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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Interview with Ben Cahan of Talentville

There’s a new Screenwriting Community Site up and operating called Talentville, you can check it out right here. The site is founded by Ben Cahan the original developer and co-founder of Final Draft™, the screenwriting software that has become the standard for the industry. And if you have any doubts about that you should check out craigslist LA under TV/Film work or the UTA jobs list. You’ll always find Final Draft™ under the list of requirements for internships and assistantships.

I talked with Ben about the Talentville site and about the early days of creating FD.

How did Final DraftTM get started and how did it become so successful?

Before I was doing work with movie production software. I had good contacts in the industry through that but I still took a severe beating. After that I looked around and I found that there was no good screenwriting software on the market at that time, nothing that offered the complete package. So I set out to create my own that would do everything for the screenwriter, format, word processing, the whole deal. It was a long process. I credit the success of it to fact that we (Cahan and current Final Draft CEO Marc Madnick) kept improving the product. We never stopped making Final Draft better. After I’d taken my beating, I had a powerful fear of losing which really drove me to make sure that never happened again. We poured our profits back into our product. We kept adding things. And we became the first cross platform software in the industry. We did this because Macs are used so extensively in the industry.

How did you first come up with idea for Talentville. How do you envision it being different from the other scriptwriting sites on the web?

Not to bash anyone else’s site but I’m looking to do for screenwriting sites what Final Draft did for screenwriting software, provide writers with the total package; part exposure, part feedback, part education, all of it in one site. In 2008 I was reading some scripts and I looked at ways to get them exposure. I contacted some of the sites that were up at the time and talked to the people who were running them. I found out there really wasn’t a site that really got its members exposure to people involved in the industry. There wasn’t anything out there that really satisfied my needs so I realized I was going to have to build one from the ground up. It was the same lesson I learned while making Final Draft. I started work on the site and added what I wanted to add. I wanted it to be a place not just for aspiring screenwriters but industry professionals as well; a place where the agencies and production companies could come to find a good screenplay. It can be done but you have to do it the right way.

The site is still under construction what features are available to writers now.

The site is new but the core basics are up. Writers can join, email each other, create groups, but the real heart of the site is the screenplay library and the review process. I put a lot of effort into creating the screenplay library and making it secure. The review process is crucial. This will allow us to see which scripts are really good and which ones still need work. That’s important. Writers need to set goals for themselves. Anything is possible if you put the work into it. But most people don’t put the work into it.

What features of the website can writers look forward to in the near future?

We’ll be having contests and rewards for both top writers and top reviewers. We’ll get this more integrated into the Hollywood community. We plan to have story gurus like Micheal Hauge give guest lectures on the site and provide reviews of scripts and do Q & A’s. Other features will be added on down the road to help screenwriters market themselves and make connections.

What’s the most important part of getting the industry involved with Talentville?

The review process. We need to get a large number of reviews and a larger number of talented reviewers, people who know what they’re talking about. You have to be able to demonstrate that the top reviewed scripts on the site are actually worth Hollywood’s time. That it’s not just a pipeline for more junk.

How do you see Talentville changing the industry?

Hopefully you won’t have to move to LA if you want to break into screenwriting. Writing you can do anywhere and with electronic formats you can carry around 40 scripts on a Kindle or a laptop. But Hollywood is a non-believer. You have to demonstrate that this can work. And hopefully we’re going to show them that it can.

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