CSN 2012: New venue, big contest prize, July Pitchfest

CSN board president Colin Costello

A reinvigorated Chicago Screenwriters Network (CSN) kicks off 2012 with an updated and more conveniently located meeting venue, a screenwriting contest with a writer’s dream of a grand prize, a summer Pitchfest and its traditional January program.

A newly elected board, led by advertising creative/screenwriter Colin Costello, has said goodbye to the North Side’s Lincoln Restaurant after 11 years of meeting there and shifted to the West Loop’s contemporary Porkchop restaurant.

“The food is awesome, prices are good and it has a bar where members can hang out after a meeting and network,” says Costello.  “The vibe is laid back rock ‘n’ roll and as screenwriters we should be edgier.  It’s a warm and unique place for winter month meetings and has a country house atmosphere with a huge sidewalk patio during the summer months.”

CSN’s 4th annual screenwriting contest, open to Midwestern writers, starts accepting entries from Jan. 15 through the late deadline of April 30. In past years, CSN’s grand prize was having the winner’s script pitched to industry executives.

CSN board VP Christina WollermanIn the upcoming year, the grand prize winner will be able to meet face-to-face with key industry executives during a four-day, three night trip to Los Angeles, with airfare, hotel and rental car expanses paid as part of the prize. 

“This is better than the money,” says Costello.  “We’re about access.” The winner will take meetings with an agent, manager, consultant and producer and their script will also be pitched to other L.A. industry people.

A $1,000 prize will be divided among four runners-up, who also receive Final Draft software and script consultation.

Starting this month, the CSN will start preparing for Chicago’s first screenplay Pitchfest to L.A. industry executives here in July, in conjunction with Women in Film/Chicago and other organizations.  A Writers Hotline is also in the works.

“We’re taking what was a good thing and bringing it to the next level,” Costello says.

CSN was founded in 1995 by screenwriter Ed Bernero through messages posted online and subsequently became a public meeting event the first Sunday of the month.  Membership is pegged at more than 500 throughout the Midwest.

At CSN’s Jan. 8 meeting, professional actors will read the first five pages of seven diverse scripts that have been chosen by board vice president Christina Wollerman.

Porkchop is located at 941 W. Randolph; meeting starts at 5:30 p.m.  Unlike meetings at the Lincoln Restaurant, there is no food or drink minimum restaurant charge; just a $5 CSN donation.