This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 320 With Actor/Director Eric Etebari.
Ashley: Welcome to Episode #320 of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger over at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing director and also actor Eric Etebari who just directed a film called Emerald Run, which stars John Schneider and Michael Paré. We talk through this film as well as how he got his start in the business as an actor, so stay tuned for that interview. If you find this episode valuable, please help me out by giving me a review on 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 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 #320. 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.
So now let’s get into the main segment. Today I am interviewing director Eric Etebari. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Eric to the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Eric: Thanks Ashley. I’m happy to talk to you.
Ashley: So to start out, maybe you can tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up and how did you get interested in the entertainment business?
Eric: I’m a born and raised in Hollywood. My mom was in the record business back in the day when it was RCA Records. They had the Nipper, remember the dog with the head that turned into the record player?
Ashley: Oh, sure. Yeah.
Eric: And then so my mom was a photographer. She worked in the record business. She was kind of in entertainment, so I think growing up I was around it a lot. I did take a detour, I ended up really excelling in sports, playing football, baseball, basketball. Then toward the end of my high school I started playing volleyball. I picked it up and got a scholarship to go to San Diego State. So I went there for four years, played volleyball, and then when volleyball was over I kind of returned back to Los Angeles. I had the long road. I started out, I did print work, I did extra work, I did commercials, from commercials I did five and under, then I did guest spot, and then I tested and then eventually I got a show.
But I mean it feels like I’ve gone through [inaudible 00:02:55] every facet of [inaudible 00:02:57]. From every part you could play as an actor, from a one liner to an extra to a lead on a series regular or being in a $80 million movie, I’ve covered the spectrum. As well as in production, from being a PA to a director, to a producer, to a writer. It’s been a long journey, and when people say it sounds cliché, you have to enjoy the journey, it’s true. As I’ve gotten older and I look back I was like, “Wow, I’ve done a lot of stuff.” And it always seems to kind of lead me in a direction I never would have imagined. So I’ve let go of trying to control the future. I control the amount of hard work I put into it, but as far as like where you end up in the entertainment business, who knows? Who knows?
Ashley: Yeah. And so it sounds like you had kind of a, at least sort of a creative mom who was supportive of your interest in the arts. What do you think attracted you to the entertainment business? Like what was it about it that you thought, “This is what I wanna do for the rest of my life?”
Eric: I think for me… I like to travel. Like I got to go to Paris, I started traveling around a lot. And even as a kid, the amount of money that you were able to make, especially in those days, it just seemed… when you get out of college like where am I gonna make any money? It seemed like a wonderful place to make money and be creative. But I don’t know, I felt like it really didn’t hit me until I went to this acting class right out of college and there was this acting teacher named Sal Dano, and he was one of these guys, he was like 70 years old, he was from New York, but he was like a scholar yet he was like rocky. He was tough as nails. It was a wonderful combination. He was the perfect teacher for me.
And we studied all the American crafts, Clifford Odets, Tennessee Williams, William Inge, Sidney Kingsley, Arthur Miller. For me at 23 years old, like whoa, this was intense stuff. But he’s the one that really… I already was creative, but I didn’t have a direction, I didn’t really have a path and when I got into that acting class, I just got… I had the Mamba mentality. In tribute to Kobe, today they had his memorial. I just ended up with that kind of Mamba mentality. I went to class every night, it was 7:00 to 11:00. He booked until two o’clock in the morning and stay there as long as kids had work. And kids would like to leave at 11:00 and we used to tease him and say, “The stars stay.” So he would stay until two o’clock in the morning and work scenes all night.
That was the class that really turned my life around, gave me a direction. I found a place to put my aggression, my feelings, my ideas, my thoughts. And then ever since then I’ve never looked back. Obviously I’ve had to go into different facets of the business to expand my knowledge and my education and my resume, but after that acting class I think that really triggered… I had invested something in it and then now I was looking for a return, whereas in the beginning I was just doing commercials and that was kinda easy… and modeling, that was easy stuff. It wasn’t much of a commitment, but once I went into the acting class and I made that commitment, it just seemed like it’s been this path ever since.
Ashley: Yeah. So let’s dig into your to your latest film, Emerald Run starring Michael Paré and John Schneider along with a number of other notable actors. Maybe to start out you can just give us a quick pitch or a logline. What is this film all about?
Eric: I’m gonna steal it from a Los Angeles Times review. We’ve had a few reviews, some of the bigger publications and one of them had this quote and I thought it was fantastic. It said giving faith a shot while being shot at. Giving faith a shot while being shot at. That’s such a great log line, because the story is about a young man, David Chokachi’s character, John who doesn’t believe in faith [inaudible 00:06:58] and gives it a shot. And while he’s experiencing and going through these trials and tribulations he’s being shot at. So I thought that was a logline, now writing down a log line as family is everything, but when I read that one- giving faith a shot while being shot at, that’s pretty challenging.
Ashley: Yeah. So how did you get involved with this project? Did someone come to you with a finished script? Maybe you can take us down that path. How did this project get on your radar and ultimately how did you sign on and get to direct it?
Eric: I’ve always said to me this is the epitome of an independent film where it went through all these trials and tribulations and we came out on the other side. It all started for me when one of my closest friends David Chokachi said, “Hey, I’ve got this audition, it’s like four scenes, 16 pages. Would you come and put me on tape for it?” I went over to his house. We must’ve worked on it five or six hours in his garage. I mean, I saw how committed he was, I really enjoyed working with David. I’ve worked with him in a movie called Snapshot before and obviously Witchblade, we were co-mates on that TV show. So we had a really strong relationship and he got the role.
He got the role. So funny enough, he goes to film the first half out in the desert and apparently due to some type of production issues they have to shut down the production and they ended up canning the movie. Literally it’s sitting, what they would say back in the old days, in the can, this time it’s just sitting on a hard drive. Cut to a year, a year and a half later I’m at David’s house I’m like, “Yo, whatever happened to that movie we worked so hard on?” He gave me the story and then David and I are like, “Wow, how can we get this movie up and running?” First we have to get ahold of the investor who has all the footage.
So David worked really hard on doing that and we’d had to come up with a plan like, “Okay, what’s our plan? We have half a movie sitting in the can, how do we get this up and running again?” So we came up with a bunch of ideas and the first one was we asked the investor or David asked the investor, Anthony Caruso, if he could get the footage and we talked him into letting us edit everything that he’d shot already. So I got to go to go through them all with my best friend, this guy Don Money, great editor, we went through all the footage, we edited it and assembled it and then we put together a trailer. I just had a feeling once the investor saw all this work somewhat assembled and then he saw the trailer, it would pique his interest, and it did.
From there he came down, met David and I, we put together a game plan, we put together a post budget. Then he had mentioned that his daughter was in film school and writing. It’s like, “Oh, so this is a great opportunity.” I always reached to independent film makers that, listen, obviously the goal is everybody wants to make money, everybody wants to share their art, but you gotta to find something else in independent film that you can create value from. Whether it’s the experience, whether it’s the relationship, the journey, if you’re just looking to make a dollar, it’s a tough business and it’s a long yard business. So I kept repeating to Anthony like, “Hey, we have to… what else… where’s the value in this movie for you?”
And I think it clicked when we had the opportunity to not only put him but his daughter in it and have his daughter involved in the writing element. I mean, that’s a wonderful gift he was able to provide his daughter, like that’s better than film school. That’s on-set training.
Ashley: With this first… so they shot half the movie, did they already have a polished script that then you guys were going back to?
Eric: Yeah, well they had a polished script, but the irony was that once David went into the desert, it didn’t really relate to the beginning and end of the movie. So Marialisa, Anthony’s daughter, we rewrote the beginning and we rewrote the end. It was like trying to create a story from a middle of a story. And we knew we didn’t have access to the actors that were shot in the desert so we had to be really creative on how to bookend this movie. That’s when we came up with these ideas of Marialisa playing the daughter. Dave and I were able to pull in Yancy Butler because she was on Witchblade with us. I had a really good relationship with Michael Paré and Chris Mulkey so I added them to the project.
Marialisa and her teacher, her film writing teacher really constructed this wonderful opening beginning third of the movie and this last fourth of the movie. And we just powered it out, good old-fashioned filmmaking. Shot three, four days of production, take time off, do a pickup shot, grab a shot, get another shot. I even have shots in the movie. I shot all the underwater stuff of David going in the ocean. Like we went out there one day with a GoPro. So it was a real team effort and we were just kinda patching this thing together, trying to tie story plots together. And we ended up with this wonderful little movie that got a theatrical release. I think it’s a wonderful new take on faith-based.
I encourage the faith-based audience to see it because I think if they support the movie, you’ll get more movies that are not preachy faith-based, but maybe more action driven, more creative, a little more outside the box. With the success of this movie, I think it will open up that genre a little bit.
Ashley: Yeah. So I wanna touch on a couple of things that you mentioned in there. And I’m not being negative by asking this, in fact, I really applaud you, but I really wanna get your honest opinion here. You’re talking about this friend of yours, he prepared 16 pages for this audition. I mean, as a producer, that sounds like a lot of pages to give an actor for an audition, but you guys worked hard on it. Then you also talk about this edit, you basically went and on your own time and money put together this assembly cut of the movie and just on the hope that it would impress these guys. I know screenwriters run into this a lot where they get a producer saying, “Hey, write this script on spec and then you’ll get paid once we get it into production and stuff.”
I’ve been involved in a lot of those where of course they never end up going anywhere and so it becomes very demoralizing. And I just wonder for yourself like how do you keep going, because I know we’re talking about in this case two successes and that’s fantastic, but I know there must have been a lot of times where you did a whole bunch of work and it didn’t actually amount to anything and how do you get through those demoralizing moments and just keep a positive attitude and keep that attitude like you currently have where it’s a kind of, “I’ll invest my time and money into this thing because I believe it,” because it becomes a very difficult thing to do year in and year out.
Eric: It’s true. I’ve had a few examples. Like I was working on a movie for two years with a friend. He had wrote it, we went into these rewrites forever, I was gonna direct it, we talked every shot, every idea. Eventually he put his own money up to do it and then in the final minute in the final editing, he said he wants to direct it. I was like, “Yeah, I just gave you every idea, every shot and I just spent all this time.” And he ended up taking off and directing it and leaving me out and I was like… I was hurt for a long time. I really felt like you could steal my money, you could steal my clothes, my car, but stealing my creative ideas, that had a different effect on me. That seems to be my currency. I make a living from it.
So I’ve had that experience where I’ve been robbed of all my ideas. Then I’ve had projects where I think it’s really great and everybody passes and no one wants to get involved or… but it’s always funny, like you put these ideas out there and nobody wants to get involved and then like a year later, you see a very similar idea that’s successful. Look, it’s like anything in this business, no one’s a professional, you never know what’s gonna hit. And especially with writing, I’ve read scripts that are making the 10, 20, $50 million movies, I can’t believe it. I would never have thought this script would warrant that kind of budget. I don’t know what that secret is.
Obviously you as a screenwriter, and I listened to your last podcast with that writer, director who I think he was like motivated, he was on vacation or something and he just wrote it, he was writing it. I don’t know, I think it’s just like anything. If you treat your writing like a journal and you’re able to find a way to get some satisfaction with getting the words out on paper, that’s wonderful. You’re then able to get to the next stage, you get someone interested, that’s more wonderful. Then you get the budget, then you shoot it, then it’s made. So there’s all these gradual steps. I just try to enjoy each step, not look too far ahead, but try to take each step as a milestone and a goal and a success.
But in reality, I have three or four projects I’m trying to develop and write and get writers attached and then that gets kinda tricky because then you forget whose idea it was, whose idea… what idea stays, the partner leaves. I’m sure you’ve experienced that, you’re writing with somebody like, “Okay, wait a minute, whose idea was this? I forget now. I started to think it was my idea we spent so much time on.” Like, “No, no, no, no. It’s not your idea and if you wanna leave you leave without any of those ideas.”
Ashley: Yeah. I just wanna ask you just as a practical thing, when you’re an actor getting ready for an audition, doesn’t 16 pages seem a little excessive? Like as a producer I would just be a little embarrassed to send that many pages for an audition. I don’t know. Maybe if it was like the third callback and a $50 million movie and you’re really trying to hone it down. But I don’t know, that didn’t seem a little nervy? Do producers often send you guys 16 pages?
Eric: I think I’ve had do close to that 14 to 16 on series, regular [inaudible 00:17:09] jobs. They wanna know that you can gobble that dialogue, they wanna know that you can handle that. If you’re a series regular and you’re shooting five days a week for eight months, they can’t take a chance on one or two scenes. They wanna see kind of an… I thought 16 was a little excessive, but David is in every frame of this movie. So I’m sure that supposed directly that had contributed to the writing and was directing it felt like, “Hey, I need to make sure that this lead actor is gonna be able to handle the content through the whole movie.” Because he has… he starts at home, he ends up stranded in the desert, [inaudible 00:17:54] and has this epiphany once he returns home. So it had a real major arc [inaudible 00:18:02].
I’m just assuming that he must have felt like he needed to see David’s full range. And David delivered, did the work. It was a lot of work, he did the work. But I think that director and that stuff, he had done a few things that were sort of uncommon or outside the box which might have led to the production closing down and maybe that had something to do with like having people audition 16 pages. It was a little excessive, but look, David knew it, he didn’t bother him. He was off-book, he put it on camera and they looked great. And sometimes, look, it’s like the Mamba mentality and I might have quoted this because I just watched the memorial for Kobe, but if someone said, “Learn 16 pages and you’ll be the lead in this movie,” I wouldn’t have a take.
Because I recently went on an audition where they wanted to do this hip hop kind of rap musical drama and in the audition they had two scenes that were like three pages each and then one scene they wanted you to write and perform a rap song based on this event, and it was like heavy stuff. It was like a cop who shoots at an armed person in their car late at night due to miscommunication and then they wanted you to sing this dramatic rap song. I was like, “Wow! I’d rather audition 16 pages than try to write a rap and perform it.” But I also had a fear of it, the fear of not being prepared forced me to just go all in. Even the casting director at some point had sent out two emails saying, “Do not come in to this audition if you don’t have a musical rap prepared.”
I got so nervous that I wrote a full song, I constructed music. I show up to the audition and I get no one had been preparing their song. He was over it by then, by the time I got in he’s like, “Yeah, we’re just gonna sing one bar so I could see if you could rap.” I’m like, “What do you mean sing one bar, I just spent two weeks writing a rap song and having my friends write music for it, you’re gonna listen to the whole song.” So I insisted that they listen to the whole song, I put so much work in it. They high-fived me, I’m actually on hold for the job. They postponed it but I ended up getting on hold for the job and I think that’s probably because I was the only one who did the work.
Who wrote the song, applied it to the content, to the story, went in there with a boombox, put it in and let her rip. And I didn’t let them just let me do one bar. It’s like when you go on audition they give you three scenes to memorize and they show up and then say, “Oh, we’re just doing scene one.” Well, that always sucks because I just prepared three scenes and not get paid for it. Because the life of an actor is the life of a writer Ashley, you just don’t know, you just gotta be prepared. And if you want it bad enough, you do the work [inaudible 00:21:06]
Ashley: Yeah. So I just wanna ask you, especially with your background as an actor I get a lot of emails from screenwriters saying, “How can I get this actor or that actor attached?” So I always like to throw that out as a question. Maybe you can talk about just the process of getting… it sounds like in your case, since you are an established actor, you had relationships with a lot of these other actors. But maybe you can talk to that process at least just a little bit. Did you guys hire a casting director then to go make offers or were these just all just personal connections that you guys did have?
Eric: I think in the desert stuff, which was like Vernon Wells, Steven Williams… excuse me, Eden Wulliams, Vernon Wells, this guy Sean Burgos, I think they all were casting. When it came to Yancy, Mulkey, Paré and everybody in LA, I really just pulled my Rolodex out of relationships that I had with all these people. And the reality is I’ve shot my own stuff and I’ve done a lot of stuff, so if you treat people right and you respect them, they’ll work for you. People wanna work, you just can give them a reason not to work with a bad attitude. So for me personally, I have so many friends in the business that I really wouldn’t need a casting director at this moment unless I had such a project that had so many people that I had to work outside of my network.
But I was very fortunate to have people that I’ve worked with in the past and other movies. Like I directed this movie Bare Knuckles that Chris Mulkey was in that and he had such a fabulous time he was like, “Eric, I’ll work for you anytime.” I did a movie with Michael Paré, just a scene in a movie 18 years ago and I put him in this movie I directed and then he, same thing, he had such a good time. He was like, “Hey Eric, anytime you wanna do a movie, I’m in.” It’s like boom. And then I have Paré. Then Yancy was the first time David and I had a chance to work with Yancy since Witchblade, 20 years ago. So that was a wonderful opportunity to kinda create a reunion.
It was like a reunion for us. The casting process for me has been fairly easy in sense of I just kinda looked in my phone. I have so many friends that are great actors that…
Ashley: Yeah. Now like John Schneider, correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t he have kind of a reputation of being in a lot of these family friendly… that’s maybe not the right word, but the sort of the religious movies, the religious themed movies. And did that affect funding at all, do you think?
Eric: You know, I don’t have that answer. I’m not sure. I know John Schneider has a studio and he’s pretty supportive on independent filmmaking and stuff like that, so I’m not sure how to say safe elements that with him or if it’s helped or hindered. But again, what is… like, we really get down to what is a faith-based movie? I think people put too much of a religious concept on it. I mean, everybody in a movie, every leading character is dealing with some sort of looking for faith, encouragement, guidance and light, right? It’s the hero’s journey. And we’ve kinda put this idea of, oh, faith-based, but like what movie is it faith-based? What hero is it looking up at God for help or looking for some higher power to help him through these hard times.
I feel like that’s gotten really misconstrued in box faith-based movies where like, again, most of the characters in movies that we’re rooting for are looking for a little bit of faith or some opportunity to better themselves. Wouldn’t you agree? Like you’re a writer.
Ashley: Yeah, no, absolutely. I totally do agree with you.
Eric: We have a character who is looking for a deeper meaning, something more. I don’t think they know what the difference is, faith or not faith.
Ashley: Yeah, no, those are excellent points for sure. So what’s the release schedule gonna be with Emerald Run, do you know when it’s gonna be out and how people can see it?
Eric: I think it’s out right now. It’s in selected theaters. Anthony Caruso on Instagram and Facebook has been listing the local theaters. Obviously for the marketing they put it in theaters in areas that are probably more appropriate for this type of movie. And then I think today it released even more. So I would look on Anthony Caruso’s Instagram and then obviously on my Instagram at Eric Etebari. I’m kinda copying off his Instagram to post little feedback updates, little success of the movie and stuff like that.
Ashley: Perfect. Well, Eric, I really appreciate you taking some time out of your day to come and talk with me. This looks like a cool film. I wish you all the best with it. And of course, you’re always welcome back for your next project.
Eric: Excellent. I’d like to add one small thing that I feel like… because I know it’s a screenwriting, but in the sense of the business it’s gotten so convenient that I really feel that independent filmmakers are taking for granted what it’s like to have a performance environment. An acting performance environment. I think things have happened so quickly for people with technology that people haven’t mastered this skill yet. They haven’t… you can go online and learn how to write a script, you can go online and learn how to use a camera, you can go online… but the actual putting the work in to get a real understanding of like, “Oh, how do I create a performance environment?”
And I’ve noticed on these independent films that I’m doing that it’s just noisy, there’s no respect for the set, there’s no respect for the scene. They gotta remember at the end of the day it’s what’s on camera that’s gonna count. No one’s gonna go, “Oh, how great was craft here. Oh…” It’s really the actor’s performance on set and I just wish that these younger directors put a little more care. Classic example, and this is an extreme, I did Stand Up Guys with Al Pacino and Christopher Walken and, whoa, what an experience. When you come to rehearse the scene, they clear everybody from the set, there’s nobody, just the director and the DP. It’s quiet and it’s focused and they rehearse it.
Once it’s done, the actors are removed then they bring in all the crew and light up according to what they saw in the rehearsal. And when the actors come back they clear it all out again. This is an extreme where even Christopher Walken would have to have everybody out of eyeline sight. So I would be filming, they’d be filming the camera through a little piece of material so just the lens would show and you couldn’t see anybody behind there rolling a point of focus or anything like that. Just the actor in front of the camera. I mean, that’s obviously an extreme, but look, these are some of the greatest actors who’ve ever lived so maybe there’s a method to their madness.
And it was after that moment, I realized like, “Wow, maybe this is why they do put out so many great performances is because this environment, it really bred for a good performance.” It was built for them to be focused and to be quiet and to find nuances and not competing with somebody texting on their phone in your eyeline talking loud. And I just… my notes is all these new up and coming filmmakers and writer directors is, I think all that stuff’s great, but at the end of the day you really gotta try to create a performance friendly environment so that you can get the best performances from your actors and they could do their jobs. I think that’s undervalued today.
Ashley: Yeah, no, I agree and that’s an excellent pro tip and I totally agree. And a lot of… I know as someone who does, has done some directing and producing, a lot of it is just the getting rushed in this sort of stuff. But I totally agree at the end of the day, it’s what’s on film that’s ultimately going to be judged and there’s a lot we could probably all do with the environment.
Eric: Yeah. Like I don’t need an AD before I’m about to shoot my scene screaming, “We don’t have time. We’re running out of time. We gotta go.” Like those are not the thoughts you want your actors to hear right before the scene. “What, you don’t have any time? Wait a minute. Oh, action. What? Where am I?” That kind of stuff drives me nuts.
Ashley: For sure. So, well again, Eric, I really appreciate you coming on and talking with me. Excellent interview. Lots of great tidbits for the audience.
Eric: Awesome. And good luck Ashley, I look forward to seeing what you got cooking. I know you’re constantly writing as I was looking at your blog and I think it’s wonderful you’re giving out. I hope these people appreciate it. You’re giving out a lot of great free advice and good tips on stuff. I was stealing stuff myself, so keep it up. Thank you for contributing to the art of writing and filmmaking.
Ashley: Thank you man. I appreciate it. We’ll talk to you later.
Eric: You got it.
Ashley: 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 Brando Benetton, who’s a recent USC film graduate and made an action short film that looks incredible. He did it all on a very small budget, but it looks like a really big budget action Hollywood film. It’s a pretty amazing short film that they ended up using to pitch the story idea as a reoccurring TV series. It’s like a 45-minute action short film.
We talk through all the trials and tribulations of getting this film produced and how that has led him along his career path. So 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 Eric. Please really listen to what he said about the acting class, when he said, the stars stay, the future stars stay. So often when you talk to successful people, they have a very similar story, they worked while everyone else knocked off and went out to have a beer after class. They stayed there, they kept doing more work. I mean, that’s very, very telling, especially as someone like myself who always puts in those extra hours. I remember in college as an example, I was on the tennis team and me and one of my tennis buddies, we literally used to go out on Friday night and Saturday night and play tennis.
We could rent the indoor course, this was in Greensboro, North Carolina so in the winter it was really too cold to play at night, certainly at night. And we could rent these indoor courts very, very cheaply because needless to say, nobody else wanted to play late at night on a Friday or Saturday night. I think we would even start at like eight or nine at night. It was like pretty late. And me and my buddy, we were the number one and two seats on the tennis team and there’s always, we would always get these little snide remarks from the other players on the team. Like we were losers for playing tennis on a Friday night. But I mean, this is how you know you’re doing the right thing when other people start making those little snide remarks.
They’re a little bit jealous or just a little bit envious, a little bit annoyed that you’re doing that extra work and beating them. A more recent example is the Kickstarter campaign. I was still doing all the normal work that I do to keep the lights on around here plus I was running the Kickstarter campaign, editing together the footage, making those little teaser trailers after my kids had gone to bed. And it’s just, I so often I just… someone tells me those little stories, I think, “Aha! I’ve experienced those moments too,” where I’m doing something, everybody else, all my friends and family, they go out there enjoying a nice time while I’m home doing that extra little bit of work. And I’ll hear a little story like what Eric said and I really relate to that.
I really hope you as a screenwriter, moving up the ranks, I hope you relate to it too. I know this isn’t the sexy answer that people want to hear. This isn’t a headline like Five ways to Make your Dialogues Snap or Three Tips to Make Your Thriller More Thrilling. I see those headlines all the time. I’m often tempted to click on them too, but that’s not the secret to all of this. The secret is that there’s just a lot of straightforward drudgery that you must do to perfect your craft. And you’re gonna need to put in a lot of extra hours until someone is paying you to do this. In fact, even after people start to pay you to do this, you’re still gonna have to put in a ton of extra hours because this business is super, super competitive.
That’s how you stay afloat. You’re gonna always be doing those extra hours, putting in that extra time. So this is another thing I wanna talk about from Eric’s interview, different topic. But I think it was something that Eric did that was so, so smart was the idea of giving his investors value other than just straight return on investment ROI. Casting the investor’s daughter in the film and using her to write some portion of the screenplay was a great idea. And it does give value to the investor by giving his daughter professional writing credit and an acting credit in the film. Those are incredible, those are valuable credits, especially to someone that’s just starting out in the business. I’ve talked about this all before, many, many times on the podcast.
Try and think outside the box and give your investors value, even if it’s not straight ROI. It doesn’t have to be a role in the film, it doesn’t have to be writing the screenplay. Obviously most people that listen to this are gonna be screenwriters, so that’s maybe not a good fit for the people listening. But there’s other things that you can give to them. Maybe they’re an actor and they wanna act in the film, maybe they’re a director, they wanna direct the film, maybe that’s how you can start to form partnerships, get other people to invest in your work. What you just have to do is you have to understand why this person is willing to put their hard-earned money into this project.
And I’ll give you a little hint. It’s probably not because they’re in awe of your unbelievable talent. There’s probably some selfish reason they’re doing this. If you understand what those reasons are, you can make sure that they get out of this project, what they’re looking to get out of it and have a good experience. That’s ultimately what people want more than just a straight ROI or return on investment. And that’s really what Eric was talking about there, just giving your investors… because making money on these films is very, very, very, very difficult. Each film you make may or may not make money, you just don’t know in a lot of cases just because this business is so competitive and so difficult.
But if you’re giving your investors something other than just a straight ROI, then at least they get that out of it. And then they know going into it, “Hey, even if I don’t make my money back, at least I got A, B and C,” and that’s really, really important. Ethically I think that’s important, but I also think it makes it so it’s a win-win for everyone. Your investor is getting something that they value out of the project for their money and you’re obviously getting investment money for your project so it becomes a win-win. And those are so often the best business deals when both sides win. There’s this idea that one side wins and one side loses in these business deals or any of these things, it’s a horrible mentality to go into any sort of a business negotiation or anything.
The best business deals are ones where both sides win, where both sides, look at it and feel like they got a lot of value out of it. Anyway, that’s the show. Thank you for listening.