This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 238: Aussie Writer/Director Luke Sparke Talks About His New Alien Invasion Movie, Occupation.
Ashley: Welcome to Episode #238 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 Luke Sparke. He started off working as a costume designer on films and eventually was able to make the leap to writer-director. We talk about this transition as well as his latest feature film Occupation which is a sci-fi-action flick about an alien invasion. 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 #238. 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. As mentioned over the last couple of weeks, I’m in the final stages of getting my crime, thriller feature film- The Pinch out into the world. Again I wanna just quickly mention our world premiere at Action On Film Festival which is in Las Vegas. The screening is going to take place on Wednesday, August 22nd at 10:00 pm in the Brenden Theater which is located in the Palms Casino which again is in Las Vegas, Nevada. If you live in the area and wanna check out the film please do. I will be there so if you do come please do say hello to me. I will link to the ticket information in the show notes. So just getting ready for the festival has taken up some time as there’re a good number of deliverables I need to get them. First I had to create a new version full size poster and mail that to them.
If you’re on YouTube you can see our new poster sitting behind me. That’s the first printed version. It turned out what I think is really well so I just had another version or another copy printed and then sent directly from the printer to the festival. I also have to get post cards printed out. Just little posters that basically promote the screening at the festival, and they’re gonna throw those post cards in sort of the goodie bags, just use them to promote our screening. I sent them a link to the film and they got that and that’s what I think they’re gonna use to actually screen the film as they actually download a high rez- version of the film, but they also want a Blu-ray as a back up. That’s actually been more difficult than I thought. No one burns Blu-rays anymore.
So it’s actually been harder just finding someone who can do that for me and then just figuring out what other things to attend at the festival. They have closing night banquets or award ceremonies, they have a bunch of other things that they run during the festival. I’ve never been to this festival and I don’t really know a lot about it, so I’m just trying to navigate those waters. If anyone has ever been to the Action On Film Festival I’d be real curious to hear your thoughts about your experience, what you recommend, what things you think I should attend. If you’ve been there and have some thought, please do send me an email, just [email protected]. If you can’t make the screening in Vegas but still wanna see The Pinch, for a limited time it is available for sale on the website just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/thepinch.
I’m gonna keep it up for sale on the website probably for a couple more weeks and then I will be rolling it out to iTunes and Amazon after that. I’m gonna try and get the release all set up to happen once the festival screening takes place, so it will probably be late August or early September. I hopefully will have it up on iTunes and Amazon. That’s what I’m doing with The Pinch. I’ve talked about my teen comedy a number of times over the years. It’s a script called Josh Taylor’s Prom Date and it actually went into production this past week. They’re shooting half of it in Norway and that’s actually where they are right now. They’re in Norway shooting and then the other half of it is gonna be shot I think in mid to late August in Pennsylvania. This isn’t one that I did any producing on, I’m just the writer so I don’t have a lot of insight into the production.
But I do think there is some interesting bits from my perspective as the screenwriter. So I’m gonna get into those in a second. Now, what I’m about to relay is just my experience. This isn’t me telling other people what they should do or how they should work their option agreements. It’s really just telling you how this all this went down. I find it interesting to hear other people’s stories of how they got their scripts optioned and ultimately produced. That’s what I’d like to share here. Again though, this isn’t advice. I’m not recommending anybody to do it this way, but this is how this one went down. So my writing partner and I originally optioned the screenplay to the producer over five years ago. I don’t even remember exactly when but it was before I started the podcast.
I remember when I first started talking with this producer I lived in my old house and I started this podcast about the time I moved to this current house. So sort of remember when I was sitting in my office in my old house having these emails back and forth with this producer. So it’s been well over five years I optioned it to him. He paid us a little bit for the option. Now, when I say a little bit I think it was $1,000 or $2,000 and that was probably for like an 18month or two year option. So not a huge amount of money but he definitely kicked in a little bit of money. I felt pretty good about it at the time because this was not a producer I knew or had any experience with, so just seeing some money like that gave me some confidence in him in the sense that he had enough confidence in himself to this thing produced that he was willing to share at least some money for the option.
But then the option expired and he didn’t wanna spend any more money to renew it. Now, my writing partner and I, we liked him. We had gotten to know him through email a little bit. Again, still I had not met him. This was a script that we had written a long time ago so we weren’t really doing anything with it. So when the option expired we emailed back and forth with him and he seemed to wanna continue on with the project. So we just basically let him. We said, “Yeah, no problem. Go ahead, continue on and of something comes up on our end we’ll let you know.” We were not promoting the script heavily. I would occasionally send it out when I saw a producer looking for a teen comedy, but for the most part I was not making a real strong marketing push with this script because I knew he was kind of at least half-heartedly working on it.
But I would also get updates from him every once in a while and so I could tell that he genuinely was continuing to work on it. It was not like I would have radio silence for years on end. He would email me over once in a while some updates and slowly things were charging along. So again, me and my writing partner we kind of just rolled the dice. The option was expired but we kind of just told him, “Yeah, just keep working on it and we’ll honor this option agreement once you do wanna produce it.” So again, that’s just kind of how it went down. And again, I’m just relaying this because life is not always messy and sometimes movie making is messy too. It just doesn’t always go the way that a lawyer thinks that it should or you might think it should as someone who hasn’t been through this if you’ve never been through this process of optioning and selling a script and seeing it get produced.
I often get questions from new writers about whether they should give free options. My advice is generally speaking to give a free option because I feel like just building a relationship with a producer and giving him sort of some leeway on a script is gonna take down at least a couple of hurdles for him to jump over. If he is to pay even a little bit of money sometimes he just doesn’t. Producers are scrappy and struggling as well and sometimes they don’t wanna spend a lot of money on the options. So I’m sort of a big proponent on giving free options. There’s other things to consider like the actual producer if it’s somebody you like there’s other things to consider like if the person has a track record and they’ve gotten things done before. But in general I think I’m pretty aggressive with these option agreements that I sign and I don’t mind giving very, very low priced options or free options to certainly established producers.
This producer had done a good number of things. They were over in Norway but he did have some track record. Now, the more important point that I think is specific to this project is that I don’t think this film would have gotten produced if my writing partner and I had said, “No, we’re not gonna give you additional time to work on this. You have to sign a new option and pay us another thousand or two dollars.” I don’t think he would have stuck with it. Maybe he would have renewed it one more time but I don’t think he would have stuck with it for five years. I don’t think people especially as you’re getting into this business as screenwriters, I don’t think they often understand how long it’s gonna take for a producer to raise the money and get the project produced.
Again, we’re at the five year mark or probably over the five year mark here just with the options. So now they’re gonna go into production. I mean, there’s a good chance he’ll be in post-production for a year or two years, three years. It just takes a long time. Another script that I sold that took 10 years, a script that got produced called Rush Lights, it was a very similar type of a situation where I optioned the script and he actually did keep the option going and he did pay me a little bit for the 10 years, but it literally took him 10 years to raise the money, and then it took him another I think two or three years to get through post-production because he had to raise some more money after that. So these things can just really take a long time and again if you’re constantly at the producer’s throat saying, “I need another 500, another 1,000, another 2,000 dollars for this option, I think eventually you’re gonna kill some of these option deals.
So again, that’s just my two cents. Take it for what it’s worth and think about your own situation. Maybe your circumstances are different. I feel like I’m a fairly prolific writer as well, so I never get in a situation where I feel like this one script is my master piece and this is my life. I always have a good number of scripts that are not optioned. So if a producer wants to option it I’ve got other material that I can still continue to send out to other producers. That’s definitely also something that is part of the contributing factors to my decision to give these very generous option agreements out. Again, think about your own situation but I relay this story to you, hopefully it will be helpful to you.
Now, in terms of how I originally met this producer, it was a film I optioned through my own email in Facts Plus Service. The director-producer as I mentioned, he lives in Norway, so I didn’t actually meet him until last year when he came to LA to do some casting for this project. This was definitely just a cold submission. I’d never heard of him, he has never heard of me. He got the query letter. In fact if my memory is right he actually read a horror comedy script. That’s actually what I originally pitched through the email in Facts Plus. He read it, he liked, but it wasn’t something he thought he wanted to do, and so that’s how the conversation started over the course of a few years or a couple of years anyways. We probably emailed back and forth and eventually he was looking for something else.
I emailed him this Josh Taylor’s Prom Date and that’s the one he liked and that’s the one he ultimately optioned and now produced. So again, these things are not always like a one to one type of a thing where things go super smoothly. It took a while even to get him to option something of mine and then obviously it’s taken a while for him to get to raise the money and get into production. It’s always exciting getting another movie into production even if someone who has a few credits, whenever I get a new credit it feels like a miracle and it really makes all the day in and day out slogging away sitting by yourself writing, it really makes it worth the effort, so I’m excited that this is going into production and gonna get finished. Now I just cross my fingers and hope it turns out half way decently.
Anyway, so that’s what I’m working on. Now let’s get into the main segment. Today I am interviewing writer-director Luke Sparke. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Luke to the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Luke: That’s alright, thank you for having me. I’ve been following you for a long time actually.
Ashley: Really, that’s good to hear. 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?
Luke: Obviously I’m in Australia, so I’m lucky enough that my family sort of have a film DNA. My family owns one of the largest military costumes collections here in the sub-hemisphere for film, TV entertainment business. So I sort of grew up behind the camera doing all the costumes and then I took a very different way to get to where I am now. But I always took it as my big apprenticeship and so we hired costumes to films and then I eventually when I was old enough started working onset behind the camera doing costumes on films like [inaudible 00:13:21] and The Pacific with Steven Spielberg. While I was there I knew I wanted to end up where I am now so I just took it as my big apprenticeship. I always tell people that if you want to be in the film industry the best way to do it is hands on and seeing it all happen in front of you and that’s what I did. So that’s a little bit of my background and how I got started.
Ashley: Yeah, that’s fascinating. So how did you actually make the leap? So you’re working in the costume department helping on these big productions. Were you also writing screenplays at the same time and were you passing them to people that you were meeting? Maybe just take us through some of those steps because there’s a long way from being a costume designer to a writer-director of a feature film and I just wonder if you can fill us in on some of the gaps.
Luke: Yeah now, you’re exactly right. While I was working on the shows I was very early on I was obviously like everyone does doing short films back when I was very, very young. But once I would the biggest sets with people like directors and writers from HPO and [inaudible 00:14:25] Of course I was trying to write features and I was lucky enough to be able to not enforce myself but once I had made a rapport with these filmmakers I could ask their opinion or their advice. I’d give them the script and so they’d pique their brain and have a back and forth and then obviously read the rewrites as they were coming to HPO, I would read the rewrites of other films I’d worked on just to see the whole process first hand and how it all works and I directly applied that to what I was trying to do. Again, it’s just a great experience to be working in the film industry if that’s what you love. Once I got through all that I eventually decided that I had to make the leap.
Actually it was one of those fortuitous moments where another production rang me up and said [inaudible 00:15:14] movie and they want you to come and be the [inaudible 00:15:18] guy for [inaudible 00:15:19] just about to go do my own first feature I have to stay on my [inaudible 00:15:25] I have to stay on my feature films. I had to say no to that and make the leap into my first low-budget feature film which a horror-action film was called Red Billabong.
Ashley: Okay, and so maybe you could just give us a couple of quick points on how you actually got that financed. So you wrote the script and then did you have a number of contacts in the business to go out for? What was sort of the path to getting that script into production?
Luke: Yes, and I spent six years writing that film and over that time obviously I was trying to make contacts as much as I could and then once I decided to make that leap I went back to my contacts in the investor world and then a lot more [inaudible 00:16:18] she talked to people and I talked to people. Eventually I got enough to at least…it was a very [inaudible 00:16:15 ] I broke up the film into two pieces. So I shot the first half of the film and then I went back to continue financing to get into the second half of the film just [inaudible 00:16:28] get it done it was a very different circumstance. But once I had footage then obviously people could watch half the movie. So half the movie and then come back and finance the second half. A very different way of doing that I obviously wouldn’t do it again but this is what I had to do at the time.
Ashley: Yeah, exactly. So let’s dig into Occupation. Maybe to start out you can give us a quick log line or pitch for that film.
Luke: Okay I will use a pitch I did while I was in LA was basically an alien invasion movie told from the perspective of a small country town in Australia, basically Red Billabong, Independence Day mashed together was my real quick pitch but using the Australian backdrop to kind of do something different with it and follow the lives of these very ordinary people rather than following military or presidents or computer analysts. Just very ordinary people and how they’re surviving from an alien occupation of earth.
Ashley: Yeah, I see. So where did this idea come from? What’s sort of the genesis of this story idea?
Luke: After Red Billabong, I was in LA selling Red Billabong around the world. I had a couple of meetings with different financiers and investors over there and I actually had a bunch of other scripts [inaudible 00:17:48] film, a comedy film, you know how it goes…taking a bunch of different projects to try to pitch across different genres and all of them were quiet because they seemed a bit higher than what the budget they felt that I could handle for a second film they said, “What else do you have?” The genesis of this idea really has been at the back of my head growing up as a kid in the ‘80s watching films like Predator, Independence Day, Aliens. I always looked across the horizon and think what if those lights were aliens and they invade the earth and how would I react and how would my neighbors react and the guy down the local joint how will he react rather than the president.
And so I literally just pitch the idea on the table and just said, “Independence Day, Red Billabong, Australia mashed together, and they all looked at each other and said, “You know, that’s pretty good, where’s the script?” I said, “I will start writing that for you.” And I walked out of the office and my producer turned to me and is she’s like, “What is this, what’s happening now, what are we doing?” So on the plane riding back from LA I started writing and yeah, a couple of months later I turned in the first draft and six months later I was shooting. So it was a quick turnaround movie.
Ashley: Yeah, no kidding. So I can see in your description of the film you’re constantly falling back on this thing where it’s like the regular people. It’s not the president, it’s not the other thing. I would imagine, that was the first thing when I saw this trailer. It’s the first thing, I mean, this is sort of a genre that’s tried and true. Obviously Independence Day but Arrival, even Signs…I think Signs had some of what you’re talking about where it sort of investigates the more normal everyday people as aliens invade. So how do you go and give it that spin? Were there some other things? Obviously you’ve tried to give it a little bit of a unique angle in sort of your premise. But were there some other things that you also tried to do that were unique and that really separated it from Independence Day and those types of films?
Luke: Yeah [inaudible 00:19:45] this other film is obviously is a very tried and true genre. Luckily down under here in Australia there’s never been an alien invasion really filmed in Australia. So obviously for Australians that’s a unique angle going into the market. For the world. Apart from like you said science and making a unique angle, once I got into the script I really wanted to make sure that the story line would be aliens but just a little bit different [inaudible 00:20:17] and just having mass destruction weapons and being at the [inaudible 00:20:22] I just sort of tried to get the genesis of the aliens just to be a little bit different where their backstory is a bit more…I won’t say realistic but something that could be in between District 9 and Independence Day where they’re not refugees but they’re not coming with weapons of hugely mass destruction [inaudible 00:20:45] much more of a grand invasion, much more of an anarchy trend of history.
Obviously working in military shows I tried to inject a realistic sort of [inaudible 00:20:55] the grand invasion and how the aliens would fight back and how ordinary people would fight back and sort of bring in the World War 1, World War 2 sort of style with combat warfare in the rain and in the mud. Towards the end of the movie we’d have how a movie like this could end rather than just having a blue beam in the sky or pressing a button and [inaudible 00:21:20] looking back at history of how I could bring history into this movie in a realistic way looking back at World War 1 and how that finished rather than a complete annihilation it looked like a truce, a handshake. I thought that was very interesting, having [inaudible 00:21:35] I think too much. So I sort of tried to inject a little of that into the script.
Ashley: Yeah, that’s interesting. So I wonder too and just in watching the trailer for Red Billabong and for Occupation, I noticed that there’s a lot of uniforms…military uniforms and this kind of thing. I wonder is your writing sort of impacted by your background in costuming? Because it seems like for low budget scripts you try to avoid some of these bigger scenes that take a lot of costume and production value and stuff, but since you have that background maybe that sort of stuff doesn’t scare you. Maybe you can talk a little bit about that. Just specifically how did your costuming work affect your writing?
Luke: Yeah, I mean look, I always say, “Write from what you know,“ and as you said that doesn’t scare me at all, it’s exactly what I know and I’m lucky enough to have that background and have my family business stand behind me. So obviously when I write like I said, plenty of history, plenty of uniform, it’s kind of that. So it does fit in. Actually, Red Billabong I went out and said to myself I don’t want to lean on that even if [inaudible 00:22:49] much more of ordinary stories with set me up back with kids and it’s a very modern and that with their costumes [inaudible 00:23:02] and I said, “Screw it,” I’m gonna lean on what I know a lot more and I know I have the facilities and the contacts to make bigger things happen that other people can’t so I should lean on that because that’s something that I actually know and I feel completely comfortable in shooting action sequences with military in trenches or the mud or all that kind of stuff. So yes, moving forward I’ll continue to lean on that because it’s something that I absolutely know and as far as I know it’s kind of in my DNA. I love it.
Ashley: In the short films that you did was there a lot of action scenes in those? Like I wonder as you were presenting this project, “Hey, I wanna direct this,” did you have some similar action scenes that you could point to that you’ve directed before?
Luke: Yeah, in my short films back in the day during the first short films, like 2001 or something when I was a teenager just out of high school and it was a World War 2 movie [inaudible 00:24:08] of course that’s the one [inaudible 00:24:11] growing up watching [inaudible 00:24:13]. So yes, that was my first one. Just before I did Red Billabong I actually shot two episodes of a History Channel production of World War 1 and World War 2…trench warfare in the jungles of New Guinea. That was obviously I have in my repertoire [inaudible 00:24:34] I can do this and I sort of applied a lot of stuff that I worked on The Pacific Documentary episodes. I got the same crew to work on The Pacific. I would bring over the [inaudible 00:24:44] and script supervisor and stunt coordinator and so I’d bring them all over before I worked with them on these bigger [inaudible 00:24:51] applied into my show and sort of turn around and say, “Remember that day on the Pacific we did it like this? Let’s do that here.” And it kind or really works.
Ashley: Okay, let’s talk about your writing process a little bit. Where do you typically write when you’re writing your scripts?
Luke: I typically write at home. I have a house at the back of the Gold Coast here in Queensland and we have very nice mountain views. I have my office and my room filled with movie memorabilia. I’m a huge collector of movie memorabilia…Star Wars collector going way back. So I have a lot of stuff surrounding me which I feel inspires me a bit when I’m writing these genre features, which is what I wanna keep writing. Yeah, that’s where I write normally.
Ashley: What does your day look like when you’re working on a screenplay? Are you the type of writer that writes for 16 hours a day for a week or two to get that draft out, are you someone that writes a few pages every day? What does your writing schedule look like?
Luke: I would love to say that I’d be the guy that writes for 16 hours a day but usually especially from the last couple of years when I’ve been doing multiple [inaudible 00:26:05] I usually write a couple of pages a day over the course of a fair while but when I can I love to be the writer that just sits there [inaudible 00:26:15] 16 hours and just punches out a whole bunch of the [inaudible 00:26:19] of the whole draft. So that makes the bunch of an action scene or sequence or whole first act or something [inaudible 00:26:25] what I’m doing.
Ashley: Yeah, and how much time do you spend preparing to write versus actually opening up the outline? It’s usually a matter of like outlining and index cards and character development and that sort of stuff and then opening up a final draft. What is the ratio for you?
Luke: Pretty lurry with that first operation stuff. With my first draft I usually spend maybe two weeks doing the index cards and the character development and then I kind of just go in all…I’m just gonna dive in to the first draft and just get going.
Ashley: And so you got two weeks of the outlining preparation, and how long does it take you once you’re writing to write? If you’re doing even two or three pages a day is that a five-day week so then just multiply that out by whatever 10 weeks?
Luke: Yeah, I would say so. I haven’t really kept track of my first few scripts [inaudible 00:27:26] think about at the time. Looking back on it now [inaudible 00:27:29] coming back to Occupation to America [inaudible 00:27:33] was like an outline of what I wanted to see in this movie and then I got back and I just got into it.
Ashley: How do you when your script is ready to show to others? Is there a certain point where you get where you just feel like you’ve gone far as you can without getting feedback, but what is that moment for you when you realize it’s time to start getting feedback?
Luke: Yeah, I would probably say that the time for me is when I get to the point that I feel in my guts that at least the bare-bones of the script works and I do feel like I need feedback. It’s a gut feeling for me. I probably should probably go a little bit more but I feel like I’ll then get too attached to it, and then and then I have a core team within my business and my producers and the people that I trust that I give out the script to first that I know are gonna be pretty honest with me. They also understand creatively where I’m coming from [inaudible 00:28:38] what we’re working on. I’ll give that to them for feedback and then I do another couple of drafts before I give that to anyone remotely professional in the business.
Ashley: And how do you approach screenplay structure? You know, Blake Snyder, Sid Field, very much sort of the typical three acts. I know a lot of writers are maybe more free form. Where do you fall in sort of the structure, three act structure or not to worry about the three-act structure?
Luke: For a long time I was kind of…like I didn’t worry about the three act structure, but once I got into writing Occupation I actually really did [inaudible 00:29:15] three act structure and I really enjoyed [inaudible 00:29:18] myself to that. So it’s something that I’ll probably continue with my next one and continue on again and see where that goes. Yeah, I feel that it really worked for Occupation. I can see it also really helping in the edit of the film when people are going off the three-act of the script you can really feel in the movie the three acts when people commented on it when [inaudible 00:29:38] I’ve been converted now to the three-act structure.
Ashley: Yeah. You just mentioned a moment ago that once you’re done a script you can start sending it out to some members, producers and such that are on your team. Maybe you can talk about some of the criticism that you got back and kind of how you handled that. I’m always just curious to hear some of the specific elements that maybe you needed to change or just how it all went down.
Luke: Well, definitely everyone’s different and I’m obviously in the realm of the genre picture growing up in the ‘80s and it’s kind of where I always fall back on. Criticism is always a funny thing with people, right? I’ve seen it go well, I’ve seen it go really bad. I’ve seen people lose it over being criticized and literally throw people out. My mantra [inaudible 00:30:33] to me working behind the scenes in the film industry, my mantra is always be [inaudible 00:30:37]. So I have to do like calming exercises before I sit down with my producers to talk about the criticism so I just know that if I don’t can fall back on that age old [inaudible 00:30:49] of getting really annoyed and being like, “This is my movie, why aren’t you listening to me, why are you criticizing me?”
So I just do calming exercises before I go in and just open myself to listen to the producers and then we probably will have to fix it. For me being a genre person I think all of the criticisms come back where I wanna throw in maybe too many one lines, too many action one lines with [inaudible 00:31:11] in my first couple of drafts. I always find that [inaudible 00:31:17] because it’s cool, cool, cool and then my [inaudible 00:31:21] really like the story and it’s really awesome but you [inaudible 00:31:27] let’s work this on history aspect. Let’s [inaudible 00:31:40] trying to be a cool action movie [inaudible 00:31:41]. So that’s where I find that my criticism comes from a lot. Like I said, my action sequences, my sort of big set pieces [inaudible 00:31:52] people, that’s kind of how I can really pitch well these actions of grand sequences. Yeah, so I always find my criticism comes from trying to be [inaudible 00:32:06] too much even though I love it.
Ashley: Yeah. So you mentioned right when we started talking about Occupation that you basically had pitched it to a company and then they said, “We like that,” and you went off to write the script. Did that all come to fruition, did they give you some money to write the script or did they wait for the script to come back and then ultimately did they end up producing the movie? Was that your path to production for Occupation?
Luke: A little bit. They didn’t give me money to write it. You’re always gonna do that yourself I find so far. I came back and I sat down with Bill and myself. Those guys did come on board as part financiers in the end which was great. That obviously got me kick started and then I filled the gaps over here with a couple that was a very high network people that loved Red Billabong. So it was great to obviously have one under my belt to [inaudible 00:33:04] on to the next one. And then of those I was able to get sales agents in America, Film [inaudible] Entertainment, Clay [inaudible 00:33:14] who is just fantastic, I can’t speak highly enough of him. And I always find both Red Billabong and this one…going to get a sales agent to me is like really, really important and I’ve had to push things [inaudible 00:33:26] because again when they come in they give you feedback on what they think the script is sales-wise [inaudible 00:33:31] and I was actually on set filming Occupation and they were at the Cannes Film Market and Clay rang me up and said, [inaudible 00:33:41] climax,” and I was like, “Okay, thanks,” and then we ended up finding some extra money and doing helicopter airborne attack finding aliens and space ships and stuff [inaudible 00:34:05] on the day I was on set scribbling things on my [inaudible 00:34:07] do this and have aliens do this and it all came together in the end and I was really happy to have his advice while we were shooting. It was really good.
Ashley: So Clay is showing these potential film buyers. Is he showing them the script, is he showing them…like how do they even know that the ending needed to be beefed up a little bit? Just because they were reading the script?
Luke: Yes, at that time they were reading just the script. He was passing the scripts around, yeah.
Luke: Okay, perfect. I mean, I’m curious, how important is cast to a film like this? You had a good cast in this but I wouldn’t say that there’s any name cast and it feels like a film like this is more about sort of the action and the effects, not so much getting name talent. Would you agree with that, does it seem like these kinds of films can be made without some cast…you don’t need the Bruce Willis or the Nicholas Cage to actually get these movies made and potentially pull a profit?
Luke: Yeah, God I hope so because casting is like…as everyone probably knows is that you can be [inaudible 00:35:09] situation all the time. It’s a big thing, it holds everything. But yeah, eventually the other scripts that I took to America before I came up with this one had that same conundrum. It was cast based so [inaudible 00:35:23] who’s gonna sell the movie for you. That’s why it was a bit refreshing [inaudible 00:35:31] ensemble task alien invasion where as you said, I felt like the action in the set pieces became a bit more of the star than the cast. That’s me…I felt like, “Oh, thank God I can get this movie done and I don’t have to worry about big names. And well as you said, yes, this is a great cast. There is no million international name. I guess Temuera Morrison is probably my biggest one internationally [inaudible 00:35:57] great to come on board for us.
So yeah, this one I was a bit focused more on…I would say the trailer is a bit more focused on explosions and aliens and helicopters rather than a particular cast member. I think so far it’s worked for us which is good, and I feel relief because casting is like obviously the biggest challenge anyone can face.
Ashley: And I’m curious, is it just a specific sort of this ensemble action sci-fi genre? I interviewed Ryan Bellgardt, I don’t know if you’re familiar with him but he did a movie called The Jurassic Games and I had him on a few weeks ago on the podcast. I would say his film was very similar, it’s called Jurassic Games, so needless to say there’s dinosaurs in it, so they sort of become the star. Again he had a good cast but not name cast. Do you think this is a trend? Some of these independent distributors are understanding that they can still sell these types of films without cast, or is it that it just has always been like this and maybe I just hadn’t noticed it?
Luke: I hope it’s the former of what you said. I think there’s a huge disconnect between sales agents and audiences for one. I think audiences will show up at the movies but then obviously cast based are much more genre and the set pieces and the whole theme based. I think sales agents are still living in the past and I think the buyers are as well and I hope that can change and I agree with you.
Ashley: I noticed on IMDb you’re already got the Occupation 2 the sequel listed. Is that something in motion or are you waiting to see how successful this film is before you start that one or have you already got that one ready to go?
Luke: Actually next week is our first week of pre-production on the sequel and we shoot it in the end of August to October. So going off the [inaudible 00:37:52] we’ve sold this movie all around the world, obviously [inaudible 00:37:56] this week. I think tonight’s my recap premier here in Sydney [inaudible 00:38:02] the film has already made money back so everyone wants to continue with the sequel. It’s actually in America, the AFM [inaudible 00:39:18] and they sold this movie to a bunch of territories and we [inaudible 00:38:23] November to now I’ve been working on the script [inaudible 00:38:27] of the sequel and yeah, we go to production and we do it.
Ashley: Perfect. So how can people see Occupation, do you know what the release schedule is gonna be like?
Luke: I don’t know the specifics. July 20th the AMC [inaudible 00:38:41] over there is gonna roll out across the country and I think it’s a day and date thing. There is VOD over there as well but I heard people [inaudible 00:38:55] because it’s a really great [inaudible 00:39:00] so you can either see it or hear it on the big screen.
Ashley: Perfect, and what’s the best way for people to keep up with what you’re doing? Twitter, Facebook, a blog, anything you’re comfortable sharing I’ll round up and put in the show notes.
Luke: Yeah, my Twitter and my official Facebook page I’m always giving advice and talking to people in it. That’s the best way to keep up with me and Occupation and the franchise in general.
Ashley: It’s just Luke Sparke as your Twitter handle?
Luke: Yeah, it’s just @Luke Sparke and Luke Sparke Official on Facebook.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. I will round up…
Luke: And the Occupation page on Facebook is a great way to keep up with the Occupation Franchise as well.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. Luke I really appreciate you coming and talking with me today. Good luck with this film and good luck with Occupation 2.
Luke: Alright, thank you very much.
Ashley: Perfect, will talk to you later. Bye.
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On the next episode of the podcast I’m gonna be interviewing Michael DeBlis. He’s an attorney who does a lot of work with screenwriters and filmmakers. We dig into option agreements, NDAs and a number of other legal issues that screenwriters might face. Keep an eye out for that episode next week. That’s the show, thanks for listening.