“Nothing is good unless other people say it’s good,” Creed scribe Aaron Covington explained — his voice ringing out in a room full of screenwriters at various stages in their careers. Covington had flown down from Los Angeles to mentor a select group of writers over the course of five days for ScreenCraft’s inaugural retreat at Jakes Treasure Beach in Jamaica.
Notebooks and computers were pulled from satchels and handbags as the writers sat together riveted — taking in the retreat’s first keynote address from Covington. In the warm sun with the Caribbean Sea at their feet, the writers received notes and pointers on their feature and television spec scripts, soaking up every piece of information the industry elites offered them while asking questions and suggesting ideas that had been ceaselessly churning in their brains.
Conceived by John Rhodes and Cameron Cubbison, ScreenCraft’s mission is to bring writers to the industry. “I loved reading scripts, and I love the development process,“ Rhodes told me as we sat at the hotel bar overlooking the saltwater pool and the beach. “I hated the gatekeeper process. I hated just having to say yes no to a script rather than, ‘Hey, you know there’s a lot here, but you’re clearly a baby writer. You need to grow. Here’s some career advice, here’s some development advice for this project.’”
Five years later, Rhodes and Cubbison’s vision to educate screenwriters about the business has blossomed into a haven for writers looking to hone their craft while learning the ins and outs of the entertainment industry. The inspiration for a retreat – especially in a place like the lush and rustic oasis that is Jakes, was an idea that John ran with when Dominique Holmes, an award-winning screenwriter and a native Jamaican introduced him to Jakes’ owner and Calabash Literary Festival producer, Justine Henzell. “She’s been more than just a hotel partner,” Rhodes spoke adamantly. “She’s been a real cultural ambassador. She’s helped bring in the local Jamaican filmmaking community. She got the Jamaican tourism board involved. She got the film commissioner here. She brought in some local filmmakers. She helped promote.” After looping in his Events Manager, B-Girl director Emily Dell to help bring the event to life, ScreenCraft’s 2017 Screenwriters Residency Program was born.
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