Ashley: Welcome to episode #116 of the “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger, over here at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing Shant Hassanian, who recently did a horror short that’s getting some attention. And we really walk through how he made the film and how he brought this attention to it? So, stay tuned for that.
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at – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast, and then just look for episode #116.
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So a quick few words about what I am working on? The main thing I am working on right now is the rewrite of my micro-budget feature film, “The Pinch.” I’ve gotten a bunch of notes from a variety of sources. So, what I am doing is just trying to go through all the notes and figure out, you know, which notes I think are good? Which notes, there seems to be some consensus among the different people who do review notes. At this point I probably have notes from ten different people. So, you know, there’s some commonality to a lot of the notes. But, there are also just some things that are not necessarily common. And some of the notes are not necessarily bad. But, they are just not always that easy to implement. And so that’s kind of what I’m working on. I’ve created one big document what I did was I have notes from maybe ten people. So, I went through them, went through all the notes, and made one big document of all these notes. Basically where it was just cut and paste the notes out that I thought that I could implement. And put them into this one document. And then I’m going to work thought that document.
I mentioned this before too, I have a cinematographer, who might come out and shoot this film. He had a bunch of notes. Most of what his notes were the practical considerations on how to change the script to make it easier to shoot on a micro-budget film. And these are the source of things that really must be done with a micro-budget film. It’s a balancing act between trying to make it easy trying to shoot it, if possible? While still maintaining as much of the story integrity as possible. These notes to are not just for micro-budget films.
I would say, on almost all of them, the films I worked on. And so, some of them have had budgets in excess of $2 million dollars. There’s still always the word of budget considerations. No matter what your budget is, you’re always trying to get away with a little bit more. Because consolidate locations, that kind of stuff. So, it’s definitely something you’re going to face as a screenwriter. It’s just trying to make this script more budget conscious. And I can tell you too, if you take the time to really drill into your own scripts before you even send them out to anybody. And make sure they are as easy to shoot as possible. This will give your script a leg up. And it will give it a, it’s best chance of actually getting produced, so, really consider that. Is there ways of making the script easier to shoot? And maybe a couple of examples would be helpful to people? So, I’ll just talk about some of the things I actually am dealing with, with, “The Pinch.” If you haven’t read the script? It is actually on the Kick Starter page. You can go back and find that Kick Starter page. And there’s a link to the actual screenplay. I know a lot of people at this point listening to this Podcast probably already have read it. But, I’m giving you some sort of specific examples of what I am actually doing with the script.
Number one, consolidating locations of, and it’s pretty tight in terms of characters. I would say, I would definitely consolidate characters when you can. I’ve kind of already done that, with this script. So, there’s really only about eight talking roles, eight speaking roles in the film. So, I don’t have that many to consolidate, too many characters. To consolidating locations, I had an interrogation scene. They capture, it’s called, “The Pinch.” So, these, policeman try and basically get this one character to turn on the mob boss. And they capture him, it’s sort of a seedy apartment building. And then the next scene is they’re in an interrogation room. You know, I was thinking, I’m just going to keep the interrogation room in that seedy apartment. Based on they are in the living room and the bedroom of the seedy apartment. So, I’m just going to have the cops basically ask those questions right there. Saves us the time, saves us the energy of now having to go to the, I basically find a police station working interrogation room. We will already be at this location shoot in the living room, and the bedroom. So, consolidating that location. The next scene, is actually the hit man and his lawyer are capture. And his lawyer leaving the police station and having a little chit-chat, I’m going to consolidate that into a basically a car. Have them pull up in front of the protagonist apartment building. And then they are going to have that conversation there. Again, we won’t have to actually go and film and find the exterior of a police station. Which would probably be fairly difficult to shoot. You certainly couldn’t show up with a, you know, film crew at a police station. And start shooting without having a few eyebrows raised. So, again, this would just consolidate some more locations. Again, I highly recommend it, if you can do it? If you can keep the entire integrity of the story at a few locations, it’s going to make it easier to shoot. So, that’s pretty straight forward doing that sort of consolidation. But, one of the other big notes that I got from this guy, the photographer, was? Try and curtail some of the fight scenes. There’s a bunch of sort of hand-to-hand fight scenes. And his idea was, trying to make the main bad guy basically the protagonist, captures the anti-protagonist. And tries to ransom him to his other, you know, mob cronies. And so, there’s some sort of hand-to-hand combat is the one that the mob boss is tied up and left in his car. And it’s kind of a bit that gets repeated a couple of times. So, this idea was, make the guy more, you know, more manipulative verbally. When he tries to get in the guy’s head and verbally tries to manipulate him and get him to do stuff as he’s tied to the car. And that will illuminate some of these fight scenes. And again, these fight scenes are going to be difficult to shoot on a micro-budget. You can definitely do them. Because there’s no explosions, there’s no guns used, it’s hand-to-hand combat.
But, those t types of fight scenes typically take a long time, just in terms of your shooting. And that’s one thing where we are going to be battling. Is, no matter how many days we end up shooting, probably 12-13, 14 maybe 15 shooting days. We’re always going to feel like, gee, if we had, had a few extra shooting days. And these fight scenes can take a long time, you know, right. Be it only a half-page, or maybe a page of script time. But to shoot that properly and not make it look cheesy. It might take you a day to shoot that, and we’re not going to have time to spend the entire day on one page of script. You do the math on this, the script is 90 pages. So, that’s like 6-7 if we shoot for 15 days, that’s like 6-7 pages per day that we are going to need to shoot. So, that was another note that I think is a good note. So, I am going to go through that and just try and see if I can’t consolidate this. And put some of the sparring that these guys have. Have make it verbal sparring. Again, I think it does fit with the story, I think it does fit with the characters. So, it’s just going to be kind of a tweak that I can make. But, definitely help out, in terms of the shooting of the film. So, you know, that’s basically sort of what I am doing in terms of the notes. Taking notes is really more art than science. And I get a lot of interaction from screenwriters because I run SYS Script Consultants Service. Where we will be reading your scripts and then we will give notes on it. And then I have people coming back to me, you know, sometimes they’ll buy the Three-Packs, or they’ll get notes from three different readers. Then people come back to me, are kind of wondering, how they should take these notes? You know, there’s not always an easy answer? One might feel really strongly, oh, you got to change this part of your script. But, you know, other people might be saying, “No, no, no. That part really works for me.” So, you just never know? That’s why I said, I’m really looking forward. And I’m lucky to have so many remarks from so many people. It can make it unwieldy at times? Just looking for some consensus. And then trying to figure out, but it’s tough, there is no right answer. I’m ultimately, it’s I’m the one who’s going to be making the decisions. I’m the one who’s basically directing it and producing it. So, I’m the one who gets to make the final, get the final say on these things. But, I do want to have the best script possible. So, I’m just trying to go through it most and try and figure out ones I like. And some of the notes I said, I like them, but, they are just not that practical. It just changes the story so much and so dramatically, that it’s hard to get those in plays, or deep users more. But, if I’ve done that note before, I wrote the script, it might have been something that, you know, in the outline state. Or something, that if I had gotten that outline note, I might have been able to work with it. But, so, anyways, I hope that’s helpful for some people? It’s a struggle, and I hope that if nothing else you can kind of come away with this signed up. You know, every screenwriter, every writer struggles with taking notes. It’s probably the most challenging part of the job. Anyway, that’s what I am working on,
So, now let’s get into the main part and segment. Today, I’m interviewing Writer/Director – Shant Massian, here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Shant to the, “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Shant: Hey, thanks for having me.
Ashley: So, to start out, maybe you could just give us a little bit about your background? Kind of how you got into it, the entertainment industry? And just worked your way up to eventually directing this recent film.
Shant: Well, I was a, like an illustrator, I was always drawing and painting, I went to Art Center Collage for Drawing and Design. And you know, where the greats, “Michael Bain, Snider, went. And you know, I was doing, like, comics a lot. So, that’s like potentially story telling you know, so, you tell stories visually. And I would story board my work, and everything. And I started making films always in school. And I was, let’s see, at a after a certain point, after I kept making more and more. I got into making music videos. And a lot of other freelance jobs. And for years I kept trying to break into getting a feature film, like an original feature film of mine, and for ten years. And I’ve written about nine screenplays at this point. And so, I mean, I’ve been busy, but, still trying to get something off the ground for years. And I see that, you know, after a lot of directors. They come to me now a days eager to get films off the ground. With only a short film they have made. And I found I have become popular. So, they, you know, they get, if the short film gets popular, even if it doesn’t get a lot of script. I get called into the room, and they’re like, hey, we love your short, let’s make this into a movie, and you can make and direct it. So, that’s kind of what’s happening right now. I made a short film, but I want to, you know, make a feature film from it. And, now that it’s in over one hundred festivals. South by Southwest, being contacted by many places all over Hollywood.
Ashley: Okay, okay. So, let’s dig into some of these other shorts. This, the, Night of the Slasher” one is, like your fourth or fifth short film, correct? So, talk about, maybe just talk about just some of those early films, were they, would you feel they were not as good as, “Night of the Slasher?” So, maybe they didn’t get you? Did they get you to a certain point with it? And now things are starting to break open? Maybe we can talk through some of those projects? How you got them made? And kind of what they did for you, career wise?
Shant: The first short film that I did, was like a SyFy film type called, “The Slow Zombie.” And I put it; I sent it in to the Cannes Film Festival. I was still in college it was like 18 years old. And, it had gotten in. And I got on the news for it. And I got some attention though. But this was before YouTube and stuff. But like nobody in the industry saw that I was on the news about my short films, they never contacted me. I get to the Cannes Film Festival. To my disappointment the short film corner is not the same as being in the competition. So, there’s like a thousand film fair that night, were the only ones watching. (Laughing) So, but I wasn’t key to storage, decided to keep making films at school, I made a second one called, “Basement on Earth.” And, a, that’s a bit big SyFy 1850’s extravaganza all in one entire short film package. And I thought, this could possibly be a TV Show. And of course I can’t get it in, I can’t get into the doors at ACO Works. Not with a short film, but somehow I got it ACO. And so it got HBO, and he was really excited about the project, but he couldn’t move it up the chain. He said, “Oh, this will be great! It’s better than “Flying the Concourse. This could be better than that!” And that didn’t work out, like nothing ever materialized from that. But for years I kept trying, I made more shorts, and did music videos. And I wrote tons of screenplays, and what ever happen next was a you know. An interesting, I nearly gave up, at the nine year point. You know, it was a thought, it’s was a really discouraging spot.
Ashley: Talk about your transition, you mentioned you’re are in art school. And you are an illustrator. Where did you get the technical skills to make these movies? You just decided, you’re just going to make them, the movie. You’re just going to learn, you know, run the camera, and set-up lighting and stuff?
Ashley: Just on your own?
Shant: On my own, exactly. I decided, I was in a class, and I was getting a little bit tired of being an illustrator. It was like, you know, this isn’t quite like full filling the inner fold? The, something just didn’t feel right. Right, I just didn’t feel like I wasn’t doing anything important enough. Like, you know, like being in the lime light isn’t important. It was just like, it wasn’t working out for me, like it wasn’t the right fit for me. So, and I had some funds who were huge fans of my like, storytelling ability, through my comics and stuff. And they were like, and some of them were like, Shant, you should probably transfer to comics, you’re such a good story teller. You’re not just a guy who designs things, and draws things, ya know? You know, you do other things, like your biggest strength is story telling. And so, for this one class the teacher also noticed when I would draw, I was like a little bit bitter, but not as enthusiastic, for doing all this work. All these paintings every week. And he said, “Why don’t you try and just try something you’re passionate about?” I’m like, okay? What if I just make a film in this illustration class? You know, he’s like, “Whatever, do something you care about?” You know, so, I did, I had only like eight weeks to do it. And I tried to figure out an idea, and I did. And I learned how to storyboard my entire movie. I called every person that I knew, for extras, and you know, I just started making phone calls. And I thought, “Oh, wow, making movies is making phone calls asking for things.” Which is a lot of fun. And I started figuring out, you know, this is a lot more fun. So, the film was called the, “Slow Moving Zombie.” With 3,000 slow moving zombies. It was about a zombie, he was too slow to catch anybody.
Ashley: (Chuckling) that’s a very understanding professor who let you make a movie instead of an illustration in class.
Shant: Yeah. He just said, I could do whatever I wanted, whatever I want. Just everyone had to turn in a painting every week. He didn’t see me for like eight weeks. I would walk in and I’d tell him, “Yep, I’m still making the movie. “ And I’d walk back out of class. (Laughing) There was no point in me sticking around for class. I show up, and I’d be like, still making the movie, and I’d turn around, “Bye.” And he’d keep shuffling his folders. I’m like, well, I either going to fail him, or you know, or, you know, he’ll let me pass.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So what sort of budgets were you raising for these films? And was it all just self-financed?
Shant: Oh, I a, yeah, self-financed. The first film was like, $800.00. I borrowed a film student’s cam-quarter to shoot it. But, I also learned how to do, final cut pro, and after effects. I took a couple of workshops within a short period of time.
I learned how to do the silent film effects to make it look like it was shot on an old film. You know, so it doesn’t look like a cam-quarter movie. Anyway, by the time, by the last week of class, everyone saw the film, and I got an “A.”
Ashley: Yeah, nice. So, let’s dig into, Night of the Slasher.” Just kind of talk about how that one came about? What was sort of the genesis for that script. And maybe you can start out, just kind of pitching that, and giving us a log-line for it?
Shant: Yeah, so, “The Night of the Slasher” short film. If you haven’t heard about it? It’s about a teenage girl who commits horror movies, such as doing drugs, drinking alcohol, and having sex. In order to lure out the masked killer, and exact revenge.
Ashley: Okay, okay. Where did this idea come from?
Shant: Well, you know, once you’ve gotten to like, that point in your life, you know. And nothing is ever hit and you’re trying to create something? And it comes from me, after all the discouragement and getting depressed about things. And ultimately, so taking some really tough use from some assholes in the industry, it was really hard. But, that was like, almost, I’m done! I’m so done! Right after that, in my field position, I was watching horror movies. Not because I’m scared, or because I was depressed, horror movies are comfort place. Like, Oh, I’m so depressed, it’s nice to see whopped off heads to replace it. (Chuckling) ya know? Then while watching a bunch of horror movies on Netflix, while depressed. Because of everything that’s going on in my life. I realized, an idea hits, and I thought about the whole traumatic element of the victims, right? And I was feeling like a victim during this part of my life. And I thought, okay, well, what if we have this victim. You know people have this final girl, what if the first girl is the final girl? And, doing drugs, picking up alcohol, and having sex, she’s a party girl. That’s what people do when they are traumatized. And you know, they have PSD, and things like that. They tend to, you know, do jobs and drink, and they go down this downward spiral. So, this, we have this character who does these things, as a way of coping with these trauma’s she’s been through. With surviving and attacking people, she our killer.
Shant: Yeah, so. I want to breath in a new jux to the horror film cliché. So, spinning as many things on its text, to make it fresh and new again. Yeah.
Ashley: So, what were you sort of your expectations with this, do a short. And spin that into a feature film, or do a short just to get attention, get an agent and a manager? What were your expectations of this?
Shant: All of the above.
Ashley: Okay, okay. And so, once you had this thing, you had this script. You went shot it again, I assume? It was self-funded, you just basically paid for this out of your pocket.
Shant: Yeah, yeah. A lot of things fell through for this script. Someone was going to give me the money. And they changed their mind at the last minute, that fell through. We had a different actress than before, she dropped out. We had like a bunch of similar photographers, and they dropped out, like one by one. It was just like, “hey, are you going to do it?” And they were like, “yeah, I’m going to do it.” And would drop out. And even the camera dropped, while the very first day shooting. It was a, the entire movie was always falling apart at the seams. We’d be like, we barely had the money for it. Like my dad helped me with some of the funding at like the last second. You know, it’s like a miracle that, that movie even got made, that it even got finished. You know, we barely had anything, to keep it going. I mean, like, yeah, it’s true. It was astonishing because we barely got it made. Now, it’s at over 100 festivals and playing at South by Southwest. It truly is astonishing; it kind of blows my mind looking back. When the seams, how this movie didn’t seem possible to even complete, you know.
Ashley: So take us through the process, okay, so far? So, finally you’ve got the movie produced and it’s finished. What was your marketing strategy? Did you just start submitting it to festivals? And maybe talk a little bit about what you did with the film, once it was done?
Shant: Sure, sure. So after the film was done, so I was trying to figure out, you know, here’s the thing? Whenever you finish a film, you have to think about the timing of when you are finished with it? And you have to decide when to send it, a rough cut to major film festivals, or not? And or, you’re going to wait until you completely got it, to send it out.
So, I have this rough cut, and I was really on the brink of sending it. And the “Cannes” competition deadline was coming fast. So I sent a rough cut to them. I really didn’t expect it to get in? But, it would be great to have the world premier right there at the “Cannes Film Festival.” And I sent it to this really high end South Korean Film Festival. At the world’s most fantastical film festival. It’s a really hard one to get into? And I send them a rough cut too. I didn’t expect to get into any of them? But in the meantime then, I figured I’ll just keep sending my film once it’s completely finished. And I shot it through a couple of friends, who know people. And pass the test with
South by Southwest. And I let them look at it, and take a run at it, the film. And I can tell you what or whether this film is ready to submit? He took a look at it, and he said, “I love the film!” He loved the title of the film. And he said, that a you know, I’ve seen the film and a fantastic fest. And South by Southwest takes. And yours is good enough. So, once I heard back from Bookian, I didn’t get into Cannes. But, Bookian, be on. Some, not sure about the Bookian? They contacted me, and said that my film is in! So, my premier was at South by Southwest, in South Korea. Okay, sure, once I got into a major festival. I used that as a banner. And I put that in signs on road freeways, when they look up at the image and see my film. And they keep on a role, and I started to see the committee of the places, as many as I could. And specifically genre film festivals. So, most film festivals that are in the horror/SyFy/Fantasy genre. So, I looked up on a website, where, you are the top 100 genres of the fastest. So, I was like, I sent one to each one of those, as much as I could. And I also looked for as many free festivals to send it to as well. Because, if you have a short film, like, you’re going to need about, like definitely need a few grand ($3,000.00) or more to submit to a lot of film festivals. This happened I submitted to, for a long period of time. I always thought, so many, five festivals a week, maybe, you know.
Ashley: And what do those usually cost? Like $20.00, $30.00 per submission?
Shant: It depends? There are early deadlines, which are between $15.00 to $35.00. And then some festivals are $40.00, I believe, at the early bird deadline. But, and there’s like late submissions that are like $75.00. And honestly, it’s not worth it, just to submit to festivals with the early deadline. That way you’ll be able to afford to get in more festivals. And your chances of getting in fill up. Because here’s the thing, like, you want to submit as early as possible because you want to have a first impression in before any of the other films gets in. By the time you submit it, you’re on the last day of the last deadline. Programmers have watched thousands of films. Some of them hundreds, but some of them thousands, and they are exhausted. And they really just can’t take any more. And so, they are going in with a beaten up brain of so many terrible short films. Because there are thousands upon thousands of people making short films all over the world. Some, like Sundance, receives over 12,000 submissions, 12,000!! South by Southwest received over 7,500. And you know, so.
Ashley: So, the one thing, the one festival in South Korea, that was not a festival you had submitted or been accepted to with any of your previous short films, is that correct?
Shant: Yes, correct.
Ashley: So, there’s no previous relationship? There was just a cold submission.
Shant: There was a cold submission, and it was a rough cut. And I submitted it on the last day, the very last day, of the submissions of the very last day, of the last hour. Like they, I almost didn’t make the deadline for. Which is.
Ashley: See, that’s the advice, the advice you just said, of people not to do that.
Shant: And here ‘s the thing, I had nothing to lose, it’s a free submission, it’s a rough cut. And, you know, whatever?! So, it’s not going to matter. I’ll send it in and see what happens?
Ashley: Now since your first, your very first film that got into Cannes? Have any of your other short films gotten into Cannes? Like have you built a relationship with some of the programmers at Cannes?
Shant: A, yeah, sort of, you know, like mostly the short film corner stop. And I’ve also had more attention on certain films that have gotten in. Like one of the ones I made in 48 hours. I can’t really pronounce it? Rotwell Coocoo? And then recognition. So, but, anyway, I submitted that for the corner as well, I can’t submit it to the competition, because it has already premiered, they only take premiers, It’s really hard to get into that festival. But you should go anyway, just for the networking and the contacts at Cannes. You’re, submit your film to the corner.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. Now, did they pay, does Cannes pay for you to come over? Or is it on your dime?
Shant: It’s on your dime.
Ashley: So, you’re paying for room and board and all that?
Shant: Yeah, I mean, South by Southwest, it’s on your dime. A.
Ashley: Okay. You talked about a connection you had, someone who is very well connected to South by Southwest. Who you submitted to.
Shant: Yeah. You talk to them; I didn’t talk to them at all. You just, you know, like he’s friends, he’s like, he knows them. But it’s not like he has any influence or say. He didn’t show them the short or anything like that. I went my own cold way for that one. I only talked to him because I wanted him to give me some advice on film submitting and all that stuff. I mean, even the heads of programming don’t have say. Or the Head Chairman, don’t have say over what the programmer is going to think? Right, if you go up to, you know, the head person, or are friends with the head person. And they will all tell you the same thing. It’s like, look, I may not be showing anything tonight. But he wanting into the festival, it’s really up to the programmer for him to piece everything together. So, you know, you just got to hope the programmers are going to like your short and put it in, ya know?
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, now that you’ve entered all these festivals. I mean, I have not done a lot in terms of submitting to festivals. But sort of the gist is, you always get in. This sort of idea that it’s who you know, and it’s sort of networking to get into some of these festivals. But that doesn’t sound like your experience?
Shant: No, when in fact, and seriously, like there was no other. I went through the actual, you know, South by Southwest channel, to get to them. Like, here’s an example, of like, there are no back doors in, in regard to festivals. They have a pretty tight lock on how things get in. So, like here’s an example. The Atlanta Film Festival, like, I’m an alumni, “Spaceman on Earth” played there. And I’m like, you know, I wanted “Night of the Slasher” to play there. And, they didn’t take my film, and that really upset me. And I was like, “WHAT! I’m an alumni there, come on! And this is even better than the film you played there years ago.” No, seriously, like the programmers wield the power at film festival. Right, even at another major film festival, like the head of the film festival. He knew me, and said, “Hey, I’m glad you submitted your short, it’s great to see that you’re still making films.” You know, and he said, “I hope my programmers like it.” You know, so, I’m telling you, like I’ve tried to, like network and socialize to get films in film festivals. And really when it comes down to it? They are, and it’s a good thing, it’s a good thing. Because there’s no crony-ism when it comes to film festivals. So, pretty strict on just the merit of a film itself. Just like their programmers make it, to base their decisions.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. I’d be curious to know, if you would share with us. Just a sort of general idea of how many festivals you have seen and submitted to, how many have been rejected? And that always, and I just like to get the sort of scope of what you are doing. Because I always feel like a lot of, especially screenwriters that submit their script. And they don’t understand how much rejection is just part of this process. So just hearing sort of, some actual data you might share with us some. I think might be interesting.
Shant: Well, a, in regards to film festivals? I heard that you’re getting into one fourth (1 / 4), of the festivals you submit to. And that’s really good, and that means, you know, that’s a good sign, that’s great.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Do you think you were close to that number? You were close to a fourth?
Shant: No. (Giggling) No, I’m getting close to 60% – 70% of them, the festivals I have submitted to. I’m getting into a shit ton, more than the, “Hey, we’re doing 1/4th.” That’s the sign of a really good movie. That’s when a film is doing amazing. I’m like, well yeah, mine, my film is getting into 60% – 70%, of all the festivals that I submitted to. So that’s better than that.
Ashley: So, you mentioned that you’re in now, like a 100 festivals. And is there some snowballing that goes in, like once you been in a major festival? Other festivals start to contact you, so you’re not making all these submissions. Or is it just you continuously plowing ahead and continuously submit the film?
Shant: Okay, well, I’m starting to get a few invitations from festivals. And I think I’ve gotten over, I think I’ve gotten between 10 to 15 invitations to festivals. And you know, most of the time you get in when they invite you. One festival, they invited me, but just decided not to take my film?
Ashley: Thanks a lot.
Shant: So, just make love to you like… Just go by yourself. But, I don’t say that, I keep pretty cordial. So, sorry, where was I? Done with that.
Ashley: I just receive, I was just curious about?
Shant: Yeah. And now that I got into South by Southwest, I’ve received even more invitations. And yeah, getting contacted by it. And here’s the thing, before I got into South by Southwest. And before the end of 2016, my film premiered inside of Korea, July 18th of 2015. And I’ve been submitting non-stop at that point for a few months. And it got to a point where I got into over 100, I was selected in over 100. And I used that, oh wait, and I got into a couple of Oscar qualifying film festivals, St. Louis, and Detroit Film Festival. And so I decided to use that, as a tool of marketing. And I hired a publicist, who reaches back to all the major chains of or media. And so, we use that as a story, it’s a hook, it’s a hook you get people to read about it and know about it. And hopefully go viral. I mean, that’s the idea, you need a good hook. And you want people to talk and share about it. And so, the hook was, a horror short film, has a chance to be on a shirt or something like that. A chance for us at consideration. And you know, so we used that. And it ended up on Facebook, and I would promote that. I promoted the hell out of some of the articles that were written about the film. And you know, I put a lot of a little bit of Facebook advertising, just to help boost it. And then it spread into over a million Facebook views, like 1.2 million views on the article alone. Another one, like, 400,000. So, over a million and a half people have seen articles about the “Slasher.” Film. Which, I mean typically, short films spread when they are online and people who have seen it. People have not seen the short film, and it’s gone viral, and people are talking about it. And the likes on my Facebook page have gone up, for the film, the Facebook page of the film. I made sure I had a website and Twitter account also prepared. Just to show that you are taking this very seriously. You have a website, you are going somewhere with it, with this. And once the article started spreading, major production companies harder, have been contacting me. Managers and agents, they took a bunch of meetings and I’m still taking meetings. And you know, we’ll see what happens? I mean, they are pursuing us now, you know. So, us knocking on doors, my door is being knocked on.
Ashley: Was there a typical point? Was it, this hiring a publicist, getting this viral campaign, like at what point did you really start to get these offers coming in from agents and managers?
Shant: As soon as word spread about my film. I mean, first of all, it took a long time to get there. I had to of course make the film. It took me a year to make the film. And, it could have been done a lot faster if we had the funding for it. But, you know, got to wait on other people. And sometimes certain things take a couple of months. But, so the film had to have a good opening at the South Korean Festival. It got into over a hundred, it got into a couple of Oscar qualifying film festivals. So, at that point, it had enough mileage, that I’m like, okay, this short is doing so well. It’s time to start writing articles about the Oscar thing. And that it’s been in over a hundred festivals. So, we started doing that, we were around November, and started marketing it, my publicist started putting it out there. A lot of, you know, journalist meet, they were writing about it. And I shared it as much as I could through Facebook. I’m not really good with Twitter, I don’t really understand Twitter. And so, just really couldn’t make it get retweeted a lot, I just can’t figure it out, Facebook, I get. You know, so, I use that to my benefit as much as I could. And so that’s what I continue to do. And it works out pretty well.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, okay, so what’s next for you? Now, you’re going to be playing at South by Southwest in the next couple of weeks? And then what are you going to start working on?
Shant: A, let’s see? The idea is, get in the feature film, before you can get in there. But,
Ashley: Okay, okay.
Shant: We’ll see what happened? I do have a lot of other projects going on the side as well. But, this is the major priority. I mean I made the short notice. Of course turning it into a feature, and now the industry is knocking my door down about it. Well, they’re managing that and can handle that.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, yeah. When are you going to release “Night of the Slasher” online? So, the people just, everybody can see it?
Shant: A, probably later in 2016? I mean, it’s still, like, all over the world. Wait, even past that, I know. It might have an early release. It might out on the 20th, I don’t know for sure yet?
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, and the festivals won’t touch it once it’s released online, that’s kind of the idea isn’t it?
Shant: Yeah, most festivals want the exclusivity, they want it to have the full tour going on. They don’t want, and a lot of festivals don’t like it when there are cities where they have been played, you know. Because they feel that they still won’t be able to get more people in. It has played in their city before. A lot of them say, “Hey, we want the Los Angeles premier. We want the Sacramento Premier. “And so on and so forth.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So I always like to wrap up the interview with just asking you to share whatever you are comfortable with in terms of people following you. Keeping up with what you are doing? You know, your Twitter handle you just mentioned. You weren’t down very good with Twitter. But if you have a Twitter handle people can maybe connect there? Your Facebook page if you are comfortable sharing that. And I’ll round all this up in the show notes.
Shant: A yeah, I have a personal Twitter, and a, that’s – #ShantHamassian and #Nightoftheslasher is also on Twitter. It – @tonightiskiller and let’s see, “Night of the Slasher” has a person Facebook page. That’s where the most amount of material and news is coming out. And, let’s see here? And then – www.nightoftheslasher.com. If you want to check out the website. There is also a trailer, if you want to check out the trailer online for it.
Ashley: Okay, what’s the Facebook handle? Is it Facebook.com/nightoftheslasher?
Shant: Yeah, Facebook.com/nightoftheslasher.
Ashley: Okay, perfect, perfect. Shant this has been a perfect interview I really wish you luck with this, done, done. I wish you luck in the final feature film.
Shant: I certainly am grateful. Right, right.
Ashley: Yeah, I was thinking of that. Yeah, yeah. So, when the movie does release and we do put the short online. Definitely hit me up so I can notify my audience. And I can come back and link to that. And you know, when you get the feature done, and definitely come back and we can come back and talk about that as well. I’m sure that will be an interesting story.
Shant: Absolutely, I really appreciate you having me here.
Ashley: Thank you man. We’ll talk to ya later, bye.
Ashley: I quick plug for the SYS Screenwriting Analysis Service. It’s a really economical way to get a high quality professional evaluation on your screenplay. When you buy a three-pack, you get the evaluation, it’s only $67.00 per script for feature films, and just $55.00 for Tele-plays. All the readers have professional experience reading for: Studios, production companies, contests, and agencies. You can read a short bio on each one of our readers on our website – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/consultants. And you can pick the reader you think is the best fit for your script. Turn-around-time is usually just a few days, but rarely more than a week. The readers will evaluate your script on six key factors –
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We provide analysis on features and television scripts. We, also do proof reading out in the analysis. We will also look at a treatment or outline and give you the same analysis on it. So, if you’re looking to vet some of your project ideas. This is a great way to do it. We will also write you a log-line and synapsis for you. You can add this log-line and synapsis service to an analysis. Or you can simply purchase this as a just the log-line and synapsis as a stand-alone product. As a bonus, if your script get a “Recommend” from a reader. You get a free Email and Fax Blast to my industry contacts. This is the exact same Email and Fax Blast I use myself to promote my own scripts. And it’s the same service I sell on the website. It’s a great way to get your script into the hands of producers who are looking for material. So, if you want a professional evaluation of you screenplay for a very reasonable price, check out – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/consultants, again that’s www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/consultants.
One thing I just want to comment on? And it’s interesting just running this SYS Script Analysis Service. You know, when you do, when you make a submission to us? I would really highly advise, that you make the submission to us as professional as possible. And you look at the submission to us, as a professional submission. And the same sort of submission as you would to a production company, agency or manager. What I mean by that is, and this is, I’m not picking on one person. And this happens very, very, very often. Where people will submit a script, and then we’ll give notes. And then sort of one of their response is, “Oh, they knew that was a problem beforehand. But I just want to see if the reader would give me some other notes or something like that?” Like you really shouldn’t be, I don’t think you should be spending the money. Unless you get that script, make it as good as you possibly can make it. And that includes, typos, you want to go through and make it as professional as possible. So, that the reader isn’t spending time correcting things that you already know is a problem; formatting issues, typos, spelling obviously. Just get those things worked out. And then go through the script and get it as good as you possibly can before you submit it to our SYS Select Screenwriting Analysis Service, or any Analysis service. You don’t want the reader giving you a bunch of notes that you already know. And again, what you are trying to do ultimately, is be a professional writer. So, have some pride towards what you’re doing. And everything that goes out should be thought out, and submitted in a professional manner. And I even would take this step back, and I even get a lot of Emails from people, you know, just horribly written Emails. And it’s like, you know, it’s, I try and take care, even in Emails I try. You know, capitalization, and then spelling, and you know, not using run-on sentences. It’s like if you’re going to be a professional writer. I think that should permeate all aspects of your writing life; Tweets, text. I don’t send out a lot of text messages with you know, “Lol” and IO words that are not capitalized. But I especially see it, as I said with these scripts. These analysis scripts that are submitted in, and given to us for analysis. Really polish it up as much as you possibly can. Make it the best script that you possibly can going into the analysis. And then get the notes and then re-evaluate, I think you’ll get more out of our service. And I understand these. And even if you have some companies script analysis service. And any of the services, you’ll get more out of it if you spend that, if you go that extra mile. And polish it up as much as you can, as much as possible. And again, you’re trying to be a professional writer. So this shouldn’t be just, you know, above and beyond the call of duty. This is what being a professional writer is. It’s getting your scripts up to being a professional standard and then submitting them. And then getting notes, that’s just how it works. When people hire me to write a script. I don’t just send them something half baked and say, “Ah, overlook the formatting issues and the spelling. It’s like I kick that script up to as high a standard, I make it as good as I possibly can. And then I submit it to a producer. And that’s what you should be looking at. This is a test; the Script Analysis Service should be used like that. That’s how you’re going to get the most value. It does cost money, and that’s how you’re going to do it. The most value, the most bang, for your buck, is taking that extra mile.
So, in the next episode, of the Podcast, I’m going to be interviewing Stevie Koonz. Steve is a TV Writer. Who has written dozens of TV shows for over the years. And he has a new book out called, “Beating Hollywood.” We talk through the early part of his career. Kind of how he broke in, got into TV writing. And then we go through some of the chapters in his book and kind of drill down on some of the lessons that he teaches through his book. 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 Shant Hamassian. There’s an old saying, “The overnight success took ten years.” You know, really listen to what Shant is saying here. He did this short after, you know, nine years of working in the business for nine years and nothing really hitting. And I know a lot of people don’t want to hear this. And I get these Emails, Hey, you know, do you think I can sell a script in six months? And you know, how fast can I sell a script? And how much am I going to get paid? And I just think those people are putting the horse ahead of the cart, the cart before the horse. And it’s not unusual to talk to professional writers that have spent: two, three, four, five, six, seven, ten years, you know. Just trying to beat the pavement and break in. I interviewed the guy from “Sharknado.” And it took him twenty years. He had literally been working in this thing for twenty years before he wrote and got on with “Sharknado.” Then his career kind of took off after that. So, keep your eye on the long term prize, you know. Ultimately, it’s not a sprint, it is a marathon. And then, just be prepared for that.
The other thing that sticks out from the interview today is? I often get people, you know, with these very general questions about breaking in to the industry. And you know, it’s not easy to break in. But, it is pretty straight forward. Again, go back and listen to what Shant says. He made a short film, he had already done a bunch of shorts. So, he had been honing his technical skills, honing his craft. Did the short film, he started submitting to film festivals. And he just kept submitting it, and submitting it, and submitting it. And I think that’s pretty much what screenwriters must do. You got to write something that’s pretty good and got be aggressive enough to market. And again, it’s not rocket science, it’s not easy, but it is pretty straight forward. And it’s just a matter of once and repeating. And you will get better as you write more scripts. The first script you’re going to get out there, and if you market it aggressively? Most likely you’re not going to get that far. Because that first script is always not that good. The second one may not be that good either. But if you keep wincing and repeating, you know, just keep doing this process over and over again. You want to keep honing your craft, obviously getting better. So the quality of the script gets better. Getting your marketing along, and continue to market these scripts aggressively. I think if you keep doing that over the course of, and you know, Shant said, his nine years. I think you’ll see some success, is that going to be, you know, James Cameron, or Stephen Spielberg, success? Eh, probably not. But I do think if you can find some success, if you just, again, listen to what Shant is saying. It’s not going to be an easy process, but it is pretty straight forward. It’s just a matter of persistence and diligence and keeping at it.
Anyway, that is the show, thank you for listening.