The voices in my head go something like this:
“What if you’ve spent the last year, full time, writing a script, raising money, attaching actors, and producing a teaser, only to end up making a movie that sucks, and everyone around you saw it but you…”
That is seriously my greatest fear. Lucky for me (and for you), there’s a way to avoid this sort of outcome.
Validation, in simple terms, means checking every single assumption you have regarding your project.
“It’s good” — Validate it.
“It will make money” — Validate.
“This decision is the right one” — Validate.
Yesterday, while at lunch, a friend called me “the most tenacious mother ****er [he’s] ever met.” While I laughed and smiled at the comment, the reality is that I’m equal parts driven and afraid.
By last August, I had done three drafts of the script, and submitted it to The Blacklist (check out their blog on Medium) for an evaluation. For context, a 7/10 on their scale is “good” and an 8/10 is “great”.
So, you can imagine how I felt when we got these scores back:
But your assumptions are probably wrong. I was ELATED to get back scores like this. Not because I didn’t want a 7 or an 8 (I probably would’ve freaked out if that happened), but because it meant that I now knew something I didn’t know before: how to make the script better.
After a few more drafts we resubmitted and, as we had hoped, our scores went up.
Off that draft — and because of my constant, never ending fear — we did even more work.
- We did a live read with actors paid with (delicious) pizza and treats.
- We filmed it, edited it, and took more notes.
- and we wrote another draft…
…and boy, we were really starting to feel confident about the script.
So we submitted to Slated.com (Team Slated). Now, we had waited on this one because where The Blacklist costs $50 per evaluation (recently increased to $75), the Slated analysis costs $495 if you rush it. We did it in tandem with a financial analysis, so the rush was included in the $1000 price tag, but still…pricey.
We waited with anticipation for the 5 days it takes to get the analysis back. I ran out of nails to bite. It’s not pretty.
A script score of 64 (!), and a financial score of 91 (!!!).
I about lost my s***.
I was walking in to get a burger at a drive up joint in Fillmore, Utah when I got the email and forwarded it on to my business partner Alan.
He lost his s***.
It’s HUGE. While the script score is a little lower than we were hoping for, the financial score blew us away. We had hard data showing that the film has a very good chance of being profitable.
(The financial bit is deserving of its own, separate post, but needless to say, they’re projecting a 7.5x return for our investors. That’s a huge validation for all the work I’ve put in on the business plan for this film…)
The thing about Slated is that they’ve analyzed over 10,000 films. From their site:
Slated Analytics’ financial projections have been derived by analyzing — in minutest detail — the performance factors of more than 10,000 released films. By arming yourself with the most meaningful comparative data, you and your team will have the earliest intelligence on what to expect from the marketplace at every stage in your project’s development cycle, from packaging to financing to sales.
Also, if you look at their sample analyses, it’s crazy how good their algorithm is. Their average over/under is 16%.
What’s more, we got an INSANE amount of feedback from the three different readers with super actionable notes on how to go about improving it. This week we’re spending all of our time (besides writing this blog post) on improving the script.
We adapted their notes and ended up with a list of 48 things to do to improve the screenplay, and we’re knocking out about 10 a day. It’s hard work, but it’s incredibly exciting and easy to stay motivated because the fear is gone.
We now know what we didn’t know before and we can move forward with confidence.
Some people that know me would probably say that spending nearly two years of my life on this project, being constantly reminded that the state of the project is sub-par or merely “good”, raising not-enough money, then having those investors back out, raising more money that isn’t enough, and letting my bank accounts go to zero more than once is insane.
They’re probably right.
But, rather than being crippled by that, or by the constant reminder that there’s so much I don’t know, I can, instead, push forward because of the ability to validate, even if it costs more money than we have in the bank.
We can take confident steps based on this actionable feedback knowing that by doing so the project will improve and we will get closer to turning this idea we’ve been working on for years into a reality.
It’s worth it, and I’d do it again, every single time because now I know what I didn’t know I didn’t know.
If you enjoyed this post, please use the share buttons below to recommend it to others. If you’d like to follow along with the process of the film, there are three things you can do:
- Check it out on Slated.com.
- Sign up for the Telekinesis Entertainment Email List.
- Subscribe to our Podcast, where we give regular updates and talk about the process of making our first feature film.
Thanks for reading!