This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 142: Writer Alecky Blythe Talks About Turning Her Musical, London Road, Into A Feature Film Starring Tom Hardy.
Ashley: Welcome to episode #142 of the “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I’m Ashley Scott Meyers Screenwriter and Blogger over at – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today, I’m interviewing Alecky Blythe, she’s a playwright, who’s musical, “London Road” was recently turned into a feature film, starring Tom Hardy. We talk through the process of converting this play into a screenplay. So stay tuned for that.
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Just want to mention a free webinar that I’m doing in a few weeks, on 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” work? Or should I try “Ink Tip?” Or should I try and enter. I’ve tried pretty much every marketing channel available to screenwriters. And I’m going to share my experiences with them. Again, this webinar is completely free. Don’t worry if you can’t attend the live event, I will be recording this event. So, if you sign-up you will 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. I’ll of course link to it in the show notes as well. Also, if you are already on my Email list. You don’t need to register. Anyone who is already on my Email list will get the information on how to register and attend this free webinar.
A quick few words about what I am working on this week? So, once again, the main thing I’m trying to push through is post production on my crime, action, thriller film, “The Pinch.” No real update this week. I’m still waiting for the rough cut to get finished. I was just texting with the editor a moment ago. He’s hopefully on pace to get rough cut done this week. He’s not 100% sure if he’s going to finish by the end of this week? But he’s at least on pace to or close to that pace. So, hopefully by next week I will have seen a rough cut. Or pretty close to a full rough cut.
I’m preparing for the next round of post-production after the rough cut with which is hiring a sound engineer to clean-up all the sound, all the dialog. A color grader do the color correction. And then a musician to score the film. I’ve got to start looking for those people. And bringing those people on-board. I was to see, budget was tight. Though I’ve got to find people that are good, and willing to work for the very small budget that I have. If you know of anyone who is an expert at any of these things? And again, that’s Sound Engineer, Color Grading, and scoring the film. That’s sort of the next three positions that I’m looking for? You know anybody who does that, please do drop me a line. And let me know? I’ll be interviewing people, as I said, over the next few weeks for those positions.
I mentioned last week that I was going to try and set-up a Twitter and Facebook account. I’m going to set-up a website for sure. I’m sort of a process now of getting that taken care of. But I’m debating on whether I should create a separate account for Twitter and Facebook? I already have a few thousand follows on Twitter and Facebook accounts for “Selling Your Screenplay.” So, I was thinking maybe just put out the dates for, “The Pinch” through those accounts. I’m still mulling this over? Sort of debating in my own head, what’s the best way moving forward? I mean, if I continue to make films every year, or every two years. You know, I’m going to start to accumulate these various Twitter and Facebook accounts. And it might be better to consolidate them? And just have, if people want to find out updates. Just have them follow me. Which would then also bring them into the fold of “Selling Your Screenplay.com” So, I haven’t quite figured out what the best move on that is? I’m still kind of debating it? But I have started looking into getting the website set-up. So, in the next week or two I’ll have that.
While I’m waiting for post-production, there’s a lot of sort of managerial type of stuff that I’m doing here with post-production. Like I said, managing the editor. Now, I’m going to be hiring these other people. So there’s kind of this time, while I’m waiting for these things to materialize.
I’m doing a rewrite on my older scripts. It’s a low-budget, low-concept, Indie type of romantic comedy. I’d say, sorta kinda like, “500 Days of Summer.” I went back and re-wrote and edit recently. I thought it had some good stuff in it, in there. It definitely needed some tweaking. Maybe even pretty substantial re-write. So, hopefully I can knock that out pretty quickly over the next few weeks or, month or so. As I continue to work on the pinch. Once I get the rough cut back from, “The Pinch.” Then I’m really going to have to start digging in and watching it. I’m going to be working closely with the editor. So, that will take up a lot of time. But I have here another week or two. Where I can really polish up this script. It’s one of the old scripts that I have lying around. And I still actually send it out quite a bit. Because I see producers looking for you know, limited location romantic comedies. Or a limited location script, you know, for a female actress. You know, a comedy for a female actress. And so, I find I’m still sending this script out quite a bit, quite often. Because I do see these producers looking for this type of material. So, I figure it was probably worth my time polishing it up. This script I wrote probably like twelve years ago. It was like, before like, cellphones, where ubiquitous. Like some things are really dated about it? You know like these last 15 years the world has really changed all a lot. And you can read a script, what was written 15 years ago. And really it’s, it just totally feels like a different world. Because there’s so many things with internet and Facebook, and YouTube. As I said, cell phones, those things 15 years ago. Were really not what they are today. So, that stuff is not really in the script. In fact, the protagonist one want to be a journalist. And he’s trying to be a freelance Journalist for magazines. You know, there basically are no magazines any more. Where they are certainly all out online. So, I’ve got to go out and rework some of that subplot. And there’s a bunch of them, little things like that. Just need to be reworked. Just to kind of make it retimely and make it feel a little more, a little bit fresher. Anyway, that’s what I’m working on.
So, now let’s get into the main segment. Today, I’m interviewing Alecky Blythe, here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Alecky to the “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Alecky: Thank you, thank you for having me.
Ashley: So, let’s dig into your latest film, “London Road” starring Tom Hardy. Maybe to start out you can give us a quick pitch or a log-line for the film.
Alecky: A, the film is about a community coming together after a tragedy. And how it rebuilds itself in the next couple of years. And it’s all created from real life incidents. With how it sees.
Ashley: Okay, okay. So, I mean, this is kind of a very, I would say, unique take on kind of this type of material. Being that it is a musical. And I am just curious, where did that idea come from? And how did that sort of become a part of this project.
Alecky: Well, it was quite sort of organic really. I did go to pitch when I mentioned it when I was researching another play. Which was set in brothel but nowhere near the switch. Across the country foreign for another London Theatre. And I went to Switch to see if the, what was happening there? Could see if it could meld into another play I was writing. And I discovered, no, it was quite different. And I was getting too much in material. I always work this way, but they started recording, and grafting the script and that. So, I started recording interesting material. Let’s see, circumstances and that find sex workers had been dead. But no arrests have been made. You can imagine a town that’s really in a state of panic, confusion, upset. And then people eventual arrested after five days. And so, that was really the final recordings. And I previously had enough material to ship. And so, I put that material up.
And then six months later, a chance. I was invited to a workshop. At the National Arts Studios. Which is a sort of brilliant resource. For one to experiment and try things out. And this particular workshop was a bunch of writers, and composer’s week. Where I was paired up with a composer called, “Albacore.” And I took along this material. And not necessarily thinking. But, this is something that I would use to clip out. Because that would be a crazy idea. But more as a peer optic experiment, if you will? Like a play, to be whether I could work with the music and they would be. And he and I would sit down and go along and come up with an idea or something? As it was, by the end of the week we had written, I think, four films together. And realizes music really enhanced, those particular feelings of fear and panic in a very safe way. And that was an very collaborum, very brilliantly, understood the way that I work. Which faithfully we produced the actually reproduce the feature on stage brilliantly. We managed to do that with the music. We take it, sort of a speech pattern. And introduce, including the amuse of the year. So when you listen to the song, the album is in there. It was tuneful, and then you the audience kinda get a, oh, yeah, that’s a that, and one is speaking and one is singing. And it’s sort of tuneful. And so we managed to come up with it. This very difficult thing. So, yes. The end of the week I had decided to go with that. I think that we were what is what and gather every thought of the subject matter. And attention have legs, and it was announced at the trial. The Dr. of Greenwitch so, it meant that the story would come alive again. And I pitched potentially followed the story of remmie.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay, so let’s talk about that transition from a musical play, to a screenplay. What were some of the difficulties in adapting this material? And just maybe some of the things that you encountered as you were going through that process?
Alecky: Well, there were difficult scenes. I think it was in the show that actual wound up in the film. I took a little sections where you have them speaking directly to the camera. And in the play, you know, there are lots of sections where you have direct audience address. And I think those kinds of fear, maybe, is that going to work on camera? Is it filmic? And usually those moments do work. And you can keep them then. For me there’s a lot of humanity in there. And he kind of directed. There’s a behavior that reveals so much about who they are. And how they think about things. And then it was also about visually bring it alive. So, show more of the visual median. So, I have to take some liberties with them. With the things that made this goodness. If you like, maybe the film has more untruth in it. But weirdly the residents seen it. They sort of said, it was even more truthful when they said, they had been through it. I think that we managed to capture a truth, even though some of it was rancid in terms of action. And I don’t think it was about technology difference in the place of film. And I have to introduce the play, the film is completely Chronological. But actually I can meet the central characters, until half way through the story. So, I have to eventually place them in scenes. Where maybe they didn’t necessarily have any lines. And there are a couple of quiet scenes. Call numbers that you might remember from the film at the beginning. Where you see these remiges. But, It’s not to late till you realize who they are. But, eventually you place them. But you don’t deny them.
Ashley: Yeah, now is that something like a producer at some point came to you and said, “Listen, let’s get this, the main people earlier into the film?” And maybe in playwright, and maybe that’s just not a thing?
Ashley: Because in screenwriting, that’s just not a thing. In writing it’s a big thing. That you introduce your protagonist, you know, certainly in the first ten pages.
Alecky: That’s right, absolutely. Yes, it was briefly. To, a yes it was. Brief for so-and-so, sort of a feeling. To the much more seasoned screenplay writer than me. And it was that thing, kind of yes, meet her when these relations connect those characters from the off. And also I sort of have to hold them a little bit as well. Because there are slightly more residence, there’s more central residence in the play, than there were in the film. So, it’s about trying to soup-up, like certain residence. And then kind of thin down on the ones. With the film being slightly more emotional experience. But yeah, I had to, you know, brilliant input on those fronts. And from more from the back end, you know. Sometimes you have a bit of a battle because I might not years about things. And they already care about things. But, I think in the end, we, you know, use. You compromise and in the end you grind your way through. And yeah, over the bend the very straw. I think we’ve banked something that film making does feel faithful to the story. That one wants to tell at that first day.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. And I’m curious as a playwright? How have you found the differences in being a screenwriter? I mean, in the movie business, you know, the screenwriter is pretty low on the totem pole. At least I’ve never written plays. But my idea is sort of an idea as a screenwriter looking at playwrights. Playwrights are kind of higher on the totem pole in that world. And, how did you find that?
Alecky: A, yes. Well, um, it you know, it’s quite humbling. Standing up on that sort of stone set. And kind of thinking, well, gosh. All these people are here because I wrote my bit. So, in one way you kind of feel it. And then in another way, it’s like, yeah, like, what am I doing here? Kind of carrying on with the film without your knowledge. You have a very difference relationship to it. Although, it was slightly fortunate for me. The opportunity on the show, as well, on the play. The truth is the use of the audio, and because it doesn’t always work. With the actors alongside the director. In terms of literally the actors actually learning the lines from the original audio. I have sort of allowed that as well. When there was time on set. Because I might have grabbed an actor and say, “Listen, can we have a minute because I think you missed a line or whatever?” And it just took a little while probably. The crew to be like, come on wait a minute, she right. Shouldn’t she be off at her next peak. Watching and wanting to go here, because I’m sure normally you don’t have that. So, yeah, I would have, I think I was very fortunate in that. But I’m going to work really hard on set. It’s nothing wrong, so, I have to kind of fight for my place. And I think I got it a bit, consequential. It’s just very strange going from yeah, theatre where your all involved. Yeah, next one.
Ashley: Yeah. So, let’s talk about the writing process? Of actually what you did when you started doing this adaptation. Did you go back to, what you had written? As a play, and did you come up with a new outline? Did you literally just dump the play into “Final Draft” and start editing? I’m just curious sort of like the logistics of making that transition?
Alecky: A, yeah, I did go back to the draft, that was a starting point. I, once I could have located it, I yes, I think we need to beef up some of these residents. I then would have gone back to my original recording all of them. With those residents, to see what else those particular characters bring to their table. Do you see what it means? By cutting up the sound. But others were becoming more kind of forthright. So, part of the process is character bringing back to my master tape, and how does it sound? To see what else I had, that could help make them more prominent. And there was also lots of, I think trying to make it as present tense as possible. Before not much in the fall there was, I made a concern there were these sort of direct order that wouldn’t work. In early drafts I simply encouraged half of them to back out. At least managed to get some of those back in again. But there was a point where, all of those themes you may have seen in the film were in the process of being right. I think more in that documentary style, but more in the film. I sort of got to the stage where the expectation it was, I was missing them. And so, they were sort of put into a section where it could kind of feature it. And when the time came sort of shoot them we did. And yeah, like you know, the one’s who shot them all it did work. So, yeah, it was all sort of fun seeing that. In terms of yes, trying to maintain the beauty of the play. But also make it filmic. And convince everybody that everything on the page was filmic. Making it, even if it was just a couple of people, in a bit of a, that’s what I mean.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely, absolutely. So, how long did this process take? You have your play, you’re starting on a screenplay, was it weeks, was it months?
Alecky: Months. Yeah, it was months. And other things other.
Ashley: And was it.
Alecky: And it was to decide.
Ashley: And what was your day look like when you’re out actually writing? Do you write for eight hours a day? Do you write for a few hours day? Spend a lot of time thinking? What is your actual writing days look like?
Alecky: A, I probably spend a lot of time listening. Because I’m recording. So, it’s obviously listening, logging audio, I always find I can be quite boring. Especially going through the master tape. And I tend to record as much as I can. And so often, I’m like, oh, my god why did I record this? But you never know? Because you jot something, you turn it off then on. Take a minute you need, and record, record, record. Then wrap it up. It can be a little painful. And then, you know, and then the fun starts. When you start to really move those pieces of audio around. And try to put, create a story. Such as you suggest it, maybe, literally. In the original you make. You’re really trying to put, make not a lie. Which you shot, the characters. That kind of, you know, take you created with it. And that’s joyful. But, you kind of have to believe me. There’s a lot of choice, cut a track from the choice you make.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. How can people see “London Road?” Do you know the release schedule?
Alecky: A, yes I know when the release is. It’s the fifth, this Friday, on one, four, two. So far scheduled for a two week run. I believe on a forty two cinemas across the, I think eight states?
Ashley: I really appreciate you coming on and talking with me today. I wish you luck with the film.
Alecky: Thank you very much for having me.
Ashley: I just want to mention two things I’m 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 newsletter, per month. I went and Emailed my large list of industry database. 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 new material. And how they get 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.
And secondly, I’ve paid on of the premier paid screenwriting leads sites. You can syndicate their leads to SYS Select members. There are lots of great paid leads coming in each week from our partner. Recently I’ve been getting 10 to 12 high quality paid new leads every week. These are producers, and production companies that are actively looking to buy new material. Or are looking to hire a screenwriter for a particular project that they may be working on. If you sign-up for SYS Select, you will get these leads Emailed directly to you several times each week. These leads run the gambit of production companies looking for a specific type of spec. script.
To producers looking to hire a screenwriter to write up one of their own ideas. Producers are looking for shorts, features, TV, and web series, pilots. It’s a huge aray of different types of projects that producers are looking for. And these leads are exclusive to our partner and SYS Select members. To sign-up, go to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/selelct.
I recently set-up a success stories page, for people who have had success through the various SYS Select Services. So, if you want to check out some of the other people who have tried the SYS Select Services, are saying? Go to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/success.
On the next episode of the Podcast, I’m going to be interviewing Corey Mandell. Who’s been on the Podcast a couple of times before. The past two episodes, we talked probably more about feature film writing. And this episode next week, we really dig into TV writing. And Corey gives us his opinion of what he thinks people should be writing. If they are looking to break into television writing, so stay tuned for that episode next week.
Also, if you are listening to this? Or watching this on YouTube. Obviously a lot of people tune into this, get the audio of this? But, I actually got my poster up, you can see in the background, “The Pinch” poster is up. Again, I publish, if you’re listening to this, just the audio. I do publish this on YouTube as well. And I just got my first version of “The Pinch” poster. I got it printed and now it’s out and hanging in my office. And it’s in the background. So, if you’re watching this on YouTube, you can actually see it hanging back there.
To wrap things up, I just want to touch on a few things from today’s interview with
Alecky Blythe. One of the interesting things I noticed, was how this whole project came about? It was all sort of an experiment. She went out, and she took all these notes. Not quite knowing what she was going to do with them? Then she started working with a composer on a musical. Not quite sure if it was going to work or not? And then things slowly progressed from there. I really think this almost sort of experimentation is key to being successful in almost any endeavor. I read an article recently, and I cannot remember where it was? What magazine, or book that I read it? But, the whole premise of the article, was that, nearly all advances in human history. Have come through this sort of trial and error experimentation. There’s sort of this miss conception that progress is made just through brilliant revelations there. There’s like these brilliant people out there, that have these revelations. They execute and that’s how progress is made. But, when you really start to look at how progress is made? It’s generally speaking a lot of small incremental, you know, improvements. And experimentation, trial and error, blind luck. All of these things are what sort of turn out to be great improvements. And there are some obvious exceptions. I think Einstein is sort of an exception? He was just one brilliant guy. He cooked up a bunch of brilliant ideas and theories in his mind. And that changed human history. And that’s obviously impressive. We celebrate him for being a genius because of it. But, I think the story of how penicillin came to be is a more accurate reflection of how most progress is made? And that’s to say, it was discovered sort of by accident. And then it was studied, and then tweaked and worked into something that helped all of us. You know, what Alecky did, is the same sort of experimentation. She went and started out with something, not really sure where it was going to go? And slowly it turned into something that is now a feature film. And I really think that’s how a lot of us do. I myself, people that listen itself, are going to make progress. And I’ll just give you a couple of examples.
When I started, “Selling Your Screenplay” I really didn’t know where it was going to go? I know there are sound quality issues on some of the episodes. I know even to this day, there are still sound quality issues. I know I’m not the most polished Podcast host. I’ve never really done any public speaking. I’ve never done any broadcasting, or performance.
And I knew this going in that I wasn’t a really polished host or anything else. And this is even after a hundred, I’ve done almost 150 episodes. I’ve been doing this for three years. And I still feel like I’m not the greatest Podcaster in the world. As I said, I still have a lot of sound quality issues. You know, I just, I don’t let that stop me. And I try and get better at it. I am trying to figure out ways to make the sound quality better. I’m trying to figure out how to edit the sound better. I’m thinking of bringing on a sound editor to maybe take some of the episodes and work their magic. So, it’s not the greatest Podcast, or the most polished Podcast. But I am working to get better. As I said, it just started out being an experiment. Now, after a few years it’s become a big part of my life. I really enjoy it. I feel I get a lot out of it. I get a lot of feedback. It obviously provides income, “Selling Your Screenplay” provides income for me and my family. And it’s helped me further my own screenwriting career. But again, “Selling Your Screenplay” I guess the blog, and certainly the Podcast. Just really started out as an experiment. I threw it out there, and we’re seeing where it goes? And I guess the experiment is still running. You know, “The Pinch” I keep talking about the movie. Working on “The Pinch” is an experiment. I have no idea if it’ll turn out well, or not? There will be something I will be glad I did. And I can tell you, especially doing the pre-production, there were some moments when I really wished I hadn’t started the thing. I mean, the pre-production was enormous amount of work. I’m trying to balance all of my other commitments as well. As I was gearing up for the pre-production. And it was just overwhelming at times. And there were moments when I thought this was just a big mistake. I shouldn’t have taken on this project. But, you know, I just muscled through it. And now, you know, I’m into post-production. And excited to punch it out and work on my next film. The Kick-Starter Campaign I did to fund a good portion of “The Pinch.” It was an experiment. I didn’t know if it was going to work or not? I really didn’t know how to run the Kick-Starter Campaign. I had never done a Kick-Starter Campaign. But I figured, hey, this is a good way to figure it out. And I did, and it did work out. And I think having this mind set. That everything is a big experiment, can really help you get through tough times. Because if you look at it this way, fear of failure won’t be around you. And this fear of failure is what I think prevents a lot of people from moving forward. And if you look at everything as an experiment? You’re going to fail, as much as you do experiments and just try things, failure is part of the process. You try and learn from those things. And you try and move on. And get better on the next one. But there’s going to be some failure, as I said. There are some Podcast episodes that at least I know, the audio quality is so bad, it’s almost unlistenable, it’s not even something you can listen to? But, I just keep trying to get better, and push things out there. As so many friends who are perfectionist. And they can’t, they get too wrapped up in making sure everything’s gonna be perfect. Believe me, “The Pinch” is going to be far from perfect. But, I’m going to learn a lot. And as I said, it has given me a lot more confidence to do another one. With, what I know, will be much, much, better. And so, that’s the thing. There’s going to be so many small progress. Because “The Pinch” is going to be a great movie? Eh, who knows? I hope it is. But, if it’s not, that’s not the end of the world. Because it’s helped me get better as a film maker, as a screenwriter. I’ve gotten better certainly as a director. I directed a feature film. I’m much, much, more understanding of what is involved there. It also makes me a better writer by the way. And certainly as a producer. I’ve never, sort of been the lead producer on a film like this. Where I, was the main producer. The buck stopped with me on all these things. So, I feel more confident. With that, it was an experiment just throwing things out there and seeing if it’s going to work? And again, maybe it’s not going to work? Maybe “The Pinch” is not going to be a great movie. But I can guarantee for the next one, I will be more prepared, and I will be more skilled, and I will be better.
And that’s the thing, I know that people out there listening to this? Thinking, I can never produce my own, raise my own film. But, that’s the thing, you can, you can do this! The only thing stopping you, is you! If a feature film seems like way too much, just too much to bite off? Just raise a few hundred dollars and go out and shoot a five-minute short film on your IPhone. Edit it together, and that might mean learning how to edit. And then see how it turned out? It might be terrible, again, that’s totally fine, that’s part of the process. But, I guarantee you, with the second film, that one will be a little bit better. If you do a third short film, it will be better still. And by the time you finish your third film, The idea of doing a full length feature film won’t be quite so daunting. And I get a lot of Emails from people. And this is, you know, dubbed into that same, I get a lot of Emails from people that have written a feature film script. And it’s like, yeah, I just went out and I raised money, and I shot “The Pinch.” But I, I wasn’t a total nut. As I’ve been in the film business for quite a few years. I’ve been a producer on feature films before. Maybe not the lead producer. But I’ve been part of that process. So, I kind of knew, or had some idea how to do it. And so, I think people who want to run. They Email me, well gee, I’m trying to raise $2 million dollars, and I can’t get going. And it’s just so tough. Yeah, for your first project, don’t go out and try and raise a million dollars. That’s probably not going to happen? And frankly you probably wouldn’t know how to spend the million dollars, even if you were able to raise it. So, it’s probably just a recipe for disaster. Even just trying something like that. If you succeed, you’re going to not turn out well. But if you just bite off these small chunks that are manageable. And slowly, again, experiment, who cares if it turns out bad. And slowly reiterate and slowly get better. I think you’ll find over the course of days, and months, and years. You will start to build a career. So, that’s my parting advice for you. Go out and experiment on something, make something. And don’t worry about how terrible or even if it’s going to turn out. Just get out there and do it. It will probably be a lot better than you think.
Anyway, that’s the show, thank you for listening.