Ashley: Welcome to Episode #219 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 Kimble Rendall who just wrote and directed the film Guardians of The Tomb, starring Kelsey Grammer. We talk about his latest film and we also talk about how he broke into the business. Stay tuned for that interview. If you find this episode viable, please help me out by giving me a review on iTunes or leaving a comment on YouTube or retweeting the podcast on twitter or liking and sharing it on Facebook.
These social media shares really do help spread a word about the podcast so they’re very much appreciated. Any websites or links that I mention in the podcast can be found on my blog or 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 #219. 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. A quick few words about what I’m working on. A quick update on The Pinch which is the crime/thriller, feature film that I wrote, directed and produced last year. So I’ve been talking with distributors and some other producers who have been helping me and giving me advice throughout this whole process. Everyone keeps emphasizing the importance of the poster and the trailer, but especially the poster.
What they’re telling me is that on platforms like iTunes and Amazon, the poster can really make or break the film. The poster looks cool it can really help sales. So I’m working on redoing the poster. Not even redoing, I’m working on creating a new poster. I’m not a graphic designer and obviously budget is super tight so I’ve got to hire someone to do this. What I did last week was I went to…and this is actually maybe a tip if you’re in a similar situation. I went to Redbox.com and it’s a pretty useful site in the sense that you can see all these posters, you can go to the thriller section and then you can see a whole bunch of posters on one page and kind of scroll through them.
So I was just looking at some of the movie posters on there to get some ideas about what I want for my poster and I started just looking through my own screenshots, the imagery that we have, the pictures that we took on set, looked at all my pictures and then trying to come up with some kind of an idea about what looks cool, what posters do I like on Redbox and then maybe I can use that as a template for my own. So I spent a little bit of time last week figuring that out. I placed an ad on Craigslist to try and find a graphic designer with some experience on posters and I have a couple of candidates that look good. If you’ve been listening to this podcast and you have experience designing posters and you’d like to take a crack at this one, please do email me, [email protected] I’d love to hear from you.
And if you have any experience even hiring someone to do a poster, any experience in distribution, any experience on what makes a good poster, I’m all ears. Any thoughts anybody has on that, please do let me know. Again, if you have any interest in maybe taking a crack at this just drop me an email. Take a look at the poster too, what I have on IMDb. You can see the current Pinch poster. This new one, it’s got to be better than that one and it’s just got to look more professional, maybe be a little more exciting, just get more people interested in the film just on it’s face value…just the face value of the poster. I’ve got that going, that’s what I was working on last week, and then I’m going to revisit my trailer and make sure that’s as good as it can be.
Again, I’ve gotten some notes on the trailer, so there’s definitely some things that need to be tweaked and I’ll hopefully get the poster, at least get the designer working on the poster this week and then maybe next week I’ll take another crack at the trailer. First again I’ve just got to figure out what I want the trailer to be and then I’ll talk maybe to my editor who put the trailer together, see if he can make the tweaks or maybe I’ll even just load it up and premier and see if I can make the tweaks myself. But again, this is just something to really keep in mind and I think it was somewhat counterintuitive. I would have thought the trailer’s a bigger piece, it’s more elaborate. It’s harder to get a good trailer, so you would think that you wanna spend your money on the trailer but people are telling me if you’re gonna spend some money on the trailer or the poster, put that money into the poster.
That’s the advice I’m getting and as I said, it’s not always counterintuitive because it seems like a poster would be an easy thing to do, but as you start to look at movie posters especially for low budget films, one of the tell-tale signs of a low budget film is a low budget looking poster and you really wanna present on iTunes, on Amazon, you wanna present your movie in the most professional way possible. You wanna make it look like a much bigger production than it actually was. Anyway, that’s the update on The Pinch. On the writing front as mentioned, I completed a writing assignment a couple of weeks ago. It was a kids TV show where I wrote four episodes.
Now it’s basically just…I’ve submitted those scripts back to the producers and then they’ve got to go out and start putting it all together. Hopefully that will begin to happen. I like to keep myself writing every day. I like to just stay in the routine of writing. So I’m just not quite sure that I have any writing assignments currently. I don’t have any specs that I’m in the middle of, so not quite sure what I’m gonna write next. Last week I actually started writing some short scripts. These are just random ideas. I have a nice sort of an idea bank and it’s just a google doc that I keep and anytime I come up with an idea that I think might be a cool idea for a script I just put it in this idea bank and I divide it up into little things of like low budget ideas, maybe higher budget ideas.
Then I also have a section for shots. Sometimes I’ll just come up with a random idea. I know it’s not enough of an idea for a feature so I just pop it in there. I probably got five or eight of these ideas I’ve come up with over the last year or two or three or whatever. Just looking back, I think actually these are…usually they’re more comedic than obviously dramatic, but there’s a couple of dramatic ones in there. But just reading back over those ideas I’m thinking this actually is not a bad idea I should knock it out. So last week I started to do that, I started to knock out some of those pages. They’re just gonna be six to ten pages each and they’re pretty easy to write. I’m not really sure what I’ll do with them.
One thought I did have was I might just try and shoot these real quick, just shoot them myself, edit them myself and just go through the process as quickly as possible just to get them done. I can definitely see with The Pinch I have a long way to go as a director. I really wanna improve. If I’m gonna go do another feature film I wanna become a better director. It’s really hard on a feature film because it’s just such a long process. I can’t even remember half the decisions I made on The Pinch because it was almost two years ago. We’re like probably at 18 months ago at this point, 19 months ago, 20 months ago that we actually shot it. Just as a director I think this will be a good exercise to say nothing. I’ve obviously improved as a writer and an editor but it will be a great way.
I can just do some really bold things and see if they work and they might be ridiculously bad ideas and I can just do a hand-held shot where it’s all kinds of hand-held stuff and really get a sense of how that works and how that comes together in the editing, and then if it doesn’t work then I know on the next feature that’s probably not a good thing to try. But if it does work I’ll say, “Hey, this was kind of cool,” and maybe I can improve it. I can kind of test some of these directing ideas that I have out quickly on the shots. These are gonna be things that I spend virtually no money on. I just get a couple of my actor friends together, I’ll just use my house and I’ll just sit down and I’ll shoot these quickly and then edit them.
As I said really I think the biggest part of the exercise will be improving as a director but…anyway that’s my thought. I don’t know whether I’m necessarily committed to that at this point but I guess at this point we’ll just kind of see how the scripts turn out. If the scripts turn out well and I like them then maybe I’ll consider taking that to the next step. So now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m interviewing director and writer Kimble Rendall. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Kimble to the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Kimble: Hi Ashley, it’s great. It’s my pleasure! Nice to meet you.
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?
Kimble: I was actually born in Goldberg, which is south of Sidney and it’s a country town. My parents were in [inaudible 00:09:14]. Basically to jump ahead a bit, I was always interested in music and film. They’ve always been my passions and so when we moved up to Sydney my mum took me to guitar lessons and my dad bought me a little Super 8 camera. My dad said with the camera, “Just go and shoot some stuff. The camera it fell off the back of the truck so it’s fine.” “Well, is it broken dad?” He said, “No, it’s not broken but I’ll explain it to you. I’ll explain it when you’re a bit older.” So I just started shooting Super 8 movies, sort of a classic story of a lot of filmmakers, Super 8.
The minute it sort of turned me off a bit because I was playing Little Brown Jug and all these songs I sort of dropped out of that but kept going with the film side of things, went to university and studied it there and made more films, experimental films and got into the [inaudible 00:10:16] and the government was quite supportive of filmmakers and if you wanna skip 500 bucks to make an experimental. And the music side of things took off as well when the Punk Explosion hit London at the time and I thought, “This is pretty cool,” and I formed one band. Then I formed another band called the Hoodoo Gurus which I co-formed with my friend Dave Faulkner and it caught a lot of guys. That actually started doing really well. It became very well-known. So I was faced with a big decision to keep going with the band.
It was now very popular or my growing film side was because I was working as a film editor. So I thought I can’t see myself years down the track singing these songs and so I left the band and started to concentrate, started making music videos and TV commercials and then eventually got into features. But then strange enough two years ago Dave rang and said, “Do you wanna come back on, I’m getting all the members of the band back and we’re gonna go do a tour. It will be like Avatar Musical really. Hoodoo Gurus life on stage. So we just did the history of the band on stage. We started off playing and then a couple of guys left and the next ones came on and then again we all played. So my career sort of entwined between music and film and in essence this led me into…I do a lot of second unit work on the Hollywood films like The Matrix and IRobot and Underworld and so on and so forth
Then I started to get my own films and it has led to this far. And as that happened I’ve always been writing but not overly confident. With the writing strangely enough, I had a shot in the Telluride. I had made a 15 minute short film and it got into this program called Filmmakers of Tomorrow. I was always a big fan of John Schlesinger and so at the end of screening of the short film this producer comes and says, “Mr. Schlesinger would like to meet you.” I met him and he said, “I really like your film, keep up the good work.” All of a sudden it got written and directed and then I ended up going back into working on other people’s films and not writing so much. Then I thought, “Wait a minute, Mr. Schlesinger, he said, “Keep up the good work,” and I haven’t been doing it.” So then I started to concentrate a bit more on writing.
Ashley: I wonder if we can jump back to you said you mentioned you were working as an editor. Maybe you can talk about that transition a little bit moving from editor to the second unit and then to actually getting to direct some feature films. I’m sure there’s some steps in that process and maybe you can kind of tell us how that all worked.
Kimble: Yeah, well always when I was doing my own little films I was always editing them and then I really enjoyed that process. I thought in order to become a director, editing would be a great place to start because you see all the other director’s work and you can work with them. You can see how to structure it and structure the story and so on and so forth. I was lucky to get a job, in fact it was nepotism. I’d been trying for a long time to get a job as an editor and my uncle had a connection at the IBC which is the main broadcaster and he said, “Okay, you should come and meet this guy. So I had a meeting with him and he said, “What’s this?” and held up some sound, and I said, “That’s sound,” and “What’s this?” “That’s image,” and he said, “Great, start next Monday.”
So I started as an assistant editor, I learnt the first role of filmmaking. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. And I got into it and most days I was a printer, so you had to wear the white gloves and all that. So I started working for other editors, learning from them, looking and seeing the directors and how they work. It was a really good, I really love editing. So then I moved from editing and it’s the same with the music side, I combined that into music videos editing for other directors. I’d always been directing my own films and so then I said well, actually I could start directing the music videos. So I started my own company doing that and then that led to doing commercials because that was the linear path I guess. Then commercials led to getting into [inaudible 00:14:57] work and that led into features.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. Let’s dig into Seven Guardians of The Tomb starring Kelsey Grammer. To start out, maybe you can just give us a quick logline or pitch. Tell us what that film is all about.
Kimble: The background for me [inaudible 00:15:13] started…we had a film in China before called Bait- 3D which is a short movie and it was very successful. It went to number one in China and it became the biggest independent film at that time that they made. It was like a big hit and then they asked us to do another one. I heard a story in Australia and Gary Hamilton from Arclight Films, one of the producers who was the driving force behind making it, he said, “Let’s do a spider movie.” So I read about this story, I sort of traced that the Chinese came to Australia years before the English and the Dutch who supposedly discovered Australia and they [inaudible 00:16:10] up in the north and they took a lot of stuff back. I thought, “Okay, well if they came [inaudible 00:16:15] maybe they can take some spiders as well.
Then I combined that with another thing I’d read about the Emperor in 200 BC had created an underground palace, and I thought, “Okay, that’s a pretty cool place to put some spiders and get some people trapped.” So I combined those two aspects, those two stories, turned the two ideas into a story and started from there. We started to write the treatment and the treatment got a lot of interest from the Chinese. This film was designed for the Chinese market again. It’s pretty much a Chinese story.
Ashley: I wonder if you can speak to that just a little bit before we dig further into Seven Guardians of The Tomb. I hear that a lot from producers, you know, “Let’s aim this at the Chinese market.” Maybe you can tell us what that’s all about. When you’re aiming a film for the Chinese market, what does that actually mean? What does the script have to have in it so that the Chinese market would be interested in it?
Kimble: Well, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a Chinese story but because our last film was a short movie and then people [inaudible 00:17:23] and they really like that. As I said it came number one. At the time and it still sort of applies, is that it’s quite restricted the amount of films you can get into China. I think it’s now 35 from outside. So you have to go through a process of getting approved and so on and so forth. So I just thought in this instance if it was a Chinese story because it’s what I wanted to make in any case that would be helpful. As it turned out it was the company that read the script said, “Yeah, we really wanna do this because it’s about…it has a lot of Chinese values that…I mean, the script. Family is one, it’s a big aspect of Chinese cultures family, its according to the social interactions. The story is a sister looking for a brother. That was one aspect.
There’s also they wanted to start showing the environmental issues so we did that. There was certain things in the script that you can’t do. You can’t for example criticize the government which most governments don’t like being criticized [inaudible 00:18:39] over China. You can’t show them losing a war or something like that. Which is fine, most governments don’t want that. The military has to be shown in good light and so on and so forth. Wolf Warrior II which is I think their biggest ever was very pro-government story as well. So that just gives a good example for screenwriters. You got to have a look at that. That’s the biggest movie I think to come out of China. I think it’s made nearly a billion dollars.
Ashley: What’s the title of that again?
Kimble: Well, that’s Wolf Warrior II. There’s obviously Wolf Warrior I but Wolf Warrior II is bigger. If you look back too it’s not peculiar to China. If you look back to the political movies even during the world wars…World War 2 and stuff that was coming out of all countries, probably even USA. It’s very pro-winning and pro-government and pro…telling the story of the country in a positive light and that’s what you have to do here too.
Ashley: You mentioned you wanna talk about the environmental issues and in your particular movie you have this sort of abandoned minds, there’s gas leaking out and exploding. That doesn’t portray China in a negative light, there’s no issues with that sort of stuff?
Kimble: No, they actually wanted to show…China’s producers wanted to shy away from showing that side of it in a negative light. They wanted to make the point that it was there. So by having that into the environment they were happy to add that in. The land sky was barren and it once hadn’t been [inaudible 00:20:37] and farmland I guess if you traced it back and the [inaudible 00:20:42] without saying, the point of it is that they wanted to present part of the world as it is now [inaudible 00:20:54] back in the environment. That’s sort of a backdrop to the story. One of the characters talked about it a bit. Now one of the characters says, “Isn’t it amazing how mother nature always shows her faith that even in that environment [inaudible 00:21:22] but that was the idea that mother nature still pushes her way through, I mean it’s lawless what we’re doing to the earth.
Ashley: Let’s dig into the actual writing process. I’m curious on IMDb there are three people that story by credit then there is a shared screenwriting credit by yourself and Paul Staheli. I wonder if you can kind of just outline how those different people played a role in developing the story and screenplay.
Kimble: Yeah, the three people credited with this story is Gary, John Scanlon and myself. Gary came up with the concept of making a spider movie and before I’d come on board he’d been talking to John about it and John and had thought about making a film based in Australia. Then after Bait and when I came on they said let’s work on a spider movie, then I looked at it and I said, “I’m be interested in making one of the Chinese story as opposed to set here. That’s the [inaudible 00:22:31] story by set up really. We then wrote the screenplay underway, spent a lot of time working on that, probably three years. I was writing…sort of working on the treatment after I’d finished Bait and then Paul came on at the end to help refine it and polish it and he did substantial amount of work on it as well.
Ashley: Okay, and you mentioned this original treatment. How long did you spend working on that treatment, was that the three years or was that part of the script and the treatment?
Kimble: I think it was the script and the treatment. Treatment possibly…it was a pretty slow process because not so much in writing it but just getting approved and people to read it and get it out. Maybe a year on that, obviously a treatment needs to be written a lot quicker but it just took a while because of just getting feedback and because we were changing the context in the story. Then I reckon the next two or three years we were working on the script. We did a lot of work on the script to the end. The script actually changed a lot towards the shoot, which I wasn’t that happy with because…like I was very unhappy because…the late actor Ling Bingbing was restricted because she’s had a really bad…I put a lot of water into the script, because at the underground palace it was sort of driven by irrigation water. That’s how it sort of worked, and the Chinese are really big on that.
I think they invented that form of irrigation and they invented so many things. If I had to get water from one side of the country other than [inaudible 00:24:36] put it in a series of tunnels and stuff. Anyway this water was a presences because there was an environmental [inaudible 00:24:48] and there was water in the palace. She unfortunately had some bad luck with…well, bad management with filming when she was working in Hong Kong years because in those days the actors when she starred, directors would work like two shifts as it were and so they had the crew on for one and then they’d go home and the crew would come in. The actors would stay but she was in this thing where was in a frozen [inaudible 00:25:17] and she got really actually quite ill from being in the water. That had to come to come out of our script because she said she was happy to be in the film but she couldn’t be in water for prolonged periods of time. So I had to take all that out and that sort of took out a lot of the action sequences so it affected the end result.
Ashley: Let’s talk about the development process a little bit. So you’ve written this treatment and then you’ve written this script. How did you go about getting notes and stuff? It sounds like you were submitting this to…was it the Chinese government organization, you submit them the script to just see if they approve it? Do they actually suggest changes or is it more just a pass, fail type thing?
Kimble: No, they would just suggest changes. They had two patents US…actually Australian because it’s an Australian- Chinese co-production and the company behind it, Arclight are based I Los Angles. American company but Gary is an Australian. It was a process like anything else. You got producers and people…and the Chinese also had screenwriters and people on board in their company, so the notes would come in from those sides and also from the Australian side because we had a funding body. There was quite a process and that’s why I did take some time writing [inaudible 00:26:48] and we would come back in and that sort of extended the time of us writing it.
Ashley: I’m curious how you guys approached genre requirements. This is an action, adventure film and sort of the typical thing you hear is with an action film you need an action scene every ten pages. Are there some other things like that that you need to sort of fulfil the requirements of distribution and all of that stuff just in terms of the genre?
Kimble: Well, it’s a good question because when I was working on the Matrix Films and Joel Silver was the producer and I was talking to him quite a bit about stuff and he was like, “You got to have an explosion the first 10 minute of…well, that kind of stuff. If you follow, I mean we all have a structure in writing screenplays and we’ve probably all read the books and so on and so forth and if you [inaudible 00:27:56] structure. So yes, and for me it does tend to happen naturally because I love those films. I see a lot of them. Maybe it’s an inherent thing when you’re writing and [inaudible 00:28:12] screenplay was more as a horror film. That was my intention originally and then it became more action- adventures as it progressed because the horror [inaudible 00:28:27] marketing that type of film and [inaudible 00:28:31] If there’s three films in the top 10 that are horror movies [inaudible 00:28:40] There was a lot of that going on and a lot…I don’t really believe but you have to write what you’re passionate about and what you think every time [inaudible 00:28:51]. So I was a bit disappointed that it did change quite a bit in the long run.
Ashley: Maybe you can talk briefly about getting Kelsey Grammer attached. How did that all take place, and I’m curious how something like that affects the financing of the film.
Kimble: Well, Kelsey Grammer, I’ve always been a good friend of Kelsey Grammer and a lot of actings on the film like Shane Jacobson who’s the comedian here, he’s [inaudible 00:29:27] with Kelsey. We talked about…Li Bingbing came on board, she’s a big Chinese star and so that it’s a movie, it’s a Chines-Australian co-production, that was one of the requirements obviously. She came on board and Kellan Lutz who I met when I was doing Bait and he’s been in Twilight and he’s amazed and he wanted to do it. The was a part for a business man and then somebody suggested Kelsey and I went [inaudible 00:30:04] way to go. I contacted his people and they were interested. They thought it was great and he was the [inaudible 00:30:25] of the film. He became the rock because he’s such a brilliant actor and he’s not only done comedy, he’s done everything, he’s amazing. When he finished [inaudible 00:30:33] He was amazing. When you look at the body works, I love working with him and he added so much to the film and I think…I mean, you’ve seen the film, haven’t you?
Ashley: Yeah, I have.
Kimble: He’s sort of one of the strongest characters coming through I think, don’t you agree?
Ashley: Absolutely, he did a fantastic job.
Kimble: There was just delightful to work with. I’ve seen the history of his working and he’s such…in fact when we met it was funny. We went to this bar and I think it was the first time I’d met him and we were talking about…we welcomed him to Australia [inaudible 00:31:23] we were going to have a drink. We were having a drink with some of the producers and he was there having a Martini at the bar and he was talking to the barman and I thought, “Alright, [inaudible 00:31:37] cheers right here, right now. But it was great, and he was so helpful. Also with America. You see American style is going to help in that market, so it’s a jigsaw puzzle when you’re casting and putting people together, but if you end up with someone like Kelsey you’re very fortunate.
Ashley: Yeah, for sure. So do you know what the release schedule is gonna be like? How can people see Seven Guardians of The Tomb?
Kimble: That’s a good question. It probably has to go onto…it’s coming out soon, but maybe you should just check out the guide back to the distributor and then you can add it on…because I’m not gonna be accurate. I bet it’s a cinema release and then then it’s a big I guess theatrical release as well. Best you check then you can put that at the end of your podcast.
Ashley: Perfect, yeah, no problem at all. And then I just always like to wrap up the interviews by asking the guest, how can people keep up with what you’re doing? Anything you’re comfortable sharing, a twitter handle, a Facebook page, a blog?
Kimble: Yeah, I’m happy, I’m on twitter. Which is Kimble Rendall, it’s my name. I have a Facebook page. I’ve gotten like sort of those one film and music and there’s that and I’m on LinkedIn, I don’t know why but I am. People do contact me via that [laughs]. And I’ve got to start a blog soon. Anyone can contact me through the Facebook page or twitter or LinkedIn I guess.
Ashley: Okay, sounds good. Well Kimble again, I really enjoyed your film and I wish you a lot of luck with it. Thank you very much for taking the time to come out and talk with me.
Kimble: It’s a pleasure. I really like what you’re doing I may just also follow the stuff that you’re doing. Great stuff.
Ashley: Thank you, I appreciate it.
Kimble: Nice to meet you.
Ashley: Nice to meet you too. Alright, will take to you later.
Kimble: Talk to you later. Cheers, bye.
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You can learn more about the classes by going to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/online-classes. I will of course link to that in the show notes. Once again, if this sounds like something you’d like to learn more about just go to www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com. On the next episode of the podcast I’m gonna be interviewing filmmaker brothers, screenwriter Alston Ramsay and his director brother Julius Ramsay. They just did a cool high school high concept thriller called Midnighters. We talk through that process on how they got the film produced. Just to give you a little heads up, they basically just went out and made thing happen for themselves. It’s another inspiring great episode of just hearing one or two filmmaker’s journey on how they brought their project to completion. So keep an eye out for that episode next week. Anyway, that’s the show, thank you for listening.