Last month, I had the great good fortune to have been included in the Roadmap Writers Screenwriters Intensive Program. For those of you who don’t know Roadmap Writers they are an organization dedicated to providing film and television writers the tools to chart their own success. This is from their website:
Our goal is to equip screenwriters with the tools and training needed to take their projects to the next level.
My introduction to them was by chance. I was randomly searching for screenwriters networking groups one day and came across the Coletta Preacely-Garcia Diversity Initiative. Hel-lo, what’s this? Despite the talk of inclusion especially during the 2017 award season there is still a dearth of minority representation behind the camera and on the page so many organizations reach out to under-represented artists and I, for one, am grateful. Roadmap Writers Initiative award is one month’s free participation in their Screenwriting Intensive Program (a value of $300 which is well worth the price if you have the funds and can commit).
I should mention many (most?) of the writers live outside the LA area. This is a nationwide hook-up; using Zoom and Skype you can participate from anywhere.
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I am a fool. This is proof.
No, not the photo. I have been writing for quite a while now. I have samples of every genre in TV and features but still– WTF, dude? I’m black, goddamnit — I have worshipped at the altar of Diversity programs; why haven’t the gods worked for me? Sorry, I digress. Anyway, although I am technically represented I am sending my own queries and doing my legwork. Which we should all be doing. I have been collecting stray change and managed to cobble together enough to buy the Hollywood Screenwriting Directory. I wrote about this in a previous post: The Maybe, Potentially, Sorta Great Query Letter Experiment. (Dec. 25, 2015) It was a foolproof plan. I combed the directory and found 100 production or management companies accepting e-queries, that is query letters via e-mail. The idea was to use a fantastic query letter to elicit a read. One-two-three Bob’s-Your-Uncle and I have someone who wants to buy my work. That was the plan. Here’s what really happened…
I picked an indie drama that I am very proud of. Timely, well-written, targeted demographic, reasonably inexpensive with great opportunities for actors. It’s ready for some love and I have to pull up my big girl pants and self-promote.
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Emerging screenwriters often feel like desert nomads struggling, stranded for years at a time hoping for a little relief be it a sip of water or a refreshing spring rain. When the sun beats down and the mind goes off on it own it plays tricks. You start to imagine the kind of cool, nourishing oasis that will revitalize your energy and allow you to continue on. That’s how I imagine sites like Virtual PitchFest. They are food, shelter, a pit stop on my journey to success. That is what the success stories on the site will lead you to believe. Caveat emptor, people. Buyer beware – before you spend your hard-earned money, know the possibility exists that this oasis in the desert is nothing but a mirage. A fantasy creation of your desire to succeed that drives you to take extreme and reckless actions. In short, a waste of time, money and your most precious commodity, hope.
Several months ago I ranted about Ellen Sadler’s “The Great Query Letter Hoax” and came down on the side of “It can’t hurt” rather than “Don’t waste the time and money.” Putting my money where my blog post is I signed up with Virtual PitchFest. Owner David Kohner Zuckerman has worked out a tidy little system of connecting scripts to agents, managers and producers that satisfies a basic need for cosmic justice. Let me explain: many still emerging screenwriters like myself who have been there, done that, come so close so many times to have a foot in the door only to have it slammed again feel there is not a level playing ground. Virtual PitchFest solves that problem. A good query yields a read. A great read makes a much needed connection. You get what you deserve. Nirvana for the emerging.
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The atmosphere is electric. The energy surges through the room wet with anticipation, apprehension and fear. You have your idea honed to perfection. You’ve sharpened your pitching skills and now is the time to show what you’ve got. Sell that sucker. Get that representation. Or die trying.
Watching participants queue up like warriors going into battle for a pitch fest reminds me of the scene in The Hunger Games when the combatants come out of the tubes knowing that in seconds they will be fighting the elements and each other for survival. A little dramatic perhaps, but for an emerging screenwriter a pitch fest is one of the necessary evils that determine industry survival.
ACCESS, BABY, ACCESS
Pitch fests are weekend events usually held in a hotel or convention center near a local airport. You know an event is a BFD when there’s an airport close by. Participating writers pay hundreds, even thousands (if you include hotel, air fare and the goodies purchased at the obligatory trade show/book fair) for the opportunity to gain access to agents, managers and creative executives. Writers wait in line for their allotted five minutes to sit with an insider hoping their pitch gets a “Yes, send me the script. Here’s a million dollars.” Check this promo out.
This kind of enthusiasm from The Great American Pitchfest fuels access events that have sprouted up all over the world. Seriously, you can pitch in Los Angeles, New York, London, Vancouver, pick your poison. I have a list of popular pitchfests in my toolkit. Even online pitch events and year round pitching services offer writers the access they cannot get anywhere else. Where else can an emerging writer have the opportunity to meet a dozen or more industry insiders in one weekend?
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