This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 362: With Thomas Dever From Coverfly.
Ashley: Welcome to Episode #362 of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger over at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing Tom Dever who works over at Coverfly, which is a company that helps run screenwriting competitions. I actually use Coverfly to help with my own contest. Tom has a lot of insight into how contests work and he’s been in charge of helping develop writers at Coverfly. So he’s a wealth of information for screenwriters. So stay tuned for that interview. If you find this episode valuable, please help me out by giving me a review in iTunes or leaving me a comment on YouTube or retweeting the podcast on Twitter or liking or sharing it on Facebook.
These social media shares really do help spread word about the podcast, so they’re very much appreciated. Any websites or links that I mention in the podcast can be found on my blog in the show notes. I also publish a transcript with every episode in case you’d rather read the show or look at something later on. You can find all the podcast show notes at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast, and then just look for Episode Number #362. If you want my free guide-How To Sell a Screenplay in Five Weeks, you can pick that up by going to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide. It’s completely free, you just put in your email address and I’ll send you a new lesson once per week for five weeks along with a bunch of bonus lessons.
I teach the whole process of how to sell a screenplay in that guide. I’ll teach you how to write a professional logline and query letter and how to find agents, managers and producers who are looking for material. Really, it’s everything you need to know to sell your screenplay. Just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide. A quick few words about what I’m working on. So we’re still plugging away on The Rideshare Killer. I’m recording this actually the week before Christmas. So hopefully things are a bit further along by the time this publishes as we’re getting pretty close to being finished. My producing partner, Tony and myself, we did notes this past week on the score.
Our composer basically scored the whole movie, sent us a version and we just did notes and then sent those back to her and she’s reworking that. I don’t think… I mean, she’s pretty close. There was obviously notes, but I think she’s pretty close on that. So I don’t anticipate that will take more than another two, three, four weeks at the most. The motion graphic artist finished the little animated logo that we’re gonna be using in a couple of scenes. At the end of the film, there’s kind of like a mock commercial for a new ride sharing app. We just created like a little animated logo to kinda go with that new ride sharing app to make it look kinda like a commercial. So that all came in. I think that looks really good. I’m excited to put that into the movie.
Next week I’ve actually got a meeting with an actor and potential financier of my film noir thriller. So I’m trying to get that off the ground as well. We’re definitely trying to figure out when we can say if we shoot with COVID, so that’s gonna be something I start to really work on this year. Hopefully as COVID dies out we’ll be ramped up and ready to shoot as soon as it’s safe. So fingers crossed on that. I mentioned this a few weeks ago, but I’m working on a screenwriting class to guide writers through the entire process of writing a screenplay, from coming up with a concept, outlining and then doing index cards, writing a treatment, and then ultimately writing a first act, a middle act and a third act.
So it really takes you through the whole process of the writing of a screenplay. So stay tuned for that. I’ve been working on that and really getting that all polished up and ready to launch. I’m hoping to launch that first quarter here, so by March, let’s say we’ll have that out. I’ve also been gearing up for the contest. Again, this year I’m still working to market the scripts from last year’s contest. We definitely have a lot of leads on that. I’ve got a lot of scripts out, so I’m talking to a lot of producers on that stuff. Hopefully I’ll have some exciting news to announce over the course of this next year. Hopefully we can get some of those scripts optioned. But I’m gonna be opening up the 2021 contest for submissions in February, so stay tuned for that announcement.
If you submit early, you will save a good bit of money with the early bird deadline which will be the last day of March. So the idea is that February and March is gonna be the, I’m gonna open up on February 1st, and then the early bird deadline will run for February and March, and then it will go to the regular deadline in April. Then again, we’ll close for submissions like we did this past year in July. That seemed to work pretty well, just in terms of the calendaring of getting the announcements out, and having those months, having basically August and September to kind of read the scripts and figure out the winners. And then we started making our announcements really in late September, October, November.
The other big thing that I’m working on is kind of concluding the contest is every year I put together the annual budget list. Again, hopefully by the time you’re listening to his podcast, I’ve already put the budget list out, but if I haven’t, it’s gonna be coming out any day now. But every year I put together a budget list and this year… which is basically the best, unproduced, low-budget screenplays. I’m gonna be including a lot of the quarter finalists from the contest in that package as well. So I’m creating that budget list for this year, and I’ll be sending that out to the producers. I also am gonna highlight a bunch of scripts that just came through the SYS system and really any low budget script that I came in contact with is a potential to be listed on this.
Again, I’ve had some scripts optioned off of this list so I know that it’s slowly gaining traction. This is gonna be our fourth year. So anyways, those are the things that I am working on. Now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m gonna be interviewing Tom Dever from Coverfly. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Thomas to the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Thomas: Thanks so much for having me.
Ashley: So to start out, maybe you can give us a little overview of your career. How did you get into the entertainment business and where did you grow up?
Thomas: Sure. I’m originally from Ohio, went to school out there, basically moved out to LA to pursue entertainment industry almost immediately after graduating and bounced around between a handful of industry jobs before being with Coverfly for the past a little over three years at this point.
Ashley: What were you trying to pursue when you moved out here? Were you trying to pursue writing specifically or producing or directing or anything else?
Thomas: You know, honestly, I think it was just entertainment industry in no specific sense. I just had that kind of a calling to California, the way that I think a lot of Midwesterners do. I had the good fortune of working for a producer with First Look Studio deal at first, and then working under another producer who had a project at Fox Searchlight before kind of gravitating my way towards this side of things.
Thomas: I got you. What’s your background? What was your college degree in? Did you do something in the arts growing up? Were you like a theater kid or just, what was your sort of background?
Thomas: Absolutely. I studied English in college, which is, you know, a very wise career move as always. So yeah, English literature and creative writing, just always kind of taking that, perhaps a creative pursuit as well as the analytical and logical critical thinking approach to it, which it did lend itself to the film industry. Certainly, pursuits of creating or writing, but the more and more I learned about the industry, definitely got increasingly more interested and passionate in this side of things, the sort of like development and representation and working with writers and emerging writers and kind of the business and logistical factors behind that.
Ashley: Got you. So you mentioned that you worked for a couple of executives in production and development. Maybe you can talk a little bit about those jobs and what you did there, and first maybe how you got those jobs. I get a lot of people listening to this podcast. They’re gonna be moving out to LA in a couple months or a year or whatever. What were some of those first moves that you made to actually get established and start to work in the business?
Thomas: Sure. I guess, sorry, not to tell you everything, but I think sort of maybe just like grounding a little bit of what Coverfly is will help contextualize perhaps why everything led to that. Coverfly is an emerging writer database basically, that started as a backend admin software for managing screenplay databases. As we started to accumulate more and more competitions and festivals and started working with major companies and agencies and doing things like that, that is what led to both the sort of writer phasing side, where you can kind of aggregate all of your accomplishments and details of your screenwriting career on a writer profile , as well as the industry phasing side, which is sort of what I work with now, which is managing our industry partnerships as well as working with writers to foster those relationships.
I think that that just ties in because it was really a big part of my progression here in the film industry, was that I worked in development on the big side of things and then I got to see a feature film being produced at the studio level. And just sort of seeing where perhaps the, I don’t wanna say the problems, but perhaps where the inefficiencies were on the industry side of things. That’s really what kind of drew me to Coverfly. Specifically to where I was getting those opportunities, it’s really just meeting as many people as possible and kind of maximizing those and being ready for them when they come.
Ashley: Got you. Was this some college outreach? I know when I moved out here, our college had some sort of a resource for people that went to our college in LA. Were there any resources that you use to kinda get yourself the…?
Thomas: Sure. I remember there was just an instructor in college who had had a professional screenwriting credit, and I just kind of like hounded him until he introduced me to production companies. That’s what kind of led to the first one. Then the second one was really it was a producer that had a one-day freelance thing to be moving furniture basically. That just kind of like, I just stayed until I got on to the production itself, which is really kind of what you have to do is just, it’s not, I don’t know if there’s one sort of quantifiable place to do it. It’s really just about taking those opportunities at your disposal and making the most of them.
Ashley: Yeah. Yeah. So you mentioned too, you’re working in development production, you’re seeing some of these inefficiencies. What were some of the specific inefficiencies that you saw that you thought could be corrected?
Thomas: Sure. I think the biggest one and really this just ties so much into what Coverfly is really about and what we’re doing. That it’s super saturated. It’s really tough to kind of stand out and I wish that it was as simple as just like you mail someone your script, and if they like it, they work with you, but there’s obviously all of these other factors that go into it. On the industry side, there’s a degree of… On the industry side, I think that it’s with the sort of the rise of the internet and the additional sort of like resources at writer’s disposal, it’s so saturated. There are so many writers, there’s so many writers to keep track of, so many places to be finding writers that you’re either one falling into this sort of like who you know trappings of personal recommendations to writers, which likely led to a homogenization of the type of writers that are breaking in and the lack of opportunities, not just for diverse writers, but maybe just from writers that are on the outside, looking in, in that capacity.
But it’s also just made the job of creative execs and literary managers and agents so much more difficult, right? That it’s almost an unmanageable amount of writers and material that you’re supposed to be sifting through and really sort of seeing that process and knowing, and seeing it from both sides of things as a writer, as well as being on the development or representation side. What Coverfly is really looking to do, getting all of that into an easily searchable filterable place that is constantly updating the data and not just the data, but the pertinent data to both sides of that equation, is really where we kind of evolved and what drew it to me so much in the first place.
Ashley: Got you. So let’s dig into Coverfly, and kind of what you do there. It sounds like you mentioned you do some stuff with partnerships managing that, and also working with writers. Maybe you can talk specifically about some of the writers you’ve worked with and exactly what you’ve done to kind of promote their careers. Maybe also just talk about what they did in sort of the Coverfly world. Did they win a contest? What were some of these people that that you’ve worked with and helped to break in?
Thomas: Absolutely. You know, as I mentioned that working as that sort of backend admin solution, that Coverfly just really quickly amassed a large database of writers that is continuing to grow as well as just like great partners that were getting those writers from and continuing to work within their talent discovery at the top sort of film festivals and competitions and partnerships, even with big studios, Viacom, Nickelodeon, NBC. That was what was really kind of adding to the writers in our system. The rate that it’s growing particularly at this year is just really encouraging to see that more and more writers are flocking to it. We’re at close to 50,000 at this point. What grew from that was that writer profile.
The comparison I make to it is that it’s like a my fitness app where you don’t have to manually enter the data because it’s tracking all of that for you. On the writer’s side, you’re getting these competition placements, you’re getting coverage feedback, you’re getting accolades from anywhere and everywhere, and you’re able to have that in a profile because it’s putting it all into a condensed place that it’s easy to sort of put all of your career accomplishments in one area. And not just that, but the ability to speak to your bio, speak to your connections, speak to your life experience. These factors that help you stand out as a package deal of both your material and you as the creator.
That is just, it’s so important for us. The team that I oversee, which is the, managing our industry relationships, because those have obviously sort of grown out of it as well. Having a database where you can kind of easily search through these sorts of things, and we’ve seen a massive growth on that front as well, around a thousand users, but just even recently through one of our programs, having people participating from CAA, from Sony, from Fox Comedy. Really, places all over, managers, agents, recs, execs, you name it. The outreach that we do is basically in two directions. One is really looking at the writer database and identifying those writers, the sort of most talented, promising writers in the system, regardless of where they’re coming from.
Whether it’s from a specific competition or a specific service or wherever and working with them to create those opportunities. Then likewise, always maintaining that communication with the industry to understand what they’re looking for, what their needs are, what their mandates are, because when you’re searching through a database that is so vast and saturated, having a platform that can be hyper-specific down to a keyword logline, or a writer of a specific background, be it of a specific demo or of a work experience, or you name it, that’s really where we’re seeing the value in those fronts is that they’re both sort of able to find what they’re looking for. It’s making this somewhat unofficial haphazard process, more efficient for everybody.
Ashley: Got you. You just mentioned that one of your jobs is to kind of identify promising writers, emerging writers. What are some of the criteria you use specifically to identify these writers?
Thomas: Sure. I mean a big thing, and I don’t want to just constantly say data, data, data, data, data, but it’s really like the more information that you are providing to not just us, but to the industry, that’s what’s gonna be the most important. It’s this constantly evolving thing, right? There’s a degree of dynamism to it that it’s not just placing in one competition five years ago, it’s I’ve placed in six competitions in the past couple of months, I just had this meeting with so-and-so or I got a 10 from this coverage service. It’s having all of those sort of factors to know. This ties in with that fitness app comparison. How are you evolving as a writer? Is there movement in this direction towards a specific goal, which I think is something that is really important to us as well, having that focus of like, this is what I, as a writer I’m looking to do.
With that being said, we’re really not precious about where we’re finding writers. Whether it’s a specific competition or all competitions or coverage services, or just sort of seeing a profile that sounds unique. We cast a pretty wide net and we’re looking to help as many as possible. What’s also sort of important about that, because I don’t wanna make it seem like we’re just a matchmaking service, is those industry users that I talked about they’re on their own platform that you can go in, and we actually have a sort of like leaderboard tracking system to see who’s had the most XYZ over the past week, month, year, as well as, so, you know, when they log in, they can be seeing a specific set of projects that have been endorsed or flagged in some sort of way.
But additionally, they have an organic search. They can go in and look for something specific. If you are a manager and you’re looking for a female comedy writer with a pilot set in Fiji, you have the ability to do that. If you’re a production company with a mandate that you need contained thrillers set in Alaska, you can find that as well, which is why it is again, so important to just be updating that profile and engaging with the profile and making the most of that. So you might very well be what somebody is looking for, but they won’t know it if you’re not presenting yourself in that way.
Ashley: Yeah. Yeah. For sure. Do writers have the ability to see where they rank on these lists of the people that have done the best over the last year or six months or whatever? Do writers know when they’re on these lists?
Thomas: Absolutely. Not only will you be notified when you’re on the list, it additionally tracks individual scoring metrics of how you compare against other writers of a similar format or genre, which is what’s just so cool about it. Because it is you can see, okay, I am in the like 90th percentile for character, but I’m in the 65th percentile for dialogues, strictly of just how I compare to the system as a whole. Because I think, gosh, I’ve worked with so many writers that you can start to sort of draw these comparisons and sort of wonder like, well, why did that person break in and how is this happening? And you get like a Q & A with a professional screenwriter, and it’s like, well, that doesn’t really apply to me.
It is just focusing so much on your own individual growth. We’re able to provide the resources for you to track that, for you to sort of measure and improve that.
Ashley: Got you. So let’s just talk about just people that are entering these contests and stuff. Realistically, what can someone expect from… I know John Rhodes, in fact, that’s how we got hooked up, who runs all the screen craft contests. I just ran a contest myself. I always feel like writers sometimes are a little bit unrealistic about what actually could happen with entering any of these contests as if it’s gonna be, you know, just rocket fuel to the moon if they can win one of these contests, and it’s not always quite that simple. So what’s sort of your perspective on this? What can people expect realistically? Suppose they get a quarterfinalist or a semi-finalist in one of these contests? What can they expect and how can they use that to kinda just slowly inch up the totem pole?
Thomas: Sure. I think that the important thing to remember is that it’s going to be this balance of the craft being really good, but also other factors. That other factors can be relationships, it could be personal experience, it can just be what the industry is looking for at any point in time. However, every accomplishment that you have, anytime a person reads your material and provides feedback, good or bad, if you’re placing in contests, that’s obviously good. It’s something for you to utilize. It’s an opportunity for you to either A, get better or B, use as an opportunity to sort of connect with other people, whether it’s other writers or other industry, or use that as a way that you’re kind of verified, right?
That somebody has read the material and says it is good enough to do blank. I think that that’s why there are so many other sort of factors that go into it, that you have to continue to be your own advocate. Be your own advocate as much as possible, but also sort of if you’re placing in a competition, looking at how you can utilize it. Whether that, like I said, is connecting with the industry or simply presenting that to yourself and making sure that people know what’s going on with you as a writer. It has to be a step towards a greater end, right? I don’t know if anyone’s sitting there like your dream is I wanna get my film produced or I wanna get staffed on a series or I wanna sell my pilot.
You’re not sitting there saying, gosh, I hope I can place as a semi-finalist in a competition someday. And sort of understanding that paradigm, right. That it’s, how is this a step towards that? How is this a step towards a larger and it’ll offer a degree of, I think it will offer a degree of clarity to the process of pursuing your writing goals.
Ashley: So entering contests, doing this sort of stuff, obviously you recommend, what else do you recommend besides contests and Coverfly? Are there some other things? In-person events? What is sort of your sense of what else screenwriters should be doing in addition to these sorts of things like the blacklist, like Coverfly, like contests ink tip. I mean, there’s a whole bevy of these sort of online services, but what else would you recommend to writers?
Thomas: Honestly, I think the most important thing to really settle on is get a clear idea of what your goal is. What is your goal? And realistically, what is your professional goal? Not, I wanna win an Oscar, but like, okay, I wanna be, you know, being hired to write screenplays or OWAs or get staffed. I think that focusing on that and understanding what the next step towards that are, if you have tons of relationship, but not a deep portfolio focus on your portfolio. If you have a deep portfolio, but you’re not really sort of making those connections on the industry side… Understanding of the balancing act that this has to be and getting it all in one place and not to keep harping the Coverfly profile, but it’s to understand that it’s not, it’s all of these different factors into it.
It’s your accolades, but also you as a person and understanding what specifically about yourself is kind of what you’re selling. What are good at, what’s your skillset? What’s unique about your writing and your voice and what are you bringing to the table and how does that move you closer towards your goals? Yeah, I think that the sort of writers that we’ve seen find success off of the platform and it’s really, gosh, across the platform for the past couple of years, we’re well over a hundred, actually probably closer to 150 writers that we’ve seen at this point, be able to find representation or get staffed or option their screenplays. I think the biggest commonality that we’ve seen is just sort of, that focus and maximizing the opportunity when they’re in the right place at the right time, whether that’s connecting with a producer or somebody through winning a contest or off of the platform or just in your own sort of efforts.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, for sure. What are some of the trends that you’re seeing? Maybe you can even talk about a couple of years ago. Have things changed? But from these managers, agents, producers who are going into Coverfly, are you seeing any trends there with what they’re looking for and what kinda writers they’re looking for?
Thomas: Absolutely. I mean, gosh, where to start on that. One of the best things about Coverfly is that it’s completely optional, but you do have the ability to enter writer demographic information for it. So definitely as you, you know, I’m sure in the industry that there has been a big push for diversity, for female writers, for LGBT writers, for writers, from specific backgrounds, and that we have a database that allows you to specifically search for that. Because it’s tough, those sort of mechanisms were not always in place for writers that didn’t have the sort of ingrained industry opportunities. So definitely that’s been a huge trend, but there’s also just a hunger across the board for new writers and new voices and different perspectives.
I think seeing people organically gravitate to Coverfly, just with the growth that we’ve seen in our industry account, again, just like, gosh, 60%, just this year alone, seeing that more people are understanding places like competitions, like talent discovery fellowships, like labs are a viable place to be finding great projects and writers. I think that that has been kind of proven over the past couple of years in just sort of the writers that are signing and where they’re being found.
Ashley: One thing I’ve noticed, and I’d be curious to just get your thoughts on this. Because it’s yours is sort of holistic to the writer. One thing that I’ve been seeing just recently since COVID for instance, is I’ve seen a lot of producers looking for super contained stuff so that they can shoot with a super contained crew, and you’re not dealing with these big crews with a lot of COVID regulations. Have you seen some stuff like that that’s sort of specific to an actual screenplay, maybe not even specific to a writer?
Thomas: Absolutely. The thing is like, yes, undeniably with COVID, COVID is the sort of like restrictions that it’s placed on a specific type of genre or location or things like that. It’s important to remember the industry just changes so often. What’s in Vogue changes so often, it is a 24/7 thing that what is popular and what the demand is. I’d say first kind of both sides of it, on the writer side, it’s almost impossible to chase trends. It just really is. That’s why I think it’s so important for you as writers to look inward, be confident in your material, find the people that are fans of it and like you, and like your writing and like your project. Because I just don’t, I think the trends are going to change faster than anybody could write them, honestly.
On the industry side, you never know what you’re gonna need to be looking for until you’re looking for it. That’s sort of where we find ourself in the right place at the right time. I think a good example of that, what’s really promising to see in the past couple of years is the emergence of the romcom. The romcom feature kind of like went away for a bit, it seemed and now we’re seeing all sorts of people that they want to take a new slant on at these sort of new perspectives on just sort of like what dating and romance even looks like. And looking at different perspectives, whether it’s generational or certain ethnicities. One of the coolest sort of successes we’ve seen off of Coverfly was that a major studio was looking to develop projects like that, and we were partnered with an independent producer.
We just use the industry platform the same way that anybody can sign up for and use it right now to look for romantic comedies from writers of different national backgrounds. A writer that we had kind of known and worked with who was South Asian, Indian-American, wasn’t even based in LA, was kind of working at home, had two kids. She lived in San Francisco now she’s in Seattle and it was exactly what they were looking for. They’ve since gone on to option it. She’s gotten manager and agent out of it and her career has taken off because… and I guess what’s so important about that is that this was on the heels of years of almost kind of being told no one really wants to hear your stories.
These aren’t the sort of romantic comedies that are getting made. It’s too specific to Indian culture. It’s too specific to these sorts of things. And also the fact that it’s like, you’re a mom, you don’t live in LA. All of these sort of barriers that writers have reinforced to them, we were able to bridge that gap. I think that’s, what’s just so cool about the time that we’re living in, even if there are additional sort of strains being placed on the talent discovery process.
Ashley: Yeah. Got you. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on how has the Netflix and Hulu, a lot of those productions, especially even in the feature world, how has that altered? Have you seen any changes in that? It seems to me, this is just my observation, it seems to me like… taking like the Adam Sandler movies that he did for Netflix, it always seemed to me that they were not quite right for a studio film. They were a little bit maybe too low concept or whatever. Have you seen some changes that…? I mean, certainly Netflix has totally changed the paradigm, but just in terms of what producers are looking for, have you seen any changes in that over the last five years?
Thomas: The fact that you have more and more places with the resources to produce projects and create content that are open to increasingly anything and everything as well as the demand for that, just the demand to fill content and the amount of content being made, it’s hard to imagine a better time to be a writer. I know that it’s sort of tough and then yes, it’s saturated and yes, you’re pursuing and yes, there’s parts of this that can be nebulous and dejecting. But there are so many people that are searching for content and so many people that are looking for that next project and are open to something that they haven’t seen before and are open to something different.
As I mentioned with the sort of rise of competitions, increasingly open to writers that maybe don’t have that traditional career background, that traditional industry background because they’re looking for new voices and new stories and something they haven’t seen before which really kind of positive Coverfly is such a valuable resource that all of this content, all of these people sort of looking for content, let’s help you find exactly what you’re looking for. It just works in both directions like that. I guess I just can’t emphasize that enough of how important it is to make sure that’s why really clearly articulating what you do, what you’re good at, what sort of projects that you’re writing so that when they are looking for it, that they’re finding you, that you could very well be sitting on a script or a project or a voice that a creative exec at Netflix or Hulu needs right now, and it’s just not getting to them. I think that’s what’s kind of exciting about what we do is seeing those opportunities emerged.
Ashley: One of the fears that I’ve heard from writers about a service like Coverfly, and really I’d say even specifically to Coverfly is there’s always this fear because it’s sort of this monolithic entry into contests, and you’ve got this database, people are kind of afraid that, well, if you guys are running the back end of all these contests, why entering one contest, there’s not really a big difference in entering a contest, A or contest B it’s the same readers, it’s the same sort of thing. So if you do poorly in one contest, you’re likely to do poor in another contest. How do you guys handle that? What is your response to a fear like that?
Thomas: Well, I think that’s what is important to remember is that Coverfly is not independent. Coverfly has partners of all sorts, not just competitions, fellowships, labs, you name it, and each one of them is independently operated. It’s using Coverfly as a data resource and scoring the projects independently. I frankly think that signing up for Coverfly would almost kind of like prove that, that you can like visibly track, oh, I was a finalist in this competition, but I got eliminated in the first round of that competition or this competition really kind of gravitated towards my material, but these guys not so much, and being able to see that. I think something that we take very seriously and understand is that a lot of this is, yes, it can be processized and normalized, but a lot of this is subjective, and that you’re going to have people scoring your material with a set of criteria.
By understanding where your own writing, what you’re good at, where you’re sort of seeing a positive response, pairing you with those sorts of programs and opportunities and fellowships that fit what you’re looking for. If you’re a horror feature writer, you shouldn’t be submitting to competitions that typically go the drama route or a pilot competition or something like that. And being able to break it down by format, by style, by genre, by the mandate and even sort of just like the type of things that you write.
Ashley: I got you. How do you guys vet the contest that you allow to use the Coverfly system? Are there some things you look for in how a contest is run? What are sort of the things you guys do to allow someone to use your system?
Thomas: Absolutely. There’s a really… it’s an entire department that we have. It’s not like you can just go set up and have Joe’s screenwriting competition later today. It’s a really thorough process where we look at how you’re scoring the material, the value that you’ve provided for the writers, the opportunities that you provided to writers, the sort of industry relationships and opportunities that you’re bringing as a result of it. That’s really the metric that we use. It’s very much so, like, are our writer’s going to benefit from this. Is this providing value to the writers that we have on our platform?
Ashley: I know as a screenwriter who’s entered screenplay contest, you try and vet the contest as best you can, but are there are any red flags, things that you look at with a contest and say, you know, what, if I was a writer, I wouldn’t enter this contest because of A, B and C? Are there just some red flags that maybe writers can look at for contests?
Thomas: Sure. I think one of the things that if you go to any competition page on Coverfly on the writer dashboard, or just any part of it, it’ll really break down who the competition is as well as what the benefits are from it. It’ll specifically speak to like, hey, here is the benefit of submitting to, and placing and winning in this competition. If there’s previous winners that have gotten something out of it and it’ll list and highlight… If there’s previous winners it’ll list and highlight that as well. I think that’s a decent set of criteria for any writer to be using, that it’s sort of like, who are these people, what have they done for writers in the past? What are other writers saying about this competition? What benefits are they offering and promising and are they making good on that?
Ashley: For sure. For sure. I always like to just end the interviews with asking the guests what they’ve seen recently. Is there anything you’ve seen recently that you thought would be really great for screenwriters to check out? Netflix, HBO, Hulu, whatever, anything you’ve been watching?
Thomas: This is gonna be the most…
Ashley: That’s what I like. Because at this point, we’ve all watched everything on Netflix. So getting some obscure, some recommendations is just great.
Thomas: And finding the motivation to do it when it is like the only available form of entertainment night after night for eight months. Other than other than college football, which is what I watched the most. I would say there is a documentary on… if you have a Disney Hulu plus account, because it’s actually on ESPN, but it’s Fantastic Lies, which is about the Duke lacrosse sexual assault scandal, which doesn’t tie into anything I talked about at all. It is just like one of the best documentaries I have seen and so good, and so even more relevant now than I think when it came out a while ago.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. That’s a great recommendation. I love documentaries too, so I’ll definitely check that one out. What’s the best way for people to keep up with what you’re doing, both personally and professionally at Coverfly? Twitter, Facebook, a blog, anything you’re comfortable sharing, I will round up for the show notes.
Thomas: I mean, honestly, just google Coverfly, check out www.writers.coverfly.com. It’s free to sign up. You’re not entering into any sort of binding contract. I would just encourage you to check out what we’re doing. See what sort of opportunities are available there. See if you can aggregate any previous placements or accomplishment and get those in the profile and see where you’re ranking. And spread the word, I guess, I suppose it’s it, but it’s really, really, we want nothing more than to grow and cultivate and help emerging writers break in and get opportunities. So if that’s something you’re looking to do check it out.
Ashley: I think there’s a fair number of people listening to my podcasts that are looking for exactly that. So that’s www.writers.coverfly.com?
Ashley: Perfect. Well, Tom, I really appreciate you coming on and talking with me today. Great interview, lots of great information. Good luck with Coverfly and all that you do there.
Thomas: Thanks so much for having me. This was great.
Ashley: Perfect. Thank you. We’ll talk to you later. Bye.
Thomas: Okay, bye.
Ashley: I just wanna talk quickly about SYS Select. It’s a service for screenwriters to help them sell their screenplays and get writing assignments. The first part of the service is the SYS Select screenplay database. Screenwriters upload their screenplays along with a logline, synopsis and other pertinent information like budget and genre, and then producers search for and hopefully find screenplays they wanna produce. Dozens of producers are in the system looking for screenplays right now. There have been a number of success stories come out of this service, you can find out about all the SYS Select successes by going to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/success. Also on SYS podcast Episode #222, I talk with Steve Deering who was the first official success story to come out of the SYS Select database.
When you join SYS Select you get access to the screenplay database along with all the other services that we’re providing to SYS Select members. These services include the newsletter, the monthly newsletter goes out to a list of over 400 producers who are actively seeking writers and screenplays. Each SYS Select member can pitch one screenplay in this monthly newsletter. We also provide screenwriting leads, we have partnered with one of the premiere paid screenwriting leads services, so I can syndicate their leads to SYS Select members. There are lots of great paid leads coming in each week from our partner, recently we’ve been getting five to 10 high quality paid leads per week. These leads run the gamut.
There’s producers looking for a specific type of spec script to producers looking to hire a screenwriter to write up one of their ideas or properties. They are looking for shorts, features, TV and web series, pilots all types of projects. If you sign up for SYS Select, you’ll get these leads emailed directly to you several times per week. Also, you get access to the SYS Select forum where we will help you with your logline and query letter and answer any screenwriting related questions that you might have. We also have a number of screenwriting classes that are recorded and available in the SYS Select forum. These are all the classes that I’ve done over the years, so you’ll have access to those whenever you want once you join.
The classes cover every part of writing your screenplay from concept to outlining, to the first act, second act, third act as well as other topics like writing short films and pitching your projects in person. Once again, if this sounds like something you’d like to learn more about, please go to www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com.
On the next episode of the podcast, I’m gonna be interviewing Liam O’donnell, another filmmaker who moved to LA and worked his way up and is now writing and directing feature films. He just completed the third installment in his sci-fi epic Skyline series. So we’re gonna talk about that film and how all of that came together. So keep an eye out for that episode next week. That’s our show. Thank you for listening.