Like Y Combinator, but for Hollywood Scripts

Like Y Combinator, but for Hollywood Scripts

Apple, Disney, Amazon: The profusion of streaming platforms means an ever-increasing demand for content. How to find the great scripts that will be competitive in an increasingly fragmented market? Filmmakers Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, co-founders of production company Imagine Entertainment, offer a solution. The duo is borrowing Silicon Valley technology to diversify the pool of creatives participating in their LA-based storytelling incubator, Imagine Impact. Impact is a 8-week bootcamp for fledgling screenwriters seeking to refine their scripts, develop show ideas, and, eventually, pitch and sell polished work. These newcomers get paired with established mentors (what Impact calls “shapers”)—including writer Issa Rae (Insecure) and director Judd Apatow (Super Bad)—for bi-weekly meetings. The writers present their final work at the end of the session which is then uploaded onto an app for networks to peruse for potential production. Tyler Mitchell, head of Imagine Impact, described the app as the “LinkedIn for the global entertainment industry” at the W25 festival on Saturday in a panel conversation with WIRED’s Jason Parham. “Because of the explosive demand [for streaming content],” Mitchell says, “it’s setting off an arms race for new writers.”

This year, the program received more than 4,000 submissions for just 21 spots in its third class. The Impact application consists of 70 questions, what Mitchell describes as a “thesis-like defense” of why the writer’s particular project deserves investment. To manage the overwhelming volume, Impact uses machine learning to sift through the giant pool of applications and identify new voices. The AI is part device, part catalyst: The technology searches for diverse applicants–Mitchell explains they look for people who have overcome challenges in their careers or lives–with the goal of shaking up the historically homogenous film industry.

Tyler Mitchell was joined in conversation by Kieran Mulroney (an actor and screenwriter and a mentor at Impact) and Impact alums Godwin Jabangwe, Laura Kittrell, and Emily Harper. Jabangwe’s animated musical Tunga was recently acquired by Netflix, and Kittrell and Harper’s project Drag Heist has received multiple offers. Jabangwe counts not only the program itself but the fellow talent at Impact to be a boon to his growth as a screenwriter. The Zimbabwean writer explains, “For the first time, I wasn’t the only person of color in a room. At Impact, I was surrounded by people who look like me. I was able to feel like I belong.”

To Mulroney, Impact offers entry into an industry that’s currently full of opportunity: “Streaming platforms have opened up the business in a lot of ways. There’s an explosion of need for writers. Industry right now is looking to open the doors to people. Impact is opening the doors and saying, ‘This is how it’s done.’”


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