This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 174: Writer/Director/Producer Matt Drummond Talks About His CGI Heavy Feature Film, My Pet Dinosaur.
Ashley: Welcome to episode #174 of the “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I’m Ashley Scott Meyers Screenwriter and Blogger over at – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today, I’m interviewing Australian film maker, Matt Drummond, who recently wrote and directed, and produced a CGI-heavy, family friendly film called, “My Pet Dinosaur.” We talk about his career as a visual effects artist. And how that lead him to writing and producing his own feature films that use visual effects. So, stay tuned for that.
If you find this episode valuable, please help me out by giving me a review in iTunes. Or leaving a comment on YouTube, or retweeting the Podcast on Twitter. Or liking us on Facebook. These social media shares really do help spread word about the Podcast and are very much appreciated.
Over on iTunes, I want to thank “Screenwrite” who left me a very nice review, thank you for that it’s very much appreciated it seems like “Screenwrite” really liked the recent interview I did with Mark Hanley. Which is episode #170. This is great feedback to hear. I really have no way of knowing what episodes of the Podcast people like and which ones they don’t like. So, please do let me know if there are specific things you like and don’t like? Obviously, I prefer if there is something you don’t like. You can Tweet at me, or send me an Email. At – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. But really any honest feedback is very much appreciated. And especially if you have something positive to say. Like “Screenwrite” did. It’s very much, very nice to see like comments on sites like iTunes. So, thank you again, “Screenwrite.” For that very nice bit of feedback. And just to clarify episode #170, with Mark Hanley, he is a guy who did a short film which I really, really liked, and he did it all for about $200.00. And in episode #170 we really go through this whole process of how he made that film. I’m going to be rolling out a bunch of similar episodes, with short film makers over the next couple of months. And I think Mark’s is a great first episode in that series. Because he did it so cheaply. Some of these other film makers spent a little bit more money. One of the interviews I just did last week with Rich, will be airing in a couple of months. He did his short film, I think for about $15,000.00. I’ve got another one “In the can.” Where a film maker did a short for a short $3000.00 – $4000.00. So, each one of these, the budgets are going to get a little bit bigger, and you can kinda see what producers and where that money goes? And again, it’s just going to be a good sort of primer. You’re thinking about shooting your own film.
These iTunes reviews are very helpful. It helps the Podcast get listed in more places in iTunes. So, it reaches a broader audience. Also, if you subscribe to the Podcast, then you will get new episodes downloaded to your phone each week. So, that’s a nice convenient way to stay current on them, the Podcast. So, if you have a moment, please do leave me a review on iTunes. And once again, “Screenwrite” I really do appreciate your taking the time to leave a nice review.
A couple of quick notes, any websites or links that I mention in the Podcast can be found on my blog in the show notes. I also publish a transcript with each episode. In case you would rather read the show or look up something else up later-on. Just go to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast, and look for episode #174.
If you would like my free guide, “How to Sell Your Screenplay in 5 Weeks?” You can pick that up by going to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide. It’s completely free, you just put in your Email address and I’ll send you a new lesson, once a week for 5 weeks. Along with a bunch of free bonus lessons. I teach the whole process of how to sell your screenplay in that guide. How to write a professional log-line and quarry letter. How to find agents, managers and producers who are looking for new material. It really is everything you need to know to sell your screenplay. Just go to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide.
A quick few words about what I am working this week? Once again, Post-Production on my crime, action, thriller, feature film, “The Pinch.” I’ve got all the pieces in place. In terms of
Post-Production team. And I’m now just waiting for these various technical folks to do their part to the film. Once production is officially done. Which it, at this point is going to be June or July. I’m going to run a webinar. Where I go through the entire process of making this film. I’ll be digging into all the nitty-gritty details writing the script. How I raised the money, where I spent the money, how I found all my cast and crew. Really everything I did to produce this movie. I’ll be talking about that webinar. So, keep an eye out for that, probably in August or September.
The other thing I did this past week was, I re-optioned my baseball comedy script to the producers. Who has had it now for a couple of years. I’ve talked about this script on the Podcast numerous times over the last few years. And now, we’re hopefully moving into the next phase. So, the producer went out raised a little bit of seed money. And he’s hoping to use that seed money to raise the rest of the money. They always say that the first money in is the hardest money to get. So, hopefully we’re past that milestone with this project. So, basically, this producer is somebody that I met through one of my Email and Fax Blast. Probably 5 or 6 years ago. We talked on the phone a bunch of times now, about the script. And eventually, he optioned it from me. He got a few pieces on his end in place. And just started to work out some of the logistics. He is a producer in Delaware. And it’s a baseball comedy. So, getting the stadium, it was sort of a big, big, component. So, we talked on the phone. Because I said, over the course of probably a couple of years. Eventually he found that a local minor league team in Delaware that he had a relationship with, who agreed to let us shoot the film there. And then once he did that, he started to put some cast together. And then he optioned the script. The option eventually ran out, and it expired late last year. And I talked about this on the Podcast, that it had expired. But, the guy had, had a conversation with the producer where he was still interested in the project and might come back to me to re-option it. So, this is basically what he has done now. He’s come back and re-optioned it. And again, hopefully it was with some renewed energy and some renewed and some additional pieces are now in place. I’ve talked a bit about this before on the Podcast. And I feel like it’s important that people understand what these sort of options look like. So, I’m just going to run through this quickly. This is I would say, pretty-typical option agreement that I’ve signed over, through the years. It’s basically a free option for six months. And when I say “Free” in this case. He’s actually paying $10.00 for the six month option. And then after six months. He can renew the option, but he has to pay $500.00. And that just kinda gives a little bit of pressure on him to make a decision, whether he feels like he’s got some momentum. If he doesn’t gain any momentum over the next six months. Then probably he will choose not to re-new the option, and pay the $500.00. if he’s got some good momentum then it’s not a big deal to pay the $500.00. So, that’s a kind of a typical way of splitting the difference. Initially, he said, “Hey, can I have a free one year option? Well, I said, “Let’s do a free six month option, and then pay the $500.00.” And then most producers are reasonable, and most producers will go for that.
Because the reality is, you know, there sort of is a burst of energy at the beginning of the option phase. So, he’s going to get going, and then six months. If he’s not to the point where he thinks he’s confident enough to pay the $500.00. It is probably a good indication that unfortunately things are not going well. And then he doesn’t tie up my script for a full years. So, I think it’s a pretty fair deal, built to both parties. In terms of how much me and my writing partner will make on this project? It really depends on the budget. We’ve negotiated for 3% of the production budget. And that is on the high end of what a writer can expect. Typically for a low-budget- independent film like this. The writer can expect 2-3 % of the production budget. And since I usually give free options? Or a lot of times, I can be very generous and give free options. I always insist on the higher end of that range, more towards the 3% – 2.5% – 3%. And again, I think that’s perfectly fair. I’m giving him a free option for a while. And then I’m expecting a little bit on the higher end, of the production budget, percentage of what I would receive if this thing goes through. There is a 4 of the $9000.00. And this is an important point. The 4 basically means, that even if the budget goes below $300,000.00. We will still get at a minimum $9000.00. And 3% of $100,000.00 is $3000.00. So, a $300,000.00 budget would be $9000.00. The producer is talking about trying to raise between $300,000.00 and $500,000.00. So honestly, even under the best of circumstances. Me and my writing partner are not going to be making a lot more than that.
Years ago, I had an agreement on another option agreement with a producer. Where I had 3% in the contract, but no 4%. And the option was getting ready to expire. And so, the producer called me up and said, “Hey, I’m going to make you a movie. But, the total budget is $10,000.00. So, you know, I’m going to pay you $300.00 for this script. Obviously, this was not quite what I had in mind? But, there was no 4% in it, in the contract. So, I guess it was in his rights to try an do something like that? I was able to talk him out of it, out of that. So luckily I never had to fight over it. But, it really impressed upon the point to me, to that I need to make sure that every option contract has a 4% in it. A lot of times the producers will insist on a ceiling as well, and that’s fine. You know, you can adjust on that. And the ceilings usually frankly are frankly, it never really becomes anything. Because the producers are always raise less money, not more money. It’s always very unusual for producers to raise more money than what he thinks he can raise. Usually, even at the beginning of these phases, at the beginning of a option phase. Usually he thinks he can raise a lot more money than what he actually does. And in terms of figuring out what that 4% is going to be? It’s usually very simple. Just ask the producer what’s the minimum amount that you would consider producing this movie for? And he will tell you some number? And you can just say, okay, let’s make that the 4%, and if he is serious about what that number? He will have no problem or reason not to agree to that. And again, when you are negotiating the option, at that stage. A producer is usually opened to, and overly optimistic about how much money he is going to raise. So, usually it’s pretty easy to sneak that in there. And then again, it’s just sets expectations. And you know, truthfully, I’m always a reasonable person. And I’m up for negotiating. This producer came to me and said, “Listen, I was only raising, I was only able to raise $200,000.00 could we lower your fee a little bit? Just to kind of conform a little bit with the budget that we have?” I would have probably allowed that. But again, it? just gives me the option to decide down the road. If the budget does fall sort of below what we agreed on. Just so long as there are no surprises. Again, it’s just setting expectations. So, there’s a lot of other sort of legalize in the contract, there’s some back-end points. You know the writing credit. You know, that’s another big thing you want to get set-up. Especially in an independent film. Where it’s not you know, where the WGA has no impact on it. It’s not a WGA project.
You’re going to want to negotiate writing credit, very, very, succinctly in that option agreement. So, again there’s no confusion down the road, and we’ve done that in this option agreement. So that’s kind of the gist of the agreement contract. These contracts can be somewhat complicated and you know, the trick is, sometimes you do need a lawyer to help you with these things. Not necessarily negotiating them, the major points. But just making sure all the little things are in there that you may not know about? And the trick is that a lot of these, the case that I’m giving a free option. So, how can you afford to pay a lawyer? If you’re not actually making money off of the option agreement. And it’s a tough situation. And you know, sometimes you just have to do your best. Early on in my career I had no access to a lawyer. I now have a lawyer I work with. And he’s done a number of contracts. He looked at this contract, you know, years ago. So, it’s just resigning the same basic option agreement I’ve had with this. But I would say, this is kind of the biggest, one of the biggest stumbling blocks you’re going to find is that. You’ll be presented with a contract and you’re not really going to be making it enough money to afford a lawyer. So, you’re just going to have to just stumble through this, and do the best that you can. Anyways, I hope this was helpful. But again, I’m not a lawyer so, if there’s any legal questions you have about your option agreement? I would highly advise you to seek the advice of an attorney. So anyways, that’s what I’m working on now.
So, now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m interviewing film maker, Matt Drummond. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Matt to, the “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I really appreciate you coming on the show and talking with me today.
Matt: Yeah, thanks for having me.
Ashley: So, to start out, maybe you can tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up, and how did you get interested in the entertainment business?
Matt: I grew-up in Sydney Australia. I actually grew-up in a family of musicians. And so, I always thought I would go into music as a career choice. But I was captivated by movies from a young age. Obviously, with Star Wars, ET, and childhood ET’s at the time. It was all those kinds of movies that really fueled my imagination, and I just wanted to do that. I didn’t even know what that was, at the point in time? I remember taking my Star Wars figures and photographing them in different poses. And try and come up with you know, little sequences. And then getting my dad’s Kodak carousel. Which was this, you know, this little, well I tried to use it like a, it was just, you click it and then change to the next slide. While we would have these slide nights. So, I tried to get really fast with it. To try to make it move. So, I was interested in film at a young age.
Ashley: Yeah. So then, what was your first sort of steps to actually turn it into a professional career, what was that first move?
Matt: Well, funny enough, I was lucky, my parents brought home the first Macintosh in ’84. And I was hooked on what that could do, then the possibilities, the graphic side of things, so. I had been taught to paint and draw from my grandmother.
So, that was a huge passion of mine, the visual arts sort of things. So, when I left school, I had an opportunity to go and work for a friend of the family’s. Who doing the cinema advertising before the movies came on. Like slides for local businesses and things of that nature. And because I had, had the Mac since I was a kid. The operating system at the time had not changed a lot. I just got on there and really it was just a matter of letting the application. Which was called, “Cal Studios.” This was even before “Photoshop” was released.
Matt: So, I got the job doing that. And so Australia was good on graphic arts. After a couple of years. I was moved up through the ranks into re-touching on tape boxes. So, these were mini-dog chains two and a half times now. It was something that was, I was getting slowly bored with removing blemishes and you know, various lumps and bumps on models for photographs and advertising campaigns. I had been given a piece of software from a friend of mine. So, I’ve got to try this out? Something from Phoenix. It was a, one of the first 3-D animation software programs on Macintosh, and I was hooked. That was it. So, wasting, you know, every waking moment an all my spare time. I was using up all the computing power in the office, just to make things. Because they didn’t do it. And I remember my boss, the talks, and there’s no future in that stuff. That was interesting. And then I got the opportunity to start my own business,
“City Rondics, for Corporates.” So, I got more in mind, the animation, and things for them. And then I took a horrible show-reel into the IBC, which was the Australian Broadcast, they had a science program called, “Quantum.” That used to have one. So, I took this very, very, horrible film-reel into them, and they gave me a job. And so, then I was into it. And from there, that’s when the film making passion really took off. Because I started to work this you know, independent film makers, and documentaries. Within this, brief corporation.
Ashley: Did you make some sort of animation? Or graphics, what exactly where you doing?
Matt: I was doing creations, you know, stars exploding, you know, the universe and dinosaurs, the more I did dinosaurs the more people kept throwing dinosaurs at me, and dead animals. They were always trying to throw different things at me and bring them back to life. And throughout this entire process, I was learning film making from people who were essentially running around with a camera and a talent crew, trying to make half hour programs every week. You know, so, it was a real eye opener for me, and what was possible. And obviously my whole precious film making is exact that it is why it is, a very small crew, shooting things that you know how to shoot. And obviously using my vast experience like I’ve never had the text of 25 years. So, taking that experience and melding it together.
Ashley: Yeah, so I think that’s a good segue into your most recent film, “My Pet Dinosaur.” Maybe to start out you can give us a quick log-line or pitch? Just kinda tell us what the film is about?
Matt: Well, the very simple very quick log-line is? A troubled town is threatened to turn to chaos when this small, a boy suddenly makes a new friend, literally. So, a he, a bunch of kids sneak out when they shouldn’t.
Hop into the forest they discover this glowing substance, they take home to see if they’ll experiment for their science class. Then they get a little bit more than they bargained for.
Ashley: Okay, so where did this idea come from?
Matt: Um, now that’s a great question? I remember back with the sparky idea, a few years ago. And a, Yeah, that’s a great question? I can’t quite remember the exact point of the conception to the concept was? Do you know what the meaning of mixing stuff together to get or create life. Or had, or what is you could do to with that concept. And how far you could take that. And then of course you know, I was researching on biological experiments, and things of that nature. So, after that, you know, then both sets of concepts came together. And I suppose that’s the core of, that’s the core to the story. But, luckily, like any story it comes down to character and interaction with the clock of those characters. So, you come up with something that’s interesting and fun.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, sure. I’m curious, you mention that you started doing dinosaurs for these documentaries and stuff. How much does that effect, when you’re coming up with an idea for a feature film. How much does that effect knowing that you have the ability to do these, you know realistic animations. Do you have ideas that are not necessarily tied to that? Or do you just know that, that is your forte. And so, your ideas are all about that.
Matt: A, I suppose I come from the point of view that we have to be very commercial with what we are doing. We’re a tiny little studio, it’s myself and my wife, we’ve started this. My first feature “Dinosaur Island” was really, the premise was not really what, you know, what if a boy was thrust onto an island. And what would happen if it was full of dinosaurs? That was my first feature. The premise was really, what if we could create compelling stories, that fill a niche market while in that family space. Using these unique skills that we’ve got. What could happen there. Could it create a sustainable pipeline to market? And that’s what we did, and that’s what we’ve now done. And so obviously, these stories that we look at telling. Are ones that fit into that commercial backed net market. And that’s what we’ve found is that, you know, you’ve got Disney in the top end, doing what Walt Disney does. And then you’ve got whole lot of talking dog films at the low end. And there wasn’t much happening in the middle. So, it was a big opportunity for film making, to be commercially viable. So, right actually out and produced something of quality that fit right in that niche space. And from there we’ve been able to leveraging into what we’re doing now. Where we’re actually getting the interest now.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. I’m curious, you just mentioned like, family films. And I know you mentioned “ET” as being an influence from the ‘80’s. Why did you decide that this was a commercial genre? Did you talk to distributors? Have you talked to other producers? What sort of you know, insight did you have to know that family friendly films are something that there is a good market for?
Matt: Well, Yes, we did some of the research on our first film. Before we did the first film, “Dinosaur Island” I looked at the marketplace and talked to some people about what was and what wasn’t there. And then we took apart and put that into production. And we saw it everywhere, and it was saw all over the world. So, eventually every territory solved into. So, that was a pretty good indicator that we were on something, on the broad something.
And then after the fact, when we were doing monster research. Because you can’t just sit back and go, well that worked for us, let’s do it again. Because that’s, I think that’s not creatively viewing. And it’s a bit naive to think you’re going to replicate one success over and over again. So, you need to be careful with that. But, after then seen the success and after having the hard numbers and “Dinosaur Island” that film had 106 sell to rate into Walmart in the U.S. So, it was a beat, a big title for the distributor there. And it’s done similarly there around the world. So, we’ve gone into knowing that the family space is a commercially viable space. Okay, let’s move business in, let’s, as I said, I’m a child of the ‘80’s, I loved those films. I loved, “Stand By Me” I loved “Goonies” I loved “ET.” I loved that world that, and the possibilities that came and went with that. Now, possibly with my set of effects skills, I can build worlds that are engaging, that are fun, that people want to visit. I think at the core of it, I was looking at movies that I revisit. And some of them aren’t great. But, why have they become classics, why do people go back and watch them? And it really is that critical creation of worlds. Where people want to go and live for a little bit. So, I wanted to set out to create a world in this film. That people want to revisit, that people have an almost have made a nostalgic view of. Now maybe we haven’t said any of these ideas. We didn’t set out to send them in the 80’s. And the funny thing was stranger things from, Netflix hadn’t even been known or gotten wind, that this had been in production, let alone coming out. So, it was funny that we were on, we seem to be on this on trend at the moment, the time of the film. Which was, that’s a great theme you know. You don’t want them to know what’s behind the curtain. You want to be right on the crest of that wave. We seem to be, which is nice. But, I started out to make a film that I would want to have seen as a kid. That I would want to have. That, A world I would want to revisit and relive it. And I think that obviously have to connect with today’s audience. So, we’re not going back to the 80’s crowd, you know the nostalgic crowd. You’ve got “Go Pros” and you got you know, cell phones, we’ve got all of them. On today’s technology, but you still want the ability to have some why not? I suppose that’s what coming back to the early crush, that’s what fueled that initial spark of concept. Is like what if something that using today’s technology could create one. And I suppose that’s where the concept of “My Pet Dinosaur” came from. Now initially it was going to be called,
“My Pet Monster.” But, coming back to being completely commercial. The distributors come back to you and say, we love this, but we want to call it, “My Pet Dinosaur” you change the title.
Ashley: So, let’s talk about your writing process, just a little bit? Leading up to these
“Dinosaur Island” and “My Pet Dinosaur.” Had you written scripts? Were those your first, “Dinosaur Island” was that your first foray into screenwriting?
Matt: I had written a few scripts. I had been working with people writing screenplays. We had been pitching a lot too. Ideas, long before we started “Dinosaur Island.” So, Nah, it wasn’t my first screenwriting as such. But, it was certainly my first full feature that I had gotten into. But, with that being said, “Dinosaur Island” was not, there was a very rudimentary writing process. I mean, in many cases, it was a little haphazard, well. This one, it’s very much a structured process. I think once again, you look at the marketplace and look at what the being accepted processes are, and try and replicate those. And it looked like I had been. I had read every book on screenwriting that was ever out there, ya know? Vogler, and Syd Field, I, the one that resonated with me the most, just because it was just keep it simple stupid. Was
Blake Snyder, “Save the Cat Series.”
Ashley: Yeah, yeah.
Matt: Once it was called, it’s funny after years and years of reading these books and. You know, hearing a lot of these guys, themselves, and their knowledge. They never really distilled it into a process. In the same way that “Save the Cat” does. And so, I have to say, I am a real proponent of that system. I know a lot of people don’t like systems as such. But by the same token, it’s a blue print, it’s a blue print for designing a house. And that’s how I sort of fell into it. You’re creating a house, and you’re creating a world. And the better the blue print, the better it’s going to be at the end. In-particular when you’re in post-production. And some of those issues of do come up. Because of many people sit in the passion while it’s done 3 times. Once when you write it, once when you shoot it, once when you edit it. It’s that editing process that sometimes things can go a-rye to. So, it’s that too, it’s really important to have a good solid, you know, that has all the beats in there, and then you’re trying to hide all those beats. But that is there to hang a film like that off, so you can always come back to. That first principle, of characters, and accurate, and making sure that things are being rebuilt at the right time. So, it’s quite fun as a Writer/Director/Editor. I’m always, engaged with the story at every level. So, it’s been a, this one’s been a really interesting process.
Ashley: Yeah, so let’s just talk specifically about your writing process. How much time on, something like “My Pet Dinosaur”, how much time do you spend outlining, versus opening up “Final Draft” and writing the script pages.
Matt: I think I outlined the film, in a course of about 3 months. I was back and forth with it, making sure that the beats worked. And I sat, well, and started writing a little bit. Seeing if those sparks, I mean, I’m a very visual person obviously. And it’s that first initial images that I have in my head that I try to, you know, that are the spark, the inspiration for any film. That you know, you try to place that into that framework of the screenplay. Now sometimes those images you can see that they’re not going to work to start with. But, there is something about them that inspired, or captured that time that the film will eventually be. And I suppose that first three months is really about taking off those ideas and that those sparks. And trying to put them together in a way that was going to you know create a sustainable screenplay. Because you always just go in there and start writing it. This is great, and then you just go, a that’s not good, that’s not working, there’s a part over here. So I, figured that out after about 20 nights. And then it took about, I took it further in about 6 months to write. So, that’s my writing process really. Which some say that’s fast, some people say that’s slow, I don’t really know?
Ashley: And what was your schedule like during those 9 months? Were you working on other projects, doing some special effects here and there? So, it was like a part-time gig? Or were you writing pretty much full time for 9 months?
Matt: Oh sure, pretty much full time actually. I’m in the fortunate position, I’m not having to chase the visual effects gigs anymore. You know, which I did on my first film. I’d run out shield, I’d jump back in and work on someone else’s project. And get the minimum amount of sleep and go and do it all over again. And the writing process was, you know, it was the writing process. I really immerse myself in that. And while I am immersing myself in that. In any particular part of the film making process, I’m learning.
I’m just constantly learning, I’m reading, I’m talking to people. I live in a very creative community up here, and they’re just an accomplished people. You know, screenwriters up here. You know, great minds a very, accomplished screenwriters. And so, those kinds of conversations, that coffee really fuel me to, you know, push yourself, go harder, just do things better. And so, yeah, that was the process. Pretty much know my intents. And then I was actually, I didn’t actually send it off to coverage to the “Script Store.” And that was really, really, great. They came back with 10 pages of notes, some visual graphs and things to help me, to just kind of harness the story quite a bit better and then we knew it was ready for production.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. And so, I want to talk about that development process just a little bit. Do you have any other people that you literally just sent it over to the “Script Store.” These are not people you know, correct?
Matt: No, no. I, look, I trust my wife’s commercial acumen when she looks over stuff. But, she’s more on the producing side, less on the creative side. Unless, she does like to come in steady jack, she will come in and take a shot, you know. But, you know, on the effects side. That’s not finished right? Just a, so, she’ll say, that looks no good. So, but a, yeah, so, I send it off. I like the concept that sending it off to a professional, nice folks, no primal wage of it. And was coming at the whole thing from a completely differently, you know, fresh approach. Where as, you know, I have a trusted friends here. But by the same cent token I want to make sure it was free of any personal, you know, hold back. You know, sometimes you got to, even when you ask for opinions you can get a some in a pretty nice way. Rather than getting to the core of it. Then I do like a brutal attack on the work. Because I know by the time it hits the internet at some point? It’ll be brutally attacked.
Ashley: A-huh. So, let’s talk about genre requirements. You know, this was, you said, you set out to make this a family film. And I’m curious especially after doing another film,
“Dinosaur Island.” Are there some things to watch out for? Do you talk to distributors, in terms of like, too much violence? Where do you draw the line? Certainly language, you know, adult situations. How do you handle that stuff? How do you even just know where you’ve crossed the line, and is no longer family friendly.
Matt: A, language is a big one. A bit, but also, there are some obvious guidelines for this sort of thing. Anything you’re starting to delve into you know, territory that’s not appropriate for children, in any, way, shape, or form, that’s a good indicator. You know, if you wouldn’t want your own kids around or involved in the activity. Than you’re probably pretty safe to assume that you just crossed over that ratings boundary, you know, if you go there. So, you know, language, what’s really interesting? Some of these are, you know, early films that I’ve, you know, talked about. The language in those films, you get an “N” rating for some of them these days, you know. You have to be careful, I like to make sure we’re squarely in the “PG” realm. Because that is just, it’s a little bit maturer, so you’re going to get a range of kids from 6 to 12 is pretty much the range we’re after. And the “PG” realm is a pretty good to be in. It’s interesting enough. But it’s not, it’s not going to offend anybody too much. If you’re crossing over into you know, the “N” rating, then you’re missing the marking. You’ve missed your core audience essentially. You know, 15-15+ is, they’re not going to be into the “Family Feature.”
They’re going to be looking for the next up, Army Games, that kinda thing. They’re looking to sneak off and watch things they shouldn’t be watching. You know, that are rated “R” for older audience. So, yeah.
Ashley: So, let’s talk about now, you’re finished with the script. And let’s talk about that process of raising the money and actually going out and shooting it. What were sort of your first steps? Once you had a script you felt was ready to go.
Matt: A, on this film? Once again, I was in a fortunate position, last film had done very well. So we, decided to fully finance it. Obviously, with the visual effects and having those full capabilities. I didn’t need to raise that money in cash. That comes in time, but what comes in pure blood, sweat, and tears. 5:00a.m. finishes, and 9:00a.m. – 10:00a.m. starts. So, you do pay for it somewhere along the line? But, the financing program process, we I had a couple of distributors wanting in on it, the picture, very early on. But, I met a guy called, “Faster Tour.” A couple of years back when I was with “Arc Light.” “Arc Light” was my first distributor. I decided that they wanted like shit this project. Fezzle, he, all business comes down to relationships. And even though the company that Fezzle, has had, traditionally. They had a string of horror films, it wasn’t family features, it wasn’t in vein but. He was saying all the right things and we became mates. And that’s, it’s really all about core with me. Because when people say what they say they’re going to do something and the do it, when they say they’re going to do it. And Fezzle came on-board. And said, now look, I want you and your picture, and he threw his hat in the ring. He also came up with some cash to put in to secure his portion of his distribution international. Here in Australia, we act as our own distributor for the theatrical thing. But, partnered up with Pinko now. The same dudes for “Dinosaur Island.” But I developed a relationship with the distributors out here. So, according to some major cinema chain here in Australia, about 26% of the market here. I developed a relationship within the last picture. And so, I was able to just walk in and say, here look, here’s my next film, here’s what I’m thinking about doing. They said, “That sounds great.” Here’s the letter of intent. Glad to go back in and say, here’s a few things. So, you know, all business is relationships. And I try to be where nobody else is. If everyone else is banging on the drama door, I don’t want to be there. You want to be where there’s an opportunity. So, that was what the family space represented to us.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. Maybe you could just touch quickly on how did you build some of those relationships? Were those through working in television for all those years? You built some of those relationships, or was it with “Dinosaur Island?” And all those roles, and what did those relationship building look like?
Matt: Yeah, it was with “Dinosaur Island.” I mean, it was, I think, “Dinosaur Island” It’s a diligent picture this one. I mean, it’s essentially a runaway stop film I would like to say. In the genuine vein of “Journey to the Center of the Earth” film, mysterious island on this. There’s not a whole lot of story to it, let’s be honest. It’s about situational you know, world building, running and stopping. You know, you run from something, you stop and have a break, and you run from something else. It’s nothing to the conflict, the story-lining, no one. And, but the it did dig really, really well. And so, therefore, it got the attention of the distributors around the world. So, now with this picture, it made it a lot easier. Because, you know, with those relationships, we got the theatrical release with “Dinosaur Island.” It did far better than what was expected.
So, to me, they were on board for whatever I was going to throw-up in that same vein, you know, in a similar genre. And the distributor, Pinnacle, who did our entertainment. They, similarly did very, very well. It did far better than what they expected also. And so, it was a win-win for everybody. So, you know, you develop those relationships. And they like what we do. Because we, it’s not just, I’m not just a screenwriter, I’m not just a director. We’ve got a mean studio and a crutch for doing the marketing now. And we understand that half the film making journey is that marketing solution portion of the process. So, it’s really important for us to make sure that those relationships have there and intact from before we go to the marketplace. So, yeah, that was put on me last place to set things up. But it’s this film now that is expanding upon that quite a lot. And behind that model we’ve added people where we felt we needed to add people. We’ve changed and mixed up where we’ve felt you know, the relationships weren’t working right, the last time. And you know, I think with each subsequent film. We hone in on the process really good, the best team that works.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, perfect. So, how can people see “Dinosaur Island” or “My Pet Dinosaur?” Do you know what the release schedule is going to be like?
Matt: We don’t know what the schedule during the season will be at the moment? The film is still in Post-Production. So, we’ve got a lot of people are lined up to get their hands on this thing. The Australian release, they say this year on the 25th of April. And that goes out Australia wide and across New Zealand as well. I imagine as well, you know, depending on what deals are done, it shouldn’t be too long after that, that the film is released. But, once again, it depends on individual territories. So, when they release, according to what their own schedules are?
Ashley: Perfect, perfect. So, what’s the best way for people to keep up with what you’re doing at work, and working on? Anything you’re comfortable sharing: A Twitter handle,
Facebook page, blog/vlog, website. You can just give us that now, and I will round all that up and put it in the show notes. If you just want to mention that? And just click on over.
Matt: Yeah, no problem at all. Look, our primary page is on Facebook, and that is – www.facebook.com/mypetdinosaurmovie. That’s how, that’s how we’re getting it, our social message. Obviously, we do a lot through education broadcast and things like that, back here in Australia. And you know, pretty hard going out through traditional platforms.
Ashley: Perfect, perfect. Well Matt, I really appreciate you coming on the show and talking with me today. Excellent interview, I really appreciate it, and wish you good luck with this film.
Matt: Thank you very much, it’s been a pleasure.
Ashley: I just want to mention two things I am doing at “Selling Your Screenplay” to help screenwriters find producers that 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 database of Industry contacts and asked them if they would like to receive this newsletter of monthly 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 would like to participate in this pitch newsletter and get your script into the hands of lots of producers. Sign-up at – www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com, that’s – www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com.
And secondly I’ve contacted one of the premier paid screenwriting leads sites. So I can syndicate their leads onto SYS Select members. There are lots of great paid leads coming in each week from our partner. Recently I’ve been getting about ten to twelve high quality paid screenwriting 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 for SYS Select you’ll get these leads Emailed to you directly several times per week. These leads run the gambit from 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 aray of different types of projects that these producers are looking for. And these leads are exclusive to our partner and
SYS Select members. To sign-up again, go to – www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com, again that’s – www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com
On the next episode of the Podcast I’m going to be interviewing Tyler Bowman, who wrote and produced a feature film called, “Jake’s Dead.” He’s going to walk us through his entire process. He didn’t have a lot of money and really had to use his creativity to get this film finished. So, it’s a fascinating interview about low-budget film making. 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 Matt. One of the things that really strikes me about Matt’s story is? There’s something called, and I listen to a ot of these entrepreneurial online Podcasts. So the terms they throw around a lot is something called, “Unfair advantage.” And it’s not a derogatory term. It’s something that’s positive that you can use in your favor. And it basically means, what is it about you that makes you unique. That gives you a unique advantage in whatever business you’re trying to do. And in this case, Matt is trying to make a business of film making. And his unfair advantage is? His experience in animation and special effects. And you know, using that talent and experience, and using that is super, super, smart. And it’s something like I just simply can’t compete with him. And most the people listening to the Podcast simply can’t compete with him on that playing field because I don’t have that background in special effects and CGI. So, it’s smart to sit back and think about what do you have in your background that you can use. That other people won’t necessarily be able to, use as well, or use at all. And I would like to think in this particular case. I am an example of this as well. I mean, I have a background in programming in running websites, and website design. And I set-up “Selling Your Screenplay” and that’s sort of a part of that. And that’s sort of a part of now my screenwriting career. I would say, that’s sort of my advantages being somewhat technical and technical background, that you create, “Selling Your Screenplay” website. It’ll allow me to create this Podcast, and that has helped me in many ways in my own screenwriting career. So, you know, think about the things you do in your daily lives, your hobbies, your interests, your profession, and think about that. And how you can potentially position that into your position or career and use that to your advantage. Because those experiences are things that are very specific to you. And getting at those things. And as I said, trying to get them into the situation.
Where you’re doing something, that no body else can do. It just raises you above the rest of the playing field. As opposed to just writing that broad comedy. I mean, there’s a million guys out there just writing that comedy, writing that thriller, or writing that whatever that script is.
You know is there something unique to you that you can give this a twist? And perhaps put yourself in a position where you’re really limiting how many people can compete with you in that arena.
Anyway, that’s the show, thank you for listening.