This is the next post in a series of interviews with writers who have had their first films, web series, television assignment, etc. make it to the big or small or computer screen. It is an effort to find out what their journey was to their initial success.
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Next up: an interview with writer, producer, actor Jim Thalman, writer of The Secret of the Rose
Jim Thalman grew up in the neighborhood where they shot On the Waterfront, the famed Kazan, Brando film that forever changed the scape of filmmaking. His god parents actually met on the set: the deal was Uncle John would get the girls (my mom and aunt) close to Brando if Aunt Joan would go out on a date with him. Thalman’s Uncle kept his end of the deal; his Aunt kept hers; and the rest is history, or at least family. So needless to say Brando was always a topic of conversation. Thalman’s mother, an avid theater lover, introduced him to the NYC theatre scene at a very young age, but not the Broadway scene nearly as much as the avant-garde movement happening downtown on East 4th St. in the heart of the Bowery. Venues like La Mama were etched into his world with these really tough, no nonsense guys and sleek, sexy girls who were just as tough.
Thalman has gone on to make a living in the realm of stage and indie film, traveling from major cities, and small towns around America, working with geniuses and idiots, conversing with princes and paupers, loving life and kissing a few of those sleek, sexy girls along the way. He resides in NYC where he sits on the Board of Directors for HExTC; A Multimedia Company and has a residency on East 4th St., two doors down from La Mama.
- What is the name of your first screenplay that was produced?
The first film that I had produced was “Roma Sub Rosa: The Secret Under the Rose”, ultimately when the film was released it was just “The Secret Under The Rose”
- Can you tell us a bit about the journey as to how it came about?
The film came about due to an existing relationship with Cobblestone Studios with whom I had done two other pictures. There was a gap in their production schedule and we began spitballing the thought of putting together a small character driven film that we could produce with relative ease, i.e. minimal locations, putting the money up on screen, calling in a lot of favors, etc. This I cannot stress enough for a writer that wants to get produced: “The Unities” of classical literature is a perfect format to follow for small budget films:
- unity of action: a play (Screenplay) should have one action that it follows, with minimal subplots.
- unity of time: the action in a play (Screenplay) should occur over a period of no more than 24 hours (you can stretch that out to a few days to a few weeks).
- unity of place: a play (screenplay) should exist in a single physical space and should not attempt to compress geography, nor should the stage represent more than one place (with film, you can add additional locations but keep them to a minimum because with each company move you skyrocket your budget).
- Tell me a little bit about the experience of having the project come to completion
The writing, though certainly THE MOST IMPORTANT aspect, is such a very small part of the process. If you break it down into production segments: you have development, pre-production, principal photography, post production (picture edit, sound edit) score, then the festival circuit, then trying to sell the damn thing. At best, it’s an 18 month journey, thrilling all the way through for sure, but taxing on your body and soul.
- What was the hardest obstacle to overcome in achieving that first project?
Getting the damn money lined up. We had an investor pull out literally 11 days before lensing was set to begin and if that money fell through, then everything else would’ve fallen to pieces. It was a nervous breakdown to say the least, but at the end of the day– cajoling, negotiating and promising of the first born son(s) was enough to get the investor back on board.
- What have you learned about the industry when it comes to being a writer?
Relationships are THE MOST IMPORTANT thing in any position in this industry, whether you’re a writer, director, actor producer, DP, exec, etc. It’s really about building your network, your fan base and your team. They say writers should write an hour a day, every single day (should be more, but it’s a good rule). They should also spend one hour a day building a following, building relationships. Social media is great for that. I follow all sorts of writers on Twitter, and reach out to them often. Remember: one actor to champion your script is worth a thousand query letters, one producer to option your script, one director to want to shoot a sequence from it to solicit finance. Craftsmen make movies, not execs, not agents.
- What are you working on now?
Right now, I’ve taken on a position on the Board of Directors for the multi-media company HExTC, (HExTC.org). The company was originally a theater company in NYC, and is now transitioning into making films and I’m heading up that division. Our first film, a short, The Poker Lesson, just secured a distribution deal via Indieflix.com, (please check out the film, you get a month free trial via this link) http://indieflix.com/ac/M2_388131/
Our next film, which we optioned from an open submission process, 16 Minutes, written by Phil Clarke, Jr., is currently in postproduction. And simultaneously, we’re in development for the television show West of the City and will definitely need additional writers if we get the greenlight.
- What is your favorite movie or TV series?
I was a movie geek all my life, so some of my favorite movies are Jacobs Ladder, Angel Heart, The Usual Suspects, ‘Pink Floyd: The Wall. Are you sensing a theme here? But the past few years, I’m all about television, and there is so much great TV out there. To quote Kevin Spacey, it’s just a 12 hour movie. And it’s true. TV allows the writers to become much more nuanced and subtle with their work. It allows story lines and character arcs to be rich and complex and thoroughly unpredictable. Some of my favorite shows are, you guessed it: House Of Cards, The Wire, Boardwalk Empire, Game OF Thrones, The Walking Dead, Sons Of Anarchy, to name just a few, The Following, The BlackList, The Americans, Black Sails, Magic City, Peaky Blinders to name a few more.
- Where do you think the movie and television industry is heading? What do you think its future is?
I honestly believe that Television is the future. I believe the old distribution models will disappear. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, have changed the game and leveled the playing field for most producers.
New companies like Indieflix.com are the future. I’ve been working in indie film for the past decade and a half and the trend that I am now seeing is that indie television is coming to the forefront. Producers are putting together indie pilots with the same budget(s) they were shooting features with and there is a much greater chance of a deal happening because of all this content that is needed. It’s really exciting and incredible how technology has forever changed the face of the industry.
- What parting advice do you have for writers?
Spend an hour a day/five days a week/every week for the rest of your career building relationships. Build them, because that’s what will get you produced. Think about a producer you want to work with and write him/her an email, letter, a phone call every month like clockwork until they agree to read your script and don’t stop there, build the damn relationship. It may take you two years just to get through the gate keepers, but YOU WILL get through eventually and then you will be leaps and bounds ahead in terms of career.
- What do you do when you’re not writing? What do you do to get away from the industry?
I spend my weekends at flea markets and restoring vintage furniture. It’s very Zen for me to just zone out and focus on this piece of wood or metal or glass and bring it back to its original luster and beauty.
- Tell us something about yourself that many people may not know.
I’m an actor by trade, it’s how I pay the bills. I just happen to be in the production meetings for every single picture that I work on. I live through the rewrites. I work hand in hand with the writer(s). I love the workshopping process and I understand what it takes to get a movie made. I truly admire writers and their journey, and HExTC is a company that is all about development and workshopping of original scripts, getting them to the point where we can get them produced in any media, whether it be on stage, in film and quite possibly on TV, with the new relationships we’re building. We at HExTC have partnered with multiple companies both on screen and on stage out of our resident space in the historic East 4th St theatre district in NYC. We would like to encourage you to add us to your promotional blasts. We genuinely would like to know you and your work in the months and years to come. Every single season we mount a reading series where we showcase and promote a series of readings, open to the public and promoted to our partners, in hopes of getting them fully financed and produced. You can reach out via linkedIN-Jim Thalman
Follow me on Twitter @JimThalman (I will reciprocate) or email me directly at JThalman@HExTC.org
And check out the other interviews in the series:
David Au http://ow.ly/JwM0A
Dwayne Alexander Smith http://ow.ly/J8GJI
Haifaa Al-Mansour http://ow.ly/ITabq
Chad Crawford Kinkle http://ow.ly/HXLq0
Mikey Levy http://ow.ly/HA9Xm
Hilliard Guess http://ow.ly/HcOmr
Amir Ohebsion http://ow.ly/H8aPq
Donald McKinney http://ow.ly/GvPfn
Michelle Ehlen http://ow.ly/GvPr1