For three SUNY Oswego cinema and screen studies students, participating in the select PitchNY program in November was the next step in their dreams of telling stories through film.

Richard Bethea, Nicole Demartino and Ryan Maguire from SUNY Oswego were three of only 50 students from colleges in New York selected from around 200 applicants for the prestigious program, co-sponsored by the Governor’s Office of Motion Picture and Television Development, NBCUniversal and the Tribeca Film Institute.

“It was engaging and enlightening,” said Bethea, a senior cinema and screen studies major and Army veteran. “It was challenging and exhilarating at the same time.”

Demartino, a junior double major in cinema and screen studies and in creative writing described the experience as “a networking goldmine.”

“I was able to connect with and become friends with other students going into the industry, became involved in their projects and set up future collaborations with them,” Demartino said. “I also met countless industry professionals who are doing what I love for money, and getting their advice, insight, business cards and emails was invaluable to me.” 

Maguire, a sophomore cinema and screen studies major, recalled meeting “the nicest people” including mentors from NBCUniversal and Tribeca who “would offer tips on how to present ourselves.”

Maguire also really enjoyed meeting the other participants. “Not only were they kind, but just as hungry for filmmaking as myself,” he said. “I have always loved cinema, so to see a whole group of people showing their creativity, and how I could potentially collaborate with them later, was awesome.”

Developing ideas

Bethea was captivated by television shows and movies since the time he was a child. “I’ve always had a big, vivid imagination,” he said. “When I was in the Army, I decided to take some writing classes.” 

With a goal of writing and directing, he studied on his own for around 10 years before starting classes at SUNY Oswego. “I got here and I realized that I still had a lot to learn,” Bethea said. “But that’s a good thing.”

Bethea’s idea for a film has to do with a man learning about his wife’s infidelity then meeting a stranger who wants to mentor him, and how the two try to build trust. “The story deals with the mentoring that older black men give younger black men,” Bethea said. “In my military career, I saw the bond between the generations and it’s really special.”

Demartino’s idea was a five-minute short film based on a two-sentence horror story: "The last man on Earth sits alone in a room. There is a knock on the door," she explained. 

Maguire offered a genre-mixing concept. “The first half can be described as a coming-of-age story, which follows two friends heading to college,” he said. “Come the second act, the story morphs into a full-on slasher picture, with one of their friends being hinted at as the killer.”

The two-day PitchNY in New York City, Nov. 7 and 8, provided unforgettable and invaluable experience in networking and how to pitch entertainment executives, as each student got to present their ideas multiple times, as well as behind-the-scenes tours and networking events.

“I really valued the advice from each person,” Bethea said. “It was really educational, letting us know what executives are looking for, how to pitch and where to pitch our ideas depending on the genre.”

In the vein of writing his own experiences, he received helpful advice from one of the Tribeca executives, who suggested “because I was in the military, I had some engaging stories worth sharing,” Bethea recalled. “I should give myself some time and think about telling stories of my time in the military.”

For the students, the event was an opportunity to continue building a network and working toward establishing themselves as filmmakers.

“We were encouraged to reach out to anyone who attended the event and myself and a few of the friends I made even left the pitches with professionals willing to work on our projects with us,” Demartino noted.

“I met a lot of good people, and hopefully started some lifelong relationships with people in the industry,” Bethea said. “Everyone was amazing.”