As part of the ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship, recipients of the 3rd annual award, Nancy Duff, Heidi Willis, and Dante Russo, were provided an all-expenses-paid trip to Los Angeles in August for one-on-one screenplay development and mentorship meetings with entertainment professionals.
Their trip focused on gaining the kind of guidance and connections that could help propel their careers forward. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience to be sure, but we wanted to share some key takeaways that might benefit any writer who hasn’t yet had a chance to participate in the Fellowship (next year could be your year)!
Meetings with literary managers
Such as Jeff Portnoy and John Zaozirny of Bellevue Productions, and Daniela Garcia-Brcek and Krista Sipp of Circle of Confusion.
Their conversations revolved around what new writers can do to get noticed, how to build a career from the ground up, how to write a truly memorable script that will stand out from the pack, and the types of writing samples that can make the most impact.
One great takeaway: Newer writers often benefit from “picking a lane.” That is, choosing one genre to work within while trying to break in. That kind of specificity can help brand you, so to speak, allowing you to be shortlisted for writing assignments that require a genre-specific (or skill-specific) writer.
From coffee with Geoffrey Fletcher (Academy Award-winner, Precious, Violet & Daisy) to one-on-one time with Diana Ossana (Academy Award-winner, Brokeback Mountain), to a celebratory dinner including additional mentors and guests, such as Robert Moresco (Academy Award-winner, Crash, Million Dollar Baby) and Jeanette Francis (Atomic Monster / Warner Bros.). These meetings offered inspiration and insight for the Fellows’ burgeoning careers.
The mentors related their own stories of making it in the business, offered advice on how to navigate the industry without losing their passion for the work, and even offered invaluable feedback on the fellowship screenplays.
This piece of invaluable insight from Geoffrey Fletcher is one to remember:
Be authentic, have an emotional connection to the work whether it’s your idea or someone else’s. If you don’t care about the project, nobody else will either. Be passionate about it or just walk away.
Industry executive meetings
Meetings included time with executives at Vantage Entertainment, Paramount, Universal, Warner Bros, and STX. Each offered behind-the-scenes information on topics such as how to take advantage of the booming international film market, and how writing for the Chinese film industry works – including the main restrictions to consider and the genres that are most in demand.
Other meetings focused on the finance and business side of the film industry, and how projects are analyzed for budget and projected earnings. Fellows even received insider tips on pitching, over lunch on the Paramount lot.
The L.A. week was rounded out with more small-group lunch and dinner meetings with executives, studio tours, building bonds and launching careers. Heidi sums it up here:
“It was such a special time. I love, love, loved the week. I can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done and continue to do on our behalf.”
The ScreenCraft Fellowship aims to provide ongoing support and industry exposure to advance the careers of emerging screenwriters. The 4th annual fellowship is open now. Are you ready for your opportunity? Apply here.
“ScreenCraft catapulted my career years ahead of even my most optimistic expectations. The contacts and — perhaps even more importantly — the legitimacy the fellowship gave me has helped me land top tier representation and put me in a position to pitch projects to major studios.” – Robert Haffey
“The ScreenCraft Fellowship was a pivotal moment in my career as a writer. John and Cam made every effort to not only connect me with industry members, but to make sure that I received representation. It’s hard to imagine being nearly as confident in the future of my writing without the fellowship. I can’t thank ScreenCraft enough and I encourage any writer seeking Hollywood representation to apply.” – Mark Stasenko