This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 392: With Writer/Producer Suzanne DeLaurentiis.
Ashley: Welcome to Episode #392 of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger over at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I am interviewing producer Suzanne DeLaurentiis, who’s doing a new show called Suzanne’s Saturday Night Scares, which showcases classic horror films. She talks about that briefly, but Suzanne is also a seasoned producer and we dig into a number of her projects, how she found the scripts, how she’s hired writers in the past, and ultimately how she’s got some of these projects 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 re-tweeting 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 #392. 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 whole bunch of bonus lessons.
I teach the whole process of how to sell your screenplay in that guide. I’ll teach you how to write a professional logline and query letter, and how to find agents, managers and producers who are looking for material. Really, it’s everything you need to know to sell your screenplay, just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide. So a quick few words about what I’m working on. I just recently launched a new actor podcast, which is quite similar to SYS, except obviously it’s for actors. You can check that out by going to www.therightcast.com. I’ve got two episodes up so far and we’ll try and post roughly one episode a month. I’m thinking I’ll go for six months or a year, just see if I can get some traction with it.
It’s very nuts and bolts like SYS, only it’s specifically for actors, trying to help them find auditions and book more gigs. I’ve met so many awesome people through SYS, I thought this would be a great way to network a bit with actors. On the first episode of the podcast, I have Victoria De Mare, who I worked with on my last film, The Rideshare Killer. She talks about her career, she’s done some great horror films and talks about that really just the nitty gritty of how she’s able to sort of keep her career going. And then on the second episode, I have Christopher Showerman, who was George in George of the Jungle sequel. So if you’re interested in hearing any of this, or if any of this sounds like something you might like to check out, once again, just go over to www.therightcast.com and check that out.
And if you don’t mind too, if you like it, please give me a review. Wherever you listen to it, whether it be iTunes or YouTube, or just on the site, leave a comment. I always like to hear what people are thinking about it. I’ve talking about the film noir detective mystery project for a while now. I think we finally have the script kind of where we want it. So I ended up just selling the script to the actor producer who wants it as a starring vehicle for himself. He has a producer friend who he was going to work with to produce it, but I think the friend has some health issues, so now he’s coming back to me and talking to me about possibly producing it. He wants to direct it and possibly wants me to produce it.
So there’s still some things that need to be worked out, but the script is sold and we’re starting to gear up for pre-production. And as I said, right now, I think I’m probably gonna be the producer on the project, or at least one of the producers on the project. Interestingly, this is an actor I met through my last film, The Rideshare Killer. You know, we just got to know each other. Obviously he’s an actor who’s done a bunch of stuff and just got to talk to him. That was a writer, and started to show him some of my scripts. His actors are always looking for cool projects for themselves. He was looking for a cool project for himself as well. People always ask about networking, and as you know, I’m a big proponent of getting out there and doing stuff.
And this to me is an example of that working. I met someone who ended up buying a screenplay from me, and all because I decided to go and make my movie, The Rideshare Killer. One of the things that I find with networking, over the years, I’ve done just like most people. I go to those networking events, those things where you go to some event and maybe someone speaks and then you try and network afterwards. And I’ve honestly never met a single person that became any kind of like a real contact. So I don’t know, maybe I’m just not good at those types of things, but I have found working on projects, doing stuff, you kind of just meet a whole bunch of people.
Some of them you click with some of them you don’t. But if you do enough of these types of things, I think this is sort of a good example of getting out there and meeting people. And again, it all really just came down to my film, The Rideshare Killer. Anyways, those are the things I’ve been working on, let’s get into the main segment. Today, I am interviewing producer Suzanne DeLaurentiis, here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Suzanne to the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Suzanne: Oh, it’s certainly a pleasure to be here, Ashley. Thank you for having me.
Ashley: Hey, thank you. 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?
Suzanne: Well, my family was in the business. I’m from New Jersey originally, and actually my cousin was Frankie Avalon. So I started out as a singer working in the entertainment business in the ‘70s, and then in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s, I switched to working in film. And then my other distant cousin was Dino de Laurentiis. So I always followed the entertainment business and it was kind of in my family.
Ashley: Yeah. Yeah. So let’s talk about some of the transitions. So you were a singer, then you got more into acting. I mean, I think you’ve done a ton as a producer as well. How did you make those changes and what sort of precipitated those changes? Like why did you go from acting to producing?
Suzanne: Well, as you know, it’s tough for women in front of the camera. It can be very hard, and in the late ‘70s, I… not that I was frustrated, but it just seemed so challenging always relying on being in front of the camera and people casting you in their projects. So I started creating my own projects, and in doing that, I learned producing and directing. I pretty much worked every crew position on a film set. And then it was important to me to have a little more control over my fate. So I really enjoyed having my own company and creating my own projects. So it was a natural, kind of a natural progression for me I guess.
Ashley: Yeah. Yeah, sounds like it. So let’s talk briefly about some of your projects. To start, I thought maybe Middleton Christmas would be a good one. You’re a producer and a writer, so maybe we can just talk about that briefly. You have a story by credit on that. What does that actually mean? You’re the producer, was it an idea you came up with and then you hired some writers? Maybe talk us through that. How did that project come about and sort of what was your role in it?
Suzanne: Right. So basically it’s, Middleton Christmas as well as a lot of the other films that I’ve done, I pretty much come up with the premise and the idea and an outline, and then I go to the different writers that I work with and work with them to come up with a screenplay. And Middleton Christmas was just sort of one of those kind of a passion project we were working with some organ donor people and we wanted to come up with some sort of Christmas holiday drama that also raised awareness for organ donors and organ donor associations.
Ashley: Oh, I got you. And so does that actually come into the financing of the film, the organ donor… like these sorts of organizations helped finance this thing?
Suzanne: No, they didn’t. We have a group of private investors that we use on a lot of our projects. I’ve always done independent films with private investors and private money. And then afterwards we do an acquisition deal, whether it’s with the studio or whoever the sales party may be. So we do things as an independent with private money.
Ashley: Got it. Got you. So let’s talk, you just mentioned that this is… Middleton Christmas was very typical of your sort of template, coming up with the idea, hiring a writer and a director. So on Middleton Christmas for instance, maybe you can give us like a specific example. How did you find Tricia Aurand? And I noticed before she did Middleton Christmas, she had only done some shorts, so it wasn’t like she had a huge track record. But maybe you can talk to that, because I know there’s, I get writers all the time, “How do I sort of just get in the eyes of these producers?” So maybe you can talk to that specific case.
Suzanne: Well, I can tell you with Tricia, first of all she’s extremely talented. She’s done a lot of adaptations from books, and she was actually referred to me from Stephen Rivele, who was the Oscar nominee for Nixon and Ali, and we had done a couple of projects with him in the past. I guess she had done some ghost writing and some intern writing with him, and he referred her to me and said, “Hey listen, I’ve got this other great writer that I work with that I kind of mentor, and I’d like to get some other opportunities for her. I think she would be a great fit for some of your other projects.” That’s how we ended up hiring her.
Ashley: And maybe you can talk about, so what did she actually submit? What did you read of hers, did she have a feature spec? Was it in the same genre as Middleton Christmas? Did you look at some of the shorts? Like what exactly did you look at to decide if she was a good fit for it?
Suzanne: Well, actually she was doing some additional writing on the Stephen Rivele project we have called Triangle Fire, about the infamous Shirtwaist factory fire in 1911. So we were already working with her on some other things, and she was just very talented. And I need to stress for sort of the screenwriting audience that I know your podcast appeals to. It’s always so important as a writer to be good to work with and be willing to collaborate and take notes and listen. Because I find with a lot of writers, especially new writers, sometimes they tend to kind of have that tunnel vision and at times they can become difficult to work with. And I always trying to remind writers that you really, your creative vision is extremely important, but you’re also collaborating and working with others that technically are taking the risk or the financial risk of the project. So it’s really important to listen to them and be a team player.
Ashley: Got you, Got you. Very, very good advice for sure. So I’m curious on some of your other projects. Maybe we could talk through that. Derailed is another one, you had the same director from Middleton Christmas. How did you meet Dale? Maybe you can just walk us through that as a director. How did he come into your sort of orbit?
Suzanne: I was actually introduced to Dale about 10 years ago from a friend of mine that had been pitching to me for quite a while about what a talented director he was. And we did a couple of smaller projects together, I really liked his work. He always had a great eye, he was very talented, he was awesome to work with. Again, I always have to stress that to people that that’s so important, that you’re good to work with, you’re not combative and difficult. To me as a producer, it’s always important to work with people that I like. I think sometimes people lose vision of that. So he was great to work with, I liked him very much. He was very talented, and I was always happy with the end result of everything that we would get after he would turn the film in.
So we’ve worked on quite a few things. Derailed was again, kind of a passion project. We wanted to do something that was a little more artsy, kind of horror and different where we kind of combined a couple of different genres. So Derailed was definitely different and a challenge.
Ashley: Yeah. Yeah. I’m curious too, I’m friends with Lloyd Barnett and you executive produced a film that he did, I Love You to Death. And I remember years ago when he was doing the film, he sort of told me, I think, how he met you. Maybe you can talk to that a little bit. I don’t think you guys had like a relationship before that film, correct me if I’m wrong. But really what I’m getting at, is just to show writers how they can get in the orbit of a producer. Again, this is something that I’m familiar with, with I Love You to Death. So maybe you can talk through that one as well. And is that sort of typical of how you find people?
Suzanne: Right. Well, listen, Lloyd was very talented and he brought the movie to me. I have a lot of people sometimes that are just kind of up and coming or breaking into the business and they’ll make something or bring something to me and I’ll look at it and say, “Oh my gosh, this is… I love your vision, but this could be so much better if we just did this or did that, or tweak this, or fix this, or fix that.” And that’s what we kind of did with Lloyd’s project, and then we sort of made what he did so much better with him. Again, it’s about being open and having open ears and be willing to collaborate and work with other people that can really make you shine, and Lloyd was great at that. He was thrilled to have us working with him and helping him kind of take it to that next step.
Ashley: So let’s talk about your new project, Suzanne Saturday Night Scares. Maybe you can kind of give us the pitch. What is this new project all about?
Suzanne: This is my retirement project [laughs]. I was trying to come up with something… you know, I’m pushing 60 unfortunately. And as my later years of my career, I was trying to come up with something that was a little less stressful, a little more fun, something a little more low key that really sort of showed my passion for horror movies, which I love the genre, huge passion for it. I spoke with my friend Lee Turner, who is a host and writer and a lawyer for a show. It’s like a, how can I explain it? Kind of like a late night show where he does wrap arounds for independent horror films. So I spoke to him about my idea and he wrote the show and I just loved it, I was thrilled.
After Hours Cinema, that’s the name of the show. So I wanted to do something a little different than kind of the Elvira thing, which by the way, I love her show, she’s amazing. But being a director and a producer and a writer, I didn’t wanna come off as sort of being just a host that was sitting in front of the camera and reading. I wanted to kind of show that background of having the directing and writing experience and the knowledge of sort of the horror genre. So we came up with the show and I’m just thrilled to be doing it. It’s a ton of fun, and I hope everybody enjoys it. It’s all classic horror films from the ‘60s and ‘70s. And then we have special guests on the show that either were in that film or a film of the similar genre.
Ashley: Yeah. Yeah. And do you know some of the films that you guys are gonna be showing?
Suzanne: I don’t wanna let on [laughs] because that’s part of the surprise. You got to watch the weekly show. But we just did Sisters of Death and Messiah of Evil, and we had Lara Parker as a guest and Morgan Fairchild, and we’ve got quite a few other surprises coming. But again, I’m a huge fan of Elvira and her show, and I’m hoping that we have some of those audience demographics as well.
Ashley: Got you. Got you. How can people see it? Where is it gonna air?
Suzanne: It’s on Amazon right now and Apple TV, and then it’ll be up on five or six more platforms within the next month.
Ashley: Got you. I like to end these interviews just by asking the guests if they’ve seen anything recently that they thought was really great. Is there anything that maybe you think writers could really take a look at, Netflix, HBO, anything that’s come out recently that maybe was a little under the radar?
Suzanne: You know, I just have to say, I binge watch everything and there are so many great shows now. Like, gosh, it doesn’t matter what your genre is. Whether it’s the Girlfriend Experience or Euphoria or… there’s just, it’s that’s a hard question to answer. There are just so many shows that… I think I always tell writers, kind of write where your passion is. Where your heart is and really stand by what you like and what you believe in, and somebody will notice. It takes time, but somebody will notice if you really write from the heart.
Ashley: Yeah. Yeah. Is there anything as a producer you’re seeing the marketplace change that maybe you could give a little advice to writers? Are there some changes, maybe it’s particular genres that are coming out of favor or coming up? Maybe just the format, the longer form versus the shorter form. Is there anything that you’re seeing with all the… see change in these different outlets like Hulu and Netflix and how it’s gonna affect writers?
Suzanne: Well, I’ll tell you it’s interesting. I was just speaking to a lot of my studio head friends and just kind of picking their brain and saying what are people looking for? What are they looking for, for writers right now? And a lot of them have been telling me the same thing. They were looking for Afro-American suspense thrillers, was the hot topic genre for them right now. Also art house films, that seems to be making a big comeback. So those two seem to be popular genres right now that a lot of the platforms and the studios are looking for.
Ashley: Got you. Got you. 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 so people can click over to it.
Suzanne: Oh, sure. Facebook it’s just Suzanne DeLaurentiis my name. Facebook show is SSN Suzanne Saturday Nights Scares. We’re on Instagram as well, both under the same.
Ashley: Perfect. Perfect. Well, Suzanne, I really appreciate you coming on and talking with me today. Good luck with this new project and good luck with all your future projects as well.
Suzanne: Thanks so much Ashley. It’s a pleasure.
Ashley: Hey, thank you, will talk to you later. Bye.
Suzanne: Bye- bye.
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 producer Gary W. Goldstein, who was one of the original producers on Pretty Woman. We talk about that a little bit, how he discovered that writer and ultimately help that writer develop the script. And he’s gone on to do lots of other films including Under Siege, The Mothman Prophecies. He’s a great networker and in fact, he is networking actually by being on my podcast networking with me.
We talk a lot about networking and specifically cold calling, which he’s done a lot of throughout his career. He’s very confident doing, has a lot of good tips. But it’s a great interview just hearing how he built his career, again, just through networking, cold calling and just slowly just building a network of people that he knew, and ultimately getting some of these projects produced. So keep an eye out for that episode next week. That’s our show. Thank you for listening.