Boris Coll signed a shopping agreement with a NY-based production company for his feature Dead, But Whatever after they found the script on Coverfly
We asked Boris to share the story of his success, including making the transition to full-time DJ to working screenwriter.
How It All Began
Initially I was drawn to screenwriting, like many other screenwriters I suppose, by the love of cinema. I was the kid who was at the video store every weekend renting movies (on VHS back then) and collecting the cardboard cutouts the owner would give me when new ones came in.
For a long time I thought I wanted to be an actor until I realized it was the storytelling part of the craft that really interested me.
I got started late, in my 30s. Until then it had always been something I was talking about doing. I was a full time DJ at the time, and was sort of already telling stories through music, building my sets much like a movie, with a beginning, middle and end.
I remember buying a book about formatting and diving in with no clue as to what storytelling really was. Needless to say my first attempt was disastrous (the second maybe just plain awful).
You might be one screenplay away from writing the one that will open the doors for you.
There were two major obstacles. One is that I didn’t know the first thing about screenwriting, and the other that English isn’t my first language. I was bilingual and spoke it well, but to write with proper grammar or spelling was definitely a challenge.
I was lucky to have friends who went over and corrected my first screenplays; by the third or fourth one, my written English had vastly improved. These days I still make a few errors but my mother usually spots them.
As far as screenwriting itself, it took a few more years and screenplays until I got to the point where I could say, “I know what I’m doing.” (Altogether 15 years and 12 screenplays to be exact)
Reading screenplays was very helpful of course, as well as books like Trottier’s Screenwriter’s Bible and more recently Bob Saenz’ That’s Not The Way It Works.
The first one taught me all the formatting rules, the second that is was okay to break them as long as your screenplay works. That freedom was a game changer.
I know it’s a cliché but you need to know the rules before you can break them – as long as you are providing a fun reading experience for the reader, do what needs to be done in order to tell your story in the best possible way.
How Did Coverfly Help?
Coverfly was helpful in many ways.
First, they made it easy to browse through contests and decide which ones to enter, saving me a lot of time.
In addition, it provided a way for me to keep track of my progresses, to have some kind of visual reference as to where I was standing. Every time one of my screenplays would get a little trophy or would make the Red List, I could see I was on the right track and that motivated me to keep writing. And yes, an ego boost is always nice.
Then Pitch Week 2020 was also a great experience as it gave me the opportunity to interact with industry people for the first time. I did poorly because I wasn’t ready and lacked confidence, but I learned a lot from those sessions.
A year later, when I had the first meetings with the people I would eventually sign the shopping agreement with, I was ready. And confident.
Of course, none of that would have happened if someone hadn’t found my screenplay on the Red List.
Even after, the Coverfly team was invaluably helpful and supportive as I had some questions concerning the shopping agreement, but no agent or manager in my corner to answer them (this is a whole new stage of the business for me). Coverfly offered some guidance and I was able to sign the document with complete peace of mind.
A year later, when I had the first meetings with the people I would eventually sign the shopping agreement with, I was ready. And confident. Of course, none of that would have happened if someone hadn’t found my screenplay on the Red List.
What Comes Next?
At the moment I am working closely with the producers and director attached to the project to fine-tune the screenplay (I made it clear at the beginning I was open to any suggestions or ideas they might have) and develop a 10mn short to show to potential investors. I am also expanding my portfolio and working on other screenplays I will start querying with as soon as they are circulation ready.
Advice For Aspiring Writers
I think the best advice would be to just keep going -- you might be one screenplay away from writing the one that will open the doors for you. But write to please yourself first. They say write what you know; I think write what you love is better fitting.
I would absolutely love to sit down with Shawn Levy or someone at 21 Laps Entertainment. Not only is he another Montreal boy and it would be great to work and represent our city together, but also our tastes and sensibilities I feel match up rather well (though he doesn’t know it yet).