We’ve all read in Variety or The Hollywood Reporter of some no-name screenwriter selling his or her screenplay for a million bucks. Ever wonder how they did it? What structure did they use? What “tricks of the trade” were employed?
May I introduce Paul Castro, the original writer of one of my favorite films August Rush. Paul Castro is a produced, award-winning screenwriter and world-renowned screenwriting professor.
“Structure…is the canvas on which we paint with words.” – Paul Castro
His project, August Rush was produced by Warner Brothers and starred the late great Robin Williams, Keri Russell, Freddie Highmore and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. The film took Paul Castro into the belly of the Hollywood beast.
The business of screenwriting can be tough, but while a student at the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television, he was a finalist for the Coca-Cola Refreshing Filmmaker’s Award for directing and producing his original screenplay Healing, and landed a three-picture screenwriting deal worth $1 million.
The lessons he learned not only from selling August Rush but many other Hollywood screenwriting adventures were invaluable. He later went back and became a screenwriting professor at UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television, teaching thousands of students over his ten years of teaching.
“Paul Castro teaches screenwriting from the inside out.” – Richard Walter, UCLA Screenwriting Chairperson.
After being a screenwriting professor, script doctoring and consulting Paul decided to create the ultimate screenwriting course. He calls it “The Million Dollar Screenplay.” –
I took the course myself and all I have to say is WOW! Paul teaches with an elegant style that’s extremely understandable and straight to the point. Success leaves clues and so do masterfully crafted screenplays that sell for millions of dollars.
Paul Castro shows you those secrets. Not trying to do a hard sell here but I just love this course.
“What clearly resonates with me is Paul’s love for and dedication to his students and to storytelling. He is a composed and practical artist and teacher, yet highly imaginative in his approach.” – Michael Eisner, Former CEO of The Walt Disney Company.
Here’s some of what Paul covers in his course:
- Professional screenwriting techniques
- Plot development for the big screen
- Creating compelling characters to attract movie stars
- Winning dialogue
- Structure to serve as the blueprint for your movie
- Scene construction to evoke suspense
- Sequence writing to manage an ensemble cast
After taking his course I reached out to him and asked him to be a guest on the podcast. What followed was not only a master class in screenwriting but also lessons on the film business and he also discussed how to discover your own voice as an artist. Pretty mind-blowing.
Enjoy this whopper of a podcast episode and if you haven’t seen August Rush do yourself a favor a watch it. It’s worth watching for Robin Williams alone!
Alex Ferrari 0:05
Today guys, we have Paul Castro. He is the writer of one of my favorite movies of the last 15 years or so. 20 years Oh, August rush starring the late Robin Williams, Freddie Highmore career Russell and john Reese Myers is a wonderful, wonderful film. He's a master, lecturer, and teacher, screenwriting teacher, he's been teaching at UCLA, one of the considered arguably one of the best screenwriting courses you can take to become a screenwriter and the amount of the Academy Award winners and you know, sold screenplays have come out of that. A program is remarkable. So what Paul did was actually create his own course called a million dollar screenplay. And he basically took everything he taught at the UCLA film school, and put it in this course. And I have to tell you, it is remarkable what he's been able to put in that scores. It is really, really great. So when I took the course I had to get him on the show, had to talk to him. I want her to get deeper and deeper into what he's doing and how he's doing it. So sit back, relax. And and like I always say, prepare to take some notes because there's this one's a doozy. Get ready for our interview with Paul Castro. Well, man, thank you for taking the time out to come on the indie film hustle podcast. I really appreciate it, man.
Paul Castro 2:07
Sure, Alex. Absolutely. I'm happy to do it.
Alex Ferrari 2:10
So I want to jump right into it. So how did you get your foot in Hollywood's door which is a screenwriters. I think one of the ultimate questions for all screenwriters like, how do you break through there's so much noise? There's so many people trying to do it. How did you get your foot in the door?
Paul Castro 2:26
Yeah, it's a valid question and one that is asked perpetually throughout the years by up and coming screenwriters and even my friends who have also taken similar paths. I was on the east coast and I was in a suit and tie job out of college in the Washington DC area. And it wasn't terribly pleasant. And I made the decision to go to Hollywood in the attempt of trading daydreams for dollars as a professional screenwriter. And I thought UCLA film school would be the best path being that the majority of Oscar winners have come out of that program. So I thought that would be a good start. So I drove cross country in my truck, and I was excited to go to UCLA there was only one challenge Alex, which is he got rejected.
Alex Ferrari 3:24
You already packed up you bought the you bought the T shirt. You bought the hat, the mug?
Paul Castro 3:27
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, everything. And so I, you know, I contacted or attempted to contact the chair to the department to no avail. So I went to UCLA and I put in the mailboxes of every film professor, the top 10 reasons why they should reconsider my application. And I just, you know, printed it out and put it in their mailbox in hopes of some type of response. Fortunately, the chairperson of the department called me up and said, Oh, wait, got your top 10 list was very funny made us all laugh. Nice. Oh, well, great. Am I in Nisa? No, absolutely not.
Alex Ferrari 4:08
But thank you for the hustle.
Paul Castro 4:09
I appreciate it. Exactly. So a year later, I did apply again. And fortunately, I was one of the 18 to get in. And it was it was a good year, I was glad looking back on it that I didn't get in because it gave me a chance to really hone my craft and write and take seminars and read books and do everything I could humanly possible to inculcate my self into the system in an organic holistic way. So at UCLA, we had to write a full length feature, feature length screenplay, Alex every eight weeks, for three years, Jesus.
Alex Ferrari 4:51
Yeah, that's insane. Like I took me forever to write my first feature scripts.
Paul Castro 4:55
Yeah, right. Holy cow. So and those scripts couldn't keep up were invited to leave the program. So I felt Wow, I gotta get this done. So yeah with so I got really lucky because of that pressure because I had to come up with ideas. Of course, I have a nephew named Anthony and he at the time was five years old. He was like a redheaded Harry Potter type kid. And he was born on August 5, and he kept looking off into space and kind of pondering life a lot. And I say what's going on? What are you thinking about little guy? And he would say, Well, do you hear the train in the distance? Yeah. Do you hear the kids playing soccer? Yeah. Do you hear the birds chirping? I go, Yeah, he goes, put it all together. It's music. And I went, Whoa, okay, that's trippy, right. So it just kind of stayed with me. it resonated with me. And when it was time to come up with another idea for UCLA. I thought, Hmm, what if this kid had like this amazing musical ability simply because he could take sounds from everyday life. So I wrote a screenplay called noise and noise was about a young musical prodigy named August rush, who uses his gifts to reunite his estranged parents. And I came up with the name August rush because Anthony is born August 5, and Geoffrey Rush won the Oscar for a movie called Yeah, yeah, that movie. That's awesome movie. Yeah, it was a musical movie. So I thought, Okay, that makes sense. So, yeah, so it was just one of those things. Okay, here goes another screenplay. And the chairperson of the screenwriting department at UCLA, Richard Walter, who to this day is a dear friend and mentor and wonderful person. So Richard said, Hey, I really love this screenplay. May I give it to a producer friend of mine? And I said, Absolutely not. No.
Alex Ferrari 7:08
Nice, nice. No, no, no, please, please don't do that.
Paul Castro 7:12
Yeah, please, I want to I want to marinate in eggs and work at Starbucks for the rest of my life.
Alex Ferrari 7:18
Not that there's anything wrong with Starbucks.
Paul Castro 7:20
You know what? Starbucks is part of my daily ritual. And there are many days when I go man, I just wish I could just chill here and meet people all day and work.
Alex Ferrari 7:29
It's how much how many screenwriters are at Starbucks on a daily basis here in Los Angeles
Paul Castro 7:34
And the best ones are the ones that work there probably
Alex Ferrari 7:37
You know, the funniest things is that and this is hard for people outside of LA to understand is, when you walk into a Starbucks, any Starbucks in the Los Angeles area, you will see a laptop with final draft open and I've not yet found one that is always somebody working on a screenplay or if not you will hear someone talking about the story that the killer right now.
Paul Castro 8:01
You know, you're right. You You know, if you get pulled over by a cop for not wearing your seatbelt, you could always ask him. Hey, how's your screenplay gone? Oh, how did you know?
Alex Ferrari 8:12
Welcome to LA Hollyweird.
Paul Castro 8:14
Yeah, so anyway, so that was the situation and it was, you know, serendipity, cosmic choreography, a plethora of luck. And so I met with this producer, and he really liked the screenplay. He also liked something else I wrote called a gift for mom. And I was fortunate he gave me a three picture deal. Wow. And it was pretty substantial. But you know, I mean, just one of those things is just very lucky. There are screenwriters, I meet on a daily basis that are enormously talented that have still not, you know, I hesitate to say aided because what is that really, as long as you're being creative and contributing to the world in some way, shape, or form with your creativity? I think that's success. But
Alex Ferrari 9:03
But being able to make a living doing what you love to do is the dream in one way, and that dream is very true. You don't have to be a billionaire. You can you know, you can and that's something we preach it in the film also is like, you know, what, what is success to you guys? Like is 100 grand a year doing what you love? Is that enough? Is 50 grand a year? You know, living in Kansas? Is that enough? You know, like, yeah, that's the question you have to ask yourself, but anyway, sorry, I digress. Yeah.
Paul Castro 9:29
Right. That is a wonderful way to approach it. You know, what is your definition of success? First of all, what is that, you know? So that's, that's how I got started. I got very lucky.
Alex Ferrari 9:45
You were at the right place at the right time with the right project.
Paul Castro 9:47
Yeah, exactly. And I guess, you know, I mean, I definitely don't want to project false humility, but there's a lot of luck to it. But I also do have to say I wrote a lot by that time. When I sold August rush, I had written probably 11 feature films is maybe 12.
Alex Ferrari 10:07
That's a number. So I've interviewed a bunch of different screenwriters and the number is 10 1112, before something gets sold, is that's a, that's a good number. I mean, there are the the oddballs that sell it, like their first script or second script or something like that. But generally, you have to kind of, like, get all the bad scripts out that say, say, Yeah, get all the bad writing done early.
Paul Castro 10:28
Right. And I think you already know my philosophy. It's not right about what you know, it's right about what you know, hurts. You know, everyone has their little owies from life, something that's happened to them. Usually it's from childhood that has stayed with them, and the writers who are brave enough to go into the belly of the beast of that situation early on. You don't have to write the 910 1112 scripts, they can actually nail it on the first or second or third time. Right. And, and you don't have to write about that situation. Alex, as you know, it's writing about that emotion. So what is an emotion that is okay, so when the wave retracts of something that was horrifying or embarrassing or shameful to you, when that wave retracts, what are the seashell gems left behind? What is that emotion
Alex Ferrari 11:27
And that's the that's where some of the best writing has come from, in a lot of ways, especially when you're starting out I'd imagine. I mean, I've heard from many different I mean, I've read every screenwriting book and everything and, and and a lot of a lot of the Guru's and a lot of successful screenwriters as well always say, you know, at the beginning, you write what you know, or that pain that you're saying about then later on, as you become better with your craft, you can start creating the Harry Potter's of the world and things that aren't based in reality. Is that something Do you agree with? Or what's your point of view on that?
Paul Castro 12:00
No. Again, I would suggest never second guessing the market and what the market wants and what could sell or should sell. You look at something like Erin Brockovich, okay, right that ever sold now, but Julia Roberts said, Hey, this rocks, and then you have a movie.
Alex Ferrari 12:20
And Steven Soderbergh was like, yeah, I'll do it.
Paul Castro 12:24
It's like that everything came together. So I'm a big believer, Alex, in, you know, give yourself to the world and come from the spirit of contribution. Yeah. And yeah, the universe will conspire on your behalf.
Alex Ferrari 12:42
And that's a great, that's excellent. That's really is excellent. That's a great, that's great advice. Now with August rush, I've always wanted to ask a screenwriter this story. How was the process of getting a story you've got you've got it sold Now, what is the process of the journey that it went through to get it onto the screen? So like, how did the development process go? I mean, you don't have to I mean, I know this is a very long question. But just you know, as you know, just give us a Reader's Digest version of it. Like how, what was the journey, like for August rush to get it out to the big screen, because it was released by obviously a major studio with major stars in it. So it's not a slight little indie film. It was a it was a big studio movie at the time. So how was that process?
Paul Castro 13:24
Yeah. Well, it was it was an involved process. So I'll walk you through it. And actually, now it's another process because August rush is going to Broadway.
Alex Ferrari 13:34
Oh, how awesome is that? Congratulations.
Paul Castro 13:36
Yeah, it's fantastic. I'm excited because I think it will translate well to the stage. So yeah, so the Writers Guild only requires, you know, two rewrites and a Polish at the time when I sold it. But I was a young new writer eager to please. So I was in Writer rewrite. And some people would say hell, but I don't think it was I think it was a wonderful training ground for me. So over a two year period, I did I don't know 1617 drafts of that script. How many years? Yeah, tune it to two and a half years.
Alex Ferrari 14:16
So you're basically in development, as they call it, development help
Paul Castro 14:19
Right. I never want to I never want to use negative connotative. Fair enough. Fair enough. Yeah. It was challenging and it trained me well for my feature in Hollywood. Okay. And I often joke you know, something really tragic happened in that process. They got better.
Alex Ferrari 14:44
Amazingly enough, right? Yeah, cuz
Paul Castro 14:45
sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes it doesn't but but it did and and then after about two, two and a half years, my agent, manager, lawyer, business manager, they had an intervention and said if you keep rewriting for This project we're going to resign because it's ludicrous. And an intervention that's brilliant. Yeah. Well that's how I looked at it because they sat me down. Is it enough is enough? Yeah. So I went on, you know, and I was doing other projects at the time. I did. You know, I had the good fortune of working with Stanley, you know, founder of Marvel Entertainment on two projects, and you know, I had other things going on, but I really loved dog construction, I of course, hoped it would get made someday. So a couple of years went by and came really close to getting made different directors attached and reading it and liking it. And then the producer did a movie with Robin Williams, and said, Hey, can you take a look at this script? and Robin read it and said, Yeah, but my part has to be more substantial. I believe that's how it went down friends. So the producer wisely hired two writers and they gave it another polish and pass and rewrite. And then about a year and a half later, I believe Robin officially became attached to the project and when Robin Williams is attached to a project you know, that's good news for everybody. So yeah, so fortunately then things were off to the races and then Freddie Highmore and Keri Russell and Johnny Meyers and yeah, it became a real thing.
Alex Ferrari 16:31
So the second that Robin got attached everything kind of opened the doors the floodgates kind of opened up everything got speech, the gut got hyped up a bit as far as speed is concerned.
Paul Castro 16:40
Exactly. Everything was coalesced and off to the races.
Alex Ferrari 16:45
The funny thing is I had an opportunity to meet Robin once and I tell you I've never met a human being and he was so calm and very you know he was not the the person that persona he portrays You know, he was that kind of energy energetic guy, but he that day he was very calm with his wife. And but you could feel the energy coming off of him. It was something that was tangible in the air like you could sense and I don't want to get into all the kind of like, you know, vibey stuff, but it literally you can sense the vibe of the man it was I never met a human being like that before. But I got it. I got it.
Paul Castro 17:22
You're you're onto something and I don't mind you getting it the vibey stuff. I mean, by the stuff it is everyone has energy and and and what is your energy? And are you are you comfortable with it? Do you like if you like what you're projecting to the world? Is it enhancing your life? Are you empowering people or depleting people are then powering you or depleting you? It all starts with energy. And that's what resonates from a great script. It just is vibrating the same way you just described. Yeah. And that's great. What Robin Williams?
Alex Ferrari 17:54
Yeah, he was he was amazing. And one one quick note, I actually was like, watching I think a documentary something on the matrix, the matrix boys, or boy and girl. And they, they that was in development hell forever, because it was forever and it took him they rewrote it, you were saying you rewrote it rewrote it. they rewrote that for five years. Five years. And that's why that script is that movie is so good. That's amazing. Yeah. But to your point, like, you know, sometimes that rewriting process is helpful.
Paul Castro 18:29
Yeah, you know, something takes over if you surrender to it, and you're not kicking and screaming. Right? Yeah. Right. We're all very precious with our work sometimes. And, you know, I would encourage the opposite, you know, when you just allow it to flow naturally organically and take input and you know, take in, you don't have to always use you can go Hmm, that's interesting. Maybe for my next trip. Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 18:56
It's it's a lot of a lot of working with or collaborating with people a lot of times in Hollywood, from my understanding is that that, that that kind of mentality works really well, kind of going with the flow, kind of like, you know, just kind of riding the waves, because if you try to go against the flow is when you have problems.
Paul Castro 19:12
Yeah, that's a really good point. On the same note, we all as creatives need to have a strong clear vision for what we want to communicate creatively. And, you know, we're not typists, we get paid for our point of view of the world. And I really believe that's why new writers and old writers, veteran writers, can all be successful because everyone has a different point of view of the world. Alex, right. Yeah, you and I are born and raised in New York, and now we're different places. But, you know, your point of view of the world is very different than mine. And I celebrate that and that's why we go to the movies.
Alex Ferrari 19:50
And that was the that's the thing I always try to preach here as well is that filmmakers a lot of times they just like I'm going to be the next Tarantino. I'm going to be the next David Fincher. I'm gonna try to copy this or that and I'm like, you'll never be the next Tarantino because there's only one Tarantino and there's only one voice. I think only all the successful writers and filmmakers all have a very loud and distinctive style and voice. And that's what people don't get coming into the business. They all want to try to emulate the next. Oh, that's a big, so I'm going to do that. I'm like, well, that might that might work once, but it won't sustain a career. You know?
Paul Castro 20:29
Yeah, that's a good point. And you know, when you say they all have a loud voice, sometimes the loudest voices are the subtle, slight voices that just have a big impact because of their subtlety and their nuances.
Alex Ferrari 20:43
Well, like Wes Anderson, I mean, he's not a very loud personality by any stretch, but his movies are they scream is
Paul Castro 20:49
his style. Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 20:53
And Buster and Buster Keaton, for that matter, as well. I mean, he was obviously silent. But his style, his style of humor, and his style of storytelling is something that was very distinctive. So So let me ask you, when does a writer need an agent or manager is another big question a lot of screenwriters ask?
Paul Castro 21:13
You know? It's a great question. And I think it goes back to the approach of contribution. Okay, most writers and I was there to where you use, I need an agent, I want an agent, I need to sell something, I want an agent or manager. And you first have to ask yourself, what do I have in my vault? to contribute to this agent? Or manager? Yes. Yeah. What a value. Yeah. Instead of
Alex Ferrari 21:41
instead of looking at an agent, or a manager is like, what can you do for me? You should flip the script a bit. And that's awesome advice.
Paul Castro 21:48
Yeah, absolutely. So you know, when I when I was in LA, you know, you know, Joe manganiello. When he was an actor running around LA, he was also the type of guy who, Hey, Joe, what are you doing this weekend, I'm driving two hours to San Diego for a little play, then I'm not getting paid for and driving two hours back, which I've Oh, by the way I've been doing for the last month and a half. You know, it was a person who is on purpose, not paycheck, looking to contribute at a high level. And the rest of it just, you know, came like an avalanche of abundance for that guy. And it happens for most successful people if they're coming from a place of contribution, circling back for agents, first of all, new writers and all writers and anyone in the creative arts, especially media and entertainment, first needs to realize that agents are not scumbags. Now, are there scumbags in every single profession? on the planet? Yes, yes. Well, it's politics,
Alex Ferrari 22:51
obviously, obviously, not politics. They're on the up and up, of course,
Paul Castro 22:57
but but there's going to be that in any profession. So if you're coming to Hollywood, and saying, oh, all agents are bastards, then yeah, that's gonna be your experience. But I think they're great. If you're contributing to them, they're going to be wonderful, and they're going to contribute to you and they're going to enhance your career. So I would suggest having a body of work besides just one screenplay. I would, you know, 2345, maybe some pilot episodes for TV. If you have some non scripted reality show ideas, you know, sculpt that as well. Let them know that you're you're just not a one trick pony you have, you're in this for the long haul, and you have an arsenal to contribute to them. And they're stable.
Alex Ferrari 23:43
Right? That's a great, that's amazing advice, actually. Now what and this is, I
Paul Castro 23:48
love that you say that's amazing advice, actually, as if the actually part means usually your advice is terrible, but
Alex Ferrari 23:54
not you, not you. But as a general answer to these kind of questions. I know I'm sure. A lot of times people will just like oh, well you know, you got to do this and that and it's like, okay, that's an answer, but it's not like so what I try to do with my guests is I really try to dig for questions that I want to know answers to. So like, that's like, I've always asked him like, what, what do I need to do to create get an agent or manager? Should I even need one as a director at this point in Mike in my life in my career, and like, well, you have to and that's all about what we were talking about earlier about marketing is like you as a creator are marketing yourself to an agent and manager and selling yourself to them to go look, this is what I can do for you. Because it's already assumed that they can do something for for the writer if they're choosing the proper agent or manager. So exactly,
Paul Castro 24:44
it's a good point and Okay, so if I said to a writer, would you like Aaron Sorkin's agent, they would probably say What? Oh, of course, of course, but what if you don't write character Driven talky type movies that are very deep and insightful and poignant. What if you are the popcorn summer blockbuster action adventure guy or horror film guy is Aaron Sorkin's agent, the right guy for you probably not maybe down the hall, his colleague, maybe she's the right agent for you. Maybe she is the one that has sold a bunch of horror films. So I think targeting the right representation is just as important as if you should have representation or not.
Alex Ferrari 25:38
Now, this is a big question. As I as I'm digging deep here. What is the difference between a screenplay that actually sells and one that doesn't sell? And I know that's a real broad term, so do the best you can?
Paul Castro 25:52
It's an easy question to answer. Oh, good. You know, in Hollywood, they don't buy screenplays, they buy emotion. So if you can make a reader feel something on a very visceral level, then they cannot be ignored. Haley Fox, I always mentioned Haley by name, because she was the development executive at the production company that bought my first screenplay. And she was so passionate about it that she says if you don't buy this screenplay, I am going to quit and I've been here seven years, but there's no need for me to be here. Wow, she felt that deeply about the material. Now, when writers are coming from a place of truth facing that hurt that we talked about those little alleys from childhood that they say little obviously I'm not making light of it, they're very substantial. And they they can take that that hurt or that rage and put it on the page and then eventually makes to the big stage of of, you know, cinema, or television. It's because somebody felt something if they felt deeply about it, and it can't be ignored. And those are the screenplays teleplays pilot episodes that sell because people all have that response. You look at Eric Ross, Forrest Gump.
Alex Ferrari 27:24
Paul Castro 27:24
Robert Zemeckis gave it to Tom Hanks when he was going on vacation to Europe. And Tom said, Yeah, I really don't want to read anything. I'm on vacation. And he's and Zemeckis said well just read like the first 10 pages on the flight and by the time the flight landed, Tom Hanks was attached to Forrest Gump. And the rest as they say is history. Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 27:45
they're talking talking about emotion like there's a show I watch now one that I'm loyal to on on TV It's called The Goldbergs and and Adam Goldberg is the writer and creator of that and that's literally he's taking his hour weeks every week and putting them out on the screen and but that authenticity it's not like another 80s show. Oh, it's another Oh, we're all making fun of the 80s which I'm a huge 80s fan that's probably one of the reasons I like it so much but the characters the family the and then every week at the end he shows a video when he was shot when he was a kid Are you like oh this is just brilliant. That's that kind of stuff that you're talking about that's so emotional in his genre
Paul Castro 28:27
yeah and and Adams been doing this a while right yeah, so he's so he's finally come to the point where is he now i'm going to give myself this is this is the real hurt. Hmm. And in real estate, the three most important things are location, location, location, and in writing, especially screenwriting. It's conflict, conflict conflict.
Alex Ferrari 28:48
Yeah. And there's a lot of conflict than that.
Paul Castro 28:53
Now I get if I rewrote myself, it would just be one conflict. Exactly. Exactly. In economics.
Alex Ferrari 28:59
Real quick. Now I know loglines is a big, big question. A lot of times for starting up screen starting screenwriters like how important is it? How important is it in the selling process? Is it something what's your experience with that?
Paul Castro 29:12
Yeah, I think it's really important and it's overlooked and it's underrated. In the process. If you can not sculpt, have vibrant, lean logline that's going to fully communicate your screenplay, or your television show idea, then you're not ready to go any further. It's one of the most most difficult parts of the process Alex, it really is.
Alex Ferrari 29:40
I know I've had to write a couple of their pain.
Paul Castro 29:44
And you're gonna have to try it out with friends and families and rewrite it and see when they glaze over and when they get excited, and you're gonna have to keep working on it until it's really just nailed, right?
Alex Ferrari 29:54
And it's like every word means something like literally every single syllable mean something because the real estate So sure, it's almost like a Twitter tweet. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Yeah, you have to make it really concise.
Paul Castro 30:20
Yeah, I like that the real estate real estate is short. That's a good way of putting it. It is and people don't have time to really, you know, before I was even represented, I would, you know, try to get agents on the phone. and at what time I got more diviner, he was an old Hollywood agent, very famous at the time, and more, sadly has since passed, but it was after hours, and I called you know, one of the big three I think more it was with ICM at the time, and his assistants are gone. So guess who answered the darn phone more diviner and Mr. Vaughn All right, when a film's doing okay, what do you got? What do you got kid? Yeah. And I literally had to pitch that thing and Title Genre and the pitch and that was it. Yeah. And off of that he wanted to read the screenplay. And it wasn't because I just took it off the top of my head. Fortunately, I had heard this before, copious times at UCLA where they hammered into us. This is very important, so I was prepared. And there's been times when I've read new writers and I've I read their screenplay. Oh my god, this is fantastic. And they go, Well, you didn't seem very enthused when I first pitched it to you. Well, that's because your pitch was well it's kind of like you know,
Alex Ferrari 31:42
it's kind of like Forrest Gump meets hostal you know, it's kind of
Paul Castro 31:48
Yeah, and it's challenging when you're using other material to pitch your your your materials such as saying it's like this and like that, because what if the person hasn't seen one of those or both of those? right?
Alex Ferrari 32:02
Exactly. Yeah. And and anytime i've i've actually asked this question before on the shows like if you you know, it's kind of like the matrix meets you know, Cinderella I actually would watch that movie. But one key thing if you are gonna do that, and it is kind of like a lot of times unnecessary evil to have that in your back pocket because someone's going to ask that question sometimes. At least that's what I've been told. Make sure that you use movies that have been hits so it's like Ishtar meets the fantastic for the new one. So it's like not really going to help you sell your product
Paul Castro 32:39
although there have been movies that were not hits that just you know people loved or great reviews were correct yeah I'm came later on so my whole life you know the holidays are coming up and on TV we're gonna see it's a wonderful life as we do every year but when that first came out it wasn't well received at all.
Alex Ferrari 32:58
Yeah, well seemed like Shawshank Redemption picked up its steam much later on after its initial release.
Paul Castro 33:03
Yeah, and I it's funny at titles I know we're not on the title subject. Yeah, like I need to bring it up. Anyway, those titles are so important. That was the worst title. Yeah, I mean, but but it was from a Stephen King novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, right? So being that it was the great Steve, Steven King, are they going to say no, we hate your title. But that was a situation I think if the title was a little different, it probably would have had a bigger audience. But that being said, it's a masterpiece and Frank Darabont and Stephen King I mean, wow,
Alex Ferrari 33:38
I know it's absolutely but yeah, you're right. Like that's the one of the worst titles in history, there was a new movie that that just came out with the worst title is The Sandra Bullock movie, and Billy Bob Thornton. Our brand is crisis. I saw the poster for that. I'm like, wow, who came up with that? title? It's like, I'm sure it's a fun movie. And I love Sandra Bullock I love everybody in the in the movie, but I'm like, and it died. It died a miserable horrible death at the box office. Yeah. And I imagine that the title did not help the situation.
Paul Castro 34:10
Yeah. That's a really important aspect of the whole process. I mean, let's talk about Okay, if you're a parent and you have a newborn on the way, let's decide, you know, I don't know should we eat? Let's not even think about it. It doesn't really matter. Okay. Now, this is your child, you're going to put a lot of thought into what that person's name is. You know, a dear friend of mine, Luke fantino, who's at Warner Brothers marketing. Such a smart guy and he really I really think he has the crystal ball and if a movie is going to do well or not simply because he can look at it from a helicopter point of view and a micro point of view and all these nuances we're talking about
Alex Ferrari 34:57
titles are titles are extremely empowering. And and I think and again, it's goes back to marketing and branding and and, and a lot of screenwriters and artists in general filmmakers don't look at their art as product. But if you look at it as product and market it and sell it as product, even though it's art, you have so much better chance of selling it to whatever aspect you're trying to sell it to in the business. So if you're trying to sell it to an agent, sell it to a production company, sell it to an audience, sell it to the person you're just pitching it to. There's it's always about selling it and promoting it and packaging it in a right way to get the attention or the the end result that you're looking for.
Paul Castro 35:40
Yeah, you're absolutely right. It's an interesting craft, because it's not only a craft, it's a profession. And it's where art and commerce meet. And a lot of these production houses, many majors, the big studios, the marketing department has the final word on if the screenplay is going to be greenlit or sold or bought. It will go through all the proper channels. But if the marketing department goes, Oh my God, we love it. But we don't know how to market it. And guess what?
Alex Ferrari 36:11
It's done. It's done. Yeah, it's done. Unless you're doing it independently, and you've got your own money. And you're going to do it that route. It's It's rough. Absolutely. Now talking about production companies. How do how does a screenwriter should a screenwriter submit their work to a producer or a company?
Paul Castro 36:30
Well, it's challenging because a lot of them don't accept unsolicited material for various legalities. That being said, some will have open processes where you have to sign certain forms, and then they'll accept it. Again, I would target a production company that does your type of material. I would find a person in that production company, not just blindly send it there. I would get on the phone, build a relationship with them, meet them on social media. And, you know, I think the best approach is to ask advice if you're a new writer in this industry, you know, you don't have all the answers. And oh, by the way, I don't have all the answers. I'm constantly asking advice from people. You know, I had the good fortune of sitting down for a couple of ours with Michael Eisner. And I've known Michael for five, six years now. It's probably been like seven years now. And I'm always looking for advice from him. But I'm also looking, how can I add value to him? Right, but I'm always trying to, you know, what, what are your needs? And how can I say she ate those as a production company? What do they want to do? Do they want to make art? Do they want to win an Oscar? Do they want to make money of course they want to make money. And there's nothing wrong with making money. This is an industry where, you know, great make money, you know, right? If Alex's screenplay gets made, it's going to employ 1000s of people and there's going to be all these other ancillary business entities that are going to benefit from Alex's screenplay it could be on HBO and Showtime it could be on an aeroplane going to you know, Europe, it can be in a hotel room while I'm there with my you know, whatever. So so it's a really interesting world in the fact that once the property is add there to the world, many people can benefit from it. And of course, when I say property, that screenplay
Alex Ferrari 38:38
Exactly, exactly. Now, I'm going to get more personal into your process. What is your process of writing a screenplay? If you don't mind? This is just a basic you know, as NPCs What do you What's your process of books, I always find it fascinating. Everyone approaches the craft differently. So I'd love to hear what how you do it.
Paul Castro 38:56
Yeah, so the idea is obviously paramount. So does the idea really rock your world? Is it something that you're thinking about a lot is almost haunting you. And if you can package it into that logline package is not a good word for this. But if you can create a logline where you've captured what you initially responded favorably towards your idea, then you're on to something. So I do the logline. And I work a lot on that as far as just sculpting re sculpting it, you know, like you said, wisely, every word counts right? And even if it's the right word isn't the right word for the lyrical nature of your logline. So you have to see how it fits into the overall scheme of things as
Alex Ferrari 39:49
well. loglines are generally it's an it's an art form in itself.
Paul Castro 39:53
Yeah, absolutely. And then for your audience members after that may not know what a logline is. It's a one liner, I often say is a one liner. Is that a logline? Because I'm not even sure where that etymology
Alex Ferrari 40:03
Where's? Where's the login? Where's the line? Exactly.
Paul Castro 40:07
So once I have the log line, I do a two page movie, which is basically two pages double spaced of, if Alex and I were walking to the bus stop, and Alex says, Hey, man, I gotta go. What did you see last night and I tell you what my movie is, as we're both going in different directions. It's that fast. It just really broad strokes, but it's more involved than the log line. And then I do a 30 to 60 beat outline. And but I hit some did that my phone off? I saw
Alex Ferrari 40:47
I can't, I cannot I cannot work like this
Paul Castro 40:49
now. Yeah. Good to say. Yeah. So so the outline hits, various speeds. And as you know, Alex, you know, the opening pages are very important, especially page one, the opening images, the inciting incident, the end of Act One, which I say is page 17 page, then page 30, then page 45. Then page 60, which is the tentpole of your movie, page 75, page 90. And then what is your finale? Those are the main beats that you need to get first, before you fill in the rest of your beats. And you know, when people go, Well, how do I know what beat goes next? Well, I always say the best movies are good news, followed by bad news. Good news, followed by bad news. And, but they are increasing in intensity as the screenplay or movie progresses. So if there's a good news moment, there's going to be an equally powerful bad news moment. And then the next good news moment is going to be even more substantial. And the next bad news moments can be more substantial. And it has to adhere to the law of rising action. Okay, because of the best movies, it grows in intensity, that's what keeps us riveted, right? Yeah. So then once you have the, the outline established, you know, character breakdowns. Now, with my character breakdowns, I like to do the protagonist and the antagonist. And it's in first person, and they're just kind of ranting, okay, they're just kind of talking. And you're getting their personality, you're getting their vibe, and you're getting who this person is. I know a lot of writers and a lot of actors, you know, what was their favorite color? What ice cream did they have when they were three years old? That's cool. If it works for your process. For me, that's not my process. I just kind of like to capture the voice of the character and the energy of the character. And then it's off to the races.
Alex Ferrari 42:59
And then you just start start filling in those gaps. Yeah, yeah. So the outline. And similarly, when I write the outline is everything to me, like I have to have, it's this, it's basically the foundation of the entire story. So without these points of like a guide, you're just lost in my opinion. I mean, everyone's process is different. But for me, it makes it much easier because you're like, Okay, I need to get to this point here. Okay, just got a boom, boom, boom, that's point here, boom, boom, boom, here point. So having those key points, is there just kind of like mile markers on the journey?
Paul Castro 43:31
structure is paramount. I mean, you're a professional. And this is not a nother thing. new writers go, Well, I want to be a writer, I hope to be a writer. No, you are a writer. And you are a professional writer. When you start acting like a professional writer, and professed professional writers, they outline, they sculpt, they make this the blueprint on which they're going to create and that's what structure is, it's it's the canvas on which we paint with words.
Alex Ferrari 43:59
That's, that was actually quite beautiful.
Paul Castro 44:05
So when the studio is going to hire you for an original piece of spec script that you've written or for a rewrite, they're hiring you for your expertise in this craft as much as they are hiring you for your abundance of creativity and execution.
Alex Ferrari 44:26
That's Yeah, absolutely. Now, let me ask you, the age old question, what is more important plot or character?
Paul Castro 44:35
You know, you know, I mean, that's a tough one to answer, because I think it's a symbiotic relationship. It's the balance. It's the Yang, the yin and the yang. It's the space between the notes makes the music, right, it's this. I mean, this is this is what we're all talking about. So I would never put more weight on one or the other. That being said, the best stories are about one thing. Okay, so you look at a commercial success like the movie taken in recent years. Yeah. Okay. That entire movie is about Liam Neeson Doing what?
Alex Ferrari 45:21
just killing and kicking everyone's that's the way to go going, going to save his daughter.
Paul Castro 45:27
Right? His daughter has been
Alex Ferrari 45:29
kidnapped, taken sorry. kidnapped, horrible, horrible they've taken much better. So he just
Paul Castro 45:35
wants to get her back. So that is what the whole movie is about. In jaws they need to kill the shark. Exactly. So, you know, the best movies, I believe, are about one pending question that needs to be answered by the end of the movie.
Alex Ferrari 45:55
So how what would be the question for Star Wars? You tell me, I would imagine it's the boy's journey to God. I've seen that movie a million times. And I'm a huge fan of it. But like how can you and it's probably the most, the best example of the hero's journey ever done to film I can't say I don't know. Like Isn't it about Luke's journey to find himself and become a man eventually his his his journey from being a boy to being a Jedi along the way and a path and you know, God you see it's getting very convoluted here.
Paul Castro 46:34
Where Where does he find his power
Alex Ferrari 46:38
within himself? There you go. That's it. That's the story.
Paul Castro 46:42
Andy in Shrek Shawshank Redemption, you know, the Tim Robbins character. This is a man who felt imprisoned and only experienced freedom by going to jail for a crime he didn't commit. Right? So he could have been a you know, a son's in car car, Sir, it is a free of being incarcerated his whole life and continued to do his accounting or banking. But he would have never felt free unless he had that experience.
Alex Ferrari 47:20
That's very true.
Paul Castro 47:21
Alex Ferrari 47:22
So it's always finding that one thing it's about
Paul Castro 47:27
Yeah, it is. And there's a great line get busy living or get busy dying.
Alex Ferrari 47:33
That pretty much covers it, doesn't it?
Paul Castro 47:38
I mean, that's the that's a great line in the movie. And it basically is the movie, isn't it? Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 47:43
the whole movie is basically in that line, get busy living or get busy dying. And that explains that movie. So well. I talked about that movie constantly on the show. Because it's, it's it's one of my top five. You know, it's it's amazing. Now, you have been you've done. You've been busy not only as a screenwriter, but as also as a teacher, and instructor and you've created this awesome course called called the million dollar screenplay. How did you come up with the course? And what was the purpose behind it?
Paul Castro 48:14
Yeah, so I taught at UCLA for over a decade. And I've spoken around the country at various events when they've invited me on the craft of screenwriting. And I thought, Okay, well, a lot of people are always asking about the million dollar screenwriter or the million dollar screenplay. What is that all about? And it's not about selling the million dollar screenplay and becoming a million dollar screenwriter. It's about having a body of material that's going to influence the masses positively through your art. So I thought, well, how can I communicate that in a course. And I thought, well, I'm going to teach the same thing I taught at UCLA and the undergraduate program, and then the master's program. And structure is going to be a big part of it. And I'm going to hopefully put it in a form that's digestible to whoever wants to take the course. And it's not going to be, you know, 25 or 50 hours long, it's going to be two hours long. And they're going to get as much from it as if they were in a master's program in screenwriting. So it's a
Alex Ferrari 49:26
really condensed version of everything. So like, it's basically the logline of your course. very condensed and right to the point. Well, that's
Paul Castro 49:36
right to the point, you know, I am super blessed Alex, I have a daughter and she's amazing, right? And someday she may want to become a screenwriter. So I thought to myself, well, if I were going to sit down with her and walk her through this craft and put her in the best possible position to succeed as a screenwriter, what would I do? Teacher and that's what the course is.
Alex Ferrari 50:04
That well I've already started taking the course I haven't gone through the whole course just yet I've started taking the course and I was so blown away just by the beginning of the course that I reached out to you. I was like, Oh no, I gotta get Paul on the show. I gotta get Paul on the show. I gotta, I gotta spread the word. I got to spread the word I drank I drank I drank the Kool Aid, sir. Thanks.
Paul Castro 50:21
You know you to me is a nice platform for education and I'm proud to be on their site.
Alex Ferrari 50:26
Yeah, it's an awesome it's an awesome awesome course. And that's great. It's I just discovered it myself. Udemy and they are amazing and and I'll make sure to everyone to have links in the show notes where you can get the the course and stuff. Now on a psych aside question. Um, I have, just because I know you've been, we're probably around the same vintage. So we there was a time where there was the rock and roll screenwriter, arguably to say that Tarantino is probably the last rock and roll screenwriter today but there was that moment that moment in time when there was the Shane blanks, Shane blacks of the world, and the Joe Astor houses and they were making 2 million a pop 3 million a pop sometimes 5 million, depending with back end or bonuses on screenplays. What are those days completely gone? And how different is the landscape? The screenwriting landscape today?
Paul Castro 51:24
Yeah, well, deals are structured in all sorts of creative ways. And when you're dealing with agents, and you know, so you look at someone like an Aaron Sorkin okay. And I'm not going to the I certainly like the Steve Jobs movie, but I think social network was, was a great movie. So if Aaron Sorkin got his quote, so what I don't know what he's getting these days, probably two or $3 million a screenplay. But there's a chance maybe they said, Hey, Aaron, can you take a million on this and get some back end points? I don't know if they did that deal. I have no idea. But that could be super lucrative for a screenwriter. So when you look at just what's in, you know, the trades of what a screenwriter made on a script sale, I wouldn't look at that I would look at, you know, the deal behind the deal. Right. And that is, yeah, I'm sorry. No, go ahead. Go ahead. No, you go ahead. I want to hear you
Alex Ferrari 52:26
know, I was due to your point to your point, I was actually watching a documentary on Arnold Schwarzenegger, where he's, uh, you know, I've studied Arnold's career for many, many years, child of the 80s and stuff. But he was talking the business side of things. And he said, he asked that they asked him the question, which was the most lucrative film you've ever made? They made the most money on do what do you think the answer is to that? I'm sure, you know, his whole filmography? What what's movie do you think he made the most money on?
Paul Castro 52:57
That's a good question. I would imagine Terminator he had back end points. When we got to the sequels today,
Alex Ferrari 53:03
to this date. The most profitable film he ever did was twins.
Paul Castro 53:08
Really? Did he get back end points?
Alex Ferrari 53:11
They structured a deal that was it's kind of almost like the George Lucas. Oh, don't worry about the merchandising rights deal. Because him and Danny DeVito and Reitman, Ivan Reitman, the director, they all walked in to you. I think it was universal. If a mistake was universal, or Fox, I forgot who it was. I think it was universal who did it and they walked in and he talked to the President and like look, we're all gonna do it we're all gonna do it for like no money. We just want to we just want like, and it was an insane amount of back end points, something that no one had ever done before. But the studio was like Oh great. If it's a Hey, we'll make some money if it's not a hit, we don't take you know, because Arnold was asking for 20 million at the time and you know, all this kind of stuff. And he didn't say the number but he says it's the most lucrative things. So back end points and especially depending on the kind of deal you can make is it's very lucrative, I mean, look at look at I mean, Keanu Reeves in the matrix movies jack nicholson on the Batman movie he pulled like 60 million off of that because he got a piece of the merchandising I mean it's insane
Paul Castro 54:11
yeah is the the gift that keeps giving and you know, that's where good representation comes into play because as a creative I would encourage you to try to negotiate those deals yourself and even if you have the ability to negotiate those from your you know, upbringing or past life experiences you know, it's better to keep you clean as the creative I think
Alex Ferrari 54:37
it shelters you a little bit from the the messiness that is the business.
Paul Castro 54:41
Yes, it could be you know, involved. So then you look at the guild's right, like so you have the Directors Guild, the DGA, and then sag Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild of America, W GA, and Producers Guild of America. Those guilds are set up to protect the creative person. So you You know you can look up you know, the August rush deal I think it was in March of 2000 and go Wow, that was a big number but it's really about you know the life of the movie afterwards and there's no better time to be a creative person as screenwriter especially because just go to your local cable operator and see how many channels are on there.
Alex Ferrari 55:24
And not even let's not even talk about streaming
Paul Castro 55:26
streaming and Netflix and now Amazon's in the game and Hulu and YouTube. Absolutely. And it's going to keep going and growing as it should. And new forms that are no longer new forms webisodes are fantastic so
Alex Ferrari 55:42
I'm not do suggest film it detects screenwriters kind of also put their dip their toe like I mean that screenplays are for feature films is, you know, that's the golden trophy, if you will, that's that's the thing that everybody's like, Oh, I want to see my movie in the big screen. But it's, you might take a different route, like now like, oh, maybe you could get something done on Hulu or an Amazon or Yahoo or things like that, that might have been very much more difficult time trying to get done more mainstream, but get your foot in the door. And now you have something to show do you suggest them stuff like that?
Paul Castro 56:15
Yeah, absolutely. I don't think any Avenue has a monopoly on how a writer should be produced and out to the world. And, you know, again, don't be so precious with your work. I don't want to have an Oscar. So unless I get a studio deal, it's not going to accept anything now. Get yourself out there. You know, this is all about, you know, sharing your gift with others. This is a short journey. I mean, I hate to say it, but 100 years from now, most of us are not going to be here. Right, right. So you know, I just read Nikola Tesla's books, actually, there's a few books on him. And after I read the first one, I kind of became addicted to his story.
Alex Ferrari 57:01
He's amazing. Yeah, amazing, amazing man. And this
Paul Castro 57:05
was a person who was like, yeah, let the Edison's of the world make crazy cash. I'm just gonna keep creating, and I'll be okay. And he was right. It doesn't mean you should be frivolous and irresponsible with you know, well, he
Alex Ferrari 57:18
could have been he could have made a couple of choices. Just a couple of, you know, patents, just a couple could have been doing a little bit better. He didn't have to have such a tough time. But there's a better balance. It's all about balance to Edison's on one end. Tesla was on the other. You should be somewhere in the middle.
Paul Castro 57:37
Yeah. And Tesla had a few few patents as well that he did sell. But yeah, you're right. You're absolutely right. And then you know, it's funny that that his name is Tesla. And then they the new car company, Tesla, you know, followed that it was named after him, right? And look at the amazing, innovative things Tesla Motors is doing. It's unbelievable.
Alex Ferrari 57:57
It's crazy. And I can't wait for you know, the price to come down so I could afford. So and one thing I wanted to say I wanted to cover real quick because you mentioned this earlier in the podcast that with managers and agents and this is something I want to kind of stress the people like let's say you have less you're starting out screenwriter, you have one screenplay. And you have the opportunity to pitch Aaron Sorkin and let's say it's aligned with Aaron Sorkin. You might not be Aaron Sorkin's agent, you might not be ready to be thrown into that kind of world yet you might not have the arsenal yet the experience you had to like be thrown into a writers room because you haven't done it yet. Or you haven't had the experience. You haven't written those, you know, 20 screenplays or 10 screenplays? You haven't gotten? You haven't worked out your craft enough? Is that a fair statement to say? Oh, to be wary of that? Sometimes. I mean, obviously when an opportunity knocks, you know, take it, but you should be should be cautious, cautious about that kind of stuff. Right?
Paul Castro 58:59
Well, let me let me understand your question. So you're saying just so I understand that, if you are given the opportunity to jump into the big leagues waters of the big leagues, you know, but
Alex Ferrari 59:13
you haven't, but you haven't, but you haven't done right, but you haven't done miners leagues yet. And they're like, all of a sudden, I'm in the I'm in the, you know, starting lineup of the Yankees, but I've swung the bat 15 times in my life. So is it smart to jump in there? Because you'll never get that shot again? Or is it? Do you see what I'm saying? Cuz I'll give you a real quick story. I was I was brought in after I did one of my movies. I was brought into some major agencies and major, you know, talent agencies and, you know, agents and managers and I had a lot of meetings. And there was this one agent that I had a meeting with, and he was smelling me out, you know, he was trying to kind of figure out what I could do, and I didn't come from the place of what I could do for him. I came from the place of what you can do for me, and, and I was also realizing that I was just not ready yet. Like I was not ready. Yeah, yeah, sure I could direct the movie and I could do things. But if thrown into this into the into the deep end of the pool, would I have survived, I would, I would have survived but would have thrived in that environment. So that's the kind of, you know, maybe I'm coming from a fearful place. I don't know, I would love to hear your point of view of like, what you should do if something like that happens. And obviously, we've all heard stories of people, like Robert Rodriguez who got the shot, and he flourished and doing what he does. Yeah, what do you feel? We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Paul Castro 1:00:42
What's your Well, you know, my belief system is jumping, the net will appear. And you look at somebody like Robert Rodriguez, who you just mentioned. So El Mariachi, he financed by becoming a personal lab rat, we're doing pharmaceutical experiments on him. I mean, this was a person who was he's gonna get made no matter what was driven, is driven, but he was driven not for fame or fortune, he would just wanted to express his creativity to the world. So I would say, Okay, if you were going to give advice to Alex of yesteryear, how would you have approached those precious coveted meetings that you had differently?
Alex Ferrari 1:01:29
Well, the thing is, I've gone through the path, I've gone through the game a few times, you know, with my first film, got a lot of attention, I got studio calls, I got that stuff. And then I wasn't ready. I didn't have a script, a screenplay ready. I didn't have any other projects ready. And the heat was on me. But I didn't have anything else to show. So basically, everyone's like, that's nice. You did this really great short film. But there was nothing left, like I and I couldn't make it fast enough. And then by that time, the spotlight was gone on to the next guy, and the rest is history. And then it happened again, when I released my met a few other projects of mine, and I've gone through this Gambit a few times, never making it to the beat, but I've had, you know, serious meetings with serious guys and people. What I would say to the old out, and it's just like now turned into a session, I appreciate it. What I would say to the Alex of yesteryear is to not be so would not not be so eager to impress people with what you can do and your prowess. Be, but be more coming from a place of expression as an artist, on this is an artistic, artistic point of view, it's become, show, share your voice, and share your voice share who you are more than trying to be the next this or the next that. And that's a mistake a lot of filmmakers make on the business side, I would have done more research, I would have prepared myself better to go into these meetings that go into the Battle of these meetings. In that sense. It was kind of like going in, you know, it's like going to a knife fight or go into a gunfight with a knife. You know, it's like you brought a knife to a gunfight. It's similar, similar mentality, I was not ready yet. And also mentally, I wasn't there yet, as well. So I think more homework would have been my advice on the business side, and more expression of who you are as an artist, for better or worse if they people like you or not, and also not trying to please, everybody, because you will never please anybody, everybody. And that's something I've learned doing indie film hustle. And being online is you can't please everybody, you know, my point of view is not going to be everyone's point of view. And that's okay. I mean, there's certain people who look at Howard Stern, who's made hundreds of millions of dollars on his point of view, whether you agree with him or not, you know, it's it's, you know, some people think he's a pig, some people think he's awesome, but it's just the point of view. And that's all you can really do as an artist is express yourself as who you are. And that's the people who I think become successful in whatever Avenue, they go down.
Paul Castro 1:04:07
Yeah, excellent point. And, yeah, and that's a very honest assessment of where you were at the time and what you would have done differently because he had to be, you know, a little bit brave to really take a hard look at yourself and who you are and who you are, and who you want to be. And, of course, all want to be the best version of ourselves. Right? Yeah. But that being said, I think you could have made that relationship successful. Yes, with the right approach and spirit, which you identified. And, you know, you mentioned a couple of key things you've said during this chat, which I think is interesting. You said in one of your stories, you said you're never going to get this opportunity again. Right. That's how a lot of people think, of course you are no one is one shot or nothing? I mean you know you'll never work in this town again over if you wrote you know Schindler's List and is an agent going to go oh no you pissed me off two years ago I'm not going to now it's a masterpiece so they're going to get it made. Yeah. So I think let your material do the talking for you and don't talk yourself out of a deal which a lot of writers do they get very excited and they don't know when to go Okay, I'm just gonna shut up and let the experts talk and do my job right and I'm talking to myself as well by the way
Alex Ferrari 1:05:42
Yeah, I feel I feel you on that one no question about it Alex
Paul Castro 1:05:46
one thing you said also which before I forget I'm gonna mention is going into battle Well, I would change your your, your inner voice, what battle there's no battle This is beautiful. This is going to be a lovely waltz. And it's going to be an under the moonlight Waltz with Mr. or Mrs. Agent. And by the end of it, you know, we're going to part ways and they're going to be feeling great and a little bit wealthier than before. And I'm going to feel great and get to do my craft at a high level, how beautiful and now
Alex Ferrari 1:06:23
I'm, I'm going to tell I'm gonna say something here because I love what we're doing here. It's It's wonderful. And I'm actually getting a lot out of it personally. So I really appreciate it. But what I think is that a lot of filmmakers, screenwriters, artists in general, and you know, I've been around this business for a long time, and I've been in the trenches. Most of that career. I've, I've dabbled in, you know, I've gotten worked on projects, I've got Sundance, I've worked with Oscar winners, I've worked with people, you know, a different project, my project, I've never gotten to that level, yet. But what I've noticed is is something I'm working on as an artist, as well. And this one indie film hustle is kind of teaching me is that I have a lot of armor on. And I have a lot of like, like you said that battle terminology. When my inner my inner voice, my inner spirit is not that kind of guy. But being beaten up by the business for so many years in different avenues of the business, whether it be in post production, where I come from, or screenwriting or filmmaking, or anywhere, artists generally will just throw this armor on and then it's the guard that armor starts getting heavier and heavier and heavier to the point where you can't move and you can't even do anything. where someone like you just said, you know it's a it's a waltz, it's a float. When you think of a waltz, what do you think you don't think of anything heavy, you think of something very flowing very smooth, very just, you know, it just kind of going with the flow. And I think a lot of artists, as the years go by become more and more disgruntled. In a lot of ways I'm that person as well, I have been and I've been kind of trying to get myself out of it. And just hearing you analyze my terminology has shined a light on like, man, he's absolutely right. It's not a battle. And if you walk into a meeting like that as a battle, then it's gonna be a battle. But if you walk into a meeting like that with a much more open energy and just like, Hey, this is the way it's gonna go. And if it's for you, great if it's not, there's another opportunity down the street. And that's the that's something I wanted to kind of say to everybody listening that, you know, this business does beat you up a lot. And I'm sure, Paul, you you can attest to this. I mean, it is a brutal business in many ways. But it doesn't have to be and you can kind of make things flow for you. And I think a lot of people who are working at the highest levels. Aren't these kind of Bulldogs, sometimes they are. But a lot of times they're not.
Paul Castro 1:08:55
And it depends who you're dealing with. And surely what you're what circles Have you created, okay, yeah, they have and, and getting, getting beaten up, but who wants to be in that industry going to battle trenches, these are all war terminology. So who wants that? So as a new writer, I would encourage you to do this exercise. Write list of adjectives of what you think the entertainment industry is. And if your adjectives include brutal, pretentious, fake, and then the list goes on and on and on, then I would encourage you to re think and revamp that entire list. the entertainment industry, my list is they're creative. They're generous. We influence the masses positively. There's this wonderful thing we do, which we get people out of their daily routine and we put them in the moment to where they don't Don't have to think about yesterday or tomorrow. They're right there in the moment. And there's residual value for people who read our screenplays and watch our movies, they can go back to their life and be if their life is beautiful or chaotic, tumultuous, or joyous, they're going to come back with something of value to contribute to the loved ones in their life. So you know, the holidays right Thanksgiving. What is Thanksgiving? It's giving thanks right? What is collaboration it's co laboring. So start appreciating because when you appreciate things increase in value when a house depreciates it loses value when it appreciates it increases in value. So if you get into the habit of appreciating things in your life even the little you know kicks in the shin every now and again and just appreciate it Wow What did that teach me? I mean I look at the entertainment industry and you know have I had my challenges along the way sure you're in you know, a career for a decade or two decades you're going to have those times when you go wow, that really hurt that was painful that hurt my feelings This is emotionally trying and you have to look at it and go Okay, well that's true. And then you have to ask yourself What did I do to invite that into my life? And then once you own bad Okay, what have I gotten from this it wasn't the last experience how can I use this for future endeavors? You know, if I meet an unsavory person in the entertainment industry even at a high level meeting, I instantly recognize and I think to myself Haha, how can I help this person? How can I contribute to them? How can today be the day when this person will no longer be unsavory because of the energy I'm bringing to this dynamic and how can we create something of value
Alex Ferrari 1:12:05
and that is that is the key I think with everything we do in life is to be able to create value for people and I think one of the reasons why this podcast and and indie film hustle has been so well received is I wholeheartedly am trying to create value and I I'm kind of experiment for that I'm an experiment for that because at the at the core of what I'm trying to do with with this is to help people because I was just tired of seeing so many filmmakers walk through my doors in post production and just you know, and I don't want to use this that negative terminology but but eaten alive by the business in a lot of ways with their beautiful films and they don't know how to market themselves they don't promote themselves they don't think about the long term that all this kind of stuff. I was like, You know what, let me see if I can shine some light and help some people along the way so they don't have to go through the pains that I went through or that I've seen.
Paul Castro 1:12:58
You're doing a great job Alex and it's really beautiful and altruistic what you're doing for writers and creatives, not just screenwriters, but anyone could get value from what you're doing. And I think it's awesome. And you look at someone like it's a right now I'm going to deal with Shirley MacLaine Oscar winner. I've done copious projects with surely and surely is a person if you look at her career, she's been working for what over 55 years or something
Alex Ferrari 1:13:23
she worked on, on among other movies, but what I love is the Alfred Hitchcock movie, Family Plot, if I'm not mistaken, she was in that one, right. So no, no, that was the one that was the one. Yes, that
Paul Castro 1:13:35
was her first. Yeah, that was the first movie. Exactly. Exactly. Yeah, yeah, exactly.
Alex Ferrari 1:13:39
What a first movie that was. Right, exactly.
Paul Castro 1:13:41
She got you know, she was on Broadway and take. I think Hitchcock was in the in the audience and saw her. But so Shirley's had this career now because Oh, what a lovely, beautiful career she's had. It's just like sculpted out of magic, right? But you look at her career. There were times when she gave her belief systems about metaphysics, quantum physics, past lives, aliens, that were her beliefs were not in alignment with mainstream media and the mainstream thought processes correct. People would even allow that type of thinking in their realm. And you know, people really responded harshly towards her and what she was doing and she could care less. She traveled she did more movies she did Broadway she did Vegas, she sang she danced. She wrote books. I think she has seven times New York Times bestsellers. And Shirley MacLaine was and is a purpose who's a person who's on purpose, not paycheck, and as a result, those situations never even heard her. Right? She just kept going. She went, Hmm, interesting. Bam, kept going. Okay, so you Alex are now at a point where from your experiences you can look back on that malt that you experienced and go, Hmm, now I have a different perspective, I can look at it through a different lens. your listeners who have not yet jumped into the deep waters of the entertainment industry can look at their life now and ask themselves, what journey do I want to have in the entertainment industry. And I would encourage all of us to not write our Oscar speech just yet. But to write our lifetime achievement speech.
Alex Ferrari 1:15:35
Oh, that's great. That's really great.
Paul Castro 1:15:38
At age 90, when you're up on stage, and your friends and family and kids and grandkids and everyone's up there, what body of work? Did you contribute to this world?
Alex Ferrari 1:15:50
And that's a question you should ask yourself, what do you want to contribute to this world? Not what you can take from this world or from this business for that matter of factly? Well, I will ask just a couple questions. I asked all of my guests Well, first of all, Paul, this has been an eye opening and enlightening interview, I have taken as much as as you're giving I've taken as much as hopefully the audience will take out of this too. So it's, it's been eye opening for me. So I really appreciate your amazing energy, man, I really do.
Paul Castro 1:16:21
It's been very beneficial for me as well and really big fan of what you're doing.
Alex Ferrari 1:16:26
Alright, so to the last two questions, I always ask my, my all my, my guests. What is the most underrated film you've ever watched?
Paul Castro 1:16:35
Okay, are you asking a two part question or
Alex Ferrari 1:16:37
I should and the second part is what are your top three films of all time? So go ahead.
Paul Castro 1:16:43
Yeah. Okay. So, you know, there's a movie called kolia it was a foreign film. I believe it's KOLY a, okay. And I believe it was checklist avakian. And it was amazing. It was amazing. just brought me to my knees. So that would be one that I think most people don't know about. Okay. And the next question was my top three
Alex Ferrari 1:17:14
Yeah, and that could be the top three that you can come up with today. Because that always fluctuates depending on the room and the time period.
Paul Castro 1:17:21
Yeah, you know, there's so many great movies not only in our wonderful country, but other countries as well. So there's a Chinese movie called farewell to my concubine ever saw Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 1:17:34
yeah, yeah, that was Oh yeah. while ago yeah, that was during my video store days.
Paul Castro 1:17:40
Brazilian movie called central station for that one now is a good friend. Yeah, the same producer who did City of God Donald Rambo did central station you see that? God is amazing, too. Yeah, fantastic. And then, you know, look at look at the young filmmakers of today that are just coming out with such interesting material and just you know, breaking all rules and boundaries. Paul, I'm a big fan of Paul Thomas Anderson. I think he's really great. You know, Wes Anderson is great. You know, then you have you know, the females. Audrey Welles is one of the great female writer directors that I think is underrated and has not shown us her best work yet although most of her work has been extraordinary. Allison Anders, and so I look at the person even Francis Ford Coppola had the good fortune of sitting down with Francis in class at UCLA Oh
Alex Ferrari 1:18:42
yeah. Oh my god that must have been a heck of a day
Paul Castro 1:18:44
oh he's like three hours with Francis Ford Coppola it's like what
Alex Ferrari 1:18:48
just he's just talking talking shop
Paul Castro 1:18:51
yeah just talking shop and this is you know a long time ago but he he was such a creative young he came in very stalwart and you know, the legendary director, but then once we asked him about, Hey, what are you working on? He turned into a little kid. And that's those are the best creative people right? I mean, we're all just splashing in the baby pool and playing in the sandbox and finger painting Really?
Alex Ferrari 1:19:21
That's a good Yeah, I have twin daughters so I end there in that era and that age now so I I feel you I feel it's fascinating watching them grow well,
Paul Castro 1:19:31
how old are they?
Alex Ferrari 1:19:32
They're going to be four and a couple that in a few weeks Oh
Paul Castro 1:19:34
my God, what a full age right? Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 1:19:37
they just it's every day is something new and and I'm introducing them to like, you know, different like they know who the Hulk is. They know who Yoda is like, it's so so like when anywhere we're in anywhere in the world. They'll like they'll point at Yoda or the Hulk icons on the advertised like that eats your hall gets it. So it's and that's starting to introduce the you know, introduce them to story but I'm seeing what Stories kind of resonate with them. Obviously, frozen is the greatest movie of all time. Oh my God, if I hear that song One more time.
Paul Castro 1:20:11
Let's just let it go.
Alex Ferrari 1:20:13
Ah, oh, it was rough. That was a rough one. But yeah,
Paul Castro 1:20:18
it's great man. And you know, your daughters, you have a responsibility to them, you know, what is responsibility responding with ability? And, you know, Walt Disney, you know, Bambi, you know, he saw how kids reacted and realized from that point on, this is a real responsibility I must take seriously
Alex Ferrari 1:20:39
Right because yeah, Bambi was in a lot of I don't know about you, but you have a daughter, too. How would your daughter know?
Paul Castro 1:20:45
Alex Ferrari 1:20:45
Six. She says she's a little bit ahead of us. The the Disney movies, the old stuff. I can't I can't show them Pinocchio. I know. There's like there's, I mean, they're turning into donkeys. They're drinking. They're smoking. There's, there's abduction. There's like it's like craziness. It's like, it makes the grim movie the grim stories, like seem tame. Yeah. Yeah, it's some of the Snow White's way too harsh. Like, I can't like even the book. Like I got them the book and they get scared by the imagery of the book. I'm like, Oh, I'm like I can't I get so I'm stuffing more with the Pixar stuff. And even then some stuff like, you know, hesitant about but yeah, it is a responsibility. No question. isn't a great man.
Paul Castro 1:21:33
Don't you love being a father?
Alex Ferrari 1:21:34
It's a wonderful man. It really is. I know this. This whole interview is just all of a sudden just turned it to dad's talking. About I really meant I can't wait let me get one last quick. One last piece of advice. If you have one thing to one piece of advice you can give screenwriters just starting out what would it be?
Paul Castro 1:21:53
Right. Right, right, right. And just just enjoy the process. Don't be so hard on yourself. as artists we feel so deeply so we get hurt and our feelings hurt and we beat ourselves up and you know, give yourself a break. Okay? The way that you handled things in the past does not have to be the future. Start reacting differently and be kinder and gentler with yourself create and continue to write on.
Alex Ferrari 1:22:24
On that note, Paul thank you again so much It's been an amazing amazing interview amazing podcast so thank you so much for your time sir.
Paul Castro 1:22:32
Thanks Alex. Thanks a lot and To be continued.
Alex Ferrari 1:22:36
I love I love that interview man he Paul gave us so much good information and I'm just such a big fan of August rush I do love that movie a lot. So and I again I can't stress enough how amazing that course that he that he has put out million dollar screenplay is I've taken a lot of screenwriting courses over the years and it really encompasses a lot of great great, great information and it's very very affordable for what you're getting. And in the show notes which are going to be at indiefilmhustle.com/039 there will be a coupon code that we'll be putting on the show notes so you can download the course at a discount a huge discount for for the amount of stuff that you get on it. It is amazing, amazing course. Thank you guys again for listening. Please don't forget to head over to filmmakingpodcast.com to leave us an honest review of this show. It helps the show out dramatically. It is growing so so fast. I can't even explain it. So thank you again, so much for all your support guys. I really really appreciate it. Keep that hustle going keep that dream alive and I will talk to you guys real soon.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.
- The Million Dollar Screenplay Course
- NEW COURSE: The Million Dollar Business of Screenwriting
- Watch: August Rush
- Paul Castro’s Representation: Paul Weitzman & Brad Rosenfeld @ Abrams Artists Agency