Updated: Apr 12
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Intro: All right, welcome to the successful screenwriter podcast, where we are dedicated to anything and everything screenwriting. Here, we interview successful screenwriters and filmmakers to discover just what it takes to make it in the industry.
Geoffrey: Welcome to the podcast, we have on Thomas Dever, the head of development at Coverfly. Thomas, thanks for being on with us today.
Tom: My pleasure, thanks for having me!
Geoffrey: I wanted to really chat about Coverfly, because it’s a really cool way of submitting your scripts to festivals and contests. I like to cover these different avenues, get a behind-the-scenes look at what’s going, and ways you can provide for our screenwriters out there to take advantage of your platform. But before we get into that, let’s get a little bit of your origin story.
Tom: Oh man, where to start? I’m originally from Ohio and two weeks after I graduated undergrad, I moved out to Los Angeles to start working in the film industry. And, in the stereotypical mid-western way, I didn’t have any sort of plan. I thought, “I’m just gonna go work there.” In the early part of my career, I started reading at a production company that had a first-look studio deal, from there I was able to work under a producer making a Fox Searchlight film. That’s where I got my crash course in both production and development, and basically learned the skills of assessing screenplays that I still use to this day. I hit a bit of a crossroads in my career where the typical trajectory was to get in the mailroom at one of the big four agencies and that would set you on the career path. I interviewed at two of them, which I won’t name, but with one of them the interview honestly frightened me in a way my naïve midwestern-self was not ready for. Even thought it maybe would’ve been the more sensible career path, I realized I can’t do this. That opened up a few years of me bouncing around between many different endeavors; everything from reality television, to teaching at a film school.
Somewhere in there, based off of working for that production company with the studio deal, I was reading for screenwriting competitions. I think I went in admittedly, and I think you’ll appreciate this seeing how you’re familiar with the screenwriting competition space, I remember when I would get the agency submissions at the company, being so underwhelmed. I thought, “these are so collectively vanilla. Being a professional screenwriter must be a very attainable goal.” When I went into screenwriting competitions, just doing it freelance and moonlighting, thinking that these were the people who weren’t good enough for that, so what are the quality of these going be? I was so pleasantly surprised that the quality was amazing and there were really excellent samples, voices, and writers from fascinating backgrounds. I should’ve known this, but that’s where it clicked for me that it’s not just about talent on the page, it’s about talent and the intersection of opportunity, relationships, resources, and all these other factors. That really charted my course to where I am now with Coverfly and where the company has grown in the past few years, particularly my position and my department of bridging that gap to make connections so that if you do have the talent, we can supplement those other parts. We can solve those problems of relationships and opportunities that aren’t readily available to writers.
Geoffrey: Let’s chat about that for a second. Thomas, you sound like a writer’s writer. It sounds like you’ve done everything. I almost want to ask if you had to live in your car, it sounds like you have that story going where you had to go down to LA. It’s good to talk to someone who has that background, understanding, and empathy for what other writers are going through. With Coverfly, they’re really judicious on the festivals they bring into their network. I can say this firsthand because I run the Script Summit screenplay contest and everything we do is for screenwriters. We’ve got cash prices, we offer a contract with a Hollywood talent manager for one of our winners, we really try to go out there and make it happen, which it sounds like Coverfly shares that. Something I don’t think a lot of people know, Coverfly vets festivals. I was wondering if you could talk about that for a second.