Success Stories

Coverfly Matches Emerging Screenwriter with First OWA

By | Interview, Success Stories

We’re excited to get the opportunity to interview Jennifer Cooney – an incredibly talented writer who is making big waves in the industry. Her script Winter Jasmine rose near the top of The Red List and was noticed by a Coverfly Writer Advocate. Since then, she has signed with top management and was hired for an Open Writing Assignment!

Jennifer heads her own production company, HalfJack Generations, has one film in post-production (Rain Beau’s End), one in the process of being optioned (Winter Jasmine), and several projects in various stages of development. She is currently repped by The|Machine in Los Angeles and intends to produce and direct her own scripts while living blissfully with her wife and their two dogs, Marlon Brando and Humphrey Bogart.

Coverfly: So, what was the process of finding a manager like?

Jennifer Cooney: It wasn’t your “typical” process. Thanks to Coverfly and their Writer Advocate program, I was paired with a Writer Advocate (Kyle) who really loved and believed in my work. Kyle not only matched me to a wonderful manager and got me two stellar writing gigs (one I passed on), but he will soon be signed on as a Producer for my spec script, Winter Jasmine. I really owe the propulsion of my career largely to Coverfly and their matchmaking. Kyle and I are destined to make movie magic together.

CF: How has working with a manager changed the way you write or approach the industry? Anything you wish you would’ve known?

JC: My manager, Kevin at The|Machine, understands who I am insomuch as he supports my unwavering commitment to following my heart. He knows that I have stories I want to tell and that I’m going to tell them authentically. He knows that I am not going to alter my creations without a heart-driven reason. This is why I signed with him. He supports my growth and my expansion as a writer, not ballooning trends. So, to answer the question, working with my manager has given me a level up with my confidence, knowing he believes in my vision and my authentic brand of characters and stories. 

What do I wish I would have known? That screenwriting doesn’t have to be hard. That it should be fun. That there are a ton of “pros” out there telling writers how to write and where to put what and on which page. I don’t regret the path I took to get where I am, but I can say with confidence that storytelling is highly intuitive, so anything that demands exact elements on exact pages is using fear to sell how-to books. Tune into your highest creative self and learn to listen to your inner nudges. The stories are all in the ether, you just need to learn to align with them so you can receive them. Make friends with your muses. 

CF: Congrats on landing your first OWA! What does landing an OWA job look like?

JC: My Coverfly Writer Advocate paired me up with a Producer I really clicked with. He read my spec script as a sample of my writing and loved it. We worked together a bit on a concept he was molding. I gave him notes and we further solidified our compatibility as creatives. A few months later he had a one-sheet for a feature he wants to produce and direct and I really loved the idea. I pitched him on what I’d do with the story and the characters and he loved my take. I told him to marinate for a week and make sure I was the writer for him. A week later we were working together. I’m very fortunate in that he was willing to mold our contract based on my method of story and character development and with my organic production of drafts. I’m in the middle of development now and can’t wait to see this thing onscreen.

CF: What is the OWA experience like so far?

JC: It’s amazing because I’m working with a Producer that I immediately clicked with. The first conversation we had, I knew in my gut that we’d be working together. We not only complement each other creatively, but we also respect one another beyond our creative commitments. Having worked with producers in the past that were neither of these things, I know creative and personal respect between writer and producer are of paramount importance to me. There’s some advice to new writers: When it feels upstream, drop the oars. Your boat will turn around and you’ll flow right towards your best case scenario (and away from what’s not serving your highest good). Have faith in the Universe taking care of you and it always will.

CF: How did you get started in screenwriting and what got you interested in the first place?

JC: Five years ago, I was working a full-time desk job and living for the weekends when I would inevitably sleep late and dread the impending Mondays. It became abundantly clear to me that I was living an inauthentic life, creatively speaking, and was extremely unfulfilled with the “fruits” of my time on earth. I had pressed my then girlfriend, now wife, to paint full time and to only do pieces that were original… no more for-hire commissions, two years prior. One night she looked at me. We were on the couch after dinner. I could barely hold up my towering glass of wine due to both physical and spiritual exhaustion. And she said, “What do you think about?” She explained that she was always thinking about paintings and colors and drawings—creations—and wondered what I thought about. My answer startled me. “Nothing, I guess.” She couldn’t fathom my answer. And as a creative spirit, or rather so I fancied myself, that answer turned my stomach. She pressed on, asking what I wanted to do. Growing up being groomed to take over a successful family business, I hadn’t thought of doing much else since graduating college. But I humored her and let the answer come to me. “I’ve always wanted to write a movie.” Five years and countless hours of study, practice, and self-discovery later, I have one feature film in post-production (Rain Beau’s End), one in the process of being optioned (Winter Jasmine), and have been hired to write another. And I’ve also adapted a stage play to a short script, which I’ll be directing later this year. Life is good.

CF: What kinds of stories or characters do you like to write?

JC: Literally all kinds. I will never be constricted to a particular genre. With one caveat, I really love writing lesbian characters and storylines. Lesbians always make their way into my stories. When I was in college, I owned every lesbian feature film ever made on DVD… and they barely took up a foot of space on my shelf. I know now that the craving of seeing oneself represented onscreen goes much deeper than meets the eye. It’s about experiencing a greater scope of life through a perspective similar to your own via characters you can identify with. And that craving truly fueled and still fuels my creative vision. I’m thrilled to see lesbian characters popping up everywhere and being played by big-name talent. I’m excited to have my stories and characters amongst them one day soon.

CF: What’s one screenplay that every screenwriter should read and why?

JC: When you’re trying to accomplish something on the page, whether it be an action or a sequencing description, find a movie that’s done it or something similar and consult the script. Then you can see how to convey it on paper. As far as necessary reading, I’ve read scripts of films I admired like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Arrival, and enjoyed them. Just follow your bliss. If that doesn’t lead you to read any scripts, who cares?

CF: What’s one piece of advice you wish you would have known when you were starting out?

JC: In no particular order of importance or continuity: You can be, do, or have anything you want. Life is supposed to be easy. Nothing you truly want is upstream. Follow your bliss. You are ever that which you are aware of being. If you haven’t let go of the need for the outcome, you can’t get there from there. Be easy about it all. Be gentle with yourself. The intellect is meant to serve the intuition. You deserve it all. Dream huge. And when people tell you why “life is hard,” send them love, and know that your beliefs determine your reality… their beliefs don’t have to unless you let them. And always, always believe in yourself. You are magic.

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Discovered by Coverfly: Interview with Ellen Winburn

By | Interview, Success Stories

Ellen Winburn recently signed her first shopping agreement with HG5 Entertainment for her feature The Least of These through an introduction made by Coverfly. Scripts like The Least of These are hosted for free on Coverfly and not only live there for the duration of the contest in which they are entered, but as long as writers choose to make their projects public, industry professionals can discover them.

When searching for a script that met what HG5 Entertainment was looking for, the Coverfly team came across The Least of These, which had placed as a semifinalist in the 2017 ScreenCraft Family Screenplay Contest. Inspired by the true experiences of her son, The Least of These follows a teenager with cerebral palsy who dreams of having a girlfriend and forms an unlikely friendship with a troubled girl with a difficult home life.

To learn more about Ellen and see what other projects she has available, visit her Coverfly writer profile here.

1. Where are you from and how did you get into writing? 

I was born in the Nascar capital of Darlington SC and grew up listening to the races from my backyard. There were no children my age near me, so I entertained myself with stories. Once I realized I could write those stories down and that others liked them, I was hooked. I’ve performed on stage and directed. But real life and the birth of a special needs child meant all of that went on a back burner. Still, I entertained my son and husband with stories all the time. Then one day my husband gave me scriptwriting software and said: “I don’t want to hear it, I want to read it.”  

2. How did your personal experiences shape the story of The Least of Us These?

My son, Duncan, is very bright but his physical disability has kept him at a place where he sees the world, but doesn’t get to interact with it very often. This created such a unique perspective that I knew I wanted to write something that would capture his personality. I watched him learn about human trafficking, the abuses of children in foster care, suicide, and his hurt after he tried to befriend a girl who was experiencing challenges and her rejection of him. Very quickly, he went from shy and timid to stepping up and leading missions and speaking out in public venues. My reactions were typical, his were not. He saw hope and could not understand why someone wasn’t doing something about all these things. I explained that many people are trying to help and his answer:  then why isn’t it fixed yet? In the midst of all of this, The Least of These was born.  

3. What inspired you to start submitting to screenwriting contests?

My family and friends were tired of me asking them to read my stuff.  Of course, in those early stages, the writing wasn’t very good. Prior to screenwriting, I had written stories and plays, but the screen is totally different. My husband found a screenwriting contest online and paid for me to submit and get feedback.  It was not good, not at all, but I was having too much fun to stop. No more friend abuse!

4. How have you found screenwriting contests to be beneficial to you?

I like to write, and I want someone to read my work. Contests allow that. ALL feedback is useful, and I consider every change very carefully and use if it makes sense. Hearing someone else’s perspective, even if I don’t agree, helps make the story stronger. Of course, getting a good score on Coverfly and getting some little trophies under the title is just so cool.

5. How did you come across Coverfly and how has it helped you?

Actually, I was submitting The Least of These to the 2017 ScreenCraft Family Screenplay Contest and at that point, the website asked me if I wanted to join Coverfly. I’ve registered with a couple of others, and nothing came of it. But Coverfly seemed so straightforward, clear, uncluttered, I decided to do it. Coverfly quickly became my go-to first website because it is so easy and fast to use. And I must not be alone since a producer was able to find my script!

6. What is the next step for your project and your career as a writer? What are you looking forward to the most?

While I’m thrilled such a personal story of mine is now in a shopping agreement, that process can take a really long time. There are so many other stories to tell! I have a monthly budget for script submissions (must feed my family first!) and I use every penny. We’ve also adopted a boy who has a very vivid imagination and he is helping me with an urban fantasy – a genre I’ve always wanted to play in! I’m also looking for filmmakers that like doing their own thing, that have an idea for a film, but haven’t written it. My best stories are the ones that were inspired by others. I’d like to help that filmmaker bring their idea to life.  

7. Any words of wisdom or inspiration for other aspiring writers, particularly those outside of Southern California?

There was a time when the people making the movies were in Southern California, so it made sense to write there. Now some of the best film and TV is coming from other places, like Atlanta and Charlotte. Our world is becoming more global daily, and I don’t see being on the other coast as a roadblock.  

And listen, if you want to take screenwriting classes, take them.  If you want to read, watch films, do it.  All of those things are great. But the number one most important thing you must do if you want to be a better writer is WRITE. Pay attention to the world around you then sit your butt down and write. Many things can help you get better, but fingers flying over a keyboard as your mind creates a world and you make new best friends there cannot be replaced. When time is limited, and it always is, choose to write.

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Screenwriter Patrick Byrne Signs with Literary Manager via Coverfly

By | Announcements, Success Stories

We’ve got another writer to congratulate: Patrick Byrne was discovered by literary manager Gavin Dorman via Coverfly! In the past couple years Patrick has received accolades from PAGE International Screenwriting Awards, WeScreenplay, ScreenCraft and the Nashville Film Festival.

Two of Patrick’s screenplays have been featured recently as top projects on The Red List – most notably, his feature screenplay The 405.

Patrick Byrne was born in St. Paul, Minnesota. For the last ten years he worked in TV and film (LOST as a production assistant for four seasons, and on the movies BATTLESHIP and INCURSION). He is a screenwriter and teacher. He currently lives in Japan with his wife and son.

Gavin Dorman signed Patrick after discovering him via Coverfly. Gavin is an independent producer/manager based in Los Angeles, CA. Previously, he worked for several years as a development executive at Vertigo Entertainment, where he helped craft a multitude of film projects, including: The Lego Movie (the 2014 blockbuster based on the toy line), Poltergeist (a remake of the horror classic), Run All Night (the Liam Neeson mob-thriller), The Stand (based on Stephen King’s esteemed novel), Deus Ex (based on the popular video game franchise).

This good news is on the heels of another recent Coverfly success story just a few weeks ago: Colin Dalvit & Andrew Lahmann Sign with Manager Josh Dove at IPG via Coverfly


ScreenCraft Winners Colin Dalvit & Andrew Lahmann Sign with Manager Josh Dove at IPG

By | Announcements, Success Stories

Congratulations to screenwriting duo Colin Dalvit & Andrew Lahmann who won the ScreenCraft Action & Thriller Screenplay Contest in 2016. Just last week, they were discovered via Coverfly and signed by literary manager Josh Dove at Intellectual Property Group who discovered and read their script The Timbermen.

Intellectual Property Group is the literary management company behind such clients as Oscar-winner Paul Haggis (Crash and Million Dollar Baby) and Dennis Lehane (writer of cinematically adapted novels including Mystic River, Shutter Island and Gone Baby Gone).

Colin and Andrew are writers, directors, and producers from Washington state, and together they founded film production company P-51 Pictures. The company’s first major film project was the award-winning feature documentary Out of Nothing, produced along with actor Ryan Stiles. The film is about a ragtag team of motorcycle builders determined to crush land speed records on the Bonneville Salt Flats. The film played in film festivals around the world and was picked up for distribution by ESPN and Studio Canal.

Read Spotlight on: Action & Thriller Contest Winners Colin Dalvit & Andrew Lahmann.

Actor/comedian Ryan Stiles and Producer Andrew Lahmann consult on one of P-51 Pictures’ community projects to help students in Toledo, WA.

Congratulations to Colin and Andrew! Coverfly is proud to be part of your journey.

Find out more about their projects at P-51 Pictures.

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