Ashley Scott Meyers wears a couple of different hats as a screenwriter, blogger, and podcaster. Over the past few years, he has written such films as ‘’Rushlights’’ and ‘’Snake Outta Compton’’ as while running the popular website and podcast titled “Selling Your Screenplay.” He now adds film director to his resume, as writer-director of “The Pinch” which is a gritty new crime drama that is now available on VOD from Amazon.

Ashley discussed the movie and more via an exclusive interview on January 9, 2019.

Screenwriting, websites, and Kickstarter

Meagan Meehan (MM): Ashley, tell us how you got into screenwriting – where did the interest initially come from?

Ashley Scott Meyers (ASM): My initial interest in screenwriting started when I was a very young child. I always loved going to the Movies. And when I was in fourth grade, I wrote an adaptation of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” to perform with some neighborhood kids.

I remember finishing the screen play in just a few hours (keep in mind I was the fourth grade) and I felt like I was able to boil the story down pretty well in a way that a bunch of fourth-graders could actually perform it and shoot it with a home video camera. Although, now that I'm thinking about it, we never got past the rehearsal stage!

I grew up in Annapolis, Maryland so even though I had this desire to be a screenwriter, I had no idea about how to actually make that happen.

Living in Annapolis I didn't know a single artist of any sort except my classical guitar teacher, who barely scratched out a living. So, while I wanted to be a screenwriter, I still needed to figure out how to do it. One day in college I stumbled into the poetry reading room and found a book called Writer's Market. In there they listed about 100 production companies who would supposedly except unsolicited queries.

And they had a one-or-two-page description of what a query letter looked like. I felt like I had struck gold! I wrote up about 10 pages of screenplay and sent it to two companies that seemed especially open to new writers. One company sent the self-addressed stamp postcard back to me saying, "thank you for that undated, untitled manuscript, no thanks." I guess they didn't like it. But the other company actually called me, and not to congratulate me on how brilliant my script pages were but to tell me to stop sending such nonsense out and to give me some very practical advice.

That advice was to read Syd Field's Screenplay, which at the time was the go-to book for how to write a screenplay. I got that book and started writing and have been writing ever since.

The first job I had in Los Angeles was working at the front desk at the Toluca Lake Tennis Club. A lot of the members were in the industry, and as I got to know some of them, they were especially helpful giving advice and even taking the time to read my screenplays and offer some feedback.

MM: So, Ashley, what was the first screenplay you ever wrote and which was the first you ever sold?

ASM: When I was about 22 years old, I wrote my first feature screenplay, called “Mid-Life Comedy,” which was about a middle-aged man having a mid-life crisis. This is of course silly, because what does a 22-year-old punk kid know about a midlife crisis? Nothing. It was as bad as you can imagine. The first screen play I ever optioned was also the first screenplay that I sold. And it ended up being produced as well, so it is my first real screenwriting credit. It was a film called “Dish Dogs” and I wrote it with a college buddy, Nathan Ives.

I met the producers who bought it by simply responding to an ad in the back of the Hollywood Reporter. They had raised about $12M for six films and we're on the hunt for screenplays. Our script was the first one they produced. It went amazingly well in terms of the time line. They optioned it in April and were shooting by September. But creatively it wasn't fulfilling in the least as they changed nearly everything.

It’s VERY hard to sell a screenplay. However, I think you can substantially improve your odds if that's your main goal and you are smart about it. Low budget screenplays are much easier to get produced. Typically, thrillers and horror scripts work best for the lower budget fair. Now bigger studio type projects are much more difficult, so realize that going in. There are a million more people vying for those studio spots, so the standards are much higher, there is a lot more competition, and because of the larger budgets there is a lot more risk involved, so a lot more things can go wrong.

MM: You have a website in which you discuss such things don’t you?

ASM: Yes, as a matter fact I do! Thanks for asking. It is called “SellingYourScreenplay.” I do a weekly podcast where I interview screenwriters, directors, and producers. I have also written countless articles on the business and craft of screenwriting. And I sell a variety of services to help screen writers get writing assignments and sell their screenplays.

MM: Why was it time to direct your first movie, “The Pinch”?

ASM: In the fall of 2015 I got back to back writing assignments, which took a ton of time and energy to land. But they both ended up being creatively unfulfilling. I decided I needed to make a movie on my own so that at least the film would be my film, for better or worse.

MM: Where did the idea for “The Pinch” come from?

ASM: I honestly don't remember where the initial kernel of an idea came from. I keep an idea bank in a Google Doc, and when I decided that I wanted to make my own movie, I went back to that idea bank and looked through my various ideas for one that I thought I could shoot on a very low budget. And in this case, I think I ended up combining a few different ideas from the idea bank into the one story. It was a micro-budget film. The total budget ended up around $32,000, which breaks down to about $20,000 for production and $12,000 for post-production.

MM: Did you rely a lot on friends and family to help make “The Pinch” happen?

ASM: I did not rely heavily on friends and family to make the movie happen. I try and do things that will scale, in other words things that will work over and over again and grow. While I might have been able to get some money from friends and family for the Kickstarter campaign, I didn't feel like that would work more than once. Ultimately, I raised about $12,000 through Kickstarter and the rest of the money was from myself and two friends who both participated in the production of the film as well. So, what I tried to do with my Kickstarter campaign was talk about it very openly on my podcast in order to help people who might want to do the same thing. I tried to be as transparent as possible about my process and what I did to raise the $12,000. For the most part, the people who listen to my podcast are the ones who kicked in money to the Kickstarter campaign. I am very grateful to those folks. If you're one of them, thank you.

Independent films and the next ten years

MM: Independent films are tough to put together; can you talk about some of the hurdles you had to jump over on “the Pinch”?

ASM: There certainly were a lot of hurdles, but a lot of the difficulty that I think people face is raising the money and they usually set unrealistic expectations making raising that money very difficult. I knew going into this how much money I could realistically raise, so I planned accordingly. For me that wasn't the biggest problem. And again, it's not because I'm so good at raising money, it's just that I was realistic about what I could raise and I wrote a screenplay I could shoot on that budget. The biggest hurdles I faced were in post-production. It's fairly easy to get actors and crew in Los Angeles who are very competent to work cheaply. But with post-production, since it's not a sexy, glamorous job, it's harder to find good people who would work for the budget that I had. The good people are out there, and I think I found them, but it took a whole lot of meetings, emails and phone calls,

MM: What do you think its strongest element is, where can we see it, and where do you hope to be in ten years?

ASM: The thing that stands out the most to me is probably the acting. I feel very lucky to have found such great actors who were so committed to the project. They were all excellent, and I think it shows in the finished film. Hopefully the story ain't too bad either. The film is available on all the major VOD platforms, Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, and Google Play. I am also selling it directly from my website, where you can also get the three-hour webinar I did on the making of the film.

I would like to continue to write, direct and produce my own films, even if that means working at a very low budget. While “The Pinch” may not be the greatest film of all time, it was creatively fulfilling. Hopefully people will enjoy the film. And if they listen to my podcast, they can learn from my experience producing it since I've been talking about it now for three years or so on the podcast. I would like to continue on that trajectory.

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