This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 421 – Making One Of the First Movies On Netflix .
Welcome to Episode 421 of the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Myers, screenwriter and blogger with sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing writer-director Nick Gregorio, about his new film Old Strangers. It’s a kind of sci-fi horror film about three friends who find something sinister out in the woods. It’s a really cool film, very contained, very low budget. And this week, I have him on to tell us exactly how this film came together for him. So, stay tuned for that interview.
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So, a quick few words about what I’ve been working on. So, we’re just about to the release stage for the film Rideshare Killer, which I’ve been talking about over the last couple of years here on the podcast. So, it’s very exciting to finally be getting it out. In fact, there’s a good chance we’ve already done the release. By the time you listen to this podcast episode. The rideshare killer didn’t have any issues with the quality control. We were going through that with the distributor, they put it through some hoops just to make sure everything is checks out, there’s no drop frames, there’s no major issues with the actual film file. Our first release is going to be with the TVOD, which stands for Transactional VOD is where people basically pay a set price, that you pay 399 you get to watch the film. So, it’s a direct pay transaction. That’s the T part of the VOD. As filmmakers we make the most money with this format. So, if you’re interested in really supporting what I’m doing here and want to check out the film, definitely consider buying it. This way, we’ll be doing the first release on Amazon. Then after that we go to what’s called A VOD and S VOD. A VOD is advertised supported. So, you can watch the film for free on platforms like 2B TV, but you also have to watch some advertisements that they put into the film. And then the S VOD is subscription VOD, which is places like Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu. So, if you have a subscription to those services, you will be able to watch the film basically for free. It’s not really free, you’re paying in your monthly subscription, but there’s no additional cost. But we’ll be doing that the SVOD I think comes at last, again, just because that’s like the least amount of revenue that we get from the movie, we’ll probably do the transactional VOD. As I said here in a few, just a few weeks, it should be released. And then we’ll start to push out to those other platforms. Our distributors submitted the film to Amazon this week, as I said, that’s going to be the first TVOD platform. I’m recording this episode February 11. The distributor basically said it takes seven to 30 days, but I guess Amazon doesn’t give them an exact release date. They submitted everything this week. So anytime now, I guess between seven and 30 days. So that would put it somewhere between you know, late February, mid March, to when the actual release will be coming out. We’re going to try and do a cast and crew screening here in the next couple of weeks as well. We want to get everyone who worked on the film really fired up. You know, hopefully, if they have a really good time with the cast and crew screening. Hopefully they’ll get fired up and hopefully they’ll help us spread word about the film. You know, the more people we have out there preaching about how great this film is, the better off we’re going to do with it. Casting crew screenings are always super fun. Everyone is there to have a good time, everyone worked on the film, everyone is friends with each other. So, you know all the jokes land all the you know, the horror moments, we’ll get a nice little shriek. So again, these are super fun, fun events to go to. So, I’m looking forward to that. And as I said that will probably be in early March. Anyway, stay tuned for some more specific dates. I know this is not really much in terms of specific dates or any specific dates. But once I think we release on Amazon, as I said that T VOD on Amazon then I think we’ll start to really get some better ideas about when we’re going to be releasing on these other platforms. Anyways, those are the things I’ve been working on over the last week. Now let’s get into our main segment today. I’m interviewing writer director Nick Gregorio. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Nick to the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Nick: Hey, thanks a lot for having me actually, I’m really excited because screenwriting was my first love when it came to cinema, so.
Ashley: Okay, good, good. Yeah, that’s good to know. So, to start out, maybe you could tell us a little bit about your background, where do you grow up? And how did you get interested in the entertainment business?
Nick: So, I’m from Philadelphia from the East Coast, went to Drexel University. I think what really got me interested in film, like I was saying, my screenwriting course with Ian Abrams, he was the creator of the show, Early Edition. But that was the first time I was writing and I was like, I can do this like, this makes sense to me, screenwriting makes sense to me, you know, like prose, I kind of always got hung up on and you know, grammar issues, but like screenwriting, it was so succinct, and to the point, and so visually motivated that it just clicked in my brain. So.
Ashley: So, take us back now, just I sort of misunderstood what you just said. So, you got hired on as a writer on this show?
Nick: No, no, no, my screenwriting teacher.
Ashley: Okay. Gotcha, gotcha.
Nick: It was like, kind of like that. That was the first kind of like, introduction to being like, okay, this could be a career, this industry could be something I can do. And I really took the screenwriting the…
Ashley: And what was your major in college?
Nick: Digital media and film, and video production as a minor.
Ashley: And then what were some of the first steps to kind of turn this into a career once you got out of college?
Nick: Ah, the first steps were, I had a kind of group of friends and we had a production company called Sweaty Robot. And we did a bunch of sketch comedy stuff. There’s all pre-YouTube. So, we used to do a video podcast with like multiple camera angles, we had sketches that we put out every week, but there was really no venue to show them because YouTube couldn’t take clips over three minutes long or four minutes long at that time. So, we found all these weird, like, platforms and services that we could upload to and it would I remember, it would take like hours for a video to like upload, like a four-minute video and stuff. Then kind of just cut my teeth and dove in. And we made our first feature, which was Happy Birthday, Harris Malden. I then kind of broke away from the group and went and made another feature called Green. And that came out in 2010. Both of those movies. So, Harris Malden, was one of the first Netflix streaming movies, a part of like, the Netflix package when they were streaming movies. And people were like, you’re going to watch a movie on your computer. And I’m like, no, like, I’m like, it’s the beginning of a… So, they’ve been on Netflix and Hulu. And it was just really interesting to see back in 2008 and 2010, how foreign it was. And now everyone’s like Netflix and chill, Hulu, Peacock, HBO max. And I’m like right in the middle of it, because I was that Digital Media major. And so much of film just converted to digital. So.
Ashley: Yeah, gotcha. So, walk us through some of those, those early steps. Ultimately, how did you get these projects produced? Like Harris Malden, and just how did you get a produce? Was it self funded? You got in to try and raise money? What was the trick there?
Nick: So, there were early screenplays. So, I like I was kind of a senior thesis screenplay. I wrote a script called Schiller’s, and there was interest in developing that, and this is pre-2008. So, like pre financial crisis, there was still a lot of money floating around indie film, it was kind of the old model of indie filmmaking, that kind of Kevin Smith, I’m going to go to Sundance, anything goes like if you make a movie, if you build it, they will come type mentality. So, there was interest and from people you wouldn’t even expect like architecture firms, just people that had made money to spend that we were kind of pitching the project, we were super young. I mean, I was like, 21 years old at the time. So, it was ridiculous. It was like way too cocky, way too clueless. And like going in these meetings. That project didn’t work out. I was super frustrated, because I mean, the script got revised 100 true revisions, not like tweak a sentence here and there, like 100 different drafts of the script that read differently. And I was like, Dude, it’s lost. That was like the magic of this tale is lost. I revised so many times. There was another movie too. It was like an international thriller, and like we couldn’t really get that off the ground. So, we were raising our production value on our sketches. We were using some interesting techniques. And as a collective we kind of came up with why don’t we all find a way to raise $5,000 to $8,000 pull together and make this movie Happy Birthday, Harris Malden, it was based on a short we did. And it’s about a guy who fakes his facial hair by drawing on a moustache and but it’s the cover of burn scar from his youth. I play Harris Malden. It was very much taken back like from my old neighbourhood in South Philadelphia. We went there we shot at my grandmother’s house like it’s definitely a time capsule. It’s a very interesting, quirky comedy. It world premiered at the Cinna Vegas Film Festival back when that was still a festival that was associated with like Sundance. And that was a really great experience and we thought it’d be the beginning of like, our big career you know, they compare them a lot to like the Duplass brothers with puffy chair. We thought we had those openings and literally the weekend of the festival. Almost every indie studio shut down like Warner independent, shut down, like Miramax independent, they were all just getting like, laid off at this festival. And we were like, what’s going on? I don’t think. I mean, until recently, I don’t think indie in the true in the sense has recovered and found a new footing because of the streaming platforms and needs a distribution. But yeah, it was a…
Ashley: So, I know things have changed a lot. But I’m curious how did you get the film into Netflix? How did you even know that was a thing? How was that sort of even on your radar to even pursue?
Nick: So, we were premiered in Cine Vegas, we made a lot of content. I mean, like it was again, I was 24 when the movie came out, absolutely clueless, thought I was going to be like a movie star and a big director 24. And we were like at CAA we were talking to like broken lizard on the Warner Brothers lot. It was a very, you know, like all the things you would wish for and hope for. So, we did have a decent amount of connections. And we had heard the kind of like horror stories of don’t go with the wrong distributor, because they’re going to fleece you, you’re not going to make any money on your movie. So, we were like, Okay. So, there was this company Cinetic, which then became Film Buff, which is now Gunpowder and Sky, but they were originally Cinetic. And they were doing digital distribution models where they only took 25 cents on the dollar. So, we were like; Okay, that seems fair. They don’t own anything. It’s a contract. They take a percentage. And they got us on Netflix and they got us on Hulu and they got us in like PBS New York and the but like it was it was like kind of a random smattering of deals, not no theatrical. Like that’s not impossible for a small movie. But it was a great experience. It was weird, because like now people would like give their left arm to like premiere on Netflix. But at that time, it was just like, okay, cool guy. Like even Hulu. People are like, alright, neat, that seems neat. Looking back, I’m like, wow, that was a huge accomplishment. But we couldn’t really appreciate it because the times weren’t ready yet.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So, I want to touch on something else you said, I find so many writers, aspiring writers, they feel like if they could just get that one break, if they just get that one movie made, you know, it’s just going to be rocket fuel, and their careers are going to go straight to the moon. And I was one of those people. You know, I sold a script pretty early on similar situation where I sold a script in my 20s. And I thought that and really nothing happened. I mean, I was just basically at the same level that I had been before except I had one credit and talk about that a little bit. How do you get over that hurdle because you had a lot of success, you got into CAA, all exactly what you’re saying? But it wasn’t necessarily rocket fuel to the moon. And what was your next steps? How did you get past that? And how do you continue to go?
Nick: Well, it’s rough. I mean, it’s tough. You know, like, I was doing construction work. I was working my father first construction business. And, you know, I had gone from a red-carpet premiere in meetings in the Warner Brothers lot and then all the leads sort of dried up and the phone stopped ringing and I was hanging wallpaper and some lady’s bathroom three weeks later. So, it was very sobering. Of course, like there was stress and the group kind of had a falling out. And we went our separate ways. And I was like, I’m just going to do you know, I’m going to move out to Cali I’m going to work on some stuff and I moved out, I was living with some friends. It was you know, 08 is as much as like the big like subprime mortgage crisis was going on. It was also just very economically depressed across the board. There’s like nothing going on, you know, like, no one was hiring. There was no innovation in jobs like that’s when there was no Uber in LA, you had to drive everywhere, gas cost a fortune. You got tickets and towed wherever you park. It was like a really, really tough what not everyone, like the industry wasn’t up to snuff in terms of like technology. So, auditions or job postings were still a hybrid of like, electronic and also like physical like, you had to kind of do a lot of different things. You couldn’t just open up your laptop and find a job or network with people, like you had to go out there. You had to go to parties, you had to talk to people. So, then I got inspired by my roommate in close friend experience with trying to open a medical marijuana shop. And I was like, you want to make this move. I was like, I have an idea for a movie. You want to make it we could shoot it all in and around where we live and stay here in LA, it’s about a guy who moves from the East Coast to California, it was like kind of an allegory for me with my film aspirations but it was like a kind of a two bit gangster from the East Coast moves to California to open a legal marijuana shop and he ends up having to like, go back to his old ways, like kind of a leopard doesn’t change the spot story. So that was another one. We just wrote it. We shot it for super cheap, I had worked on an indie production called Hold on Loosely, day one like we were all bunking with each other as low budget thing. I walk in in the room I’m sharing and there’s just the red camera on the floor with a cook like bazooka zoom. And I’m like what’s up and I was like I bumped with this guy, Alex, who was the running the camera. So, he ended up giving me a great deal on like the red one back in the day with a cook superzoom. And we just shot the whole movie on that. And then cut that worked on that was able to go back to cinetic they did, digitally distributed it and then went to like, I think Netflix. It did gangbusters on Xbox Live Marketplace. I completely underestimated the pothead stoner teenager market. It was…
Ashley: That’s playing video games, who’d have thought.
Nick: Yeah, they were all taken, like they’re probably the gift cards they got for their birthdays, and all just buying this. And they were buy the movie for like, $20 I was like what, it was so crazy, like, you know, it’s always the place that you least expect that like the revenue comes from or the interest comes from.
Nick: And then, you know, just nothing really, nothing really happened from there. You know, I like I tried the acting full-time that was really difficult. And I just kind of like dug in and I was doing cinematography. I was doing editing, I was learning all the different trades or honing all the different trades so I could be as marketable as possible. And knowing the digital landscape and knowing how to wear a lot of hats. I ended up working at the collective, meta café, node, and then machinima ended up taking me in. I made a short film called Good Plumbers, which was a mash up of Scorsese movies and Mario Brothers. So that kind of like, got me in there. I had a sketch comedy show called Dang Fire. I had a talk show called Spacebar and All Systems Go, I eventually ended up paying and directing DC Daily, which was a daily talk show for the DC Universe platform, the short-lived DC Universe platform, but we ended up doing 500 episodes of that. Got the direct Kevin Smith in the premiere live stream episodes. That was pretty cool. And I’ve just been working with Amazon with a kind of virtual at home productions. So, like, you know, my journey has been circuitous and COVID hit and I was like, I have to make a movie. I was like, I can’t keep doing this. I can’t keep doing all this work for these other companies, and not satisfying any of my own artistic endeavours.
Ashley: Gotcha, gotcha. So, I think that’s a great segue right into Old Strangers. Maybe you can kind of give us a pitch or logline, what is Old Strangers all about?
Nick: So, three friends, break quarantine, go up to Big Bear looking to reconnect and kind of rekindle the friendships of their youth, out for a hike they stumble upon something in the woods. And bad stuff happens. But it is like an allegory for COVID. It is that like, there’s a lot of conversation about mental health, about isolation, about trying to reconnect with people from our past, about growing apart, and sort of almost losing that innocence and never being able to get it back. While also confronting very difficult adult. Things like trying to get pregnant, trying to find love, trying to keep your anger under control. So, all that all plays into it. But there is a science fiction element, a really big science fiction element because I am a genre buff and genre fan. So yep.
Ashley: And I’m curious, on IMDb, I noticed there’s only four actors, so it’s very contained in terms of the acting stuff, how much did that play into it? Maybe you can talk just a little bit sort of the practicality. Obviously, you have a lot of production experience at this point with the editing and all this sort of stuff. But how much did that play into sort of what you wanted to do and what you could do on the budget?
Nick: So, I wrote the script called Not Like Us. And Not Like Us was a Snowden invasion story, all the strangers, roadside bar in upstate New York, and then invasion happens. And then I was so steeped in that world. And for so many years, I was trying to make that script that I kind of came up with the prequel for it. And that’s what Old Strangers is. I was like, where’s the genesis of this invasion, we’ll say. So, I wanted something, I wanted misdirection. I wanted something small. And, you know, wrangling actors is tough. Like when you get outside of like five actors you’re dealing with like, it’s a tough situation. There’s lodging, especially, we shot it less than a year ago, the first week of March. I wrote the script. I’ve been ruminating on the script for a while but I wrote the script in like four days. And then I refined it with the cast and it was a form follows function type writing process. I was like this is what I have at my disposal. This is the story I’m trying to tell, these are the actors I want for it. So, I kind of wrote for the actors, I knew where I wanted to go and how we were going to end the project. And I think that’s crucial. I think when you know how it ends, it’s much easier to write, I found myself in situations where I have great story beats and great moments and clever scenes. But I’m like, how do I end this? And like, the older I get, I’m like, no great ending and kind of work back from backwards from there, know where you’re going to end up, because that’ll help inform the whole rest of the project. So yeah, we went up to Big Bear, followed the COVID protocols. Everyone had a negative COVID test. And then we just bubbled, there was two cabins, there was our hero cabin, where we shot in and the cast stayed there. And then we had a crew cabin that was right up the road. And all the crew stayed there. And the only people that left the bubble, were myself and my co-EP, Drew Marian.
Ashley: Gotcha. And were these actors that you knew before, friends, actors you had acted with or something. How did you cast this?
Nick: Yeah. So, Ted Evans, who plays Michael, he’s the blonde. He and I had been in a bunch of stuff together. He was on my sketches and he was in good plumbers. He was in a bunch of sketches with us. And we just work together and knew each other for a while. And I was like, oh, and he did. So, I ended up making a radio play out of that one script, Not Like Us. So, he did a voice for the radio play. And I’m like, I want to shoot a movie you interested in being in it? And he was like, Yeah, but like, it’s one of those like, you’re okay. Nick, like if you make a movie, I’ll be in your movie. And then he was down and then Colton, as chief Mastro who plays Danny. He was in a friend short called 2020, which was a spoof on 1917, like a warner with all the crazy occurrences of 2020. And I thought it was great. I was like, comments guy solid, you can really carry a flick. And then Madeline Humphreys was recommended to me by my makeup effects artists, Kate Matlock. And she said, Nick, I’m working with this woman. She’s a great actress, I think she can handle the intensity of the role. I think she can handle the intensity of the shooting circumstances because like, you know, in a small movie like this, you don’t have the amenities that you do have a bigger production. So, you really need people that are committed and gung ho. And, and they all were. Yeah.
Ashley: Yeah, for sure. So, let’s talk about your writing process a little bit. Where do you typically write and when do you typically write? Are you the guy that has a home office? Do you go to Starbucks, you need that ambient noise? Do you write in the middle of the night? You write first thing in the morning? What is your writing schedule look like?
Nick: Ah, my writing schedule. So, I do a lot of notes. I do a lot of mental notes. And then I write down specifics in like Apple notations. And I kind of collect it, I don’t do note cards, I don’t do anything like physical. And then whenever I think I got it, or I think I have some free time, I have two small children. So, it’s like, you know, I kind of get it in where I get it in, I don’t really get writer’s block. And I don’t really get stumped when I start writing. I can write and I can dive in. I guess my biggest word of advice with writing is just start, just do it, get the words on paper, you can always revise it. And I do that a lot. Like I’ll just write I’ll get a lot out and then I’ll go back and I’ll reread it and revise it. And I’ll reread it and revise it and kind of work in that way. Because I don’t like moving forward with the script if I feel like the preceding scenes aren’t shirt up. Like I like to know that they’re at least in a solid place where I’m like, they might need punch up. But they’re good. They’re solid. They make sense. Like I was saying I’ve always been visually minded. So, when I write a screenplay, it there are not a tonne of pros, there’s not a tonne of like superfluous language or extended world building. It’s very specific as to what you’re seeing. I don’t write camera movements either. I rarely say we see or something like that. It’s mostly like she does this he does that, picks up that, walks across the room, very specifically because I think if you’re going to shoot something. And I don’t give that advice for all projects, because I do think if you’re writing pie in the sky, trying to sell spec, you make it as enticing as you can. But if you’re trying to write something to shoot it, you really need to know what you’re seeing. Because the pre-production is so important, you need to know exactly what you’re going to shoot or an idea of what you’re going to shoot. You can’t kind of go up there and be like, they fight like what’s that look like? I chase ensues you’re like okay, what does that look like? What do we… Yeah, so.
Ashley: I’m curious. I think you said once you had your notes done, you bashed out the script in about four days. How much time do you spend in this note process, this note phase?
Nick: This is a little weird little heady, it’s going to sound pretentious, but like I usually If I have a good idea, I think about it a lot. And I’ll lay in bed at night, and I try to put it through its paces. With this project, I was like, I want to do big bear. I love big bear. I think we can point the camera anywhere and it feels good. I love the isolation of a cabin in the woods, homage to like, Evil Dead. Like, I just think there’s something so indie and simple, but so effective about that. So, I start running some scenes through my head, and I’m like; Alright, does that work? Does that play? I was like, is this stupid, does it make sense, is it going to hold people’s attention? And then with this project, there was a sequence, I kind of saw it more visually than I did writing wise. But there’s a sequence in the picture. It’s a long take, it’s a steady cam shot. And once I had that, I was like, oh, we can pull that off. That’s really cool. That’ll build a lot of tension. And then I just sit and I start jamming. And I let kind of like I have my mile markers, if you will. But I kind of let, the dialogue and the conversation in the scene and the blocking just start to come from the fingertips. And I follow it where goes as long as it doesn’t take me off course. But I kind of know where I’m going. Yeah.
Ashley: Yeah. And how do you know when it’s time to open up final draft and start writing script pages? I mean, I think this is something a lot of screenwriter’s struggle with, I myself struggle with, because I you never quite feel like you’ve got it all in the outline. But you can also just procrastinate forever, and you can be ruminating on the outline forever. At some point, you just got to like sit down and do the work of putting it into script format.
Nick: Yeah, I think the best way to know if you have something or not is to like start writing it. You know, that to me is, I’ve written screenplays, a lot of different ways. I’ve used note cards, I broken things down just wrote basically all the scene headings like broke everything down that happens like beat sheets, I find beat sheets, probably to be the most helpful. This happens and this happens. And this happens, this happens and this happens. Because then while I’m writing a beat sheet, I’m like, oh, that’s a good line for this scene, or this is a good moment for this scene. And then I start filling out the beat sheet a little bit more. And then like, you know, I just sit down and you go to the you know, you write it and you get to the beat and move to the next beat and write it and move to the next beat and write it but I do I do ultimately think it takes and you know probably better to the me, you’re not going to nail it on your first script, or your second or your third or your fourth or your fifth, like you might get lucky. But chances are probably not. So, what you need to do is write scripts, it’s the only way to know if you can do it or not. Or it’s something because there is a working like digital and talk shows for a while. There’s a very functional, like a screenwriter needs to be a tool. Like if someone called you up and they’re like we need four pages. You can’t be like you don’t have all week. Like it’s one thing if you’re working on a passion project, or you’re working on a spec, but like as a paid screenwriter, even the times I’ve paid writers on jobs and positions. I’m like, I need a synopsis and intro and outro and a throw. And like I don’t have time for you to be like I wasn’t there, wasn’t in the headspace. You need to know how to write like you just need to know how to, whether you’re happy with it or not or proud of it. And I know it sounds terrible because people are like, oh my, you know, you see so many especially Film School students like oh my this is the best screenplay ever. And I’m like, that’s not what you know, when the Godfather was written. It wasn’t the first time they ever wrote like, you know what I mean? Like if you think of some of the your favourite screenplays of all time, they click and work really well. That wasn’t the first screenplay they’ve ever written in their life. Like, it’s years and years and like sometimes, and I found that like, really successful writers don’t start until they’re much older because they’re experienced and they can add something to the work, where they’re not just emulating or creating like carbon copies of movies they love. You know, when I was graduating school, everyone was writing Tarantino styled scripts, which, when written poorly are probably the most awful thing you can read, like, just reams of dialogue, because this is awful. Like, like no one’s going to make.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So, let’s talk about your development process a little bit. It sounds like in this case, you had these actors ready to go. So, a lot of the development was working with them. What does that actually look like and how do they give notes and how did you take those notes?
Nick: So, what I did for and I’ve done this with every movie I’ve ever made, anything narrative. I write the script, we do a script read through, everyone sort of gets their bearings. We do another script read through and then I’ll change any line that does not speak well, so I’m never precious, like I can adjust the line or I can adjust a bit of dialogue. If there’s exposition, and I need it to be said to, like, you know, move the scene along, but I’m not precious about like the wording or the phrasing, or if you can say in less words go forward, if you can do it, where to look, knock yourself out. Like I’m a little bit more like that. And ironically enough, I had written the one role for Ted and the other for Colton, and if before we did the script read, they both thought they were the other characters. And I was like, well, I wanted, I was like, my comedic friend. I wanted him to go more dramatic. And my dramatic friend, I wanted to go more comedic, and they’re both like, no. and I was like, okay, great. So, we just flopped them before the script read. It was like, it worked out. I was like, okay, you guys definitely got these characters better than I even got them. And then that was like, very eye opening. My lead actress is from the Philippines. So, we integrated some authentic elements of it so that, you know, she could have her accent. We didn’t like shine a light on it, but we just pointed it out earlier on, because she talks about how it’s the first time she voted and oh, they you know, they have a choice about jury duty and that they have that in the Philippines. So it’s organic, but it’s just to inform her character and be like, Okay, she’s not from the United States, but she’s lived in the United States.
Ashley: Yeah, gotcha. So, let’s talk about just screenplay structure genre requirements. You mentioned this a sci-fi film. Did you were there some films that you kind of watch to get ready for it? But how did you approach just like screenplay structure in general, and even genre requirements? Are there some low budget sci fi genre requirements that you kind of wanted to pay tribute to or just appreciate or acknowledge?
Nick: I’m definitely the Shining. Shining was a big influence on this. Evil Dead. The thing. Just like the general stylings of John Carpenter, there’s an indie movie recently. It’s sort of harsh but called Deerskin, French film. I took a lot of inspiration from that, but that was great. It was like a quirky… It’s not unlike Old Strangers in the landscape, but definitely in the execution. Alien, of course, like Ridley Scott, love him. And that just like, it was about finding the right balance, because what I wanted the movie to feel expensive or as expensive as it could, and I wanted shots and I wanted styling that you would say; Yeah, this is of the calibre of a top-level production. So, I didn’t look to the Indies. I kind of looked at like the big budget stuff. And I was like, how do I do that? How do I you know, with all my… with my budget, my team, how can I pay homage to these moments? But yeah.
Ashley: Gotcha, gotcha. Okay. So once you had your script, what did you do next? How did you raise the money? How did you get the financing together to actually get this into production?
Nick: I just saved the money. My budget was really low. So, I’ll say that. The budget was extremely low, but the asterisk next to that is my crew is very experienced. So, the value of man hours on set was worth way more than the budget of the movie, and everyone was very committed. Like my co-EP Drew Marion, who’s also my lead editor on this project, he and I worked on a tonne of things together. We did all the post production for this. He was my AD on set. Like, just super hard-working guy that knows the industry, gets it, Blake Gate and my DP, we had worked together a bunch like he lit the heck out of the movie, like he had a lot of really cool tools at his disposal. We were using wireless light bulbs and like iPad controlled lighting rigs and full spectrum light. So, we use a lot of a lot of the tricks that we had up our sleeve. My sound recorders Anguinine I mean, one thing I’m really proud about all the audio in the movie was captured on set except for two lines of ADR so I’m pretty proud of that. So, my makeup effects artist Kate Matlock, she did all the beauty effects as well as the monster effects so like just the regular HMU plus all the horror makeup. Everyone was just working so well, so cleanly, James Grant my AC, he was pulling focus and just wrangling all the, there’s so much equipment that we had that just is off camera, and we just had the there was just so many moves to like, make sure every scene looked as good as it could and then just packing everything away and then shifting everything around. So, I saved the money. I had some money saved. I didn’t know if I should put it into a proof of concept. I’ve been doing a lot of proof-of-concepts, I was working for WB doing a lot of proof of concepts. And I was so frustrated with all these fragments of ideas, like these three-minute pieces that I made that were really good, but like, couldn’t stand on their own. So, I was like, I just have to make a movie. And everyone was like, everyone was so gung-ho, they were down there, let’s do it. And it was the best set I’ve ever been on, it was six days, 15-hour days, and it was ah, but we got it done.
Ashley: And I’m curious, what is your pitch to these folks that you’re bringing on? Basically, to help you realise your vision, is it the strength of your relationship with them? I mean, what are some tips for a screenwriter producer that wants to put together production and get great people involved?
Nick: You need some money, you need you need and thankfully, I mean, we were in the pandemic, so no one was really working that much. So, I didn’t have to be too competitive with my rates, but you need some money, I think that’s something like you got to be able to pay them. And it’s going to feel like, oh, it’s a lot or it’s costing you a lot. But like you got to put some money into it right? And what you can’t provide in terms of rate, with my DP, I’m like, I want you to use, I want you to be able to do the things you want to do with different rigs and setups and like we met I storyboarded everything. And I met with Blake, we just sat down, and we were like, we’re going to use this camera rig for this and this lighting rig for this and like, really let your team shine. You know, and I think storyboarding, communication, knowing what you’re going to be shooting, that’s how you get people on a small production to work with you and for and not to mention, we all work together very closely in the studio in Burbank for years, we’re all good friends, we’re all respectful of each other’s talents. And that’s also you just need to know the boundaries of your crew and your cast. Like, I’ve seen plenty of directors’ push people to the brim, like, you can’t be a director as you imagine it being, you can’t sit back, like you’re going to have to carry shit, you’re going to have to help out, you’re going to, if everyone’s hungry, you’re going to have to get food that like, you know what I mean? If people are feeling down, you got to give him a break. You got to talk to them and say, what do you think, guys? Are we go into 3am? Or do you want to call it and then you know…and everyone was so committed to this project. And I’m not kidding, no one, there was no fights, there was no arguments. There was no weirdness. We were just out there hitting it. Everyone was doing what they needed to do. And I was giving everyone the time to do what they needed to do. Wasn’t rushing anyone and…
Ashley: Gotcha, gotcha. Yeah, that’s sound advice, for sure. I always like to end the interviews just by asking the guest if there’s anything they’ve seen recently, Netflix, Hulu, HBO, that they think is really good, especially stuff that would be good for screenwriters, maybe something a little below the radar.
Nick: Ah, something recently, I don’t know. Because a lot of the writing now…
Ashley: Well, you mentioned like, I think you said Deerskin, was a French…
Nick: Deerskin is great. I don’t know. But I for me, it’s like a really interesting movie. And it’s like, this guy’s kind of having a mental breakdown. And it’s really strange…he’s the dude from The Artist. I forget his name. The actor from The Artist. He’s the lead in it.
Ashley: Okay. And where is that available? Where did you find it?
Nick: I think it was on HBO max. So, I checked out like Deerskin was like a few years ago. Really enjoyed that. Trying to think there hasn’t been a ton. I thought Dune was excellent. I think you know, adaptation. I think a lot of things that work now are adapting source material. I think it’s probably smart. If you want to be a screenwriter to look at adaptations, read the source material and then see what the movie in the screenplay ends up being. I know what television you know, it’s hard to give people advice to be an indie filmmaker, because it’s a rough road, or feature length screenplay writer because it’s a very rough road. I think the smarter move now is to be a television writer, getting a writers’ room, like be a writers’ assistant. And like it’s not… the more you can do the job professionally, the better chance you have of taking a passion project or a spec and selling it down the road. You know, you could watch a lot of movies and again, there’s a lot of people that watch a lot of movies, but I’m like, until you start doing it. You don’t learn anything, in my opinion, until you put pen to paper, until you pick up a camera, you don’t learn anything because you’re only going to learn through doing. You can read all the books and you could watch all the movies, but at the end of the day, you have to be able to sit down with your thoughts and put them to paper.
Ashley: Yeah, yes. Sound Advice for sure. I totally agree. How can people see Old Strangers what is the release going to be like?
Nick: So, Old Strangers. This first window is available on like 20 VOD platforms. So, iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Voodoo, Comcast on demand Verizon Fios, you can buy the DVD or the Blu Ray on Amazon. So, it’s kind of basically anywhere you can get like a digital purchase or rental. So, I think it’s 12.99 to buy 3.99 to rent. And then you know, we’re going to see what type of second window with every streamer will end up on. But we’re hoping we kind of get it out there.
Ashley: Gotcha. And what’s the best way for people to keep up with what you’re doing? Twitter, Facebook, a blog, anything you’re comfortable sharing, I will round up for the show notes.
Nick: I’m not on social media as a choice, but it’s @oldstrangersmovie, on Facebook, @allstrangersmovie on Instagram, and @allstrangers on YouTube. And we have clips, videos, and some reviews posted there and other interviews and stuff that I’ve been doing to help promote the project.
Ashley: So perfect, perfect. As I said, I’ll round that up for the show notes. Well, Nick, I really appreciate you coming on talking with today. Good luck with this film. And good luck with all your future films as well.
Nick: All right, thank you so much Ashley, it was a lot of fun.
Ashley: Hey, thank you. We’ll talk to you later. Bye.
SYS from concept to completion, screenwriting course is now available, just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/screenwritingcourse, it will take you through every part of writing a screenplay, coming up with a concept outlining, writing the opening pages, the first act, second act, third act and then rewriting and then there’s even a module at the end on marketing your screenplay once it’s polished and ready to be sent out. We’re offering this course in two different versions. The first version, you get the course. Plus, you get three analyses from an SYS reader, you’ll get one analysis on your outline, and then you’ll get to analyses on your first draft of your screenplay. This is just our introductory price, you’re getting three full analyses, which is actually the same price as our three-pack analysis bundle. So, you’re essentially getting the course for free when you buy the three analyses that come with it. And to be clear, you’re getting our full analysis with this package. The other version doesn’t have the analysis, so you’ll have to find some friends or colleagues who will do the feedback portion of the course with you. I’m letting SYS select members do this version of the course for free. So, if you’re a member of SYS select, you already have access to it. You also might consider that as an option. If you join SYS select, you will get the course as part of that membership too. A big piece of this course is accountability. Once you start the course, you’ll get an email every Sunday with that week’s assignment. And if you don’t complete it, we’ll follow up with another reminder the next week, it’s easy to pause the course if you need to take some time off. But as long as you’re enrolled, you’ll continue to get reminders for each section until it’s completed. The objective of the course is to get you through it in six months, so that you have a completed power screenplay ready to be sent out. So, if you have an idea for a screenplay, and you’re having a hard time getting it done, this course might be exactly what you need. If this sounds like something you’d like to learn more about, just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/screenwritingcourse. It’s all one word, all lowercase. I will of course a link to the course in the show notes and I will put a link to the course on the homepage up in the right-hand sidebar.
On the next episode of the podcast. I’m going to be interviewing writer director Paul Solet. He just co-wrote a screenplay with actor Adrian Brody called Clean. It’s a crime drama which of course stars Adrian Brody as well. He’s on next week to talk about this film. We go into his backstory, how he kind of got into the business, and then also how he got introduced to Adrian Brody and happened to co write a script with him. So, keep an eye out for that episode next week. That’s our show. Thank you for listening.