Getting a Leg Up in the Movie Industry

Marcus de Leon, Hollywood screenwriter and fellow of the Hanson Film Institute, gets to mentor and work directly with students as a film professional. He writes screenplays for the likes of HBO, Warner Brothers, Disney and NBC.
May 30, 2012

Making a Play at Pitch Fest

On April 21, 2012, Weisman got to experience the real world of the career Hollywood screenwriter. He got to pitch his own screenplay to real industry professionals at Pitch Fest Tucson. The Hanson Film Institute, part of the College of Fine Arts, put on a fun yet grueling program for their students.

According to Vicky Westover, director of the Institute, Pitch Fest is one of the wonderful and unique programs offered for aspiring artists.

“We bring in producers from film and TV studios to give students the opportunity to pitch their story idea to them,” she says, “So they’re getting feedback from professionals with decades of experience in the industry.”

During a day at Pitch Fest, each student has the opportunity to pitch their screenplay to three top-notch entertainment industry professionals with experience in getting TV and film projects into production.  They listen to each pitch, and give students valuable feedback to help them sell their ideas.

The winner of the day, chosen by those same professionals, gets the opportunity to pitch their screenplay to Los Angeles insider Matt Luber, who produced successes like Bride Wars for New Regency, Evan Almighty for Universal, Running Scared for new Line, and By the way, Luber himself graduated from the UA in 1993 with a degree in media arts.d Into the Blue for MGM.

Understanding Opportunities, Opening Doors

When students begin exploring the world of entertainment, they rarely have a solid concept of the many directions their career might go.

“Undergrads who are majoring in film really don’t understand all the opportunities that are available to them to work within the industry,” says Westover. “Everything from marketing to distribution to production to producing. We create seminars and workshops and panels and provide professional development opportunities.”

The goal is to create a clear bridge between practices of school and the practicalities of working in the industry.

For Weisman, that bridge is Marcus de Leon, Hollywood screenwriter and fellow of the Hanson Film Institute. Playing this role, de Leon gets to mentor and work directly with students as the film professional he is. He writes screenplays for the likes of HBO, Warner Brothers, Disney and NBC.

“What I hope I can give Josh as a mentor,” he says, “is the kind of experience and stories of how things work in the film business – what works, what doesn’t, some of the things to do and say that will help advance your cause as a filmmaker that I wish someone had told me when I was Josh’s age.”

In the end, nobody knows what will sell in Hollywood. According to de Leon, “No one knows what combination of directors, cast is going to be a successful film. Into that void, where no one knows anything, we writers, directors, even producers, can be very creative.”

And for Weisman, that advice is invaluable. “You can spend 6 months of your life writing a screenplay and you can pour everything that have into it. But if you can’t pitch it properly,” he says, “nobody is even going to take the time to read it… I feel really lucky to have Marcus as a mentor.”

And the Winner Is…

On April 21, 2012, Pitch Day, the judges unanimously selected Josh’s idea as the winning pitch. In July, he will get his shot at pitching his screenplay to Luber.

Weisman, now on his way to starting a successful career, can’t contain his gratitude for the help he has gotten from the Institute and Westover.

“I don’t think I could ever write her a thank-you note long enough,” he says. “Vicky has found places for me to work and people to mentor me… It’s given me a lot of confidence that people in the film industry aren’t quite as scary as you go in thinking they are.”

Train your eye on the Hanson Film Institute.

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