Ashley: Welcome to episode #138 of the “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, Screenwriter and Blogger over here at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today, I’m interviewing Mark Allen, he’s a screenwriter who lives in Washington State, and still manages to find some success with his screenplays. Like a lot of my guests, he’s started out by shooting super-low budget films. And since then he has sold and optioned a few movie scripts to various producers, so stay tuned for that interview.
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So, now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m interviewing screenwriter Mark Allen. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Mark, to the “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast” I really appreciate you coming on the show with me on the show today.
Mark: Well, thank you for having me. It’s very exciting for me, to be able to talk about my craft.
Ashley: Perfect. So, maybe we could just back it up, we could talk about your background a little bit. And kinda bring us through your childhood. You know some of your work experiences. And then to the point where you decided to become a screenwriter?
Mark: Okay. I was born in a small town, very, very small farming community in East Texas, Jacksonville Texas. I was raised in the ‘60’s and early ‘70’s. And that kind of idealic
“Andy Griffith” “Maybury” type of thing. Where everyone was nice, kids could play out, you know, at night. You never had to worry about them being in, you know, kidnapped, murdered, or anything like that. It was an idealic childhood. I can’t say anything other than that. Graduated from high school, in 1980. But to backtrack that, I had shown an early affinity for the horror movies of the ‘30’s and ‘40’s. And the Science Fiction specifically, “The big bug movies” of the ‘50’s. And then I was a teenager in the early 70’s. So, a lot of the hammer horror, and the, a lot of the A.I.P. The American International Horror, Count Yorga, Vampire, “Killa” and a lot of movies like this, “The Giant Spider Invasion.” These were the movies I grew-up with seeing. And they influenced me greatly. I joined the military, and I became a Navy Hospital Core-man. And as I went through my career, I became a field service technician, which for someone who doesn’t know what that is? Think of me as the battlefield medic. I was with the Marines. The Marines get all of their medical support from the Navy. So, the Navy Hospital Core-man goes out into the field with the Marines, and provides medical support. For direct combat operations. And so, I was doing that, went a few places, did a few things. Participated in a few activities, if you want to call them that? But all through my career, I wanted to be a writer. I had grown-up thinking I would become a novelist. You know, I thought that I, in the ‘70’s I thought I’d
grow-up to be like, the next Stephen King, or something like that. And the dream got side tracked by my military career. And in 1995, I was going through a divorce. I was laying on a rack in the barrack at Camp Pendleton in California. And feeling sorry for myself, really down, and I asked myself, “What do I do now?” You know, I had no idea? And I’m a guy who needs to have something to do. And he just came in, crystal clear. Was it the true definition of an epiphany, I could do anything I wanted. So, the next question became, “What do I want, what gave me pleasure, what gave me joy?” When, before all this happened, when I was a kid. And it came back to the writing. But, I really didn’t want to be novelist anymore. And one night, a bunch of the guys in the barracks had rented a bunch of movies for the weekend. And one of the movies that they rented, was, “Basic Instinct.” And you know, we were sitting there watching the movie. Of course all the guys are going nuts and hooting and hollering over Sharon Stone and all this. And I’m sitting there watching the movie. And with all difference to Joe Esterhouse, I’m watching this movie, going guys this movie is a piece of shit! Oh, I’m sorry, can I say that?
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, sure.
Mark: Oh, sorry, I didn’t even think. And they were just going, “What, what are you talking about, look at her?” And I’m like, “Guys, there’s no story here.” And, it just made me mad. I mean, I actually got angry. I felt like the film makers had ripped everybody off. Because whenever the story got up to a point where they, there was nowhere to go? They would just throw in another sex scene. There would be more nudity, or it’s throw in somebody getting killed. It was, in my opinion, it’s a mess, and it got me mad. I said, “You know what? I can do that, and I can do it better.” And so I, went out to a book store, and a bought a couple of books on screenwriting. And that’s what kinda got me, the ball rolling for me. I was still active duty, I still had about six years left on my career before I could retire. But you know, I read all the standards, I read Sidfield, I read, “The Elements of Screenwriting.” Which had been a textbook that was used at UCLA Film School. “A scriptwriting” by J. Michaels Trizinski. In fact I still have my copy of “Scriptwriting” and it’s right here on my desk. I’m tapping my finger on it.
I went to a couple of seminars that were put on by, “The Learning Annex.” I don’t know if “Learning Annex” is even still around anymore? But back in the ‘90’s. You could get these little brochures at the bus stations with all these classes that you could take on everything. I mean, from getting your real estate license, to underwater basket weaving. I mean, they had classes for, and I took a couple of those seminars on screenwriting, so I could get my basics. What is a
slug-line? How does a slug-line look in that kind of thing? And I just went from there. And, at the time, made for basic cable movies were very popular. They often starred Lorenzo Lamas or someone like that, Marc Singer, people like that. And they always seemed to be very sultry thrillers, very erotic. And what I didn’t realize at the time? They were all modern versions of film raw. And so, I started writing a script called, “Ladies Man.” Which was this mystery. And I was writing it for cable, I didn’t know it that, that’s what I was doing, but I was doing. And I wrote this script, and it was just god awful! God Awful! But I wrote a hundred pages of screenplay. I wrote it in proper format. And even though looking back on it now, the script was just god awful. At the time it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen in my life. You know (Laughing) And after that first script, that was it, I was hooked, I was off and running. And it was just script after script, after script, after script, after script, after script, after script, after script; writing, writing, writing, writing, writing, writing. You know, shopping and going off on deployment, and this and that and the other, it was my job. But, I was always writing, I wrote every day, even if I wrote out at long hand on a spiral notebook. Because there were times when I didn’t have access to a computer. But, I wrote every day, writers write! People sometimes, will ask me? What does it take to be a writer? And I said, I will tell people, “It takes the seat of your ass, to the seat of a chair.” You don’t have to be rich, you don’t even have to have a computer. You can go buy a $1.50 pen, and a $3.00 college notebook. Sit down and start writing, now, you’re a writer. The only thing you got to do now is? Get the technologies so you can share your writing, you know, but it’s all there. And you know, writers, write. And still, to this day, you know, that was 1995. Now we’re in 2016, it’s been 22 years. And I still force myself to put the seat of my ass, to the seat of a chair every, single, day, seven days a week, even if it’s only for an hour.
Ashley: So, it sounds like you in 1995, you wrote this first script, and you kept on writing. You followed five or six more years in the military. How many scripts did you write in that time here in that five or six-year time period before you got out?
Mark: Probably about ten or twelve.
Ashley: Okay, okay. So, then take us through that this. Now you’re finished with your military career. What were your first steps to actually start to get some of these scripts produced?
Mark: I had become adept at writing quarry letters. And I had figured that the quarry letter for a screenplay was actually quite similar to the quarry letter that you would send a literary agent regarding a novel. So, I took that template and just started, you know, creating a quarry letter, log-line, three paragraph synapsis. You know, one paragraph to set-up each act. And then I would leave it with some type of cliff-hanger. I would never, say exactly what the end was? Because if I did? What’s the point in reading it? And so, I would send out quarry letters, man, everywhere.
Every agency, every producer, every production company, every literary management manager, you know. Anyone who said they would be open to an Email, I sent an Email to. Now at the time, in the late ‘90’s early 2000’s, a lot of them were not online yet. So, you had to send actual hard copy quarry letters. With a stamped, self-addressed envelope and all that, and I did that. And at first, I would either get nothing, or I would just get, “We don’t accept unsolicited material.” To which it drove me nuts because I thought, why did you say, in this list or in this book directory. That I paid a lot of money for, why does it say, “That you accept unsolicited material.” If you don’t accept, “Unsolicited materials.” That never made any sense? But I kept going, kept going. And I was out of the military. And by this time I was already starting to get some screenplays read at companies, that say, “Yeah, it’s great, but we don’t really have a place for it on our slate, but send us your next one, send something else. It just got very frustrating. And I just got to a point where, did ya know what? I’m tired of waiting for other people to give me permission to do my job. So, I’m a devotae of Roger Corman, the great low-budget
film maker. And I had read his autobiography, which I recommend to everyone, it’s called, “How I Made a 100 movies in Hollywood and Never Lost A Dime.” Read it, it’s the master class in low-budget film making. I had also read a couple of other books specifically,
“from Real to Deal” by Doug S.S. Simus and that was the book that breaks everything down into the nuts and bolts of what you must do. To go from a concepting in your head, to a movie on the screen. And that was the book that really changed my life. Because it said, “Hey, even I can do this. There is a blue-print, all you got to do, is follow this” so that’s what I did. I wrote a
95-page script, a teen slasher movie, set in the dessert called, “Delirium.” And I wrote it specifically to be made fast and cheap, down and dirty. I raised $9,000.00, $9,000.00, I cast it, I creatively worked it. And we went out into the dessert between San Diego, where I was living. And El Centro, and we shot that movie. We did, get this, we did 95 pages of script, in 9 days, for $9,000.00. We got it “In The Can” on time and on budget. (Laughing). Now that’s Roger Corman’s style film making, you know, and we got it done. And then I spent the next year editing the film. Because I had to do it myself. Because I couldn’t find anyone to edit it for me, and I didn’t have the money. So, what I did, San Diego has an adult education district, right? And I would sign-up for these free classes. Just so I could go in and have access to their computers. Because their computers had “Final Draft.” Not “Final Draft” I’m sorry, “Final Cut 5” on them. And you know, the professors knew what I was doing, and they were cool with it, I’d explain it to them at the first. I’d sit at the back of the room, with headphones on, Mickey Mouse style headphones, and an external hard drive. I would plug in, and while they’re doing their class. I’m back there editing my movies. (Laughing) And it took me a year to do it, but I got it done. And then we started approaching various distribution outlets, and I made the worst mistake, I could ever make. I signed with the first company that offered me a contract. That was York Entertainment, they are now defunked. But they had world-wide media rights to it. It got released in North America. It got, and according to their financial reports that I would get every few months. It got released and played, it’s like, it got released in Mexico, Brazil, it got released in the U.K., Russia. Which was a hot new market at the time, kinda like, China is now. It got released in Hong Kong, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, you know. It got put into about 20 territories world-wide. And, but the way the contract had been written. And I didn’t know any better, and I did not have an entertainment attorney at the time. The way the contract was written, essentially, it gave him license to steal, I never saw a penny of that movie, never saw a nickel. Was never able to pay my investors back, I was never able to pay my cast or my crew. Because ever, we all worked on preferred pay. I didn’t put any money in my pocket. In fact, about $4000.00 of the budget actually came out of my pocket. But yeah, a, first movie I was ripped off. But, it got my name out there. And I got some momentum. And I was going to do this next movie, called, “Early Grave.” And was going to shoot that in East County, San Diego. I was getting money lined up. I was going to shoot it on a budget of about $150,000.00. Because I was going to pay my cast and crew. And I was going to make sure I paid myself this time around. I learned from my mistake. And then the bottom of the economy fell out, in L.A. And all that money that had been pledged to me just (puff) just gone. And so, “Early Grave” didn’t wind up getting made until years later, It was shot in late 2011. And I co-produced on that, I did not direct it. I brought the script to the table. And I co-produced because I was going to help with trying to find a distributor. And so, it gets made, and it’s a much better film. It’s a.
Ashley: And let’s talk about that for a minute though. How did you actually find the people, the director, the producer, how did you find those people that actually made the movie.
Mark: A, the director Kevin Deboko and I had been friends for a while. Because we had both been burned by York Entertainment. And we kind of bonded over that. And he’s an Air Force Veteran. And so, you know, we bonded over that, you know brothers in arms and all of that kind of thing.
Ashley: How did you actually physically meet him though? Through this York Entertainment? They have like a Christmas party? You guys just happen to meet there?
Mark: Actually he gave me a call. I’ve never actually stood in the same room with
Mark: Yeah, because he’s in Portland Maine, and I’m still here on the West Coast. I’m currently in lovely, Port Orford Washington. But, between Emails, and phone calls and stuff. We said, “Yeah, let’s do something together. And he had another script, from another writer, that he was considering at the time. And I pitched him “Early Grave” at the time. I pitched him the log-line, but didn’t tell him anything else. And a, he said, “Send the script.” So, I Emailed it. And less than 24 hours later, he called me back, and it was on a weekend, I remember. He called me back and said, “This is the script we have to do! Yeah, well, I said, “What about this other script, from this other writer?” And he goes, “Nah, we’re doing yours.” I said, “Okay.” So, they hired, cast out of Boston. And out of New York. And some of the cast is actually gone on to higher profile stuff. Which is always wonderful to see. And they went out to an island off the coast of Maine, Phoenix Island. They shot the movie there on location, over I think, they shot over a two-week period. And, it’s funny though, although I like the final product, it wasn’t what I wrote. I wrote a horror film, what he made, was, a thriller. By blood level in horror, I wrote “Friday the 13th” the original. He shot the original “Halloween.” Which you know, has no blood in it, at all. So, I wrote “Friday the 13th” But he shot “Halloween.” And that’s the movie that went out. And that’s an important lesson to learn for all screenwriters. Once you get your script, out there and someone takes it on, to make it into a movie. What you wrote it not necessarily what’s going to get shot. The story that you saw in that little cinema in your head? Is not going to be the story that winds up on the DVD. Now with some scripts that I have, that would be fine. You know, I can just sell them, take the money and walk away. But I have some scripts that are actually very important to me, personal, they are very precious. And, on those, I try to attach myself as a co-producer, or as a director. So that I can handle at least have my fingers in the pie, when it comes to creative input. Because as a screenwriter, once you sell your script, it’s no longer yours. They can do anything they want with it. Maybe you wrote a political thriller? They turn it into a romantic comedy. You know, I mean, it happens. Just ask, Josh Wheaton, about what happened with his original, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Screenplay, the film.” A, yeah, they took a horror movie, and they turned it into a teen comedy. They just haven’t had vampires in it, you know. So, it happens. The only way you can keep any kind of creative control. Is to attach yourself as a producer, or something similar. Where at least your voice can continue to be heard.
Ashley: I want to jump back just a, real quick. You had mentioned trying to raise the $150,000.00 for, “Early Grave.” And $9000.00 for “Delirium.” Maybe you could just? I do get Emails from people saying, “Hey, I want to do my own film, how can I raise money?” Are there some practical tips or maybe you could even just share your story of how you went out and actually tried to raise that money. Because I think just sharing your story. Might just give people some ideas about how they can possibly raise money for their films?
Mark: Okay. On “Early Grave” I wanted to raise $10., but I could only raise $9 And I.
Ashley: You’re talking about “Delirium?” on “Delirium.”
Mark: Yes. Yes, “Delirium” sorry. And, nobody, and I mean nobody, and I mean nobody wanted to put a nickel into it. For screenwriters who want to produce or direct? No investor wants to be first money in. They want to see that there is already money in the escrow account. They want to see that someone else believes in you. Especially if you are a first time director, or first time producer. They want to see that someone else believes in you. Even if that someone else is yourself. Because the question that I got asked by every person whether they invested or not? They asked me, if I had skin in? Now, there’s a rule in Hollywood that says, never, ever, invest your own money. Always get other people’s money. And it’s a good practice. But, it’s a practice that gets broken all the time. Especially if being at the independent micro-budget level. You need to have to have some cash in the till, to show investors, even if it’s your own money. Because then you’re saying, I believe in myself. And I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is. And that’s important.
Ashley: A-huh. So, how did you find people to pitch, especially on something like,
“Early Grave” where you’re talking about raising $150,000.00. How did you find people to actually pitch, was it just friends, family friends, friends of friends, who were you actually pitching to? Saying, hey, will you kick in money?
Mark: I started with friends and expanded out to friends of friends. Whenever I talked to somebody, if they said, “No, this isn’t something I can do right now.” I would say, okay, do you know anybody who might be interested, in something like this? Because everybody has that crazy uncle, or that friend from college, or whatever? Who will always invest in these high risk hair brained schemes, right? So, you go talk to the crazy uncles. You go talk to the crazy friends from college. You go talk to, you talk to anybody who will give you ten minutes of their time. And eventually, you will find someone who’s willing to put money on up. And then you ask them the same question. Hey, you happen to know anybody, any business associates, any friends who might be interested in kicking in for this? Invariably, they’ll say, actually yeah, I got this crazy friend that I was in college with. And it just keeps going. In searching out high networking individuals, I started talking with real estate agents. Because real estate know people who are wealthy. Because they sell houses for a living, you know. I found this one real estate agent, who again, was an Air Force Veteran. So, he was willing to give me ten minutes. And I went in and pitched him and he said, “I’m, I never invest in anything in entertainment, because it’s such a high risk. However, I know some people, and that’s how it happened. And it just went from one person to the next, to the next, to the next. And before I knew it, I had met, you know, five, six people. So, who were willing to kick in $25 grand each, you know. And so, that was great, I was setting up the escrow account to put the money into, so that nobody could touch it, until we were actually ready to shoot. That way they knew that I wasn’t going to take their money. And I was getting ready to cast, I already had my technical crew. The crew from, “Delirium” was going to work on “Early Grave.” I was just going to cast some different people. And then the economy crashed. The housing bubble burst. And, you know, there was no money. All of my investors backed out, the money. Like I said, within less than a week, when they realized, they were realizing how bad it really was? They money was just (Puff) gone.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, let’s move on to “Isolation” and talk about that one, talk about that film? How did you get that one? Get that script sold, or get it to a producer who’s run to make it?
Mark: “Early Grave,” I’m sorry, “Isolation” I had written “About 2010” and it was a finalist, at the “Shriek Fest Horror Film Festival.” Out of a field of over 2000 screenplays, “Isolation” made the top 10. Although, it didn’t win, ultimately on awards night, it did not win. But, it was still the finalist for “Best Horror Screenplay.” And I tried getting that around. And nobody cared that I made the finals at “Shriek Fest.” They couldn’t have cared less. So, I’m like, oh, okay, what am I going to do? I knew it was a bigger picture than what I could do. And so, I tried getting it set-up, and nothing happened. Two or three years go by, and suddenly, you know, nothing has happened with it, and that. Nothing has happened with my career, “Early Grave” wound-up being a bust. Although I thought it was a good movie. And I’m at a point where, I’m saying, “You know what? I’ve been beating my head against this wall, long enough. Technology has caught up in the publishing realm. I’ll just write novels, and self-publish through Amazon, and through Kindle. And price it to where people can afford it, and where I can make a reasonable amount of money on the deal.” And I’ll just take all these scripts that I’ve written over the years and I will just novelize. Man, I’ll just have this deep, deep well of material that I can go to. And then in 2014, I was diagnosed with
stage 4 throat cancer. And everything came to a screeching halt, everything. At that point, it was simply about staying alive. Because my cancer was very aggressive. And I have a cancer that is unique to men. And only has a 23 survival percentage point rate. 23% survival within 12 months. Think about that for a minute. I’m at 25 months right now, which I am pretty happy about.
Ashley: I would say! Yeah.
Mark: So, along the way, getting back to “The Isolation.” Along the way. I had written another screenplay called, “Restitution.” Which is not a horror film. It’s a psychological thriller. And I actually sold it, and they actually paid me with check that didn’t bounce. I sold it, to some fellas at Terror Films Incorporated. They guys who run it are – Joe Dane and Jim Kluck. That’s “Kluck” with a “K” and Miles Stanburg. And they are all Hollywood Insider veteran people. And the wanted to start a kind of side company for themselves that would deal strictly in horrors and thrillers and darker material. And I pitched him “Restitution” they read the script, they liked it. And they paid me for it, and I sold it.
Ashley: And how did you hook-up with them? Like, how did they even get on your radar? That you even knew to pitch to them?
Mark: They had put something on a posting site called, “Ink Tip.”
Mark: And I had simply responded to that. And, I didn’t know it at the time. But they told me later, that, “Restitution.” Was the only script, out the 450 that they had requested out of that listing. Where all three of them agreed, “Yes.” That this is the script. So, restitution, is, I sold it in October of 2014. It’s still in development with them from what I understand? And I have not spoken with them in a while. But, you know, simply because we’re not, you know, they’re busy with their stuff, and I’m busy with mine. But, supposedly, they are looking to shoot it sometime in 2017. So, it was an interesting set-up. I wanted to do an exercise for myself, a creative exercise. And I truly wanted one location. And so, I picked the clichéd, cabin in the woods, right? But it’s a one room cabin. So, it’s all in one place. And the whole movie, the whole screenplay. Takes place inside, outside, and immediate around, that cabin. People drive in on a road, they leave on the road. But, you know, there’s no, there’s no other location, like at a post office, or at a grocery store, or in a night club. None of that, it’s all right there at this cabin. And I wanted to see how I could create tension and suspense, using as few characters as possible. And what I wound up doing, with “Restitution.” Was I have, four, yeah, four characters in the entire script. And over 50% of the script, it’s just two people. The other two? Are people who actually drive up and come to the cabin to interact with someone in the cabin, you know. And you know, they loved it. The folks at
Terror Films loved the script. And they made an offer to buy it, and I took the offer. And very soon after that, I got a call, I was still living in San Diego California. At the time, still recovering from this cancer. I got a call, from an old friend of mine who was in Los Angeles. He had been an actor for a long time. And he decided to kinda, you know, shift gears in his career. And he wanted to be a literary manager. And a producer. And he called me up, told me what he was doing. And asked if I might be interested in signing on as a client? So, it’s like hmmm? Let me think here? Hollywood representation, Mm, no Hollywood representation, hmmm, let me weigh that a minute? Alright, yes! (Laughing) So, I signed with him, his name is Chaz, he’s my Manager and my business partner now. He owns the company “IG Hodges Entertainment.” The Latin term that means, do what you do. And he took the script. And.
Ashley: And this is for “Isolation” now?
Mark: Yes. It’s for “Isolation” he took the script and he read it and said, “Holy crap Mark!” Let me send this out to an actor friend I know, I want to get his take on it. And the actor friend that he knew. Is a fellow by the name of, Todd Duffy. And if anyone has ever seen the movie “Office Space.” Todd Duffy, was Bruce, the flare guy. He was the one that was always very high energy, very highly kenetic, was always, “YEAH, THAT’S IT YEAH! Hey you guys, the room YEAH!!” That was Todd Duffy, pardon me. And he read the script. And got back to touch with Chaz, and according to Chaz, Todd said, “This is a kick-ass writer! This guy, kicks ass and takes names!” And so, it went from there. And we had been dealing with the Executive Producer, who was looking at getting some money from European sources to fund the script at about $20 million dollars. The script itself, could be done for less. A lot of it has to do with the level of actor that you get in it. And you know, on the business side of things, with the budgets. You hit kind of an awkward place. You get much over a
million $5-$2 million dollars. You start getting into this no man’s land, as far as distribution goes. You’ve got too much money invested to make your money back straight from Direct-to-Video, DVD, and Foreign Sales. But you haven’t put enough money in to get a star who can open the movie. And can justify a theatrical release. Now once you start getting up into $10, $15. $20 million dollars, then you’re getting into a point where you can get a video star, TV star. You get up around a million and you’re looking at being able to get a movie star. Someone, that if you want to see them, you have to go to a theater and plunk down your $12.00 bucks to go see them. And so, our EP wanted to get a particular actor that we had talked about an Oscar winning actor, by the name of Whet. And that ultimately wound up not leading anywhere. She seemed to not quite have the connections she said she did. But in the meantime. Chaz is working on these other projects. And we’re talking projects that are being pitched now, as we speak in Hollywood. That have like, $100, $150, $200 million dollars in budgets. I mean, historical drama, the setter, if you’re going to make historical drama, that’s the type of money you have to have, do them and do them right. And so, he’s still holding onto, “Isolation.” Because he’s going to be attached to this big movie. Because, what happens is, as soon as it hits the trades, this movie is a go. Everybody on planet earth, in the movie business is going to be getting in touch with him. Because, he’s attached as the producer. They will be getting in touch with him, saying, what else do you have, are you working on something else? Is there something that we can do together? At which point, he’s going to say, “Well ah-ha, I’m glad you asked.” I have this, you know, $20. million-dollar project over here called, “Isolation.” And we would really like to be able to do it, and do something with that. So, that’s where we are with that, with “Isolation.” I have not sold it. I have been able to get Hollywood representation, I have a Literary Manager, I have an Entertainment Attorney now, that I’m a client with. And that’s where isolation is, we’re right at that cusp. Where I think realistically speaking, something’s going to happen. Probably by the end of the year, I think something’s going to happen
Ashley: So, I’m curious, just to go circle all the way back to the beginning of the interview. You saw, “Basic Instinct” and you thought, I can do better than that. Now that you’ve been through this process, do you look at your scripts and say, yeah, I’m writing scripts better than, “Basic Instinct.”
Mark: I’m writing scripts that are different from “Basic Instinct.” I tend to write in the horror and the thriller, and film-lore, and science fiction. I tend to deal with really dark material. You know, I’ve said before, that no werewolf, no zombie, no vampire. Nothing that I can put into a movie, is ever going to be as horrifying as terrifying as what I saw in real life when I was in the military, you know. I’m not afraid of werewolves, I’m not afraid of witches, or anything else. You know what I’m afraid of? I’m afraid of the evil that lives in the heart of and the psyches of human beings. I’m afraid of the horrors that we are capable of, inflicting upon our own kind, that’s what scares me. So, are my scripts better than “Basic Instinct?” No, I just think they’re just different. Because if I said I had a script better than, “Basic Instinct.” I’d be saying that I’m a better screenwriter than Joe Esterhouse. And I admire and respect Esterhouse. Who’s no longer active screenwriter, I think he writes novels. What I admire and love about him, is that he did it on his own terms. He got his movies made, and he got them made without going through countless rewrites, rewrites after rewrites, after rewrites. And diluting the story because he was getting script notes from some, you know, some intern, you know. He got his movies made the way he wanted them made. And that’s what I’m trying to do. Which is why, with, “Isolation.” I am attached as a producer. And that’s anyone who just wants to buy the script and not take me along with it as a producer, producing with Chaz, that would be a non-starter. You know, we’ll get up and walk out, and we’ll go sell it to somebody else.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. Are any of your films, can people watch any of your films? Are any of them on “NetFlix,” Video-On-Demand Channels, anything like that?
Mark: No, they’re not. The only way to find to find, “Early Grave.” Is to buy it through Amazon. Now what I recommend, is to buy it used. Don’t buy it from the distribution company. Let’s just say, they and I don’t see eye-to-eye, on certain key elements, distributions.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah.
Mark: So, buy it used, you can get it really cheaply. You can get it for, you know, a couple of bucks, and have it shipped to you that way. “Delirium” the distribution company has folded. All the rights have reverted back to me. And I’ve been busy with so much other stuff, I haven’t really done anything with it. But, I’m thinking of looking at YouTube, and some other channels. Or maybe I can set it up to where people can pay a nominal fee, you know, like $0.99 cents. Or $1.99 or something like that. So, they can see it. That way I can at least get some money. Not that the money would stay with me. Part of the contract says, sign with the investors all those years ago. The investors get their money back first, plus 20% premium. Then money after that has to be paid to the cast and crew. After that, then I get paid.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So, I always just like to wrap up these interviews by asking the guest to just share whatever contact, in terms of a Twitter handle, or a Facebook page, a blog, a website, or anything like that. Just so people can just kind of get to know you better. And potentially follow along with what you are up to?
Mark: Oh sure, I’m on Facebook, at Mark Allen. There’s a picture of me on Sunny Day on Mount Rainier behind me. You type in Mark Allen, you’re going to see hundreds of people but, I’m the guy in a blue shirt and a red hat, with Mount Rainier behind me. And you might narrow the search by typing in Port Orchard Washington. Because that’s my location. I’m on LinkedIn, and I’m also on Twitter, @tinfoilhatprods. P-r-o-d-s, that’s me.
Ashley: Perfect, perfect. I’ll round up all that stuff and put it in the show notes so people don’t have to go searching through things. I’ll find you and put it in the show notes. Hey Mark it’s been interesting interviewing you, you’ve got a great story. I wish you continued success. Definitely let me know what happens with, “Isolation.” And once that movie gets going, I’d love to have you back on. And try and talk about that experience as well.
Mark: Oh, that would be great. Because we’re, we’ve already got as much pre-production done as we can. All we’re waiting on is, the money. And we will be in pre-production in after that. We’re going to shoot on location in Texas, where I’m from actually, about 30 miles down the road from where I was born and raised.
Ashley: Perfect, perfect.
Ashley: Well I appreciate it Mark, thank you very much for talking with me today.
Mark: Believe me, it’s been my pleasure, anytime, anytime, anything I can do to help you, let me know?
Ashley: Sounds good, thanks so much.
Mark: You are very welcome you have a good day.
Ashley: I want to mention two things I am doing at “Selling Your Screenplay” 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 went and Emailed my whole large database of producers and asked them if they would like to receive this monthly newsletter of pitches. So far, I have well over 350 producers who have signed up to receive it. These producers are hungry for new material and are happy to read scripts from new writers. So, if you want to participate in this pitch newsletter, and get your script into the hands of lots of producers, sign-up at – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/select. Again, that’s – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/select.
And secondly, I’ve partnered with one of the premiere screenwriting leads sites. So, I can syndicate their leads with SYS Select Members. There are lots of great paid leads coming in each week 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 to
SYS Select, you’ll get these leads Emailed to you several times per week. These leads run the gambit form producers, production companies looking for a specific type of spec. script. To producers looking to hire a screenwriter to write up one of their ideas. Producers are looking for shorts, features, TV and web series pilots, it’s a huge a ray of different types of projects that these producers are looking for. And these leads are exclusive to our partner and SYS Select Members. So, you won’t find them any place else. To sign-up go to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/select, again that’s – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/select.
On the next episode of the Podcast, I’m going to be interviewing Ben Cresciman, he’s a Director and Screenwriter who recently shot his second feature film. A mystery thriller called “The Sun Choke.” Ben started out as many of my guests have by just going out and shooting his own micro-budget feature film. And then slowly built up some of the contacts. He made sure that in his first film definitely help him land this second film. 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 Mark. Once again, I really hope you’re finding these Podcast episodes inspiring. Mark is just a normal guy who went out and just started doing stuff. Slowly good things have started to happen to him. I think there are probably lots of people out there who listen to this Podcast, who are in a similar situation. Where they have a career outside of the entertainment industry. They watch movies, they look at movies, they want to get into the business as a screenwriter. So, I think he’s a great template to look at. He’s a great example of what you need to do to. You know he didn’t have any connections in the industry. He didn’t have lots of money, or experience. But he still managed to go out there and complete a feature film all on his own. And I really think that’s, at the end of the day that’s what it boils down to. And maybe you don’t have to go out and shoot your own feature film. Maybe it’s a matter of writing scripts and aggressively marketing your scripts. Which is something else he seems to have done pretty well. I talk about this a lot on the Podcast. I obviously www.sellingyourscreenplay.com has a script service. There are many other ways to market your script. Again, www.sellingyourscreenplay.com has a lead service, and a blast service. But you can also use all the other ways of marketing your scripts. Contests, there’s tons of script contests out there. Those can potentially help you, gain a little traction in the industry. I talk about the
“Black List” often on the Podcast. That’s another service where you upload your script and potentially have producers find it. “Ink Tip” is another great service. I personally use it as a screenwriter. It’s similar to what we offer at “Selling Your Screenplay.” Of leads. They also have the ability to also post much like the “Black List.” They have the ability to post a
log-line in their service or system in their database. The producers can potentially find it. So, there really is a plethora of social media. There really is just numerous ways you can get out there and market your script. But, there is just so many ways you could be doing it. I just think that’s key, that’s what’s inspiring, at least to me and hearing Mark’s story. He’s just out there doing stuff, whether it’s networking, whether it’s making his own feature film. That’s what happens, you know, good things can happen when you just push things out into the world and let other people know that you are out there. And you know, this Podcast is a big part for me. This Podcast is a big part or piece of that my own puzzle. Getting out there doing something. The Podcast, and I’m going to talk more about this when I go into my own sort of recap of my own feature film, “The Pinch.” The Podcast really in a lot of ways was what propelled obviously raising a lot of money on Kick-Starter, made a lot through the Podcast. But also some of the connections I made through the Podcast. My cinematographer, Burnie, he met me through the Podcast. So, there’s just a lot of advantages of just getting out there and doing stuff. And again, you don’t necessarily have to start a Podcast. But, think about what you could be doing. Maybe it’s shooting short films and entering into film festivals. Maybe it’s just writing a lot of scripts and marketing them aggressively. But, you’ve got to get out there and interact. Just writing a script sending it out to one or two contests. Putting it out on one or two services, that’s probably not going to cut it. But you’ve got to be aggressively out there getting stuff out there, meeting people, networking, just getting into this. And I think that’s what Mark has really done a great job doing. Getting in, it’s about maybe making a feature film. That might get you into a little bit of traction. It’s a lot about writing a lot of scripts and entering them in a lot of contests. Getting them up on some of these services. It’s just about getting out and doing stuff. As you do stuff and getting out there. People will look up, and people will take note and get to know you. And you will get to know them. And that’s really how you’re going to build a career.
Anyway, that’s the show, thank you for listening.