Interviews: Jerrol LeBaron, founder of InkTip.

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July 5, 2017 by tcawood

Jerrol-Bio-lgMost screenwriters quickly discover that writing isn’t the only challenge they face… they’re also expected to ‘get their scripts out there’ and connect with Producers looking for material.

They also soon learn that this is a lot easier said than done!

So in my latest interview, I catch up with Jerrol LeBaron, the founder of InkTip, who has so far helped over 300 projects get started.

Jerrol has over 17 years experience and his answers cover a wealth of useful info for screenwriters everywhere.

 

Q: First up, how about a little bit of background on the man behind InkTip, how did you get into the industry?
I started off as an actor/writer. I had a script I was proud of and was determined to get it made, but I couldn’t get it to producers. What I saw was a gate. On the other side of the gate opening were producers, agents, and managers looking for scripts and writers. Trying to squeeze through the gate were writers like me wanting to gain representation, sell their scripts, or get hired. But getting the producers and reps to figure out which writers and scripts to let through the gate was maddening. Every now and then a few scripts or writers were able to squeeze through. So, I thought to myself, what if I build a website where writers could post their scripts and where producers and reps could log in and do searches for exactly what they were looking for?

Q: And did you ever get anywhere with that script (or any since)?
Nope. I realized I was better suited to help other writers get their scripts sold and produced and that’s what I’ve been focusing on. It’s very rewarding. I love helping producers find just what they need and helping writers move their careers forward. I’ve also reread my script and felt a little embarrassed.

Q: How would you describe InkTip to a new writer or producer?
It’s like matchmaking for filmmaking. Producers come to InkTip to find scripts and writers. Writers come to InkTip so they can sell their scripts or get hired by producers. We make it possible for them to access each other to get films made. We average 3-4 script options a week.

How it works is producers let us know what they need and we connect them with writers who have the types of projects they’re looking for through our secure online database. Producers visit InkTip.com and search for scripts and writers. They can search by a variety of categories and criteria and contact writers directly. Producers also put out calls for script submissions in our weekly Preferred Newsletter. We then send this out to our writers so they can pitch their completed scripts to producers, most of which don’t accept unsolicited queries.

We even out the playing field for writers. We make it possible for hundreds of producers to find them, no matter where they’re located. Our most popular service for writers is an InkTip Script Listing. Writers can post their loglines, synopses, scripts, and resumes in our secure online database. Producers then reach out to these writers to learn more about their scripts.

We’ve had writers from all over the U.S., the U.K., and around the world sell scripts on InkTip. Even if you are in L.A., getting scripts to producers without a rep or connections is very difficult. We make it possible for writers to reach producers directly and for producers to find new talent. InkTip is free for qualified producers. (Register here.) Writers can sign up here.

Q: You have over 315 success stories, what was it like with the first few? Validation? Getting a business going is always a labor of love. In fact, I lost most of my hair getting InkTip up and running! It was a lot of long days and late nights. When those first successes started rolling in and we were able to watch films that were made because we connected the writers and producers, it was amazing. It was exciting to see the result of the hard work we’d put in. I still get a thrill when I see a trailer for a film made through us. I miss my hair, but it was worth it.

Q: There are other players in the market these days, what do you think differentiates InkTip?
I’m proud to say that no one gets the kind of results we get. We’ve had more than 315 films made through people connecting on InkTip. In addition to that, there are hundreds of options, sales, and writers that found representation through InkTip. Producers come to us because they are seriously looking for scripts and writers. Writers use InkTip because they want to move their careers forward. We never pay producers to use the site or any of our services so the connections made through our site are genuine.

Q: People believe that InkTip’s producers are at the Indie end, with smaller budgets (relatively speaking), would this be fair?
We work with all types of producers. We do work with indie producers, but that’s not to say they’re all filming on small budgets. We also work with producers from large companies such as ABC, Anonymous Content, APA, CBS Films, HBO Films, ICM, Paradigm, Paramount Pictures, Hallmark Channel, FX, Universal, WME, Echo Lake, Zero Gravity, Bad Robot, 20th Century Fox, and more.

We focus on working with reputable producers who have proven they can make a film and who are open to working with writers who are repped or unrepped, have previous credits or not. Our producers are looking for quality scripts and to develop relationships with writers. Often what happens is that a producer and a writer develop a relationship and continue to collaborate. So while perhaps the first film they made had a small budget, their second is a bigger production. We’ve also had producers and writers develop relationships to the point where the writer will become a co-producer or even direct a film.

We’ve had scripts of a wide range of budgets bought and made through our site. Sometimes that’s a limited-location thriller, sometimes it’s a western with sprawling landscapes, or an action film with helicopter scenes and complicated stunts. You can see some of our films here.

Q: What advice do you have for writers to maximize their chances of getting noticed on InkTip?
It’s important for writers to be proactive and make their work available to producers and representatives. If producers can’t find you or your work, it’s impossible for them to contact you and for anything to happen. So first list your scripts on InkTip and submit to any call for entries in the Preferred Newsletter that your script is a good fit for. You have to get your scripts out there if they are going to get made.

Secondly, take the time to get your loglines and synopsis right. I can’t stress this enough. So many writers will spend months on their scripts and 30 minutes on their synopses. Producers read loglines and synopses first. You need to showcase your style and story in a way that producers will want to take the next step and read your script. Tweak and study how people respond to your logline. The more you improve your logline, the more producers will read your synopsis and then your script.

Be patient and persistent. Even overnight successes typically take years. It only seems overnight on the outside. Stay committed to writing and promoting your scripts and you can get your films made. I’ve seen it work literally hundreds of times.

Q: Can you give us a brief rundown of the paid services?
We have three paid services for writers: InkTip Script Listing, InkTip Magazine, and the InkTip Preferred Newsletter. These are all strong options to get your scripts read and yourself noticed as a writer.

Writers typically start with an InkTip Script Listing. They can post their scripts on InkTip’s secure online database so producers and reps can find them when they are looking for writers. Each InkTip Script Listing is made up of a logline, synopsis, and you have the option of uploading your script or a treatment. Writers include info such as budget, genre, cast size, resume etc. Producers can then search by these criteria to find projects that match their needs. Each InkTip Script Listing costs $60 for 4 months. It’s an affordable way to promote your scripts safely. You’ll also get a record of all the producers who have viewed your logline.

We also have InkTip Magazine. We send out our magazine to our full list of producers and representatives. Altogether a total of nearly 15,000 people receive this publication. For every script they have on InkTip, writers can publish their loglines in the magazine and reach even more producers.

Producers will come to InkTip with specific needs such as a grounded sci-fi thrillers or WWII scripts. We put out these exclusive calls for script submissions in our weekly InkTip Preferred Newsletter. The newsletter is sent out every Thursday and has 6-8 exclusive calls for script submissions from InkTip producers. There are often more than 8 calls for scripts included. It’s a great way to submit your scripts safely and directly to a production company at the exact moment they are looking for a script.

Q: And the free ones?
Registering for an InkTip account is free. Writers can register here and then get access to our logline lab, special discounts to enter contests and film festivals, and access to articles and how-to’s related to the industry.

We have a free weekly newsletter that anyone can sign up for. Subscribers get 1-2 script leads a week and they can submit their work to producers at no cost. You can also preview what’s in the Preferred Newsletter and if you see something you want to submit to, sign up and get immediate access to it.

Many writers have short scripts. All writers can promote their short scripts on InkTip for free. https://www.inktip.com/sa_short_script_listing.php

Q: You make sure you vet prospective producers before they are allowed access, why is that?
We work with companies and producers who are reputable. We connect our writers with producers and industry professionals who have the capability, experience, and connections to make a film. Our first priority is always making it possible for writers to get their scripts sold and find representation. A big part of that is making sure that the producers and reps we work with are credible. So we vet every InkTip producer. We also never pay producers to view scripts. We don’t pay because we don’t want anyone using InkTip under false pretenses. The producers who use our site are searching with the intention of making a film now and not for some other incentive.

Q: I’ve not accessed the site as a producer would, what do they see?
Producers log into the site and they’re able to search for scripts. They can narrow the search by genre, budget, locations, writer credits, and many other options. They then see a page with all of the scripts available that meet their criteria. They instantly see each script’s logline and writer’s name. They can then choose to read the synopsis, script, or contact the writer directly.

You can see a preview of the search page here.
You can see how scripts show up for producers here.

Q: There are a lot of people competing for aspiring screenwriter’s limited money, from guru’s, through coverage services, and a plethora of competitions. What makes InkTip a good investment?
It’s a low-cost way to make your scripts available to hundreds of producers. It’s a secure site, you always know who reads your scripts, and our strong track record speaks for itself

Q: Once a producer finds a script or a writer… what happens next?
The producer and writer make a deal. It might be a script option, buying the writer’s script or hiring the writer for an existing project. InkTip never takes a cut of the deal. The producer and writer are free to make the best deal for them without any interference from us.

Sometimes a producer will like a writer’s script and writing style, but the script is not the right fit at the moment. Often this leads to a relationship where they stay in touch and then down the line they might work together. This happened recently with If I Had Wings written by Michael Markus and Tim Stubinski and produced by Cynde Harmon. Cynde liked one of their scripts a few years back but wasn’t able to move forward with it at the time. She kept in touch with Markus and Tim who let her know what they were working on and she decided to produce one of their scripts. This happens a lot. Connecting with producers always has the possibility of leading to something later down the line.

Q: And what changes have you seen in the industry since you started 17 years ago?
So many changes! When I first started InkTip, the idea that producers could find scripts online was totally new. Now people are comfortable with it and it’s become common, which is great for writers. There are so many more films being made a year. With so many distribution platforms and companies, there are way more opportunities available for writers. It’s a good time to be writing and promoting your scripts.

This is an industry like any other. You gotta knock on a lot of doors to find the right place where your work can shine. Everything takes leg work. It’s about being consistent. One of my favorite quotes is from Benjamin Franklin, “Energy and persistence conquer all things.” That has definitely been true for me. In the last 17 years, I’ve definitely seen how it’s now more possible than ever for writers to break in.

Q: Any advice in general for the aspiring screenwriters on Simply Scripts in terms of breaking in?
Be proactive. Get good at your craft, but don’t obsess about it being perfect. Put yourself and your work out there as much as possible. Follow up and always be professional.

Be positive. Writing can be so personal and it can be rough to handle rejection. If you can stay positive or at least neutral and not go down a road of negativity, it makes it so much easier for you to keep putting in the work. And that’s what helps you move your career forward.

 

Okay, now for some getting to know Jerrol questions…

Q: Fave movie?
I can’t choose just one. I really like Gone with the Wind, Outland, Matrix, and the Edge of Tomorrow.

Q: Best and worst screenwriting advice you’ve had.
Worst advice:  Write a great script, and if it is truly great it will automatically get found and made. Your talent will get you through.
Best advice: The best way to NOT get your script made is to not let anybody read it. Believe in yourself and put yourself out there. Dedicate time to building your craft and dedicate as much time to promoting yourself as you do your writing.

Q: Fave food?
Nothing beats a great huevos rancheros!

Q: Fave drink?
Coke or vodka and Coke.

Q: Fave sport and team if applicable?
Basketball; Lakers

Q: Fave thing to do outside of InkTip and writing stuff?
Hanging out with friends and family. I also like woodworking. I used to work in construction and really enjoy building things. I recently redid my garage and it turned out great. I make all my friends and family admire it when they come over.

Q: Any final words of advice to the aspiring writers out there?
Work every week without fail on showcasing your scripts and skills, such as through networking, screenings, entering contests, query letters, follow-ups, etc. Take notes on what is and isn’t effective with your efforts and make improvements. For example, when writing query letters, figure out which one of your query letters works best and apply what you’ve learned moving forward. Do this for your loglines, your synopses, how you introduce yourself at events, etc. Pay attention to what works and doesn’t and act accordingly. Dedicate time to promoting yourself and your scripts and that’ll go a long way in making your career happen.

 

Thanks to Jerrol for being so generous with his time and providing such great answers.

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