This week we’re talking all about SCREENWRITING! Jen goes over how to make money as an indie screenwriter, finding the right producer, and the biggest problem writers face.
JEN: I’m actually a Sci-Fi writer. Most of my past work, ironically enough has been published in podcasts. I’m a professional screenwriting class taker. I’ve probably taken every screenwriting class available out there. So I became very interested in the screenwriting Community especially because I’m already a professional writer.
I used to have my own business working as a freelancer. One of my books that I go through hit the top of Christian inspirational fiction on Amazon. So I can write. And Sam thinks I’m okay. We actually got into the top 10% of scripts the Austin Film Festival and from what I’ve heard that’s a really difficult festival to place in.
And the feedback we got from that was really good.
Making money with your screenplay
The bulk of the work goes on the producer, but one of the ways that we decided to make [the film] work for me was that instead of taking salary or optioning it, I’d submit to screenwriting contests and keep the winnings, that way everything we raised would go toward production.
So that was one idea that we came up with that might work for some of you.
Obviously in order for that to work, you have to win some contest. So we also worked out a way that if we don’t want any money I can still make some money from the profits . But this is still a passion project for both of us in many ways.
No matter how much we like script, this is a lot of work. So the marketing aspect of it is important. At some point people have to talk about money because when you’re making a partnership, even if it’s with your best friend, part of preserving that friendship is making sure that everyone has the same expectations going in. Because the movie is not important. The worst thing that can happen is that you go into a project and you lose a friend over it. You get wildly successful and you lose a friend.
That would be terrible. I do think that one thing we’ve done really well to talk about money early on. Talk about to get ready for work or if you’re not going to get paid at all. in which case, you should both know that
There’s a really good resource online that talks about how you should just submit to the top four or five festivals because it’s like 50 or $60 for each one. We submitted to a lot of extra contests because we’re using them to get word out [about the film]. Just having the script in multiple contest gets people’s brains buzzing.
Has the feedback been worth it?
The contests I’ve gotten feedback from have been really excellent.
The Wild Sound film festival is a for profit online only film festival. If you win, they post them online which sounds like a terrible deal, but the feedback was great. They gave us a few thousand words of feedback and it was solid. The person really thought about it. Did I agree? No, but it was thoughtful.
A lot of their critique had to do with my vision or the character. Characterization it’s really great working with a producer understands the character so well.
A lot of good things to do with the vision for the character. And that’s another benefit to going Indie. I reached out to someone who understood my vision for the characters.
As a director even if you don’t understand every choice that a character is making, you have to make one up. And that’s okay. You have to imagine them with real people with real motivations. And if you get on set and you haven’t done that, then your actors are going to be coming to you and saying “I don’t understand why this character is doing this.” You’re not going to have an answer for them, and it’s going to show up in your scene.
Writers: Do the work!
I didn’t hop right into writing my screenplay as a professional writer I recognize that I have my limitations and I don’t know a screenplay and I need to learn. So I took a class at UVA because I knew that I needed to study and get good at this particular format. A lot of writers think “I’m good at this. It’s all in my heart.” And we start writing and it sucks. Writing is a job, not a game or hobby for me. So I work at it like it’s a job.
I’m more serious about writing that I am about my medical stuff. Which is not to say that I’m not serious about my patients, because they are important. But I recognize that my patients are going to heal themselves, in a way. It’s a cooperative relationship. We have amazing human bodies with immune systems. I realize that my screenplay is not a cooperative relationship. My screenplay is not going to fix itself. My writing weaknesses are not going to fix themselves. The main problem of writers is that we’re not willing just sit down and do the work: the work of revising and taking criticism and changing things.
More on Representation and Why Go Indie
Yes I want to be a big-name screenwriter, but I think that this story is really important. And Hollywood is not willing to produce stories like this right now.
For example, Wong Fu Productions has a huge following. They are clearly bankable. Any producer with the brain looks at them and can tell that. But producers turned them down and said that they needed to replace all the Asian characters with white people. And I still have friends who don’t believe that there is racism in Hollywood. Sorry, it’s a fact.
ghost in the shell (2017) pic.twitter.com/zgXyeZyK5d
— Hayrr X (@Hayrr) January 7, 2017
SAMANTHA: It’s excusable racism. It’s masked by this party line of “This is our money, and we don’t know for sure that you’re financially viable because what you want to do hasn’t been done before because we won’t let you do it.” It’s this chicken-and-egg problem that won’t be resolved until we stop asking people for permission and start creating our own projects.
JEN: Somebody on Twitter said “We need to stop asking for a seat at the table and start building our own table.” And I think that’s very true, and that’s what we’re doing.
I didn’t want to compromise on this screenplay,
so I decided I was going to find a very good table maker.
Resources mentioned in this episode: