, going to film festivals. You had this idea maybe I can do better, and I think that’s probably a very common thing. What were some of your first steps to actually making that happen, to actually say okay, now just watching films and I’m going to go to actually making movies? What were some of the first steps you took to actually make that happen?
Jody: Well, in San Francisco at the time we were blessed with a film co-op called Film Arts Foundation, and I went in and took a class on how to run a 16-millimeter Bolex film camera, how to set up lighting, all that kind of stuff, and they rented out equipment. I rented out some equipment. I got a couple of my friends to go stand in front of the camera and shot a music video of one of my favourite artists.
Ashley: Perfect! Jody, maybe you could give us kind of a quick overview like Steve did.
Jody: I was a therapist and social worker for a number of years, and all that time I was interested in film. I wrote for some local television back in Washington DC. I had the opportunity to come out to Los Angeles. I kind of thought that Steven Spielberg would meet me when I pulled into town hearing that I was here. That didn’t happen so I spent more time in the therapy world, but while that was going on, I was writing. I was submitting to film festivals and to screenplay competitions. I placed in [inaudible 0:06:36.2] I think it was the last year before they rebooted it. I was a top finalist in that. I had won some other awards for some scripts, and I was making short films on the side. I was kind of failing at making short films. I was learning about what works and what doesn’t work and how you make a movie and how you write stuff. Then about ten years ago suddenly everything clicked. I got into UCLA in the NFA program. So I left social work and went back to school and while I was there I really intensified my writing and won some more awards. I sold a script when I got out of school that actually got produced. I produced a couple of films and wound up making my way and meeting up with Steve. We joined up together and have started making films.
Ashley: Let me just touch on, you said you sold your first spec script and it actually got made. What was the name of that title?
Jody: That film was called City on Fire or Heat Wave, depending upon where in the world the grade Z movie was shown. I had been sending scripts to a contact network called Hear TV Region Entertainment, and they had a really curious model at the time where they had one of two US OGBT network, TV networks, but they also had a broad audience international releasing thing for grade B films. So I kept sending them scripts and scripts and scripts, and finally they came back to me and hired me to write a movie for them. Their model was you had to write a movie with some scenes that could be shot for the OGBT market and some scenes that could be shot for the mainstream market but then it was one movie. So they would cut two versions of this movie, one for Gay people or Lesbians and then one for everybody else. They would kind of do a double-bang for their buck. So I got hired to write that. It was like three weeks to write a movie, two weeks to write the movie and one week to polish it. I wasn’t paid very well, but all they could guarantee me was that it would actually be produced. I did turn it in. A year later I showed up on the set and in that interim time I think there had been ten rewrites, three credited and seven uncredited, none of which made what was already kind of a shaky film because you really can’t write a good film in three weeks unless you’re like the top tier person. You just can’t do it, but I showed up on set and I had these people coming up to me with names that I never heard of telling me how much they loved the characters that I wrote for them. I went and was reading the script and I’m going it’s like being at a party and you’re meeting people, and you know you’ve met them somewhere in the past but you really can’t place them. I’m just reading this script and am going “ten rewrites?” It’s no better; It’s worse than when what I turned in to them and so, yes, [inaudible 0:09:50.4] but it made me a produced screenwriter, opened the door so I’m always indebted to the people who took a chance on me for that, and it really helped. That was my first claim to fame in Hollywood.
Ashley: Just so I can clarify, you would write one script and then in one version, they would shoot a scene where the heroine was played by a man and then the other segment was played by a woman?
Jody: There actually was a female lead in this film, and so her lab assistant was her Lesbian lover in the Lesbian version and her male rival was her love interest in the straight version. I wrote scenes where they had romantic interaction, where they had female/female interactions and male/male interactions and sex. Then they shot both of those, and then they would cut two different versions of the movie together.
Now in my mind a real movie is that she loved them both and so there is just this one giant movie where she would wrestle with any of them, but that’s how they did it. They had two movies with the guy out of this, and they still didn’t make a very good movie.
Ashley: Fair enough so I always like to just get some details. How do you actually find Region Entertainment? How did you actually find this company? Were you just sending out cold query letters to lots of companies? Was it through networking?
Jody: It was through networking. I met the VP of Development there. I was doing some volunteer work at Outfest which was the Los Angeles [inaudible 0:11:22.4] and then I was managing theatres at Sundance every year. Somewhere in all of that I met one of the VP’s over there, and I just started sending them scripts and pitching them ideas and then went in and pitched ideas. It worked out to the point that they didn’t buy anything that I sent them, but they almost bought one script. They didn’t have a project, but they came back to me six months later and said hey, we’d like you to write something for us. So it was networking basically.
Ashley: So let’s dig into the Dark Place. Maybe to start out you guys can give us a quick pitch or log line for the film just so people kind of have some understanding of what it’s about.
Jody: It’s about a young man who is estranged from his family. He returns home to the vast wine estate that his family runs. He finds that his mother, who he hasn’t talked to in years, has remarried. He’s got a stepfather and a stepbrother. They’re up to no good, and they’re about to frame him and steal the family fortune and kill his mom at the same time. He’s got to kind of rise to the occasion and save the day.
Ashley: Okay. Perfect. Where did this idea come from? What was sort of the germ of this idea?
Jody: Whatever goes on in the back of my twisted mind? I mean it was the first movie that I pitched to Hollywood, and it was just an idea that I came up with of what happens if you go home and you find that you’ve got a brand new family and the brand new part of the family is up to no good. Then it kind of spiralled out from there.
Ashley: I always just kind of like to get a sense of sort of where the writer’s coming from in terms of their process. Was this something you came up with like the characters and then the story? It sounds like the way you’re describing it, you came up with the story first and then filled it in with the characters, or was it first coming up with the characters and then coming up with the story?
Jody: It was a little bit of both. The hero of the story is kind of Sherlock Holmesesque like what would Sherlock Holmes have been like if he was nineteen or twenty or twenty-three, and what kind of family environment would produce that. Then how do you fictionalize that more and all these pieces start clicking together. The character is a little dark. The family life is a little dark, but he’s so far in the hole. How do you put him so far in the hole that he’s got to rise out of it to save the day, and how do you then estrange him from his family and how do you do all these kinds of things? So it just kind of organically grew like that.
Ashley: Take us quickly your writing process, once you had this germ of an idea, how long do you spend outlining vs. actually writing the script, how many pages a day? How much do you write in a given day, all of that, just your sort of basic process?
Jody: I’ve learned from one of the best teachers I ever had was a gentleman by the name of Paul Chitlock. He’s got a book out called Rewrite, but Chitlock actually at the time I was kind of unstructured and things, but he actually took me through doing the seven-point spine and working up the characters and then doing an outline and then doing a treatment and then actually going on into writing the screenplay. So it’s usually a month or two or three to go from the spine to the outline, then to the treatment and it’s like a month or two to write the script and so maybe four or five months from beginning to the process, then it’s however long it takes to revise the script and to do drafts and different things. Some days I’ll write the entire day, some days I’ll get caught on things and I’ll write just a little bit—don’t tell Steve—but I’ll just write a little bit and then pound my head against the wall the rest of the day. Then it’s somewhere in between there, and if there is a deadline I can write more, but it’s just how I feel about it and what I’m trying to do and how I’m trying to solve a problem in the story.
Ashley: Talk about your development process a little bit. Once you’ve got a first draft, how do you get notes on it? Who do you send it to? Is maybe Steve a part of this process as well?
Jody: Steve has been part of the process with some of the later scripts that he and I have done together. So Steve can chime in on that, but generally speaking not so much for The Dark Place. It was done with some other friends, but some of the stuff that I’ve written since, after I had a first draft or after the treatment I’ve given it to Steve. He’s gone oh, I understand this; I love this. Yes, I understand. Maybe you can do something with this. Here’s an idea. Here’s something you can work out, and I take those notes back. If it’s a great note I’ll steal it and say that it was always my idea, and if I get two, three, or four people that comment on something bad, then I realize I have made a mistake and want to go in and change it. Then I’ll write the actual draft of the script. Then that goes back to people like Steve and other friends to read. Then I get more notes, and you just kind of keep going from there. Does that sound like what you experienced, Steve?
Steve: Yeah, I think that’s pretty much how it worked. I think, Jody, it’s also worth mentioning just how long The Dark Place has been a script.
Jody: It was ten years to get The Dark Place from the first time that I pitched it was the time that Steve found it and decided to set up the funding to make it. It was about ten years.
Ashley: So Steve, I’m curious it sounds like you were integral in actually getting the funding. Maybe you can talk a little bit about what interested you about this project. What was it that sparked that interest that you said this is a project that I’m going to go out and start trying to produce?
Steve: It was a combination of the humor and the mystery, the element of making a mystery thriller that works is I think really hard to do well, and I knew from the first reading how delightfully structured the whole script was and I can see how, and indeed, the audiences have proved it. They do not get it early. They get reveal at the end when they’re supposed to, and every step of the way it was just so tightly crafted that it really had the audience and it really took you to where you needed to be every step of the way. I just found that awesome, and I frankly don’t see that in scripts very often.
Ashley: I think this is another question that I think both of you guys can kind of chime in on. Jody as the writer and Steve as the executive producer, how do you guys kind of work your relationship where maybe there are some differences of opinion—and I’ve definitely been in those situations where you have a director or producer giving you notes that maybe you don’t like as a writer and the producer is like well, I’ve got to be able to believe in this and were there ever those moments., Steve, where maybe you were giving Jody notes and he wasn’t that receptive or vice versa, Jody was giving you notes that maybe you didn’t think were that good? How do you come to a resolution on those types of issues?
Jody: Steve learned really early on that I was always right.
Ashley: I need to get Steve’s phone number because he’s the executive producer I want to work with.
Steve: You know, one thing is that Jody and I have generally found that as much as we disagree about something, that what we do is we basically just come back around and spend more time talking and listening with each other to hammer something out. We’re both big boys about this stuff. You don’t sit there and get all sensitive about oh, my precious little baby, you can’t criticize it. You can criticize everything. One anecdote which covers the way we tended to work a little bit. Before we really knew each other, we were both involved in a film and it was in post. It had a horrible act four, and we both independently pushed for a couple of test screenings and feedback that enabled us to in concert with those filmmakers to get a good cut of the film. In fact, we discovered that while we were editing The Dark Place, that neither of us had known entirely about what the other had been up to. Likewise, when we approached these scripts, when there is a note, it means something. It doesn’t always mean what the note says, but it means something. We’re always willing to take the time to hash out where did that note come from.
Jody: There really is something. Some people give you a note and it’s a personal preference of theirs, and you really have to listen to it and decide is that better than what I’ve done or is it worth stealing? Is it worth doing whatever? Other times people really can identify something that’s not quite working in your script. My kind of rule is if two, three, four, or five people all roughly say the same thing about the same spot in the script or multiple spots in the script, it’s a good note. It’s saying that either the usual case is you just haven’t gotten something right in your writing or, to the lesser extent is you’ve really gone out on a limb on a point, and you’d better be damned sure that, as the saying goes, that’s the hill you want to die on because you’re going to get a lot of push-back from people. You have to be a hundred percent convinced that what you’re seeing is something that is new and novel and worth going to the mat for. Ninety percent of the time in my experience it’s just that you’ve not quite gotten something that’s right for people. You’re going to confuse your audience too much, and you want to go back and take a look at it again.
Ashley: So it’s nice for sure. Okay, so now let’s talk about what happened once you had a draft of the script that you guys both thought was really, really good. What were those steps in actually going out and raising money? How do you go about raising money for a film like this?
Jody: It was a combination of private equity funding and Kick-Starter money right?
Steve: Right. Basically I put up a bunch of capital and then basically spent a bunch of time going around to all of my friends with money and pitching it saying I’m in, you should join me. It worked. I mean, when the producer says I’m putting money into this, we have [inaudible 0:23:10.6] money that’s going into this, will you put in money, that really does help.
Ashley: Maybe you can talk about your Kick-Starter campaign for just a second and maybe give us a couple of tips there. How did you get people to contribute to it? What was your funding goal and how much money did you raise?
Steve: The other producers on the project were really kind of strong experts in Kick-Starter, and they had kind of work it out to a science. It’s kind of an everyday hitting it, every day having content, every day pushing and making people aware of what you’re doing and going back to your base and then trying to get your base to reach out to other people and bring it in.
Jody: If I could jump in there, one of the things that we did in that campaign was recorded a new video to go up to the Kick-Starter site for kind of every couple of days so that there really was some engaging media hitting people along with all of the usual tweets and posts and so on. Actually it wound up as a DVD extra. So if you want to see how that campaign looks, pick up the DVD and check that out.
Steve: It worked out to about twenty minutes of total content on two or three-minute chunks and so I think the campaign was a 30-day campaign. Every couple of three days we were putting up a new video but tweeting and talking about things in the meantime plus we did the usual—these are like little funny skits. On top of that we were just doing interviews and stuff. So it’s a full-time process. Steve and I have gone back and forth about is it really worth it? It depends upon the amount of money that you raise, and if you have no resources at all, it’s probably worth it to go around and try to raise 20, 30, 40, or 50,000 dollars towards your movie. At some point in time once you get into the hundreds of thousands of dollars or millions of dollars, it starts to become more time-intensive and it costs you a lot on the back end if you fill the Kick-Starter rewards and things. So I’m not exactly sure that it’s always worth the time and worth the energy to do Kick-Starter or Indi-Gogo or that kind of thing. Sometimes it might actually be better to just shake hands and try to find the capital that you need to make a living. So Kick-Starter is great for under 200 or 300,000 dollar movies, but if you’re trying to go into 500 to a million-dollar movie, Kick-Starter is very difficult to raise that kind of capital, and you’re really talking a whole different game. You’re really talking a game where you’ve got to press the flesh, meet people and try to find folks with enough capital that they’re willing to give you big chunks.
Ashley: For sure. So Steve, maybe you can just talk a little bit about your pitch of this movie and what that was like. I mean you’re going to your friends that had some potential money to invest. What did your pitch look like? Is it your pitch like hey, this thing is going to make lots of money for us. Hey, this is going to be a cool project. Maybe you can just talk about what your pitch to your friends and colleagues is.
Steve: It was kind of interesting. I was originally focused strictly on the financial payback, but I ended up discovering that one of the bestselling points which brought on the larger executive producers was that they wanted to leave a legacy in film. As a result they read the script, that’s actually key. You need them to read the script I think, and you need them to understand the movie that you want to make. That is a legacy that outlives you.
Jody: I think that we’ve found especially where we were playing and the ballpark that we were playing in, everybody wants to make their money back, but there is also something for people of a certain means who are able to give a couple thousand, ten thousand, fifth thousand dollars towards a movie, a lot of it is they’re getting something that you can’t really get anywhere else. Anybody can go out and buy a car; anybody can go out and buy a house, but most people don’t have the opportunity to go out and be a part of a film. You have to have a name attached to a film and be a producer and go to film festivals and say here is something that I made. For a lot of people, that’s a big deal. For a lot of people with a lot of money, that will part with 50, 100, or $200,000 just to say I got my name on a movie, and it’s something that the guy up the street or the woman up the street doesn’t have. I feel good that I have helped artists make stuff. It was a really interesting thing to find.
Ashley: Okay, so let’s talk about now you’ve got your film; you raised your money. You’ve got your script. You’ve raised your money. You’ve produced your film, what was your marketing strategy? Did you guys go to the festivals with this? Did you find a distributor straight away?
Jody: We were being tracked by a sales agency, and they got involved with us really early on. Right Steve?
Steve: Yes. In particular from my previous experiences I was very happy to get someone who was going to be a worldwide sales agent because I had seen in other independent films how badly you can get screwed by little details in the contracts and it’s hard to collect from people and that too is a lot of work. That’s not what I’m good at. So we had Shoreline Entertainment approach us. They were very interested in the film. They saw the potential in it and they took it over from there essentially with the exception that we ended up driving the festival strategy far more than they did. They were good about being at market festivals like Sundance and pitching things, but they weren’t good at getting out to all of the bread and butter festivals that give you exposure.
Jody: It’s a really interesting thing to be still that Steve and I had, the previous film that both he and I produced on. A lot of the sales, and a chunk of the work was all done in-house is that the producers basically divvied up the task and found places to sell the film and got it on to ITunes and things and made one [inaudible 0:30:42.4] number and made one monetary number and then going this time with a sales agency and the kind of revenue that they did. Given the tools that are out there now, you have to kind of have an idea of can you do it yourself and do well or would it be better if you turn it over to a sales agency and have them handle it or if you turn it over to a sales agency, will they do their best but you wind up having all your profits emailed by fees on their side? It’s a long conversation that you have to have, and you have to really think about it dispassionately and you really have to think about it. What is going to be the best for the film and what kind of rating in numbers do you think you’re going to get and how’s the best that you’re going to maximize that for yourself and for your investors.
Ashley: Where are you now falling after going through this process on each side of the coin. Kind of where are you leaning? Does it depend per project like certain projects you would say are better for self-distribution, certain projects are better for having a sales agent?
Jody: Yes. I think that the more celebrities, the more commercial your project is, you are probably better off with a sales agent and pushing and driving things. If you have a niche movie that winds up at an A-level film festival—a Sundance, an Outfest, something along those lines depending on whatever, then you’re also good with a sales agent. A lot of people make grade B movies, sci-fi, and horror films. A lot of people make just the drama film they’ve always wanted to see made with no names, no celebrities, and just genre-driven, there is less money in those. Our first film that we produced on were LGBT films and that market is a very small market. So by the time you bring in other people to sell stuff, that small pie gets cut up really quick, and the pieces there are not that big. Horror films, the market is kind of saturated with horror films especially low-end horror films without celebrities. Once again you have to have something really novel that’s going to drive it; otherwise you’re probably best going in a digital distribution on your own. If you get a star in your film and there’s a decent star and you wind up with a great film, then it’s probably worth it to try to find yourself a sales agent. The other thing too is it’s also good to involve a sales agent even before you get started. This is something that Steve and I do now with a new project is trying to bring the sales agent at the script stage, help us find a cast or tell us what kind of cast we need to find to get the kind of budget, to get the kinds of sales numbers that we need that’s actually going to justify the sales agent and that’s actually going to justify the long-term financial prospects that we’d like. You’re juggling all these things; it’s pretty crazy.
Ashley: Again, this is a conversation for another day because we could go on for hours on distribution, but I’m curious, what do you see if you’re going to do the self-distribution, what are your avenues. I mean it’s just ITunes and Amazon for digital distribution. Are there other avenues to actually make a sale?
Jody: I’m a really big fan of [inaudible 0:34:04.1] It’s an [inaudible 0:34:06.1] and you go in there and it’s 9:50 and they will put your film up on Amazon and Vimeo. They can pitch you to X-Box. They can pitch you to a lot of different areas. They do a lot of stuff, and you can go to these one-stop shops now. There is no revenue cut. You pay them for giving the coding and they do the management of the file. Then you get whatever your film makes.
Steve: Also if you watch the market you see that people are consuming less and less physical media. So that really is the direction things are going in. You might as well embrace it. If you’re a budget filmmaker or you’re trying to get something off the ground, the physical media that has a ton more costs and that makes it harder for you to get back the money that you’re going to put into the film.
Jody: Even if you’re doing the $50,000 movie or the $25,000 movie or whatever you’re doing, there is still $150,000 worth of effort that goes into a film. It’s kind of like a bare minimum, and you’ve got to trade horses to make up for whatever cash you don’t immediately spend. You also have to be very much aware of what this film is worth, and do you really need a grade A sales agent or if you just put it on the digital services yourself and hire a PR company—and there are some great PR companies out there that don’t cost an arm and a leg and do great jobs with arranging interviews and are Twittering and that kind of thing for you, can you get the kind of audience that you need to make that the hard cash cost plus a little bit of profit that you go on and get the next film. That’s the joy now. It’s complicated, but it’s not impossible.
Ashley: I guess the big thing that I’m hearing from filmmakers is all these digital platforms—you’re not talking about ITunes and stuff for kind of the low budget movie without a lot of stars in it. You’re not talking about being able to generate much revenue like ten or twenty thousand dollars over the life of the film. I have some filmmaker friends that have done that and those are kind of the numbers they’re telling me. It seems like the big money is still making that sale to Show Time for a month or run in HBO. Correct me if I’m wrong, but can you get those sales without a sales agent. I don’t know that you can. So are you only talking about these digital—
Jody: Some of the digital platforms are setting themselves up with sales agents now to pitch to Netflix and things like that, but even Netflix doesn’t pay what it used to pay. Netflix is rolling their money into their own original content. Show Time and HBO and those kinds of sales, again, if you go take a look at that, 95 percent of the things on HBO, Show Time or even their platform tier, Show Time Four or Five, it still has a name in there, and it has some kind of celebrity in there to help sell it. It is very, very difficult for a no-name director, no-name writer, no-name cast, genre, or film to really break out unless you are just super awesome and strange, different, interesting. It’s just very hard. There is so much content out there and manage your expectations accordingly.
Ashley: So I always like to wrap up—that’s great. I appreciate that. I’m just actually at the beginning stages of embarking on a micro budget film so all that stuff is great information for me, and I know a lot of the people that listen to this are also trying that. So how can people see The Dark Place? Do you have a release schedule? Is it already out on Video on Demand?
Jody: It’s already out. It’s on ITunes; it’s on Amazon. It’s on Vimeo. If you go to thedarkplacemovie.com which is the website, that has links to all the various places that it’s playing at.
Ashley: Perfect. I will get that in the show notes. I always like to end this interview, if you guys just want to give us your Twitter handle or Facebook page or blog, anything you feel comfortable sharing just in case people want to follow along with what you’re doing and kind of just get to know you more.
Jody: What’s the name of our glorious company?
Steve: It’s Cathulu Crush Productions and on Twitter and on Facebook.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. I will track all that down and as I said I’ll put that in the show notes and I’ll put it in so people can just click right over. Jody and Steve, this has been a good interview, lots of great information. I really appreciate you coming on.
Jody: Thank you.
Steve: Thank you too.
Ashley: Good luck with the project and next time you have a project let me know and I’ll have you back on and we can talk about that.
Jody: We’ll do. Thank you very much.
Ashley: Thank you very much; we’ll talk to you later.
Ashley: I just want to mention two things I ‘m doing at sellingyourscreenplay.com 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 I 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 250 producers who have signed up to receive it. These producers are hungry for material and happy to read scripts from new 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 sellingyourscreenplayselect.com. Again, that’s sellingyourscreenplayselect.com.
Secondly, I’ve partnered with one of the premiere paid screenwriting leads sites so I can syndicate their leads to Sys Select members. There are lots of great paid leads coming in each week from our partner. Recently we’ve been getting probably ten to twelve high-quality paid screenwriting 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 directly emailed to you several times per week. These leads run the gamut from production companies looking for specific type of spec script to producers looking to hire a screenwriter to write up one of their ideas. There are shorts, features, there are producers looking for TV and web series pilots. It’s a huge array of different types of projects that these producers are looking for. These leads are exclusive to our partner and to Sys Select members. Again, to sign up, go to sellingyourscreenplayselect.com.
I recently did a success stories page so that people could kind of check out what some other people who have used our services are saying about our services. So if you have any questions about that or are just wondering what kind of success people have had through the Sys Select services. Just go to sellingyourscreenplay.com/success. Again, that’s sellingyourscreenplay.com/success.
So in the next episode of the podcast I’m going to be interviewing Shent Amasian who recently did a horror short that’s getting some attention. He got into lots of festivals and got some real good press on that and is starting to get some meetings around town potentially to shoot his short as a feature film, and we really walk through that whole process, how he made the film and how he got all this attention on it so keep an eye out for that episode next week.
To wrap things up, I just want to touch on a few things from today’s interview with Jody and Steve. I’ve asked numerous writers who have come on the show in case you haven’t noticed about how they handle notes that they don’t like. I think it’s interesting to see kind of the pattern of responses that we’re getting, and the reason I asked this question to a lot of the writers who come on is just because it’s something that I’ve had to face and you will have to face as a screenwriter. The question is basically how do you handle notes that you don’t think are very good and really go back and listen to what Jody said. There have been, as I said, numerous other writers on the show that I’ve asked essentially the same question to and frankly really gotten essentially the same answer. I think you’ll notice that none of these writers—I mean these are the people who come in on the show by definition are working writers. They’re writers that are actually writing stuff and having movies made, and I think what you’ll notice is that nobody has come on and just said as an artist just stand your ground. Most people are idiots and don’t know what they’re talking about. The consensus is kind of you’ve got to take every note and try and implement it or try and at least listen to it and try and at least understand where that note is coming from. You’ve got to be flexible. You’ve got to be able to work well with others. That’s really the name of the game for screenwriting, and I really think it’s worth noting. Again, when I started out, you don’t really understand how this is going to play out until you’ve started to option some scripts and actually talk with some directors and producers and even actors who potentially want to change your material. You won’t always think it’s a great idea. In fact, you’ll think a lot of these ideas are just downright bad, but you’ll still have to smile and nod your head and somehow make the best of it. I mean, that’s just the life of a screenwriter, and there is really no getting around it unless, of course, you want to raise the money for your film and direct it and produce it yourself which is kind of what I’m doing with The Pinch. In fact, that’s exactly what I’m doing with The Pinch. So ultimately it will be my movie, but I am getting notes from people even on something like that where I am the sole creator of this movie where I say I have sole decisions are mine because I’m the one who’s gone out and raised money. I’m the one who has written the script and I’m the one who’s kind of putting the thing together. So ultimately the decisions will be mine, but even in a situation like that, I’m working with my DP and he has some notes that he wants to give me, and other people have sent me notes through the Kick-Starter campaign. A lot of people read the script and sent me notes. Just exactly what Jody said, if you’re getting a lot of the same notes from people, you’ve got to address those and you’ve got to think maybe if you get a bunch of notes from six or eight or ten different people and you’re getting a lot of the same notes, you’ve got to figure that people watching the movie might have a similar note. Now if you’ve given it to six or eight people and only one person has given you that note, then maybe you just accept the fact that about 15 or 20 percent of the population is not going to necessarily like your movie. If you’re working as a paid screenwriter and someone, a producer who is hiring you, you’re absolutely going to be inundated with this and you really have to do it or they’re just going to get rid of you. You’re not going to have any kind of a screenwriting career unless you’re flexible and willing to work well with others. As I said, even when you’re doing something on your own, I’m looking at these notes and thinking some of these notes actually do make sense, and so I’ve got to go through and, as I said, I’m going to be taking another pass at my film.
Anyway, that’s the show. Thank you for listening.