Interview with TrackingB.com's Founder
by Jim Cirile
There are two main reasons Coverage Ink has been referring writers to TrackingB.com for almost a decade now. Number one: TrackingB is a real, honest-to-goodness tracking board used by the industry. It contains a wealth of info useful to savvy writers keen to become students of the biz -- key to breaking in.
And secondly, their contests kick serious gluteus. TrackingB's annual TV and feature contests are Hollywood's best-kept secret. While offering no monetary prizes or "stuff," their track record for discovering new writers is one which no other contest can touch -- not even the Nicholl.
So we sallied forth to meet TrackingB founder "The Insider" (hint: likely not his real name) at his secret underground HQ deep beneath Beverly Hills, to find out all about him (well, not really) but more importantly, about TrackingB.com and why you should know about it. We also snapped this first-ever photo of The Insider below!
The Insider (TI): Just call me "The." (winks) I'm the founder and active leader of TrackingB. I started out in the industry as a writer, and evolved into a writer/producer with projects now set up/being produced at various studios/networks around town such as CBS, Lionsgate, WWE Films, etc. I've always preferred to let the site, its industry reputation and success stories take center stage... and thankfully TrackingB has become much bigger than me!
TI: We are the original. The site was founded 10 years ago as a way of centralizing the private tracking boards floating around the business into a central hub of information. It may seem hard to believe now, but at that time, tracking was largely an underground practice, relegated to the industry's inner circles. And I know when I started this dream, I always felt out of that loop. We brought tracking boards together in one place online and out into the open, so that anyone could be privy to the valuable information shared on them.
And the site quickly evolved, largely by word of mouth, into being the tracking board for the industry. You name the studio, agency or production company, and we’ve got someone from there on our board daily (often many times!) WME, CAA, Paradigm, UTA, Sony, Paramount, Universal, Fox, Bruckheimer Films, Participant, Imagine, Principato-Young, Kaplan/Perrone, Energy Entertainment, Benderspink and the list goes on and on. And yes, we even have studio heads as members. Members appreciate that TrackingB focuses on being a positive and productive place to do real business, that we break important industry news first, and that we discover such great material from new writers through our contests.
|Another TrackingB success story.|
JC: How did you get into the contest game? And how did you stumble onto the stunning revelation that writers don't really care about prizes -- they really just want access?
TI: Once we had the industry's attention on a daily basis on-site, we conceived the idea of connecting new writers to them through contests. Coming from a writing background, I had a strong sense of what I would ideally want out of a contest, and made the decision to help writers with access, exposure, and support that would actually help move their careers forward. Everything else seemed secondary to me. We would do more, and push more than any other contest had before to get people repped, sold, and/or produced.
And it's been a wild, amazing ride with some of the biggest contest success stories ever coming out of our contests. Mickey Fisher's EXTANT now in Season 2 on CBS with Steven Spielberg producing and Halle Berry starring, from a script that we discovered and championed. And someone like John Swetnam (EVIDENCE, INTO THE STORM, STEP-UP: ALL IN), we actually awarded him twice before he broke into the industry (first as an honorable mention one year, and a finalist the next.) And the list of successes launched from TrackingB goes on -- Ashleigh Powell, Gabe Snyder, Cameron Alexander, Peter Hoare and many more.
TI: We've been very focused on helping our contest top choices find and grow their careers, and haven't put a lot of time into advertising, social media, etc. And that focus has been great for our contest finalists/honorable mentions/winners. We've mostly relied on steady word of mouth growth, but have a few initiatives planned to start spreading the good word further though. So it's a great time to enter before the competition heats up even more.
|TrackingB covers the spec and assignment markets in detail.|
JC: You have a killer industry panel -- how do you get them to participate? Are they all friends of yours?
TI: One key is that these are not folks we just hit up twice a year for our contests. We have built strong long-term relationships with them and many others in the industry through our interaction with them on our site. So it's a great situation for writers to be read by industry people who place inherent trust in our referrals, and of course, in a competitive situation where everyone knows others in the industry will also be clamoring to read. We're fortunate that the industry pays so much attention to our contests.
TI: We appreciate that. We're just one part of the industry information puzzle, and the more pieces a writer has, the better. There are also some great opportunities to learn about potential jobs, assignments, etc, and a multitude of other ways to utilize the information we provide to further yourself in this industry.
JC: Thanks so much for your time, The. Any tips you can give to writers entering the feature contest, apart from write a great script?
TI: We've awarded a vast array of scripts and genres over the years, and the common thread is that we fell in love with the story/characters/writing in some profound way. There's no formula. We just want to find great stories and scripts that we would be excited and proud to support and show to anyone. It tends to be the kind of script that you can't put down -- the kind you rush to tell someone else about after reading.
I could give all of the usual advice -- Write every page like it's your last -- blood on the page preferred (not literally). Be original. Move us. Make us want to turn the page. Make us care and feel something. Be smart. Do something we've never seen before. Do something we have with a new twist. Tell a story you would want to hear/read/see. Dazzle us with your craft. Make your dialogue sing. I could go on and on, but what it all really boils down to is the magical power of great storytelling. When you find that magic, we'll be here, hoping to be taken in and transported by it. So get to work.
The TrackingB feature contest late deadline is September 6, 2015. After that, the super late deadline kicks in (with a price jump,) so enter now!
Jim Cirile is a Los Angeles-based writer/producer and the founder of Coverage Ink, a leading screenplay analysis/development service. Coverage Ink has no financial association with TrackingB.com.