004 – Curious About Filmmaking: Film Producer Barri Evins on Big Ideas, Zen Pitching, and Finger Puppets


Producer Barri Evins

Barri Evins LOVES big ideas. She was molded early in her career by the likes of Ray Gideon and Bruce Evans. You may have heard of some of the movies they wrote and produced; Stand By Me, Assassins, and Mr. Brooks. During our conversation she made it a point to say that she is not a screenwriter and would never want to portray herself as such, she has too much respect for screenwriters and the difficulty they face when completing a script. She can however, shine the light of clarity and insight on writers and their screenplays  as a successful film producer. There is an oft-quoted maxim among those giving advice to would-be screenwriters, and that is. “Write what you know.” And its sister statement, “Don’t chase the market.” These old chestnuts have their truth, but you can’t have former port-o-potty delivery drivers breaking into the film business by following this advice unless you want to see more shitty movies. Barri goes in a different direction and the guidance she gives to writers in her workshops and one on one sessions cuts through the noise.

Barri’s approach is this… start with a BIG IDEA. That doesn’t mean follow in the footsteps of Michael Bay, rather it is a practical and real world truth of a film producer who has not only seen dozens of films packaged and sold, but has done the pitching, packaging, and selling herself. Its important to remember that there are a lot of paths to building a career in Hollywood as a writer, but one of the items you’ll want to check off your list sooner than later is to sell your work. The quickest way, according to Barri, to write and sell a script is to start with what she calls, a “hooky” idea. This is how Barri describes it in one of her blog posts:

A Hooky Idea immediately intrigues us.  It makes you want to know more; it gets you hooked and sticks with you.  In a few sentences, or even a few well-chosen words, a Hooky Idea floods our mind with images and emotions. When you hear a Hooky Idea, you know what the movie will FEEL LIKE.  Right off the bat, you know if this is a movie that you wanna see.

I shared with her the concept of the script by Derek Asaff titled, WHEELMAN to see if she thought it was “hooky.” The gist? A Drivers Ed teacher is forced to become the getaway driver for a group of bank robbers. Listen to the podcast to get her take on it. (And to learn about those finger puppets!)

Barri is a warm, energetic, and insightful person and I can understand why her students love working with her. Her pre-writing outlining methods have worked incredibly well for many of her students in conjunction with her ability to teach them how to break down story structure.

(Listen or subscribe on iTunes or on Stitcher)

Barri Evins talks about how she works with writers

I am passionate about teaching screenwriting from the perspective of a working producer. My goal is to share the techniques I use with the pros with budding writers, giving them the tools to achieve their dreams. The Big Ideas Screenwriting Intensive, an intimate and interactive seminar offered around the country, gives aspiring writers what it takes to break into the business, providing professional techniques, powerful tools to achieve their dreams and methods for revolutionizing their creative process. Students also receive my mentorship for a year, developing their new idea, getting career advice and support.

(Listen or subscribe on iTunes or on Stitcher)

Show Notes and Links from Episode 004

  • Why calling your script “high concept” is not a good idea
  • The value of writing with the right tone and the “promise of your premise”
  • Having a “hooky idea” can get your project the traction it needs to be considered
  • The “umbrella effect” of a great idea
  • Build your own “idea file” to increase your odds of success
  • Barri teaches her concept of the Magic Triangle
    • 1) A Hooky Idea, 2) Writing to your Strengths, and 3) Using your Personal Theme
  • Consider changing the time period, protagonist, etc., to make a breakthrough with you script
  • How tone, brevity and getting to the Zen of your story with help you ace your next pitch
    • (It’s also a good idea to lead with the hero’s story before getting into the details)
  • Do more pre-writing than re-writing. 37 drafts? “That’s bananas!”
  • Barri’s special outlining tool that keeps writers on track
  • Structure can be as simple as giving yourself a hand; because finger puppets
  • Writing is decision making; the most important decision is what you are going to write next

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Movies / Television Mentioned in this Episode

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