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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 a pretty cool guest on today, Mr. CJ Walley, from Script Revolution. CJ thanks for being on with us today!
CJ: Thanks so much for having me Geoffrey, I really appreciate it!
Geoffrey: Absolutely! We like to reach out to the community and find ways for our writers to gain success. Before I do a deep dive into Script Revolution, which really interests me, I want to first hit you with your origin story. Where do you come from? What inspired you to write? And what inspired Script Revolution?
CJ: I’m in Staffordshire here in the UK, hence why everything is a little dingy and dark in the background. It’s November 6th, fireworks may go off at any moment for a variety of reasons. I got into screenwriting in 2012. I’m pretty open about this, I had a life-crisis that was a major breakdown. It’s been a rough patch.
Geoffrey: I’ve been there.
CJ: I think it’s something we should all talk about more, because it’s what a lot of writers go through. I’m really an open book on that whole journey, which I don’t think is over yet. I had that massive crisis at 32, I was on the floor sobbing in this big breakdown. I had thought, “Oh, writing’s going to fix all this!” Wow, worst place to go; of all the careers to try to break into, it’s the worst possible thing I could’ve done. It’s been a rough and exciting ten years where I’ve slowly been working up to actually becoming a working writer/producer.
Geoffrey: Ten years is the key number. It took me about ten years before I started getting taken seriously, and fifteen before I started making any real headway. It makes a lot of sense to me. I’m glad you’re willing to talk about the stigma and mental health of [filmmaking]. I often talk about my big dark night of the soul and I’m glad you’ve had yours in a way where you were able to pull through it and show [others] how you were able to pull through it. People need to see that. In our culture, nobody wants to talk about the fact that we’re all probably crying inside.
CJ: I totally agree. It’s interesting for you to say you’re glad to hear [I went through it], and I do think it is a good thing to hear because almost everyone goes through this. Success looks so easy in hindsight, and people who have success at any level will come across like they’re just walking through [their career with ease] because of their confidence and swagger.
Geoffrey: It’s this whole Instagram thing, man. I’m not trying to sound rude, but I am glad to hear [you pulled through your lowest moment], because it’s something we need to talk about. Speaking about it allows other people to understand that somebody they’re listening to is going through this. [The celebrity] is human, and [the listener] is not the odd man out. I had a big serious breakdown, years back, where I just didn’t know if I could do this anymore. It was the first time I got feedback on a script. I remember taking a buddy to a bar and saying, “I don’t think I can do this. This is too hard.” I don’t know if you can see my background, but I am a bit of a Star Wars guy. In that bar, which I had never been to before, a Wookie walks in right behind me, followed by some Jedis. It turned out to be Star Wars night [at the bar] and my buddy said, “This is a sign, dude!”
CJ: I love that, I’m a faith-est myself. I live for these, “This is blessed/this is cursed,” moments. I would absolutely take that as a huge sign, wow! If you are vulnerable, you’re also weak and sensitive, and it’s even worse if you’re desperate. A lot of writers are, and this links into Script Revolution when it comes to getting feedback. Writers, we are a snarky crowd of people and I don’t know why that snarkiness is encouraged. From my experience, once you get into the actual filmmaking side and start working with people who’ve actually had success, these people are positive, optimistic, complimentary, and kind. If there’s anything anyone takes from this conversation, it’s that you will find kindness with success. All of the nastiness, bitterness, resentment, and snarkiness comes from the base level [like internet trolls].
Geoffrey: It does! You’re absolutely right, social media can be crawling with it. … It is that level of people that haven’t made it, are trying to make it, and are frustrated by the industry. That’s one of the reasons why I started the Successful Screenwriter, to provide paths for people to see that there is a way to get through this, you can be optimistic and hopeful, you just have to put the work in. I’m assuming that’s where Script Revolution comes from.
CJ: Yeah, I got into [screenwriting] in 2012, Blacklist launches, and everything changes. I was riding this wave of watching people completely reformat the way they look at/try to get into the industry and what to expect going through. Whether it be various gatekeepers or [obstacles of that nature]. I watched this change take place over a few years where people; who had previously [believed] breaking into the industry was all about sending out queries and hoped those queries turned into reads and doing a lot of networking…
Geoffrey: It’s interesting you say that because I’ve talked about this before. … With the query situation, I always equate it to pulling the arm on the slot machine. You almost get addicted to the query [system] where all your hopes and dreams lie in it. But it’s a false hope, which can lead to bitterness. I’d like to know what you think about that.
CJ: It is, to a degree, false hope. It leads to a scattergun mentality of spamming everyone and hoping this one will be the one. I come from a business marketing background; I did that for 20 years before I [turned to writing]. I could sense this one-armed bandit mentality of just pulling the arm and just hoping everything comes through. But the thing is, it was free. It was costing people nothing to do, and what people were getting back was usually positivity and motivation. Yes, it would be a pass, but it was just a pass because Hollywood kills with kindness, “Thanks but no thanks! Keep going though, we like this. Contact us next time!” People were networking off the back of it, they were building their contact list because they were in direct contact with people. I understood the problem of supply and demand. Emails changed everything, the access to computers changed everything. Low-cost screenwriting software could be made to look like professionally formatted screenplays. That has created this massive oversupply into this industry, which is centralized around Hollywood, where the independent side of filmmaking is dying as the big studios dominate. I could see this huge problem where 50,000+ screenplays were being submitted a year into a system where you’ve got less than 100 studios making less than 100 big films. When I got into it, these services that were emerging felt like the solution. I thought, “Yeah, this makes sense! I submit scripts, then someone evaluates it and gives it a score.” Having never been in any real creative industry, I totally underestimated the power of subjectivity. I absolutely didn’t appreciate how pretentious/wrong a lot of low-tier readers are, because I wasn’t reading the history books of how successful people who became successful also ran into these problems. Like a lemming, I run in and start submitting my early work and start hitting the credit card. …
Geoffrey: It’s interesting you say this, CJ. With WeFixYourScript.com, we take a different approach to it. We look at ourselves as mentors, so we educate writers and then evaluate their work. It’s all about making you better and taking you to that next level. There is a predatory culture out there around screenwriters, where they will take your money and give you low-tier coverage, which the best way to describe it. They’ll give you coverage, but it won’t mean anything. It’s not going to help you as a writer, but they’re happy to take your $80.
CJ: I am being as polite as I possibly can when I say “low-tier reader.” Usually, if I’m on a forum, I’m using the term ‘garbage reader.’ They are doing more damage than good.
Geoffrey: Because they’re not professionals. They’re not in the industry, they’re not working or writing. You’ve got to have a mentor who’s traveled the path for you, who has seen/gone through all that garbage and can provide you with that wisdom. That’s the approach we take. But there are people out there that just want to make a buck and they’re the bitter writer.
CJ: They are. People need hope. What I saw been 2012-2016 was this cynical predatory approach where [readers] said, “Let’s sell some hope to people.” I refer to this as loot boxing, the idea where you can buy this loot box for $20-40, because you want to be successful and get into Hollywood, and this could be your answer. People keep buying in and it becomes addictive. They get validation one day and they are decimated the next. One of the darkest days of my life was Boxing Day 2013. I got two evaluations through one of these websites, one of the big ones, and I got a 3 on both of my scripts.
Geoffrey: You don’t have to name them, but I know who you’re talking about. That company scores low on purpose, they push hard for the upsell (if you get a 3, you can rewrite and resubmit for this price), and it’s just a way of increasing revenue. If you get a 4 and resubmit, you’re probably going to get a 5.5. There’s no legitimacy there.
CJ: I’m a little skeptical on whether or not it’s actually that sophisticated. I think it’s just badly executed. That’s my personal view, but I have seen the stats and I know people have noticed them. It’s always a 6 or 7, then it’s a 5; it’s almost weird how common that is. I just think that’s the problem when you bring people out of film school, they’re searching for readers on the internet, and they’re going to pick up the worst of the worst readers. That Boxing Day, I was depressed and desperate, I thought I was going somewhere because I’d invested all this money to get a score that I thought meant the difference between making it or breaking it. I was on suicide watch after that. This was some miserable pathetic…and nasty evaluations ripping apart my work.
Geoffrey: They were hitting you personally. It hurts, I feel you.
CJ: It was a knife in the back, and it killed this average score nonsense I was tied into. I thought, “I can’t do this, this is all over.” I wish I could go back, put my arms around myself, and say, “This person is an idiot. They are going nowhere, and they are doing reviews for minimum wage because they’re not doing anything else. This is everything to them to just try and knock you down.” I wish I could go back now, as a writer/producer, and tell myself, “You’re going to have a movie out soon!”
Geoffrey: I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but I’m glad you can’t go back in time.
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Geoffrey: You’re a strong enough person that you came through that and you’ve learned so much. Anybody who goes through suffering; I’ve gone through it, I’ve had one hell of a journey myself; but if you can elevate yourself past it and say, “I don’t want anybody to ever have to go through that, again,” you will then set up ways to help other people. I totally understand where you’re coming from. I’m impressed by the fact you’re able to pull yourself out of that and take from it the fruits of your labor to create something for other people. It really is commendable, CJ. I respect it because it’s been my journey and I know what it took for me to get through it. I’ve been there, “Is today the day?”
CJ: “Am I going to watch myself do this?”
Geoffrey: People need to know that. Yes, we’ve been there, guys like us. You can take that, learn from it, and build something out of it. That’s what you’ve done with Script Revolution, which I want to hear about.
CJ: I love the setup you’ve done for this next part of the conversation, with the foreshadowing. I spent the next four years writing shorts and working on my craft. And I’m thinking, “Why doesn’t someone build a website where everyone can upload their scripts for free?” I have a bit of a web development background, but for someone who’s really good at programming, this would be a breeze and it’d be free so just do it. Year after year is going by and it’s getting worse, I’m watching more and more services/competitions come out, and I knew someone had to jump in. I’m meeting more and more writers who are going through this hell on their own. No one is talking about it in groups, you can see it in their eyes, and they’re just desperate. They need hope, or a light at the end of the tunnel because the gatekeepers keep closing in. It was the Fourth of July 2016, I’m toying with this idea, and I’m thinking of the American Revolution, which is how I came up with ‘Script Revolution.’ For some reason, just having this name that I registered for (ScriptRevolution.com), it causes me to say, “I’m doing this.” It sounds so corny and fake, but I sit down day and night, learn how to [build a website], got some good advice … August 1st, I launch ScriptRevolution.com, where anybody can upload their screenplay for free and anyone can join and read them. It’s that simple, it’s all about just having something out there to give people hope. You can park your script/script synopsis and get back to writing, knowing there’s at least something out there that is giving you exposure and a chance. You can stop worrying about if there’s enough money in your bank account to become a screenwriter on top of everything else. “Am I going to win this competition? Am I going to get a good evalution? Do I need a website?” No, this website does all of that. You have a bio you can fill in; you have your social media links on there so people can find you on social media, you can list your loglines, you get a portfolio with scripts under your bio, and you can click on those to get a detailed script listing. It was originally built on just sheer data, where you’d put all the meta-data in for your script. If you had this unusual thing, like if you write like Oliver Stone but it’s a romantic comedy set in Mexico in the 1920s, you can put that all in. If someone’s looking [for a script like yours], they can find it. The listing is random, there is no paying to get to the top, it’s as simple as that. Everyone gets their fair shake at exposure.
Geoffrey: You take your script, list it on there, and build your profile. For exposure, it’s logline and synopsis, I’m assuming?
Geoffrey: What can our writers/listeners who go onto Script Revolution do to take advantage of your platform to maximize their success? What tips can you give them?
CJ: I have to start with the cheesy advice, which is to have a great concept and a commercially oriented script. What script revolution is all about is creating a multitude of different ways for a script to get more exposure. For instance, people can ‘like’ scripts, they can’t downvote it, they can only upvote it. Those people who love reading scripts might give you an upvote. We’ve got scripts on the site with nearly 100 likes; that will get you more exposure. You can have a poster on there; industry members love posters because it tells them everything they need to know. It’s like when we see posters for movies. If [a script] wins a prestigious award [it has a better chance]. As someone working, I have a very tight definition of what I consider prestigious; no producer has ever said, “Oh my god, I heard about this script which won the Hollywood Beach Boulevard Slugline Competition!” They don’t care about that; they care about Austin and Nicholl. Also, in their process of trying to get writers exposure, they care if writers have high-profile coverage which is not anonymous. If they have coverage from Script Reader Pro or Stage 32, which allows people to choose who gives them coverage with full transparency, writers can get in off of that. All these different ways mean they can get exposed through different means.
Geoffrey: Let’s dive into [the term] ‘commercially oriented.’ Is this a platform more for Indie or Industry?
CJ: I built it for Indie audiences, students making short scripts, and directors trying to break into the industry. It’s heavily focused on that. We have shorts on there; we give them a home so people can upvote them and give them positive exposure to highlight good short scripts. The idea was, let’s go for these directors who are outside of Hollywood, these small directors all around the world who can’t find anything because they can’t get into the elite cliques and don’t know where to go to get access. There a lot of these small indie producers/directors popping up, and actors who were looking for material. It actually is pulling in some bigger players, particularly on the TV movie side, which parallels a lot with indie [filmmaking].
Geoffrey: Right, movies of the week and things like that.
CJ: I also think that can be much greater [exposure], in some cases. If you can get a movie on Lifetime or Hallmark, that movie will probably get global distribution, just like a big indie film. We had a guy who’s been picked up by producers from Netflix and now he’s had a movie shot this year, in Utah, that will be coming out later this year.
Geoffrey: Awesome! He was discovered on Script Revolution. Getting on Lifetime, a lot of people don’t realize how hard it is. I had a script that got repped at Lifetime, and they operate under three separate markets in the U.S., Spain, and France. When it got pitched, the U.S. [division] loved it, France loved it, but Spain didn’t want it. … It’s worldwide and they literally will have your script go out to pros in those worldwide markets to see if it will fly. You’re not just trying to impress one producer, so to have someone get that kind of success through Script Revolution is fantastic.
CJ: His name is Jerry Robbins, and he got in early. Some of the smarter writers got in very early, got their material on the site, and started building up likes. You can follow a writer on scriptwriter on Script Revolution, so if you ‘like a writer, you can also click ‘follow’ and you’ll get a stream of their latest updates/scripts. People can put their IMDb star meter and picture on there, as well, for writers who are in the top 50,000. What’s really cool, on the nerdy side of things, you get someone who was like the location manager on Tremors or the person who did special effects on Aliens, people within the industry who come on [the site]. To me, that’s bigger than the bigwigs joining.
Geoffrey: That sounds like a good way to get exposure if you’ve got a good script and can make a good poster.
CJ: Having a poster helps, but I know that can polarize people.
Geoffrey: We just made one. I’m co-writing a script with Joan Hess, who’s really talented. We’re writing a kid’s animated feature and we just made the poster for it. We sent it out to the producer because they’re shopping it around. The first thing they said was, “I love this poster!”
CJ: A picture says a thousand words, doesn’t it? When you go to buy a book/CD, it’s got a cover. The last thing a music album needs is a picture on it to convince you that it’s good music, but it works and it sells.
Geoffrey: What else is going on with Script Revolution? Do you have anything in development for it or any new things coming down the pipe?
CJ: The good thing about it, because it’s small, it’s just me [running the site].
Geoffrey: I’m talking to the guy right now!
CJ: I am Script Revolution, I am the headquarters, just me. I don’t know if I can do the things I want to do. I’m learning on the fly all the time, but it makes it so organic. There are some interesting areas of coverage popping up. Coverage is getting really weird right now, and the term ‘coverage’ is redefining itself on a seemingly daily basis.
Geoffrey: Let’s talk about coverage because you’ve brought it up a few times. With coverage, one thing I find interesting is that the level of quality varies, even with script doctoring and feedback, but do you know who you’re getting it from? If you don’t know who you’re getting it from, you’re probably not getting it from someone who knows what they’re talking about. When I started WeFixYourScript.com, the first thing I did was put an ‘About Us’ page on there, an in-depth breakdown of who each of us are and what we’ve done. That way you can look up Geoff Calhoun and see I know what I’m talking about. But if you get coverage from somebody anonymous, why would you trust that?
CJ: It’s like if I said to you, “I’ve got the best stock investment portfolio you could ever have. I’ve got a stock manager who will take your money and give you a 25% return in a year. I can’t tell you who he is, but he’s one of the best. I absolutely cannot tell you his name, I have to keep it secret.”
Geoffrey: “His name is Bernie…”
CJ: Exactly, that’s a massive red flag. As a producer, I get coverage on my own scripts through my production team. We get coverage to convince producers it’s a script worth making into a movie that will sell. I get very positive coverage. It was horrible the first time, I was terrified because I had my fingers burnt. [With this new coverage], it was such a wonderful experience to have. The person who gives coverage on my scripts spent 11 years at New Line, and we still don’t take that as gospel and I wouldn’t expect any other producer to take it as gospel, either. That’s just some person’s opinion, who’s writing coverage. If at that level, the respect is medium at best, an anonymous coverage document from a website where you paid $20-40…
Geoffrey: [You’re thinking too cheap], there’s coverage that costs over $100.
CJ: …I don’t care if you’ve got a recommendation or if this person had an epiphany while reading your script, it doesn’t mean anything. People are distorting the word ‘coverage’ and selling it as ‘feedback.’ They stick a score on it to make people think it will actually get them up the industry ladder.
Geoffrey: You’re hitting on a good point. We don’t offer coverage for a reason; we offer notes, evaluations, and mentorships. We don’t offer coverage because, in the industry itself, there’s a handful of people where coverage truly carries weight. If I can’t give you something that I know will carry the amount of weight that I think it should, why would I offer that to [writers]? People who are breaking into the industry or just starting out don’t realize that. They just see ‘coverage’ and they know it’s a term they’ve heard somewhere [therefore it must be worth getting]. It’s just a matter of experience.
CJ: They get that term from other screenwriters, that’s the big problem I see. We have huge community problems, the biggest issue being that anyone who succeeds or has professional experience gets pushed out of screenwriting communities, like a witch, because their success doesn’t match the status quo of, “No, don’t say that! Don’t destroy the cult!” There are two words that really bother me: legit and solid. I don’t post a lot now, because I’m terrified to go into these forums and speak the truth, but I’ll see posts saying, “This screenplay competition is legit.” Of course, you’re going to say that if you bought into it. Then people tell each other [and they start believing it’s legit], then the list just gets longer and longer. People will also say, “That coverage is solid. That’s solid feedback.” You don’t know, how would you know?
Geoffrey: They haven’t done any research. What are they trying to do for you? What can they provide you? Let’s talk about festivals, because I run Script Summit. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but it’s listed as a Top 20 festival and this is why: we offer winners a contract with a Hollywood talent manager. If somebody wins, they get represented, which is a huge deal. We also offer cash prizes to provide value. That makes our festival “legit.”
CJ: I was on Fiverr recently, looking through film marketing services, and I saw an advert for a screenwriting competition that was selling advertising space on their Facebook community page. It’s that bad. There are roughly 1500 screenwriting competitions now listed on Film Freeway, it is scary.
Geoffrey: There is a ton.
CJ: People are paying to get on a mailing list because there’s no transparency. They don’t know if their scripts are getting judged or if the [contest runners] just pick their friend’s scripts and declares them the winner. We know that no one cares who those winners are with a lot of these competitions. People are getting spammed because these mailing lists are being sold.
Geoffrey: As the guy who runs Script Summit, I’m not even exaggerating, this week I got an email from a well-known festival that’s close to the level we’re on and they wanted to swap email lists. I’m telling my listeners now, to anyone who has ever submitted to the Script Summit festival, I will not betray you like that. I would never do that. Would it help the festival grow? Absolutely. Will I do that? 100% not, that is wrong. You guys entrusted me with your information, why would I give that away?
There are festivals that don’t offer what we offer, but they can offer you something else. They might have a bustling community that will welcome you in with open arms. That’s value, that gives you something where you can know you’ll be welcomed into that community and you can network within it. That’s awesome, that’s ‘legit.’ But there are festivals out there that are selling ad space … they’re just trying to make money and that’s it.
CJ: It’s like printing money; there’s no transparency or policy you have to follow when you set up a festival. You can just go online, set something up, and no one will investigate whether [you have qualified judges and a proper screening]. You can just print money with these [scam festivals] because people will enter. I’ve got nothing against someone entering to try to win a cash prize…
Geoffrey: Right, or even to find out where they fall within their peers. You’re right about how [nobody regulates a festival’s credibility]. There was one festival they did research on, where they were trying to find out where it was, and it turned out to be in the middle of the desert. There was no address, it was just the middle of the desert and they couldn’t find the guy who was running it, who ended up making a couple of grand.
CJ: You can run away with the money. I’ve seen some contests where every single person who entered became a finalist with a laurel. If people get laurels, they go online and share them, which gives the festival more exposure. People don’t realize they’re paying to market these contests, they become this pawn which is a cynical and predatory operation. I just don’t get why people would do it; no one is going to come knocking on your door because you’ve won X competition. When I started Script Revolution, I was only aware of a couple of screenwriting competitions, so I would tell submitters, “Send me your results and I will add them to your scripts.” That way, they could be verified and make it into the “Award Winners” section of the site. I was getting 50 submissions a week, and what was scary was that with every submission I was getting, I was adding new competition to the site. I wasn’t adding it to an existing competition, I was adding a completely new one. Weekly, monthly, and even more obscure competitions that awarded things like, “Best Use of Italics on a Title Page.” They’re just inventing this stuff. I had a controversial month or two where I imploded quite publicly on the whole thing. I let myself down a little, I won’t lie, I got a bit crazy. I went online and attacked all these competitions, I told them to ‘go F themselves, and I decided they wouldn’t be accepted on Script Revolution, anymore. It wasn’t just making my platform look worse, it was making the screenwriters look worse because they’re listing 20-30 competitions that they’ve entered every year. They’re getting Quarterfinalist in some of these competitions, which couldn’t be more meaningless. I was worried I was part of this system of getting people addicted. I’m in the chain because I have this platform where people can get [competition recommendations].
Geoffrey: That takes a level of self-awareness, CJ.
CJ: I’m in a similar position to you where tomorrow I could say, “The Script Revolution Screenplay Competition is open for business!”
Geoffrey: “Where can I buy some ad space?”
CJ: “Yeah! You’ll be on the front page, which gets millions of hits per year! Come on, buy in!” It would go around the internet and people would think it’s ‘legit competition’ because Script Revolution has been around for a long time and we have over 8,000 members. I’ll tell you what, as the head of Script Revolution, I could buy some new curtains.
Geoffrey: You’re looking at the head of the Script Summit Screenplay Contest right here [and I can’t afford new curtains].
CJ: People don’t realize I could become a very rich man tomorrow if I started offering ‘coverage from anonymous readers,’ which is me reading your script and you paying me $50 for my time. I had a huge web platform, one of the biggest web platforms for up-and-coming authors, come to me and say, “We want to run a competition through Script Revolution.” I said no and pointed them in a direction of a ‘competitor’ site. I get a lot of people like that and I have to say no to it because keeping Script Revolution pure is a tough job, but it’s so rewarding to hold my head up high because I’m not trying to get into your wallet or be a gatekeeper.
Geoffrey: You know what that makes you, right? That makes you legit.
CJ: That’s the funny thing, it doesn’t because if there’s one thing I’ve found in the last four years, it’s that being free and caring about the art more than anything else attracts writers who are completely toxic.
Geoffrey: I respect it, though.
CJ: And the filmmakers respect it, too. But on most screenwriting forums, when you offer something for free, people generally say, “Ew no, I want exclusivity.”
Geoffrey: Don’t even get me started on that. I wouldn’t have had you on if I didn’t respect you. There are forums out there that are toxic.
CJ: There’s some that aren’t?
Geoffrey: There are some that aren’t, there are some pretty good Facebook groups out there. But there are some toxic forums on there. I tried to go on one where writers were struggling, I gave them an honest answer, and I got destroyed by the community. I realized I wasn’t welcome there.
CJ: Almost every community has this self-established brain trust of members who are on there 24/7 saying things like, “I’ve got this deal going on in China because a person read my script.” You ask them to share their IMDb credits and they’ll respond, “How dare you ask for my IMDb credits! Don’t you know who I am?!” They take any working professional as a huge challenge to their status, especially when you come in and [call them out] on their nonsense. I’m finding quite often, I go into communities where it’s like the Upside Down from Stranger Things; it’s dark and horrible, and everything is the opposite of what it should be.
Geoffrey: You try to give them honest and sincere feedback where you’re not trying to be mean, but they don’t want to hear it. Some guy got obsessed with me, started pretending to be me, and tried blowing up all my social media, it was scary. I’m not even famous, people don’t know who the hell I am. Somebody somewhere might have heard of me once. I’m the guy who when I walk down the street, people think I’m their wife’s second cousin. That’s how I get recognized because I’m just ‘the bald dude.’ I want to hear about your new feature coming out.
CJ: It’s kind of exciting and nerve-racking at the same time. It didn’t come off the back of Script Revolution, but it did come off blogging and someone going to my website, seeing a post there, and deciding to read my material because they liked what I had to say. They found a script of mind, which wasn’t really appropriate for their marketing channel, so wrote on assignment for them. That movie is Break Even, which stars Tasya Teles, Steve Guttenberg, James Callis, Ivan Sergei, and Joseph Reitman. It’s an action thriller about these four young adults who find $50 million of stolen money and go on the run to get it cleaned, led by this lead character called Jaq Varick, whose played by Tasya Teles. We shot it last year (2019) in LA, with boat chases and car chases, it’s a pretty cool movie. We got a distribution deal this year, despite COVID, we’ve gone physical and VOD because theaters went POOF! They’re basically dead.
Geoffrey: I don’t want to go into that, I’m going to get teary-eyed.
CJ: Let’s not open that dark door.
Geoffrey: That’s for another episode.
CJ: Let’s not weep and kill people’s hope. We got a fantastic distribution deal; you will be able to walk into Wal-Mart on December 1st (2020) and buy this off the shelf. It’s funny because I know a lot of people who say, “I don’t want to be that writer who ends up making [direct-to-Wal-Mart movies].”
Geoffrey: Are you kidding me?!
CJ: Yeah, people don’t realize how hard that is! It was really hard getting [that deal] because they don’t say yes to a lot of material. It’s going to be on most ever VOD platform in America on December 1st (2020).
Geoffrey: I can see you going to every Wal-Mart you find and buying a copy of it.
CJ: Being in the UK, it’s going to be a long walk.
Geoffrey: Yeah, here in the states, they’re a mile apart.
CJ: I haven’t even seen the final cut, yet. I’m not sure when [the movie] will be in the UK. We have social media, we have BreakEven.com that you can go on, as well as Instagram and Facebook.
Geoffrey: Hit me up when it comes out, I’ll take a photo of it and get a copy.
CJ: I appreciate that. You can also preorder it on Amazon, if you truly want to.
Geoffrey: We might do that. I don’t like leaving the house because there’s a killer virus outside. It’s funny you mention going to Wal-Mart and trying to take a picture of it because, when I was in a magazine, I bought 30 copies [of the magazine].
CJ: Why did you stop at 30? Did your bank account hit zero after 30 copies? You should’ve opened a line of credit.
Geoffrey: I was giving them out as Business cards, “You seen this magazine I’m featured in?”
CJ: I’ve seen some interesting stuff where people are elsewhere in a magazine and they’ll scan it so it looks like they’re on the cover.
Geoffrey: What’s the name of your website where they discovered Break Even on? You said it wasn’t on Script Revolution, do you have your own website?
CJ: I’ve got CJWalley.com and I try to lead by example with that. I blog a lot and I tell people that everyone should do it. I feel like blogging is the online equivalent of networking.
Geoffrey: Yeah, we have a blog that we do, as well.
CJ: Good, I’ve been blogging for a long time. I’m very opinionated in my blogging and the full-circle irony is that one of my articles that did quite well was on how we should stop caring about Hollywood, where I said, “Screw Hollywood! I don’t want to work there! There’s plenty of other places in the world!” Then this director in LA sees this article and says, “Yeah, we all hate Hollywood here. You’re not even here yet and you’re already one of us.” I liked the cut of his gib because he’s also opinionated. Being opinionated can be powerful, if it comes from passion.
Geoffrey: I think you just have to be your authentic ‘you.’ This is CJ Walley, I’m talking to you, not a façade of you. I try to be optimistic, positive, and hopeful by showing others the path because that’s what I needed when I was first coming up. Now I’m in the position to be that for others, where I can say, “Yes, this is me.” You found your voice, that’s fantastic.
CJ: I tell people to get out there and blog. I blogged recently for Indie Film Hustle, shoutout to them, and it was about how a spec screenplay is like a business plan. We talked about commercial scripts and how [to use your portfolio] like a business plan, so you can understand how business people think. Blogging worked well for me, I tell everyone else to do it, but no one does it. You’re a writer, but you don’t actually write or have an opinion. They’re terrified of offending/upsetting someone. Get on LinkedIn, which is huge right now.
Geoffrey: Yeah, I do a lot of networking on LinkedIn.
CJ: I’m terrified of even mentioning it, because I’m worried that it’s going to turn into Facebook.
Geoffrey: No, their platform operates differently. There is some extremism in there. I’ve got to be honest, you are the guest I’ve had on this show the longest.
CJ: I’ll take that as a compliment. Hopefully, it doesn’t mean, “Please leave, we have lives.”
Geoffrey: It is a compliment, I’m trying to compliment you, but I can withdraw it if you want.
CJ: I’m British, so I demand you withdraw it.
Geoffrey: Thanks for listening, if you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share on your social media, where you can tag us @thesuccessfulscreenwriter!
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