Coverfly Inside Look: CineStory

By July 31, 2018 August 6th, 2018 Contests, Inside Look, Interview

Founded in 1995, CineStory Foundation is a non-profit, educational screenwriting organization. It is dedicated to nurturing new screenwriting talent through its annual screenwriting contest, retreat, and fellowship. These programs are aimed at writers with a high level of craft who are ready to enter the industry.

CineStory Foundation is based in Los Angeles with a retreat center in Idyllwild, California, but the contest and retreat are open to international screenwriters.

We had the opportunity to ask the Co-Executive Directors, Leslie Dallas and Carlo Martinelli, a few questions about the CineStory Foundation. Their answers are below.

When a writer wins, what can they expect from you and your contest? And what can writers do to be best prepared for capitalizing on a win?

Attending CineStory programs allows writers unparalleled access to Hollywood decision-makers. The aim is to provide a supportive environment in which screenwriters can push their creative boundaries while discovering practical steps needed to elevate their skills to a professional level and become a working writer.

Whether a story explores dark indie fare or dishes out blockbuster action, at CineStory Foundation, the primary focus is always on the craft of screenwriting. To this end, selected screenwriters are paired with working executives, writers, directors, producers, agents and managers who share their interests and sensibilities.

The semifinalists, finalists and winners of each year’s feature & television competition are invited to the exclusive CineStory Writers’ Retreat, a four-day intensive program held in the spring & fall where writers work one-on-one with Hollywood producers, writers, agents, managers and development executives.

  • Grand Prize for the feature contest winner is a $10,000 cash prize and a 12-month mentoring fellowship (valued at $9000), free tuition & lodging for the feature retreat, with total prizes worth over $20,000.
  • Grand Prize for the television contest winner is a $1000 cash prize and a 12-month mentoring fellowship (valued at $9000), free tuition & lodging for the feature retreat, with total prizes worth over $15,000.

Top scripts are requested by numerous companies including: Paradigm, Benderspink, Energy Entertainment, FilmEngine, Symmetry Media, Mosaic Media Group, Kersey Management, House of Scribes,  Management 360, Foremost Films, Underground Films and Management and Grade A Entertainment.

An important part of winning the Grand Prizes of either our tv & feature screenwriting competitions is being named the CineStory Fellow. The fellowship includes a 12-month mentorship program.

During this time, the winner works with two Hollywood professionals hand-picked to help that writer advance his/her craft and career. Each fellow also receives a cash award, free tuition, meals and accommodation at the CineStory Writers’ Retreat, along with other prizes.

At the retreat, fellows also meet one-on-one with three mentors to discuss their work as well as their career advancement.  In addition, the fellow has a group meeting with all of the attending mentors, to assist him/her with the next steps.

Just as each writer is unique, each fellow has different needs. So every fellowship is tailored specifically to maximize the experience for that year’s winner. Depending on individual circumstances, fellows receive:

  • script/story notes from one or both mentors
  • assistance in circulating material to the wider industry
  • direction regarding which project to pursue next
  • general advice and support

Throughout the year, fellows meet with their mentors in person when possible, as well as corresponding via email and phone.

Are there any special elements of the script your readers are looking for that you can share?

As mentioned earlier, whether a story explores dark indie fare or dishes out blockbuster action, at CineStory Foundation, the primary focus is always on the craft of screenwriting. As such, elements which stand out tend to be a writer’s unique voice, and command of storytelling. 

What does your reading process look like and who are your readers?

Every script is read cover to cover at least once. Our readers are a mixture of industry professionals who volunteer their precious time to participate as judges in the CineStory contests and experienced and trusted judges who have been participating in the contests for a while. 

What’s one unique piece of advice you’d give to writers who enter your contest?

Make sure you submit a script that truly represents your voice and the type of material you want to create as a writer.

Why is your contest valuable to writers?

For one, the cash prize and fellowship stack up against any other writing contest out there. Our industry mentors are the best in the business. Second, the track record of success by CineStory fellows speaks for itself. 

Do you think entering contests is a good path for all aspiring writers?

Writing contests are a good path for aspiring writers, but they shouldn’t be the only path. Joining a writer’s group, expanding one’s network of contacts, and constantly improving one’s craft are all useful resources to draw upon. In addition to contests, there are now a myriad of options for aspiring writers to get their work read and seen.


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