This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 200: Producer Dana Lustig Talks About Her New Film, Jungle, Starring Daniel Radcliffe.
Ashley: Welcome to episode #200 of the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screen writer and Blogger of www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing producer Dana Lustig. She has been producing for years and just did a movie with Daniel Redcliff called Jungle. We’ll talk about that film as well as how she got her start in the business, and how she currently finds scripts to produce. Stay tuned for that interview.
I have a little something special this week to celebrate the 200th episode and I wanna thank Jordan Imiola and Daniel Beg Fort. They created a top 10 SYS podcast episodes list. If you’re curious what episodes they found most viable check it out. Or if you’re new to the podcast and are wondering what back episodes you should start with first, this is probably a great place to start. You can find the list at the Better Management website. I’ll link to it in the show notes. It’s a kind of a long url, so it’s probably easier if I just put it on the show notes then you can click over to it.
If you remember, Jordan came on the podcast back in episode number #57 to talk about his writing career and recent successes. Check out that episode if you wanna learn a little bit more about him. Since then, Jordan has been very busy. He runs Better Management and through Better Management he has produced the web series Romantically Hopeless and Monster Therapy. I will link to both of those shows in the show notes. They’ve been publishing new episodes of Monster Therapy for the last few weeks.
That’s a great little short web series and I’ve been following Better Management on twitter. That’s actually how I’ve been able to see the Monster Therapy. If you use twitter, maybe check out their twitter account as well and that is, @better_mgmt. So it’s the word better b-e-t-t-e-r_m-g-m-t. Again, I’ll link to it in the show notes, so if it gets confusing no worries. Just find episode number #200 and look for those links.
Anyway, I wanna thank Jordan and Daniel again for creating this list. It’s a great way to celebrate 200 episodes. I was actually excited to see it and see what episodes other people think are helpful. Some of them were surprises and some of them were probably episodes that I thought were great as well. Anyways, if you’re interested in that, I’ll link to it in the show notes.
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 it on Facebook. These social media shares really do help spread word about the podcast, so they’re very much appreciated. Over on iTunes I wanna thank buddiez06 who left me a very nice review. Thank you for that. It is very much appreciated. It sounds like buddiez06 is a new writer and feels like he’s getting some good information from the podcast.
That’s great to hear. It’s nice to know someone is out there listening and learning from this. Recording the podcast is kind of a strange thing, because when I’m here recording I’m just sitting here by myself talking into my microphone, wondering if anybody is ever even gonna listen to this. It certainly doesn’t feel like it when you’re actually doing the recording. Then you see these types of reviews and they’re nice to see and nice to get some feedback that there are actually people out there. So, if you have a minute, please do consider leaving me some ratings and reviews over at iTunes. Once again they really are appreciated. Thanks again to buddiez06 for leaving me a nice comment.
Any websites or links that I mentioned in the podcast can be found on my blog in the show notes. I also publish a transcript with our every episode, incase you’d rather read the show or look at something later on. You can find all the podcasts show notes at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast, and then look for episode number #200. If you want my free guide, How to Sell a Screenplay in Five 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 per week for five weeks along with a bunch of bonus lessons. At least the whole process of How to Sell Your Screenplay in that guide.
I’ll teach you how to write a professional log-on and create a letter and how to find agents, managers and producers who are looking for material. Really it’s everything that you need to know to sell your screenplay. Again to get that free guide, go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide.
A quick few words about what I’m working on. Quick update on The Pinch, the crime action thriller feature film that I’m finishing up. I’m making some good progress as I mentioned last week. I was able to pick up the hard drive from dialogue and hand it off to my final sound mixer, and I actually got a text late last night from my mixer, saying that he was almost done his first part. I’m hoping today he will send that along. And then this week I’ll be able to get a good listen on what he’s done with that.
That’s exciting news. There’s gonna probably be a few more tweaks here and there but we’re definitely moving in the right direction now. I started to wrap up last week my marketing efforts for the film. I’ve now sent out quite a few emails to different distributors and just starting to try and figure out what kind of a reaction that many get from the film. I’ve even had a couple of distributors already show interest in representing the film, so that’s great.
The problem with the low end distributors is that it’s often hard to figure out if they’re trustworthy or not. And when I say low end, I’m not in any way trying to be disparaging to the distributors. The Pinch is a low end movie. It’s a micro-budget film. It doesn’t have any famous cast, so it’s not necessarily disparaging to say, “Well, that’s low end.” It’s really just sort of a fact. The Pinch is really gonna struggle to find a place in the market. There’re distributors that are gonna to be willing to take these on are not the ones that are distributing the higher end films.
That’s fine, but as I said sometimes it’s hard to really get a feel for what these distributors are gonna do and if they’re actually gonna pay you. It’s I’d say wacky waters to navigate, which is sort of the next piece of this for me. In this day and age I feel like self-distribution is also a very real possibility. I have some friends that have doubled in that, so I know a little bit about it. There’re several services that can get you up fairly easily and cheaply in places like iTunes and Amazon. It’s pretty much once you’re on iTunes and Amazon you’re pretty much widely available.
And a bunch of the other paid video on demand services, there’s a number of them out there, but they’re fairly easy to get on and as I said, once you get on those you get pretty much everybody in the world can find your movie. But then it’s just a matter of marketing and getting word out to people that your movie actually exists. Hopefully I can do that a little bit through the podcast. And then I know some other people that run filmmaking making podcasts. Hopefully I can go on their podcasts, talk about how I made the film, and maybe that can promote it.
That’s one angle I’m definitely considering, is the self-distribution. Maybe even finding one of these distributors that will take the cable TV rights or something like that. Things that I know I’m never gonna be able to pursue. That’s a good fit. But if I can keep the Amazon and the iTunes for self-distribution and then give one of these more old school distributors, give them those rights to try and work out some cable TV deals around the world. That’s probably ideal because a lot of these distributors, a lot of the low end distributors, it feels like they’re basically doing what I’m gonna be doing, which is throwing it off on iTunes and Amazon, then they take like 35 percent of the money you make whereas I can do that myself.
Some of the responses I’ve gotten back from these distributors that are showing interest, they feel like almost form letters. It’s not even always clear that they’ve even watched the movie. It feels more like they’re operating from purely a numbers game, which is to say, they get as many movies as they can that they want. They basically will represent virtually anything. Maybe they looked at a few minutes in the film, to make sure they’re technically always gonna meet whatever broadcast standard these different outlets might have. But once they saw that, then it’s just like send out form letters and see which filmmakers decide to sign up with their service, and then as I said, they can throw it up on iTunes and Amazon very easily and then they can make some small percentage of that money. These are all things that I’m working through and trying to figure out. But I’m definitely starting that process and then probably this week or next week I will start to also consider film festivals and start to figure out that whole route as well.
On the writing front last week I finished up the second episode of the kids TV show that I’ve been working on. The producers are trying to get funding in place so that hopefully we can shoot this first six episodes sometimes in the early part of next year. There’s a few things that have to happen for this project to move forward, and we’re waiting for some of those things to happen now. Hopefully they can get those things together. I’m probably going to try and bang out another couple episodes before they’re completely ready to go.
I’ve been enjoying writing them and they haven’t been overly difficult, and the producer is happy to have me at this point to get ahead of the curve a little bit, and get some of these episodes written. That will probably be my writing assignment, but at least for this week and next I might just wait and see how some of these other angles that the producers are working on turn out. Obviously if they don’t turn out well, then they’re not going to need any scripts, much less six of them. That’s where I’m at with my writing.
Now let’s get into the main segment of the podcast. Today I’m interviewing producer Dana Lustig. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Dana to the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Dana: Thank you for having me.
Ashley: To start out, maybe you can give us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up and how did you become interested in the entertainment business?
Dana: I grew up in Israel and I consider myself a story teller. Whatever I do in film, whether it’s writing, directing, acting, producing, it’s about telling stories. I was a story teller since I was I think 10 years old when I had my own little puppets theatre in the neighborhood in Herzliya Pituach, a beautiful little town by the beach. I was inspired, the first movie that inspired me was Hiding in The Mountains. I don’t know if you know the movie?
Dana: I saw the movie actually in Switzerland without translation. I didn’t understand anything, but it’s about a girl that comes to an ocean that lived in the mountains and she comes to the city and meets a very rich girl on a wheel chair. It’s all about their relationship and how at the end of the movie, hiding from the mountains helps this young girl to walk. It’s a story about hope and overcoming physical handicap. That kind of thing led me throughout life and I think Jungle, we’ll get to that later, is also a story about hope.
The first movie that inspired me, I went to the Army in Israel like we all do, and I came to United States to attend the AFI- America Film Institute, and stayed here and started my career here in LA.
Ashley: Okay. Let’s talk briefly about some of those early steps after AFI. What were the first steps to turn this into a professional career? Was it working as a PA, working your way up? Talk about some of those first steps to becoming a producer.
Dana: Okay. I’ll just briefly tell you that it started in the army, where I was an actress in the army theatre. I also studied in the army how to use video cameras and editing and all that stuff. When I came out of the army I already had all of that going. After AFI, I started working for YES as a PA grip, electorate editor, production manager, production assistant, anything that had to do with movie making, I was in. No ego. I worked on a lot of Roger Corman if you know who Roger Corman…
Dana: A lot of his movies, I gripped and I was electric for a lot of the today the top DPs, the Janusz Kaminski, Wally Pfister, Phedon Papamichael [Inaudible 00:12:37], all Oscar winning top DPs today. We all started together and we all worked together again, long hours for $50 a day, and just wanted to be in and learn from every aspect of movie making and it I think it helps a lot.
Ashley: What was your first step to becoming a producer, moving from the grip, the electrician, actually going and saying, “I’ll be a producer?” What were those steps and what exactly did you do?
Dana: Another AFI graduate [Inaudible 00:13:14] hired me as an actual production manager. That was the first real responsibility. I did that and while doing that I had an amazing PA. A PA that worked with me and was the first one on set and last one to leave and we started dreaming together about making movies, and we decided after that experience that next we’re going to do our own movies. It was a simple decision that we were going to move from being PAs and working for other people, to doing our own. That connects specifically to your program.
We started looking for scripts. That’s exactly what we did. We were like, okay, so we need…If you wanna make a movie in Hollywood, whether as a director or as a producer, whatever you wanna do, you need content. It’s number one. Without content you’re nobody. We started reading tones of scripts, coming up with ideas for movies, for stories, reading books, intellectual property. That’s the key. We started developing some projects and we did our first movie, I think it was $100,000.
We raised it from…we did it with an equity waiver theatre director. We sent letters to all of his subscribers, and each one of the subscribers gave $5000, $10,000. One woman gave us $50,000, and we went out there and shot the movie. From that it grew. But it’s all about script.
Ashley: Yea, maybe you can tell us, and I know things have changed since then over the last few years, but where did you actually start to look for scripts? This is one of the big thing I tell writers is that, especially new writers. They want to…everybody wants to hook up with Spielberg and Martin Scorsese, but it’s like if you’re a new writer, look for those producers that are coming up through the ranks, exactly what you’re describing. The PA who now wants to be the producer.
Give us some sort of idea, where were you finding these scripts and where were you looking and how can writers get themselves in front of those up and coming producers?
Dana: What you said is so precise and it’s from the other way around the same. As a beginner producer or director, I didn’t have the financing to go out there and option the next big best seller, a Steven King or anything like that of course. I had to find scripts; either write them myself, which I did, or find people that will collaborate with me. They had to be at a lower level in terms of where they are in their career. Not in terms of the level of their writing.
AFI is a great…The first place I went was AFI students. Writing students. While I was at AFI, I was in the producing program but throughout the time I sat in all the screen writing classes to see who are the top screen writers in my class. Those are the people that I worked with for the first three movies that I did. I had AFI graduates working with me. That’s where I found the scripts and the ideas. The first two movies, I came up with the idea and collaborated with an AFI student and we wrote the story and outline together and she wrote the script of all the movies that I produced and directed. Which she’s proud of until today.
Ashley: Let’s dig into your most recent film Jungle, starring Daniel Redcliff. To start out you can give us a quick overview of the film [Inaudible 00:17:03]. Tell us a little bit about that story.
Dana: Jungle is based on an incredible true story of survival, and it’s based on a bestselling book from Israel. It was originally written in Hebrew, about a backpacker– that’s what we all do after the army. We all take our back packs [Inaudible 00:17:25] that a lot of people do, and go to South America, go to Thailand, go to the Far East and just go into nature. He goes with two friends and a guide. They go into the jungle and almost into the heart of darkness. Everything falls apart when they’re in the jungle and they split into two in two groups.
Two of them supposedly get out of the jungle in the middle of the story and they’re never found. The two others, they get on the river, they go on the raft and they have a horrible horrendous rafting accident, and they split. Yossi, our hero is left alone to survive for 21 days in the jungle in the rainy season. Let me tell you, I would have been extinct half an hour into that adventure. But he survived 21 days and we’re getting to that survival method. He was finally saved by his friend Kevin who was found a few days later and came back on a very heroic expedition to find his friend. They miraculously found him and he was saved.
The story is a story of…it’s an action adventure movie and it’s a survival movie, but it’s also a very spiritual journey. It talks about faith, hope friendship, surrendering to the elements and becoming one with nature. That’s the magic of it.
Ashley: Maybe you can back us up a little bit and tell us, how you become involved with this story.
Dana: I read the book many years ago when it first came out. The book stayed with me and really gave me hope personally in my moments of struggle or facing any kind of adversity. I directed a movie with Jennifer Love Hewitt, like a fun, romantic comedy and I came home, and I was like okay, the next movie I wanna do something with real meaning. I stood in front of my library at home and I was like…the book just jumped into my hand. I was looking through my books that I love and the book literally jumped into my hand.
I was like, I wonder what happened to Yossi’s story. Because I knew it was optioned a few times and it was about to be shot. I found Yossi and I called him and I found out the book is free and available. I met with Yossi and I tried to convince him to give me the rights and he didn’t at first. He was like, “No, I’m looking for something bigger.” I don’t know what he had in mind. I was like, I’m not gonna give up on that, and I just kept pursuing him and pursuing him and finally he agreed.
Part of what convinced him were A, my determination. I said, “Yossi, I’m gonna make this movie happen. I promise you. More than I promise you.” The other thing that really affected his decision, was that I promised to be true to the characters, to who they are and not try to change the story and over dramatize it and make it Rambo in the jungle and suddenly come up with all kind of stuff, but really stay true to what the movie is about. The last thing that convinced him was that we became partners, instead of me just optioning.
It’s good to know for writers, especially in the beginning stage. Instead of optioning your script for a little bit of money for I donno how long, he became my partner. Whatever I was gonna make, he was gonna make. Whatever success, he would share exactly the success with me. It was a very fair deal. He was very involved, the script and with how he’s gonna be portrayed and how the book is gonna be translated into a movie. That helped him make the decision.
Ashley: Did you have a relationship with the author before this point? Because the way you made it sound like you just called him up. I’m sure if you didn’t know him beforehand, getting his number was probably the first step.
Dana: Yea, I met him through friends and through his previous producer years before, but he was an acquaintance, not a close friend. I looked for his number and through friends got to him. I believe its six degrees in separation, you can get to anybody if you really want to today.
Ashley: Yea, sure. In the next phase of this, then you have Yossi signed on, you guys are partners. Then how did you go about finding a screen writer to adapt that book into a screen play?
Dana: Well, the first thing I had to raise enough money to hire a proper screen writer because I wanted to really go with somebody great. I had an investor that I found that was very committed. His name is Jay Rappaport. He was a big supporter, a big admirer of the book. Like I said, the book had a large following. Then I flew to Australia because I knew that Australia gives a lot of money and a lot of incentives to movies with great fans and there’s jungles in Australia and I thought they have great film infrastructure, they have great filmmakers there.
I flew to Sydney and met with the top writers in Australia and met Justin Monjo, who is a great writer and we clicked. He liked it, he loved my pitch, he read the book, we talked about it and then I hired him to write the script. We worked together, Skype every night for a long time, coming up with the outline. It’s not easy to take a true story and find what to tell and more important, it’s what not to tell, and how to make it a coherent story.
Ashley: How did Justin and all these other screamers, how did they get that meeting with you? Did you go to agents in Australia and say, “What writers do you have, let’s see some submissions.” Talk about that process for writers trying to get a job. How do they even get that first meeting?
Dana: I met with a lawyer, Eric Feig, who happened to know the Australian industry very well. He introduced me to two or three local producers in Sydney. I flew in and I called all those producers and had meetings with them. Each one of them gave me one or two names of writers and I called them. In Australia it’s pretty simple. You just pick up the phone and call. It’s like in Israel. It’s not that [Inaudible 00:25:09] agent like and all that. The other thing that I did, is I watched a lot of the Australian movies and decided what movies I liked and approached the writers through that.
It was sort of luck. I was sitting at lunch with one of the producers, he recommended Justin. I called Justin, he happened to be available. That afternoon we met, we clicked and [Inaudible 00:25:33]. But I also looked for writer here first in LA and I did it through agents.
Ashley: Okay, let’s turn to the business side of a story like this. I watched the movie and I really enjoyed it. It’s well made, it’s an excellent film. But I wonder, what is the marketing angle? And I ask this…I have a lot of people that come on my podcast that are doing the genre movies, the low budget action, the horror. The audience is a little more clear in those cases. I’m curious if you can speak to what is your angle to market this, and ultimately how are you gonna find the audience once you decide who the audience is?
Dana: Sure. Well, there’s two stages for that. The stage of the writing of the script and developing and now obviously marketing it. The experts in marketing our E1 are distributors and they’re really handling…just like I got this interview, right? They know who to talk to and what’s the right publications and who will be interested in this and who will not. It’s not as much my thing. I really think that it’s a universal story that can really talk to both older people get…I just came back from Israel and it was playing in the Haifa film festival.
Festivals are always great platform to start a buzz about a movie. But in Haifa we had two screenings, a thousand people in each screening. You could see the power of the movie. You could see how it works on teenagers, older people, young people that are just about to go to the jungles. You can see how it really worked all over the ages of people and different audience. It’s incredible and I think it’s because of one thing- survival.
Survival talks to all of us, whether we survive God forbid, a disease, or we survive a heartbreak or a separation from a loved one or anything that happens to us. We all have a broken heart and we all have adversities in our lives, and we all have these moments of struggle. Whether you’re an older person or you’re a teenager, that’s what we all go through all the time. A survival story talks to all of us, especially if it has a happy ending.
Ashley: What’s funny is, and I’ve had this conversation with other non-Americans. In the American [Inaudible 00:28:36], Jack Kerouac is a big force and I donno how but that’s what struck me about the movie. The wanderlust and the adventure trail and getting out there. It was all those things. Going back to one thing you said about you E1 is handling the marketing distribution. Was there some conversation with E1 early in the process, where you brought them the script and said, “This is what we have, do you think this would be a viable potential movie that you guys could distribute?”
Dana: Yes, they bought the movie at what we call a pre-sale. They brought the movie before it was made. They brought it based on the script and based on Daniel Redcliff’s attachment. They saw the potential all along and that’s why they joined. Once the movie was completed, they were really believing for helping putting it out, deciding how and where and stuff.
Ashley: Certainly Daniel Redcliff is an international star so I can see definitely how that would help. It’s certainly obvious that you have to have a good script. But I’m curious, how much did the success of the original book and knowing that there’s a fan base for the original book, how much did that play into E1s interest in the project?
Dana: It did somewhat, but really at that point the project had its own life. It was about the script, it was about the director, it was about the locations that we were gonna shoot in, the fact today you see marvel movies and you know that three quarters of what you see is not real. This is real. We were really in the jungles. We were really on the rivers. We were really in almost dire situations where we almost lost two stunt men. There is something to say about that.
Daniel Redcliff really did go on a diet. It’s not just a CGI movie. Of course you use a little bit of your facts for different things but the raw element of it and the realism of it was very attractive for E1 and it shows on the screen.
Ashley: It definitely does, there was no question there. There was a greedy realness to the film. Do you know what the release schedule is going to be like? When is Jungle coming out and how can people potentially see it?
Dana: It’s coming out this Friday, and it’s coming out in a limited release but it’s what we call Day-and Date. It’s coming out in some theaters but on the same day it’s coming out on VRD. It will be available on VRD as of this Friday. Click, watch it, go to the theatre. I highly recommend first going to the theatre and then doing a home party and watch it with your friends. I really think it warrants watching it more than once and it really warrant watching it in the theatre.
Watching it with thousand people in the theatre in Israel and hearing people going, “Uuh, wow.” You know, getting scared, laughing when you’re supposed to laugh, crying out loud, that’s why cinema still lives. Because there’s something different about the communal experience of watching a movie together rather than just watching it alone at home.
Ashley: Yea, for sure. What is the best way for people to keep up with what you’re doing? Anything you’re comfortable sharing, a Facebook page, twitter handle, Instagram?
Dana. Sure, my Facebook of course, under my name Dana Lustig. D-A-N-A L-U-S-T-I-G. I should upgrade my game on twitter. [Chuckles]. I was just so busy doing stuff. But Facebook is a great start, and I promise to upgrade the rest of the stuff and to keep the feed going. I just did another movie, so when that comes out we’d love to keep in touch with your audience and with you and let you know how things are going. If anybody has a question or a specific thing, post it, ask it, I’ll reply.
Ashley: Perfect. I really appreciate. As I said, I really enjoyed the film. I wish you the luck with it. You’re always welcome to come back. On your next film I’ll be happy to have you on and we can talk about that one.
Dana: Okay, thank you very much.
Ashley: Thank you, will talk to you later.
Dana: Sure, bye.
Ashley: Just to mention two things I’m doing at Selling Your Screenplay to help screen writers find producers who are looking for material. First, I’ve created a monthly newsletter that will be sent directly to producers. Every member of SYS Select can submit one log-on per newsletter. I went and I emailed my large database of producers and asked them if they would like to receive these monthly newsletter of pitches. So far I have around 400 producers who have signed up to receive it. These producers are hungry for material and happy to read scripts from new writers.
If you wanna participate in this pitch newsletter and get your script into the hands of lots of producers, sign up at www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com. Secondly, I partner with one of the premier pay screen writing leads sites, so I can syndicate their leads to SYS Select members. There’re lots of great paid leads coming in each week from our partner. Recently I’ve been getting five to 10 high quality paid leads per week. These are producers and production companies who are actively looking to buy material or who are looking to hire a screen writer for a specific project.
If you sign up for SYS Select you’ll get these leads emailed directly to you several times per week. These leads run the game from production companies looking for specific type of specs script, to producers looking to hire a screen writer to write up one of their ideas or properties. Producers are looking for shots, features, TV and web series pilots. It’s a huge array 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, just go to www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com. On the next episode of the podcast, I’m gonna be interviewing a writer, director, producer [Inaudible 00:35:03]. He’s done a number of independent features and shots and he comes on to talk about the process of writing, directing and producing all of these films. Keep an eye out for that episode next week.
To wrap things up I wanna touch on a few things from today’s interview with Dana. First I wanna really make sure everyone paid attention to what she said about how she found scripts when she was starting out. She looked for people from the film school and in her case AFI, that she went to. That makes perfect sense right? That’s like the obvious place for a producer if they went to film school the obvious place they have connections there, it’s easy to go and to approach those professors and say, “Who are your top screen writing students, do they have some scripts?”
That’s kind of an obvious thing and if you’ve been to a film school, that’s something to maybe pursue as well as try and find some other people that were in the producing program at the film school you were at, and then work with those people, meet those people and collaborate with them. But a lot of these types of up and coming writers and directors are placing ads right now on services like Craigslist and in publications like the leads that I just talked about for SYS Select. These are the sort of producers and directors you really should be getting to know.
Somewhat ironically, I just read about Spielberg’s new film and it was from a brand new screen writer. It is Hollywood and anything can happen, but in general, these very experienced directors and producers have a ton of contacts in the industry and they have access to all the hottest properties. Well, maybe it’s not impossible. It’s very unlikely that a guy like Spielberg or James Cameron or Martin Scorsese is going to wanna shoot your most recent spec script. This may sound comical to some people, but I get a lot of emails from people saying stuff like, “Hey, do you know Martin Scorsese? Hey, can you get me in touch with Martin Scorsese? I have the perfect script for him to direct, he’s going to love it.”
It’s always like, wow, wait a minute, there’s a million other directors in Hollywood that are far from the top of the pyramid, and those are the people that you should be trying to get in touch with and those are the directors and those are the producers. It’s unlikely again, and it’s not impossible but it’s unlikely that Martin Scorsese is going to read your script and then go and make it. But keep this in mind about these other services. Craigslist is obviously free, so there’s really no excuse to not use that one. Obviously SYS Select there is a monthly fee to it and so maybe it’s not a good fit for everyone, but I would really encourage you to find these types of leads.
There’s another one I’ve looked at somewhere www.mandy.com. They post leads for writers as well. I’ve seen over the years some leads there. There are services out there where there’ll be pay services like SYS Select or even free services out there that kids fresh out of film school, they get out and they wanna produce something and they go to these types of services, they post an ad. That’s really your best bet. It’s a great way to get in front of the people for who are gonna be the Spielbergs of tomorrow. They are gonna be the James Cameron’s of the next 15, 20 years. Meeting those people early in their careers is the smartest thing you can do.
Those people are hungry for refined scripts and they’re hungry to find good writers that can consistently write projects that they wanna direct and that they wanna produce. It’s very much a win-win. It’s not just this Martin Scorsese plucking you from obscurity and doing you a huge favor. When you’re working at this level, when you’re working with people at your own level, there’s synergy there. You’re helping them and they’re helping you. That’s a much better position, much more realistic position to get yourself into.
The second thing I wanna talk about is how she was able to secure the rights to the book Jungle. It was her persistence and passion for the project. Persistence and passion are really two keys to success in this industry. That’s no matter what side of the equation you’re on, whether you’re on the producing side or the writing side. But the main take away for me was when she told us what she said to the author of this book. It was something like, “I’m gonna make this movie.” She assured him that she was gonna make this movie and she was gonna be true to the story and characters, see his artistic vision onto the screen.
That’s a very powerful thing. Number one, having a producer with a track record like Dana has, that’s very attractive from a writer’s perspective, and B, having a producer tell you that she or it could be a he, is gonna preserve the artistic integrity of your project. That’s a very rare thing. I can tell you as a screen writer who’s optioned numerous scripts, sold a few scripts. That’s really something you wanna think about when you’re talking to the producer. Those are the sorts of things you wanna listen to, because those are really where your project is gonna live and die.
Notice, Dana didn’t go to him and say, “I’m gonna make you rich, I’m gonna give you a bow out of money.” That was not part of her pitch. The pitch was much more about the artistic integrity of this project and seeing this thing through so that they could be proud of it and so that his vision was realized. Again, as a screen writer who has gone through this process many many times, I can tell you that it’s very rare that you find a producer like Dana, but even more importantly when you do, you’ve got to listen to those things and you’ve got to navigate the waters of these producers telling you things.
Really be conscious of what the producer is telling you. What they’re putting the emphasis on. I have found earlier on in the process, producers are usually pretty open and you can ask them questions like, “Well, what changes do you think need to be made to this script?” Those sorts of open ended questions can give you a lot of information about whether you think this producer is a good fit for your project. It’s not always easy to figure out, but it is a big part of the process. So I think again, this is great having someone like Dana to come on here and listen to her talk and how she approached projects and stuff [Inaudible 00:40:57].
Look at her going [Inaudible 00:40:59] and look at her track record of projects. Are these the sorts of projects that you’re hoping your scripts turn into? Then maybe there’re some clues, some things that she said, you’ll hear from another producer and you’ll say, “Yeah, this is the direction I wanna go.” Because what tends to happen with screen writers when you do find the producers and you start to option stuff, producers have different sensibilities and sometimes they come at your script from a completely different angle, and they don’t necessarily see in it what you see in it. That can lead to disappointment, it can lead to a lot of changes to the script.
Getting upfront of these things and having these conversations with these producers and again, listening to what they’re saying and reading between the lines. It’s not gonna be about how much money you’re gonna make, especially earlier in your career. It’s gonna be more about the quality of the film. If it’s a good film maybe that can keep your career going, get your career going. But if it’s not a quality film or the producer is not interested in making a quality film, that’s gonna be very difficult.
Anyway, that’s the show. Thank you for listening.