THE HOLLYWOOD FIELD TRIP APRIL 2019
Way back one lazy Sunday afternoon last autumn, my wife and I were brainstorming holiday ideas and after she dismissed several of my choices I suggested LA, and particularly me taking part in the Hollywood Field trip again while she got some sun on Santa Monica beach. To my surprise, my lovely better half, was up for it. I’d caught the LA bug back in April 2017 and couldn’t wait to return, so this was a win-win situation.
On Sunday the 7th April, myself and the other Hollywood Field Trippers met at our daily meeting place to be met by Andrew Zinnes, the HFT organiser and all round top bloke. He took us to Jinky’s cafe for brunch, which is a HFT tradition. It was here that he gave us our schedule for the week and immediately I was happy with the list. After consuming about 10,000 calories of Hash Benedict, we then went to the Fairmont Hotel to talk about our projects and the execs we would be meeting.
On Monday morning, our first meeting was with Stefanie Huie. She is a producer and worked for Mel Gibson’s Icon Entertainment for 10 years and was also an assistant at Paramount. She worked on the films “We Were Soldiers” and “What Women Want”. She had a lot of great stories and information and was very generous and open. She’s just helped a writer get his tv project sold and set up which was very inspiring.
Next up was On the Page script consultant extraordinaire, Pilar Alessandra. I’ve know Pilar since 2013 and was happy to have helped arrange this meeting. Pilar gave us all a 90 minute pitch prep session which included a section on “Why were you interested in this subject/story/influenced by etc” which is a great way to pitch as it makes it more personal. Pilar was awesome.
Tuesday morning got off to a fine start at the new offices of Mosaic Media. They have moved since the last time I was there and the conference room we had our meeting in has a completely writable glass wall surface which made the entire room a giant whiteboard. Not only that, the enormous desk was the same. We met with creative executives, Matt Riley & Morgan Pichinson. Mosaic produce feature films and manage writers, actors and directors and have produced a lot of Will Ferrell films including Anchorman and Talladega Nights. They also have first look deal with Sony for features and Legendary for TV projects. Matt and Morgan were very insightful and shared their combined knowledge. We got the chance to pitch some projects to them and Matt gave me some excellent advice on one of my projects.
Anonymous Content was next. They have really exploded lately and have 7 projects set up with Apple’s new streaming service. They also produced The Revenant, Spotlight, Mr Robot, The OA, True Detective and 13 Reasons Why amongst others. We met with manager/producer Alex Goldstone. He was great, and very forthcoming about what Anonymous do and was really keen to hear our ideas.
Last meeting of the day was with Christopher Lockhart, he’s the story editor at WME, the largest agency in the world. It’s his job to read scripts for A list talent like Denzel Washington and Matt Damon. He runs the facebook group The Inside Pitch as well. He was a lively and charismatic as ever and shared a lot of insights into the business and went in depth into the recent and ongoing WGA vs ATA argument.
Wednesday was a big day, not only was it my birthday, we also had 4 meetings lined up. Kyle Jensen and Evan Pioch at the Verve Talent Agency were up first. Kyle is more of a features writer agent and Evan reps TV directors. Verve is an agency that has been on my “Agencies I’d love to sign with list for a long time”. They are a boutique agency and kind of share clients, so you’re repped by the agency instead of just one agent if that makes sense. Kyle and Evan talked about their job roles and how the agency works and were really open to our pitches and requested material from myself and the other writers.
After that amazing meeting, we headed on over to the home of manager Andrew Kersey. He was a lovely guy, very warm and open and let us play with his dog. Andrew was previously at the management company 3 Arts Entertainment before setting up on his own and his clients have sold various projects to studios including Paramount and Sony. He was really enthusiastic towards our pitches and requested material.
Next up was a highly calorific lunch in Beverly Hills at The Cheesecake Factory. I could spend all day talking about the amazing food places Andrew Zinnes took us to, but this overview is of The Hollywood Field Trip, not The Hollywood Food Trip, But I digress, next up was Jon Hersh at Housefire Management. We met him in a quaint little tea room. Jon was a story analyst at CAA and worked at Broad Green Pictures before starting up his Housefire company. He was a lovely guy and spoke about his job and clients. He listened to our pitches and responded well to our ideas.
I was super thrilled to see John Hillary Shepherd, the VP of development at New Republic Pictures on our schedule. I’ve known him for a couple of years and he’s always fun. New Republic is a fairly new company. The CEO is producer Brian Oliver, he was formally at Cross Creek pictures but left to start New Republic and took John with him. John told us how they go about securing finance for films and some of the various deals they have had. He was great. I wasn’t sure what to pitch to him as he’s read a lot of my stuff already but when he told us they are looking to do a deal with Michael Fassbender’s DMC company to produce middle class Irish films, a lightbulb pinged over my head. I had the perfect project to pitch to him and he responded very well to it. So the lesson to take away from this is; you never know. You never know who you meet or when. This was a right place at the right time situation if ever there was one. After 3 hours, it was time to say goodbye and head home for the day. Or in this case, go to Bubba Gump shrimp on Santa Monica Pier for my birthday party/drinks.
Luckily, I didn’t wake up with a hangover as we were up early to go and meet with tv writer and producer Shaina Fewill, She’s best known for being a writer and producer on the Amazon series Outlander. She told us a lot about the writer’s room and the whole process of brainstorming and the episode writing process.
We headed back so Santa Monica after meeting with Shaina and met writer Elizabeth Hackett in a coffee shop that was handing out oat milk lattes. Let me just say, if you like coffee that tastes like porridge, you’re onto a winner there. Elizabeth was great, very warm and open. She writes mostly in the rom-com genre and has credits including Project Mc2 and Geek Charming.
Our last pitch meeting of the day and of the trip was with Alex McIvor at Intrigue Entertainment. I’ve met Alex before and he was lovely. Intrigue buy a lot of foreign formats to convert to American shows. I pitched Alex a tv series pilot and he requested it which I was really happy with. Alex has recently been given a dog that was saved from a rescue centre. thankfully, no one was allergic and the dog was friendly. I think its name was Bailey or Haley, but I now believe that every exec should have a dog in the room as it definitely helped everyone relax.
Friday came around way too quick, our minds had been blown throughout the week so it was time for some relief. Enter Joey Tuccio & Alex Davies from Roadmap Writers. I’ve known Joey since he was at Stage 32 and it’s always a delight talking to him. He’s filled with equal parts charm and enthusiasm. He’s so passionate about helping writers to succeed and he genuinely cares. There’s nothing false about him. If you ever need an energy boost, he’s your man.
So that was it. A fantastic week was had by all. The HFT was amazing. My mind is focused and charged. My material is ready to go and I can’t wait to send it off to the execs that requested it. There’s no guarantees they’ll like mine or any of the other writers projects, but we all gave it our best shot and if anything we can say we did it, we went to LA to follow our dreams and we’ll never be disheartened while the memory of the HFT is still in our heads.