Good morning, Stage 32 Creatives! Today, in the US we are observing Memorial Day and remembering all of those who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in our Armed Forces. For all of our Stage 32 members who served, or are currently in active duty, the entire Stage 32 community offer our heartfelt thanks for your service.
it is also Monday, which means we turn out attention to those members of our community who have made tremendous leaps forward in their career as a result of their talent and dedication, as well as utilizing the power of Stage 32. Our story today comes from Jonathan Jordan, the winner of Stage 32 3rd Annual Feature Screenwriting Contest! As a result of winning that contest, Stage 32 set Jonathan up on meetings across town - including Verve Talent & Literary Agency. Verve signed Jonathan after that meeting and helped him get his first paid screenwriting gig!
And it all started with Jonathan entering our Feature Screenwriting Contest! Do you doubt the power of screenwriting contests? At Stage 32, we guarantee the winner will take meetings with industry professionals, including agents, managers, producers, and studio executives. As Jonathan says, 20 years ago the idea of breaking into Hollywood without moving to LA was nearly impossible. Now, no matter where you are, you have friends in the entertainment industry who are ready to help shorten your path to success.
Take it away Jonathan!
In 2018, that script I started six years earlier would be named as the Grand Prize Winner in Stage 32’s third annual feature screenwriting competition. A few weeks later and I’m in Los Angeles for the first time — well, not counting layovers at LAX, because who really wants to count those, am I right?
Every day, I was in meetings with filmmakers behind movies like Ready or Not and Swiss Army Man. And to top off the week, Stage 32 had set me up with a meeting at Verve Talent & Literary Agency — who asked me to become a client. And on my birthday, no less. All from one script that I believed in and had the gumption to hit the “submit” button for a contest.
I walked away from that meeting thinking, “Is this real life? Or am I about to wake up?” But seven months later, Verve helped me score my first paid screenplay — and I got paid more than the standard minimum, which is kind of crazy for a first film.
Working in this industry is a constant learning experience. I quickly realized that landing an agent was just one piece of the puzzle. I really needed a manager, too. So in 2019, I started looking for one.
I can’t even begin to describe how huge of an impact this has already had on my career. Not just in helping set up meetings and connections, but also artistically. Over the past year, he’s helped me hone my craft and focus on projects and opportunities that we can really stand behind. In my case, my manager is also a producer and is actually co-producing one of my scripts because he loves it that much. That’s what a good manager should do…not just care about the money that can be made (though that can certainly be nice), but also support you as an artist and help you grow.
Jonathan won the Stage 32 3rd Annual Feature Screenwriting Contest & signed with Verve as a result
I love baseball, so I think of life in baseball terms: Stage 32 got me into the game, Verve got me onto the team…but my manager helps me get more at-bats — and helps me learn how to swing the bat better. It really is a team effort.
Right now, I’m focused on two really exciting projects — one that has very recently generated interest at a major studio which has led to us looking for our leading actress, and another biopic that we just started sending out to producers this past week based on some solid leads we had already established.
Maybe you’re feeling discouraged or lost or on the verge of giving it all up. I understand because that’s where I was three years ago. I remember staring at that “submit” button and almost closing out of the website altogether. Obviously, I’m glad I didn’t.
So I would encourage you to keep working, learning the fine balance between patience and hustle. Remember that twenty years ago, it was pretty much impossible to break into this industry without moving to LA or at the very least doing a lot of free work first and trying to fund your own projects. But the landscape has changed — for the better. The fact that there are resources like Stage 32 that can help you bring your work in front of real industry insiders, get real pitch meetings, get real agents and managers in your corner is practically miraculous.
If there’s two pieces of advice I can leave you with, it’s this: First, keep going. If you truly believe in your script, don’t give up on it. Keeping finding ways to make it better, to grow in your craft. Go to workshops, webinars, swap notes with another writer. Second, don’t try to do this alone. Writing is lonely enough as it is, so be brave enough to go out there and find that manager or agent. I know it can be scary to put yourself out there, and sure, it won’t happen overnight and there will be rejection along the way, but in the words of Michael Scott quoting Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” (Geez, how great is the writing on The Office?)
Maybe it’s a contest, like it was for me. Maybe it’s getting some script notes or scheduling a pitch phone call. There’s more opportunity for writers than ever before. Reach out and take the chance. I’m always happy to connect with you here on Stage 32 or on Instagram (@jonathan.jordan.writer). Tell your story…someone needs to hear it.
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