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Feb 17, 2022

Zak Hilditch is an Australian writer and director primarily known for the Netflix hits, Rattlesnake, and 1922, based on the Stephen King novella. Zak's earlier films include Transmission and These Final Hours. Zak is a very exciting director and has a very inspiring origin story, along with some great advice for pitching producers. I took a lot of notes from this conversation and hope you enjoy it.

Here are some key takeaways from this conversation with Zak Hilditch.

  1. Make your feature 8 shorts in rapid succession. Hopefully, by now, you've read Save the Cat by Blake Snyder, Story by Robert Mckee, and maybe even the Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Cambell. They all feature multiple formulas, etc., but one of the simplest, arguably most elegant ways to approach a feature screenplay is to make 8 12-minute shorts. For a movie to have compelling beats, every twelve minutes should feature a mini-story with a beginning, middle, and end to keep things consistently interesting. Hitchcock was known for doing this; for another example, pay close attention to The Others. Yes, this is formulaic, and yes, it's important to be original, but it's an interesting concept to observe because sometimes you need to know the rules to break them.
  2. Prep for your water bottle tour. First of all, a water bottle tour is when typically, your agent or manager sets you up with back to back to back meetings with producers so you can pitch them on yourself and your projects all at once. Each office along the way usually gives you a bottle of water while you wait hence the name, water bottle tour. If you get the chance to do a water bottle tour, make sure to have a full stable of ideas and concepts to pitch everyone you meet. Sometimes these meetings are in the context of a specific project, but this is not the way to approach water bottle tours. Yes, arrive prepared to pitch that project, but know that they may pass on it, in which case, you need backup concepts in your arsenal to tell them about. Having multiple projects enables you to pitch your sensibility as a director because there's always a chance they like you and your taste, but that one project isn't right for them. Having multiple projects makes you way more likely to get a deal since not only do they have more options to choose from as producers, but you get to showcase your sensibility in a much deeper way so that when a project comes across their desk that you're right for, they're more likely to think about you. On water bottle tours, producers meet so many people that they cannot remember most of them, so you need to leave a strong impression of yourself, your work, what you're capable of, and the kind of stuff you want to do.
  3. Keep multiple irons in the fire. This point is a natural extension to the previous one and further speaks to the importance of developing multiple projects at once. This is a paradox to the importance of focus, but the name of the game is being versatile and multi-faceted and having multiple things you're pitching at all times because you never know which one will hit or when. Zack spent years pitching one of his projects with little to no interest; meanwhile, his concept for Rattlesnake was instantly greenlit by Netflix. Hollywood is a fickle beast this way, without rhyme, reason, or logic sometimes, and it can drive you insane if you're not prepared for it. The film industry is a current, and rather than fight it; you need to learn to surf it. So get those screenplays ready, and I'll see you in Hollywood!


Produced by Simpler Media