New TV & Film Writers: Don’t Let Yourself Get Scammed!

A few words of warning from The Hollywood Reporter.

Once considered the tail-ender showbiz trade mag in terms of both reporting and readership, THR’s sophisticated and knowledgeable web presence has made it the leader these days, so we’re always glad to see them helping writers this way:

by Stephen Galloway

A few weeks after Manny Fonseca arrived in Los Angeles in the early part of this decade, having left his native Michigan with the hope of becoming a Hollywood writer or executive, the then 30-year-old was at a party when a producer asked if he’d “like to make a hundred bucks.” Sure, he replied. What would he have to do?

The answer was to show up the next day at a “pitch fest,” one of dozens of such gatherings each year in which hopefuls pay hundreds of dollars to serve up their story ideas to agents and executives who, in theory, will buy them if they’re good. Fonseca would be there as one of the buyers, which struck him as strange — not only was he not an executive, he didn’t even have a proper job: he had been interning with producers Arnold Kopelson and Irwin Winkler.

“I was completely overwhelmed,” says Fonseca (now a screenwriter whose work has yet to be produced), who was soon invited to other such watering holes on behalf of Kopelson Entertainment. “There were writers that I knew by name because they would literally go to every single pitch fest. There were a couple of people that drove around in their RV. It was like following the Grateful Dead for two or three years straight.”

Pitch fests are part of a multimillion-dollar industry that thrives in a dark corner of the mainstream entertainment business, catering to thousands (and possibly hundreds of thousands) of would-be screenwriters, most of them clueless about how to get their projects made. There are writing festivals, competitions, workshops, websites, extension classes, seminars, script analysts, coaches and a Writers Store in Burbank (which offers software, books and a “do-it-yourself MFA”), not to mention rapacious producers and hungry managers, all making money from putative scribes often oblivious to Hollywood reality.

“What I learned — and I know it because I was the one being sent to these things — is you’re sitting there with no power,” says one literary agent. “As an assistant at an agency, you’re not allowed to sign people, and most of the time you’re talking to amateur writers who shouldn’t be repped….”

Read it all at TheHollywoodReporter.Com