Terri Viani got her professional start as a screenwriter with Jumbo Pictures/Disney in New York on ABC's Brand New Spanking Doug. After completing her time on Doug, she worked as a freelancer at Disney and Vigilante Advertising (Leo Burnett) before moving to New England to work as a columnist for The Westerly Sun in Rhode Island and later, as a journalist for Stonebridge Press and Villager Newspapers. She is a member of New York Women in Film and Television as well as an associate member of the WGA, West. She lives in rural Connecticut with a husband, three cats, and a pack of ornery hens. Follow Terri on her website, Instagram and Twitter: @thewriterink
Joey Tuccio wants writers to stop throwing spaghetti at the wall. The co-founder of emerging company Roadmap Writers (with COO Dorian Connelly) says a decade in Hollywood watching screenwriters struggle to break in was the impetus for creating a business that connects writers to managers.
“I talked to a lot of writers I've known for a very long time and they were just really frustrated," says Tuccio. “They felt like they were throwing spaghetti against the wall, draining their bank accounts, with no results. My goal is to make writers feel like there's not a huge wall between them and the industry, to build something for them that doesn't feel like a cold machine.”
Talking to Tuccio, or anyone at Roadmap Writers, feels far from dealing with a cold machine. The small team, which also includes coordinators Brandon Combs and Alex Davies, is warm, responsive, and funny.
“We’re not corporate,” Tuccio says. “We don’t have sales goals for every month or quarter. For us, it’s about the writers.”
Tuccio, who calls himself a connector and mentor, hails from Westchester, New York. He originally came to California to pursue acting but soon found himself working with writers instead, a choice influenced by his comedy-writing mom.
“I saw her getting screwed over so many times,” he says. “I wanted to create something that had full transparency with the writers, a place they could feel safe and heard.”
Words that will surely win over even the most cynical of scribbler's hearts. “Writers reach out and the first thing they say is 'can I just ask you a few questions, I’ll pay you,' Tuccio says. "To me you should never start the relationship from that angle. It’s just so soul-sucking. We offer a lot of free stuff.”
The whisper of free stuff in broke writers' ears may be the thing that has Tuccio's email and text alerts chirping throughout our entire interview, but the company's track record so far doesn't hurt. In four months, Roadmap Writers has helped nineteen writers get signed to companies like Gersh, Gotham Group, and Lee Stobby Entertainment; three projects have been picked up by Untitled Entertainment, Hawk Koch's production company, and LINK Entertainment. Writers from as far away as Australia have been signed, challenging industry canon that writers outside the Hollywood/New York bubble best kick their ambitions to the curb and get a real job, whydontcha.
Tuccio says location and age are the two biggest concerns writers bring to him. “But then I show them our success stories. A fraction of those people live in Los Angeles. A fraction of them are in their twenties.”
Beyond building global writer bridges, Roadmap Writers offers webinars, script consults, mentorships, and pitch sessions. The company has two, month-by-month, total immersion programs, Intensive and Top Tier. Entry into Intensive requires an interview; Top Tier participants need to go through Intensive first.
“We don't take just anybody into the tiered programs,” Tuccio says, adding that writer-vetting is part of the reason managers like working with Roadmap. “They're reluctant sometimes because they’ve been burned before, the writers are crazy or the scripts are horrible but then they see the writers here are normal, prepared, and talented. We try to match writers with execs and managers not just by material but by personality. [Because of that] it's really important that we know our writers inside and out.”
The company also recently launched a diversity initiative focusing on issues of gender, race, disability, and age, and works with the Producers and Writers Guilds to filter diverse writers to networks and studios.
“We want all writers to have a chance to be heard,” Tuccio says.
This all just makes good business sense, of course, but it's also indicative of Tuccio's fondness for writers. He says he loves the vulnerability of writers and their courage.
“So many writers are just really humble, and allow themselves to be emotional,” he says. “It's hard. Writers work so hard on a project just to be told no, all they hear is no and still they keep putting stuff out there and taking every opportunity. I have a lot of respect for that.”
Tuccio says one of the most frustrating parts of his job are the writers ready to break out but still not getting any traction on their material. What makes a writer ready?
“Writers are ready when they have a tight script and a solid pitch,” says Tuccio. “They also need knowledge of the business.”
Not all writers are ready, of course; not all want to hear that or have enough patience to position themselves and their material for success. Tuccio jokes that he handles this and other I-deal-with-writers-on a-daily-basis-what's-your-superpower? stress through “peach vodka” and remembering that his job is "60 percent therapist." Writers call him in tears sometimes, discouraged by slow progress or another rejection. He reminds them of the writers that have already been signed, and that they are in that success hub themselves.
“When that person finally gets signed it’s with the right person and it's perfect and then you understand why it took so long.”
His number one piece of advice to writers? “Be yourself. Bring yourself to the process."
"Writers can be so tunnel vision about things,” he adds. “They’re in a dark room all day with a computer, so getting them to remember who they are as people is sometimes hard. I see writers who have such an ingrained vision of what they think a writer is but it’s so far removed from who they are, it’s like I want to say ‘just stop it, go outside and get a gelato, embrace the world.' The writers who struggle to move forward the most are the ones who are like, 'I’m going to write thirty scripts, I’m going to write, write, write,' but there are no layers to the material because they’re not living."
Tuccio says when's he not wrangling writers away from their desks you'll find him serving on the board of animal rescue Care Rescue L.A. or obsessing over movies and TV shows.
“I have an obsessive personality in general,” he says. “So when I like a movie or TV show I will literally only watch that over and over again for months.”
Does he ever do any writing himself?
"No,” Tuccio says, laughing. “I have a hard enough time drafting emails. But I have immense respect for writers. I'm inspired by them every day.”
Roadmap Writers has acquired The PAGE International Screenwriting Awards eMeetings Program and are now partnered to launch the Roadmap Writers Network! This network was created to immerse the writer in the craft and to bridge the gap between writers and industry execs like never before. FREE to join. Check it out and join here.
Get a FREE PDF download of high concept story tips and step-by-step exercises to turn your own ideas into high-concept screenplays!
Join the Script newsletter and get your FREE High Concept Tips!