The program is a project of the Colorado Office of Film, Television & Media, which has raised its profile since former movie producer Donald Zuckerman took over as film commissioner in 2011. The following year, in 2012, state lawmakers approved a plan to attract more movies to the state by increasing the cash rebates offered to filmmakers from 10 percent to 20 percent and pushing through a program that backs up to 20 percent of a producer's bank loan. The plan is working, even luring the likes of Quentin Tarantino to the Centennial State to film his next movie, The Hateful Eight.
The Screenplay Mentoring Program was born of a desire to nurture Colorado's homegrown film community, Zuckerman says. Every now and then, his office would get a call from a would-be screenwriter asking if someone there could give his or her script a read. But with just a handful of staff members, Zuckerman says the office just didn't have the time.So the staff decided to set up a program whereby reviewers from the University of Colorado, the Colorado Film School, the BlueCat Screenplay Competition, Lighthouse Writers Workshop and the University of Denver would get paid a small stipend to read local writers' screenplays and provide feedback. "We're trying to develop the movie industry within the state," Zuckerman explains, "and it all starts with writing. If you don't have a good screenplay, you're never going to have a good movie."
The program plans to accept 200 screenplays a year, or fifty each quarter. The yearly cost of the program is $10,000, Zuckerman says, but none of that comes out of the pockets of the screenwriters. Any Colorado resident can submit a script for free, though only one screenplay per household will be accepted.