A member of WIFVNE and Harvard Square Script Writers since 2015, Missy Cohen-Fyffe earned a Master Screenwriting Certification from ScreenwritingU in 2016. She is represented by Stephanie Rogers & Associates in Las Vegas, NV. Cohen-Fyffe also sits on the board of the ESSCO-MGH Breast Cancer Research Fund, a cancer charity her family established in 1993 shortly after her sister was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer. To date, the fund has raised over $8 million; 100% of which has gone directly to MGH to fund novel and innovative breast cancer research at MGH in Boston. Cohen-Fyffe resides in New Hampshire with her husband.
Meet WIFVNE Member Missy Cohen-Fyffe!
How did you get started in the industry and explain what you do currently?
I got started in the industry in a silly way. I had been running my own business, making and manufacturing baby products that I patented, but after a while what I really wanted to do was write movies. So, I wrote a script and said to myself, ‘Okay, if I place in a contest, I’ll get rid of my business and I’ll write movies.’ Definitely not the smartest business plan, but as luck would have it, I placed. It gave me the feeling (however fleeting) that I could write movies.
Once I realized how little I knew about screenwriting, I decided to take some classes on the subject. I lucked out when I found ScreenwritingU. My coursework culminated in an 18-month Master Screenwriter Class. In order to finish the course and receive my Certification, I was required to pitch managers. It was unnerving, to say the least, but I was fortunate to be signed by a manager as a result.
During the masterclass, I also took on two writing assignments. Even though they paid little, I earned writing credits. The writing credits gave me credibility and helped earn me representation.
From there, I just kept writing scripts. I’ve since optioned four of them.
What do you love about your job?
I love being in the zone. When the dialogue is flowing and the action is working, the hours fly by. I love that I can work anywhere at any time. And it’s a nice bonus that watching movies and TV is all part of the job. I also love reading scripts, specifically well-written scripts like those from the Black List. They’re such enjoyable reads; fast-paced and artfully crafted. Reading a good script is like watching a movie play out in my mind, and I love movies.
You worked on BABYBULLDOG...
This was one of my writing assignments. I came across a posting by a producer on a screenwriting website. The producer wasn’t planning to pay much, but also offered an IMDB credit for the work. He wanted a writer for a dog story, and I had previously written a talking-dog story so I sent him the script. Soon after, he reached out asking me to write his script for him. The turn-around was three weeks, which would be a really tough turnaround if you were starting from scratch, but he had already provided a 3-page outline of what he wanted. He liked what I wrote and asked if I would do another for him. I did. I don’t think I ever got the final payment from him, but by the time those projects were going into production, I had signed with my manager and was in an entirely new ballgame. And, I did get the IMDB credits.
Can you share any advice about how you got your work into competitions*? What does a solid first ten pages look like?
Getting into competitions is not difficult. Winning them is where it gets tough. You can go to Coverfly and search the competitions that match your genre. The earlier you submit, the cheaper the cost. If you’re new to screenwriting, select competitions that provide notes. Even if you aren’t new, getting notes is always a plus. As far as your first ten pages go, you have to create characters and a story that someone (producer, director, actor) can feel so passionate about that they’re willing to spend millions of dollars to produce it. The first ten pages are key because they set the tone for your story and showcase your writing capabilities. If by page ten no one knows what they are reading (who’s the protagonist, what’s their goal, etc.) then there’s going to be a problem with the rest of the script.
What has your experience as a woman in the industry been like?
I’ve been fortunate to have a female manager, and a lot of female mentors that I look up to and follow. Meg LaFauve and Lorien McKenna are fabulous women and they also happen to be incredible screenwriters. I love their podcast, The Screenwriting Life. I also enjoy Pilar Alessandra’s podcast, On The Page. She interviews all sorts of feature and TV writers. For me, being a female writer has been a positive experience. When I first started, there weren’t a lot of female writers winning awards, but now I feel the industry sees what we bring to the table. As a female writer you are able to open doors that weren’t available to you before. You have a voice that is fresh and new, and now the industry is interested in hearing it.
Do you have a mentor?
I have to credit Hal Croasman, who is the head of ScreenwritingU. He has revolutionized the teaching of screenwriting. And when I look at a project now, I not only look at it from a creative perspective, but also from the perspective of what a producer needs; it’s a business decision I weigh with my creativity. I credit Hal for pushing me to continually move projects forward, and honing my craft.
Photo: Missy and other Feature Screenwriting Finalists on stage at the 2018 Broad Humor Film Festival
Can you share what you are working on right now, and what your next steps are?
I just finished my latest rom-com which went to my manager last week. I’m also working on new projects to pitch to her. As far as next steps go, I’ll likely begin my next screenwriting project over the course of the month. I’m always hopeful that one of my script options will be greenlit. Until then, I keep working on concepts and writing. I am also in the early stages of producing an award-winning short script, Café Amor, written by my friend and fellow writer, Judi Mackenzie. We’re aiming for an October production. But writing is what I love. And I’m lucky to be able to do what I love.
Why are you a member of WIFVNE?
WIFVNE has so much programming, and that’s what I love about them. I came across the organization because my acting friend, Amy Evans, thought I needed to get out of my tiny office-cave and network with fellow writers. She told me about an upcoming WIFVNE meeting, and I went. Someone was kind enough there to introduce me to Genine [Tillotson] from Harvard Square Script Writers, and we hit it off. I became a member of HSSW, too.
*Given our 2021 screenwriting competition, can you tell us what writers should keep in mind when writing a ten page script? Any advice for writing powerful short form content?
Short form is a challenge because you don’t have ten pages to establish your story, you have to grab your reader before they hit the half-page mark. You need to establish your character, tone, and what the story is right off the bat! But the good thing about shorts is that, unlike features, your second act is literally four pages.
This interview was conducted by WIFVNE member and volunteer Sophia Ciampaglia. Sophia is an impending college graduate who is passionate about development, and pre-production. Currently she is interning with Circle of Confusion, and is eager to keep learning more about the script to screen process of filmmaking.