One of the things that Dodge College does so well is provide our students with real-world experience in their classes so they are better prepared for the entertainment industry. This past Friday, Matt Deller, one of our screenwriting professors, had managers from
come into his undergraduate thesis screenwriting class to give some advice about the industry and hear some of their pitches.

Run by Allard Cantor and Jarrod Murray, both with diverse backgrounds of their own, Epicenter was formed in 2012. They began with a handful of talented and diverse clients, but have expanded dramatically over its four years of existence, in particular specializing in breaking new talent and honing raw, talented voices. They currently have multiple writers staffed on network, online, and broadcast cable platforms.

“The pitch session really embodies what I love about Deller as an instructor,” said Kate Brogden (BA/Screenwriting ’16). “He’s out in the trenches right now, fighting to get his work read, so he’s sympathetic to the position we’re in as soon-to-be graduated screenwriters. He’s very focused on trying to help us ‘push the needle on our careers, and the fact that he was able to pull this off speaks volumes about how much he cares about us. He put his money where his mouth is today, which is really all we can ask from our professors.”

When Deller left the room to retrieve the Epicenter folks from the parking lot, the students were nervous with anticipation. They joked with each other about how they were going to pitch their stories, and gave advice to make each one better. Eventually, the conversation evolved into an argument about superheroes, and based on the things being said, it definitely helped lighten the mood.

screenwriting students listening to a lecture

Allard Cantor and Jarrod Murray of Epicenter listening to student pitches.

Once Deller returned, the students listened attentively to the advice Cantor and Murray said.

“Genre movies are everywhere, so to really stand out, character work is important,” said Cantor.

While both agreed that contests and queries are good, Cantor added that it’s better to get internships and build relationships with people who are willing to read your scripts.

“You’re better off impressing someone you know with your work than with a blind query,” he said. “Put yourself in a position where the people you’ve worked with will want to read something you’ve done.”

After doling out advice, the students began to informally pitch their story ideas to both men. They listened to every student in the room, and both gave invaluable advice on both how to pitch better in general, and refining specific story points of each script to make it better.

Will Levinger (BA/Screenwriting ’16), whose pitch I thought was exceptionally hilarious, walked away with a good feeling about what the guys from Epicenter had to say.

“Young writers are told a lot about what reps want to see from emerging writers and how to properly contact them, but getting to hear it from them helped put the ‘conventional wisdom’ about getting representation into a greater context,” said Levinger. “They also gave great feedback on my pitch, and my script will be much better for it.”

The students definitely walked out of the class with a sense of knowing what to expect in the real-world when it comes to pitching, and with lots of great advice to make their own ideas better. We look forward to what they come up with next!