This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 354: Writers/Directors Ruckus Skye and Lane Skye.

Ashley: Welcome to Episode #354 of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger over at Today I’m interviewing writer-director, Lane and Ruckus Skye. They actually wrote the film Becky, which you might remember. I featured the directors of that film, Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion on the podcast a few months ago in Episode #337. So check that episode out if you haven’t already listened to it. But Lane and Ruckus are actually here to talk about their new film, which they wrote and directed, which is called The Devil to Pay. We talk about how they get involved with Becky, and we talk about this new film and how they got it into production as well.

These are two artists that kick-started their careers far from Hollywood, another great inspirational story. 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 #354.

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 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 So now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m interviewing writer-directors, Lane and Ruckus Skye. Here is the interview.

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

Ruckus: Awesome, thanks for having us.

Lane: It’s good to be here.

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 into the entertainment industry? Maybe Lane, you can start, and then Ruckus, you can finish up. Just maybe a one or two-minute overview of where you’re from and how you got here.

Lane: Well, our stories aren’t actually that different, but I grew up in and around Atlanta, Georgia and had nothing to do with the entertainment industry as a kid. I just was a film fan, had no idea that that was like a thing that ordinary people could do, until I got to college, and then I was like, “Oh, you could study film, that’s a thing.” Which I didn’t do, but I was like, “That’s a thing.” So I started to think about it more seriously, and I’d always written short stories and things like that. I’d been into creative writing, but then after Ruckus and I met, we started being more interested in filmmaking, just kind of as a team. So we started writing things so we’d have something to shoot, and just kept doing that and got better at writing. Eventually somebody was interested in something that we wrote who wasn’t us, story portly [laughs].

Ruckus: That’s okay. Well we…

Ashley: That’s always a good sign.

Ruckus: Yeah, I grew up just always doing creative things as well and writing songs and music and just doing, making things. I was always just making something no matter what it was. We like to say we accidentally became screenwriters because we, like she said, when we started… the very first thing we tried to shoot was a music video for a song I wrote. And then, so it was an elaborate treatment. Then we said, “Let’s make a short film.” It’s like, well, we have to write something. And like I said, eventually we wrote a feature script that we wanted to direct, but it started getting passed around and people started asking us if we would write for them, which was never our intention, and we were like, “Really?” So like I said, it was not a game plan which may be frustrating for people that are, that that is their game plan to hear that.

Ashley: No, no, I think that’s interesting to hear. Now were you guys… Did you have some background in media, producing media? Like where did that come in? It sounds like you wanted to go shoot this music video, so did you understand how to do lights and camera and editing? Was that something you were just gonna learn as you went into the process of shooting the video?

Ruckus: We just figured it out as we went.

Lane: And we had collaborators who wanted to be DPs, and so it wasn’t just the two of us. It was a group of people, but… sorry to cut you off.

Ruckus: No, you’re fine.

Lane: But yeah, no, we learned as we went. That was our film school, was making short films and we are [crosstalk].

Ruckus: Music videos and then eventually commercials and things like that, but the goal was always in the end, was we wanted to make feature films.

Ashley: Where are you now and where were you guys when you were doing these shorts and the first feature?

Lane: We were in Atlanta, but we moved to LA a year ago.

Ashley: Perfect. So now let’s start to get into some of your story. I noticed on IMDb, Rattle the Cage is your first feature film credit. How did that come about? How did you get that film ultimately into production?

Ruckus: Yeah, it’s a very odd story.

Lane: It’s a strange story.

Ruckus: Well I guess your audience would probably be familiar with The Black List and The Black List website. So not the annual list, but the website that they started. We finished that script about the time that the website launched. That was what we wrote for us to direct, which that was gonna be a little indie film we were gonna make ourselves. The director Majid who was in the Middle East read the script and then they asked about buying it, and we said, “No, we’re directing it.” And they said, “What about just selling us the Arabic language rights, like separately and you keep the English language rights?” We said, okay because it was kind of free money almost [laughs].

So they went and made this cool version and there was no pressure to us of it being good because we still always had our version we could make. And it turned out really cool and it premiered at Fantastic Fest in Austin and we got to go see it for the first time with them. It was just really cool, but that’s the script that started getting passed around that people started being interested in our writing.

Ashley: And literally you… that’s the success story for The Black List. You just posted it on The Black List, you bought the two reviews, I assume the two reviews were pretty good, and then slowly you went up in their algorithm and got some reads that way.

Ruckus: Yeah. It was totally that. We also got our first, we got our manager who we’re still with within two weeks of putting that script on the website and we’re still with her. So it was it was a…

Lane: An early success story.

Ruckus: An early success story for The Black List and for us, of course.

Ashley: Yeah. And just a sort of a non-screenwriting question, or I guess it is screenwriting. When you sold the Arabic rights, does that mean the movie is spoken in Arabic or is it like an English language movie that they’re only gonna release in the Middle East?

Ruckus: It’s in Arabic and they weren’t allowed to even dub it in English. It was like Arabic only. There are English subtitles. It’s on Netflix right now with English subtitles.

Lane: They don’t own a territory. It’s not like they owned the Middle East as a territory. They just owned the Arabic language version of the film.

Ashley: I got you.

Ruckus: Yeah, we call it the pre-make because we still think our version is the first version, even though we haven’t got to shoot it yet.

Ashley: Now, have you had any pushback? And I’m asking this because I got someone offer me years ago, they wanted to buy the Indian rights for they wanted to make basically an Indian version, and I was always a little bit hesitant. Have you gotten any pushback now that the Arabic version has been made when you send out Rattle the Cage? Is it come up like, are producers kind of questioning it? Does it hurt your chances of getting it made, do you think, has it affected people reading it?

Ruckus: It’s been helpful. Well it was a success what they did and it’s like, well, it’s kind of a, what do you call it…? Oh man, what’s the word? I’m a writer, I should be able to come up with this word.

Ashley: Like a proof of concept or…

Ruckus: Yeah. It’s like, you can watch it. Here’s the successful version of the script.

Lane: What was fantastic about being able to watch it was being like, “Oh, that beat isn’t playing how we wanted it to.” So now we were able to go back and make changes to the English language version that [inaudible 00:08:06] because we got to see it play out, we wouldn’t have otherwise, maybe known.

Ruckus: But it’s not… I can’t think of a single negative to it.

Ashley: Okay. Well, good to know. Yeah, good to know. So let’s talk about another script that you guys wrote called Becky. That’s actually coincidentally the one that came over my desk and we actually interviewed the directors just a few weeks ago here on the podcast. How did that project move along and how did you ultimately get that script sold?

Ruckus: Well John and Cary, the directors, they got… well actually we just have to say, the original version starting from scratch was written by a guy named Nick Morris who came up with the entire concept. It’s his script. The directors got brought on board and they wanted to do a rewrite, and then they asked for us because we had met John and Cary and almost worked together on something and had like a collaboration there. So they wanted just a new angle on a new direction on it.

Ashley: How did you meet them?

Ruckus: We have the same agent.

Ashley: Okay. So it was a manager, agent type of a thing. Okay, perfect. So let’s dig into your latest film, The Devil to Pay. Maybe to start out, you can just give us a quick logline or pitch. What is this film all about?

Ruckus: You’re gonna find out how quick we’re not good at pitching [laughs].

Lane: Especially things that are already made. Yeah, so it’s about an isolated Appalachian community that kind of has its own laws and its own rules. There’s a farmer who her husband goes missing and these men show up on her doorstep and they’re from the oldest family on the mountain and they let her know that her husband had a debt and now it’s on her, and if she doesn’t repay it, then her and her son’s lives are forfeit basically. So it becomes this mystery that she has to unravel to figure out what happened to her husband and what’s really going on.

Ashley: Got you. Where did this premise come from? What’s sort of the genesis of this idea?

Lane: Well, there’s a lot of things. It’s weird as a screenwriter, you just put stuff in your brain for later. Like so we went on a road trip through the South and we stopped at this place called The Museum of Appalachian History, which is a fantastic museum if you get a chance to go. But it’s basically one guy’s collection of a bunch of paraphernalia from Appalachia, including entire homes. But each item has a little handwritten note that gives you the story behind the item and just going through there and reading all those little stories. There’s weird stuff like a bear suit made out of an actual bear, but it included mittens with like bear claws on it [laughs].

Ruckus: And a guy that lived in a cave and wore that. It’s just weird.

Lane: Yeah. It’s like just such a weird detail.

Ruckus: Well, the favorite thing is there’s a glass eye and then a pocket knife, which is what, the pocket knife is what took out the guys real eye, and then the story of how story of how he lost his eye and it’s on display. It’s just stuff like that. We love stuff like that.

Lane: So going through that museum that just, that was rich territory. Then a couple of years later we met Danielle Deadwyler through the Atlanta filmmaking or the Atlanta arts community, and we chatted with her about things she was interested in and we’d always looked for something because we thought she was really talented and we wanted to find a project to work with her on, and we finally decided to just write something for her. So we just thought about what we wanted to see her do and that’s where the film came out.

Ashley: Perfect. And just a little bit of an aside from this particular movie, but you mentioned this Atlantic film community or commission or something, how many of these types of organizations are you involved in? I get a lot of emails from people, and I guess, especially when you’re back in Atlanta, I get a lot of emails from people that are not in LA, for whatever reason they can’t move to LA. So I always try and think of what are some ways that they can kinda break into the industry. It sounds like this was a real good opportunity for you guys just to meet local filmmakers. Maybe you can talk a little bit about that. What was available in Atlanta? What sort of organizations and which ones did you find most helpful?

Lane: Well, we’ve been in the Atlanta filmmaking community for a while. And that’s not an organization, just talking generally about the community that’s there. But the Atlanta Film Festival has a strong community and they have programming throughout the year that is a good place to just meet people. I started a female organization called New Mavericks, which…

Ruckus: Is it still around?

Lane: I don’t know if it’s still around or not, but and then I was in Femme Fatales, which is a great organization for female directors.

Ruckus: And that’s nationwide, but they have…

Lane: But it’s specific for female directors. And then, yeah, there’s just a bunch throughout the years and they’ve all been varying degrees of helpful. It’s mostly just being in the community and volunteering on other people’s stuff, and just being a nice person.

Ruckus: I mean, it really is like finding good work that other people are doing and then going and meeting them and just saying, “Hey, I really like what you’re doing. Let’s talk.” We’re always doing that with actors because we always… we love writing for someone versus let’s write something and then try to cast it. So we’ve always been searching for collaborators and different people to work with. That’s always our approach to things.

Ashley: Yeah, got you. So let’s talk about the writing of this script, The Devil to Pay. Maybe you can talk a little bit about your collaboration. How do you guys work? Do you sit in a room and come up with index cards for an outline and then do you divide up scenes? Do you each write scenes and then critique each other’s scenes? How does your collaboration work?

Ruckus: Sure. Well, basically what you just said [laughs]. We do everything pretty classically. The note card thing we definitely do, and that is in the room together, arguing about stuff and getting it all up. And then we write a long form treatment. It’s usually like 15 pages. But once we start writing, typing, like even in the treatment phase, it’s in separate rooms. We type in Dropbox, we split things up, even down to individual scenes for the entire script. But what’s cool because there’s two of us, then we’re each, we can be writing two different scenes at the same time. We just number it version one, two, three, and we just rewrite each other until we both… we have a color coding system, but until we both agree that the scene is green, and then so our first drafts, every scene has been rewritten 15 times.

So our first draft reads like a second or third draft, most people’s vomit drafts. Because every scene has been rewritten so many times by then.

Ashley: I got you. Do you guys ever find there’s some impasses you come to and you just don’t see eye to eye? How do you get past those impasses? How do you work through those?

Lane: We argue [laughs].

Ruckus: Yeah, all the time.

Lane: Sometimes it’ll happen that one of us will write a scene and the other one will make changes, and then the other one will just change it right back to their version, and we’re like, “Okay, we need to have a talk about what’s happening here,” [laughs]. But we’ll hash it out and whenever we fight, it’s always trying to make the movie better and we’re fighting to make the movie better and whoever can make the most compelling argument and convince the other one wins. But in that way everything has to earn its way into the film.

Ruckus: We’re always the higher-level goal is to make as good a thing as possible and we try to, as much as we can, remove the ego from it. I love when her idea’s better than mine, like are genuinely like, “Oh great.” Because I wouldn’t have thought of that and now the script is gonna be better because of that. So we always have that in mind.

Lane: A lot of times when we come to an impasse like that, what we realize is that the other one just doesn’t understand what the other one’s trying to do in the script, and when we talk it out, then it becomes clear, “Oh, you were trying to, okay. Now I know exactly what to do.” And we get in there and it’s fine.

Ashley: Got you. You mentioned Dropbox as one of the tools that you use. Are you using final drafts, or you’re just taking final draft scripts and putting it up there, are you taking word documents? Are there any other tools that you use to help you with collaboration?

Ruckus: We’re currently using Fade In. Yeah, Dropbox is probably the single most helpful thing once we discovered that, because like I said, we break it down into acts and then sequences and then scenes and then our own max of the… we can color label.

Lane: Putting tags on.

Ruckus: Color label, so I have a color and she has a color, and when red’s on top of it, the other one doesn’t touch it, and then when the red goes away, I know I can rewrite her scene and then [inaudible 00:16:20]. So that’s super important. Fade In, and we write our treatments in Pages, just because Word sucks on the Mac.

Lane: It’s just a Mac thing.

Ruckus: It’s not that I love Pages.

Lane: But the great thing about Fade In is that because we write in that segmented kind of way, it has a function where you can just select a folder and it’ll just like…

Ruckus: Oh yeah, the joining. Like I had problems with, if to get geeky, final draft joining, I had to literally cut and paste. Maybe they changed [inaudible 00:16:44] pain in the ass, whereas LinkedIn, I mean not LinkedIn, Fade In, yeah, you can go in and lasso 10 sequences and if I’ve numbered them there’ll be in the right order and go brrrup, and then there’s one thing. It’s just so much easier.

Lane: Yeah. It’s beautiful.

Ruckus: So just that function, because of the way we specifically write, that function made that so much better.

Ashley: Got you. So when you guys are in this outline stage, how long, like on this particular script would be a good example. How long do you spend on the outline stage versus how long do you spend on the actual writing scenes dialogue?

Ruckus: Okay, yeah. This particular script is gonna be a terrible example because we wrote the whole thing from concept to finish in like 12 days.

Lane: Yeah, it’s stupid.

Ruckus: That is not normal.

Lane: It’s not.

Ruckus: It’s not normal at all. We normally do a normal six, eight-week thing. So I think it was probably two or three weeks outlining and then six, eight weeks writing a draft on a normal, typical dig.

Lane: Yeah. We usually take like a week to put up note cards and break the story and then another week on the treatment refining things, and then yeah, and then we’ll start writing.

Ashley: As far as your development process, it sounds like you had the director kind of already lined up as you were writing this. Were you giving her a note or giving her different drafts or different scenes? Was she involved as this thing was being written or did you wait to have a draft and then she came in and gave her notes at that point?

Ruckus: You’re talking about The Devil to Pay?

Ashley: Yeah. Correct.

Ruckus: We directed. it

Lane: We directed it.

Ashley: Oh that’s… okay. Yeah, that was the previous one. Got you, sorry about that.

Lane: It’s okay.

Ruckus: That’s why [inaudible 00:18:12].

Ashley: The first thing that occurred to me when I saw the trailer for this, and I apologize, I haven’t seen the full movie, was it was very similar at least in tone and sort of look to Winter’s Bone. Were there some other films that you were looking at as sort of, other movies in similar genres? How did you kind of interpret those and look at those and maybe try and circumvent some of the tropes and maybe even use some of the tropes that are in those genres?

Ruckus: I think we honestly weren’t that inspired by films as much as we are Southern Gothic literature and outsider art and bluegrass music and just all the other elements. That influenced the film more than I would say any specific film. But that being said, some of our favorite Southern films are things like The Heat of the Night and Mississippi Burning and things from the late ‘60s, early ‘70s. Those genre films.

Lane: Deliverance.

Lane: Deliverance, had a… We even had a… there’s a blatant Deliverance homage in there. We have a guy playing a banjo on the front porch. People are either gonna realize it’s Deliverance or they’re gonna think it’s Kermit the Frog. It’ll be one of them [laughs].

Lane: Yeah [inaudible 00:19:19] actor started playing Rainbow Connection on the banjo [laughter].

Ashley: Okay, so you had your script done. What were those next steps to actually get this into production? How did you raise the money, how did you get this thing finished?

Lane: Yeah, it was an insane deadline. We finished the script, we sent it to Danielle, she didn’t know we were writing for her. And then once she signed on, then we set a start date. We were just like, “We don’t have anything, but Danielle and the script, we are starting on this date and no one will change that date, and that is when it is happening.”

Ruckus: Which is not… I can’t suggest anyone does that because… [laughs].

Lane: It’s so stressful.

Ruckus: It was incredibly stressful [laughter]. But it just worked out and then two weeks before we shot we got the money. People were turning down gigs to come work on this film and we couldn’t guarantee it was gonna happen.

Lane: We had a couple of small investors, but the big investor didn’t come in until two weeks before. We kind of had… because we were so committed to making this film, we had versions in our head of how we could do it and we were like, we’ll just make it for this small amount of money that we have if we don’t get a bigger investor. Luckily, we did get that money right before we shot.

Ashley: Got you. Maybe you can talk about that process a little bit, just raising money. What did your pitch look like to these folks, and ultimately who are these? Were they friends, family, business people, people that invest in films, what is your recommendation for people that wanna raise money for their film?

Ruckus: I hate to… you can’t give a blanket recommendation because every film is so different. This just happened to be a friend of a friend who was a filmmaker, but also works in finance, so had some capital and was interested in film.

Lane: What we did was we put the word out. We basically, I don’t know if this sounds awful, but we’re connected in the Atlanta community and just in general over the years, and so we were just like, “We are making a film, it is starting on this date, we are looking for these things. Who has these things?” A friend of ours, a long-term friend, had just finished a film with an investor and that investor was looking to put money in another film and so he connected us.

Ruckus: The one thing I will say is that the friend who connected us, we’ve known him for 15 years and have just been friendly and it’s never been like, 15 years from now I’m gonna get something out of him. That’s our golden rule above everything else, is like be someone that people wanna work with. It’s all about long-term relationships and whether you’re in LA or Atlanta or wherever, it’s a much smaller world in than it seems like it is. It always ends up being a friend of a friend.

Ashley: Yeah, for sure. I’m curious, as you were raising this money though, how much do you think the fact that you had some credits at this point behind you, you had been on The Black List, at least in Hollywood on screenwriters is very prestigious, obviously at this point you had your two feature credits. How much do you think that influenced bringing this investor on? It sounds like he’s pretty sophisticated, understands the business aspects a little bit. How much do you think those factors, as opposed to this 15-year friendship you had with this person?

Lane: Well I mean, I think you definitely have to be prepared for opportunity, right? So the friendship is what gave us the opportunity and then we were prepared with our experience and our credits and our ability.

Ruckus: And he shared a short film we had done so they could see that, “Oh, they know how to shoot something.” That was probably the single biggest thing, was him vouching for us, and then the guy getting to watch a short, something we’d made and go, “Okay, they know what they’re doing.” And then reading the script and loving it. So it was those three things.

Ashley: Perfect. So I always like to end these interviews just by asking the guests what they’ve seen recently that they thought was really cool. Is there anything that’s just been maybe a little under the radar, HBO, Hulu, Netflix that you’ve seen in the last six months or a year that you thought maybe screenwriters should take a look at?

Ruckus: Oh man.

Lane: That’s a really good question. We watch stuff all the time.

Ashley: What’s something you liked? Something that you guys really liked recently?

Lane: Relic.

Ruckus: The new movie that just came out that we haven’t seen yet or the old movies?

Lane: We saw, about the woman with the dementia… Australian.

Ruckus: Oh, okay. Sorry.

Lane: Yeah [laughs].

Ruckus: We also watched The Relic recently. That’s why I wanted to know before you talked about it.

Ashley: Got you.

Lane: Yeah. We watched Relic recently, which I thought was really beautifully done.

Ruckus: I would say the last movie I saw that I flipped out over and was so jealous that I wasn’t involved with was Nightcrawler, which I know has been a couple of years now. But that’s one that I was like, “Oh my God, how was I not…” I was so jealous that I wasn’t involved in some way, that I didn’t write that or whatever. I love that movie.

Ashley: Yeah, for sure. Actually I noticed, I think that’s on Netflix right now if anybody wants to check it out. How can people see The Devil to Pay? Do you know what the release schedule is gonna be like for it?

Lane: Yeah, it’ll be out in drive-ins on October 2nd and it will be on VOD pretty much everywhere on October 6th.

Ashley: Okay, perfect. 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.

Ruckus: We’re on Instagram and Facebook, both is just @Ruckus & Lane Skye. It should be pretty easy to find us.

Lane: Yeah.

Ashley: Okay, perfect. Well, I really appreciate you guys coming on and talking with me today. Good luck with this film and good luck with all your future projects as well.

Ruckus: Awesome, thank you so much.

Lane: Thank you so much.

Ashley: Thank you. We’ll talk to you later.

Lane: Bye.

Ruckus: Bye.

Ashley: Bye.

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, producer, director and also actor Miska Kajanus. He did a low budget feature called Insanity, so he comes on to talk about that. He’s from Finland and actually moved to the USA to pursue his dream of being an actor. We talk about that a little bit.

He actually was able to get cast in a number of really cool roles, shows like Modern Family, he’s had some small roles on, and now he’s moving into being a filmmaker, really trying to write, direct and also continue to act. Again, he’s coming on to talk about his film Insanity. So keep an eye out for that episode next week. That’s the show. Thank you for listening.