THE INSIDER INTERVIEWS: AARON ANDERSON

The Insider Interviews series started in 2010 as a set of recorded interviews, featuring the likes of Tom Hiddleston, Gareth Unwin, who produced THE KING’S SPEECH, Ben Wheatley and Hossein Amini, the Oscar-nominated writer of DRIVE and THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY. These can be listened to here.

The Insider Interviews now exist as live monthly events in central London, which is a combination of a compered interview and taking questions from audience members.  If you would like to check out future speakers and join an Insider Interviews Live evening, you can see more details here.

Aaron Anderson was the first guest speaker for Industrial Scripts’ Insider Interviews Live events.  Aaron has worked in the industry for over ten years as a development editor. He was previously the creative executive for the UK Film Council’s Premiere Fund, where he worked across many projects, most notably THE KING’S SPEECH, TAMARA DREWE and HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS AND ALIENATE PEOPLE.

He then went on to head up the slate at Scott Free under the ‘Ridley Scott Presents’ banner. As a scriptwriter, Aaron has several screenplays in development, most notably WHITE CITY, a sci-fi thriller for Scala Films, which was shortlisted for the Film London Microwave initiative. At the time of writing, Aaron has just moved to Archery Pictures as Head of Development.

This interview covers Aaron’s journey through the industry to this point, covering early experiences, the UK Film Council, script doctoring and executive positions.  The interview was hosted by producer, James Cotton.

EARLY EXPERIENCES

So Aaron, what was your first industry experience?

My first proper industry experience was writing the voice-over for behind-the-scenes documentaries for DVDs. I knew a guy who produced, and still does, brilliant behind-the-scenes documentaries and he knew I was a writer and wanted someone to come in and write the voice-overs for the documentaries. And that was kind of my first real industry experience or position.

So it was pretty much in line with what you wanted to do at that time, but did you know what development was at that stage or whether features is what you wanted to do?

No not at all. I had an interest in both film and TV, prior to that I’d been doing stand-up and comedy writing so my own experience of development was rejection letters, which I’m now on the other side of, so all I really knew was that development was these faceless people, sitting in an office somewhere, not laughing at what I’d written and writing a couple of lines to me back. I got some great responses that were really helpful…and some less helpful ones. But yes, my first real experience was rejection.

I’m sure for everyone in this room the first experience was not always a positive one. But maybe experience 2, 3, and 4, was more in line with what you wanted to do? Have you had any internships that didn’t go down so well, or weren’t as helpful? Any jobs where you thought: ‘Oh god, why am I here?’

I feel like everything I’ve done in the film industry has been useful, even if it is something that you don’t think is something directly connected to what you’re doing. I still tended to meet someone or something’s happened that led to something else.

A couple of experiences helping out with people’s films that didn’t go anywhere but most of the time just doing something is much more useful than not doing something. Especially if you’re doing it in London, you’re usually meeting the same kind of people who are getting into the industry so that in itself is helpful.

You mentioned that not all of the experiences and projects may not have come to fruition. Thinking about the dogfight of development, could you maybe tell us a couple of anecdotes about projects that, from concept stage, were very promising but didn’t come to fruition and one where you weren’t sure but through the development process went beyond expectation?

There’s one project that I’ve been working on the low-budget genre slate where the film we ended up with was almost completely different from the first idea the writer pitched to us, but he had such a way of thinking, in terms of his horror idea, his whole perspective of what horror could be. Literally a protracted process of almost two years thinking about what the idea could be. That was probably 18 months of chats and him re-working the idea and then suddenly it clicked into place and became something really quite special.

And then on the other side of things, there are countless examples, especially in the genre space, of things that have a great hook into the genre film and then, nothing. You have a reason for a character to be locked in a crypt or whatever the hook is and then there’s no story. And in genre that’s even more important because you’re dealing with a really contained, constricted genre form so you have to have a story behind it.

‘RIDLEY SCOTT PRESENTS’

That seems a perfect segway to the ‘Ridley Scott Presents’ slate, seeing as you just mentioned genre, and that’s what that slate is about. So what have you been looking for to fill that slate and what freedom did you have in doing so?

So I’ve been doing it for three years now, the basic concept is that we’ve got the basic financing in place and to buy that financing the model was that we would make really high concept, seductive genre films that could be done relatively cheaply, for a fairly low budget but that would really sell in the market place.

The cynical version is that the worst version of the concept would still sell and make the money back, which then freed us up to make the best version. It’s similar to what the likes of Jason Blum are doing in America. So we were looking at a slightly more Ridley Scott version of that, so horror, because that’s the bullseye if you can hit it and then sci-fi and thriller as well.

In terms of finding projects, I started from nothing really. We didn’t expect to find any projects that we could reverse-engineer, that actually fitted what we were looking for, so we met with every writer we could meet. We went out with some vague ideas of films we wanted to make, we worked in genre spaces and areas to see if we could get something like PHONE BOOTH or 28 DAYS LATER and gave that to writers to see if they could run with it.

In this current climate when you’re trying to put together a film, you’ve got in the back of your mind that you can access regional funds, and I know there was a relationship with Northern Ireland Screen. How did that dictate the creative decisions you were making? Did you have any caveats within your remit in order to satisfy that?

Yes definitely. We were lucky in that the usual British film financing model is that you’re film by film, project by project. You’re working with whatever funding body you can, so that’s regional agencies, the BBC, whoever.

But as we knew ‘Ridley Scott Presents’ was pre-financed and we knew all our partners going in, the projects could be set anywhere, mainly in the United States but we had to know we could shoot them in Northern Ireland realistically, either in studios  or on location.

From the very start of the project we were thinking about where they would be shot, how much they would be shot for, whether we could realistically do it for the budget. Those parameters allowed the writers to flourish, there’s nothing worse than a complete blank page for what you’re going to write so the restrictions in fact helped.

You mentioned that you were meeting directly with writers. At what stage in this particular process were you bringing in producers?

So the intention was to produce in-house but there have been projects that have come with producers attached that we really wanted to do, in which case we are working with producers.

Usually we would just talk to the writers or directors directly and get them in to pitch, as much as anything just to talk about genre with them. Especially over here, a lot of directors and writers haven’t thought in the genre space because it isn’t always what gets financed over here. Just to see what they liked, to see if something chimed with us and to have an open dialogue.

I’ve been meeting with certain writers and directors for three years and they’re probably sick of me by now but I think it can take a long time to get somewhere.

The relationship between film and TV now, and the blending of the two mediums, how’s that affected Scott Free’s approach to working with writers and what do you think the future will be for the company working in those two mediums?

At Scott Free we have both a film and TV side, and they’re separate and together in that the same writers do both. In general industry terms, if you can get into TV it’s a lot more fertile.

In the decade I’ve been in the industry, without being too gloom and doom, this is the lowest I’ve felt that film has been, but it does have its peaks and troughs, whereas there’s a lot of money washing around TV.

TV want to do what film is doing, and they’re competitive and great at it so I don’t think you should be too prescriptive in what you’re doing in terms of film and TV, see it as one spectrum.

BREAKING INTO THE INDUSTRY

I presume everyone in the room wants to write genre, or is writing genre. Without advertising Scott Free, who else should the genre writers go to in the industry?

Obviously, the first step is to get an agent because at Scott Free, we won’t do something unsolicited and most film production companies won’t either. In terms of genre, there’s Hammer and Vertigo, and if you go to someone like Big Talk.

Because a lot of film budgets are getting pushed down to that £2-3 million level, it makes more sense to do genre than something auteur-driven that you don’t know is even going to see the light of day. It’s more exciting genre-wise here than it was. I’ve met writers who completely bypassed the British industry altogether and went straight to LA because they couldn’t even get a meeting with genre ideas a few years ago and I think that is a bit different now. But don’t be afraid to go straight to LA with your genre ideas because it has worked for a few writers.

Could you expand on that and give some tips on how to broach that? The dynamic’s different in the US in terms of managers and agents, so who’s important to approach and what would your tips be?

I would say that they’re no more open but they don’t want to let a good genre script go over there, so it’s worth blitzing managers and agents in LA. Probably managers, a lot of people I know who have gone out there have got in with a manager first – the younger, hungrier managers who are going to hustle to get your script out there.

It’s worth doing but if you can make it work here, I’d say stay here and do that, it’s such a small industry here that it feels daunting when you’re on the outside but if you keep going and make connections, you realise it’s a tiny industry, you see the same faces everywhere and there’s 5 or 6 writers everyone wants to work with.

Just don’t be too daunted by it here, post university I spent 5 years doing bad stand-up and applying to jobs and staying away from London and being daunted by it all. But as soon as I went to London and had one or two connections I’d been at university with and then found it’s not that huge an industry really, it’s all one square mile. Also there’s no mystery, it’s all on screen. Give it one year, you’ll know who everybody is, there’s no mystery to it at all.

The Insider Interviews

In your experience of personally working with writers, what should people not say in meetings with developers, directors? What have you seen happen to projects because of a breakdown in relationships?

One writer-director once brought his agent in with him and every time I asked him a question his agent would go: ‘Oh no, he’s brilliant at that.’ It was so weird because he had to answer agreeing with that.  So I’d say don’t bring your agent in with you.

The interesting thing in terms of pitching is that it’s a great practice tool to get your idea down and find out if it really has legs, pitching to anyone allows them to picture the best version of that pitch. And the thing about genre movies is that the audience will be sold the pitch in the trailer and so everyone goes to the movie with the best idea of that film in their head and if it doesn’t turn out to be good they’ll be disappointed.

In terms of industry meetings, it’s rare that you really have to pitch; it’s more of a conversation. That said, I have a lot of respect for the pitch, for the people who come in with a well-worked out pitch that’s an impressive bit of story-telling. Even if you don’t like the idea, you remember that writer for talking about their idea so concisely and persuading you.

Some people love it, some people hate it, but what’s your reaction when someone comes in and says this film is STRAW DOGS meets MAN UP?

It’s not necessarily that bad a thing but only if you’ve preceded it with a pitch, don’t just go in saying: ‘it’s a found footage FORREST GUMP’ then leave. If you’ve got a good pitch and you’re using examples to show that you know the industry, the box office, what’s getting made and the movies it’ll sit next to.

It’s worse to say: ‘this is like no other movie you’ve ever seen’ because it makes it sound a bit of a risk. If you’re talking about realistic films that it’ll sit next to, that shows you’re clever and you know the kind of movie you’re making. But what inevitably happens is that directors come in talking about Tarvosky and you’re sitting there saying: ‘Well you’re not Tarvosky are you?’ And then writers will refuse to name any comparisons because they’re so lacking in confidence.

But I think it works, if you’re confident and say these films worked in this space, if they’re the same kind of genre films, same kind of audience, you give the impression you know what your movie is and what audience it has.

Are there any other broad pitching tips you have for the room?

Definitely come in with a clear idea of what your story is, what kind of movies it sits next to, have a few ideas. More than anything, having a few ideas is good because it’s like a first date, if you click with the person you’re talking with you might talk for an hour and then send him your script afterwards.

But you want to click; you don’t want to be leaving after 20 minutes. You want at least half an hour. So if you have other ideas or other things to talk about then that stands you in good stead. And be flexible as well, be flexible with your ideas and show you can work and develop. If you’re too rigid it’s less attractive unless you’re proven.

REJECTION

You have seen scripts from both sides – writing them and receiving them. So you’ve dished out some very kind, well worded rejection-

I did meet a writer at some drinks who told me I’d written him the nicest rejection letter he’d ever received and I thought: ‘my work here is done,’ but it’s still a rejection letter.

So when you get a rejection for your own work, having been on the other side of that, can you read between the lines of what producers and executives are saying? Do you read it and say ‘oh, I recognise that sentence…?’

Oh completely, and with friends as well. I have a friend who had a script that got into the hands of a big Hollywood actress and the response said: ‘Oh I’d love to do your project, but I’m not available’.  That is a standard but classic rejection.

It’s hard, but coming from a rejector’s standpoint I try to be constructive. If you say too much, then an aggressive writer might come back and say: ‘oh but I’ve done this and that and now you have to do it,’ but you still can’t do it. But if you’re not honest then people can’t work out why it isn’t working and move on.

In essence, everyone you’re sending projects to has a certain agenda for the projects they’re making and so I would also do your research about what the company is and what it’s looking for before getting too down on the rejection because it may well be that it was never going to be for that company. But a rejection is always a rejection.

UK FILM COUNCIL

So getting that first executive credit at the UK Film Council was in 2008 for ‘HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS AND ALIENATE PEOPLE’, so what was your involvement in that? How did you make the jump to that point?

So I was hired for the UK Council’s Premiere Fund by Sally Caplan, who was the Head of the Fund. Under the UK Film Council in those days, there were three production funds. There was a development fund, a new cinema fund and the Premiere fund.

The new cinema fund was for the auteur stuff and the Premiere fund was for the bigger budget, more commercial British movies and over it’s time period it had great successes and was also pilloried for certain things. But it had to be because if you’re making auteur-driven stuff there’s no way to lose, but if you’re making big commercial stuff and you lose, you lose badly.

I was hired there by Sally as a creative assistant, it was an assistant role but they wanted someone with a script background and then over the period I was there I got involved in as much development as I could.

If you want to do development, ask whoever you can in the company if you can help them out. They’ll always have loads of scripts to read, they’ll always want considered opinion. So I got involved more and more with the development and as big executives left I wormed my way into those positions.

Sally was a great boss and allowed me to do that and nurtured me in that role. So over the five years I went from an assistant role to being a creative exec just doing development. It was a brilliant experience.

Probing question alert, now that UKFC is dead as a dodo, can you be candid about the perceived negatives? When it folded and power shifted to the BFI…could you talk about your perspective on that and how it affected your day-to-day?

The thing with the Film Council is that if it wasn’t there you’d have had to create it. In that, you need a funding body to get the hopes and anger of the British film industry focused towards. I introduced myself to someone once and told her I worked for the Film Council and she, without even thinking about it, booed me. That was kind of how people thought about the Film Council.

But it’s exactly what the BFI is doing now, and for a lot of people it did a fantastic job. It was kind of ironic that we were doing The King’s Speech from the Premiere fund and we were being made redundant just as it was opening. Obviously the decision was political. It wasn’t to do with successes and failures.

Now you have more control of the slate you’re handling and back then you were a creative executive within a public funder, what are the main differences you’ve noticed between the two structures?

It’s totally, totally different. If you get a chance to work both public and private it’s incredibly useful.

The brilliant thing about the Film Council was that I saw every British movie that was out there. I read the script of every British movie that was appearing. Through the funds, you see everything and you gain an awareness of who everyone is in the industry and what everyone’s making, how the budgets work and  how financing works. You’re a vital component of the film financing process but you are a reactive part so you can only work with the projects that have been submitted to you.

You can’t go out and develop your own thing, which is the exact opposite of what I’m doing at Scott Free, which is finding projects, finding writers, finding the kernel of an idea and try and develop it from that point onward.

MAKING THE APPROACH

So in a day at Scott Free, how many emails, how many script submissions, how much delegation, etc?

In an average day I’d probably get 20 purely creative emails from people involved in the project or a new project to deal with, or a submission or a pitch or something like that. I will try and read a couple of things and delegate a few more. In the three years we’ve been doing this I’ve seen 1,500 scripts or pitches so it feels like a never-ending amount. It’s a good thing to bug because if you bug, in a nice way, because it sharpens the mind of the person to look into that script.

I work through new stuff and take a couple of meetings with new writers and directors pitching stuff, that’s about 3 hours. The other 4/5 hours is usually on on-going development stuff, so either intensive meetings with the writer or notes or talking about projects ourselves.

OK, a three-pronged question, relating to the content of the email, the content of a treatment and the content of a first draft. What are the frequent pitfalls you see writers fall into when making those submissions?

I’d say if you’re pitching something for the first time, just make it really brief. Don’t even make it longer than a page, get the focus of the idea down in a page because a page will always get read. The ten page treatment everyone hates because it’s an effort to read.

If you’re sending in a script or a spec script sample, never make it longer than a 100 pages. If you have 50 scripts you’re going to read the short ones first, especially for the genre I’m dealing with anything over 95 pages is a crime.

So the killer combo would be a 3/4 line, polite redirect to the attachments, a one page treatment and a 95 page script?

Yes, that’s perfect. I can read the pitch, if I like it I’ll go on to the script. Obviously this is all coming through agents and Scott Free at least. What I would say in terms of agents is stay on their case that they’re sending your stuff to the right place because sometimes, with agents, they will just send stuff to get it out there.

What is the percentage of the emails that you get from a writer that you have to reply to saying: ‘Sorry, we can’t take unsolicited material’, the percentage of producer approaches, and the percentage of agent approaches?

Mainly it’s to do with agent approaches because for the slate we went out there and met all the agents and I’ve really been on their case to send me genre stuff so I get 90% from agents who know what I’m looking for and then 5% from writers who I’ve got an open dialogue with, after being introduced by the agents. And 5% from producers.

How important is branding? When you see a writer’s name and then they send in a script that’s completely different –

I think it’s really important. To begin with you’re selling confidence in your ability and you can do that if you’re focused on one thing. So I’d say it’s really important to say you’re a certain kind of writer and that’s what you’re writing. That’s not to say you can’t experiment to a certain point that you know what you’re really good at but at least to begin with that goes a lot further, definitely.

A little question before we open up to the floor, I noticed on your IMDB you’ve got a special thanks for MAN UP. What’s the story behind that?

Yeah that was a great experience, so basically Tess Morris is a friend of mine and over the years we’ve mutually grew at each others scripts. We threw ideas about and sent each other treatments and worked on them. I – along with a few of her other friends – did that a lot with MAN UP, just throwing the idea around until it reached the place she got it all together.

She’s a great writer and that spec got to the point where it was really perfect and obviously then she sold it to Big Talk. That’s another thing, people always talk about networking – I’ve never been a great networker but usually things come from people I like to spend time with and I’d say really spend time on those relationships because they’re the important ones and things come out of them.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

What’s the budget for the slate you’re looking for?

The first thing I’d say is that we’re not looking for any new stuff at the moment as we’ve filled our slate but around $2-4 million, comparable to a lot of what the Blumhouse stuff does. I’d say if you’re writing genre stuff that’s a great budget to keep in mind because a lot of Americans are looking for very similar budgeted things. Something you can do in one location or cleverly so that it doesn’t feel like you’re not keeping the characters in one location. Which is easier said than done.

How many people are there between yourself and the script actually getting to you? Do you have readers? How many levels between yourself and the script?

No levels really, because I’m running the slate I meet everyone. It might end up being delegated to someone else to read but I tend to try and read as much as I can anyway. We have such a specific idea of what we’re looking for that I have to be across things.

Even if film companies seem big, there’s usually only 3 or 4 people trying to get through everything and in a way that can be great if you have a great script that catches the eye of someone because you’re not that far from actually talking to them.

As a producer approaching with a script, do you have expectations of having equity, finance or some kind of attachment to it already?

Scott Free ideally look to produce stuff in-house but we have come on things as executive producers or co-productions so at the end of the day it’ll come down to the project and whether we really want to do it and we think you can get it financed.

If you have people attached and financing that can be a good thing unless there are elements that don’t work with the elements Scott Free might need to bring. It still comes down to the project and whether we think we can get it financed but if you’re coming with most of the money in place and a great director and a great script it’s going to be much harder to say no.

You’ve mentioned there was the Premiere fund and then the fund you were working for, are they totally separate universes or do you find it’s still a small group?

It’s interesting because, if you look at what the BFI will finance, a lot of it is those kind of (auteur) projects. If you’re going down the Ben Wheatley route then you’re going to have to make a first film outside of the industry that’s as good as DOWN TERRACE and then if you do that it is going to open the BFI’s doors because they have so much money that they do want to give to new talent. In a lot of ways it suits them a lot more to be giving to auteurs because they know they’ll get a film at the end of it.

If you’re going in as just a writer, there are so few strong specs out there that if you do write that killer spec you are going to get noticed. I suppose the trouble you have as  a writer is that if you’re just writing screenplays the industry will often favour people who are coming from another medium like comedy or theatre who have been proven in some way first.

I think that’s a bug bear of mine with the industry – and this happens less in the States – they want someone else to tell them you’re good first before they’ll allow you to write, especially in film. TV’s a different board game.

Does Ridley Scott actually sit in your office?

He is based in the London office and he’s incredibly prolific and so often away making stuff but when he’s there, he’s around the office and gets involved with everything.

How many people are in the London office?

In the London office there’s around 10-15 across film and TV, I’d say that’s fairly usual for a British film company. At Scott Free there’s the LA side, which is a sister company and they do THE GOOD WIFE and that sort of thing so they’re bigger than we are.

Did you have any involvement with WELCOME TO THE PUNCH, was that part of the genre slate?

It wasn’t genre slate but it seemed like a Scott Free fit and obviously they wanted to make a British kind of movie and so in that way it fitted with what Scott Free was trying to do.

What is it that you think sells at the moment, because a lot of low-budget, genre films get made but never get seen? Obviously in the last year there have been breakout hits like THE BABADOOK that have festival release, do you have a sense of that?

THE BABADOOK is really interesting because they’re horror movies that are not necessarily for the conventional horror audience that would be going to see INSIDIOUS 3. They almost brought out the Guardian reading audience who wouldn’t see a horror movie.

We’re challenging genre movies but we’d be more on the INSIDIOUS side of it than THE BABADOOK but THE BABADOOK was fantastic. It was more about positioning, where The BABADOOK came in and critical word of mouth. In terms of distribution it’s tricky in this country because genre films sit in a weird place where sometimes the smaller, artier stuff might get a bit more traction on a 20-30 screen release, whereas a 200-300 screen release that’s a horror is tricky, though THE WOMAN IN BLACK, THE WOMAN IN BLACK 2 did really well. In terms of horror, they do really compete with the American ones.

Is the market different in America?

There’s a much bigger market in America, just for the sheer weight of screen out there you can do something that’s less compelling a project but really hits the genre by numbers, which is harder to do here. It’s changing; since I’ve been there it’s gone from wanting to make the next PARANORMAL ACTIVITY to ‘no more fan footage please.’ But fan footage isn’t dead, it’s just a format. If you had another great project within it then it could work.

Do you have any input on how best to get an agent?

The way that I got an agent is that I got a project on Microwave, so schemes and competitions can be really good. It’s getting short films out there and getting agents to love them on the back of that. It is a catch-22 situation but if you do get something good out there, agents will be hungry to sign you and see if they can do anything with you. They’re going to be seduced by you if someone in some way is talking about you.

How much notice do you take of the short film world?

They’re still very useful, there’s so many out there that you can get lost in the sea of them. A really great short can still open doors, they’re not an end in to themselves, and you’re looking for a reason to believe the film maker can write a feature. But I still think the way the industry works here, short films do open doors.

It seems more and more common that certain companies are producing proof of concept, so 2-3 minute, very high production value, segments of film, in order to sell it instead of making a short or writing a treatment… I’ve heard of one instance where there wasn’t even a script and a company have spent £10,000 producing a 3 minute clip that basically set up the story – how many of those have you seen and, in your own opinion, how do they differ from a short in that convincing stage?

I think they’re really good for genre. MAMÁ is the case in point, a 2/3 minute short film that was incredibly effective and the one that went viral. So I think in terms of genre, if you can show you can make that impact they’re really useful. We’ve been looking for them and there aren’t that many of them out there, very few people have done that – though you still need more to back it up. In a way, a 10 minute short might dull the impact of that, a 2/3 minute, compelling viral could be great.

Would you watch something like this if someone sent you the link?

We’d say that across the board we wouldn’t do that, it’s more about the sheer weight of numbers. You get so much stuff you have to filter it in some way. If it’s a short film or it’s been out there on the web then, yeah, someone might watch it. A blind email might work, but most companies will filter it out.

In your experience of reading scripts, is there anything that writers do consistently badly that makes you stop reading?

Too much exposition. It’s hard, as film is a visual medium, but if you have reams and reams of exposition it always turns the reader off. I’d say that in terms of your exposition, always keep it to things you would notice watching the movie and make it impactful.

The thing with screenplays is that it’s the worst literary art form and 95% of people who write scripts wouldn’t write in any other medium so they’re just not page-turners. But I’ve seen scripts that aren’t great scripts technically but are well-written and narratively really clever and they get people interested.

So I’d say write in some other form if you can and improve your writing generally and no dense blocks of exposition, keep it short, keep it punchy, cut out as much as you can and cut out anything you can’t justify because the most important thing is keeping the reader reading from page one.

It depends who the reader is, I’ll always try and read 60 pages in a go so you get an idea of what the film is but not everyone’s going to do that, so you do want to grab people and keep them reading. It’s a tough one. Get the script to the best place you can before you send it out because you only have one chance, but don’t let that mean you don’t send anything out ever.

Has there been a script that’s come across your desk that was passed on and went on to be a really great movie and if not, has there been a movie you’ve seen recently that you wish you had got hold of the script and you could have made it?

There’s a movie I haven’t seen yet called SOMNIA, by the guys who made OCULUS, where I read the script but the film had already gone and I absolutely loved the script, we’ll see what the movie’s like. At the Film Council I read MOON, a film  I absolutely love, and in the end they didn’t need us but in my notes I wrote: ‘Why are you revealing the clone halfway through, hold it back, that’ll be much more interesting…’

Then you see the movie and you see it’s a movie about brotherhood and if you held back the twist you’d have the cynical sci-fi movie and not the great film that it is. So, as much as anything, it’s less about the films you turn away because also a film isn’t necessarily going to be what it is if you don’t get involved or don’t but you see where it goes.

Back to THE KING’S SPEECH, everyone had turned that down before we did it, but at the time there were 5 movies we had that I thought were going to be good and 3 disappeared and one was that, so you never can tell.

What jumped out at you about SOMNIA? Was it franchise potential or a really amazing script?

It had a heart. Its structure was brilliant and it brought a tear to my eye at the end. The genre audience want the safety of thinking they’re going to see the sort of film they’ve seen before but it’s still the same pleasure that everyone has, they want to see something they haven’t seen before.

How do your source your directors? Presumably some scripts must come as pure scripts, they don’t come in teams –

Then we look for directors in the traditional way: TV and it being low budget, we’ll have one or two first-timers but mostly we’re looking for people who have made 2 or 3 features before at fairly low budget. So that’s more of the traditional process. If we have a script we think is great then the level of director we might be looking for is higher than the writer-director coming in, but we love the script and we’re going to try and take a punt on the director if we can.

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The Insider Interviews: Aaron Anderson
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