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IFH 185: How Screenwriters Can Navigate the Hollywood System with Scott Myers

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For screenwriters, navigating the shark-infested waters of the Hollywood system can be a daunting task. You never know what the producer or studio is looking for. How do you pitch your story properly? So many questions. I hope today’s guest can help guide you a bit through those waters.

Scott Myers has been a professional Hollywood screenwriter for over 30 years. Since selling his spec script K-9 in 1987, Scott has written 30 projects for every major Hollywood studio and broadcast network. His film writing credits include K-9 starring Jim Belushi, Alaska starring Vincent Kartheiser, and Trojan War starring Jennifer Love Hewitt.

From 2002–2010, Scott was an executive producer at Trailblazer Studios, a television production company. In 2002, he began teaching screenwriting in his spare time. He won the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program Outstanding Instructor Award in 2005 and for eight years taught in the Writing for Screen and Stage program at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

He has hosted Go Into The Story, an amazing screenwriting website, since its launch on May 16, 2008, and is partnered with the Black List as its official screenwriting blog.

Scott breaks down the Hollywood system, talks about story and structure and just tells it how it really is in the business. Enjoy my conversation with Scott Myers.

Alex Ferrari 1:19
So today on the show, guys, we've got screenwriter Scott Meyers, who has been writing in Hollywood as a professional screenwriter for better part of 30 years now. And he wrote one of my favorite movies, growing up called canine with James Belushi back in 89, but has written many other things and worked on multiple projects over the years. But even more impressive to me is a hurons go into the story.com, which is an insane treasure trove of screenwriting, information resources, and the man is crazier than I am. Because you guys know I put out a lot of content on any film hustle. This man has been putting out daily posts, for I think now like 10 years or something like that. It's insane. He literally puts out new posts, new resources, new articles every single day. He is a maniac and a machine. And I love him for it. And also he is the official screenwriting blog for the blacklist. And if you guys don't know what the blacklist is, you will after this interview is over and it's it's pretty amazing what the blacklist is done for screenwriters and for Hollywood in general. But I wanted to get Scott on because He is an educator. He loves teaching and loves sharing his craft and his knowledge about what it really is like in the film business. And I just wanted to get some real raw knowledge bombs thrown on you guys about screenwriting. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Scott Meyers. I'd like to welcome to the show Scott Meyers, man, thank you so much for being on the show.

Scott Myers 3:39
Great to be here, Alex.

Alex Ferrari 3:40
I appreciate it, man. So how did you get into this crazy business we call the film industry.

Scott Myers 3:46
Circuitous route. I was, I was going to be an academic. I went to UVA undergraduate and Yale graduate school and got a Master's of divinity degree at Yale, I was going to become a PhD and teach but my parents at the age of 14 ill advisedly, bought me a guitar. And I started playing music. And by the time I got done with Yale, I talked to my friends and the dean and I said, you know, if I don't pursue this creative thing, and just become an academic, I think I'm going to really regret it. So they said, take a year off and that became the rest of my life. I played music for seven years, I did stand up comedy for two years. Along the way, I discovered screenwriting, I wrote a script called canine that sold as a spec script in 1987, to Universal and that's where it all started. Wow. And you've never looked back since? Well, I've had various incarnations, I was in LA for 15 years wrote 30 projects for every major studio and every broadcast network except for ABC. Were my family we decided for family reasons to move back East where it was from, and I took a position as a television producer basically heading up the creative development company and part part of the company for free was a studio And then I then I started teaching as an side thing because people kept saying every time I do presentations, how are you really good at this I started teaching at junk through university, North Carolina and Chapel Hill where we were living and also UCLA extension writers program. And then I started my own online company with Tom benedek. Rocha Kuhn is the first screenwriter. I met in LA. I called screenwriting masterclass. So I continue to do that. But now, I'm in Chicago at the School of Cinematic Arts at DePaul University and full time faculty here. And so I've transitioned into teaching I still write and still because of my blog and whatnot, actively involved in things in Hollywood, the entertainment business, but yeah, you know, just wearing a number of hats along the way,

Alex Ferrari 5:47
And eating a lot of great pizza in Chicago, I'm assuming. Yeah, pizza, and everything else. So good, man, the food there is amazing. It really is amazing. So um, one of my favorite films, gras going, one of my favorite films from the video store days when I worked at a video store was canine. And I want you to discuss a little bit about how that script was made, and what it did for your career.

Scott Myers 6:11
Well, I had one of those odd circumstances in life. I'm a big Joseph Campbell fan. I discovered him in college and studied him in there at the University of Virginia and then later on at Yale and have read a bunch of stuff over the years. And this idea about follow your bliss, find that which, you know, excites you and enlivens you that you have talent for pursue that. And I'd always been a movie fan, my dad was in the Air Force, we moved around all over the place when you're living in mine at Air Force Base, North Dakota, and there's nothing to do. And you can go spend 50 cents at the movie theater and you know, watch movies all day long. That's what I did. So I was a huge movie fan. And as it happened one night I was doing stand up comedy and a club in Ventura, California. I'd gotten to know the owner, and one of the owners there. And he was going to the USC Peter start producing program. And the script that he had, that he was going to use for his master's thesis had dropped out and actually got optioned. And it just happened that day. And we were talking that night. And he said, Well, I need a script. And he jokingly said to me, can you write a screenplay? I said, I can do that. Which has always been my attitude about creative things that I connect with. And I didn't know anything. He gave me three scripts, witness Back to the Future and breaking away. And Sid fields book, screenplay foundations of screenwriting. And so I wrote a script. And then I wrote another one. And then we wrote one together called canine, and that's based on actually a story we heard about a Ventura policeman, a canine policeman, who had been had a police dog partner who had been killed in the line of duty. And we met with this guy, and he was just like, weeping as he's showing us pictures of this. And we thought, well, that's an interesting idea for a movie, we wrote the script. And as I say, it's sold to Universal actually, a pre pre emptive buy for quick money. And that's where it all started. Got. We didn't have representation. It just

Alex Ferrari 8:13
Really, you don't have any reps at the time you just were able to how did the universal find you?

Scott Myers 8:18
My partner was working as an assistant at 20th Century Fox. And this slipped the script in there and I went in for the weekend read and Scott Reuben was the head of production. And evidently, I've heard this from several people. You know, at the end of all these scripts he didn't like he slapped his hand on the table and said, I love this one. And it wound its way around town. That That night, I didn't have an agent that day that night, I met Dan Halstead, Steven I my partner, and Dan was just a junior agent at Bower Benedick, which later became UTA Dan's got his own management company called management but he was our first agent along with Peter Benedict and Marty Bower fan so that's how it started and we just ran it took a lot of meetings and often

Alex Ferrari 9:04
Now there was another dog cop movie around that time. Is there is there any connection

Scott Myers 9:10
Yeah Turner and hooch at Disney I you know we were players of the week we were in around a met everybody including the some an executive at Disney who said hey, we were thinking about suing you guys. And we had no idea what he was talking about. But there was this project Turner which was sitting in development hell there and you know, very typical I learned a good lesson in Hollywood how they operate this similar but different which is the the business ethos. They're so afraid to make anything Hmm. That they look for something that's similar to something that you know, was successful. Well, we went around and people were telling us guy you guys were genius. Men read 1010 was the biggest star in the history of Hollywood near your resurrect him and thought about that at all, but I just nod my head and go Yeah, that's right. Yeah. So they looked at our script, Disney looked at our script that sold for a lot of money. And they said, Well, hey, if universal thinks that a cop in a dog movie a comedy is a good idea, we should resurrect this thing Turner and hooch which they did. And so, there was this little competition between the two films, which would come up first and ours did and both movies you know, did well. canine spawned two sequels and turned on which business as well?

Alex Ferrari 10:21
Yes, it were both I used to recommend both of them at the video store at the if I were if one rented one. I'm like, you gotta watch canine as well.

Scott Myers 10:28
Or device. And then I probably made, I don't know, 25 cents or residual. So thanks, Alex.

Alex Ferrari 10:34
Not at any time, or any time I'm sure. Well, I've watched that movie a ton of times. I love that movie. I love James Belushi. He was in his the top of his power back then, during that time of of his career. So thank you for making the movie sir. Made and you can't say that about a lot of projects. I mean, seriously. And I remember that hit the theater. It was a theatrical release. And it made if I remember was it did very well. Both of them did very well. For the time, that's when the Hollywood was making, you know, $8 million movies $10 million movies.

Scott Myers 11:09
You know, they don't do that. They don't do that much anymore. That whole the middle areas dropped out. They do those big, big budget franchise things in the lower budget things, but it's up to the financers and other production companies make those you know, 10 million movies. Exactly, exactly.

Alex Ferrari 11:25
Now, how do you how much research do you do when you when you're writing a script?

Scott Myers 11:30
Well, for example, a canine I actually spent time with the Ventura canine police. Then once the project got set up, went on some ride alongs with some of the LAPD. I did a lot of research. So yeah, I do a lot of research.

Alex Ferrari 11:46
Do you suggest that screenwriters when they're writing something to do as much research as humanly possible?

Scott Myers 11:51
Yes, up to a point it can it can become an excuse not to write? You know, I can't tell you my times i've you know, was when I was living in LA because you see screenwriters all the time and aspiring screenwriters as well. And you say, Hey, are you doing Oh, yeah, I'm working on the scrape project is we're we're to thing in a setting Korea. Oh, great. So you have six months later? How are you doing? Yeah, I'm researching this project. And we're, we're to create Well, we need to start reading. I do think it's important to do research, you know, be smart about it. But you can get a lot of anecdotes, a lot of character development, a lot of inspirational things that can inspire scenes and whatnot, you need to hit that mark, that big, 25 cent word, the script has to have a sense of verisimilitude. It's got to feel real, it's not a documentary. But it's got to come across as authentic, you have to gain the confidence of the reader that you know what you're talking about. So to the degree that you you know, I have to do the research to get to that point, then, yeah, it's research to support that. Yeah. And

Alex Ferrari 12:49
If you walk into any Starbucks here in LA, everybody, you cannot walk cannot see a laptop without final draft on it.

Scott Myers 12:57
I came I when I left LA, I flew back there for a TV production thing we were doing. And I came in really late at night. And I was walking up the courtyard to my hotel room. And I saw this, you know, the light of a computer shining on some guy's face, alone out there in the corner, and I said, I guarantee this guy's got final draft open, I just know it. And I walk past and sure enough, it's like, can't escape it. You know, it's like,

Alex Ferrari 13:26
When I got here, when I got here, almost 10 years ago, I was I was shocked that there's not one coffee bean, not one Starbucks anywhere in Los Angeles at any time there is someone writing a script.

Scott Myers 13:39
And you know, that can be both good old hating emotionally because you realize, Oh, my gosh, everybody's like out there trying to do this or doing it. But it can also be inspiring in a wicked sort of way. And that you realize that when you're not writing someone else is and so that that can put that sort of negative reinforcement to get your butt in the chair to actually write?

Alex Ferrari 14:01
Yeah, it's in writing is a screenwriting is an extremely competitive sport, especially here in Hollywood. Yes, it's extremely competitive. Now, can you talk a little bit about the blacklist?

Scott Myers 14:15
Yes, the blacklist is to me and I think this would probably not be countered by many people. It's the most significant brand screenwriting brand in Hollywood. And I don't say this because I'm my blog go into the story is the official screenwriting blog of the blacklist, though I I love those people and Franklin Leonard is a friend and I've followed what they've done for years. But you know, Franklin started this like 12 years ago when he was an exact at Universal and just send around notes to people, you know, emails to friends, and going away for you know, that December break, you know, that everybody does for about a month, saying hey, Can you recommend some of the best scripts that are out there right now that are not being produced. And he simply got their feedback, totaled up the numbers, created a PDF and send it out. And it became like this thing, it's evolved now to the point where in December, it's basically I think, the second Monday in December, they come out with the annual blacklist. That's a big deal. You know, for that two to three hour period of time, the entire development community in Hollywood is focused on what makes the blacklist that I've interviewed dozens of blacklist screenwriters, with their script makes the blacklist, if you're not represented, you can get represented most of the scripts are, you know, with writers who are represented, if if the project has been sitting and not moving forward, well, oftentimes it gets it moved forward. There's talent now, that will only read material. If it's on the blacklist, for example, The Imitation Game, Benedict Cumberbatch read that script because it was a top blacklist script. I've read several actors who talk about how that essentially it's an imprimatur. The Blacklist is a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval that the community, the relevant community saying this is a script, you know, worthy of your attention. So the blacklist is an important important brand, for screenwriters in Hollywood. And I can tell you that with every writer that I've interviewed, who's made the blacklist, it's been a big boost to their career, as well as getting helping to get movies made.

Alex Ferrari 16:40
And a lot of a lot of the scripts on the blacklist sometimes are from what I've known, and from what I've read over the years, it's like some scripts are just they're not producible some topics, they're so good, or they're so out there, that they're wonderful scripts, but the Hollywood would just not take the chance on them. Is that happen often to that?

Scott Myers 16:56
I don't know. Often. I mean, it's, you know, just getting anything made as in Hollywood, even if it comes with the, you know, the the kudos from the blacklist? Yeah, there have been certain projects, like there was a project about a comedy about ronald reagan being president who was, you know, suffering from essentially early, you know, dementia. And that was looked like that was going to go forward. But then, you know, some people thought that was insensitive or whatnot, so that that got pulled. Ironically, you know, some of the more bizarre scripts. The bit I think the blacklist helps, for example, there was the script. That, gosh, the one about Michael Jackson's monkey, yes. Yeah. Isaac Adams, I think wrote that up Portland and it, you know, it's now it's getting made as a stop action, stop motion picture match of some of your What do we call it, that technology with Dan Harmon as an executive producer. So bubbles was the name of the scratch. That was like a Nexus, like, literally told from the perspective of bubbles during the crucial year and Michael Jackson's life so

Alex Ferrari 18:08
Ching, it's actually quite genius concept

Scott Myers 18:11
Was fantastic. And of course, Isaac said, there was no way that he thought anything would happen with it, he just thought it was a funny idea. But there you go.

Alex Ferrari 18:18
It's kind of like what Charlie Kaufman does with his scripts, like, you know, being john malkovich, who, in the right mind thought that that would ever get made. Right. But it was it was genius. It was absolutely a brilliant script. Can you talk a little bit about from your perspective, your feeling on the way Hollywood is going today, and how it's so dramatically changed from the days of canine to the days of today. And obviously, a lot of big problems are happening at the box office, this year's one of the worst box offices in decades, if I'm not mistaken, I know this Labor Day. Coming up, they said that this is going to be the worst Labor Day weekend in 25 years. So I want to hear your perspective on that, if you can,

Scott Myers 19:01
Well, it has changed considerably. The underlying ethos of similar but different that we talked about earlier, that I think is still pretty much in place. In fact, in some respects worse, it's almost like they Yeah, it's almost worse than that they're looking for things that are more similar than more different. Because that fear factor, the main changes, you know, some of them for the positive, the digital technologies, which, in some respects, at least, if you're a filmmaker is a major boon because, you know, you don't need to buy film stock, you know, you can literally go out with a digital camera or even your iPhone, we saw that with tangerine, that movie, where you can go out and make a movie for next to nothing, you know, they these micro budget films, ever burns makes them whatnot that you know, for $25,000 or even less, you can do that nowadays. On the other hand, because of digital technology, you've got CGI phenomena. On, so that, you know, you can make these incredible spectacle movies. Unfortunately, that has tended to suck the air out of what used to be a mainstay of Hollywood filmmaking, which was a mid budget dramas mid budget to action thrillers and whatnot. And so the studio's for whatever reason, I think they have some numbers to bear this out, though, that may be changing with this summer, because so many of the franchise movies have underperformed the box office, you know, they put their, their, their money into these franchise films. You know, I have this, you know, the, you've heard that theory of the four quadrant film, which is adult child, male, female, and my theory is that there's a new four quadrant theory franchise. See franchise, spectacle, nostalgia, and international. Those four things are really driving the marketplace right now. And so you've got this bifurcated approach that the studio of the major studios have, which is expensive, 250 200 200 million, $250 million franchise movies. And then lower budget, genre type things, very middle, whatever is left to the middle, is really being handled by these financers and production companies. There's probably still as many movies being made, maybe if maybe not as many necessarily as back in the 80s. But the major studios are not making anywhere Disney used to make like 3540 films a year. Yeah, exactly. Now they make you know, maybe 15.

Alex Ferrari 21:31
That's a lot. And that's a lot. And this, I mean, they they're probably the leader, I don't think because a lot of the big studios, like paramount for God's sakes, they make like 234 you know, big, big movies a year. So it's it's changed dramatically.

Scott Myers 21:44
Yeah, well, it changes with each regime like Warner Brothers for many years. Like I tracked spec scripts, deals. I've been tracking them since 1991. on my blog, I've got a database of over 2000 spec script deals. Since 1991.

Alex Ferrari 21:58
Warner Brothers, you're crazy, man.

Scott Myers 22:00
I just, you know, I started doing it. Because that's when you're a screenwriter, you got to know what's selling, you know, and you got to if only to cover your ass to say, Oh, well, that project sold that was just like when I got into this, I can't be doing that anymore. But just to also follow the trends. If you're looking at like what's in the movie theaters right now as being an example of what the buyers are buying your two to five years behind the trends. You know, you follow the spec script deals now in order to find out what the development community is interested in. Anyhow, so I don't know where I was going with that forgot my train of thought. But how crazy

Alex Ferrari 22:35
Yeah, how crazy. The mid the mid range things are. Oh, God.

Scott Myers 22:39
Yeah, the mid range. So so that, yeah, the financier is so called finance ears. You know, many of them. sons and daughters are billionaires like Megan Ellison and David Ellison. Annapurna productions, you know, they will step in and they'll make some of these movies, you know, that we would typically see in the past, the studio's would have been doing, but the studio's aren't. But we'll see, it'll be interesting. I'm not sure where they're, you know, maybe there's a bit of franchise fatigue. And the idea that they can just throw spectacle on the screen, by the way, Aristotle, that was the lowest, that was the least important thing in his list of things and poetic spectacles at the very bottom. And, you know, it's like, you have all the stuff on the screen, if there's no emotional resonance with the characters. You know, what's, what does it mean? Well, that is tended to play out, okay, some of these movies that have done poorly domestically, I've done okay, internationally, which now is basically 70% of box office revenues. But you know, they're getting more savvy about this, they say, Hey, wait a minute, we want a good story, too. So I'm not so sure that we might see a little bit of a retrenchment, where they start to make a few more movies and lower budget movies, major studios, but we'll see.

Alex Ferrari 23:53
I mean, look at look at a movie like Deadpool, which is an anomaly. But that is a big studio movie, but it was made for $40 million. And did not, it was it was completely against everything that the studio's normally do. It's an R rated movie was a second tier third tier character. And Ryan Reynolds is you know, he's a star, but he's not like, he wasn't a monster monster star, either, you know, that he's not a Tom Cruise or any of these kind of bigger stars. That would justify a big, big movie like that. So it was really wonderful to see a movie like that not only get made, but the shake up the industry because it outperformed. Pretty much. I think almost every comic book movies out here, they came out.

Scott Myers 24:38
Yeah, those writers that, you know, that took them 10 years. Yeah, you know, because the thing Ryan Reynolds basically, you know, kept not stringing them along but supporting that project, because people were saying who's going to go see an R rated superhero movie that's basically kind of winking at the genre,

Alex Ferrari 24:57
Right? And then the way they finally got it done is Ryan Reynolds leaked, leaked some footage onto the internet and everyone went crazy.

Scott Myers 25:05
Yeah, same thing. Similar thing with a rival. You know, Eric Kaiser I know, you know, he would go around town when he was having all these meetings and I said, Well, what you know, after the end of the meeting, hey, what's your passion project? They whip out the short story by Ted Chang. story of your life. And so I'd like to do this and then say, Oh, great. What is it? Well, it's about these aliens that you know, oh, aliens, so that's great. So yeah. And so the hero you know, it's like the big accident a well, no, not really, the heroes a woman and she's a linguist. But she's language. So there's still a big action you're blowing up and no, actually the aliens just leave. You know, it's a language insult. And they were just, you know, nobody was gonna make this movie until, you know, some, some producers finally saw it. And now you see it. It's a fantastic movie. And it's done really well. It always takes there's, it takes one person to say yes. One person who's got cloud. Yeah. And you just try to find as a screenwriter, you try and find those people.

Alex Ferrari 26:00
Yes, it's Yeah. Okay. Yeah. On paper that doesn't look, you know, it doesn't fit in all the boxes that a studio would be looking for.

Scott Myers 26:07
That's it, like, none of the boxes. Not even one. Not even science fiction, but you know, a female lead drama linguist.

Alex Ferrari 26:20
Yeah, I know. I know. It's, it's, it's no one no action. What? What didn't make any sense? Um, you know, do you ever think that Hollywood is going to come around to original ideas and really start focusing on them because they might be riskier, but they, but these franchises that they keep bringing up, they're all from 80s 90s and even 2000s. And that's what they keep recycling and they're even going deeper now into television and, and you know, anything that's, you know, but there's a certain point we're going to run out. They're gonna run out. I mean, like they're redoing fantastic for again, they're rebooting it again, like Kai's just original. What do you think?

Scott Myers 27:04
Look, if you talk to, you know, most working screenwriters. Yeah, they all we all say the same thing, you know, which is, we'd love to see more original movies made. But the reality is, again, it's a fear based business. And right now, frankly, this nostalgia element is just huge.

Alex Ferrari 27:23
Yeah, Stranger Things and that kind of Yeah,

Scott Myers 27:26
It's and so I mean, like the perfect you know, what really drove this home to me was when I saw Jurassic World, you remember that the Spielberg gaze, you know, when they look up again, right, in Jurassic Park, when you first saw that, that was when they saw the dinosaurs for the first time in Jurassic World when you first saw that it's when they saw the park for the first time. So the Jurassic World was was a was a wash in the stallion about the movie Jurassic Park is exhibited in the actual park itself. So I think we see that right now. And that's a major driver, frankly, even some, many blacklist scripts that do well have a nostalgic element. Last year, the top script was on Madonna, that she the year that she was blonde ambition, which she was going to break out that year, the year before that was bubbles on Michael Jackson. Yesterday, a spec script sold. That was called jack and Dec about the friendship the odd friendship between jack kennedy and Dick Nixon. We know so that's Yeah. So you see a lot of these blacklist scripts that dramas are historically based dramas that evoke something of our past. And so I you know, you can still do original movies, you know, and all beingness Alger but this franchise type thing. Yeah, that's just completely all about repeating the same thing. Look, I have a running bet with some writers. How soon will Warner Brothers reboot Harry Potter?

Alex Ferrari 28:57
Yeah, I was wondering that myself, like, at a certain point, like, when are they going to do it again?

Scott Myers 29:02
You know, if they continue to have problems, you know, which they are. It just shrinks the time before you because you know, they're gonna do that. But I mean, well, I

Alex Ferrari 29:11
Mean, they did it with the Hobbit, which was just God, like, why, you know, they did learn that basically, the, it's close to a reboot of Lord of the Rings as they could have made. But, you know, what, I was wondering, like, how long is it going to take my Can they do it? Like, you know, it's Harry Potter. I mean, this is something that's never been done in the history of cinema.

Scott Myers 29:32
We'll say I look it's a it's an IP, they own it. It's, you know, universally loved. They'll have another generation that will come up and, and have their version of Emma Watson and, you know, all the rest. I wouldn't I wouldn't put Parliament you know, they they're driven by obviously trying to make money. But these things are all run in cycles. You know, I you know, I remember I was a musician for many years and living in a house. Spin Colorado in, which was great at the time, because there are all these clubs where we could play, but then disco came along. And so in a lot of these clubs turned, you know, turned into disco. And it was very depressing for, you know, the actual musicians because we wouldn't make as much money that way. But then what came along, you know, punk music came along, and the watch band, the Dire Straits came a lot with Sultans of swing. And so that, you know, letting the whole Nirvana and all this. So these things run in cycles. And it's the same thing with movies. You know, there will always be filmmakers out there doing original content and with the digital technologies, you know, it's not that expensive to go out and, and do things like the duplass brothers and whatnot, you know, we can just make these movies that are character based, and they'll find their, you know, they'll find their mark, the big sick, perfect example, the big sick, no, I have terrific, terrific movie, it's got like a 98 rating on Rotten Tomatoes. And it's an original film, and it's just touching and human, and then great business. And so there's always room for that type of thing.

Alex Ferrari 31:07
Now, where agents and managers, how and when do you need to get one?

Scott Myers 31:14
How to Win? Well, obviously, it's a benefit to get represented. You can't typically get material to producers and studios without being represented. Some people can have an entertainment lawyer and do it that way. How do you get a manager basically, or an agent? First of all, I think my advice to people is you focus on managers, managers, are a different breed than agents agents are, you know, this is a real generalization, and it varies from agency to agency and management company management company. But as it was explained to me once by a manager, he said agents were suits and managers were bluejay, which is an aggressive way to think about it agents are dealmakers largely, you know, that's their primary thing. Managers are more about nurturing the careers of, of writers. And so they can spend a lot more time with writers, you know, actually developing material and whatnot. Again, it varies from manager to manager, they're much more likely to be open to unsolicited material, just email them do it very briefly. Like Seth blockhead. He wrote, he wrote Hannah, and he was in Vancouver. And he's just sent out an email to like 500 managers, new spec script, girl trying to be an assassin interested. And he got like two responses, and one of them became his manager. And then that led to the handle Well, you can be a lot more targeted on that. You know, whatever project you've got, find, go to IMDb pro find 10 to 15 movies that are like yours in the you know, same genre space. Identify the producers who are also managers. That's one of the reasons why agents become managers, because they can also be producers. And then find out their email addresses. Oftentimes, you can find them online or through Done deal pro Twitter, that's Twitter, whatever. Yeah. And then they'll do a very simple thing, say, you know, I've got a spec script, like your movie. And then that's it that's in your subject line. And then you go into your tax. And just very briefly, here's a logline Are you interested, but I know people who've gotten I know a lot of people actually gotten into the door that way, more traditional ways. You can go use the nickel fellowships in screenwriting, which is the most prestigious of those contests. There are other ones, but that's the one that I've interviewed every new winner since 2012. And so again, like the blacklist, that's one of those things that can change your life, you can get representation off and get a lot of work. The Blacklist has its website, by the way, I don't get paid by the blacklist. So I'm not getting a kickback here. But that but that's been very successful is like real time Hollywood, I think they're like over 3000 members of the Hollywood development community, that track it's probably their their assistants who do this, like on Monday morning and go through and to see what's up there. But you can, from anywhere in the world upload a script, there, obviously have to pay money to have it hosted. You get it evaluated by their readers. But they've had, I think five movies made off of scripts discovered off the blacklist website at this point five, and they've had hundreds of people get representation that way. So so there are you know, this is as difficult as it is, and challenging as it is and in some ways it's more competitive than ever. It's actually got more access to Hollywood, I think nowadays than it used to be it used to be you had to know someone who was sisters with someone who slept with someone who worked in the business to get your material to someone who could actually read it and do something about it nowadays. There are these conduits into the system. You know, that you don't require you to move to LA and become an assistant though that's a certainly a, you know, an intelligent thing to do if you're young and, and have the wherewithal to do that. But in terms of getting a manager, that's one way of doing it, you know, is literally, you do your research, find some movies that were like your script, and then source those, those manager producers and just email them. And the best of all worlds, you'd have three scripts in the same genre. And say, because that shows that you're, you've got an approach, you've got passion, you're persistent, you've got three projects, which they could potentially set up, or try and get, you know, writing assignments, for writing assignments or even get them optioned or sold. But but generally speaking, that's that's one way to do it.

Alex Ferrari 35:49
Now, can you talk a little bit about what writing assignments are open writing assignments

Scott Myers 35:52
Are a ways that used to be a staple of the business. I mean, I did of the 30 projects that I have done in Hollywood, you know, when I was when I was out there actually buying for open writing asides? I don't know now, I just wrote on spec. And if they like it, great, if not, then that used to be a staple of the business. I mean, I'd say that probably 20 to 22 of the projects I've written have been open writing assignments. The rest were pitches, respects, it's all open writing assignment is what it sounds like. It's a project that's at a studio or a production company, where they've either got a draft that was written by like a first writer, and they feel that it needs to work, or a draft that's been rewritten by a bunch of writers, which is often the case. And and they need someone to come in and fix it, you know, at a very fundamental way, a screenwriter in Hollywood is a problem solver. And so, executives and production executives will meet with you and say, Look, we know the script has problems, we don't know how to fix it. So your job as a screenwriter is to identify the problems, and then come in with suggestions. Here's how I would approach this. And in solving this, here's the story I would tell. And, you know, I'm reminded of the story of Forrest Gump. How, cuz I'd done some work with the producer discovered the book, when you find them, and she told the story about how Tom Hanks is his passion project for Tom Hanks. And they'd had three als writers writing, adapting that that book, and had not nailed it. And then they finally brought in Eric Roth, and Eric read the scripts and read the book. And he said, I think I know what the problem is. There's no love story, Jenny, I guess it's not that big of a deal in the book. But what Eric identified was a problem. There's no emotional through line for that project. So that's a perfect example of an overriding aside where we came in and identify a problem. And then I mean, can you imagine Forrest Gump without the the forest Jenny? Love Story? No, of

Alex Ferrari 38:00
Course not.

Scott Myers 38:01
So it's just amazing. The three a list writers didn't identify that but Eric did. So overriding inside of the problem is that there's just fewer projects getting made now. So there's fewer open writing assignments. And that's why you see something interesting nowadays, that working screenwriters, these are people who are like, maybe not a list, but a minus list or B list, screenwriters will spec scripts, you know, at least one a year will write a spec script, you know, at least one maybe even two a year, even while they're you know, they're actively involved in the business in getting work. Because the overriding assignment arena, you chase those things. I know a writer who for a year, chased over writing assignments, didn't land one thing and just said, screw it, and then he SPECT something, and then, you know, and that next set up so that that needs to be the case, you would write a spec script. And that was it. It was just to get you into the business nowadays, that you know that there are so few writing assignments available, and that that market has shrunk, that you see a lot of working screenwriters who are continuing to write spec scripts. So

Alex Ferrari 39:06
Do you find that a lot of screenwriters that normally did feature work are now going towards television and streaming platforms?

Scott Myers 39:14
Yes, that's absolutely the case. And there's an upside and the downside of that. Some upsides are its its employment. So that's one thing. The downside of that is it's not as much money and particularly the streaming services, the stats are smaller the time pressure, the budgets are less. So you're doing a lot more work in some respects for a lot less money than if you were writing a screenplay that, you know, can vary from project to project but but it is employment. And it also offers writers an opportunity to do these 10 you know, episode chunks, eight episodes 1213 episodes, these limited run series, they can just go in and knock out a mini what we used to call a mini series and they're done with it. You know, it's like a long story, or they can, you know, do like no Holly did with Fargo, and you know, have a three series, three season series, you know, which means that he can go off and do the series and then go off and direct a movie to in the same year because you know, it's only 10 episodes or whatnot. So that market has blown up, as you know, they talk about the second golden age of TV or TV, you know, supposedly there were over 500 TV series on broadcast, basic cable, pay cable and streaming right now 500, which I think is like quadruple the amount that maybe there were like 10 years ago. Interesting thing is that there's a it again, it's just like this, there's so many things changing right now. On the one hand, you've got feature writers going over working in TV and bringing this feature sensibilities to TV and in many respects, what we call TV now does feel like long movies and does have the cinematic quality of movies. On the other hand, we're seeing the flow of ideas from the TV side, entering into the film side, where you've got these writers rooms, you know, working on Transformers of paramount are working on the horror movies at Universal or working on DC Comics or Marvel. So there's this really interesting interplay. And frankly, I don't know that in 10 to 15 years, because everybody's, you know, people are actually watching Mad Max Fury Road on their iPhone, which of course, I would think is insane. But you know, young people, you know, whatever, in 10 or 15 years, we made a column movies, we made a column TV, I mean, I asked my students in the beginning every quarter say, so what are you watching? And they tell me what shows you're watching, say how many are watching on TV, and no one raises their hand. So why even call it TV if we're not even watching it on TV?

Alex Ferrari 41:48
So I call it film, if you're not shooting on film,

Scott Myers 41:51
Not shooting on film? You know, if you you know, what is it about, you know, the two hours maybe there will be we're seeing growth by the way of short films, the short film festivals are expanding. And short films is another way that you can break into Hollywood, you know, go out and make a five to 10 minute film, show your chops as a writer and as a filmmaker. So there's a lot of things in flux, it's a great time to be a content creator. That's one thing.

Alex Ferrari 42:17
Yeah, there's no doubt there's a lot more opportunity. But there's you got to put the work in. And that's something I always preach about, to everybody in the business, they got to work. And this is not going to be a one year thing. It's a 10 year plan, and you got to get ready for the long haul.

Scott Myers 42:31
Would you agree that? That's exactly right. I that's what I tell my university students here at DePaul, you know, who have interest in going out to Hollywood, we have a very, very successful program here. And in the LA quarter where they go out and typically their spring quarter last year as an undergraduate. You know, 90% of the people that come from our program, are actually working in the business. This is after several years out there. Now. Some of them are in lower level, you know, assistant type positions or pa type things, but many of them are now working as writers and segwayed into production, executive positions and whatnot. But yeah, that's why I tell him, you've got to be able to put things seven to 10 years, you know, and really, and part of that is not just about finding work. It's about growing up as a human being. You want to be a storyteller, you got to have stories to tell. And so you're living life as a big part of it. As a guy, that's right, that's like gold to my ears.

Alex Ferrari 43:31
It's It's so good to hear somebody else say stuff like this, because I preach it all the time. You're right, you can't be a writer, you can't be a filmmaker unless you live, if not, your stuff becomes hacky. And it just, it's regurgitated stuff from what you've seen already, as opposed to trying to tell original stories of your experience on the planet.

Scott Myers 43:50
You know, that's one thing that we pride ourselves here at DePaul because we have a very diverse community of students and faculty administration. We we encourage our students to tell stories that come from their respective backgrounds, the world right now, perhaps never more than ever need stories about diverse, diverse people, amen. Different different cultures, different sub cultures, to put a human face on the other, so that we move past this sort of demonization and fear base about who the other is, but just need to recognize our shared humanity. And so that's something we're very, very much in favor of, and encourage your DePaul.

Alex Ferrari 44:32
Now, can you just discuss a little bit about what the anatomy of a screenwriting deal in Hollywood looks like? Well, it's changing everything else.

Scott Myers 44:44
It used to be you would, you know, you'd get a deal, like I did with canine where you, they require it, they've an acquisition price, then they give you a fee for you know, first draft, and then you'd get a built in second draft or rewrite that was built Under the contract, after the last Writers Guild strike 2007 2008, I think the studios have probably had this in line before, but they use that to then do these single term deals. No, no guaranteed rewrite, which is a real problem. Because what happens is this, you're only gonna get one shot at a project, right? To go forward with it, you're gonna, you know, you get a call, well, you know, they like the draft, but if you could just make a couple of changes on it, you know, then then they, they bump it up, you know, to the, to the food chain, you know, it's okay, if you go away, and now you're doing an unpaid rewrite, you hand it back at a, you know, got just this one thing, if you can do this one thing. So now, because in your agents in, you know, we're gonna say the same, pretty much the same thing to you? Well, it's your choice. But you want to go in with your best foot forward, you know, wink, wink, nod nod. So that's been a problem.

Alex Ferrari 45:59
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Scott Myers 46:11
But the deal is, the deal is structured look, you can, you know, you can make, you know, you can make a goodly amount of money from project to project, a lot of them a lot of these deals you see trumpeted as a sale or actually options, which can be for as little as 10,000, or $5,000, or even less, so, it's not a lot of money. You know, I'd say maybe the typical deal, it's hard to say, you know, you get maybe 75,000, against 175,000. What that means is you're gonna get $75,000 compensation for the script in your writing services. versus if it's 175,000, another $100,000. Should the movie get made? That's reducible by if you you're, you share credit, right and credit with someone else. But like, you know, in the old days, like canine sold for $750,000, you know, and there are scripts that do sell for that much money, but it's just very rare. But so when you see somebody say, Oh, it's a six figure deal, you have to be very careful about that. Because that six figures is almost assuredly talking about the back end stuff. It's like that, you know, that $80,000 against 200,000. So they're saying it's a six figure deal. They say no to that, but you're not guaranteed that money, you only guaranteed the $80,000 you'll also get net profit participation, which translates into $0 there's like hardly any movie that ever gets done that because the studio's have various sets of accounting books.

Alex Ferrari 47:36
And then Forrest Gump still hasn't made any money.

Scott Myers 47:39
Yeah, I will. Yeah. So well, you know, when they have gross profit, you know, like, Tom Hanks gets dollar one, you know, gross.

Alex Ferrari 47:47
What? Can you talk a little bit about the difference between net and gross profit for the audience?

Scott Myers 47:51
Okay, well, gross. And there's a bunch of different definitions of gross. And this is a little bit beyond my purview. I just know, this is, you know, from my screen, right. I'm not an accountant or anything. There's these various definitions of gross, you know, dollar one, which is, I think, you know, the one where basically every penny, from the, you know, that's being spent, that whoever that talent is, they're going to get a percentage of that from dollar one, then there's reduced gross and various definitions of gross. But basically, that's what you want, you want to get a gross profit participation deal, if you can get it. There are writers get that I would imagine, like, probably Sorkin gets it and some of the other a list writers who are very, very well established. But that's more along the lines of directors. And you know, top talent, top acting talent. net is where they say, Okay, if we get the net profit, then you're going to get, you know, your percentage, two and a half, four, or 5%, or whatever it is. But you never reached that, because the studios will assign all sorts of costs to the production, see, they'll create a production company for the production, then they lend the money to the production to produce the thing. And they charge interest on that loan. That interest goes back to the studio. And it's also it's also a cost to the production. So it's like really, really hard to get to net. I think perhaps, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, a movie like that, which costs $5 million, and, you know, grossed upwards to 300 million. Nia Vardalos probably, you know, saw some net dollars on that, but

Alex Ferrari 49:24
Yeah, so can you can you list off a few of the do's and the don'ts on the business side of screenwriting? Because I know that's a very mysterious thing, the business of screenwriting for screenwriters, everyone's always talking about the craft, but the business is not talked about that much.

Scott Myers 49:40
Well, on my blog, you know, I've got like 200 blog posts called the business of screenwriting. So yes, you go, go into the story.com and and read that I've got a whole slew of things there. Well, first thing is learn the craft and and you know that that's super important. You've got to quiet my mind. Write watch movies, read scripts write pages, you know, it's possible to learn what you need to do just by doing that. And reading scripts is the one area that people tend to fall down on, it's incredibly important to read scripts, not just the classic scripts, but current script scripts within the last five years that no movie scripts and or blacklist scripts or nickel scripts, because you're you're learning the style sensibilities and, and just getting into the mindset of what people are responding to in Hollywood, but you need to learn your craft, you need to find your voice, you need to have an approach to story prep, and how you get through so that you're confident enough to know that when you sign that contract, you know, for $200,000, to write this project, you're going to a and you turn the page and says script do in 10 weeks, and you know, your specter doesn't go up through your mouth, you know, you got to have the confidence to be able to do that. And so learning the craft is critical. But there's some basic don'ts, you know, don't be an asshole. And that's the people that it's a big one. People in Hollywood like to work with the people they like to work with, you know, I mean, it sounds kind of silly, but it's absolutely true. If it comes down to writer a or writer B, and writer B's and asshole a writer a is not. And they're both equal talents, you know, then they'll probably go with writer a, you know, everybody you meet is a potential networking opportunity. And I, I don't like the word networking so much. But I mean, it really is true, you've got to develop a network, don't expect your agents and managers to land, you know, gigs, a lot of times you'll land them just through the relationships you develop with production executives. So you know, nurture those, you know, follow up with an email or a call to Hey, I really enjoyed meeting, I thought that was great and drop in, you know, every so often like two, three months and say, Hey, what's going on, you know, nurture those relationships, be kind to assistance. People, they are human beings just like you, you know, don't overlook them, when you're excited to go see that manager, that agent, that studio executive, the assistants are human beings, more over, they go up the food chain, and the person who has been assistant today will be a studio executive and could hire you tomorrow. But you know, just as a human being, you know, be kind to them, because they have very, very difficult jobs. And, you know, they they're worthy of respect. Do some research, you know, track down, who is who, in the studio, at the executive level with production companies know a certain amount about the business, you don't have to let it dictate what you write, but to know, and track via the trades, you know, a variety Hollywood Reporter deadline, the wrap, and stay in conversation with other writers about what's going on. That's that can be helpful. You have to determine what kind of writer you are. There are some writers who are very successful at chasing the market. You know, I mean, there's a lot of writers who say, don't do that. But there are some writers who are like, their action writers are the thriller writers and the science fiction writers. And they, they know what's out there, they know what's being developed, they try and forecast what will be the next thing that will sell. You know, so they're very, very specifically trying to write to a genre space. There are other writers who are exactly the opposite. They just follow their creative instincts. And and, you know, some writers can do both, but you need to think about what writer you want to be. Here's another tip, which is find a genre space that you love, and are good at that to say you can't write across genres. But if you write three scripts in one genre, and have two treatments in that same genre, and you do what I told you to do earlier about reaching out to a manager, I don't know a manager alive, who would look at your material given that, particularly if you have a good logline for that first project you sent to them. Because if you're in a genre, like this is your thing, I'm an action, right? I'm a thriller writer, you know, I'm a comedy, then that's how they put you up for writing assignments. That's how they market do they brand you frankly, need to be well, sorry, go ahead.

Alex Ferrari 54:15
Yeah, they have to put you in the box. They have a it's a it's an easier sell, as opposed to someone who'd like he's a comedy writer, but he also does drama, but he does his one action script and he does sci fi. But you're right. If you can be a specialist. That's what they're looking for. That you get put on lists.

Scott Myers 54:30
You know, I got put on lists. I got put on animal lists. comedy. I wrote a movie while after I wrote the dog movie. I wrote a movie about called was about about a pig and a witness relocation program. Hamlet was another one about frogs. There was a lot of a frog. So I joke that I did I did movie I wrote movies about dogs, rotten hogs, I mean, you know they put you they they assign these things to And if you're willing to do that, right, then that's your brand. And so you can do that for like seven years and make some good money, you know, that that that person isn't you know, is a comedy guy or That woman is great with, you know, with drama, we're not. Now you can always write a spec and bust out of that. And it's not to say you can't write across your honors. I know, like Brian Duffield is very, very successful. And he writes just all sorts of different things. Sure. But generally speaking, when I talk to managers, they they prefer to have clients who settle on one genre. So those are some words of advice, I hope.

Alex Ferrari 55:31
Hope you found that helpful. Now, why hasn't Hamlet been made?

Scott Myers 55:36
Well, that was easy. We were set that was dawn steel, and we had a director attached. And we were going we were in pre production. And then babe came out, just completely blew up. Alright, it was like nobody anticipated at that movie. And then that studio just got cold feet, you know that you think well, similar, but different. But I guess in that case,

Alex Ferrari 56:01
It was too different. It was too similar or too difficult. Because that sounds genius. I would have loved to watch that. That and canine as a double feature, I think would be good.

Scott Myers 56:11
A peg and witness reel. I mean, that's so classic, late 80s, early 90s. Right?

Alex Ferrari 56:14
Very much. So yeah, I don't know. I don't know. sure if that's that story flies today. But back then, oh, my God, it would have been brilliant. Now, what should screenwriters do? How should screenwriters deal with getting rewritten, which happens almost all the time? And it's

Scott Myers 56:31
Almost all Yeah, I have a business a screenwriting post that I did, where we went up for a write my writing partner, I went out for a writing assignment to rewrite a script that had been written by Ron bass of cheese. Okay. Rob, what are the most successful screenwriters in the history of Hollywood? Yes, yes. And so I sort of my partners will look up, we're up to rewrite him, you know, yeah, everybody gets rewritten. Everybody gets rewritten. You know, there was that story of Moneyball, where Steve Zaillian had written a draft of it and you know, that that story's amazing how that movie got made, you know, considering the sort of birds turning in a draft and, and the different than what the studio expected. And Brad Pitt's said, No, there's a movie here and I see it and since alien wrote a draft, as I remember the story, he was in Rome with his family on vacation, his cell phone chirps and answers it says, Steve, this is Aaron Sorkin. I just wanted to call you to let you know that I'm rewriting you on on Moneyball? Well, they ended up actually working parallel, but to get on that project, basically rewriting each other. And then when the ball came out, and it was a successful movie, everybody gets read well how to deal with it. Well, it hurts. You know, you don't want to get rewritten. You're the person being rewritten. You don't mind a little off color story, do you?

Alex Ferrari 58:01
Off color is fine.

Scott Myers 58:03
Okay. So because we got rewritten on canine and when they when they said that we're gonna bring somebody else in, of course, they tell you this is how much competence we have in the project, we're actually bringing in someone to rewrite you.

Alex Ferrari 58:18
That's, that's so Hollywood. It can't even tell you how follies actually

Scott Myers 58:21
A compliment to your talent that we're bringing somebody to rewrite you, you know. So anyhow, my agent Marty Bowers said, Well, guys, you got f but you got F with a golden dick. So you know, that's kind of the mindset, you just you know, you that's why you have multiple projects, going stack projects. That's what you could do as a writer. So you're writing this, you're rewriting another thing, you're developing another thing. So you give yourself 24 hours to go Taiwan on, you know, get hammered, go talk to your friends, then wake up the next day and start on the next project.

Alex Ferrari 58:55
Do you know the story of the pretty women rewrite? Well, it was very dark draw. Yeah, yeah, it was Yeah, I'm assuming you would that the sixth out, it was called six grand or something like that. And, and the writer was super upset about him being rewritten. This is not my story. And then of course, after I made, you know, a gazillion dollars, just like yeah, that was my I did that.

Scott Myers 59:15
And he ended up with sole credit. So yeah. On the other side, if you are rewriting someone, it's become I think, I think writers have become more human nowadays. about that. It's a good thing to contact the person who rewriting and Eric heizer. I talked to him about this and he's his, his way of approaching it is look, they've handed me the keys to your car. And so I'm going to drive it for a while, but it's still your car. And I just wanted you to know and then you haven't given them an opportunity to talk about, you know, what their vision for it was and just be a decent human being, you know, that does take a certain amount of humanity I guess, you know, courage. encouraged to call up a writer and say, you know, look, I'm rewriting you and I just want you to reach out to you. But I think that's a decent thing to do. And writers should be decent to each other. You know, if other people aren't going to be decent to us, at least writers can be

Alex Ferrari 1:00:15
Right, because writers are historically one of the most beaten down professions in the business.

Scott Myers 1:00:22
Yeah, ironically enough, and I think part of it is, frankly, you know, beyond everything else that they can get away with it that writers tend to be, you know, kind of, can be cantankerous characters and whatnot. Part of it is frankly, they, they can't do what we do. Right? And that, that bothers them. They can't create something out of nothing, they can't problem solve like we can. And so there's there's that some of the psychological subtext going on there. Historically,

Alex Ferrari 1:00:53
I've never heard I've never heard it put that way before. That makes perfect sense actually.

Scott Myers 1:00:57
Maybe it's like if it goes back to that old line, I think Thalberg, you know, Irving Thalberg, the first great Hollywood producer is meeting with the writers and his, you know, a love hate relationship with the writers. But he said, you know, what is it with you writers, you know, you think you're so special. It's just, you know, it's just a matter of putting down words. One of the writers looked at him and said, Yeah, but to know which words

Alex Ferrari 1:01:23
Brilliant. Now, another question that I get asked a lot by screenwriters what's what should be a page copy of a standard Hollywood script?

Scott Myers 1:01:33
Well, you know, I'm not a big one for this is the so called screenwriting rules. In fact, on my blog, you can see, I actually have eight free ebooks now. blocked stuff, I'm going to end up with 12 this year, nice, thanks to clay Mitchell and Trish curtain for helping me edit those things. But one of them is so called screenwriting rules. And one of them is about, you know, page count. You know, stories are organic. And yeah, there are conventions and expectations, but there's no real rules. You know, you can actually have an act that goes into like, page 35. Yeah, you know, you've got to make sure that that needs 35 pages, but generally speaking, you're looking at 2025. Okay, page count, I think that there's been some shrinkage, frankly, you know, because people like things to move more quickly nowadays, because of YouTube and whatever. So what used to be like 120 page script, but say now, maybe, you know, we tend to see scripts, 100 510 pages. What used to be the end of Act One is now oftentimes the middle of Act One, you know, so I would say, you know, again, if you this is just a rule of thumb, and I hate to use that word, no, it just says a ballpark touchstone. You know, you want to write 100 page script, basically, there are certain readers that will think that the script maybe is under bait undercooked, if it comes in at 90 pages or not, something around like that. Now, that's not always the case. Because you may work with a production company that's very specifically working on a low budget movie, in which case, you know, 85 pages, or 90 pages for a horror film or whatever, comedy perfect, that could be fine. But if it's a studio thing, you know, it's science fiction, you got it a lot of world building, so maybe it's a little longer. It's an action movie with a lot of scene description and not much dialogue, maybe it's a little shorter. So I you know, 100 pages is probably a good, you know, page count.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:23
You know, I like 105. But, you know, everybody's got their thing. Got it. And then our screenwriting contest worth it.

Scott Myers 1:03:32
Well, to the people whose careers have been benefited, they would probably say yes, I mean, there's a bunch of them out there. There's the Austin Film Festival. There's tracking B's tracking board, there's Nicolas. Well, the nickel is legit. I mean, that's the Academy of Motion Pictures arts and sciences. I mean, that's been around for I mean, that's like, got major people involved, you know, on that on that board and and, you know, there's just a track record of those people who, you know, when the nickel going on and doing well,

Alex Ferrari 1:04:06
Or even placing in the nickel, it gets you

Scott Myers 1:04:08
Yeah, you they send out email blasts. I think from quarterfinals up, maybe semifinals up I don't exactly the top 10 Absolutely. I know people who finished in the top 10 In fact, we had a DePaul student finish and a top 10 and, you know, God representation of that he's currently working as a screenwriter in Hollywood. So yeah, you know, I you have to understand bottom line, these contests are about them making money. You have to understand that, you know, they don't do this because they're, they're, you know, generous. This is a money making operation. That's why they charge those fees. Okay. So just understand that. You know, do your due diligence. If you make sure you see you know, some check the results. You know, have people actually translate into getting gigs. Now you have to be careful. There's some really kind of hinky things got there. You know, people will say, you know, this deal, you know, so and so was a graduate of this, you know, online educational outfit or who is, who is, they'll say, an alumnus, alumnus of you know, what the minister they submitted their script to the competition, right? You know, they didn't actually learn anything or this educational out that maybe they just gave him a bunch of PDFs, and the peer review of their kind of, but they'll say, this deal that they say, Well, what the deal is, is simply they just got representation, they get their management, no, there was no money, there's no deal. Don't even sign with a manager, you know, there's no contracts with managers. So you have to be very careful about what they, they, they claim, you know, their success rate is but you know, if you do due diligence, you'll find great interviews with writers, you know, a lot of them will talk about their experiences, you know, having tried contests and, but if you really want to be safe, the nickel is the safest one, I think, probably the Austin Film Festival, you know, maybe not as much cachet as the nickel, it definitely doesn't have as much cachet. But then the other ones, you know, just be buyer beware, they are out to make money. You know, and, and some of them, I guess, are more successful than others. But just the best thing you can do is just write the best script possible. And if you really want an honest, like, you know, unfiltered thing is the is the blacklist website because then that's the ultimate contest. You're actually having people who are in the business, you know, reading material based on, you know, your logline and some evaluations as a direct line to to the buyer.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:42
Great, great advice. Now, I wanted you to I wanted to go into your insane blog, go into the story. I want you to talk a little bit about that blog and in what an insane resource it is for screenwriters.

Scott Myers 1:06:56
Well, it started on May 16 2008. And I blogged every day since so it's like 3300 consecutive days Jesus the the inspiration for it was simply this, you know, back then. There weren't as many resources as there are now. And a lot of the stuff that was being trumpeted as you know, back then you'd see actually people saying, you'll learn the secrets to writing a million dollar spec script, you know, from people who had never worked in Hollywood, had a movie made shysters Yeah. And and that was upsetting. You know, I mean, I had people in my online classes saying, I just feel completely ripped off and, or they'd show me notes that they got from a script consultant. And the notes were just complete, you know, Bs. And so I felt like, well, I worked in the business, I, you know, I've had movies made, I've written dozens of projects, I've done TV and film, I've taught, you know, john August, had a great, you know, has had, he's like the grandfather of all this stuff. You know, he started his blog, I believe, in 2004. And it's an incredible resource. But what I didn't see was someone doing it every day. You know, like, someone who was following the news. It's someone who's tracking spec script deals, someone who's providing inspiration and information on a daily basis. It's just, it's an extension of what I do naturally, as a writer, where I would just go through and look at the trades, follow the news, and I wouldn't read, I read poems, and I read writing quotes for inspiration. And, you know, so I, that's how I started, it is like a free resource, no advertising, I never had an advertisement on my blog. So they don't have to feel like they're being you know, uploaded or trying to be perfect that phrase, but upsold. And to have this resort, and then ultimately, to build this, this mass of content, so that people could go and just, you know, look through it and find stuff on like every different subject. So there are now 23,000 posts on the blog. You know, I have six posts a day, you can get a daily summary. And as soon as it comes in your email,

Alex Ferrari 1:09:01
You do six posts a day.

Scott Myers 1:09:03
Yeah, it's like, again, I type really fast, I think really fast I've gotten used to doing I'm like the perfect blogger for this type of thing. Like, for example, here's a here's a great example of something that emerged out of the blog. In November 2015, I'd had a project I was writing and something in the news happened that blew it up, just completely blew it up. I could no longer write that project because of what happened to the news. And I'd had a comedy that I've been sitting on for some time. And I got so frustrated. I said, Well, NaNoWriMo was no longer doing the script frenzy, which they did, up until 2013, which was a script version of NaNoWriMo, where you're writing a novel in a month, just would be writing a script in a month. So it just invited people via my blog to join me. In November, I was going to write a zero draft. I said, I'm just going to write this thing from fade into fade out. You know it's going to be it's going to suck, but I've just put the words out and I normally don't do that I normally work from an outline. But I just wanted to try it. Well, I had over 1000 people respond to that. In fact, it created this thing called zero draft 30 challenge, zero draft 30 challenge, which we now run twice a year. So starting on September 1, which is tomorrow, we're going to be running the zero draft 32,017, September challenged. Every day on the blog, I'm going to post something there along with my other posts, about the challenge where people come and they talk about, you know, what they're writing, they'll provide some inspirational quotes or videos or whatnot. There's a Facebook group, the zero draft 30 Facebook group, which has got 2300 members of terrific group of people very supportive, positive minded. We have a Twitter feed, hashtag Zd, 30 script. And so this is something that's emerged now that twice a year, we did to get people writing, to write to spec scripts a year, you know, which is what you shouldn't be doing. And so that's something that's emerged from the blog blog has created all sorts of initiatives and community outreach type of things. And it's versus I had more traffic now than I've ever had site traffic.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:08
That's, that's amazing. Oh, well, I mean, I've, I've known about your site for a long time. And I before I ever opened up any film, hustle, I used to visit it all the time. And, and you just have such a wealth of information. It's it's there's, I don't know of another resource out there that has so much for free.

Scott Myers 1:11:29
There's all for you. Lately, just one little anecdote about this. You know, I had a friend who's a writer, he said, Scott, why are you doing this? This is insane. Why are you giving away all this content for free? Basically, every almost every night, almost every good thing that's happened to me professionally, has been because of that blog. Yeah, I am now more well connected in Hollywood than I ever was, when I lived two miles from 20th Century Fox. No more managers, more agents, more producers, more talent, more writers than I ever did when I was out there. And I was, I would say the exact same thing has happened to me ever since I

Alex Ferrari 1:12:06
Launched indie film, hustle, the amount of connections, relationships, being able to sit down and talk to you for an hour, you know, without a blog, that's very difficult to to reach out to people of your caliber and, and just the relationships you've built over the time. It it is. everything that's happened to me since I opened up any film hustle has been directly it's been generally directly because of the blog. So I understand 110%

Scott Myers 1:12:31
Yeah, your site is, you know, one of those sites that that provides quality content, and those resources are great. You know, I think film school is not for everybody, I think, you know, at a school like DePaul where they can literally go out and they're making movies in their freshman year because we've got three soundstages that's in a space where they shoot all the Chicago Fire Chicago men and all that stuff. They've got an incredible gear. But But film school is not for everybody. So you can put it together a version of it, you know, by using places like go into the story or your site and other sites. There's just a ton of free quality content. Just make sure you vet things and are looking for the quality sites out there.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:11
Now I'm going to ask I'm gonna ask you the last few questions which asked all of my guests. So be prepared for your Oprah questions. I call these the Oprah questions. Okay. What advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to sell their first screenplay?

Scott Myers 1:13:28
Well, if it's only their first screenplay, they've written their first screenplay. I would say write two more. You know, don't try and sell your first screenplay. You, I can almost guarantee you that. After you've written three screenplays, you'll look at your first screenplay and go, Wow, I thought I'd written a really great script, but it's got some issues. So So, you know, and moreover, again, are you going to when you're signing the contract and the lawyers office, it says this script is doing 10 weeks. I tell this to my university students, you can just see them tense up. So you got to note you've got to have a confidence that you can do this. Now maybe after one script, like Diablo Cody did what you know, you know, but she'd written she'd been a blogger for years. And she Britain, you know, a memoir. She was a writer. She's a blown writer. You know, maybe some people can do it with one script, but my advice would be write two more scripts.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:28
The best advice I've ever heard about screenwriting was given to me by Jim rules. Do you know Jim? Yeah. Jim said when you get sit down, write a screenplay. When you're done with that screenplay. Write a straight, don't edit it. Don't do anything. Just just write it straight. When you're done, put it in your dress and in a drawer, start another screenplay. Do the exact same process, put it in the drawer. Do the third time, put in the drawer now take that first script out and start rewriting it because now you're a better writer. That's great advice. Is that amazing? I thought that was neat. Brilliant, and he has a number three like me to know, um, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or your career?

Scott Myers 1:15:11
Oh, that's, that's pretty easy. It's the hero with 1000 faces by Joseph Campbell.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:16
Great book.

Scott Myers 1:15:18
It's an academic book. I was shocked when I came to Hollywood and I saw it on the bookshelves of, you know, studio executives and producers like what is this academic book doing? And of course, and I found out about George Lucas and Star Wars. But, um, you know, I there, you know, because of Chris Vogler, his book, The writers journey, which is an excellent book, and that has, you know, the hero's journey, and he reduced the 17 aspects of narrative that Campbell talked about and hiromasa faces to 12 to make it more amenable for screenwriting, you know, it's become a thing. And it makes me kind of sad in a way because I've heard producers say this, in fact, I blogged about it, because I, somebody did this on a message board, a manager said, I hate the hero's journey. Why? Well, because it's all just this formulaic crap. Well, that's not what Joseph Campbell intended at all. And I'm sure that's not what Chris Vogler intended, it's what happened, you know, people tend to reduce this thing, trying to find some sort of paradigm, you know, Hatter and magic bullet, you know, that's not what Campbell had in mind at all. So I tend to approach the hero's journey, for more of a medic view, you know, the three the three stages of separation initiation return, the idea of transformation, that the whole point of the hero's journey is transformation, and that the message of the hero's journey is follow your bliss. And so, it works for me on two levels, as a writer, and storyteller, and as even being as there's, there is no more important message for a creative person and follow your bliss. guides. I think it's the first thing I tell my students every quarter, and it's the last thing I tell them as we in every quarter, if you get nothing else from having worked with me in class, live with this idea. You know, it's it's a scary way to live. It's a it has ups and downs. But it is the most authentic way to live. If you're if you are aligned with what turns you on creatively, and you choose to pursue that with passion, and you have talent, and you have a voice and you think that you've got something you can say of worth to the greatest society in the world at large. Then you are set on a path that's going to bring you great satisfaction. Yes. ups and downs. Yes, trials and tribulations, your own hero's journey that way, but at least you have aligned yourself with something that you know, as your as Campbell had to say saying a paraphrase he said nothing more. There's nothing sadder than for someone to be spend their lives climbing the ladder to success, only to discover they've been on the wrong wall. Oh, wow. What an amazing quote. And that's the that's the antithesis of follow your bliss that someone did not follow. They followed somebody else's.

Alex Ferrari 1:18:12
Not their own, whether it be their parents or what society told them. Absolutely.

Scott Myers 1:18:16
Yeah, find out what you want to do. Find out what your pet find out what your rapture is your bliss. He was.

Alex Ferrari 1:18:23
I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt, but he was more of a philosopher as well as an academic and a spiritualist.

Scott Myers 1:18:29
Yes. Yes. You know, he created his own. No, he taught at Sarah Lawrence University for 43 years. So it's college. So it was Yeah, I have a picture of the doorknob for his door from Sarah Lawrence College. It's my desk. I had someone who put the school there and found the door to his office he had for a few years.

Alex Ferrari 1:18:49
That's amazing. But

Scott Myers 1:18:50
Yeah, he created it. He didn't get a PhD. There was no PhD and what he did he just read people ask them, Do you praise that? No, I read 10 hours a day. He read stories from all around the world. And he noticed these similar dynamics, separation, initiation return, Hero gets transformed. And now I've got people with 1000 faces. That's the most inspirational book.

Alex Ferrari 1:19:14
Now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Scott Myers 1:19:25
That's a good question. I'm, I guess I'm still learning it, you know. You know, I for a long time, I looked at my life and I thought, I've never failed. You know, I never even got like all the colleges and graduate schools I applied to I never got rejected by any of them. And so for the longest time, I was just living this life, you know, and then selling a spec script for you know, a lot of money and Yeah, all right. Everything I did music, comedy, academics, screenwriting successful. You know, you learn The most about yourself, I think in life in general, when you fail, yes. And that has been a lesson, you know, that, I think, is something that I've had to learn. And, and you have to have that understanding, ending to work in Hollywood, because you will, you are absolutely going to fail. And you're going to fail multiple times. And so you've got to be able to live with that and learn from that. So that's probably the most important lesson that I've struggled to come to grips with. It's not fun, obviously failing. And it's hard to determine from time to time, like, what lessons you can learn from it. But the one thing is universal, you just get up and you go back at it, you know, persistence. That's, you know, writer. Absolutely. If you fail, just get back up and go on to the next story.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:55
Now, what are three of your favorite films of all time?

Scott Myers 1:20:58
Oh, that's easy. The apartment is absolutely my favorite movie of all time, personally. Well, it's my is my favorite Billy Wilder. And as he diamond, those are my favorite. Billy was my favorite filmmaker. But I also love the Coen brothers. And I also love Pixar. And I'm a huge those three, it will keep our tech astute, but

Alex Ferrari 1:21:22
Yeah, well, I'm,

Scott Myers 1:21:23
I can talk for hours on Kubrick. You know, I'd be tempted to put up in there because I thought that was just brilliant. I be tempted to put there's a handful of, you know, condors moving on they're great Inside llewyn Davis is an incredible movie, but, but I'll go with a couple more traditional ones. Dr. Strangelove, which is just the greatest satire ever, ever created, I think. And then I've got to include a, maybe more of a, okay. Silence of the Lambs. The Silence of lamps is like the perfect for what I teach. It's like the perfect movie. It really is. And it's one of three movies to win all five of the major Academy Awards.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:06
I know it was insane. It's a horror. It's a horror movie. And that was, was it the wasn't the first one. I think the exorcist

Scott Myers 1:22:18
Or the exorcist? I think it might have won something. Yeah. But yeah, it was. I think back then in 1991 a qualified as a horror movie. I don't know if it would necessarily Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:22:28
Right. Oh, but it was it was one of the it was the third film ever to win the five. Best Picture Best Director, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Screenplay. Wow. It was an amazing film. Amazing. So now where can people find you sir? Well, if they're in Chicago, no, no, no, your personal home address online online.

Scott Myers 1:22:52
I can tell you a bar that I hang out. But no, they can find me go into the story.com that's you know, it's actually go into the story black dot blacklist. BLC k LST l dot LST calm but just go into the story. Which is the my blog. And then screenwriting masterclass, which is my online educational resource that I teach online. I've been doing it for years, I've had great success with my students, many of them have gone on to do very, very well with themselves. So there's that there's the zero draft 30 Facebook group, which I host, but basically that just as those people, they're just great. And they constantly doing stuff. So those are three, three ways you can reach me.

Alex Ferrari 1:23:39
Scott, thank you so much for taking the time out. It's been a lengthy conversation. But I could ask, I could ask you another 100 questions. But I know you're a busy man, you've got 15 blog posts to put out today. I have another call right now. So it's a good time to Scott, thank you again, so much, my friend.

Scott Myers 1:23:55
Okay, great talking with you. Good luck with your your blogging.

Alex Ferrari 1:23:59
And Scott really did drop some great knowledge bombs on you guys. I really hope you got a lot out of that episode. I know I did. And I want to thank Scott again for doing the show and really just sharing so much great information with the tribe. So thank you, Scott, once again. Now if you want to get links to anything we talked about in the show, just head over to the show notes at indie film hustle.com forward slash 185. You'll get all of Scott's contact information there. Guys. Don't forget to head over to filmmaking podcast calm and leave us a good review, please. It really helps us out a lot with the rankings in iTunes and getting more and more people to hear us. So if you have not left a review for the show, please go leave a review for the show. I really, really appreciate it. And guys with the continued series that I'm doing of gathering some of the best screenwriters, scripts and collections of their scripts for you guys to download and learn from this week's is the Coen brothers and if you want to just go to the show notes at the end you monster.com forward slash 25. I'll have links to it there. Or you could just go to indie film, hustle, calm and download all of their amazing screenplays. I read I just read The Big Lebowski again the other day, and oh, my God, it's just so brilliant. But anyway, I got a bunch of new collections that I'm working on and just trying to curate screenplays from all of these amazing screenwriters for all of us to learn and essentially just make better films. So as always, keep that hustle going, keep that dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.

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