Stepping into the arena

That's one way to eliminate the competition (no pun intended)
That’s one way to eliminate the competition (insert rimshot here)

If your inbox is anything like mine, chances are you’ve been getting a lot of emails lately touting the pending deadline of more than a few contests.

For the most part, I usually ignore them. Maybe the Nicholl if I have a script ready, but rarely any others, if any at all.

But a little more confidence in my abilities and encouragement from other writers is making me gradually change my mind.

I’m seriously considering biting the bullet and submitting a script, warts and all, to a few competitions over the next few months.

It’s one of those things every screenwriter should do at least once or twice.

But which ones? There are a lot to choose from, ranging from the obscure to the high-profile.  While there’s nothing wrong with the Brand X Screenwriting Competition, you have to admit it doesn’t carry the same cachet as being a finalist in Austin, PAGE or TrackingB.

Everybody has different criteria for what they’re looking to get out of a particular contest. While a cash prize is nice, most are seen as stepping stones to making industry connections and getting representation.

Some offer script notes – a handful do it for free, but almost all charge extra for it. It’s not something I’d do, but that’s me.

If you’ve decided this is the year you take the plunge, then do your homework and research the ones you’re interested in to find out they have to offer. What kind of reputation do they have? How was the experience for previous entrants and winners? Do the prizes justify the amount of the fee?

No matter which ones you decide on, keep in mind you are going up against a lot of other writers just as eager and ambitious as you. Do you think your script is ready to take them on? Like, REALLY ready?

Even if you have a tiny amount of uncertainty, how much time is there between now and the deadline? Use this to your advantage and give your script an extremely thorough read-through (or two) and fix what needs to be fixed. Nobody likes finding a typo after the fact.

Do whatever you can to make your script ready to go, cross your fingers when you hit ‘submit’ and hope for the best.  How long you wait until getting back to your current project is up to you.

Good luck.

6 thoughts on “Stepping into the arena

  1. I’ve entered a few contests in my day. I did really well in the PAGE back in 2011 — nothing particularly wonderful came out of it for me but I can say that a lot of the other winners went on to get representation or script deals.

    • That’s great! How did you do in 2011? Have you entered since then, as well as others?

      The PAGE was one of a handful of contests recommended to me, so I submitted my western. Since I already have a manager, I’m going into this more for the “making industry connections” aspect.

  2. Hey Paul. I won Bronze in 2011 and got a lot of requests for the script from reps and producers. Ultimately, I think it wasn’t quite strong enough for me to capitalize, unfortunately. I haven’t really entered anything since, honestly, but I might soon. If you do well and get a lot of people contacting you, it could be a great career move. PAGE also has a strong history of producers hiring winning writers to collaborate on projects, so that’s always a good option if the script itself doesn’t sell. Best of luck to you!

    • Thanks! I appreciate that.

      Are you okay with giving details about the script (title, logline, etc)? I’m curious what you mean by “not quite strong enough to capitalize”.

      I only ask because I’ve had potential reps tell me a previous script “wasn’t Hollywood enough” or “needed to be bigger”. If you don’t want to talk about it, that’s cool too.

      • Sure! It was called “LATE” and won the Bronze in Action/Adventure.

        It was one of my earlier efforts, though I think it had a lot going for it (high concept, modest budget, tight & fast moving story, strong writing)… It was a good enough script to edge past a bunch of other amateurs but it wasn’t pro quality. Not even close. If that makes sense.

        I still list it in my resume/portfolio because it won an Award, but I gave up working on it after a while and I’m not actively doing anything with it anymore. I still love the idea but alas I’ve been forced to move on!

      • Such is the nature of the business. I’m guessing you’re more confident in your abilities since then, and good for you for carrying on. Good luck!

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