Joe Scott, who wrote his first screenplay at 15 in a small town outside of Wichita Falls, Texas, confesses he’s daydreamed of becoming the next Ed Burns on occasion. Now, with more than a decade of experience in the film industry, one feature film under his directing belt and a second in progress, his approach has changed a little.
The Dallas-based screenwriter, actor and director has more of a long-term, big-picture mentality these days, but the reverie remains important, especially to his creative process as a writer.
Serendipity Moon, Scott’s latest film project, comes from a script originally written 15 years ago, and it was meant to be a follow-up to his 2004 directorial debut, Ocean Front Property — a film about a man who, after losing the love of his life, attempts to find solace by taking a week-long trip to the beach, only to have his ex show up at the same place with her new husband in tow.
Serendipity Moon was meant to be a follow-up to Joe Scott’s directorial debut, Ocean Front Property — when he hoped to have his “Ed Burns moment.”
As is the fate of many independent films, things fell through, and Serendipity Moon was put on hold.
“When I did Ocean Front, I was trying to have my Ed Burns moment — write, direct and star in a film, and just see what happens. Of course, I wanted to have Harvey Weinstein contacting me immediately, but it doesn’t always happen that way,” Scott says, laughing.
Ocean Front made the rounds on the festival circuit that year, winning several awards, and Scott’s writing skills on the film garnered attention from other filmmakers and producers, creating a nice side job for Scott on top of his full-time gig as a copywriter for the Dallas Morning News.
Over the next decade, when Scott wasn’t writing advertising campaigns for clients, creating blog posts or making videos for the DMN, he was busy polishing, adapting or creating scripts from scratch. Among those projects: an adaptation of an action thriller novel set in the Middle East, a WWII movie set on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific, and a true-life story about a popular band from the ’60s.
Now, 10 years after his directorial debut, Scott is returning to the director’s seat once again in hopes of bringing his Serendipity Moon script to the big screen. To get a project like this rolling, Scott says he often relies on other members of the Dallas film community for help.
“I would much rather have a referral than just cold calling, because you work with these people for so long. Not only do they have to be easy to work with, but they also have to have a bit of passion for the project themselves. I know, especially in a low budget film, I’m going to be asking people to go above and beyond what I’m paying them to do.”
Many of the cast members in Serendipity Moon come from connections Scott made through his involvement with Dallas Comedy House; he was in one of the first groups to go through its improvisation program. There he met the film’s lead, Tim Yager, as well as cast members Kyle Austin and Julie Reinagle.
Some auditioned for their parts, while others were old friends made during work on past projects. “It’s a little bit of finding new people, and a little bit of working with people you love,” says Scott. “
For funding, Scott will rely partly on a crowdfunding campaign through Indiegogo, a popular tool used by several indie filmmakers and artists. Serendipity Moon is scheduled to begin shooting sometime during the first quarter of 2014, and Scott hopes to have the film ready for the festival circuit by the end of the year.
Transmedia — a tool Scott believes is the wave of the future for independent filmmaking — has also played a role in the process. “You have to build a brand around yourself,” Scott says.
To accomplish this, he created the web series “Ask Joe,” but the long hours spent making the videos took their toll when the number of views failed to measure up. He eventually stopped making the series.
Then a Facebook competition inspired him to pitch the web series idea to an entrepreneur, and a stranger’s comment gave Scott what he says was the “kick in the butt” he needed.
“I got this random comment from some dude I’d never met in my life, saying he missed my videos,” says Scott. “It was a pivotal moment, because I got so jacked up over the numbers that I forgot there are actually people out there who are watching and are interested in what I’m saying.
“Maybe it’s not the millions that I wanted, but it’s a start.”