At the Screenwriting Retreat: CineStory in Idyllwild CA

I had a great two days in the San Jacentio mountains at the CineStory Retreat with a great group of screenwriters, producers, creative execs and one great literary agent. 

This was my first time at Cinestory and despite being a speaker, I learned a lot about story, writing and pitching and was really charged up about jumping into my next screenwriting project(s).  I had just finished a re-write the week before, so the timing was good.

There’s a great CineStory blog where you can follow the retreat almost as it happens… you should take a look. (no cell service up there in the mountains, but WiFi).

One highlight:

Barri Evins, Regina Lee  and Nana Greenwald  lead a “FLY ON THE WALL” pitching exercise. Barri said this was developed to help “demystify” the meeting process.  Crucial to the traditional Hollywood way of doing business, meetings are used as a way to “say hello” as Barri said. 

I’m personally not a big fan of pitch meetings, maybe because it is difficult for me, so this was helpful. I always feel that if a film ideas is worth pitching, it’s worth writing so people can see the film in a fully fleshed out form. The facts are that pitches are only good for 2 things, a New Idea by a very well established writer with great credits (who would like to be paid to write the first draft), or a writer with a very “high concept” idea.  I’m not the former exactly, and very seldom have the latter.  Independent film-type scripts need not apply to the pitching process.

This is how ”Fly on the Wall” works, which is a concept owned by CineStory. 

Three Producers/Production Executives act as if they are in a traditional pitch meeting with a writer, and one of the CineStory writers pitches them a project.  The execs can interrupt as if they were in a real meeting and say what they would normally say to the writer at the end of the pitch.  Then they toss him/her out and discuss the pitch and the writer among themselves.  Of course, that’s why it is called “Fly on the Wall” — the writer gets to hear how they would discuss the pitch in private, and if the execs feel like they could “sell it to their bosses”.  Actually this didn’t result in the kind of cruelty you might imagine… 🙂  it was enormously illustrative. Although every pitch was picked apart by the execs (except one micro-pitch designed to get them to agree to read a finished screenplay) it seemed that all the writers came away happy and were able to use the feedback in a positive way.

The end result was exactly what Barri had promised, the idea of taking a pitch meeting actually seemed fun, instead of dreadful.

Tomorrow – more Cinestory highlights.


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