How to Sell Your Screenplay: Learn from Indie Producer, Noah Lang
Jake: My special guest today is Noah Lang. You just finished a really interesting film, This Is Not A War Story. I thought this would be a wonderful interview for our final podcast in the Sell Your Screenplay Series, because this film is not what most people would traditionally consider a “likely” movie to reach production, much less a release on HBO Max.
So many new writers think that selling a script is about “selling out” or doing something commercial, when in fact, often the exact opposite is the case. So I’m curious, what’s the origin story of This Is Not a War Story? How did this happen?
Noah: There are a couple of parts here that’ll be fun to unpack. The first thing is that Talia Lugacy, who wrote, directed, and is one of the leads in it, produced it with me. She’s a force of nature. I love her. She’s so talented.
We met in New York and Brooklyn years ago. She was developing it– this was called 8000 Shots at the time– and just the rawness of it, the realness of it all.
My family has a history of interest in veterans issues, and as a person of progressive political leaning, I was interested in it.
But more so than anything was this: this filmmaker is going to get this done and come hell or high water.
As a producer, that’s what you’re looking for, those people that are unstoppable. That was the impetus for diving in, and we were in the fortunate position that there was private financing to do it, at a very small level. In terms of what you were saying, we made it for the number that the market could sustain doing a film like this.
There are massive exceptions for dramas, justifying much larger budgets. Those tend to be star-driven: A-list directors, Academy Award stars, and things like that. In this case, the calculus for someone like me is that this is a filmmaker I want to work with. I love this project and I think we can grow and keep doing things together.
She also had the benefit that her first film, which was a Tribeca Film Festival selection and a New York Times critics pick up, starred Rosario Dawson, who then Executive Produced this with us.
We had some kind of good strategic elements to be able to play with, so kind of jumped into the deep end on that one rather quickly. It’s a film that we’re incredibly proud of. We’ve managed to sell it to HBO, an Independent Spirit Award nomination, good reviews in The New York Times, Roger Ebert, Film Threat, Hammer To Nail, all sorts of nice places.
Now that we’re heading towards the end of its initial life cycle, it’s also the tool we use for the next thing, which still has Talia’s identity, but it’s slightly more commercial and has a different set of ambitions.
In terms of what you talk about in this series, there are different benchmarks for selling your script. In a way, it’s almost like making your script can be one step towards doing more things that you’d like to do. A lot of writers have very disparate interests, others have very similar ones.
I admire [Justin] Benson and [Aaron] Morehead, who made The Endless, Resolution and Spring. What I saw there was that they were very deliberate about a progression in the size of the movie they were producing, so that they could keep taking those steps to be able to get to the place that they ultimately want it to be and do interesting things along the way.
This Is Not a War Story is a good example of what we can do, and a lot of our greater ambitions, within the framework of a film of this size. And it stands as a testament to what we think is possible for...