There’s a new Screenwriter’s resource on the block, WoAccelerator, a free program designed to help screenwriters create a market ready body of work and connect with Producers looking for material.
Today we get some time with the programs founders to understand how it all works.
Thanks to Jeremy and Casey for their candid and thorough answers, you can find their site at https://woaccelerator.com/#/
Note: If an answer is marked WoAccelerator it signifies that it’s a joint answer.
First up, how about a little bit of background on you both, how did you get into the industry?
Casey: We were undergraduates in Acting at the University of Connecticut. After I graduated, I studied at the Berkshire Theater Festival and pretty much thought I was going to only do theater for the rest of my life. A friend of mine who did set design on film sets encouraged me to join the union. I did, and began booking acting jobs and learning more about being on film and tv sets. I primarily worked in Boston and New York. I also worked as a PA on a couple sets.
Jeremy: Started my theatre and business degrees/career in college. Spent some time at a few houses like THINKFLIM and learned the ins/outs of the system. Picked up a couple of languages. Then ventured into financial analysis and hedge fund trading before shifting into software/tech.
Can you share a little on your respective works in the screenwriting/ writing sphere?
Casey: I have produced, written, and acted in my own work, including a web series, “Holding,” which I wrote for myself and my friends to work on in between gigs. It got into several festivals and won “Best Web Series” at the Hollywood and Vine Film Festival. I also am currently working on a feature. Jeremy has a lot of feature experience under his belt himself!
Jeremy: had always written short stories when I was in grade school. That lead to writing in high school, culminating in 8 full length screenplays. Had a short play produced off-off broadway and won a couple of awards for playwriting excellence. At Uconn is where I met Casey.
What did you learn from these experiences?
Casey: The biggest thing I learned was you have to keep writing. You can’t think too much about your next step, you have to just take it and keep rewriting and keep taking notes from other people.
Jeremy: The world changes quickly and for the limited time you are here you need to make the most of it.
Did you have any formal writing education?
Casey: For screenwriting, no. I did specifically study documentary writing and PSA writing at Connecticut Public Broadcasting a few years back.
Jeremy: I never went to school for writing, never took any screenwriting classes. My english teachers in 6th grade and 8th grade took an active interest in my gifts as a writer and helped me explore them. I received a Christmas gift in high school (Dave Trottier’s Screenwriting Bible), which by that time was not about learning to be a screenwriter but about perfecting my craft.
In 8th grade I would stay inside during recess to work on my play – it was the first play I wrote (about Rosa Parks) and was put on by my school (Catholic Parochial School) at the end of the semester for faculty, staff, parents and the student body – directed by my teacher.
Up until that time I had only written 30 page short stories on my computer that my parents would read. Finally gave one to my 6th grade teacher , Ms. Hoffman, and that is where things took off.
Your new venture is WoAccelerator (https://woaccelerator.com/#/), what was the genesis of this idea?
Jeremy: I began to think about the fact that If there was a free program like this for screenwriters when I was younger that could cultivate and accelerate diverse raw talent that would have been awesome. There is a lot of talent with grit, that if just given the opportunity could soar to new heights.
How would you describe WoAccelerator to an interested writer, and what are the key features of the service?
WOA: A program designed for writers who work on their craft every day and are looking to make a regular income from writing. Key features include:
i. Consistent feedback from script analysts,
ii. Weekly lecture series from guest lecturers
iii. Workshopping in breakout sessions
iv. Workshopping with professional actors
v. The opportunity to participate in round table discussions with industry leaders.
And what is involved if a screenwriter is accepted into the program?
WOA: The concept of an accelerator is not new. Many industries like fashion and tech have had them for a long time. Going to school, having a family, and working a fulltime job is not new – in facts thousands of people do it every year. It’s similar to getting your Masters in a four month time frame, so the workload is intense, but the payload potential is huge.
How long does the program last for the writer?
WOA: Four months.
What does the screenwriter get at the end of their time?
WOA: They will have garnered experience, connections, and for those who have production-ready scripts, an opportunity to sell options on their scripts in our own marketplace.
(I think you mentioned previously) The writer will get 10-15 scripts at the end of the program, this seems somewhat optimistic given how long features normally take to write, or is there something else at play here?
WOA: One thing to keep in mind that not all works are features. Some are the first episode of a pilot (comedy, drama, 30 minutes, 60 minutes). We tap into each writer’s strength. The idea is that the writer should aim to be consistently writing and not be too precious about their work. This is a business. We are not so much interested in the writer who agonizes over a script for 10 years and refuses to write anything else.
Do you accept writer applications from anywhere in the world?
Presumably scripts/material will be in English?
WOA: For the first cohort yes. However we are actively exploring international markets and languages
How will the quality of scripts be ensured within the program?
WOA: Our mentors, generalist, and analyst are all critical in our process. We have a unique process, but one component is blind reading. Names and titles are removed.
Where have you recruited the script readers, tutors and mentors from?
WOA: Given that we are in a Covid environment – analysts are remote and not from a specific geographic location. We had over 100 very talented applicants from all parts of the world apply and Casey and I have finalized our decisions. Part of the program allure is that there is no bias in the program. Script readers do not interact with writers and vice versa, and therefore must remain confidential.
And what does it cost the screenwriter to join and be part of the program
WOA: It is free!
When will the first cohort of writers be selected and start their journey with you?
WOA: We are launching our first program in May/June.
Are you still accepting writers into the first cohort?
WOA: Yes, we are still looking for writers. We have a min/max cap – but currently we are still accepting applications.
Obviously, the appeal to such a program to any screenwriter is the potential that Producers will see the work – how does this work?
WOA: For a variety of reasons the majority of scripts will never get made. Producers get pitched hundreds of scripts a month, both good and bad. Many screenwriters spend 6 months or more trying to sell/shop their script around, instead of writing the next 10-15 pieces of material. With our marketplace. Our patent pending marketplace allows a handful of producers to option your material for a set period time.
Do you have relationships with Producers already?
WOA: Yes. The game has changed and the traditional idea of who a producer is has changed dramatically. With XR (one of our focuses in the program) and global remote collaboration, we are not confined to the traditional LA/NY ecosystems. We do have relationships with both seasoned and new producers already.
However the goal is to find new producers who have never thought about being a producer before and offer them the opportunity to get started in a safe, lower risk environment.
Do the Producers pay to enter the program?
WOA: Producers do pay a subscription to access our talent. Given it’s a tightly vetted process, we want to ensure they are committed long term to this process so that it is successful for all parties involved.
Are prospective Producers vetted before they are allowed access?
WOA: Yes, through a screening and interview process.
Given, Inktip, The Blacklist, Script Revolution, Simply Scripts etc, how do you plan to differentiate yourself in the marketplace?
WOA: A couple of ways: First it’s free for screenwriters. Second, accelerators are meant to provide a short term intense booster to a screenwriter who ready for the next level (aka. Working writer). Finally, we are not just looking for writers to submit scripts into a blackhole never to be seen again. We take an active part in their development and take much fo the burden of selling off their shoulders so they can do what they do best – WRITE!. For us, the writer’s work ethic, their talent, and commitment to make this a career is just as important as the script itself.
A general consensus amongst screenwriters is that Producers are already inundated with scripts, why would they come to WoAccelerator for material?
WOA: TIME! Many a wise person has said, money you can make time you cannot. We have a focus on stories from around the globe – all identities, backgrounds, etc. We are an inclusive program and ideal for the producer who wants to cut through the noise, minimize the risk of acquiring material, and only source high quality material based on their specific criteria.
Do you take a cut from any deals done on the scripts created as part of the program?
WOA: Yes. While every writer in the program understands the deal terms before entering the program, that information is currently private but based on a percentage.
We are investing in our writers and producers of tomorrow. During the vetting process, both writers and producers are fully aware of the deal terms before signing the contract. We want to ensure screenwriters are full educated on the business side of the deal.
Our website contains a section of deal terms which all screenwriters should be familiar with regardless of their acceptance into the program.
What have been the main challenges in trying to set WoAccelerator up?
WOA: Every business has challenges and ours is no different. For us, it’s ensuring that all people regardless of age, gender, or background are able to hear about this opportunity – hence the interview.
What’s next in terms of plans for WoAccelerator?
WOA: We already have a plan in place for the next phase of our program, which is exclusive to the participants who have completed the program We will have more on that after the first cohort.
PERSONAL QUESTIONS SECTION
Casey: Cool Hand Luke, Roman Holiday, Good Fellas, Terminator 2, Bridesmaids, any Nora Ephron film – hardest question to answer, too many!
Jeremy: Momento, Inception, Matrix
Casey: Sound of Metal, Vice, Jurassic Park
Best and worst filmmaking advice you’ve had/heard?
Casey: Best: Surround yourself with people who have the same work ethic as you. Worst: I think the worst advice I’ve heard is that you should just give up at a certain age. Ridiculous.
Casey: I’m vegan, so anything really as long as it’s vegan!
Jeremy: Anything healthy that takes good
Casey: I’m a big fan of kombucha these days. I think Jeremy and I both love water too, cause we are health geeks!
Jeremy: Water – under appreciated
Fave sport and team if applicable?
WOA: UConn Basketball
Fave thing to do outside of film related stuff?
Casey: anything by the water, long drives, just spending time in nature.
Any final words of advice to the aspiring writers and filmmakers out there?
Casey: We really believe that it’s important to choose what you want to do and keep working at it.
WOA: The job is never done, there is always more to learn. So don’t take things personally, keep doing good work, and don’t listen to anything that deters you from your purpose.
Where can people find you online?
WOA: Website – Woaccelerator.com which has all of our social connections Applying to be a screenwriter in the program is probably the fastest way to get in touch at the moment.
Thanks to Jeremy and Casey for their time, hopefully we will catch up with them further down the line after a cohort or two have gone through the program.