This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 331: With Writer/Director/Producer Darren Coyle.
Ashley: Welcome to Episode #331 of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger over at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing filmmaker Darren Coyle. He has a new film out called Chasing Sunshine. We talk about how this film came together for him. He cast Trevor Penick who was in a boy band in the ‘90s called O-Town. So we talk about how he was able to get him involved in the film. He also did a crowdfunding campaign to raise some of the money for the film. So we talk briefly about that as well. So stay tuned for that interview. The SYS Six-Figure screenplay contest is open for submissions. Just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/contest. The early regular deadline ends June 30th and then the contest closes on July 31st.
So just two more months to get your screenplays entered. The idea for the contest was simple, find the best low budget scripts and present them to the industry. I’m defining low budget as less than $1,000,000, in other words, six figures or less. Every submission will get read by at least three professional readers and I’ve lined up about 40 industry judges to read the scripts that move out of the first round We’re giving away thousands in cash and prizes to the winners. Once again, if this sounds like something you’d like to learn more about or perhaps enter, just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/contest. If you find this episode valuable, 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 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 #331. 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 a quick few words about what I’m working on. Hopefully everyone is staying safe with COVID-19 lockdown. Obviously the big thing I’ve been doing is the contest that’s taken quite a bit of time, which is great as I think the contest will be a big part of SYS in the years ahead. It seems to be working well, scripts are coming in, the producers, the industry judges, they’re all getting excited to get the scripts. So everything seems to be working well there. Again, I think it’s gonna be something that I continue to do in the years ahead. So I feel like it’s time well spent, but it definitely did set me back a little bit. One aside which might be interesting to screenwriters, as I talk with the industry judges, most of whom are producers, I’m trying to figure out what type of material they’re looking for.
And I’d say maybe two thirds or even three quarters of the industry judges are looking for genre material, which means a low budget action, thriller and horror. This probably isn’t a surprise to most people. Certainly if you listen to this podcast with any sort of regularity, probably not a big surprise. And yet I’m getting a lot of drama and comedy scripts submitted. So there are more… and these are more the Sundance type art house films that you generally think about when you say indie film. That’s the type of film that I’m getting probably more submissions like as opposed to the genre films. Now this isn’t to say that drama or comedy can’t work, certainly in the context of a contest like this, it definitely can work.
And even in the context of these producers, again, there’s still a third or a quarter of these producers that are looking for that type of material, so that’s the good news. But there’s definitely a little bit of an imbalance. The type of scripts the producers are looking for the most doesn’t exactly line up with the types of screenplays that writers are writing the most. So again, just keep some… keep that in mind. I preach this on my podcast all the time, but I think it’s worth noting here. If you’re trying to decide what spec to write next and you have a cool low budget action, thriller or horror script idea that you’re passionate about, you might move that idea to the front of the line.
Interesting too that dramas and comedies seem to get the best scores from the first round of readers. So far the top rated screenplay, and in fact I would even go so far as to say the top few scripts are all dramas. So far the little, the top rated screenplay that’s come through so far is a period piece drama that got two recommends and one consider. It’s fairly well contained. I think there is some debate whether it could be done for $1,000,000. I haven’t actually read the script yet, but I’ve looked at the assessments from the readers and one of them actually thought it would be more than $1,000,000. So again, it’s probably pushing the line of what could be done for $1,000,000.
But again, it got two recommends and one consider, basically three jaded readers who don’t know this writer at all gave it those scores, and that’s an incredible feat. I’ve been running the SYS Script Analysis service, so I’ve seen scripts come through. A lot of people buy the three pack, they get three reviews and I’ve seen how hard it is. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that got two recommends and one consider. Don’t quote me on that, but that’s a really astounding feat. So again, I think it’s worth noting all of this information. The scripts that get the highest ratings are typically the dramas and the comedies. However, those are not typically the scripts that most producers are looking to produce. So again, just keep this in mind.
I’m not even sure what all of this is gonna ultimately shake out at, but I just thought it was interesting as I’m going through this and starting to see these patterns. Hopefully I’ll be able to share some more of these types of insights as it progresses. I do get emails from people just commenting on my commentary. Those are helpful for me to kinda guide the podcast and see if people are finding this interesting. I find data and sort of analyzing it interesting, and so I’m looking at all this data as I’m running this contest. Because I find it interesting, I assume that other people will find it interesting too. But if you’re not interested in this just send me an email and say, “Yeah, it’s not interesting to me.” Or if you are interested in it, send me an email and say, “Yeah, this actually was interesting, I’d be curious to get some more of that type of data.”
I’m happy to share some of it or all of it or whatever I come up with. I think it’s interesting. So if people do too please just kinda let me know in some way, even a tweet or something. I can kinda gauge sort of reaction of the podcast just through sort of that feedback that I get, however you like to send feedback. Okay. So now that I’ve got the contest up and running, I’m starting to spend some significant time back on The Rideshare Killer. Our editor has been working away and probably has about half the film now roughed out. So now I’m going through and making notes on the various sections and starting to think about the music, the credits, that sort of thing. This is actually really where the movie is made.
I mean, you have sort of a finite bucket of shots that you shot, and so now you got to put them together. Obviously you can always go out and do reshoots, but that’s expensive. So we’ve got to really limit that. I think we probably do have a little bit of money where we could go maybe do a day or two of reshoots with a really skeleton crew, maybe one or two actors. There probably will be some cuts, but that’s probably another month or two or maybe three down the road because we really wanna get the picture locked and be as efficient as possible. Because we’re not gonna get to do reshoots and then more reshoots, we’re gonna have to… on this budget, we’re gonna have to go and really do it quickly.
I’m hoping not to do reshoots, but the bottom line is there’s little things that are missing, and so as I’m going through this, this is what we’re sort of trying to make sense of. And I find this sort of stuff funny… not funny, fun. I find this is actually sort of… this feels like really movie making to me more than writing a script or more than even being on set shooting a movie, actually putting the pieces together and actually seeing kind of… even a rough cut without music feels much more like a finished movie. I’ll give you kind of an example. For instance, I’m missing some good footage for a transition from one section to another. I’m trying to figure out a creative solution. We have this party scene and there’s a time cut.
They’re out in the backyard talking and then the next scene they’re in the living room talking and one of the actors is the same actor and it just is… it’s a little bit of an odd cut because it’s a time cut, but you can’t quite tell that the way the thing is shot. Ironically too, the first thing I did was I went back and looked at the script and I made notes. As I was in preproduction, I was making notes about transitions and kinda things. And I kinda was curious like, “What did I think I was gonna do for a transition?” I went back to my notes and I kinda knew there was a problem, looking back on my notes even on the script stage. So again, this is something to think about. This probably could have been fixed in the script a little bit because I knew I had a problem.
The transition wasn’t really that clean and it felt a little bit weird in the script. And so obviously in the finished film or this rough cut that I’m looking at, it feels frankly even weirder. So we just… we didn’t get a lot of that B-roll party scene footage that we probably need. It won’t be that hard to go and get, but potentially will cost some money. But those are the types of sort of things that we’re going through is just trying to find the best cuts, trying to find the best coverage that we got with this sort of very limited pool of shots that we have. So again, this feels like really making the movie and I find it sort of the most fun part, but it is time consuming, needless to say, but it is again, I think it’s fun to kinda come up with these creative solutions given sort of the parameters that we have.
Anyway, hopefully another month and we’ll be real close to a rough cut and then hopefully have a little more to report on that. Anyway, that’s the main things that I’ve been working on over the last couple of weeks. So now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m interviewing filmmaker Darren Coyle. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Darren to the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Darren: Great. Well thank you for having me. I appreciate you taking the time.
Ashley: So to start out, maybe you can tell us a little bit about your background. I noticed the old school Patriots hat on, you must be from the East Coast. 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?
Darren: Well I grew up in New England in Connecticut, just outside of Hartford. And honestly, I started doing a lot of theater when I was a kid. Like even in as early as like fourth and fifth grade, I was doing like musical theater and stuff like that. So I think that’s what kinda got me into the business of show, if you will. And then it wasn’t until like I got into college that I wanted to major in theater, but I also wanted to major in English so that I was having more of a well-rounded education. And then after college, I honestly… I wanted to go full in and I jumped in the deep end and I moved to New York City to pursue a career in acting. So basically just like auditioning as much as I could and waiting tables on the side and that kind of a thing.
This was late ‘90s, so there wasn’t the internet presence like it is now. So there was a lot of like stuffing envelopes with headshots and stuff like that. I gotta say pursuing a career in acting is difficult and it’s competitive, but it’s also really depressing because there’s… you get a lot of no’s, you get a lot of rejections, and like you audition for a lot of things. The rule of thumb is you get to get one call back per 28 auditions. And I actually got some gigs. I went on a couple of tours, I got my Actors’ Equity card and then, I mean on paper I was like doing okay, but it was just frustrating to audition for a lot of things… especially whenever I was auditioning for movies and TV shows where like… especially like student films and whatever, they weren’t that good.
Eventually I got to the point where I was like, “Well, you know what, instead of keep auditioning for other people’s projects, why don’t I like start writing some of my own and see where that goes? And I could take the Clint Eastwood approach where like you get known as an actor and then you use that clout to like start directing and producing and stuff like that.” So for a hot minute that was kinda my plan. But the more I wrote things, it’s not like I got produced or anything like that, but the more I wrote things, I mean… and I just, I stopped auditioning. Honestly, it was such a nice feeling to like not have to go through all that anxiety and stuff on a weekly basis. And so I started writing more and more just like short screenplays and one act plays and stuff like that.
And none of it was any good. I mean, I would just like show my roommate and good friend at the time. He was an actor and I would just like give it to him to read and he’d give me notes on it or whatever. But as I started kind of like going in that direction, I thought, “Well, waiting tables isn’t doing any good except for paying the bills, so why don’t I try to get a day job that will help with my writing and production and stuff like that?” So I got an internship at a TV production company which turned into a production assistant job. That was kinda like my first foray into TV production. And as soon as I quit my table waiting job and did full time making TV shows, that was kind of, I guess, the beginning of the whole thing.
That’s when I was like, “Oh, I think I can make a living doing this, and on the side, write my own scripted projects.” Because I was working in mostly like reality TV shows and stuff like that. So this might be a longer answer than you’re looking for, but…
Ashley: No, no, I think this is great. And I’d be curious to take a step back there because I know that there’s a lot of screenwriters listening to this thinking, “Wow, that sounds like a good path. Maybe I could get into physical production as well.” Maybe you can talk about that transition. How did you actually get that job… get that internship at that TV production company? Was it just sending out a lot of resumes, was it a connection through all these acting gigs? Maybe you can talk a little bit about getting that first job.
Darren: Yeah, sure. So a lot of internships, at least back then, I’m sure it’s probably the same now. A lot of internships require you to be a student because of insurance reasons. Because that means you’re on the college… you’re on your school’s insurance as opposed to the insurance of the production company. However, there are some internships that don’t really care or like some studios that don’t really care. I think, well at the time it was around 2003, 2004, and so the internet wasn’t, again, wasn’t really the presence that it was today. I think I looked in like Backstage or something like that, or I might’ve looked in like Hollywood Reporter or I mean, there’s plenty of like industry publications that you can look up and they’ll list just internships and what that internship requires and what it entails.
Some internships these days are actually paid, but there’s only a certain number of hours that you can work or whatever. But I figure the closer you can actually just physically get yourself to the center of power, especially in this town, the better for you. Especially as a writer because let’s say you’re writing and you’ve got a couple of scripts that you think are pretty good and you’re an intern. I know this is cliché. This is nothing new, but like you’re an intern at some production company or a studio and you catch the eye of one of the people in charge and they think, “Oh, you’re smart. You’re a clever kid, I’m gonna help you out.” And at some point in time you can work it into the conversation that you’re a writer.
And I kind of figured it’s like any way you can get your foot in the door is the better for you. When I say that, I mean like in mostly legal ways. I’m not saying like break in overnight and stick your screenplay on the boss’s desk or something like that, but I mean any which way that you can get closer to the center of power, the better. The center of power is… especially if you’re making movies is whoever has the money and is making those decisions. If you can get in with one of them, then all the better for you. But just know that when you get that opportunity, you better have your ducks in line, your screenplay better not suck because if your screenplay sucks… if you get that opportunity, you give this person, this powerful person your screenplay, they read it or they have their reader read it and they think it’s mediocre or it sucks, that’s it.
You’ve blown the one chance you’re gonna have. So good luck is preparation meets opportunity. So make sure your preparation that you’ve put in the work and worked over the last couple of years or whatever to like get at least a decent screenplay so that you’re not wasting your time.
Ashley: Yeah. Yeah. For sure. So what do you think it is that attracted you to the entertainment industry? You talk about how as a kid you were into theater, into acting and then eventually tried… are turning this into an actual career. Like, why? I mean, I’m sure a lot of your friends went into accounting or this business or whatever else. Why do you think you stuck it out with the entertainment industry? I’m asking you because I’ve wondered this about myself frankly [laughs].
Darren: Well, true. A lot of people that I went to high school with stayed in Connecticut and worked for an insurance company or a bank or United Technologies or whatever now. But I mean from the get go, like I wanted to do what I loved and my parents were kind enough to say, “You can major in whatever you want, but you’re going to college regardless.” So I was like, “All right. Well, if I’m going to college, I’m gonna major in theater.” I actually spent my freshman year at NYU just studying acting in their studio system and ended up not being the best choice. So I ended up transferring to Connecticut College, but I still stayed a theater major. But honestly I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.
I figured, well, if I get halfway through my life or all the way through my life and I have a big regret or like I didn’t try, I’d rather have tried and failed than to never try and just play the safe road. I can say that now because I don’t have kids, I don’t have a mortgage or whatever, but like I mean I did it just for that. I didn’t wanna have any regrets.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, yeah. For sure. Let’s dig into your latest film, Chasing Sunshine. Maybe to start out, you can give us a quick pitch or a logline. What is that film all about?
Darren: Sure. So it’s a feature comedy. It’s an odd couple road trip movie where we follow Darcy and Jack on a scavenger hunt around the San Fernando Valley and hope… and knock on wood at the end of this hunt is Darcy’s secret admirer. So we kinda like follow clue to clue to clue. And well, right now we’re actually doing a special stay at home release. We were gonna release it in a couple of months, but right now we’re doing it like a special stay at home release on Vimeo On Demand. If you just go to www.chasingsunshinemovie.com you can download it, you can purchase it or rent it for 50% off. So we’re doing an independent distribution, mostly digital.
But given the situation that we’re in currently, we figured we’d try to give people something new to watch because after after a couple of weeks you’ve pretty much exhausted everything that Netflix and Amazon have to offer. So we thought we’d speed it up a little bit, so to speak.
Ashley: Yeah. Perfect. So where did this idea for Chasing Sunshine come from? What was the genesis of this idea?
Darren: Well, to be perfectly honest with you… So I wrote this, but I also directed it and I’m one of the producers on it. Roughly four years ago, as a filmmaker, I thought to myself… I had already made a few shorts and I really wanted to make a jump to features. So I thought, “Well, I have no money and I have no real resources. So I need to write a story that’s gonna be producible.” Like don’t set…. I didn’t need any of my locations to be like at the top of the Empire State Building or on a spaceship or something. I wanted all the locations to be places near my house in near North Hollywood and stuff like that, that we could like basically like steal the shot, you know, guerrilla style of making it. And I needed it to be… there couldn’t be any stunts, there couldn’t be any like anything that costs money.
So it was basically like I had to have a small cast that all took place in the San Fernando Valley and was mostly people talking to each other. So I started that. I started with that as just, those were the basics. That’s what we had to work with. And if I could do… if I could write a story like that and scrape together some money, then we could at least make the darn thing as opposed to like me writing it and it just sitting in a drawer. I started with that and which point I said, “Okay. Well, we’ll have two main characters and well, how do we get them from one place to the other?” One place to the other? I just thought, “Well, we’ll put them in a car and we’ll have some nice compelling conflict because like they’ll butt heads a lot because they don’t really know each other.” And that was essentially the core of the story at that point.
Ashley: Okay. And you know, as long as you’re talking about that, one question I did wanna ask you… because The Rideshare Killer has a number of driving scenes and you got the little trailer and I just, I always just thought of that. Because I was following along as you guys were shooting this and I can’t remember. Maybe you can talk about that just briefly. Shooting those driving scenes. How did you get that process trailer and how much do those typically cost and then what do you actually need to set that up and actually shoot there?
Darren: Yeah. So yeah, we have a number of scenes that take place in the car with them actually moving. We did actually make a couple of decisions that a couple of scenes in the car, we would have the car not moving just to minimize the number of moving car scenes. So I was just like, “Oh, well they can have the conversation in the car, but it can be parked to the side of the road.” So a couple of the scenes, we changed that. But there are certain scenes where Jack is a lift driver. And so they pick up as they’re going around, they pick up a couple of different fairs and for those obviously they have to be moving. And so a bit naive I thought we could just like steal those scenes. We could just put the DP in the front seat with the camera and just do it all handheld and blah, blah, blah.
However, the closer we got to production, the… and the two main characters, Cassie and Trevor, at some point they were like, “Look, us driving the car in traffic and trying to act in a scene is bad. It’s gonna be bad for our acting and it’s also gonna be bad for safety. It’s just gonna be unsafe. We need to figure out a way to do a camera car on a trailer.” At which point in time we had to rethink our budget because we had a very shoestring budget, but we didn’t have enough. We certainly didn’t budget for that. And you need a permit and you need cops if you’re driving on regular roads, and we have to do it all legit. We couldn’t do any of it guerrilla style because then if God forbid anything happens, your insurance will kill you.
So we had to do everything legit. We rented a trailer and we got permits, we hired cops on motorcycles, and we just… we made sure to do a handful of scenes all in one day. We would do all the driving shots in one day and just keep it very simple. The camera car was actually fairly affordable, all things considered. And you can find these guys pretty easily. He kinda gave us friend prices, even though he wasn’t a friend. He was like, basically, he’s like, “Look, if I have nothing else going on that day, I’d rather rent it to you for 75% of my usual price than to rent it to no one.” So we got kinda lucky that he didn’t have anyone renting it that day. And we found a parking lot, we rigged it up, it took about two hours, we rigged it up with cameras and lights and sound, and then we just drove around, shooting our scenes, just basically up and down Vineland. And that’s how we did that.
Ashley: And just in general additional, like for those days… for that day, how much additional costs would you say it was for the cops and the process trailer and the permits?
Darren: That day cost 25% of our budget.
Ashley: Okay. So it definitely was steep, but you just felt like it definitely merited the higher production value.
Darren: The higher production value, yes, and B honestly the safety of it. Like there’s only so much you can push the line. But it’s, I mean, at some point you just have to go, “Look, we have to spend our money on this. There’s no other way around it.” And, and it looks cool. Like the shots that we got on the trailer look great. I mean, I don’t mind tooting my own horn, but like, it looks good, it looks… it does add production value. Little things like that add production value and just bring your movie up a notch, you know?
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. We did not use the process trailer in our case, so we’ll see if people can compare and contrast the driving scenes. Because we did exactly what you said. We had the DP in the front seat, squished into the floor with a camera that was way too big for the thing. In any event… So let’s talk about your collaboration with Cassie. How did you guys meet? She is your lead actor, she’s also one of the producers. So maybe you can talk about that collaboration a little bit. Did you picture the idea before you had a complete script? At what point did you bring her in and just, how did that relationship work throughout the production and pre-production, I guess?
Darren: Yeah. Well, I mentioned I was in New York writing and working in TV production. That’s actually where I met Cassie. The two of us were living in New York and working in TV production around 2005, 2006, something like that. So we knew each other from there. And then a few years later I moved out to LA and I just started looking around on social media to see who else I knew that lived out here, and Cassie was like, “Oh, hey, I live out here now. I’m pursuing acting.” I was like, “Cool, let’s have a cup of coffee and you can give me the 411 about LA, because I don’t know this town.” So we kind of reignited our friendship and we were just like, “Oh, well, cool. We’ll both be around. Now, let’s be friends.”
And at some point since she was pursuing a career in acting and I was trying to be a… I was trying to make films and I, at that point I had like one decent short under my belt and I had this idea for another short and I thought she’d be good for the lead and I figured it would just be a fun project for the two of us to work on. It wouldn’t cost any money, we would just shoot it in her apartment, it would be very simple and easy. So I gave her the script, she read it, she loved it. We had some revisions, but a couple of months later we just shot it in her apartment. And it was just literally just her. She was… it was just a one person cast. It was called Downward Dog. I edited it together and I finished it and submitted it to some film festivals. She won a couple of awards for best actress and stuff.
Soon after that, I was like, “Okay, Darren, you’re not getting any younger. You wanna make a feature, do it now. There’s no time like the present, let’s just do it.” So I wrote the script for Chasing Sunshine and I met, this was around Christmas through January of 15, 16. I met with her for a cup of coffee and I gave her the screenplay and I said, “Look, Cassie, I have nothing but a script. I have no money. I have no connections. I have nothing, but I wanna make this movie. So read the screenplay.” I wrote one of the… I literally wrote one of the leads for her. I said, “Darcy, I wrote her for you. If you read it and hate it, you’re not gonna hurt my feelings, we don’t have to make it. It’s fine. But if you read it and you do like it and you wanna make it, then let’s be partners on this and let’s make the darn thing.”
And she’s been invaluable throughout the whole process, just from a writer’s perspective. She really helped us with casting because she knows lots of actors. And from a writer’s perspective, I say that because when we were developing the script over the course of like nine months, she arranged for us to have two table reads during that time. And sure, you know, as a writer yourself, hearing your words out loud and getting feedback from actors and stuff like that is invaluable. It really helps you so that you’re not like just writing in a bubble. You can get feedback and that really helped grow the script and grow the story and helped to develop it.
Ashley: Yeah. Yeah. Perfect. So how did you get Trevor Penick involved with the project and how much did that help ultimately in terms of distribution and Kickstarter and all of that?
Darren: Well, funny at one of those table reads I was telling you about was one of Cassie’s friends, Erich, Erich Hover, who ended up being a producer on the film. He’s also an actor, he’s an actor in the film. He came to the table read and he was nice enough to read all the non-dialogue stuff, you know, like all the like…
Ashley: The narration.
Darren: Yeah, the narration and stuff like that, which is a thankless job. And so he read that and everyone left, but he stayed behind and he was like, “Hey, do you have an actor that you had in mind for Jack already?” And at the time we were still up in the air and I was like, “I don’t know, we’re still kinda looking around.” And he said, “I think my friend Trevor would be good for it.” He’s like, “Do you mind if I pass along the script to him?” We were both like, “Yeah, sure. Why not?” At which point I was like, “Who’s this guy, Trevor.” And I think Cassie was like, “Oh, he’s one of the members of O-Town.” And I was like, “What! Okay, this guy is in a boy band. That’s interesting.” So he read it and he immediately liked it, liked the script.
So we met with him just to get to know him as a person. We met him for brunch or whatever, Eric and Trevor and me and Cassie, and there might’ve been another person there, just to get to know each other, just to check out his vibe. He was totally chill, totally cool guy. And I said, “Well, look, with all due respect, I need to see you on camera. I need to ask you for a camera test for you and Cassie just to see what… how you read and what your chemistry is like and all that,” which he agreed to. They did a couple scenes from the script just on an iPhone, just sitting in someone’s apartment. And he was off book for the camera test. And he and Cassie had great chemistry and he was just… I felt like he had a really good touch for the character.
At which point in time, I was like, “Great, look, if you wanna do it, then we want you to do it. Let’s do it,” after I talked to Cassie about it, obviously. And then, and I will say when we were doing our crowdfunding campaign which is how we raised most of our money, him being a member of O-Town and having a lot of fans out there actually did help us out big time.
Ashley: Yeah. So maybe you can talk a little bit about the Kickstarter campaign. Do you have a couple of tips? Are there some things you tried that maybe didn’t pan out? Are there some things that you tried that did pan out?
Darren: Well, the major thing I would say is that you have to make your story a human story. You can’t… it’s not a, if you build it, they will come. It’s not like that at all. And the cavalry isn’t coming. You need to put in the hours, you need to put in the work, you need to put it in the networking. And before your campaign, you got to set up… you got to set people up. Like even just family and friends, you got to come out of the gates swinging. So like a bunch of my family and friends, I was like, “Look, on day one, I know you’re gonna give to this campaign anyways, please do it on day one so it looks like we’re actually making some traction.” So that way on day one at least you get $1000, $1,500 in the door.
But you have to keep at it. I mean, I have very good friends that I’ve known for 20 years that I had to like email and phone call four or five times before I get them to actually do the darn thing. And that’s just my, I mean, that’s just my folks. There’s plenty of other friends of friends and like… but it’s all about networking. It’s all about getting out there and making sure that your video is around two minutes and it pitches you as a filmmaker as a personal story. Like for me and Cassie, it was me and Cassie on camera. We were kinda like joking around and kinda like pitching the idea of the film, but also pitching the idea that the film is diverse. Like the cast was very diverse. Like our two main characters are minorities.
Things like that. We were just really pitching it as this different and unique story that they needed to be a part of. You know? I don’t know if there was anything that we did that didn’t work that I would say was a no-no, but I felt like we got the most traction and we got the most reaction out of people when you just… when you’re selling yourself. As a filmmaker, I wasn’t selling the movie I was selling me, and Cassie was selling Cassie. We were saying, “Look, this is something we want to do. Get on our team be on board and this is gonna be great.” That would be my advice. And it is a lot of work. I know everyone says that, but it’s true. The bigger your budget, the more work it’s gonna be.
Ashley: Yeah, for sure. Let’s talk briefly about your press kit. I’d just be curious to kinda get your thoughts on that. What is this used for, and do you mind if we link to that in the show notes so people can see it? I know people will be interested in actually getting a look at this and checking it out. So first off to start out, maybe you can go on and just describe what this press kit is, and then describe what it’s used for.
Darren: Okay. So it’s called an EPK or electronic press kit. It’s basically a 20 to 25-page PDF that helps to explain visually and narratively everything about your movie. You use it when you wanna just give someone a quick download on what your project is. It’s mostly for press, but I mean, you can send it to anyone if you’re like… if someone’s like, “Hey, I wanna give you 500 bucks. What’s your movie about?” You can send them that and it’ll tell them everything. So in this particular case, we have our poster, there’s a director’s statement, and then there’s some technical aspects to it. Later we shot in 69 and a lot of the tech specs about it. And then we have like every cast member and their bio, so everyone can like see their face, see what they’ve done and really kind of like…
Again, you really want to get across the fact that this is like a human project made by people who love what they do. It’s not a huge big studio project. I mean, this is in my case, in the case of Chasing Sunshine. We didn’t wanna seem to slick, but we did wanna seem like we knew what we were doing. So you have to kinda like balance, make the balance between being too slick and big budgety, but also you’re not just some schmuck that picked up a camera and made a movie. Like, hopefully we’re somewhere in the middle of that. But yeah, and then like once we started playing festivals and started winning some awards and we got reviews and stuff like that, you put that stuff in there as well. That way it’s just kinda like a one stop shop as to like everything about your film.
And you send that out to… once you’ve made the movie and you send that out to possible reviewers or if someone… or if you’re getting into the distribution game and you want to give them a quick rundown of what your movie is about, you can send that to them. It’s just kinda like a little bit of shorthand for your movie.
Ashley: Yeah. Yeah. Was this something you hired someone to create or something you created?
Darren: Well, our associate producer who also happens to be my brother also happens to be a graphic designer.
Ashley: It felt very professional. Yeah.
Darren: He made it but we didn’t pay him for it. He did it because he’s a producer on the movie. And so, yeah.
Ashley: One of the things… and it’s interesting that now you’re saying, “Okay, we did this really for the Kickstarter.” I noticed that you listed a ton of actors, even actors with very small roles in the film. I just got doing… got done with my own Kickstarter and sort of did a similar thing. Was part of your idea just highlighting these actors with small roles in the press kit, make them feel more like a part of the project? And I’m kinda getting at that sort of what you’re saying is that it becomes more of a personal story. It’s not the fact that Joe is playing this role. It’s more about that Joe has this passion for acting, has been pursuing it for all these years and this is his chance to use some of those skills.
Darren: Well honestly, I mean, you… part of what you wanna do as a producer…
Ashley: Like for a distributor… if you’re gonna send this to distributor, I think you would cut it down so you listed your two main actors and that’s about it. Probably your DP, you know what I’m saying? I’m just spit balling to just shrink it down a little bit. But it’s interesting you said you created it for the Kickstarter. I’m just trying to… was that part of your thing?
Darren: The thinking is kind of twofold. One, you wanna see that you aren’t just some schmuck who wrote a script, there are other people involved who are on board and this is actually happening. So it kind of inspires confidence in the project. If someone sees, “Oh, they’ve got the whole thing tasked, and they’ve got a DP. This is actually happening.” And people wanna be on a winning team. So they would go, “Oh, well, all right, this is happening. I’m gonna give this guy 250 bucks.” So there’s that part of it. But then the further on down you move, you also want the people that you cast, the actors to get excited about the project and they can help you in your crowdfunding campaign.
They can help get the word out to their friends, family, coworkers, stuff like that. Especially if they’ve been in LA for 15 years, they probably know tons of actors who believe in the project. And so you can… that part is about networking as well. Because the friend of a friend of a friend, you never know who that person’s gonna be. They might give you 50 bucks, which is great. They might can give you 500 bucks, which is even awesome… even more awesome, you know? So I can’t undersell enough the networking aspect of doing a crowdfunding campaign like that.
Ashley: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Okay, so let’s talk about you get the film done and then you start taking it out to festivals. Maybe you can talk about that run. I noticed, and this was actually through your press kit by sending it, you list the festivals that you got into. One of the things that I noticed was you were in like the Sherman Oaks, the Studio City, Festigious, which is also here in LA. I’m curious if that was part of your strategy. Did you go heavily towards LA festivals? But just maybe taking a step back first, maybe you can talk about this process. How many festivals did you submit to? How many did you get into and how many did you actually go to and did you see some value out of all of this?
Darren: Well for me as a filmmaker, I see a lot of value in being able to go physically to the screening at a film festival. Because there’s nothing better than seeing your movie in front of an audience full of strangers because you know their reactions are gonna be genuine. It’s not gonna be like showing your mom and her going, “Oh, it was great. Great job.” No, no, no. You wanna put it in front of a hundred strangers, and if they laugh, great, and if they don’t laugh, then that sucks, but then you gotta think, “Oh, well maybe we should rethink that moment and maybe edit… change the editor or something like that.” And you get to hobnob with fellow independent filmmakers after the film festival, or after the screening or whatever. So for me personally, that’s great. I love doing that.
And if I can go to a film festival, I’m totally going and I pay for all of those flights out of my own pocket. Happy to do it. And we got… I think our success rate was around 20%. So like, which actually pretty average. That’s pretty good. Like for every eight no’s you’re gonna get, you’ll get two yeses, you know? And if the film festival was in LA and if it was local to LA, knowing that our cast and crew are all local to LA, I submitted it. I didn’t care what festival it was just because I figured if we get in, that’s a great opportunity for the cast and crew to come see their work and they don’t have to travel or anything like that, so it’s an easy yes for them. But I mean, there are other festivals that just like had a good vibe to them that like a lot of their other programming was interesting and cool and kind of up our alley, so I would submit to them.
Then there were other ones that are really prestigious but like they weren’t the right home for us. And you can… if you go to a film festival’s website and you look at the last two years of their programming and the kind of film festivals that are… the kind of films that they program in their festival. There’s this one Virginia Film Festival that was really prestigious. It was in Richmond and when I first looked at it I was like, “Oh, maybe I’ll check this one out.” But like the last two years, everything that they had programed in their festival was female stories in Africa or India. A lot of international films. I was like, “Okay, well, then that’s not for us. Because we’re not that and clearly that’s what they value.”
So like you can see different film festivals and the vibe they have and what they are used to programing, what they’re not used to programing. Us being a comedy, any comedy film festival is a lock, but like anything else you have to do a little bit of a dive and do your research and figure out what’s gonna be a good fit. Like the Jim Thorpe Film Festival was a great fit because they had a really eclectic array of different films, plus they were only in their second year so they were still kind of building an audience and so… And then like the Omaha Film Festival was a great film festival for us to go to. It just so happened that two of our producers were from Omaha. But also Omaha went for seven days, so they had a lot of slots, a lot of programing.
Like there’s some film festivals that only go for one or two days and if you’re submitting a feature, you’re not gonna get picked. Because they’re probably only gonna have like three features in their festival. You have to look at that as well. Like if it only lasts two or three days, that’s fewer slots for you to get programed into. If the film festival lasts a week or 10 days, that’s a lot of slots for them to fill and your chances are better at getting programed. So you have to just look at a bunch of different factors and like it’s always gonna be a numbers game. But, yeah.
Ashley: That is excellent advice and I hope people are really listening to that. The one other piece, and I found this extraordinarily difficult, I mean everything you’re saying sort of doing your due diligence, I get that. But like on FilmFreeway for instance, they have this system where you can leave feedback for a festival. And what I found overwhelmingly is that it’s just nothing but positive feedback. And I suspect that if a filmmaker goes to a festival that’s bad, I just don’t think they really wanna get on FilmFreeway and bash it publicly. It seems like there’s… because ultimately they potentially might need these festivals. So my question is how do you decipher the festivals that are worth going to?
Because I have a number of friends, they fly across the country, they go to the festival and there’s basically nobody there. And they’ve had those experiences. And I’m curious, how do you vet those? How can you find out if there actually are people showing up if it’s actually worth spending the $500 for the plane ticket?
Darren: Well, you have to look at their… well, A, look at their website. If their website sucks then they probably suck too because your website and your social media outreach show how engaged the film festival is with its audience. Now, if you go to this film festival’s Facebook page and they haven’t posted anything in two months, then they’re not engaging an audience. If you go to their Twitter feed and they haven’t posted anything at three months or even on their website itself. If they have a post that says, “Our festival is coming up in two weeks,” and it’s already, their festival has already happened, that means they haven’t updated their own website.
And if they aren’t updating their website on a daily, if not weekly basis and they’re not engaging whatever audience that they were able to engage through social media and stuff like that, then they’re not building an audience and they’re… and yeah, you’re gonna go to their festival and you’re gonna be sitting in an empty theater. And I’ve done that. Believe me, I’ve done it for a couple of my shorts. Luckily, knock on wood for Chasing Sunshine, we didn’t have that as a problem. But yeah, I mean you gotta see what they’re doing and if they’re not doing much, then chances are they’re not gonna do much for you.
Ashley: Yeah. And I’m probably a lot… I’m not… I’m probably nowhere near as good on the due diligence. In fact, I can tell just talking to you and how you go to the websites and look, I’m probably a little slack on the due diligence and so maybe some of that falls on me. But one of the that I would say, because I’m always looking for more efficient ways to do it. It seems like there could be a more efficient way than just pure due diligence. But, and I’ll give you an example. It seems to me like FilmFreeway, they could ask the film festival, how many feature films are you gonna be screening during your festival? And that should be something that we could see very easily. That’s actually a number that’s very difficult to actually find.
You have to do your due diligence and that’s where like if… because I submitted to a festival once and it was exactly what you’re saying, I got rejected. And then when I started to go back and say, “Well what happened?” I look and they literally, they did like 50 shorts and one feature, they only screened one feature film. So if I’d have known those were my odds, I never would have spent the $50. You know what I’m saying? There’s things like that. And the other thing is they could also, FilmFreeway could very easily because they have access to these numbers, how many people submit and how many people get accepted and then ultimately how many films are actually screened.
Because the other thing that I found with The Pinch was I got into a bunch of festivals that didn’t screen any films. Like that was their thing was they were just basically, they were basically just making money. Maybe they did an online festival or something, but it became clear that this was not really a real film festival. They were just giving out the laurels and saying, “We accepted your film, but by the way, sorry, we can’t screen it.”
Darren: Right, right. Yeah. I mean I would love to tell… not that I have all the answers or that I’m an expert on any of this stuff. Just having had the experience with a couple of shorts and now with a feature, I’d love to tell you that there’s like a magic bullet or some sort of like special sauce that you can use to like cut the line, but honestly, I would just sit there for hours and hours just doing research and figuring out which one. Because there’s not a lot of people doing that. I mean, I wish there was some third party website that would give you impartial reviews and stuff like that. But like, sometimes you have to try to just read through the lines and see what’s what and see what’s a good fit.
Obviously there’s a lot of like crossing your fingers and just hoping they’ll choose your film. But unfortunately, at least for me, my answer is I’m gonna do the legwork. I’m gonna figure these guys out. And sometimes I’m gonna be wrong. Sometimes I’m gonna pick one that I think is good and they treat their filmmakers like crap, or they’re all gonna… I’m not gonna submit to one and then later on realize, “Oh, that would’ve been a really good fit. Why didn’t I submit it?” But again, it is a numbers game. Sometimes like on FilmFreeway, they’ll have a whole section, if you scroll down to the bottom left section, there’ll be a little thing that’s just free.And if you click on that, it lists a bunch of festivals that are like having a coupon going on right now.
If you use their coupon code, you can submit for free. Now these are obviously mostly like third tier festivals that are like in their first year or second year. They’re just trying to get some people in the door. But if it was free, I didn’t care where it was, I submitted just because I figure why not, you know? But yeah, do your due diligence and hope for the best, I guess.
Ashley: Yeah. Yeah. So, yeah. Well, good advice. So how can people see Chasing Sunshine? You mentioned it’s gonna be on… it’s already out on the release. It’s on Vimeo now. You’re gonna go to iTunes and some of these other services eventually?
Darren: Eventually we will go to some other platforms, but just with the whole Coronavirus lockdown and whatever, some of these other platforms are having some major slowdown in posting things or whatever. But we have it on Vimeo on Demand right now. You can get there through our website actually. You can go to www.chasingsunshinemovie.com and that’ll click you right over to the Vimeo On Demand page and you can purchase it, you can rent it, you can download it. That’s how you can see it. You can also find us on Facebook, Chasing Sunshine, Facebook and on Instagram, which we’re Chasing Sunshine movie.
Ashley: Perfect. Perfect. And do you mind sharing some of your own personal stuff? Twitter, Facebook, anything you’re comfortable sharing. I will also round that stuff up for the show notes. Just if someone wants to follow your career specifically.
Darren: Yeah, sure. You can definitely just… I’m just Darren Coyle on Facebook. On, let’s see, Instagram I’m @darren_w_coyle. That’s my Twitter hand… I’m sorry, that’s my Instagram handle. And then Twitter, I’m just @darrencoyle0626.
Ashley: Perfect. Perfect. As I said, I’ll round that stuff up for the show notes and people can click over to it. Well, Darren, once again, I appreciate your coming on and good luck with this film and I look forward to hearing about your future films as well.
Darren: Well, thank you very much sir. I appreciate you having me on.
Ashley: Thank you. We’ll talk to you later. Bye.
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Quick update from Darren on Chasing Sunshine. It’s now available on Amazon, but you can get a stay at home 50% off discount if you go to their website and buy or rent it through their website. Just go to www.chasingsunshinemovie.com. On the next episode of the podcast, I’m gonna be interviewing director Martha Stephens, who just did a period piece drama called To The Stars. We talk through her career and how she was able to get this film produced. So keep an eye out for that episode next week. That’s the show. Thank you for listening.