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The Million Dollar Screenplay with August Rush Screenwriter Paul Castro
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 and watch it. It’s worth watching for Robin Williams alone!
If you’re interested in downloading his course click here:
The Million Dollar Screenplay
UPDATE: Paul Castro has just released a new MUST HAVE course for ALL SCREENWRITERS. It’s called THE MILLION DOLLAR BUSINESS OF SCREENWRITING.
Here is info on his new course:
Screenwriters are creative, but not all understand how art and commerce merge to create wealth and a lasting career. This course unveils the intricate maze of the business of the entertainment industry biz-ness. Go from a want-to-be to a fine-tuned professional making a healthy living while sharing your creative genius with the world.
Click here to check out this highly recommended new course:
THE MILLION DOLLAR BUSINESS OF SCREENWRITING
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
- 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
- Bulletproof Screenplay Script Coverage Service – Get Your Screenplay Covered by Industry Pros
- Indie Film Hustle TV (Streaming Real-World Screenwriting Education)
- Shooting for the Mob (Based on the Incredible True Filmmaking Story) FREE AUDIOBOOK
- Rise of the Filmtrepreneur®: FREE AUDIOBOOK
REAL-WORLD STREAMING SCREENWRITING EDUCATION
- Storytelling Blueprint: Hero’s Two Journeys
- The Dialogue Series: 38 hours of Lessons from Top Hollywood Screenwriters
- The Script Lab Workshops
- How to Write a FAST Screenplay
- WGA Presents: The Art of Screenwriting
- Screenwriting Masterclass: Crafting Complex Characters
- Download FREE Screenplay Collections
- Download Most Wanted TV Pilots
- Download Your FREE Screenwriting Audiobook
- Indie Film Hustle® Podcast
- Filmtrepreneur® Podcast
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Stuff You Need in Your Life:
IFHTV: Indie Film Hustle TV
Book: Rise of the Filmtrepreneur®: How to Turn Your Film into a Moneymaking Business
Book: Shooting for the Mob (Based on the Incredible True Filmmaking Story)
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Welcome to the bulletproof screenplay podcast episode number five. The script is what you dreamed up. This is what it should be. The film is what it ends up being George Lucas broadcasting from a dark windowless room in Hollywood when we really should be working on that next round. It’s the bulletproof screenplay cast showing you the craft in business of screenwriting while teaching you how to make your screenplay bulletproof.
And here’s your host Alex Ferrari. Welcome. Welcome to another episode of the bulletproof screenplay podcast. Am your humble host Alex now Today’s Show is sponsored by bulletproof script coverage now unlike other script coverage Services bulletproof script coverage actually focuses on the kind of project you are in the goals of the project you are so we actually break it down by three categories micro-budget.
Indie film market and Studio film there’s no reason to get coverage from a reader that used to reading Temple movies when your movie is going to be done for $100,000. And we wanted to focus on that at bulletproof script coverage. Our readers have worked with Marvel Studios CAA wnbc HBO Disney scot-free Warner Brothers, The Black List and many many more.
So if you need your screenplay or TV script covered by professional readers. Head on over to cover my screenplay 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 ago, August Rush starring the late Robin Williams. Um, Freddie Highmore Russell and John Rhys Meyers, uh is a wonderful wonderful film.
He’s a master lecture and teacher, uh, screenwriting teacher. He’s been teaching at UCLA one of the. Consider arguably one of the best screen writing courses you can take to become a screenwriter the amount of the Academy Award winners and you know sold screenplays I’ve come out of that a program is remarkable.
So what Paul did was actually create his own course called the 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. Markable 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 and wanted 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 prepared to take some notes because there’s this one’s a doozy. Um, get ready for our interview with Paul Castro. Well, man, thank you for taking the time out there. Really appreciate it man. Sure Alex. Absolutely. I’m happy to do it. So, um, I want to jump in right into it.
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? Yeah, it’s uh a valid question and one that is asked, uh perpetually throughout the years by uh, up-and-coming screenwriters and even my friends who have also taken similar paths.
Um, 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 a decision to go to Hollywood in the attempt of trading Day Dreams for dollars as a professional screenwriter. Um, 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 got rejected. You already packed up. You bought you bought the T-shirt bought the Hat the mug.
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah every day and um, so I. You know, I contacted or attempted to contact the chaired the department, um to no avail, so I went to UCLA and I put in the mail boxes 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 and hopes of some type of response.
Fortunately, the chairperson of the department called me up and said I only got your um top 10 list made us all laugh. Nice what grade am I in now? Absolutely not. But thank you for the hustle. I appreciate it. Exactly. So a year later. I did apply again and fortunately I was one of the 18 to get in.
Um, and 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 yeah, right and take seminars and read books and do everything. I could humanly possible to uh, ankle myself into the system in an organic holistic way. So at UCLA, we had to write a full-length feature, uh, only screenplay Alex every eight weeks for three years Jesus.
Yeah, that’s like I took me forever to write my first feature script. Yeah, right. Holy cow. And those couldn’t keep up were invited to leave the program. So I fell out I got to get this done. So, um, yeah with so I got really lucky because um 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 5 years old. He was like a redheaded Harry Potter type kid. And uh, he was born on August 5th and he kept looking off into space and kind of pondering life a lot and I say what’s going on. What do 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, you just put it all together. It’s music and I went whoa. Okay, that’s trippy, right? So I just kind of stayed with me it resonated with me and um when it was time to come up with another idea for UCLA. Um, I thought huh?
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 relight his estranged parents and I came up with the name August Rush because Anthony is born August 5th and Geoffrey Rush won the Oscar for a movie called.
Yeah movie. That’s awesome movie. Yeah, it was a musical movie. So I thought oh, okay, that makes sense. So. Yeah, so it’s just one of those things. Okay here goes another screenplay and um the chairperson of the screenwriting department at UCLA. Uh, Richard Walter who to this day is a dear friend and Mentor in wonderful person.
Um, so Richard said, hey, I really love this screenplay. May I give it to a producer friend of mine? And I said absolutely not
nice. Nice. No, no. No, please please don’t do that. Yeah, please I want to marinate in angst and uh work at Starbucks for the rest of my life. Not that there’s anything wrong with Starbucks. You know, what Starbucks is part of my daily ritual and there are many days when I got man. I just wish I could just chill here and meet people all day and work at how much how many screenwriters are.
Starbucks on a daily basis here and the best ones are the ones that work there. Probably, 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.
I have not yet found one that it’s always somebody working on a screenplay or if not, you will hear someone talkin about the story that they’re gonna write. You know, you’re right, you know, uh, if you get pulled over by a cop for not wearing your seatbelt, you could always ask him. Hey, how’s your screenplay is gonna go ahead and you know, welcome to La hollyweird.
Oh, yeah. So anyway, so that was the situation and it was you know, serendipity. 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 it was just very lucky. There are screenwriters. I meet on a daily basis that are enormously talented that have still not uh, you know, I hesitate to say it because what does that really as long as you’re being creative and contributing to uh the world in some way shape or form with your creativity?
I think that’s success, but. Being able to make a living doing what you love to do is the dream and when and that dream is varied for you don’t have to be a billionaire you can you know, you can and that’s something we preach at any muscle is like, you know, what what is success to you guys like is a hundred grand a year doing what you love.
Is that enough? It’s 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 aggressive that is uh a. Way to approach it, you know, what is your definition of success? First of all, what is that? You know, um, so that’s that’s how I got started.
I got very lucky. Um you at the right place at the right time with the right project. 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. Um by that time when I sold August Rush, I had written probably 11 feature film maybe 12.
That’s a number that’s I’ve interviewed a bunch of different screenwriters, and the number is. 10 11 12 before something gets old it’s not that’s a good number. I mean there are the the oddballs at 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.
They say get all the bad writing done early. Right? And I think you already know My Philosophy. Um, it’s not write about what you know, it’s write about what you know hurts. You know, um, everyone has their little from Life something that’s happened to them. Um, 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 um, you don’t have to write the nine ten eleven twelve scripts.
They can actually nail it on the first or second or third time. Um, And uh 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 okay. So when the wave retracts of something that was horrifying or embarrassing a shameful to you when that wave retracts, what are the seashell gems Left Behind?
What does that emotion? 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 at imagine. I mean, I’ve heard from many different. I mean I’ve read every screenwriting book and everything and a and and a lot of a lot of the guru’s and a lot of successful screenwriters as well always say, um, 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 that you agree with or what’s your point of view on that? No, I again I I would suggest never second-guessing the market and what. Uh, the market wants and what could sell or should sell.
I mean you look at something like uh, Erin Brockovich. Okay write that ever sold now, but Julia Roberts said, hey this rocks and then you have a movie and Steven Soderbergh was like, yeah, I’ll do it. 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. Yeah universe will conspire on your behalf. That’s a great. That’s excellent. That’s really is. Excellent. That’s a great that’s great advice. Um 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 got it sold. Now, what is the process of the journey that I went through to get it onto the screen.
So like how did. The development process go. I mean you don’t have to mean I know this isn’t very long question. But just you know, you know, just give us a a Reader’s Digest version of it. Like how 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.
Um, 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? Yeah. Um, 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. Oh, how awesome is that?
Congratulations? Yeah, it’s fantastic. Um, I’m excited because I think it will translate well to the stage. So yeah, so The Writers Guild only requires, you know to rewrites in a Polish at the time when I sold it. Um, but I was a young new writer eager to please. So I was in writer, uh, 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 16 17 drafts of that spread how many years?
Yeah to knit two and half years. So you’re basically in development as they call a development hell. Well everyone I never want to use negative connotation fair enough fair enough. Yeah. Yeah, it was challenging and it trained me well for my future in Hollywood. Okay, um, and I often uh joke, you know, something really tragic happened in that process.
It got better amazingly enough, right? Yeah, because sometimes it doesn’t sometimes it doesn’t but it did and um. And then after about two two and 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 and an intervention that’s brilliant.
Well, that’s how I looked at it because it’s that me down is it enough is enough? Yeah. Um, so I went on and I was doing other projects at the time. Um, I did uh, you know, I had to Good Fortune of working with Stan. You know founder of Marvel entertainment on two projects and you know, I had other things going on, but I really love dog instruction I of course hoped it would get made some day.
So a couple of years went by and came really close to getting made um, 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. So the producer wisely hired um to writers and they gave it another polish and pass and rewrite and then about a year and half later. Um, I believe Robin officially became attached to the project and when. I’ve been 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 Myers and um, yeah it became a real thing. So the second that Robin got attached everything kind of opened the doors the floodgates kind of open up everything got speech got hyped up a bit as far as speed is concerned exactly everything was coalesced and uh Off to the Races.
The funny thing is I had an opportunity to meet Robin once, uh, 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, uh by be 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 you’re on to something and I don’t mind you getting into Vibe you stuff.
I mean, I know these stuff it is everyone has energy and and and. Your energy are you are you comfortable with that? You like it you like what you’re projecting to the world. Is it enhancing your life? Are you on powering people or depleting people? Are they empowering you or depleting you at 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 great Robin Williams. Yeah, he was amazing. Um and one quick note. I actually was watching I think a documentary something on the Matrix The Matrix boys, uh, or boy and girl, um, 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.
Wrote that for five years and 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. Yeah, you know something takes over if you surrender to it and you’re not kicking and screaming. Um, right right.
We’re all very precious with our work sometimes and. You know, I would encourage the opposite. Do you know when you just allow it to flow naturally organically and take input and you know take it and you don’t have to always use you can go home. That’s interesting maybe for my next screw. So, you know, it’s a lot of a lot of working with 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.
Against the flow is when you have problems. 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.
Um can all be successful because everyone has a different point of view of the world Alex, right you and I uh 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 and that was the other 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 big. So I’m going to do that. I’m like, well that might that might work once but it won’t stay in a career.
You know, 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, uh quiet voices that just have a big impact because of their subtlety and their nuances. Well like Wes Anderson, I mean, he’s not a very loud personality by any stretch but his movies are they scream his style.
Yeah. Yeah and bus and Busters and Buster Keaton for that matter as well. I mean he was obviously silent, but it’s not. His style of humor and his style of Storytelling is something that was uh, very distinctive. Um, so so let me ask you when does a writer need an agent or manager is another big question a lot of uh, screenwriters ask, 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 I need and 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 instead of looking at an agent or a manager.
Like what could you do for me? You should flip the script a bit and that’s awesome advice. Yeah, absolutely. So, you know 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? Oh driving two hours to San Diego for a little play that I’m not getting paid for and driving two hours back, which I oh by the way, I’ve been doing for the last month and 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 they’re scumbags and every single profession on the planet. Yes, yes. Well, it’s politics obviously obviously not politics. They’re on the up and up of course. Yeah, but there’s gonna 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 um, 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 gonna enhance your career so I would suggest having. Body of work besides just want to screenplay. Um, I would you know, two three four five, 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. Right, that’s a great amazing advice actually, um now what and I love that you say that’s amazing advice actually as if the actually part means usually your advices terrible, but not you not you but as a general answer to these kind of questions, I know people just a lot of times people just like oh, well, you know you got to do this at that and it’s like, okay that’s an answer but it’s not like so what I try to do with my guess 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 my life and 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 our 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 factly it’s a good point and okay. So if I said do a writer, um, 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 a down the hall, uh 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.
Now this is a big question as as I’m digging deep here. Um, 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 it’s an easy question to answer. Oh good, you know in Hollywood, they don’t buy screenplays by emotion.
So if you can make a reader feel something on a very visceral level. Then they cannot be ignored Haley Fox. I always mention 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 the 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 always from child and they say little obviously I’m I’m not making light of it. They’re very substantial. Um, 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 you know Cinema.
Or television it’s because somebody felt something if they felt deeply about it and um, it can’t be ignored. Those are the screenplays teleplays pilot episodes that sell because people all have that response. Um, you look at Eric Roth’s. Uh Forrest Gump amazing. Robert zemeckis gave it to Tom Hanks when he was going on vacation to Europe.
Tom said, yeah, I really don’t want to read anything. I’m on vacation and and zemeckis said we’ll just read like the first 10 pages on the flight. And by the time the flight landed Tom Hanks was attached to force gone and the rest as they say is history. Yeah. Yeah that talking about emotion. Like there’s a show I watch now on.
That I’m loyal to on uh on TV It’s called The Goldbergs, uh, and and Adam Goldberg who’s the writer and creator of that and that’s literally he’s taking his hours every week and putting them out on the screen and but that authenticity it’s not like another 80’s Show. Oh, it’s another. Oh, we’re all making fun of the 80s, which I am a huge 80s fan.
Um, that’s probably one of the reasons I like it so much but. Characters the family the and then every week at the end he shows a video when he shot when he was a kid who you like? Oh, this is just brilliant. Um, that’s that kind of stuff that you’re talkin about. That’s so. Emotional and in his genre.
Yeah and Adams been doing this awhile, right? Yes. So he’s finally come to the point where he’s now I’m going to give myself. This is this is the real hurt and in real estate to three most important things are location location location and then writing especially screenwriting. It’s. Conflict conflict conflict.
Yeah, and there’s a lot of conflict and that family now I get if I rewrote myself it would just be one conflict exactly exactly an economical. Um real quick. Now I know log lines is a big big question a lot of times for for starting up screen starting screenwriters. Like how important is it. How important is it in the selling process?
Is it something what your experience with? Yeah, I think it’s really important and it’s overlooked and it’s underrated in the process. If you cannot sculpt of vibrant lean log line that’s going to fully communicate your screenplay or your television show idea. Then you’re not ready to go any further.
Um, I just one of the most most difficult parts of the process Alex it really is. I know I’ve had to write a couple of their painting. And you’re gonna have to try that 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 and it’s like every word means something like literally every single syllable means something because that the real estate so sure it’s almost like a Twitter.
A tweet you have to make it really concise. Yeah, I like that the real real estate decisions short. That’s a good way of putting it. Um, 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 there and one time I got more diviner.
He was an old Hollywood agent, uh, very famous at the time and more sadly has since passed but it was after hours and. Called, you know, uh, one of the big three I think Mort was with I see em at the time and um, his assistants were gone. So guess who answered the darn phone board Viner and mr.
Vaughn. All right, when film student. 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. Um, 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 the hammered into us. This is very important. So I was prepared. Um, and there’s been times when I’ve read new writers, and I’ve I read their screenplay. I got 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, it’s kind of like Forrest Gump meets hostile. You know, it’s kind of yeah, and it’s challenging when you’re using other material to pitch your. Um your material 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?
Exactly. Yeah, and and then he time I’ve I’ve actually asked this question before on the show is like if you you know, it’s kind of like the Matrix meets, you know, Cinderella, uh, I actually would watch that movie. Uh, but one key thing if you are gonna do that and it is kind of like a lot of times and necessary evil to have that in your back pocket because someone’s going to ask that question sometimes, um, at least that’s what I’ve been told.
Um, make sure that you use movies that have been hits. So it’s like meets The Fantastic Four the new one. So it’s like not really gonna help you sell your product. Although there have been movies that were not his that just, you know, people love dark great reviews or correct. 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.
Yeah. Well same like. Redemption picked up its theme much later on after its initial release. Yeah, and I it’s funny at titles and they were not on the title subject. I like to bring it up. Anyway titles are so important. It’s the worst title. Yeah, but it was from a Stephen Kingdom. Fella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.
All right. So being that it was the great Steve. Yeah, Stephen King. Are they going to say? No, we hate your title, but that was a situation where 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, 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 um, that just came out with the worst title. Um, is that Sandra Bullock movie and Billy? Thornton our brand is Crisis. I saw the poster for that. I’m like 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 movie. But I’m like Anna died. It died a miserable horrible death at the box office. Yeah, and I imagine that the title did not help the situation. Yeah, and it’s 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 gonna put a lot of thought into what that person’s name is, um, you know a dear friend of mine Luc van to know who’s at Warner Brothers marketing.
Such a smart guy and he really I really think he has the crystal ball into if and movies 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 were talkin about. Titles are uh titles are extremely important and and I think and again it’s a goes back to marketing and branding and and and a lot of screen writers 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 just pitching it to theirs. It’s always about selling it and promoting it and packaging it in a right way to get the attention or the the the end result that you’re looking for. 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 me.
And a lot of these production houses many majors the big studios. The marketing department has the final word on if a screenplay is going to be green lit or sold or bought. Um, 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 then guess what it’s done.
Yeah, it’s done unless you’re doing it independently and you’ve got your own money. Uh, and you’re gonna do it that route. It’s it’s rough now talking about production companies. How do how does a screenwriter should screenwriter submit their work to a producer or a company? Well, it’s challenging because a lot of them don’t accept unsolicited material for various legalities.
Um, that being said some will have opened uh 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. Um, I would find a person in that production company not just blindly send it there. Um, 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, uh from people, you know, I’ve Had The Good Fortune of sitting down for a couple of hours with Michael Eisner and I’ve known Michael for you know, five six years know probably like 70 years now, and I’m always looking for advice from him, but I’m also looking, how can I add value to him?
Um, 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 thousands 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 airplane going to you know, Europe.
It can be in a hotel room while they’re with my you know, whatever and so so it’s a really interesting world in the fact that once. Property is out there to the world many people can benefit from it. And of course when I say property screenplay 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, that’s just the basic, you know VCS. Well, what’s your process because I always find a faster than everyone approaches the craft differently. So I’d love to hear what how you do it. 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. Packaging into that log line package is not a good word for those if you can create a log line where you captured what you initially responded favorably, uh towards your idea. Then you’re onto something. So I do the log line and I work a lot on that as far as just sculpting RI sculpting it, you know, like you said, uh, why is Lee every word counts, right?
Um, And even if it’s the right word is 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 well. Log lines are generally it’s an art form in itself. Yeah, absolutely. And then for your audience members after that may not know what a log line is.
It’s a one-liner I often say it’s a one-liner still log line because I’m not even sure where that etymology. Where’s where’s the login? Where’s the line? 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.
Uh, 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. Um, it just really broad strokes, but it’s more involved than the logline and then I do a uh, 3260 beat outline. And but I hit some did that my phone off. I I can’t I cannot I cannot work like this.
I’m just saying. Yeah, so so the outline hits. Various speeds and as you know Alex, uh, you know, the opening pages are very important especially page 1 the opening images, um, the inciting incident the end of act one which I say page 17 paid then page 30 then page 45 and page 60, which is the Temple 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 beads, and you know both people go. How do I know what goes next? Well, I always say the best movies are good news followed by bad news good news followed by that 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 in the next bad news moments gonna be more substantial and it has to adhere to the law of rising action. Okay, because of the best movies it grows an intensity.
That’s what keeps us a riveted, right? Yeah, so then once you have the the outline established, um, 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. Um, 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 the character and um, then it’s Off to the Races and then just start start filling in those gaps.
Yeah, yeah, so the outline and and similarly when I write the outline is is everything to me like I have to have it’s 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 different but for me, it makes it much easier because you like okay, I need to get to this point here.
Okay. I just got to 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 structure is Paramount. I mean, you’re a professional and this is another 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. What do you start acting like a professional writer? And profess 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 the canvas on which we paint with words that was actually quite beautiful.
So when the studio is going to hire you for an original piece a spec script that you’ve written or for 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. That’s yeah. Absolutely. Now, let me ask you a question.
What is more important plot or character? You know, you know, I mean if that’s a tough one to answer because I think it’s a symbiotic relationship. It’s the balance its the and the Yang. Uh, it’s the space between the notes makes the music right? It’s this I mean this is this is what we’re all talkin 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 messam doing what just killing and kicking everyone’s a lot the way to going going to save his daughter, right?
His daughter has been. Kidnapped taken. Sorry kidnap horrible horrible name taken much better. So he just wants to get her back. So that is what the whole movie is about. Um in Jaws, they need to kill the shark. In fact, so, you know the best movies I believe are about one pending question that needs to be answered by the end of the movie.
So, how what would be the question for Star Wars? You tell me I would imagine it’s the boys journey to God. I’ve seen that movie a million times and I’m 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 I can’t say, I don’t know.
Like isn’t it about Luke’s Journey to Find himself, uh and become a man eventually his his journey from being a boy to being a Jedi along the way a path and you know, oh God you see it’s getting very convoluted here. Where does he find his power within himself? There you go. That’s it. That’s the story Andy in Shawshank Redemption.
You know the Tim Robbins character. This is a man who felt imprisoned and only experienced Freedom by going to jail crime. You didn’t commit right so he could have been uh, you know Sons. Incarcerated is a free of being incarcerated his whole life and had continued to do his accounting or banking but he would have never felt free unless he had that experience.
That’s very true. Yeah, so, um, it’s always finding that one thing. It’s about. Yeah, it is and there’s a great line, uh, get busy living or get busy dying that pretty much covers it doesn’t it? I mean, that’s the better a great line in the movie and it basically is the movie isn’t it? Yeah, the whole movie is basically in that line get busy living or get busy dying and that explains that movie.
So I talk about that movie constantly on the show, uh, because it’s it’s one of my top five, you know, it’s it’s. Amazing now, um you have uh been you’ve done you’ve been busy not only is a screenwriter. But as also as a teacher an instructor and you’ve created, uh, this awesome course called called the million dollar screenplay.
How did you come up with the course? And what was the purpose behind it? Yeah. So, um, I taught at UCLA for over a decade and I’ve spoken around the country and 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 dollars 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 I’m going to teach the same thing.
I taught at UCLA in the undergraduate program and then the master’s program and structures 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 really condensed version of everything. So like it’s basically the logline. Of your course Very condensed and right to the point. Well the straight 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 teach her? And that’s what the course is. That well. I’ve already started taking the course. I haven’t gone through the whole course just yet.
I have 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 gotta spread the word. I drank I drank I drank the Kool-Aid.
Thanks, you know udemy is a nice platform for education and I’m proud to be on their site. Yeah, it’s an awesome. It’s an awesome awesome course, uh, and that’s a great. I just discovered it myself you to me and they are uh amazing and and I’ll make sure to everyone that have links in the show notes where you can get the the course and stuff now on a side a side question.
Um, I have just because I know you’ve been we’re probably around the same vintage. Um, so. Um, there was a time where there was the rock n roll screenwriter, um arguably to say that Tarantino’s probably the last Rock n Roll screenwriter, uh today, but there was that moment that moment in time when there was a shame blacks and blacks of the world and the Joe Esther houses and they were making.
Two million a pop three million a pop sometimes five million depending with back-end or uh bonuses on screenplays. Um, what are those days completely gone and how different is the the landscape the screenwriting landscape today? Yeah, well deals are structured and all sorts of creative ways and when you’re dealing with agents and you know, so you look at someone like Aaron Sorkin.
Okay, right. I’m not gonna yeah, I certainly like Steve Jobs movie but I think social network was um, it 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 three million dollars a screenplay. But there’s a chance. Maybe they said hey Aaron, can you take a million on this and get some back in points?
I don’t know if they did that deal. I have no idea but that could be super lucrative, um for screenwriter. So when you look at just what sin, you know, the trades of what a screenwriter or made on a script sale, I wouldn’t look at that. I would look at you know the deal behind the deal. Right.
Yeah, I’m sorry. No, go ahead. Um, no you go ahead and I want to hear me. No, I was uh to your point to your point. I was actually watching a documentary on Arnold Schwarzenegger. Well, he’s uh, you know, I’ve studied Arnold career for many many years child of the 80s and stuff but he was talkin the business side of things and he said he asked they asked in the question which was the most lucrative film you’ve ever made.
Um that made the most money on do what do you think? The answer is to that? I’m sure you know his whole filmography. What which movie do you think he made the most money on that’s a good question. I would imagine Terminator he had back in points. Um, when we got to the sequel’s today to this date the most profitable film he ever did was twins.
Really did you get back in they structured a deal that was it’s kind of almost like the George Lucas. I don’t worry about the merchandising rights because him and Danny DeVito and uh Reitman Ivan Reitman the director they all walked in to I think it was Universal. If I remember state was Universal or fuck.
I forgot who it was I think was Universal who did it and they walked in and they talked to the 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 obscene amount of back-end points something that no one has ever done before but the studio was like, oh great if it’s a hit 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 that so back-end points and the specially depending on the kind of deal you can make is yeah, it’s very lucrative.
I mean look at look at I mean piano Reeves on 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. Yeah, it’s the gift that keeps giving and um, you know, that’s where good representation comes into play Because as a creative, I would encourage you to try to negotiate this deal yourself.
And even if you have the ability to negotiate those from your, you know, upbringing or past life experiences. Um, you know, it’s better to keep you clean as the creative. I think right. It’s shelters you a little bit from the the messiness. That is the business. Yes, it could be, you know involved.
So then you look at the Guild’s right now like so you have the Directors Guild the DGA and then sags Screen Actors Guild and The Writers Guild of America wga. And producers Guild of America those guilds are set up to protect the creative person. So, you know, you know, you can look up you know, the August Rush deal.
I think it was in March of 2000 go. Wow, that was a big number, but it’s really about. Uh, 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 the God and not even that’s not even talk about streaming streaming and that flicks and now Amazon’s in the game and Hulu and YouTube absolutely and it’s gonna keep going and growing as it should and new forms that are no longer new forms.
Facilities are fantastic. So now dude suggest film screenwriters kind of also put the dip their toes like I mean that screenplays are for feature films is you know, that’s the 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 on Amazon or Yahoo, or things like that.
That might have very much more difficult. 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? Yeah. Absolutely. I don’t think any Avenue has a monopoly on how a writer should be produced and out to the world. And um, you know again don’t be so precious with your work.
I want to have an Oscar. So unless I get a studio deal that’s I’m not gonna accept anything 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 a hundred years from now most of us are not going to be here.
Right? Right. So, you know, I just read a 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. He’s amazing. Yeah mazing amazing, man. And this was a person who was like, yeah, let the Edison’s of the world make crazy cash.
I’m just going to keep creating and I’ll be okay and he was right, you know, it doesn’t mean you should be frivolous and irresponsible with you know, he could have been he could have made a couple of choices just a couple of you know, uh patents just a couple could have been doing a little bit better.
He didn’t have to have such a huff time but. Right. There’s a balance. It’s all about balance Edison’s on one and Tesla was on the other. You should be somewhere in the middle and Tesla had a few um a few patterns as well that he did sell. But yeah, you’re right actually right then you it’s funny that that his name is teslin 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 he’s unbelievable. It’s crazy and I can’t wait for you know the price to come down so I could have. Yeah, uh, so um, and one thing I wanted to say, uh, I wanted to cover real quick because you mentioned this earlier in the in the 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 Years starting out screenwriter and you have one screenplay and you have the opportunity to pitch Aaron Sorkin and let’s say it’s lined 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 yet 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 ten screenplays.
You haven’t gotten you haven’t worked out your craft enough. Is that a fair statement to say to be wary of that sometimes I mean, obviously when an opportunity knocks, you know take it but you should be be caution caution us about that kind of stuff, right? Well, let me understand your question. So you’re saying just so I understand that.
If you are given the opportunity to jump into the the big Waters of the big leagues, you know, you haven’t but you haven’t but you have done management, right but you haven’t done minors leagues yet and they’re like all of a sudden I’m in the I’m in the you know starting lineup at 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? Because 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. Major, um, you know talent agencies and uh, 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 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 I was also realizing that I was just not ready yet. Like I was not. Ready yet. Yeah sure I could direct the movie and I could do things but if thrown into the into the into the deep end of the pool, would I survive 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? What’s your 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 a made no matter what was driven driven, but he was driven not for fame or Fortune. He was just wanted to express his creativity to the world. Um, 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.
Um, well the thing is I’ve gone through the path. I’ve gone through the 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 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 was like, that’s nice you did this really great short film. But there is nothing left. Like I and 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 a few other projects of mine that I’ve gone through this Gambit a few times, uh, never making it to the big but I’ve had you know serious meetings with serious guys and people um, What I would say to the old out and this is like now turned into a session.
I appreciate it. Uh, um, what I would say to the Alex of yesteryear is um to. Not be so not not be so eager to impress people with what you can do in your prowess, uh b-but be more coming from a place of expression as an artist on this is on artistic artistic point of view is 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 to 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 that go into a gunfight with a knife, you know, 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 as you can’t please everybody.
You know, my point of view is not gonna be everyone’s point of view and that’s okay. I mean, there’s certain people who look at how which turned who’s made. Hundreds of millions of dollars on his point of view whether you agree with them 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.
Yeah, excellent point. 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. Um, 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.
That’s how a lot of people think of course you are. What is this one shot or nothing thing? I mean y’all never work. Count again over, you know, 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 gonna now it’s a masterpiece. So they’re going to get it made.
Yeah. Um, so I 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 talkin to myself as well. By the way.
Yeah, I I feel you. I feel you on that one. No question about it Alex one thing you said also which before I forget to mention is going into battle. Well, I would change your your uh 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 walls with mr.
And mrs. Agent and by the end of it, you know, we’re gonna part ways and they’re going to be feeling great and a little bit uh wealthier than before and I’m gonna feel great and get to do my crafts at a high level. Beautiful now, I’m gonna 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 a personally. So I really appreciate it. But what I think is that a lot of filmmakers screen writers artists in general, um, 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 have I’ve dabbled in you know, I’ve gotten.
If we 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, uh yet but what I’ve noticed is in the something I’m working on as an artist as well. And that’s what in the film hostiles 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, um or anywhere.
Artists generally, we’ll just throw this armor on and then it’s got 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 Walt. 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. I’m told uh 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. Um, but if you walk into a meeting like that with a much more open energy and just gonna K, 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.
Um, 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 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. And it depends who you’re dealing with and sure what your what circles have you created. Okay. Yeah have and and getting getting beaten up. But who wants to be in that industry going to battle trenches? These are all war terminology. Absolutely who wants that?
So as a new writer, I would encourage you to do this exercise right list of adjectives of what you think. The entertainment industry is. And if your adjectives include brutal pretentious, um fake and the list goes on and on and on then I would encourage you to read 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 have to think about yesterday or tomorrow. They are 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 Cole 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 in 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 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 was 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 that, okay, what have I gotten from this? It wasn’t a lost 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 recognized and I think to myself, huh. 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? 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 household has been so well-received is I hold Harley. I’m trying to create value and I I’m kind of experiment for that. I’m an experiment for that because at the core of what I’m trying to do with with this is to help people because I just tired of seeing so many filmmakers walk through my doors and post.
Action and just get you know, and I don’t want to use 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 the pain that I went through or that I’ve seen. 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 you know value from what you’re doing? And I think it’s awesome. I’m trying and you look at someone like so right now I’m in a deal with Shirley MacLaine Oscar winner. I’ve done copious projects or Shirley. And surely is a person if you look at her career, she’s been working for what over 55 years or something.
She worked on on among other movies, but when I love is the Opera Hitchcock movie, uh family plot. I’m not mistaken. She was in that one, right? Um, so no. No, that was the one that was the one. Yes. That was her first. Yeah. That was the first movie. Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah exactly. What a first movie that was right exactly.
She got, you know, she was on Broadway and take I think Hitchcock was in the audience and saw her but so Shirley’s had this career and I’m goes. 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, um past lives aliens that were her beliefs were not in alignment with mainstream media and the mainstream thought processes, correct. Um, people wouldn’t 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 travelled 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 on a person who’s on purpose not paycheck and as a result those situations never even heard her and she just kept going she went huh?
Interesting bam kept going. Okay. So you Alex are now at a point where from your experiences you can look back on that tumulty that you experience and go hot. 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. Oh, that’s great. That is really great 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? 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. Faculty. Well, I will ask. Um just a couple questions. I Ask of all of my guests.
Well, first of all Paul this has been an eye-opening and enlightening, uh interview. I have taken as much as uh, 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.
Um, it’s been a very beneficial for me as well. And um really big fan of what you’re doing. All right, so, The last two questions, I always ask on Mike. Oh my uh my guest. What is the most underrated film? You’ve ever watched? Okay. Are you asking a two-part question? And the second part is what are your top three films of all time.
So go ahead. Okay, so, you know, there’s a movie called kolya. It was a foreign film. Um, I believe it’s Kay, okay. And uh Delete was Czechoslovakian. Um, and it was amazing. It was amazing. Uh, 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.
Yeah, and that could be the top three that you can come up with today because I’d always fluctuates depending on the room and the time. 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. Yeah. Yeah. That was um, oh yeah while ago that was during my video store days. Yeah Brazilian movie called Central Station. That one now is a good fun. Yeah the same producer who did city of God Donald did Central Station is amazing, too. Yeah. Fantastic. Um, and then, you know, look at the Young filmmakers of today that are just coming out with such interesting, uh, material and just you know, breaking all rules and boundaries.
Um, I’m a big fan of Paul Thomas Anderson. I think he’s really great. You know, Wes Anderson’s great. Um, you know, then you have uh, You know the females, uh, Audrey Wells is one of the great female writers directors that I think is underrated and has not shown us her best work yet. Although most of our work has been extraordinary Allison Anders.
And so I look at the person even Francis Ford Coppola The Good Fortune of sitting down with Francis in class at UCLA. Yeah. Oh my God, that must have been a heck of a day. I was like 3 hours with Francis Ford Coppola. It’s like what just and he just talkin Talking Shop. Yeah just talkin shop and uh, this is you know, long time ago, but he he was such a creative.
Young came in very stall word and you know the uh, the legendary director, but then once we asked him about hey, what are you working on? He turned into a little kit. 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 that’s a good.
Yeah, I have twin daughters. So I and there in that air and that age now so I I I feel you I feel it’s fascinating watching them. Grow. Well, how old are they? Uh, they’re going to be four in a couple days in a few weeks my age, right? Yeah, they’re just it’s every day 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 fun.
So like when anywhere in anywhere in the world, they’re like, they’ll point at Yoda or the Hulk. I can’t advertise like that each your hall gets it so it’s and that’s starting to introduce, you know, introduce them to story, but I’m seeing. 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 Alex, just let it go. Oh it was rough. That was a rough one. But yeah, it’s blue. That’s great, man. And you know your daughter’s you have a responsibility to them, you know, what is responsibility responding with ability? And um, you know Walt Disney, you know, I Bambi, you know, he saw how kids reacted and realized from that point on.
This is a real responsibility. I must take seriously right because yeah Bambi was and a lot of I don’t know about you but uh, you have a daughter. How would your daughter now 6:6 says just a little bit ahead of us. Um, the. The Disney movies the old stuff. I-i-i-i. 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 I 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 guess so I’m stuck in more with the Pixar stuff and even then some stuff like, um, you know hesitant about but yeah, it is a responsibility no question. Isn’t it great man? Don’t you love being a father? It’s a wonderful man. It really is. I know there’s this whole interview is all of a sudden just turned it to Two Dads Talking Paul.
I really met I can’t uh, let me one last Quick One Last, uh piece of advice. If you have one thing to one piece of advice you can give screenwriters just starting out. What would it be 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?
Um, the way that you handled things in the past does not have to be the future right and start reacting differently and be kinder and gentler with yourself create and continue to write on on that note Paul. Thank you again so much has been an amazing amazing interview amazing podcast. I thank you so much for your time, sir.
Thanks, Alex. Thanks a lot. And uh to be continued. I love I love that interview man. Paul gave us so much good information. And uh, I’m just such a big fan of August Rush. I do love that movie a lot. So and 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 screen writing 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 at the show notes at indie film Hustle. Zero you will get a link to this amazing course and because Paul and I had such a great time doing this interview. We actually teamed up to create another course, which is called the business of screenwriting and it is a prerequisite if you want to be a screenwriter in this business Paul lays out so many knowledge bombs in this little course.
That just tells you all the inside stuff about meetings and pitches in the system and all the stuff that they do not teach you in school. So definitely go to the show notes, they’ll be a link for that course there as well and do not forget to head over to screenwriting podcast and leave us an honest.
Hopefully good review of the show. It really helps us out in the rankings of iTunes, especially since we’re such a new podcast. So we really really appreciate it and as always, Never stop writing no matter what talk to you soon. Thanks for listening to the bulletproof screenplay podcast at bulletproof screenplay.
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