Our Quarter-Finals are where we start to narrow down the field and start to see which scripts have the most potential – and that alone always makes them an exciting time for us!
Our Summer 2020 Screenwriting Contest is now LIVE! One of the big prizes for our top three scripts is pitching them to industry – and here’s a sneak peek into how we do just that. See the latest instalment of Ian’s LA Diary below, featuring a trip to BAFTA LA and a meeting with SCARFACE co-producer Peter Saphier…
My first meeting today was a first chance for me to meet BAFTA LA and get to know their services and initiatives first-hand. Our founder Alex Ross is a BAFTA member, and recommended I reach out to them about how we’re increasing both our presence on the ground in LA and our transatlantic partnerships with the UK industry at the same time. Good call.
So this morning I met BAFTA LA’s Head of Partnerships Wayne Watkins at their 12th floor office, with great views across LA in all directions, from the sea to the Hollywood Sign and far beyond. Wayne gave me nearly two hours of his time and was great company. It was really satisfying to hear about the value that BAFTA LA add to the whole industry in LA and its future talent pipeline, especially for outsiders and those who wouldn’t have had the chance to get into the industry there otherwise. I’m really looking forward to taking discussions forward and finding further synergies: thanks very much to Wayne for being so generous with his time and thinking.
So from there I moved to the famous Musso & Frank Grill – Hollywood’s oldest (established over a century ago!) and fresh from its latest big-screen appearance, in Tarantino’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD. There I was hosting Peter Saphier, the producer of SCARFACE (with Al Pacino), EDDIE MACON’S RUN (with Kirk Douglas) and BLACK DOG (with Patrick Swayze) among many other achievements. Peter passed on traditions of visiting Musso’s and what to order, which he had inherited from the passing generation of filmmakers who first brought him here, and which I will now continue and pass on too – such as the tradition of ordering their excellent Flannel Cakes. It was also one of the best-value meals I’ve had in LA, and a beautiful venue. What’s not to like?
It was fascinating to hear Peter’s stories about oldtime stars of the postwar years and subsequent decades. His stories from SCARFACE were particularly eye-opening – and made me all the more aware that sometimes we have to take big creative and reputational risks in order to achieve works that will really break through and resonate down the generations. In that spirit we both later began to talk about our own current slates and consultancy services, and it was great to be able to share some industry insights and approaches that can help even someone at his experience level (transatlantic industry knowledge again!).
Peter also offered to host a lunch for our winners in Hollywood in the future, like he and Alex used to do for them at Warner Brothers – an offer I’ll be delighted to take up. It’s another great example of the kind of industry access and expertise we aim to open up for all our winners at WriteMovies, and anyone else who we come to partner with.
After lunch with Peter discussing about a wide and very enjoyable range of subjects, we got into a final conversation about the filming equipment I’ve been walking round with lately, to be able to film and photograph at instant industry quality wherever I go: the audio recorder, monopod and 4K DSLR camera I walk around with, to be able to shoot spontaneous useable footage, audio and stills at a few moments’ notice. I explained that the DSLR had already recorded tens of hours of primetime UK series, produced by a Director-Producer-DP friend of mine. It’s remarkable how far our technology and potential has come, in the space of our careers, and it’s fun to be able to show an experienced hand like Peter something new!
The DSLR came to good use straight after the meeting with Peter too, because I stepped out of Musso and Frank’s straight onto the Hollywood Walk of Fame. As I ambled back, I took dozens of new stills of the famous names there in the space of a few minutes, which can help to illustrate our future WriteMovies articles for many years to come. Though I can’t say the nameplates themselves are all that exciting, they’re a great token of how the work of Hollywood is kept alive and gets to resonate down the ages like so few other works.
I only photographed the names that meant the most to me, and maybe half of those were for stars who died before I was even born. Truly, great cinema is a global gift for the ages. My meetings this week have really invigorated me with that sense of purpose once again: to continue to champion great global storytelling through WriteMovies. It’s a great position to hold in the industry.
And something else amused me too. At one crossroads on Hollywood Boulevard, the Walk of Fame comes to an end while the Boulevard continues on ahead. Once you cross the road and continue along Hollywood Boulevard, straight away, the next sidewalk is just a messy patchwork, without pretences or tourist traps, yet still at the heart of the action. Yeah, there’s a metaphor in there somewhere.
My last meeting of the day was with the creator of an online LA industry network that now has over 30,000 members. I don’t think there will ever be over 30,000 stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but considering the length of the credits on any major movie, there’s definitely enough work to be had supporting the ones who do get one. It’s great to know that so many established industry players we’ve met this week can recognize the difference we try to make for those writers and storytellers looking to move up to the next rung in their own journey in the industry, wherever they’re starting from.
I, and our founder Alex, both got separate emails from Peter after my meeting with him, telling us hugely complementary things about how the meeting with me had gone. I replied that if I could print and frame an email, that would be the one! Moments like that make all the hard work worthwhile…
NEXT TIME, IN FRIDAY’S L.A. DIARY… Producers of many huge movies look at ALL of our slate and clients!
If you’d like to see more of Ian’s diary, you can check out how he prepared for pitching on Monday HERE and how his meeting went with Shaun Redick (GET OUT, BLACKKKLANSMAN) and Yvette Yates of Impossible Dream Entertainment HERE! And find out about his trip to Warner Brothers and Digital Monarch Media HERE.
As the impact of Coronavirus sweeps across the globe, we’ve reshaped our packages to give the best possible support to writers, whatever challenges they’re facing right now – and we’ve opened a new Grand Prize contest early. The Summer 2020 Screenwriting Contest is now OPEN, with new offers to help writers out!
We’ve got all the usual prizes on offer, but we’re also offering a special discount on repeat submissions for our script reports – so if you buy a second script report from us, you’ll receive a $10 discount, and if you buy a third, the discount goes up to $20! That means you can get Studio Coverage for your third script for as little as $79, or Development Notes for as little as $129!
And that’s not all. After you receive your report from us, you can resubmit the same script FREE OF CHARGE until the end of the contest!
That’s on top of all the great prizes on offer. We offer a Grand Prize of $2000, and the top three scripts all receive a year of free script development and we GUARANTEE to pitch them to industry too! With recent meetings with the likes of BAFTA and the producers of the films SCARFACE, GET OUT and BLACKKKLANSMAN, we can get your script into the hands of top decision-makers who can make things happen.
Keep an eye out too for our next genre award, which launches next week – the Sci-Fi and Fantasy Award 2020. But for now, make sure you submit to the Summer 2020 Screenwriting Contest for the chance to win big and get your script out there – click here to enter now!
To give a picture of how we engage with industry and pitch our winners’ scripts, our Director Ian Kennedy is sharing a week of his L.A. diary with us. He’s got meetings with major producers, organisations and other industry professionals to share with us, plus images from the scene.
So, you know that moment where you’ve done a LOT of preparation for something, but you know that even more could turn out to have been necessary. Do you know all your script storylines inside out? Their focal characters, dynamics, loglines, suggested directors and leads casting? Their USPs and their writers’ credentials? Not easy with a slate as big and varied as ours. And what about the people you’re meeting? Have you seen all their work and press? Not easy when it’s a big company who make a lot of productions and have been doing it for many years.
So, you can do all the preparation you can, and still never feel like it’s quite enough. So you get up early and you practice your pitches some more, because you might need to fall back on one you weren’t expecting to, if they like or don’t like something for reasons your research could never have told you.
And then your meeting starts and everyone’s great with you and you realise that you and your team already got everything important in place by going about things the way you did long before the meeting was confirmed.
So that’s how today’s meetings have felt.
Doing our best over many years to be the best we can and do the most we can for our clients means that there are great people out there with goodwill for us, who help us in return, and the mutual trust we build up means that people you’ve never met who are successful and in demand are still ready and game for you to meet them and chat about what you do, because a mutual friend already vouched for you so they trust you not to waste their time.
Of course you’re also there to help them with their own priorities, they’re not going to indulge you and if you make a false step it’ll still count against you. But if you approach things positively, helpfully, professionally and try to always add value, then everyone can win at the same time.
That’s the backdrop to this morning’s meeting with Impossible Dream Entertainment, where Yvette Yates and Shaun Redick (pictured with me here, among the posters of their triumphant recent productions BLACKKKLANSMAN and GET OUT) and we spent an hour finding synergies between their slate and what we do at WriteMovies and TalentScout International Management, discussing our projects and theirs, and where we and they could potentially add the most value for each other.
I want all writers who submit to WriteMovies to know that we not only have the means to, but we actually promise to, put our winners’ scripts to producers who can make these scripts happen, and to do everything we can to make your script and pitch ready to get the result you’re looking for, when that happens. Sure, nothing happens instantly – I believe it takes a lifetime’s work to be an overnight success – but if you succeed with us, you will get exposure to successful industry producers who really are looking seriously at your pitch.
And who knows, I might have even better news for you soon. Thanks hugely to Yvette, Shaun, and Kathryn Nawrocki for vouching for us to them, and our founder Alex Ross for making this business and still putting us into the right conversations with the right mix of enthusiasm, readiness and wariness. It’s a challenge we relish and enjoy every day. Thanks also to everyone who entrusts us with their script so that, if we believe we can take it forward, we get to pursue that with everything we can.
Another string to this bow is my goal of growing our LA team this week to increase our presence on the ground here. Adding another seasoned head who knows how to get things done around here is never a bad idea in a business like ours. So I also really enjoyed today meeting another producer with a track record of getting things done, who’d expressed an interest in that. We’ve all got war stories from the ups and downs of our line of work. It’s great to grow our network with people who’ve made things happen, and if we can find that synergy and start making things happen together, then everyone can win. That’s how I like to do business, and the more contexts I do business in, the more I recognize that it’s really all about people finding the people they most want to work with to achieve their goals.
A final word about today goes to my Uber driver as I left the first meeting, who had just come from auditioning for Nickelodeon where he said his audition got a standing ovation. He told me he and his brother had already made a successful indie movie and were underway with another that has a strong social conscience and some powerful substance. Sure, that was just talk and anybody here can be full of it, but he was great company and I’d like to think he’ll go places (that don’t need him to keep an Uber job). We exchanged contact details because hey, who knows where the next great opportunity is coming from.
Here’s to making people’s dreams happen.
Parting is such sweet sorrow… and we can’t bear to say goodbye to our Winter 2020 Screenwriting Contest just yet. So as a result, we’ve decided to give this contest a one week extension!
You’ve now got until Sunday March 8th to submit, giving yourself a chance to win great prizes from us here at WriteMovies – not to mention the prestige of becoming one of our winners!
We’ve talked enough about what the contest prizes are in our newsletters and articles – but if you need a reminder, there’s $2000 up for grabs for our Grand Prize winner, plus a year of free script development and guaranteed pitching to industry for our top three scripts!
Our Director, Ian Kennedy, will be sharing some of his Hollywood/LA diary with us over the next few weeks, with news of meetings at major studios and with elite producers, giving you insight into what goes on behind the scenes at WriteMovies. Make sure you don’t miss out, so you know how we present our winners to industry.
And in the meantime, put yourself in the best possible position by entering our contest! The window of opportunity is still open… for the moment. Click here to submit by Sunday March 8th for your chance to win the WriteMovies Winter 2020 Screenwriting Contest!
Have you entered the WriteMovies Winter 2020 Screenwriting Contest yet? If not, you’d better move fast – there’s just one week to go until the final deadline, which is coming up this Sunday 1st March!
It’s always easy to miss a deadline, especially when you want your script to be as good as it can get. You get stuck into the editing, polishing every last scene right down to the smallest word – and the next thing you know, you’ve missed your chance. The deadline has passed!
That’s why we always make sure to let you know when one is coming up. The Winter 2020 Screenwriting Contest has been a great one for us so far, especially with the inclusion of our latest genre prize – the Romance and Comedy Award 2020 – and we’re eager to see what else you’ve got for us. Make sure you get those scripts in!
With a $2000 Grand Prize on the line, plus free script development, guaranteed pitching to industry, and InkTip prizes for our top three scripts, there’s plenty to be won. We’re already looking forward to working with our next batch of winners. And who knows, one of them could be you…
To give a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes at WriteMovies and TalentScout International Management, our Director of World Wide Development Ian Kennedy is sharing a week of his Hollywood/LA Diary with us at the start of March.
Expect news of meetings at major studios and with Elite producers, screenwriters and other adventures in Hollywood, plus a string of fresh images of iconic Hollywood locations.
In the meantime, we’ve brought together two of our Elite Mentors and a former WriteMovies winner living in LA to share their L.A. industry pitching tips. Here are our Elite Mentor Bobby Lee Darby’s tips about meeting preparations and pitching tips…
MEETING PREPARATIONS, AND PITCHING TIPS
“Go into each meeting to pitch 1-2 projects in particular. Be passionate and knowledgeable about the people you’re meeting. Be positive – the industry is built on positive people talking B.S. – and avoid saying you didn’t like any movie because there’s a high chance the person you’re meeting knew someone important in it.
“Watch the productions by the people you’re meeting, and massage their egos by complimenting them, and don’t talk about movies that failed. Keep your pitches quite brief and focused on what the project is about, how you see it, and the cast you’d have in mind: 5-6 minutes is enough – show what the big concept is and why is it exciting.
“Strong female roles (and directors even) are a good call, but remember that the Margot Robbies of this world will be booked up for years ahead and very expensive – Kaya Scodelario (CRAWL) is the kind of actor who’s on the rise and sets a good level for producers to have in mind. Knowing your audience is important; CHARLIE’S ANGELS underperformed maybe due to franchise fatigue but in general you tell the same stories as before as long as you’re doing it differently.
“If you’re pitching, say “It’s a [GENRE AND THEME IN A COUPLE OF WORDS, eg ‘survival thriller’] with a [KEY CHARACTER ROLES AND THEIR RELATIONSHIP] who (have to…) [EXPLAIN THE ONGOING SCENARIO, AND THE ARC THAT THEIR RELATIONSHIP GOES ON AS A RESULT].
“Producers really care about the characters in the pitching, so they can envisage the film – though they’re often focused on other things during the script notes stages later. Don’t go in with a high-brow approach or concept, keep everything in layman’s terms: nail the central characters and their relationships and journey fast. Be able to say “On page 25 this happens, that kicks us into Act 2 and really drives the story, at the midpoint they…” etc, and show the big moment of catharsis audiences will get at the end, for example “we have to accept that they are going to die, but then we get a cathartic moment when they discover a way to survive” – it’s a really good word to use explicitly. Producers and executives have all read Save the Cat (often only that!), that’s the shared reference point they use, so know it well.
“Have an understanding of budget going into meetings: under $1m is a good spot, and $5m budgets can be common. There’s no point arguing when producers tell you to cut certain action scenes to reduce the budget, because they’re the people who you need to get your movie made – instead your job is to make their bad ideas into good ones. So always see their point of view, and show it before you present any counter-arguments: “I can see why you’re asking me to put a shark in this movie, but what if it was something about why she’s afraid of going in the water?”
“You have to pick your battles carefully. You should incorporate the big notes you’re given, you can maybe get away with dropping some of the smaller crappy ones by the time of the second meeting. If you succeed in the first meeting, the next step is to provide them with a synopsis or treatment which says what is Act 1, Act 2 etc – they like really detailed treatments of 10-15 pages of snappy short paragraphs and plenty of indicative dialogue, potentially they pass this up the chain for considering budgets at that point (and maybe for getting internal signoffs to take things further).
“Alternatively of course you can give the script if it’s ready and was written on spec already. The WGA go ballistic if they hear that you’ve worked unpaid, and you should avoid doing that, so provide a maximum of one treatment before the option deal is made (you’ll probably have something in good shape already before the first meeting anyway, on spec).
“Meetings do have a low hitrate of leading to options, but you only need one person to like what you’re proposing.”
And see Part 1 of our L.A. Industry Pitching tips HERE!