Ashley: Welcome to episode #122 of the “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, Screenwriter and Blogger, over here at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing, Screenwriter and Director – Michael Hurst. He wrote a contained Sci-Fi time travel, thriller screenplay titled, “Paradox.” The movie was recently produced and also directed, we talked through his early career and how he got his big break. And then we talk specifically about this new film and how he got it produced. So, stay tuned for that.
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A quick few words about what I am working on this week? So, once again, the main thing I am working on now? Is pre-production for my crime action thriller, “The Pinch.” Production is scheduled to begin on July 9th that’s a Saturday. We are going to start shooting on that day. We are going to run for three weeks, five days per week. So, we’ll take a couple of days off. But, now I’m thinking, Monday, Tuesday off, for those three weeks. Although, we will work, Saturday and Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, for three weeks. So, July 9th it is, I think? July 28th, is kinda what we are scheduled for now. I am starting to meet with a bunch of people, last week, starting to get the crew together. I’ve got my PD in place, and I’ve got a few other slots filled as well. The next big position I am trying to fill is the general job of Assistant Director. Getting a good aid on a micro-budget film like this is crucial. I’ve got to find someone, hopefully with some experience? I do have a little bit of my budget set aside for the AD. So, I just really need to find someone who’s really, really, experienced and good and wants to work on my project. And really understands what it is that a AD does? The AD basically keeps you on schedule, and when things are as tight as they are going to be on this film shoot, I really need somebody good. So, I’m going to spend the next couple of weeks putting out feelers trying to get an AD out on board. Starting to look around for locations to shoot. This has actually been a little more challenging than I had initially thought.
One of the issues is, I’m basically shooting at mostly, it’s basically at an apartment at a house in two locations. The apartment for only a few days. But, the house is like probably almost half the shooting, or maybe even more than that? We’ll be at this one house, and I started to look around for some houses. But, one thing that occurs to me is? That I am basically going the rent the house for two weeks. You know, something like that, eight days, nine days, something like that? And it occurs to me that the kind of people that are going to rent me their house, are people that are trying to rent their house, or their house, or selling their house. So, they are not going to want to, because part of the story is, the house is empty. And it’s written in the story, but it will also make shooting much easier. I don’t know the word about breaking people’s stuff if we are in an empty house. It’s just easier to set-up some pictures of my own, set-up some stuff for production design. And then shoot that way as opposed to? Maybe the idea of the story is that the person who runs the house has died and is kind of moving them out. So, there might be a few boxes, a few pieces of furniture. But essentially the house is basically going to be empty. And that’s a good thing, it’s going to make production easier. But, I think it’s going to make finding the location welcoming challenging. Because, as I said, the people that are renting their house, or potentially selling their house. They’re not going to want to commit to something this far ahead. Because they are going to be trying to rent it. Sell it to someone who’s willing to rent it for to sign a lease for many, many months. So, I’m probably going to have to just wait. I’m kinda looking at some alternatives. As I said, most of the shooting takes place, probably half the shoot dates will be at this house. We’ll probably more than half the shoot dates. And a lot of those depend on actually in a garage. I actually have a garage in mind at my house. So, I’m actually thinking I might be able to cheat it with, we will do the exteriors, and a little bit of the interiors at this other house. And then we will just be like two or three days at this other house. And then shoot the actual garage scenes in my garage. Or you know, cheat it to something else. And that again, would make it a lot more controlled and would make it a lot easier. To, a, just make it a little bit, easier to run the production, if it’s at that house. And then again, I wonder if I have to pay for that location? Again, make it a more controlled production design. And you know, laid hours in, and long hours at, and that kind of thing. And anyway, that’s kind of what I am working on now.
I will begin casting on, probably much like what I was talking about with the house, and getting the apartment. I think I am going to have similar issues with casting. I think, since there’s not really a big budget to pay actors. If someone gets a paid gig, they are going to drop out. So, I’m going to have to wait probably another month. Before I really dig in with the casting. That way it still gives me, six or eight weeks before production. I’ve got plenty of time. So, I’ve just got to stay on schedule. I’m trying to come up with some like, hard dates of when I need to be done with these? Hopefully by the end of May, maybe the first week in June. So, anything like that, hopefully three, four weeks out. Because we start tomorrow night. You know, then we’re half way through the third of June. We’ll have everything set-up, like all the casting all over occasions. But that still gives me a little bit of time. So, that’s what I am working on. Right now, I’m really remain just spending time with potential crew members. Talking to them, seeing you know, who is willing to work on this. And seeing if they are a good fit for what I am kind of doing? Well, so that’s what I am kind of what I am working on now.
Let’s get into the main segment, today I am interviewing Writer, Director Michael Hurst, here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Michael, to the “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast” I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Michael: Thanks for having me on mate.
Ashely: So, to start out. Maybe you could give us a quick over view of your background? And kind of how you got into the entertainment industry? I noticed on IMDB, your first writing and directing credit is a film called, “New Blood.” So, maybe you can sort of take us up before that film, and then get into briefly how that film actually got made?
Michael: Sure thing mate. It’s quite the thing because we a, my brother and I and a friend of ours – Robin Hill. We all grew up together, and we all decided. Well, we all are all after going to college, we’re going to make it. We were going to make ourselves totally independent and so fine. We made a feature film, and so we did. And it was called, “Project Attacker.” And it took us four years to make it. Because we kept running out of money. You know, we had to steal cameras to make it. And we had to become a bit crazy because we had to hide a bit to get the film made. We didn’t have any background in film or any money or anything. And we got about $20,000.00 on it. So, we conceived it on a low budget. And then took it to the “Caan Film Festivals,” back in 1997 and 1998. And we had 298 dress coats made at the hotel. And we went to Caan, and we gave out the tapes to anybody wearing a suit. That was our distribution system. We were wearing suits and that. Then the Caans funds shined on us, the important person. And 198 people. And of those 200 went back to us, this year, a response you know. If that was back in Hollywood it was. I don’t know, the songs. And 2 people got back to us. And one of them was somebody with the right lyric. And he was very, very important to us. Perhaps about me, and translate it to 35 countries. And Germany, anything where they, a German company, Rollins. A company, general company and that brought out got us working on the FOX lot. Where he was a mentor to my brother. And the other person, got back to us a while ago. Or Art Shaw, who meet these producers and he actually launched our careers. All right there and van dam a bunch of you know, a meaning a double dragon a stuff. And you is like the film says, make you happen of in terms of a project happen. My brother keeping him at 6 million dollars budget we needed. But it make what we needed, to the loans people. And I just took it from there. And I got about
3.6 million on that too. Million dollars to make each, we need. And Shaw who also saw our project and he attached to what really began our careers. Make it a sore a bit, for it didn’t do very well. And it got plenty of ratings that one, and it got translated to German. That, for about 20 thousand-dollar movie. Of which we spent four years on. That was what a, sort of peak launched our careers. And we were 21, 22.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. That’s a great story. So, when you say, you went to college, you didn’t get in and submit you film. And get it accepted into the film festival.
Michael: My god no, we.
Ashley: Bought a ticket.
Michael: We reached, spent on the beach.
Michael: We never met a producer.
Ashley: Yeah. That’s a fantastic story just getting out there and doing it. So, let’s dig into, “Paradox” quickly. Maybe to start out, you could just give us a quick log-line and or pitch of the film?
Michael: Sure thing. It’s about a Greek of a young genius son in an underground bunker. And they invent the world’s first ever time machine. And they thought to test it by sending one of their guys, Jim Ford, in time for about one hour. So they set him for one hour. And when he gets there he finds blood everywhere, and people have been murdered. So then he goes back one hour, and they catch the guy who got up and organized it. Who gone out and delivered most. And then the director of the film say if they can do it in real time, then in time figure out who the killer is and how they all ended up dead?
Ashley: A-huh. So, where does this idea come from? What was sort of the genesis for it?
Michael: A, I mean I can’t mark, I can’t really remember? It really start for this, say, I’ve always been to with these. You know, to I can’t possibly those things, I’m not that type, one story. And turn it into my favorite reason I got this. You know, a month to do it. And, “Paradox” and so, I just, as you make movies. If you took them out of the boxes. You know, I really wanted to do a time travel movie. And, you know, I’m terminate the one in the minute caught. And there never was an obsession. And I just wanted to be one of them. So, that was my overall, my general movie, really.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, so, what was sort of your writing process, this? Once you had sort of see an idea, maybe you could just walk through kind of how you write. And you know, everything from sort of daily page count, to what you do outline. What was sort of your first step? Once you had sort of that seed of an idea?
Michael: Well, I always try to look at it from my place, you know. I just start writing down ideas first. It’s motions and things, motions of character names, you know, little snaps of dialog. It’s very random, you know. I pretty much go from episode, especially with Paradox. Which was a lot of future based. And very, you know, yeah. I wanted available, I mean, one of the ideas I had about this, I mean, I challenged people in New York City, there was no paradox in it. I think I made it firm product on TV and there was no paradox in it. And then I think, as far as I’m concerned, I hide, it actually makes perfect sense. So, there’s a lot of thought I put into each role. Most things scrawled out and then scribbled, crossed out, and then rewritten and stuff. And so, I thought an exercise, and then I did an outline with it. You know, I’ve got the whole thing. And then a formal document. And then it’s still kind of rough.
And then made out the film bit by bit. Then a we believe in it actually, writer actually. Outline plans actually, it’s a really good plan it start. And so, I try and stick with that. But, then one night over the phone, that’s all I have time for I think? And then once I’ve done the outline, and the first draft and stuff. Paradox was relatively simple straight forward, as far as the outline, very strict. I even put in the outline very heavy, it really needs clean endings. And in block I put the time. And so when I read it, curious about the main character I commit myself. I was not going to mention it. And then when it was going to run in real time, three hours and some. Back in our way with the actual times any. And the headings, that kept very much on schedule, you know. No pun intended, I couldn’t really go there. So, I’m sorry, sounds like cuddles like that. Enginuity the first pass with that, Paradox was pretty close to finished news.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So, just break that down in terms of actual time, did you spend like a month or two outlining? You know, it sounds like you were in pretty good shape for the hours you spent with the two or three weeks spent writing this. What were the actual time?
Michael: Yeah, yeah, no. That was like two or three months writing it. The exercise coming with it, which you know, making notes can result, the world of Caans and I felt that we were going to trick plans, twist on some of the use. We were card in them, the plot and sub-plot in some of them. Looks and times, they are extreme film makers work. And then three weeks writing the script I found that I liked it.
Ashley: And how much time did maybe you spend? Like when you’re in outlining stage? Are you working on a projects, are there other things you are doing? Or do you spend like a solid eight hours a day? Should just coming up with the outline?
Michael: I honestly? I don’t know? I don’t think you can put a time on that, I’d say off hand, you’d go mad. I mean, I had a job writing, meaning. For a script for a musical I couldn’t wait, like a job. And finding the time to write an assignment and writing key as well. So, I was taking time and splitting each one, between Paradox and this other one, to writing back aboard. And I eventually went on to screenwriting. And I actually sort of like sitting down at the computer to write. Rather than to just scribble my notes out. I can’t, I’ve done that every day.
Ashley: Okay, okay.
Michael: Rather than just, that’s who I am. And someone else to cooperate. And I think, if I can just be about five or ten pages in about two hours of. That’s my working in.
Ashley: So, maybe then can you take a step back then. Where did this script, Paradox, was it, were you already involved with the producers this whole time? Then was it basically a spec. script? And then you had to go out and get producers out there, that you have a script.
Michael: I thought it was getting it, producers having it written it. I optioned something with FOX, the year before, a spec. script. Let’s see, I’m not making much sense? The producers at the time that you should clue that switch. What am I doing? I was directed, called to a huge script a topographical at FOX. And he thought, you know, at FOX that I could sharp and I’m a big fan of films. And I could go ahead and make a film greater. So, what ended up happening, I almost written in the first place. Gave it to us all, like I said. And when FOX didn’t work out. I’d written a few other things. And would like to know if you would help me with, and only one invented to the producers of Paradox. Richly, I never had a film that I had easier to get financed. I mean, I’m usually taken two years of my life with every film I’ve made. They’ve all worked out after two years. Trying to go around and get those made. Equal maybe those made, occasionally if you will. Even though I’ve done all the usual, you know, pushing the rock up. Those things you have to do as a screenwriter. It makes it look extremely easy. Again, always, always, Nigel gave it to me and said, it’s a little company. And then Nigel told me to get there to London. That’s where I have my family in England, that’s where I met Nigel. Went over there without him, I mean on vacation. And we said, yeah, we’ll be there. We’ll make that, so Mitch, the first producer we ever made, started making Paradox.
Ashley: Tell me a little bit about your, it’s a very commercial idea. I mean, it’s a sci-fi thriller. I know, when I’ve been meeting with producers lately. They are constantly counting, yeah, we would love to have a contained sci-fi thriller. How much did that impact, like you’re writing the script? Did you kinda know when you had the idea that this was going to be, you know, fairly commercial script, or did you just want to do it, a time travel movie? So, just, I want to kinda just get a feel for the balance of you know, artistic what you sensed?
Michael: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Ashley: Of the business, the practical business aspect of it?
Michael: Yeah. I mean, I’ll be honest with ya man. Yeah, that happened it probably black, pragmatic, and I’m not. I’m not Stanly Kubrick. I was thinking, yeah, a bit was made. You know, when you’ve made the community great, and you work at certain type of things. I mean you watch that type of things going on from that platform. Fancy that kind of rows and rows, it’s pretty much like, yeah, if I have a good time. If I can keep it self-contained, I just need to verify some type of sets and see if I can. Yeah, I mean, if I could, once I had the idea myself. There were virtually the script when you are forever here trying to teach it all. From a provisional sort of forever what you dream about. I just thought, if I get back out here. For the same reasons I went out. I can almost apply that technology than with that. And so, I haven’t got my owl from the teacher. And that’s going to cost you nothing. And that’s going to make the film seem the same, and that’s particular what happened. It made me say it, but that’s what happened. Just looking for at one time just action, they want that. And intergang they want that. The thing is when you got that, and found it and stuff. They don’t want to go and travel around Europe. Prepared for a location like it, then one.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. And do you talk to producers? Is this just from your years of experience in the business? Or are you constantly talking to producers? And trying to get a bead on what they are looking for?
Michael: You know, not any more. I mean, I’m at a point in my career right now where I’m a little bit, you know, I’ve done a bunch of stuff. Some good, some not too good. And I now, much more absorbed it that. It’s been much more, I don’t really want shaken things, or compromise things. Or, I’ve gotten much interested in finding out what producers have written and are writing. I’m opened to suggestions on how to do that. I like ideas that are kind of strange. I mean, commercial jobs, kind of film like my latest one I’m looking to do in a bunker. I didn’t think we would reach out with those. Looking back on that one, it was hard. Given that I tried here, I mean that was about the content in the future. Future cops now on board, at least a break with myself in it. I try to write weird stuff that I’ve known it a genre for a horror film. We won permission at least? As time travel was what? There, and frightening, and then down with that, with a twist. And then that’s where I want to be from now on. Everything I find now is a genre film. Where there’s a fair amount of weirdness, or some weird you know, formal place for, and now it has French Troops in it. And I’m just writing that on my own now. I don’t offer anyone’s opinion on it I think? I don’t, you know, talk to anyone. Were interest if anyone, they represent a state of mind. I do the best I can. You know, I shop around I think. It may I think.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. And I think. So, how many scripts are you turning out in a year to try and push out and actually get made?
Michael: Um, it’s actually like, in terms, because of that, I’m actually trying to be like totally in a year.
Ashley: Okay, okay. And then what percentage do you say you’re actually getting a hit on actually like with Paradox, where it actually gets funded?
Michael: A, let’s say, I would expect by if I really commitment to, at least trying to get made, a career 25%. Where I’m at before.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, and thank you for sharing that. Because I think that’s one thing I think writers a lot of times get too hung-up on. One idea, so like, I think it’s good to hear from a working writer/director that you’re producing a lot of material that you know, ultimately is not going to see the light of day. But that’s part of the process.
Michael: Yeah, yeah. And totally, it the achievement is probably would even talk see air. It that people don’t really pay attention to it. It isn’t fair. And I’ve seen it in my career as a writer, write, write, write, write. It’s writing integrate, it reminds me to inch always get made. And then it gets made well. And then it gets to a lot of people. And that’s the way it should happen. And in the meantime keep writing. And then it finally might and then it’ll get made.
Ashley: Mm. Yeah.
Michael: In between getting made and things like that.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So, how can people see Paradox, do you know the release schedule?
Michael: Yeah, we’ll know it’s going to be on NetFlix. I mean, that’s getting to the point where it’s going to Netflix around June.
Ashley: Okay, perfect, perfect. And I always like to end up the interviews where I ask the guest to share, you know, Twitter handle, Facebook page, a blog, anything you feel comfortable sharing? In case people want to just follow along and kind of keep up with your career.
Michael: I honestly, I should have all this stuff. Do you have Facebook? Yeah. I don’t really have anything. If you could put me down on Facebook, that’d be great.
Ashley: Okay, perfect, so I’ll just track you down on Facebook page and put a link to that in the show notes. Michael, I really appreciate you.
Ashley: Coming on the show, I just watched the movie and I really enjoyed it. So, I wish you luck with it.
Michael: Thank you very much actually, I appreciate it man.
Ashley: I appreciate man, thanks, talk to ya later.
End Interview – [23:30]
Ashley: I just want to mention two things I’m doing at – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com to help screenwriters find producers who are looking for new 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 month, per newsletter. I sent an Email to my large data base of producers and asked them if they would like to receive this monthly newsletter of pitches? And so far we have over 300 producers who have signed-up to this newsletter. So, this list is growing nicely every month. I am continuously adding new producers to it. These producers are hungry for new material, and are happy to read new scripts from new writers. Again, when I approach these people, producers to join the, this Email list. I tell them exactly what it is going to be pitches from the SYS Select group. So, what it is, 300 producers that are really understand what it is I am sending them. And they are expecting it, and they are want to get it this month’s newsletter. So, I found that this is a pretty accurate and active newsletter. And the producers are very, very, eager to meet writers and are very open to working with new writers. So, if you want to pitch to this newsletter, this group of producers that are getting this newsletter? Just sign-up at – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/select. Again, it’s all part of SYS Select and you can sign-up at – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/select.
And secondly, I partnered with one of the premier paid screenwriting leads services. So, I can syndicate their leads to SYS Select members. These are, there are lots of great paid leads coming in from our partner. Recently, I’ve been getting ten to twelve high quality 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 at SYS Select, you’ll let these leads Emailed to you directly to you, several times per week. These leads run the gambit from producers, and production companies looking for a specific type of spec. script. To producers and production companies looking to hire a screenwriter to write the material for them. But it may have optioned a book or a magazine article and they need it turned into a script. They may have their own original ideas? And they may need to hire a writer to write it into a fully flushed out script. There are producers looking for shorts featured producers looking for TV and web series pilots. It’s a huge aray of different types of projects. So, if you’re a writer, most likely you will find some matches there in any given month no doubt. You will find some leads that are, that you can submit to. And you have material ready for them. These leads are exclusive to our partner who is generating these leads. And are SYS Select members. Again, to sign-up, this is all part of the SYS Select. And to sign-up, go to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/select.
I recently also started and set-up a success stories page. For people who have been having success through the various SYS Select Services. You want to check that out, just go to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/success.
So, just a few quick words about the Podcast episode next week. I’m going to be interviewing writers: Marilyn Anderson, and Richard Rossner. They recently wrote an independent family film called, “How to be a Bully.” There’s a lot of great insider information in the interview about writing a family friendly film. So, anyone who’s ever thought about writing one? Do check out the episode next week. Family friendly films are a really underserved market. There’s still a good market for them, particularly, producers are able to take those family friendly films, put them on DVD’s and place them in places like – Walmart. And there still is actually a market of people buying these DVD’s. Everyone talks about DVD market collapse, the DVD market collapsing in the last ten years. But there still is a pretty strong market for these family friendly films. People will just scoop them up at the cash register. You know, they’ll see them in the isles and they will grab these family friend films. So, there’s still a big market still a lot of producers looking for family friendly movies. You know, I include myself in this, as a screenwriter. I’ve never written a family friendly movie. Something I keep thinking I really should get into. And that was one of the reasons I was so eager to interview Marilyn and Richard in this Podcast. They really did get into some of the specifics. So, you know, even if you haven’t thought about writing a family friendly film? I really encourage you to potentially think about that? And what a great way to start thinking about it, is to listen to this Podcast episode next week. So, keep an eye out for that.
To wrap things up I just want to touch on something from today’s interview with Michael. I think the story of him and his brother, just going to “Caan Film Festival.” And handing out video tapes of their movie is awesome. I love to hear stories like that. I’ve had so many people on the Podcast who have things, or who have done things similar to that. Just getting out there and doing stuff. No matter what level it is? Is just so important, these small projects can end up leading to bigger and better things. But even if they don’t, they’re still experiences. And they still make you a better writer, a better director, a better producer. They still just make you better. And they still build your resume. But as I said, as exactly like what Michael was talking about. Sometimes these things can lead to some bigger and better things. And sometimes those steps. We always sort of hear about the clerks, you know, brothers and Mullins? These huge films that really kick-off the careers of those people. And that sometimes does happen. But, more likely, it’s people like Michael Hurst. Most likely you haven’t heard of him before this interview. You might have heard of some of his movies, you might have seen some of his movies? But, you know, that’s a much, much more sort of realistic thing. Go with him on IMDB, lots of credits now. He’s writing, he’s directing it, his own stuff. You know, he has a career. And I think those are the stories that are not necessarily talked about as often. But, they, those things can actually happen. Like those are realistic models to follow. The Kevin Smith’s, and the clerks, sort of phenomenon are sort of like the
“Blair Witch Project” or “Paranormal Activity” more recently. Those things can happen, and I hope they do, and that’s great. But, somewhere along the line, there’s a little bit of luck mixed in with their equations. And their whole thing is hard to reproduce, it’s hard to sort of look at those extreme examples as templets. But, Michael, and what he’s done is a real good example. I get so many Emails from people who ask about getting an agent? Or they ask about how do I submit to this company, or this director? And you know, sort of the tone of those Emails? But you’re missing, if you are asking those questions? Is that you’re basically waiting for permission. You’re waiting for someone to give you permission to write a script, or to make a movie. And you know, if you can get yourself submitted to those agencies? Which really isn’t all that difficult. You’re still hoping that they read it. And someone else has to read it and say, “Yeah, I like this.” And I’m going to give you representation, or as a director, or a producer. If they read the script. They are saying, “Yeah, I’m going to invest. I am paying you for this.” You’re waiting for permission you’re waiting for someone else to basically just pull you up to the next level of your screenwriting career. And while again, that can happen, and I hope it does? It certainly does for a lot of people. I think it’s so important for you to work this other angle. Where you don’t wait for permission. You fill out, and you make your own projects, you work on your own stuff. And you don’t wait for permission from anybody. You just make things happen. And I really hope people that listen to this Podcast are getting inspired to do that stuff. And Michael’s story is a great story to listen to. And if you do go out? Just start making stuff with whether it be a short or a feature film, or web series? Whatever, please do let me know? It might be a good fit for a Podcast. If you have had some success, you’ve gotten into some film festivals? I’d love to hear from you, I love hearing these stories, they are inspiring to me. I hope that they are inspiring to my audience. So, if you’re the type of person just out there making these happen for yourself? You got a bunch of shorts out there? Maybe you got a feature film that’s getting ready to come out. Just give me a call, or drop me an Email in at -. www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Just drop me a line, and let me know what’s happening? I love to hear those stories. And potentially we can let you in the Podcast to share your experiences with everyone else.
Anyway, that is the show, thank you for listening, talk to ya next week.