Ashley: Welcome to episode #122 of the “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, Screenwriter and Blogger over at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing Screenwriters – Marilyn Anderson and Richard Rossner. They wrote an independent family friendly film called, “How to beat a Bully.” We walk through the early parts of their careers and how they got their start in the business. And then we talk about this film specifically. And how they ended up getting it produced after many, many years. So, stay tuned for that.
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I just want to mention a free webinar that I am doing on Wednesday, June 8th at 10:00a.m. pst. The webinar is called, “How to Effectively Market Your Screenplay and Sell it?” I’m going to go through all the various online channels that are available to screenwriters. And give you my unfiltered opinion of them. I get questions all the time about “The Blacklist” about “Ink Tip” about which contests to enter. I’ve tried pretty much every marketing channel that are available to screenwriters. And so, I’m going to go through each channel. And we’re going to go through and share my experiences with them. Again, this webinar is completely free, don’t worry if you can’t make it to the live event. I’ll be recording this event, so if you sign-up for the webinar? And you can’t make it, I will be sending out a link to the recording of the webinar. So you can listen to it afterwards, or whenever it is convenient for you? To sign-up, just go to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/freewebinar. And “Free webinar” is all lowercase, and all one word. That’s just – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/freewebinar. I will of course link to it in the show notes. Also, if you already are on my Email list, you don’t need to register. Again, anyone who is on my Email list already, I will send out an Email to those folks. Basically telling them when the webinar is and how to sign-up and how to access the webinar when it’s time. So, if you are already on my Email list you don’t need to sign-up again. But if it’s something you would like to attend, just go to again – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/freewebinar. You just put in your name and your Email address. And then I will Email you with specific directions on how to log in when it’s time for the webinar.
A quick few words about what I am working on this week? So, once again, the main thing I am working on is? Pre-production for my crime, action thriller, “The Pinch.” The shoot dates are pretty much locked up now. The plan is to shoot from – July 9th, which is a Saturday, through July 29th, which is a Friday. We’ll be shooting three weeks. We’ll be taking off Mondays and Tuesdays, so we’ll be shooting through Saturday, Sunday and taking off Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. So basically it will be a Wednesday through Sunday. That gives us some flexibility in the schedule. There’s going to be, you know, a micro-budget film. Like this, a lot of people are not getting paid. So, a lot of people have different regular jobs. So, it’s going to be nice to be able to shoot on those weekends. And have that flexibility for people that have or need the scheduling, only to be there on the weekends. It will also help with the locations, there’s probably going to be a few locations or one or two locations. That are only available cheaper on the weekends. So, hopefully we can get all that scheduled and joined in place and utilize those weekends? But weekends, those are good times to shoot; traffic is less here in L.A. So, it’s easier to get to the location. And then as I said, it gives all a lot of flexibility in their schedule. I did a lot of meetings last week. I think I talked about that over the Podcast. Where I did go and meet with some people and potential P.A’s, potential Production Coordinators. Some potential Associate Producers, and some potential First Assistant Directors. And I’ve looked at one possible location, it was actually just a very minor location. An office in a sort of a cubical looking office. There’s like, one main office and then a cubical. So, two office settings, which are different settings in the script. But we could probably shoot them at this one particular place. So, just one minor location, but probably one day as all we would be there. But I did look at that, just to kinda get a feel for that. And what’s out there and what it might cost? And this company also does like, insurance on grip packages and stuff. So, hopefully I can cut some sort of deal with them. We’ll get some lighting, and grip equipment. And then maybe some insurance and necessarily one or two days of location shooting as well. So, I’m just basically trying to bring on crew now as quickly as possible. I’m going to beef that up. Now, probably in another few weeks I will start really getting into casting. The casting especially on a low budget micro-budget film like this. The longer you can wait, in some ways the better off you are. Just because you’ll know the people’s schedule. And it’s the same thing with the crew, but I’m trying to be a little bit flexible with the crew. But, the bottom line is, when you’re not really paying anyone a decent rate for these crew positions, or even to the actor. You know, if something comes up? The get booked on another gig? They will obviously just abandon you! So, it’s better to wait a little closer to the date, and then you can really lock these people up. They’ll have a better idea if they actually have something scheduled during those dates. So, it’s kind of a balancing act to get people on that. You know, you want to get them on as far in advanced as possible. But, at the flip side, you know that paying a lot of money is the real? That these people may not end up shooting on the shoot date. Hopefully they will give us some notice? But, so, that’s kind of the balance that I think is kind of the same location. The same four locations I think in some ways we’re probably going to have to wait maybe a month before we shoot. To really lock those positions, or ever two or three weeks on some of the locations. Because, again, people that have the locations, they are going to be looking at and for bigger pay days. In the case of the house, most of the script takes place at a house. So that’s like almost half of our 15 day shooting schedule. It’ll probably be more than half, maybe 8-9 days at this house on the 15 days. But, 8-9 days, we’ll be at the house. So, if I get a house, that someone is trying to sell. Or someone’s trying to rent out? They’re not necessarily going to want to do that. That much in advanced, they are going to want to wait if they don’t have to. If they don’t have anybody that’s going to be renting a house that weeks, that they’re going might be willing to rent to us. And make some money. Just while they are trying to actually locked down a full time renter. So, again, it’s a little bit of balancing, but that’s what I’m kinda working on. I’m just trying to get it, as much stuff in place as I possibly can.
And the next, I’d say, “Big” sorta script thing is, as a director, I’m going to start going through the screenplay. I want to get the script locked. I want to get some more tweaks. I’ve brought on a friend of mine to be Production Designer. We had a nice conversation last week. He has good ideas for Production Designer, I want to go any kind of write those into the script. So, there’s still some tweaks I want to do to that. Hopefully, I’ll get that all locked on this one, this week. And then I guess I got to start doing the shooting out list. I’m really going to try and get the shot-list done by the end of May. And then will give me, I’m going to try, I’ll be working on these other things while cooling-off casting. While I get all the locations during May as well. But, hopefully, I’ll have the shoot-list by the end of May. And then, by the time June comes I can really bind down on any of these loose ends that I am having trouble filling. Even parts of the cast I’m having trouble filling. New locations I’m having trouble filling. If I have a solid month, so we start July 9th. So, by June 9th, I have a shot list and most of my cast and crew in place. I can, I think I’ll be in pretty good shape. And then I can start, you know, just finish it up, last minute odds and ends. It’s going to be the hard stuff, you know, the hard stuff to get, the hard roles to cast, the hard locations to get. That’s with that final month is going to be the, working towards.
Anyway, so that’s what I’m working on, mostly right now. So, now let’s get into the main segment. Today, I’m interviewing screenwriters – Marilyn Anderson, and Richard Rossner. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Marilyn and Richard, to the “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I really appreciate you coming on the show with me.
Marilyn: It’s great to be here, Ashley.
Richard: Really looking forward to today’s interview.
Ashley: So, to start out with, maybe you guys can give us a quick overview of your background. Kinda how you got into the industry, and maybe made that first script sale? Marilyn, why don’t you go first, and start.
Marilyn: Well, the interesting thing was, I did not start out as the writer. I actually had a couple of degrees in Biology and Physiology. And I was working as a scientist, and then one day, I said, “I don’t want to do this! I want to be a star!” So, I quit my job and sold my car, and sold all my furniture, and sold my boyfriend. Didn’t get much for him. And I moved to New York, to become a star. And I got into a Broadway show, like the first week I got there. And I sang and danced in that. And then I did some stand-up. And then one day, I knew either I had to take a vacation or get a job. Well, let’s see? A vacation, or a job? So, I took the vacation, and I came out to L.A. And here, I thought I was getting into acting? But I started writing, and I wrote my first screenplay. And everyone said to me, literally, they said, “You will never get an agent. You will never get anyone to look at it.” And, I didn’t listen to them, thankfully. And, I had a neighbor who knew somebody at a big, big agency. And she said, “Give him a call.” And I called, and I said, “Will you read my script?” And he said, “Yes.” And three weeks later, he called and said, “This is a great script! We want to represent.” And this was like my first shot out. And so, it was very exciting. And the, so don’t listen to “Nah, Sayers” when they say, “You can’t do it!” And actually, that script made me a lot of money. I made it optioned here in May, but it never got made and that. In that particular incarnation. But then the first thing I sold was actually a half-hour script. And I sold a lot of half-hour’s. But that first one, just don’t listen when people say you can’t do it.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. And that was on a feature film, not a TV script. Not a real stuff.
Marilyn: It was a feature film, yeah. But then I switched over to TV. And had a lot of success writing TV shows. And with those, I just wrote spec. scripts. And actually my first spec. TV show that I sold. Was, at the time, I didn’t know anybody in the business when I came out here. And at the time, I was taking temp. jobs in the show business industry. Until I worked a temp job on a sit-com just for three days. And the boss said to me, “Will you stay?” And I said, “I’ll stay, but, I’m a writer. So, if I get meetings? I want to go. And if you’ll let me I want to pitch to you.” So, about half-way through the season. He said, “Okay, I don’t have a show, you want to pitch something?” And I said, “Okay.” And I was ready for the pitch. And of course he had read a spec. script of mine. And he said, “If I give you the rest of the week off? Can you write it? And can you, I need it by Monday.” So, that’s how I sold my first sit-com script.
Ashley: Huh? Yeah, yeah, great story. Just one quick question? So, you just said, initially you sold feature films on spec. You’d had a neighbor who had a friend at a big agency. I always just like to get a sort of sense of the scope. How did you, you’ve been sending it out to other people as well. Did you like to have other people look at it? Or, was that lie literally the first person you’d sent it to?
Marilyn: Here’s a funny story, I mean, he was once of the people that I sent it to. But, I also at the time had met another gal, and we had written another script together and she told me to take a class with her. So, I took a screenwriting course. And the teacher was really kind. And we came with, and we would read a different script. To the terrible scripts, he was really kind. But when he got to my script, he literally, literally ripped it to shreds. And the only reason why I didn’t feel bad. Was because after class I told him I was, this week I had heard from AAIM, I had heard from Billy, Crystal’s agent, and they both want to do it.
Marilyn: So, you can’t always listen to teachers, because you have to be careful. You know, because there’s chocolate and vanilla, and some people hate chocolate. All you need is one production company person to say, “Yes.” And Boom, you got an in.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So, maybe Richard, you can kinda fill us in on the details of your early career?
Richard: Sure, I grew up in New Jersey, and really a stones throw from New York. So, I was going to Broadway to watch plays, and my parents were really terrific. They made sure I saw the new plays that were coming. And I tell ya, the first time I saw a full length musical, I said, “This is it! This is what I want to do!” So, I was always torn between acting and writing. And ultimately what happened? After graduating from college. I was making the rounds in, or trying out for shows. There was a television show that I was up for, I got a call back. A friend of mine, who I went to high school with got a call back, he wound up in the show. And that show was, “Welcome Back Cotter” if you all remember that show?
Ashley: Absolutely, yeah.
Richard: Well, that was Juan Epstein, Robert Hedges, who played Juan Epstein, was a good buddy of mine. And he used to call me up, when the rates would change in California. So, it’s 11:00p.m. at night, and the telephone rates, which were lower. He would call me up and wake me up at 2:00a.m. in the morning and say, “Rich, you gotta come out here! There’s work out here!” So I told him I would come out for a visit, that was all, two weeks. He said, “Bring an extra set of suitcase because you’re going to need the extra set of underwear if you decide to stay.” Well, I came out, I saw that there was work, and I decided to stay. I was working with a writing partner at the time. A fellow, Bob Silberg, a guy I knew from college. And we decided to make a go of it. So, we had written a terrific, “Bob Newheart Show” spec. script. And that actually, that spec. script got us an episode of “Welcome Back Cotter.” Bobby had nothing to do with getting us there. But we had an agent who sent, who submitted it, we wound up writing for that show. We did a couple of other things. But that relationship eventually petered out, a we’re still good friends. But then I wound up partnering with another dear friend of mine. And we wound up working on, “She’s the Sherriff.” Which was, I guess you would call Susan Summers come back vehicle that through television as the, “Three’s Company” that she doesn’t admit to. But, we did that, we had a great time. And that eventually lead to me working on the “Live-Aid Concert” in 1985. Which was really thrilling, and really the most important thing I think I’ve ever written. It really was so gratifying to be able to work on something that was making a difference in the world. But, eventually I wound up working on “Full House” with my, with that partner. And after that experience, we eventually broke up. And ran into each other and made a go of it. And we started working on ideas for films and television, and here we are now.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, let me backtrack a little bit there Richard. You said at one point, you had this agent. Maybe you can just kinda fill in some of the details about how you actually got there?
Richard: Well, this is interesting? Bobby’s good friend, was, he was an agent here in town. And he was working with, “William & Morris.” And he said, “If you guys, if you come out here?” I’ve read what you have written, I like what you have written. I’d like to bring you into William & Morris. And we said, “Okay, great!” The day we got out here, we found out that he along with several other agents. Had defected from William & Morris. So, we now had no agent, except William & Morris assigned us somebody else. So, we wound up working with that agent for a while. So, we were very fortunate that we had a place to begin. And William & Morris was a good place to begin, I gotta tell ya.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. Okay, so let’s dig into “How to beat a Bully.” Maybe just start out, just give us a quick log-line or pitch for the film. Just to kinda fill us in on what the story’s all about.
Marilyn: Well, the story’s about, when a new kid moves to town. And he’s picked on by the school bullies. He decides he has to come up something to keep them off his back. So, after watching TV at night, he sees something. And he ends up telling them that his father is a hitman for the mob. Well, of course, nobody believes him. Eventually a series of misunderstandings, the whole town starts believing it’s true. And ultimately the real mob finds out. And they capture the father, the kid, and his friends have to save his dad from the mob.
Ashley: Okay, okay. That’s a good summation. So, where did this idea come from?
Richard: Well, we started working on this project after we saw, “Home Alone” back in 1990. That gives you an idea, how long sometimes it takes to get something done. We saw that the family market was a good market. And we started tossing around ideas for family oriented stories, that would have universal appeal. And as we started talking about different topics and different themes. We discovered that both had been played at various times growing-up and we thought, huh, there’s probably something there. So, we looked for a very clever, fun, comedic way to handle that topic. And so we developed the story, wrote a screenplay. And at the time, we wound up getting an agent based on the strength of that screenplay. It went out and 14 different studios wanted to do it. There was going to be a big bidding war. And we were very excited about it, about the prospect of it all. But, as sometimes happens, timing was a little bit off. And some other family comedies came out that didn’t do so well as those. And suddenly people stopped doing family comedies. But over the next several years, we had another eight producers option the film. And we’ve had big producers, big directors, big stars, a lot of people involved in it. But, it just never has it.
Marilyn: Actually, I think in the beginning it went through 14 studios. It went, we met with a lot of different producers that were at the major studios. But, it is true that we had like, eight different options over time. And finally I’m the one who said, “No more options.” We got to do something differently, because this isn’t working. It even won a couple of screenwriting competitions. So, I said, “We’re just not optioning it anymore.” And it’s amazing, Ashley, because as soon as we decided, no more options. That’s when things started to happen. And I found an investor, who loved the project. And he said, “You gotta make this!” And so, he put the money into our fund. And then I teamed up with Wing Factor Entertainment. Then ran into Robert Dunnelston at a party. And they have just done a couple of other kids films. So, they knew the genre very well. They brought in another investor and within six months we were working past and in production. And you know, it only took off all those years in, because of things falling out. And finally have it all come together. So we went out and just made the film. And it was very exciting, and after all this time. And this way also because I was one of these that produced, and Richard was like a producer. Even though he doesn’t get credit on the film. But, he was amazing, as part of the team. We had a lot more input into it. Because we didn’t do it as a studio, but we did have to lower the budget considerably.
Ashley: Yeah. And that’s interesting to me, that you’re telling me that you got this idea in 1990. Because, one of the things when it was first, when I first got the Email that it could potentially interview you guys. It was like, Oh, that movie, “The Bully” and that was potentially something that is top of the mind right now. It’s kind of a big issue, that people are sort of grappling with. And I wonder if just the timing was right for that? Did that sort of just, “The Bully” is sort of a collective consciousness now? Did that impact do you think, those investors coming on board?
Marilyn: I think, part of it was. I have to tell, as I said, it won several contests. But this script had a few different titles. It just at different times. And even though, it had the theme of anti-bullying, it was called, “Son of a Gun” at one time. It was called, “Kid Fellas” at one time. And I must admit, all, I had the idea, I said, “Bullying” is such a hot topic. We should really highlight that in the title. And that’s when we changed the title to, “How to Beat a Bully.” So, you know, it’s as your viewers might want, the title is a very important thing, it’s just like the book. You know, the cover of a book. And the title of the book if it’s important. The same thing is true with the movie. So, I think it was a kind of a combination of factors. It was the time, that everything was right, we changed the title. And that just seemed the faith was with us, now to finally get it out there.
Richard: Yep, that was really the best marketing move that I think that we made with that, Marilyn. So, you’re absolutely right, all praise to you.
Ashley: Those other titles sound very clever too.
Ma;2rilyn: Yeah, but they were fun, “Son of a Gun” had that sort of “007” and “Kid Fellas” was awesome, “Good Fellas.”
Richard: Well, we were actually approached by somebody who had some mophia ties. He was developing a show called, “Son of a Gun.” He said, “I don’t think you want to do this thing?!” So, we a, we changed the title.
Ashley: So, when does, some things occur to me. I have two young children. I said, a six year old and a five year old. So I’ve been watching a lot of kids movies. And I wonder, is there some sort of like, maybe it would be a book, or a website where you could kinda get the rules. One thing I noticed in this movie was? No one is ever carrying a gun. Even though, you know, if this was in real life you would think these mobsters would probably would have guns? Are there some rules that maybe just you guys know, being in the industry? That say, okay, kids movies can do this, but, they can’t do this?
Marilyn: So funny that you bring that up? Because our very first initial draft that went out, that we kept meeting for, it did have guns in it. The mob did have guns, and I don’t remember whether the kids ended up getting them all? And getting a hold of them? But, in one of the many times that it was optioned. Because every time you option it, the producing end of it always wants you to make some changes. And one of the producers that had optioned it several times. And you need to take out the gun. And we said, “It’s got monsters. How can we take out guns?” But, we went back to the writing table and we creatively came up with, how to get rid of guns? In fact, in a previous draft, which we said, was bigger and more complex. Because we had a bigger budget. We have the mob guy explaining why they never use guns. Which is really funny, but unfortunately, we didn’t have the time or the number of scenes, or shooting days to put it in. But, we even developed funny reasons why the mobsters don’t carry guns.
Richard: But, zactually, I’ll tell ya Ashley. That actually brings up an interesting point. Each time we did a rewrite for a particular producer. And certainly when we came to “Dream Factory Entertainment.” Because they had restrictions, very restrictions. It forced the creative side. The creativity to try and find ways to lose scenes, to re-write scenes. Make them smaller, make them more compact. But still have them be funny. And actually, it’s odd, some of them, the funniest lines that we came up with in the last go-around? Came out of that pressure that creativity and budgetary consideration it puts on the writers.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, it doesn’t sound like there’s any kind of specific rule book. It sounds like it’s really just a matter of talking with, you know, I guess the producers that are investors. And just feeling them out. What they think is appropriate.
Marilyn: Well, for kids rules, I think, there is a site, “The Dove Foundation.” It’s not rules, but they do reviews for kids and family friendly movies. And happily we got it, the “Dove” approval, for ages 12 and up. Even though I think younger kids and adults enjoy it. But they have the website, which is for “The Dove Organization.” And they rate you according to like, violence, according to language, according to, I guess, anything, any kind of sexual scenes. If you are trying to do a family film? And you want to be squeaky clean? You might take a look at the, “Dove Organization.” And look at what things they rate. And then you know, they have certain ratings to, depending on what the language is? Whether you say things, or whether you do things yourself?
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. Okay, so let’s dig into the writing, the collaborative writing process. I know there’s a lot of people who listen to this Podcast that have writing partners. I’ve written a lot of scripts with other partners. So, I’m always curious, kind of, find out how other writing teams work? So, maybe you could just delve into a little bit? Are you guys in the same room? Do you come up with an outline and then divide up the scenes? Do you write the scenes together? And how does that all work with you guys?
Marilyn: I think Ashley, I think factually both of us, we have actually worked with other writers as well. And also written a lot. But, I have to say, Richard is my favorite partner. And I much rather write with Richard, than write on my own. I think there is just something, that writing with somebody. Especially when you’re doing comedy. That there is a feedback, that’s why it’s wonderful. When we first got together, we did write in the same room. But, because Richard went and moved to Arizona. And now he moved back here, he lives in Woodland Hills. We found that we don’t have to be in the same room. But, we spend a lot of time on the phone together. And always what we do is? We break the story first. And we talk about what we want to do, and what the characters are gonna be. And what the story is going to be. So, we do an outline, and have a beat sheet before we start writing in any theme. And then Richard, why don’t you tell them how we go on with it? Themes!
Richard: Right. Basically what we do is? We decide which scene we’re going to do first? And we have our basic outline of that particular scene. And then we each go off and write our own version of the scene. And when we’re done, we call. And we go over it, and we read each other’s scene. And we do a process, and again, I guess you would call it, “Advanced Smooshing.” We smoosh the best of both scenes together into one terrific scene. It’s crazy, but, that seems to work.
Marilyn: And one of the reasons I think this is so good is? Then, our first draft, actually becomes like, our third draft. Because I’ve written like, my thing piece. And he’s written his scenes, and we put them together. And we take the best of both. So, once in a while, you know, if he has a few of something? He’ll go off and write it. Or I’ll write something first, and then, give it to him. But when we’re actually in the process of creating together? We feel, that by each of us taking a pass at the scenes. It really doesn’t stifle either of our creativity. Which we each come up with something. And not be held to, don’t do this, don’t do that. So, we get that, we get to go where ever we want to go. And then I say, “Oh, that was really funny, I like that.” And he says, “I like that too.” And we come up with something, as I said, it’s more like a third draft than a first draft.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. And just technically, what are you guys using? Are you using something like, “Google Apps?” Where you can, you’re both looking at a screen that you can share on both type on. How you both look at these both identical pages.
Marilyn: We do it, step away, we do it by phone. And we Email each other. This is great.
Ashley: Okay, I’m just curious to know what tools people use?
Richard: Not very sexy, but it works.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So, how much time do you, would you guys say you spend on creating the beat sheet and the outline? Before you actually start writing, just you know, just roughly speaking? And we can talk specifically about this script, or just in general.
Marilyn: Well, I think that the outline, of course things can change once you start writing the outline of the characters. They take on a life of their own. But, I really think that you really want a solid outline before you start. And I don’t know? What would take a week maybe, to reach.
Richard: That’s what I was going to say, a week or so. The last one week did I think, took us about a week to put together?
Ashley: Okay, so that’s pretty quick. And then how long does it take you to actually write the script page and smoosh them together?
Marilyn: Well, actually, we just wrote a new script. And I would say, six weeks, six, to eight weeks, probably. For a draft we are really comfortable with. We might have, you know, we might have other things. But we know that we got to go back and fix them. But, certainly I think it takes a good six to eight weeks to have something that’s well crafted, and it’s polished, and it’s. That you feel it’s okay, to like you can afford to have some feedback on it.
Richard: I’ll tell ya, Ashley, one of the tricks that we used, really successfully. Is when we begin, we will look at the characters, and we will cast the film. With actors who have played similar roles. And when we cast it that way, in our minds. We can hear, clearly what those characters are saying and what they sound like. So, it helps in the writing process a great deal.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. What is your daily routine look like once you’ve done the outline and you start actually writing the pages? How many hours a day would you say you actually write?
Richard: All of them?
Ashley: Say, eight or ten hours a day, you’ll put in a full day, just cranking out pages.
Marilyn: If we’re in the process of like writing something on a headline? Absolutely, I mean, we’ve been, I’ve been in the situation, we just. As I said, we just got done writing a script that will hopefully going to get shot later on this year. And, there were days where we would work from ten in the morning till 11:00p.m. at night, great, write with no break. Would you say that Richard?
Richard: Absolutely. But, you know it. And having a deadline, obviously with somebody who’s paying you, helps the fuel. That, but that’s the way it has to go. Other times If we don’t have as much pressure. We have other lives, we have other things that we are doing. So, we’ll go in and out of it.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So, we kinda talked about, you guys talked about how you wrote this Oxygen eight times? And then eventually found some equity to it, to get invested into it, this film. So, maybe we can skip ahead a little bit, to distribution. Once you guys finish the film. What was your first step in getting a distributor? Does a film like this go to film festivals? Did you have some connections in distribution, already lined up?
Marilyn: Well, this is really interesting. We’ve never been on the other side of this before. It was always a question of, you sell a script to some body, and they give you money. And they go and take and what they do with it? But, as I said, because we were the genesis of this. We had a lot more input, not control. We don’t have control, but we certainly have input. But, the one thing that I was to say, would help everyone. If you are going to do a film, which we didn’t do was? If you can, put a name in the script. Put a star in, even if it’s only one name. Because with big distributors. They really want name value. Because this was a kid’s movie? We really didn’t think we needed that celebrity. And I certainly think all the actors we got are fabulous. And probably better than fabulous our names would be. But, I think that one thing is what makes it difficult to get a big-time distributor. Because we didn’t have a big name star. That being said, we had a number of distributors who liked it. But again, we ran into the problem again, that there wasn’t any, or no star. So, I had run into Linda Nelson, who was with Indy Wright. And they have a really good model for independent films. And that’s where we decided to go with them. And of course, they put it up on all the digital platforms, such as: Amazon, and ITunes, and Hulu, Googleplay. And for us, the big deal for us was getting a Walmart deal, which is very, very unusual for a little Indie films. That we are very excited about that.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, no that’s great. So, how could people see, “How to Beat a Bully?” You guys know the release date, when it’s going to be available – ONDEMAND, and in stores and stuff?
Marilyn: It’s out now, actually, today is the launch date, April 5th. It came out at Walmart stores today. Which I said was, is very exciting for a little film like ours. But they can also see it online at – Amazon.com, or ITunes, or Googleplay. And Richard, do you have anything to add on that?
Richard: A no, just that it’s a, I can’t wait, that as soon as this interview’s over, I’m running out to Walmart to see if at our local Walmart, right out here in the valley.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah.
Ashley: Perfect, perfect. Now listen, this will actually be my last question. How can people, I’ll definitely get those websites, and the Facebook page, and I’ll put those in the show notes. So people can click over to those easily. But, are you guys on Twitter, or Facebook, or do you have a blog yourself? Just anything you feel comfortable sharing? So, people can actually keep up with your careers and maybe just follow along with what you guys are doing?
Marilyn: Well, we’re both on Facebook, and we don’t have a blog yet? But, if they go to, you know, the Facebook page – How to Beat a Bully. Also, we are so excited about the Walmart, that we’re asking people to take a picture of themselves with the DVD at Walmart, or buying it. We’re going to sponsor some kind of contest. So, maybe we’ll give a free invitation to somebody who has the best selfie with our DVD at Walmart or something? We haven’t figured it out yet, but I just came up with that. Because somebody sent me a picture. That’s our first photo of the DVD at Walmart.
Ashley: Huh, that’s great. Is there someplace people can send those? I can definitely mention that.
Marilyn: They can put it on Facebook, or go to our Facebook page. With – www.facebook.com\howtobeatabully. And post it there, yeah.
Ashley: Perfect, perfect. That’ll be great. Well, Marilyn and Richard I really appreciate you guys coming on the show. This has been a great interview. I really enjoyed the movie. This is the first time I’ve had someone on where I can actually watch the movie with my kids and my wife. And the kids enjoyed it too, so, I really appreciate that.
Richard: That’s great Ashley.
Marilyn: They’re coming out with the book today, “How to Beat a Bully.” We should tell ya, that too, the novel version. Well.
Ashley: Perfect, perfect. When’s that out?
Marilyn: Later this year. We’re not sure yet? But,
Ashley: Okay, okay, perfect, perfect. Again, Richard and Marilyn I really appreciate you coming on and talking with me.
Richard: Thanks so much Ashley, it’s been a pleasure.
Ashley: It’s been wonderful.
Marilyn: Thank you. Thanks so much Ashley.
Ashley: Thank you, we’ll talk to ya later.
[36:03] End Interview.
Ashley: A 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 our Three-Pack, of evaluations, it’s $67.00 per script, feature films and $59.00 per teleplay. All the readers have professional experience reading for: Studios, Production companies, Contests, and agencies. You can read a short bio available on each reader on our website. And you can pick the reader that 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.
- Over all craft – Which includes – Formatting, Spelling, and Grammar issues.
Every script will get a grade of – Pass, Consider, or Recommend. And this should roughly help you understand where your script might land, given if you were to submit it to a production company, or agency. We provide analysis on features and television scripts. We would do analysis on one-hour television scripts. Or half-hour television scripts. We also do proof reading without any analysis. We also look at a treatment or outline and give you the same analysis on it. So, if you are looking to vet some of your projects? This is a great way to do it. We will also write a log-line and synapsis for you. So, you can add this service to an analysis. Or you can simply purchase it as a stand-alone product.
As a bonus, if your script gets a grade of Recommend, from a reader? You get a free Email and Fax Blast to my list of industry contacts. This is the exact same blast service 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 new material.
So, if you want a professional evaluation of your screenplay at a very reasonable price, check out – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/consultants, again, that’s www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/consultants.
On the next episode of the Podcast, I’m going to be interviewing writer director William Woo. William just finished production on his debut feature film called, “Comfort” Which he wrote and directed. He’s got a lot of great practical advice for anyone planning on shooting their own film. He’s another film maker that came up doing short films. And now this is his feature film debut. So, a lot of good information just about moving your career along using short films. And ultimately a feature film.
To wrap things up I just want to touch on a few things from today’s interview with Marilyn and Richard. I spend a lot of time on this Podcast talking about genre films. And usually that means: Horror, Sci-Fi thrillers, Low-budget action, those are sort of the typical movies when people say genre films that they are thinking about. But these independent family films, I think that they are also part of this. I’d say, genre films, I hate independent family friendly films, are also genre films. And lots of producers I’ve talked to, talked with. They say, only family friendly films are still a good investment. A lot of producers are looking for this type of material. You know, it’s something that can play world-wide. It’s something that there’s still a big market for. And when I say a big market. One of the things that has collapsed? For most of the film business in most genres is? The DVD market, you know, ten, twelve years ago, fifteen years ago; that was, maybe twenty years ago. Was VHS tapes, but, there used to be a big after market where people would rent these tapes. They would rent these or buy these DVD’s. And that has really gone away. But for family friendly films, there is still a market for these DVD’s. Places like Walmart, can throw these family friendly films up in their stores and they will sell some units. You know, and I can attest to this as a parent myself. I haven’t bought a DVD for my myself, I honestly I don’t, I don’t ever, it could be decades. I can’t remember the last time I bought a DVD for myself. But, I buy DVD’s for my kids, I have a 5 year old and a 6 year old. And I buy DVD’s for them all the time. We have stacks of DVD’s. We get all the new Disney movies that come out, “Frozen.” I’m trying to think of the last one? We went back and forth almost every, all those Disney movies:
“The Lion King” you know, all those classics of Disney kid movies. But we buy a ton of them. Even some smaller ones we might see in the stores. You know, they’re cheap enough, we’ll pick some up. So, I think that, that sort of mentality is still out there, I think. That’s probably why people buy these DVD’s, family friendly DVD’s. The kids like to watch movies, over and over again. I think the adults, not so much. But, I think the kids, they like it. There’s still, the internet connection goes down. Yes, you can still get these digital copies. But that’s a problem, but sometimes it’s nice, in the car. It’s not much to sit behind in the car, stick a DVD in. And the kids can watch it on road trips and stuff. And it’s going to be a while before it, sort of downloadable content replaces that. If there’s some sort of convenience of having that physical DVD. Being able to just pop it in the player. So, I think this is the bottom line. Because I think there’s still going to be a market for these family films, family movies for some time to come. The irony in all this is that I think most writers. And again, I include myself in that. And this, most people who go into films, don’t want to write this type of script. So, really think about that. There are producers who are looking for family friend scripts. And there aren’t as many screenwriters who are writing this kind of material. So, I don’t know if anything I would say, there’s a shortage of scripts? I’m sure there are a lot of family friendly film scripts floating around out there? But, just percentage wise, there’s going to be more producers looking for this type of script, while less writers are writing this. And I’m opposing you, that’s opposed to the independent quirky comedy. You know, I just talked to new writers, and there’s so many people that have written, you know, the quirky drama. Or the quirky, you know, dramedy, you know, lots of writers go into, lots of people go into screenwriting because that’s the kind of stories they want to tell. But for all intents and purposes, there is no market for those films. And one of the vibrant markets in the industry is for family friendly material. So, I would highly occur to anyone who has a good idea for a family friendly film? Go out and write it, and start trying to market it, and send it out. Especially if you can write in such a way that it can be produced in a relatively small budget. I know that there are a lot of producers out there looking to create this kind of comedy. So, there is a good market for it. In the interview with Marilyn Anderson and she mentioned, “The Dove Foundation.” I will link to their website in the show notes. I don’t have any experience with “The Dove Foundation?” None of my films have been big family films. So, it’s not something I really got the road I’ve gone down. So, I don’t personally have the personality to do this. But, it is, “The Dove Foundation” is something that comes up in conversations. Producers are that I’ve heard made mention to it. It’s something that as screenwriters I have screenwriter friends that’s sort of come up, and in conversations. So, I have had a suggestion from Marilyn, I think going to “The Dove Foundation” website. And looking up the types of films that are getting good ratings from them. There is definitely a religious angle to it. And you know, like, one of their stamps of approval is faith based. You might not fit into that, you might not be a faith based. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get the seal of approval from them. So, go to their website, and just give it a look. Look at some of the movies they got. You know, big movies. From the “Jungle Book” I was just at their website this morning. And they got a review of the “Jungle Book.” So, they are reviewing big movies and obviously smaller movies as well. From what I’ve heard, plus places like Walmart, they look at that seal of approval from “The Dove Foundation.” With high regard. So, if you write a family friendly film, you will ultimately need to understand what “The Dove Foundation” is all about. And how to go about getting the rating for it. But I think as a screenwriting perspective, you need to look at the films. And understand the language and the landscape. And not, you know, do things in your script. So, bash a movie, will not work with “The Dove Foundation.” So, you don’t want to write what you think is a family friendly film movie. Only to find out it’s not really family friendly. Because of whatever sexual content, or violent content, you know, maybe there are certain different subject matters. But they are not necessarily give their seal of approval. So, check out the website. And think about how to, or it might affect your writing?
I also thought it was interesting what they said about the title change? This is another really interesting point. I think it’s something a lot of things people don’t spend enough time on. In the SYS form, I get reviewing log-lines, you know, years and years, hundreds of them. And so, with the log-line in general comes the title of the script. I see a ton of scripts titles. I see so many titles that don’t really convey very much meaning. And you know, certainly make an argument, there’s some great movies. That their titles don’t mean, something like, “Star Wars” I mean, sure, that conveys a lot of meaning now. But when Star Wars came out, back in 1976. I don’t know that created, or conveyed a ton of meaning? To me, it wasn’t something sort of within the conversation. I don’t know that this is mandatory hating? You have to have a great title for your movie to succeed. But, I do think it’s an opportunity to, for you to enhance your pitch. And if you have a title, that can really sum up what your script is about, and what the market is that your script is going for? I think that can really help. Conveying enough meaning to in as few words as possible. That’s really what writing is all about. About conveying meaning and doing it through words, the written word. So, coming up with a title that can conveys a lot of meaning. I think it can really, really enhance your pitch. I think it’s, if you watch this particular movie, I don’t know that the title would only add nearly describes this film. Honestly, but I think, it is, bullying is the hot button issue. So, I think it’s a nice marketing hook. If they are really able to hook into that. Bullying is a really big sort of thing. And some sort of collective conscious, just of the people who live it in the United States. Something that is talked about. Something that is a legend. So, hooking your film into something people are talking about. Is a great way to do it. They’ve done it through the title. And again bullying is definitely part of the script of this movie. But, I think it’s not a major part of it. Really when the story really gets going? So, again, it’s a great marketing hook. And I think it’s a lesson we could learn as writers. It’s making sure our titles happen with those hooks. I also think it’s interesting to note how long it took these screenwriters to get these films produced. I get a lot of questions from people that are along the lines of, how fast can I sell my screenplay, and get paid. And you know, the sort of the just of the comedy, is these people are looking to make money quickly. And you know, sometimes, what Marilyn and Richard just described. You know, lots of optioning the script to lots of people fall through optioning through. A lot of the time that’s what it takes. I try and come on this Podcast. And one of the reasons why I try and mentioning the options? That I get when I get them. Is, so people can understand them. That I option out a lot of scripts. But, ultimately those scripts don’t get produced, and that’s part of the process. And so, it’s not going to be a process. I’d say if you are looking to make money, like Richard and Marilyn experienced with this. It’s not unusual, I had a script that I optioned out, in 1999? But eventually it got produced, but the film makers? They, I optioned it in 1999, they ended up buying the script in 2009. So, it took them ten years just to buy the script from me. I mean, it took them another three or four years to actually get the film produced. By the time they got through post-production, and it’s a film called, “Rush Lights.” And I think it was 2012-2013 was the actual year that it’s listed on IMDB, when it finally got finished. But, as I said, optioned in 1999. They bought it from me in 2009, and then took them another eight years, to actually get through production and post-production. So, that’s like a twelve, thirteen year run. And, it can happen, that’s part of the process too. It’s not going to be quick and easy. Again, if you’re looking to make quick money? Then screenwriting is probably not the best way to go about doing it? I do hear these grand stories of, you know, the guy is working as a bartender, has that script and gets it to the right person and gets that, you know, six figure, seven figure deal. It does happen, but, you know, people win the lottery too…. So, I think there are other ways of making a lot of money quickly, if that’s really your intent? So, screenwriting is probably not going to be your best bet.
Anyway, that’s the show, thank you for listening.