This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 422 – Paul Solet on Working With Adrien Brody on Clean (2020)
Welcome to Episode 422 of the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger with sellingyourscreenplay.com. This is SYS COVID-edition. My wife got COVID last week and I got hit last night. Last night, I can only describe it as one of the worst nights of my life, just a throbbing headache, really couldn’t sleep. So, I’m just going to get right into the interview, won’t be a lot of chitchat on my end. Hopefully I’ll be feeling better next week. Today I’m interviewing writer-director, Paul Solet. He just co-wrote a screenplay with Adrian Brody called Clean. It’s a crime drama starring Adrian Brody. He’s on this week to talk about that film, we go into his backstory how he got introduced to Adrian, and how he happened to co-write a script with him. So, stay tuned for that interview. We did release the Rideshare Killer on Amazon this week. So, if you’re curious about it, or interested in helping out what I’m doing here at SYS, please do give it a rent, I think it’s just $1.99 to rent it for 48 hours. And if you do rent it, please leave an honest review. Those are very helpful on Amazon. And of course, please pass it along to all your friends who you think might like an indie horror flick like this, as well. It is greatly appreciated. Anyways, here is the interview with Paul.
Ashley: Welcome Paul to the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Paul: Thank you for having me.
Ashley: So, to start out, maybe you can tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up? And how did you get interested in the entertainment business?
Paul: I’m from Cambridge, Massachusetts, I’ve been obsessed with movie since I was a little boy, started writing when I was a little kid, it was one of the only sort of productive things that I continue to do throughout sort of colorful childhood and adolescence and I continue to be obsessed with movies, I eventually went to film school and came out to Los Angeles and started dragging apple boxes around and wrapping cable, and eventually let me start working on movies.
Ashley: Gotcha. So just quickly, I just wonder if you can talk, I’m a big proponent of filmmakers as they start out their careers doing short films, I wonder if you can just quickly take us through your film Grace? How did you take it from a short film to a Sundance feature film?
Paul: I’m a big believer in short, you learn all the skills doing a short that you do a feature and if you can make a good short, you know, all the same rules apply, I mean it’s all the structure, all the timing, everything is there, casting, all the skills, you know, directing. With Grace, we put together like, I think it was a six-minute short film, and did a bunch of festivals with it. And that was sort of a kind of like a pitch reel for a feature that I hadn’t written. And as a first-time director, you know, it’s sort of on you to prove to a financier that they should hand you a chunk of money and that you’re going to spend on your movie. And so that was my sort of; here, look, I can do something that’s relatively competent. And it worked.
Ashley: Gotcha. Gotcha. So, let’s dig into your latest feature film, Clean. To start, maybe you can give us a quick pitch or logline. What is this film all about?
Paul: Clean is a story of a character played by Adrian Brody called Clean, who’s trying to live a quiet life, he’s got a past, a dark past, we don’t quite understand it first. He’s trying to mind his own business, he gets pulled into a conflict with a local crime boss, and you start to see this guy who really doing his best to be a good, good guy, given a reason to be bad again, and what happens when that happens sort of beast comes out of him.
Ashley: And where did this idea come from? What was the genesis or sort of the kernel of seed for this?
Paul: After the first movie Adrian and I did together, you know, we had a great time, and we’re talking about what to do. And he had a very clear sort of emotional vision for a character. And, you know, we started talking about it and chewing on it and decided to dig in together. And, you know, just sort of helped him formulate what that vision was and fill it out. And we just kept chewing on it and chewing and chewing on it. And, you know, over many, many months, and ultimately, you know, Clean was the piece that came out.
Ashley: Gotcha. So maybe you can talk about that collaboration with him. What does it actually look like? Were you guys getting on Zoom calls and talking through things? And then once you had Did you work on an outline together and then did you break up pages? Did he write some pages and you edit them? You wrote some pages, he edited them? Just talk through like just logistically what did that collaboration look like?
Paul: We started working in earnest, I guess it was 2017 probably and he was on Peaky. We had some posts I went out to see him for the other film in Manchester. And just spent a lot of time just hanging out with him. Drinking a lot of caffeine and walking around this great industrial City, and just sort of envisioning this world together, you know, we spit ball, we go off, we work, we compare notes, we go off and work, we spit ball again. You know, anytime he was in LA, you know, we would get together. If I was back east, you know, we’d get together walk around the city in New York. And we just kept it going, we really just kind of kept pushing each other and pushing it forward, until we had something that we really believed in.
Ashley: And what does that look like in terms of how much time it took? Was this you said, 2017 does take a year or two guys are spit-balling. And correct me if I’m wrong, that’s sort of the outline stage where you’re kind of just sort of formulating, like putting it that way and then how long did that take, and then once you have the outline, how long did it take to actually put this into script format?
Paul: It was a pretty quick process for me, it was the fastest that I’ve made a film. I mean, for me, Bullet Head was a project that that from script to screen took about seven years, that’s not seven years I’m working on it, there are other movies happening in between. But for this one, it was pretty quick, you know, it took us a couple years, you know, so I think probably six or eight months to, and with us both sort of working on a bunch of other stuff, six or eight months putting the outline together. Going to pages is relatively quick. I never once… I’m big believer that the heavy lifting is done in the outline. You know, once you have the bones, fleshing it out, it’s just fun. I think once we had the outline, going to pages was really quick. We were, we kept sort of reworking and kneading the dough throughout production. And even into post Adrian was adding some stuff. So, you know, I think, a relatively quick process, but I think for people who are new to the craft would even seem like a long process, a couple years.
Ashley: Yeah. And what does just your writing schedule in general look like? Are you someone that needs to go to the Starbucks, have ambient noise? Do you have a home office you write in complete solitude and silence? Just as a writer, where do you sort of fall on that?
Paul: I like to have my own space. I like quiet. I’m not I’ve never been a sort of nomadic coffee shop writer. I’ve done that a little bit. If I’m overseas or something, I can do it. It’s fine. But I’ll have headphones in with like, ocean sounds. I just want to be in my thing where I’m at. You know, I definitely work, I work every day, I try to treat it like a working class. Like a regular working job, show up at job site, do your job, and then you clock out.
Ashley: Yeah. Now as you guys are working on this script, how do you guys, you know, if there’s any things you guys didn’t agree on? How do you get past some of those things? And especially with an actor coming to you with sort of the genesis of the idea, I mean, I’m sure you don’t want to step on his toes. It’s kind of his baby to start with, but how do you get past those issues where you say, I think it should go this way, he thinks it should go that way?
Paul: Adrian and I have really similar sensibilities and tastes, so we didn’t have a whole lot of those kinds of things. I think that’s inevitable, if you have a good partnership, you’re going to push each other. And if it’s a successful partnership, iron will sharpens iron, everybody will stay open and positive, and sort of willing to accept the possibility that your partners can have a better idea or be able to reshape your idea. You know, I think my experience with screenwriting Is that you, you know, it’s an almost a cliche, I mean, I’m sure you’ve heard it before, it’s like, you really takes like 20 really happy ideas to get to a good one. It just does, you know, in the same way that like, you’re going to write a lot of bad scripts before you get anything that’s actually professional. And you don’t know that, every script you write you think is great. You know, when I look back at the first scripts that I wrote, they’re embarrassing, like, they’re, you know, I mean, I sort of like, their little shreds of like, oh, yeah, you know, if I read that from a kid, I’d say; yeah, he’s, sure… It’s like, if he keeps trying and working and reading a lot, it’s not completely hopeless. But it just takes a lot of time. You know, I’m still learning all the time. And I’m like, I never have stopped looking at myself as a student of screenwriting. I mean, it’s very important to me to understand. And I respect the craft.
Ashley: And I’m curious. So, you guys had the script, you did the outline, then you were able to knock out a draft pretty early. How do you know when it’s time to show to people and to start, you know, getting notes on it? And what did that development process look like for this the screenplay?
Paul: We were pretty tight with each other. And by the time we were working on this, Adrian and I trust each other really a lot. And I mean, I really, really trust Adrian as an actor and his taste and all of the work that he did on this, like you got to understand, he didn’t just not just a star of this, he is not just a co-writer, he’s also producer, he did the scores integral, you know, to the finishing processes and posts, like, he’s really full partner on this. And the emotional vision for the character started with him. So, all of those processes are extensions of Adrian as a creative force, that they’re sort of, you know, just additional ways that he can build performance and shape performance, which I think you know, I don’t know if that answers your question, but it’s…
Ashley: Well, what was the development process? I mean, once you guys had a draft that you and he were happy with, did you send it to some other writers or some other actors, some managers? Did you send anybody to get notes? Did you guys take any notes?
Paul: Not so much on this, I mean, and I actually ordinarily wouldn’t recommend that. I think it this was just a very… there’s stuff in this movie that’s very intimate and personal for both of us. You know, and those are things upon which I don’t know that, it’s very easy to get notes, it’s like, some of the recovery stuff for me, and ideas about faith and fatherhood, and experiences with violence, and these kinds of things. Like, you know, I think we really trusted each other as barometers for what was authentic, and Adrian is very, very good as a partner at pushing for truth. If something feels emotionally inauthentic to him, he will well flag it, and go work on it, and you’ll work on it, you’ll work on it. And that’s what the process is. And I’m the same way, you know, if either of us came with something that didn’t feel honest, or just felt, you know, sort of out of place in the piece, we would flag it.
Ashley: So, and I know, we’re just running out of time here. Just quickly in one minute. What was that next step? So, you guys had a script, how does a movie like this, I mean, obviously, Adrian has a lot of cloud, he’s Academy Award winning actor, so but how do you go and get something like this funded?
Paul: I mean, independent filmmaking is such a massively broad category, there’s no like master key, like, what I wish someone told me was just, you have to do the work upfront, you know, that if the script is not, if you think there might be problems with the script, there are for sure problems with the script. And the truth is, there really is a paucity of good material still here in Hollywood, it’s very hard to write a good piece of work, it takes a lot of time, and patience, and passion. And so, if you do do that work, captive, then believe that it will find its way to people who will appreciate it. Man, if I see the script, I read so many scripts, and been send so many scripts over the years, and I really haven’t respond to very many of them. You know, when I see one that’s good, I’m overwhelm, you know, I will reach out to the writer, whether I’m going to try to, you know, pitch on it or whatever. I’ll just let them know, you did a great job on this, because I know how hard it is.
Ashley: So how can people see Clean? Do you know what the release schedule is going to be like?
Paul: It shouldn’t be everywhere, you know, a bunch of theatres and all the streaming platforms. I mean, it should be not hard to find.
Ashley: Perfect. And what’s the best way for people to keep up with what you’re doing? Twitter, Facebook, a blog, anything comfortable sharing, I’ll round up for the show notes.
Paul: I’m not so much a social media guy. I don’t really care about that stuff so much. I mean, you can find me on there, but I’m not. It’s not really my thing. I mean, when the movies come out, you know, thank God we have people like Diddy and places like IFC that really understand how to promote a film and understand how to do that right. So, I leave it to them.
Ashley: Gotcha, gotcha. So, well, Paul, I really appreciate you coming on and talking with me. Good luck with this film and good luck with all your feature films.
Paul: Thanks. Thanks for your questions. Thanks.
Ashley: Thank you.
Paul: Take care.
I just want to 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 want to produce. Dozens of producers are in the system looking for screenplays right now. There have been a number of success stories come out of the service. You can find out about all the SYS select successes by going to sellingyourscreenplay.com/success. Also, on SYS podcast Episode 222, I talked with Steve Dearing, 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 and select members. These services include the newsletter, this 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 premier 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 5 to 10 high quality paid leads per week. These leads run the gamut. There is 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’re 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 sellingyourscreenplayselect.com. Again, that is sellingyourscreenplayselect.com.
On the next episode of the podcast, I’m going to be interviewing writer-director Lee Van Kete. He just did a shark movie called The Requiem starring Alicia Silverstone. We dig into his career, how he got his start basically just making low budget movies down in Orange County and working his way up, and then how he’s gotten to a point where he’s writing and directing films like The Requiem, and how he put this movie together. So, keep an eye out for that episode next week. That’s the show. Thank you for listening.