Last week, we told you all about Elissa Matsueda and her first place win in the 2010 UCLA Extension Screenplay Competition for her ensemble comedy Happy for You. I’m happy to report that since then, Elissa has signed with the Hohman Maybank Lieb Agency, and she is now being wooed by several management companies, all of whom are anxious to sign her.
But it’s not just Elissa who is getting noticed. Last week, second place winner Terrence Michael signed with Chris Sablan, a competition judge and Hollywood agent at Original Artists who championed Terrence’s quirky, dark comedy, The Girl with Something Extra, about a boy named Elda Winnows who is raised as a girl by his domineering mother. Not long after signing with Original Artists, Chris Davey of Media Talent Group signed on as Terrence’s manager, and The Girl With Something Extra appeared on Imagine Entertainment’s weekend “must read” list!
This year’s third place winner Greg Amici—who wrote Rhythm of Life, a dark comedy about a Polish country girl who heads to her relatives’ New Jersey home in search of “The American Dream”–has had representation since his second place win in the same competition in 2007! Says Greg, “UCLA Extension did a really great job in terms of hook-ups with agents and managers. I went from having neither, to having both!”
It goes without saying that Writers’ Program students are talented, but talent is wasted if you can’t get your script read. That’s where the UCLA Extension Screenplay Competition comes in. It’s an excellent opportunity to get your script read by the people in Hollywood who matter. And beginning in 2011, when the Writers’ Program rolls out its first-ever Television Writing Competition, television writing students will have the same, excellent opportunity to get their work noticed.
Below, Terrence and Greg share their thoughts on this year’s competition, their mentors, and their advice for prospective students.
Writers’ Program: What inspired your story? What research, if any, did you do for your script?
Terrence: My characters originated from a series of sketches I wrote for The Nellie Olesons, a comedy group I co-founded. From the onset, people loved the “weird Gothic thing with the mother and daughter” and began asking for more. I didn’t know that Elda was actually a boy raised as a girl until the third sketch in the series.
Greg: I knew something about the Eastern European and Orthodox worlds. I also did my research. I like to write about people who shoot for the stars and then try to figure out what they can settle for on the ground.
WP: As finalists, you were each paired with an instructor/mentor who guided you throughout the rewrite practice. What was that like?
Terrence: I thoroughly enjoyed working with Steve Mazur. He’s a funny guy who is incredibly generous with his time, and his notes rock.
Greg: Chrys Balis was great. She’s so smart and we have very similar comic sensibilities. I took her workshop a few years back so I was very comfortable working with her towards the ultimate goal of making “Rhythm of Life” a better screenplay than it was in June. And it is. And Chrys is a major reason why. I also love Steve Mazur, who was a great mentor for me in the 2007 contest. I miss our lunch meetings at Vitello’s, the place in the valley where Robert Blake’s wife was shot. Funny, funny guy. Steve, I mean. I don’t know Robert Blake.
WP: How important do you think it is to showcase your work through a competition like this?
Terrence: Any competition that generates interest and gets your material read is valuable. The Writers’ Program has been a great way to develop a network of writer friends. One of my scripts was optioned solely from connections fostered through the Writers’ Program.
Greg: Hey, I can never say enough about the Writers’ Program, and I’m pretty cynical. They’ve gone out of their way to promote me as a writer. I’ve made some extremely valuable connections because the people there have worked very hard on my behalf. I’ve gotten representation and a lot of attention from producers after each of the contests. Believe it or not, LA’s a tough town. The Writers’ Program has been a great friend and the people affiliated with it have been extremely supportive. My fruit tree in the desert.
WP: Any advice for students who might be interested in participating in our competitions in the future?
Terrence: Take Fountain* (someone had to use that line).
Greg: Yes. I’d advise them to take the workshops and do the work so they can enter the competition, and hopefully get into the finals. I can’t guarantee they’ll get work out of it, but they’ll be in the game and have more and better writing samples, some solid contacts, and great new friends.
*For anyone unfamiliar with the reference, Wikipedia describes it this way: “In Los Angeles, Fountain Avenue is a minor east-west street, between and parallel to Sunset Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard, two very congested arteries. Therefore, when Johnny Carson asked Bette Davis for advice on ‘the best way an aspiring starlet could get into Hollywood,’ Ms. Davis replied without hesitation, ‘Take Fountain!'”
Chae Ko is the Program Representative for onsite and online screenwriting courses. Contact him at email@example.com.