I've been meaning to do an update on this weeks earlier, but my schedule has been insane and the deadline crunch has been brutal. Hopefully this will serve as a solid update.
Earlier this year I pitched the idea of a screenplay contest to my friend Ahmed Siddiqui at BCKSTRY.ORG. For those that know me, this is something I've wanted to do for a few years now. Ahmed loved the idea and was eager to help pull it all together. In the blink of an eye, Ahmed had pulled together the rules, the entry website, and all the bells and whistles needed to launch such a massive project.
The prize? Meetings with agents and managers in Los Angeles. For those that don't know, it's quite difficult to get anything looked at by anyone, especially if you live out of state. Having solid representation in Los Angeles is an absolute nescessity. My manager Ford Gilmore agreed to help make this a reality and reached deep into his rolodex to line up a series of meetings this past week. It's an interesting connection because Ford is originally from Baton Rouge. With the prize in place, the LA to L.A. contest was now a reality.
With over 30 scripts entered, 10 finalists were selected and they showed up to pitch their scripts. The following morning, we battled and fought over the best of the best and selected our three winners. It was NOT an easy task. Honestly, I felt like we had seven great scripts, and each and every one of them had a real shot at winning. So many great scripts from Acadiana writers, that's something I did not expect. The talent in this area is superb. Picking the three winners was no easy task, but in just a few hours, we worked our way to a unanimous decision.
With the three winners selected and the scripts well-polished, we hopped on a plane and landed on Los Angeles early last week.
I had a few surprises lined up that I didn't want to mention until I was 99% sure it would come together. First up was dinner with one of the highest grossing and most respected screenwriters in the history of film, Steven E. de Souza (Die Hard, Commando, etc.) Steven reached out to me several years ago after reading my comic SWEETS, and we've struck up a bit of a loose friendship/mentorship. He's a writer I have a great deal of respect for, and when he agreed to dinner, I knew we were in for a treat. Steven dropped knowledge about pitching, writing, film history, stories from the set of Die Hard, and more. Three hours later, we were taking photos outside the restaurant and our heads were spinning.
The first meetings of the weekend were at the Rothman Brecher Agency. Learning to pitch an idea isn't a natural skill, it takes practice, and we did a lot of practicing the weeks leading up to the trip. Still, nothing compares you for the real thing except the real thing. I wasn't in the room, but from the recaps I got from the winning writers, sounds like it went pretty well.
Early the next morning, I invited the writers to meet my very good friend Josh Fialkov for breakfast. Josh isn't just a great writer, he's also one of the best at pitching his ideas, I've seen it first-hand multiple times. Josh has a way of boiling down the big ideas into a clean simple pitch, and he gets results. Having written a ton of comics, screenplays, and has been staffed on hit shows at NBC and SYFY, Josh knows his stuff. Breakfast was a whirlwind of questions and answers, pitch tips, business advice, career paths, etc.
I knew they'd get a lot out of talking with Josh, and breakfast was rocket fuel for the two pitch sessions our writers had with management companies that same day with Good Fear Film + Management and Management 360. By all accounts, the meetings were highly informative, and if we're lucky, fruitful.
Everyone we met got a wonderful gift bag with treats from Tony Chachere, LCVC, Parish Parcel from Russo, and Chris Stelly & Sherri McConnell at Louisiana Entertainment were very supportive of the contest and our efforts to showcase our Acadiana screenwriters. Thanks to all that helped out. And a special shout out to Josef Hensgens for following us around, snapping photos and video to document the experience, and taking care of just about anything we needed without hesitation or trepidation.
Now that I've had a few days to digest the events, I'd have to say it was a massive success. Simply pulling back the curtain is enough to change someone's outlook on what's possible, and the process of actually connecting with key people in FILM and TV is a game changer for writers looking to work their way into the industry.
I'll probably expand the update with images as they come in, and hopefully, we'll have a little documentary-style film to share in the coming weeks.
— Kody Chamberlain
Sept 19, 2016