From Baby Writer To Produced Scribe in 6 Months: The Scotty Mullen Interview
The first time I met Scotty Mullen was at 2013’s Great American Pitch Fest, when he sat in on my career-centric masterclass. He had such determination about him, such a hunger to learn; when he showed up at my desk a month later for one-on-one career coaching, I was not at all surprised. What happened from there was something of an unlikely, meteoric rise, the sort that I tell writers to never count on, but none the less happened for this very talented, very methodical, very determined writer: in six short months, he went from eager young writer to one with a produced credit under his belt.
Could you give me a little Scotty background for my readers, from the day job to your screenwriting aspirations?
I went to college in Atlanta (Georgia State University) before moving to Los Angeles in 2005 to work as a publicist and promoter of movies and TV. At one firm I started an in-house promotional modeling agency (which was nicknamed “Scotty’s Hotties” since I had a notorious reputation for only hiring talent with the biggest boobs and biceps). Little did I know that spending day-in and day-out with these models would pre-pave the script that would bust open the door to my screenwriting career. The excitement of working in movie and TV publicity and promotion was very addicting. I threw myself into my work and am now the SVP of sales for an experiential marketing agency. Every day I pitch, pitch, pitch to clients. Who knew this pitching skill would be my secret weapon to kick-start my screenwriting career? My ultimate aspiration is for executives to immediately ask “Have you shown this to Scotty?” when faced with a story dilemma or opportunity – I want to be the go-to writer for sexy comedies and guilty pleasures.
You really jumped into your screenwriting career in 2013. What made you decide to jump in, and how did you get things started?
I was so tired of being a writer who didn’t write. I was tired of being just another guy who talked about wanting to be a screenwriter instead of actually doing it. So I stopped whining, rolled up my sleeves, and concentrated on finding a way to make this work. I owe so much to the ProSeries offered by ScreenwritingU.com – that 6-month course taught me so much about concept, structure, and outlining. I also discovered my “brand” as a writer. I embraced my natural humor – which mixes “so-wrong” comedy with life-changing events – and not be afraid to showcase that in my writing. Even when I try to be serious, the comedy erupts and spills out for everyone to see. I’m like a bad bra. But my comedies still have heart – my main characters always go through a big change and there’s an important life lesson for us all to learn at the end. In May 2013, I put the finishing touches on my first spec script – a comedy titled Double D Island, which is a topless take on The Hunger Games. It’s a naughty love letter written to all the fabulous and ferocious models I worked with in my career.
2013’s Great American Pitch Fest played a role for you in getting things moving for you. Could you tell me about your experience in 2013’s GAPF, and the positives that came out of it?
Every book and article kept telling me that I needed to sell my script through query letters – but that’s not my style. I wanted this to happen fast, and I didn’t want to put all my energy in endless queries. I then learned about pitchfests – where a writer gets to pitch one-on-one with executives. As it happened, the Great American Pitchfest was happening the week after I polished up Double D Island. I took this as a good omen and registered. I quickly put together some pitch materials for the script (a MISSING poster featuring the models and a travel brochure for the island) and marched my butt out to Burbank for the pitchfest. It was a 3-day event – with the pitchfest happening on the 3rd day. The first two days of the pitchfest is filled with workshops to teach you how to pitch –thank God for that because my first pitches were terrible! Pilar Alessandra’s classes really helped, as well as a one-on-one session with Kathie Fong Yoneda. I remember telling Kathie – “I’m scared to death!” She looked me in the eye and said – “If anyone here is not scared, it is you.” That woke me up and I tapped into some courage I was unaware I had. I did my homework and honed in on 30 different people I wanted to pitch, and then went full force. I quickly realized that the companies I thought would love my script hated it, and the companies I thought would tell me to go to hell immediately asked for the script. So much for gut instinct! This just taught me to be open to everyone – you never know who might be looking for a topless comedy. (And when it comes right down to it – who doesn’t want a topless comedy?!?) I ended up doing 26 pitches. I received two script requests and two writing assignments – one which was from The Asylum. The executive liked my sense of humor and wanted to see what my take would be on a sexy comedy about a college zombie. I also received another writing assignment for a web series for another production company. I had to write the pitch script for that in 2 ½ days. Although nothing has come out of that opportunity yet, it did teach me one thing – that I can write fast and write well under a deadline. This would prove invaluable later on.
Did you attend other pitching events in 2013? What was the outcome?
I attended the Fade-In/Hollywood Pitch Fest where I received 17 script requests. Double D Island ended up getting optioned from one of the companies I pitched at this fest. I also attended the Story Expo pitch fest and received 18 script requests there. The biggest win from that event was that I made contact with a manager who wants to see my next spec script. I should point out that I only went in with Double D Island – no other scripts (mainly because…I didn’t have anything else to sell!) But also, having just one script to pitch kept me very focused and showcased who I was as a writer. Double D Islandwas my calling card.
How was Double D Island instrumental for communicating to industry executives about what sort of writer you are?
I went in very boldly and honestly with Double D Island. After a pitch, I asked if this was the kind of comedy they liked. Because this was the kind of writer I was. I’m all about sexy comedies and guilty pleasures. Later down the road, I will develop scripts in other genres – but right now, this is what I am really good at. Whenever an executive turned me down, I wouldn’t get offended or take it as a personal rejection. Instead, I would ask – well, what did turn them on? (Story-wise, folks!) It’s all about preference. Like foods at a restaurant. I was selling pizza, but an executive might be wanting sushi. No problem – I will find someone else who wants my hot, sexy pizza. (And I may know a fellow writer who is selling cold, fishy sushi that particular executive may like better.)
Also – if an executive wasn’t interested, I would ask them if they knew anyone who was looking for a comedy like Double D Island. This would lead me into directions I would never have thought of before. Don’t make any pre-judgments or expectations – prepare to be surprised!
You have great discipline for keeping in regular communication with your industry contacts. Could you tell my readers a bit about your methodology there?
Anyone I pitch to I immediately term as a “client” and it instantly puts me into sales mode – what can I do for them? I document every conversation and e-mail I have so I can track our communication. This actually helps calm me down when I worry that I haven’t heard back from them about a pitch – only to realize it’s only been a few days and I just need to calm the hell down and take an Anacin. I also write down everything we’ve said and then parrot it back to them (if we are in a conversation) so that I make sure that I understand what the next steps are. I have two mantras – “No news is good news” (This means the client is still considering the project) and “When in doubt…SHUT UP!” Don’t nag. Don’t pester. Don’t whine. If I check in with them, I do it with news of another project I just sold or optioned. No one likes a nosy, pesky neighbor. As far as they are concerned, I am calm, cool and collected. My friends and mentors get to hear me scream: “Why the #$%* haven’t they called me back yet?!?”
Tell me about your relationship with Asylum. How did it come about, and what was its evolution?
My pitch to their director of development at the GAPF was one of my very first pitches – and it resulted in my first movie getting made! I went in pitching Double D Island, and walked out with my first writing assignment – he wanted me to come up with a sexy-comedy concept involving a college zombie. He liked my sense of humor and thought I could bring something to this movie that none of the other writers he’d worked with could – and lucky for me, it was true! Using Pilar Alessandra’s techniques, I pitched my initial thoughts for College Zombie. For the next couple months, The Asylum asked me to keep elaborating my pitch as it went up the pipeline. First I did a one-page summary, then a three-page outline, then back to a one-page treatment, and finally a detailed treatment showcasing the gags.I got the deal on Halloween, turned in the first draft 2 weeks later, and they started shooting in early December. The movie – My Boyfriend is a Zombie Stoner – will be available on June 24, 2014 through Xbox, iTunes, Amazon, and Best Buy!
I would love to have you share with my readers the Zombie Stoner experience.
I got to be on the set every day – that was amazing! That was one of the most remarkable times of my life – each day, I knew I was living a memory I would relive in my mind for a lifetime. I’m the luckiest guy in the world that my first movie was such a fantastic, collaborative, and hysterically funny experience…hopefully this means all my movies will be like this!
The most surprising aspect was that my first draft pretty much became the shooting draft – there were some minor alterations made each day, but pretty much the draft I turned in was what got shot (except for the ending, which was rewritten the day we shot that.) All those screenwriting exercises paid off! Glenn Miller, the director, is my creative twin. I could not have asked for a better man to helm that ship. He totally got my humor – and I totally got his – and that was such a relief! I really hope it’s the start of many projects we work on together. And I owe so much to the Asylum and the director of development over there – he really shepherded me through the whole script-development process and was a big champion for me. I am very grateful to him and the producers for taking a chance on me.
What was it like to be on set every day as the first movie you wrote was getting produced?
It felt like a kid in a candy store…a Weight Watchers reject in a cupcake shop…Liberace in an NFL locker room! It was a dream come true! I let everyone know I was there as a solution, not a problem – which the crew told me was very different from the experience they had working with other writers. Many times writers aren’t allowed on-set because they keep screaming “You’re doing it wrong!” I was just so damn happy to be there – I told them I was the Jon Cryer of screenwriters…I’m just relieved to be working! You’re not gonna get any trouble from me! I was able to help make wardrobe decisions, talk with the actors about motivation…I even choreographed a zombie fight scene! It was very cool. I even make a cameo in the movie (as a zombie, of course.)
Now that production on Zombie Stoner has wrapped, what’s next for you in 2014?
I am hard at work on my next spec script and am itching my take on other writing assignments. Also, doorways have opened to meet with some managers and agents now that I have a movie produced. I am open to it all. Right now I know my best use of resources is writing, writing, writing. Everything I’ve written in the past year has either been produced or optioned – so I’m off to a good start!
If you could point to the one thing that you did right in 2013, that really helped you move things forward, what would it be?
Double D Island. That script unlocked the doors, swung attention my way, and told people what kind of writer I was. And that I could do the deed. And I just realized that the entire time I thought I was being a writer that didn’t write…all that time was preparing me for what I am doing now. Those publicity stunts and intense pitch sessions all laid out the road I’m skipping down today, including those wacky models. They say to write what you know. And a lot of what I happen to know has some big knockers attached to it – which is fine with me!
To learn more about Scotty Mullen, check out his podcast with OnThePage’s Pilar Alessandra
Scotty Mullen is the screenwriter of the sexy comedy MY BOYFRIEND IS A ZOMBIE STONER, produced and distributed by The Asylum (SHARKNADO.) The movie, which Scotty wrote on assignment, will be available 6.24.14 through Xbox, iTunes, Amazon, and Best Buy. Scotty’s spec script DOUBLE D ISLAND (a topless take on The Hunger Games) was recently optioned and is currently being shopped for distribution. He is currently at work on a variety of projects. “I’m typing as fast as I can – everything I’ve written has either been optioned, sold, or produced!” Born and raised in Kansas, Scotty graduated from Georgia State University in Atlanta and currently splits his time between Los Angeles and New York City.