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The Importance of Mentors in Screenwriting

By April 15, 2021About Coverfly

"There is no one path."

"It’s all about who you know."

"Move to LA."

These are the responses you typically hear from just about anyone working in the industry about how to break in and, while they can be true, they’re not necessarily things you can replicate. If you’re trying to break into an industry that has been in a strange holding pattern due to shutdowns, how are you supposed to achieve your goals?

This was the dilemma posed to Coverfly Director of Writer Development, Tom Dever, as he sat down with Act Two podcast hosts and screenwriters Tasha Huo and Josh Hallman to discuss a new team-up between Act Two members and Coverfly writers with the Coverfly Career Mentorship.

Coverfly Career Mentorship

In the program, chosen monthly Act Two professional writers will look through profiles on The Red List to select an emerging writer to mentor over six-months on how to advance their career.

In the episode, Huo notes that when she reached out to Act Two members to find out if anyone was interested in being a mentor to up-and-coming writers, many jumped at the chance to fill a role that they didn’t have as they entered the industry alone. She said the primary response she hears from working writers about the most significant asset in establishing their careers is “they don’t embark on their careers alone.” 

Mentors Who Have the Job You Want

Having a mentor who has the job you want is an incredible resource, particularly when the Act Two mentors are eager to show you the ropes. For example, a manager or agent might be able to tell you general notes and pump you up before you meet with a showrunner, but your professional TV writing mentor can tell you the specific things they did to win that staffing position. The tiny details that only the people who were in the room know. They can walk you through how to behave in a writers’ room (whether physically in the room vs. on Zoom), how to negotiate for yourself, or build a tight relationship with your representation.

There are countless paths for all of these situations and it can seem so overwhelming that you don’t feel comfortable even taking a step. But a screenwriter shows you that it can be done and the nuances of the interactions that can make or break a situation.

Why Having a Mentor is Important

While writers early in their careers may be concerned with getting representation, Dever and Huo agree that the first thing you need to do is determine your goal. “I’ve never had a person say, ‘God, I’d just love to have an agent someday!’” Dever says. You need to figure out if you want to be a showrunner, producer, live alone churning out scripts in a cabin… whatever the dream is! Figure out what it is, and then seek out people who support your goals and writing voice and people who are doing what you want to do to learn from them. 

Huo points this out to help writers understand not just the importance of mentors but also that mentors come in various forms, such as simply observing the people she interacts with teaches her new lessons every day, such as communicating with different executives, using the WGA as a resource, etc. Coverfly’s writer profile is an opportunity for writer’s to share your background and goals. As Dever says, “completing your profile helps the Coverfly team point you in the right direction.

Learn How to Brand Yourself

In an industry that is inundated with talent, you need to be your own advocate so that the people who will become your advocates know where to find you. “You don’t just put a Nike on a shelf. There’s a whole branding machine behind it,” Dever says as he encourages writers to view themselves as a commodity as much as their scripts. 

Writers also have the opportunity to sell themselves in this regard this August through Coverfly’s Pitch Week. The program is setup for personalized 1:1 pitches with agents, managers, and producers. Still, it doesn’t just create a “free for all” where you’re wasting your time pitching your feature action script to producers who focus on television romance series (for example). Using your Coverfly profile and public scripts as the basis for your unique perspective, writers pitch to the people and companies interested in stories that match your brand. 


And now, with the Coverfly Career Mentorship, writers have one more path to advance their career.

It’ll introduce you to people you should know.

And you don’t have to be in LA to do it. 

So get out of your own way, and advocate for yourself while you find the mentors who will advocate for you.

Emily J is a Writer and Consultant with ten years of experience in entertainment writing and development. She nerds out over screenwriting at she/her