How to Sell Your Screenplay with Ashley Scott Meyers
Today’s guest is screenwriter/podcaster Ashley Scott Meyers from Sellingyourscreenplay.com. Ashley is a working screenwriter in Hollywood. He also spends his time running a popular screenwriting blog and podcast. His focus is on helping you sell your screenplay. Here’s a bit of his philosophy in his own words:
If you ask 100 different screenwriters how they broke into the business you’re going to get 100 different answers. There is no “right” way to break in. So my philosophy has always been simple: try as many different angles as possible and figure out what works best for you.
Below are two short lists of things you should be doing to try and sell your screenplays. I’ve listed them in order of what I think is most effective (your results may vary). One thing to keep in mind, this is not an exhaustive list. You should be thinking of other ways you can market your material and doing those things, too. If you would like to share any of your ideas please email me as I’m always curious to hear how other writers are successfully marketing their material.
Also, you may not be able to do everything on these lists, but the more you do the better chances you’ll have. If you’re serious about success, however, you’re going to need to try most of these things, otherwise you’re not going to be giving your screenplay, or yourself, a real chance to succeed.
Things you can start doing today.
- Make phone calls to agents, managers, and producers pitching your material
- Write query letters for your screenplays and snail mail, email, or fax them to agents, managers, and producers
- Scour sites like Craig’s List and other online resources for people looking for screenplays and send them your query letter
- Enter screenwriting contests
- Try and connect with agents, managers and producers on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook
Long term items which you should also be doing.
We get into it in this interview so take some notes on this epic conversation. Enjoy!
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Welcome to the bulletproof screenplay podcast episode number four. There’s no point in having sharp images when you’ve got fuzzy ideas. Jean-Luc Godard broadcasting from a dark windowless room in Hollywood when we really should be working on that next draft. 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 to the bulletproof screenplay podcast. I 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. Now. Today’s guest is Ashley Scott Meyers from selling your screenplay. Ashley’s been doing some amazing work over the years trying to help screenwriters sell their screenplays and in our conversation, we really go deep into the Weeds on the business itself today.
What’s the marketplace? Like, what do you need to do as a screenwriter to get noticed how to actually package things. How do you sell things? How do you actually get your ideas out into the marketplace and actually sell a screenplay or sell a television pilot and uh and all the kind of tips and tricks that he’s learned by all the work.
He’s been doing at selling your screenplay. So without any further Ado here is my conversation with Ashley Scott Myers. I like to welcome the show Ashley Scott Myers, man. How you doing, brother? Thanks for being on the show. I’m doing great. Thank you for having me on yeah, I’ve been I’ve been a fan of what you do over at sell your screenplay, uh for a long time.
So, uh, and we we run in the same circles. So this is finally we and we bumped into each other at a FM and as you do at AFM exactly exactly. Yeah coincidental meeting, but yeah, that was fantastic. So, um, so first of all, let’s talk about how you got into the business. Like what was your big break to even you know, because you’re you’re a writer so.
It’s tough. So how did you do it? Yeah, it’s tough. Um, so I mean, I think I’m the typical typical. Typical in a lot of ways, I grew up on the East Coast Annapolis, Maryland to be um specific and I came out here after college, you know and just moved out here and just started working at a tennis club.
I played tennis club started to meet people. Um, that was a guy there that was up at CSUN Cal State Northridge. He was getting a degree in Communications with an emphasis I think in screenwriting, so I went and basically did the same thing. One of the things that I got out of CSUN was as I was walking out one night that was um, another guy in my class named Stan Williamson.
I think that was his name and he had just sold a script called just write that actually start and this was you know back in probably the late 90s, um start Sherilyn Fenn and Jeremy prevent. It was actually a very nice little film. Um, and I said, well, how did you sell it? And his answer was like super straightforward.
He was responding in back in like let’s say 1998. Um, it was like backstage and. Was the day I’m getting a variety and Hollywood Reporter back in the back of those magazines. They would have classified ads and um, there were production companies that would be looking for scripts and you would see him and I had seen them in submitted to a few but I’d never heard anything from any of them.
So I kind of had just given up but he said no you got to be persistent and um, I’m you got to send it’s going to be hundreds of letters. You’re going to send out a lot you’ll probably never hear from most of them, but every now and then you will and he said I over the years I’ve optioned a ton of scripts through this and this one actually got um optioned and then produced.
So that was how he did it and I just started religiously doing that. Um, I just turned it into a routine and every Thursday, I would go down to the public library and I could get all of these different magazines and again back then it was drama-logue and back stage West and there was a whole bunch of these things.
Yeah reporter and I would go through them once a week and I would make some mission. And um, and eventually I started to get a little bit of people, you know calling writing back and um, and eventually I optioned and sold my first script a script called dish dogs, um that did end up getting getting produced and had Sean Astin and Matthew Lillard and Brian Dennehy, which back in 1998 was a big deal.
Yeah. They were they were hot actors. It was like a two million dollar film. Um, obviously the world of independent film has changed a lot since then, um, but um, but it was a great experience in terms. Getting on the board and getting a credit but it was not a great experience in terms of like creative fulfillment.
This is the typical stuff. The script was completely Rewritten and um at one point we optioned the script to these guys and um, you know, I just just this little and aside so get my buddy wrote this script we go down there and we meet them at this house and it’s kind of it’s off where the big Larry Flynt Building is so we’re trying by the Larry Flynt Building and you take a right into the neighborhood there and it’s like.
Yeah, and you take a beat up a little house, um small little, you know ranch house and we go in there and they’re like, oh we just did a movie with Stallone and you know, they hold up this poster and you look at and you like that’s not Sylvester Stallone and it was Frank Stallone his brother. So that was the kinds of movies they were making and that should have been our first clue that things might not be headed in the right direction, but to their word like there was no that was no funny business with the money.
They never tried to cheat us or anything like that. They were good cool. Like they were super cool guys to hang out with but creatively we just did. See eye-to-eye and um, they made a number of changes and um, I mean in my opinion anyways, the movie is is terrible. Um, and um, but that was kind of my first foray into if or a into screenwriting professional screenwriting I would say very cool.
Now you’ve been doing uh, you know, you’ve been doing a lot of work at sell you screenplay and you do Consulting and you work with a lot of screenwriters to help them sell their screenplays. What is the biggest mistake you see first time first time screenwriters make. Yeah, so I would say the single biggest mistake and I really try and preach this on my podcast every episode is that a lot of screenwriters especially newer screenwriters?
They tend to write scripts, um about you know, some life experience or something that they think is cool that they think is interesting but there is no discernible market for that movie and you know, it’s basically Dead on Arrival and even if the script is really really really well written. I mean if it’s if it’s.
I give it super well written then you might be able to get some work out of it. You might be able to get an agent out of it. You might be able to might be able to push your career forward but in terms of actually selling the script it’s going to be very very difficult unless you really understand like what producers are looking for and what budget range and you know, just understanding some of the more logistical things of screenwriting.
It’s not I think people that go into screenwriting. They have a sort of fantasy that and this is not this is a Pure Fantasy. They think that you know screenwriting. I’m going to be able to sit, you know on a beach. Island with my laptop and you know create my stories and email them off to the producer and you know, it’s not like that, um at the levels I’ve worked at and which is not even to say the studio level which I’m sure is even a whole nother, um, you know set of parameters, but it’s very much about I mean professional screenwriting is really very much about getting assignments.
It’s about you know, getting networking with that producer and then the producer comes to you with his idea and wants you to write it he doesn’t care about if he’s the one paying the bill he doesn’t care about. Your idea, you know, he just needs someone who understands how to put a screen play together and um and and and can write it for whatever budget he has.
Um, so I say that’s the mistake is understanding what you’re actually how you’re going to actually Market the script how you’re going to sell an understanding. Is there really an audience for this? Um too many screamers and I include myself in that like might the first couple scripts I wrote I mean one of them was called mother literally the first script I ever wrote it was called midlife comedy and it was about this guy going through a midlife crisis.
And here I am like a 22 year-old, you know guy writing about I knew nothing about midlife crisis and there was no there was no market for that script. Even if I did even if I’d have been, you know, a 40-something guy writing that there was still no market for a movie like that now, How would you how would you tell screenwriters to approach perspective producers about getting their stuff looked at or produced?
Yeah, so I mean in this in this day and age, I mean there’s a whole host of ways to network with producers including my own site selling a screenplay. I will not she’ll that here. Um as much obviously I think my own services are fantastic and and I have. A variety of ways for screenwriters to connect with producers but there’s other services out there.
I mean if you don’t have a lot of money the biggest like thing that I think you can do is get an account with IMDb Pro you can get it for free for a couple weeks. But even if you can afford the 15 or 16 whatever it is per month, um, like I’d say 80% of everybody in the entertainment business is listed there with an email address or phone number.
So if you want to connect with people, you know, that’s a quick easy cheap way to do it now when you start talkin about. Cold emails, you know, you’re sending an email. You don’t know this person. You’re going to need a volume going to do it a lot. Um, and you’re going to need some volume on that because in most cases they’re not going to respond to you.
Um, so you need to be doing it a lot consistently, but that’s the quickest cheapest easiest way. There’s other free services. I mean, I’ve had um screenwriters tell me they’ve connected on Twitter, you know, following some some agents or managers or producers on Twitter and being becoming sort of a part of their Circle, you know, tweeting at them.
Just getting to know them and not you know, Pitching your scripts that strategy. I think I just mentioned stays 32 Craigslist is a great free place, especially if you’re writing short films, there’s a ton of producers directors on Craigslist looking for especially short films, you know guys out of film School even people in film school.
They need short scripts. This is a great way to build your resume. It’s a great way all of these things that I just mentioned, um, you know knowing how knowing who you’re going to sell your script to doing some short films is a great way to do that write some short scripts. They’re easy to write in this day and age, One’s telling you to make them shorter.
I mean a five-minute short script is perfect and for something like Craigslist, it’s easy to produce and go on Craigslist meet some people and you know, the James Cameron and the Steven Spielberg’s of Tomorrow. Those guys are on Craigslist looking for scripts right now some of those people, you know, 99% of them.
They’re not going to not going to succeed but some of those people that are looking for scripts on Craigslist, they will go and have careers and if you get to meet those people early on that’s a great way to do it. There’s a tip. There’s another service called. Blacklist these are all you know online services you can pay in some cases fees and ink tip and black less you pay a fee and then um, you know, you can upload your script or you can respond to Leeds.
Um, and I have similar services to like the blacklister active at selling your screenplay one thing. I always recommend um, and again not to show my own services, but I have something similar but I highly recommend the ink tip newsletter. They do once a week they publish a newsletter that they send two members and again, there is a cost to this.
I think it’s maybe Thirty or forty dollars per quarter or something. Um, but it can’t it’s it’s you get to see what real producers are looking for and how sort of granular that actually is and how specific it is and you know, you can start to get a feel for what you’re writing. Even if you don’t have scripts to submit to that newsletter your scripts don’t match what they’re looking for.
You will start to see patterns, um, you know, female-driven Thrillers, you know, you’ll see that over and over again scripts for you know for women, you’ll good scripts for women. Oh, that’s that’s an underserved. Market maybe that’s something that you can tweak on one of your scripts or maybe on your next script that you write.
You can start to sort of figure out. Hey, these are what the producers are actually looking for. And um, and maybe I should write something that people are actually looking for. Um, so I’d say those are sort of the main places I would recommend know you spoke a little bit about short films are short films worth it.
It should film writers do short films shouldn’t they? Yeah, I highly recommend it. I mean again, You have to you have to like um. You have to understand the expectations of something like this the short film that you do most likely is not going to go viral and it’s not going to you know, catapult your career to the stratosphere, but that’s okay.
I mean if all you get out of it is a you know, you meet an actor that you hit it off with and then you know that actor or you meet a director that you hit it off with. I mean these short films there’s virtually no budget so you’re not going to make any money writing short films. I mean you’ll be lucky if they pay you 100 bucks in most cases.
They’re not going to. You anything but I think that’s fine. And especially for people that don’t have credits yet. Um, it’s a great way to sort of get into the system to get on IMDb start to build a resume. I mean when you’re pitching to a producer your feature film and they say well what else have you done?
Hey man, look me up on IMDb and you got sick. Short films listed there that totally puts you in another conversation as just you know, the guy that has done it. So I would say understand what is realistic with these short films, but they don’t take that much to right and wouldn’t you rather right?
You know, let’s say 10 short films and see one or two of them actually get produced than you know, maybe two feature films and see none of them get produced. Um, you know, I think it’s a great way just to cut your teeth and network with people and see, you know, you’ll start to understand. Why did.
Change certain things in my script and you’ll start to understand practical practical aspects of production. Hey, they change this and why did the actor you know, he didn’t say this line of dialogue, right? You’ll start to understand. Well, this line of dialogue was sort of a tongue twister and you know, maybe he couldn’t it didn’t feel natural for him to say and that can enhance your writing.
So there’s a lot of sort of subtle things that you get out of doing a short film. Um, and it just it can’t be underestimated. Like that’s how you build a career. I mean everybody wants to. You know get discovered by the producer and win that Academy Award and that occasionally happens. So people think that that’s like the way it happens because it happens, you know, once you know in a blue moon, but if you really looked at the people that have won Academy Awards for screenwriters, I’d be willing to bet 99% of them, you know, they started off very modestly and work their way up and eventually got to that point and everything starts, you know, it’s like the longest journey starts with the first step and I think short films are great great first step.
There are. You know, there are no prodigies in our business are there. I mean, there are no people I just show up and like I can just write the oscar-winning script or the oscar-winning movie. Yeah doesn’t exist as it’s kind of a myth. I think I think like Daya, um, who did Juno, you know, I think she’s kind of the gold standard for that is that there’s this sort of Mythology behind her that she was plucked out of obscurity and she did win that Academy Award and um, But again, even if you drill into that story her specific years though.
She erect. Yeah, correct, and she was she was working as a professional writer for a newspaper. So, I mean that’s another great background like you’re a gun if you want to be a screenwriter see if you can get a job as a journalist because that’s a great background learning how to communicate with words and and you know how to um, you know mess with people’s emotions and get people to have an emotional reaction to your writing all that is great background and you’re laying the groundwork potentially for screen.
Writing now, what are the some of the key elements of a good script? You know, I would say I’m big on structure. Um, and I think a lot of screenwriters. I think a lot of people like there’s there’s sort of two types of people and you’re one of the people are more are probably better with structure and one type of people are better with character.
I would say most people who go into screenwriting like maybe 70% or 80% It seems to me they’re more interested in character. Um, Then structure and I think if that’s who you are or my case, as I said, I feel like I’m pretty good with structure. Um, you know, you need to lean the other direction and kind of be good with the other thing that maybe you’re not as natural with um, and so I would say that’s number one.
If I was going to give a tip is is trying to understand where you fall in the equation. Are there a lot of scenes where they’re great characters, but it doesn’t really move the story forward, you know, maybe you need to step take a step back and be better with structure or the other thing is does this script feel sort of.
Babak, it’s structured. Well, but the characters don’t feel real. Maybe I need to spend a little more time with the structure, but I would say the biggest thing I do say, well, what’s a good script the biggest thing? Is you know evoking genuine emotion and that’s ultimately why movies I mean the best movies they evoked genuine emotion in the viewer.
I mean, you have a visceral reaction to it. It’s an emotional reaction to it. Um, and the screenwriter needs to start that process with the screenplay. I mean when you read a good screenplay, um, you know, Shawshank Redemption is a good example reading the screenplay. It’s it’s an emotional experience just as watching the movie.
I mean you really feel. For this guy it’s he’s really able to just do the words on the page. You can really feel some emotion. He’s able to draw that out of you. Um, and that’s the thing. Like if you do nothing else forget about structure for baguette about character. If you can evoke genuine emotion in people through your writing, I think you’re in pretty good shape.
And um, you know, you can probably learn a lot of the other stuff. Um, but if you don’t know how to get get emotion out of people, you don’t know what connects with people um, it becomes very difficult to be a success. Writer now, what are some of the cliches or tropes that you constantly are seeing and screenplays that you just wish they were just gone.
Yeah, that’s a good question. Um, you know, one of the big ones and is talked about often is this idea of um the opening where it’s you know, you see some really dramatic scene and then it cuts to, you know, two weeks ago or six months ago that sort of and I don’t even know what that’s called this probably a name for it.
Um, you know, there’s certain things like that that um, You just when you read a lot of scripts, like when you’re the lone screenwriter writing your script, you don’t realize that every screen writer in the world is is um, you know doing that same same thing. I would say also originality. I mean obviously originality counts for a lot.
I remember in the 90s after Pulp Fiction hit the um hit the scene, you know, there was just there was so many of these sort of you know, fiction and knockoffs and um, you know, some of them were better than others but something like eight nights, In a valley or something like that. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah three days.
Yeah, and I mean even a movie like go, you know, it was a big Studio Movie. It’s like it’s basically just kind of fiction with a bunch of young, you know, urbanites what to do and what to do Endeavor when you’re dead something that was another handful of those guys and if you get I mean that’s just the movies they got produced so think of how many of those scripts were floating around there.
Um, so I would say really be original don’t try and just um, Cough, you know something or write like something else be original have your own voice now, um screenwriting contest. What do you what’s your opinion on them? And do you think they mean anything do they work? They help? Yeah, so so and you know, I kind of feel like I go against the grain with a lot of what the sort of the common wisdom here with a lot of screenwriting consciences.
Here’s my opinion of and I’ve had a lot of these people that run scream writing contest. I’ve had them on my podcast so you can go back and you can listen to some of these episodes for yourself. Um, what I have found with the screen writing contest is the people who run the contest they genuinely understand that the best thing they can do to promote their screenwriting.
Is have a bunch of really successful winners. So when you win their contest and then you go on to sell that studio script that’s a big feather in their cap. And that’s going to help them build their own business. So there is a sort of symbiotic relationship between the screen writing contest and the screenwriters the entered it and most of the people that have come on not most all the screen writing contests.
The people that I’ve talked to they understand that and so when someone wins a scream writing contest they’re going to do what they can to help. People move along in their career. Obviously, the bigger contests The Nichols I think is probably sort of the top of the key, um tracking board has done a fantastic job, really promoting their winners and they’re really well connected.
Um, yeah, Austin, yeah, so there’s some sort of some of these Marquee contest that are definitely if you can win them, you know, they they have some real Value Place even placing. Even place in correct, correct. Um, but even the smaller contest, um, I think you know again they can they can have some value if you just manage your expectations and realize that um, You know, if it’s not even the Nickels like even if you go and look at the Nichols, which is I think without any I don’t think anybody would argue that that’s the top screen writing contest.
So so even with the Nickels, it’s the top screaming contest you can go and get a list of their winners and start to go and I’m DB and see what they’re winners even winning the Nickels. It doesn’t guarantee you a screenwriting career. Most of the people that have won the Nickels or place Nichols never went on to do much of anything.
So you have to understand that contests are not the be-all end-all and it’s. Likely, sometimes it happens but most of the time it’s just exactly what I was saying with the short films. It’s just going to be another piece of the equation that kind of helps you again. It gives you a little something when you’re talkin to a producer.
Hey, I just got a semifinal placing in this, you know, Joe Blow screenwriting contact and maybe it doesn’t count for a lot but accounts for a little and you never know how that’s going to actually help you down the road obviously don’t submit to screen writing contests if you can’t afford it, I mean.
This is not you shouldn’t be using your rent money to submit to more screen writing contest. If you can afford if you can afford to do it, um, I recommend trying it, um, you know, and I have a list on selling your screenplay of sort. I think its nine or ten contests that are all reputable and it’s the ones we mentioned in a bunch of others, um that I think are reputable and worth entering.
Um, so that’s kind of where I would send people if you want to know specifically about that, but you just never know the other sort of the bigger question of this and again, it goes back to what I was saying about. Art films is I really feel like one big hurdle and and and I’d be curious to get your thoughts on this because I think you’re in a similar situation.
I mean, we’re both from the East Coast we moved out here kind of to make our dreams come true. One of the big things that I faced was growing up in Annapolis, Maryland, there were no artist. I mean the only artist that I knew was my guitar teacher who was you know, scratching out a living. Um teaching, you know high school kids how to play classic guitar.
So that’s that was my experience as an art. So I didn’t know writers certainly didn’t know filmmakers, but there really were no artist. So there’s just sort of this this it feels unattainable. It feels like sort of a sky like it could never actually happen. It just doesn’t feel real and so, you know entering a screenwriting contest even the Lo way of scream writing contest in the world or doing that short film and seeing it produced and maybe that short film gets into a film festival.
I think it. It gives you confidence and it gives you it makes you feel like like these are things that you can do today and actually have some tangible results. If you’re just hurling scripts at Universal Studios and the big producers and the big stuff, you know, you’re quite likely to go, you know, two three four or five 10 years or longer without having any tangible results of them just say, no.
Thanks. No. Thanks. No. Thanks. So I think getting on the board and having some even minor success as early as early in your career as possible. It just makes. Feel like it’s real and I think in hindsight, I was very very lucky. I had been here about three years when me and my writing partner option that first script dish dogs, but and they gave us 500 bucks for a six-month option and we were just take old to death man.
I mean we were just over the moon but all of a sudden I started to feel like maybe I got a shot at this. Maybe I can actually do this. Maybe I’m not this isn’t just a pie in the sky. So again, With the contest with the short films understand what the expectations are understand that no, they’re not going to they’re not going to turn your life around.
They’re not going to change your life, but they might give you a little bit of confidence just internally to you. They might be confident you it might be something that you can show your mother. You know, I just won this contest and she might be a little less skeptical of you throwing it and driving out to Los Angeles, you know, there’s just.
There’s these little subtle things that I think are important and so many people give up and I’m sure you’ve had this experience to I mean when I got to La I went down to Cenex casting I started doing extra work and um, you know, I met a bunch of people and you know, Two years later half those people were gone.
Three years later. Yeah, nope, 10 5 years 10 years almost all of them are gone and I wasn’t smarter or more talented than these people. I was just more persistent. I just kept banging against the door, but but I think having that success with disjuncts again in hindsight. I was very very lucky. Um, I for a variety of reasons, so I think that’s where screen writing contest even the lowest screaming contest and same thing with the lowest short film.
That’s where I think they can really be. Worthwhile know and I would agree with you coming from Miami. I mean I was surrounded by artists but uh not filmmakers. It was hard to find filmmakers. So for me when I was growing up, you know watching like movie Magic on television on a Saturday night watching the behind the scenes of Terminator 2, you know, it’s like, oh my God, I can see something and then later in life, you know my connection to Hollywood as weird as it might be as watching Entourage like it was a window.
Into that world weather is extremely crazy as it was it was still that window. It was a connection there. So we a lot of times you do feel like you’re on an island and it’s someplace that you think is completely unobtainable. That’s why it took me so long to finally move out to LA it took me a long long time and I’ve been out here for a decade now and doesn’t even I can’t even remember a time when I wasn’t in La honestly but uh one of my best friends, uh, that was one of the two three guys.
I knew in La when I came out here said the only regret you. I have to moving to La as you didn’t do it sooner and he was absolutely right from the moment. He met me as like wanting you coming out to LA. When you coming out to LA. You got to be out here and there is something about being here. You know, a lot of people say do I need to be in LA to make it know, you don’t but it helps in a lot of ways and in my opinion because you can walk into any Starbucks in LA and how many laptops will have final draft open?
Yeah. They’re everywhere you’re surrounded by this entire. Um, It’s entire industry and everybody everybody walking. The street is in the business in one way shape or form. So that’s just as infectious. Do you agree? Yeah, absolutely. I mean just our own Gil coincidental meeting at a i fam. I mean we both live in LA we were so it was easy for us to get in our car and drive to FM.
We didn’t have to get in a plane and go to hotel and this I got would have never done it. You know, I would have just tried to do it online. So there’s all these little subtle things and being in La is another prime example, you get the question just when people ask it, you know in some ways my heart sinks because when someone asked the question, you know what they want to hear they want to hear that you don’t have to move to LA because they’re struggling with that.
But the bottom line is it’s going to help um, you know, you can you can make it. It’s not impossible. But you’re making something that’s already very very very very very very difficult. You’re making it even more difficult by not moving to La um, and a lot of people move to LA make those connections make a name for themselves and then move away and that’s completely fine and then they can just come back and forth for business.
But at one, I think everyone does their time here, you know or New York, you know if in New York’s the other big plays, um, but. Speaking if you’re going to make it in the movies and the flicks and the pictures, uh, you know being out here it helps so so much and. We’re both Prime examples. Yeah.
Yeah. No, I agree. Now one thing I’ve always wanted to talk to somebody like you about is the how the screenplays presented and all the kind of codes that I’ve heard that you that you know producers or production companies. Like well if has three, um, what are those things called the whole descript Brad’s the brother brass braids.
So there’s three of them they’re obviously amateur and I don’t want to deal with it. So it has to have two and then they open up the first page how some of the formatting has to be. All that stuff how much of that is real and how much of his BS? Yeah, so that’s a good question. And you know, it’s it’s it’s subtlety much like the question about moving to La it’s hard to quantify and it’s going to be different.
There’s no like there’s no set rules or this and that but you know think about from the perspective of the person who’s going to be reading this script, you know, they’re probably someone who’s overworked and underpaid they’re sitting at a desk reading through dozens if not hundreds of scripts trying to find that diamond in the rough that they can bring.
Our boss and so, you know these little Clues like what you’re talkin about now, I don’t think anybody really submitting scripts with the brass braids anymore. Now, everything is electronic for your on. So, yeah, so you’re on so you’re submitting PDFs, but you know, I mean there are things that you know, I.
Nothing is if there’s no like hard fast rules with screenwriting but I would say, you know getting a program like final draft or you know, some legitimate screenwriting program that will get you like 90% of the way there because it’ll take care of like the formatting and you know the proper and so you’re 90% there and then all you really need to do is go.
And you can go to selling your screenplay. We got you know hundreds if not thousands of scripts listed there so you can go and look and I would say look at some of the more modern ones and you know, look at how the title page is laid out lay out your title page like, you know, a produce script. Um, so just don’t do anything, you know crazy look at some produced scripts and try and model yours after it.
Um, you know, but there are certain things that I think again, if you are the just put yourself in the mind of that overworked, Underpaid reader if a script comes in and the formattings off. What are you going to think you’re gonna think this guy has not taken the time to learn the basics and just kind of what you said.
I don’t know that there’s a good example of like a screenwriting Prodigy. I mean screenwriting is one of those things that just takes a lot of skill. It takes a lot of patience and time and like doing it you just have to put in the hours to get good at this and there’s no I don’t know if there’s really any escape again.
I mean different people have different Talent. And people are able to you know, maybe achieve success with different amounts of effort. But I read Oliver Stone like platoon was the script that kind of got him going and I think that was like his 11th script, um, you know, so even a guy like that who is you know, immensely talented, you know, super smart.
Um, Even the guy like that had to write 10 scripts before he kind of mastered the craft and had one that people really respected and like so, you know, it’s just part of the process. Um, and if you write 10 scripts and you’re still getting some of these sort of formatting issues wrong, then you know, yeah, that’s probably another issue.
I would say, you know, the length of script this is a common thing. I see um through the script analysis and like again, it’s a very very easy thing to look at like when you open up a PDF it tells you. You’re looking at page one of you know, 120 pages. So right on page one that reader can look at what the page number is and again put yourself in the head of a overworked reader.
If you see that the script is 160 Pages. Um, you just going to think does this guy really maybe this guy’s written the next Shawshank Redemption and there’s always that thought but the next Godfather, I think the script for the God for I think is 160 pages. So not father. Yeah, exactly. Are you are you really are you Francis the 1970s?
Yeah, exactly. So so, you know, I would just really urge people to take that stuff as seriously as possible and try and do you know some due diligence look at Purdue’s scripts and try and present yours in the best possible light, um because I do think it counts but I think again it’s a subtlety and I think the act of going through and learning these rules and looking at those.
Scripts just doing that work will make you a better screenwriter. And that’s the whole point is when someone sees 160 page script. The first thing they’re wondering is okay. Is this is this the next Francis Ford Coppola or is this some idiot who doesn’t know what he’s doing, you know, and and by the way, I just read.
100 other scripts That 160 pages and every of every one of them was a stinker so, you know, they’re gonna they’re going to be like I doubt this is the next Francis Ford Coppola with good reason because they’ve never read the next Francis Ford Coppola. They’ve read 1000 scripts this year and not one of them has been a good as The Godfather.
So um, yeah if you’re right in The Godfather knock yourself out but um, but I would say be careful be very careful that now can you for once and for all tell screenwriters how to copyright? Their script. Um, yeah, it’s a simple so there’s all but there’s a lot of disinformation. Okay. So there’s two pieces two pieces that number one.
The wga registration is a good quick cheap easy thing to do and you’ll get a WJ number and that’s just a function of going to the wga website and there’s a link that says register your script. I think it’s 20 bucks and it lasts for five years and a lot of producers will have what you have you fill out a release form and then on that release form it might even say What’s the wga number?
So that’s a good. First easy step. It’ll take you five minutes and cost you $20. So I highly would recommend that then the other piece of that is going to the Library of Congress and off the top of my head. It’s going to be more than I could, you know explain but I do have a post if you go to selling your screenplay that’s specifically labeled, you know, how to copyright your or copyright your your your script and go do that.
I’m not a lawyer so I don’t want to get into like the legal stuff but I have had lawyers tell me that there are certain. Protections and stuff that the Library of Congress copyright will give you that the WJ registration will not so he recommended. This was my lawyer was recommending that I do register everything with both the wga and the LIE becomes.
In fact, I don’t even know that he cared about the wga that’s my addiction but he did he was a lawyer and he did recommend that I recommend it that I registered with the but it’s just a matter of going through the process. It’s all online in this day and age, so it’s not that complicated and I can’t remember.
I just can’t remember off the top of my head what it is, but I have a post where I go through it in great detail and explain how to do it for my understanding. The wga is is basically a token and has no legal protection whatsoever while the only one that really matters is the Library of Congress the wjs.
Um, but it really is kind of like a token. It’s nice. But if you only do the wga you’re in trouble, so you definitely have to have at least the the Library of Congress, uh as well because that’s the one that really counts but you’re right they do there are producers asked for the WJ and there’s a sense of credibility I guess.
Yeah, I mean the thing my experience with the Library of Congress is that it’s always taken a long time. Um, and I haven’t done it in a while. So my memory is a little little hazy but when you register a script with them, they don’t give you like it’s not instant registration just and so it’s like six months.
Yes, six months or nine months later. You’ll get a letter with your actual, you know Library of Congress. Registration number and so often what I find is I get done with my script and I want to start sending it out. So the wga will give you a registration number right then and there. So at least you’re you’re whatever their protection is and again, you may be right that it doesn’t offer much of any protection but it is some protection and so I always just do the WJ and then I don’t I don’t feel bad about sending it out before that de Library of Congress letter actually comes back to me.
Um, so I can start sending it out. At least I feel comfortable with that again. Your own due diligence, but that’s what I do. Yeah, and from what I understand is once you register at the Library of Congress, it starts at that moment you register. So if anything comes along and someone tries to take your stuff, you know or tries to copyright it after you.
Yeah, you’re first in line got that day. Yeah, exactly. So it starts from that date even though you don’t get the registration for a year now. Can you um, uh, can you tell me a little bit about selling the screenplay you do there? So sure so this started. Um, I started I think in 2009 as just a Blog um, and I basically at that point I had written a book, um called of all things selling your screenplay and I basically just went and detailed my experience selling whatever scripts I had sold up to.
Um, the year, what’s a two thousand seven or eight when I actually wrote the book, um, and I did a self publishing with the book and one of the big things that they were recommending at the self-published the company that did I say so, I was working this was sort of before Amazon publishing. So I actually worked with a company called book Locker that sort of um is kind of like a distributor.
I mean they were the ones who actually pushed it into all these services and they would send out newsletters how to Market your book. So that’s where it sort of started. They said, you know, what start a blog and um, and so that’s what I did 2009. I started this blog selling your screenplay. I started to listen to a number of podcasts over the years including Pat Flynn who I guess we both have some experience listening to and so in fact Pat Flynn was really the first podcast I ever listened to.
Um because he had I would looking at night on the website and um, and I really like the form and it’s exactly what you were talkin about, you know people get to really feel like they know the person because you hear them talkin and sharing stories about themselves and their family and stuff. So I thought it would be a great way to you know, disseminate this information that um that I had so about 2000s was four years ago.
Let’s say 13. I started the podcast and now it’s a weekly podcast and I’m a little over 200 episodes. Um into it and I interview, you know, it’s a screenwriting emphasis obviously, but it’s a lot of independent filmmakers. Um, you know guys that are making the low-budget genre films and um, you know, they come on and they’ll talk about how they wrote it how they got a produced and then there’s also as select and that is basically um, you get access to a number of things including some educational materials a forum of the paid members and then you also get.
Um leads that come out, you know twice three times four times a week. We actually are networking with producers. And so we’re then sending those leads to um to to screenwriters and they’re very specific stuff as I sort of mentioned earlier. It’s a great way to actually see what actual producers are looking for.
Um, so that’s. I’d say selling your screenplay. Now you also have you have a new film. I see the poster behind you, uh called the pin the pin. Yeah the bitch. So, uh what’s happened? You directed it. You wrote it you produced it. Tell me how that whole thing came about. Okay, so I I think um, you know in a lot of ways, um, I think some of my motivation was similar to what you have talked about with um with your film is that I kind of felt like it could be a good case study.
I could talk about it on the podcast and I could kind of show people as I went through this process how you can go about writing and then directing and producing, you know, low-budget film now the real impetus to it was and you can go back and listen to my podcast because I I usually take. A few minutes on every pockets and kind of talk about what I’m doing as a screenwriter and um, I’m trying to think I must have been maybe 2014, um in the fall, I got two back-to-back writing assignments and um, yeah.
Yeah nice. So I got these two writing assignments and you have to work so hard to get those writing like to get these jobs. Yeah. It’s a huge amount of effort and I mean one of the writing assignments. Um, I had one of them actually came through a guy I interviewed on the pod. That’s actually how I met him.
But the other one was, um, the Distributors of one of my past films. Um, they are on a list of just a cold email list that I send out query letters to and um, they actually had recognized my name and responded and said, oh, yeah, we’d like to potentially hire you to do a project. We’re starting to produce our own stuff, but this process went on for I think went on for like a year and half where I would meet with them and just things never quite worked out.
So finally they said okay, we’re ready to go after a year and half of. Kind of waiting for this and so I do these two back-to-back writing assignments. And um, and again I have nothing but good things to say about the people that I was working with individually, but um, You know just creatively it was not fulfilling.
I was writing their ideas. It was brutal work one of the scripts the guy needed in literally a week. So I wrote the entire feature film script in six days. It was a very rough six days needless to say, um, and then and that one actually ended up never getting produced the other script I wrote and um, you know, there was a lot of rewriting back and forth.
Um, you know, a lot of what I thought was my best the best teams in there. They were taking them out and some of it was just. Harry they didn’t think for the budget they had they could do it. So some of it I kind of understood but a lot of it I didn’t necessarily finally they brought on a director and then the director just literally completely rewrote the whole project did a page-one rewrite didn’t like anything I did.
Um, and again that’s part of the process but I just got to the point where um, you know at this stage in my life. Um, I just don’t need it like the money that me I think the money that they paid me was not worth the you know, the juice the juice that I got. Out of it. And so I said, you know what?
I got it just go and try something on my own and um, and that’s what I did. I had written the pinch. Um, so that’s what I started writing the pinch and I knew this was something I was going to potentially do myself. So I kept it. I made sure that it was a low-budget. It was very contained small cast limited locations and um, and I tried to use some of my own advice was it’s kind of a crime action thriller.
It’s a genre film you’ll low-budget genre film. It’s not like sort of an art house film. Um, So I felt like you know, there might be an audience, you know through self distribution, you know, you put the poster up and I got a bunch of guys you can see on the poster. You everybody’s holding a gun or a knife.
So it is it is what it is. You know, it’s a low-budget genre film. Um, but this is what I feel like I can actually sell and potentially, um, you know, make more of these if I can turn this into a business model, that’s awesome. And that’s awesome. Um, someone actually some rapid fire questions asked all my um, all my guests, what would what advice would you?
A screenwriter wanting to break into the business today. Yeah, I mean, I think a lot of what we’ve kind of discussed. I mean get out there right short films just you know submit to some of these people on Craigslist looking for short films get your career going Network. I think I think especially and I understand this because this is the way I am too.
I am sort of an. Um, you know, I prefer to just write scripts. I don’t want to go out and meet people I mean going to AFM is just it’s a brutal thing for some self because it just constantly meeting people and having to make small talk with people. You don’t know it’s very difficult. So I understand that most people that go into writing they’re probably like that but you’ve got to get out of your shell and um, you’ve got a network and you’ve got to meet people and you’ve got to understand what these producers are looking for and kind of get over yourself get over your yo this idea that you’re just going.
Keep writing in your room. Just writing writing writing because at some point that’s not going to that’s not going to cut it now. Um, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career? Um, yeah, I had have to say and this might be different than what I would recommend but when I was early on and I’m giving all these long-winded explanations, I know this is rapid fire.
So my first foray into screenwriting was I got a copy of the writers market and in there there was a bunch of pages. Of um production companies that supposedly would read query letters from new people. So I wrote up a query letter or what I thought was a good query letter and sent it off to I think two people.
I just picked two that seemed especially open and one of them and back then it was like you would put a self-addressed stamp postcard in there so that they could easily reply to you. So one of them I get the postcard back and it says thank you for that undated, you know. Titled manuscript submission.
No, thanks. And um and so I realized then that I was doing something wrong the other guy just took pity on me and he actually called me and um, he recommended Syd field screenplay and um, I went out and I got that book and um, and I would say that had the biggest sort of profound. Impact because all of a sudden, you know someone at this point, I was in college in North Carolina again knowing no filmmakers.
This was pre really the internet. So I suppose maybe the internet existed but it wasn’t you couldn’t just get a bunch of scripts. So it was very difficult to get this sort of information. So once he told me that. Syd field screen I had a ton of practical use for information. It’s real big on structure.
But um just some of the stuff like the braids I had never seen a script. I didn’t even know what these brass braids even were right, um, and and said Fields talks. He talked about that a little bit, um, you know to Brass braids and on your script and stuff. So that was just a big turning point where all of a sudden I started to, you know, I was going this direction and then all of a sudden that book sort of, you know, got me back going the other direction, which I think was sort of.
Right direction. Yeah, I remember reading that book in college too. And it blew my mind. I’m like what every movies the same it just blew my mind. Um now what lesson took you the longest to learn whether in Life or in the business, I think a lot of what we’ve been talkin about is just how important understanding you know who you’re going to sell your script to and this is you know, I’ve been asked similar questions.
Like if you had to do it all over again, how would you do it differently? What I would do if I was just moving to Hollywood now, I would make a real concerted effort to find a PA job at a Distribution Company a company that was Distributing films and learned that side of the business understand why why they’re taking.
This film and they’re not taking that film and that would just be really really valuable for any screenwriter and it took me a long time to learn. I didn’t do that and um, you know, just through trial and error and this movie dish dogs. It really was a low-budget indie or a low-budget genre film.
It was a comedy but there was like these young guys they went to a strip club. So we had kind of me and my buddy just stumbled onto it. Um, and so it took a while to for me to really understand. Why did they buy that script and it was a lot of these things I’m talkin about was because. They could promote the nudity they can promote a bunch of sexy strippers.
Um, that was kind of a cool story. I mean these guys were doing you know movies with Frank Stallone. So that just sums up what they what they were doing. But there’s something to that and understanding that lesson is so important. Um, nothing I normally ask what your three favorite movies of all time are but what are your three favorite scripts of all time?
You know, it’s a good question. Um, I mentioned Shawshank Redemption. Um, I really it’s a great movie but the script is equally as good. Um, I I read um the script for source code I’ve recommended that to other people. Um, I think the script is a lot better than the finished film. So if you’ve seen the film and we’re sort of on the film, I would highly recommend you go back and find that script.
Um, I think and I don’t know that I’ve actually ever read the script for The Wizard of Oz I have two small children and um, we went through this Wizard of Oz phase where they’re watching it over and over again and um, you look at some of those old classic movies and like you talk about Sid fields and his sort of structural Paradigm and how easily that an organically.
Fits on a film like The Wizard of Oz I’m always Blown Away Wizard of Oz is so well structured and it’s just it’s a perfect movie like for so many reasons and um, you know, that’s it’s worth looking at all these movies. I mentioned to Shawshank Redemption source code, but Wizard of Oz is kind of a perfectly built movie, um, you know from the character Arc to the structure of it to the midpoint to the antagonist.
Um, it’s it’s there’s nothing there’s very few movies. I see that I say, I as a screenwriter. I think I could have done that just I would have tweaked that I would have changed that and Wizard of Oz is one of the movies I I there’s not anything I can really point to us. They could have done this better or they could have done that better.
Um. You know Megamind is another movie, um that I watch my kids have watched it over and over and I’ll be sitting there watching it and um, I don’t know that I’ve ever actually read the script but the script is so smart and it’s so perfect. Um, there’s very little again with a movie like Megamind that I would change.
I can’t think of anything. Um, you know that I would change about that script and then Robert McKee is a big fan of Casablanca. Yes Casablanca. Yeah for sure. It’s amazing. Now where can people find you. Yeah, so, um selling your screenplay, obviously, I’m over there. Um podcasting weekly I am on Twitter.
I would highly recommend selling your screen by all my Twitter and um, you know, Instagram and that stuff it’s listed in the upper right hand corner, but I am on Twitter and Facebook. I think it’s Facebook in your screenplay. Don’t quote me on that. I’m on YouTube. I do release my podcast on YouTube.
So if you prefer to get the video and the audio you can check that all out. Um, and again, I think it’s. Youtube.com your screenplay, but if you just go to selling your screenplay all those links are on the upper right-hand corner of the homepage Ashley man. It’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you man and talking shop with you.
So thanks for being on the show, man. Thank you. I really appreciate it, and it’s a long time coming. I’m so glad we were able to finally connect cool man. Thanks. I want to thank you for being on the show and dropping some major knowledge bombs on us. So thank you very much Ashley. If you want the show notes for this episode just head over to indie film hustle, and don’t forget to head over to screenwriting podcast and leave us a good review if you find Value in these episodes.
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So just keep on listening and I truly hope they are a value to you and your screenwriting journey and as always keep on writing no matter what you said. Thanks for listening to the bulletproof screenplay podcast at bulletproof screenplay. That’s bul pla.