Oct 26th, 2020
Do you have dreams of watching your story played out on the big screen or as a series on TV? Want some tips to make that a possibility?
Join Autumn and special guest creative producer and children's fantasy author, Stephen Hodges, as they discuss what you need to pitch your story to producers, the differences between novels and screenplays, things to consider, and a quick wrap-up sidetrack into diversity and cultural appropriation in fiction!
Check out Stephen's wonderful story the Magic Poof at https://www.themagicpoof.com/.
Tune in for new episodes EVERY single Monday.
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Read the full transcript below. (Please note that it's automatically generated and while the AI is super cool, it isn't perfect. There may be misspellings or incorrect words on occasion).
You're listening to the Am Writing Fantasy podcast in today's publishing landscape. You can reach fans all over the world. Query letters are a thing of the past. You don't even need a literary agent. There is nothing standing in the way of making a living from writing Join to best selling authors who have self published more than 20 books between them now onto the show with your hosts Autumn Birt and Jesper Schmidt Hello
Hello, I'm Autumn. Today. Yesper is a way that we're giving him a bit of a vacation and instead I have with me Stephen Hodges so Steven is here and you wear several different hats, which is really exciting. I know there's so many things. I think we could talk about that. We're going to have a fun trying to keep this on topic, but I know one of those is that you were an award-winning children's Fantasy Author with your series of the Magic Poof, which I love, I will link to the website because I love the images and the diversity of character is it's a moms choice award is adorable and they love the diversity of it. It's so sweet. And you also work in Hollywood production.
Autumn (1m 13s):
And I, like I mentioned before, we started going to get this totally wrong. I ran into you because you're a LA film scout, helping out the Page Turner awards, hosted by a book lover. So I let you wrap up that side of your life up if you would say, Oh, okay. Well, I do, I don't know. I think the page Turner warrants, when they put the name LA films got on there, I find that I find that funny because it makes me seem like I'm in a forest, you know, LA people, you know, scamming out things in a really, really my job is, is that I a, you know, I am a producer and I have worked in the film industry for quite some time in film and television. And I also did one on one project.
Stephen (1m 54s):
So it's basically, it's more of a development and I have my own company. And so development is essentially finding stuff that not only I create, but then others create and hopefully turn it into a film. So then when they say, Oh, wait a film scout. I always think of, you know, like an old movie or something like that, but really not just someone who likes to read other people's stuff and likes to put people together. So that's mainly my job as well as production stuff and everything in between, because in this industry, you have to have a pretty diverse in order to figure out what the why's and wherefores of how it works. And then you, yes, of course, we're working on the, my book series and I am in the process of Pitching it right now for you as an animated series.
Stephen (2m 42s):
So yeah, so lots of different hats, although I don't where actual hat's, because I'm not that hipster, but you know, in a way we do have some shine. So we do, I do put on plenty of sunblock, so yeah, that's good. Oh, I like that image. It it's just, as I mentioned before we get, and I'm over here on East coast.
Autumn (3m 0s):
Yes. Person in Denmark. So this is a whole different sphere, as much as I've driven by Hollywood I don't think I have gone. I went through it once when I was maybe a young teenager. So this is a whole, it's like an author saying, Oh, I've only done this in this and this and to anyone listening. And they're like, really that's just a ton. So from an outside perspective, you will get out of the things that you have listed on your LinkedIn bio and even on your Magic Poof bio Irene, you've worked in the matrix, you've done all these things. So that's just so cool. I am so grateful that you took the time to talk with us today.
Stephen (3m 35s):
Sure. Of course. Absolutely. Yeah. Well, the matrix was a, I actually started out in the industry I'm I'm from Phoenix, Arizona originally and, and wanting to all of those steps or graduated from college with no connections actually ended up starting my own film company with a mentor who was, when I went to the school, I did an internship at a local television station here, a and started working with a guy who was working on his first film. And I, instead of going straight to the Hollywood, we started our own production company instead. Why be a PA when you can be a vice-president right at a college as to why we did that for awhile, but then I also had to get a job.
Stephen (4m 15s):
So they ended up in a training in becoming a, a video engineer. So I'm working in an editing and live production, and that was my quote unquote waitress jobs. So the cool thing about me is that I actually know every site of production and it can pretty much do we have everybody's jobs. So on the matrix, I actually was up in a new engineer, which was a really fun experience, always fun to, you know, be I'm taking a lunch break in, sitting on the set, a and then all of a sudden Keanu Reeves comes in, sits next to you. You, because he happened to be here at the same place. And he's just a really nice guy. I actually, so that was interesting. So yeah, it was, it, it was a very fun experience, but very, very, it was huge.
Stephen (4m 56s):
Like, it was just like, you don't get how much stuff is going on. And usually you're in a bubble, you know, on one set of production crews, but that was a really fun experience.
Autumn (5m 6s):
That sound so amazing. And, you know, Kiano, he always has, seemed like a real earth kind of guy that I had to choose someone and Hollywood, I think he would make it on my top five list of people. I wouldn't mind running it into because he seems like a real person, so that's kind of less intimidating.
Stephen (5m 23s):
And now he is actually a really cool guy and he's just super, super laid back. Just a really, really nice guy.
Autumn (5m 28s):
Yeah. Yeah. Well, that's awesome. And like I said, I think you're, I want to talk a little bit about diversity in Fantasy, but I also want to talk about, you know, is really, I mean, I see this a lot more it's on the page Turner awards, I've seen a recent podcast. I think I've got an email somewhere like, Oh, was it last year? Maybe we were all just cooped up until we were all thinking of, you know, Fantasy and cinema and game of Thrones. And so everyone's sitting at home going, I could do that to, so it seems like there's idea in this energy about Pitching stories to Hollywood. So this is this really a thing. Do you think there is an uptick and people being interested or an up tick in even Hollywood considering this for people?
Stephen (6m 11s):
I think it it's always been there. I think that there's a now, especially with the, a boatload of streaming services in niche programming, you know, influencer's on the internet and tech talk and all of those different things. I think that there's a, there's a bitter, there's a people are starting to believe that there's not all of these gatekeepers. Right. And they were still arguing papers. And I actually am someone who has a mixed feeling about gatekeepers themselves, because I honestly think that you need them to a certain extent, but I also have run into a great deal of gatekeepers. You don't know what they're doing a whole.
Stephen (6m 51s):
So it's one of those things where it's a difficult process to try and parse out what's what's needed to do not. So I think that there's a lot of opportunity for people to do things, but at the same time, the, the audience is a lot more fragmented. So the idea that you are going to right something, and it will immediately become a game of Thrones. It is, that's a complete misnomer that's there, that's, that's the, you know, the trifecta that's, you know, ah, you know, somebody who came down and sprinkle some fairy dust on UW, along with, ya know, talent hard-work and being in the right place at the right time. But I do think that people have a lot more opportunity to do their own thing.
Stephen (7m 32s):
There is a lot of self publishing. There is a lot of people who I So published five books because I'm a, I don't with publishers for about a year and a half. And I actually pitched my series that Nickelodeon before I even had the books, cause I came up with about a year, but I, I realized that ah, the publishing industry is changing. And it's, to be honest with you, in my opinion, on the publishing and your district is kind of dead. The, the big publishers are really, they are, they based their model now really off of tentpole properties, which is similar to what's happening in movies with things like Marvel and stuff like that. And because of that, there's a lot less space for smaller people to be successful.
Stephen (8m 18s):
If you term success, as lots of people read your book and you make money. So I think its, but I do think that there is a lot of opportunity there, but it's also as difficult to get yourself known just because there is so much more, you know, there's so much more going on in the business. And actually you had mentioned a page for rewards and that's one thing that I like about them it's that there are kind of small when they are the ones who were pushing me originally a to, to, to judge their awards. But they seem to have a better opportunity for smaller, for smaller people just because they were a smaller and they are also based in London where as the us, it's just an extremely hard park and to get in.
Stephen (8m 60s):
But I think if you're, you know, if you persevere and you know the industry and you do all of this stuff and you work hard, do everything for you mainly do it for you and then home and then also, you know, look out for your audience. And that can take you a lot of places in a lot of different ways. And a lot of that is just, I, I don't wanna say it's luck because they don't really believe in a lot. I believe that things happen for a reason. So I think things will happen for you for a reason if you're in the right head space.
Autumn (9m 30s):
Oh, I like the sound of that though. So it's, it's not impossible. And I agree. I had originally thought of like the trying to sell your script to Hollywood or even one of the Netflix or HBO. It sort of like, you know, trying to pitch to these brick and mortar publisher, as you know, there are still gatekeepers who need to know the manuscript and how they look at it and what you need to do before you get there. If you want to have any chance of success. I mean the idea of just sending it off to somebody and they're gonna fall in love with it. And the next thing you know, you're going to be the next George RR Martin and knowing the fact that he had 30, 40 years of experience before getting to game of Thrones and he had been writing it for how many years. I think it's like seven years for each book.
Autumn (10m 11s):
So he was working on this a long time. He was overnight success story was about 40 years ago.
Stephen (10m 18s):
Yeah. His overnight success story is George R R Martin. You know, if he were a normal person, he could be retired right now, but I just thought, you know, so there they are just now working on the, they just went into a development in pre production on the, on the prequel series for game of Thrones, which I think is about how we start Gary. And, and, but you know, now all of that is, you know, because of COVID, all of the, all of our production is shut down, but that's our, it's a massive endeavor and they never would have taken something like that on when they first, you know, when they first came up with game of Thrones, obviously HBO has money. But if you watch the first episode of game of Thrones or even the first season, and you look at the amount of effects you used, or if you take a look at where it was shot, you know, Northern Ireland, it places like that plays to set up a production incentives, they didn't spend nearly as much money as you think that they did.
Stephen (11m 10s):
Not that they didn't spend a lot of money in our terms, but look at that compared to st the last season where they are just throwing money left and right, you know, there's, you know, boatloads, you know, the, the dragons are killer. You know, if the dragons are a calendar on the wall and all that stuff, but if you, if you actually watched the, you know, the first season, you can tell that the budget pretty much tripled a quadruple between the first season at the last season, only because it was a hit. If there wasn't, you know, if there wasn't a hit, when people didn't resonate with it and HBO had not pushed, it, it, it would have very easily gone, you know, gone away pretty quickly. And, and I think that it could even be said it was something like the Harry, even though a period Potter or for example, was a great as a book, she watched the first movie vs the last movie.
Stephen (11m 57s):
The movie is actually quite M, it's a little rough and a it's a little, M, it, it it's a little choppy, a it's a, it's still a great movie, but they didn't know how big of a success it would be. And then you can see the progression of not only budget, but also the willingness to put it in more, more behind the scenes from a, from a technical standpoint and also from a, from a talent standpoint.
Autumn (12m 22s):
Yeah. I have noticed that maybe, I don't think I've ever really noticed it with Harry Potter in game of Thrones, but it was a huge supernatural fan. And I recently, for whatever reasons to watch watched, like the first series again, and then you compare that even till the graphics and just the effects of the last 15, I can't remember what, which ones that you hit 14 or 15 in a row season's. And it was like, wow, this changed a heck of a lot. And not just because of the actors aged 15 years.
Stephen (12m 54s):
Absolutely. And you can, you can see that in something like one of my favorites, because I am a geek is the Mandalorian. And, you know, if you take a look at that and just, you know, on Disney plus and watch Mandalorian and see the, the amount of, of the amount of effort that's put in, in specifically with a second set, extensions in the chicken to check out the documentary's on the Mandalorian and just be amazed and what they do technologically M to create a non green screen environments, you know, but with advances in technology and in, in video walls and led walls and that type of thing, right. It's pretty amazing. But even if you look at the Mandalorian and the, one of the things that I like about it is is that it's, it's, it's an ethic star Wars movie, but yet in reality, it's a much smaller than that.
Stephen (13m 41s):
I think the story is better served by less expansiveness and more telling the story of the character in sort of a tighter environments. And you get the expansiveness of star Wars without necessarily having to be a gigantic movie. And then I think people have seen now the difference between what you can do specifically on a, something like a television series versus star Wars, the, the latest, the schools, the DNC, which I actually really enjoy, but the Mandalorian is something very different and they go into it with a very specific storytelling style about this character as oppose to, we have to, ya know, encompass this massive university, as opposed to what they bring in small elements, their fans know.
Stephen (14m 29s):
And that's part of the reason why it's popular or is it because, Oh, I saw that, you know, thing or whatever it is, and, you know, an object or something like that in the original star Wars film, which we knew it was a complete throw away because it was a prompt that somebody made for a scene. And then, you know, John Fabro will bring it into a, the Mandalorian and they'll be like, Oh my gosh. So that's one of those things, you know, and it, you know, we realize that actually a nice maker, but in, in the, you know, in the Mandalorian. So it's an actual, it's an ice cream maker anyway, sorry. I can kick out of that fact sheet. So anyway, I'm, I'm rambling, please continue.
Autumn (15m 3s):
Oh, well that's okay. That's why it's so interesting. And it actually, that's a really good point. So if you were thinking that, you know, this is something that you just really, it's got to be something that's on your bucket list, so you're going to go for it. Should you think, as a writer a about the scope and scale of your story, that if you do want it to have it, do you know, pitch it to have it turned into a movie or a series like Epic FANTASY like we were saying, and even science fiction, these have a lot of elements and Magic, this is a CGI effects. I do you want to try to minimize that? Would it make any difference? You know, as somebody who could look at it and say, Oh, do you know what? We can come up with this and keep the budget low, or you're looking at the 20 dragons and all this other stuff.
Autumn (15m 43s):
And you're like, Oh no, no, no.
Stephen (15m 44s):
So like, that's probably going to be about $20 million per Episode. I don't think it's, I don't think it's necessary. I don't think it's necessary to do either. What I do think is that your, your vision of your story's your story, but it's something on a printed page. Books are written very differently than screenplays. The screenplays are always about showing, not telling and books. You can have a lot of background, a lot of dialogue, a lot of you, you can even, you know, you can have a narration, you can have a, you know, an over arching Narrator or if you're, you were doing it in first person voice.
Stephen (16m 24s):
But I, I thought process is the same. If you were going to write something like that, right. At the way you want it, but also with an eye towards what the visuals would be. And then with regards to the scope, I think the scope has unlimited books, but I think its important for you to understand if you truly want to turn this into a television series or a movie that the vision that you have in your book is going to be radically different or very different than what you would normally expect to see on screen simply because of budgets in that type of things. So in other words, they always say, don't be afraid to kill your children. And I believe as a child in screenwriting and basically applies as well in the sense that if you've got this really awesome, you know, ethics seen with, you know, 30 Dragon's and you know, when a guy and his sor and a guy and the sword and you know, in whenever you have going on, chances are good.
Stephen (17m 19s):
That will probably be cut down. The funny thing about filmmaking vs Writing is, is that with limitations, as you have a much more, you have an opportunity to create story based on those limitations. And sometimes that's much more fun if you, if you're limited and you say, Hey, I want to shoot a dragon. You know, I'm going to show you the dragon blowing up a wall and they're like, well, you can't really do that. How do you tell the story with the characters without that element? In other words, that's a set piece, but that's not character. So how do you do that? One of the things I think they did really well and game of Thrones, a for the most part was they created the dragons as characters, but really the reason that they're sold that way, it's because they are a M, they are an extension of denarius target, Ariens personality, right?
Stephen (18m 11s):
So in other words, they're not really dragons they're, they're not pets, they're on their own thing, but they're really based on her personality and specifically on Emilia Clarke's acting as to how she treats them. And you know, what a good rule of thumb is of that is if you just go back to literally star Wars and I'm the empire strikes back. And one of the things that, you know, Hilda doesn't work and less Mark Hamill is a really good actor because he was basically acting like it with a puppet. And you don't believe that he was alive until Mark Hamill, as the actor gives you permission to believe that he is. So if you actually watch those scenes, you could see that he's acting opposite a puppet.
Stephen (18m 55s):
And even though a Frank Oz is amazing, it is still a puppet, you know? And so its one of those things where you have to, if you're thinking things from a filmmaking standpoint, you have to visually understand that if you create an or correct character or whatever it is, even if that character is even if that character is a relatively minor, there is still an extension of the skillset of the person who is acting opposite of them. If that makes sense.
Autumn (19m 22s):
Oh, that makes sense. And it it's one of those, you know, it was the combination of the script and the actor and eventually the CGI effects and it's all of these things together that really make it come alive. And that's, what's kind of cool and this is what I like that. But even about Writing, it's not just the Author is how the reader take the author's words and creates their own story in their mind. And it's the combination of the two that creates the Magic. So it's the same thing with Hollywood but a little bit different. And you were talking though about, you know, the Writing so is it something like that? Would you have a screenplay at hand or can you just have a book and should it be a best selling book or can you just have so much faith in yourself that you decided you're going to pitch it and I guess maybe write the screenplay.
Autumn (20m 7s):
I mean, do you need to do those things?
Stephen (20m 9s):
So I guess the answer is yes, there are, there really is. No, there is no cut and dried sort of method. My thought process is, is if you have a book and you want to, you know, sell it as a film or as a film, et cetera, et cetera, that you create a really excellent treatment. So in other words, when you write your book, write that first of all right, an amazing book, know your craft. There's a lot of people who say that they are writers and they are not, I'm a children's picture book writer. And everybody thinks that, you know, grandma's in their basement, crime goes out everyday, but the bottom line is there actually our rules and ways that are written, you have to understand the rules publishing specifically if you wanted it on paper and the word count on with all of that.
Stephen (20m 58s):
So there's just the, the rules. And then there is the actual writing of Story. So Writing in my case, Writing a picture book. Doesn't really writing a book. Writing a picture book, his understanding what the pictures are on your mind and understanding what the layout of the book is. And then also creating M language and sealing that, that equates to what you were trying to do, but also understanding who your audience. So I don't. So writing a picture book was a little different, but know your craft. I mean, I've written, I don't read a lot of, I can't remember how many books that I've read from the main screen, the screen Turner or award thing. Right? The first chapter is that I want to say over a a hundred books, which I didn't realize that that's what I was signing up for it at the top of the weekend of it was due.
Stephen (21m 44s):
I was like, Oh, I have to read all of this stuff. And I'm, I can tell what's in the first paragraph with it or not, I'm going to read the rest of it. And I had to be pretty draconian a about basically going, I don't have time to read all of this stuff, M it, if you didn't grab me and the first paragraph, and I'm not going to read you a first chapter and if I'm not gonna read your first chapter, that I'm not going to read your book, so know your craft and it has to be very loving and very exacting and it is not an easy thing to do for a writer. And so I get it. I understand that. And having written books, I understand how it difficult to do, but again, like I said, don't be afraid to kill your children because it really is not just about unfortunately, the entire book on premise it's, it's about, it can be about just a couple of words and you can agonize over a couple or three words or one sentence or the structure of the character for days.
Stephen (22m 37s):
And it could change as you continued write the book. So, but my advice for people who don't necessarily read scripts, because it's a bit of a different Writing muscle for me, first of all, is something very important to do if you want to do so, but it's a a, but to definitely have a treatment because you know, because I need a synopsis. So if you were going to hand this to me and I have 10 minutes to look at it, what do you want me to know? And it's not going to be that I have. And I don't know in 10 minutes, I'm not going to read you a 300 page book. I just don't have the time. You know, so a good, you know, these are the types of characters. This is the world. This is a, what I'm trying to do with this or something along the, the line of the eye of, of where you see it going.
Stephen (23m 22s):
So whether or not you have a big world, one book, or whether you see it as a series of 5,000, allow the person who's reading the work. Hopefully if they're actually good to see where your world can go, because sometimes your world will be going completely different directions. And if you would never, M never think of that. Someone could take out that someone could take it or they could say, I just don't get it. You know, or how is this any different from X or whatever. And you need to be able to answer those questions. You don't necessarily need to put writing a treatment as helpful. WRITING an excellent logline. A logline is simply one or two sentences that literally tells me everything I need to know about the book that makes me want to read more M.
Stephen (24m 6s):
So if you could summarize your work in two sentences and make somebody want to read it, that's a pretty good start,
Autumn (24m 13s):
But would it be an excellent if we could do that, it would be probably all selling and tons of books. So it's telling you we should work on no matter what. It's good to have it.
Stephen (24m 21s):
And that's what I'm currently doing for page sugar. So I'd get to get the pitch by several people tomorrow, you know, in my next webinars. So anyways, so that the first thing that I've taught in the first session was how to write a good logline. And again, you can write a lot. You can look that up on the net, it's not, this is confidential information, but thinking of it, actually sit down and do it. And then my other pieces of advice, if you truly want to write screenplays, and you're not certain about condensing, your book is find your favorite TV show, break it down, which is basically list out, you know, list your favorite episode and listen to it, you know, the best the scene and what's going on in the scenes and then write your favorites, right? A spec script of your favorite TV show.
Stephen (25m 2s):
And that will be very difficult very quickly when you realize how difficult that is. If you define a script to have it online, you can see how, how shows are broken down, learning the story. Again, it's learning in your class. So they're learning the structure. Is it a three act structure? If it's a sit-com it's normally it's normally three X, but it's two, two story lines, a and B storyline in our long it's a, B and C storylines. Or for that matter, if you wanted to write a screenplay M then go rewrite a screenplay, you know, go rewrite the godfather. So you see how it was broken down. We really do your research. You know, books are about research.
Stephen (25m 43s):
So you have to study your craft and you don't necessarily need to go to film school to do it, but there are writing is writing and it's, it's not, but that's very helpful for you to get into the mindset of what people are looking for from a script standpoint.
Autumn (26m 1s):
Yeah, I am sure it is a, it would really help you. If you want to do this, it would probably give you that edge of knowing, you know, what, how to do the writing and what has historically been done and how you put that into production and sort of the way you've immersed yourself into it all these years, you know, so much more that, you know, the things that you've probably forgotten or more than most people are just trying to get into those even realized. So yeah,
Stephen (26m 25s):
Sure. Yes. Well just, just, just writing your book has only the first step. I'd hate to tell you. I wish I wish there wasn't, but basically the writing your book is literally step number one of about, you know, I, and I don't try to discourage anybody, but the farther along you can get yourself before you get in front of somebody to pitch or get that brake, you know, that you have been waiting for for however long and in whatever form will put you so much farther ahead than just someone who's like, I wrote a great book. You should read it. I dunno why its not a TV show. It's like, well with an attitude like that, I'm immediately going to tell you, you know,
Autumn (27m 3s):
It just makes sense. Yeah, no it's appreciating that it is a lot of hard work and putting that effort in so that your you're also ready for that success when it comes, you know, I always think it helps to have a few books on your belt and maybe a platform built before you do hit that stratosphere because then you're going to have more to support you. And you're not going to be maybe a one shot wonder or something. I'd rather have this as a long-term career. Yeah, well I,
Stephen (27m 30s):
So we worked with a, a group briefly that they had created, speaking of FANTASY they had created a podcast and they are on Patrion. And I can't, to be honest with you, I can't remember the name that's just a couple of years ago, but they, I had a friend of mine who was a big fan of their podcast. It was pretty popular on from patriarchy standpoints M and it was a tee, it was basically a Dungeons and dragons, but it was, they had created some very, very good characters within the world of Dungeons and dragons and Dungeons and dragons is a different ball game because it's, it's really more of an over-arching sing. It's not necessarily like, Oh, you have to get the rights to Dungeons and dragons.
Stephen (28m 10s):
However, I would double check that, but basically works exist, et cetera, et cetera, in other words. But I think they have a whole storyline and they would do these three hour podcasts. And so they were, you know, and then they were for a couple of years, so they had a ton of material and I'm like, okay, well this is really great. But the first thing we need to do is figure out, you know, who the characters are in their world. And also I need some, I can't do three years' worth of podcasts in a movie. We need to come up with a storyline, et cetera, et cetera. But the thing that it was interesting, then it fell apart was that each of the people who contributed, so there were like four or five of them, they were doing this just kind of for fun. But then when something like this actually came along and there was some interest suddenly they were all in fighting with each other about who will watch, who owned, you know, which character who had created sort of the overarching world, et cetera, et cetera, at which point, if you're going to go to anybody in the industry, they're going to want you to have that button down because I'm not, its not my job to figure out, you know, between the five of you who owns the rights to all of this stuff.
Stephen (29m 14s):
And so they ended up in fighting and I don't even think they do the podcast anymore. So, you know, so its one of those things where its like, Oh, you actually have the opportunity. You are not prepared for the opportunity. So, you know, and so again, it's like you said, it's not just a matter of being a good writer. It's also understanding all, everything that goes into when the opportunity comes, are you actually prepared for it? Whether it be success are whether it be more of hard work are whether it, some Schmidt are like me basically saying this is really great, but you know, can we change this order to a fluffy rabbet and then, you know, New York is supposed to be a fluffy rabbit or maybe you'd go, no, it's not a floppy rabbit. It's an ORC and its which, and in which case we move on to the next executive.
Stephen (29m 56s):
Autumn (29m 59s):
Well that sounds exciting. And the one thing that it caught my attention to is you had mentioned before that the movie studios seem to be, I mean, it definitely seems like there are just doing remakes of a well-written avatar two and it was the whole Marvel series. Everything's sort of stuff that has been tried and true and they know it's going to be worth the budget. So do you think if you right in something that's more cutting edge, would that then push you to look more at Netflix or HBO? Or do you think you could try to sell that to movies or do you think most of them in the authors are better looking at like the TV series?
Stephen (30m 35s):
I'm you know what I am, I'm a big fan of TV series, mainly because I think that there's more room for Story, you know, the, the, my biggest concern about the films right now, although I actually just heard a very interesting story on NPR yesterday because of COVID right now, blockbusters are dead. M mainly because they can, they currently can't be maid and they really need a massive, a, you know, a box office presence. So in order to make their money back or to make the money and so on, and that was in the case for a week, that's been in case for a while, but now even more so in a time of COVID and they just pulled the latest James Bond movie in there pushing it until the next year because people can't get into theaters.
Stephen (31m 20s):
And so, and they are literally they're the largest state or change in the world is now a closing down all of their theaters until the next year with a few exceptions So so one thing about TV that's great right now you can make films for TV But content right now with regards to large block, that gesture while they were preparing for the end have COVID and the resumption of production. Stuff's starting to go towards smaller fare now towards indie fair, but something that you can actually stick on a Netflix, et cetera, et cetera. And with regards to actually Pitching to Netflix, M, it's kind of a mixed bag or a Netflix is an interesting organization and like all streaming services.
Stephen (32m 1s):
They've got a lot of the competition, but Netflix is a model is to actually cancel series after two or three seasons maximum, unless it's a massively popular. And they do that for a couple of reasons. Number one, it's about cost. So in the industry, when something starts becoming a successful, the people that are attached to it, the actors, et cetera, et cetera, start getting paid more money. The second thing is is, and so once it starts becoming successful, a cost of production goes up. The second thing is, is the Netflix likes to keep it fresh. So I'm actually looking at my neck's Netflix, Paige, right? I don't have time to do much of anything, let alone constantly be on their flip side, which I, I wish I did.
Stephen (32m 46s):
And you know, but they're, they are, they're interested in refreshing their content over and over. And also if you have something that's a lie, you get it on Netflix, that it doesn't necessarily mean immediate success in the sense that sometimes it's either too niche or your not getting enough viewers is based on what their algorithm is. So and nobody knows what their algorithm is, because if you knew that they'd had to kill you, they don't, you know, but they were successful shows and there was one show. I want to say it in Norway, M that figured out that you have social media channels and that type of thing at believe it was a Fantasy show I believe is about Vikings or something where they cracked kind of the Netflix algorithm to get enough people to watch it and enough sort of buzz around social media and stuff, where they managed to get a cup of our seasons out of that, as opposed to a Netflix was going to cancel it after one season.
Stephen (33m 41s):
So there's a lot of different things to do it. So Hey, go for the Netflix thing if you can. But I wouldn't, I wouldn't call it a Netflix. The panacea have, Oh my God. If I get it on Netflix, I have arrived because I think that there are other ways there's other platforms, but also you are most likely not, not going to be able to pitch directly to Netflix anyways, because they are very, because everybody wants to be, you know, so
Autumn (34m 6s):
Yes. And this is something that, you know, Author is, this is something like when you do book publishing, you need an agent and you do this and that. Or is that something that literally, if you're a single person and you're just determined to take this route and do the work and learn the stuff you can do it on your own or do you, or is it really helpful to go get an agent and let them do the hard work?
Stephen (34m 26s):
Sure. So again, the disappointing answer, unfortunately to everybody is yes to both of them. So I think that, that, you know, I have, I have an agent right now that's specifically for children's media. And I know these people that I do a lot of corporate work for Mattel toys. So I, so I know these people and work in these areas and they, you know, I just had a bit of a disappointment with the Magic poop because just of timing. And so they, they are very much in my corner or in a very small agency, a And, but they're still, you know, pushing me, but still I had to do a ton of work on my own so much so that I, I just signed another, another first look, deal with another woman.
Stephen (35m 13s):
Who's a producer who might be more likely to get it off, to get it going I'm. And I also have a, of all people Quiana, Reed's a sister looking at it. So she has her own production company. So it's still a matter of yeah, but I'm S I, myself personally, am still planning the payment that doesn't make any, any more special than in any of your listeners. It just makes me as someone who is pounded the pavement. So I think with regards to the agents, you are going to find that, and then I had friends who are in the award winning screenwriters, who have agents who, who can get their agent to call them back. So I think having an, having an agent is up to me, its almost like a M it's almost like saying, you know, I have a cool, you know, I have a magic post in my closet, which is, it gives you more street cred, but ultimately doing it on your own isn't it is, is mainly what you are going to do anyways.
Stephen (36m 7s):
And if you're talking about traditional publishing even more so traditional publishers are really, it's really difficult to break in traditional publishing wise. And so I think if you can get an agent as a self published person, that's fantastic, but you are also going to need to do a lot of the legwork yourself. I'm if you can get one great 'cause it's always great to have contacts, but my thought process is also think of non traditional avenues towards getting to work out their so for example, in my book, the Magic Poof is it that a little African American girl with, with, with Magic Hare a and I spent a lot of time going to African-American hair shows.
Stephen (36m 51s):
I am not African-American or do I have African American here? Although you probably have more knowledge about it than most people who actually are African-American at this point. But yeah, I was the only male a and the only I'm a Caucasian person at African-American hair shows for several years and people would come up to me and go, why the hell are you here? And I would say, you know, and it's only after they see the work that they doc got it, but that was a non traditional way of getting my work out there. That would That I don't see that most people wouldn't do. So if you have something that's got some sort of twist or if you have something that its difficult with FANTASY in general, depending on what you're, but there are non-traditional ways of getting your stuff out there, you know, and some people have on the pavement is some people go to Comicon and literally just be standing outside and they were handing out condoms.
Stephen (37m 44s):
There are handing out comic books to people, you know, or, or that type of thing. 'cause you just don't know if you don't know who you are going to meet, but also you don't know how you are going to create a fandom on it. It really is up to you to create your own fandom, even though there are other ways, you know, there's agent's and that type of thing. Yeah.
Autumn (38m 4s):
I think one of the most honest posts, internet of things I'd ever read on, even marketing was like, what I did was I wrote down 10 ideas at every day and I would try them, I'd cross them off. And eventually one of them worked and that's how I got to where I am today. And I'm like, yeah. And that's pretty much sums up how it really does work is not follow these exact steps and they will work for you. It is come up with a crap load of them. And one of them will eventually work for you.
Stephen (38m 32s):
There is, there is absolutely no spoon there, there really isn't there to go to the matrix. There is a, there's a lot of steps you can take. And there are things you can do to better prepare yourself for success or to create more success. But at the same time, there is a, it's a lot of trial and error based on exactly, you know, exactly what you're creating. And if you truly love what you're creating and your doing it for you, then none of that stuff will make a difference. And ultimately, ultimately it'll find its audience one way or another, depending on what you do. And it, and it's also cyclical with regards to trans in the industry. I mean, for the longest time, you know, back, I don't know how many years now I'm probably dating myself, but whenever Twilight was popular, which of course, you know, trust me, I saw it the first movie a try, right.
Stephen (39m 23s):
And I'm not a huge fan of it, but I know it, it was a huge thing. And then if you notice in Hollywood after Twilight happened, you got about 30 vampire spin-offs, you know, mostly in the young adult space in between space, but you know, but now vampires are dead, but now she's coming out with a new thing and I get the feeling of vampires. So we'll be on it again, you know? So it's just a, it's a knowing the industry and knowing where things are going right now, people have been looking for the next game of Thrones for like, since game of Thrones ended, you know, and you have something like the Witcher, which is on Netflix M and then that you have weird sort of hybrid things like stranger things and, and sort of everything in between, but you also have something called that's called Enola homes, which is basically a take on Sherlock Holmes with yeah.
Stephen (40m 15s):
Which is, which is very sweet. And, but it's also, but it's also, as you're still taking a genre, you know, you're taking Sherlock Holmes, which has been around since the 18 hundreds and your, your putting in a new twist on it. It, you know, and so that there's all these different ways of doing. It just depends on what you're writing my thought process because I'm happy, you know, because I enjoy a diversity in that type of thing is tell me how your story is different from everything else, while at the same time, how I can relate to it based on, you know, stuff that I like, you know? And so that's how the world or character is.
Stephen (40m 57s):
Right, right, right. Exactly. If you have another take on star Trek, M, that's cool, but that's, you are not going to get that nailed at the moment. 'cause they just canceled all of the movies. So, you know, if they're there, they're going back to the television show. So it's, it's, it's a, it's a line, it's a, it's a line, it's a M, but it's a fun one because if you really into genre M and there are certain genres that you really like and cross over and that type of thing, there is definitely a market for its just a question of, you know, what it is and where and where you want to take it.
Autumn (41m 29s):
Oh, that sounds really cool. So just out of curiosity, is there like the small vanity publishers that are, you know, pay us a whole bunch of money and will go and will, will produce your books for you? I mean, do you publishing do any of these publishers and do they ever, or a production companies come in and actually approach other people? I mean, if someone did that to you run screaming for instance, just out there yet.
Stephen (41m 56s):
I think that, so there's a lot of companies that offer that I had self published through a company called ex Libras, which is actually an imprint of penguin publishing and they're actually, we are taught by a penguin. I did that whole rout. So I'll, I'll be the first ones to say that I have spent more than my own fair share of my own money on those things. I, I don't see a lot of value in them because 95% of the time they'll blow a lot of, I mean, I attended a conference about that and say, Oh, you're gonna make your shoulder into a movie. And this was before I even knew everything that I knew, I et cetera, et cetera. And I made some good contacts, but I wouldn't say, I would say I spent a lot of money and there's a lot of people there who just, frankly, shouldn't be there in the sense that people that are writers or whatever.
Stephen (42m 43s):
It's two who aren't necessarily professionals who are trying to, who are trying to get into the dream if you will, without understanding the process. So I'm, I'm not completely against doing that, but I think if you're going to spend the money on something like that, like a conference or something like that, I absolutely think pitch fests are great. Not necessarily because you're gonna get picked up tomorrow, but because it gives you the experience of what Pitching actually is. And also you'll be amazed at the people you meet out there who have similar stories to yours, or you'll get inspired by, you know, somebody else's book or whatever. And so I think, you know, getting picked up at a pitch Fest is probably much less likely than they would want you to believe, but I would encourage people to do with not necessarily For to, to make that happen, but more along the lines have to meet people to network because networking is key and to grow and to understand the process because I can talk about Pitching all day, but until you are actually sitting in front of somebody who literally here is 30 pinches a day, or how were they catch you before lunch M and his trying to do all of the different things.
Stephen (43m 59s):
It it's a nerve racking thing and you need that. You need, you know, you, you need to understand that you have my attention for approximately 30 seconds, even though I told you it's three minutes. So if you can pitch me in 30 seconds or more likely, and about 10 that are actually willing to listen to everything else, you have to say, that's a really good skillset because it also helps you with writing, right?
Autumn (44m 23s):
No, I think, you know, it's, it's literally getting involved in a meshed and immersed in it and honing your skill and that's so important. And you're also making me feel good that I got you to come on the podcast. So you never know when you send that email. So I am, so I appreciate it. Oh, and before we go, we've been doing this for awhile, but I love, like I mentioned, I really into diversity, I think FANTASY is, is always had these trends of embracing diversity. I mean, for a while we were what Conan the barbarian. But since then in modern day it's FANTASY is beautiful. And I, like I mentioned, I love the pictures on your website, the magic Poof and I mean, I read that how you came up with that.
Autumn (45m 5s):
We were working on our loved ones hair and it came up with this idea that this magic hair and all of the things a little heroin gets into it's just so much fun. So do you think that's, that is a strong trend of Fantasy. Is that one of the brilliant things about it? And do you think I'm, I know there was a current chin of like appropriation. Do you ever worry that someone is going to come up to you and say, well, why did you write this? But it sounds like you didn't have that experience and you have a good answer.
Stephen (45m 31s):
Yeah. I think, I think it's always a, so my thing has always been, I am very aware of the eye, the need for diversity in character, but also then need to understand other people's stories. My thing is, is that as someone who's sort of a, you know, I'm, I'm from Phoenix, Arizona, and I'm kind of a traditional white guy, but I'm really not a traditional white guy. My, you know, my grandmother is from Mexico. So we used to have, to my ways that, you know, we used to have tamales at Christmas. So, you know, everyone else has a hand, we had tamales, then it was just kind of like, this is really make that much difference to me, but in Phoenix for the most part, and up until now, when I was little kid who was pretty, you know, pretty, pretty light.
Stephen (46m 15s):
My thing is is that if you're going to write diversity and your not necessarily considered my thing is is that everybody is different. Right? So, but the theme of my books is everybody feels different. So regardless, so I've always felt different because I'm a, I'm not a very large person. I'm kind of a, you know, I'm not, I'm not an athlete. I'm kind of a short, skinny geeky dude, you know? And so, you know, so its one of those things where I always felt different in my own skin and for many different reasons. And so I came at it from that standpoint because I can't talk about your experience as an African-American person growing up in an inner city, city, Detroit, because it's not my experience if you want to write about somebody like that.
Stephen (47m 1s):
But my suggestion is that you actually talk to somebody, talk to somebody about that. But what I would say about diversity is first of all, fantasy and sci-fi, I have always been, you know, great vehicles for telling diverse stories that are a wink and a nod to, you know, current cultural issues. You know, I mean you can go back to, you know, episodes of, again, I'm dating myself, but star Trek the next generation where they are literally talking about same-sex, you know, but there are not talking about same sex marriage, you know, it's an Episode. So I think its a little bit more blatant now and there's a lot of opportunity for Story, but my suggestion is, is include diversity.
Stephen (47m 44s):
But don't assume that you tell it from the perspective of, this is a, a character who is African-American, but they are African, but they're not a token African-American person or your trying to pretend like you grew up in the inner city of Chicago because you didn't M there there's everybody has all characters have there's there's a much deeper thing going on with, with human beings, especially in the current time of COVID that affects everybody and it may affect everybody differently, but there is still a universal of human truths that make sense, two people that come out and characters.
Stephen (48m 26s):
And then you overlay on top of that, the sort of diversity angle, if you will, or the idea that we also need to take into account these people's backgrounds. So if I were going to write a show about it, I actually do have a script about it's called the X, the X expatriate. And it's about, well, that's really not. And these current times it's probably not that on timely, but basically someone who is born in the United States, who then it gets based on new laws gets repatriated to Brazil. And so it was a Brazilian, an American repatriated to a place he has never known. So again, it's just a, its a fish out of water story. But at the same time, there was a very real aspect of sending somebody two completely different culture and then not knowing it, even though the color of their skin dictates that they're part of a culture.
Stephen (49m 13s):
So I think if you are going to do that type of thing, do your research partner up with people who have more background and information on it than you do, but also make it much more in-depth than I am. Some, you know, w whatever their background is is like John was, you know, it was actually raised on a Lakota, an Indian reservation, you know, and it's like, that's a really nice surface piece, but I don't really like, how does that affect John's overall view of the world? And that's what I'm interested in. It, I'm not interested in just the fact that we've laid on a background as a character and the assumption that the audience, then it goes, Oh, well, if he was raised on to a coded reservation than an, obviously he must be some sort of spiritual Sean and tight because he was raised with Eric and, you know, with native Americans, it's like, no, I want to see if you're going to, if you're going to do a diversity, which I think is totally needed, then do it in a way that transcends just surface level cultural norms or stereotypes or stereotypes,
Autumn (50m 16s):
The native American, always a wise Sharman is, you know, it's been done. We can move a line.
Stephen (50m 21s):
Yeah. Right, exactly. So in other words, in my, you know, in my book series and Magic group, for example, if the little girl me to learn, and it's not that she, she feels different because she's got Magic hair, but she also feels different because of like somewhat of a bitch because of the color of her skin. But mainly it's because she feels different because of who she is. And so, as I can speak to the color of her skin, based on that, I can make reference to it in a way that is helpful for people to understand, but really the, the, the element is about being feeling different. And I can feel that way. 'cause because as you know, I can understand Boeing because I was bullied when I was little, I can understand feeling different because I felt different when I was little, you know, and that type of thing.
Stephen (51m 5s):
Does that make sense?
Autumn (51m 7s):
No, it does. I love that because it brought up that idea of the iceberg. I mean, what people see on the surface, especially, I feel, I think we can still have lunch together, but yeah, it was just what people see when they look at me. I always find so hilarious because it's not who I internally see myself or all the depths of me is that iceberg tip people see that little iceberg and they are thinking, this is what you are. And for me, I think a lot of people who love the fantasy and sci-fi genre, it's not even close. It's just the surface.
Stephen (51m 36s):
Right. And then in my thought process is also, again, if people are going to be writing about diversity, then you have to either partner up with, with those that are diverse or, you know, do your research in a way. I was very careful, you know, you mentioned cultural appropriation.
Autumn (51m 52s):
No, no. I love to read. I went to the shows. Yeah.
Stephen (51m 55s):
Yeah. I mean, I it's like I, you know, I didn't just sort of sit around and go, I think I'm going to write it a little bit. That a little African-American girl I wrote, I did that. And then I M, you know, I know one of the leaders of black lives matter and, you know, set a date with academics and, you know, and it's that doesn't make me, you know, that doesn't make me a hero of, you know, African American people by any stretch of the imagination. But the point was, was simply for me to understand, you know, I, I learned so much about culture and that I didn't necessarily know based on my own background. And it was important to know that because when that question gets thrown to you, you have an answer as opposed to, Oh, well, I'd just put it in a, you know, whatever an African-American character or an Asian character, or, you know, or whatever.
Stephen (52m 42s):
It's a great read, a manga comic. That's a really, really cool, but if you're not in Japanese and your not full time, and you're not fully versed in the culture, then you should probably talk to some people and get an understanding as to why manga is so important in Japanese culture. And there was a reason why it's important in Japanese culture. Japanese culture is traditionally a much more, you know, much more stayed and less public with their emotions. Manga is a way for people to express their emotions in a way they wouldn't normally do it in a society that is considered a much more buttoned up if you will. And that's changing now with, with generations. But, you know, if you look at some manga stuff like that, some of that stuff is pretty intense, you know, and there is.
Stephen (53m 25s):
So it's a very immersing yourself and the culture of what you're writing and employing allies in that culture, I think is critical if you, if you want to hit the diversity angle, but also there's diversity in whatever it is in your own background. You know? So again, like I said, my paternal grandmother is from Mexico. We didn't really discuss it that much. It wasn't really that big of a thing, but it's like having tamales at Christmas. And, you know, my dad's trying to teach me Spanish when we were little and me going, I don't understand what I need to know Spanish, you know? And it's like, you know, unfortunately I don't know it, but it just really, you know, finding the diversity in your own culture or speaks to in your own background, it doesn't even have to be cultural is, is a thread that weaves through any story that works for everybody, not just for, you know, one specific person it's about the story and the characters and less ed D the cultural influences are an overlay to your people, you know, in your stories
Autumn (54m 24s):
That, that makes total sense. I love it. It's a very beautiful, and it does make sense. I mean, we should all have, at least if it's not authentic, that it's who we are. And then it's at least authentic two that we did the, we did the that's a street cred. We went and did the research. We talk to the Real people. We had them look at it and we weren't trying to hide it, or our staff and, you know, Barry at somewhere.
Stephen (54m 46s):
Sure, exactly. I mean, so I mean, a good example would be someone like if there was a person who was close to Martin Luther King jr. Who was white and, you know, wrote a screenplay or a book or something, well, more than like, even though they were wired, if they were travelling around with Martin Luther King jr. And actually new the guy, I will be much more likely to read their script as opposed to someone who is like an African-American person who was like, Oh, I've wrote a story about that Martin Luther King jr. It's like, well, but this guy has more, you know, this person actually knew him. You know, like I want to have a person is, so this person, in my opinion is more experienced. Now he might hit up somebody who is an executive, or it would be like, ah, because there's backlash, of course.
Stephen (55m 29s):
And you have to be mindful of it without being negative about it, but you have to be mindful of it, that there can be a backlash. And it's like, but you know, I don't, I don't know. Am I the only person who can write a story about short, skinny, white guys? Probably not, but I bet you that there was an African-American guy who was a short, skinny African American guy who was a nerd who grew up in a completely different city who is more like me than, you know, half the people that I grew up with it, if that makes sense. Yeah.
Autumn (55m 53s):
Can I get the eye do get that? That is awesome. Well, thank you. I didn't want to keep you forever. I know you're a busy guy, so I will wrap this up in just say, thank you so much for your time. It was, it was, especially for me that it's coming. I was like maybe one show up at night. I am not a big movie buff either though. A lot of the ones you mentioned, I'm like, Oh yeah, I do watch that one. So it was really interesting to hear that this is, you know, how you'd go about starting to do this. And I would know if I went down this route, I would have so much work to do, but that's okay at at least I would in knowledgeable on the other side and having done all the work, that means you are actually meant to be doing it. Otherwise it, you know, it's a labor of love.
Autumn (56m 34s):
Let's put it that way as well. I look forward to hearing that, you know, the Magic Poof has made it into its animated series or whatever, or however it comes out and we'll do the other projects that we're working on. I think it sounds fascinating. And I definitely think the world needs the voice that you've created. So thank you. And thank you again for your time today. Thanks so much. I do very much appreciate it. So next week, yes, we are. We back and we're going to be talking about finding an author of voice and what it is.
Narrator (57m 12s):
If you like, what you just heard, there is a few things you can do to support The Am Writing Fantasy Podcast please tell a fellow Author about the show and visit us at Apple podcast and leave a rating and review. You can also join Autumn in Jasper on patrion.com/am Writing Fantasy for as little as a dollar a month. You'll get awesome rewards and keep The Am Writing Fantasy Podcast going to stay safe out there and see you next Monday.