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Cover image of Bulletproof Screenwriting™ Podcast with Alex Ferrari

Bulletproof Screenwriting™ Podcast with Alex Ferrari

The Bulletproof Screenwriting Podcast shows you how to make your screenplays bulletproof. Weekly interviews with Oscar® and Emmy® award winning screenwriters, story specialists, best-selling authors, Hollywood agents and managers, and industry insiders. We cover every aspect of the screenwriting process. This is the screenwriting podcast for the rest of us. No fluff. No BS. Just straight talk that will help you on your screenwriting journey.Some of the past guests include 3X Oscar® Winning Writer/Director Oliver Stone, Eric Roth (Dune, Forest Gump), Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead), Richard Linklater (Boyhood, Slacker) James V. Hart (Dracula, Hook), John August (Big Fish, Aladdin), Jim Uhls ( Fight Club), Peter Rader (Waterworld), Diane Drake (What Women Want), Daniel Knauf (Carnival, Blacklist), Derek Kolstad (John Wick) and Pen Densham (Robin Hood, Backdraft) to name a few.

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The Bulletproof Screenwriting Podcast shows you how to make your screenplays bulletproof. Weekly interviews with Oscar® and Emmy® award winning screenwriters, story specialists, best-selling authors, Hollywood agents and managers, and industry insiders. We cover every aspect of the screenwriting process. This is the screenwriting podcast for the rest of us. No fluff. No BS. Just straight talk that will help you on your screenwriting journey.Some of the past guests include 3X Oscar® Winning Writer/Director Oliver Stone, Eric Roth (Dune, Forest Gump), Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead), Richard Linklater (Boyhood, Slacker) James V. Hart (Dracula, Hook), John August (Big Fish, Aladdin), Jim Uhls ( Fight Club), Peter Rader (Waterworld), Diane Drake (What Women Want), Daniel Knauf (Carnival, Blacklist), Derek Kolstad (John Wick) and Pen Densham (Robin Hood, Backdraft) to name a few.

BPS 168: Sundance 2022 - God's Country with Shaye Ogbonna

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As our Sundance Film Festival 2022 coverage we have on the show today writer Shaye Ogbonna.

When not in pursuit of retro sneakers, Shaye Ogbonna can be found worshiping at the Temple of Story. His most recent feature project is the contemporary western feature GOD’S COUNTRY — starring the incomparable Thandiwe Newton.

Based on a short story by acclaimed author James Lee Burke, God’s Country is a character-driven thriller set in the snowy wilderness of the American West. Thandiwe Newton plays Sandra Guidry, a Black professor living and working in a rural college town. She’s also grieving her recently-deceased mother, for whom she'd served as primary caretaker. On the day of the burial, Sandra discovers a mysterious red truck parked in her driveway.

She soon learns it belongs to a pair of local hunters seeking to enter the forest behind her house. Sandra turns them away politely but firmly – her experience tells her these are not the sort of men to welcome freely into her world. But they won’t take no for an answer, and soon Sandra finds herself drawn into an escalating battle of wills that puts her most deeply-held values to the test.

In the television/streaming space, Shaye is currently developing JUMPMEN -- a one-hour drama set in the cutthroat world of the sneaker industry – with Showtime. He is also staffed on Showtime’s THE CHI and JJ Abrams’s DUSTER on HBO. His feature writing debut — 2017’s genre-bending LOWLIFE — opened the 2017 Fantasia Film Festival and became a darling of the genre festival circuit, culminating in its acquisition and worldwide distribution through IFC Midnight.

Shaye’s creative mission is to center marginalized voices within genre storytelling. Enjoy my conversation with Shaye Ogbonna.

Jan 26 2022

55mins

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BPS 167: From Self-Produced Play to Hit Feature Film with John Pollono

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This week I brought on the show, playwright, screenwriter, director, and actor, John Pollono.  I wanted to go down the road a little bit about his remarkable journey in the business which expands across theatre and short films. 

John is one of the founders of the Jabberwocky Theatre Company in 2004 which became the Rogue Machine Theatre in 2008 where he produced his earlier plays. His big break came with his screenplay for the acclaimed biographical drama film, Stronger which premiered at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival.

The screenplay, based on Bauman's memoir Stronger, was number two on the Black List (most-liked "motion picture screenplays not yet produced) in 2016.

Stronger, starring multiple award-winning actors, Jake Gyllenhaal, is the inspiring real-life story of Jeff Bauman --- an ordinary man who captured the hearts of his city and the world to become a symbol of hope after surviving but losing his legs in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and must adjust to his new life.

This project came along for John right after signing with Los Angelos - based Creative Artists Agency. Producers, Alex Young and Todd Lieberman were already familiar with Pollono’s work. And they were on the hunt for something. That was when adapting Stronger became a prospect. At the time, the book was not yet published so he had a chance to review the unpublished book. 

Producer Scott Silver was looking to mentor a more junior writer for the Stronger film and fortuitously, John was a good fit having grown up 20 minutes from where the characters take place, he was the best candidate for the job. So, with a follow-up pitch, the book’s film adaptation screenplay was sold to Lionsgate.

Writing Stronger (the film) was a double success for Pollono. Not only was he mentored directly by the incredible Scott Silver and receiving writing directions about theme, structure, etc, but the project brought him some notoriety as well by topping number two on the blacklist a year before production. That script made a big enough splash for his career.

Besides Stronger, Pollono is known for writing Small Engine Repair (the play and its film adaptation), Lost Girls (2013 and 2015) Off-Broadway release, Second Of Rules (the play), Lost and Found (2006), Razorback (play, staged in 2008) and his one-act Illuminati play which won Best Play at the 2010 Network One-Act Festival in New York City.  

In his career in front of the camera, Pollono made appearances on shows like Grey’s Anatomy, recurring roles on Mob City and NBC's This Is Us TV series, and have worked professionally in entertainment Public Relations

Pollono’s love for stories and movies dates back to being a kid who was also a voracious reader -- reading every Stephen King book there is. He picked up short story writing at a pretty young age. Obviously, he had a sort of knack for storytelling and started pursuing that path and passion to become a filmmaker and has been fortunate to shadow so many directors who I really admire in the business.

He earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1994 from the University of New Hampshire and did two semesters of film school at NYU on an exchange. His experience in New York City, being surrounded by such a diverse group of artists was the biggest epiphany of his life that helped him decide his filmmaking career.

He's guest-starred in the television series, How I Met Your Mother and has had smaller acting credits on film and stage.

In 2021 he wrote and directed the black comedy-drama, Small Engine Repair which will premiere this September. The film is based on Pollono's play of the same name. I can not recommend this film enough. It is easily one of the best films I've seen in 2021. 

Events spin wildly out of control when three lifelong friends agree to do a favor on behalf of the brash young woman they all adore. It follows lifelong friends Frank (John Pollono), Swaino (Jon Bernthal), and Packie (Shea Whigham) who share a love of the Red Sox, rowdy bars, and Frank’s teenaged daughter Crystal (Bravo). But when Frank invites his pals to a whiskey-fueled evening and asks them to do a favor on behalf of the brash young woman they all adore, events spin wildly out of control in this exploration of brotherhood, class struggle, and toxic masculinity.

This interview was a pretty cool conversation and I did not hold back getting John to share all the gems of the business he’s learned and fun questions like what it’s like working with Frank Darabont and working on the new Hulk Hogan movie currently in production.

Enjoy my conversation with John Pollono.

Jan 21 2022

1hr 14mins

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BPS 166: Inside X-Men, Deadpool, Logan & The 355 with Oscar® Nominee Simon Kinberg

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Today on the show we have Oscar® and two-time Emmy® Nominee Simon Kinberg. 

He has established himself as one of Hollywood’s most prolific filmmakers, having written and produced projects for some of the most successful franchises in the modern era. His films have earned more than seven billion dollars worldwide.  

Kinberg graduated from Brown University and received his MFA from Columbia University Film School, where his thesis project was the original script, “Mr and Mrs Smith.” The film was released in 2005, starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. 

Upcoming, Kinberg will premiere his action spy film “The 355”, which will be released theatrically by Universal on January 7, 2022. Directed, co-written and produced by Kinberg, the film was one of the biggest deals out of the 2018 Cannes Film Festival and stars an ensemble of A-list actresses including Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, Penelope Cruz, Diane Kruger and Fan Bingbing. 

A dream team of formidable female stars come together in a hard-driving original approach to the globe-trotting espionage genre in The 355.

When a top-secret weapon falls into mercenary hands, wild card CIA agent Mason “Mace” Brown (Oscar®-nominated actress Jessica Chastain) will need to join forces with rival badass German agent Marie (Diane Kruger, In the Fade), former MI6 ally and cutting-edge computer specialist Khadijah (Oscar® winner Lupita Nyong’o), and skilled Colombian psychologist Graciela (Oscar® winner Penélope Cruz) on a lethal, breakneck mission to retrieve it, while also staying one-step ahead of a mysterious woman, Lin Mi Sheng (Bingbing Fan, X-Men: Days of Future Past), who is tracking their every move.

As the action rockets around the globe from the cafes of Paris to the markets of Morocco to the opulent auction houses of Shanghai, the quartet of women will forge a tenuous loyalty that could protect the world—or get them killed. The film also stars Édgar Ramirez (The Girl on the Train) and Sebastian Stan (Avengers: Endgame).

The 355 is directed by genre-defying filmmaker Simon Kinberg (writer-director-producer of Dark Phoenix, producer of Deadpool and The Martian and writer-producer of the X-Men films). The screenplay is by Theresa Rebeck (NBC’s Smash, Trouble) and Kinberg, from a story by Rebeck.

The 355, presented by Universal Pictures in association with FilmNation Entertainment, is produced by Chastain and Kelly Carmichael for Chastain’s Freckle Films and by Kinberg for his Kinberg Genre Films. The film is executive produced by Richard Hewitt (Bohemian Rhapsody), Esmond Ren (Chinese Zodiac) and Wang Rui Huan.

His original series “Invasion” premiered on Apple TV+ on October 22nd. He co-created the show with David Weil, serves as Executive Producer, and wrote or co-wrote 9 of its first 10 episodes. It is considered one of Apple’s most ambitious series to date as it was filmed on 4 different continents. The show has already been renewed for a second season, which Kinberg is show running and Executive Producing again. He is also the Executive Producer of the upcoming show “Moonfall” for Amazon. 

Also upcoming, Kinberg produced the sequel to "Murder on the Orient Express,” “Death on The Nile,” directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Annette Bening and another all-star cast.

Additionally, he is producing several projects for Netflix including “Lift” starring Kevin Hart with director F. Gary Gray, his original script "Here Comes the Flood" with Jason Bateman directing, "Endurance" with Camille Griffin directing, and “Pyros” with Reese Witherspoon starring and producing. Kinberg’s latest spec “Wayland” will also begin production next year for Lionsgate, with Michael Showalter directing, and Jessica Chastain producing alongside Kinberg 

Kinberg will also be producing “The Running Man” at Paramount Pictures to be directed by Edgar Wright, “Artemis” to be directed by Oscar winners Chris Miller and Phil Lord and based on a book by the writer of “The Martian”, the remake of “The Dirty Dozen” at Warner Brothers with David Ayer writing and directing, “Starlight” at 20th Century Studios to be written and directed by Joe Cornish, “Death Notification Agency” at Amazon based on the novel of the same name, “Karma” at Sony Pictures, “Chairman Spaceman” at Fox Searchlight, to be directed by Oscar Winner Andrew Stanton, and an Untitled Action-Romance starring Idris Elba at Apple. 

Following almost a decade’s worth of Marvel films, Kinberg will also write and produce “Battlestar Galactica” for Universal which will be his latest franchise universe. 

In 2006, he wrote “X-Men: The Last Stand,” which opened on Memorial Day to box office records and began his ongoing relationship with the franchise. In 2008, Kinberg wrote and produced Doug Liman’s film “Jumper” for 20th Century Fox. In 2009, Kinberg co-wrote the film “Sherlock Holmes” starring Robert Downey Jr, directed by Guy Ritchie. The film received a Golden Globe for Best Actor and was nominated for two Academy Awards. 

In 2010, Kinberg established his production company Genre Films, with a first look deal at 20th Century Fox. Under this banner, he produced “X-Men: First Class,” executive produced “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” and wrote and produced “This Means War.” In 2013, Kinberg produced “Elysium," which starred Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, directed by Neill Blomkamp. 

On Memorial Day of 2014, Fox released “X-Men: Days of Future Past," which Kinberg wrote and produced. The film opened number one at the box office, received critical acclaim and went on to gross more than $740 million worldwide. 

In 2015, Kinberg had four films in release. He re-teamed with Neill Blomkamp to produce “Chappie,” starring Hugh Jackman and Sharlto Copley. Kinberg produced Disney’s Academy Award-nominated film “Cinderella," starring Cate Blanchett and directed by Kenneth Branagh.

In addition, Kinberg was the co-writer and producer of “The Fantastic Four.” His final film of the year was “The Martian,” which he produced. The film, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon, grossed more than $630 million worldwide, won two Golden Globes (including Best Picture) and was nominated for seven Academy Awards (including Best Picture). 

In 2016, Kinberg produced “Deadpool,” starring Ryan Reynolds. The film broke international and domestic records for box office, including becoming the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time globally. It went on to win two Critics Choice Awards (including Best Picture - Comedy) and receive two Golden Globe nominations (including Best Picture), a WGA nomination and a PGA nomination for Best Picture. That year, Kinberg also wrote and produced “X-Men: Apocalypse.” 

In 2017, he produced “Logan,” the final installment of the Wolverine franchise with Hugh Jackman. It was selected as the closing film of the Berlin Film Festival and opened #1 at the box office. It was named one of the ten best films of the year from the National Board of Review, garnered three Critics Choice Nominations and an Academy Award Nomination.

Kinberg was also a producer on “Murder on the Orient Express,” directed by Kenneth Branagh, with Branagh starring alongside Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Daisy Ridley, Judi Dench, and others. 

In 2018, Kinberg produced “Deadpool 2,” which matched the success of the first film. It was Kinberg’s fourteenth film to open number one at the box office. 

In 2019, Kinberg made his directorial debut with “X-Men: Dark Phoenix,” which was released June 7. The film once again starred Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, with new addition Jessica Chastain. 

In television, he was the executive producer of “Designated Survivor,” starring Kiefer Sutherland on ABC and Netflix. He was also the executive producer of “Legion,” “Gifted,” and executive producer and co-creator with Jordan Peele of the remake of “The Twilight Zone” on CBS All Access.  

Kinberg has served as a consultant on “Star Wars: Episode VII” and “Rogue One," and he was the creator and executive producer of the animated show “Star Wars: Rebels” on Disney networks. 

You can also watch Simon's Screenwriting Masterclass on The Dialogue Series on Indie Film Hustle TV.

The Dialogue: Learning From the Masters is a groundbreaking interview series that goes behind the scenes of the fascinating craft of screenwriting. In these 70-90 minute in-depth discussions, more than two-dozen of today's most successful screenwriters share their work habits, methods, and inspirations, secrets of the trade, business advice, and eye-opening stories from life in the trenches of the film industry. Each screenwriter discusses his or her filmography in great detail and breaks down the mechanics of one favorite scene from their produced work.

Needless to say this is one heck of an episode. Enjoy my conversation with Simon Kinberg.

Jan 19 2022

35mins

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BONUS: Confidential - Inside the Dark World of the Hollywood Script Reader with Deepthroat

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Have you ever really wanted to know what goes on behind the scenes at Hollywood's major production companies and studios? How do new screenplays get read, approved and pass on by the script reader? What are the politics behind the scenes that make it almost impossible for a screenplay to make it through the Hollywood System?

Today on the show we have a former development executive, current script coverage reader and professional screenwriter. In order for him to be completely honest, he asked to remain anonymous so I just refer to him as Deepthroat. Yes, I know that's a bit on the nose but we both thought the Cloak and Dagger angle would be funny.  He is a screenwriter that has worked in both television and features, a sought-after script doctor (he's worked on some MAJOR studio films), and a script coverage specialist.

Deepthroat spills the beans on the inner workings of some of the biggest studios in Hollywood. He discusses how an idea he presented his boss years ago was once stolen from him within the system and was turned into a successful property and shares tips on how to impress those studio readers that are the gatekeepers to getting your screenplay sold and produced.

He is one of the amazing script coverage specialists I have working at Bulletproof Script Coverage. Deepthroat agreed to do this interview in order to help screenwriters trying to break into the business. He's tired of seeing so many talented writers get eaten up by the system.

The information in this interview is raw, real and will give you a much clearer idea of what happens behind the scenes in Hollywood. If you enjoy this episode, please share it with as many screenwriters and filmmakers as you can. We need to get this information out there.

Enjoy my revealing conversation with DEEPTHROAT.

Jan 17 2022

1hr 28mins

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BPS 165: From Writing Short Films to Directing Shazam! with David F. Sandberg

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So many times we hear those mythical stories of a filmmaker who makes a short film and uploads it to Youtube in hopes of a big-time film producer sees it and comes down from Mount Hollywood and offers him or her a deal to turn that short into a studio feature. Today's guest had that happen to him and then some. On the show is writer/director David F. Sandberg.

David's story is the "lottery ticket" moment I speak about so often on the show. His journey in Hollywood is remarkable, inspiring, and scary all at the same time.  He created a short film called Lights Out. That short was seen by famed filmmaker and producer James Wan (Furious 7, Aquaman, The Conjuring) who offered to produce a feature film version at New Line Cinema.

The feature version of the film was made for $5 million and grossed $150 million at the box office. Here's what the film is about.

When Rebecca left home, she thought she left her childhood fears behind. Growing up, she was never really sure of what was and wasn’t real when the lights went out…and now her little brother, Martin, is experiencing the same unexplained and terrifying events that had once tested her sanity and threatened her safety. A frightening entity with a mysterious attachment to their mother, Sophie, has reemerged. But this time, as Rebecca gets closer to unlocking the truth, there is no denying that all their lives are in danger…once the lights go out.

The film stars Teresa Palmer (“Triple 9”) as Rebecca; Gabriel Bateman (“Annabelle”) as Martin; Billy Burke (the “Twilight” franchise) as Martin’s father, Paul; Alexander DiPersia (“Forever”) as Rebecca’s boyfriend, Bret; and Maria Bello (“Prisoners”) as Sophie.

After the success of Lights Out he tackled the horror prequel Annabelle Creation. That film went on to make over $300 million at the box office with a $15 million budget.

Several years after the tragic death of their little girl, a dollmaker and his wife welcome a nun and several girls from a shuttered orphanage into their home, soon becoming the target of the dollmaker’s possessed creation, Annabelle.

The studio Gods were pleased with David because he was offered New Line Cinema’s Shazam!, the origin story that stars Zachary Levi (TV’s “Chuck”) as the titular DC Super Hero, along with Asher Angel (TV’s “Andi Mack”) as Billy Batson, and Mark Strong (the “Kingsman” movies) in the role of Super-Villain Dr. Thaddeus Sivana. Shazam! was a box office smash.

David and I discuss his days making short films, which he still makes on the side, working in the studio system, his filmmaking philosophy, how he could afford a place to stay in Los Angeles while he was in pre-production on Lights Out and what it takes to make it as a filmmaker in today's world.

Enjoy my conversation with David F. Sandberg.

Jan 14 2022

1hr 12mins

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BPS 164: Secrets to Successful Low-Budget Films with Jason Blum

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I'm excited to talk to a fellow low-budget independent filmmaker today. 

Granted, he does low-budget films on a completely different level than I or most people do at this point. But if we are going to talk about low budget filmmaking, it is only fitting to have expert horror film and television producer, Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions. 

Our chat sort out knowledge gems on Jason’s mentality behind his filmmaking and the budget strategy. Especially the ‘freedom’, he’s expressed in many other interviews, he gets from a low budget --- in the essence of the chances it allows him to take.

Jason has over 200 production credits for numerous horror television and films franchises. The likes of BlacKkKlansman, Jordan Peele’s Get Out, The Normal Heart, Paranormal Activity, Elizabeth Moss’s Invisible Man, The Purge, etc. 

Black As Night, the Amazon original film, is one of the twenty-five projects he’s produced that have been released this year and streaming on various top streaming platforms.

The story is about a  teenage girl with self-esteem issues who finds confidence in the most unlikely way, by spending her summer battling vampires that prey on New Orleans' disenfranchised with the help of her best friend, the boy she's always pined for, and a peculiar rich girl.

He’s recognized for his multiple award-winning works and his production studio which is currently booked and busy with over fifteen projects lined up for the rest of the year to 2023.

That is a testament to his company’s high-quality production. Blumhouse is known for pioneering a new model of studio filmmaking: producing high-quality micro-budget films and provocative television series. They have produced over 150 movies and television series with theatrical grosses amounting to over $4.8 billion.

Paranormal Activity: Next Of Kin will also be coming out this December. It is the second film in the franchise. Which continues to follow a young man who became the target of a malevolent entity, he must uncover its true intentions before it takes complete control of him.

All you horror and non-horror fans out there need no further introduction about our guest. Right in time for the Halloween spirits, please enjoy my 'spooky' chat with Jason Blum.

Jan 12 2022

51mins

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BPS 163: Bloodsport & Rambo: Writing 80's Action Cinema with Sheldon Lettich

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Get ready to go down the rabbit hole of 80's action cinema. I sat with an iconic 80s & 90s action film director, writer, and producer this week - Sheldon Lettich who brought to our screens some epic actors and fighters like Jean-Claude Van Damme and Sylvester Stallone. He’s the trailblazing director and writer of Lionheart (1990), Bloodsport (1988), Rambo III (1988), and the Cold War drama, Russkies that first introduced us to the phenomenon that is Joaquin Phoenix. 

An Ex-French Soldier begins participating in underground street fights in order to make money for his brother's family. 

Lettich’s experience as a Vietnam veteran has inspired much of his films and plays throughout his career. Paired with his academic background in photography and cinematography, he bulldozed the action film scene with other classics like The Order, Double Impact, and The Last Patrol.

Between 1983 to 1987, Lettich wrote and directed a couple of short films that did not pick up as much. The following year, he wrote the martial arts classic, Bloodsport - inspired by tall tales from Frank Dux, from which Lettich became a famous name in Hollywood. 

The film also launched Jean-Claude’s career, the star of Bloodsport who played Frank Dux, an American martial artist serving in the military, who decides to leave the army to compete in a martial arts tournament in Hong Kong where fights to the death can occur.

If you love Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat then you have Sheldon to thank. Bloodsport was the first time you have multiple fighters, from around the world, with unique styles fighting in a tournament.

The commercial success of Bloodsport, which grossed $50 million on a $2.3 million budget catalyst more trailblazing films. Lettich signed an overall deal immediately with White Eagle Productions that led to his collaboration, co-writing Rambo III alongside Sylvester Stallone in 1988. The movie was a HIT for the Box office. It outperformed his previous project, grossing $189 million on its $63 million budget. 

One thing I discovered speaking to Sheldon is that Bloodsport was NOT A TRUE STORY. The person that the film was based on, Frank Dux, was apparently a brilliant storyteller. There were lawsuits, books written, just an absolute mess. Either way, the film is a masterpiece of 80's action cinema.

Another classic in Sheldon's canon was the highly anticipated sequel, Rambo III starring Sylvester Stallone. Rambo mounts a one-man mission to rescue his friend Colonel Trautman from the clutches of the formidable invading Soviet forces in Afghanistan.

Lettich reunited with his friend, Jean-Claude in 1990 for the fan-favorite, Lionheart. This time directing and as a co-writer. He approached the project to allow Jean-Claude to display versatility, compassion, and rises beyond the "Karate Guy", now that he had become a household name. The film made $24.3 million on a $6million budget and became popular amongst his films.

The two, Lettich and Van Damme, immediately followed up with their third of several collaborations, Double Impact in 1991 with Jean-Claude playing a set of twin brothers who were separated when their parents were murdered but 25 years later they re-unite in order to avenge their parents' death.

Like their initial projects, this one too became a critical and commercial hit.

It was a nostalgic thrill chatting with Sheldon about these movies that are part of the beautiful tapestry that is 80's action cinema.

Enjoy this throwback entertaining conversation with Sheldon Lettich.

Jan 07 2022

1hr 52mins

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BPS 162: Writing Blockbuster Movies & Television with Emmy® Winner Danny Strong

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Today on the show we have writer, producer, actor, director and Emmy® winning show runner Danny Strong. 

Danny started his career as an actor in numerous classic films and TV shows such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Gilmore Girls, then transitioned into screenwriting, exploding onto the scene with his 2007 script Recount which was #1 on the Hollywood Blacklist and became an award winning HBO Film.

Since then he has become a prolific film and TV writer, director and producer, garnering numerous awards for various projects, including two Emmys, a Golden Globe, two WGA awards, a PGA Award, and the Peabody Award.

Through out his career he has shown a wide range and versatility moving between mediums and genres with films like the political docudramas Recount and Game Change, the civil rights epic The Butler and the big budget action blockbusters Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Part I and II).

He co-created the smash hit TV show Empire which won him the NAACP Image Award and he produced the civil rights drama The Best of Enemies starring Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell. He has also written numerous theater projects having made his theatrical debut with a new book to the musical Chess that premiered at the Kennedy Center.

Strong transitioned into directing with several episodes of Empire. He made his feature directorial debut with Rebel in the Rye that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was distributed by IFC Films.

Over the years he has continued his acting career with recurring roles in many highly acclaimed TV shows including Mad Men, Girls, Justified, Billions and The Right Stuff. He grew up in Manhattan Beach, California and attended the USC School of Dramatic Arts.

Enjoy my enlightening conversation with Danny Strong.

Jan 05 2022

55mins

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BPS 161: Inside the Making of Quentin Tarantino 1st Unreleased Feature

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Now, I was scanning the web the other day, and I came across a book about the making of Quentin Tarantino‘s first feature film. Quite fascinated that someone took the time to dig into the unreleased, My Best Friend’s Birthday, which I’ve spoken about a bit on my podcast and also written a couple of articles about the film. So, as per usual, I invited the author, Andy Rausch to the show to talk a bit more about his book.

Before this interview, I did not know that Andy has spent years interviewing other prominent industry names and has authored over forty non-fiction on specific works of established entertainment contributors.

Writing forty books is no small feat.

Some of Rausch’s publications include Turning Points in Film History (2004), The Films of Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro (2010), Making Movies with Orson Welles, a Gary Graver memoir, and Fifty Filmmakers: Conversations with Directors from Roger Avary to Steven Zaillian (2008).

But today, l would like to get into the weeds on Rausch’s 2019, My Best Friend’s Birthday: The Making of a Quentin Tarantino Film book, which is the story of a group of friends who set out to make their own movie in 1983, financing it with Tarantino’s minimum-wage earnings from his job at a video store. In most biographies and Tarantino histories, this unfinished $5,000 film is mentioned only in passing and is looked upon as little more than a curiosity. But with this oral history, author/editor Andrew J. Rausch details how each of the friends came together, other early film projects they worked on, and how they ended up making (or trying to make) a black-and-white screwball comedy.

Check out the show notes below for links to some of Andy’s other books, all available on Amazon.

Enjoy my chat with writer, Andy Rausch.

Dec 31 2021

1hr 7mins

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BPS 160: Getting Your First Feature on HBOMax with Lissette Feliciano

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Today on the show we have writer, director and producer Lissette Feliciano. She is a Tribeca Film Institute AT&T Untold Stories grant recipient, was named as one of Shoot Magazine's new directors to watch, and has served as an ambassador for The Wraps Power Women Summit.

Her production company Look at the Moon Pictures develops original content that shines a hero's lens on underrepresented groups, joining the ranks of creators filling the market gap in storytelling for a new young multicultural audience.

Under Lissette's leadership, Look at the Moon was among the first production companies to mandate 50% BIPOC representation across leadership positions on and off-camera - a metric they are proud to consistently achieve. An avid supporter of young women’s education, she sits on several committees for an all-girls high school serving low-income students in her hometown of the Mission District of San Francisco.

Her latest film projects is Women is Losers.

In 1960s San Francisco, a once-promising catholic school girl, Celina Guerrera, sets out to rise above the oppression of poverty and invest in a future for herself that sets new precedents for the time.

The film was produced independently and picked up by HBOMax as a major release on its platform. A true cinderella story. We discuss how she financed the film, her struggles with production, getting her amazing cast and much more.

Get ready to be inspired. Enjoy my conversation with Lissette Feliciano.

Dec 29 2021

50mins

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CHRISTMAS BONUS: Shooting for the Mob - Listen to First Fours Chapters

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CHRISTMAS BONUS

After months of the IFH Tribe asking me, I finally finished the audiobook version of Shooting for the Mob. It was a tough project to finish but I knew I had to get it to you guys. As a gift for being so patient, I am releasing four chapters of the book for FREE for your listening pleasure. If you are unfamiliar with the story of Shooting for the Mob read below.

A bipolar gangster, a naive, young film director, and Batman. What could go wrong? Alex Ferrari is a first-time film director who just got hired to direct a $20 million feature film, the only problem is the film is about Jimmy, an egomaniacal gangster who wants the film to be about his life in the mob. From the backwater towns of Louisiana to the Hollywood Hills, Alex is taken on a crazy misadventure through the world of the mafia and Hollywood. Huge movie stars, billion-dollar producers, studio heads and, of course, a few gangsters, populate this unbelievable journey down the rabbit hole of chasing your dream. Would you sell your soul to the devil to make your dream come true? By the way, did we mention that this story is based on true events? no, seriously it is.

Writing this book is easily one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do. Some days I would cry as I was typing. Who wants to go back to the darkest time in their lives and relive that hell. Well, that’s exactly what I did. It took me 18 years to build up the courage to sit down and tell my story. I take you behind the scenes of the real Hollywood. and also see how gangsters and Hollywood go together like peanut butter and jelly. This book is RAW and UNFILTERED. I said to myself,

"If I'm going to write this I have to tell the entire story, warts and all."

The goal of this book is to help, not only filmmakers and people interested in having a career in Hollyweird but anyone stuck in a bad situation they feel they can’t get out of. The story illustrates how someone can lose themselves while chasing that golden carrot that is their dream, not to compromise their morals and stand up for themselves.

As cheesy as it sounds if I can help one person avoid even 1% of the pain and suffering I went through then it will be worth it. Now this story is not all doom and gloom, it’s hilarious, ridiculous and one hell of an adventure. I hope you really enjoy the story and have fun, laugh, cry and maybe even learn a little something about yourself.

Enjoy Shooting for the Mob and please leave a review for the book when you are done reading. Thanks!

Dec 25 2021

43mins

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BSP 159: From The Purge to This is the Night with James DeMonaco

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The Purge franchise is one of the most iconic dystopian action horror series of all time and the man behind it, James DeMonaco is not stopping anytime soon.

James is our guest today and even though we talk a great deal about the various Purge films he’s either written or directed, which are all fan favorites, we start off with his most recently released film, This Is The Night, that was digitally released on September 21, 2021, after a prior theater release on Sep 17, 2021.

This Is The Night, drama stars Frank Grillo, Lucius Hoyos, Jonah Hauer-King, Bobby Cannavale, and Naomi Watts. It is set in the summer of 1982 Staten Island with the release of Rocky III as its backdrop.

The story tells of an average teen who embarks on a quest in his Rocky Balboa-obsessed town that swirls in his family members. Watts and Grillo will play with his parents. His family must confront its greatest challenges and the family realizes that the only way to live is like there's no tomorrow.

I have tons of questions for James in this interview, which I am sure you, my tribe will appreciate. I have been a fan of some of his work but clueless he had written other top-ranked films on my list, it came as an exciting shock to discover more that James has written, directed, or produced.

Besides screenwriting, directing, and producing projects like the Purge movies,  he’s also written for TV and gets credit for writing The Negotiator, Staten Island, Jack, and Assault on Precinct 13.  

As a child of 5 years old, he would beg his more for a pass to watch the 4:30 ABC network movies and would visit the cinema often. At seven years old, he went to see, Apocalypse at the cinema and that changed everything for him. Leaving that theater with the desire to be part of that experience of whatever happened on the screen. 

Through screenwriting, he landed his first production gig with director Francis Coppola, for the 1996 movie, Jack, starring Robin Williams. 

The inspiration for The Purge was birthed during James’s time living in Paris and Canada. It came mainly, from his relationship against guns even though he had grown up around cops.

The experience in Europe and Canada, in general, were the complete opposites he had observed. This was around the time mass shootings in America were on the rise in the early 2000s. Combined with an aftermath dark thought from a road rage incident curious about what it would be like if we all had a day pass, turned into a masterpiece original screenplay. But dressed in a science fiction dystopian world. 

The Purge: Anarchy - A couple is driving home when their car breaks down just as the Purge commences. Meanwhile, a police sergeant goes out into the streets to get revenge on the man who killed his son, and a mother and daughter run from their home after assailants destroy it. The five people meet up as they attempt to survive the night in Los Angeles.

It was challenging to find someone willing to finance a ‘nihilistic’ and ‘un-American movie life The Purge. James and his partners got about fifty rejections because of how dark the script seemed.   

Until finally with help from Jason Blum who said it was a great fit for his low-budget horror model on his deal with Universal Studios, to be produced by Blumhouse Productions and Platinum Dunes.

The studio took a shot at it and the first Purge movie in 2013 albeit on a $3 million budget, grossed $89.3 million. The film starred Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Adelaide Kane, and Max Burkholder as members of a wealthy family who find themselves endangered by a gang of murderers during the annual Purge, a night during which all crime, including murder, is temporarily legal.

The franchise includes The Purge: Anarchy( 2014), The Purge: Election Year (2016), a prequel, The First Purge (2018), The Purge TV series (2018 to 2019), and The Forever Purge (2021).

There is a sixth Purge movie in the works. And the franchise has grossed overall over $450 million against a combined production budget of $53 million.

We go deep in the weeds on these projects and James’s writing process.

Enjoy my conversation with James DeMonaco.

Dec 24 2021

1hr 19mins

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BPS 158: Inside Writing for Marvel Studios & Spider-Man with Erik Sommers

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Today on the show we have one-half of the writing team that wrote the record-breaking Marvel film Spider-Man: No Way Home, Erik Sommers.

For the first time in the cinematic history of Spider-Man, our friendly neighborhood hero's identity is revealed, bringing his Super Hero responsibilities into conflict with his normal life and putting those he cares about most at risk. When he enlists Doctor Strange’s help to restore his secret, the spell tears a hole in their world, releasing the most powerful villains who’ve ever fought a Spider-Man in any universe. Now, Peter will have to overcome his greatest challenge yet, which will not only forever alter his own future but the future of the Multiverse.

In addition Sommers co-wrote scripts for Spider-Man: Homecoming, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Spider-Man: Far From Home, The Lego Batman Movie and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle with Chris McKenna. Erik started his career in television and wrote on the ground-breaking show Community under show runner Dan Harmon (Rick and Morty).

Erik tells me how working with Dan changed how he wrote and how he uses Dan Harmon's Story Circle in his writing today.

We discuss how he got the Spider-man gig, how he writes with his partner Chris, what it's like working inside the Marvel Studios machine and dealing with the pressure of writing Spider-Man.

I watched the new Spider-Man and I have to say it's the best Spider-Man film yet. Get ready to have your nostalgia heart-strings pulled in the best way possible. Erik and Chris did a fantastic job writing the stand-alone film, while still weaving in the larger MCU narrative, not an easy thing to do.

Enjoy my conversation with Erik Sommers.

Dec 22 2021

41mins

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CHRISTMAS THROWBACK: Is Die Hard The Greatest Christmas Movie Ever - Yippee ki-yay!

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CHRISTMAS THROWBACK:

I'm here to finally put to rest one of the greatest cinematic arguments of all time, is Die Hard a Christmas movie? I thought I'd tackle this epic question with my good friend Stephen Follows. In this Special Christmas Edition of the Indie Film Hustle Podcast Stephen and I use data to finally put this debate to rest.

I believe without a shadow of a doubt that Die Hard is the greatest Christmas movie of all time. Stephen is not so sure so we go to the data to find out. Stephen wrote an EPIC article about this a while ago where he does what only Stephen does. Below are some of the graphs he created for his dissection of this issue.

From google trends to actual frames from the film that we see actual Christmas references. We leave no stone unturned in this debate. I promise you after this episode you will be armed to debate and film nerd at the next Christmas party. I wanted to create a fun episode for all the film geeks out there.

Enjoy my ridiculous and entertaining conversation with Stephen Follows. And don't forget to have a Yippee ki-yay mutha f**king Merry Christmas!

Dec 20 2021

1hr 46mins

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BPS 157: Screenwriting Red Rocket and Guerrilla Filmmaking with Sean Baker

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You are in for a treat today. We have returning champion writer/director Sean Baker.

Sean Baker is a writer, director, producer and editor who has made seven independent feature films over the course of the past two decades. His most recent film was the award-winning The Florida Project (2017) which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and was released by A24 in the U.S. Among the many accolades the film received -- including an Oscar nomination for Willem Dafoe for Best Supporting Actor -- Sean was named Best Director by the New York Film Critics Circle.

His previous film Tangerine (2015) premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and won an Independent Spirit and two Gotham Awards. Starlet (2012) was the winner of the Robert Altman Independent Spirit Award and his previous two features, Take Out (2004) and Prince of Broadway (2008), were both nominated for the John Cassavetes Independent Spirit Award.

His remarkable new film is Red Rocket. The audacious new film from writer- director Sean Baker (The Florida Project, Tangerine), starring Simon Rex in a magnetic, live-wire performance, Red Rocket is a darkly funny, humane portrait of a uniquely American hustler and a hometown that barely tolerates him.

I watched Red Rocket and I have to tell you it's one of the best films I've seen this year.

Sean and I discuss his creative process, how he shot Red Rocket with a 10 person crew and a very limited budget, during COVID. Red Rocket opens today in theaters.

Enjoy my conversation with Sean Baker.

Dec 17 2021

57mins

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BPS 156: Inside Warner Bros Writing Program with Rebecca Windsor

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Dec 15 2021

1hr 6mins

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BPS 155: From Indie Film To Surviving Hollywood with Albert Hughes

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I can't be more excited about the conversation I'm about to share with you. Today on the show we have filmmaker and indie film legend Albert Hughes. Albert, along with his brother Allen began making movies at age 12, but their formal film education began their freshman year of high school when Allen took a TV production class. They soon made the short film The Drive-By and people began to take notice.

After high school Albert began taking classes at LACC Film School: two shorts established the twins' reputation as innovative filmmakers. Albert and his brother then began directing music videos for a little-known rapper named Tupac Shakur. 

These videos lead to directing their breakout hit Menace II Society (1993), which made its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival and grossed nearly 10 times as much as its $3 million budget.

Albert followed up that success with Dead Presidents (1995).

On the streets, they call cash dead presidents. And that's just what a Vietnam veteran (Larenz Tate) is after when he returns home from the war only to find himself drawn into a life of crime. With the aid of his fellow vets, he plans the ultimate heist -- a daring robbery of an armored car filled with unmarked U.S. currency!

Albert continued displaying his highly stylized and visual filmmaking with From Hell (2001) starring Johnny Depp and The Book of Eli (2010) starring Oscar winners Denzel Washington and Gary Olman.

The Book of Eli has the distinction of being the first studio feature film shot on the RED Camera. In the example below, you can see how Albert pushed the camera to its limits with the ground-breaking color grade he gave the film.

Most recently Albert brought to the screen the epic film Alpha (2018). The project was shot on the Arri ALEXA 65 for a truly larger-than-life experience.

An epic coming-of-age adventure set in the last Ice Age. A young boy becomes unlikely allies with a lone wolf, enduring countless dangers and overwhelming odds to survive the harsh wilderness and find their way home before the deadly winter arrives.

My conversation with Albert was EPIC. We began the episode aiming for our standard 60-90 min run time but we were having such a good time talking shop we just kept going. The final episode clocks in around 3 hours and it was, by far, one of the best times I have ever had on the Indie Film Hustle Podcast.

Two filmmakers talking shop and telling stories. We discuss his public beef with Tupac, his rise after the breakout success of Menace II Society, how he navigated the shark-infested waters of Hollywood, working on big-budget studio films, his creative process and Albert even throws in a story about how he stood up to Harvey Weinstein while the disgusting predator was still a power-player in the business.

Do yourself a favor and listen to the entire episode. There are knowledge bombs drop throughout!

Enjoy my EPIC conversation with Albert Hughes.

Dec 11 2021

3hr 19mins

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BPS 154: Vampires, The Devil and Working in Hollywood with Brian Nelson

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Today on the show we have screenwriter Brian Nelson. 

Nelson holds degrees from Yale University and from UCLA. He worked as a drama instructor at Langley High School in McLean, Virginia in the early 1980s, where he taught Gilmore Girls actress Lauren Graham, Little Miss Sunshine screenwriter Michael Arndt, and UCLA screenwriting instructor Brian David Price.

Nelson's numerous writing credits include episodes of the television series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Gene Roddenberry's Earth: Final Conflict, JAG and the Disney television series' So Weird and In a Heartbeat as well as the feature film Hard Candy. He also wrote the play "Overlooked" and co-wrote the script for the vampire film 30 Days of Night, which was released in late 2007 and helmed by Hard Candy director David Slade.

Nelson wrote the script for the M. Night Shyamalan-produced thriller Devil. Nelson wrote episodes 3 and 8 of the Netflix original series Altered Carbon, as well as executive-producing the show.

Brian and I had on heck on a fun time talking shop. Enjoy my conversation with Brian Nelson.

Dec 08 2021

1hr 25mins

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BPS 153: How to Build a Career as a Screenwriter with J.Mills Goodloe

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Today on the show we have director and screenwriter J. Mills Goodloe.

J. Mills Goodloe grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. He began his career at Warner Brothers working for director Richard Donner. Goodloe worked from 1992 to 1995 as Donner's assistant on Lethal Weapon 3 and Maverick, both starring Mel Gibson, then segued into producing where he developed and produced Assassins starring Sylvester Stallone, Antonio Banderas and Julianne Moore.

In 1996, Goodloe produced Conspiracy Theory, once again starring Mel Gibson, along with Julia Roberts, and Lethal Weapon 4, the fourth installment of the billion dollar grossing Lethal Weapon series.

In 2001, Goodloe wrote and directed A Gentleman's Game starring Gary Sinise, Dylan Baker and Philip Baker Hall. In 2005, Goodloe wrote the adaptation for the John Grisham novel Bleachers for Revolution Studios. Goodloe also co-wrote the screenplay for the inspirational sports film Pride, released theatrically by Lionsgate and starring Terrence Howard and Bernie Mac.

In 2014, Goodloe's adaptation of Nicholas Sparks' novel Best of Me went into production, starring Michelle Monaghan and James Marsden and directed by Michael Hoffman.

Based on the bestselling novel by acclaimed author Nicholas Sparks, The Best of Me tells the story of Dawson and Amanda, two former high school sweethearts who find themselves reunited after 20 years apart, when they return to their small town for the funeral of a beloved friend. Their bittersweet reunion reignites the love they've never forgotten, but soon they discover the forces that drove them apart twenty years ago live on, posing even more serious threats today. Spanning decades, this epic love story captures the enduring power of our first true love, and the wrenching choices we face when confronted with elusive second chances.

In 2013, Academy Award nominated director Hany Abu-Assad was hired to direct Goodloe's screenplay Mountain Between Us, a Twentieth Century Fox project based upon the novel by Charles Martin.

In the Spring of 2014, Goodloe's original screenplay Age of Adaline began principal photography, starring Harrison Ford, Blake Lively and directed by Lee Toland Krieger. The film will be released by Lionsgate in the Spring of 2015.

After miraculously remaining 29 years old for almost eight decades, Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) has lived a solitary existence, never allowing herself to get close to anyone who might reveal her secret. But a chance encounter with charismatic philanthropist Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman) reignites her passion for life and romance. When a weekend with his parents (Harrison Ford and Kathy Baker) threatens to uncover the truth, Adaline makes a decision that will change her life forever.

In 2014, Sony Studios hired Goodloe to write the screenplay Christian the Lion with Neil Moritz' Original Film producing. His other projects include a scripted drama for Bravo Television called All the Pretty Faces which he and Jennifer Garner are producing.

Enjoy my conversation with J. Mills Goodloe.

Dec 02 2021

1hr 12mins

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BPS 152 : Inside the Hollywood Writer's Room with VJ Boyd

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Today on the show we have television writer and show runner VJ Boyd. VJ is a producer and writer, best known for his work on the critically acclaimed  Justified (2010), the CBS smash hit S.W.A.T. (2017) and creator of Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector (2020).

Deputy Raylan Givens has his own, Wild West-style methods of upholding justice, putting him at odds with the criminals he hunts and with his bosses in the U.S. Marshals Service. And an incident prompts his reassignment to the Kentucky district where he grew up. The character is based on one created by author Elmore Leonard in several books and short stories.

If you ever wanted to know what it takes to get into a writer's room this is the episode for you. Enjoy my conversation with VJ Boyd.

Dec 01 2021

1hr 4mins

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iTunes Ratings

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Great Info!

By Thayne01 - Oct 28 2019
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Always there's great information!

Great information

By loverofsound - May 30 2019
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The interviews are entertaining and educational.