Ep10 – Writing a Contained Thriller with Kelly Schwarze


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Intro: All right, welcome to the successful screenwriter podcast, where we are dedicated to anything and everything screenwriting. Here, we interview successful screenwriters and filmmakers to discover just what it takes to make it in the industry.

Geoffrey: Welcome to the podcast, we have on a very special guest with us today. We have Emmy award-winning writer and director, Kelly Schwarze. Kelly, thanks for being on with us.

Kelly: Thanks so much for having me, this is awesome!

Geoffrey: I want to get Kelly Schwarze’s origin story.

Kelly: How far back do you need me to go?

Geoffrey: I’d like to get your origin story about how you came into filmmaking, when you decided to become a writer-director. Because obviously it’s worked for you. There have been a lot of writer-directors out there, but you have that Emmy. You earned that Emmy, right? Not everybody can say that. So that is a feather in your cap, sir, congratulations. [I imagine] the Kelly Schwarze who decided to choose this journey didn’t realize that would probably happen.

Kelly: The process started when I was a production assistant on a tv show called The Strip. They were filming here in Las Vegas, and I had the opportunity to take the director’s dry cleaning to the set and drop it off with his assistant before [the director] was supposed to go from the set back to LA. And I’m like, “YES!” It went great, I had the little lanyard on and I was doing my thing…I walked through the security line, I flashed my badge, I came through, and I’ll never forget [what I saw], it was perfect timing. There was a scene on Freemont street, before it had the dome on it and was an actually street, and it was a car-chase cop scene where this car sped in and then these guys got out and started shooting guns. Then everything stopped when [the director] yelled, “CUT! Back to One!” It was like a kid playing with a trainset: everything went [back to the start]. I’m sitting there watching this guy as people are walking around and I’m thinking, “I want to do what that guy’s doing!” At the time, I was going to school to be an animator. I was going to go work for Disney and make the next Pocahontas movie, but then all [the Disney animation jobs] went overseas.

Geoffrey: I love hearing about how people go through their journey and get that bug.

Kelly: A filmmaker’s always the most entertaining person at the cocktail party:

“What do you do?”

“I’m an accountant, what do you do?”

“I make movies.”

“WHAT?! What kind of movies do you make?” That’s usually the first response I get.

Geoffrey: Well you CANNOT say that about a screenwriter.

Kelly: I find writers are very interesting people.

Geoffrey: We’re very cool people, but we’re the guy ignored at the party because everybody knows the schtick, “Would you like to read my screenplay?” Everyone thinks, “Maybe I’ll just go over here and talk to this other person.”

Kelly: We should start hanging out at some more parties together, man.

Geoffrey: Heck yeah! I wanted to get you on here because I wanted to talk about a really popular niche of screenwriting that I think is going to get even more popular in the post-COVID life: Writing for Containment. I know you’ve done a couple of these films already, I’ve seen Abigail Haunting and I loved what you did with it, so I wanted to reach out to you to pick your brain about writing a containment thriller or any kind of genre. Maybe if you just want to break down what that is, first, so the audience has a good understanding.

Kelly: First off, thank you for acknowledging this sideshow of screenwriting because it’s something that is extremely challenging. As an independent filmmaker, I’ve always had one major problem, and that problem is budget. As I became my own business and started financing my own films, ‘economy of scale’ became something I should’ve had tattooed across my chest. In today’s marketplace, we’re sharing the same shelf-space as major studio movies that are produced by Amazon, Netflix, and so forth. For me, it’s about entertaining an audience for an hour and a half or two hours, telling a good story, getting them in an out as quickly as possible, and that’s pretty much it. Am I looking to change hearts and minds with my containment movie? Not necessarily but I want to play with theatre of the mind. What we don’t see is obviously scarier than what we do see, and it’s something I very much enjoy writing into my scripts. And for a good reason because it’s a budgetary thing.

Geoffrey: And you nailed it. I saw a couple scenes and I thought it was creepy.

Kelly: It’s the scary shadow. Once you see the monster, it’s over.

Geoffrey: That’s what Hitchcock said: it’s walking down the hallway knowing there’s a monster at the end, that’s the scary part, the lead-up. It’s not actually walking through the door. I think building that up through a containment horror-thriller is essential, but man is it tough! I wrote a couple containments, if you want to test yourself as a writer, write within a single location…You will take your writing to another level. What are some of the things you take into consideration, outside of budget? You’re probably looking at the location, thinking. “how do I maximize this?”

Kelly: For me, it’s about character development, because the characters have to carry the entire narrative. For a screenplay that only has one or two locations…it’s important for you to have characters that have various layers of drama that you can pull out. There’s not just one type of emotion, there’s other things. The other great technique, if you have more than one person in a box, is to have secrets.

Geoffrey: Secrets are great.

Kelly: If you know somebody’s the murderer and somebody’s the innocent person, that creates tension. You want to be able to create that tension. Anytime you can juxtapose the emotional personalities, character traits, or motives that’s going to be huge in keeping the dynamic together.

Geoffrey: I love it. It’s the interpersonal conflict you have with the characters. It’s peeling away the layers of the onion to really get to the core of the character and set them up to fail. I love doing that, where you set them up to go one way, and then you pull the twist on them. I know that’s something you’ve done, as well, working the twist in there to keep the audience/reader on the edge. Is that something you weigh heavily on or is it developed naturally for you?

Kelly: It’s taken me a long time to figure this out, I’ve had a lot of misstarts. I haven’t always had hits or successes. My last two movies have done very well for us. Abigail Haunting was probably, by far, the most straight forward effort. I feel like I’ve done enough of these now to understand what I need to do to get it done. But at the end of the day, this is a process. Anytime you’re writing something like this, you’re going to have mistakes, it’s trial and error. The other thing I’ve also discovered is that not every actor can facilitate this heavy of a responsibility.

Geoffrey: That’s true. They gotta be able to shoulder the whole story, so you have to have an actor that can bring that kind of depth to a character…You can’t rely on the special effects to get through it, [the actor] has to be the narrative [focus]. That’s a fantastic point.

Kelly: With Abigail Haunting, Katie’s character was involved in something terrible, possibly a murder. We wanted to have her conceal that as long as she possibly could to keep the audience guessing when that was going to come out. In the back of their mind, [the audience] may have forgotten about that because, as the plot evolves, it’s about a creepy ghost trying to haunt you. But we wanted people, in the back of their mind, to be thinking, “Oh my god, is anybody going to find out the truth? Especially the guy she’s falling for and who’s also falling for her?” There’s that tension of, ‘will it ever happen?’ I think that’s fun and I try to compress that as long as I can, because once it’s out of the box, you better have a good way to get out fast. I think of movie making as, “How do I tiptoe my way through [this movie] without the audience catching me?”

Geoffrey: I think one thing you utilize well is subplots, and I’m known as the subplot guy. One thing you can really get through with doing a contained thriller/horror/sci-fi film is working in those subplots to really keep it fresh. That way you’re not just trying to pull out 90 pages of a main plot, which is going to be exhausting for anybody watching.

Kelly: I discovered these little mini plots are great for getting in and out quickly to keep the audience guessing. A lot of times, I’ve used this analogy…back when I was a kid, I used to go to an arcade, and you would have a certain time limit. If your racecar didn’t win enough rounds, you were done. So I think of it as a time limit: once you start playing that game and the clock starts going, you have to keep introducing new things to keep your audience in tune. Especially if you’re working with a no-name actor, because people will tune out quickly if nothing is happening. You could take a movie like Inception, shoot it with a bunch of no-name actors, and you may lose interest faster than you would if you were watching Leonardo.

Geoffrey: That’s intelligent filmmaking right there. You’re keeping the audience hooked by switching it up and introducing subplots. My research has shown people have a three-minute attention span, so you’re already moving on to the next scene, moving into a different plot, or revealing a new character. Whatever you can do to keep it moving and keep it fresh within this contained set, which I think is great. One little trope I’ve found in this genre is the weird character. I’m noticing it more and more. It’s this odd character, whose weird or strange, maybe they’re a creature or maybe not. I’m noticing it and I’m wondering if it’s something you’re doing intentionally or if you’ve noticed this trope, as well.

Kelly: We obviously did it with Abigail Haunting.

Geoffrey: The old lady.

Kelly: Yeah, the old lady, she was a weird one. When you’re working in the horror genre, you need some type of tension release. If everything is so intense, and you’re watching a movie that’s a pressure cooker, I think a lot of people will burn out of it because it’s almost too stressful. I think having periodic moments of decompression with a character that can be “the weirdo” or abstract or even comic relief is highly beneficial for that. Otherwise, I think you’re taking yourself too seriously, and that’s why this type of genre has these characters in it.

Geoffrey: I think you’re right. I think that comic relief or tension release is important and that’s something I definitely work into my scripts. You never want to have a script that’s even keel. If you have a script that is just flat and the same tone the entire time, you will lose everybody and it’s dangerous. You definitely want to have the peaks and valleys going on throughout the script. When you’re coming into containment…you’re a filmmaker, so you know a lot more about budget than most writers do. Would you suggest writers start researching how much stuff costs behind the scenes so they can write that script that they can pitch to somebody like yourself?

Kelly: Absolutely. First off, we’re in an economy that is going to be looking at numbers very closely over the next decade, if not longer. I’ve had conversations with people who work on studio movies for the major studios and they’re looking to me for guidance on how to move forward simply because we’re good working on a smaller budget. The trick right now for writers to understand is…until you sit down and actually break down your script, which is a lot of fun and quite interesting, you start to understand how expensive your imagination is. Even when I write a script, I never get it on the first pass. I’ll have a beautiful script, in my opinion, but the second I start breaking it down, it goes from ‘the twins’ down to one person, instead of a Ferrari it’s now a Pinto. We’re constantly shaping and molding it to get it to a point…Some filmmakers are different, they’ll say, “No, this is what we’re going to do, and I’m going to raise money [to do it that way.” But for me, the core, spirit, and theme of the story are what’s more important, not the baggage. How you get to that moment or emotion is more important to me than the baggage, and most of the stuff in screenplays is baggage. They’re tools to get you through the story, but if you sit down and look at it, does that scene really need to take place at the white house or can it take place in the alleyway down the street from the white house? What can you do to break down your economy of scale? … Most filmmakers, I know I’m going to get a lot of flack for this, but most can only film 5-6 pages of reasonable quality stuff at the absolute most.

Geoffrey: A day?

Kelly: Per day. So if you’ve got a 120 page [script], you think about how many days are going to go into production. Some pages may require two days, if it’s action, two pages of action might need two days of filming.

Geoffrey: Like if it’s a car chase.

Kelly: Exactly, so think about that when you’re writing. Once you realize how many days it’s going take to theoretically to shoot a movie like this, you start to think, “Wow, if I’ve got a camera person, a grip, a PA, a director, etc.” You can research these rates, start putting together a fake budget, and you’ll start to see why these movies cost so much money.

Geoffrey: I think that’s great, it’s brilliant. By even researching and figuring out your budget, you can start working your way into a pitch deck, which is something writers should be doing nowadays, anyway. When I was talking to you a while ago…I was telling you about this contained horror film that I wrote, which I set in the woods because I thought it was cheap. And you were firing questions off at me that I haven’t even considered: “If the location is the woods, you’re going to have to figure out a way to have the actors go to the restroom, so you’re going to need to bring in Porta Potties. You’re going to need to have food delivered, which is an expense.” It was like, oh my god, I didn’t even think about that. That’s all added expense and I was just thinking, “Oh it’s in the woods, let’s just go shoot it.” Just chatting with you for 15 minutes, I got my own personal masterclass. It’s just eye-opening, you don’t realize where budget can go in a situation like this. I’ve seen some filmmakers will rent out a house, then they’re shooting in the house and they’re renting out that house as a location because it has bathrooms, a kitchen, and a refrigerator. It’s like, okay that makes sense.

So, talking about the containment itself, you have to get an actor that is able to carry the film on it’s shoulders. You’re going to have the oddball character to be your pressure release, trying to bring in new ways to show the characters with more depth. What else do we have? Do you start looking at the location itself as a character?

Kelly: Absolutely, if you can find an interesting location, it gives you as a filmmaker and a storyteller the ability to draw from that energy. It can almost create conversations, anything from a pipe running across the side of the wall could be a device or a prop that could be used in some malicious way. A pipe you’re able to handcuff somebody to, it could be a pipe that’s going to rupture gas. Whatever it may be, look at the location. We had the opportunity a few years back to shoot at a water treatment facility, where we had miles of underground tunnels. We had an entire studio on a 12,000-acre campus, essentially. I looked at that location thinking that it’s really one location, but if I turn my camera this way, I’ve got an entirely different world. If I take my camera around this corner, I’ve got another world, and it just kept going and going. I shot two films there back to back, both my alien film and a movie called Territory 8. We built some sets in the studio, which were the dwellings where the actors were contained and where they slept. We used a hallway, so you’d see a character walking down this epic hallway, they’d turn the corner and now they’re in the studio, which is actually write where I’m sitting. It was a lot of fun, but again, the environment added so much texture to it which gave the actors things to improv from. It gave us writers things to go back and think about: “Wow there’s a set of stairs here, that would be great for somebody hiding behind and eavesdropping on a conversation.” That’s a whole other part of a character attribute that we can add here and build up that location, that one singular location.

Geoffrey: So treating the location as a character sounds like the way to go. I think of [movies] like Amityville, if you really look at it, it’s a single location that’s creepy, and that house is a character. It’s got its own life and tone to it. I think, even being able to pull into it visually is a really cool way to go. You’re a writer-director, so you can go to these sets and create these screenplays. For writers at home, it sounds like they’re going to have to do a lot more research. The other thing I want to ask you, as far as writers that are trying take advantage of getting into the market of this genre by writing on spec, what do you think? You’re writing your own stuff, but what if somebody approaches you with a spec contained script, what would you be looking for? What would the average indie-writer want to see? Other than they’ve got a good budget and they keep it all down.

Kelly: Ultimately, it’s about giving the characters simplicity. A lot of times, I read screenplays that are in singular locations and we get hit up a lot with that. When you’re working at the budget levels that I work at, you have to work with actors that for the most part don’t have a lot of screen time, that haven’t been on the screen very often. The thing about this is that when you get a script and you’re being pitched it, if you’ve got an ensemble cast of characters, that is also going to add a tremendous amount of expense. A lot of dialogue just gives you more opportunity to hang yourself and I know that screenwriters like to write dialogue…If I were to send you a screenplay, you’d ask where the dialogue is. 90% of my stuff is people looking at each other, walking around, and not saying anything. I’ve learned to write that way because a dialogue scene can take a long time to do. And if the is not caliber enough, oh my gosh, you’re really going to get found out. They’re going to discover that you’re just a little movie.

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Kelly: On a pitch level, I think if you’re writing your spec and you’re wanting your stuff to get picked up and purchased/optioned, try to think about making it as diet-conscious as possible: lean on locations, lean on cast, lean on dialogue. Those three things right there, in my perspective, give us a lot to work with and it makes things interesting. I can do a lot with very little, but it’s hard for me to do anything with a lot.

Geoffrey: I agree. I would save the long dialogues for stage plays. Screenplays really shouldn’t be running with long blocks of dialogue, anyway. If it’s a Hollywood A-lister and they’re trying to get their money’s worth out of them, they might give them a page of dialogue. But in the indie market, that’s not where we should be. On top of the fact that you might be working with actors that might struggle and need several takes, and every take costs money. The other thing I like to talk to my students about is, there’s a particular strength you can have in silence. Not everything has to be said, this is a visual medium. You’ve mastered it, just watching the cinematography and the way that you dolly in is just beautiful. There can be strength in a character where you don’t have to have a character saying how they’re feeling. You can get the actor into the moment, they can feel that moment, you can hang on them in that scene, and that can speak a million words. You can definitely take advantage of that in the indie-film setting.

Kelly: It’s been something that I’ve learned. One of the best experiences I’ve ever had was making movies and sitting at the back of the movie theater during your premiere and hearing that dreadful sound. This was before luxury theaters. It was the sound of the back of the bottom of the chair going ‘duh-duh-duh-duh’. Because people were getting up to go to the bathroom. And that’s how I gaged scenes, I felt that. I realized quickly that you don’t want to do that again. It’s very important to go on a diet with your stuff, like limited locations, but dialogue is a big killer. If you can find ways to find actors that have really great looks and really dynamic ways of acting with their eyes, acting with personality and their energy. There’s some people that just have this charismatic ability onscreen where they don’t have to say anything.

Geoffrey: They pop. That’s a wrestling term. I love it! I’ve seen that, where you’re watching an indie film and you’re thinking, “this actor is chewing the scene up.” And actually write for that. You brought up two things I want to discuss. The first thing I want to discuss, I want to pull the wool back a little bit, so I hope you’re comfortable with this.

Kelly: I’m taking the shirt off.

Geoffrey: I’ve talk with some indie writer-directors that make their own stuff. When it comes to casting, they will actually consider social media following. If they have talent that they’re auditioning: “This talent’s pretty good, that other talent’s pretty decent, but [the latter’s] social media is insane.” They’ll lean more heavily toward that actor because of their social media. They’ll lean on that to help market the film. I know this is gearing away from what we were talking about, but I would just love to hear your perspective on that.

Kelly: I’ve heard this from other directors, and I say rubbish. I really say rubbish. Frankly, I don’t believe that just because a person is popular [they should get the part]. Hollywood forever has been trying to find ways to capitalize on people’s fame and fortune, thinking that’s going to be a thing. But at the end of the day, my goal is to create stories that can be told to multiple people and multiple generations. I truly feel that there’s a lot of attention being put on influencers that, at the end of the day, are here one minute and gone the next. I look at Hollywood as an example. I read an article not too long ago that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is the last “star.” After him, people aren’t gravitating to movies just because that person is in the film. Our distributor just recently put out a post saying that they’re focused on the story, they don’t even care who’s in the movie. They want to focus on the filmmaker and bring it back to the storyteller. For me, it’s not that people are going to watch it because it’s a Kelly Schwarze film, they’re going to watch this movie because I hook them with a good trailer, a good plotline, or a good title. If they can give me five minutes of their time, maybe I can get to ten minutes. If I can get to ten minutes, maybe I can get to half an hour, and then maybe to two hours. That’s my strategy.

Geoffrey: It’s a good strategy.

Kelly: Whether or not somebody’s famous on Instagram or TikTok…if it works for people, then great, but I’ve never chased high level talent for that reason, and I have access to quite a bit.

Geoffrey: You’re opening up another door for me, because I want to ask you more. This is great. Some indie directors believe in casting that one big Hollywood name that they can put on the cover as a draw. I know it works, it’s a successful business model, but you don’t do that. I think that’s really fascinating because it shows how that is one approach you can do that can help your film get marketed, but you don’t have to do that. There’s another way to do it

Kelly: Find good talent, and there’s lots of good talent out there. Just find good talent. We got a young girl, who played Katie in Abigail Haunting, her career is blowing up and I get texts from her pretty much every other week saying, “Thank you for the opportunity. I got this gig because [of your film].” She’s the lead in two new features that are being shot later this fall. Her career is exploding and she’s doing much bigger budgets than what we had on Abigail. I look at that and I say maybe I’ll get into the business of creating talent.

Geoffrey: That’s awesome! Kelly Schwarze, ladies and gentlemen, he’s creating stars. He’s the king and queen maker. She had a great look for the part, and she brought that depth. She carried that film on her shoulders and she was able to do it. She delivered the dialogue and was able to show internal conflict. It was good, hell of a choice.

You had mentioned sitting in an audience and feeling that awful feeling of people getting up and leaving. Screenwriters experience the same thing. The best way you can field test your script, as Kelly would do to a premiere, is a table read. You get a table read of your script: you get however many actors you want from the local acting college; give them pizza, cookies, and maybe some soda; you sit down for two hours to do the table read, and you will get the same thing. You have this table read going on and you feel the actors’ eyes start to glaze over and their energy drops. That can be one of the worst feelings you can ever have as a screenwriter. And you never want that feeling again. As a filmmaker, part of your job that nobody ever acknowledges is adaptation. You’re adapting to the environment and whatever you need for the script. As screenwriters, that’s something we should be considering, [we should be] looking at our scripts and adapting into what the environment needs for the contained thriller. So if we have to cut it down from seven people to five, or seven people to two, do what you do but adapt. Don’t be a writer that gets stuck or has to defend the script, at that point, you’ve already lost.

Kelly: For me, it’s about points on the board. We all know how many screenplays that

haven’t been made and I have a lot of starting points. I have scripts that, in my opinion, were wonderful but they were Frankensteined in a lot of ways because that’s the nature of the business. When I watch a movie on the screen, it’s a combination of 100 bad decisions and a thousand quick-minute decisions that all came into place at the right time to get this thing done. Anybody who says otherwise is crazy, they haven’t made a movie.

Geoffrey: It is a bunch of little fixes and being able to work on your feet. That’s what a good filmmaker is. With screenwriting, you have to be able to work with the filmmaker, you can’t just fight them. Everybody wants to work with somebody that they like. Say somebody pitches you, you like the script, and you give them feedback. They’ve got to be able to take the feedback.

Kelly: It’s not always, “this was a bad idea,” it’s not about that. It’s never about that…You wouldn’t be at a stage where you’re even talking to the filmmaker if it was a “bad idea.” The execution was bad. When you’re at a stage where you’re hemming and hawing over a scene, it’s not because it’s a bad idea or concept, it’s really about the economy of the film. If we’re talking about a scene that takes place underneath the flight path of an airport, can it take place somewhere else? Because we’ve got airplanes landing over our head. Or does it have to take place in the middle of the desert in the middle of summer? Just that alone is going to add thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars to the production budget and somebody has to pay for that. When you’re at that point, I know it’s a bit of a cliché to say it’s not personal, but the reality is it’s numbers, it’s math. If you want to get mad at anything, get mad at math.

Geoffrey: I love it. Depersonalize it, basically, divorce yourself of that and understand that if you’re working with a director who’s remotely interested in your script, you’re already winning basically. You wrote a couple books, you wrote What Film Schools Don’t Tell You, and I actually read it. It’s not overly written, it’s not a textbook, this is a guy on the streets making movies. That’s the exact same mentality I had as a screenwriter: a screenwriter that is in the beat, making screenplays, and this is how you do it. I love that it’s so easy to access and I couldn’t get enough of it. You released another book, and I want to hear a little bit more about that, I’ve started reading it but I want you to give us a little take on it.

Kelly: The new book is called A Filmmaking Mindset, it’s available on Amazon. It’s a companion piece to the last book, What Film Schools Don’t Tell You. This book, in particular, is about the mental apparatus. There’s a lot of things I cover in this book that I covered I the first book, it echoes that, but it also talks about what filmmakers do a lot of times where they get caught up in the pageantry of the business that we’re in. The idea is about bringing people back down to common sense and brass tax storytelling…I didn’t have a lot of money growing up, I’m not from a wealthy family, I had to work and my mom was a single mother raising my sister and me. I didn’t have the opportunity to go to a prestigious art school, I couldn’t afford to. And the ones I did get accepted to, I had to fizzle out of them, I couldn’t afford to go to them. I didn’t have that experience and there are a lot of filmmakers that are working that had that experience. But for me, I want to communicate to the people that one thing, that’s their dream and that’s all. I wanted to communicate that story, which is a little bit about my story, but just getting points on the board. Being able to be adaptable to the changing landscape that we have. I see a lot of filmmakers in a lot of corporations that are having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that the world has fundamentally changed forever.

Geoffrey: It’s a mindset. Your book is practical and that’s what I really like about it. Mine’s practical, as well. Now I understand why because of where you’ve come from. I didn’t go to art school, I don’t have my MFA, I don’t have a college degree, I’m a dyslexic from Detroit.

Kelly: I’m a dyslexic from North Dakota.

Geoffrey: Shut up! Are you serious? That is crazy! That explains so much. You think in pictures, don’t you?

Kelly: I do, I have a hard time thinking in sentences.

Geoffrey: That’s what we do, that’s what dyslexics do. The way our brains are wired, we think in pictures.

Kelly: I’ve battled that my whole life.

Geoffrey: But that’s one of the reasons why you’re a killer filmmaker. You have this superpower and I think that’s fantastic. It really is. Growing up as a kid, I was in the slow reading class. The kid next to me had a severe disability, and the other girl in the class had just flown in from china and didn’t know English. We were all just sitting there, trying to learn how to read. Having gone through that, you have an appreciation or a scrappiness about you that gets you to a level of success that you have earned. You’ve put in, I really hate to say it, the sweat equity. It gives you a drive because you constantly have to show, “this is what I can do. I didn’t go to college, I don’t have a degree to sit on, I am making these successes happen.”

Kelly: Prior to COVID, I would be having dinner with executives of major television and film companies, asking myself, “why am I sitting here?” These are all very well-educated prestigious people.

Geoffrey: Because you earned your seat at that table.

Kelly: It’s very challenging. I look at everything I do, and I want to have forward movement. Nobody is going to give you permission. The second I realized nobody was coming to save me, that was the fundamental change of my life. There was nobody going to parachute in from Hollywood and give me a break or a chance. I had colleagues that I worked with to try and get things going, these are folks that had not only Oscars but massive amounts of Emmys and worked on major shows. Even though they’re wonderful people, very little could they physically do to help me get into the business. They could share their knowledge and experiences, the could pass on invaluable information to me that has helped me throughout my career, but not one of those folks could say, “here’s the door, I’ll give you your break.” It just doesn’t happen for me. It hasn’t happened for me. I’ve had to create, brick by brick, everything that I have.

Geoffrey: Guys like us don’t have nepotism. We don’t have anyone that’s going to open the door for us. We find mentors, we search them out, we drain them of every piece of knowledge they’re willing to give us. But in the end, you make yourself happen. I preach that nobody is going to make you succeed but you. The one big turning point in my career, and this is going to sound weird Kelly, but it’s when I gave myself permission to succeed.

Kelly: No, it makes complete sense. That’s what we’re talking about here. You made the decision to give yourself the opportunity that nobody else is going to give you.

Geoffrey: It’s just the mentality. We severely strayed from writing contained thrillers to more of an esoteric mindset. I could do this all night. I really appreciate you being on this show.

Kelly: I appreciate being here and the opportunity. You’re doing a great thing by helping people. I’ve met some of your colleagues in your organization and they’re all wonderful people.

Geoffrey: Thank you so much. Alright, you have a good one, sir.

Kelly: Have a great night, thank you so much!



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