CineStory is a non-profit that provides mentorship opportunities for screenwriters. This means they have a collection of working industry professionals (agents, producers, writers) and they offer non-professional screenwriters the opportunity to workshop their screenplays and ask questions in a personalized environment.
Pam Pierce is the heart and soul behind CineStory. She started it, I believe, in part, because she wished she’d had more opportunities for mentorship with working industry professionals when she was a younger writer.
CineStory offers two main programs: a summer screenwriting intensive camp and a fall 5 day intensive retreat for the semi-finalists of the screenwriting competition. In both cases, writers are working all day every day with industry professionals (producers, agents, screenwriters). These professionals are invested in helping you become better writers and educating you about both the screenwriting process and also the business side – which is something many non-working writers don’t really have access to.
This isn’t a pitch fest kind of environment where you get five minutes – or less – of face time with a junior executive. This is hours of personalized time with real industry professionals who have read your screenplay, synopsis, project ideas and can help you improve your writing in a workshop environment and make decisions about what the best choices are for you now.
Everyone involved with CineStory has a passion for the creative process and for filmmaking. It is a place for positive encouragement and inspiration about the writing process. I was truly surprised at the quality of the individuals at the October retreat, both the professional mentors and also the other writers. Everyone was unique and special and brought something different to the group experience. I met some absolutely amazing people there and hope to take away with me some lifelong friendships.
I actually lucked out and discovered CineStory completely through coincidence. My mom is a painter and used to attend Painting’s Edge at Idyllwild, where internationally famous artists critique other painters’ works. Last year, my mom asked me to come with her to Idyllwild and I could go to screenwriting camp. The camp was a very small, intimate environment wherein I was able to work very closely with two producers to workshop my screenplay and also develop my next ideas. It was a fantastic intensive and my writing improved tremendously. In addition, I came out of that experience with two mentor relationships and felt tremendously inspired about the writing.
The summer camp is not invitation only – anyone can apply to the summer camp and go. This means the pool of participants won’t likely be as accomplished as the fall peer group, however that could work to your advantage because you could get more personalized attention.
My experience at the CineStory Idyllwild Summer Camp was so positive that I wanted to get involved as a volunteer, and so I started reading scripts for the competition.
I’ll write more about my experience at the fall retreat for the competition winners, but I can say that I went into the experience fully expecting it to be positive, but it far exceeded any expectations I had. I actually have grown leaps and bounds as a result. Each of my mentors challenged me in a unique and special way to move beyond my current limitations. I’ve been able to identify some of my blindspots and am now working hard to overcome them.
I would encourage any aspiring professional screenwriter to submit to the CineStory Screenwriting Awards. Submit whatever you have. The way the competition works is they invite the semi-finalists to the retreat, and then however many slots open up after (because some of the semi-finalists decide not to come to the retreat), they then invite the quarter-finalists to take those slots. There are approximately 20 participants and I believe there were about 15 professional mentors.
Attending the fall retreat would be an amazing investment of your time and will likely enable you to take your writing to the next level.
Thank you, CineStory!