Michael Jue – Writer-Producer. Screenwriter of “Photo Finish”
– Dani: Tell me about your experience in the film industry? How did you start your journey as a filmmaker?
I’ve started really as a writer, being involved in the film. Probably 10 years or a little bit more ago, I’ve started taking classes for a screenwriting. And right before that, I also took some classes for a comedy writing. I’ve always been a creative person, I compose music, I do quite a lot photography, and every day try to do creative writing. I’ve found out I love the stories that I can tell.
– Dani: Could you give me more details about the classes you have attended?
They were actually through Meetup group called “Orange County Screenwriters”. I’ve provided them a host facility, so I was not the host or organizer of the meetings, but a “location provider”. So basically I end up attending almost all the meeting during these 2 years and learned the tremendous amount of screenwriting.
– Dani: What or who inspired you to be a writer?
I guess it’s kinda self-inspiration, I’ve been always a good storyteller. Since my childhood, I’ve been telling quite a lot of stories. Actually, I was always the one who tells the “campfire” stories. But I never wrote them down, I was just telling them. And at the certain point, I’ve realized maybe I should creatively write them down. This eventually lead me to the place of making the jokes, and to the interests of science-fictions and a comedy. But I quickly found out that the comedy is really hard to “sell” to the audience.
Even if you are a very notable celebrity or with big money you can’t break it. You cannot break into television sitcoms. I think it’s gradually changing now with more and more other entities publishing shows and so forth. The example was Oprah Winfrey and Mel Gibson. They have approached the networks to promote their own sitcoms. And they were not able to get it. Those people were not able to get it.
– Dani: Basically, the “name” in the comedy industry doesn’t mean anything?
Yes, doesn’t mean anything. It’s what they call closed, locked up to those that are already in it. The industry will not let anyone else. Even people of that stature not going to make it. Oprah Winfrey the way she got in was she created her own network. But I don’t have the resources to do that.
– Dani: Let’s talk about the projects you have done. Any short, featured films, anything you have written?
We did a short film proposal for a television show. A science fiction show that came up quite by accident. I had been working on the logline and the script with a co-writer friend of mine. I saw the camera gear on the side of one of my clients that asked me if I knew someone that had a screenplay or a film.
So I had a film story “Photo Finish”. It’s about a pair of scientists who accidentally invent the camera that can take pictures of the future. I described the story to him and he said it is such an amazing story and that he knew of people that would be willing to produce it.
At that time, I was somewhat new to that concept, how would you do that. He said he could do the filming. He can get actors, he can get all the crew and the there would be some costs but a majority of the major players would be wanting to donate their time into making a film.
Especially if the story is very compelling and he really really liked that story. And everyone that he approached to be in our team they all volunteered. So, about nine months after that conversation we had a finished product that was the title. It’s called “Photo Finish”.
– Dani: Let’s go a little bit back to this idea. How do you come up with it, and what was the inspiration behind it?
The major logline is I imagine if you invented the camera that can take a picture of the future. That would think of the future. Two scientists working in a high tech company accidentally discovered this, and they have a contract with the military for antique looking devices and they altered not just the light but they also altered time. So it turns out that the picture stick can come out anywhere from a few days to a week ahead of today.
It’s an amazing discovery that they make and unfortunately, there are those that would use that for evil purposes to make money for themselves or to blackmail people. So it’s not a comedy but it’s more of a man on the run. What happens is one of the major scientists is accused of murdering his the other scientists. Of course, he didn’t do that. But he winds up in possession of the camera. And he’s being chased by those that want to frame him. So it’s the typical fugitive role where a man is falsely accused and he’s on the run from the authorities from the people that would like to get that camera back and frame him for murder.
– Dani: Where can the audience watch this film (“Photo Finish”)?
– Dani: What did you learn from producing and working on this story?
The major components are actually being immersed in the actual process. So I was co-writer and also a producer. I participated in gathering and getting together with the whole team. Keeping everybody on on the page working with the cinematographer. The hardest part, that something I had learned from screenwriting meetings is that, there’s typically a battle going on between the producer and the director. The director who wants to do things a certain way and this producer would want to do things a certain way, and the writer may have some input into the way the story goes. But very often and in practical terms, the end of the story or whatever is produced does not necessarily match the writers of the writer’s story.
– Dani: Then, let me ask you this. Were you satisfied with the final edited look of the product?
The final product technically was good. The story was twisted a bit and you know pretty much the major things that were different was that because of the actual people involved. And it’s a team effort. So every person usually has to feel that they are getting some benefit out of the whole production. So as such depending on the personality of the players and you do have to be adaptable. That’s one of the lessons I learned is that and I knew this from other working and team effort says that.
You can’t necessarily impose an iron fist through to the project. Otherwise, people will walk or they’ll not be happy. So if they have an idea you can listen to them and say “hey, it’s a great idea but it maybe takes us a little bit of the storyline”. As long as it doesn’t take us completely off. It’s worthwhile to keep all the team involved. So at least you have a product rather than having some artistic disagreement and then not having anything.
– Dani: What was the budget of the film?
We had an initial budget. It was under $5000 and it wound up quite a bit higher than that. But eventually, we wound up with the investor along the way that helped us out. So we were very surprised that we got that. We didn’t to per say set out to raise money. But we talked to several individuals and one of the people that come through with investment. Based on the advice of aspiring filmmakers has an idea but too scared to approach versus.
– Dani: How should an aspiring filmmaker approach an investor? Or how to simply find investors for your project?
Before looking for an investor, I would craft your story and your plot to be very compelling. Make sure your script is good, you have a central concept that people will really really gravitate towards that. That’s a very high selling point. You could try to do everything but not have a good story. You could have a story that’s maybe been done a million times before. And the people will not necessarily be as interested. If you have a story that is different from that. If you’re approaching actors and other people working the story, if they see themselves as part of that they want to they’ll be naturally attracted to your project. You have to have something where the people see themselves as part of it.
– Dani: OK, let’s get back to being a writer. What is the one mistake most writers make, regardless of experience?
This may seem like a funny one but it happens to me all the time and I imagine it does happen to all of us. The writers typically have things going on in their minds. And eventually, at some point, you have some great idea where you think in your mind your light bulb goes “Oh wow I’m going to put that in my story or I need to add this to the story”. What happens is you think about it. And life goes on. Then later in the day later the next day you go. What was that that I thought. And you’ve lost it. So one of the biggest things that I really try to force myself to do is when I have those little flashes or even inklings, you must write that down right away right away. Because it’s it can disappear. It’s amazing how it happens. Now there may be others that have you know very very sharp perfect mind but I think most people can tend to forget certain things.
– Dani: Do you outline before start writing?
I start with the beginning of the story in the end. The hardest part for myself is the middle. And the other hardest part is to select the ideas that are really good ideas but maybe they don’t belong in this story. It’s kind of maybe taking you off the center line even though it may be interesting, you have to kind of put that idea out. Maybe that goes into another project.
So I’m the kind of person of a writer that I have a lot of different ideas. And you would muddle up your story if you include all of them. You can’t include all of your ideas in one story. You have to realize what goes with this story what idea goes with some other story.
– Dani: Do you do lots of research before writing?
I’m in the genre mostly of science fiction. So the advantage I have is that I do follow science quite a lot and I follow current events in science. So I try to incorporate something that the public may be interested in and myself as a being related to work in science. My co-writer and other people that are in the film industry recognize that these are things that they don’t necessarily have training in. But I do, so I gravitate and I do research in what’s happening in science. What is entertaining.
And one of the benefits of the market today is that there is quite a bit of interest in science fiction and just the general shows being produced and the interest of the market. Science fiction is that it’s a field that’s still going strong right now.
– Dani: What’s the best advice you could give someone new to the writing?
I would say to the writing be open to two ideas a few If you do bounce ideas off of your friends or other people that are film writers, listen to incorporate what their comments are. They may suggest a change in a character change in a scene change in location or even a change in the period of peace and maybe even the whole direction. Be open to any of those suggestions and see how it might work with a lot of writers tend to be very focused on things have to be a certain way. So it’s very good to listen to the advice of others. Especially if you’re a beginner there will be people that have more experience out there.
– Dani: What are the next steps in your career as a filmmaker?
I’m still trying to be involved with the filmmaking and learn as much as I can. I’ve been mainly devoting my time on scripts. I have spent quite a lot of time on a full-length feature film at this time, and it’s very nearly getting ready to have the complete treatment. Once the treatment is ready that will be registered with the “Writers Guild” and we are then off to being able to market down that piece.
– Dani: So you are in the process of writing a feature film right now?
Yes. The feature film is quite a different entity than a television proposal. TV proposal series must be necessarily sustainable over many episodes. A full-length feature film can have a start and a middle and an end and then not necessarily consider having sequels. It can be a standalone story and something you can tell over the course of two hours. The script is ready. Well, we haven’t got a point of having the treatment to be registered with the writers guild.
One of the advice I can give is that you really don’t want to solely publicize your story before you have it registered with the “Writers Guild”. Because a person could just take that story, and if you don’t have your name on it or you don’t have a registration they can technically claim it as their own. So I won’t be able to tell you the whole story. Maybe next year we’re going to talk about it.
– Dani: How long did it take to write a feature film?
This one’s been in work for a number of years. I have a co-writer who has quite a bit lesser role than in “Photo Finish”. “Photo Finish” was pretty much equal between me and the other co-writer. This feature length film is mostly my own. It’s a sci-fi, and it’s a bit different than “Photo Finish”. “Photo Finish” takes place in the current present day. This next piece takes place about 50 years in the future and then also about 100 years in the future. And it could fall into what the typical genre or it could be called post-apocalyptic. It’s after catching calamity happens to the earth. But it’s very unique and all the people that I have described this story to tell me that I’ve hit upon something that just no one has ever done. It’s a very very unique story.
– Dani: How did you come up with the idea?
A lot of ideas come up I’m either just looking at the sky or just sitting at home. Something hits and I think this is an interesting thought maybe I’ve never thought this before. And then I as a writer I believe that this could be an interesting story to tell. One of the dangers of actually making a film to promote a written piece, ss that the viewer may have a different idea than the actors you’ve chosen. So all of a sudden they said oh I read your story then I saw the film and the are different. When you have the written word the written script and the written treatment. The reader can fill in in his own mind who he sees in there. And that’s some of the beauty of the written word. You don’t write down everything you don’t. It’s somewhat of a detriment to state. You want to as a writer not to perform the director’s job. The director will have a certain role in creating the film.
– Dani: OK, Mike, it’s time for our signature questions. Name your three all-time favorite films.
One of them would have to be “2001 A Space Odyssey”. I thought that was an amazing tale. “Blade Runner” was also very very interesting to say about. The other film which was one of my all time favorites was going way back it’s “Tootsie”. “Tootsie” was just an unbelievable film. When I was in the theater people were just falling out of their seats in the aisles. It was uproariously funny for everyone. We just happened to have a very good audience and it was a good film at least for me.
– Dani: Name one filmmaker who has influenced you the most?
It would probably be Stanley Kubrick. He was the director of the “2001 Space Odyssey”. Very kind of advanced as far as what he did back in 1968. And today people still regard that film as one of the most accurate as far as portrayals of action in space.
– Dani: OK Mike thanks a lot for coming to the interview and it was awesome and very knowledgeable talking to you.
All right thank you, Danny. It’s my pleasure.
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