This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 438 – If Jumanji was a drinking game.
Welcome to Episode 438, the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger with sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today, I am interviewing writer and also actor Jim Mahoney. He wrote and also starred in a new horror comedy feature called Gatlopp. It’s about four friends who play a drink a haunted drinking game. In addition to being an actor, he has a number of produce feature films as well, including some animation, and a number of short scripts. So, we’ll talk about all of this as well as how he got his new film produced, so keep an eye out for that interview.
SYS is a six-figure screenplay contest is open for submissions just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/contest. Our final deadline is July 31st. Your script is ready definitely Submit Now. We’re looking for low budget shorts and features. I’m defining low budget as less than six figures. In other words, less than 1 million US dollars. We’ve got lots of industry judges reading scripts in the later rounds, we’re giving away 1000s in cash and prizes. If you want to submit to the contest or learn more about it, just go to sellingyourscreenplay.com/contest. Also, this year, we are running an in-person Film Festival in tandem with our screenplay contest. It’s for low budget films produced for less than 1 million US dollars. We have a feature and shorts category, lots of industry judges just like the screenplay contest will be helping us judge the films. The festival is going to take place in Hollywood, California from October 7th to the 9th. Again, this is going to be an in-person event. If you have a finished film and would like to submit to the festival, you can go to sellingyourscreenplay.com/festival. You’ll see a link to Filmfreeway. We’re actually taking all the submissions for the film festival through Filmfreeway. So, if you’re already on Filmfreeway, you can find us there and submit directly as well from Filmfreeway. Once again, if this sounds like something you’d like to learn more about, or perhaps enter, just go to sellingyourscreenplay.com/contest for the contest, and sellingyourscreenplay.com/festival for the festival. If you find this episode valuable, please help me out by giving me a review in iTunes or leave me a comment on YouTube or retweeting the podcast on Twitter or liking or sharing it on Facebook. These social media shares really do help spread word about the podcast. So, they’re very much appreciated. Any websites or links that I mentioned 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 438. So now let’s get into the main segment today. I’m interviewing writer and actor Jim Mahoney here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome, Jim to the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Jim: Thank you, Ashley. I’m happy to be here.
Ashley: So, to start out, maybe you can tell us a little bit about your background where you grow up. And how did you get interested in the entertainment business.
Jim: I grew up in a suburb of Minneapolis called Edina Minnesota, how I always tell people, people that don’t know Minnesota, I said that the easiest way to bring Edina is, it’s the evil town in the Mighty Ducks that is where I grew up, you know, evil preppy hockey players. But I moved out to I went to school in Colorado, I actually went to school for psychology and then fell in love with theatre and comedy out there randomly, started doing stand-up in the Denver area and then moved to Los Angeles in 05 to pursue acting and comedy. Acting became, you know, obviously, it’s a very tough, tough run. So, I getting frustrated, like I think it happened after I had a very big meeting with a big talent agent that I was referred by an executive, a huge executive at Fox features to this talent agent and the talent agent was basically like, congratulations for getting a referral, but I don’t care. Like I’m not signing you. So, get out of my office. So, I was frustrated with that I basically didn’t know what to do. So, I decided to start making things. I wrote a short to be shot in one location on a couch. And I approached my good friend, Zach Lewis, from an acting class. Like; Hey, I have an idea. And I think you’re hilarious. So, would you want to do this with me? He looked at it and was like; Hey, this is actually fine. Let’s work on it. So, he helped me write it, develop it. We approached a director friend who is up and coming who is now kind of a big time TV director and works in features and launches named Richie Keane. He helped us make this short, it did pretty well. And the two of us, Zack, and I got kind of addicted to making stuff. So, we made a bunch of web series and then short films and then Zach had an idea for a feature. So, we started to learn how to write features, and then eventually kind of stumbled into animation. We were mostly just writing kind of like R-rated comedies, adult comedies, trying to get things sold, nothing good was sold and then it got the attention of a manager who was like I need comedy guys. I’ve got nothing, your guys’s company is working so I want to work with you all. And then we sort of a backdoor way, got in front of Sergio Pablos, who was looking for writers to write Klaus, which was his animated feature at Netflix. But before it went to Netflix, he was trying to sell on his own. He couldn’t get it set up. He wasn’t a writer. So, we were put in touch with him. He looked at our wacky comedies and like, this would be a great Nexus, I think there’s great like alchemy of Adult Comedy with family animation, hopefully, we can find some nice middle ground, find the tone, we wrote that movie for him in about 2015 then did a bunch of animated stuff. But while working with a partner for many years, as you do, like, you start to want to like kind of expand your own voice, you know, really kind of like, take chances and see if you can develop stuff further on your own. And so, my writing partner and I kind of took a break, he had an idea for rom-com with his wife, he’s like, I’d like to try to write this with her. And I was like, I have a couple of weird ideas. One is a half hour comedy, but that one is this weird movie that I want to shoot myself. And then I approached Alberto, the director of Gatlopp, and I was like, I got a weird idea for a movie, sort of the same feel, as it was for the very first short I made, I was like we can do in one location, mostly, we can make it hopefully funded ourselves. What do you think? And he was like, I’m in. So, I went off and wrote this movie, I was sending a draft and like he was, you know, helping with very smart notes. And then eventually started, the thing you met in March 2017 was when I approached him with the idea. And then I started writing it later that year.
Ashley: Perfect. Yeah, so let’s I think that brings us up to speed. So, let’s talk about Gatlopp a little bit. So, it sounds like some of this was just practical considerations in the sense that you knew you could self-fund it, you could shoot it in your apartment on your couch. But maybe you can talk a little bit about that. But first, what is just sort of the logline or premise of Gatlopp, and then you can just sort of give us a little insight into sort of why you gravitated toward that story.
Jim: The premise was basically like the real short version is if Jumanji was a drinking game, but it wasn’t how I kind of sold it to friends. But the basic premise is four friends that kind of you know, as you do after you graduate college or move to the town, you start to disperse, and sort of like fall out of touch for almost a decade. They’re reconnected with one. My character Paul hits hard times, he gets a divorce, loses his job, loses his house. So, we have basically crashed on a friend’s couch. And that friend is Cliff was sort of like forever the party child, he’d like the other two close friends together to basically commiserate, have a drink, reconnect and help Paul kind of like, you know, get out of his funk. But then they start playing a game he discovered, they’re having a blast really getting in, but really like, you know, falling back in step with their old ways and jokes and laughs, good times, but then they realize this game is no ordinary game, and they have to essentially beat it, or they’re stuck playing this torturous game forever.
Ashley: Gotcha. And where did this idea come from? And again, I’m just curious. Were there some practical considerations? It sounds like it was similar to your this first short you’re talking about, but what was sort of the genesis of this story idea?
Jim: The Genesis game when I was meeting a few friends like over 10 years ago, to go out have a night on the town, like have a few drinks are what met at a friend’s place who lives near Main Street, Santa Monica. And before we went out, he was like, do you guys want to play a game like pregame? And so, we’re like, Sure. So, we found this weird game, we started playing it, but we were having so much fun. We realized like four hours went by, and we decided to stay in and just keep playing the game. I keep joking that my friend’s wife actually got upset. She was like, You guys are supposed to go out. I was supposed to have the house to myself. But we had so much fun playing this game. And I was like, what if there was a game that was essentially, it tricked you, brings you in, everything’s great, everything’s wonderful, you’re having a good time. But then there’s a catch. And so that is where it started. And I was like, this could be a lot of fun. And we can basically structure in a way where we keep it into the space, like how can we do that? I watched the movie The invitation like, well times because they did such a good job in that movie, of keeping a story that is very contained in the house. Very dynamic and thrilling and exciting. And so, I looked at a way to structure in a way inside one location for the most part.
Ashley: Perfect. So, let’s talk about your writing process a little bit. Where do you typically write? Do you have a home office? Do you go to Starbucks? Do you need the ambient noise? And when do you typically write Do you write first thing in the morning late at night? What is your writing routine look like?
Jim: I mean, mine’s pretty scattershot. I think I do have, I don’t have a home office per se, but I have space in my apartment that I write from like there is a little office nook, but I have like one chair that I love to sit in. But also like I have to like I have a desk and then I have this sort of like pillow setup that I put on my couch when one of the others is getting like uncomfortable. Or I feel like I can move location to just face a different direction. But I pretty much started the morning have a pretty typical routine, get up, make my coffee, I have this ritual with like a grind coffee beans, I have a 10x pour-over, have a drink that on my little mini porch with a coffee and an energy bar and then walk my dog and then I sit down. And typically, I tried to basically say I work until lunch. And I have to try when trying to get through a draft, it’s like at least two hours or three pages. And ultimately happens is if in those two hours, I only get a page and nothing is happening, nothing is working, then I basically say it’s just the day isn’t working, and I’ll go for a run or I’ll go run errands or I’ll clean or something. And then ultimately, whatever was bothering me that morning, will then find something that solution or a different approach. And then that afternoon, I’ll sit back down and kind of bust through. But it’s what usually happens for me is, in that morning, if I’m like two hours, and I hate sitting in front of a blank page, it is so frustrating. But I’ll just kind of like power through for a bit. And then eventually what happens is that I’ll finish more than three pages in those two hours before the two hours are up. And ultimately, I’m like I keep going. And then keep going until it’s two or three hours that I have to stop for lunch. And then if the momentum carries, I’ll continue to the afternoon. But my brain pretty much stops working around like six, like I can’t like past that time. We could just… it doesn’t work for me.
Ashley: Yeah. And how much time do you spend in the outlining stage versus in the stage where you’re actually cranking out script pages? Obviously, that makes your routine a little bit more dicey just to sit there for two hours. And you don’t have the page count to kind of acknowledge your progress. But I’m curious how much time do you spend on outlining? And how do you measure those days?
Jim: Yeah, I think yeah, it’s not quite the same structure. I hate outlining. I absolutely hate it. I’d rather just be writing and then making mistakes and then like solving it. But ultimately, I try to find out for stories that I want to write, like, do I know what the ending is? Can I figure out ultimately where I want it to stop, like how I want it to evolve. And if I can figure that out, I figured a way in and I figured the way out. And that’s those are usually the easiest to be perfectly honest, it’s the middle. That’s always the toughest that second act. But I like to think really hard on how to get in is interesting, too. I feel like if I were to be flipping through scrolling, any streaming service or whatever like is that going to hold my attention past five minutes, that and then if I have an idea of a satisfying ending, and then I will ultimately grind away. Again, kind of the same thing, I sit down, I work until noon. And then if I get frustrated, I go for a run, I make lunch, whatever. Get on the water, go surf, workout, just go for a walk or something. And then ultimately try to stare at a screen for the afternoon until six o’clock hits again, and I ultimately, power down.
Ashley: Yeah, you have any tips after writing this script? Do you have any tips for writers who are thinking about writing a very contained one or two location script? Where there’s some things that you learned through this process? Just to kind of keep the momentum going to try and keep things fresh even though you only have one location?
Jim: That’s a very good question. I think for me the always trying to find a way to surprise yourself at the end, like I never want to I always want to approach any scene or whatever what’s like, okay, this is how it would work. This is how it would be solved. And this is how the like he was start the scene in this way. This is really awkward ultimately end. And you kind of come to almost always come to an answer that is seemingly obvious, I want to say obvious so much, but it is where you naturally want to end. And I always want to if you can find a way to how can you have a surprise there that how can you like, okay, you found the obvious answer, Great. What is a way to flip it on its head, what would be a way to, like what would ultimately surprise you? If you can find a way to surprise you at the end of any scene. And it can be simply what helps us, comedy really works really well for this because you can come up with a joke, even if it’s there’s an obvious is ending but if you can somehow undercut it or have a joke at the end, but it’s a surprise. And so, it keeps it even something that’s contained, dynamic. That’s the hardest part is like what is ultimately going to surprise you and if it does, it will hopefully surprise the audience as well. But it’s easier with a comedy and ultimately with horror because that’s all horror and comedy are the same structure, tension with some kind of release, some kind of surprise and what can that be. And so, I think that’s the best advice I would have for that. Otherwise, watch a lot of movies that take place in one space, watch greenroom, watch again, the invitation was wonderful. Watch, Clue. These things are fun and mystery too, like how do you keep the mystery going? That’s another way I think to keep it as it is. But it’s sort of the same psychological response of a surprise, like a question can be involved with the end. And that ultimately, hopefully keep contain story dynamic.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. Sound Advice for sure. How can people see Gatlopp, you know, with the release schedule is going to be like?
Jim: It’ll be the June 16th. It’ll be on iTunes, Amazon, Roku. And then I guess as much as I know, there’s smarter people than me.
Ashley: And what’s the best way for people to keep up with what you’re doing? Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, anything you’re comfortable sharing, I will round up for the show notes.
Jim: Twitter, I got to get that. On Instagram as well. My handle is @JimMahoney99. My twitter is Mahoney Jim, @MahoneyJim. And I’ll be definitely posting stuff I wrote and directed a movie that’ll be coming out this Christmas. So, I’ll definitely be keeping you all apprised about that as well.
Ashley: Perfect. Perfect. Well, I hope you can come back on the podcast and talk about that one. Jim, I really appreciate your coming on and talking with me today. Good luck with this film. And good luck with your future films as well.
Jim: Thank you so much. It was great talking to you.
Ashley: Thank you. We’ll talk to you later. Bye.
A quick plug for the SYS screenwriting analysis service. To really economical way to get a high-quality professional evaluation on your screenplay. When you buy our three pack, you get evaluations at just $67 per script for feature films, and just $55 for teleplays. All the readers have professional experience reading for studios, production companies, contests and agencies. You can read a short bio on each reader on our website, and you can pick the reader who you think is the best fit for your script. Turnaround time is usually just a few days but rarely more than a week. The readers will evaluate your script on six key factors concept, Character, Structure, Marketability, Tone, and Overall Craft, which includes, formatting, spelling and grammar. Every script will get a great a pass; consider or recommend, which should help you roughly understand where your script might rank if you were to submit it to a production company or agency. We can provide an analysis on features or television scripts. We also do proof-reading without any analysis. We will also look at a treatment or outline and give you the same analysis on it. So, if you’re looking to vet some of your project ideas, this is a great way to do it. We will also write your logline and synopsis for you. You can add this logline and synopsis writing service to an analysis or you can simply purchase this service as a standalone product. As a bonus, if your screenplay gets a recommend or a consider from one of our readers, you get to list the screenplay in the SYS select database, which is a database for producers to find screenplays and a big part of our SYS select program. Producers are in the database searching for material on a daily basis, so it’s another great way to get your material in front of them. As a further bonus, if your script gets a recommend from one of our readers, your screenplay will get included in our monthly best of newsletter. Each month, we send out a newsletter that highlights the best screenplays that have come through our script analysis service. This is a monthly newsletter that goes out to our list of over 400 producers who are actively looking for material. So again, this is another great way to get your material out there. So, if you want a professional evaluation of your screenplay at a very reasonable price, check out www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/consultants. Again, that’s sellingyourscreenplay.com/consultants.
On the next episode of the podcast, I’m going to be interviewing writer and director Eve Symington, who just wrote and directed and produced a film Noir that takes place in modern day wine country called Brute Force. She talks about her journey and how she was able to get this film produced. So, keep an eye out for that episode next week. That’s the show. Thank you for listening.