(Note from Founder of Screenwriting Staffing, Jacob N. Stuart) Voyage Media has been the industry’s secret weapon for 10 years, developing and selling some of the biggest movies and TV shows you’ve enjoyed. Now Nat Mundel and his team of experienced industry executives are pulling back the curtain to reveal what it really takes for emerging writers to get some respect in Hollywood. The best part of it is that they’re giving Screenwriting Staffing members free access to this exclusive Video Training normally sold for over $297!
We sat down with Nat Mundel, founder of Voyage, and after years of helping people break in, he shared some thoughts that could transform your approach to writing and pitching.
SS: Voyage media has been known only to the pros for many years—can you fill us in about who you are, what you do for filmmakers, and the projects you’ve worked on?
NM: Sure. We’re basically a boutique shop that helps writers, producers & directors develop, market and sell their entertainment projects. We also create kick-ass sales materials (look-books, sizzle reels, treatments, etc) for features, TV shows and branded entertainment.
Some of our notable clients include Jerry Bruckheimer, Chris Levinson, Jason Blum, The Hughes Brothers, Lionsgate, Jim Sheridan, Anonymous Content, and many others. But we also help out emerging writers & producers as well.
One opportunity we created especially for up-and-coming talent is our “Insider Strategy Session” – writers get to connect 1-on-1 with a high-level industry executive who reads their material and gives an action plan for how to best bring it forward into the marketplace. We’ve gotten raves about these sessions—it seems there’s nowhere else to go for this kind of attention when you don’t yet have an agent.
To answer the other part of your question, the list of projects our team members have worked on is really long but some of the big ones in features would be THE BLIND SIDE, THE MESSENGER, RABBIT-PROOF FENCE, BLADES OF GLORY, G.I. JOE, MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR, SCREAM 4, WILD HOGS, THE BOOK OF ELI and in TV the most notable include TRUE BLOOD, THE WIRE, BOARDWALK EMPIRE, SIX FEET UNDER, WEEDS, MIAMI MEDICAL and MASTERS OF HORROR.
SS: Wow. Great. Ok, so why do you put an emphasis on strategy for emerging writers? What do you mean and why is it important? Isn’t writing ability still the most important determinant of success?
NM: Writing ability is important of course—it’s still the minimum barrier to entry! But with so many good writers competing for fewer jobs, strategy can make the difference between writing as a lucrative, rewarding career or just a hobby.
Up-and-coming talent needs strategy on two levels: project strategy & career strategy. You need to be writing the kind of projects people in the industry want to buy and make – These lie at the intersection of your personal skills and passions, and the demand that exists among audiences and buyers. If you’re not writing the right projects, you’re wasting your most valuable resource: time.
In terms of career strategy, we take a look at someone’s strengths, weaknesses and latent inclinations, and we fill them in on opportunities they might not be aware of. We create a personal-brand strategy. The goal is to build notoriety—you want people in the industry to know your name and what you do. Perhaps more importantly, we provide tactics for sustaining a career—not just being a flash in the pan. We have a lot of clients who got some initial notice in the industry but weren’t able to keep things going, largely because of poor planning and lack of information.
SS: Interesting. What else does a writer need to do (other than write an exceptional script) to break into the industry?
NM: Wow, there’s so much a writer can do on different levels to make it happen– I think the most important thing is that they learn some sales & marketing skills. This topic is covered in the Free Video Training
But on the sales & marketing front, there’s a great story I love to retell—it’s by Author Robert Kiyosaki and it’s from his book, Rich Dad Poor Dad – he’s being interviewed by this young journalist in a hotel lobby and, at the end of the interview she asks him for some guidance on getting a book deal since she’s an aspiring novelist. He thinks for a minute and says, “I think the best thing you could do is take a sales course”. And the journalist is actually offended. She says she’s an Ivy League educated writer and that she would never stoop so low as to get into sales. A little taken aback, Robert gathered himself, and since he’s trying to be helpful, he asks her to read what it said on the top of his book. He tells her, “You see it says best SELLING author, not best WRITING author. I’m a lousy writer; you’re a great writer. If you could combine both, you’re sure to have success!” The young journalist was so offended that she gathered her things and stormed out of the hotel lobby. Needless to say, she’s still unpublished.
SS: What are the biggest mistakes that keep new writers from breaking in?
NM: Spending time on the “wrong” projects and forgetting who they are as people. These are career-killers.
Thinking that you can go it alone is another. For some reason in our industry, we think of writers as these solo acts that simply need to lock themselves away and keep writing. It’s a total myth. Every truly successful person I know has a team – a team of coaches, collaborators, mentors, etc. Can you imagine Michael Jordan going it alone? Or Lance Armstrong? Or Barack Obama? Why do we think that our industry is any different? It’s not. I strongly recommend that emerging writers start building their team (and no, your mom is NOT your team).
The coolest definition of who to put on your team comes from world-renowned psychologist, Marty Seligman. He says if members of your team have not either (1) done what you are trying to do, (2) successfully helped others do what you’re trying to do, or (3) are world-renowned experts in your field, then they’re not the right team members.
SS: What about working writers? What’s the biggest mistake they make?
NM: You’d be surprised at the number of brilliant, paid writers that actually fail to plan for the longevity of their careers! Many think that once they have an agent or manager, they’re done. It’s actually the opposite. If you’re lucky enough to get signed, that’s when the real work begins. Don’t expect agents and managers to hold your hand or do all the heavy lifting for your career – they just don’t have the time (unless you’re an Oscar winner). You have to have a plan and keep writing the right stuff, and stay curious and keep developing. It’s easier said than done.
SS: How would you describe the current state of the industry, and the writer’s place in it?
NM: Well, we’re an increasingly visual society, and tools for filmmakers are becoming more and more accessible, so I think there’s going to be a real democratization in the next few years—film won’t just be for rich kids anymore. I think the writers who will succeed, whether working or emerging, are those that will take responsibility for their own careers and invest in their own projects, and seek out opportunity in nontraditional places.
SS: What kinds of writers are you interested in working with?
NM: See my last answer! Those that aren’t afraid to invest in themselves, their projects and their careers – that’s the kind of writer Voyage can really work well with. In addition to movie, TV and webseries writers, I’m also betting on those who can generate very targeted, small movies that can be made for a price.
SS: What’s the best way for a writer to contact you?
NM: To be honest, because we’re so unique and because we’re only looking to work with people who are truly and honestly interested in investing in their careers and are willing to do the work to make it happen, we prefer people to watch our free video training so they can learn more about our perspective first – once they’ve gotten a sense of who we are, the videos will tell people how to get in touch. And writers, we’d love to hear from you.
PS – if you’re still not convinced the video training series is for you, here are some stories of people for whom it was and how it impacted them…