This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 431 – Two Actors and A Kitchen .
Welcome to Episode 431 of the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger with sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I am interviewing writer director Christopher Moore who just did a really cool throwback to the 80s horror films called Children of Sin. We talked through this new project and how he was able to get it into production. So, stay tuned for that interview.
SYS’s a six-figure screenplay contest is open for submissions, just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/contest. Our regular deadline is May 31st, so if your script is ready definitely submit now to save money. Also, this year, we are running an in-person Film Festival in tandem with our screenplay contest. It’s for low-budget films, obviously the festivals for potentially low-budget scripts. And again, I’m defining the low-budget as less than a million dollars. And we have a features category and a short category. Lots of industry judges looking at these films as well to help with the judging. The festival is going to be is going to take place in Hollywood, California from October 7th to the 9th. If you have a finished film or would like to submit to the festival you can go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/festival. If you find this episode valuable, please help me out by giving me a review in iTunes, or leaving 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 mentioned 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 431. If you want my free guide How to Sell a Screenplay in Five Weeks, you can pick that up by going to sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide. It’s completely free, you just put in your email address and I’ll send you a new lesson once per week for five weeks along with a bunch of bonus lessons. I teach the whole process of how to sell 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 is everything you need to know to sell your screenplay, just go to sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide.
So just a quick few words about what I have been working on over the last couple of weeks, we’re still ramping up our marketing efforts on the Rideshare Killer. As mentioned a few weeks ago, we went live on Tubi TV and have started to see some reviews pop up on both Tubi and Amazon. With Tubi, you can watch the film for free on any device, literally any device, you just download the app or if you don’t want to download an app, you just open a browser, go to Tubitv.com, you can actually watch in a browser. Again, I think you could probably do this on the phone, but I’ve done it on my desktop, you just go to Tubi TV type in the Rideshare Killer in the search box, it’ll bring it right up and it’ll just start playing right there. It’s an ad supported model. So, you will get ads. But there’s no upfront cost of this. In fact, you didn’t even make me register for the site, it will allow me to watch it. And if you do watch it, you’ll like it. Please do leave a review. These reviews really do help push the film to other potential viewers. As mentioned over the last couple of weeks as well, I am trying to learn and prepare for a NFT project for the Rideshare Killer. I have launched a few NFT’s for my film The Pinch, really just as an experiment to learn more about how the whole thing works. So far, I haven’t sold any of them. But I am learning a lot. And I will be launching an NFT project as mentioned for the Rideshare Killer hopefully in the next month or so. And please if you’re listening this podcast and you have any experience with crypto or NFT, specifically, please do drop me an email just [email protected] I’m very much still in the learning process. So, if you have some experience and know something about this and are willing to talk to me, please do drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you. So those are some of the things I’ve been working on over the last couple of weeks. Now let’s get into the main segment. Today. I’m interviewing writer and director Christopher Moore. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome, Christopher, to the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Christopher: It’s great to be here. Thank you so much.
Ashley: No problem, no problem. So, to start out, maybe you can tell us a little bit about your background. Where do you grow up and how did you get interested in the entertainment business?
Christopher: I grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, which is not really known for being a particularly helpful place to be if you’re going to try to get into this and I guess it all started. I mean, the first movie I can remember seeing that like just had a really big impact on me was Disney’s Snow White. And I saw that when I was a kid. And it just I went in there one person and I came out someone completely different. And so, my goal was to be a Disney animator actually and then I realized I couldn’t draw So that was kind of going to be a problem. And so, at that point, I had seen enough live action films to know that you could basically give people the same experience, but with live actors. And so, I thought, well, maybe I should do this film thing. And my family took a vacation to Universal Studios when I was about five or six. And back then they had this Alfred Hitchcock attraction, which is now gone, unfortunately. But that showed you how he created all of his movies. And I thought that is so cool. That’s what I want to do. So, then I was just like, I want to be a director. And then I was like, no, maybe I want to be a writer, I don’t know. And so, then I finally got to film school when I was 18. And pretty quickly, they were like, you know, you can do this other stuff. But maybe you should try to focus on the writing more. And I found it to be a much more interesting department to be in because you could just create whatever you want it to no one was trying to give you any kind of rules as to what’s, what kind of stories you could and couldn’t tell. And so, I found it liberating. And so, in my second my second year, I became like a just a full-time screenwriter, still did some directing and stuff, and then I came back home and was like, what do I do now? And so, I was like, maybe I should just write some scripts. And so, I started to come up with some ideas. And my first one was a movie called Blessed are the Children. That was 2015, I think. And that was my first movie that I claim, I’ve done other stuff before that, but it doesn’t really count. And after that, it was basically I was averaging about one every year and a half at least.
Ashley: Okay, so I want to touch on a couple of things. Where did you go to film school? Just out of curiosity.
Christopher: I went to the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.
Ashley: Okay, perfect, perfect. And tell me you mentioned Snow White as being this really transformative experience for you, exactly what, you go in as one person, what is the difference when you came out? What was actually the difference? Like, how did it actually transform you?
Christopher: Well, I had never seen something that kind of showed the full range of the human experience because it’s a funny movie. It’s a scary movie. It’s a romantic movie, it’s a drama, it’s a comedy, there’s musical numbers, it had everything. And I thought, oh my god, like you can have a movie that just has this complete range. It can make people feel everything all at once. And I think the movies under 80-minutes, I think. I was like, that’s unbelievable that you can do that. And so, I think that that’s why that was the one that just started at all. I just thought my God, there’s so much you can do in one movie. That’s crazy.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So, let’s talk about some of your early projects. On IMDb, you have a number of credits before Blessed are the Children, I was just kind of looking at the to prepare for the interview. And I’m curious, like A Star is stillborn, you know, there’s a bunch of these projects, how did you get these things going? And just I really ask because I know there’s a lot of screenwriters out there, you know, wondering how can I get my some of my first projects into production? Did you self-finance them? Did you have enough of a background in film school that you knew how to do the producing yourself? Maybe just talk about that, some of these early projects, how did you actually get them from script to actually being produced?
Christopher: That was pretty much all self-financed. I mean, they cost about like 50 bucks to make, I mean, so it really wasn’t like, an insane amount of money. And it was just all my friends, we would just get together and say do you want to make a movie? And they’d be like, sure, that sounds really fun. And A Star is Stillborn was actually a feature film cut of one segment of a show that I did called the American Dream, which was kind of a sort of a strangers with candy-esque, mockumentary style thing that I shot with my friends. It was basically all improvised, which I mean, I learned my lesson from that sometimes that’s not always the best idea. You still need to have a thing called structure and we did not have that. So, it was just like, who knows where these character stories are going to go. We’ll just shoot a bunch of stuff and see what happens. And sometimes it turned out well and most of the times it did not so. But it was so much fun. And I learned so much. So, I mean, really, that’s what I would say is that try to write something that you can conceivably pull off by yourself. You know, if you only have your two best friends and a one-bedroom apartment, use it. You know, it might not be your dream film. But at least it’s something.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So, I’m curious. So, let’s dig into Children of Sin, and we’ll kind of get into that a little bit. To start maybe give us a quick pitch or a logline for Children of Sin. What is the what is this film all about?
Christopher: It’s about these two siblings whose wicked step-father decides to send them off to this sort of a pray your sins away camp, because she is pregnant and he is gay. And so, he sends them off there and they have to kind of fight to get out of this place. Because they’re concerned that their mom is going to have to be hurt by this horrible guy. And it’s a religious horror film, and kind of like a Flowers in the Attic, meets Carrie, sort of some people under the stairs, stuff. It’s really fun.
Ashley: So, where did this idea come from? What was sort of the genesis of this premise?
Christopher: I want to say I got this idea when I was in high school, but I didn’t know what to do with it. And it was just like, I want to do a horror film that takes place at one of these creepy camps. And it just sort of marinated for a long time. And then eventually, it was during the pandemic, I was like, I would like to write something because I mean, we all had a lot of time. And I thought, what about that idea from years ago. And with all the stuff that was going on with, you know, Q anon and all these weird cults and stuff, I thought, well, if I kind of put some of that in there, I don’t make it explicit. But I mean, it’s a little bit based on some of these more outlandish culty kind of groups. And so, in some ways, that all kind of helps the idea and gave it a bit more structure. Yeah. So, I just thought that this was finally the right time to tell this story.
Ashley: Okay. And you have the poster here behind you, the people that are watching this on YouTube, they can actually see the poster, but you can find the poster on IMDb. And we’ll link to the film so people can check it out. I noticed the poster is an animated poster. It’s not, you know, pictures, and its sort of reminiscent of some of the horror movies from the 70s and the 80s. What were you sort of going for? What is the inspiration for the poster? And does that sort of trickle down to the film as well?
Christopher: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Because I mean, I’m part of the I guess you could call it the video store generation where I mean, that’s how we were introduced to all of these movies. And I remember being a kid, there’s walking down the aisle and seeing this artwork and just going oh, my god, like what could be inside of this tape? Like, I mean, it was so scary that you would think if they can actually show this in a regular store, what are they not showing us, what’s on the tape, you know, and it was so scary and exciting. And I kind of missed that style. So, I thought when I make this movie, I’m going to have one of those posters. And it’s just my favorite kind of style. And they just don’t they don’t do it now. It’s just, lets put the cast on the poster, even if you don’t know their names, you know, it’s like they’re not stars, but they still stick them on the poster and you’re like, well, that helps if you have big name stars, but it’s not a nice don’t get it.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, for sure. So anyways, I really liked the poster as well it did it has a real good, real interesting style to it. Let’s talk about your writing process a little bit. Just where do you typically write and when do you typically write? Do you go to you know, Starbucks, you need that ambient noise? Do you have a home office? Do you write in solitude? And when do you write, you write early first thing in the morning, you write late at night? What is your writing schedule look like?
Christopher: I have a office here in my apartment. And usually, I tend to write and this is a weird time. I like to write between like five o’clock in the afternoon, I guess really the evening until about eight o’clock. I don’t know why. It’s a weird time. It seems like everybody else is like I want to get up at 6 in the morning and written until 10 or something. I’m like, I’m not a morning person. And my brain doesn’t really connect to the world until like I’ve been up for about three or four hours. So, I work better like right before it gets dark, I don’t know why, it’s weird. It’s very strange. And as for noise, I tend to write with music in the background. Usually film scores, for some reason, that just helps me like when I wrote this, I had like, a lot of like, Halloween and stuff like that, that was just kind of reminding me I’m doing a horror film, let me just get in that mindset. And that really helps me a lot. If I write a comedy or a drama, I do scores from that stuff.
Ashley: And how about when it comes to just outlining versus actually in Final Draft cranking out script pages, how much time do you spend with the index cards outlining just sort of letting the story permeate? And then once you have that, how much time does it take, you actually write the script?
Christopher: I used to not outline much. And that was a big mistake. And with this movie, this is the first one I have outlined, like, crazy, and it helps so much just anybody out there. If you think that you can do it without an outline, I’m proud of you. That’s great. But I would still suggest just to have one just in case, just in case because you do get lost. And you start to think, what was the point of the story again, and you’re like, I don’t know where to go. And it just always drove me nuts. You know, especially like, right in the middle of Act Two is always when you’re like, why the hell am I writing the story? And so that helped me so much. So, I outline for probably like, two months. And then once I got to the actual script part, that’s the fun part. That’s the part I love. I love dialogue. I love the scene description. So that part went by I think I had a first draft within like, two weeks. And I think I’m trying remember how many drafts I had? I think it was maybe 10 drafts all take together, I think.
Ashley: Gotcha. And what is your development process look like? So, once you had a draft done, do you have some actors, do you some other writer friends and producer friends? How do you get notes and then how do you take those notes? Maybe someone gives you a note you don’t necessarily agree with, maybe talk about that process a little bit. How do you get through your development? What does your development process look like and then how do you get through it?
Christopher: Well, I have a handful of people that I usually send my stuff to, who have similar tastes so that I know they’re coming from a good place. And there are notes are usually very helpful. Although this time, I actually went to a script coverage place just because I wanted to make damn sure that it worked. And I sent I think, two different draft and I got some great notes. I mean, really fantastic notes that help the film so much. So, if you can manage that, I say go to a script coverage site, because they’re not really connected to you. So, they will give you good constructive notes. And they’re not going to try to beat around the bush and be like; well, you’re my friends or I need to say this or that. They’re just going to give it to you straight. And that’s what you need. At least that’s what I need. I don’t need someone who was like; That’s brilliant, go and shoot it, because I want to make sure it’s right before I get out there because I’ve made the mistake before of going ahead and producing a film where the script wasn’t all there, it had some good some good scenes, some good characters, but the structure eww.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So, are there any lessons you learned writing this screenplay? Like were there some new things that you encountered writing this and maybe there’s some lessons you can impart to our audience as you went through this?
Christopher: When I started out I thought every character in this needs a character arc. I don’t know why. And so, I realized you don’t need to do that for everybody. Because most movies really don’t even have one strong one to be totally honest, especially these days. So, if you just have one, you’re ahead of the curve completely. Because this is more of ensemble film. It is about the two siblings, mostly. But I was caught up in some weird idea that everyone needed to have this rich backstory and stuff and then you don’t end up using it. Because if you did, it would be a TV show, not a screenplay.
Ashley: Yeah. Okay, so once you had your script, you had these 10 drafts that you were really happy with this 10th draft and was that you’re happy with, what were the next steps to actually raising some money and actually getting this thing into production. And again, I’d be curious to kind of hear how did it come about all the other films you’ve done all the other connections you’ve made? How did that ultimately roll into getting this one into production?
Christopher: Well, it was a very similar experience on all of the films. Once the script is done, or at a point where I think it’s filmable, I just start to cast. And I cast a lot of people I’d worked with before I in fact, I wrote certain parts for certain actors. And they read the script. And they said, absolutely, I will do it. And then we start to look at the locations. With this film, I was fortunate enough to know where I was going to shoot before I completed the script. So, I could go back in and say, oh, well, I thought this was going to be a two-story house, but we only have the one-story. So let me go and retool this whole scene so that it’ll work. Which is one of my biggest problems when I write is that, you know, you can use your imagination, but once you get on the set, it could be a completely different type of set. So, you have to rewrite on the set, which is really tough. So, once I had the locations and the actors, it was just a question of scheduling. And thankfully, no one was doing much of anything. And we all just pitched and it was about a three or four week shoot altogether, I think.
Ashley: Where did you guys shoot?
Christopher: We shot, we actually got an Airbnb for the main location. And I saw it while I was writing, because I thought if I’m going to write this thing, I better know where I’m going to shoot it. And I found this place. And I was like, oh my god, this is perfect. This is the most perfect place for this movie. And it was it was just this retreat out on a lake. And I was like, oh my god, it has everything that we need. And I wrote it for that location, and everything just totally fit.
Ashley: And what does that negotiation look like within Airbnb property owner? Most likely they don’t, you know, they’re happy to rent to a couple on a weekend up by Lake, but they probably don’t want a film crew coming in. So, what did that actually look like? How do you approach them and make them feel confident you’re not going to destroy their house?
Christopher: Well, at first I was like, should I lie? Should I just be like, we’re having like a little get together like a family reunion. But I was like, no, let me just tell them the truth. And I said, yeah, this is a film group. We’re going to make a movie. And I guess maybe because it doesn’t happen here as much as it would in maybe LA where every house at some point, someone’s been like, can we make a film here? So, I think people in LA are a little more jaded towards the whole enterprise. So, they’re like, okay, what’s in it for me? But here, they’re just like, oh, a movie? How quaint. That sounds fun. Sure, you know, and they don’t know exactly what it entails. Fortunately, you know, we do clean up after ourselves, and all of that stuff. But once you start to work with fake blood, you do get a little bit nervous. Like, is this going to come out of the floor? Like, oh my god, you know, but it’s really, that’s the scary part. That’s the scariest part of the shoot is the fake blood because you’re like, oh my god, this is going to stain everything. But magic erasers, that is the tool. Those will get anything up. It’ll never know that we were there ever.
Ashley: Gotcha. So, what is the crew look like on something like this? Obviously, you have a cinematographer, you have an AC, you have some PAs, you got some grip? Tell us just like what did your crew actually look like on a shoot like this?
Christopher: Honestly, it was like myself, and like two other people. I mean, it was really small. It was super small. There are some names in the credits that are not actual people. We were just like, we need to put names in there so it looks like we had a crew. That was an old trick I learned from someone who did an indie film. I can’t remember who it was, it was years ago. And they said if you don’t have a crew, lie, just say that you do. And also, this was coming out of the really bad part of the pandemic. So, this was right after the vaccine, so everyone was vaccinated, but we were still like, we don’t want a lot of people on the set just because of all of that stuff, too. So, it was a small group, but fun one, you know, just a great group.
Ashley: Perfect, perfect. So just as we wrap up the interview, do you have any advice for aspiring screenwriters coming up? What is your advice to them? How can they you know, get their kick their careers a little bit down the road?
Christopher: Well, I would say write something that you can produce yourself. I mean, just something, I don’t care if it’s two people in a kitchen, talking for 90-minutes. I mean, if that’s all you can shoot with what you have, shoot it, find a way to make it work. Because there’s so many people out there that are like, I’ve got this idea for a script, I’ve had it for years, and I’m on draft 84. And it’s this big Star Wars prequel, and I’m like, you can’t shoot that, you’re not going to be able to get that done unless you have 80 mil, you know, and who has that, you know what I mean? So, it sort of makes me kind of sad, because I’m like, do you have anything smaller? Like, you know, just a little mother-daughter drama, just something you know. And so that’s what I would suggest, make something that you can pull off by yourself so that people can see, oh, this person knows what they’re doing. Because I think so many of us just wait for someone else to say, hey, you got anything that we could shoot. And it doesn’t really happen that way, which is unfortunate.
Ashley: Yeah, very sound advice. I totally agree with you on that stuff. So, is there anything you’ve seen recently that you thought was really great? Something that screenwriters could check out, HBO, Hulu, Netflix, anything that’s that you’ve been watching lately, you could recommend.
Christopher: The last movie I saw that I just really loved. I thought the script was so great was a Promising Young Woman, I thought that script was really, really strong. I didn’t expect it to be funny. I thought it was going to be this dark, depressing film, which it has those moments, of course, but it has a kind of a sense of humor that keeps it from being so bleak. And I was really surprised by that. I’m trying to think of anything else I mean, TV now. I mean, my God, every week, there’s a new show, and most of them are great. So, it’s like there’s so much to watch. There’s a show on HBO Max, I think it’s Somebody Somewhere, I think it’s just this very small character driven, small town, kind of a show, great characters. And that’s something that I think if you don’t have a big budget, you could pull off, something like that that’s just a small-town, normal characters just going through their day to day lives, human drama. You know, I love that stuff.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So those are great recommendations. How can people see Children of Sin? Do you know what the release schedule is going to be like for that?
Christopher: Oh, yeah, it’s coming to Amazon on April 22nd.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. So, we’ll keep an eye out for that. And what’s the best way for people to keep up with what you’re doing and just connect with you? Twitter, Facebook, a blog, anything you’re comfortable sharing around up for the show notes.
Christopher: Yeah, I have an Instagram, which is @somepeopleaintme. So yeah, that’s really where I am most of the time. I have a Facebook. I have a Twitter account, but I don’t really understand Twitter yet. I still don’t.
Ashley: Gotcha. Gotcha. Yeah. So, we’ll look up the Instagram account. We’ll put that in the show notes. Christopher, I really appreciate you coming on talking with me today. You know, good luck with this film. And good luck with all your future films as well.
Christopher: Thank you so much. It was a blast.
Ashley: Thank you. Thank you. We’ll talk to you later.
Christopher: All right.
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 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 are 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 That’s the show. Thank you for listening.