This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 340: With Writer/Director Ben Rood.

Ashley: Welcome to Episode #340 of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger over at Today, I am interviewing writer-director, Ben Rood, who just did a cool little horror film called Don’t Run. We dig into his background and how he was able to get this film produced. So stay tuned for that interview. 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, and then just look for Episode Number #340. If you want my free guide-How To Sell a Screenplay in Five Weeks, you can pick that up by going to It’s completely free, you just put in your email address and I’ll send you a new lesson once per week 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 So quick few words about what I’m working on. I’m still plugging away on my mystery thriller feature film, The Rideshare Killer, just getting the various passes. Still have not quite made it to locked picture. So we’re still just making edits to the picture. We haven’t even started on the audio and that kinda stuff, but it’s definitely coming along and I’m hoping here in another week or two we’ll probably be at least maybe a pass or two away from locked picture.

We’ll start thinking about maybe some reshoots and then to inserts. There might be a few little pick up shots that we need to go out and get. So that’s kinda what I’m doing now. Also the music I’m actually starting to set on. There’s a couple spots where we’re gonna need songs, so I’m listening to music, trying to figure out what songs would fit in that spot. Doing the credits too, that’s actually something I was working on last night and this morning, is getting the credits, figuring out sort of what the opening title sequence is gonna look like, where those credits are gonna go in the story, more in the sort of the opening section, and then obviously the ending credits, we gotta put that together, make sure that that’s all complete.

So a lot of sort of just ins and outs, nothing too earth shattering to report on that project, but definitely is moving along. So the contest has ended, the SYS Six-figure Screenplay contest has closed on July 31st. We’ve got all the submissions there. We’re gonna be reading through the scripts. We’re gonna be announcing in September the second round, the people that have made it into the second round, we’ll be making a big announcement. And then as the months go on leading up into November, we’ll be announcing our second round, you know, the quarter finalists and semi-finalists, and ultimately the finalists and the winner will probably come out in November.

If you’d entered that stay tuned, we’ll definitely be having an announcement hopefully soon on that. So now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m interviewing writer, director, Ben Rood. Here is the interview.

Ashley: Welcome Ben to the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.

Ben: Yeah, yeah. Thanks for having me.

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?

Ben: I grew up here where I am now in Cincinnati and I would say my mom is probably the one that got me interested in filmmaking, which is my main pursuit. She would have me watching all these old classics when I was little. She’d have me watching like The African Queen, and she had me watching Grapes of Wrath, but I was like five years old and I was just kinda, “I don’t like this.” But she was very persistent and she kinda just kept me watching those, had me watching those movies. Then after a while, it was just, “All right mom, what are we watching tonight?” It just… when you’re starting that young and she just loves movies, so it just kinda stuck. And yeah, so I love her for it.

Ashley: Yeah. So what was some of your first steps to actually turning this into a career? Were you that guy in high school that was making little shorts? Maybe talk about that process of actually getting out of high school. Did you go to film school? What were those next steps after high school?

Ben: Oh yeah. So, I mean, I found… I think I was like 16 and I’m sitting in front of my computer and I’d just finished watching the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and I’m just kinda, “That was an awesome movie!” Again, black and white, you know, old mama Rood. She got me hooked on it. And I sat down in front of my computer and I just started writing a story and I’d never written a screenplay and I hated schoolwork. I spent more time cheating than studying, but I loved writing this story. Before I knew it, I was just writing my version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. There was nothing special but I was just kinda, “Wow, this feels great.” So in school I got into like a couple of theater classes and just to kind of be around some of the people that had that kinda energy because it’s just, they’re few and far between.

Then in that I was just kinda, “This is what I wanna do.” I told my parents and they’re just, “Oh no, Oh no, he wants to be a filmmaker.” My dad, he’s very smart, he just goes, “You just gotta know it’s gonna be tough.” And I said, “That’s cool. I’m going to a higher university film school.” So, got to film school, and what I noticed there was that everybody just wanted to be a writer. You know, when you’re getting a bunch of people together to go and make something, it’s crazy how many people are just… they say, “I’m here to be a screenwriter,” and it’s kinda, “Well, who’s gonna direct? Who’s gonna produce our stuff?” you know what I mean? And just from there, I kinda realized alright, I’m probably gonna have to take it upon myself to actually get some of my stuff produced.

So while I was in school, I was able to rent their equipment and I was able to just learn how to produce and direct my own material. That’s really where I started making material, just the shorts and all that stuff. It all started in film school.

Ashley: Yeah. On IMDb you have a couple of shorts listed and I’m curious, maybe you can talk about doing those shorts briefly. How did they help prepare you for doing features? What did you do to market them? How did you raise funds? How did you get them done?

Ben: I would say in school it was, you know, it was just kind of the mentality, “We’re gonna make these shorts and that’s gonna be our ticket to go and get bigger stuff made.” So we were on the streets selling like grilled cheese sandwiches for a dollar and just doing whatever we had to. I was donating blood plasma, just like to try and get any cash that I could. When we got enough people together, we were able to raise about 25 grand for a Civil War adaptation, and that was the biggest one. And you know what they ultimately did? We didn’t make any money off of them, but they did land me a pretty sweet internship for an Emmy winning visual effects company in Los Angeles. It’s something that looked really good on our resumes.

When we’re talking to employers, I’d say that was the biggest boost it got, as well as the experience for when it came time to making my first feature. So I’d kind of earned my stripes in that regard doing a bunch of shorts and then it was, “Okay, I think I’m ready to tell a bigger movie.”

Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So let’s jump into your latest feature film Don’t Run. Maybe to start out you can give us a quick pitch or a logline. What is that film all about?

Ben: Don’t Run is a story about a 15-year-old kid who’s trapped in his house with a monster that will eat him if he’s not in bed every night by sundown.

Ashley: That’s very high… no very high concept. So where did this idea come from? What was sort of the genesis of it?

Ben: I will say that after I lived in Los Angeles for a few years and I really wasn’t moving up the ladder or anything, it was just really hard to get people to read my scripts. It was just like college all over again. It’s just a bigger pond. And so it was, I’m gonna have to produce my own stuff if I want to get out there. So I was just kind of working on all these ideas, I know I wanna make a feature length movie, but what is the story I’m gonna be able to tell with a low budget? But I don’t want it to feel like a low budget movie. Telling a story is very, very important to me. Writers get that, like, it’s all about the story. So I will say that I think just from working and thinking and thinking, I took a break one day and I went for a run.

I remember when I was running it all just came to me and I felt like something was chasing me. Maybe it’s like a dog chasing its own tail, but I just felt paranoid, like there was something that was after me and it all just kinda came to me. It’s like there’s this kid, there’s this monster that’s gonna be chasing him, and if he’s not in bed every night then it’s gonna eat him. And that’s just the end of the story. The bed is the safe zone. Like that’s the only place that you’re safe. It’s like when you’re playing tag and you cross the line, it’s, “Uh, you can’t get me, I’m in the safe zone.” That’s what the bed is. But I will say the script, the story, it’s all about kind of facing your fears, without giving too much away.

And I think there’s a lot of reflection of me and facing my fears and always wanting to make a movie and just kinda putting it off and finally just biting the bullet, doing it and accepting that there’s always gonna be an infinite amount of problems that I don’t have all the answers for right now, but if it’s what’s in my heart, not to get super deep, then it’s just what you got to go after.

Ashley: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, for sure. So let’s talk about your writing process. We can be specific to Don’t Run, but if there’s… if Don’t Run was maybe not like a lot of your other writing processes, you can maybe point that out. But where do you typically write, and when do you typically write? Do you go to Starbucks during the day? Do you work in the middle of the night? What does sort of your writing schedule look like?

Ben: Oh yeah, whatever. I actually love Starbucks coffee, and I know that they’re just a big corporate chain. I’d love to support just mom and pop places. They’re just, it’s so good. It gets me real caffeinated. They had a seat for me whenever I would go there and I would work on it. And you know what, but the thing… I’ll go there like whenever I can, and then I try and work from home and I try and keep it just whenever I feel like doing it, you know? I think there’s a great quote from Robert Rodriguez that I read, the guy who did El Mariachi and he kinda like do it yourself sort of filmmaker. He says, because it’s hard to find the inspiration to sit down and write, but when you do sit down, that’s usually when the inspiration comes.

He said if you don’t have the answer just start working on the problem, and eventually the motivation will come to you and you’ll be able to find a solution. So it doesn’t matter. I’ll sit down anywhere, if it’s just kinda, I haven’t written in a while. I just sit down, I just start just typing or just kind of like working on it, and then it comes to me. Then there’s just one other strategy that I’ve really been using the past few years, is I’ll watch the movie and I’ll write down everything that happens every single minute of the movie. And when you compare three or four movies like that, and you’re looking at all your notes, you’re gonna notice a lot of the same formulas. Different things are happening, but the same emotions are being conveyed at that point in the story.

If you can just kind of take the formula that you like or take a similar movie, then you can just switch that out with the elements of your script. And it’s just kind of like a mix and match game.

Ashley: Yeah, yeah. Good advice. That is a great exercise. Maybe you can talk about just the outlining versus actually writing in final draft. How much time do you spend preparing, outlining, thinking about the idea and then how much time do you spend actually in final draft cranking out script pages?

Ben: Oh, a lot! I spend… I outline a ton. I know there’s some people that can just say, “I’m just gonna go in there and I’m just gonna start working in final draft,” and I’m just jealous. I’m just like, “I don’t know how you do that.” That’s just like even more rewriting than the regular process for me. I have to go in there and I outline pages and pages and pages and all these note cards and there’s all of these notes on the note cards and then I’m rearranging them all. Then finally, when I can really see it in my head, that’s when I go to final draft. Because I see final draft kinda like a typewriter. You go in there and when you make a mistake, it’s just, ah, nuts. I gotta go in there and it just sucks so much more when you make a mistake when you’re actually writing it than when you’re actually doing the outline. For me, that’s how I feel.

There’s always that little bit of fear of just, it feels better going in knowing what you’re gonna do.

Ashley: Yeah. No, I totally agree. I feel like it makes the rewriting… I have a lot of trouble with rewrites when the thing gets really cumbersome and I feel like being more prepared helps alleviate that at the end. More preparation in the beginning helps you alleviate a lot of that work at the end. How long does it typically take you to write a script? Like for this one you outlined it for a while. How long from start to finish until you had a draft that you were confident in?

Ben: So this one, you know what, it all came to me kinda like a fever dream just because I was so pumped up and fired up, and it was just my main focus of everything that I was doing. I think the first draft was done in about six months. That’s the fastest I’ve ever written anything. Then I think three months later I had my shooting script. It takes me awhile. We’ve got shooting for my next movie coming in September, and that’s something that I’ve just been pulling hairs on for two years. And I will work and work and work and I’ve had… I used to date this girl and she would just say, “You just, you’re gonna be bald if you just keep pulling hairs.” It’s, you need to get it in front of people, get your feedback and not just overanalyze everything.

But I will say it usually takes me over a year to get me something that I really feel good about.

Ashley: I got you. You just mentioned too, you said you’re gearing up for a project to shoot this September. Is that correct?

Ben: Yep.

Ashley: What are you guys doing? I’m just curious. This is more of an aside. I’m curious, what are you guys doing with COVID? How are you guys preparing for that in case you have to get shut down or in case there’s delays or what is your preparation there?

Ben: Yeah, it’s tough because we actually lost a little bit of money on some locations because we were supposed to start shooting a couple of weeks ago when COVID was a little… when we couldn’t have anticipated it and how big it was gonna be. So we’re just having to work into our rental agreements and all of our contracts that there’s gonna be some wiggle room in case there’s a pandemic, or if there’s a natural disaster. It’s a pain in the butt, but it really opens your eyes to mother-nature has no wrath or fear, whatever that term is. It’s just you don’t mess with the mother. But yeah, you just got to work it in there and just give yourself that backup plan.

Ashley: How are you finding working through with these locations and crew and everybody? How are you finding…? Are they pretty reasonable about not giving you a break since you couldn’t shoot a couple of weeks ago through no fault of your own?

Ben: It was tough. I had to make the executive decision to push till September. I wanted to wait until there was a pretty decent bluffer where it seemed like we were getting a handle on what was going on. And I just said, “You know what guys, we could try and shoot earlier, but at the end of the day, no one’s gonna remember the pain of just having to wait a while to get this movie made. They’re gonna remember the finished product. So let’s take a few more months, let’s get ready, let’s use this as preparation and let’s bring our A-game and just make something really special in September.” And everybody’s fired up. I mean, everybody was kinda urgh, but yeah, I’m down. Everybody’s in there for the right reasons. They’re not there for the paycheck.

They’re there to just make a good product and it is what it is. You know what I mean? It’s not like I’m trying to be greedy or anything like that. It’s just, it’s the most responsible move.

Ashley: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. So, okay, back to Don’t Run. You’re working on the script, what does your development process look like? It sounds like it takes you a year. During this year, are you… do you wait the full year till you’re happy before you get notes from other people? Is part of that year getting notes from other people? And what does your development process look like? Do you have some actors, some other producers, some other writers? Who do you get notes from?

Ben: I’ve got a lot of my buddies from film school. We all talk and it’s kind of our support group. And even we are all living together in LA, but we’re all these guys that were from Ohio, and we talk, every other day still. We’re just, “This is what I’m working on, can you tell me what this looks like?” But you only really get one chance for a first impression. So it’s kinda scary to get it out there for the first time, but when you’ve got a version that you like, you know the best thing you can do is get other eyes on it because that’s the whole, that’s the end game, right? Is you’re gonna show it to as many people as possible. So get it to a place that you feel good about it, that the gist isn’t going to be there.

Maybe it doesn’t have to have all the typos, but to where the story can be conveyed and you can be taken seriously. That’s when I show it to my buddies. But I don’t show them a lazy copy. I don’t show them something that it’s gonna say, “Oh yeah, I’m probably gonna change this tomorrow.” It’s no, because then you’re just wasting people’s time. You have to respect their time and just have a version that you really, really like, that you’re saying, “Okay, I’m pretty stuck and I’m gonna be stuck for a while until I get some help on this.”

Ashley: Yeah. Yeah. I’m curious with Don’t Run, it’s kind of a high concept horror movie. I noticed the feature you’re doing I guess in September is more of a comedy, some of your shorts were more comedies. Is there a reason you decided for your first feature to go more with horror? Did you feel like that was a better genre for a low budget feature? What was some of your thinking in sort of coming to terms with why a horror versus a comedy or drama or a thriller or any number of others genres?

Ben: Oh yeah. It was entirely budgetary, I will say, to go with horror the first time. You always hear those stories about those micro budget horror movies, and a lot of them do pretty well. But you know what, I also was… I wrote a couple of other horror movies and I was thinking, “You can’t just go in this for the money. You have to stick to the budget, to be able to take something that’s taken seriously.” But I wasn’t just gonna go and make a horror movie just to make a horror movie. It had to be able to tell the story that I wanna tell. There’s definitely elements of comedy in Don’t Run. I’ve always loved just being funny with people and that’s something that’s always gonna be there, but at the same time it was kinda… the first thing I ever wrote was a remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

I love, I love horror. It’s so much fun. Like look at American Werewolf in London. The movie’s hysterical, but it’s terrifying at the same time. But yeah, so I don’t know, I’m kind of all over the map. The micro budget horror was definitely what got the wheels turning. And the more I thought about it, the more just all of the pieces kind of started falling into place.

Ashley: I got you. Okay. So you have your script done, you’ve started to get production. What was the steps to actually raise money? Did you have some funding in place? Did you have some ways of raising money? Maybe talk us through that project. And again, I really appreciate your coming on and really being candid with us, because there’s a lot of screenwriters that are listening to this now thinking, “Gee, maybe I could do this too.” So maybe just give us a little sort of your information. What did you do to get that script from page to screen?

Ben: Do you know any of this? Do you know any of…?

Ashley: I don’t. No. Well, I’m actually, I’m asking this… but this, I ask all my guests to kinda give a… you know, tell us their story, and I find it usually very interesting and enlightening.

Ben: Yeah, man. This is where it gets good. Because after Los Angeles, I was moving trees around for celebrities primarily for like 10 bucks an hour. I was just carrying these giant trees on my shoulder and digging them in the ground by myself and I busted my back up. So I had to go home and I had like a dollar to my name. My parents took me in. I had no money, and all I wanted to do was make a movie, you know? What a terrible catch 22 that you’re in. So it was just kinda, all right, they gave me money to get my back fixed up, and I told them my master plan was I was gonna take the next few years and I was gonna go do more manual labor, save all my cash, live in their basement and go and make a movie that I hadn’t written yet.

It was just like, you know what, I’ll put the work in. I love working hard, I’d like the freedom, like who’s gonna stop me? And I’m back in Ohio. I tried for years in Los Angeles and it didn’t work, and I was pissed. I was so pissed off, but it was like, “You know what? I don’t care. I don’t care what they say. This is all I wanna do. It keeps me up at night and something in my belly is telling me that I gotta take it upon myself.” It’s like that part in Rocky where he’s talking to Adrian and he’s like, “You know what, it’s just a boat going the distance. You know, I just go to… if I lose the creed…” you know, if I make a crappy movie, “It doesn’t matter as long as I go the distance and try.” And I’m just, “Yeah, man, I got you Rock.”

So I got a job moving furniture and eventually I got a job as a part time firefighter and everybody knew what I was doing at work. They all knew that I was just there and I was busting tail. At Two Mean and a Truck, there’s 7,000 employees or something in the country, they have been nationally ranked number six. I was working my butt off and I just saved my cash. I went into production with about 20 grand in my pocket. It took like a year and a half to save up or so. Maybe a little bit less than that. But and then we shot and I spent the next couple of years editing it for another $20,000. I showed the raw footage to some editors around here that knew their way around like professional software, all that good stuff and they said, “Yeah, man, you’re really onto something. You can tell that you put your heart into it.”

They were like, “Yeah, we’re gonna help you out. We just have to be able to work on it around our other projects.” And you know what, man it’s done. I started with a dollar in my pocket and I told the story I wanted to tell, an investor saw it and liked it and offered me some money to make another movie, and we’re going into production in a few months.

Ashley: That’s awesome, man. That’s exactly the right attitude. I hope people are really listening to it. Just ‘gonna make it happen’ kind of attitude. I really commend you for that. So, but how can people see this movie? What’s the release schedule gonna be like?

Ben: For this next one?

Ashley: Yeah. For I’m sorry for Don’t Run.

Ben: Oh, Don’t Run is streaming on Amazon Prime right now. I put it up on Halloween and over the past couple of months it’s been watched over a hundred thousand times. So if that’s not getting your material out there, I don’t know what is. And you know what, I’m out of my parents’ basement, I’m in an apartment right now and I’m running a business and I’m making money off of it. You can learn a lot about Facebook advertising, that’s what I spend a lot of my time doing right now and just learning about marketing. You’ve got to learn how to do that. It’s very, very important. I’m reading a book on it right now. I’m reading a few books on it right now. But yeah, Amazon Prime, go watch it for free with your prime account and check out the reviews. It’s nuts.

People love it or hate it I will say the reviews that are good usually seem pretty educating. The people that don’t like it are usually the people that are dumber than a sack of bricks. It’s got some subtext tutors, or so I like to think. Sorry if that was rude.

Ashley: Yeah. No, no, not at all. Not at all. I got you. Perfect. Perfect. And I always like to end these interviews too, is there anything out there that you’ve seen recently that you thought was really great? Just something that maybe was a little under the radar that you could recommend to our listeners.

Ben: Oh man, if you haven’t seen Green Room, you got to go and watch Green Room. It’s on Netflix. They just added it so you can watch it for free with your account. And one other one, I just started it and I was getting tired, so I couldn’t finish it, but I was watching The Discovery with Jason Segel and it’s about Robert Redford is a doctor. He’s like a neurosurgeon, and he finds out that there’s an afterlife after you die. So now people are faced with the decision of whether to off themselves and get to this afterlife sooner or to cherish the life that you have to live right now. And so I got about a half an hour in and I’m like, “This is incredible.” And I’m just, “I’m tired though,” I go, “This is something that’s gonna probably take all of my concentration.”

Ashley: Yeah, yeah. I got you. Perfect. And what’s the best way for people to keep up with what you’re doing? Twitter, Facebook, a blog, anything you’re comfortable sharing I’ll round up for the show notes.

Ben: Yeah. You can follow what we’re doing on, and I’m on Facebook as Ben Rood, and you can find me on Instagram, under @roodypics, spelled like my name.

Ashley: Got you. Well, Ben, I really appreciate you taking some time to come and talk with me today. Good luck with this film and you’re always invited back, so when you get your next film done, let’s talk about that one too.

Ben: Awesome. Cool. Ashley, thank you so much for having me.

Ashley: Thank you.

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 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 On the next episode of the podcast, I’m gonna be interviewing writer, Justin Sloan. I had Justin on the podcast previously a couple of years ago, it’s Episode Number #131 if you wanna check that out. Justin actually optioned a screenplay using the SYS email and fax blast service. So we’re gonna discuss that a little bit next week, but that’s not really what the podcast is about.

Justin is currently making his living writing fiction for the Amazon Kindle market. I bump into a number of authors that are making money with this marketplace and Justin was kind enough to come on the podcast and give us some real nuts and bolts details on exactly how to do this. This is basically novel writing, it’s not screenwriting, but I thought it would be useful to the listeners as I know a lot of the screenwriters who listen to this podcast, they also do write novels. And this really is a marketplace for novels. As with everything in life, it’s not easy to make a living doing this. However, nothing in the arts ever is. I would say this is probably one of the more realistic ways to actually make money from fiction writing.

So if you have an interest in fiction writing specifically novels, this will definitely be an episode you want to check out. But overall, Justin, as I said, he’s a writer in many, many different forms, whether it be screenwriting or novel writing, so he has a lot of insight sort of in how well this process works and comes together. So keep an eye out for that episode next week. That’s our podcast. Thank you for listening.