May 13, 2008

Hot Type

First Pitch 2008 Gives Industry Reps Inside Track On SCA Scripts

By John Zollinger

Representatives from 39 the industry’s leading agencies, management firms and production companies got first crack at the latest scripts from SCA writing students on May 5, as 48 writers showcased tales from every genre during the seventh annual First Pitch event.

Hosted by Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner (M.F.A. Production 1990), whose writing on the Sopranos landed him the Emmy, the posh invite-only evening affair at the Four Seasons Hotel Ballroom in Beverly Hills featured 20 rounds in which the soon-to-graduate scribes delivered impassioned synopses of their film and television projects.

SCA writers bringing their film and television stories to industry reps at First Pitch 2008.
“First Pitch is a unique event which places our students in the enviable position of being able to sit down in front of industry leaders and pitch the projects that they’ve poured their hearts into, along with plenty of late nights,” Dean Elizabeth M. Daley told the undergraduate and graduate students who anxiously awaited the opening bell.

“Students, you’ve earned the right to be here because of those sleepless nights; because you made it past all the self-doubt and rounds of criticism to get it all down on paper, and be willing to take the chance to bring it to the world. That’s no small feat,” she added.

By way of encouragement, Weiner shared one of the core lessons that helped him make it to the top. “You will get five hundred ‘nos’ before you get a ‘yes.’ But if you have the idea and you have the enthusiasm, don’t give up on it.”

And with that, he declared the first round open, igniting an explosion of excited chatter and animated gestures as each writer brought to life the words they had so painstakingly spent the past several semesters shaping and honing.

Since its inaugural session in 2002, First Pitch has drawn representatives from some of the entertainment industry’s most prestigious firms, including  CAA, William Morris, ICM, UTA, Paradigm, Endeavor, Fuse, Management 360, Sony, Paramount and Thunder Road, to name but a few.

The format features a series of rapid-fire five-minute sessions in which the soon-to-graduate writers advance from table to table for meetings that match their stories with the specific interests of the industry representatives.

A sampling of past First Pitch-ers who parlayed their USC experience into writing careers includes: Caroline Dries (Smallville ), Christina Kim (Lost ), Kam Miller (Law & Order SVU ), Brad Riddell (American Pie Band Camp ) and Aaron Rahsaan Thomas (Friday Night Lights ).

In between his meetings, B.F.A. student Michael Rousselet laid out a pretty straight-forward strategy for pitching his comedy feature Object Moon. “Fall in love with my idea or me,” he said. Asked about the opportunity to come face-to-face with people who could potentially launch his professional path, Rousselet said that for “the past four years at USC, this is what I’ve been waiting for.”

Dean Elizabeth M. Daley with First Pitch 2008 host and  Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner.
The view from the other side of the table was likewise favorable, according to Jason Berman, co-founder of the film fund and production company FilmForward. “The energy that the students bring to the table with them is excellent,” said Berman, who graduated with a bachelors from the production program in 2006 and has partnered with fellow alumnus Michael Jenson (B.A. ’05 Critical Studies) to form the venture as a means to help new SCA talent get their first break.

Surveying the room, division chair Jack Epps, Jr., praised the latest crop of talent to emerge from the program. “They all have such great ideas and an incredible ability to execute on paper. It’s really amazing to watch them in action.”

First Pitch 2008 was sponsored by Albert Friedman and the Samuel Friedman Foundation, which have been long-time supporters of the School of Cinematic Arts.
Contact Information

Name: Writing Division
Phone: 213.740.3303