October 28, 2020
In Hollywood, screenwriters are hired based on personal relationships and past successes but filmmakers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard believe the paradigm needs to change. “Promising writers blow years of their lives trying to get agents and have their work seen by the right people,” said Howard. For two years, their startup, Impact Creative Systems (formerly Imagine Impact) offered an eight-week bootcamp to help writers get their scripts ready to pitch. Now, they’ve added the free-to-join Creative Network app to connect them with executives.
The Los Angeles Times reports that, “if successful, Impact hopes to grow the app to change hiring for not just writers but directors, crew and other professionals.” Grazer, inspired by Silicon Valley tech accelerator Y Combinator, wanted to “create some level of equality within all the voices that are not only in Hollywood but in the world.”
So far, 87 writers have gone through the Impact accelerator program, which matches them with industry mentors. J.J. Abrams, Jason Bateman and Issa Rae have been some of the program’s speakers. The program ends with a “pitch day” in which participants describe their ideas to studio executives.
Impact, which employs 13 people, “has held three programs in Los Angeles and one in Australia (a major international filmmaking hub), each costing about $1 million to put on, including stipends of up to $40,000 for participants.”
According to LAT, “alumni have gone on to staff jobs on shows and have sold films and series.” Now, the Creative Network app offers “a searchable data of more than 300 available film and TV projects and 800 writers, the bulk of whom Impact selected from the thousands who’ve applied to the accelerator program.” It adds that, in time, Impact will invite other writers from Writers Guild of America, Austin Film Festival, universities and diversity programs.
Impact chief executive Tyler Mitchell said the goal is to “become a LinkedIn-meets-Slack for the entertainment industry,” whereby studio and production execs can find writers via the app, download their writing samples and contact them. “It’s really giving people more agency and empowerment to discover stories and writers who might be able to bring those stories to life,” he said.
The technology behind the app, is “an expanded version of the technology Impact uses to connect the accelerator’s participants to employers.”
Diversity is not the “explicit aim of Impact,” but its executives “say they hope the app could help underrepresented writers get noticed.” The app — which has drawn about 1,600 active users from 600+ organizations, and would-be accelerator participants from 98 countries — has tools to “help studios improve their racial, gender and LGBT diversity.” That includes a tab to allow “producers and executives to set diversity goals when they’re making lists of writers to hire and staffing shows.”
“What we’re doing is building analytics tools to see how you’re doing in real time,” said Mitchell. In September, venture capital firm Benchmark invested in Impact, which allowed it to spin out from Imagine. Imagine, however, remains Impact’s majority owner.