Are screenplay contests worth entering?

I’m pretty skeptical about script contests as a way to further your career. There are success stories but I think they’re the exception. So I was interested to read the view of Chad Gervich on the Script website. He says that winning a script rarely gives you the edge. He’s been a judge in script contests and says winning only shows your script was the best, but that the standard is generally atrocious.

How bad are these scripts? Out of 500 he estimates that ten to fifteen “have some semblance of real voice, character, or storytelling. That doesn’t mean they’re good…” On the one hand that’s good news because it means if you have a good script you have a reasonable chance of winning. On the other hand, if people in the business know that these contests have a low standard, they may not pay much attention to them.

Listen, having won a contest is better than nothing and there have been some successes, but it’s good to have a realistic view, especially when some contests have a hefty entry fee. Here are a few specific tips:

Look at the ratio of the entry fee to the prize–if it costs $50 to enter, and the prize is only $500, I figure somebody’s making money on this.

Of course it may be access to important people in Hollywood that you’re after, in which case you need to check whether the contest is specific about who will see the winning entries. Simply being told that “the winner will be sent to important Hollywood producers and agents and directors” isn’t good enough. First, who are these people? Second, have they actually agreed to look at the winners, or are they just going to get them sent to them and throw them away or hit the delete key?

Finally, does the contest list previous winners? If so, why not email a couple of them and ask them what their experience was–did it help them? If so, how? You should be able to Google them or find them on Facebook or you can write them a letter c/o the Writers Guild if they’re members.

Good luck!

(Jurgen Wolff offers screenwriting tips here every Tuesday as well as on his site, www.ScreenwritingSuccess.com. Also see his book, “Your Writing Coach,” available from Amazon and other online and offline booksellers.)

 

Write A Crappy First Draft

Example of screenplay formatting. Writing is o...

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Unless you’re an experimental filmmaker, you rely heavily on having a great screenplay. And if you’re like a lot of people I’ve met, you probably have a gazillion ideas for movie projects – but you might not have any completed screenplays.

If this is you, you’re not alone.

Since producing my first feature, I have received about a gazillion emails from writer-producer types with great ideas for movies… The problem is, after having these types of conversations, I realize that very few “writers” have actually written anything.

The sad part is, over the past decade, I’ve realized that everybody has an idea for a movie. But few people have ever actually sent me a finished screenplay. In fact, can you guess how many people actually followed through with sending me a script?

A. One Person?
B. Two People?
C. Six People?
D. None of the Above.

If you chose “B” you are correct. Two people in ten years.

How about you? If you were given the opportunity to get your material read by a working Hollywood producer, would you be ready to go?

If not, that’s OK. I think one of the biggest challenges writers face in a first draft is an unrealistic standard of perfection. And as a result, it’s easier to talk about writing than actually writing. So let me offer you a strategy – don’t be afraid to write a crappy first draft. And second to that, don’t be afraid to suck.

Because even if you write something this year and you think it’s brilliant – I guarantee that your brilliance will dim in a few years when you look back on your work. So if your present work is going to suck in the future anyway, why not accept sucking as part of the creative process?

I’m writing this very late at night. Hopefully what I’m saying makes sense.

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