Ashley: Welcome to Episode #234 of the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger of the www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing filmmakers Jamison LoCascio and Adam Ambrosio. They’re East Coast filmmakers who just finished a feature film called Sunset which is an ensemble drama about a bunch of people as they grapple with the possibility of an imminent nuclear strike. It’s another inspiring story about two guys who are out there making things happen for themselves. We talk through their careers, how they got this film off the ground and kind of their production company as well, how they got that all set up. Stay tuned for that interview. If you find this episode viable please help me out by giving me a review in iTunes or leaving me a comment on YouTube or retweeting the podcast on Twitter or liking or sharing 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 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 #234. 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 am interviewing filmmakers Jamison LoCascio and Adam Ambrosio. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Jamison and Adam to the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show and talking with me today.
Adam: Thanks for having us.
Jamison: Yeah, thanks very much. We’re happy to be here.
Ashley: No problem. 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? And maybe to start Jamison you can just give us like a two minute overview and then Adam you can go after that and same thing, just like a two, three minute overview of kind of where you’re from and how you got into it.
Jamison: Yeah, so I actually was making a lot of films and a lot of little things by myself when I was in high school and everything else. I always sort of had the dream of producing films. I figured out I was gonna go into more of the business side of it. I had a gentleman that was a teacher of mine, his name is Louis Ambrosio. He’s been very big and influential in my life as a mentor and a friend. He called me aside and said, “You know, you should really figure out how to make movies yourself.” That wound up being really the turning point for me saying I could take the little movies, the little things I’ve been putting together and try to maybe do something that’s more valuable or that has more of a message to it and really start trying to tell stories that were important rather than just more like things for fun I guess. It went from a hobby to let me see if I can make art, I think is really what it was and I just transitioned then.
Ashley: Maybe you can talk about that transition. What are some of the specific steps you took from going to filmmaker hobby as to actually turning it into a career?
Jamison: Oh yeah, sure. I went to Macon State University. I was going there, originally my plan was to be a business major. I live in New Jersey…we all do actually. So I transitioned into the filmmaking department, I happened to have a lot of little films from high school. I made a 40 minute film that was kind of epic and grand we did a little from the air force so I was able to show off some of that. That got me right into the film program and I just started making shots with Louis and also with Adam. Adam came in, he’s a film composer and that’s really where we both started working together. He wound up being a great collaborator in that realm and you know, you work so tight knit on these teams that you wind up wearing a lot of different hats. So I think that’s really where Adam then came into it as well.
We went out and did something very unique…which I think it’s unique which is that we took my student’s film project and really promoted them. We went out and did film festivals with them and we didn’t say, “Oh, let’s get this class project done.” We all said to ourselves we’re gonna use the equipment to make…the equipment the school was giving us at the time to make professional short films with absolutely everything in our power and ability not budget wise but in terms of let’s tell stories that we think would get us noticed to some degree. Like tell stories that we feel strongly about, like you can see them working in sort of a commercial realm. So we did one about a middle aged woman, we did one that was a thriller, we did one that was actually a superhero movie.
We tried different genres really as a way of building up a portfolio and pushing the limits of what could possibly happen. I was thankful that my school let us take out that equipment until we then transitioned into becoming a production company as well. We actually then went out and purchased some equipment and built the company from the ground up and just really started making shots with our own equipment until we then first made our first feature as well which is The Depths which I can’t go into, which is like a whole other saga. That’s actually how that transition happened.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. Adam, why don’t we get a similar kind of take from you. What’s your background and how did you get into the business?
Adam: Well, my dad is in the industry and he’s been a manager for actors, casting directors and what not and so I’ve always been around it ever since I was a kid. I’ve loved movies, I mean when I was a kid that was the one thing that I could do all day was watch movies and I did. And so as time went on my dad started teaching me, taught at Macon State and I must have been…I donno, probably about 20 years old or so…21 or so, and I was into music. My dad found Jamison and he knew he wanted to be a filmmaker, so they started working together and because I was into music at the time, Jamison and my dad said, “Adam, how would you like to compose for films, what would you think about that?” Initially I wanted to just be in a band and just play Rock and Roll and what not and then I just I just finally went and I said, “Yeah, I’ll try it. I’ve never done it before, it seems pretty hard.” And so I started working with them.
We made a few shots and then we made a film called Midnight Catch. That’s where it kind of started with the composition, movie and music stuff and I started liking it. So we really kind of developed this friendship and we really just sort of cramming things out because Jamison was so good at writing a script, my dad knew a lot of the business end to it and I could compose some music for it. It’s three pretty hard things to do and we could do that efficiently so we eventually just created this big team. After that I started getting interested in producing and also learning what my dad was doing because I’d like to take over one day and do my own thing. So we’ve been doing that. I’ve been learning more about producing and the set setting and how to deal with people and just all the backline things that you don’t really see or hear of with the entertainment industry.
Ashley: Yeah, I’m curious about the production company you guys have started. I’ve heard a number of people over the years, I would say they have a similar sort of story to yours where they start a production company. How did you actually get that started? And early on when you’re starting a production company, what does that work look like? Are you literally filming weddings, are you getting infomercials? What does that work look like and do you think ultimately that helped you sort of get into producing fictional content?
Adam: I think that’s a great question actually because it’s actually a really challenging one especially today I would say. Because the thing is with the technology and everything that people have available to them they sometimes don’t see it as we need a team, we need a strong team to come on board video content and stuff like that. So there’s a challenge to that. Yeah, what I would say is it was a big risk that we took at first that I went and started gathering equipment. We went out and bought a Blackmagic Cinema Camera and we went out and got sound equipment. We really purchased everything outright. It was risk. What we wound up doing was yeah, we started getting some side…you know, little jobs doing a bunch of things. Your family and friends is a good way to start at first. I think that’s really kind of the way we branched out.
Then we did like some music video content, I did a couple of commercials and stuff like that, and then we did do weddings and we really started…that was kind of the way of getting past that period of, “Okay, we just lay down capital to purchase equipment to make movies but we have to get over the hurdle of like let’s get back to zero again and then make a movie. That was really how we fought through that period. It was definitely a challenge. But we got lucky I think in the way of working very, very hard. We got lucky in the sense that people…we just started knocking on doors so to speak and we happened to get in with a few event planners who…I think I shot like five, six weddings in the course of only a couple of months out of nowhere. That was like right after we started purchasing all the equipment and everything else.
That’s really it. That’s really how we put it together. And you know the complexion of the company always is changing, you know, of what we wind up doing. And when you’re making the feature I think one of the hardest things is that you have to sort of bring those other elements of the company to not a halt but you have to sort of figure out how to sideline them and that’s probably one of the most interesting and I would say very challenging part of having a company and also trying to produce features. It’s almost like being absent [laughs] and do you think you could be absent from that realm of hustling and everything else and knocking on doors, which is really mostly what having a production company is I think. Yeah.
Ashley: So let’s dig into The Depths your first feature. Maybe you guys can talk about that a little bit. What was that film all about and what did you guys do with it once it was done?
Jamison: Yeah, so The Depths was a major experience. I mean, it really was and it was definitely life changing I would say. What we did was we used all of our tricks and all of our tools and everything else into…we leveraged all that into saying, let’s use everything we have in all this experience, these years of experience now to try and make a feature. It was a very long and challenging process. One of the things that…we just stayed with it I think was really the most important thing. I was studying a lot of the war films at the time and I was hooked up with another screenwriter as well, Robert Spark and we sat down and wrote the script together. It took us longer than it should [inaudible 00:12:42] but Robert’s a great writer. The whole trick was us meeting because we wrote the entire script together over Skype which I think was a weird way of doing it but it worked for us.
Two very different schedules. We wrote it together and we were very happy with the script ultimately. We were able to raise the money which was definitely one of the more challenging parts but people had known us, we really had a strong body of work already with the shots and the shots went all over the country. We were in LA Shots Fest, we were in New York Los Angeles, we were all over the place with the shots. So that gave us the credibility that if we went to someone that knew us or not we could say, “We’re filmmakers and we’re trying to do this next thing.” What then happened is we got actors involved who were very strong. Michael Rispoli was actually Adam’s suggestion at the time. This is more when Adam was composing but was always working with us on the various elements of production. I mean, he was living it every day virtually. So he went to we should think about Michael Rispoli.
We then had a great casting director as well Judy Henderson, casting director of Homeland and a million other things. I met with him and Michael was great and wound up really defining what I think The Depths is as the Patch Darragh who plays Mickey. We went out there, we did festivals and we did everything to…it’s an interesting experience making the movie. I guess first making a feature but finally then landing on a distributor and everything else is actually probably just as hard as financing it in the first place. We actually then again landed in a great place where we were able to partner with Random Media. The guys of Random Media it was Erick Doctorow, Don Rosenberg and that entire team. They’re linked in to Sony and The Orchard as well, so our distribution is with all of those guys and it’s now on Amazon, iTunes, it’s FandangoNOW, DVD. So we really had a wide distribution. Everything accept theatrical really, which was a dream come true because it was a really difficult process.
Adam: [inaudible 00:15:01] it paid off.
Jamison: Yeah, we’re very proud of that distribution team because again it’s just as hard as putting the movie together in the first place is defining that part. It’s like starting over almost.
Ashley: I’m curious. You mentioned that you had played these shots at festivals all over the country and so people kind of knew who you were. How do you stay in touch with those people? Did you go to festivals and try and collect email addresses? What does that actually look like? How do you actually notify those people that have seen your shots or how do you stay in contact with them?
Jamison: Actually that’s a good point. A lot of people always tell us…actually I’ve met a lot of really kind, nice people and I’m always humbled by the experience to that point of saying, “I’m really interested in what you guys are doing, you should add me to your mailing list.” And actually we’ve been going along. We’ve been keeping a very strong consistent mailing list and we’ve been mailing them on every single…on all the accomplishments and various things we do. We keep them in the loop about things. That’s probably one of the things…one of the most powerful promotional things that we’ve done because people will always know what we’re up to. We’re actually [inaudible 00:16:10] or something and people will come up to us and say, “You guys are doing so great.” We sit there and say, “Well, thank God, we have a great mailing list.” That’s really the core of it.
But beyond that we also have a very strong social media as well which is almost like a whole other thing too. We have a YouTube channel called Film Valor. That’s on YouTube. We have about 3000 subscribers and 200,000 worldwide views. We also have that social media exposure as well that, Adam and I have built Film Valor from the ground up and that was in the days after The Depths when we were looking to start to brand the company into something new.
I really think that’s what it is and you know it’s sort of that concept of, “I saw your last thing, I wanna help you with your next thing,” is really the main…I think that’s really always how it seems to work. There’s sort of a faith in what happened already and I believe you can do it again and I think you can do it better even. I think that’s really how it’s built.
Ashley: Perfect. So let’s dig into your latest film Sunset. Maybe to start out you guys can give us just a quick log line or pitch. What is that film all about?
Adam: Originally we sensed it was a short film and it still had a few characters were played by Barbara Bleier and Liam Mitchell. It was really about an older couple surviving a nuclear war or a nuclear explosion. It came to me because I was thinking you see all these end of the world movies and it’s usually the young couple or the young kids making it through and then the older people die or whatever and it’s like passing the torch in the time of tragedy. I felt like saying what happens to the older people or the ones who can’t leave their home or the ones who have no one? What about their story of their last moments together? I figured that if someone who’s older and wiser who’s been through so much is now facing the fear of death not on their terms. And so we started off with the shot and eventually we decided to make it a whole feature. We worked with a couple of actors before and we knew that in order to do this as a feature we would want them. And so we started writing the characters with the actors in mind. Yes.
Jamison: Just to go off the tail of that, I think one of the most interesting thing about Sunset is the fact that we had the ability to sort of like almost re-evaluate the concept in general, which was that we had this shot that we were proud of but we were able to take that, not only expand it. What’s interesting about Sunset is that’s not where the story starts, it’s actually where the story ends. So we worked backwards and said what would the 48 hours prior to this look like, and really thought of characters based on actors we knew in a lot of ways. That’s how their characters developed which I think is very unique, we’ve never done that before. It just seemed to be unique in general. Most people come up to us and say, “You guys wrote four people and these characters feel so like they’re real and everything else. I really believe that’s because of the fact that we knew who we wanted and we wrote for them. I think that’s definitely a unique element.
Ashley: Yeah, let’s talk about the collaboration on this. Maybe you can kind of just describe how your collaboration worked. You mentioned Skype, I guess you had another writing partner on The Depths and you used that. But I’m just always curious to kind of hear how people work together, what tool they use and just how collaboration works among two different people.
Jamison: So yeah, I think what we always do is…we already had the short film and we took that dialogue and that concept and really just froze it in time and said to ourselves, “What would 48 hours prior to this look like?” As we started developing that there became…I think actually the most intriguing thing for me from the beginning was the fact that this was not my idea. This was not my concept and I jumped at it as soon as Adam said it. That was such a great thing as a filmmaker, you know, somebody who typically has to…is charged with the task of directing or writing something because the fact that I knew I wanted to see that as an audience member, which is such a better place to start in almost always because then you’re starting on the right foot with the question that…I think the most important question when writing a script in general is what do I want to see in that process.
What would I wanna see? So it’s sort of almost selfish I feel like always but it’s like you know what, I would love to see this and that suddenly opened up the entire door to me of like what I felt that process would be. So I think we just…interesting part since your focus is screenplay I think there is a lot of different elements that maybe we’ve actually really not talked to anyone about which is the fact that it was difficult to think of a structure for something like this because you’re not talking about a protagonist who’s going on a journey. You’re not really talking about those kind of things and you can’t rely on that type of thing for something that’s based on all this ensemble piece. So it became people versus environment type of situation where we suddenly had to build on their characters reacting to something but not only that, build on how they respond to each other and what their perspective is of the situation and why it’s unique.
So the plot started to become based on that discussion. It was very challenging I would say to find the format of the script and to build the structure of it. Once I think we discovered what their choices would be and what their struggles would be throughout the script I think that’s when the writing became very fluid and then we were able to write dialogue based on that and everything else. We wrote it very quickly actually but that outline phase was very challenging. I think we’ve been through about 67 different total versions of the entire story until we realized that it wasn’t gonna work with a single protagonist. It had to be multiple characters.
Ashley: As you were developing this outline are you guys both in the same room or are you doing it via email, via Skype, one of you is just writing it up and then sending it to the other one for notes? What does that actually look like, the actual collaboration?
Adam: [inaudible 00:23:26] he just came up with, he’s like, “Hey, I got ideas for doing this and this,” and if he seems to like it or not he’ll put a shot story together and we’ll talk about characters, how many we want. The biggest challenge that we like and that we pay a lot to is the choices the characters make. I think that’s really the core of…that’s where a lot time there’s a lot of revising goes into because we literally…he’ll write out the script and we’ll just sit on the couch, make a cup of coffee and go through the whole thing and we’ll just say, “Look, I don’t agree with this choice that they’re making.” And it’s totally fair. Every input is valid, it’s important and considered. I think that’s the thing that makes us successful, is that we have a good friendship and good communication skills between each other.
Jamison: Yeah, and I think the other thing too Ashley to your point or to your question was that we definitely make sure we’re on the same page before proceeding with something, so we will sit down together in the same space and look at every element of the story. We don’t necessarily sit and talk about lines because if the motivation is there I feel like we’re almost already on the same page. That’s at least the way we’ve always worked it out then we’ll go back in our own spaces, I’ll sit down and maybe write some dialogue and we’ll figure it out. But we’ve already agreed upon the choices, the scenes, the structure and the characters and I think we then both have a sense of, “Okay, this character shouldn’t act this way. They’re gonna act this way, so therefore they’re gonna make this choice.
So we always have that stuff totally laid out to the point that then we’re just assessing the dialogue or the flow of each individual scene et cetera. But we’ll usually read it as one entirely structured script after we get through the outline phase and everything else. So yeah, we really sort of hammer those things down and then get into all the little things.
Adam: And sometimes when Jamison [inaudible 00:25:52] he’ll call me and say, “Hey, I was thinking about changing this because yaddy yaddy, yadda,” and I’ll do the same. So pretty much you know, whether any time or day we just have an open line to each other to say…to just talk and that’s a good thing.
Jamison: Actually that’s a good point that Adam brings up as well because not only do we always do that, where we suddenly there’s sort of an epiphany of some level of like, “Oh my God, it had to be this way the entire time.” Like somebody realizes that, “Oh, Okay,” and then we’ll try to address that. The other thing on this script too that Adam’s bringing back to me as well is that not only did we…we all collaborated, myself and Adam of course and this team but we also brought two of the other actors into it as well. We brought both Liam and Barbara who play the leads in Sunset, basically two of the leads. We brought that into the process as well by showing them the structure of the outline and saying, “What do you guys think?” I think some of the stronger character twists came from Liam Mitchell and Barbara Bleier who play Henry and Patricia.
They gave us, “You know what would be interesting is if you made one of the characters reveal this at some point and then there would be another idea, “I think Henry needs to have tools here to do this,” or “They should have a discussion of this concept.” A lot of those things were just based on what they were reading in the structure but it was also based on their own life. They’re really married in real life the two. So it was based on their own personal experiences also what they would do in this situation, so we started to work in these beautiful little things that everybody put input into the script and into the fabric of what we already had and so we felt there’s enough twisting here that we can keep the audience engaged. That was another thing we did.
We really opened up the doors to say like, “Anybody that has an idea, let’s hear everything we can.” We try to always be that way but even more so on Sunset and it was really to our benefit to bring the actors into it. They gave us some great character turnarounds and everything else and great bold twists.
Ashley: I’m curious, are there ever those moment where you both have strong views but they’re opposite, Adam think it should go one way, Jamison thinks it should go the opposite direction? How do you ultimately mediate those issues where you both feel strongly but those opinions are maybe the opposite?
Adam: Yeah, I can remember some times where I felt strongly about a choice or a direction the story was going or any story that we’ve done was going. I think the thing is we both think alike because the way Jamison could in a sense not just reassure me that it’s a good choice but explain to me that it’s a good choice, I could be steaming in anger just because I can’t see it. But then he just knows what to say. He knows the choices and decisions why the character is doing this and indefinitely…and he’s really thinking about what’s next for the story. Because that’s what it comes down to. You’re not gonna always be right with the story especially when you [inaudible 00:29:29]. But I think making a successful story is willing to go on the breaks a little bit and trust your friend, trust your writer and just go with it.
Jamison: Thank you for saying that. I also think Adam and I do have a strong collaboration. Yeah, I guess there’re definitely has been times where maybe we don’t see something the same way. I think often times we just let that process develop because I feel like almost any time that’s happened we wind up finding either a middle ground or there’s an understanding on one person’s part that it needs to be this way or something like that. I think what’s interesting about the both of us creatively is I feel like Adam has great instincts about things and I would almost call them [laughs] I don’t mean to use this as a bad thing, it’s a good thing. They’re almost like blind instincts in the sense that he understands something without even maybe fully coming to a realization about it, which is great because I don’t think that’s necessarily something I have.
I will sit there and think about something for four days. Of course I’ll come to a conclusion but the conclusion is bulletproof, you what I mean? There’s a difference there, but what I appreciate about his instincts is that they’re very much on the money and sometimes he can picture things that I don’t picture and then re-explain them to me like well, obviously fanatically it seems like this. I think there’s also sort of the fact that sometimes I can overcomplicate a story because I’m thinking about the many different elements to it and that simplification number one, but also the instincts of knowing how to creatively take it, which I think is based on Adam’s experience with movies in general. I think that helps a lot because he’s just seen so many of them [laughs]. He bring up movies all the time and I’m like, “When did he see this movie?” Which is great.
So he has those instincts as well. I’d say that’s definitely one of his strengths. He has good instincts which you can’t teach someone, I don’t think. You can’t ever teach someone that. But I like to think that on the other end that…or different to that is that I have the ability to think out the motivations or to…I think I guess explain them. I can sort of flash something out with the logic of the situation which I think probably I think of to death. But that I am good at and I understand…I can then come to weird conclusions that way of, “Oh wow, it has to be like this.” I think that’s because of a level of obsession of getting that thing right that for some reason it’s bothering me. So it’s a different kind of instinct I feel like.
Ashley: Perfect. Let’s talk about the production. So you guys wrote this script, at some point you were happy with it, you were ready to go. What were those first steps to actually raising the money and getting this thing greenlit? Did you take it out to producers sort of the typical thing where you went maybe to some experienced producers that could raise money, did you just go straight and try and raise the money yourself? Maybe you can talk about that process a little bit.
Jamison: Unlike The Depths, The Depths is a very slow and painful process I guess as it is always if you like. But Sunset was completely night and day from that, totally different. We had established ourselves already with The Depths and we had established ourselves with Film Valor and there was a sense of who we were out there in the world. So we said to ourselves let’s do what we couldn’t do on The Depths. Let’s try to go for a crowd funding campaign and see how we can do. That actually wound up being very successful. Our original, and I’ll go into budgets here because I think this movie is a movie where budget’s important because of what we did it on.
Adam: I’m proud of that.
Jamison: Yeah, as a producer you should be. But yeah, our original budget was $18,000 and we wound up raising about seven to eight on crowdfunding and we wound up doing the entire movie for about $9,500. A movie about a nuclear war that’s pretty insane, with all the actors shot on a Red Camera as well, with drone shots, 4K Drone shots and shooting and everything else. Just like extremely aggressive…And the other crazy thing about it too which I’m not even getting into, there was only about four people on the crew, I did the sound myself, I was both the director and the sound and Adam did the [inaudible 00:34:18] and we had a cinematographer and one gaffer. That was our entire crew. There was more actors than crew most of the time. So that was very unique but it was the only production model that would make this movie.
We realized if we’re gonna make this, this is a movie about people and we were most attracted to that, so this was the right way to do that and not make it a spectacle film but make it about people’s relationships to each other. And you know in some ways we got lucky, there’s the special effects work in the movie that Nick Patroniro helped us get access to and he brought his Red Camera on, it was the new Red Raven Cinema Camera. Nick’s an excellent cinematographer. We had a great gaffer as well and that was really how we put this thing together. And people were very generous in crowdfunding us. There was people that watched The Depths and said, “That was a fantastic movie, next time you guys make a movie we’re gonna help you out. We don’t care what it is or when.”
And on a budget that was this small…Of course we wound up adjusting from $18,000 to half of that. Really half of that. But that was the way to do it. Sometimes you got to look at yourself hard and say, “You know what, I’m gonna really be in a lot of…I’m gonna struggle but if I wanna make my movie this is how I’m gonna do it. I also edited the movie as well and sound designed it, so we really made it totally in house and I think it look very high quality for what we did. So that’s years of experience.
Ashley: Just in broad strokes can you break down where you spent the $9,000? Where did that money actually go?
Jamison: Yeah, I think so. I think other than myself we just did the movie. We weren’t paid. I would say a lot of that went to actors. None of it was spent on location.
Adam: The camera [inaudible 00:36:23].
Jamison: We did some various things like we had to. We were dealing with SAG. The salaries still weren’t much but that was the large potion. I think there was just various elements…different things…
Ashley: I’m imagining you bought some food, some…
Jamison: We did feed them and I’d like to say we fed them pretty well. Our locations were very cheap or as I said nothing. Actually it was pretty much nothing, and yeah…I’m trying to think of where else we dispelled it to without looking at anything in front of me but…Really that’s what it was about. We put everything we had on screen. We had a little bit of a festival budget, there wasn’t much, I mean, I added it myself. That was really…and we got the drone for free actually. We got a 4K Drone for free, somebody did us a favor through Nick our cinematographer. So yeah.
Ashley: I noticed on your IMDb page on the pictures you had your movie The Depths and then also your movie Sunset at the Manhattan Film Festival. I’m just curious if you could talk about that a little bit. I’m actually going through the process of submitting my own movie to film festivals, not having a lot of success. So any tips you have about just festivals in general and how to pick ones that are potentially a good fit for your film.
Jamison: Yeah, I love that you’re going to this because in a more positive light I’ll say this. I think there are really great festivals out there that do care about your movie. We definitely have the same experience all the time. The problem with general submitting is that there’s just too many submissions nowadays it’s way overcrowded. I mean, if you do 30…we had a movie we did like 30 submissions and we got into like the last couple. So it’s really…it’s just very tough and you wind up using a lot of money on that, which we did not do this time. We kept it more local and to things that we knew and stuff like that. Yeah, let’s talk about Manhattan Film Festival though. Manhattan Film Festival is a great film festival and the guy that runs it his name is Philip Nelson. I really respect what he does because I think…it’s not that it’s a problematic trend but I think it’s hard when you have 20,000 submissions or whatever.
14,000 submissions going to Sundance on feature films alone, whatever it is. Whatever that figure is, to sift through all that. But what I like about what Philip Nelson does in Manhattan is that he picks movies that are not going to these other festivals. These are movies that are made from somebody somewhere in a little town in New Jersey like us and he goes by his guts. That’s how he got The Depths. We were getting a lot of turn downs but we got The Depths and then we won best dramatic feature film last year with The Depths and it’s just insane how that happens but you sit there and say, “We know we have a great movie, it’s not getting in anywhere else, there’s too many submissions out there [inaudible 00:39:27]. It’s not right to point fingers at anything really specifically, but there’s a lot of submissions.
But then we came back again and we won best dramatic feature film again with Sunset which we were shocked by again. But it was really an honor that they did that and I think they just started to recognize our work and I think that’s really what it was about. They saw the movie and they liked it.
Ashley: Do you think that there is some reciprocal, I mean, you got to know him through The Depths and so then when your second movie comes through he kind of already knows you guys and knows your work. Do you think that gives you a gap?
Jamison: Oh yeah it does. The funny thing for us though, let me define that. I think what’s good about that situation is yeah, Philip Nelson, through dealing with him of course from Manhattan, it does change the game a little bit because you know him from the year before and the year prior. We actually paired down this film festival. But because of how much he appreciated our work he was already curious what we were doing next. I think on the simplest level that’s what it was. I think we said to ourselves, “There’s no way we’re gonna win the award this year because I think just politically it’s something that he couldn’t do. That was interesting because we don’t really know him. We know him as this guy that runs this great festival so it’s not like we knew him prior to The Depths at all actually, we just did blind submission. So yeah, it does change it a little bit but I think we were shocked as anybody that we went up there and got an award for Sunset as well. We were very humbled by that and honored. He just said you guys turned around another movie and I think you did great. So we were shocked as anyone.
Ashley: So how can people see Sunset? Do you know what your release schedule is gonna be like?
Jamison: Yes, it’s gonna be July 3rd. So July 3rd it’s gonna be on Amazon, it’s gonna go to iTunes, it’s also on FandangoNOW. It should be on Xbox as well. We’ll see about Sony or Playstation, that’s a different thing. We’ll also be on DVD. They should start selling us through some of the more major retailors as well like Barnes & Noble and maybe those various ones too. From there they start doing a DVD after that and everything else as well. But it’s really gonna be available on those named ones on July 3rd which we’re very excited about. That’s through Random Media, Sony and New Orchard.
Ashley: Yeah, perfect. Well, congratulations on all that. So what’s the best way for people to keep up with what you’re doing? Twitter, Facebook, a website, blog, anything you’re comfortable sharing I’ll round up for the show notes.
Jamison: Yeah, the best way to see what we’re doing is to check out our YouTube channel Film Valor and check out our website Film Valor Media as well. Every Friday we have something new to show you guys and sometimes we just talk about what our productions are going through, what stories we’re looking to create and new tips. So it’s every Friday at Film Valor on YouTube.
Ashley: Perfect. Well, as I said I’ll grab that stuff and I’ll put those on the show notes so people can click over to it. Adam and Jamison this has been a great interview. I really appreciate you taking some time out of your day to talk with me.
Adam: Thank you, it has been an honor. It really has been. You have a great site and everything else. I wanna make sure I say that, I really like what you’re doing.
Ashley: Perfect, thank you. So I wish you luck with this film and next time you’re done your next film let me know.
Adam: Thank you, we’ll do definitely.
Ashley: Sounds good, talk to you later.
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On the next episode of the podcast I’m gonna be interviewing writer, director Ryan Bellgardt who just did a film called The Jurassic Games. Ryan is a filmmaker living and working in Oklahoma so it’s another great success story about a guy who’s far from Los Angeles. We talk about his career running his production company in Oklahoma and how he has been able to use that experience to produce The Jurassic Games which is actually his third feature 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 Jamison and Adam. I especially liked how they talked about these student films that they did and how they really tried to be somewhat strategic about those films. They entered them into festivals. They didn’t just look at them as exercises in school, they actually looked at them as potentially a first Segway into a career as filmmakers. Thinking those things through, it’s a smart thing to do. The more angles you can play, whether it be a low budget feature film or a short film or whatever you’re working on, the more angles you can play just the more chances you have. It’s really all about giving yourself as many chances as possible. And again taking them as an example, by doing a thriller short film, a superhero short film as they did, first off it allows them to learn what they’re good at, it allows them to practice that genre.
But if the film turn out pretty well it also becomes a calling card. I mean, they might now be able to go write a superhero script and they wanna produce it, they wanna direct it. They then have…the first thing the people that are gonna give them and fund this will say, “Well, have you ever done anything like this, what can we see that you’ve actually done?” They’ll say, “Yeah, we’ve done a whole bunch of feature films. None of them are superhero feature films but we did do this superhero short film and they can bring that out and show it. Again, assuming that it turned out pretty well. It’s gonna add a little bit of credibility as they go down the road and again they can use these short films as their careers move along. They can use them, they wanna do a thriller same thing. So it’s smart to really think these things through as much as possible beforehand because again it just gives you more angles to play.
By spending a little extra time at the beginning of the process it can really, really double, triple, even quadruple the potential impact that something like this can have on your career. Another big take away for me, and this is really just so important to listen to is just these guys are just willing to go out and do the work and it can be done. It’s not easy, it’s not simple, it’s not gonna happen overnight but it can happen and these guys are a living proof of that. You may be listening to this thing thinking, “Yeah, I don’t wanna do a low budget arthouse indie drama,” and that’s totally fine. This type of film might not be interesting to you but with each film that they finish it gives them another chance. Again, just exactly what I’m talking about, sort of being strategic with those short films.
Doing these low budget feature films, it’s gonna give them a resume. Not only are they getting better with each project, they have something that they can show people, they have something that can move their careers just a little bit further down the line and that’s so important. Again I understand you might not be wanting to do a low budget indie drama, that’s fine. On the screen writing level I would say it’s about consistently writing new material. Every screenplay that you finish gives you another chance at finding success. It’s another screenplay you can send out to contests and might be able to get some placement in contest. It’s another screenplay you can send to the agents and managers and they might like it. It gives you another potential way of introducing yourself to producers.
You can send it to them, they might like it. And with each finished project, each screenplay that you finish, again it just gives you another potential way of getting yourself moving your career down the line. And I’ll just give you kind of an example from my own career. One of the things that I found interesting is when I’ve optioned scripts to producers so often for a variety of reasons, those projects don’t necessarily take off and I will then try and show some of my other scripts to those producers and so often throughout my career it has not worked out that way. Like for whatever reason I write a script the producer reads it and just they love that script and nothing else I’ve written do they like. It’s just taste is a very nuanced thing. You can’t predict it, you don’t know necessarily what people are gonna like.
So again by having lots and lots of scripts to send out you just give yourself a better chance for finding that match. The reason I use my own example to sort of illustrate this is that there’s always this sort of advice, “Just write a great script.” And you know what’s great to one person may not be great to another person. That’s a part of this too. And you’ve not only got to write a script that someone likes but you’ve also got to find that person that actually likes it. The more scripts you have, if you start to build your own resume, you start to write a lot of scripts and send them out, enter contests, use other services like my own SYS Services, INkTip. The [inaudible 00:50:50] using these services you’re getting out there, you’re networking with people, you meeting producers.
They may not like this project, they may not like that project but they may just like that one project that nobody else liked for whatever reason and that might be the thing that they option and that then they ultimately are able to sell and give you a credit on. Again, some of it is a numbers game. I don’t wanna push this too far. The scripts have to be good and you can’t just [inaudible 00:51:16] these things out, every weekend write a new script and they’re just complete garbage. That’s not gonna work either. It is a balancing act. The quality obviously has to be there but by the same token, I hear from a lot of writers that they’ve been working on the same script for two or three or four years and I just worry that you’re just limiting your chances. You’ve just got to find that one producer who loves that one project and that’s a very, very difficult thing to have.
But if you have 10 scripts that you’re pursuing it gives you 10 times the option. You then have 10 times the chance of finding that one producer who likes that one script because you’ve gotten many, many, many scripts you’re sending out. The other piece to this, and it kind of relates to this whole sort of segment where I’m basically just saying be proactive, be efficient and really get a lot of material out there. I get emails so often from people saying things like, “I’ve written a great screenplay, I know it could be a blockbuster, can you help me sell it?” So often I just feel like the big issue is number one they may not have written a script that’s nearly as good as they think. That’s obviously a problem. But the big issue is that they don’t wanna do the work. They just wanna write out one screenplay, send it out to someone like myself in just this misguided notion that I can then somehow sell it easily because it’s so great, and then boom, I’ll just send them a cheque for a million dollars.
It just doesn’t work that way. Sometimes it does, and that’s part of the problem. Occasionally it does work that way. Someone gets plucked out of obscurity, they become the latest Hollywood sensation. These stories are celebrated so people think that this is like a common occurrence. But so often success in Hollywood comes after many, many years of slow, steady work. I would really urge you, the people that you admire, the people that you like, go back and look up their careers. Very few of them start out writing blockbuster movies. Just almost everybody, the vast majority of the people, they start out slowly. Maybe if they’re a big feature film writer they start out doing some really low budget television work 20 years ago and slowly work their way up to A-list feature film writer.
I’d really encourage you to go to IMDb, look up the people that you admire, the people whose career you wanna emulate and try and come up with a template. Look at how they did it and try and come up with a template of yourself. Anyway that’s the show, thank you for listening.