This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 203: Writer/Director Jake Goldberger Talks About His New Coming Of Age Film, Almost Friends.
Welcome to Episode #203 of the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger of www.sellingyourscreenplay.com . Today am interviewing writer, director, Jake Goldberger. He’s written and directed a new film called Almost Friends, starring Freddie Highmore and Odeya Rush and Haley Joel Osment. It’s a great Coming of Age story and we talked through his career and how he got this film produced. So stay tuned for that interview.
If you find this episode valuable, please help me out by giving me a review on iTunes or leave me 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. 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 every episode incase you’d rather read the show or look u at something later on.
You can find all the podcast notes at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast, and then just look for Episode Number #203. 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. I teach the whole process of how to sell your screen play in that guide. I’ll teach you how to write a professional log-on and creative letter and how to find agents, managers and producers who are looking for a material. Really it’s everything you need to know to sell your screenplay. Just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide.
Just wanna quickly mention the writers group that I’m in, we are always looking to add good writers to the rotation. We meet every Tuesday at 7:15 until about 10:00pm in Sherman Oaks, California right around where the 405 and the 101 intersect. Here’s how it works- each week three member writers put up around 25 pages of screenplay that they’re currently working on. The pages are read on stage by professional actors in front of the other writers in the group, and then the listening writers give notes to the presenting writers. As a member writer you’ll be putting up pages about every five weeks. It’s a great way to workshop your material, network with other talented actors and writers and hone your critical thinking skills by giving notes to the other writers.
This is a live in person advance so you need to live in somewhere near Sherman Oaks, California to be able to attend weekly. If you are not in the Los Angeles area perhaps consider starting a writers group of your own. Nearly every city in the world has a community of filmmakers and writers and in most cases they are just looking for someone to step up and be a leader and get things organized. The one big stumbling block for people in this group that I’m a part of is that you have to be committed to showing up nearly every Tuesday even when you’re not up so that you can give notes to the other writers who are. If you’d like to learn more about the group, go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/writersgroup, and writer’s group is all lower case and all one word. I will of course also link to it in the show notes.
So now 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 got with my editor last week and put the final film together with credits and mixed sound. Basically there’s some opening credit stuff, there’s some corporate logos he put at the front. We went through the…there was a few little tweaks we needed to make. We made sure the ending credits were all set up and the basically we laid in the mixed sound into the time line. There’s still a few minor technical issues, I’m not gonna bore you with those right now but, there’s still definitely some minor technical issues that need to be worked through. So I’m gonna watch the cut of the movie a couple of times this week and hopefully make a final list of all of these technical issues that need to be corrected, and then I’ll hopefully be able to work through those items pretty quickly.
I’m not anticipating it’s gonna take more than a couple of weeks to work through these technical issues. I’ve just got to talk to some of the distributors, start to really get a list of what deliverables these distributors want and then obviously figure out how to get those deliverables from what I have. That’s exciting, it’s definitely getting close to completion. I know as someone who listens to this podcast, you got to be sick of hearing me talk about it, but it definitely is moving forward, and as I said we’re definitely on the homestretch now. And then as mentioned last week, I am talking with a few distributors trying to figure out that whole landscape. I had some good phone calls last week with a couple of distributors and one producers’ rep.
A producer’s rep is someone who typically you pay an upfront fee to, but then they will use their connections to help you get the best distribution deal possible. Most of these producers’ reps, they’ve been doing it for many many years, they’ve worked in distribution or they’ve worked as a producers’ rep before. They sometimes have contacts at film festivals, they know a lot of the distributors, they know which distributors are bad. So I can definitely see how it could be beneficial, but it just feels a little strange to me. There are certainly people out there who have a lot of experience with distribution. So again I can see how they might be able to justify their course. I mean, especially…they’re not charging that much. The fee is like $3,500, $5,000 and I think I heard one producers’ rep say they wanted $10,000.
Obviously I don’t have $10,000 when the whole budget of this film is only about $30,000. But $3,500 seems reasonable for as film like this. They also do take some percentage once you actually get the distribution deal. But none of these producers’ reps will do it without that upfront payment. And that always seems a little odd to me. Perhaps my movie is just not something that ultimately they think they can sell. It just seems like if they really thought they could sell the film, like they’re really confident that they could sell the film or they really like the film or really believe in the film, they would say, okay, no upfront fee, we’ll just take our percentage on the back end. But I’ve never talked to a producers’ rep who would do that. Again, maybe I just haven’t had the right movie, but it just doesn’t seem like quite the right fit for this particular film.
And then even, I’d be curious to hear from anyone who has used a producers’ rep and how that experience went. So if you have used a producers’ rep, please do email me because I’d be real curious to hear how that went and how you decided to go with them. That’s the biggest thing. There’re so many shady people in film distribution. When you haven’t worked with someone before it’s hard to just start shelling out money for something like this. If I knew some of these people personally or I knew sort of…I don’t know, I guess if I just worked with them before or if I knew them personally it would be a much easier decision but when you don’t know them it could just be money that you’re just basically flushing down the toilet. I don’t know. So anyway, again I’d be curious to hear if you’ve had any experience with a producers’ rep. In terms of distribution, I have at least one offer that I like, several offers that I’m not too crazy about, but I still have a good number of companies who I’m waiting to hear back from.
A company emailed me this morning saying, “Hey, we’re just really bugged up, we are gonna try and get your film.” We’ve got the holidays, the Thanksgiving holiday obviously pushes things back a little bit. So I’ll probably wait a week or two before making a final decision on that. Also as mentioned last week, I did enter a bunch of film festivals. Part of me thinks that maybe I should have done the festival run and then tried to find a distributor. Just on the of chance that I had a good festival run maybe I could get some good reviews, win some awards maybe meet a distributor at a festival and that’s advantageous in some ways because a lot of times when you go to festivals you know the people are…it’s a great audience. When you go to small screenings and the people in the audience you know a lot of them, even the ones you don’t know, they know that the filmmakers are there. So it’s usually a great atmosphere. They laugh at the appropriate moments, they cringe at the appropriate moments.
Those screenings usually go well. For distributors sitting in there, part of that enthusiasm can kind of rub off on them. If you can get the distributors into a screening room you might be able to get them more excited about the film. Now it’s like they’re just watching it. I’m sending them links to the film and they’re just watching it on their own, and they’re probably watching it and 20 other films that day. So it just gets difficult to get people super excited about it. So that’s part of me but I think at this point I’m just getting a little bit impatient, which is probably not a great thing to be doing at this stage. But I’m getting a little bit impatient, kind of wanna move on to my next project. So I’m thinking I will probably wrap this up. I don’t ultimately think…I mean, I have enough experience and I’ve talked to enough producers at this point to kind of know where I think films will ultimately land and I don’t think the deals are gonna be that much better after the festival run than they are before.
There’s quite a ramp up time like in talking to some of these distributors. They plan their calendars three, four, five, six months ahead so even if I sign with these distributors tomorrow, the actual release date of the film wouldn’t be till May or June and these festivals that I entered, that’s kind of the end of the festival run, so that actually sounded like good timing to me. We all come together probably in June. It will be like the official release. But again I’m getting ahead of myself because there’s still quite a few things to do. I’ve got to talk to some other distributors and got to get the film done obviously.
So now let’s get into the main segment of the podcast. Today I am interviewing writer, director, Jake Goldberger. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Jake to the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Jake: Hey Ashley, thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.
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?
Jake: I grew up in New York City and I have always always since as far back as I can remember, two or three years old just been movie obsessed always and I never had any other interests in terms of what I wanted to devote my life to career wise. This has really been it for me since I was born pretty much.
Ashley: Okay, and so what were some of your first steps to actually turn this into a career? Where did you go to film school, were you that kid running around with a video camera making little shots as a teenager?
Jake: Yeah, I did. I went to film school at a place called Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, which was very super liberal school. No grades, no tests, you call your professors by their first name bla bla bla. That was a great experience. I remember this was before the digital video revolution, so this was…if you wanted to get your hands on cameras you had to go to college, you had to go to film school. It wasn’t like now where you’re just going with your friends, just grabbing your phone or whatever as some of these younger people are doing. For us, and I’m not even that much older than them, but it’s just generationally for us if you wanted to shoot something…who knew how to get their hands on a 35mm camera, 60 mm camera, Bolex? We really didn’t have video cameras, we had camcorders but I didn’t have one of those growing up. So, yeah, I went to film school.
Ashley: So then, once you had done film school what were your first steps to actually turning this into a professional career?
Jake: After college I moved to Los Angeles and at that point all I had ever wanted to do was direct. My interest wasn’t so much in writing as it was directing and making. So for me I came to realize pretty quickly that the only way I was ever going to be able to direct was to write, because I wasn’t gonna be able to just get my hands on a script and have somebody say, “Hey, just come on and go shoot it.” I joined a writing workshop and I started writing. I wrote one script that was truly terrible and it was 200 pages and I didn’t understand anything about why I sent it to people. And remember this was before people were emailing scripts out. I’d have to send a 200 paged script out and was wondering why nobody ever ever returned my call or ever said anything to me about it. [laughs]
In response to that I really [Inaudible 00:12:11] down and taught myself the rules or what I thought were the rules of writing something that was compact and good and not just completely meandering. So that’s where I started writing and then from that I had written a movie called Don McKay and I got very very fortunate in terms of being able to attach Thomas Haden Church and he believed in me from minute one and it took us a few years after that to get it made but he stuck by me and that gave me a lot of confidence to be able to move forward and get that made. That’s where it all started.
Ashley: How did you get in touch with Thomas Haden Church? Maybe you can just tell us the specifics of how you were able to build that relationship because I get a lot of emails from people saying, “How can I get this actor or that actor attached?” I’d be curious to hear your in the trenches story.
Jake: Sure. I had hired a casting director and at that point pretty inexpensively. I can’t remember exactly what it was, but that’s the one thing I’d suggest…every time anybody asks me I suggest this again and again and again. If you can get your hands on a couple of thousand dollars, hire a casting director. In my experience that is the smartest thing you can do. Once you hire a casting director you at least can get your foot in the door. Because remember, agents and managers and bla bla bla, they’re dealing with a million inquiries a day, most of them not serious, most of them not legitimate, and it’s very hard for them.
Just think if you were one of these people how hard it would be to sift through a bajillion queries and questions and bla bla bla every day. So what a casting director does, if you can get somebody who works with your project and who you feel comfortable with and feels comfortable with you going to vouch for you, that really does help get your foot in the door and gives you a fighting chance. It give you a puncher’s chance because that’s…Going to it alone…you’re one of 50 phone calls that hour. Casting directors agents have different relationships with them and they’re not sure what’s coming down the pipe for them in the future and you know, people owe each other attention in that regard. So that was the most important thing that I did.
And then with Thomas, I tried to get a few other people attached beforehand who were nowhere close to the level of Thomas and they wouldn’t even read it or talk to me. Thomas…he ended up reading it I believe if I remember correctly the weekend that he was nominated for an Oscar for Sideways. He and I got on the phone and had just a great conversation for a couple of hours and we hit it off and I owe everything going forward to him because he believed in me and did not waver no matter what anyone said to him. That was incredible.
Ashley: It sounds like he was willing to stick with it for a few years. I’m sure there were some highs and lows and some maneuvering around. But that always seems to be an issue too. An actor might have some availability, they’re happy to do a movie but then they don’t have availability. Sounds like his commitment was much deeper than just, “Yeah, sure. I’ll do your movie if I’m available.”
Jake: Right it’s a huge thing because with availability and at some point it went from business to personal for him and he and I liked each other and he wanted to help me out on a personal level and I cannot understate the importance of that. Just as humans versus strict business agent just telling me to do this this this. I was a first time director at that point, so it really took a lot of courage for him to just have my back throughout, and he did and I’ll never forget that.
Ashley: Yeah, for sure. Okay, let’s dig into Almost Friends, starring Freddie Highmore and Odeya Rush. Maybe to start out you can just give us a quick pitch or log-on for that film.
Jake: I’ll read you exactly what I’d written about it, which it’s a Coming of Age story and it centers on Charlie who is in his mid-twenties still living at home with his mother and step-father and is dealing with a lack of motivation and he’s given a surprising boost of confidence when he meets Amber, the young woman who works at his local coffee shop. One of the problems is that Amber has a serious boyfriend who also happens to be one of Alabama’s biggest up and coming track stars. As Amber and Charlie become closer the line between friendship and intimacy is blurred and the situation forces both of them to examine where they are in their lives.
Ashley: Perfect. Where did this story come from? Maybe you can kind of tell us, what is the genesis of this story?
Jake: I was sitting in the Coffee Bean up on Hillhurst then for that writing workshop I was telling you about earlier. We had an assignment which is to write the first ten pages of a screenplay. I believe I was supposed to put something up the next night because it was a once a week class and I was completely writer’s blocked and I was sitting in the coffee shop and all of a sudden I have literally no idea what I’m gonna write. My brain is all over the place and this kid comes in and has this very sweet yet awkward conversation with the young woman working at the Coffee Bean behind the counter. I transcribed the conversation and it was both charming and a little bit creepy but she was responding to him to some degree and he was clearly a sweet guy.
It was really an interesting conversation, so I transcribed that and then obviously added, took away, did whatever I had to do and I presented 10 minutes of that conversation the next night. I felt encouraged by the response and then I just used my imagination and started imagining all. I wondered what these people’s lives must be like respectively and I invented a backstory and then I moved forward.
Ashley: Perfect. What is your day…I just would like to talk about your actual process a little bit of writing. What does your day look like when you’re writing? Do you typically work on other projects, you spend two hours writing or do you just go nuts and do like 12 hours days until you get it done?
Jake: I don’t do 12 hour days but when I’m writing and I’m in the zone for me my brain is taken up creatively. It’s pretty much all I can focus on. So even if I’m not working it’s just going over in my head again and again and again. But for me I never ever do 12 hour days. It would be about walking around and really thinking, thinking, thinking and then going and putting a couple of hours down and then spending the rest of the day thinking, thinking, thinking and then doing the same thing. It’s me replaying the movie or inventing the movie in my head and then replaying it a million times until it’s making sense to me and then moving forward from there.
Ashley: Yeah. How much time do you spend in like the preparation stage of outlining and maybe doing character bios or that kind of thing versus actually opening final draft and actually cranking out pages?
Jake: Almost all of it is in my head. I don’t outline on paper. I outline it in my head and once the puzzle pieces are making sense in my head then I can see the movie, if that makes any sense. And as I progress, then I sit down and I start writing. And then obviously from draft to draft, once you have your speed planning then you’re making many changes and trying to accommodate the story that you’ve now put down on paper. But for me personally, I’m the type of person that as I said, one time in the zone I’m just going over it a bajillion times in my head and all the possibilities that are happening, the ones that I feel are working, I’m gonna put down on final draft obviously in the script and then I’ll back track and think like that. But it’s not a lot of writing 50 different possibilities and figuring it out on paper. I’m figuring it out in my head and then moving forward on paper.
Ashley: And something like Almost Friends, how long did it take you to write the script from the time you started to the time you actually have a polished draft? Are we talking a month, are we talking six months, what does the timeline look like?
Jake: We’re probably talking six months or something along those lines. Sometimes I have an idea where I’ll start writing a script and I’ll abandon it because I’ll feel not confident in it and then a couple of years later I’ll come back to it. In this case I would say six months to do the first draft but then as time…because it took us a little while to get it made, as times change, as themes change, as I look at things differently then I’ll redraft. And remember as you know when you’re dealing with different producers, you have producer’s notes, some you agree with and some you don’t. And as you move from producer to producer, if it’s not working out with one person, you kind of have to go back to square one.
I see a lot of people fall into this trap where they’re doing notes for one producer and then they move on with that exact draft to another producer and it goes on and on and on to five different producers and by the time you actually read it, it doesn’t make any same [Inaudible 00:20:54] of sense anymore. It’s just this kind of Frankenstein monster of a lot of different producers who seem to know everything, even though of course they don’t, but there are notes all over it and then it becomes something that isn’t as inventive as if you go right back to the first draft you go, “Okay, now I can see what we were talking about initially and what got people excited in the first place.”
Ashley: Yeah I know, I understand. What does your development process look like? Once you have that first draft that you wanna start showing people, do you have like a trusted producer friend or some other writer friends or something? How does that go? And then let’s talk about some of those notes, how you interpret notes from people.
Jake: With this script I had a…yes, I do have trusted writer friends and I do have trusted producer friends, but at the end of the day if I’m directing this myself and as a movie freak and as somebody who I feel is pretty well versed in all this, if I’m gonna move forward with something I have to be confident in it from my end. So if I disagree with somebody I’m working with and I feel strongly about it, I’m gonna stick with my own game plan and again I’m always open if somebody has better ideas than I do. But if I feel it’s not organic and it’s forced into kind of a genre or something that other people would like, then I don’t wanna devote three years making it, if that makes any sense. So yes I do have trusted writer friends and producer friends. My friend Jim Young, who’s been my producer for these last three movies, he’s somebody I trust impressively as well as a number of other people who I like to brainstorm with.
Ashley: Yeah, so let’s talk about that process of once you start to get to the point where you’re actually approaching maybe the executive producers or a production company that has some financing and getting notes from them. How do you handle with some amount of tact those notes you don’t agree with?
Jake: I’m pretty frank. If it’s something I don’t agree with I will state that I don’t agree with it. Remember when you’re talking to a financer and you’re talking to people, at the end of the day it’s their investment and you have to respect that. You can’t expect somebody to finance something that they don’t like or they don’t agree with or they don’t believe in. You really have to weigh the artistic merit of something versus what makes sense. You can’t ask somebody for money and completely attempt to just walk all over them and not care at all about what they’re saying because they do have a right to say something. It’s their money. If it was your money you would have a right to say something.
So I think I’m pretty frank and honest about it, politely of course. And then you have to weigh it out. If their notes are so painful to you that you can’t wrap your head around them then you’re gonna have to make that decision to move on. However if you feel you can accommodate them and yourself, I would say in this market right now you have to do everything you can, possibly anything to get your moving [Inaudible 00:23:52]. If that means making some compromises…sometimes you have to do that and in the case of [Inaudible 00:24:01] they’re all very smart great people. I have not yet run into a situation where I actually got a movie made where I was dealing with people who I wasn’t on the same page with. I don’t know if I’d be comfortable doing it so but that’s every person has to make their own choice with that.
Ashley: Sure. I’m curious about just moving from genre to genre. This sounds like kind of a Coming to Age story. Don McKay I think is more of a greedy-thriller. Was there any concern on, I think it would be especially the financiers to say. “Well, gee have you worked in the genre, is this genre gonna work?” Do people want you…with Don McKay that’s a greedy-thriller, let’s do another greedy-thriller. Is there any kind of push back from producers, from financiers to keep you pitching hold in a specific genre?
Jake: In my case it’s always been something for me. I always like to do something in a different…if you watch all three of my movies, they’re all completely completely different. I don’t think you’d recognize the same person made all three of them. Don McKay is a straight up very very weird movie. It’s just a strange…it’s a hybrid of…it’s what I wanted to do but I acknowledge that it’s strange. It’s not for everybody. You either get the joke or you don’t. Many people don’t but in this case ironically the people who financed Holding Patterns…well, now it’s called Almost Friends, it was called Holding Patterns that time, they are huge Don McKay fans and I met them through Don McKay. They were people who I’d met on the press circuit much like I’m talking to you, and they had connections to financing and they really responded to that. They trusted me as they should, because I wouldn’t put myself or them in a position, anybody I’m working with where I felt that I was not gonna be able to do a good job and allow them to get repaid on their investment.
The second movie I made which is Life of a King, which is a Chess movie with Cuba Gooding Jr., that itself is a completely other genre. So no three are the same and in this case I don’t know if these are necessarily genres that producers are gonna look at and feel they need to be repeated. It’s not like I’m making 85 minute horror movies at this point which might be more attractive in terms of wanting to repeat that business, but I’d like to keep jumping the leapers in terms of the genres I’m working with.
Ashley: Sure. How can people see Almost Friends? Do you know what the release schedule is gonna be like?
Jake: Yeah, Almost Friends is gonna be on all platforms. It will be in 10 markets theatrically and then on all platforms, iTunes, On Demand and all of that on November 17th and then from there it will move on to the next first window which is either Netflix or Amazon, I’m not sure.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. What’s the best way for people to keep up with what you’re doing? Anything you’re comfortable sharing, a twitter handle, Facebook page, website blog…are you at all online on social media where people can just kind of follow non with your career and your stuff?
Jake: I’m not, but I’d appreciate it if they watched the movies. I’m very proud of all of them.
Ashley: Perfect, sounds good. Jake I really appreciate your coming on and talking with me today. Good luck with this film.
Jake: Thanks a lot Ashley, it was a pleasure.
Ashley: Thank you, will talk to you later.
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We also do proofreading without any analysis. We will also look at a treatment or outline and give you the same analysis on it. So if you’re looking to vet some of your project ideas, this is a great way to do it. We will also write a log-on and synopsis for you. You can add this log-on and synopsis service to an analysis, or you can simply purchase this service as standalone product. As a bonus, if your script gets a recommend from a reader, you get a free email of Facts Plus to my list of industry contacts. This is the exact same blast service I use myself to promote my own scripts, and it’s the same service I sell on the website. It’s a great way to get your script into the hands of producers who are looking for material. So if you want a professional evaluation of your screenplay at a very reasonable price, check out www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/consultants.
On the next episode of the podcast I’m gonna be interviewing writer, director, Martin Gooch. He was one of my first podcast guests almost four years ago on Episode Number #17. I will link to that episode in the show notes for today’s episode. If you have a moment, go back and listen to that episode as that episode really covers the early days of his career. When I interviewed him four years ago he had just completed a couple of films so we talk about those but he was really at a much earlier stage that he is now four years later. So, you want some of that back story, definitely check that out because this new interview, we’re really gonna dig into his latest horror-thriller film- The Gate House, which is an excellent film and he talked all about how he got that together and ultimately raised the money for that film. Keep an eye out for that episode next week.
To wrap things up I just wanna touch on a few things from today’s interview with Jake. I think there was a lot of great information that Jake gave us today, but I wanna touch on the part about hiring a casting director. I wanna really emphasize something. Hiring a casting director like what he’s talking about, I would say that’s a fairly advanced move. I’ll talk about the actual logistics of this which frankly are pretty straight forward and simple. I’ll talk about all the logistics of hiring a casting director in a minute. But you wanna really think this through. This isn’t something you should do–at least I don’t think so, if you don’t understand exactly what you’re getting into. The reason you’re trying to get a name actor test your film obviously is because once you have that name actor it’s easier to raise money with the name talent attached.
Now I say it’s easier, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s still hard to raise money no matter who’s attached to your film and this is the part I don’t think especially newbies fully understand. You’ve got to be prepared for that from the onset. What are you gonna do if you actually get a name actor attached? How are you gonna raise money once you get that letter of intent from the actor? If you can’t answer these questions with some amount confidence, this may not be for you at this time. Again, down the road maybe you’ll gain some experience, maybe you’ll revisit this, but I’ve seen a lot of people over the years where the producers do get name actors attached and they still can’t raise the money. It’s usually isn’t as straight forward as what Jake described. For whatever reason as Jake pointed out he hit it off with Thomas and Thomas championed the project. That’s fantastic and that’s sort of the ideal situation, but the exception, not the rule.
I’ve been in Hollywood for about 20 years and it’s very very unusual to hear that what he describes, like that’s the ideal. You hear people talk about this and it’s great when it happens but I’ve also seen the hundred other times. This is like the one time I’ve seen it happen. I’ve also seen the other 99 times where it doesn’t happen quite like that. Again, this is really the exception, not the rule. Obviously if it happens for you, that’s fantastic and as Jake points out, it can really be a feather in your cap. But what’s more likely to happen is the actor or the actress agent agrees to do your film but they require you to sign a pay or play deal in order for them to sign a letter of intent and that pay or play deal means you have to pay the actor even if you don’t make the films. So then if you can’t raise the money, you’re still on the hook for paying the actor.
So again, make sure you have a plan to get the film all the way through to completion if you do decide to go this route. It’s not gonna be as simple as just paying the $2,000 for the casting director and then oh the actor loves your script and then he’s attached and will sign a letter of intent without the pay or play. Again, it does happen sometimes but that’s very very unusual. That’s not what normally what happens usually. As I said, it’s more of what I just described where, yeah, they’ll do your film. You’ll find someone who’ll do your film, and even that’s not always as straight forward, and even that takes some time and effort even to get someone to agree to this pay or play deal. But once you have that letter of intent and pay or play deal again, you are on the hook for paying that actor whether you raise the money or not.
So, just really think that through and make sure you really understand what you’re getting into before you go down this route. Now, in terms of actually hiring a casting director, it’s pretty straight forward as I said. All you really need to do is make a list of a few films that are similar to yours and then go on to IMDb and drill down and find the name of the casting director for those films. Then what you wanna do is see if that casting director has worked on films as a casting director. A lot of people break into the industry in other areas and they end up being a casting director or something, so you wanna make sure that they’ve worked on other films as a casting director and they have cast some of the specific actors that you think will be right for your project.
This is really important. It’s not just about getting a casting director, it’s getting a good casting director, and not just a god casting director, a casting director that has a relationship with the actors that you wanna go after. If you pick a casting director that has cast the exact actors you wanna go after, then it stands to reason that they have a good chance. Maybe they won’t be able to get those actors attached to your project but they will at least be able to get your project in front of those actors so that those actors can make a decision. That’s the key and that’s what you wanna really really look for. Now, on IMDbPro…I think you might have to get an IMDBPro account. Once you have decided what casting directors might be a good fit you, I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to get their contact information through IMDBPro, and then it’s just as simple as picking up the phone or sending them an email and being professional.
Make sure you use proper capitalization, make sure you spell check, make sure your letter to this casting directors comes across as professional and intelligent and well thought out, because they’re probably getting lots of emails from lots of different people and you just wanna be clear and you wanna be concise and make your presentation as good as possible. As Jake pointed out, an agent pretty much has to respond to reputable casting director because that’s ultimately how that agent is going to get work for their clients. It’s by working with a casting director and an agent has a whole roster of actors, not just the name talent that they’re going after, but they probably have a whole slew of up and coming actors that are not named talent. So they’re often gonna try and get those actors into your project as well and they’re gonna suggest them.
And again this whole thing is sort of a reciprocal relationship. The agents know that these casting directors, their careers are probably moving along and they don’t know, that casting director who’s casting your film today may be casting the next Steven Spielberg movie next year or two years or three years or five years down the road. So there is some real incentive for the agents to be nice and to work with the casting directors. And again they might give a polite ‘No’ and sometimes the agents are still rude even to casting directors. They do have a reputation but a t least your chances go up with the casting director attached and with the casting director making a submission to the agent. Hopefully again, that casting director has a prior relationship with that agent, so that the agent takes that submission much more seriously than as Jake points out the other 50 phone calls and other 50 emails that have come in just that hour.
Now, the $2,000 price that Jake mentioned seems about right to me as well. That would probably be on the low-end. I think you’re not gonna get the casting director that cast the last Steven Spielberg movie for $2,000 obviously, but you will find some that maybe they cast that movie that went to Sundance last year. You will be surprised, you will find casting directors that will work for that $2,000 and you just wanna be clear again, for that amount of money, you’re probably not gonna get the casting director to cast the entire film. It’s probably just like the one or two, maybe three major roles. And the casting director will make a list…obviously you’ll come with your suggestions, the casting director will make a list of who they think might be a good fit for the project and you can look that over and agree or disagree. But you wanna listen to your casting director very very carefully, this is a part of what you’re paying them for. It’s not just their ability to submit the script.
Good casting directors, they know which actors are willing to do low budget films, willing to do this particular genre. Maybe there’s a comedian out there that you haven’t thought of that’s looking to get into drama and your project is a drama. That casting director might have a relationship with that comedian…you will never necessarily think of that comedian, but maybe that comedian wants to cross over and do a dramatic role, they have some star power and they’re willing to work for less [Inaudible 00:37:12]. So again, casting directors are gonna know this type of stuff. They’re gonna know which actors are potentially available, they’re gonna know which actors are open to these things, they’re gonna know which agents might be open to reading your script. That’s again all a part of what you’re paying for.
Now, casting the smaller roles, like if you have a bunch of one liners, just smaller roles, it’s very time consuming and it’s kind of the unglamorous part of casting. For the small fee of $2,000, you’re probably not gonna get any casting director that’s gonna help a lot with that. And that’s fine because frankly you can do that stuff on your own or you can get someone else to help you with. There you don’t need an experienced casting director. You need someone with some experience but you don’t need a casting director that has a lot of big relationships with name talent to cast the smaller roles necessarily. You just need someone who’s smart and kind of knows what they’re doing.
But that’s just simple, casting the smaller roles is just as simple as placing an ad on the break down services which goes out to all the agents and you’ll get a ton of submissions from that for the smaller roles. But those are not gonna be the name talent. Obviously the name talent is what you’re really concerned with at this stage. Anyway again, think it through and really think about if this might be a good fit for you. I’ll be really really curious to hear if anybody has experience with this. Have you gone out, have you hired a casting director, have you tried to get name talent attached to your project? I’d be real curious to hear other people’s stories. So please do email me [email protected] if you have any experience with that. It’s always fascinating to hear what other people have done in terms of getting a talent attached. Anyway, that’s the show, thank you for listening.