When I first came to the Cinestory retreat in September 2010, I remember riding up the winding road to Idyllwild filled with apprehension and nausea, due to an emotional Molotov cocktail of writer’s insecurity, career doubt and maternal guilt; this was the first separation from my 3-year-old daughter for more than a night. Even though I was of course thrilled to be a fellow, having won for my screenplay, AMERICAN CHILD, I was also wondering if the jig was up, and I would realize, along with everyone else that I wasn’t a writer at all, and get thrown out on my “tuchus.” I’m happy to say that didn’t happen!
As soon as I arrived, my nausea dissipated, my fears were washed away, and a warm buzz of anticipation took over. When I started meeting other writers, I realized what a cool group of people were there, all making the trip for the same reason as I was: to become a better writer and make some great connections.
It was like a smorgasbord of mind blowing creative exercises, challenging ideas, informative panels and Barri Evans has these amazing pitching exercises! The mentors were a cool group: a really great bunch of managers, screenwriters, producers all totally different, giving a broad range of insight, who really love working with writers and discovering material.
I felt very challenged and inspired by my mentoring sessions with Leah Estrin, Joe Forte, Phil Eisner, Michelle Sy and Brandy Rivers. They really went deep into the material - a thriller treatment - and questioned me in a way which made me really sink my teeth into the story and develop the characters far beyond my original concept of them. I just finished the screenplay for that treatment and constantly referred to their notes while writing the script.
From the get-go, starting with Lisanne, Clea and all the mentors, everyone was incredibly helpful and nurturing, offering extraordinary insight and advice on all aspects of the writing process, as well as the business end of it. The other really cool thing about the retreat were the relationships I formed with other writers who were there.
I’ve stayed close with a few, and we do script notes for each other and encourage each other. I’ve also stayed in contact with some of the mentors, which has been incredibly helpful as I make my way through this obstacle course known as forging a screenwriting career.