Sound Businesses: Profiles of companies and business models we are keeping an eye on.
There’s no business like show business: In 2018, film revenue hit all-time highs of $11.9 billion in North America and $41.7 billion globally, signalling that there are more opportunities than ever for emerging screenwriters. However, Hollywood remains rife with nepotism, making it difficult to get a foot in the door.
The team at Coverfly LLC is looking to kick down those doors with its centralized screenwriting submissions platform. The platforms allows writers to make their projects searchable and discoverable by entertainment industry professionals, while letting those executives discover new voices in screenwriting.
John Rhodes, head of marketing and business development at the Los Angeles-based firm, spoke with Karma Contributing Editor Michael Moran about shaking up screenwriting’s status quo. They also discuss how Coverfly markets up-and-coming talent, as well as connects emerging writers with script buyers, producers, agents, managers and studio executives.
Michael Moran: How did Coverfly come to be? What opportunity did you see in the market?
John Rhodes: Breaking into Hollywood for screenwriters is still very much kind of an antiquated process of “who you know.” It’s not, unfortunately, very inclusive, and it’s not very meritocratic. You just kind of have to work your way in by building relationships over decades. That’s how a lot of writers break in, especially in television, but also in film.
I recognized an opportunity to create a more meritocratic system for identifying talent. [What we found was] e that there’s lots of existing and very effective and prestigious screenwriting fellowships, labs, workshops, and competitions, but all of that data on that emerging talent is siloed in each organization.
I thought, how cool would it be if all of the data from that emerging talent, who are submitting their spec screenplays to be considered by these programs, could be pulled together and [be] easily searchable by stakeholders in the industry? [By those who] are actually willing to spend money on intellectual property, basically buying scripts or optioning scripts or hiring emerging talent to work on existing projects? What if there’s a more meritocratic, streamlined, and centralized way to identify emerging screenwriters?
So the solution that we [found] was to create a submissions-management software that’s better than anything that exists right now, and offer it at a cheaper price than anything that exists right now, and get all these different talent discovery programs to use it to accept their submissions. Then all the data will automatically be in one place.
We have a handful of success stories already. In less than two years, we’ve had over a dozen writers sign with managers or get hired by producers or studios to write projects, which is cool. And we want to see those success stories double or triple over the next year, so we can really prove the value of the platform to identify talent [whose work is] worth paying for.
Michael Moran: How do you encourage talent to come back to Coverfly once they’ve enjoyed a bit of success? How are you managing retention on the platform?
Rhodes: People tend to go where they’ve found success, so we have a lot of writers on our platform who have agents and managers. But, you know, writers love to bitch about their agents and managers not working hard enough for them, so they want to go wherever they think their work [will get] to a decision-maker.
So we’re seeing more and more professional writers use our service because it’s just one more outlet for their work to be potentially discovered. Once they get an agent or manager, then it’s really up to the general manager to guide their career, set their meetings, and help get their projects off the ground.
We are, I think, most relevant to writers who don’t yet have an agent or manager and want to use this platform to be discovered, [or to find] representation that can actually help guide their careers within the industry.
Michael Moran: What have your financials looked like? What are your projections for the next few years?
Rhodes: We’re only profiting a couple hundred thousand bucks, but we’re also only 18 months old. As our platform grows and becomes increasingly the go-to place, we’re gonna see quadruple that within the next year or two.
Gross revenue coming through the platform was $4 million in the last 18 months. I think it’s probably going to be double that in the next 18 months. 2019 is probably going to be about $5 million in revenue. I think 2020 is probably going to be about $8 or $9 million. But that’s topline revenue; We’re only [earning commissions of] 5% of that.
I’m really not seeing this as a way to get rich. I’m seeing this as a way to have incredible amount of creative influence on the industry.