|Jim Kehoe is an accomplished attorney and writer from Merrick, NY. He graduated with honors from Rutgers University and Fordham Law School. At Fordham, his academic record earned him a position on the prestigious Fordham Law Review and he was later elected to the editorial board by his peers. As an editor, he edited numerous articles written by renowned legal scholars, including United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Before leaving to write and direct full time, Jim practiced at the highest levels of the legal profession at corporate law firms Skadden, Arps, Slate Meagher & Flom LLP in New York and Kaye Scholer LLP in Los Angeles. Jim lives in Los Angeles with his wife and his two-year old son.
Brian Kehoe barely graduated high school, but after buckling down for a year at Nassau Community College, he went to Rutgers University. There, he intended to study Journalism until he learned he would have to take a bus across campus to his classes, so he changed majors to Environmental Science because his classes would then be across the street from his dorm. Upon graduating, Brian got a shitty job in Environmental Consulting. Brian lives in Los Angeles with his wife, his two-year old daughter and one-year old son. Brian makes the same amount of money as Jim, which just doesn’t seem fair.
Where are you two from? Where did you grow up? And what did you study in college?
Jim: We’re from Merrick, Long Island, about 45 minutes outside Manhattan. We both studied Environmental Science at Rutgers University. I then went to Fordham Law School.
Brian: What he said, except for the law school stuff.
Jim, you worked as an attorney in New York City. You become inspired to write a script when a friend of yours sold her script. How did you first dive into writing it? (It was a horror comedy script called “Student Body.”)
Jim: Yes, I worked at Skadden Arps, a corporate law firm. It was rough. I was working a lot of hours, but there was a real energy to the place and a lot of creative people. A friend of mine gave me a comedy script she’d sold and told me she wasn’t going to practice law anymore. It was a real eye-opener. Growing up in New York, I never thought that it was possible to write for movies as a career.
I had always been interested in comedy and creative writing, so I started writing a script that very week. I wrote a script called THE STUDENT BODY about a group of college kids who start a celebrity dead pool. The celebrities started to get killed one by one and eventually the students did, too. I guess it was kind of a SCREAM ripoff.
Did you read a few screenplays before starting? Any books? Buy software?
Jim: I remember buying a Syd Field book and software -- it was called Script Thing.
And as an attorney I’m sure you must have had a pretty busy schedule so when did you find time to writer? How long did the script take to complete?
Jim: I had very little time to write, but I was very productive in the time I had. The script took about two months to write. I sent it to Brian and he said it sucked.
Brian: That’s not true. I thought it was a cool idea. I had some ideas for it and we worked on it for a week or two together.
Jim: I remember being pretty happy with it, but I’m sure we’d be horrified to read it now.
Brian, you were an environmental science major and also worked in the field. What was your job actually like? And I know you’ve mentioned working a few other odd jobs as well.
Brian: My environmental job involved going into the Manhattan subway tunnels and making sure the environment was safe for the guys working down there. I was looking for any excuse to stop doing it. So when Jim mentioned maybe writing a script together I said okay, I’ll quit my job tomorrow. The odd jobs came after that. I worked for an electrician, I worked at a crematory in New Jersey (good times!), and I worked at a great Italian restaurant on Long Island called Stella’s. The restaurant was owned by a family that basically let me choose my own hours so I had plenty of time to write.
When you saw Jim’s first script, this sparked you creatively? Was writing something you’d ever considered or done seriously growing up?
Brian: When Jim sent me his script, I wouldn’t say it sparked me creatively, because I feel like I’ve always been somewhat creative, but it opened a door for me. I had been told for a while I should consider writing as a career. My mother always encouraged me to write and I had done some writing at Rutgers that my friends enjoyed and they pushed me to pursue it as well, but I never gave it much thought until I saw Jim’s script.
The first script you guys wrote together was called “Taking Liberty,” and it was about three guys who steal the Liberty Bell. Where did the idea for this story come from? How did you guys tackle writing the script together?
Jim: I took a business trip to Philadelphia and I remember being surprised that there was so little security around the Liberty Bell. That’s where I got the idea. That script was inspired by John Hamburg’s SAFE MEN, which was and is one of our favorite movies. We just met John at a screening of SAFE MEN and we told him that he inspired us to write.
Brian: I was living in Merrick and Jim was in Manhattan when we wrote TAKING LIBERTY. The process was the same for that script as most of the other stuff we’ve written. We had a very basic outline – one page or so – then we wrote up scenes as we went. We split up scenes, wrote them and then sent them to the other to edit. Then we’d fight about almost every joke, finally settle on something and move forward until the script was done.
And not to put you on the spot Jim, but how different was it writing with someone after writing your first script on your own? What was it like overall working together?
Jim: Well, I had to get used to compromising because we disagree a lot. But more importantly, the difference is better material. Despite the arguing, the material we produce together is much better than what I could do alone. Writing can be a pretty lonely endeavor and it’s a lot more fun working with someone else. The best days of work are when we’re laughing our asses off – that’s when we know we’re producing great material.
And once the script was done, you sent it out here (to LA) and someone at a management company read it and liked it, but ultimately it didn’t sell. Right? So off of that, what drove you to then move out here Jim? Was it the idea you had to be out here to make it?
Jim: Yeah, we sent TAKING LIBERTY to a manager who loved it, particularly the characters and their relationships. It wound up not going anywhere, but we were really proud of it and that’s when we realized that we had the talent to really do this. I moved out to LA to pursue writing and directing, but even as a kid, I always wanted to be in California. I did a lot of surfing in New York, which is a pretty terrible place to surf.
Brian: I moved out a few years later. I always had a desire to visit California very briefly and then get back to New York, but figured I’d need to stay to give this a real shot. But yeah, we definitely believed our chances of breaking into the business would be significantly improved if we were out here.
Were you being repped at the time?
Brian: No, we weren’t. And we had no contacts, either.
In January 2005 it was announced that you two set up “The Matchbreaker” with Sekretagent Productions. The story revolved around a man who is determined to give his fiancée the expensive wedding of her dreams. When he's suddenly fired from his job, he starts a company that breaks up couples for money. Where did the idea for the script/story come from?
Brian: The idea was inspired by our interaction with a college friend of ours. He was always in bad relationships and we would always push him to end them.
Jim: Some of his relationships weren’t really bad, but they were interfering with our hang-out time. He was fun to have around because he was like a court jester and we would make him do a lot of stupid shit. He literally lived in my dorm room closet and paid for the privilege, but I digress.
Brian: We’d convince him that he wanted to break up with his girlfriends and then he couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger. So we’d give him advice on how to make himself even less appealing so that he’d end up getting dumped. It was tough because he was very unappealing to begin with, but our advice usually worked.
How long did the script take you guys to write? How did that project get set up? Jim, you were attached to direct, right?
Jim: Yeah, we raised money to make the film and I was going to direct. It took us about four months to write, I’d guess. Having directed and produced a feature before (called THE HAND JOB, aka OVERACHIEVERS), I knew some investors. We also met with Corey May and Dooma Wendschuh, a couple of great guys from Sekretagent Productions, who had some money contacts as well.
It was later announced in 2006 that you sold “The Escape Artist” to Lionsgate with Todd Garner’s Broken Road producing. Was this simply “The Matchbreaker” re-titled? And if so why the change on various levels from the title to producer(s)? What was the development process like? How as working with Todd Garner? What were his notes and input? Did the story change much from “The Matchbreaker”?
Jim: While we were finalizing the funds to make the movie, our manager (at the time) got the script to Todd Garner. He read it and called us in for a meeting. He told us not to make the film. Instead, he proposed that we work on it with him and then get Adam Sandler attached and sell it to a studio. It was a tough decision because we had raised the money and I really wanted to direct it, but we decided it would be better for our careers to work with Todd on it. Corey and Dooma were very supportive.
So yeah, it was the same project, but the script changed after working with Todd. It was a very interesting experience to work with him. He had a ton of ideas to sift through, many of which were really good. We did multiple drafts over the course of a year and learned a lot about the process. It was a great way to learn about development, especially with Todd, who has done a lot of it. The basic story didn’t change much, but the script became much more studio-friendly and less indie, with a larger focus on set pieces. The script ultimately sold to Lionsgate, but did not get made.
Brian: Another script called MATCHBREAKER sold a couple of weeks before we were ready to take ours out, so we changed the title to avoid any confusion.
In 2010, you sold your spec “You Complete Us” to Offspring Entertainment and Endgame Entertainment. Adam Shankman, Jennifer Gibgot and James D. Stern were attached to produce along with H2F's Chris Cowles & Chris Fenton. The story involves a married couple, who lives to cut loose with another married couple, who discovers that their friends are divorcing and their own marriage begins to suffer. They realize, for the health of their own relationship, that they must get their best friends back together. What inspired this story? How long did the script take to write? What was the process like?
Jim: That story was based on our lives. My wife and I lived in Beverly Hills about a mile away from Brian and his wife. We hung out a lot together until my wife and I moved out to Pasadena.
Brian: Suddenly, we had no couple friends to hang out with. Most of my friends are back in New York. Pretty soon, my wife was pushing to “get back out there” and “hang out with other couples.” I had no interest in doing that. One day, she came home from work and told me that her co-worker’s boyfriend really wanted to meet me. I was like “why the hell would he want to meet me?”
Jim: I was also surprised that anyone would want to meet Brian.
Brian: I reluctantly agreed to go. Turned out that he was a former gang-banger with a giant neck tattoo who had little to no interest in meeting me. But after thinking about it, I realized: that’s a movie!
Jim: Brian came to me with the idea and I wasn’t sure about it until we had the idea to have the main couple try to put the divorced couple back together. Then it all clicked. We wrote that very quickly. From the original hatching of the idea to sale was less than four months. The process of writing it was the same as all of the others: just dividing up scenes, writing, trading and editing.
In November 2012, you set your spec “Cherries” up with Good Universe and Hurwitz/Schlossberg Productions. The story centers on three naive dads who set out to stop their daughters from making good on a pact to lose their virginity on prom night. Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Joe Drake, Nathan Kahane, Dan Mintz and Chris Fenton will all produce in some capacity and Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg are directing. What inspired this story?
Jim: This one also came from our personal lives. I have a son, who is a bit of a madman. When we had the idea, my son wasn’t sleeping and he was just full of energy. Brian’s daughter, on the other hand, was a quiet angel who slept 12 hours a night. As brothers, we give each other crap constantly and Brian was always laughing at my difficulty with my son. At one point, I responded that my son is difficult now, but I can’t wait until his daughter is in high school and dating.
That really got under Brian’s skin, so I knew I was onto something there. I pitched the idea to Brian about a dad trying to stop his freshman daughter from having sex on senior prom night. Being the overprotective father of a daughter, Brian did NOT want to write it. We brought it to our manager, Chris Cowles, and he said in no uncertain terms that we HAD to write it.
Brian: We decided to make it an ensemble movie about three dads and a teenaged boy who is in love with one of the girls on their quest to stop the freshman girls from having sex. Having the teenaged boy in the car allowed me to look at it through his perspective, which helped because I really didn’t want to think about it from a father’s perspective. Too close to home.
Jim: We also wanted to flip expectations a bit by having the girls be the aggressors rather than the usual story about creepy guys looking to get laid. It felt more fresh and timely, so we had the girls sign a sex pact for prom night. That allowed us to do a lot more with the story.
What was the writing process like?
Brian: The process was actually a bit different on CHERRIES. At that time, I was home with my daughter who was just a baby. Jim and I could only get together one day per week to work, so we did the bulk of the work every Monday over the period of about five months.
Jim: We had a great time writing that script. We easily could have written 150 pages. We just had a ton of ideas for it.
What’s currently going on with the script?
Brian: We’re expecting CHERRIES to go into production this year.
With the announcement did much change for you in terms of interest in your writing?
Jim: We definitely got a boost from the announcement. We got a lot more incoming calls to our agent and manager. We were being called in for a lot of assignments.
Brian: The announcement helped a lot. We were able to get another sale very quickly after finishing the rewrites.
Speaking of which, in mid March 2014, you guys sold the pitch “Top of the Food Chain” to Lionsgate with 34th Street Productions involved. Tyler Perry, Ozzie Areu, Matt Moore and Chris Cowles will produce. DMG's Dan Mintz and Chris Fenton will executive produce. This action-comedy is being described as a cross between "City Slickers" and "The Grey." I realize you can’t probably say tons about the story, but can you tell us where the idea came from? Who was involved with the process before you went to Lionsgate? How and why did Tyler Perry become involved? What input did he and Ozzie have on the story?
Jim: We’ve always loved CITY SLICKERS and wanted to do our own R-rated version. We can’t talk much about it, but we wanted to add a real threat to the mix, too, to heighten the danger and the comedy and we came up with something we really love. We didn’t do a lot of development on the pitch before we sold it. In fact, we didn’t even have a pitch worked out. No one had even heard the idea, which is very unusual for us. We usually run our ideas by our manager, Chris Cowles, and kick the idea around a bit.
Brian: It was going to be our next spec, and we had written a pretty rough first act, but at the time of the pitch, we only had a couple of pages outlined. Fenton called and told us that Matt Moore from 34th Street wanted to talk with us about what we’re working on next. It wasn’t supposed to be a formal pitch at all.
Jim: We knew Matt because we worked with him on a project for Dreamworks and Tyler Perry a few years ago that didn’t wind up moving forward.
Brian: So we got on a phone call with Matt and Ozzie, who were back in Atlanta. We pitched them our ten minute version of the movie on a conference call. It was strange because we couldn’t see or hear their reactions. They had the call on mute on their end. When we hung up, we didn’t know if they loved it or hated it!
Jim: We were in the lobby at Paramount (where we were meeting on another project) when Fenton called to tell us 34th Street and Lionsgate loved it and were going to buy it. It was very exciting. We’d never sold a pitch before. That was pretty cool.
Brian: After the deal was finalized, we had a short phone meeting with Matt, got a few notes and got to work. We’re just about done with the draft.
Then in late March 2014, the two of you were hired by Walt Disney to rewrite “The Wheelman” which was originally written by Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant. Andrew Panay, Adam Blum and Jared Iacino are producing the project. How did this opportunity come about?
Jim: This is one that was based on a relationship we developed years earlier. We met with Adam Blum a while back on a script we write called ROGER THAT, which is still our favorite script we’ve written. Adam loved it and we’ve been friends with him ever since. He’s a really funny, smart executive – but don’t let him know I said that.
Brian: We meet up periodically to keep in touch and let Adam pay for dinner. He takes us to all of the worst restaurants in Los Angeles. Blum and Jared are great to work with. And one of them is a very good dresser.
Did they have you read the script and come in with your own new take? Or was it more a matter of they wanted certain things done and needed you guys to executive their ideas? Were you up against other writers?
Jim: Over a plate of Korean donkey tongue one night, Blum told us about a project that Disney really wanted to get rewritten. We said we’d check it out and he sent over the WHEELMAN script.
Brian: We read the script and developed a take. We went in and pitched against a bunch of other writers.
What were your discussions like with the producers during the process? Disney?
Jim: The work we did with Adam and Jared before going in with the pitch was pretty extensive. We can’t say enough positive things about those guys. Adam and Jared had a good sense of what the studio would want and we honed the pitch based on their notes.
Brian: We pitched Disney twice. The first time around, they had some notes. The notes were great and very specific so they were easy to implement. We incorporated the notes the second time around and got the job.
What were your feelings about coming to rewrite some well-known writers?
Jim: Well, everyone gets rewritten and it’s not a fun thing to deal with, but that’s the job. That said, it’s pretty humbling and bizarre to be rewriting Tom and Ben. They’re just hilarious and extraordinarily talented. We’re huge RENO 911 fans and the WHEELMAN script is really funny.
Brian: They wrote in their book that getting rewritten only means the studio is investing more money and moving closer to a greenlight. That’s definitely the best way to look at it.
Did you talk with Lennon & Garant at all?
Brian: It’s an awkward thing. We don’t know them, but it still seems like the cool thing to reach out and let them know about it.
Jim: I contacted both of them on Facebook and let them know we were going to work on WHEELMAN and thanked them for writing a great script. Their lawyers asked me to please stop stalking them. Tom moved and Ben took out a restraining order against me. Even so, I’m confident we’re going to be besties.
Not to put you guys on the spot, but what do each of you bring to the writing team?
Jim: I think that’s changed a lot. Very early on, I did all of the structure and Brian just worked on the comedy stuff. As we’ve become better at writing and at working together, Brian is a lot more involved in breaking story and structure.
Brian: Yeah, I think we each do everything. I think one of the best things we do together is riff on the comedy. We’ll play out the characters’ lines and get each other laughing. That’s when we come up with our best material.
How do you complement one another in terms of writing?
Jim: I’d say that I’m the more analytical one – sometimes to a fault. I have a real problem with plot holes or faulty logic. And I can be pretty rigid in terms of things that I really don’t like, such as voice over and flashbacks. Those devices can be great, but all too often, they’re used poorly and take me out of movies.
Brian: I’m the one always pushing for voice over and flashbacks, but only if they help further the story and are funny. I’ve seen them used poorly but I’ve also seen or read them used in great ways. But I rarely win those battles because he hates them more than I like them.
You’re represented by Sara Self & Rich Cook (features) and Zach Druker & Alec Botnick (TV) at WME and are managed by Chris Fenton and Chris Cowles at DMG.
Jim: We’ve been with Fenton and Cowles for a long time. We met them through our friend, (writer) Rob McKittrick. Fenton and Cowles read a couple of our scripts, then took a meeting with us. We agreed that it seemed like a good fit. DMG is one of the main reasons we’ve had some traction. Fenton is a former William Morris agent and just a smart business person despite the fact that he wears a tiny leather jacket and penny loafers (with pennies in them). Cowles is a very savvy development exec, having worked with Judd Apatow and Scott Rudin. He also has a fantastic head of hair. And Brian McCurley is a shrewd young manager/CE over there who always gives us great notes. Back when he was an assistant, he once sent us to a meeting a week early and we haven’t let him forget it. His hair is significantly less majestic than that of Cowles.
Brian: When we have an idea, our first move is usually to go to Cowles and talk it through. That’s particularly helpful when we disagree on which path to take with a story or a character. It also gives us another opportunity to see that wonderful head of hair.
How did you guys find agents?
Jim: We didn’t seek out agents. They contacted our managers and asked for a meeting. We met with several great agents and were selective. We got along well with Sarah, Rich, Zach and Alec and trust them to help guide our careers.
What does WME bring to the table in terms of helping you as writers?
Jim: WME is great at getting us the meetings we want or need. If there’s an assignment we want, they’ll get us in the room. It’s up to us to get the job.
Along with the above, what is it like having your manager also attached to projects? Has that helped? What does that involve so other writers know what to expect?
Jim: Obviously, they’re going to make money as producers if the movie gets made, so we were pretty wary of having them produce when we first signed on. But it’s actually worked out very well. They can be our eyes and ears on a project when the writing process is over.
Brian: The business is different now. Writers are making much less than they were ten years ago, so managers need to find other ways to make money. And our managers don’t just attach themselves and call it a day. Cowles goes to those development meetings and digs in with the other producers.
In general what have you learned about working with reps and in particular changing reps? What are the challenges to understanding your own needs vs. the bigger picture & other clients that a rep has to look at?
Jim: You have to appreciate that your reps have other clients and are not your personal secretaries. Every manager and agent is going to work a certain way and you should know how they like to work before you make your decision about whether they’re the right person for you to be working with. Some agents and managers are more hands on than others and you have to mesh.
You have to know when to call and why. You can’t pester them constantly. But on the other hand, if you have something important to talk to them about, they have to respect that and get back to you as quickly as possible. The whole thing is based on mutual respect. We’ve never been shy about saying if a relationship isn’t working and have left a few agents in the past.
Brian: I’m hesitant to contact them. Jim and I will discuss what information we need from them and he’ll usually email them. They’re all busy and don’t need to hear from both of us.
When it comes to changing reps, I would say we’ve been pretty fortunate. We’ve been with DMG for a long time and they rep a bunch of very successful writers. But even when we were just starting out, they made time for us and believed in us. I’m making this sound like a love letter to those guys. I owe those guys a hug.
Jim: A hug plus 10%.
You both have noted in interviews that you argue a lot while working on a script. Do you find this ultimately makes your work better? Does it slow you down much? And have you found a way to “easily” resolve differences and keep the writing moving forward?
Jim: We argue all the time and yeah, I believe it makes our work better. We only argue over the work: Why is a character acting in a particular way? Is that the best set piece we can come up with? Does this scene advance the story or are we holding onto it just because it’s funny? We sometimes have problems killing our best comedy lines or scenes. That’s an awful decision to have to make, but we do it all the time for the sake of the story.
Brian: We try not to let our arguing slow us down. Usually, if we’re stuck on something, we call Cowles and let him be the deciding vote. We’ll both make our case and he’ll decide. We have agreed in advance that Cowles’ decision will be final. Then one of us is mad at Cowles for the rest of the day and we move on. And we’ve become very good at not taking the arguments personally. It’s all about the work.
How do you guys handle feedback on your work? From your representation? Producers? Friends? Do you read through the notes and decide what is important or “right” to change? How do you gauge would should be done or possibly not?
Jim: We’re very good with notes. It’s part of the territory. If you don’t have a thick skin, this is not the business for you. We don’t want people tip-toeing around problems. If someone thinks something sucks, we prefer they flatly tell us “this sucks” and then explain why. Whether we agree or not, it’s our job to figure out why it’s not working for that person and make it work better.
Brian: Besides our managers, we have a few select friends we send our scripts to before sending them out. They are very critical of our writing, which is very valuable. The last thing we need is everyone saying it’s great if they don’t believe that. We’re sending it out to find out what needs to be improved.
Jim: And we take producer and studio notes very seriously. We go through them very carefully. When we disagree with a note, it’s often not the note that’s the problem, but the proposed solution. That’s when we need to find the “note behind the note.” We’ll push back on the notes we don’t agree with, but we’re open to being persuaded that we’re wrong. An important thing for writers to realize is that once you’ve sold the script, it’s not yours anymore – at least not in the way that it was yours before it sold. You still want to protect your intention, but if the buyer wants a different intention, your job is to give it to them or they’ll find another writer who will.
What’s a typical writing day like for you? What is your process like in working together? Are you in the same room together? Do you both sit at the computer?
Jim: We never used to write together. That started when I was in Manhattan and Brian was on Long Island. Then I moved to LA and we wrote on completely different time schedules. Now that we live so close to one another, we’re spending more time together in our office. We can cut out the distractions better that way and we’re being more efficient. Even when we’re together, we each have our own computer. We write separate scenes and email or instant message each other as we go along.
Brian: We officially work Monday to Friday, but we’re always talking on weekends when ideas or lines come to us.
When you’re starting a new project, do you outline? Write treatments? How do you approach rewrites? Any method or path that you typically follow?
Jim: The process is a bit different for specs versus rewrites. For specs, we like to have a very basic outline. We’ll come up with the characters, inciting incident, midpoint, act breaks and the end of the story, but we don’t want to lose the energy of writing it by outlining the entire story up front. We want to leave open the possibility of surprising ourselves as we write. Sometimes we’ll write an act one and see where it takes us. That’s a great way to get to know the characters and decide how you want the movie to progress. It’s also a way to figure out that something about the idea isn’t working and has to be rethought.
Brian: With rewrites, we have to have every beat laid out because we need that to do that level of preparation in order to pitch the studio. Those outlines get very long – 8-12 single spaced pages in Word are about the norm.
What things do you feel aspiring script writers need to recognize and be aware of about the industry as they try to break in and get their material set up? Also, what did you discover as you went along that you really wish you had known from the start? Anything eye opening? Surprising? Do’s and don’ts?
Jim: I’d say that one thing most writers probably don’t realize is just how hard it is to make a living as a writer. There are very few overnight successes. You have to be honest with yourself about your level of talent. Unless you’re independently wealthy, I think it’s important to get some independent validation that your writing is good. Your mom is going to think you’re a genius. She might be wrong. Most of your friends won’t want to disappoint you. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t value your own opinion of your material, but if others don’t agree that you’re good, it’s likely going to be a slog. It’s a very tough road even when everyone thinks you have a lot of talent. Have a backup plan.
Brian: Jim just painted a bleak picture, but he’s not wrong. That said, I believe people can improve their writing if they put the work in. I was not a good writer when we started, but I’ve improved over time. I would encourage people to read as many good scripts as they can.
Also, I’d tell them to be aware that very few writers break in with a huge spec sale. The market is much different for film writers than it was ten years ago, or so we’ve been told. Apparently we just missed out on the golden old days of screenwriting.
Jim: Also, a lot of new writers think that just because they’ve secured reps, that their job is done – it’s only just beginning. It’s not the agent’s or manager’s job to get you work. They can present opportunities, but it’s your job to get the job.
Any suggestions on how to handle the highs of something going out and selling vs. a script be shopped and no bites from buyers?
Jim: I sat in Fenton’s office when he took out our first spec. Don’t do that! That was a real rollercoaster. Your best bet is to do what you can to take your mind off it. Lately, we’ve been going away. I take my wife and son up to San Francisco when we’re expecting big news (positive or negative). It’s been a lucky place for me – we’ve only received good news while we’ve been there.
We’ve been very lucky when it comes to specs. We’ve now sold three in a row. We wrote a couple of others that didn’t sell before that and it wasn’t a whole lot of fun. I’d definitely recommend selling specs versus not selling them. It’s a lot more fun (and lucrative).
Brian: It’s crazy taking a spec out. The highs and lows are like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I agree leaving town is a good idea. When we sold CHERRIES, my wife and daughter and I were in Palm Spring with my in-laws. I do not recommend going away with your in-laws, but it worked out that time.
If a project doesn’t sell, hopefully some good meetings and strong relationships will come of it. We’ve been through that and had a ton of meetings with executives – some better than others – but often those meetings lead to getting work in the future. Case in point, we met both Adam Blum and Matt Moore off specs that didn’t sell. We developed strong relationships with them and now we’re working with them on paying jobs. So if something doesn’t sell, it’s not the end of the world.
What else are you two working on? Specs? Do you only develop your own material or do you look for new talent as well? Also what about your directing, Jim? How about TV?
Jim: Right now, we’re working on TOP OF THE FOOD CHAIN and we’re about to start rewriting WHEELMAN.
Brian: We have a very detailed outline for WHEELMAN already. And we’re working on a TV pitch with Aaron Kaplan that we’re really excited about. We’re also working on a project with Beau Bauman at Scott Stuber’s Bluegrass Films. That’s a project that Jim may direct. And we’re always thinking of our next spec idea. We’re constantly trying to absorb ideas and see if they have potential for a movie.
Jim: I definitely want to do more directing, but only in the comedy space. I’ve had a few things come my way, but they weren’t exactly right. I’m going to be very selective about directing and only do something if I believe I can do a great job with it. Ideally, I’d be directing stuff that Brian and I write. It would be great to maintain more creative control and that’s tough to do when you’re only writing the movie.
Brian: As far as producing, we haven’t had time recently, so we’re not actively soliciting material. But it is something we’d like to do more of in the future, especially as it relates to our comedy brand.