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While being in UCF's film program might give you some experience behind the camera, the Screenwriting Club is on a mission to prove that it's not the only way to make it in the film industry.

The Screenwriting Club was started last semester by club president Austin Sanchez, a senior cinema studies major, along with the School of Visual Arts and Design professors Barry Sandler and Lisa Peterson. The club is open to everyone, and gives students who aren't film majors, but want to make films, an opportunity to do so.

As an aspiring screenwriter, Sanchez was inspired to start the club after he didn't get into the film program, where only film students are allowed to use UCF's film equipment to make professional quality films.

"I had a realization about my education," Sanchez said. "I wanted to get my money's worth out of school, and I knew other students felt the same. I wanted to start a club where anyone could have the hands-on chance to make a film professionally, no matter what major."

Every Friday at 7 p.m. in the Student Union, club members meet up and share scripts that they've written to receive constructive criticism. They also do writing "jams," a game that consists of coming up with a film idea on the spot for different topics.

"It's a great place to learn," said Steven Seidman, one of the clubs screenwriting consultants. "Everyone is really positive to one another. We want to help people become better filmmakers, not drag them down."

The constructive criticism was put to use this past Friday when the club hosted its first Pitch-a-Palooza festival in the Student Union, where aspiring filmmakers pitched their film plots to local production companies.

If the production companies liked their ideas, they could lead to future films.

At Pitch-a-Palooza, more than 10 production companies were present, ready to hear clear 5-minute pitches. Josh Kaltner, a junior cinema studies major, had just finished pitching a film about four people having the same dream.

"It was more fun than nerve-wracking," Kaltner said. "A few people seemed interested and we exchanged contact information. It's a great way to meet people in the industry."

Alex Bright, a senior film major, started his own production company called Labels R For Cans six years ago that mainly produces shorts. As a producer looking for ideas at Pitch-A-Palooza, he was looking for character-driven scripts with themes that make people uncomfortable.

"If I find a script I like, I began negotiating with the writer," Bright said. "It could get made into a film counting toward my major, or just as an independent film."

Although Bright said the biggest assumption in film is to make it to Hollywood to be successful, he said it's groups like the Screenwriting Club that prove you can make films anywhere if you've got the passion.

"The biggest truth about film is that it doesn't matter where or how you studied or where you went after," Bright said. "What really matters is you show your work ethic and prove you want to be in this industry."

As far as what's to come for the Screenwriting Club, Sanchez said his biggest goal is to host a film festival.

"We're all in this rat race as much as anyone else," he said. "We all love film, and that's what's going to get us places."

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Gina Avile is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.

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