ScreenCraft: Breaking Down Barriers with Cameron Pinches

May 6, 2022
An Aussie expat is kicking goals in the US for screenwriters.

Since the emergence of streamers, the entertainment industry has undergone a quantum shift, with more content sought and discarded than any time in recent history.

With the global pandemic wreaking havoc on industry norms, a new faction of innovative gamechangers has looked to upend traditional avenues of talent sourcing, offering a more nurturing environment which allows creatives to play toward their strengths, establishing more collaborative, empowering and opportunistic roads to success.

ScreenCraft, an LA based organisation, seeks out new writing and production talent via a number of global competitions designed to unearth, mentor and support emerging talent looking to connect and work within the entertainment industry.

Cameron Pinches [pictured right, with SXSW Winner and Sundance Fellow Nuhash Humayun, more on him here], an Australian ex-pat, recently moved over to ScreenCraft from power agency ICM, where he worked across packaging of independent films, including the 2022 Oscar Winner for Best Picture CODA. At ScreenCraft, Pinches is a Senior Development Executive, tasked with flagging standout writers and filmmakers who come through the company’s development tracks.

“Our business model is reliant upon the submissions we receive through the competitions,” explains Pinches. “It’s 16 competitions throughout the course of the year, and each of those are genre or format specific.

“We have a Feature competition, a TV Pilot competition … And then we have a Short Story, Cinematic Book on the format side. On the genre side, it’s comedy, horror, drama competitions. And then within those competitions, we typically recognise 25 finalists from a pool of thousands of submissions.

“Those 25 are given hands-on servicing; we get to face-to-face with them; we give them an appraisal of where their portfolio is at; some feedback on what we think the strength of their best sample is. We help them craft a narrative for themselves as an aspiring screenwriter, one that we can then help them go and position within the industries.

“In a more literal sense, we’re working with them to help them craft a bio and a blurb about themselves that they can then go and use as a tool for outreach. Whether it be querying a manager or approaching talent. We’re trying to give them the tools and empowering them to take the next step in their career.

“That’s what the writer development team does, which I head up over here, and that’s where we’re really hands-on with the screenwriters. In select cases, we do a rigorous outreach strategy where we’re identifying targets on the management and agency side. We’re having conversations with reps and basically saying, ‘This person is absolutely standout, I think you would really respond to them’. And then those people are signing the writers that are coming through our competitions.”

In an industry often vilified for cut-throat personalities and supersized egos, ScreenCraft operates like a corporate commune, designed to nurture the industry’s creative assets, embracing a post me-too era of inclusivity and diversity, while bridging the gaps between content creation and business viability.

ScreenCraft doesn’t just look to launch emerging filmmakers, but as Pinches explains, established players are also looking to embrace the new business models.

“I’ve been really pleasantly surprised that a lot of the submissions that we’re getting through our development tracks are from filmmakers that are Emmy winners and Fulbright scholars, who already have existing credits.

“I think they’re using the platform to generate momentum for their personal projects,” explains Pinches. “When they’re already managed or have representation within their portfolio, their agent or manager might be only taking out that really top tier project, or giving them development notes on something that’s starting to be rounded out.

“I think what they’re using ScreenCraft for is to generate momentum for passion projects that don’t have as much of a focus on the rep side. And in turn, we’re starting to collaborate more with managers and agents because we can say, ‘Hey, let us take the lead on approaching an element to package out this project’, where we don’t take commission.

“We have no agenda, we’re completely objective. We’ve been able to develop our industry relationships quite quickly. And being just a partner that has no agenda other than to say ‘let’s go and find a great result for the project’. If that results in commission for the manager or agent, they’re obviously open to someone else doing that work for them.”

While speaking with Pinches, a graduate of UCLA’s prestigious Producers program (2016), it quickly becomes apparent that the University of Melbourne alum has a subjective affection toward the company’s underdog wins.

“I think from my point of view, it was a really good opportunity to work with grassroots aspiring and emergent filmmakers. I’m pretty passionate about trying to support Aussies over here. I have firsthand experience of how hard that jump is to come over.

“Or even, just to be connected with Hollywood or whatnot. I hadn’t really ever had experience with a company like ScreenCraft, that is quite hands on. I wish it had been around 15 years ago when I was trying to break through. Just to have someone that’s willing to advocate on your behalf is so valuable.

“I have this wonderful screenwriter that I was recently working with. He was a Master of Fine Arts grad through USC, LA based, but was formally a counterterrorism lawyer, I believe in Sydney. His name’s Michael Ouzas and he just become a writer’s assistant on an AMC show when I connected with him.

“We announced Michael as a winner of our drama competition. He was in a very niche space. He wrote a period drama as his sample. I told him I’d help take it out to the industry and see what I could find regarding representation.

“I shared it with an agent and they just responded immediately to his voice and read some more TV samples. And he signed with them. We ended up getting him a team of three agents at APA, which is one of the more boutique agencies over here. After that, we used that existing momentum to then go and have some conversations on the management front. And we found him a two-person team on the management front.

“Michael now has a five-person team over here, even though he doesn’t have a writing credit yet.

“It’s one of my favourite success stories because it’s great to be able to do that for writers. But when you can do it for a fellow Aussie, it’s pretty special because it’s a huge moment for him to have that level of backing. And to have people that are then going to go and advocate for him in the industry to advance his career is really, really special.”

For more information on ScreenCraft and their current competitions, resources, and the upcoming 2022 Writers Summit, visit https://screencraft.org

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