Screenwriter Cindy McCreery
Screenwriter Cindy McCreery

Today’s guest blogger, Cindy McCreery, is a graduate of the Walt Disney/ABC Feature Writing Fellowship program for the 2002-2003 year. Her script Powder Puffs got her into the program and was sold to Disney after she finished the fellowship. After that sale, Cindy sold her next feature spec script, Soccer Mom, to New Line Cinema. In the fall of 2005 Tollin Robbins and Josephson Entertainment approached Cindy with the true story of Maria Pepe, the first girl to play in the Little League. Cindy came up with a pitch with the producers and sold the pitch to Nickelodeon/Paramount. In 2006 National Geographic Films hired Cindy to rewrite Elephant Wild and later in 2007, in partnership with Warner Brothers, they hired her again to develop and write Free Willy: Escape from Pirates Cove. Also in 2007 Cindy sold a pitch of a revamped Baby Boom for MGM. In 2009 Disney Channel hired her to adapt the book, Rising Star, into a Disney Channel Original movie. Cindy recently finished a spec scripts for Radar Pictures and Unique Features and is currently developing projects with Scott Sanders Productions and Mike Tollin.

Along with her writing, Cindy has been teaching Introduction to Screenwriting for the Film Studies department at UC Santa Barbara for the last five years. And in early 2010 she teamed up with the new Facebook application, Vpype Live Broadcaster, creating a pitch contest helping aspiring writers from all over the world pitch their ideas to studio executives and producers.

Last January Vpype held its first Hollywood Screenplay Pitch Contest. It was the first and only pitch contest exclusive to Facebook, which allowed users to pitch industry professionals live via webcam.

Judges were from MGM, Fox, and William Morris Endeavor, as well as many known producers with credits that include Collateral, Remember Me, The Collector, and Overboard.

I’m proud to say that not only did the top three winners win great prizes including a Save the Cat! consult and software, but they are also still developing their ideas with producers that judged the contest. And several other participant’s pitches were reviewed and liked by producers who later contacted them.

Now we’re proud to announce the 2nd annual pitch contest! This time we’ve made a few changes. First, we’ve limited the pitches to three minutes, as that’s really all the time one needs to get out what their movie is! Secondly, we’ve shortened the duration of the contest to a little over a month so we don’t lose momentum. Third, participants must submit their pitches using Vpype’s latest application, vComedy, although pitches aren’t limited to a specific genre. Many of the judges from last year will be participating including Julie Richardson, Mac Torluccio, Christopher Lockhart, and Trevor Engelson.

What makes this contest special is that it’s not only free but it’s open to writers all over the world. Last year we had participants from as far as Israel to Pakistan to Italy to Australia. It really opens Hollywood to writers who don’t live in LA. Also, what I think makes this such a special contest is that everyone involved is really dedicated to the idea of helping aspiring writers get their feet in the door. The CEO of Vpype is also a filmmaker and understands not only the importance of the writer but also the importance of making industry contacts.

This might be a small contest, but it has provided big opportunities for many writers. One, Marc Maxwell, recently wrote this to me:

“Living in Pembroke, Kentucky feels a million miles away from Hollywood. But that’s where I find myself working as a Department of Defense Guidance Counselor for the 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell. As an Army Counselor, I assist our Soldiers in achieving their Adult Education goals of obtaining a degree or diploma. My writing partner, David Horne, and I started collaborating four years ago. To date, we have co-written nine sports trivia/history books through the Sports by the Numbers series; however, we have always aspired to write screenplays. With me in Kentucky and Dave stationed as a civilian in Germany, the dreams of being a screenwriter were just that… dreams.

“Geographically, even if we had a great script, we weren’t in any position to pitch our ideas. That was, until the first Vpype Hollywood Pitch Contest came to Facebook. I heard about the contest through Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat! website and immediately started working on our pitches. After pitching five ideas, we found ourselves with two submissions in the Top Thirty and one pitch in the Top Ten. Even though we didn’t win the contest, we were contacted by a judge and Hollywood Insider to send them our completed screenplay. We continue to work with them on rewrites and have been invited to submit any future screenplays we complete. Without the Vpype contest, our screenplay may never have been seen or read by movie producers. And because of this contest our dream lives on.”

No matter where you live or what you do for a living, if you have a movie idea be sure to pitch it via vComedy before January 25, 2011! Who knows, this time next year you could be living out your dreams! For more information join our Facebook Group, The Hollywood VPYPE Pitch Contest!

Before you sit down to pitch your idea, here are a few tips…

Imagine you’re in the elevator and Spielberg enters and you have less than three minutes to tell him your great movie idea:

1) Keep it simple. Don’t get bogged down with specifics; tell us the title, the genre, the tone, and give a very brief logline of your idea. For example, if I was pitching my script, Soccer Mom, that I sold to New Line, this is how I’d do it: “Today I’m pitching Soccer Mom, a family comedy much in the tone of Bend It Like Beckham meets The Rookie, about a Soccer Mom whose husband leaves her and their two kids for a younger woman. She ends up getting a second chance at finishing college when her former coach offers her a full-ride soccer scholarship.”

2) Give us one or two “trailer moments” or “set pieces.” What scenes would you want advertised? Be sure that these scenes fit with your specific genre and tone. If it’s a comedy — make sure it’s the funniest example from your story. If it’s a horror — give us the scariest moment! And be certain these examples pertain to the main character and the main action of your movie.

3) Focus only on your main character. What makes he or she so compelling? For example, there are literally thousands of cops out there in the world, but why is John McClane from Die Hard or Martin Riggs from Lethal Weapon so special? What is it about this person that makes us want to see their journey? What do they need to overcome and what is it that they learn over the course of the story? Do they start out weak and become strong? Do they start out evil but become a hero? Are they an underdog?

4) Practical tips when pitching via webcam: speak clearly and don’t read your pitch. Be yourself; it’s always a good idea to show what you have in your background that makes you the perfect person to tell this story. If your movie takes place in the military and you were in the military — tell us! You are your best asset. Do your best to convey that you have your own unique voice.

5) You can review and re-record on vComedy as many times as you’d like, so record a few practice pitches before you post your final pitch. Lastly, if you have any questions, please post them to The Hollywood VPYPE Pitch Contest group page and we’ll be happy to respond! Good luck and Happy New Year!

Next week’s blog: New Beat Sheet Workshops for 2011!