Today, we're speaking with Toni Weiss, a screenwriter from Germany. During this call, I discover that his screenplay manuscript has just been accepted. Awesome, right? Thing is, Tony has an idea to help other screenwriters with his own online course—but he's got a limited amount of time because he has to direct and produce this new movie of his own.
He's almost done filming and editing his screenwriting course, but what kind of a course should it be—fully prerecorded, or with some live training? Should he use a cohort-based course model? How should he price it and market it? He doesn't have really have an audience for it yet, so how should he build one? So many questions and that's what we dig into today!
And if you've ever thought about writing a screenplay yourself, check out Toni's special offer for AskPat listeners interested in his new course.
AP 1224: What's the Best Way to Sell My Knowledge When I'm Also Busy?
Pat Flynn: What's up, everybody? Pat Flynn here, and welcome to episode 1,224 of AskPat 2.0. You're about to listen to a coaching call between myself and an entrepreneur just like you. And today, we're speaking with Toni Weiss. Toni is over in Germany and he is a screenwriter, and he helps other people screenwrite too. In fact, during this call, I discovered that his screenplay manuscript was just accepted and is going to be turned into something. And that is amazing. That's so cool. You'll hear a little bit of interest from me in this world as well here in this particular episode. However, our goal is to help Toni because he's got an idea to help other screenwriters, but he's got a limited amount of time. I mean, he's going to help direct and produce this thing. But, he also wants to, and is already actually almost done filming and editing a course.
Pat Flynn: So, what's this course going to look like? How is he going to get it in front of people? What mechanisms can he use to do that? Because, he doesn't have necessarily an audience to do it. So, does he have to build an audience first? What content platform should he be using? What social media platforms, if any, should he be using? Well, we're going to discuss all those things today with Toni. You can find him at toniweiss.at, that's T-O-N-I W-E-I-S-S.A-T. And I'm on the page right now, it's like, "Story Inc. Authentic storytelling since 1966." Check it out. And, I hope you enjoy this episode. Here's Toni.
Pat Flynn: Toni, welcome to AskPat. Thank you so much for joining me on the podcast today.
Toni Weiss: Hello there. Glad to be here.
Pat Flynn: I'm excited to learn a little bit about you. I know that you listen to the show, I know you listen to Smart Passive Income as well. And now, here you are on the show. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
Toni Weiss: Okay. My name is Toni Weiss. And originally, I am a director and screenwriter. I've been doing this for 30 years now, and you can see it a little bit in the hair loss and the gray beard. I've been quite successful with that. Recently I started to concentrate on just writing feature films, while still directing and writing a lot. In the last few years, I've started doing more and more story coaching and story consulting. I've done that for big brands, but I've also of course done it with other screenwriters. And, I have developed a system for screenwriting, because as a director, I'm used to working with tools, not rules. Directors tend to be very impatient. They want things that work, and work under duress. And so, I filtered out a lot of stuff that isn't helpful when you are actually sitting down and writing. And that's been my passion for the last few years and I've developed a system of how to write screenplays that is swift, and actionable, and actually, actually works.
Pat Flynn: Incredible. At one point in my life, I had once considered going down that route of writing movies. And, it's still in the back of my head maybe when I retire. It'll be the next adventure for me, and we'll have to chat, Toni, because it's just fascinating to me what movies and stories can do to transport people. I mean, I tell stories on the podcast as you know, and I have videos on YouTube that tell micro, mini-stories here and there. But, to do a full feature film would be incredible. Where can people go to find out more in case they're curious about how you do what you do and where?
Toni Weiss: Well, the thing that we are going to talk about today can be found at storyminusacademy.net. That's going to be my platform for all types of courses in storytelling. And we're going to start out with a screenwriting course. But, I already have an idea for people who want to write a novel and self-publish that, that's going to be probably the next course, and a lot of other courses. So, that's where you could find me. And you can always find my director's portfolio, if you are so inclined, and want to watch some strange European commercials.
Pat Flynn: We'll link to all those things in the show notes for everybody. But, may I selfishly ask you one question before I ask you more about your business, for somebody like me, who was at one point and maybe in the future will be curious about screenwriting again, what is the number one tip you have for somebody getting into that space to do well with it?
Toni Weiss: I think contrary to what I will be talking about a lot, which is that I've created a system, is start with trust in your instincts, because all of us have seen around 2,000 to 3,000 stories in film form by the time we reach that age. Yeah? And we are much more story wise than we would know. And then, I would actually recommend reading at least 10 very, very good screenplays, because screenwriters are so eager to get under your skin to sell this movie in your head, because when you get a screenplay it's not a finished film, it has to be cinema of the imagination. Yeah?
Pat Flynn: Right. Right.
Toni Weiss: And, very good screenplays have a tendency to seep under your skin and make you recognize how they do it, if you read them with this in mind. So, I would recommend starting there. And then, of course, I would recommend actually, actually really learning a system that works for you. Yeah. And I can always hook you up with the course, it's going to be there.
Pat Flynn: Yeah. Yeah. No. No, thank you. I'd love to eventually check it out. And, I think that's great advice. I think that applies across all aspects of life and things that we're learning. You need a system, you need somebody who's done it before you to walk you through a process. But at the same time, you also have to trust your instincts. And, I love what you said about the fact that we've all have had story in our lives in one way, shape, or form, I mean, thousands of them.
Toni Weiss: We love stories for very specific reasons. Somebody, I think it was a German poet once said, "If we want something to be in a container that other generations can savor, we don't put it in numbers and spreadsheets, we put it in stories." Yeah?
Pat Flynn: That's right.
Toni Weiss: And that's what I strongly believe in. And, of course, I view the world through stories. It's a terrific sense making device, if you look at stories like that. Yeah? And the stories that we love, we love them for a reason. That's always a good place to start too.
Pat Flynn: I love that. So Toni, what's your story right now? Where are you in your business and where can I best help you?
Toni Weiss: Well, I hope that we're not treading over ground that you've covered so, so many times already. But, I'm not in the beginning, but in the last stages of my beginning. I'm currently shooting the story course. So, by the time this podcast is out, the course should be online and should be edited. That is a beast to work on. I'm in the middle of preparing all of the launch pages, and preparing the website, and the copy is still obnoxious, and all of that stuff. Yeah? Also, I've done my due diligence with thinking about my audience, doing test workshops to get to know them better. I did live webinars. I realized that a certain type of screenwriter is actually not my audience, but I realized that another type of person is my audience.
Pat Flynn: That's great.
Toni Weiss: I'm much more sure footed. For sure, there will be a bloody nose down the road, because there will be some mistake that I've made, or some assumption that doesn't turn out right. But, I was feeling the ground moving under myself when I realized that creating a course isn't a singular business model. I've done two courses on the SPI platform. Yeah? And I assumed, "Well, that's how you do it." You create a course. You find a course platform, you link it up, or you host it on your own website, and there you are. Yeah? And then, of course, the more you start doing your course, looking at YouTube videos, the more you get bombarded by people who are also selling knowledge about courses. And I realized that there is a whole slew of different business models around producing, and marketing, and selling a course. Yeah?
Pat Flynn: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Toni Weiss: Like in Germany, if you watch German YouTube videos, you will be bombarded by these young guys standing in front of Lamborghinis waving thousand Euro packages.
Pat Flynn: Yeah, that's not just there. That's all over.
Toni Weiss: Probably all over the world. Yeah. And, for giggles, I attended one of these webinars that they use, of course, as the top of their sales funnels.
Pat Flynn: Yeah.
Toni Weiss: And I started realizing that there are all kinds of different ways to sell and to market an online course. And I started to doubt myself a little bit because I thought, "Well, what is right for me?" Because, when you look at some of these models, like what they call high ticket models, they're very involved. They have daily Facebook groups, and touchdowns, and a lot of structure around them to sell courses that the individual ticket is around 5,000 euros. Then you have people who are just putting courses on Skillshare, and done with it. There's a vast middle. And I was thinking, "Well, where exactly do I fit?" Especially, because I'm not planning on just single-mindedly leaving everything behind in my life. I still want to direct, I still want to write scripts.
Toni Weiss: Like today, you're getting me at a point where I've just had an email from a producer, say, "Well, the studio agreed to development funding on your horror film script." So, you find me in a celebratory mood.
Pat Flynn: Congratulations.
Toni Weiss: That's what will take up some time. On the other hand, I really want to create this course. I want to work for it. I want to create a service for the people who joined the course to really be useful for them. So, I'm on the edge of, "What would be a good business case for me?" Yeah.
Pat Flynn: What does success with this course look like to you?
Toni Weiss: It's a good question. I think, success with this course for me would look like, that I would actively interact with people in this course, something like three or four times a year, every quarter.
Pat Flynn: Okay.
Toni Weiss: Because a quarter is around the time that in a professional world, you're supposed to deliver draft of a screenplay in three months. So, the course is designed for people who are already aware of that, or will be made aware of that through the course. So, that neatly divides the year into quarters. I have realized through the test workshops that people want the interaction. What we're doing on this podcast is very elemental for people, even in a course they have things they don't understand, there are things that they are blocked with.
Toni Weiss: So, that's what would be nice, if I could repeat this course four times a year, have some interaction with it. And, in the first year, I'm thinking of making, in euros, probably per launch, I would estimate something between 15,000 and 20,000 euros. Yeah. I don't know how fast courses scale. It's my first rodeo out there. I don't know. But, that would be nice. And, it would be nice by the end of the year to have help at least 50 people, and know that there are 40 to 50 more completed screenplays out there than were in the year before.
Pat Flynn: Yeah. Great. Thank you for that. I think that's really helpful. Based on that, I can imagine that if you were to launch this and it was just completely out of your hands, it was mostly just automated, maybe even it was selling, but you never really had a chance to interact. It was more like those courses on Skillshare, right? Where it's just there, that it actually wouldn't be fulfilling, even if people went through it, because you would know that they would need that interaction, you would know that you personally would be fulfilled by actually following the process of some of your students.
Toni Weiss: Yeah, that's true actually. It's nice of you to ask it like that, because that makes me think, it's amazing, the blind spots you can have when you're in the thick of it.
Pat Flynn: Oh, completely. It's just like, when you teach screenwriting, there's a beginner and it's something so obvious to you is...
Toni Weiss: Your version of what would make you happy, it's a really nice question.
Pat Flynn: Yeah, exactly. And, we can get rid of the Skillshare option, right? That's out of your brain. That's not even going to be a possibility. So now, it's clear. Let's go on the other side. Let's talk about these Lam-bros as we call them in the U.S. The Lam-bros. Okay. High ticket items, whether it's a genuine high ticket offer or not, or just flashy, at the higher-end offer at the 5,000, $10,000 range. I mean, we're talking mentorship, we're talking the idea of being on call even, which, if it sounds like this screenplay that you're working on has just been accepted. You're just not going to have time for that, right? You wouldn't take a call in the middle of a set and answer their question, because that's just not what you have time for.
Pat Flynn: So, we can get rid of that extreme and you won't be charging tens of thousands of dollars, because at that level, that's the commitment that would be required of an instructor. So now, we're in this, like you said, vast center where there's a wide range of things going on. And so, I love that you also brought in some numbers, and the fact that you already know that you're going to launch this quarterly, because that does play with the idea of you following people along, not in the mentorship situation, but kind of, where you can once a week, or once every other week, check in on a person's progress at your own time: "Hey, everybody on Thursday at this time, we're all going to meet in between, consume the information that's in the course, it's already there for you. Next week when we meet, we're going to talk about module two lesson one. And, come together with your work that you've done on act one."
Pat Flynn: I don't know what I'm saying, but you know what I mean? You're taking people through, what is called, and this is maybe where you can do a little bit more research, a cohort-based online course. And, these are becoming very popular, because not just as a creator, it's a way for you to have more touchpoints with your students and ensure their success. It's a way for you to be able to charge more because there are more touchpoints with you, versus just the, let them go and see what happens. But from a user/student point of view, it is the best kind of learning, because it feels like a classroom. And it feels like there is somebody there to support you along the way. And, it does come with more value, just inherently of the nature of that.
Pat Flynn: The cool thing about this, as well, as far as selling this thing is... I have a good friend, his name is Ali Abdaal, he's a YouTuber. He sells Part-Time YouTuber Academy, PYTA. And he promotes it, I think, once per quarter. And so, every quarter he says, "Hey, starting on this date, we're all going to go through this together. And you're going to learn how to do..." In his case, create a YouTube channel. In your case, it would be write a screenplay in three months, right? Maybe that's actually the hook. Maybe that's the subtitle. On a certain date, people have the chance to enroll with you. And then, at a specific date, the coursework starts and everybody's going through it together. And the cool thing about that is now it feels like a class, a freshman class that then graduates and they can all be there.
Pat Flynn: The cool thing about the cohort thing too is, you can have learning set up, even without you there. You can set up times for those students to meet each other. So, you can be on set doing your thing. And then, you know that maybe somebody on your team, or some leader inside of a group is bringing four or five people together at a time to be learning from each other, sharing their work. And now, they're held accountable through each other. Am I right, in terms of the way the course would be structured and how you imagine it to work?
Toni Weiss: Yeah. That's the working theory right now. That seems to me like the best of all worlds for me. I wanted to ask you something, in that, it's not just a course that consists of live interactions with people. It still has prerecorded videos.
Pat Flynn: I think, Ali does live, like, "Hey, live on Monday I'm going to teach this. And then, on Thursday you work with a group or something." So, if the live component is actually replaced by prerecorded, which you've already done that hard work up-front, that's potentially even better. Because you can say, "Hey everybody, beginning of the week, module one is now open. You have until Thursday to watch it. You can watch it today, you can watch it Tuesday, Wednesday. It doesn't matter. But when we come together on Thursday, make sure you watch that, because I'm going to answer questions about it. And I'm going to walk you through some other stuff and show you how I do it too."
Pat Flynn: So, this is what we did with our podcasting course. We have a digital podcasting course. It is $699 Power-Up Podcasting. However, we, at times during the year run a bootcamp version of it. So, we charge two to three times more, but we have a cohort go through, but we don't teach because that content is already there. It's there in the digital course, they get access to it. But they also get access to me and my team on certain days of the week for six weeks, until at the end, it's all done. So, you've actually saved yourself even more time by prerecording the lessons, they're there, everybody's watching the same thing. And the beauty of this is over time, you can have the cohort-based version at a certain price point, and you can have the DIY version without the interaction for those who perhaps want to get access to you, but just can't afford it. They can play with each other, which is really nice.
Toni Weiss: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Right. That is a really good idea, that they might cohort.
Pat Flynn: Yeah.
Toni Weiss: Yeah.
Pat Flynn: Exactly. Exactly. And now, there's real value and price that comes with... Because, I get a chance to talk to you, Toni. And, I think you had said you'd wanted to generate $20,000 perhaps in your first year, right?
Toni Weiss: Yeah, that's a working hypothesis. I don't know. Yeah.
Pat Flynn: Yeah, just ballpark. So, let's break that down into quarters. That's $5,000 per launch, right? One quarter, $5,000. If you were to charge $500 for this experience, you would only need 10 people in order to get there.
Toni Weiss: No, I was thinking actually... Because I was just attending a similar workshop, but in a different space. And, I could see that the lady giving the workshop, she charged around 2,000 euros and she got eight people to sign up. So, she was around $16,000. And I thought, "Well, that would be..." You know how directors are, we are ambitious. That would be something to aim for. Because, I know that the course is worth a lot. I know that it can make a difference. A screenplay sells for anything between on a low level, not the Hollywood sales that you hear about that are multimillion dollar deals. But if you sell a screenplay, you are selling something that you've produced in three months and is worth around 100,000 to 200,000 euros.
Pat Flynn: Yeah. So, there's clear ROI, and you should be charging more than 500. That was where I was going to go. It would be a disservice, and actually it would look cheap. It would look like it wasn't valuable if you only charged 500. So, let's say you did charge $2,000, right? I think that at the level at which you are going to be taking people through this process, there's an online course that they get access to, there's you that they get access to, and they get access to each other, and there's an inherent ROI potentially available from this as well.
Pat Flynn: So, let's just say it's $2,000. Well now, you only need 10 people to go through the entire year, which is very, very likely, and very doable. You could do a couple things. You can keep it at that. So, you're only working with a few people at a time every quarter. And that way there's less of you perhaps required to answer questions and you can do the other things you want to do. So, you can keep those numbers small. Or you can set a number like, "I want to help 10 people every cohort. But, it's $20,000 I'm making every quarter now." Right?
Pat Flynn: So, I think we need to set that bar a little higher in terms of revenue goal, because it seems like you also want to help a good number of people too. And maybe the first time you do it in the first quarter, there's a lot of people maybe on the fence, "Oh, I don't know if this is going to work or not. So maybe I'll wait until round two to see how the round one people do." And then, during round one, not only are you helping people, but, you, knowing the power of story, collect their stories. "Here's the story of Jim who purchased and he didn't know what he was doing. And look, he just sold his screenplay." Now everybody who was on the fence is going to go, "Oh my gosh. This actually works. I want it now." And that's how you can do it.
Pat Flynn: So, I see big things in your future, Toni. And I hope that this conversation, at least readjusts the goals and the how-to, and how this will be structured too. And, you've already put in most of the hard work up front to get the course going. I mean, it's almost finished editing, which is a beast, like you said, but that's going to be an amazing asset for you to use in conjunction with the in-person things that you do or Zoom-related things you do, while still having the time to do your directing and your main work.
Toni Weiss: I think that makes things clear. If you look at me, I'm on the verge of being a boomer. I'm actually a boomer's child, of course. And, I was wondering about promoting all of this, because with the podcast, you have an organic audience. Ali Abdaal is a person who's relentlessly present on YouTube. Yeah? Has no problem recording himself. I have this background of... When I started out, there was no internet and there was no YouTube. And, I'm used to promoting myself as a professional in a business-to-business kind of sense. Yeah? I'm a bit wary with social media and with the constant self-promotion; it is not easy. I think you are doing a great job in keeping things professional.
Pat Flynn: Thank you.
Toni Weiss: I was just wondering ,for a person like me, who's not prone to be an influencer, at least in the beginning. Maybe I'll become that. How would you build an audience? Would you include social media? I'm thinking, for example, this podcast that you're doing would actually be a great format for me to do, because I would be interested to solve a story problem for 20 minutes, and then turn it into a podcast. Is there any feeling that you would have for somebody like me, who's just not prone to snapping selfies and-
Pat Flynn: Dancing on TikTok.
Toni Weiss: ... And going on Instagram all the time.
Pat Flynn: First of all, you don't need a huge audience in order to succeed. You just need the right people to know you exist. A podcast is a great platform for storytelling. And I think that if you can showcase that. Not only that, it provides a nice place for you to showcase the students of yours to tell their story.
Toni Weiss: Oh yeah.
Pat Flynn: Which then in turn, sells your thing. So, you could create some easy podcast that comes out once a week, even twice a month, that showcases screenwriters success story, or tips, or something like that. Which, of course, you can then mention, "Hey, we have a cohort coming up. We'd love for you to be a part of it. Go here to sign up." And, the cool thing about that is people will hear your voice. They get to know what it's like to learn from you asynchronously. And now, they have a chance to learn synchronously with you.
Pat Flynn: So, that's one method. If you were to do a particular content platform, I would choose podcasting if I were you. And it's just really fun, and you get to meet a lot of people, you get to connect with your colleagues. And just instead of chatting over coffee, you're chatting over coffee with a microphone between you, and you can capture that because I'm sure those conversations are happening anyway. Number two, you had said that... First of all, how did you get your workshop attendees to show up? Where did they come from?
Toni Weiss: Three different ways. I collected over the course of the year, when I was giving live workshops, in-person workshops at people's companies or at people's workplaces. I collected addresses of people who were interested, because I always announced that I would do it. I put out the message on LinkedIn, which curiously enough worked.
Pat Flynn: LinkedIn is good.
Toni Weiss: And there is a screenwriter I follow on Twitter who was really nice enough, because I'm sitting here in the middle Europe, not exactly the entertainment capital of the world, although good storytelling was actually invented here, believe it or not. And, she was nice enough to share my workshop announcement. And so, I could have a first taste of an international audience, which for me is very important that I don't just do it for a German speaking audience, but do it for an English speaking audience.
Pat Flynn: So that last thing there is what I was going to say: use your existing connections to see how you can provide value to their people. You had mentioned this person who was able to bring people into your workshop. There's no reason why that person and other people like them can't bring people into your cohorts. And the cool thing is, and you know this if you've heard SPI, which you have, you can partner with them and say, "Hey, for every person you bring in, I'll pay you $200, 10%." I mean, that's going to be a great way for them to get rewarded for doing that. And, you getting the right people. So, you don't even need a podcast to be able to do that. You could probably fill in at least your first couple cohorts in that way. And if you have B2B experience already, then that's something that's going to be pretty simple for you to do.
Toni Weiss: Okay. Yeah. That's a good idea. That's really nice. Yeah. So, probably seems pretty obvious to you, and of course I could puzzle it together after listening to so many episodes of your podcast, but it's nice when it comes together, when you just put it together as a picture.
Pat Flynn: Exactly. I mean, this is the benefit of direct. This is the benefit that your students will have when they work directly with you. So, keep that in mind too. So Toni, this has been amazing. Thank you again so much for coming on and sharing, and just best of luck to you, and congratulations on the script that you had just written getting picked up. And, here's to many more.
Toni Weiss: Thank you very much. I'm going to go immediately and celebrate, its evening now here. So, thanks.
Pat Flynn: Awesome, Toni. Thank you.
Toni Weiss: And thanks for having me. That was a really great experience. Thanks a lot. This has been really, really helpful.
Pat Flynn: My pleasure.
Pat Flynn: All right. I hope you enjoyed that conversation and call with Toni. That was absolutely amazing. You can find him again at toniweiss.at, that's T-O-N-I W-E-I-S-S dot A-T. "Story Inc. Authentic storytelling since 1966." And congrats again, Toni, looking forward to more conversations with you. And hopefully, I can have some time in the future to chat with you about, who knows? A screenplay in the future, and maybe it'll be one day turned into a future film. That would be amazing. And I'd love to have you involved in that. Anyway, you know what's really cool? We talked a lot about storytelling today and how important that is. I cannot emphasize that enough. And here's a story. Some of you have been leaving reviews for the show, and I am so, so grateful. I smile when I read them.
Pat Flynn: That's a quick story. It doesn't really have the arc that you want when you tell stories. But that is my way to connect the fact that I'm just so appreciative of all of you here who have spent the time to leave reviews for AskPat. It just makes me so, so happy. And I look forward to serving you in the next episode. And even if you don't leave a review, because maybe you're on a walk and you just don't have the ability to do that, or you're in the plane right now, and you don't even have internet connection, or you do, but it's really slow, because it's still slow on planes. Or, you just don't have the inkling, or want to do that. That's okay. The fact that you're here listening right now is enough. And, if you happen to have a chance to leave a review for the show, that would mean the world. But, you don't have to, I appreciate you anyway.
Pat Flynn: Thank you so much for listening all the way through. I appreciate you. And, make sure you hit subscribe if you haven't already. We've got a lot of great episodes coming your way, so don't miss out, hit subscribe, and I'll see you the next one. Cheers, peace out, and as always, team Flynn for the win. Woo hoo.
Pat Flynn: Thanks for listening to AskPat at askpat.com. I'm your host, Pat Flynn. Our senior producer is Sara Jane Hess. Our series producer is David Grabowski, and our executive producer is Matt Gartland. Sound editing by Duncan Brown. AskPat is a production of SPI Media. We'll catch you in the next session.