Inside the WGFestival Pitch Competition

One of the highlights from last year’s WGFestival was our first-ever pitch competition. In the weeks prior to the event, attendees were asked to submit loglines of their projects, which were reviewed by the WGF team. The writers of the top ten loglines were then chosen to pitch live in front of an audience and three judges, Matt Dy of the Austin Film Festival, writer Edward Ricourt (NOW YOU SEE ME, MARVEL’S JESSICA JONES), and WME Story Editor Christopher Lockhart, who provided feedback and crowned a winner (or in last year’s case, winners).

We’re bringing the pitch competition back for WGFestival 2017. But first, our 2016 winners, twin sisters and writing partners Lisa and Gina Gomez, give a first-hand glimpse into what it was like to pitch in front of an audience as well as what they did with the first place prizes. 

WGFestival 2016 Pitch Competition winners Lisa Gomez (left) and Gina Gomez

Lisa Gomez: 

In order to be considered for the pitch competition, you have to send in your logline. I know, terrifying, right? You have to send the idea for your script, or the idea of your already written script, in just one or two sentences. Except you’re actually going to send it to someone. Someone is actually going to read it. All of the hours pitching the idea to your friends, or to your mirror, or to your mom, or writing it on a Post-it note and slapping it on your computer screen is going to boil down to sending this e-mail.

An e-mail that can change your life. And it will change your life.

I personally didn’t want to send it. My sister Gina gave me the courage. I must’ve typed up the e-mail five or six times and each time I didn’t send it. I told her, ‘There’s no way they’re going to pick our logline’. She said, ‘I know. But we have to try.’ So, at the very last minute of submission, I sent the e-mail.

The biggest piece of advice I can give to all of you prospective pitch competition winners is to practice your pitch. Practice it over and over again. Practice it until it’s right. Practice it until it makes sense. Practice it until it is concise, to the point, but most importantly, practice it until it sounds like a story that you would be dying to see on the big screen.

Gina and I are infinitely lucky because we have each other. We divided the pitch and practiced only a section of it. But we had to make sure both sections flowed well into the other one and that it made sense.

If you’re alone, however, don’t despair. Pitch it to your friends. To your mom. Record yourself on a voice memo on your iPhone.

When you’re practicing your pitch, this is when your ego needs to be put aside. You need to stop lying to yourself and be honest with yourself if your pitch isn’t good. If it doesn’t make sense, make it make sense. If it’s too long, make it shorter. Get to the meat of your script.

Tell a story. That’s what you do. That’s who you are. Paint the picture of your story. Give us a reason why we should care about your protagonist. Give us the very clear goal that the protagonist wants to achieve by the end of your script. Give us a very clear conflict and a very interesting antagonist. The clearer your points, the easier it’ll be for everyone in the audience and the judges to understand. Clarity is what makes a screenplay great. If you can give everyone a clear logline and a clear pitch, you’re halfway to writing a great script.

The actual pitch itself. Wow, what a moment. I’ll never forget it.

Throughout the entire day, Gina and I kept rehearsing the pitch during every single break that we had. But we felt like it was useless. There’s no way they’re going to pick our pitch, right? There were hundreds of incredible and aspiring screenwriters here. What were the odds?

The pitch competition started and there was the terrifying prospect that you won’t know that you’re going to pitch until they call your name. There was a tangible buzz in the air of excitement, nervousness, but above all, incredible support.

After listening to incredible pitches, there was only one more person left to pitch. They said, “This one is from a writing team.” I swear, Gina and I lurched in our seats. “Lisa and Gina Gomez, The Starry Night”.

It felt like a dream. It was the biggest adrenaline rush of my life. As we walked toward the microphone, I looked back at Gina in amused and shocked disbelief.

But we were ready. We practiced. We practiced until we got it right.

Christopher Lockhart asked what else we did and we mentioned that we were singers. He asked us to sing and we sang some of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” to amazing applause. Lockhart liked it. I’m going to be honest, that definitely took the nerves out of my system.

So if you’re an incredible comedian, start with a joke. Paint a painting. Juggle. Just kidding. Be a storyteller. That is what you were born to do.

When we were pitching, there were audible gasps in the audience. I was almost taken aback by it, until I realized that it’s because they liked our idea. They liked it. The future of the industry. The amazing, aspiring and talented screenwriters that will make up our future movies and TV shows liked our idea. That was enough validation to withstand anything the judges could say.

But to our shock, the judges loved it too.

After they announced the third and second place winners, Gina and I held hands in support. We didn’t think we’d win. When they announced who won, well… I just didn’t believe it. It felt like an out of body experience. It was the greatest honor and thrill of my life.

You’re going to be in a room surrounded by talented screenwriters who are just as scared and excited as you. You’re going to pitch in front of esteemed members of the industry. It’s terrifying but I promise you, they’re on your side. Everyone’s on your side. What’s most important is that you need to be on your side.

Gina Gomez:

The prizes that we have received have been incredibly instrumental to our success. The confidence that we had gained from everyone in the room liking our pitch, from our logline even being in the top 10 to actually winning the pitch competition… All of that alone meant that we at least had an idea worth exploring. That newfound confidence gave us the courage to continue working on our script, and not give up on it.

The confidence of winning the pitch competition led us to write every single day for months. We went from having one draft of our script before the competition to having five drafts in the course of three months after the competition. This burst of confidence made all the difference.

We sent our script to get coverage from the Writers’ Store and that led to us getting a Double Recommend from one of their professional Readers. Because of that, our script got sent out to managers and agents. One of the biggest agents in the industry reached out to us because of that, and that was our first real taste of getting an email from a manager!

But it didn’t stop there! Our script ended up placing in the Top 50 of the 2016 Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, the Top 10 of 2016 Final Draft’s Big Break Contest in the Historical genre, placing in the Semifinals of PAGE, and being a Second Rounder in the Austin Film Festival Screenwriting Competition.

We’re still not done with the script, and what we noticed was that in each draft or revision we made, we kept placing higher and higher in different competitions. We would not have had that tenacity to keep going if we didn’t know we had an idea worth fighting for.

Besides confidence, we also received free Capital Badges to the Austin Film Festival. It was a whirlwind of a weekend, where we networked with fellow screenwriters and had an absolute blast. It was incredibly inspiring, and gave us insight to what our next scripts should be, and what prospective agents and managers were looking for in a screenwriter.

We also received three months of free hosting on the Black List’s website, and two free evaluations. We have yet to put up our script on the Black List’s website, but once we are done with a final draft of our script, we will, and we can’t wait to see what helpful notes the evaluations will give us.

The next prize we received was free access to Writer’s Guild Foundation events for a year, which has been incredible. I’ll never forget going to the panel on “How to Navigate the Screenplay Contest Circuit”, because at that time, Lisa and I had just found out that we made it into the Quarterfinals of Nicholl. It was such a helpful experience to talk to Andrew Lanham and Michael Werwie, who had both won Nicholl in 2010 and 2012, respectively.

The last prize was getting a meeting with WME’s Christopher Lockhart to talk about our script and to receive advice on our career. It was a 2-hour meeting, and it gave us our first true taste of Hollywood. Although he didn’t like our script, he gave us different ways of approaching it and notes that we hadn’t heard from anyone else. But one of my favorite things he said was, “Hey, don’t listen to me. Tell the story you want to tell.” And that was wonderful to hear, and showcased the fact that, at the end of the day, you’re the one who has to live with the story that will hopefully get picked up one day. Follow your heart and intuition, because, at the end of the day, no one knows your story more than you do.

Many people alway say “Find the note within the note”, and that meeting made it very clear that something about our script wasn’t working. Maybe it wasn’t simple or clear enough. Maybe the stakes need to be even higher. Maybe we need to focus on one theme. But if I’ve learned anything from winning the WGFestival’s Pitch Competition, it’s to keep going.

 

Job Posting: WGF Library Fellow

The Writers Guild Foundation is looking for a motivated, detail-oriented, emotionally intelligent library fellow. This is a LIMITED TERM, ONE-YEAR, FULL TIME fellowship, ideal for a recent MLS graduate. (Recent grads are highly encouraged to apply!) You will get your hands dirty, sifting through our archives for gems and helping our patrons find just the thing that’ll help them sell their script and make it big.

The Writers Guild Foundation is a non-profit that serves current and aspiring members of the Writers Guild of America, West. In this role, you will facilitate access to the Writers Guild Foundation library’s core collections and archival holdings by providing research assistance and information to WGA members, staff, aspiring writers, scholars, journalists, students, and the general public. As part of the Library and Archive team, the Fellow participates in: reference services; materials selection and acquisitions; cataloging; updating website resources; and promotion.

DAILY DUTIES:

  • Serve at reference desk and manage access to core collections by advising and assisting patrons with script selections via email, telephone, and on-site requests.
  • Research in-depth questions about writing resources, copyright, script collections, writers’ papers, and other queries related to film, television, and media using validated primary and online sources such as UCLA LibGuides, AMPAS Scriptlist, Library of Congress NUMC, ArchiveGrid, EpGuides, and Online Archive of California.
  • Catalog manuscript and digital collections, including scripts, books, and development materials, according to established library templates.
  • Assist with curating, describing and installing on-site exhibits.
  • Research writers’ biographical information and credits for oral histories.
  • Assist with set-up, display and oral presentation of research-oriented tours of the library and pop-up exhibits at outside events and festivals.
  • Depending on experience: participate in archival processing and preservation work, including inventorying; arranging and rehousing archival collections; researching and preparing descriptive collection guides; and performing basic preservation work.
  • Other duties as assigned. What can we say, this role will evolve based on our needs, your skills, and the alignment of Mars and Venus. In other words, we’re a small operation where everyone pitches in when needed, and where you’ll be able to help shape your role.

 

QUALIFICATIONS / REQUIREMENTS:

  • MLIS or MLS from an ALA-accredited Library and Information Science program or MA in Archival Administration or Moving Image Archive Studies, required
  • Undergraduate degree in Film / Television History, Screenwriting, or related coursework preferred
  • Strong familiarity with entertainment industry collections preferred
  • Enthusiasm for film, television, and media studies
  • Infectious laugh and sense of humor
  • Must be available to work evenings and at least every other Saturday (check our hours and be sure you’re ok!)
  • Excellent interpersonal skills and strong service orientation
  • Ability to prioritize and work both independently and as part of a team
  • Flexibility to work within a constantly evolving organization where responsibilities are shared across departments
  • Organized work habits; accuracy and attention to detail; comfortable multi-tasking without getting all frazzled
  • Ability to lift a 40-pound box required as well as retrieve materials from high shelving using a ladder or step stool
  • Excellent communication skills

 

ASSUMED BASIC SKILLS:

  • Proficient in Microsoft Office
  • Operation of electronic library catalog systems
  • Smart, witty, considerate
  • Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound
  • Like people. We mean really, really like people and enjoy helping them (especially writers)
  • Getting stuff DONE
  • Not raised by wolves, willing to pitch in even if it isn’t your job

 

THE BUREAUCRATIC BIT:

Interviewees will be chosen very selectively. Please be sure you meet the qualifications before you apply. Submitting a persuasive cover letter or note describing your understanding of our organization and why you are a good fit will get our attention. Getting your shining personality across will increase your odds. Thinking of a skill you have, that you know we need, but that we didn’t list above will get you serious bonus points. Referring to something specific from our website or this notice in your subject line will prove you read and understood this job posting. Submitting your cover and resume in a single convenient, combined, printable PDF makes our lives easier when screening resumes. In short, your email/cover matters. A LOT. If you have the skills and background, don’t be afraid to show a little personality and humor. And you must tell us about what you’re watching or what your favorite current TV shows are (and why).

Unfortunately, our salaries are very non-profity and we are unable to offer benefits for this one-year fellowship. However, your co-workers are super way cool, this is a one of a kind collection, and our offices are in a great part of town (across the street from the Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax – you even get free parking at the Grove!). This is a full time position.

We are an equal opportunity employer. You must be eligible to work legally in the United States without employer sponsorship. Hire is subject to the results of a background check.

SUBMIT BY EMAIL ONLY. NO CALLS. DO NOT EMAIL STAFF OR THE ED DIRECTLY. READ THE POSTING CAREFULLY. Submissions that do not follow the guidelines or meet the requirements will not be considered. We’re expecting a large volume of applications, so please be patient and give us at least three weeks.

Email your cover letter and resume by WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 31 to: careers.wgf@gmail.com

 

WGF Staff’s Favorite Moments of 2016

Whether we were hosting stellar panels and fundraising events or unearthing unexpected gems from the Archive, 2016 was a busy and eventful year at the Writers Guild Foundation. We welcomed a slew of fantastic writers, directors, actors and executives from across genres, mediums and backgrounds. And we stocked our Library and Archive with new scripts and collections to inspire patrons. Here are our favorite WGF moments from 2016. 

Libbie Anderson, Volunteer and Programs Coordinator

Her pick: Meeting Norman Lear, November 2016

In her words: “Norman spoke to a group from our Veteran’s Writing Project in November. Having the opportunity to hear him recount his life and unparalleled career was truly unforgettable.”

Javier Barrios, Acquisitions Manager

His pick: Matthew Sand’s talk for National University in the Library 

In his words: “Basically during the last 15 years, as the pool of writers being hired for studio projects narrowed from 1500 to about 300 writers, he was able to stay within that shrinking group because he met deadlines no matter what and was a likeable, not crazy, guy at meetings.”

 

Chris Kartje, Director of Programs

His pick: All of our Events

In his words: “All of our events give us a glimpse into what it means to be working and writing in the film industry. But more importantly, they show us that we can do it too and that we are only one step away from achieving our dreams. And I met Oprah and Greg Kinnear!”

 

Mary McGuire, Director of Development

Her pick: The All-In-For-Vets Texas Hold ‘Em Poker Tournament, October 2016

In her words: “We doubled our fundraising goal and had a great time doing it.”

Enid Portuguez, Director of Communications

Her pick: Our events with the writers and stars of JANE THE VIRGIN and INSECURE, May and November 2016

In her words: “Meeting the writers and actors of two of my favorite shows was definitely a highlight. So much so that I couldn’t help but take some shameless selfies.” 

 

Hilary Swett, Archivist

Her pick: Helping an academic from Oregon research rare scripts from the Al Capp Show from 1952

In her words: “[These scripts] do not exist anywhere else that I know of. He was so excited and was showing me what he discovered. It made me excited and I was so happy to complete the circle from donor to archivist to researcher.”

WGF Staff’s Favorite TV Shows of 2016

We obsess daily about television at the Writers Guild Foundation. Frankly, there is not enough time in a day to get to everything we want to watch, but boy, do we try. Here are the shows that left a mark in our office in 2016. 

Libbie Anderson, Volunteer and Programs Coordinator

Her pick: BETTER THINGS (Created by Pamela Adlon and Louis C.K.)

In her words: “Pamela Adlon is a national treasure.  It frightens me how much I love and relate to this show.”

P.S. We have scripts from the entire first season of BETTER THINGS in the Library! 

Javier Barrios, Acquisitions Manager

His pick: STRANGER THINGS (Created by Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer)

In his words: “It felt as magical as the best 80’s movies did back then.”

P.S. We have the scripts from the entire first season of STRANGER THINGS in the Library!

Chris Kartje, Director of Programs

His pick: WESTWORLD (Adapted by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy)

In his words: “As soon as I think that I know, I find out that I’m lost again.”

Mary McGuire, Director of Development

Her pick: THE NIGHT MANAGER (Adapted by David Farr)

In her words: “Amazing cinematography and Hugh Laurie, Hugh Laurie, Hugh Laurie.”

P.S. We have scripts from every episode of THE NIGHT MANAGER in the Library! 

Enid Portuguez, Director of Communications

Her pick: INSECURE (Created by Issa Rae and Larry Wilmore)

In her words: “I loved watching a show based in LA with characters that talk like my friends and one that showcases the perspective of single women of color. Also, the music on the show is on point.” 

P.S. We have scripts from the entire first season of INSECURE in the Library! 

Hilary Swett, Archivist

Her pick: ATLANTA (Created by Donald Glover)

In her words: “Like nothing else on TV. It’s smart, weird and wonderful. A balance of subtle and ridiculous in the right amounts. It doesn’t follow a formula but feels real and familiar anyway.”

P.S. We have scripts from the entire first season of ATLANTA in the Library! 

 

WGF Staff’s Favorite Films of 2016

It’s finally the end of a particularly brutal year. From a laundry list of greats who’ve passed in 2016 to the tumultuous state of the country and world, there are definitely enough reasons to refill that Xanax prescription (or if you’re in California, take advantage of new laws).

But one bright spot in the year (and hopefully upcoming years) was the slew of great art and writing that inhabited our screens. The Writers Guild Foundation staff celebrates all film, TV and digital contributions, so we didn’t want to judge on what was the “best.” Instead, we’ll give you our favorites. First up, our favorite films of 2016. 

Libbie Anderson, Volunteer and Programs Coordinator

Her pick: CERTAIN WOMEN (Screenplay by Kelly Reichardt)

In her words: “The quiet intensity of a Kelly Reichardt film is truly something to behold.  And I just don’t think you can find a dreamier cast this year than Laura Dern, Michelle Williams and Kristen Stewart.”

Javier Barrios, Acquisitions Manager

His pick: ZOOTOPIA (Screenplay by Jared Bush & Phil Johnston)

In his words: “Lightning in a bottle in how it perfectly captured the racial issues occurring in the country in 2016.”

P.S. The screenplay for ZOOTOPIA is available to read in the Library! 

Chris Kartje, Director of Programs

His pick: ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (Screenplay by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy)

In his words: “With shades of SEVEN SAMURAI and the John Sayles written BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS with a dash of THE LAST STARFIGHTER, ROGUE ONE is a lived-in world where a band of rebels and rogues still hold on to hope in spite of overwhelming odds, inspiring us to hold on tight to our hope and dreams.”    

Mary McGuire, Director of Development

Her pick: LA LA LAND (Written by Damien Chazelle)

In her words: “Despite not being a fan of most musicals, I loved the homage to LA, the chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone and a very well written script by Damian Chazelle that would have stood alone without the music.”

Enid Portuguez, Director of Communications

Her pick: OTHER PEOPLE (Written by Chris Kelly)

In her words: “I laughed, I cried, and I was so taken by Molly Shannon’s performance. She has always been such a great comedic actress, but to see her so raw and tender broke my heart. The film finely balanced comedy with tragedy in a way that felt so real.” 

 

Hilary Swett, Archivist

Her pick: ARRIVAL (Screenplay by Eric Heisserer)

In her words: “The story was thoughtful and engaging and the performances were solid. I was quite happy to see some good sci-fi that is about understanding aliens and not making war with them. My favorite aspect was the visual storytelling. The way that the film depicts an alien language that is so different from ours – non-linear, conceptual – prompted me to think about language and communication in a new way.”

P.S. The screenplay for ARRIVAL is available to read in the Library! 

Young Storytellers is Seeking Mentors for 2017

 

The Writers Guild Foundation, in partnership with Young Storytellers, is hosting an information session and orientation for writers who are interested in mentoring young students in the art of screenwriting. Young Storytellers is always in need of professional screenwriters to meet the needs of the many students who want to participate in their programming.

When: Wednesday, January 4, 7:00 p.m.

Where: WGF Library 1st Floor, Info: (323) 782-4691

This is a 10 week mentorship opportunity (just one hour per week) in Young Storytellers’ Script to Screen program, where writers engage in a one-on-one mentorship of 5th grade students from low income schools, guiding them through drafting an original short script that will be performed by professional actors at the end of the semester. Young Storytellers works in many schools around LA so mentors can be assigned to schools near to their home or work.

Writers who attend are not obligated to participate; it is simply an introduction to the program. If you are interested, please RSVP to Libbie Anderson at landerson@wgfoundation.org.

Podcast: Writers on Writing with Terence Winter

On September 27, we had the pleasure of welcoming the marvelous Terence Winter, creator of BOARDWALK EMPIRE and VINYL, screenwriter of THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, and Emmy-winning writer of THE SOPRANOS. The TV legend spoke frankly with WGF Vice President Laurence Andries about his beginnings growing up in Brooklyn, how he gave up a career in law to pursue his dream of becoming a writer, and how his experiences informed the memorable shows, films and characters he wrote. 

Click here to subscribe to our podcast via RSS.
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Music on this podcast is Silver Dreams by StinsonJazz

 

Help us keep the Library open on Saturdays!

Friends! We need your help!

We’ve lost our funding to keep extended Saturday hours and parking for library patrons. We need to raise $16,282 to keep the Library open every Saturday and keep parking free for visitors.

Why are Saturday hours so important?

Saturday is one of our busiest days at the Library and vital to reaching a diverse community of writers. For those who may not have the immediate resources and means to pursue a writing career, we provide a free space and a day over the weekend to work and access scripts.

Who comes to the Library on Saturdays? 

  • Writers with 9-to-5 jobs during the week
  • Writers who are students enrolled in classes during the week
  • Writers and scholars who travel from outside the LA metro area 
  • Writers with kids to take care of during the week and who use Saturday as a work/personal day
  • Writers thinking of transitioning from other careers
  • WGA members who want to write when the member’s lounge is closed

We can go on and on…

Every day that the WGF Library is open gives someone the opportunity to discover great writing, pursue a dream career, or finish a project that can change his or her life.

Please help us reach our goal and give what you can—even a $10 donation is appreciated. If you can’t give now, spread the word about our cause to your friends and colleagues.

Thank you all for your continued support!

DONATE NOW!

 

Podcast: Character Sketch with William Blake Herron

On September 6, we welcomed film and TV writer William Blake Herron (AGENT X, THE BOURNE IDENTITY) for an event co-hosted by NYU Tisch in LA. Moderated by fellow NYU alum Elliott Diguiseppi, Herron shared his experiences creating characters deep in the world of espionage. He also gave his perspective on studio assignments and how writers can approach that route.

Click here to subscribe to our podcast via RSS.
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Music on this podcast is Prosperity by XTheNewgrounder

 

Podcast: Sublime Primetime 2016

On September 15, we, along with the Writers Guild of America, West and Variety, presented Sublime Primetime, our annual event celebrating Emmy-nominated writers. We welcomed a panel of incredibly talented writers, including Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (THE PEOPLE VS. OJ SIMPSON), Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg (THE AMERICANS), Peter Huyck and Alex Gregory (VEEP), Marti Noxon and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro (UNREAL), Caroline Omine (THE SIMPSONS), and Alex Rubens (KEY & PEELE). To top it off, BETTER CALL SAUL star Bob Odenkirk served as moderator, which naturally led to a hilarious conversation about this year’s memorable episodes.

Click here for photos from Sublime Primetime 2016.

Click here to subscribe to our podcast via RSS.
Click here to subscribe to our podcast via iTunes.

Music on this podcast is Midnight Sizzle by BlazingDragon.