This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 215: Reese Eveneshen Talks About His Sci-Fi Feature, Defective.
SYS Podcast Episode #215: Reese Eveneshen
Ashley: Welcome to Episode #215 of the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger of the www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing writer, director Reese Eveneshen who just did a cool low budget sci-fi film called Defective. We talk through that film as well as how he got his start in the business. Stay tuned for that interview. If you find this episode viable, 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 all very much appreciated. 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 every episode incase you’d rather read the show or look at something later on. You can find all the podcast show notes at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast, and then just look for Episode Number #215. 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 screenplay in that guide. I’ll teach you how to write a professional log line and query letter and how to find agents, managers and producers who are looking for material.
Really it’s everything you need to know to sell your screenplay. Just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide. So now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m interviewing writer, director Reese Eveneshen. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Reese to the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Reese: Thank you very much for having me today.
Ashley: 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?
Reese: Yeah, sure. I mean, I grew up in the chilly West area of Canada in Edmonton [inaudible 00:02:01], which I mean, if you’re from there and you have any interest in the film industry as a kid, I thought that’s an impossible dream. There is nothing in [inaudible 00:02:11]. Now it seems to be actually quite a booming industry up here. But at the time there’s nothing…I don’t know. I can’t pin point the specific time that the interest in the film industry happened. I just know that I always loved movies when I was a kid. I was obsessed with movies. I would obsessively and religiously watch behind the scenes of videos that I could get my hand on, completely wear out the VHS tapes on them. I had all my little action figures, I would lock myself in my room and I would sort of perform my own movies in the bedroom with the toys and set a timer on a watch to be about two hours and go, “Oh yeah, I’ve made my own movie.” It has always been there. It’s never gone away.
Ashley: Perfect. I’ve wondered this question about myself and so I’ll ask it of you. Is there a reason why movies were more of an influence that TV? Because I definitely feel like for myself movies for some reason were more of an influence and I watched a lot of TV and I still watch TV. But for some reason there was something about movies that I just loved more. Do you find yourself…was there something that you like more about movies and TV and if so, why did you gravitate towards one?
Reese: You know what, that’s a good question. I’m not sure because I’m the same sort of way, especially now. I love TV and I love movies. TV has gotten way better [inaudible 00:03:29]. Maybe that could have been it. As a kid I just didn’t like it that much. I always kind of [inaudible 00:03:36] but yeah, I can’t…it’s hard to say. I don’t know. There’s just something about the magic of it. I think going to the theater, it had impact on me too when just sitting in an audience as a kid with everybody else. I loved watching people’s reactions to movies. I liked getting at home and making sure that I had friends around or even just family to watch movies with me. So I don’t know, there’s just a power that movies have that you can’t get with TV. Actually now you can. Now. But back then you certainly couldn’t get that sort of drama and feeling.
Ashley: Yeah. So what were your first steps to actually be turning it into a career? You were living in a place where there’s not necessarily a huge movie industry. Did you go to film school? What were those steps to actually saying I’m gonna actually try and make this a career?
Reese: Well, I mean, really long story short, some crazy random things happened and we ended up moving to [inaudible 00:04:32] Ontario, which is sort of like the Hollywood North up here I guess as they call it. And I ended up having some family out here that was working in the industry. So even as a kid, they started bringing me on the film sets because they knew I liked that sort of thing. So 10, 11, 12 I was getting all kinds of exposures to actual movie sets and commercial sets and TV sets and talking with the crew and working with them and they’re just kind of…you know, maybe I was in that sort of young, innocent stage where I wasn’t too much of a bother, so they said, “Okay, you can sit off to the side and you can observe what we’re doing. And naturally from there it just sort of progressed.
In high school I was able to finally get [inaudible 00:05:13] camera and I started making movies with friends. Those stupid, silly movies we made kind of caught the attention of a few people within the Toronto film industry and right out of high school I was able to go work on these sets and work with these people. I didn’t go to school. My school was being in front of these sets and just learning by doing, you know. Then I met other groups of independent filmmakers and sort of started coming up with them and [inaudible 00:05:42]. I can’t pinpoint…you know, everybody talks about, “What’s the moment you broke into your career?” I don’t know. It just feels like a natural progression from high school on you know. And then here we are talking about this.
Ashley: So those first films you were working out…I would imagine you started out as a PA and then solely worked your way up. Maybe talk about that a little bit. How did you get from the bottom of the totem pole to slowly get up a couple of spaces? Were you writing spec scripts in your spare time, were you pitching them, were you just making connections?
Reese: I mean…yeah, I was definitely writing screenplays at a very young age. And while I was on these sets…it’s so funny to think of now because it’s something I don’t think I would…I feel like I had more balls back then than I do now, that I would go [inaudible 00:06:28] “Hey, you wanna read my screenplay?” [laughs] Like who would do that? Just out of the blue and…to their credit, a couple then would go, “Yeah sure. Okay I’ll read it.” And they would give me some very polite notes. But yeah, more so at high school…you know, I was writing screenplays like you said, and I was doing a PA work and at a certain point [inaudible 00:06:50] Somebody in the crew asked me, “What do you really wanna do?” I said, “I wanna be a writer and director.” And he said, “Well, you’re not gonna make it happen here. Being a PA is not enough.
At this time I’d been stuck in that position. I’m not saying it’s impossible to grow from that, but that when I branched off from that and I really started pursuing like getting the funding on my own and sort of getting [inaudible 00:07:17] on my own. And then I sold a couple of screenplays along the way. Only one of them which ended up getting the set.
Ashley: Okay, so let’s talk about this just for a quick second. How did you sell some of those screenplays? Were those just connections you had? Did you at some point get an agent? Did he help facilitate the sales?
Reese: No. I’ve never actually had an agent and I certainly didn’t dare. It was just strictly through connections with people I knew [inaudible 00:07:47] made to a less than stellar video game adaption that I’m not gonna talk about [laughs]. But they had asked me to come on and do a treatment for that [inaudible 00:08:01] that sort of thing. This is sort of like a horror movie kind of thing. So it started with that. That didn’t end up going anywhere past the first draft. But after that experience that same producing, directing team came back to me and said, “Listen, we have a few bucks. We really wanna do this sort of action, comedy bounty hunter sort of movie. Here’s a two-page treatment. Do you wanna run with it and do your own thing?” That’s really how I got that job. It was just from the connection.
Now, ultimately and I’m sure this is a story for a lot of writers, the same sort of thing where they bought the script off of me, and then the movie they made wasn’t that script and somebody was brought in to rewrite it and add [inaudible 00:08:40]. All good learning experience.
Ashley: Yeah, for sure. So let’s dig in to Defective. Maybe to start out you can tell us kind of just what the movie is all about, you know, pitch, log line, just maybe sum it up for us.
Reese: Sure. It takes place sometime in the near future. This deadly corporation called the ACA, the state enforcement agency has legalized the first official police state in North America. Within the state they have this service- urban pacification unions called the Preservers of Peace which patrol and guard the streets and [inaudible 00:09:16] warnings and strikes. Now, on the surface everything seems to be working because it is getting crime under control but as there always is, behind in the scenes there is the nefarious actions that are happening. People are actually getting executed for even the smallest of crimes. You are labelled, Defective if you will.
One of these people, he’s the main character and his name is Rhett Murphy, he’s kind of a broken, lost guy and he ends up getting labelled Defective and in the midst of this he runs into his estranged sister who he hasn’t seen in years and next thing he knows they’re both on the run and he has to protect her and protect himself as they go on the run from this police state.
Ashley: And so where did this idea come from? What was the genesis of it?
Reese: Well, funny enough it really came out of desperation because at the time…I think this is around 2013. For a few years prior to that we had been trying to get another project off the ground. There was a completed screenplay, we were shopping it around and it just…we kept getting interest in it but it wasn’t enough. Nobody really wanted to grab on to it and run with it. It was sort of…”Well, if you find the money we’ll be interested,” or “Well, we like it but we really wanna change this and we wanna change that.” It was getting to a point they wanted to change so much of it that it didn’t even bear any resemblance to what it originally was, which made it ultimately less interesting.
I was sort of getting fed up and I said, “I have to make something. Like we got to get something off the ground even if we have to do it ourselves.” So I started writing the script and I got to probably about 15 pages into it and I wasn’t quite feeling it. It had the same title Defective but it was a completely different plot. Then I decided sort of as a writing exercise…sometimes I like to do a [inaudible 00:11:00] scene if I’m getting stuck and just try something really weird and different just to kind of get out of it. And that really weird and different twist I took was that I added one of these soldiers, these preservers of peace into the scene. I really liked where it went so I scraped the previous 15 pages and I just started [inaudible 00:11:17] and I ultimately wrote what became the first draft of Defective.
Ashley: Okay, and as I was watching this film, one of the things that occurs to me is all the special effects. I’m curious, do you have some background in special effects that you knew you could do this on the budget you had? Maybe just let’s talk about that a little bit.
Reese: Sure. I mean, I have a base level knowledge of special effects. It’s again like I said through being given work in those documentaries and kind of working with like-minded people. I had a rough idea of how to pull everything off but admittedly there is a ton of stuff in that but I had no idea. I just knew that if I would surround myself with the right people we could definitely find a way to do it. Because you got to understand were going into this…I mean, this is a very low budget movie but I knew that if we could pull it off it would be really neat and I wanted that challenge because I was growing bored and not doing anything. So I sort of took that base level knowledge of special effects and applied it to the movie and some of the people I brought on kind of helped and shaped that. That’s how that came about.
Ashley: I wonder if there’s some lessons learned from this in terms of just the special effects. Are there some things that you can do fairly cheaply which give you a real sort of big bang for your buck? And then the flip side of that question is are there some things that are really hard to do special effects wise that don’t really add a ton of value to the project?
Reese: Okay, well I always think that if you can as a filmmaker you should definitely try and be as much practical as possible because there’s that tangible element that you can’t get through visual effects. So in that sense, I mean, everything relatively was pretty easy to put together. The toughest thing were those suits in the movie. But if you think of the mechanics of that, it’s just form and plastic. The top parts are designing it and then finding somebody to build that. But once we got past that obstacle, putting them on isn’t a big deal at all. It’s keeping then maintained during the shoot is the biggest thing, because they were constantly falling apart. I mean, they’re plastic.
On the first day thing were ripping…I mean, it was [inaudible 00:13:41] glue and tape 24/7. I think the most difficult thing that we tried to do [inaudible 00:13:48] the drama in the film, the flying drone. Because we had originally built a full size practical version that we could puppeteer from above off of cranes. And we were really trying to do it holding camera but it got to a certain point that it’s just too clunky, it’s too much, it was taking too much time up on the day, which on a smaller budget production can really eat into your schedule. So yeah, that was probably the hardest part. But there’s nothing in there that I look back on ad go, “Oh my God, why did we try and do that.”
Ashley: Perfect. Let’s talk about your writing process a little bit. And we can be specific to Defective or even just in general on other scripts. But in writing this script, how much time did you spend preparing it? And it even sounds like you started off on another project. But how much time do you spend outlining verses how much time do you spend actually in final draft writing?
Reese: Well, the outlining really depends on the project. I mean, I don’t always outline. I usually tend to do what I really like to do as my first draft, I call my vomit draft, which is the all or nothing draft where I just throw everything in. Because what will happen is that every time I sit down to try and write an outline I just get too excited about scenes that I wanna go write. So I’ll start writing the screenplay. Now, on the project that I’m working on now I am actually outlining because it’s kind of…it’s sort of a requirement through the producers who are looking at it. So that’s been an interesting challenge for me. But on Defective specifically there was never an outline. I just went right into script phase and that first draft, I think I wrote it in less than a week.
Ashley: I find when people do less outlining generally that means there’s a lot more rewriting. So what does that process look for you? So you have this vomit draft and then how long does it take you to get like a first draft that you’re happy with that you can start to show to people?
Reese: Well, usually how it works is this. I finish the vomit draft [inaudible 00:15:49] objective look at things that I will send that to and I know they don’t look at it and go, “Oh my God, why are you sending me this?” They can sort of look past the garbage part of it. And they start contemplating, “Okay, this is working, this is yeah, this isn’t working so much blah blah blah.” It takes about I’d say two drafts after that initial vomit draft to get it to a point where I’m comfortable to start showing it to people, but then even as I’m sure you know, you are constantly rewriting your script. We were rewriting right up till the day we were shooting, we were rewriting as we were shooting, which we can go more into if you like.
And certainly in post we were still rewriting stuff. I’ve had that on all the projects that we’ve worked on. You never stop writing the script. It’s almost like it never reaches a full comfort level to show somebody.
Ashley: Yeah. So let’s talk about that for a second. What were you rewriting on the day? And I think this is a great insight into…because a lot of people listening to this podcast probably haven’t gotten to that stage where they’re seeing their scripts produced and understanding a lot of the practical elements of production will probably be helpful to them. Maybe just talk a little bit about some of the specific scenes that maybe they didn’t work when you got there and you had to rewrite them on the day.
Reese: Sure, I mean…well, it’s funny because a lot of it builds up to leading up the shoot, which is that I always was having trouble with…I felt like I’d had the first act of the script nailed down pretty tight and the third act. But it was always the second act that I had trouble with on paper when I was…Every time we’d get to it and every time we’d work on it and we reshaped that second act. The second act is always your connection. You’ve set up all your threads on the first and then you’re kind of paying off and building up to your third act and it’s like, man we just cannot crack this second act. So anything that was in the second act, whenever we got to shooting onset with it, I was usually rewriting it on the spot.
It’s tough because I mean, you’re talking almost about 25 pages worth of stuff that was being rewritten. Yeah, it’s tough to pinpoint a specific scene. I would have to sit with you in the movie for that second act and go, “Yeah, this part here, this part here, this part here.” I know there was the shift from the first act or the second act where…the first act of the movie is sort of…Did you watch the film?
Ashley: I watched about half of it, yeah.
Reese: Okay, you watched about half of it, it doesn’t matter. The first act is sort of like more of a drama in a roundabout way, and then it makes a sudden shift to becoming sort of like a political sci-fi conspiracy thriller. So finding a way to shift over and what scene to start that transition with was always very tough. And it went from being set in a limo to being set in a board room to being set in…and now it’s two different locations when you see it in the final film. And then there’s always the scene that every writer hates which is the exposition scene. It’s a big dump of information which happens about 45 minutes into the movie with one of the main characters. It’s unfortunate.
I kind of wrote myself into a box because it’s literally two people sitting down and talking about the situation, which is just so boring. But at the time and with our budget am like, “Well, we have no other options.” Terminator always cracked it with exposition. They’re in a car and it’s a big chase scene through LA and he’s doing this exposition. I thought it was great. That chunk which in the script is about eight pages and in the movie I think is only about six minutes when all is said and done. A lot of that was being rewritten on the spot because we had shot so much by the time we got there that we were like, “Oh, this has changed now.” Things change on the day as well. I’m never telling the actors to…and I don’t think you should as a filmmaker or even as a writer.
It’s impossible to predict somebody’s speech or how they talk or their rhythms and I think it’s unfair to ask actors to do exactly what it says on page because they don’t talk like that. Some might be able to kind of transform their way into it. So I’m pretty free with…not so much changing all the dialogue but finding a way to get the same information across as long as they can in a way it’s comfortable for them because it’s ultimately gonna come out more natural. In that case things change and then you’re changing as you go along. The big thing that did change while we were shooting was always the…and it’s a big spoiler so I’m not gonna ruin it, but it’s the final 10 minutes of the movie.
That was written more times than I care to count because we’re seeing how the characters are developing a little bit differently than they were on page, and the final 10 pages pays off everything that this brother and sister has been talking about and has been leading to. So when we got to that final scene, man that was…I was sweating bullets because on the day we were scratching stuff out, we were writing down in pencils and pens and, yeah, it was tough. And then further more in post, the funny thing and like I said is I didn’t like the second act and the third act worked. The first act was the one I was comfortable with. When we got into post and started editing it turned out that the second act flew just fine.
It was the first act that had all the problems. But we had no idea until the film was cut together. Sometimes…I’ve seen that happen, you just don’t know until you’ve shot it and that’s a pain in the butt because we cut about 15 minutes out of it and we went and reshot a handful of stuff to kind of tweak it and make it better. So yeah, I mean, it was a bit of a [inaudible 00:21:33] basically.
Ashley: So what does your writing days look like? When you actually get in flow do you write for 12 hours a day? Like you mentioned, this vomit draft was in just a week. I had imagined that’s a lot of hours for that one week. But maybe just talk about your actual day, what it looks like when you’re actually in the flow of writing.
Reese: Well, I mean, first thing I need to do is I come into this room, which is the room you’re seeing now, I shut the door, turn off the lights, and I have to write in complete silence. It’s okay if somebody is like if my wife’s watching something in the living room, that’s fine. But in this actual room, this is like the safe zone, I can’t have any other noise. There can’t be music, there can’t be movies playing, I have to write in complete silence. And I don’t know why that is, because I used to be able to write with a movie playing in the background but I just can’t do it anymore. And I think part of it is I spend most of the time….it’s sounds ridiculous, but I’ll talk to myself. I have to like say it out loud to try and verbalize it and figure it out. But day to day it changes, I mean, some days like I said on that vomit draft, you could fly through and I could get 15, 20 pages done.
That doesn’t mean they’re good pages. They’re just getting material out. But then you have other days where you literally only get a page done and you’ve been sitting at your computer for probably seven or eight hours. I try and keep it sort of…I like to do a 9:00 to 5:00 schedule because I like to have time to socialize in the evening. I like to make dinner for my wife, I like to spend time with her and then I’ll either come back to it later on at around 10:00 or 11:00 at night and kind of crack around with it for an hour, but I try not to do that because then when I go to bed then the ideas are still so fresh and they start flowing. So usually morning is a really good time, afternoon things kind of slow down and they pick a little bit more in the evening.
Ashley: Okay. What does your development process look like? So you have a vomit draft I imagine, then you spend a little bit more time polishing it up. Number one, how do you know when it’s ready to show to people and number two, who do you show it to just to get notes? Do you have a few trusted friends, are there producers, directors? What does that look like for you?
Reese: Yeah. Well, after that vomit draft like I said, immediately I show it to two people specifically. I have a friend of mine, my business partner Peter Szabo who produced Defective and who I’ve known for 10 years. He’s able to look past the vomit so to say, and kind of see the nuggets and the chunks and go, “Well, I can see what this could be.” And then I have another great friend of mine who’s name is Justin, who’s also a writer. I generally tend to think he’s pretty good when it comes to story structure, way better than I am. He’s able to pick out that. They’re both really good at being honest. I don’t have to worry like they can hurt my feelings and it’s okay.
As a writer I can deal with that from them specifically. So usually from that vomit draft, they get it, I get their notes and I start working from that and we do that about two more times. And then after that, that’s when I start showing other people. We get a bit more comfortable from there.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. How do you approach stuff like screenplay structure, maybe genre requirements? I think it’s interesting this one’s a sci-fi script. Are there some certain genre requirements that a distributor or producer wants in a film like this?
Reese: Yes there are, but I think the second you start writing to somebody’s mandate I think it makes a lesser product because I mean, no good movie has ever come out…and I’m not trying to say this is gold by any means, but no good movie has ever come out of anybody trying to write to an [inaudible 00:25:11] or anything like that. And I mean, yeah, there’re a lot of producers and studio systems out there who want you to fall in line and go, “Well, if you do x, y and z, that’s really good for distribution here,” and I’m like, “Well, if that works with the movie, sure, you can find a way if it comes naturally to the script.” But yeah, sometimes you got to be stubborn and sort of fight your way through it.
And more often than not, I had yet to have any real issues with that because usually you can kind of find a happy balance of the two. And I mean, with Defective specifically I didn’t have to write for anybody because I knew that we were gonna find the financing ourselves. It was gonna be an independent film so I knew that we don’t really have to appeal to anybody so to say, so I don’t have to, you know, by page 10 this doesn’t have to happen, and I don’t need this page turned or anything like that. But I mean, naturally you know story structure. You know there’s an act, breaks and all that stuff. So I am aware of it as I’m writing for sure. But like I said, I don’t plot it down beforehand. I just kind of dive in and go for it.
Ashley: And as I talk to producers especially when you talk about low budget films, distributors, producers, sci-fi, like low budget sci-fi is I’d say something that they definitely like. How much of that played into your decision to go ahead and pursue this as a project that you were gonna go and raise financing, maybe even write this script? Were there some business decisions or this was just a story you wanted to tell?
Reese: Truthfully it was just a story I wanted to tell. I mean, I’ve always loved science fiction and I grew up watching sci-fi movies with my dad when everybody had gone to sleep in the house. There was a certain style of sci-fi movies that I felt we hadn’t seen and I was kind of inspired by things like Logan’s Run, Soylent Green, Running Man [inaudible 00:27:03] Total Recall, Robocop, obviously Terminator. That kind of era of sci-fi film…the golden age. Maybe at the time they were nice and polished and glamourous, but now because of just the way they’ve aged they have a nice dirtiness to it that I thought I just haven’t seen that. I want something smaller like that. Something smaller scale and sort of shot more from the hip.
I wanna infuse that into the story that I was working on. So it was story first and I wasn’t thinking about the business side of it. I mean, it does certainly help that sci-fi is a big thing for sure, but even at the time I was writing it, low budget sci-fi movies were not as big as they are now for sure. But story first [inaudible 00:27:49].
Ashley: Perfect. Okay, so now you’ve got a script that you’re pretty comfortable with. What were those steps to actually going out and raising the money and getting this thing into production?
Reese: Well, luckily like I said, because we had spent so much time beforehand working on another project that didn’t get off the ground, we had a few weeds and a few different ideas of how to go about finding money a bit faster. So the first thing we did is was we put together a business plan, sort of like a [inaudible 00:28:18] 20 page, legal document essentially saying this is the story, this is who we are. We did do some research. We talked to some other filmmakers and some distributors about, “Hey, if we were to do a sci-fi film, what are they selling for now? It’s good to get that sort of that market research done and then we could use that on out pitch package. And then we took that pitch package and we just started talking to anybody that we could get a handle on.
“Do you have an ear, do you wanna listen? Friends, family first?” That’s kind of the easy go to. And then from there they would tell somebody who would tell somebody who would tell somebody and it just kind of sprung out of that. Now, if I got to be honest with you, it certainly wasn’t easy. It was still a tough sell. Independent movies specifically or investing in movies in general is a very dangerous gamble at that that some people don’t really like to partake in and some people do. We had a lot of people who invested just because they wanted to brag to their friends that, “Hey, I invested in a movie. Look at this cool thing that I’m doing.” That’s what we did. We just kind of went out and sort the investment ourselves.
Now, for a period of about six months there, we did manage to actually to get another producer attached to the project with his own production company. Things were looking pretty good but as it is sometimes, it just sort of fell apart and it got to a point where we were saying, “Listen, the full budget we want isn’t coming together. We’ve raised a little bit. What if we would just go shoot it for a slightly smaller budget, but we start shooting now with what money we have and then raise it as we’re still going? And the producer at the time respectfully said, “Listen, that just sounds too risky. I can’t get behind that idea.” So he dropped out and we moved forward and that’s exactly what we did.
We started production with not even a quarter of the budget, shot what we could, took a break, cut that footage together, and we’re back to the investors with that quarter and said, “Listen, this is something concrete that you can see [inaudible 00:30:18] and continue to shoot. All in all it took is about a year of on and off shooting until we got to the end. We really wanted to get it done. It was not like there was anybody knocking down our doors to making movies.
Ashley: I wanna go back on a couple of things you just said. You mentioned that you’ve been working on this other film and so you had built up a couple of leads. Why didn’t that other film spark and why did this one? Was the other one a little bit bigger budget and so you felt this one was a little more realistic? Why isn’t that other one I guess the one we’re talking about now?
Reese: Well, the biggest one was is that, it’s funny because it’s actually a smaller movie but for some reason the initial estimates I kept coming in for were, “Well, this is got to be a million five, a million seven and it’s just too big. It was mostly a budget thing more than anything like you said, and it was also the concept was…it’s a bit of a strange concept for a movie and people couldn’t quite wrap their heads around it. These things happen. It wasn’t a cut and dry script. Defective was a bit easier of a pill to swallow, but mostly it was a budget thing.
Ashley: Okay. You mentioned that you had gone to some distributors just to get some rough numbers about what a low budget sci-fi film is worth. I’ve had conversations with distributors and it’s always very tough I find to really pin them down. It seems like over the last few years it’s gotten harder and harder to pin them down. I mean, the quality of the film, the finished product is just so important, obviously the cast. I mean, there’s so many variables. I can never quite get a straight answer from a distributor like, “Okay, if you make this film and this script, this is how much it’s gonna be worth.” How did you get those? Firstly, how did you get those relationships with the distributors to even ask them those questions? Secondly, how did you actually finagle…sounds like fairly straight answers out of them?
Reese: A lot of it is just I have fairly good relationships with sales agents and sales agents know the distributors. So if you have a good sales agent on your side…I usually channeled most of my questions through the sales agent, so I really got to give them more credit. But sales agents also are a great source…because they’re the ones selling the movie, so they know directly like, okay, well, if you kept it in this budget range or if we sold it for X amount this is kind of roughly a projected budget of…this is what we could sell it for based on previous things like that. So the big golden answer there is the secret was going through sales agents because they sort of hold all the keys to the distributor kingdom.
Because you’re right, myself just as a writer or director, now I do know some distributors just from past experience from working with them. But yeah, if I were to just cold call them most of the time they just tell you where the door is.
Ashley: And so these relationships with the sales agent, those are from some of your previous film, previous projects, that’s where you’ve gotten those relationships from?
Ashley: Perfect. So how can people see Defective? Do you know what the release schedule is gonna be like?
Reese: Well, I know it comes out on Video on Demand on February 13th and I think it’s a slow roller from there. The distribution model has changed so much from where it was even 10 years ago. So it starts on Video on Demand and then I think it goes to digital and then it goes to physical. So I believe that’s where it goes. But February 13th for sure, Video on Demand definitely.
Ashley: Perfect. And I always just like to end the conversation by asking the guest how people can kind of keep up with what you’re doing…Facebook, twitter, anything you’re comfortable sharing, and I will of course round all this stuff up and put in the show notes as well.
Reese: Sure. Well first I would love to direct people to our Facebook page which is www.Facebok.com/defectivefuture. We’ve had that page running since we started production a couple of years ago. So if you even start just right at the bottom, we’ve got a ton of behind the scenes photos, videos, you can literally track every stage of production. So it’s kind of cool if you’re sort of into that. And we keep it constantly updated with release dates and different trailers and a bunch of new stuff that we have coming up. And from there you can find a lot of us that have worked on the movie. You can find me on that page. I’m just directed by Reese on Facebook. And our twitter I’m just @ReeseEveneshen, you can find me, and same with Instagram as well. Same handle.
Ashley: Perfect. Well, Reese I really appreciate your coming on and talking with me today. Thank you and I wish you luck with this film.
Reese: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
Ashley: Perfect, talk to you later.
Reese: Okay, sounds good.
Ashley: Thank you, bye.
I just wanna mention a new service that I recently launched at Selling Your Screenplay. I built the SYS Select Screenplay data base. Screenwriters upload their screenplays along with a log line, synopsis and other pertinent information about the project like budget and genre and then producers search for and hopefully find screenplays they wanna produce. I’m adding features to this nearly every day, so ultimately it will be the hub for all of the SYS Select services. If you’re a member of SYS Select already you should have already received your log in information. Please email me if you don’t have that. I’ve already got dozens of producers in the system looking for screenplays.
To learn more about this service just go to www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com. When you join SYS Select you get access to the screenplay database that I just mentioned and you also get access to all of the other services that we provide to SYS Select members, like a monthly newsletter that goes out to over 400 producers who are actively seeking material from screenwriters. Each SYS Select member can pitch one screenplay in that monthly newsletter. Also we have screenwriting leads. We have partnered with one of the premier paid screenwriting leads sites so I can syndicate their leads to SYS Select members. There are lots of great paid leads coming in each week from our partner.
Recently I’ve been getting five to ten high quality paid leads per week. These are producers and production companies who are actively looking to buy material or who are actively searching to hire a screenwriter 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 a 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, TVs 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.
Also you get access to all of the SYS Select classes that I’ve done over the years. You can learn more about those and see what classes are available by going to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/online-classes. Also as member of SYS Select you get access to the SYS Select forum which you can post your log line and query letter in there and we will give you a critique on that. As well you can post any screenwriting questions and we can have a conversation inside the forum about that as well. Once again, if all of this sounds like something you’d like to learn more about or perhaps sign up for please go to www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com.
On the next episode of the podcast I’m gonna be interviewing writer, director Michael Radford who just did a film called The Music of Silence which is a bio pick on a singer Andrea Bocelli. Keep an eye out for that episode next week. So this week I thought I would try something new. Today I’m gonna end the show by answering a couple of questions that have been emailed in to me. If you have a question you could always email me at [email protected]. Please check the Selling Your Screenplay frequently asked questions first because probably more than half of the questions that I get through email I’ve already answered multiple times and I have posted the most common questions on the FAQ page.
You can find that at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/FAQ. And again that stands for Frequently Asked Questions. So check that out first. If you don’t see the answer there then please do feel free to email me and then I’ll try and get you an answer back and perhaps I’ll even read it on the podcast in a future episode. So today I’ve got two questions which are somewhat similar. And the questions that I seem to get quite often although they’re always a little bit different but I feel like they’re sort of getting at the same thing. So I thought I’d read them here and try and answer them. And just FYI, I have edited these questions a little bit just to make them a little more concise for the purposes of this podcast.
So the first question was something like this: I have a quick question regarding the script I’m developing. Would it be possible to assess just half of it? The reason I’m asking is because I write in a foreign language and the first half of the script has been sent to an agency for translation. I thought if I’m going in the wrong direction then at least I can improve it before I send the second part in to be translated rather that retranslate the whole thing later after I’ve done numerous rewrites. So it seems like a very logical question but I think the writer is looking at this in the wrong way. If this is your first screenplay I can pretty much guarantee you that you are going in the wrong direction and this screenplay probably is not very good.
But that’s okay because that’s part of the process. Writing, learning, getting better and improving. That’s how you get better. It’s by going through this process. Writing something that doesn’t quite work and then getting better as you learn from each and every script that you write is exactly what you must do to get better. That’s my advice. Go through this process completely with this script and then go on to the next script and the next script and the next script. And maybe if you’re lucky your ninth or tenth screenplay will be pretty good. That will be the one that hopefully gets your career going. But don’t get caught up too early trying to be a perfectionist on this first screenplay.
I worry that you’ll never get it done and you’ll never really be improving because again the way you’re gonna get better at this is by writing multiple screenplays. I mean, on your first screenplay, part of being a good screenwriter, it’s not just the words on the page, it’s thinking about which of these ideas that you have in your head, which ones should actually be turned into a full screenplay. And there’s a good chance with your first screenplay you didn’t vet the idea properly. So how well written it is or how many rewrites you do on it, there’s a good chance it’s never gonna quite work because sort of the premise may not be solid. You may not be on solid footing.
Again, especially for your early scripts, I would get too caught up on trying to make them perfect, trying to make them good. I would just try and get them out there, maybe take one or two passes on them and then move on. Obviously the further along you get in the career, the more you’ve got to kind of tighten that down and really knuckle down and try and start making the scripts up to industry standards and presentable. But early on, I just think there’s more value in just getting that first script, getting that second script, that third script, just getting them under your belt and getting on with it and going through that whole process.
It sounds like this translation is going to be part of your process, so there’s gonna be a learning curve there working with the translators, finding a translator, hiring a translator, how much money you should spend on the translation. All of those are gonna be part of your process eventually so you might as well get the practice now of going through that process. Again, there’s gonna be some missteps here. You’re gonna maybe hire the wrong translator. Maybe you’re gonna hire a translator that their English isn’t as good as you would hope and stuff. Figuring that out and finding that and figuring that part of your process out is part of your overall screenwriting journey and the sooner you can start on that I think the better off you’re gonna be.
So the second question went something like this: Can I send out query letter before the script is done? This is kind of a quick clear answer. I would say no, do not do that. What happens when you send a query letter out in this day and age, I mean, typically it’s an email. So you’ll often get a response back the same day, sometimes within 10 minutes or 30 minutes or an hour. You’ll get a response back very quick. What are you gonna do if someone requests the screenplay that you haven’t even written yet? You’re gonna go and sit down and try and write it up real quick. That’s a recipe for disaster. You’re writing too quickly, you haven’t necessarily thought it through, you don’t have time to do rewrites or really get it to industry standards.
So that’s not an ideal. I mean, writing the script up to take a month or two and again now you feel this pressure of someone’s waiting for it so there’s a good chance you’re gonna send it in before it’s really ready. Again, that’s not a good position to be in. And by the time you get this screenplay developed and written up, any interest in the screenplay that this producer had will have dissipated a lot. I mean, they probably won’t even remember you and your query letter. So I don’t see that there’s really a lot of advantage to doing this, but also, and this is really the main point with this kind of a question. You’re wasting the time of the producers here.
You’re sending out query letters for scripts you haven’t written and you’re asking a producer to read pitches for a screenplay that you yourself don’t even think is worth the time and energy to actually write up. Producers are smart. They remember folks and they might save this email, I mean, Gmail…that’s the whole point of Gmail when it came out is you never have to delete your emails. They may save your email and wait for that script to come in and then if you don’t get around to actually write in the script or you send it in and it’s terrible because you wrote it too quickly, the producers are gonna remember these things and maybe they’re gonna flag your email.
And then down the road as you start to pitch them on your more mature work, hopefully your scripts have gotten better, they may not give you a second chance. Again, one of the other big things you’re trying to do is just build a relationship with the producer and you have to do that in an honest way. Pitching a bunch of scripts that you haven’t even written, I just don’t think it’s gonna get you to that position. The relationship is what you want especially in these early days, and you want these producers to think that you’re talented and reliable. Not a flake. You don’t want them thinking, “Gee, yeah.” You send then another query…”Yeah, I requested this script from this guy last year, he never sent it to me.
It’s like you just get a reputation of being flaky. That’s gonna be the impression that these producers have of you if you never send the script in or you send in a script that’s half-baked and poorly written. So bottom line, don’t do that. So now both of these questions to me, they’re sort of getting at the same thing. They wanna be as efficient as possible and I get that. I like to be efficient too. It allows you to do more stuff, potentially write more scripts. Efficiency is great, but the first writer doesn’t wanna spend the money on the translation unless the script has potential, and again that seems like a reasonable sort of line of thought. The second writer, his question, he wants to pitch scripts before he writes them.
I suspect this is so at least in his mind. He doesn’t wanna have to spend time writing screenplays that no one will request. And there’s a certain logic to that but there’s also not a lot of logic to that because I can pretty much guarantee you that I could write up a query letter for almost any idea and I could get at least a few script requests from it. Any idea. I am skilled enough with query letters and skilled enough with log lines and I have a big enough pool of producers to send it to that I could get at least a hand full of producers requesting almost any ridiculous idea that anybody came up with.
So this idea that there’s the sort of vetting process by sending it to producers and maybe you have five ideas and you send out a hundred query letters for each idea and one of them got one request, one got seven requests, one got no request, so you think, “Wow, I’ll write up that one.” But again, think about what you’re doing. You’re wasting the time of these producers. Producers are not there to vet your ideas. I mean, you’re sending them a letter, you’re asking then to take time out of their busy day to read those query letters. And furthermore, the screenwriting is not so much the idea as much as the execution, so you can have a terrible idea, but if the execution is great your script might still have a chance.
Again, the logic…I’m not sure I’d necessarily agree with this idea that you can send these things out. It’s A, inconsiderate to producers and B, I don’t think even if the producers agree to kind of give you some sort of feedback on just the ideas, I don’t know that they’re really gonna be able to tell if that script is gonna pan out because it’s gonna be ultimately so dependent on the execution. But the bigger point that I’m trying to make with both of these questions is to me they show an inherent lack of commitment to screenwriting. Becoming a screenwriter and actually making money as a screenwriter, it’s gonna require you to go down a lot of dead ends. That’s part of the process.
If you’re not willing to go down those dead ends, explore things that never will amount to anything then this may not be for you. You’re gonna write a bunch of screenplays with no real market potential. That’s okay. That’s part of the process. I did it myself. Every successful screenwriter, I really doubt you’re gonna find any screenwriter in Hollywood that has actually been paid money to write a screenplay that didn’t write a whole bunch of scripts that stood no real chance of ever selling or even were good enough to get the mark or anything else. Part of the process is the inefficiency. It’s exploring things that may or may not pan out. It’s being willing to explore things that you don’t think are gonna work, but maybe they will.
Maybe it will lead you down a path in your own writing, in your own journey that just is interesting. And maybe that originality and interest, maybe that’s the thing that you will be known for. Maybe that’s how you’re gonna write your scripts and make them stand out. It’s by exploring some of these things that at first glance might feel like a dead end. Writing in general and screenwriting specifically is an art form. It requires a lot of just noodling. It requires you to spend a lot of time practicing. I feel like if you try and be too hyper efficient you actually end up missing out on precisely the practice that you need.
Anyway, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on this to maybe we could get a conversation going. You can leave comments on the individual episodes on YouTube or you can leave comments on the individual episodes on www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. I’d be real curious to hear people’s thoughts on this. And again maybe we can have a little bit of a conversation in the comment section. So if you have any thoughts feel free to post them. I read all the comments and will happily respond to any comments that get posted. Anyway, that’s the show, thank you for listening.