This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 310: Ashley Scott Meyers Talks About The Rideshare Killer.
Ashley: Welcome to Episode #310 of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger over at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m gonna be talking about my production from start, from when it started all the way to wrapping up which just happened to be this past Sunday… oh, I’m sorry this past Saturday, we wrapped principal photography. So I’m just gonna go through the whole process of how that movie got going and that’s gonna be the main focus for the episode today, so stay tuned for that. If you find this episode valuable, 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 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 in case 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 #310. 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 logline 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. As mentioned, I just wrapped principal photography this past Saturday, which was December 21st. I’m recording this on Monday the 23rd so just a couple of days and I figured I would just go through this now while it’s all very fresh in my mind. Obviously, this episode will publish later so you’ll probably be listening to this sometime, hopefully January 6th this episode will get published, but it’s a new year, so happy New Year even though I am recording this a little bit ahead.
Needless to say it was a very stressful month, that’s for sure, but I feel pretty good about what we shot and that we’ll be able to turn this into a really cool film. So that’s all fantastic. I’m generally very positive about the experience. Let me back things up a little bit and talk about this project and kinda how it all came together. First, the film is tentatively titled The Rideshare Killer and it’s about a killer who uses an Uber-like app to kill drivers and then pick them up and… to kill the driver and then pick up and kill that driver’s passengers. It’s on IMDb now so you can check it out as far as the cast and the crew and all of that.
Let me talk a little bit about the original idea and maybe this will just give you guys some insight into kind of how I approach this film and why I ended up doing this film versus some of the other films, the other scripts that I have sitting on my shelf. The original idea came from taking The Pinch, I did a film two or three years ago called The Pinch. It was a really low budget film. I put it together, wrote it, directed and produced it. And then that same year, this was probably 2016 maybe 2017, but it was a couple of years ago, I went to AFM. AFM is the American Film Market. It’s once a year, generally in late October, early November in Santa Monica. And it’s basically for these types of low budget films.
Buyers from around the world they come there and then the distributors set up booths and then the distributors try and sell the films to the buyers. But as a writer and as a producer you can go down there and just try and network and meet people because a lot of these distributors, they are either production companies themselves or they have relationships with production companies. But you can kinda learn about what is getting sold in sort of this low budget genre arena. It’s everything from soup to nuts in terms of genre, dramas, action, but it’s all sort of low budget genre film for the most part. You’re not gonna see big studio films there, it’s mostly these independent genre films that show up at AFM.
Anyways, so I had The Pinch done or almost done and I went down there. And I went down there with a guy I met on The Pinch, Braxton Honeycutt and he used to own LA Grip. He has since sold it and I will talk more about that later because that was a big part of it, but I met him doing The Pinch. As I said, he owned LA Grip at the time and so we use his Grip equipment. We also used his sets and we did a coproduction so we also were able to use… for The Pinch we were able to use his insurance as well. So I got to know him pretty well. And as AFM was approaching, again, we had just finished The Pinch and as AFM was approaching he suggested, “Hey, let’s go down to AFM and just kinda see what distributors are saying about low budget films, what could sell.”
So we went down there and obviously I was trying to sell The Pinch and get distributors interested in The Pinch, but I was also just curious about their general advice for low budget films, what genres, what do they think could possibly sell. And so we just… me and Braxton kind of talked to them and obviously low-budget horror, low-budget thrillers. This is, and as I said, one of the pieces of advice I got from a distributor was make this more of a thriller than a horror. And I think we did that. There’s not like a lot of blood and gore, it’s very much sort of more of a thriller horror mystery. So hopefully we’re leaning more towards the thriller than the horror. The distributor suggested that because he just felt like the horror market with a low budget is always oversaturated, so push a little more to the thriller and you kinda separate yourself out.
But anyways, bottom line was me and Braxton went down there, talked to a bunch of distributors and then sort of came up with an idea which I just mentioned at the top of the show. It’s basically about a killer who wants to destroy this Uber app like company so he starts using their app to kill drivers and then take that driver’s information and go and kill the passengers that that driver was supposed to pick it up. So this was the idea that me and Braxton cooked up and then I went off and wrote the script. And again, it was all sort of based on the feedback we were getting from these distributors about low-budget films and what could actually sell at the marketplace. Anyways, I then wrote the script and we tried to start to put the project together.
In the meantime, once I had written the script, I met a fellow named Tony Greenberg, and I know he listens to the podcast still to this day, so hello Tony. At the time he actually lived in Malibu. He is a retired doctor and he had optioned a bunch of books and he had started to have those books turned into screenplays because in his retirement he wants to basically be a producer. He contacted me, he was listening to my podcast and then he just contacted me to… and it’s important that he lives in Malibu to the story, I will circle back to that. But he just contacted me and he wanted some advice really on screenwriting, but I could tell he wanted to really be a producer and that sort of stuff.
We started talking about some of the production stuff, but in any event, I live in Agoura Hills and if you’re at all familiar with the geography of Los Angeles, Malibu and Agoura Hills are right… they butt up against each other. So at some point, either he or I, one of us, we realized that we live fairly close together and we just started communicating. I think it was entirely via email. We might’ve had a phone call, but I think it was just entirely through email. And we just said, “Hey, well let’s just meet for lunch at some point.” So we did. Just me and Tony, we just met here in Agoura Hills for lunch. At the end of it, I sort of started to see that he really wanted to put himself in these books that he has been optioning.
They’re not low budget projects they’re… at least the ones he’s told me about, they’re projects that would require definitely several hundred thousand, probably even several million dollars to produce correctly. One of them was a World War II Polish holocaust piece which it sounds like a fantastic piece the way he’s described it, but it’s not something that we could do for less than a $100,000, let’s put it like that. And so as we were talking over this lunch, I just sort of threw out the idea and I had just finished The Pinch maybe a year earlier. I just said, “Hey, for the amount of money I did The Pinch we could probably do something a lot better if we had twice as much money.”
That’s kind of about where we ended up, a little more than twice as much money for this one. “Would you be interested in being a producer on that?” And sure enough he said yes. Then as we’re going through production on this project he… as I said, he lived at the time in Malibu. I drove over to his house and his house was perfect to shoot this. This was a little over a year ago. I drove over there and looked at his house. His house was absolutely fabulous. It was a great house, very wooded. It would’ve been perfect for this low budget horror movie. A lot of the… we ended up shooting 17 days and 10 of them were at the one location at the one sort of main house. And so his house would’ve been perfect for that.
Again, if you recall last year about this time, there was massive fires in Agoura Hills and Malibu and this whole sort of Western end of Los Angeles and his house unfortunately burned down. So we lost that house and then eventually had to find another house to shoot at. That set us back maybe a little bit, but not really. We just kinda kept trying to raise more money. I was going out to some other people that I thought might be able to contribute financially. And so we just started to slowly put the project together. Obviously losing the house was a setback. Slowly we started to put the project together. Another guy that I met during doing The Pinch was my AD, my assistant director, a guy named Gavin Peretti and I’ve stayed in touch with him as well.
I knew I would probably bring him on as one of the producers to help with just… he has a lot more experience than either me or Tony in just physical production so I knew he would be good to have. And I got along really well with him, again through The Pinch. He ended up having a friend who is an actor who had a house and that’s actually how we ended up getting that. I’ll circle back a little more to that later, but that’s how we ended up getting that. So in the meantime as well, all this stuff is going on, we lost the house, but we’re still trying to get the project going and it really… it was a setback, but we had no intention of not shooting it just because of that. We just kind of kept the project going slowly. I was trying to raise more money.
We were trying to just raise more money and really just to get some bigger talent attached to the project. So I was going through that process. I also started to talk to some distributors just some distributors I met through The Pinch or distributors even that I’ve met through this podcast. I started to just take the project out to them and say, “Hey, this is what I’m thinking about doing and this is the budget I’m thinking about. What do you guys think?” So I started to get feedback from them. And one of the pieces of feedback I got stuck was specific to this project and in fact it was from Jeffrey Giles and I got it the day I did the interview with Jeffrey Giles. Jeffrey is actually someone I had, I don’t remember the episode, but he actually is someone I interviewed for this podcast.
And to be honest, one of the reasons I actually went and did that interview in person, if you go back and listen to it, the sound is actually not that great. I knew it probably wouldn’t be just the way their office is set up was kind of a loft, but I knew if I met with him in person, I would be able to really talk to him and ask him about this project and sure enough I was. One of the pieces of advice that he gave me was try and take a tried and true sort of a genre or even a sub-genre and just update it, make it sort of a new for 2020, just update one of these old genres. Another guy that I met through The Pinch, a Portuguese fellow named Roy Gordon. He actually just… I don’t think he knew me at all, but he contributed to the Kickstarter that I did for The Pinch.
And I’ve just, again, just another person that I’ve stayed in touch with and he’s one of these real film aficionados and really knows a lot about film. He mentioned he read the script for this Rideshare Killer and he said, “What you really have is sort of a modern geolo film.” And I said, “Ah, okay.” I started to get more into that things. And again, I remembered what Jeffrey had told me about updating a genre and the geolo films if you’re familiar with them, they were big in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s. They were sort of these horror thriller mysteries. And there’s a lot of tropes and we tried to use some of those tropes in ours. You have these POV shots with the black gloves and that sort of stuff.
So we have a black… the killer runs around wearing this sort of black outfit and black gloves. We tried to sort of play with some of those tropes, but the geolo films, they were the predecessors to like Halloween and ultimately Friday the 13th, all of those types of things were very much sort of a part of the history of geolo films. I started to go back through the script. I started to watch all of these movies, make some adjustments. But that’s kinda how that came about was again, it was going to AFM, talking about the types of movies that low budget movies that the distributors were selling, and then again, talking to a distributor specifically about this project, knowing as I said, this guy Roy and just having some conversations with Roy.
Again, someone I’ve actually never met. I’ve talked to him on Skype a couple of times and we’ve had a lot of emails exchanged, but again, I just met him through The Pinch and he just is a good guy and knows a lot about film and he was real good about looking at the different cuts of The Pinch, giving me advice, reading the scripts for The Rideshare Killer, giving me notes and that sort of stuff. That positioned us, gave us a point of view or a position or an idea for how we were gonna shoot this film and produce this film. So that was the setup for the script and the locations and things. Then we started to go through casting and what we decided to do originally was we figure we’ll get some of our leads cast and then we’ll do a Kickstarter for the rest of the money.
As we were going through casting I would ask all the… so the leads in this were really mostly women. We did try and cast one of the male leads, but pretty much we knew it would be because the way the story is written is it’s three women that own this rideshare or work at this ride sharing company and they’re running the app. It’s kind of a startup, so it’s three women doing that and so they’re really our leads. That’s really what we were trying to cast. And we were just trying to cast that just in terms of the Kickstarter. We thought, “Okay, we’ll cast this and get people to have some following and they’ll be able to help with the Kickstarter.” And as we’re going through the process I would ask everybody that came in and read for us, audition for us. I would ask them, “Oh, how do you feel about helping to grow the film?”
Everybody was super cool about it, but what we felt was it would be a very different ask if we did the film and then ask them after we had the thing in the can. Because once you’re on set with someone, it’s a very intense situation where you really get to know people pretty well for the three weeks of the shoot. You’re working with them 12 hours a day and you become friends with them. And so we started to think maybe we should shoot this thing and then do the Kickstarter for post-production. Basically me and Tony and truth be told mostly Tony, we’ve cobbled together basically the budget for principal photography and then now we need to go and get the money for post-production.
So I knew that it was gonna kinda break that way anyway, so I thought, okay, we can actually go ahead and get this thing bumped up and shoot it now. Because we were actually thinking about shooting it more in like February, March, April next year. So we kind of pushed up production and it made things difficult. On the one hand we had a lot less time for pre-production, but we had some of the things in place, which I’ll get to a minute. But one of sort of the linchpins to this whole thing was Tuesday Knight just submitted. And when we did our first round of auditions, we just… there’s something called the breakdown service and you just basically put a casting notice and that goes to all the main agencies and a lot of actors are piped in.
There’s something called Actors Access. A lot of the actors are piped into it as well. And you can use this breakdown services and there’s two versions. I’m not exactly sure how that all happens on the technical front, but basically when you’re doing your casting notice you can say, do you want to go to Actors Access? Which basically means you’re going to get a bunch of actors submitting not through agents. And then also you can say, “Okay, well, I want it out to go to the agencies as well.” I think we sent it to both agencies and Actors Access. Anyway, we started to get a lot of people respond and one of the people who responded to the to the breakdown services was Tuesday Knight.
She was one of the leads in Nightmare on Elm Street, part four back in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s. She had a whole career there. She came and auditioned and she did a great job with the audition and she just followed up with emails and was kinda just emailing me saying, “Hey, I really liked the script. I really think I could do a good job with this.” So I got to know her a little bit. Coincidentally, we have some mutual friends and so I just reached out to them, “Hey, is Tuesday cool to work with?” That sort of stuff. Which is something you definitely should do because these films are, as I said, they’re super-intense, they’re low budgets so no one’s making a lot of money. So you really… you’re going to war and so you wanna make sure the people you’re going to war with are reliable and they can take a beating.
Because this is 12 hour days for three weeks and two… One of the weeks we had… we went for five days, had two days off, then we went for six days, had one day off and went for another six days. So it’s grueling and everybody needs to be prepared for that. Again, me and Tuesday have some mutual friends, I reach out to them, everybody said, “Oh, she’s fantastic to work with.” And she really is, and I will give her a plug here as well. If you’re looking to cast someone and she’s right for the part I would definitely say reach out to her. She’s fantastic to work with. And she brings a lot more than just her acting. She also got a co-producing credit on this film and she helped us with a lot of the other casting.
She knows needless to say, knows tons and tons of other actors, really good actors too in the horror space. So she came on board. She was really the first person that we kind of got set on. And it was again, she did a great job with the audition, but she really was aggressive reaching out to us and she really made it clear to me by reaching out that she was just really down for a low budget film and to do what it takes to get this thing done. So again, if you’re doing a low budget film definitely, definitely, and she’s right for a part, definitely consider reaching out to her and casting because she is fantastic and she’ll bring more than just her great acting to the project. She has the same manager as Eric Roberts.
If you’re not familiar with Eric Roberts, he is Julia Roberts… they’re brother and sister, but more importantly, Eric Roberts is a well-established actor in his own right and actually has an Academy Award nomination. He did not win, but he’s won a couple of Golden Globes and he is a fantastic actor. Like he really is a really good actor at working at the highest level. As his career has started to ebb a little bit he does a lot of low-budget films and he just, from what I can gather, he just really enjoys working, he enjoys being on set and he really doesn’t mind working in lower budget movies. So Tuesday and Eric share a manager so Tuesday got me in touch with Eric’s manager and we were able to bring him on and we had him for three days as a pretty major role as well, and he showed up.
Again, I give him a plug he really was great to work with as well. You hear a lot of stories about these types of stars that come on low budget productions and all sorts of problems. And truthfully, he was really great to work with, so I will probably use him again. He seemed to enjoy being on set and he [inaudible 00:18:42] to my face was complimentary and said, “Hey, if you’re doing another movie, definitely look me up.” So I will probably work with him again as well because he was a dream to work with and as I said, he’s literally an Academy Award nominated actor. For a low budget film you’re probably never gonna find somebody just with those kinds of acting credentials and acting chops.
So all of that worked out really, really well. I mentioned this whole thing while we moved up the production. The other key, as I said, the other sort of linchpin to this whole thing and being able to move production up, obviously casting Tuesday was a big part of it because I knew also that Tuesday in a pinch, she would be able to get good actors quickly. If we didn’t have time to cast every role, she would be able to call people up in her Rolodex. And she did that. Many of the roles we never even auditioned for, we were in such a rush. We just relied on Tuesday basically to bring on people that she knew were reliable and good and down. And for the most part, I was very, very happy with all the acting that was brought on, so again, that all fell into place really well.
But the other linchpin was again, I mentioned my buddy Gavin, who I met through The Pinch. I met Gavin literally through a Craigslist ad. When I was doing The Pinch I just put an ad up for assistant director, an AD and he responded and we got along. Coincidentally, he’s from Maryland, I’m also from Maryland. We never knew each other or met. He’s considerably younger than me. I don’t even know how old he is, but he’s gotta be 10 or 15 years younger than me, so we never met. And I moved out here in my in my twenties, so we never met in Maryland or anything like that. But I don’t know, there’s just a certain subtlety or just personality or something, I don’t know, we just got along and…
But in any event I brought him back for this project and me and Tony and Gavin were meeting, this was probably three months ago, and we were talking about the house and we told him the sad story, “Hey, Tony’s house, we were gonna shoot there, but it burned down unfortunately.” And Gavin said, “Oh well, I have a friend who’s an actor and if you gave him a good role, he’d probably let us use his house.” So it was… we were meeting in Encino and this fellow, Jeffery, he lived in [inaudible 00:20:42] Hill, so we drove up there right then and there again, this was probably months ago. We drove up to his house and I looked around and I said, “Yeah, this house actually could work quite nicely for this.”
And so we ended up giving… Jeffrey is an actor and Gavin had actually done a movie with Jeffrey. That’s how they met. They did a movie called Desperate Waters, which is still in post-production, but nonetheless Jeffrey directed it and produce it and also acted in it. So he again, basically gave us the house. We paid him a little bit for his acting, a little bit for the house, but essentially we got it for almost nothing, and that was the other linchpin. I knew that that was pretty much set up. So when we decided to move up production, I knew as long as that was in place, it would be feasible to go ahead and get things going. Because all the other locations I kinda had some idea about how to go about getting them.
So needless to say it was a lot to do, but we basically had three weeks of pre-production to get everything together. But I did have some things in place, like the house, like some of the actors, some of the crew stuff I knew I would be able to go back or I thought I could go back to LA Grip and get all of that stuff. So again, that was already sort of in place. So it was three weeks of pre-production, but I did have some things in place so it wasn’t just going from zero to 60 in that or 100 miles an hour or whatever. It wasn’t just zero up during that time, but it was pretty close. I mean we didn’t have a lot in place and it was definitely a lot to do those three weeks before we went into production.
And again, I’ll give another plug. I mentioned Braxton at the top of this little segment with owning LA Grip. I used him for The Pinch and so I called him up. He was one of my first phone calls once I said we’re gonna actually shoot this thing in December. And he… I didn’t realize, I haven’t really been in touch with him, but he’s like, “I sold LA Grip.” Anyways, I reached out, back out to LA Grip. And again, Braxton had sold it but he knew the guy that was there, it’s a fella named AJ. And again, I give them a big plug. If you’re looking to do a low budget movie in the Los Angeles area, definitely contact me or just reach out to LA Grip and tell them you heard about them on the podcast. He’ll give you a great deal and they could do a lot for you.
They have sets, like actual sets that you can shoot at and obviously they have all the grip and electrical and lighting, all that sort of stuff. They have all that equipment that you can rent. So definitely a plug for them as well. But again, I met them through The Pinch. So part of, sort of the theme of all of this, what I’m saying is that all these things snowball and while The Pinch was not financially a success, I didn’t make back all my money and I probably never will, there’s a lot of things, as you can tell that a lot of the pieces for this movie were put in place because I did The Pinch. And that goes back to my whole sort of thing that just getting out there and doing things, it leads from one thing to another and it’s not always obvious and it’s not always a huge success.
The Pinch was certainly not a huge success. I don’t even know that anybody would consider it a success on really almost any level. However, it did allow me to be in a position to then go ahead and do The Rideshare Killer. And it’s not just all of these sort of logistical things that I’m mentioning, it also just gave me the confidence and sort of the knowhow to go and put the pieces in place and get this production just whipped into shape and on track. That’s basically what I’ve been doing for the last five, six weeks and why I stopped… was not able to publish a couple of podcast episodes and there was I just was just so busy doing everything with production. Hopefully now I’m back to my routine and I’ll start getting the podcast episodes out.
I’m hoping you found this interesting and educational just going through it. I’ll definitely be talking about The Rideshare Killer in the coming months as I go through post-production, but I thought that’s kind of a good recap about how I kinda got this thing off the ground and moving. As mentioned, we are going to do a Kickstarter in the next couple of weeks. As I said, this will probably publish January 6th, so it’ll probably be hopefully within a week or two after this publishes we’ll be up and running with the Kickstarter. Latest I would say would be February, but hopefully we can get that launched in January. So definitely I’ll be talking about that and hoping people that listen to this podcast will find it interesting enough to be a part of the team and contribute a little bit.
So I’ll definitely be coming back and talking more about that. But really the whole post-production process, I’ll definitely be talking about that and people can hopefully just learn from all of the things that I’m going through with The Rideshare Killer, getting post-production setup and all of that process. It’s much more technical too. The great thing is it’s not super rushed. Production is all about rushing, there’s just a lot to do in a fairly finite amount of time. Post-production can go a little slower so it’s not nearly as stressful, but it can be tough too. I mean, this is a low-budget films, so I’ve got to find good people that are willing to work for less money than they may normally make. That’s not always easy.
Finding good people is not always easy and finding good people that are willing to work for less than what they normally make is even harder. So that’s really the challenge with low-budget filmmaking and sort of this next step. But anyways, that’s kind of the recap of my last three, four or five weeks.
I just wanna talk quickly about SYS Select. It’s a service for screenwriters to help them sell their screenplays and get writing assignments. The first part of the service is the SYS Select screenplay database. Screenwriters upload their screenplays along with a logline, synopsis and other pertinent information like budget and genre, and then producers search for and hopefully find screenplays they wanna produce. Dozens of producers are in the system looking for screenplays right now. There have been a number of success stories come out of this service, you can find out about all the SYS Select successes by going to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/success. Also on SYS podcast Episode #222, I talk with Steve Deering who was the first official success story to come out of the SYS Select database.
When you join SYS Select you get access to the screenplay database along with all the other services that we’re providing to SYS Select members. These services include the newsletter, the monthly newsletter goes out to a list of over 400 producers who are actively seeking writers and screenplays. Each SYS Select member can pitch one screenplay in this monthly newsletter. We also provide screenwriting leads, we have partnered with one of the premiere paid screenwriting leads services, so I can syndicate their leads to SYS Select members. There are lots of great paid leads coming in each week from our partner, recently we’ve been getting five to 10 high quality paid leads per week. These leads run the gamut.
There’s producers looking for a specific type of spec script to producers looking to hire a screenwriter to write up one of their ideas or properties. They are looking for shorts, features, TV and web series, pilots all types of projects. If you sign up for SYS Select, you’ll get these leads emailed directly to you several times per week. Also, you get access to the SYS Select forum where we will help you with your logline and query letter and answer any screenwriting related questions that you might have. We also have a number of screenwriting classes that are recorded and available in the SYS Select forum. These are all the classes that I’ve done over the years, so you’ll have access to those whenever you want once you join.
The classes cover every part of writing your screenplay from concept to outlining, to the first act, second act, third act as well as other topics like writing short films and pitching your projects in person. Once again, if this sounds like something you’d like to learn more about, please go to www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com. On the next episode of the podcast, I’m gonna be interviewing Robert Conway who just did a Western film called Eminence Hill. We talk through that film and how it all came together for him as well as how he got his start in the business. So keep an eye out for that episode next week. That’s the show. Thank you for listening.