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Thursday, March 28, 2019

Interview with Matias Caruso – Part 2 - post author Anthony Cawood

An Interview with Matias Caruso

This interview originally appeared on Anthony Cawood’s ScreenWritingOpportunities blog.


I first had the pleasure of interviewing Matias back in 2016, he’d recently won Page and his script Mayhem was about to go into production.

Well I finally got to see Mayhem a few weeks ago (on the Horror streaming service, Shudder) so I thought I’d do a very quick catch up interview with Matias and see how he was getting along…

Oh, and do check out Mayhem it’s a jet-black horror/comedy and I really enjoyed it.

Anyway, over to Matias.

Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m writing a new spec. It’s a supernatural thriller titled FAIRY.

Q: Anything in the pipeline due for release?
A: Yes, on July 25th a movie I wrote for the local market (Argentina) is opening in theaters. It’s called BRUJA (Spanish word for “witch”). Don’t know if and when it’ll be available in other countries, but I hope so.

Q: What’s the reaction been to Mayhem?
A: Luckily, the majority of reviews have been positive. I usually check rotten tomatoes before watching a movie and it’s fresh there, so I’m proud of that. There’s also been bad reviews, of course, and I read a few of them, trying to pinpoint which criticisms apply to the script in order learn a few lessons and grow as a writer.

Q: Anything you’ve learned as a screenwriter from working on Mayhem/in Hollywood?
A: You usually hear that the script is just a blueprint for the movie, which is a concept easy to understand on the surface. But I think you can only truly understand it once you see the finished film. You have to learn and accept that once other voices come into the mix, the material will change. Some changes will make you jealous (“Damn, why didn’t think of that?”) and others you won’t like them.

Q: A lot of writers are now moving to or also working in TV, have you looked/worked in TV yet or are planning to?
A: Haven’t worked on TV yet. And for now, no, I’m not planning to.

Q: Any thoughts on Hollywood/movie trends for the writers at SimplyScripts?
A: The market seems more IP driven than ever before, which makes original specs harder and harder to get traction. Lately, I’ve been trying to keep my specs’ budget down, more than before, in order to make them more competitive in this increasingly difficult arena.

Once again, thanks to Matias and all the best for future projects.


About the reviewer: Anthony Cawood is an award winning screenwriter from the UK with 4 short films produced and another 10 or so scripts optioned and/or purchased. Links to his films and details of his scripts can be found at www.anthonycawood.co.uk.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

And Interview with Paulina Lagudi, writer/director/producer of Mail Order Monster - post author Anthony Cawood

An Interview with Paulina Lagudi

This interview originally appeared on Anthony Cawood’s ScreenWritingOpportunities blog.

Paulina is the Writer/Director/Producer of the new movie Mail Order Monster (MOM). We delve into how she got started, how she gets films made and how MOM got made.

Thanks to Paulina for a really insightful interview

Q: Could you give me a little bit of background on how you got into screenwriting and filmmaking?
A: I really have to give a lot of credit to my fiancé, Cooper Ulrich, who is also the DP of Mail Order Monster. I had gone to school for theater, but after Cooper and I met, he convinced me that my ideas weren’t crappy and I was really good at bossing people around. I’ve always been casually writing, but didn’t get deep into screenwriting until I wanted to produce and direct. I never thought I was much of a writer, but now I get a lot of enjoyment out of it.

Q: From IMDb it looks like you usually write and produce what you shoot, so what came first for you writing, producing or directing?
A: Producing came first. I produced branded commercial videos first and even directed most of them. I then added writing into that mix when I wanted to make my narrative shorts.

Q: Many writers are advised to ‘film it’ themselves but many struggle to take this step – how did you do it and any advice for those contemplating this step?
A: Well, I can understand the hesitation because writing was a means for me to make work and build a directing reel. However, for those that are strictly writers, definitely just pick up even the cheapest camera and shoot it as cheap as you can first (I recommend you do this with shorts not features to start). Even if no one sees it, you’ll learn a lot about your writing through this process. I started editing my shorts and other works this year and it has taught me so much more about writing and directing. All the storytelling processes teach us more and more about how to connect our stories to audiences. So film it, then through that, recruit some collaborators that can help you expand on your next piece of writing.

Q: You also produce much of your output, how have you found the difficult area of raising funds? Any tips?
A: Well, I’ve become very poor lol. I’ve adjusted my means of living to accommodate my investment into my projects because that’s what I’m willing to do. This business isn’t easy and you have to be willing to give up a lot to continually practice your craft. When it comes to producing, you have to be really savvy. The business is changing for producers. Producers not only have to find funds and the team to make a project happen but also have to know how to market and distribute it in case that ends up being the best strategy for the project. A producer’s wealth comes from connections and time. The more people you know and the more projects you do that can “make a splash”, then you’ll level up to higher budget projects where it is easier for other people to give you money.
I’m actually redeveloping my Producer Bootcamp that takes people from script to release on their project. In general though, if your project can be made for a few thousand that is easy to raise through crowdfunding, but simultaneously builds an audience that you can stay engaged with, do THAT. But every project, especially features where it’s intended to be sold, is a start up. Look at it as a business that is selling a product. Therefore, you need a solid business plan that manages risk NOT one that shows potential gain. Investors are more likely interested in giving a project money that has a tax benefit to them even if the project makes no money. So, be savvy. There are also production and financing companies that exist in order to help find funding for your project if it has a solid package. That package typically includes some letters of intent from name actors and/or name creatives.

Q: You started with a couple of shorts, how did they come about?
A: I wish I had a simple answer for that. They kind of just happened. I would do them all SOO differently now in almost every way if I could, but those mistakes were made to learn from, so no regrets. They pretty much came from being around other creatives that were hungry to make something and learn just as much as I was. We put our heads together and created something.

Q: What did you learn from that experience and take into your first feature, Mail Order Monster (MOM)?
A: I learned how to put out fires and that really is going to be your number one job when you make a feature. You will plan and plan and plan and plan and then it will all go down the drain and you’ll have to call some audibles. However, that becomes quite simple to do when you know your story really well because of all the planning you’ve done. That’s what I learned. Planning is a must, but be prepared for all of it to go down the drain.

Q: Any advice to writer’s considering a similar approach to move into directing or producing?
A: Start now. Start small. Learn how to edit. It’s very simple now with Adobe Premiere. I taught myself how to edit and it really changed the game for me. I was able to produce so much more content for so much less.

Q: When it came to your first feature script, how do you approach structure? Do you follow any particular narrative method or model?
A: Mail Order Monster is a family film, so I definitely followed a standard 3 Act structure with it because it has to be something that kids can swallow. I find that most of the stories I’ve written tend to stay within that structure to a degree, but that’s only because that was what’s best for those stories. I think, just like anything in storytelling, it has to be customized to the story you’re telling. If you’re telling a story that connects better with the audience through a non-traditional non-linear structure, then definitely go with that. If telling your story in that way hinders people from understanding your characters and story, then maybe that isn’t the right approach.

Q: Have you ever written spec scripts and if so how did you get it out there? Did you query Producers, enter competitions, use Inktip, etc?
A: I’ve never written a spec script and have been fortunate enough to have been hired to write a film based off of Mail Order Monster and the treatment I submitted. I have searched for scripts through Inktip, though. I know a lot of fellow producers find scripts through competitions and festivals.

Q: When looking for scripts, through Inktip or elsewhere, what are you looking for and how do you decide on what to read/not read?
A: It depends. If I’m looking for a specific type of genre, then I will look for stories in that genre that I feel like have an edge or haven’t been told in that way before. As producers, we’re always looking for the edge to a script. If it doesn’t have a hook that we can pitch and sell, then it becomes very difficult for us to make it. That’s pretty much my filter for scripts. If the logline sounds like it’s something that audiences will say “Oh, I’ve never seen that before,” then I’ll read it.

Q: Any competitions or festivals in particular that you or your colleagues regard highly?
A: There are the obvious ones like the Blacklist and the bigger screenplay festivals like the Austin film festival. However, if a script is sent and it has that it won any sort of award on there, then we usually give that some merit. Generally speaking, regardless of the name of the competition or festival, your script was still chosen as a winner against others. That’s something that is given weight.

Q: Your feature has a great cast, including Charisma Carpenter, how did casting come together?
A: My fellow producer, Robert Ulrich, owns one of the top casting offices in LA with his two partners. His office, UDK casting, was essential in getting the cast I was so lucky to have had.

Q: She’s playing a very different role to what many people will be familiar with, did that present any challenges?
A: Nope. Charisma is a great actress, so she took on the role that was written very well. She’s a big collaborator so she brought a lot to the character that caused me to do rewrites on the entire script and really elevated it.

Q: You have a child star and co-star at the heart of this movie, what are the challenges involved and the logistics for things like schooling?
A: This is where the producing hat comes on because it’s important to write down the pros and cons of your shooting location. So all the kids in the film were Kentucky locals and we shot in the summer, so we didn’t need any studio teachers or schooling.

Q: I loved MOM, great family film but can be a difficult genre – what has the critical and commercial reaction been?
A: Thank you so much. Critically, it’s had a pretty solid reaction. People either love it or just like it and can see the flaws in it, which I can see every time (we shot a low budget movie with kids in 17 days lol). The overall consensus critically and commercially is that if people can watch it with kids or with a child’s point of view, they really enjoy it. They enjoy it even more if they are a stepparent. I’ve had kids who have been adopted or are step kids cry to me after seeing the movie because they related to it.
On the other hand, it turns out middle aged and young men who aren’t married or have kids don’t like it at all. Although, they weren’t really my demographic when I was making the film.

Q: Where can people see MOM and your short films?
A: MOM can be found on iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Googleplay, Xbox, Vudu, DVD’s at Walmart (February 5) and Showtime (February 6 I think). Some of my short films can be found online at boyish.media under my name, Paulina Lagudi, and also on my Instagram TV @paulinalagudi.

Q: You’ve also worked as just the Producer on things like ‘The Lover’, how different is this when you’ve not got creative control?
A: To be honest, it’s not really my favorite. It depends on the project really. For feature films, which there are a couple coming up soon, I actually like just being a producer if I’ve been hired in that capacity. I find there’s so much creative work to be done when it comes to the marketing and distribution strategy. It was actually too much to handle when doing that on MOM and directing and producing day to day on set.
It is very different, though, because you’re not just answering to yourself. There’s a lot more personality management. But as long as the story and project is what’s at the highest priority, it all ends up working out. Ego is the enemy.

Q: What other projects are you working on now and when can we next expect to see your name on the credits?
A: As mentioned earlier, I was hired to write a feature film for a production company, so I’ve been working on that as well as two other feature scripts. Hopefully, we’ll be shooting one of them this year for me to direct and produce also. I’m also producing a couple movies with some friends of mine, which is always fun when you’re working with talented, hardworking creatives.

Q: Screenwriters get told that there are all sorts of formatting ‘rules’ that they must adhere to… any specific things that would turn you off or stop you reading a spec script?
A: Well, it has to look like a script. I know sometimes people want to get fancy, but you can’t write a script like an essay or a poem or whatever. I don’t know. It’s not fun for the reader. It’s easier if you just follow script format. I also HATE it when a script is sent and it’s clearly a first draft and has tons of spelling and grammatical issues….unless it’s my friends and they’ve told me this ahead of time. In general, if you’re sending out a first draft of your script to producers, you’re not doing yourself any favors.

Q: What’s the best and worse screenwriting/filmmaking advice you’ve been given?
A: Well, on my first draft of MOM, I was told to stop and not write lol.

Now for a few ‘getting to know Paulina’ questions

Q: What’s your favourite film? And favourite script, if they’re different.
A: I have so many favorite films, but the one at the top of my list recently is Andrea Arnold’s “Fish Tank”. Second to that is always “Shame” by Steve McQueen. I don’t have any favorite scripts that I can recall, but I did just read a script from fellow writer, Marc Prey, recently that was one of the best I’ve read in a very long time.

Q: Favourite author and book?
A: I don’t think I’ve ever stuck with reading just one author’s books other than the entire “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” series, which I love! So besides Steig Larrson, my other favorite books are “The Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Ruiz Zaffon, Ryan Holiday’s “Ego is the Enemy” and “Obstacle is the Way”, and John Irving’s “A Prayer for Owen Meany” (that one always stuck with me since I was a kid).

Q: Wine, Beer, Gin… or something else?
A: You just named my 3 favorite things! I love a great Gin and Tonic. My dad has a wine cellar so always grew up on wine. I really love Ports and dessert wines. My fiancé and I also love craft beers. He’s the whiskey drinker, but I still haven’t been able to get on that level.

Q: Favourite food?
A: Oof this is a hard one because I’m a huge foodie, I love to cook, AND I’m Italian. My favorite food might have to be my fiancé’s grilled bone in rib eye steak. It is pretty phenomenal. Second to that is pasta with my homemade tomato sauce.

Q: Any other interests and passions?
A: I study Krav Maga. So far, I’m two more tests away from being a blue belt. Context to that is a blue belt is two belts down from a black belt.

Q: Any final thoughts for the screenwriters of SimplyScripts?
A: This industry is a long game. It takes a lot of practice and a lot of persistence. I recently came across this quote that was very helpful to me, so I’ll share it with all of you:
“All of us who do creative work…we get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there’s a gap, that for the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good…It’s really not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not quite that good. But your taste — the thing that got you into the game — your taste is still killer, and your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you.” – Ira Glass (an excerpt from Ego is the Enemy).

Once again, thanks to Paulina for such a great interview.


About the reviewer: Anthony Cawood is an award winning screenwriter from the UK with 4 short films produced and another 10 or so scripts optioned and/or purchased. Links to his films and details of his scripts can be found at www.anthonycawood.co.uk.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Interviews: Mark Renshaw - post author Anthony Cawood

An Interview with Mark Renshaw

This interview original appeared on Anthony Cawood’s ScreenWritingOpportunities blog.

Q: Could you give me a little bit of background on how you got into screenwriting?
I used to write short spoof stories starring people I worked with. They became quite popular in the office. A guy called Al Lougher read one of them and approached me to see if I was interested in writing some screenplays for him to shoot. I said yes for a laugh and found a love for the craft of writing scripts.

Q: And how long have been writing screenplays, and you write fiction too – which came first?
Fiction first. Can you believe I switched from prose to scripts because I thought screenplays would be easier? HAHAHAH! What a loon!
Anyway, I dabbled around for a while just writing spoofs and really bad scripts and didn’t really take it seriously until 2013. That is when I threw away everything I thought I knew, bought a load of screenplay writing books and started from scratch. That’s also when I joined [the] Simply Scripts [Discussion Board].

Q: You have taken direct action with some of your work and helped get them made, what made you take this approach?
I quickly realised that I had a lot of competition. There are thousands of scripts online from writers who are literally begging to get them produced. Most seem willing to offer their scripts for free just to get their first sniff. There are also thousands of entries from annoyingly talented writers in every major screenwriting competition out there.
At first I just believed folks would read my brilliant scripts and be queuing up to produce them. That bubble quickly burst. I decided to take action to get one produced myself. I saved up for a year, wrote the cheapest script I could come up with, snagged a director (having the funds REALLY helps with this) and got it made.
The idea was to showcase what one of my scripts looked like on screen, made with just the money from my own pocket, and hopefully give others the confidence in my work. I hoped this would help me stand out.
That didn’t actually happen the way I imagined. It took over three years, producing three of my scripts at my own expense, taking the films around the festival circuit and spending ages promoting them before I started to get the types of queries I’d been hoping for on day one.

Q: You made a great short (and starred in it!), I Am Peter Cushing, back in 2002, was that your first foray into movie making?
It was the first short film I made and it was great fun. I made that with Al Lougher and we filmed it guerrilla style. I wrote and starred in it as the main character and used my family and friends as extras. Al borrowed a camera and we just went out, found locations, set up, took some shots and ran as we didn’t have permission to shoot anywhere.
Prior to Peter Cushing we shot a trailer for a feature film that doesn’t exist called, “Winston: The Last Known Jamaican Witch Hunter.” Can you believe we got Danny John Jules from Red Dwarf interest in making a film based on that? It all fell apart when he found out we didn’t have a clue what we were doing lol but Al kept the voice mail with him agreeing to it for ages. He may still have it!

Q: What did you learn from that experience and your subsequent shorts?
Being involved in the script to screen process is one of the most valuable lessons a screenwriter can experience. Collaborating with a director on the script is an education. It’s an amazing but sometimes challenging process. The script will change, a lot! Some is unavoidable due to budget, location etc. some simply because the other person wants to pour some of their creativity into the story. The screenwriter must learn to be open to collaboration, to weave in the changes without breaking the spine of the story. You must also learn when to stand up and challenge changes.
Also, hearing your dialogue spoken by an actor is incredible. You instantly know what works and what doesn’t and the actor helps you figure it out.

Q: Any advice to writer’s considering a similar approach?
DO IT! Even If you need to use you own phone, family and friends. Making I Am Peter Cushing and that spoof trailer was one of the most fun, educating experiences I’ve ever had.

Q: You have a number of projects, including features, in development – what’s the situation with them?
I have a TV series I’ve developed called The Nearscape. It took me a year to write the pilot script, TV bible and supporting materials. I also made a proof of concept short film called The Survivor: A Tale From The Nearscape. I have the pilot script in all the major TV writing competitions, the film in film festivals and pitching the idea to however I can. I realise I’ve got zero chance of getting a big budget sci-fi TV series sold as I’m an unknown, but I’m passionate about the Nearscape and thought, why not try.
Saying that, it’s scoring well so far and reaching the final stages in some of them. I got an email from the BBC today as I was writing these answers telling me it reached the final 4% of the Drama Writer’s Room group. It also got to the final of the Inshore Fellowship.
Apart from that I’m writing a feature length version of Cyborn. My writing time is extremely limited, so those two are my main focus for now, although I’ve loads of ideas I dabble with.

Q: You’ve written a ton short scripts, why do you think they are useful?
They are the backbone of my writing. Due to work and family commitments, writing is a hobby. I may get 3 hours a week to write something, sometimes no time at all, so a short script or story is very much more achievable for me.

Q: Did you start with short scripts and then move to features?
I concentrated solely on shorts for the first few years, then half hour TV pilots. Last year was the first time I attempted a one hour TV pilot. I have tried writing features before but they’ve been disasters.

Q: When it comes to feature scripts, how do you approach structure in your scripts? Do you follow any particular method?
My previous two features were horrendous. Due to the time constraints mentioned, I avoided features for ages. Then I suddenly attempted to write some with no preparation or structure. The results where vomit drafts that were beyond hope. I wrote myself into corners I couldn’t get out of without scrapping the whole thing and starting again.
With Cyborn, I’m trying to do it properly. Due to my time limits I needed help, so I’ve been following the guidelines in the book, The Coffee Break Screenwriter: Writing Your Script Ten Minutes at a Time by Pilar Alessandra. I was luckily enough to attend some of her classes at the London Screenwriting Festival last year and she signed a copy for me. The book breaks down the planning, structure and writing of a feature into easy to follow ten minute segments.
So far I’m loving it. I’ve written the whole outline including character bios, broke it down into acts, sequences and scenes yet I’ve not written a single page of the script yet! I’m finally ready to begin this weekend. The plan is to treat each sequence as a short script, but one that is already planned as a connection to the next. I’ll spend the week planning the ‘short’ in my head just like I do for the Simply Scripts one week challenges, and then write it in a day. Rinse and repeat the following weeks until the first draft is done.
That’s the plan anyway!

Q: What was the first feature you wrote and how did you get it out there? Did you query Producers, enter competitions, use Inktip, etc?
The first feature I wrote was called Impulse. I paid £100 to have it professionally reviewed and it got such a bad report, I never showed it to anyone else and binned it.
The second was called The Twelve Step Killers. This was another vomit draft. I put it on Inktip to test the waters, got around 5 requests to read the script but no follow ups. I’m not surprised though, it was terrible.

Q: Your work has done well in a variety of competitions (congrats!), have you received interest from agents/producers afterwards?
Rarely. I got asked for some horror features after I reached the finals of Shriekfest in 2017 but I didn’t have anything suitable. Apart from that, nothing. I promote my wins as much as I can on social media but the queries I’ve had so far are a result of listings on Inktip, Simply Scripts, Script Revolution etc.

Q: What are your thoughts on screenwriting competitions in general?
In my opinion and experience, a lot of these competitions (and film festivals) are cash cows that take advantage of writer’s and independent filmmaker’s hopes and dreams. They are like a lottery in many ways. When I was at the London Screenwriting Festival I also attended a few sessions held by agents and producers. They said the only competition they take notice of is the Nicholl Fellowship.
So unless you are taking part in the top screenplay competitions in the world (there’s only about 10 which the industry recognise and thousands enter these) the rest are just digital laurels you can put on your writer’s CV that may help build your portfolio, but they won’t impress the big boys.

Q: Your feature script, Cyborn, recently won the Inroads Fellowship Awards, what’s the prize and what next for Cyborn?
The prize was supposed to be a trip to LA to attend the Robert McKee Story seminar. Unfortunately, the seminar changed dates late on and it was over before Inroads finished. So, they’ve given me a cash alternative of $1,200 (£814) and I’m going to the London seminar in May instead. It’s not LA but I’m still excited about it.
I also get Inktip listing and some copyright vault freebies. The main prize is they are going to promote me and my work for the next 12 months. I’ve no idea what this entails, they are getting a press release ready now. Whatever happens, I’ll try to take advantage of it.
As for Cyborn, I’m desperately trying to turn a three-page short into a feature as quick as I can in case someone asks for it!

Q: You’ve managed to go a step further than many with some of your work gaining distribution in a variety of places, how’d you go about that?
I got a bit lucky there. The distributors saw my film online and approached me with a distribution deal. This is a first for me, it is a 3-year deal, so I’ll see how it goes.

Q: And where can people see these released works?
I Am Peter Cushing, Surrender and The Survivor: A Tale From The Nearscape are all on Vimeo and YouTube. The links are on my website at www.Mark-Renshaw.com. No More Tomorrows and the So Dark episodes are on Amazon Prime.

Q: There are a ton of people out there who offer coverage services, position themselves as gurus etc, what’s your view on such services?
I’ve used such services for spelling an grammar. But if I want an opinion on the script as to the story, characters etc. I’m not willing to trust some anonymous person’s opinion who I have no idea how much experience they have. I like to get feedback on trusted beta readers, fellow writers at Simply Scripts and other writing groups I’m a part of. Some of these people’s work I’ve seen and really admire. I tend to reach out to those for feedback.

Q: What are your thoughts on the business side of screenwriting, getting your scripts ‘out there’ and networking to make connections?
I love writing. Producing, promoting, networking; I pretty much hate all that. I wish I had a producer to do such things but I don’t, so it’s down to me for now. It’s a necessary evil, so I put on a mask and do it.

Q: You are fairly active online, SimplyScripts, Facebook groups and the like, why do you think these are important?
I think staying in touch with other writers is very important. We are like a clan, we support each other, which I do like. Sometimes it’s a very naughty distraction though. I end up checking Facebook when I should be writing sometimes.

Q: If you’ve used services/sites like Inktip, SimplyScripts, The Blacklist, what’s your view on this type of model for screenwriters to get their scripts seen, and hopefully picked up?
Anyway to get your script out there is gotta be good right? I just don’t like paying a lot for these things, so I’ve used Blacklist but didn’t really like it. Similarly, I use the free Inktip short listings but the paid for section is used sparingly.

Q: What other projects are you working on now and when can we next expect to see your name on the credits?
Due to time constraints I can only focus on one thing at a time. For now it’s writing Cyborn while promoting Nearscape and some shorts. I do collaborate with Al Lougher a lot and I’m always working on something with him. The latest was a brilliant short film called The Dollmaker, written by our old Simply Scripts pal Matias Caruso. I helped out with the producing on that, don’t think I got a credit (yet), but I honestly don’t mind as I just love collaborating with another creative like Al. The Dollmaker is killing it at the horror festivals at the moment.

Q: What’s the best and worse screenwriting advice you’ve been given?
Some feedback notes I’ve received from film festivals have been horrendous. The last bunch of notes I got for Nearscape was basically a list of TV shows they recommended I watch…and I’ve seen them all lol. The best, was to get honest feedback from people who don’t know me and therefore have no vested interest. Family & friends are nice, but they won’t tell you the truth.

Now for a few ‘getting to know Mark’ questions

Q: What’s your favourite film? And favourite script, if they’re different.
Predator. Cheesy I know but I think that film is pretty much perfect. My current favourite script is The Expanse TV pilot.

Q: Favourite author and book?
Legend by David Gemmell.

Q: Beer or Wine (or something else)? And which variety?
I quit alcohol a little over 4 years ago. Now my guilty pleasures are coffee and chocolate.

Q: Favourite food?
See above!

Q: Any other interests and passions?
Just the usual boring stuff, reading, music, training vampire dragons etc.

Q: Any final thoughts for the screenwriters of SimplyScripts?
You guys are amazing. You are creators. Most people on this planet, they destroy stuff. You are the creators of stories; there are not many greater callings in my opinion. The feedback and support I’ve received on Simply Scripts have been priceless. The One Week Challenges, I’ve enjoyed them more than any film festival. Keep up the great work!

Thanks to Mark for taking time out for the informative interview and check out his site for links to some great material!

About the reviewer: Anthony Cawood is an award winning screenwriter from the UK with 4 short films produced and another 10 or so scripts optioned and/or purchased. Links to his films and details of his scripts can be found at www.anthonycawood.co.uk.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Interviews: Lisa DeVita, writer of Peelers. - post author Anthony Cawood

If you’ve not seen it… Peelers is a fun filled horror film set in a strip club, more details here.

I was lucky enough to catch up with the writer recently and Lisa Devita was good enough to spend some time answering all my dumb questions and her answers are insightful, entertaining and often hilarious – thanks Lisa!

Q: Could you give me a little bit of background on how you got into screenwriting?

I was coming upon the last semester of my tenure at university… decision time… what do I want to do with my life once I must leave the sanctuary of school?  I was at a loss as to what to do with a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in English. My choices were to become a school teacher or get a job at a video store. I wasn’t very keen on either and then it hit me… all my life I’ve been a storyteller. I majored in English because I loved reading stories and I loved writing them. As a kid I’d spend hours in front of the mirror, not doing my hair and trying on makeup, but acting out plays, doing stand-up comedy and hosting variety shows. Just before I graduated I finally woke up and saw the answer that had been sitting right in front of me the whole time, I was just too wrapped up in university life to see it. But I wasn’t sure what type of writing I wanted to do so I enrolled in two courses that were quite different to see which one appealed: Copywriting and Screenwriting. The Copywriting class was interesting and fun but I didn’t like the whole consumerist angle to it and the storytelling aspect was kinda limited to an ADHD audience. The Screenwriting class however, grabbed me hook, line and sinker. I fell in love with every aspect… the character development, the dialogue, setting the scene, the hero’s journey, the plot twists, learning the lesson. All of it had me at “hello.”  The next day, I applied to Vancouver Film School’s Writing for Film & Television program and have never looked back.

Q: Peelers is your first IMDB credit for Writing, but you have a number of credits in Editorial capacities – what did these entail?

I worked in Post Production mainly as a coordinator helping to streamline the editorial process. I loved it. Post Production is amazing to behold how it all comes together. I also worked in research and story development on a Factual TV series called “Vanity Insanity” that delved into the world of plastic surgery… very interesting and scary stuff. It was an amazing experience as I got to work in the area I’m most interested in (Story Development). I also worked in Clearances. Worst. Job. Ever. You’re basically asking permission to use someone’s likeness in a show, or a logo, or some footage, and nine times out of ten the answer is either “NO” or “what are you going to do for me?”  Although the best answer I ever got (from an actor whose likeness we wanted to use) was a 2-page, single-spaced essay on how the work I was doing (in this case clearances on a documentary on vampires in film) was the work of the devil and if I only chose to follow Christ, that my life would be better for it. I still have the letter. It’s gold. Either way, I’m not one to ask for permission, it’s just not in my nature. So I quit very soon after.

Q: Was this experience useful to your screenwriting?

I would say this experience was far more useful in the world of office politics and learning how the whole process of TV making happens, and how building and nurturing relationships is essential. But the number one thing I learned that has been the most important lesson and carries me through my filmmaking career to this day, is that no matter what happens, if your lead actor drops out at the last minute, or your camera gear isn’t working on set, or the caterer doesn’t show up, that there is ALWAYS a way to get it (your shooting day) done. You just have to have hustle and creative chutzpah, but there is a way. It was the producer of the factual TV series we were working on who taught me that, Laura Watson. Sadly, she passed away a few years ago from breast cancer, but I’ve never forgotten that lesson (and watched her implement it on multiple occasions). In fact, we dedicated Peelers to her memory because there’s no way we could’ve made the film without remembering her lesson.

Q: Did you write anything else prior to Peelers, Shorts or Features?

Yes, I’ve written a couple of features and many, many shorts. I love shorts. I find them so easy to write. All you need is one great idea, or a great twist. I know they’re not the best way to try and make a living (unless you’re Pixar) but I still love writing them.

Q: And Peelers, was that spec or commission?

It was on commission. I’m supposed to get a dollar for the script (still haven’t seen it though). Such is the reality of indie filmmaking.

Q: How did you hook up with Seve (Peelers Director)?

Sevé’s sales agent on Skew (his first feature film) suggested he make another horror film because they’re easier to sell in the indie market. His only two requirements were that it have more blood and more nudity. And while I’m all for nudity (who isn’t?), Sevé didn’t want to make a film with gratuitous boob shots. So he thought: where can a film take place in which nudity is the norm?  And the location for Peelers was born. At this time we were both working at one of the biggest production houses in Vancouver, BC within the post production department (he was a colorist and I was a post production coordinator). We had played baseball together a few times outside of work and therefore Sevé knew that I was working on my own screenplays, so he pitched me the idea of writing a horror script that takes place in a strip club. I used to live in Las Vegas so I had lots of source material and so I jumped at the chance to write the script. In fact, the story for Peelers was inspired by a crazy incident that happened to me while at a strip club in Las Vegas. But I’ll have to save that story for another time… Anyway, we both have the same sense of humor and we worked really well together so it turned out to be an amazing director-writer partnership where one person is a little nuts (the writer) and the other person reels it in and edits for structure and focus (the director).

Q: Did you have to change the script much to get the film made?

The basic concept for the story didn’t change but definitely a lot of the kills did. In my initial drafts I had some crazy kills that would’ve involved some pretty high tech special effects (or highly skilled visual effects) both of which we did not have access to and when Sevé read them in my script he kindly reminded me that we didn’t have a $25 million dollar budget, so it was back to the drawing board for many kill scenes. Basically, we discussed which kills we wanted to keep the most and spend our budget on. I was allowed to keep two or three, but the rest had to be “finessed” into indie budget standards in order for us to shoot.

Q: Peelers is proper old school exploitation, how much fun was it to write?

A ton of fun!  As most of my friends and family can attest, I’m a teenage boy trapped in a woman’s body. I love crossing the line, pushing the envelope. I love potty humor and boobs. I have no filter and so this is how I approached the screenplay. Of course this is where Sevé makes for such a great creative partner – he encourages me to write sans filter on the first go-round, just get everything out there on paper, but then he sees the big picture (and the budget) so he’s a pro at knowing what to keep, what needs finessing and what needs to go. Sure I fight for my favorite stuff to stay in the picture; sometimes I win, sometimes I lose, but in the end, I trust Sevé and it’s always a learning process. The ending for example (I won’t give it away) Sevé and I debated a long time whether to keep it or not. We worried that people might think we went too far and end up hating the entire movie because of it. But in this overly politically-correct world, I’m always looking to offend, so we decided to keep it. And I’m glad we did because people go nuts for it. Audiences scream with devilish glee at it. And then turn around and say, “I can’t believe you went there.”  And that’s my aim as a writer (well, one of my aims). I definitely was a champion for more humor in the script and Sevé wanted more of a serious tone, so those moments in the film that are cheesy and goofy and sick and twisted are my doing and the more pensive, somber moments have gone through the “Sevé edit.”  In the end, I think we got the balance just right. We’ve had so many reviewers write that we got the mix of gore and humor bang on, which is so great to hear especially after months of back and forth deliberation wondering if we went too far down either end of the dark/dreary or ridiculous/cheesy spectrum.

Q: And you were also involved in the film’s production as a Producer, what exactly did this entail? 

Producer = Do every role that you don’t have crew for (for indie filmmakers anyway). All you have to do is watch the credits roll at the end of Peelers and you’ll see mine and Sevé’s name on there at least 20 times (and of course there’s lots of stuff we didn’t bother taking credit for). And most of the roles I took on, I had zero experience in. But you learn pretty quickly, because if you don’t, there’s no movie. To this day (three years after production) I still have plantar fasciitis and achilles tendonitis from being on my feet all day, everyday during production. I refer to them as my battle scars. I worked extensively in acquiring sponsorship and music for the soundtrack, set design and construction, costumes, prop acquisition and rentals, location scouting, craft services and first aid to name a few. I was even a half naked body double. It was the hardest I’ve ever worked in my whole life. And I did it without pay. And I loved it. Sure there were tough times. But at the end of it all, it was truly amazing to take it all in and say, “Look at what we did!”  Truly unbelievable.

Q: And how was the film funded, it wasn’t through poker winnings was it?

No poker winnings involved this time, haha, although it was seriously considered. And that’s no exaggeration… as indie filmmakers, you honestly consider EVERY possible way to raise funds for your film and since I’m pretty consistent at coming out ahead when I play, we toyed with the idea of me going to Vegas for a few months to “raise” money. Ultimately, we decided against it, as it was too time-consuming and not as cost effective as we imagined. We funded the film however, through all of our own money that we saved up from working our asses off at our paid jobs, lots and lots of favors, begging, loving parents, and Kickstarter. Although I wouldn’t do Kickstarter again. It’s much more bother than it’s worth.

Q: You’ve been on the road touring festivals with Seve/Peelers, fun or grind?

Although I’m definitely a “glass-is-half-full” kinda person, if I’m being totally honest, I’d have to say it was more grind than fun. Don’t get me wrong, some festivals are great. For example, A Night of Horror Festival in Australia was amazing, but that’s because it’s run by an amazing guy (who has become a good friend now). The Julienne Dubuque Fest is also incredible too. Also, run by an amazing woman. But most festivals are a total waste of time and money. It is truly the people running the show who make or break a festival and most are definitely broken. After our festival run I was totally burnt out and despondent from the overall experience. I will definitely be much more selective when choosing which festivals to attend in the future.

Q: And where are you with Peelers now, distribution all sorted and festivals finished?

Distribution is continually ongoing but so far we have distribution in Canada, USA and overseas. Festivals are done now, although we occasionally get asked to screen at various venues and conventions still. We even screened at a Drive-in in Shelbyville, Indiana this year!  Very cool.

Q: And where can we see Peelers?

We are now all over the USA… RedBox, VOD, iTunes, Amazon.com, etc. Many foreign countries are picking us up and Canada is slowly coming along… I know that we are on VOD now. More to come…

Q: There are a ton of people out there who offer coverage services, notes, feedback and position themselves as gurus etc, what is your view on such services?

I’m sure those services are great if you can afford them, but I think the best script doctors are the ones who love stories, and yes, that’s probably most everyone, but that’s because I believe storytelling is an innate gift in all of us, some of us just practice it more often than others. My brother and sister for example are excellent script doctors. My sister is a book worm, and I give her my scripts to read all the time. I trust her because she knows instantly what works and what doesn’t, she has a great sense for pacing and flow in a story and yet she’s never been to film school or taken a course in screenwriting. My brother has seen every movie out there. He can tell you exactly what’s wrong with Star Wars Episode 3 before you even think about it. So I trust his input implicitly. You watch enough movies and read enough books, you know how a story is supposed to work, even if you’ve never written one yourself. Besides, the professional script doctors I’ve met are jaded, bitter and don’t have the time to watch movies or read books. I’d rather give my script to someone who wants to help me find the magic, not someone who wants to see me burn in hell, hahaha.

Q: What are your thoughts on the business side of screenwriting, getting your scripts ‘out there’ and networking to make connections?

I know networking is essential in order to make connections, in order to get your work out there, in order to get discovered, in order to make a living off of writing, and so on and so forth, but I just loathe it. I live inside my head, I don’t want to go out into the real world and make small talk. Besides, no one wants to talk to the writer (even though writers are the most interesting of the bunch!)  But alas, if I want my work to be discovered, it is what I must do. And so, in between my writing and my drawing and my reading and my daydreaming, I plan on getting out there… I even got Larry King’s book on small talk entitled: “How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere.”  It really is an amazing book, very helpful. I’ll be testing it out at an industry party soon. After a few drinks of course.

Q: If you’ve used services/sites like Inktip, SimplyScripts, The Blacklist, what’s your view on this type of model for screenwriters to get their scripts seen, and hopefully picked up?

I haven’t used these services yet but I’m definitely up for doing so one day when I become that proud parent who has a baby script I’d like to show off to others. I don’t know any screenwriters personally who’ve found success with any of these services, but I’ve read the loglines on The Blacklist website and some of them are great, so I’m sure, or at least I hope, these screenplays will get picked up.

Q: What are your thoughts on screenwriting competitions, entered any yourself, any success?

I think they’re all a scam. Just a way to make starving artists starve even more. I’d only enter a competition if the fee was waived. The fees are just way too high on the majority of competitions and only a very select few are worthy of your time. Similar to festivals.

Q: You worked for the World Series of Poker and I believe you play a bit too, what’s the highest level/buy in you’ve played at?

While I was working for the WSOP I was allowed to enter the Media-Celebrity event since I was part of the media. It takes place halfway through the World Series tournament and there are approximately 500 entrants. The buy-in is taken care of for you and your final table winnings (if you make it) are donated to the charity of your choice. It was an absolute blast. A few times I was down to my last chips, in serious danger of busting out, but I miraculously built up my stash each time. Celebs at my table at different points in time during the tournament included Jennifer Tilly (she’s very good, very aggressive player), Dick Van Patten and his son Vince Van Patten, Shannon Elizabeth and even the legendary Ron Jeremy (what an entourage he had… ) Amazingly, I actually made it to the final table and busted out in seventh place overall! Because of this, I’m listed on Card Player’s website (which in the poker world is a big honor, haha).

Q: How did you get into poker?

I was living in Las Vegas at the time and I’d always been intrigued by the game. I love games in general as I’m highly competitive. So one day, my boyfriend at the time taught me how to play. After a few home study sessions he surprised me on my birthday with a night out at a live poker table in a real casino. I started with 40 dollars at a 1-2 table. I was SO nervous. Each time the dealer called action on me I could barely hear him over the deafening thudding of my heartbeat. Whenever I placed a bet my hands shook uncontrollably, I could barely hold the chips without dropping them. I don’t know if anyone else noticed this but my boyfriend sure did, telling me it was so obvious. To this day my hands still shake whenever I have good cards, so friends and family always look for this (my poker “tell”) and avoid playing against me when they see it. I’m still working on learning to control it. Anyway, two hours later, I had made $200 so we decided to leave on a high, nothing too greedy since it was my first time. I was absolutely hooked on the game from that day forward. It was a great birthday.

Q: What projects are you working on now and when can next expect to see your name on the credits?

I’m all over the map at the moment. I’ve written a sci-fi novel (first draft) that is in desperate need of a re-write (but I’m excited to do so). I’ve also finished a family-comedy feature film script (quite the departure from a stripper horror). And I’m currently working on a dark comedy.

Q: You write fiction and factual too, how do you find it swapping between disciplines?

I find it much harder to write factual, and a bore, I can’t help but embellish. I’m not a fan of reality.

Q: What’s the best and worst screenwriting advice you’ve been given?

Best advice:  “You can’t be afraid to look dumb, especially when writing comedy. You have to get through all the dumb stuff in order to get to the gold.”

Worst advice:  “Write only what you know.”

Now for a few ‘getting to know Lisa’ questions

Q: What’s your favourite film? And favourite script, if they’re different.

Well, I have a Top Ten List of favorite films of course, but my top 3 are:  The Natural, The Power of One and The Hangover. My favorite script however is Midnight Run by George Gallo. It is near perfect in every way. I never get sick of it.

Q: Favourite author and book? 

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. It blew my mind. I didn’t want it to end.

Q: Beer or Wine (or something else)? And which variety?

A Moscow Mule.

Q: Favourite food?

Steak. And cheese. And ice cream. And burgers. Let’s just sum this up and say “COW” is my favorite food and everything that comes from cow. Butter too. Butter makes everything better.

Q: Fave type of poker? Favourite player?

7-card stud, hands-down. The “Old Gentlemen’s Game” as they call it. That’s the game I first learned to play at a casino. But with the rise in popularity of Texas Hold’em, it is near impossible to find a 7-card stud game anywhere these days. So I had to eventually learn Texas Hold’em. And while I do enjoy it, I much prefer 7-card stud. Texas Hold’em is mostly balls and luck. But 7-card stud is a thinking game of patience and strategy and timing. That’s probably why you’ll only see old men playing it. And me. Favorite poker player:  Jesus aka Chris Ferguson. I love his calm, quiet demeanor. He was so cool and unassuming. And a brilliant player. No loud showboating like Phil Hellmuth or Mike “The Mouth” Matusow. For the record, neither of those guys shut up. Ever. I was there and witnessed this first-hand at the WSOP. Oh and also, Doyle “Dolly” Brunson is another favorite. He is a sweetheart. A true southern gentleman and so fun to watch play. It’s as if he can read minds.

Q: Any other interests and passions?

I’m an avid comic book collector/fan. And not just now because Marvel has usurped the world of film, but I’ve been a fan since I was a kid, back in the day when they made fun of you for reading comics. I’m also a HUGE baseball fan. Which is why Peelers has a prevalent baseball theme throughout. I loved interweaving the baseball element throughout the film. The same reason I love 7-card stud poker applies to why baseball is my favorite sport. It’s a thinking sport; replete with drama, poetry, tension, failure, joy, accomplishment, retribution. All the elements that make a great story. It is definitely the writer’s sport. As the saying goes: “Baseball is only boring to boring minds.”  I totally agree.

Q: Any final thoughts for the screenwriters of SimplyScripts?

Write on. And never. Ever. Give. Up.

Thanks again Lisa.


Check out Peelers Official Website and IMDB
Stream it on Amazon Prime or iTunes or get the Blu-ray

About the reviewer: Anthony Cawood is an award winning screenwriter from the UK with 4 short films produced and another 10 or so scripts optioned and/or purchased. Links to his films and details of his scripts can be found at www.anthonycawood.co.uk.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Interviews: Jerrol LeBaron, founder of InkTip. - post author Anthony Cawood

Jerrol-Bio-lg Most screenwriters quickly discover that writing isn’t the only challenge they face… they’re also expected to ‘get their scripts out there’ and connect with Producers looking for material.

They also soon learn that this is a lot easier said than done!

So in my latest interview, I catch up with Jerrol LeBaron, the founder of InkTip, who has so far helped over 300 projects get started.

Jerrol has over 17 years experience and his answers cover a wealth of useful info for screenwriters everywhere.

 

Q: First up, how about a little bit of background on the man behind InkTip, how did you get into the industry?
I started off as an actor/writer. I had a script I was proud of and was determined to get it made, but I couldn’t get it to producers. What I saw was a gate. On the other side of the gate opening were producers, agents, and managers looking for scripts and writers. Trying to squeeze through the gate were writers like me wanting to gain representation, sell their scripts, or get hired. But getting the producers and reps to figure out which writers and scripts to let through the gate was maddening. Every now and then a few scripts or writers were able to squeeze through. So, I thought to myself, what if I build a website where writers could post their scripts and where producers and reps could log in and do searches for exactly what they were looking for?

Q: And did you ever get anywhere with that script (or any since)?
Nope. I realized I was better suited to help other writers get their scripts sold and produced and that’s what I’ve been focusing on. It’s very rewarding. I love helping producers find just what they need and helping writers move their careers forward. I’ve also reread my script and felt a little embarrassed.

Q: How would you describe InkTip to a new writer or producer?
It’s like matchmaking for filmmaking. Producers come to InkTip to find scripts and writers. Writers come to InkTip so they can sell their scripts or get hired by producers. We make it possible for them to access each other to get films made. We average 3-4 script options a week.

How it works is producers let us know what they need and we connect them with writers who have the types of projects they’re looking for through our secure online database. Producers visit InkTip.com and search for scripts and writers. They can search by a variety of categories and criteria and contact writers directly. Producers also put out calls for script submissions in our weekly Preferred Newsletter. We then send this out to our writers so they can pitch their completed scripts to producers, most of which don’t accept unsolicited queries.

We even out the playing field for writers. We make it possible for hundreds of producers to find them, no matter where they’re located. Our most popular service for writers is an InkTip Script Listing. Writers can post their loglines, synopses, scripts, and resumes in our secure online database. Producers then reach out to these writers to learn more about their scripts.

We’ve had writers from all over the U.S., the U.K., and around the world sell scripts on InkTip. Even if you are in L.A., getting scripts to producers without a rep or connections is very difficult. We make it possible for writers to reach producers directly and for producers to find new talent. InkTip is free for qualified producers. (Register here.) Writers can sign up here.

Q: You have over 315 success stories, what was it like with the first few? Validation? Getting a business going is always a labor of love. In fact, I lost most of my hair getting InkTip up and running! It was a lot of long days and late nights. When those first successes started rolling in and we were able to watch films that were made because we connected the writers and producers, it was amazing. It was exciting to see the result of the hard work we’d put in. I still get a thrill when I see a trailer for a film made through us. I miss my hair, but it was worth it.

Q: There are other players in the market these days, what do you think differentiates InkTip?
I’m proud to say that no one gets the kind of results we get. We’ve had more than 315 films made through people connecting on InkTip. In addition to that, there are hundreds of options, sales, and writers that found representation through InkTip. Producers come to us because they are seriously looking for scripts and writers. Writers use InkTip because they want to move their careers forward. We never pay producers to use the site or any of our services so the connections made through our site are genuine.

Q: People believe that InkTip’s producers are at the Indie end, with smaller budgets (relatively speaking), would this be fair?
We work with all types of producers. We do work with indie producers, but that’s not to say they’re all filming on small budgets. We also work with producers from large companies such as ABC, Anonymous Content, APA, CBS Films, HBO Films, ICM, Paradigm, Paramount Pictures, Hallmark Channel, FX, Universal, WME, Echo Lake, Zero Gravity, Bad Robot, 20th Century Fox, and more.

We focus on working with reputable producers who have proven they can make a film and who are open to working with writers who are repped or unrepped, have previous credits or not. Our producers are looking for quality scripts and to develop relationships with writers. Often what happens is that a producer and a writer develop a relationship and continue to collaborate. So while perhaps the first film they made had a small budget, their second is a bigger production. We’ve also had producers and writers develop relationships to the point where the writer will become a co-producer or even direct a film.

We’ve had scripts of a wide range of budgets bought and made through our site. Sometimes that’s a limited-location thriller, sometimes it’s a western with sprawling landscapes, or an action film with helicopter scenes and complicated stunts. You can see some of our films here.

Q: What advice do you have for writers to maximize their chances of getting noticed on InkTip?
It’s important for writers to be proactive and make their work available to producers and representatives. If producers can’t find you or your work, it’s impossible for them to contact you and for anything to happen. So first list your scripts on InkTip and submit to any call for entries in the Preferred Newsletter that your script is a good fit for. You have to get your scripts out there if they are going to get made.

Secondly, take the time to get your loglines and synopsis right. I can’t stress this enough. So many writers will spend months on their scripts and 30 minutes on their synopses. Producers read loglines and synopses first. You need to showcase your style and story in a way that producers will want to take the next step and read your script. Tweak and study how people respond to your logline. The more you improve your logline, the more producers will read your synopsis and then your script.

Be patient and persistent. Even overnight successes typically take years. It only seems overnight on the outside. Stay committed to writing and promoting your scripts and you can get your films made. I’ve seen it work literally hundreds of times.

Q: Can you give us a brief rundown of the paid services?
We have three paid services for writers: InkTip Script Listing, InkTip Magazine, and the InkTip Preferred Newsletter. These are all strong options to get your scripts read and yourself noticed as a writer.

Writers typically start with an InkTip Script Listing. They can post their scripts on InkTip’s secure online database so producers and reps can find them when they are looking for writers. Each InkTip Script Listing is made up of a logline, synopsis, and you have the option of uploading your script or a treatment. Writers include info such as budget, genre, cast size, resume etc. Producers can then search by these criteria to find projects that match their needs. Each InkTip Script Listing costs $60 for 4 months. It’s an affordable way to promote your scripts safely. You’ll also get a record of all the producers who have viewed your logline.

We also have InkTip Magazine. We send out our magazine to our full list of producers and representatives. Altogether a total of nearly 15,000 people receive this publication. For every script they have on InkTip, writers can publish their loglines in the magazine and reach even more producers.

Producers will come to InkTip with specific needs such as a grounded sci-fi thrillers or WWII scripts. We put out these exclusive calls for script submissions in our weekly InkTip Preferred Newsletter. The newsletter is sent out every Thursday and has 6-8 exclusive calls for script submissions from InkTip producers. There are often more than 8 calls for scripts included. It’s a great way to submit your scripts safely and directly to a production company at the exact moment they are looking for a script.

Q: And the free ones?
Registering for an InkTip account is free. Writers can register here and then get access to our logline lab, special discounts to enter contests and film festivals, and access to articles and how-to’s related to the industry.

We have a free weekly newsletter that anyone can sign up for. Subscribers get 1-2 script leads a week and they can submit their work to producers at no cost. You can also preview what’s in the Preferred Newsletter and if you see something you want to submit to, sign up and get immediate access to it.

Many writers have short scripts. All writers can promote their short scripts on InkTip for free. https://www.inktip.com/sa_short_script_listing.php

Q: You make sure you vet prospective producers before they are allowed access, why is that?
We work with companies and producers who are reputable. We connect our writers with producers and industry professionals who have the capability, experience, and connections to make a film. Our first priority is always making it possible for writers to get their scripts sold and find representation. A big part of that is making sure that the producers and reps we work with are credible. So we vet every InkTip producer. We also never pay producers to view scripts. We don’t pay because we don’t want anyone using InkTip under false pretenses. The producers who use our site are searching with the intention of making a film now and not for some other incentive.

Q: I’ve not accessed the site as a producer would, what do they see?
Producers log into the site and they’re able to search for scripts. They can narrow the search by genre, budget, locations, writer credits, and many other options. They then see a page with all of the scripts available that meet their criteria. They instantly see each script’s logline and writer’s name. They can then choose to read the synopsis, script, or contact the writer directly.

You can see a preview of the search page here.
You can see how scripts show up for producers here.

Q: There are a lot of people competing for aspiring screenwriter’s limited money, from guru’s, through coverage services, and a plethora of competitions. What makes InkTip a good investment?
It’s a low-cost way to make your scripts available to hundreds of producers. It’s a secure site, you always know who reads your scripts, and our strong track record speaks for itself

Q: Once a producer finds a script or a writer… what happens next?
The producer and writer make a deal. It might be a script option, buying the writer’s script or hiring the writer for an existing project. InkTip never takes a cut of the deal. The producer and writer are free to make the best deal for them without any interference from us.

Sometimes a producer will like a writer’s script and writing style, but the script is not the right fit at the moment. Often this leads to a relationship where they stay in touch and then down the line they might work together. This happened recently with If I Had Wings written by Michael Markus and Tim Stubinski and produced by Cynde Harmon. Cynde liked one of their scripts a few years back but wasn’t able to move forward with it at the time. She kept in touch with Markus and Tim who let her know what they were working on and she decided to produce one of their scripts. This happens a lot. Connecting with producers always has the possibility of leading to something later down the line.

Q: And what changes have you seen in the industry since you started 17 years ago?
So many changes! When I first started InkTip, the idea that producers could find scripts online was totally new. Now people are comfortable with it and it’s become common, which is great for writers. There are so many more films being made a year. With so many distribution platforms and companies, there are way more opportunities available for writers. It’s a good time to be writing and promoting your scripts.

This is an industry like any other. You gotta knock on a lot of doors to find the right place where your work can shine. Everything takes leg work. It’s about being consistent. One of my favorite quotes is from Benjamin Franklin, “Energy and persistence conquer all things.” That has definitely been true for me. In the last 17 years, I’ve definitely seen how it’s now more possible than ever for writers to break in.

Q: Any advice in general for the aspiring screenwriters on Simply Scripts in terms of breaking in?
Be proactive. Get good at your craft, but don’t obsess about it being perfect. Put yourself and your work out there as much as possible. Follow up and always be professional.

Be positive. Writing can be so personal and it can be rough to handle rejection. If you can stay positive or at least neutral and not go down a road of negativity, it makes it so much easier for you to keep putting in the work. And that’s what helps you move your career forward.

 

Okay, now for some getting to know Jerrol questions…

Q: Fave movie?
I can’t choose just one. I really like Gone with the Wind, Outland, Matrix, and the Edge of Tomorrow.

Q: Best and worst screenwriting advice you’ve had.
Worst advice: Write a great script, and if it is truly great it will automatically get found and made. Your talent will get you through.
Best advice: The best way to NOT get your script made is to not let anybody read it. Believe in yourself and put yourself out there. Dedicate time to building your craft and dedicate as much time to promoting yourself as you do your writing.

Q: Fave food?
Nothing beats a great huevos rancheros!

Q: Fave drink?
Coke or vodka and Coke.

Q: Fave sport and team if applicable?
Basketball; Lakers

Q: Fave thing to do outside of InkTip and writing stuff?
Hanging out with friends and family. I also like woodworking. I used to work in construction and really enjoy building things. I recently redid my garage and it turned out great. I make all my friends and family admire it when they come over.

Q: Any final words of advice to the aspiring writers out there?
Work every week without fail on showcasing your scripts and skills, such as through networking, screenings, entering contests, query letters, follow-ups, etc. Take notes on what is and isn’t effective with your efforts and make improvements. For example, when writing query letters, figure out which one of your query letters works best and apply what you’ve learned moving forward. Do this for your loglines, your synopses, how you introduce yourself at events, etc. Pay attention to what works and doesn’t and act accordingly. Dedicate time to promoting yourself and your scripts and that’ll go a long way in making your career happen.

 

Thanks to Jerrol for being so generous with his time and providing such great answers.

About the reviewer: Anthony Cawood is an award winning screenwriter from the UK with 4 short films produced and another 10 or so scripts optioned and/or purchased. Links to his films and details of his scripts can be found at www.anthonycawood.co.uk.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Interviews: Jose Prendes, on low budget filming and working with Asylum - post author Anthony Cawood

Jose PrendesToday I'm sitting down with filmmaker Jose Prendes to discuss his films, his writing and the fascinating path he's taken... enjoy!

Q: Could you give me a little bit of background on how you got into screenwriting/film making?
I was an only child, and I lost my parents when I was five, so I was very lucky to find myself in the hands of my Godparents, who I came to see as my parents. My dad was a huge movie buff, and he never really set limits on anything I could watch, so banished away my loneliness by plunging into movies and books and things like that. I knew very early on that I wanted to be a part of the movie world. At first, I wanted to be an actor, and I dabble here and there, but I discovered a knack, and an unquenchable love, for writing, and realized that the real power behind a film was the writer/director, so I set my sites on that and haven't looked back since!

Q: You’ve been making films since 2001, The Monster Man been your first credited feature, which stars genre legends Linnea Quigley and Tom Savini how did that come about?
I had just finished film school and wanted to put my learning to the test, which is something that a lot of film school graduates fail to do. I decided to shoot a modest movie, on DV, with my friends as crew, and it ended up getting distribution, which blew my mind. It remains to this day my all time favorite filmmaking experience.

Q: You wrote, directed, produced and starred in The Monster Man, labour of love or only way to get it made?
Everything you make should be a labor of love, because in the end what is the point to any of it? I did all that because I wanted to do all that, and yes, I knew there was no other way
to get it made, and I wasn’t going to wait around for something to make my dreams come true, I was going to force them into reality myself. That’s sound advice for anyone who wants to be a filmmaker. If you can do it yourself, then do it yourself, it’s more rewarding.

Q: How did you go about funding it?
I had family loan me the money, and I was very grateful to them for that!

Q: Did your family get their loan back with interest?
No. No, they did not. But it was an investment in my future! A farm doesn’t usual pull a crop the first year.

Q: Your next work seems to be as a screenwriter on Song of the Vampire, how did that come about?
I got that because the female lead in MONSTER MAN, Denice Duff, was going to make that film her directorial debut, and she asked me to come on board and do a re-write to make it less goofy. It's funny, because MONSTER MAN is a comedy, but she had a feeling I could add something to it, and I tried my best. It was a fun project and I loved going to the New Orleans set and hanging with the crew. Good memories.

Q: A lot of writer/directors start out with short films, you jumped straight into features, did you try shorts?
I did try shorts, in film school. The truth is shorts are worthless in the commercial sense. They are great for practice and cutting your teeth on a set and figuring things out, but as a professional filmmaker, it does nothing for your career. Now, there are exceptions, and career’s have been started based off of shorts, but when you compare it to the amount of shorts that get forgotten the odds are astronomical. It’s a way better bet to make a feature, because then you can at least try for distribution. With a short, all you can do is play festivals, because no one buys shorts. I did shoot a short on 35mm in black and white, with an eye to incorporating it into a feature, which eventually became by second feature, CORPSES ARE FOREVER.

Q: Your next film, Corpses are Forever, you take on multiple hats again, do you enjoy the different roles?
Again, it was a case of no one is going to push this train down the track faster and harder than me, so I took all those jobs (and more that I didn’t credit myself for) with a glad heart because I was making my dreams come true. That film was bigger in scope, with 35mm cameras, and a larger cast, but I had a bigger crew, who kicked ass and we got it through. I got to work with the amazing Brinke Stevens, Debbie Rochon, Felissa Rose, and Linnea again, as well as the now-late icons Richard Lynch and Don Calfa. I also met my wife on that set, so it has very fond memories.

Q: There’s a gap of five or six years before your next work, what were you working on during that period?
I wasn’t able to afford another movie, so I busied myself writing novels, and scripts, and getting married, and moving to Los Angeles.

Q: Your next few films are as a writer, all genre fare, were these spec scripts or commissioned gigs?
Commission gigs, and the less said about these, the better.

Q: You’ve also worked in TV, with Veronique Von Venom and Rest for the Wicked (and others), what are the biggest differences to Film in your opinion?
Well, it’s not really TV, they were youtube shows. We shot them pretty much how we would shoot a film, so no real difference.

Q: Some of your more recent work has been writing for Asylum, how is it working for them and how did you break in?
Asylum distributed CORPSES ARE FOREVER, so that’s how I came to work for them. I’ll be honest, I can be rather frustrating at times, and I hate feeling like a typist, but they gave me a shot to make films, and I will forever be grateful to them for the opportunity.

Q: What’s your personal fave in the work with Asylum?
THE HAUNTING OF WHALEY HOUSE, hands down, because I got to write and direct that sucker, and got to cast with talented young actors and had an amazing crew, and we really got left alone to make our own movie, and people tell me that it doesn’t feel like the typical Asylum film. That’s probably why I wasn’t asked to direct again, and we went our separate ways.

Q: You wrote and directed the 2015 release Blood Brothers/The Divine Tragedies, what can you tell us about it?
It’s based on the Leopold and Loeb case of 1924, about two men who decide to pull off the perfect murder to prove their mastery over mankind with their intelligence. I took a David Lynch/David Cronenberg stab at the idea and turned it into this surreal story about serial killer brothers.

Q: Blood Brothers has a different tone to the Asylum work and some of your earlier projects, was this a conscious shift?
Blood Brothers was a different type of movie than CORPSES or WHALEY, and I knew it needed to have room to breath, so I left it decide for itself what it wanted to be. It was conscious up to a point, deciding on colors and music and aesthetic things like that, but for tone I look back at the script and what came out of there. Sometimes I don’t know what the characters are going to say or what is going to happen, and that’s exciting, that’s when the movie takes on a life of it’s own.

Q: Again you’ve managed to assemble a great genre cast, including Barbara Crampton, Ken Foree, do you hire these specifically? If so why?
Casting was interesting for this one. I had the two brothers in mind since the beginning, and then we spent a few months tracking everyone down. I’ll be honest and say that we didn’t have anyone in mind for the roles of Barbara and Ken, but when they names came up it was as if the universe had delivered them to the movie, like they were always supposed to be a part of it. I love their work and they loved the script and the characters, so it was an easy slam dunk.

Q: Any amusing anecdotes about the famous (to genre fans) stars you’ve managed to work with over the years?
Nothing I can share. Hahaha!

Q: You have Unspeakable Horrors: The Plan 9 Conspiracy, coming up... it sounds fascinating and again the cast(?), part documentary I’m guessing?
It’s a documentary exploring the hidden meanings behind Ed Wood’s infamously “bad” movie PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. We get in a lot of trouble with the government over that, and I’m not sure how much I can saw about it before they com and arrest me. I was honored that folks like Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Fred Olen Ray, William Lustig, and others would join me in exposing the truth and hopefully redeeming Ed’s work. It will premier in London at the end of April, if MI-6 doesn’t shut us down.

Q: Any other projects in the works we should be looking out for?
I published a novel a few years back called SHARCANO, which was a direct response to SHARKNADO, but I wanted to tell that kind of story with no regard to budget or studio interference, so I wrote the most kick-ass, action packed version of a B-grade shark movie, and it’s done very well. People usually pick it up as a joke, and then they read it and realize it’s less like a Syfy Channel movie, and more like a Michael Chricton novel meet a Jerry Bruckheimer movie. Anyway, the sequel will be coming out on 2017, hopefully, and it’s titled: SHARKS OF THE LIVING DEAD.
Also, I published my first two non-fiction books in 2016: THE HIGH-CONCEPT MASSACRE, featuring interviews with 13 genre screenwriters including Carl Gottlieb and S.S. Wilson, and THE ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK CAMPFIRE COMPANION, an episode guide/interview book about the beloved Nickelodeon tv series from the 90s. Both are available on Amazon, as well as SHARCANO.
Okay onto some writing specific questions...

Q: When it comes to feature scripts, how do you approach structure in your scripts? Do you follow any particular method?
I don’t like to worry about method, my concern is the story. Odds are if you’ve seen a ton of movies, you will know what structure is and what feels right, and if the structure makes sense or not, and if a story is solid, meaning it contains a beginning, middle, and end, then it has a perfect structure.

Q: There are a ton of people out there who offer coverage services, position themselves as gurus etc, what’s your view on such services?
Don’t do it. It’s pointless. Agents and managers don’t care about that. They are basically frustrated writers who want to leach off of you to make money. Trust your gut.

Q: What are your thoughts on the business side of screenwriting, getting your scripts ‘out there’ and networking to make connections?
Getting anyone to read your shit is the toughest part. I’ve had good experiences and bad experiences and some led to a rep, while most didn’t lead to anything. There is no hard and fast way in. I would suggest some prestigious festivals that tout the fact that agents read the winnings scripts, because even if you didn’t win there is a chance that someone who knows someone read your thing and loved it and wants to pass it on. I’ve just passed on scripts to folks, who have passed it on and on, and until something happens. I haven’t been able to shake anything loose for very long, but then again I realize I am not the commission guy. I tried it, and I didn’t like it, so I want to focus on making my own shit.

Q: If you’ve used services/sites like Inktip, SimplyScripts, The Blacklist, what’s your view on this type of model for screenwriters to get their scripts seen, and hopefully picked up?
Never used them.

Q: What’s the best and worse screenwriting advice you’ve been given?
Best and worst advice I got was: “quit”. It was the worst, because it’s so negative, but it was the best because it set that fire in my gut upon hearing it and I knew I wasn’t going to quit just to prove him wrong.

Now for a few ‘getting to know Jose questions

Q: What’s your favourite film? And favourite

script, if they’re different.
My favorite film is a tie between Jaws and It’s A Wonderful Life… very different, but very similar for the effect it had on me. Both of those films are brilliantly scripted.

Q: Favourite author and book?
Favorite author is Mark Twain, a kindred soul, and my favorite book is probably Tom Sawyer, or The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, I can’t decide.

Q: Beer or Wine (or something else)? And which variety?
Scotch. Any variety.

Q: Favourite food?
Hamburgers and fries. I’m a simple guy.

Q: Any other interests and passions?
I’m in a weird position where my hobby is a my career, so I have no side interested. However, I am putting on my own convention in June 2017. It’s called Kid Kon, and it will be the world’s first kid-centric pop culture convention. It’s a ton of work and planning, but like anything I endeavor in it is a labor of love.

Q: I believe you also run Kid Kon in Pasadena, what can you tell us about it and how’d it come about?
I’ve been wanting to put on a convention for a while, but never had a solid enough idea. As a father of two, I realized that there wasn’t anything that really spoke to the young fandom, it all seemed to be middle-aged guys, so I wanted to create something that was strictly geared to kids and the stuff they love. So Kid Kon was born!

Q: Any final thoughts for the screenwriters reading this?
One word: quit. 😉

Thanks to Jose for such an enlightening interview. Follow Jose on twitter @JosePrendes

About the interviewer: Anthony is an award winning screenwriter from the UK with 2 Features optioned and over 30 Short scripts optioned, or purchased, including 8 filmed. Outside of his screenwriting career, he’s a published short story writer and movie reviewer. Links to his films and details of his scripts can be found at www.anthonycawood.co.uk.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Interviews: Richard Uber, Producer, Editor and good guy. - post author Anthony Cawood

Richard Uber has been in the entertainment industry for… well, as you’ll see, a mighty long time! He has produced and edited hundreds of hours of content in both Film and TV, met a plethora of fascinating people and was good enough to sit down for a chat with me…

 

Q: So, your first credit, at least according to IMDB, goes back to 1984 when you worked on some music videos… how did you get into the business?

I studied film at Iowa State in 1967-68 found out I had to wait 2+ years to take another film course.  Left school, went to work in a brokerage firm and got myself transferred to NYC where I quit and took the post production equivalent of a PA, a vault technician at a place called Preview Theatre which was where the MPAA screened their films. All for the amazing amount of $65 a week take home pay.  They also had 6 floors of film editorial rooms and I got assigned to work with those films that were working there.  I got to work on Alice’s Restaurant, The Arrangement by Eliza Kazan, Angel Levine, Boys in the Band, Frank Perry’s Last Summer, and the installation of the first Kem’s in America for Michael Waldeigh’s Woodstock.  I wanted to do more, so when worked slowed down I moved back home and went to Columbia College Chicago. Columbus was unique, the people who taught there were actually working in the industry.

I was very lucky, I worked my way through school by working the equipment cages for the still photography labs and the motion picture department. In 1971 Jim Bourgeois started teaching Sound Editing at Columbia College. He was an amazing teacher, and a great mentor. I stopped working at the school and worked for Jim, one month free, then became an assistant editor for pay, then a sound effects editor,  then a music editor, and finally a picture editor.  I was working on a NBC network series “Wild Kingdom” as the head sound effects editor at age 21.

In 1972 while a Junior at school I got my first National Emmy nomination for outstanding individual achievement in sound editing.  Needless to say, that was the end of my college education.  In 1973 I left Jim’s company and started my own.  We started out doing feature films,  local commercials, industrials, and progressed to doing national commercials, museum exhibitions, and special effects.  By 1975 we had a staff of 27, an office on Chicago’s Miracle Mile, and a lot of work on the west coast.  I had one client need me for 18 weeks in Los Angeles and loved it so much that I stayed there.  Eventually selling my share to my partners.

Living in LA, I edited numerous documentaries for NBC, ABC, and PBS. Some of these I was also working as an associate producer. There are 2 things that helped my career immensely,  I started working on music videos very early before MTV, and I was probably the 2nd or 3rd film editor to become an online editor, which meant i could master for broadcast my own work,  so I didn’t have to explain to another person exactly how to do this effect.

I actually have tons of credits before IMDB Lists them, and they don’t list music video credits that were broadcast, If they did that I would have a couple of hundred more credits. IMDB also ignores people who are in the studio system.  Check out my best friend Tim Clawson http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0165472/.
So many movies ignored.  There is no central authority for IMDB, it’s crowd sourced.

Q: You then seem to have moved into TV as an Editor, how did you break in and get regular work?

I got work usually from the people who knew me. Or someone saw something I edited and reached out to me to edit something for them.

How I cut commercials got me music videos.

Music videos plus documentaries got me tv shows.

All that plus the special effects I did got me feature work.

Like editing got me post supervision which led to producing work.

Q: You worked on projects for Pat Benatar, Madonna, and the Go-Gos to name a few… did you get to meet them as part of the process? Any good stories?

Yes, I met them all, and we were collaborators in the editing room. I was known as a collaborative editor, easy to get along with, and most importantly willing to try ideas not my own.

There are stories, but they remain in the edit bay…

With Toto on “Stranger in Town” We had to deliver that morning at 9am.  At 6am I’m sitting on a hay bale in the middle of the editing room,  doing Foley of dogs digging in the ground.  They thought if I was that crazy I had to keep working on their videos.  LOL

Q: You also did work with Orson Welles as a voiceover artist, how was it working with such a legend?

At the first time I was very nervous, until at the 3rd take I stopped him, told him I needed a smile at the end of the first sentence, and a slide down between 2 words in the 3rd sentence.  Once he knew that you knew what the hell you were doing he was a cupcake.  There was no way I would have led him off the cliff.  I enjoyed my time with him greatly.  When I explained how I recorded him, and how I used smpte time code as sprocket holes to auto assemble him onto a 24 track recorder (The first time it was ever done) He thought I was very clever and thus I ended up directing him on many commercials and film projects.  He was incredibly smart and regaled me with old stories during dinners at Ma Maison.

Q: Of the films/projects you worked on back then, which is your favourite and why?
I don’t know how to even answer that.  When I’m working on them they are at that time my very favorite of all time.

“The Power Pinch” an NBC primetime documentary about sexual harassment in the workplace.

“Ren and Stimpy” for the fun of putting it together.

Pat Benatar for “Stop Using Sex as a weapon” for pushing analog video as far as it could go.

Music Videos for changing the paradigm.

Q: You worked as an Editor and a Producer at Paramount for a number of years, what projects did you work on there?

Actually more time at Fox Studios.  I was the senior editor there.  I did the first digital cinema there.  Like Bryan Singer’s “X-men” Joel Shoemaker’s “Phone Booth” and “Tigerland”

Then NewsCorp (The parent company) asked me to help move the company to digital/HD.  I became the producer who was in charge of all the HDTV that was broadcast on the Fox Network  which included Episode 1 of Star Wars, and the first Dolby E broadcast.  I had to work on every Fox Film and have it in HD ready for air on the networks that bought it.  This represented 120+ million to Fix, so it had to be done even though the technology wasn’t even there to make it work.  Those who are on the leading edge of technology call it the bleeding edge….

Q: I believe you also worked as an Editor for Disney for a while, how was that? What are they like as an organisation to work for?

My other best friend Rob Wieland brought me over.  As an organization we called it mousewitch in a concentration camp way of speaking.  We also redid the Mouseketeers song, with M. I.C.    K.E.Y.    oh you SOB….   it was a job and not a fun one at that.  It is what made me decide to go out on my own again.

Q: You now work with Visceral Films, how did that come about?

Scott sent out a message for help and being in Cincinnati I answered it.  The rest is history.

Q: Who are the rest of the Visceral team?

Scott Wohlstein, CEO, writer, a serial entrepreneur like me.  He loves making movies, He comes from  much more restrained budgets than I do.

Devin Dietrich is a writer, and is in charge of Television projects.

We all come from different backgrounds which creates an amazing synergy

Q: Visceral Films ran a competition looking for a Horror script which a few of the SimplyScript’s writer’s entered, what prompted such a fairly usual approach?

We didn’t have any scripts that would work with the Land of Illusion and we wanted to see what other writers could come up with.  And we wanted to be aware of other writers.

Q: The scripts had to be set at the Land of Illusion Halloween theme park with the intention of filming there, how did that partnership/collaboration come about?

It’s simple.  I line produced a film there, knew the owner and the other key people and talked to my partners and we decided to do a co-production with Land of Illusion.

Q: How were the scripts evaluated, I imagine its a little different to how you’ve considered scripts in the past?

Totally different,  All the scripts were read by multiple people.  The top 15 or so were read by everyone involved in the decision making.  They were broken down and rated in different categories, including how easily it could be produced.  The metrics for each category were created and the cream rose to the top.  It was readily apparent which 3 were the top 3.

Q: Do you intend to use the competition approach again?

Yes, we found you.  I would love to find new writers, we are a writer-centric company,  but these projects need to be in production first. Our first responsibility is to our writers.

Q: As a producer how do you then go about financing such projects?

The 64 million dollar question, or 5 million dollar question, or 2 million dollar question.
We use Executive Producers who have worldwide contacts that pitch our films to investors who gave worked with them before.

In some cases we have an investor who will invest the last 50% as long as other investors have previously invested in films.

The other way is the Netflix way, we produce a film for 3.5 and we sell all rights for 10.  This only works with select people who have proven track records.

Q: Do you have an update on the optioned scripts?

Yes, the Brexit and Trump have had negative influences on our raising of capital.   Investors are cautious at the moment.  We expect a better reception to our projects in the 2nd quarter of 2017.

Q: What else have you got planned  Visceral Films.

There are a variety of projects on the horizon. Corporately because of Tax Credits we might be moving across the river to KY.

Q: What are your thoughts for aspiring screenwriters in terms of the best way to break in, or get their scripts seen by producers?

Keep entering contests,  keep collaborating with other writers.  I have a friend who got started in an entry level position at a literary agency. It is a catch 22 to get an agent.  Be wary of some agents that want money up front.  That is what the 10% of everything you do is for.  And keep writing.  Make sure you have the craft of screenwriting down perfect.  A non standard formatted script usually is sent to the circular file cabinet.  And don’t ever send unsolicited scripts to a company that doesn’t accept them.  You can get banned there and quickly around town.

Q: There are a ton of people out there who offer screenwriters coverage services, position themselves as guru’s etc, what your view on such services?

If you are really bad they might help.  They exist to make money for themselves, not the writers.

Q: What’s the best and worse film making advice you’ve been given?

The best,  Hire the best people you can afford for their position.  Step back and let them do their job. Run interference from the powers that be, so they can do their jobs.  And treat them like valued human beings.

The worst, It’s a tie
Digital will never be as good as analog.
and my favorite in 1987
“You should think about another career, you aren’t very good at this”. (just gotten 3 MTV nominations, and was going to Vancouver Canada to work on 3 series)

Now for a few ‘getting to know Richard questions

Q: What’s your favourite film? And favourite script, if they’re different?

Citizen Kane

Q: Favourite author and book?

Film book:    François Truffaut Hitchcock,a wonderful book about Hitchcock.
Joseph Mascelli: The 5 C’s of cinematography. (writers should read this)
I’m hard pressed to determine which is my favorite book.  My father was a book publisher, I was surrounded by 1000’s of books all my life.
Probably Doris Kerns Goodwin, Her boohs on Eleanor and FDR, and on Lincoln are amazing.

Q: Beer or Wine (or something else)? And which variety?

Wine, Reds,  Pinot Noir  Sonoma, in Oregon Oak.  ( 10 of us were partners in a Winery in Central California)

Q: Favourite food?

Thai Chicken and Beef Satay, Larb and other delights.

Q: Any other interests and passions?

Still Photography, Cooking

Q: Where do you live in? And what are your thoughts about moving to LA for a screenwriting career?

In California I live 70 miles  NW up the coast in San Buena Ventura.   In Cincinnati  I live in Over the Rhine (OTR) section just north of downtown in an 1860’s house my brother and I fully restored.

Moving to LA.  have enough money saved to survive a year.  It us very expensive to live there.  Try getting entry level jobs at production companies, or Literary agencies.  Keep at it, You will be rejected many many times.

Q: Any final thoughts for the aspiring screenwriters of ou there?

Keep at it.  You have selected a very hard career.  The rewards are worth it if you succeed.  Keep at it every day, and learn from each other.  You have made wonderful scripts, the main problem is getting them made.  Have a body of work you can show.  Good luck to all of you.


About the interviewer: Anthony is an award winning screenwriter from the UK with 2 Features optioned and over 30 Short scripts optioned, or purchased, including 8 filmed. Outside of his screenwriting career, he’s a published short story writer and movie reviewer. Links to his films and details of his scripts can be found at www.anthonycawood.co.uk.

Comment on this on Anthony’s Blog

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Textual Assassins – Directory’s Commentary - post author Don

I found this in the comments section from Rob Wright, the film maker of Textual Assassins. There are some great insights here on the film making process. For writers (and film makers) there is a lot of valuable information here on working with a director to go from script to screen.

– Don

Rob writes,

robDear Simply Scripts, hello!

I hope you don’t mind me jumping in on this thread – I’m the film-maker behind Textual Assassins.

First off, I wanted to say a big thanks to Simply Scripts.com for providing such a fantastic resource (for both script writers seeking feedback on their work or looking for opportunities to have their work made, and for film-makers looking for material or writers to collaborate with).

Back in April of this year, when I was considering making a film and before I had settled on Nolan’s wonderful screenplay, I spend many enjoyable evenings here reading many, many screenplays – I was struck by the creativity and quality of the work, but also by the supportive community spirit evident in the forums.

Anyway, by way of giving something back, I thought I might share a few insights about this project in case any of this might be of interest or useful in some way to your community?

I should say at this point (in case it isn’t obvious) that Textual Assassins was my first attempt at making a film (at least on this scale) – I am therefore very much a beginner/indi film-maker still learning the ropes and as such anything I say below should not be taken too seriously – it’s certainly not an industry insight – however, since Nolan Bryant and I managed to come out of our little collaboration unscathed, still on speaking-terms (haha-Nolan), and with a finished piece of work we are both quite proud of, I suppose we must have done something right !

I’ve tried to think of a few things below which might be of interest, but please feel free to ask any other questions if you would like to know more. (Who knows, Nolan might also answer from his perspective too)? If anyone is interested there are some photos, example storyboards, and further thoughts on this Facebook page.

Why Did I Choose This Particular Script?

There are some fantastic scripts on this website, but for me Textual Assassins appealed for a number of key reasons. It’s witty (in a black comedy kinda way), well written, with some great characters and fun dialogue, etc. – but on a more practical level, it was just… ‘do-able’ (read: manageable for me as an indi film-maker). Limited locations / minimal props needed, a small leading cast, concise and to the point (about the right length for me, not too ambitious in scope, but still a challenge). A beginner film-maker’s dream really. I also read the community forum posts alongside the script and got the sense (largely by the way that the author was responding to suggestions and critique from others) that he would be someone I could work with.

What Happened Next? How was Contact Made?

I contacted Nolan via email, and asked permission to turn his screenplay into a short film – I was open and honest with him about my pervious limited experience but sent some examples of smaller projects I’d completed in the hope that this would show I was serious. I was trying my best to give assurances that I’m a ‘finisher’ and if he would take a chance and grant me a time limited option, the film WOULD be made. After a good number of initial email exchanges we settled on agreeable terms. I also agreed to consult before any major changes occurred, and promised to keep him posted on progress as I hit the milestones.

There are Some Differences Between the Screenplay and the Film – Why so?

Both Nolan and I were open from the outset to the idea that some things would change. This was a two-way street though – I suggested a few things, some he was happy to run with, and others, he explained, he would rather not see happen – and this was OK for me too. Nolan was a great person to work with, clearly talented, but also flexible and open – this was important to me.

For the most part I tried to adhere to the original Screenplay and use it as the blueprint for the story, but here were a few reasons for change, which might be food for thought?:-

i. Localisation – the original script used some phrases that tied it to a particular region (of the world) – and yet the film was going to be made elsewhere (I’m from the UK so that is where the film would need to be set, Nolan is not). A example: the original script included one character described as “bush-league” – this is simply not a phases well understood in the UK (it was changed by me through negotiation with Nolan to “School-Boy error” to address that).

ii. Character Names – some of the film characters have different names to those in the Script (eg. Kyle became Big-Dave). Again, a bit of a localisation thing for me. Kyle isn’t a widely popular name in the UK in the age range of the character. Also, this wan’t a big deal, but my actor playing the role of Kyle looked to me more like a BIG-DAVE!

iii. Other changes came about during early rehearsals or indeed ad lib, where my actors felt their characters would respond slightly differently. As their Director I wanted to allow them this ownership of the characters. Some other direction changes came about due to taking advantage of the layout at the locations we had available. The two pillars in the hallway were just crying out to be used for the stand off between PETE and DAVE for example.

iv. Another somewhat larger change occurred towards the end of the film. In the original screenplay when the police show up, the five assassins are instructed to “drop their guns and raise their hands” and we do not know their fate (but assume they are arrested?). However in the film, I wanted the viewer to see Rookie making a move (and we assume hit fired at the police?). Nolan and I talked this through, along with a third possible ending and I had agreed to shoot all three alternative endings and then we could evaluate which worked best in the edit. As it happened, unfortunately, I overran on the schedule during the film shoot (a night-time shoot at the location) and had to make a quick judgement call in the moment – either continue shooting and risk annoying the location owners (it was about 2:30am and the flashing police lights were becoming annoying!) or cut our losses and only shoot one of the endings. I opted for the latter.

(I suppose the point here is, sometimes even with the best will in the world, a Director might need to make changes and sometimes they need to be made quickly).

How many table-reads / rehearsals did we have with the cast before shooting?

We had rehearsals only for the 3 main characters (Assassins – PETE, DAVE & ROOKIE). The other actors learnt their (few) lines independently and I gave direction as we filmed on location, we filmed multiple takes till I got what was needed. Remarkably, other than the actor playing ROOKIE, the cast consists entirely of good friends of mine whom had zero previous acting experience (I think they did a great job!). I arranged for PETE and DAVE to have two acting classes before we held rehearsals with ROOKIE. The actor playing ROOKIE was more experienced and helped a little on set with acting direction. We had only two rehearsals sessions in total before we filmed.

How long did it take to make the film?

5 Months (not a day-job) – although in reality most of this time was spent planning. Getting the actors on board, converting the script to storyboard, then to shooting script and shortlist, location-hunting, prop-making, organising dates and times when I would be able to access equipment (camera and lighting etc.) and when people would be able to make it. Once the planning stages were done, the film was shot during only 5 shoot-days (2 long days in the main house location + 3 shorter sessions at the other locations). There was a great deal of pressure during the shoot days, as I was leaning on the job to some extent, and was very mindful to keep the location owners on board.

How much did it cost to make the film?

Textual Assassins took a great deal of time, energy and effort to make – but this was largely because I was trying to do pretty much everything on my own – a labour of love you might say. I wanted to direct this film, yes, but I also wanted to use this opportunity to learn something about the other key roles typically associated with film-making. This means that I made the storyboard and props myself, I sourced the locations, organised the cast, arranged the acting-classes/rehearsals, stood as DOP, I operated the camera and microphones, I set up the lighting, recorded sound-effects, edited the footage, colour graded the film, decided upon the soundtrack music, I composed the additional music, etc, etc.

Honestly – I think I gained about 5 years of real film-making experience by tacking this project in this way, but it was a heck of lot of work for one person alone and much more that I had anticipated.

Other than a few items which I bought or hired – most of the technical equipment was hired for free through a lot of begging and borrowing! My actors (my friends) all agreed to work for free (although I fed them!) and they all commented that they really enjoyed the experience very much.

Textual Assassins was made with a budget of only c.£300 (c.400 USD / c.350 Euros).

…anyway, I hope this post proves to be in some small way useful to the community here at Simply Scripts. I know the film isn’t perfect, but given the constraints highlighted above, I’m quite pleased with the outcome and I believe Nolan is too. We thank you once again for this great resource through which we were connected.

Keep writing the great material people!

Rob.

Textual Assassins (10 pages in pdf format) by Nolan Bryand

Being a hitman is tough, killing indiscriminately is harder than you’d think. (Short, Dark Comedy)

Discuss this script on the Discussion Board

Friday, September 2, 2016

Interviews: Up Close and Personal with Danny Stack - post author Anthony Cawood

Occasionally we take a break from showcasing scripts, and focus on the masterminds behind the words. Because there’s nothing better than hearing from successful members of “the craft”, and absorbing the sage words they have to tell.

Today, we are happy to publish an interview between Anthony Cawood, and Danny Stack, a UK based screenwriter and director whose TV credits include Eastenders and Doctors, kids’ TV shows The Octonauts and Thunderbrids. He also co-wrote and co-directed the kids’ feature Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg (just recently released). As if that wasn’t enough, Danny also produces the UK Scriptwriters Podcast, blogs about the industry and has released a book to help aspiring screenwriters break in, entitled: The UK Scriptwriter’s Survival Handbook.

Q: Could you give me a little bit of background on how you got into screenwriting?

A: I was working as an assistant in Channel 4’s comedy department in the late 90s, when they were making shows like Spaced, Black Books, Chris Morris etc. It was a great time for the dept and the channel, and I got to read a lot of scripts that were submitted. I always had a fascination with screenwriting, so my time at C4 just added fuel to the fire, and I realised it was what I wanted to do above all else. My bosses thought I was nuts, but I gave up the day job in 1999 and went freelance, trying to become a scriptwriter. I was nuts!

Q: How did you get into Channel 4 as an assistant in the first place?

A: I came over from Ireland in 1994 and got work as a media temp (which I highly recommend as a way of getting ‘in’ to the biz). I got a temp job at C4 that was meant to last 2 weeks but I stayed 2 years! It was in the Viewer Enquiry dept; taking complaints and enquiries from the general public. I then took a year out to go traveling, and when I returned I knew I wanted to work at C4 again, so I got a temp job there, and saw a job was available in the comedy dept, so I jumped at it, and got it!

Q: You’ve been writing scripts for 10 years, how did you break in with your first one – The Amazing Adrenalini Brothers (or was there something before that)?

A: When I went freelance, I initially worked on a couple of TV shows as part of the production crew (Black Books, Ali G) but then decided to fully focus on my writing (paying the bills via script reading/script editing). Between 2000-2004, I read loads of scripts and developed my own writing portfolio. My first break was BBC’s Doctors as they read one of my spec scripts, liked it and invited me to write for the show. That was my first commission, but it ended up on TV just after my episode of The Amazing Adrenalini Brothers. The Adrenalinis was my first commission in kids’ TV, and it came about as I met Nick Ostler (the co-creator of the Adrenalinis) at a short film screening, and he just had The Adrenalinis commissioned by CiTV. ‘Know any good animation writers?’ he asked. ‘Yes, ME!’ I replied, having never written for animation previously (!).

Q: Your early career is primarily in UK TV, how did you get in and get regular work?

A: BBC’s Doctors was my way in. I got my first agent and she sent one of my specs to the person responsible for hiring new writers on the show. She read my script, liked it, and invited me to pitch ideas for the show. I wrote 2 episodes in total, but I got frustrated by the commissioning process, often waiting long periods to hear if an idea was accepted or rejected, or worse ‘spiked’ (to be used at a later but indeterminate point). But writing for Doctors got me the opportunity to write for EastEnders. You have to write a trial episode of the show to get selected and on my first try, I was rejected. A year later, I tried again, and got accepted. I wrote 2 episodes of EastEnders, and was lined up for more, but then a new producer came on board and did an overhaul of the writers, and I was out (and gutted!).

Q: You’ve written for Children’s TV too, what are the differences when writing for a younger audience?

A: The main difference is tone. All the usual screenwriting craft applies. In fact, even more so, as kids are very sophisticated and watch a lot of story so they can tell if something is boring, predictable or not very good within seconds.

Q: Is it any easier to break in to Children’s TV?

A: In a way, yes, as there’s less ego and status involved in Children’s TV, so a new writer can find it quite welcoming, regardless of whether they’ve got previous experience. My top tip would be to attend the Children’s Media Conference (http://www.thechildrensmediaconference.com/ every year in Sheffield) as it’s a who’s who of the UK biz, so a great way to network and schmooze your way into writing for kids’ TV.

Q: You’ve taken the role of Writer/Director on some of your shorts, was this to maintain artistic control, expand your experience, or something else?

A: All of the above! I realised a director gets all the credit and the writer is largely ignored. I didn’t want that to happen with some of my passion projects. I was always interested in directing anyway, so I decided to make shorts to see if I was any good, expand my experience, and have some fun! I made a very ambitious supernatural drama called Origin (http://originshortfilm.co.uk/), and spent a lot of money, but it was essentially my film school and I learned a lot. The film did well on the festival circuit and won Best Horror at the London Independent Film Festival.

Q: Would you advocate writing/making short films, why do you think they are useful?

A: I would recommend EVERYONE try making at least one short film, homemade or otherwise (official funding etc). I know a lot of writers who aren’t interested or don’t think they have the suitable mentality/personality but you get a lot of help when you’re directing a film (the cameraman, the sound, the actors, etc) so it’s not as daunting as you think. But giving it a go is great just to see how the process is done, and gives you added appreciation for those who do it on a regular basis.

Q: Did you start with short scripts and then move to features with Nelson Nutmeg or have there been other feature scripts so far unproduced (‘The Good Guys’ for example)?

A: When I started out, I wrote feature spec scripts & TV spec scripts, then short scripts. All of this helped to build my writing portfolio. Getting a feature film made through the industry is a real achievement (on average, it takes about 5 years for a film to get made). It’s little wonder that most feature spec scripts don’t get made at all. But taking control of your own work means you can produce your own scripts, which is what I started to do with my short scripts and web series. This in turn gave me the confidence to tackle making my own feature film, and I hooked up with my good friend Tim Clague to help make this happen. But sometimes you get the chance to work on commissioned feature films; I did a rewrite of the Lego Friends movie, and a horror script I was hired to rewrite goes into production this November.

Q: When it comes to feature scripts, how do you approach structure in your scripts? Do you follow any particular method?

A: I’ll lay out the five main beats of the three-act structure first (inciting incident, end of act one, midpoint, end of act two and final twist/denouement) just to give me a basic shape or skeleton that I can work from. After that, anything goes and I’ll follow my instincts regarding the characters and story. If/when I get stuck, I’ll cherry pick from some of the structural models to see if they can help unlock the problem (e.g. Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet or the 22-step approach etc). I’m a big fan of structure, I see it as your friend that’s there to help you when you need it.

Q: Where did the idea come from for ‘Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg’ (http://www.nelsonnutmeg.com/), and what prompted you to dive in and make it yourself (with your writing/directing buddy Tim Clague)?

A: I had been working with Tim for a few years, first with the UK Scriptwriters Podcast (http://ukscriptwriters.podomatic.com/), and then on more official projects like corporate work/ads. On the back of one of these ads, Tim suggested we make a family feature film together. He was frustrated with his individual efforts to get a feature film made. He wanted to make an indie low budget film but didn’t want to do horror. Family/kids sprung to mind, and I’d been working in kids’ TV for quite a while at this stage. So he figured if we combined resources, and wrote/produced/directed together (Coen Brothers style), that would get the film in the can. So we agreed to do it this way, then knocked around a few ideas, and came up with a summer camp mascot getting killed and a gang of kids investigate (knowing that we could shoot this locally to us, too).

Q: What were the challenges you face in making Nelson?

A: Well, we had no money. And no support. It was just us two to begin with, and all we had was the idea. But we put all our experience into practice, breaking down what needed to be done in common sense chunks (you can check out ‘Making Nelson Nutmeg‘ here – http://dannystack.com/making-nelson-nutmeg/). Once we knew where the story was going to be set, we went into pre-production putting the necessary elements in place. We hadn’t even written the script yet but we wanted to get some momentum going while we wrote the script rather than wait. So, once the location was locked, we started to gather a small team, then we finished the script, then we networked with the industry to tell them what we were doing and why, then we crowdfunded some money, put in some of our own cash, and got small private investment elsewhere, and made the film for that amount. The combined savvy and nous from the both of us really paid off, and directing the film together worked very well (our top tip: make sure the both of you are involved in creating & developing the story together from the start, that way you have equal understanding and no-one goes off on an individual director vision-quest).

Q: Anything you’ve learned from the experience? And anything you’ll change in future scripts/films because of it?

A: I come from a script-heavy background, I love scriptwriting and all its intricacies. But working on the feature showed me how flexible the script can actually be, once the practicalities of production come into play, or what the actors can do, and then what the edit can achieve or improve. I was aware about all of this previously but I got to experience the differences physically and emotionally by making my own film, and that’s a key difference than just reading a clever article somewhere online. But I also learned that there’s a tonne of info that doesn’t go into a script; all of the stuff you’ve worked out in terms of world of the story and character motives and certain bits of logic that’s perfectly clear to you but you end up answering questions about on set to cameramen, props, make-up, actors etc as they don’t know the story as well as you do. If you CAN’T answer one of these questions, you haven’t done your work properly to this point.

Q: What’s the release plans/schedule for Nelson Nutmeg?

A: It had its world premiere at the London Film Festival in October 2015, which was a great boost and achievement for us (we made a kids’ film for kids with kids in the lead roles, and on a microbudget, but we get a world prem at the London Film Fest. Crazy!). Since then, it’s been on the festival circuit and a mini-UK cinema tour we organised ourselves. It got a US release in the summer of 2016, and we’re finalising plans for a UK Stream/Dvd release this autumn or later in the year. We’re such a tiny film, but we’ve reached well beyond our expectations.

Q: What are your thoughts on the business side of screenwriting, getting your scripts ‘out there’ and networking to make connections?

A: Well, I go into this in great detail in the UK Scriptwriter’s Survival Handbook (http://bit.ly/UKScriptwritersKindle), which myself and Tim compiled as a hands-on and practical guide to surviving as a screenwriter in this country – sharing our experience and practical know-how. Nowadays, it’s easier than ever before to make contacts, and get your work out-there. And there’s more help, courses, articles and books to make writing ‘easier’. Writing doesn’t get easier of course, but there’s no excuse not to get better. Networking is important; half of the work I’ve ever done is via the contacts I’ve made over the years.

Q: You co-host the excellent UK Scriptwriters podcast, what prompted this venture and what have you learnt from it?

A: I actually started the podcast as I was procrastinating, and having a bit of a slump with my confidence/writing. I was online trying to find UK writing podcasts as a way to get inspired and couldn’t find any so I thought: THERE SHOULD BE ONE. And then: I’LL DO IT. And then: NO, I’LL DO IT WITH TIM, HE’S PROBABLY GOT A GOOD MICROPHONE. And lo, he had. We’ve been doing the podcast since 2010. We enjoy it for ourselves mainly, as a hobby, but it’s been a neat distraction, and one that ultimately led to us working together to make Nelson Nutmeg.

Q: You’ve had some great guests on the podcast, any personal faves? (mine was Tony Jordan!)

A: Mad Max writer Brendan McCarthy was great; very generous with his time and insight on the making of that film. Andrew Ellard’s comedy podcast is a popular one, as is James Cary’s sitcom special, and James Moran’s horror interview, and Debbie Moon’s Wolfblood. I’ve loved all our guests! We’re open to suggestions on who might be next…

Q: Your blog is a must read too: http://www.dannystack.com, that’s been going for 11 years, providing a tool of free help and advice for writers. Do you enjoy giving back to the community in this way?

A: I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently because there’s a whole load of sites and social media that are very needy for your screenwriting time & attention. I’ve been blogging since 2005 and trying to share what I can. But why do I do this? Is it an insecure need for time and attention? That must be part of it, but I realised it comes from a bigger and deeper reason than that: I’m doing it because it’s the kind of advice and support I would have liked when I started out, when I didn’t know what I was doing or what I could do. I’m doing the blog and providing free help (when/where I can) because I know what it’s like to feel cut off or clueless or not talented enough. But with a committed application and focus in the right areas, anything is possible.

Q: You’ve also co-written ‘The UK Scriptwriters Survival Handbook’, what prompted that?

A: Ah, sorry, I’ve mentioned this already in the answers above. But it’s curious. You can give away free advice and insight on a blog (like I’ve been doing) yet still get daily emails asking you the same questions about how to get an agent or how to break in as a writer. There’s a constant source of people coming through, and they may not have come across your site. And even when you point them towards the article on the site or the relevant blog post, they still don’t really follow through. But if you put all the relevant info in a book, then people are willing to pay for the info, to have it ready at hand. So, Tim and I decided to put the best bits of our blogs into one book that would cover everything everyone would need to know about surviving as a screenwriter.

Q: It’s fairly unusual for a UK focused book of that type, as most seem to feature US and working in Hollywood. How is it being received?

A: It’s done really well, for such a niche area and niche audience. We self-published, and it’s made us some handy money between us, so we’re pleased. Some of our properly published friends in the world of screenwriting books have expressed jealousy that they didn’t self-publish themselves, as the publishing deals for these types of niche books aren’t always that generous. Ha!

Q: You help with assessing entries for the Red Planet Prize, which is a great competition for UK screenwriters, what’s the idea behind this?

A: In 2007, I had an idea for a UK screenwriting competition where a new writer would get a prize for their winning script BUT ALSO get mentored afterwards to ensure that their career received the kickstart it deserved. I took the idea to writer/producer Tony Jordan (Life on Mars, Hustle, EastEnders, etc), who immediately jumped on it, and came up with a fantastic prize: £5k cash, a commission on one of Tony’s shows (or he would option the winning script) and an agent (if you didn’t already have one). The Red Planet Prize (named after Tony’s production company, Red Planet Pictures) was launched at The Screenwriters Festival in the summer of 2007. The entire scheme has proved to be a great success (BBC’s Death In Paradise coming from the Prize, as well as many writers advancing their careers). I am very proud to be a part of it, especially as I know all-too-well what it’s like to be a new writer trying to break into the industry (tapping back into what I said earlier about ‘why do I do this?’).

Q: When does the Red Planet Prize run, and when is the announcement of this year’s due?

A: It’s a biannual event nowadays. This year’s winner was announced a couple of weeks ago – details here – http://dannystack.com/red-planet-prize-2016-winner/!

Q: If you’ve used services/sites like Inktip, SimplyScripts, The Blacklist, what’s your view on this type of model for screenwriters to get their scripts seen, and hopefully picked up?

A: I haven’t used any of these services. I would imagine that they’re useful to some people and frustrating to others. Check them out, weigh them up, give them a punt, your mileage may vary. Be wary of just handing over money for an empty subscription or empty leads.

Q: What screenwriting projects are you working on now, and when can we next expect to see your name on the credits?

A: I’m working on a lot of kids’ TV shows at the moment. There’s the CBeebies’ favourite Hey Duggee, which is a real treat, and a few more I’m not allowed speak about. There’s that horror film I rewrote going into production in November. And I’m working on the next family film with Tim, a Christmas movie, which we plan to shoot in winter 2017.

Q: What’s the best and worse screenwriting advice you’ve been given?

A: The best advice is to finish what you’ve started. Don’t waste too much time online looking for the perfect answers or convincing yourself that there’s no point as the industry’s a closed shop (it isn’t), just write and finish a damn script (feature script preferably, but TV or short script will do, too) then who knows what might happen? The worst advice I got was when I decided to pursue writing and two close friends advised me against it, saying the competition was too great and you had to be really good. They were right, in a way, but I fully committed myself to the cause, knowing that I had at least got what it takes (or knew that I had to at least try), and am getting better all the time. There are more talented writers out there than me, but that doesn’t mean I won’t get ahead of them.

Now for a few ‘getting to know Danny’ questions!

Q: What’s your favourite film? And favourite script, if they’re different.

A: My favourite film changes daily, depending on what I’ve just seen or re-watched. At the moment, it’s Manhattan by Woody Allen. One of my favourite scripts is Stranger Than Fiction by Zach Helm; the way it was written was far more enjoyable than how the film actually came out (but that’s another lesson in itself).

Q: Favourite author and book?

A: Again, this can vary on any given day, but Song for Achilles by Madeline Miller is incredible. Classic-wise, I’m a cliched fan of The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger.

Q: Beer or Wine (or something else)? And which variety?

A: Yes please. Oh sorry, you mean what type? Any kind of decent lager. A full bodied red. And I’m quite partial to a milk vodka (http://www.blackcow.co.uk/) or two.

Q: Favourite food?

A: Give me a decent burger or fry up and I’m happy.

Q: Football team?

A: Nottingham Forest.

Q: Any other interests and passions?

A: Sport. Keeping fit (very important as a writer; I’ve had years of back trouble that is now regulated by effective exercise).

Q: You’re from Ireland but (I assume) live ‘down South’ now. Anything from home you miss?

A: I live in Bournemouth now. But I miss Clonakilty black and white pudding (http://www.clonakiltyblackpudding.ie/) from back home. The UK doesn’t do white pudding at all as far as I can tell, and the black pudding’s a bit hit & miss. A decent pint of Guinness can also be hard to come by.

Q: Any final thoughts for the screenwriters of SimplyScripts?

A: Read all the free stuff (http://dannystack.com/downloads/) on my blog and if that doesn’t cover everything, buy my book!🙂

About Interviewer Anthony Cawood: I’m an award winning screenwriter from the UK with over 15 scripts produced, optioned and/or purchased. Outside of my screenwriting career, I’m also a published short story writer and movie reviewer. Links to my films and details of my scripts can be found at http://www.anthonycawood.co.uk.

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