Nashville TN, the country music capital where every other resident is a guitar player shopping around what they believe is the next big hit song. The music city’s aspiring songwriter avalanche pales in comparison to LA’s overflowing population of screenwriters practicing their Oscar acceptance speech along side their elevator pitch — hoping that it lands on the ears of the ever elusive producer who will take their story to the big screen.
The dreams of millions of screenwriters have created a cottage industry of professionals who will guide, train and hopefully land the writers an agent, or even that highly sought after seven-figure deal.
Very few of the screenwriter servicing companies deliver results beyond the promise of keeping a dream alive, but one company that does and is a superstar in finding and delivering writers to the movers and shakers of Hollywood is Script Pipeline.
Their success stories include facilitating writers toward everything from representation to high budget Hollywood offerings.
How do they do it? How do they help screenwriters jump the line and make it in Hollywood?
I asked these questions and others to the guy who’s responsible for finding the next big screenwriter, Matt Misetich, the general manager of Script Pipeline.
How long has Script Pipeline been around?
April 2011 will be Script Pipeline’s 11th year. In that time we’ve helped launch the careers of numerous writers worldwide, both in getting their scripts produced, or finding them representation.
Whose idea was it to start the company?
Chadwick Clough, with partner Dave Kline, launched the company in 2000. The need to form the service stemmed from a gap in the industry when it came to specifically assisting screenwriters. There were tons of scripts (some good, some great) sitting at all these production companies, but there was no crucial buffer between them and the industry exec looking for new material. Thus, the company formed to offer writers the resources, tools, and outlets they needed to put their screenplays in the right hands.
What would you say is the reason why so many aspiring writers are in LA?
LA is one of the best places in the world for creative potential. And of course it’s historically the epicenter of entertainment-most importantly, agents, managers, and producers-so naturally writers would want to flock to the city in droves. Add the intangibles (the 360 days of great weather, the diversity, the “options” in every area), and it’s a pretty cool nesting ground for storytellers. Like one, big support group, if you look at it that way.
How does a writer break out from the pack?
They have to know the rules of screenwriting, the basics of storytelling, what makes a good screenplay. . . and then do something completely different. Or, scratch that: they need to put an original twist on things. I know a lot of writers have heard that before, and it’s a generic piece of advice, but it’s true. No matter what genre, look at all the great films in the past 20 years. To me, almost all of them took a convention, turned it upside-down, but still maintained marketability, That’s really the secret in standing out from the pack. Now, of course one can argue, “Well, wait. I just saw (insert Jennifer Aniston or John Corbett rom-com movie here), and it was trite, cliché, conventional BS.” Okay, sure.
Hollywood still makes mind-numbingly predictable movies. But forcing yourself to fall into that zone isn’t going to define you as a writer. It would seem the industry wants fresh voices to write both the extraordinary, innovative pieces, as well as the mainstream films some of us define as “garbage” but are nonetheless appealing enough to make money for a studio. For all writers, just remember this is a business like anything else. While not everything can be an art piece, finding that balance between business and creativity is crucial.
How long has the Script Pipeline contest been in existence?
The screenwriting contest launched in 2003, the TV contest launched in 2008. Since then, we’ve seen over 20 writers sign with agents or managers, found paid jobs with producers and other companies, or had their work optioned.
Have any of the winners seen their scripts produced?
Evan Daugherty’s Shrapnel, winner of the 2008 competition, has John McTiernan (Die Hard, The Thomas Crown Affair) attached to direct. Another of his specs, Snow White and the Huntsman, sold to Universal in 2010 for $3 million, making it one of the biggest spec sales in recent memory. Evan found representation through one of our contacts in 2008. Most recently, we linked up Tripper Clancy, winner of the 2010 contest, with FilmEngine, and now his contest-winning script Henry the Second is in development with 21 Laps, and is getting closer to production. There are so many good scripts that go deep in the industry development stages but end up never getting produced, so to have these two projects gaining altitude speaks volumes to the type of quality scripts that come through the contest every year. And incidentally, it just so happened to be two of the coolest writers we’ve ever dealt with. . . .
Do you coach writers on writing a marketable script?
That’s definitely an integral part of our notes in the Writers Workshop. While we’ll never try and change a writer’s vision for their story (the theme, concept, etc.), we do everything we can to steer them in a direction that will make it easier to market their work, in addition to giving them tips on what makes a marketable script, what the current industry trends are, etc.
Aside from the contest and workshops, do you guys operate as agents or managers to the writers?
No, we leave that to the real, full-time agents and managers. So we never take a percentage or cut of any script sale or success story of any kind. But you know, in a way, we’re kind of like “pre-management” for writers, helping nurture their career before they go to that next level, whether they’re beginners or advanced.
Does one need to be in LA to take advantage of your tips?
Not at all. We’ve worked with writers from Australia, to India, to the UK, China, Japan. . . you name it. As long as they have an English-language script, they’ll benefit from Script Pipeline in some manner.
What’s the number one advice you could give to a writer who’s in LA or even Lakeland, Fl?
Realism. I know that sounds a little weird, and pardon the 90s expression, but writers need to keep it real and think like an exec. Take a realistic approach to writing and marketing your work, and communicating with the movers and shakers in the industry. Always put yourself in their shoes before writing an E-mail, or having a meeting. The moment a writer starts thinking like an executive, they’ll be way ahead of the game.
I couldn’t agree more with Matt; a writer needs to not only keep it real from the business side but also from the feasibility of his dream. If you are looking to make that next blockbuster, make sure your approach is grounded in reality. Luck is the product of hard work and preparation. Enjoy your passion and don’t stop until you get it done.