Making it in LA and the common pitfalls to avoid… with Joey Tuccio


Joey Tuccio is coming to Ealing Studios all the way from Hollywood to help YOU create your career in LA. You can read more about the course HERE and get some great tips from Joey below…

Roadmap Writers is one of those rare gems you come across if you are truly serious about writing.

Not serious in a “you must live, breathe, sleep it” kind of way but in a “moving in the right circles and making the right moves” kind of way because the only way you hear about Roadmap is word of mouth.

With 76 writers signed in 3 years, it is clear that Roadmap Writers is in a league of its own.

What makes it so successful you may wonder? Talent Camper, Sharn Gill, speaks to its founder, Joey Tuccio to find out.

Some of you will recognise Joey from his presence at the London Screenwriters Festival over the years and for one weekend, he promises to take you through The Screenwriter’s Roadmap: Getting Hired in Hollywood and Beyond. (You can find out more about the class with Joey in London HERE.)

So, is he worth it? Hell yeah! But read on and make your own judgement!

Where the Roadmap began…

The first thing you notice about Joey is how full of energy and warmth he is. He knows how to engage and is very comfortable in his wisdom when he talks about what works and what doesn’t.

‘My mum is a writer and I saw her get screwed over and over and over again. Because of the lack of transparency and lack of understanding and because they word things a certain way to make it look they are helping you out. There are so many companies vying for your money and it was all of this that made us want to start Roadmap – transparency.

Me and Dorian (who I have known for at least 10 years) wanted to create a programme that was really transparent. We didn’t want all of the writers in the world and produce the same thing over and over again. We love writers and we wanted to work with good people, we wanted a vetted, select group of writers that put in the time and energy. There is much noise in the industry and when you speak to Dorian – honest, filter-less, transparent – it is so refreshing because she tells it like it is.

And for the record, Joey comes across that very same way. Then came Brandon who helped with the administration side of things and working with writers. He was then followed by Alex who became the link between the execs and the writers and also works with writers. Briana is the writer outreach contact – she makes sure no one falls between the cracks. Jorge is described as the “calm” – making them focus on their 3-year plan and, finally, they just hired an assistant, Kevin.’

‘We want to work with people who are fun, easy to work with and care about writers.’

Roadmap Writers’ Secret Sauce…

Roadmap started in 2016 and since then, they are celebrating have signed an impressive 76 writers. And when you ask Joey to pinpoint how they are successful, he is adamant that it begins with the writer.

‘It’s all because of what they bring to the table. If it wasn’t for the work the writers put into their craft, their marketing and everything in between, we wouldn’t have any success stories. Our philosophy at Roadmap is that we really want to work with career writers versus hobby writers.’

Roadmap don’t tell you how to write, they concentrate on the next steps. It’s not just about getting your movie made, it’s teaching you how the industry works and how to get a successful writing career.

‘No one took the time to say “What’s your brand? What’s your personal logline? What are you trying to say with your stories?” We want writers who have a voice, are bold with their writing, have their own personal logline and trying to say something with their writing. It’s those writers that instantly stand out.’

It’s this approach that has led them to the successes they have had so far, with executives.

‘It’s definitely word of mouth, we don’t cold call production companies. It comes through referrals from working with people we already trust. For example, people will see we did a partnership with New Republic Pictures (they produced Elton John Biopic, Black Swan, Woman in Black) and when execs see we have worked with that company, they ask “who are roadmap?” and want to know more.’

On Writers with the right stuff…

‘So many organisations focus on how to write a good script so a lot of writers are programmed to do that. But when it comes to pitching, finding companies that are right for you, giving good general meetings and how to follow up, a lot of them fall by the wayside.’

Here are a few qualities Roadmap look for when working with writers:

  • ‘It is very clear if a writer is able to take feedback, if they’re professional, if they know if they need more than one script. They can’t just have a half a script thrown together just to get it sold. They need to have the common sense to know they need a couple of scripts to really make them seem like a good candidate to get signed.’
  • What works are writers who treat this as a journey, know they have to cultivate relationships, that they care what the executives say, understand that if they have a bad day, they can still manage a back and forth. Those are the writers we can trust in a room. Not the ones who make executives uncomfortable by asking “how can we get signed by you?” You could write the best script ever but if you’re not a decent human being, then that’s someone who wouldn’t be the right candidate for Roadmap.
  • When you come to us, make sure you have something in your arsenal. For example, if you sign up to the pitch prep programme, have a script ready to pitch. Sign up for what is appropriate for you.

On writing and getting traction…

One of the things I find challenging as a screenwriter is getting the time to write something every day on top of a full-time job. I ask Joey what he thinks of this “writing every day” advice.

‘I am against it. I know writers who write 20 scripts and spend every waking hour writing scripts but those writers may not have the right amount of experience of the outside world to make their writing stand out. So, maybe for the next 3 days, you learn how to pitch or what companies are right for you. It takes less time but is more productive than spending just 3 hours writing.

Also, you really just need 2-3 scripts and you would work with your representation on your ideas and develop the script together or set up ideas with a company and develop it with them. So, instead of 15 scripts, have 3 scripts that are solid and lots of ideas you can develop.’

On Pitching…

In addition to Roadmap’s programme on pitching, Joey has sat in on several pitches in his time – on LSF and on virtual ones. For those that are trying to pitch to execs who have already heard 10-20 pitches that day, take heed…

‘The pitches that are the most engaging are the ones where the writer is trying to say something with it. They start with why they inspired to write something, why they are viscerally engaged in their story. That’s where the writer is literally putting their heart on their sleeve and pulling it all on paper. It feels vulnerable and exciting.’

On LSF…

Now for those of us who have done LSF, we are all aware of the amazing energy that Chris Jones and his team put out for all the attendees. It is nothing short of brilliant and leaves you feeling anything is possible. And that is noticeable to all.

‘One thing I liked when I went to London and did the virtual talent campus things, is how happy the writers are. I have been part of programmes (outside LSF) and the writers have been tortured and scarred, like they have been drained for the past month. But with what Chris and Lucy (Van Hay), the writers are eager, energetic and happy. I have met so many great people from there.’

The most memorable Roadmap moment…

Before Roadmap, Joey had done the same thing in many guises and iterations. He had been working with many writers for several years with no traction -in terms of getting signed or even recognised and supported by industry executives.

‘It’s those writers who don’t live in L.A., are over a certain age and don’t have the resources to move to L.A. or the US. Those are the most exciting because they are the hardest. It really is a testament to the writer’s ability and talent because they defied the odds and got signed/optioned.

For example, one of our writers doesn’t live in L.A. and focuses on period pieces and his script just got picked up by Amazon Studios – a very exciting moment. We get told all the time “don’t do period pieces, it’s too hard” but he did it. Likewise with a TV writer, also outside L.A. She was ready to throw in the towel. Weeks later she was signed by the Creative Arts Agency.’

On trends…

‘The streaming platforms disrupted the system so now the answer to ‘what is the industry looking for’ is ‘everything and beyond’. There are so many platforms and so many things vying for our attention, that really anything is on the table. Because it is the most popular platform, everyone wants to be on Amazon and Netflix etc. But at the end of the day, it all comes back to the same thing in terms of writing: ‘what is the writer trying to say?’’

A little about Joey…

Joey started off in acting and said it was because he loved the attention. His love of action took him to L.A.

‘I didn’t really like L.A. because I was so young and outside my comfort zone. But then I went to New York and did some plays and that was perhaps my favourite part. It was fun and felt so real. It was very exciting.’

He then went back to L.A. and worked with production companies and got to see things from the other side and worked at Bold Films, working on Drive, Nightcrawler and Whiplash:

‘I had never worked in a production company before them. I thought everyone would be snotty, mean, cold. But they were some of the most nurturing, fun and humanistic people ever. It was really eye opening for me.’

One thing I really like about Joey is that he is not afraid to be his authentic, awesome self. And he isn’t afraid to channel his vulnerabilities into work with his writers.

‘I have really bad anxiety for a while. That’s why I can connect with writers who maybe struggling with owning the room. It’s not easy – there is a lot of anxiety and neurosis that come with it so I get it. By working with writers, it’s therapeutic because I have to practice what I preach.’

A few of his favourite films…

So you probably won’t catch Joey at a Joe Wilk film anytime soon but plonk him in front of a film with subtle conflict and he won’t budge from it.

‘I know it sounds weird but I am sensitive in that I have very thin skin. That’s why I like indie stuff because it’s exploring things that are emotional and brings emotions to the surface because I can relate to that’.

His favourites include The Piano Teacher or indie film productions from Killer Films, A24, Nieman Films.

Gems from Joey

Top Tips to get noticed:

  1. Be bold
  2. Have a voice
  3. Know the market place
  4. Know who you are as a writer
  5. And be a human first.

Common Pitfalls:

  1. Overwriting – writers who have to describe something in 2 sentences instead of 5 words. It shows a lack of confidence with the writer, that they are not comfortable with their talent if they have to use these crutches to say something.
  2. Writers who are robotic that tries to make everything perfect. Those are the ones that feel more stagnant in meetings.
  3. Writers who treat meetings who treat it like an interview rather than an opportunity to cultivate a relationship.
  4. Writers don’t do their homework – don’t make it a stock presentation. Know the executives, personalise it, know what they have done before
  5. Writing for the industry and not understanding why they are writing something. They feel most hollow. Follow your gut, don’t follow a trend. You don’t want to write a script that appeases everybody because it won’t appease anybody. You want to find a home for it so find something in your voice but that you can easily find 50 companies that would be good for it.

Forgotten Wisdom…?

I know a lot of writers take a bunch of classes or programmes with us or anyone else. They all promise to make you famous. It can be quite chaotic sometimes. Or it can be easy to say “do this, do this” versus actually doing it. I get how hard that is. But writers need to remember to listen to their gut and think “what is it I want to say”. If they did this more, they would be much happier and fulfilling what they are trying to say. This would then lead to them getting more traction. I’ve heard this so many times where a writer would get 10,000 opinions and the most recurring one is usually how you first wrote the script or what you first wanted to say.

You can find more about the class with Joey in London HERE.

Shard Gill
Screenwriter and Talent Campus Alumni