Student Places Third in "Great Movie Ideas" Competition

Mitchell Smith photo

“Fight Club.” “The Avengers.” “The Hangover.”

Mitchell Smith has seen those movies and countless others. That passion for movies is paying off for the 21-year-old Eastern Kentucky University psychology major and Model Lab graduate from Richmond.

In June, Smith entered a national contest sponsored by Script Pipeline, seeking Great Movie Ideas. According to its website, the 14-year-old Hollywood company “discovers and develops writers for film and TV and connects them with Hollywood’s top producers, agents and managers.”

Smith submitted a two-page synopsis of his screenplay, with a working title of “Get Away Clean.” While waiting a month for contest results, Smith continued to work on his script. Without giving the plot away, the action/comedy revolves around a bank heist.

“I’ve had to do some deep research about banks, vaults and how to break into them,” Smith said. “My family jokes that the FBI might come knocking at my door some day, wondering why I’m so curious about that.”

It wasn’t the FBI Smith heard from on July 15, the day contest winners were to be announced. It was Matt Misetich from Script Pipeline.

“I was nervous about checking my e-mail that day,” Smith admitted. “And when I did look, it seemed like bad news.”

“Not a winner, but…” was posted in the subject line. Disappointing. Yet fortunately Smith read further. Turns out he placed third — out of hundreds of entries.

What got the judges’ attention? “The fact you took a hackneyed concept — the heist movie — and flipped it on its head,” Misetich wrote. “I don’t think we’ve seen this twist before, so lots of potential to develop it into something pretty great.”

“I was blown away by his comments,” Smith said. “That was amazing feedback and really got me pumped to finish the screenplay.”

The contest winner received $1,500, but third place came with its own perks, a package worth $500.

“I’m working with Matt on developing my idea and script to pitch to movie companies,” Smith said. “I’ve had personal phone and e-mail consultations and he’s offered some great suggestions about fine-tuning the plot and developing the characters.”

Plus, Misetich asked Smith to pitch other ideas for movies.

“I have three ideas already in mind,” Smith said. “One is a comedy about an inept hit man. Another is a horror script. And the third comes from personal experience: someone who survives a car crash with a brain injury.”

Smith, himself, has recovered from a near-fatal crash in mid-March. It took two months of hospitalization and rehabilitation before he returned home.

“I don’t remember the first two weeks in UK’s ICU,” Smith said, “but my family has filled in those gaps. I do vividly recall the demanding and exhausting weeks of physical, occupational and speech therapies. There’s plenty of drama and, strangely enough, some humor, from that experience to build a movie around.”

But first, Smith plans to focus on polishing the bank heist script and consulting with Misetich about marketing it to film companies.  

 “A past winner of this contest, Evan Daugherty, sold his script to Universal for $3 million,” Smith noted. “That was made into the movie ‘Snow White and the Huntsman.’ So Script Pipeline has a good track record for helping up-and-coming writers like me. I hope I can be one of their success stories.”

Published on August 30, 2013