This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 141: Producer Tom Nunan Talks About Crash And How His Company Finds Screenplays.
Ashley: Welcome to episode #141 of the “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I’m Ashley Scott Meyers Screenwriter and blogger over at – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today, I’m interviewing Producer, Tom Nunan, who was an Executive Producer on such projects as The Academy Award Winning film, “Crash.” We walk through the process of how he got involved in “Crash?” But we also talk specifically about how his production company found scripts and got involved with projects like “Crash” so stay tuned for that.
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I just want to mention a free webinar I’m doing on
Wednesday – September 28th 2016 at 10:00a.m. pst. It’s 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. Like, does “The Black List” really work? Or should I try “Ink Tip?” Or, which contest should I enter. I’ve tried pretty much every model of marketing channel available to screenwriters. And I’m going to share my experiences with you guys that are on this webinar. 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 you’ll get a link to the recorded event after it happens. To sign-up, just go to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/freewebinar, again that’s – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/freewebinar. And free webinar is all one word, all in lowercase letters. I will of course be linking to it in the show notes as well. So you can just find the show notes and click over to it from there. Also if you are already on my Email list, you don’t need to register for this webinar. Anyone who is on my Email list will get an Email with all of the details about how to go to the class when the time comes.
So, a quick few word about what I am working on this week? Once again, the main thing I’m trying to push through, is post-production. On my crime, action, thriller film, “The Pinch.” I’ve been talking about that now for, almost a year. I started talking about it, about a year ago now. I started talking about here on the Podcast. We shot in July, now we are in post-production. The IMDb page is shaping up nicely. So, if you haven’t had a chance to look at that, definitely give it a look. We put up a poster on it, the IMDb page. Any feedback you have on that, I’d be happy to hear it. I still have to add all the Kick-Starter people to the Kick-Starter credits. Which I should be doing in the next week or so. So, if you are getting a credit because of your Kick-Starter donation. You should see that go through the next couple of weeks.
I need to set-up all the social media accounts for the page as well as the website. So, that’s on my list of “Things to do” as well. I want to get all this stuff done sooner, rather than later. I was listening to a Podcast the other day, where they had a distributor on it. And she was talking about some of the things that distributors look for low-budget films. And one of the things was, a social media following. A decent follower count on Twitter, and decent Like count on Facebook, and having those. Shows that the film maker has started to market and build awareness for the film. So, those things, at least according to this distributor do matter a little bit. And especially for something that’s
super-low-budget like these were. I don’t have a lot of stars on any, no stars on you know, super famous actors in the film. So, it going to be these sort of other things that distributor look at, once I begin to try and sell this film. So I want to get that stuff rolling about. That’s really just the bottom line. I want to get it done sooner rather than later. I probably should have done that stuff when I was doing the Kick-Starter Campaign. Because I’m sure a lot of people who were following the Kick-Starter Campaign, would have viewed or “Liked” the Facebook page, and “Liked” the Twitter account at that point. So, probably should have done it. But, better later than never. But I need to get that done here. Hopefully in the next, hopefully I’ll go this week, but definitely in the next week or two.
My editor has nearly the first twenty minutes cut together. It’s a really rough cut. There’s a few pieces that are still missing from those first twenty minutes. But, basically has the first twenty minutes sort of loosely cut together. It’s shaping up nicely I got to watch that last week. It is definitely going slower than I would like. My editor had a few other projects that he was working on. He had to get those off his table. Now he’s telling me, those are done. So, hopefully he’s full time now, trying to get this rough cut finished up. He’s, we’re kind of hoping the deadline for that is a couple of weeks. We’ll have a full rough cut and then we will begin to polish it up. Hopefully that will only take a few weeks as well. So, hopefully in the next five, six weeks, we’ll have a logged picture. I think that’s an aggressive time line. Frankly, so I’m not going to be overly concerned. If I don’t hit that deadline. But, it definitely would be nice. Ideally I’d like to get the whole movie a hundred percent complete, everything, early next year I would say. That’s kind of the loose time line. There’s quite a bit of stuff, even once we lock picture. There’s still a bunch of time line, a bunch of stuff that needs to be cleaned up. Obviously the sound, score, the color correction, there’s a bunch of things that need to go in after you lock picture. There’s still a bunch of pieces that need to get done. And I’ve still actually got, now that I’m thinking about it? I’ve got some a bunch of special effects shots that need to get in there as well. Before we can lock-picture. And that could probably take a month as well. So, it’s definitely a lot of pieces to this that need to come together. But it, again, early next year would kind of be the hopeful deadline of getting this thing 100% finished. There is this old, old, adage of low-budget film making. You can have two of these three items, but never all three of them. I mean, that’s cheap, fast, or good. Basically, when you’re making your film, you can decide to have two of them. If it’s going to be cheap, and good? It’s not going to be fast. And that’s kind of where I’m at. Obviously, I don’t have a huge budget for the film. I do definitely want it to be good. So, I know that, the time line is one thing. The speed, is the one thing I don’t to push too hard. And compromise quality. Because if you have a lot of money, you can do it fast. Because you can pay a lot of people. Just keep pouring money at the problem. I don’t have that luxury. So, you know, I want to still keep a good, obviously you don’t want something that’s, you know, cheap and fast. Because it won’t be good. So, I want to keep good in place. Up, let’s see I have to keep cheap in place.
So, I kind of know that the speed of this thing is the one variable that I can play with. I want to keep it good, keep it going, keep things on track. But it’s not going to bother me too much. If it goes a little past early next year. You know, as I said, sort of the flip side of that, I want this to be good obviously. But the flip side of that is that I also know career wise? I need to get this thing done as quickly as possible. Also I can start trying to sell the movie. So, while I’m working on my next project. Just having this thing in post-production, just trying to get this thing through post-production. Is definitely takes up a lot of my time. And just a lot of like, my creative energy. I’m not really starting to work on new scripts. I really want to get this one done and completed and kind of see how it’s received in the marketplace. Really even before it’s start thinking about it, next project. I want to write a project that will, that I think I can sell. So, part of the idea with this project is, you know, taking it to distributors, and even if they don’t necessarily want to distribute. Hopefully it will be a you know, kind of just in with these distributors. Hey, check it out. And you, even if they don’t want to distribute. Hopefully I can begin a conversation with those distributors about what kind of projects they can sell. And what kind of projects they are looking for? And hopefully on the next one, I can be a little more tailor made for a distributor. I can start to build something in some of those relationships. So, that’s all a part of this puzzle. And again, I just think, I want to make sure that it’s as good as I can possibly make it. That’s what I want to do, put my best foot forward. And again, even if that takes a little extra time. Anyway, that’s what I am working on.
So, now let’s get into the main segment of the Podcast. Today, I’m interviewing producer Tom Nunan, here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Tom to the “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Tom: Thanks for having me.
Ashley: Maybe starting out, maybe you can give us a little bit about your background? Kind of how you got into the business. And just work your way up the ranks?
Tom: Well, I went to film school, UCLA, and graduate back in 1984. So, it’s been a minute. But been in the business. But I’m happy to say, I’ve only survived and thrived this entire time exclusively working in entertainment. And I’m very happy with them and the career that has unfolded before me. I have also been a volunteer and then active member on the UCLA Steering Committee. I am a helping guide in a future graduates of the film school. Teaching them, I’ve been teaching at the film school and the graduate program for the screenwriters and directors, and producers for the last 20 years. And I had hoped, I’ve helped improve the program in many ways. And one key way that I feel I’ve made a big contribution was? I insisted that the graduate students and undergraduate students do at least three key internships while they’re in film school. When I was in film school, internships were not required. I did six internships, helped electively, on my own. And it took me that much time to sort of find my place. My place, I realized, was in development, right. I was one of the few students at the film school who didn’t have the courage to become a writer. Didn’t have the skills, or relationships to become a producer. And wasn’t competent enough to become a director.
But I knew I wanted to work in entertainment. And so, I started doing it, internships. Just to see, like, what else can people do? And I saw that the development was a great path for me. And I began reading it, HBO, and again, this was like,
34-35 years ago? And I discovered a script, “The Terminator” and “Champion Nuts.” And as a result. I got a lot of notoriety back in the day from them, for that. And then ended up getting and Executive job at “Goober, Peters TV and Movies.” While I was still in film school. I got that Executive job when I was 20 years old. And became an expert at TV movies, and mini-series. And TV movies and mini-series back then in the entertainment business. Were to television what reality shows are today. In other words, the network that had the least number of films, TV movies on? Was ABC, they have three movies on a week. And that was the least number. So, if you think about, like, how many TV movies, networks run today? It’s practically zero. Every now and then they will run a mini-series. But there’s only a few cable networks today, that even do TV movies. You know, like, Lifetime does it, the Hallmark Channel does. But the medium has changed radically. And formats come and go. So, we sort of saw the death of the TV movie in the mid-90’s. And it’s showing come back soon. And they haven’t for the most part, it’s something that was sort of on it’s way to dying out when I first got involved in it. I saw that it, television, it was something I could really make a lot of money and make my mark in. And I saw that serious television was where I needed to head. Because that’s really where I saw the future of TV. As far as where the most creative, biggest influence as far as how it was concerned. And I studied the TV people who had been successful before me. Past network presidents, like Tartinoff, Brandon Stoddard, The Great Tinker, another, and others. They all had experiences in serious television. And particularly in comedy TV. So I made it my goal to make in comedy television. Which is difficult because I was all the way over in the wilderness of TV movies, you know. So, I ended up working in a few producers and production companies. I did repeaters, and then I ran TV movies, and then mini-series for Chuck Freeze, too at the time was the largest producer of TV mini-series in the world. And then Jerry Weintraub, the notorious film and television producer, and music manager. He began his own start-up. But what Weintraub Entertainment Group, And, I got recruited to run movies for Television Mayor. And that’s when I said, “Listen, you gotta let me get into new series.” I knew it would probably be too big of a job for him to let me run comedy. Because I had no background in it at that point. But, he did let me run drama. So, it was movies, mini-series, and drama-series. And along the way I was doing some pretty big projects. At Freeze, I did the Randy Quad, LBJ, TV movie. At Weintraub I did the fifth highest rated movie of all time. Which still has that claim. Which is the Carpenter story. And finally, the network started to call me. And as I mentioned, I wrote, I really wanted to get into a series, because it served my greater vision. Of maybe one day becoming a network president. I had, when I was as early as 20 years old, I started going to these luncheons in Hollywood. They still happen today, called, “The Hollywood Radio and TV Society Lunch.” It’s an HRTS. And I was fortunate enough to see the biggest luncheon of the year. Because like, six or seven a year. And it was with the three networks chiefs. There were only three networks at the time, ABC, CBS, NBC. And it was with the Chairman of the HRTS moderating it. I thought at 20 years-old, I thought wow, I’d like to do both of those things. I’d like to be network president. Then, I’d like to be Chairman of one of the Hollywood Radio and TV Society. And I started studying these people. That’s when I got the formula if you will, for becoming a network president. And then along the way becoming maybe the Network Chair of HRTS too. Because philanthropy has always been a big part of my life. So, ABC Ponied up with offered to make me Head of Movies for Television, I was 26 years old at the time.
I took it, even though I wanted to be in series TV. I needed to serve this greater goal to be a Network President. No one was giving me that chance. So, I realized I got to become, just truly exceptional at something. Before someone gives me what I really want. And so I’m turning along, at ABC movies. And suddenly the FOX Network is born. And it seemed like a network that was built for me. It was: “Cops” “America’s Most Wanted” and then a little show, “The Simpsons” came around. And I just thought, wow, you know, everything they are doing, everything exactly what I’d like to be doing, and what I watch. It felt brazened, edgy, out of the box. Kind of more male skewing. More network TV was at the time, very female skewing. And sure enough, they called me and said, “We would like you to come in. We’d like you to run drama series.” At that point I felt like the guys, I’d really paid my dues. You know, worked very hard, just to establish a reputation. And a work ethic in movies for TV. I knew it would give me leverage to do what I wanted to do in the future. So, I said, “No, I would rather run comedy.” And you know, they balked at first and you got no experience with that. But I said, “No, I do have experience at being a very good executive. And very creative, strong vibe, and reliable.” And so, Peter Turnman, who was President at the time. And then went on to become head of the studio. And then Richard Personable followed the news corp. Who’s been out very successful film and television producer, new media supplier. Peter really put me through the ringer. He interviewed me for three or four months. I had to come up with something crazy. Like a hundred comedy ideas, two hundred writers to create for comedy. I had to identify feature film makers, and talent that might cross over to television. Which was unheard of at the time. And then after three months he hired me. To be head of comedy. “Well” I said, you really made me work hard for that. You really turned me into an expert with this. And he said, “No, I just wanted to get to know you. I just wanted to see if I liked you?” And that was a really big a-ha moment for me. Because it, you share those comments, goofy phrases in Hollywood all the time. It about what you know, it’s who you know. And that’s half way true, it does matter who you know. But, obviously it will really matters what you know as well. And so, I got anointed to become head of comedy for FOX in all it’s glory. I was part of a group of six or seven executives who had been recruited to build that network. From a three program a night service, to a seven night a week broadcast network. And we entered in the NFL. Ruppert bought the NFL at the time. And he was able to buy it. And convince the NFL to come to FOX. Because we’ve build a schedule that was so, user friendly for young males. Which of course was the NFL’s prime target audience. So, I became Executive VP of all programming at FOX. I was running comedy, drama, alternative, and late night. I was one step away from achieving my dream of Network President. But then Ruppert brought in a guy from CBS to become president. And his first job was to get rid of me. Because I didn’t know this, but Murdock at the time was having doubts about the kind of programming we were doing? And he, as an older man, he much preferred programming like this that CBS was better known for. So, for a year or so, they tried doing much more traditional programing it tanked. And they went back to the quota. But I was long gone by then at that point. And then I had become president of NBC Studios. This was right when the financial and syndication rules were lifted. Where networks could now own a majority of their programing. And then NBC didn’t have a studio. And wasn’t aligned with any studio. So, they asked me to come in and fill it. And I did, and we did a number of historic shows together. Probably best known for, “Amazing Race.” And I had achieved another dream of mine. Which is to be president of a studio. While I was doing that. The UPN and TheWB was born. And I really had a strong feeling I was going to get called up to run one of those places. Because I had a variety of networks experience at this point.
And it would make sense for someone to want to recruit me for something like that. And it’s true. UPN called and I ended up becoming President of the UPN. While I was president of the UPN, I had already become Vice Chairman of the Hollywood Radio and TV Society. And while I was there, at UPN I was made Chairman of the Hollywood Radio and Television Society. Which, as I mentioned, another dream of mine. So, I was the President of Programming for UPN, for almost five years. And I realized, like, I’m helping to build all these companies. Whether it’s FOX, or NBC Studios. Which they since have turned into Universal. UPN, which is now VW. I should try and build something for myself. And so, like, Bullseye Entertainment, which is still operating today. We’re all a TV company. We are probably best known for the multiple Academy Award winning film, “Crash.” But, we’ve done the illusionist, we’ve done the TV movie,
“My Fake Fiancé.” With Melissa Joan Heart, and Joey Lawrence, then came Melissa and Joey series. And we had a bunch of reality shows. Anyway, I wanted to branch out and do things on my own. The entire time I continued to get that to my alma mater, UCLA. And I taught over there the last 20 years. To help students understand that they are actually a blue print you do, that you can build your career. Whether you are a writer or a producer, director, actor. An executive doesn’t matter which. And it’s the latter for success which isn’t invisible. And as people believe it is. So, I’ve helped out a lot of students and clients over the years. I have a thriving consulting
business, where I help also consult big media companies and private individuals who want my help. And this weekend, a Corey and I are doing a thing called, “Script a Career.” On
October 8th and 9th 2016. I think harnesses a lot of it. The lessons that have been well honed over the course of my career.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. And we’ll get into, “Script a Career” here in a minute. Let me just dig into a couple of things you just said. And let me get your take on them? You know, you mentioned you’re a big proponent of internships for these students that are going through these different film programs. And I’m curious, I just did a micro-budget film, and I went out to all the film schools. And tried to get some film students to be PA’s and literally had zero. Who wants to get zero people. And one of the conversations I had with a young man who was in this position. Was that there was this attitude now that, hey, let’s just go shoot something ourselves and put it on YouTube. And that will get us a deal with a major studio. And I almost kind of feel like the young generation is missing that apprentice stage. Are you finding significant success? And you are requiring them to do three internships. Are you finding a lot of success with it?
Tom: When you’re saying am I finding success with it? What do you mean? Are the students finding success with it?
Ashley: Yeah, the students are willing to do this on, and am happy to do this? As I said,
Tom: Like I said, they have to do it, they don’t have a choice. So, whether or not they’re happy doing it or not? I have not done a happiness leader with them on it? But I do know that they are really full. Because they have to do at least three internships. And they have to be three different companies. So, they have the option to renew an internship with a company. And if it’s really successful. As long as they do two internships. But what we are forcing them to do is, expose themselves to the larger industry that’s functioning on the professional level. Meaning, it’s hiring, it has a hiring infrastructure. It creates content.
It distributes content. For the student to get exposed to that. And really acclimate themselves with where do I fit? The, what you might have encountered when you were making your film is? Sometimes, if you’re not a viable approved content organization, the student can’t get class credit for an internship staff, or just a production. So, that may have been part of the reason you suffered resistance. It also be like you said, but these kids were indifferent to your offer, and wanted to just do it themselves. But, there has to be something in it for them too, beyond just the experience. And in our case, we have been doing internships at places that offer them class credit as well.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Sure. So let me just drill down on something you kept saying numerous times in giving your background. You kept saying that you would study people. You would see a network president and you would study them. Maybe you could just give us a little insight into exactly how you would study them? What information would you get in how that helped you? Because I think that’s a great way for people to navigate their careers. Is look at the people that are successful, and then dig into what they do. But maybe you could give us a little insight into what your process looks like when you’re studying someone?
Tom: Well, what was interesting, at the time if you think about it? Like, when there was no internet. And so it was really difficult actually to get like, bio-graphical information about these executives. I had to go to libraries, I had to contact the publicity department, the people at the networks to get their bios. I mean, it was difficult. And the funny thing is, I don’t remember anyone telling me to do this? I just, I think I was genuinely curious, and just wanted to know. And once I started gathering information. And saw that there were intersections in the. And at the time it was all just like guides. So, I could just say, with the guys in it, their careers. And, you know, I started to see things, consistencies that I could duplicate. In the 1980’s terms that they had done in the 60’s and 70’s. So, it was just really old school research. You know, where I was going to the library and I was looking up here, periodic listings, and checking out things, going to microfinche, you know, using terms over this interview that are probably mystify to your listeners, you know. But, today, it’s so much easier, it’s if you wanted a career that was like Seth Rogan’s career, if you wanted a career like, Kevin Heart’s. So, if you wanted a career like Quenton Tarantino’s, just gone with the PDM, go look at their story. And when I’m teaching, I always make sure that the students, to them. I’m working with, have at least three role models. And that they share with me their findings. They share with me, what are the common things their role models did in the first three years of their career. Like whenever their education stopped. Because a lot of super-stars, just like in, you know, high tech. You know a lot of
Super-stars in the entertainment business don’t finish school. You know, going all the way back to Stephen Spielberg never had finished college. So, I always say, okay, take me from, with when they stopped education and what they did in that first three years. And let’s see if we can duplicate that for you.
Ashley: So, let’s dig into, “Crash” now. Maybe you can kind of talk us through that process. How did you get involved with that script? And kind of walk us through to production?
Tom: Well, the Mission Statement for our company for Bullseye Entertainment. It was, we wanted to do elevated, (Oh, excuse me a second). We wanted to do elevated film into television shows that would cross over talent from TV to film, and from film to TV.
And so, my background is partners with a woman named Kathy Showman. Who’s gone on to be an executive at Mandalay, FTX. While we were partnered together in Bullseye, Kathy had a very similar feature film career as an executive, as I had, had in TV. (ooh, excuse me) up to that point. And so, she was able to bring motion picture relationships into the television equation. And I was able to bring TV relationship into the film equation for us. And so, one of my colleagues from TV, he was the writer at Shoreliner – Paul Haggit. And Paul had written a screenplay called, “Crash.” With a fellow writer named, Bobby Moresto. And they were having a terrible time getting it funded around town. All the CEO’s had passed them on it. And they just couldn’t get past it. And we were the new kids in town. So, we were as far as production company was concerned. And so, they submitted a script to me. And it was through my relationship through Paul, that we brought it in house. And gathered really a strong read. And decided it hit the model we were doing at the time. Which was an independently financed film. So, a I brought the script in, and then Kathy is more of our feature film expert. Then helped shape the project with Paul. Bobby, and you know, we got it, got Kathy going, got the film funded, and went to town on it.
Ashley: And did you already know you had an eye on making it into a TV series well?
Tom: In the back of my mind, well, what happened with Paul? I don’t know if you’ve seen the film? But, it starts off with a car-jacking. And it’s sort of like up scale Brentwood CA. family played by Brenden Frasier and Sandra Bullock. And they get car jacked by actors Lawrence Kay and Ludacris. And they, that really happened to Paul. He was car jacked, and when he got his car back. Movies that he had rented from Blockbuster, were missing. And they were these Art House Films from really obscure artists, these Art House Films he had rented. And he was thinking, right, one of these two guys. Who seemed like they could be from South Central whatever? Are doing with these Art House Films? You know, like, why did they keep those, you know? And he just found himself musing about where did this story go? Like maybe I, what if I were to write a movie that started with a car-jacking. But instead of following the white couple exclusively, we follow the African American guys back to and got to know them, as people? And then kinda starting to kind of chris-crossing it and connecting in the magical ways that Paul and Bobby had created. Paul, when he conceived it, thought of it first as a TV show. That was his background, you know. He got Sidney Pollard to be involved, and they pitched to HBO, and anyway, they couldn’t get it made. They couldn’t get, nobody wanted to produce it. And so finally, Paul in a fit of frustration wrote it as a feature. And tried to get that made, couldn’t get it made. And then brought it to me, and I got it financed and made. And then ultimately distributed by Lionsgate. In the back of our minds that before there were always these seeds for it to be a TV show. That existed from the very beginning, because of Paul’s background and his imagination. But, when we were making the movie, it was the furthest thing from our minds. To then adapt it into a TV show. It wasn’t until after the movie was made that we got into distribution. We started to think, you know, maybe we could sell this as the TV show too?
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So, I want to dive into just two things you just mentioned. You mentioned when you got the script there were some sort of check boxes on it? You said, this is kind of material we wanted to work with. But, maybe you could dive into that? And tell us exactly what about this script attracted you to it? Was it the characters, was it the story, was it, you know Paul’s background? You knew he had a lot of experience.
Just what exactly attracted you to this script? Especially given the fact that Paul and everybody else had rejected it at this point? So, you must have been the one looking at this thinking? Gee, is this really any good?
Tom: Well, at the time that we read the script. The only predigest that we had against it was, that it was written by a TV guy. So, I was kind of rooting for his script to be good. Because I wanted my TV brotherin’ to be treated with respect, you know? So, I had a rooting interest in Paul in it, in reading it. So, that was the only predigest. Was that my colleagues would, were a little bit more leader-ish and snobbish about like, this guy comes from TV, it can’t be that great, it can’t be that cinematic. And so that was the only predigest. It wasn’t that we, that was Paul and Bobby, did we learn at that point that everyone had passed on it already. Even though we didn’t have that predigest going in? It’s not like they sent us a script and said, “Hey, have you read Crash, the script that everyone hates?!” You know.
Tom: So, we learned afterwards that everyone had hated it. And, I’ll tell you what? To answer your question? Looking at it just strictly in creative hurts. What you do with, in my experience. Reading a script, you hope to get grabbed in the first 10-15 pages. And you’re also wanting to make sure it’s professional as moved and experienced possible while reading it. In other words, if you start to see typos, grammar mistakes, or suddenly page is missing, or out of order, you know? People intuitively are looking for any reason to set a script down and say, “I’m not going to finish this thing.” Because you know it’s really hard work reading a script. If you are a professional, it’s hard work because you really have an engagement, a mind to be creative. And immerse yourself in a world that someone else has designed. And now, to be willing to think to be doing that over and over again. And in my case, at first, thousands of times now. You know, I’m looking for any reason to stop reading. And what your job is as a young writer is to as a successful writer is to not let me stop reading. And if you read the script for “Crash?” Which also won an Academy Award for screenwriting. You know that it’s just, you just can’t put it down. You know it grabs you and it doesn’t let go, it’s unpredictable. And it’s so fascinating and so funny in many cases. Along with being like one of the most harrowing scripts I’ve ever read dramatically, it was sensational. So, when we heard everyone passed on it? We were thrown, but, this was at the beginning of what we were all experiencing now, today. Which is the beginnings of studios going almost exclusively to funding franchise properties. Whether it’s “Certain old TV shows” “Titles” you know, amusement park rides, or “Marvels” or whatever? I key, and the importance of an existing titles? Was just coming into fashion then. And so, this right to life movie, that the, that deals with the issues of tolerance and fear, didn’t fit their model. You know, so, the only routes seem to be? To either get it funded independently. And that’s what we knew how to do.
Ashley: Okay, So, I’m curious just, about a company like yours? And again, you don’t have to talk specifically about your company. But, I’m just curious, sort of in generalities? Where do your submissions come from? It sounds like you had a pre-existing relationship with Paul, so that’s an easy way for this script to get passed into your company. But in general, how does a company like yours? Which is operating at a pretty high level. How do you guys find material? Does everything come through agents? Does everything comes through relationships?
Tom: It’s usually through relationships. It’s usually through us talking about what we’re looking for? And then having people try to find that for us, you know. Talking to
Ashley: Agents, like talking to agents. You would tell the agents you’re looking for something like this?
Tom: Sometimes it’s an agents, sometimes it’s managers. A lot of the time it’s the artist themselves, you know. Like, we’ll have existing writers relationships, or fellow producers. You know, all of them, these that we have funded so far. In fact, every project I’ve done so far has been, with the exception of a few shows? That I’ve done a barrage, I’ve done with partners. I’ve done with producing partners, or company partners. You know, where we work together to put the thing together. You know, the thing with Paul came strictly completely out of my relationship with him, through TV, you know. So, it’s not, I can’t even remember, well actually, the, “Melissa and Joey” script, “My Fake Fiancé.” That came through a friend also, now that I think about it. You know, like, it’s very rare that an agent will call me and say, “Oh, I got a terrific script that you need to read.” And I don’t know the name of the writer, I don’t know anything about the person. I read it, and it’s great, it’s almost always through a personal relationship.
Ashley: So, let’s dig into just TV writing for a little bit? Maybe we can talk a little bit about TV projects? And just with sort of an eye to giving some advice to people who are trying to break into television? And maybe we can start with “Crash.” Obviously the film was a success. So, maybe that made it a little bit easier? But how did that?
Tom: It made it a lot easier!
Ashley: A lot easier. So then, how does something like? So maybe “Crash” is not a good example to use. Let’s talk about maybe “Angela’s Eyes” or “Gone Country.” Maybe you could talk about how those project came to you. When ultimately they got turned into TV shows.
Tom: So I was friends with this guy named Dan McDermott, whom I had gone to film school with. And he was an executive at Dreamworks. And he became a screenplay writer. So, he lost his executive job/life to pursue his writing dreams. And he had sold a big, big, spec. script to FOX 2000 I think, at the time? Then he started like branching into creating other projects. And I told him I wanted to work with him, you know. Until he felt he could sell something to the networks that he created. So, he came up with this “Surveillance” show, and we sold it to FOX, originally. In fact, I think it was just called, “Surveillance.” And it was just this under cover spy show, you know. I don’t remember the time if it had an FBI element or not? Anyway, that never went anywhere. But, I really believed in Dan, and believed in. Frankly, more of his talent than in the material at that time. It was good, it was, solid and strong. But I really wanted to work with him and wanted to collaborate with him. I believed he had a hit show. And so, we took “Surveillance” and soon after FOX attached on it. And we took that to, I think it was, to USA. And they helped us hone it, they bought it. And they helped us hone it into more of a single lead show. And we developed it further. And it was there idea then, to make the lead a female. And so we, developed it even further.
And Dan at that point, had the concept of having the lead. And you probably read about this, and there was a FOX show that came on years back, before our show premiered. I can’t remember the name of it off the top of my head? You’ll remember it though. The, where the lead had the ability to see if you’re lying or not. There are also like a human lie detector. You remember that show with FOX? It was a British actor that portrayed a similar role.
Ashley: Yeah. Vaguely I can’t think of the title either?
Tom: You know I hate to be bored to your listeners, but they are all screaming at us, they’re screaming at all of us right now. I’m sure.
Ashley: Exactly, exactly.
Tom: Anyway. So we, changed the lead to female. And then it just sat on a desk at USA for over a year, maybe longer. And I was out making the rounds. You know, trying to sell other shows. And I heard from my colleague Kevin Begs at Lionsgate, whom I was developing “Crash” with as a TV show. And he said, “Oh, you know, Lifetime is looking for some cop shows, you know?” They are looking for their “Closer”, you know. It’s USA, or I think it was USA at the time had the “Closer” at the time, with Kira Sedwick. And I said, “Oh, I got the perfect show.” So, our show was just sort of languishing at USA. And so I ask the Executive at USA, that if I could get an order from a different network. Which was, would you let me take it out? Because I’m like FOX, USA hadn’t passed on this show yet, you know. So, I had to get permission from USA to send it to Lifetime. It was limited to Lifetime, they loved the script. And they not only ordered a pilot, but they ordered 13 firm episodes, just off the pilot script. And that’s how “Angela’s Eyes” came about. It only ran for 13 episodes. I think it was a bit ahead of it’s time, in that Abigale Sensor in that our star had gone on to star in many different films, different TV shows since then. But, she’s got a big new show coming on this fall on NBC, “Timeless” I think it’s called? And in any event she just wasn’t a big enough star for our audience at the time? And ultimately I don’t think they had confidence that they could build on it for a second season. But Angela’s Eyes began, my day with Dan and his ability to create an original show, and an original character, and never really giving up. You know, it’s, you don’t really hear that any TV projects that move from network to network. Kinda like the story I just told you? But it can happen. And frankly, it happened over and over and over again with me. A show started out in one place. Like “Crash” started out at FX, and ended up on Starz. But it didn’t begin it’s life at Starz.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. Just real quickly. I wanted to just touch on. You mentioned the HRTS. And you said it was still around today. Maybe you could give a quick plug to that organization. It sounds like something that our listeners might want to check-out. And maybe you could just tell us a little bit.
Tom: Sure, the HRTS the Hollywood Radio and Television Society of HRTS. Is the longest running Non-for-profit philanthropy in Hollywood. And it’s a TV oriented non-for-profit, it helps workers and disabled people, and retirees from the TV industry to make their journey a little bit better when they are suffering. And they raise money through, it’s called, “Newsmakers Events.” And the organization itself takes tickets to all the studios, networks, and agencies, management companies, a bunch of production companies were interested.
It sort of networking and fellowship, as a community at these Newsmaker events. And they are highly attended, typically sold out of them, drawing as many as 600 to 1000 people per event. And while I was I was Chairman of the HRTS, I created something called, “The Junior HRTS.” Because even though the events are really cool, and often sold out. They would usually be populated at these tables by only the senior executives at these companies. So a lot of mid-level, or lower-level people would want to go to these events, you know, for networking opportunities. Seeing these opportunities and just to learn more by these Newsmakers we attracted. But, they weren’t welcome because there weren’t enough seats available. So, we created a junior HRTS. Which now is thriving even more strongly that the regular HRTS. And this is an organization that appeals mostly to people more interested in the executives track. Or, becoming producers. It’s not really something that writers and directors go to. It’s more of the non-writing, non-creative, more business oriented organization to learn more about the business. But that’s sort of the HRTS is.
Ashley: Okay, perfect, perfect. So, let’s talk about “Script To Career.” It’s a two-day seminar here in Los Angeles CA. Your doing with Corey Mandell, and as you mentioned it’s
October 8th and 9th 2016, at Haines Hall in the East L.A. Campus. Maybe you could tell us just speaking one day and Corey is speaking the other day. Maybe you can tell us a little bit about what you’re going to be talking about on the day you’re speaking? Well, I have good news for you. Which is, we’re actually hop-scotching both days. So, in other words. If you hate me, you’ll only have to endure me for like an hour and a half, and then it goes to Corey, and then back to me. So we’re constantly keeping it fresh for attendees. Because what we both learned, through attending our own, you know, number of seminars over the years. Both as guests, VIP guests, and as just a paying customer. As much as you may love someone or really regard them, or really watch and learn from them. Listening to someone lecture for six, eight, ten hours a day, non-stop. It’s a lot to ask. Even if your watching “Tom Robbins” or something, you know. Like, it’s exhausting. So, part of the reason Corey and I partner, is so that the attendee can a refreshing and new sort of set-up of receiving information every hour or two from both of us. So we, all also have a Q & A at the end of each day. Where both of us are on stage together. So, yes, it’s a
two-day event where we’re each covering four major topics, and we have Q & A. And we’re even going to have a surprise guest on Sunday. So, yeah, that’s the general shape of it.
Ashley: Perfect, perfect. And what sort of people do you think could benefit from this the most? Is it people starting out their careers? People, you know, who have already have established careers? Who is this sort of aimed at? I think, you know, the weekend is aimed at anyone interested in improving their lot in entertainment. And whether, I think it’s largely oriented to people writing and creating. And obviously there’s much, much, more opportunity in television these days, than there is in film. Just by the sheer scale of the number of shows that are being produced. Literally 500 shows are being made right now, verses just a miniscule number of films that the studios are financing. So, I think it’s for people who are a little frustrated who want more out of their career. And that can be someone who just starting out. It could be somebody in the middle of their career. It could be someone who’s not willing to give up yet at the end of their career, who wants to get a re-boot.
Ashley: Perfect, perfect. So I will get the website and put it in the show notes so people can click over and learn more about that. And potentially sign-up for it. I always like to end the interview by asking the guest if they have a Twitter account, Facebook page, a blog, anything you feel comfortable sharing? If someone just wants to kind of learn more about, or follow along with what you’re doing? What’s the best way for people to do that?
Tom: Well, I’m on Twitter, I really don’t tweet very often. I really think that way to sort of know me is, either through Facebook, personally, not just Tom Nunan, Facebook Nunan. Or to just go on our site, which is – www.scripttocareer.com.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. Well, Tom, this has been a great interview, I really appreciate you coming on and talking with me.
Tom: My pleasure Ashley, anytime.
Ashley: Just a couple of quick notes, if you have any interest of attending the
“Script To Career Summit” that Tom was talking about? They did offer a to the “Selling Your Screenplay” listeners. A generous coupon code, and that coupon code is – SYS16 and that will give you a $100.00 off if you sign-up. So, just look for the spot where you put in the coupon code when you’re checking out. And put in SYS16 and you’ll get $100.00 off. I will put that all in the show notes. I will link to it again, that’s – www.scripttocareer.com. In addition, I, Tom mentioned the Hollywood Radio and Television Society. I will link to that as well. I don’t really know a lot about it, other than what Tom just mentioned. But, it sounds like a cool thing. So, something definitely to check out. And I will link to that in the show notes as well. But, definitely check out www.scripttocareer.com, as I said, if you are interested in attending you get $100.00 off for listening to the SYS Selling Your Screenplay Podcast, and that coupon code – SYS16.
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 a 3-Pack, you get evaluations for just $67.00 per script for feature films, and just $55.00 for tele-plays.
All the readers have professional experience reading for: Studios, production companies, contests, and agencies. You can read a short bio on each reader on our website. And you can pick the reader you think best fits 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.
Every script will receive a grade of – Pass, Consider, or Recommend, which should help you roughly understand where you script might rank if you were to submit it to a production company or agency.
We can provide an analysis on feature films or television scripts. We also do proof reading without any analysis. We will also look at a treatment or outline and give you an analysis, or give you the same analysis that I just talked about on the treatment or synapsis. 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. You can add this service to an analysis or you can simply purchase service as a stand-alone product.
As a bonus, if your script gets a Recommend, from one of our readers? 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 is 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, that’s www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/consultants.
To wrap things up, I just want to touch on a few things from today’s interview with Tom. I hope it doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone? When Tom says that for the most part the scripts like, “Crash” that his company produced. Were scripts that he found through and existing established relationship. I talk about this on the Podcast quite often. I took after about 75 episodes of the Podcast. I went through and kind of broke down and I kind of created a nice chart on exactly how people broke. Or how screenwriters broke into the industry? And networking was far and away, the single biggest way that people broke in. And among networking, which is kind of maybe a vague term? It was all about getting into the industry. That was the single biggest way people broke into the industry. And again, that should come as no big surprise to anyone. Because when you work in the industry you build relationships. And that’s really the question I think more screenwriters should be asking themselves. You know, how can I build relationships with real producers who are producing good movies. There’s literally an infinite number of ways that you can do this. Again, I would recommend, and I will link to it in the show notes. There’s a whole bunch of ways that these first 75 writers that came on my Podcast. There’s a whole bunch of different ways that they broke in. And this article really breaks that down. Everybody has different circumstances, everybody has different situations. So, not every ways will work for all people. But, again, I think all people need to think about that. As kind of the key metric, is how can you build relationships, did I build relationships through this marketing shell. It’s not always about selling a screenplay option. It’s really about building these relationships.
I get questions all the time from people, asking me stuff like, how many scripts have been sold through the Email and Fax Blast Service, Dan Benamore who was on the Podcast just last week. He used my Email and Fax Blast Service. And he sold a script straight away. There was no option. The producer just read the script and bought it from him. And so, it can definitely happen. But people who are asking this question? I often feel they are missing the point. Or maybe not the point, but they are missing one of the main benefits of doing one of these Email and Fax Blasts. And again, I get Emails from a lot of people who have no real interest in being a screenwriter. But they have written a script, maybe a life story, or the life story of their great-grandfather. You know, they have one script that they want to get out there. But, they don’t want to pursue screenwriting as a career. And again, I think those people. I usually advise those people not to bother with the Email and Fax Blast Service. I feel like they are missing out on one of they key components, one of the sort of, not a key component? The main thing that you are likely to get out of the Email and Fax Blast is building these relationships. A lot of the people that I deal with, producers, a lot of the people I built relationships. One of the producers on, “The Pinch” in fact. Is a guy I met through the, my own Email and Fax Blast Service. He’s on my Email and Fax Blast. I started to send him scripts. If he likes the scripts. You know, we talked, we met a few times. And now we produced, again, he’s one of the other producers on “The Pinch.” So, that’s a relationship that I built through the Email and Fax Blast. I he never bought one of my scripts. He never optioned one of my scripts. It’s just a relationship that was built through that. Again, that’s one of the main benefits, it’s not how many scripts have been sold, or how much money, I get these Emails too. How much money am I going to make? Or am I likely to make, if one of the producers likes my script? Don’t get too caught up in all that kind of stuff. Look at these Email and Fax Blast Services at as any of these services as a way to build connections and build relationships. And network with producers. Just don’t know where these things are going to lead. But, that’s really the foundation for any screenwriter career, any career, directing, producing, any career in the entertainment industry is really built on relationships and who you meet.
One of the great things about doing “The Pinch” was just all the people that I met. You know, you just put yourself out there, all the crew, one of the actors, who also was, ended up coming on at the end as a co-producer on “The Pinch.” I had a meeting with him, last week. We’re going to try and doing something else together. So, again, it’s about being and building these relationships. There’s a billion way to do it? I’m not necessarily trying to sell my own Email and Fax Blast Service. That’s certainly not the only way you can do it. There is a way can do it. And I think it’s the primary benefit of doing these Email and Fax Blast Service, is potentially to build those relationships. But there’s a million ways to do it. You can go and do a short film and submit it to film festivals. And you know, all the ways you can help you with that short film. All your, you can be networking with them. All the people you meet at film festivals. And when you go to film festivals, you’re going to find other film makers that are doing cool things. And you can meet those people. They will typically have a opening night gala. And all the film makers will be there. All the people who are interested in films. Maybe, you’ll be in a town, I had a friend who had a film that was in the Sonoma Film Festival. And it was a really well run film festival. And there was a lot of like local people that were in there. And he was networking with some of the wealthy people that just lived in Sonoma. And you know, some of them had potential, potentially interest in investing in films. So, there’s just a million ways to get out there. And get your stuff to people. And start to network it. But don’t get so caught up in oh gee, I want to sell this script, oh, gee I need to pay this my bills. I need to sell this script. It’s going to be a long road, it’s going to take a long time to make these in rows.
But, building those relationships, they can last you a life time. These people will become your peers, your friends. And these relationships build potentially last the rest of your life. And spending some time trying to fosters those I think is very, very smart. It’s really the best thing you can do for your career as a screenwriter. Again, no matter how you do it, really keep that in mind, at least in the short term. As to what your goal should be. It should be building relationships. And meeting people. Meet producers, talented producers who are actually producing movies. You know, there’s a ton of them, of producers out there. You know, wanna be producers. Just like there are wanna be screenwriters. So at some point, you do have to look these people in the eye and decide if you think this person is someone who is actually be able to produce your movie. But again, keep your eye on the prize, and the prize is real with the relationships. Because the relationships will carry you through. The relationships are what is actually going to bloom into something substantial.
Anyway, that’s the show, thank you for listening.