This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 342: With Actor/Writer/Director Oliver Robins .
Ashley: Welcome to Episode #342 of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger over at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing actor, writer and director Oliver Robins to talk about his new low budget horror film, Celebrity Crush. Oliver was a child actor who played the young boy in Poltergeist. He grew up, went to USC film school and has continued to make films. He actually directed a film I wrote in 2008 called Man Overboard. You can actually see the poster behind me for that one. And that’s actually how I got to know Oliver. We shared the same manager at the time and we’ve become friends since.
I was able to talk Oliver into starring in my recent film, The Rideshare Killer. So keep an eye out for him there as well. He does a great job, has a number of very memorable scenes in my film. But today he’s gonna talk about his new film, Celebrity Crush and how he put that together. Oliver is also a produced writer and talks about one of his spec sales to the Hallmark Channel and how that all came together. Oliver is very candid, offers a ton of really great practical advice on screenwriting and filmmaking. He has decades of experience in the industry. So keep an eye out for that, or 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 www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast, and then just look for Episode Number #342. 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 a 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. Quick few words about what I’m working on. I’m still plugging away on the mystery thriller feature film that we shot in December, The Rideshare Killer. I just sent in notes for the second cut of the film to my editor. So far everything has been virtual. He’s been down in Hollywood, I’m out in the Valley. So everything has been going pretty well, just sending notes back and forth.
So hopefully we’ll just have another cut, hopefully the editor will have another cut for me in the next couple of weeks. I think on the next cut, we’ll probably be in person. I’m not sure, we’ll just see how it turns out. But so far being virtual has been really not really a big issue at all. It’s definitely getting pretty close and I do anticipate that there will be at least a couple more passes. A lot of the stuff I’ve been doing is really what I consider to be the most fun part of the whole process. The second cut was pretty solid. I mean, it was basically our story. There’s definitely some things that need to be changed, but we’re really fine tuning things now. But it’s really coming to life.
I was listening to a lot of dance music trying to figure out what song to place at the beginning. The opening scene is a dance club scene so we have some dance music. It has to sort of set the tone. Part of the shtick of this film is that it’s an homage to the great giallo films of the sixties and seventies. So I was watching some of those films for their title sequence, trying to figure out how those title sequences worked. I’ve been watching modern films, looking at their title sequence and kinda just figuring out how my own title sequence is going to work. This is down literally to the font of the opening credits. I was going through fonts trying to find one that I like and that sort of was reminiscent of these giallo films.
It’s putting a lot of the finishing touches on the film. And again, I find this part sort of very fun. It’s sort of the icing on the cake. Anyways, we still got a ways to go, but it is definitely moving ahead slowly. I’ve also been working on my film noir script. I probably wrote this script over 20 years ago. I did a major overhaul on it probably about five years ago. So this light polish is, or this polish is pretty light. It shouldn’t take me more than a week, hopefully as the editors are working on the script, I’ll be able to polish up the script and have it done here in a week, and I’m hoping he’ll have the next cutback in about a week. So hopefully that will work out pretty well. But this is the project I’m trying to shoot next.
I think it will be a good compliment to The Rideshare Killer. It’s similar in tone, it’s a mystery thriller. There’s a lot of things I’ve done on The Rideshare Killer that I can kinda build on. But I’ve been spending time doing that rewrite and I’m still trying to raise money as well. We have a ways to go just on the financing front to get all of that in place. Anyway, that’s the main thing I’m working on this week. So now let’s get into the main segment. Today I am interviewing actor, writer and director Oliver Robins. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Oliver to the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Oliver: It’s a pleasure to be here with you Ashley.
Ashley: So if you’re watching this on YouTube, you will notice the poster behind me. That was actually a project that we worked on. I was a writer, you were the director of that over now 10 years ago, if you can believe it. But let’s talk about your early career. Just a little bit, maybe about Poltergeist, kinda how you got into the business, and then we’ll talk up to your recent film, Celebrity Crush. But maybe just to start out, where did you grow up and how did you break into the business?
Oliver: Well, I grew up in New York City actually, and I lived there until I was seven years old. And like all people moving to Los Angeles, we always tried our hand at acting, especially at that time in the 1970s. I told my parents, “I wanna be an actor,” and they were like, “No. Yesterday you wanted to be a fireman, the other day you wanted to be a policeman.” So they put me in a commercial workshop class and at the end of the class… it was run by this great casting agent named Sheila Manning. She said, “Oliver’s really good. He should maybe do commercials.” So she introduced me to a couple of agents of the day. There was an agency called Herb Tannen, which was like the premier children’s agency of the day.
She sent me on auditions and my very first commercial I got was this fertilizer commercial. It was funny because the guy who acted with, in it with me who played my father, wrote the movie Stand by Me, Ray Gideon. He also wrote Starman. It’s such a small world. And then I went from a fertilizer commercial to Poltergeist, believe it or not.
Ashley: What was that experience like? How did you get that audition? The same thing, you were just going out and did you audition for a number of big films like that, but you didn’t get them, like it just was the right place, right time. How did that all come together?
Oliver: It was actually really random how it all happened. There was something called an open call at the time, where basically what that is is that anyone and her mother, you could show up and audition. You didn’t need an agent, you didn’t need anyone. So it was outside MGM studios, which is now Sony and hundreds of kids were standing on line, hundreds. And my mom said to me, “Do you really wanna stand in line here? Do you wanna do this?” I’m like,” Sure, I have nothing else to do.” And I’m just thinking what would have happened if I said, “No, let’s just go to the park and play baseball instead.” I never would have been in Poltergeist. So I stood in line and we met with the casting person. I don’t know how they did it.
Mike Fenton, who’s casted all of Mr. Spielberg’s movie of the day, like Goonies and everything else. He actually went and he asked us questions and we didn’t know anything about what Poltergeist was about, but he asked, he said, “What are you scared of Oliver?” I said, “Well, I’m scared of this clown doll I have, I’m scared of this tree outside.” I basically described Robbie Freeling. I described all of his phobias. So that’s… They said, “Oh my God, he is the character.” Because they’re looking for a kid who could be natural. Let’s face it, at nine, 10 years old, you’re not gonna be a master thespian. They want somebody that could be very natural on camera.
So they saw that I was physically manifesting all the things that Robbie should have. And then they wanted to see if I could read the lines and just see if I could be natural. Could I make it my own as they say? So they gave me the lines and I did well with that, but I couldn’t scream at all. I mean, that was the thing. Like I just, nothing came out. They were like… and Toby took me aside once during the audition process, he said, “You know, the secret to a great horror movie Oliver, is the scream.” And he knew that from Texas Chainsaw. I hadn’t seen it at the time obviously at that age. I met with a coach who taught me how to scream. I mean, there was actually someone that specialized in screaming for kids.
Who would believe that, but in Hollywood they have, so they could teach you how to scream. So I actually learned how to belt out a scream. You know, for Poltergeist, screaming was really important for that movie.
Ashley: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Well, that’s a great story. Let’s talk about some of your writing. You sold a script to Hallmark years ago called You’ve Got a Friend starring John Schneider. Maybe you can talk about that sale a little bit. How did that sale come about?
Oliver: Well, this is the thing, and honestly, Hallmark movies are made for very little money. They do so much with so little. Because of that, they really don’t pay you that much for the script. So I called up… I wrote this script about this little boy who builds a soap box racers befriended by the town crazy who was later played by John Schneider. I thought this would be the greatest family movie ever. I thought of making it my own, directing it, doing it as a feature, and I thought, “You know what, this would be… it’s a little dark, but this would be the perfect Hallmark movie.” So I called up every major agent. I called the William Morris, I called a Creative Artist.
Honestly, every agent I spoke to was not interested at all. The honest truth is they really don’t pay enough for the percent that an agent’s gonna get. So there was zero interest. They liked the script, they thought it was a good script, but they just really couldn’t spend their time, which is understandable because their fee would be so small. So I said, “You know what…?”
Ashley: Just let me back you up. Let me back you up really one second. So you’re pitching to these agencies. Are these people that you had relationships? At this point you had been to USC film school, you had obviously been in the business. So did you have relationships to call all these people you’re calling and pitching it to? Were they people you knew, were you cold calling and maybe talk about that process a little bit?
Oliver: I was pretty much cold calling. And I was just saying, “Hey, this is Oliver Robins and I was in Poltergeist,” and they could care less because honestly they could… I mean, they don’t care that you’re a child actor at all, even though I was in a big movie. Were you’re a writer, what have you written? So they didn’t care at all, but I convinced them to read the script and they were like… and they read the script. They said the writing is solid, they really like it, but we can’t… this is not, obviously it’s a little soft for a studio movie. They’re not making films like this. I said, “What about like Hallmark Channel?” Like, they really weren’t on the radar at Hallmark because they wanted to pitch, they wanted to sell big movies to Warner Brothers.
And that makes sense because you’re gonna get, by the time they’re done with their fee and share it with the agency, it would be a very small fee. So I think you’re in a situation, I was in a situation where I knew it was perfect for Hallmark. So I call up Hallmark directly and I get the executive on the phone, Liz Yost, and she is so kind and amazing. She actually takes my call and I’m thinking, I’m talking to like a head of development, now she’s vice-president there. I tell her my story and she says, “That really sounds perfect for us.” I’m like, “Really?” She said, “Yeah, send us the script.” So I sent her the script, they read the script and they said, “We really liked the story. We wanna make your movie.” I’m like, “Really?” So there really wasn’t anything. There were no contacts or special connections.
They were just so kind. For Hallmark, what I’ve learned is wrong, like as a big family operation and they know exactly what they want, they know their audience extremely well, and they’re extremely honest. They don’t make you jump through a million hoops, which a lot of studios you can end up in a sort of development hell and you were there forever going through the pitching process. It’s not like that there. They know what they want and they’re gonna buy it if they want it. So that’s exactly what they did. They bought the script and they said, “We’re gonna make this.” It was a very fast process and it looked great to just see it come to the screen. It was the highest June premiere for them too. So obviously they knew their audience very well.
Ashley: Did you get the sense that that’s how they got material or that was sort of a unique situation?
Oliver: I had no idea. I’m assuming they go through agents in different than the proper channels usually too. But at the same time I think they’re also open to seeing what comes from filmmakers. They also knew I went to USC film school, so I wasn’t just like some random guy from Milwaukee. Not to say you can’t write a great script if you’re from Milwaukee, but I was trained and they knew that. And when you come out at USC, you might not be the… you might not be Martin Scorsese, but you know the basics of how to tell a story and you’ve taken the basic classes. So they knew that going in, and I explained that to them too. And they read it and obviously you could have a great script, but it has to be really right for them. It has to hit all the points for their audience because they know their audience so well.
Ashley: What are some of those points? Number one, what are some of those specific points that you have to hit? But number two, how did you know what these points were? Do you watch a lot of these Hallmark movies?
Oliver: This is what’s funny is I didn’t know that I wrote a Hallmark channel movie. I didn’t design it. I didn’t go into writing You’ve Got a Friend saying, “Hey, I’m gonna write a Hallmark Channel movie.” I wrote a movie from my heart that really meant something to me, and it just turned out to be something that was so perfect for them. I don’t even know exactly what the points were because I think that’s always really changing. I think it just appealed to their audience. And honestly, You’ve Got a Friend is actually a little bit darker, I think, than most Hallmark Channel movies, because it was a little boy who lost his entire family, who’s an orphan, who his parents don’t even… his family doesn’t even want him, that he goes to live with.
The person that befriends him is a freak in the town, is the town crazy, and he befriends this little boy. So from the get go, it’s actually, if you really analyze, You’ve Got a Friend, it’s actually an extremely dark movie. You have two lost souls that come together that are really trying to help each other. I was really inspired by like if anything, not Hallmark Channel [inaudible 00:13:47]. That was the movie that was my… kinda was my model if you could say. It was my inspiration. About two people, a hero needs a kid and the kid needs the hero. And at the end of the day, they’re both heroes in their own way. That worked for the Hallmark audience obviously.
Ashley: Yeah. Perfect. So let’s get into your most recent film, Celebrity Crush. Maybe to start out, you can just give us a quick pitch or a logline. What is that film all about?
Oliver: Well, I’ll give you the inspiration for it too. As a child actor and I grew up to become who I am today and I do go to a lot of horror conventions talking about Poltergeist. I thought, what if I got seduced by a crazy fan? A beautiful, crazy fan who just made me feel good about myself, that took me in, and then I made the biggest mistake of sleeping with her and then I’m trapped in her dungeon. So that was kind of the inspiration behind Celebrity Crush. So it’s about this sociopathic fan named Emily and she’s obsessed with this film called Chain-Face Clown that came out in the eighties. And you know, the film was like kind of a B movie. It wasn’t an eighties kind of film.
I mean, it wasn’t like a Poltergeist eighties kind of film. So she ends up… she turns out to be this super fan when in fact she pretends to not even care about the movie. My character is someone who is a little insecure about himself, he’s kind of lost, he has a beautiful fiancé he cares about, but for the first time she likes him for him, doesn’t even care… doesn’t even know supposedly that he was in this movie and for him, that’s the greatest thing ever. So he gets totally completely seduced. And in her mind, she’s gonna spend her entire life with him. They’re gonna be together, they’re gonna have a family, they’re gonna make Chain-Face Clown part two.
When that really doesn’t work out, she has to go to plan B, trap me in her makeshift dungeon with the hope that I’ll fall in love with her. And of course, that’s how healthy relationships start and go on [laughter]. It’s kind of a blackish, darkish comedy in many ways where I’m horrified and everything she’s doing is so awful and terrible, but in her mind, it’s the most wonderful thing. Her dream is finally coming true. She gets to be with the real life, Jonathan Blakely.
Ashley: So how do you avoid comparisons like Misery? There’s other films that sort of have the same setup where someone kidnaps the other person and tries to get something from them, in this case it’s love, but it’s a kind of a setup, but certainly Misery is a very similar setup. How do you differentiate yourself from that?
Oliver: Oh, I didn’t. I copied Misery scene for scene. No, I’m kidding. No.
Ashley: Probably. Yeah. It’s probably pretty good then.
Oliver: I admit it, I copied it. No. It’s a very, it’s just an entirely different movie. I’ve always wanted to make a black comedy and this is kinda comedic and very dark in a lot of ways and you don’t know whether you should laugh or scream. Misery plays it very, very straight. And let’s face it, that set up is very generic. It’s what you do with it once you’re into the story too. So I wanted my audience to not know whether they should laugh or scream and the things are so crazy and over the top and you’re thinking, “This is really funny, but should I be laughing because it’s so horrific?” So that’s kinda the tone I was going for.
Ashley: Got you. So let’s dig into your writing process a little bit. Where do you typically write? Are you the guy that has his home office, you write there, or do you go to Starbucks? Do you write in the morning, do you write at night? What does your sort of writing schedule look like?
Oliver: I’m really a morning person. And I like to write at home. I know a lot of people go to Starbucks to get like the energy. I need to be focused. I need to be in a really quiet place where I can just think. Something doesn’t come to me, what I’ve realized is that you shouldn’t struggle. You shouldn’t sweat blood as they say, trying to figure it out. I go outside, I walk around, I might even take a couple of days off or work on something totally different. And then lo and behold, a new idea comes to you. Then you write that down and then you work on that. Then it kind of, you manipulate that concept and you have various layers. And you might write 20 pages of something and realize this is just not working. This is not playing. There’s nothing going on here that’s compelling to me and most likely not to the audience.
So sometimes I just throw it out and start over. But mostly my [inaudible 00:17:52] just something that you really can’t put a finger on. Like, I’m gonna come with a great idea today, I’m gonna fix this first act problem, you really… that never happens for me too. It’s always a struggle. Then you have this moment of like clarity. It’s like where something just comes to you and you realize, “Why didn’t I think of that before?” And it’s so simple and it’s always something that’s so elegant that just totally completely works. Then hopefully that is something when you write it down and it comes to fruition that actually plays, and sometimes it really doesn’t and sometimes you have to make the movie to discover it doesn’t really work or shoot that scene.
And you thought in your head, “This is the greatest scene, it’s so funny,” or, “It’s so scary,” and it might not work at all. It might end up in your movie and then you actually have to end up cutting it out, which you later learn at a test screening months later.
Ashley: Yeah. Yeah. For sure. How much time do you spend outlining and just sort of getting the idea ready versus in final draft, cranking out scene description and dialogue?
Oliver: It really differs between projects, but I really like to just outline the entire story. And what I do, I do it old fashioned way. I get out little note cards, I learned it at USC, and I put them up on the board and I move all the scenes around, and I think… and then I figure out my structure based on that. Then I go back to those cards and then I create a more detailed outline. I’m saying, “Where’s the character this moment? What are all the beats? Are the beats really working? How long is my first act?” Something that we really discovered in Celebrity Crush in the first cut, I discovered audiences are not as patient as they were maybe 30, 40 years ago, and I wanted to have a slow burn, and I didn’t really… for this particular film, our first cut of the movie, it didn’t work at all, and I really tightened it up.
It’s sort of like with Back To the Future. I don’t know if Back To the Future would play today, and people say how brilliant it is. But if you released it, I can almost… I have a feeling that the story might move along a lot faster than if they shot it. Mike Marty doesn’t go back in time until almost 35 minutes into the film. Today it would probably be like 10 to 15 minutes. Because people, like it or not really have short attention spans for stories. Like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, they spent a long time getting to know these characters. I don’t think you can make a studio movie like that today, even though those are my favorite kinds of movies, because people are used to clicking, they’re used to now the TikTok moments.
Things have to move on very rapidly. So that’s something that, you know, what I really learned in Celebrity Crush is that you got to get into the story faster. Not to say you can’t have a movie where you get to know people and really get to know the characters and the relationships, but for this genre and this piece, it didn’t really play. So we really, that’s what we really struggled with with Celebrity Crush.
Ashley: Yeah. It’s funny you mentioned Back To the Future. I have 10-year-old and seven-year-old daughters, and I can often tell… I’ll show them some of these classic moves that I loved as a kid, obviously Back To the Future I thought it was a great movie as a kid, but they were able to sit through it. And some movies, they’re not. Like for instance they were all crazy about Jaws at one point, but jaws has this whole thing. It has the opening scene, but then it goes into this long… the mayor and the bureaucracy and the politics, and it just completely loses my kids. But Back To the Future seemed to hold their attention a little bit.
Oliver: That’s interesting.
Ashley: Yeah. the other one that I mentioned, I mentioned this on the air as well in other podcasts, is The Shining. I showed that to my kids. I know it’s probably not appropriate for a nine or a seven and nine-year-old, but… to be honest with you, because you mentioned slow burn, I thought that that would be a film that they would watch for five minutes and just get completely bored with. Because The Shining is the slow burn, like it’s the quintessential slow burn, but if you… it absolutely was… my kids were riveted to that movie. Absolutely riveted. You couldn’t pry them apart or pry them from it. And if you watch it, it is a slow burn, but every single scene is laced with tension and drama and just stuff, context that keeps I think everybody interested.
Oliver: Yeah. The performances are so strong and so interesting. And watching Nicholson perform, he could read the yellow pages and you’d be like, “This is amazing.”
Ashley: Yeah. Yeah. Anyway, okay, well, so how long does it typically take you to write a script and we can use this one as an example. So you spend a bunch of time outlining a bunch of time in final draft. What is your typical timeframe for getting a script finished?
Oliver: I can write a draft in maybe two and a half, three weeks, rapidly. I’ve written scripts as fast in a weekend. Given that you’re gonna go back and rewrite everything. It usually takes me probably like four or five drafts before I’ve nailed something down to the point where I feel like this is ready to show my friends to get notes. And getting notes from your friend, someone you really trust is so important because it’s in your head and you’re seeing something which might not be communicating to your audience when they finally read the script. Then they’d say, “Well, I didn’t understand this thing about the character,” or, “This was really slow for me, why did the character do this?”
If you don’t do that, you might have that issue when you’re actually making a movie, which I’ve also run into where I’ve ignored my friends, I’ve ignored my notes and I just went in and I shot things, and I later have to fix it in post-production.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. Let’s talk about the development process. So you’ve written the script, you have a draft you’re happy about. Who are these friends that you send to? Are they other writers, actors, and what do you do with those notes? How do you sort of interpret these notes? How many people, who are they, and how do you interpret the notes?
Oliver: Well, I give it to people from… that are training, that are gonna look at it, assess it. Because if you’ve never read a screenplay before, it’d be really difficult to really understand what you’re looking at, because the formats… I think you have to give it to people who have read scripts or possibly even written themselves. And then once they give me my notes, they get the notes back, they might not… they might be speaking a language which I might not even understand myself. Like they might say something that implies that I should change something, but they’re missing something that I really intended. So you have to almost in many times, not all the time, but you have to sometimes read the tea leaves.
Like this Isn’t working for them for XYZ reason, but it’s really another reason why it’s not working, and you really have to interpret that. And you want your friends who read your script to be extremely honest with you. If something is just godawful, you need to know that right now and you need to possibly rewrite that scene or maybe the script isn’t playing at all. Or you change tone. That was one thing we really struggled with with even Celebrity Crush. I wanted to take the tropes of a horror movie and kinda spin it around and infuse black comedy into it. So I wanted something horrific, but I also wanted something kind of funny at the same time. That’s really hard to really convey on the page too.
Because a lot of that was gonna happen later on the screen in terms of my direction and how I was gonna direct the actors. So sometimes I might get a note from a fellow writer and I’ll be like, “No, that actually will work later on because I’m gonna direct the actor.” Because I really do have a definitive vision in my head of how I wanna shoot that scene, how it’s gonna play and other performance, which might not, for better or worse, might not be on the page at the time.
Ashley: Yeah. Yeah. So with a film like this, you mentioned sort of merging dark comedy with horror. How do you approach screenplay structure and even genre sort of structure? Are there some tropes, some movies you watch, some tropes that you got in there and then you, at some point wanna subvert those tropes? Maybe just talk about sort of some of those, the structure, the genres, sort of the things that you’re bringing to this.
Oliver: I’m really big on the three-act structure. I learned that at USC and it really works well. And once you have your three-act structure or your beats, then you can say, “Hey, okay, let’s move scenes around. We can do flashbacks. What do we wanna reveal about the character? What is important for the audience to know about the main character at this point or any of the characters?” So I kinda play with that. Do I need to get to… what does the audience need to know to feel smart in certain scenes? Or I don’t want them to feel smart. Do I want to have that reveal later on? That’s kind of how I come about my structure. I like to have a big act one break, you have your setup and then you have your midpoint obviously. And then I build the third act, and then at the same time I’m trying to build…
At the same time combine all the varying story threads that are going on with each of the characters. And then I just… you build your climax. If you really look at all movies, I mean, comedies alone, all films follow that structure pattern too, at least Hollywood movies do. Now, not to say there’s films that don’t. And I love a movie like Citizen Kane, they always talked about it in film school. At first when I saw that film I was bored out of my mind, but then I really studied that movie and it was just genius. You’re going back and forth in time and it really still has a three-act structure because you’re getting those same beats are happening only that it’s a nonlinear story that you’re getting. Maybe I’m not as advanced enough a filmmaker to be able to…
Ashley: Yeah, no, I understand exactly what saying. People, I think overcomplicate this idea of three act structure. Really it’s just beginning, middle and end. I mean, it’s just, it’s not anything overly, it’s just the natural organic part of telling a story. It has to have a beginning, middle and an end, or I don’t know that it’s even really a story.
Oliver: Yeah. And then you have… and traditionally you want your characters to arc and where do they go in the story? You don’t have to like them, but they have… you have to understand them. Then you look at a movie like Ghostbusters, for instance, you weren’t at USC, the character has to arc, and how does he change from the first act of the third act? Well, those characters don’t change at all. Even like a movie like Blues Brothers, but it’s kinda… so there are a lot of films that do break the rules of traditional kinda filmmaking, because how does, in Ghostbusters, how do they possibly change? I mean, they really don’t change…
Ashley: Well, the Bill Murray character… and I’m now, my memory’s a little vague, the Bill Murray character doesn’t change. Because doesn’t he sort of have the love interest and sort of…
Oliver: No, he’s exactly the same guy in treating all the situations, I think, up until the very end of the movie. If anything he’s learned to maybe give himself a little more to Sigourney Weaver’s character, you see how much he cares about her, but he seems kind of aloof from the first time you meet him at the university to that last moment where they’ve killed the ghosts and they’re walking out in Manhattan.
Ashley: Yeah. So what kind of advice do you have for people that are trying to break into film? Do you have some, “Write a spec, go shoot a short?” What is your advice if someone comes to you, they wanna be a writer?
Oliver: I would avoid going to film history completely. No, I’m kidding. No, I think, in that vein though, I really believe that you have to love it so much because it is such a difficult business and it doesn’t matter… I heard the story about the guy who, Irwin Winkler who directed, was it, not Irwin Winkler, God… oh shit. The guy who directed Empire Strikes Back, and everyone’s like, everyone’s gonna say…
Ashley: Kasdan. Yeah. No, he was the writer.
Oliver: No, he wrote Empire. He wrote empire, but the director anyways, I’m having like a senile moment. But he called up Creative Artists with a movie he said, and this is a story I heard at the Star Wars convention. He called up, he said, “Hey, I’m the guy who directed Empire Strikes Back,” and the agent assistant like blew him off. That’s what he said. They had zero interest in this guy directed Empire Strikes Back. So that just gives you an idea of how difficult the film industry is. They don’t care. Every time you’re trying to reinvent yourself and reprove yourself. I heard that too about James Cameron, that he directed Titanic, he wanted to do Avatar, the studio said no.
So he actually had to go out and shoot like his own little like promo movie with his own camera, would hire some actors to say to the 20th Century Fox, “This is my movie I wanna make.” They didn’t care that he directed the highest grossing film of all time. So you have to be, I think, incredibly passionate about whatever you’re doing and you really can’t ever take no for an answer. Even if people tell you, “This is the worst possible script, I don’t know why no one wants to see this.” You have to be a believer at the end of the day because… and maybe the other people were right, maybe it is garbage that you’re working on, but it really doesn’t matter because you have to make, even if you’re making the room and, I don’t know, you have to be passionate about your movie making and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about your film.
You can’t go into the film industry saying, “I’m gonna become a multimillionaire,” because most likely you’re gonna die poor. I mean, that’s the physical reality of the situation. Because it is such a hard business. Not to say you can’t do extremely well, but I think you just have to be passionate, and I would say write from your heart. And if you write something honestly from your heart, other people are really gonna see that. Even the Hallmark Channel movie I wrote, I wrote that because not to say, “I’m gonna make a Hallmark Channel movie,” or, “I’m gonna get a movie on TV.” I wrote it because it’s something that I really cared about, and that really shines through.
If you write from something that you care about and is meaningful audiences are gonna get it. And it’s strange, people in Hollywood really do appreciate really good writing. They appreciate good scripts. Because there’s so many bad scripts floating around, and those are sometimes even get made. So I guess circling back around my advice is write from your heart, be passionate and never take no for an answer.
Ashley: Good advice. What have you seen recently that you thought was really great? Is there anything under the radar in Netflix, Hulu, or even out in the theater? I guess not in the theaters with COVID, but anything you’ve seen recently we can recommend to our listeners.
Oliver: You know what I’ve really gotten into, the show Dark. I don’t know if you’ve seen it on Netflix…
Ashley: No I haven’t.
Oliver: It’s this great… it’s almost like picture Back To the Future, is if you took a German version of Back To the Future, but made it, put a Germanish expressionism in it, an infused this darkness and all the characters have issues and psychological problems. I don’t wanna spoil it for anyone too, but it’s all about time travel, about what goes on in this town and all the things that happen to all the different characters in this town. It’s highly addicting. And I was thinking I love foreign films, but I was thinking, “Oh, it’s in German, I’m gonna have to watch subtitles for hours and hours.” It doesn’t matter. You get so into the story. So I recommend watching Dark on Netflix and actually I’m so into it I know the season premiere is June 26th for season three of Dark. So I’m so into it I’m getting ready for a season three right now.
Ashley: Okay. Well, cool. That’s a great recommendation. How can people see Celebrity Crush? What is the release schedule gonna be like for it?
Oliver: It is out right now. So you can go to Vudu, you can go to… where else can you go? Fandango, iTunes, everything. I think it’s out on everything too. And I’m gonna give a shout out to my producers, Kyyba Films. They helped make it happen and they used the needed funds to make the movie and Tel and G.B, thank you so much. So that’s my shout out to my investors and I appreciate it, because the movie wouldn’t be out there without those guys.
Ashley: Yeah, for sure. For sure. 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 will roundup for the show notes.
Oliver: You can find me on Facebook and I have like two followers, I think on Twitter, but you can add me on Twitter, @OliguyOnTwit, and hopefully I’ll have more soon.
Ashley: So. Well, thank you Oliver. I really appreciate you coming on the show and talking with me today. Good luck with this film and of course I’ll see you back when you’re ready for your next film.
Oliver: Okay. Thank you so much for having me Ashley.
Ashley: And thank you.
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 writer, director Gavin Rothery. Gavin was roommates with Duncan Jones when he did Moon and Gavin ended up doing a lot of the concept art for that film Moon. He talks a little bit about that, but he’s moved along in his career and recently wrote and directed a really cool sci-fi film called Archive.
So we’ll dig into that film and he really is very candid and very open and really explains how that film came together for him. So keep an eye out for that episode next week. That’s our show. Thank you for listening.