The results are in for my standing in two highly-ranked screenwriting contests, and at best could probably be considered partially encouraging.
As mentioned previously in this space, my western did not advance to the quarterfinals of the PAGE International competition. That was somewhat disappointing.
Earlier this week, I’d been informed that it made the top 15 percent for the Nicholl, and was also not advancing to the quarterfinals. This ranking ties a previous personal best. Not bad, but again, slightly disappointing.
As it would probably be for most, my initial reaction to both of these announcements, especially the former, was “Well, I’m just a shitty writer, aren’t I?”
Apparently, not necessarily.
After I’d announced my contest results, I heard from a lot of fellow writers, including comments about the quality (or lack thereof) of the scripts that advance, the quality (or lack thereof) of the readers, but the most-repeated one was:
“It’s all subjective.”
Very true. We produce what we believe to be the absolute best script we can, and either someone’s going to like it, or they’re not. And there’s nothing we can do about it.
If you were also among those of us whose scripts didn’t advance, take heart. It ain’t the end of the world (although it may feel that way). Use this as a learning experience and work on improving your script so it’s ready for next year. Get notes on it. Rewrite. Polish. Whatever you think is necessary.
It’s also important to keep in mind that these contests are not the be-all and end-all. Winning them or placing high doesn’t guarantee a career. Sure, a handful of past finalists are working writers or consultants, but they appear to be the exceptions.
Just to put things in perspective, a friend of mine was a recent Nicholl finalist and says it had zero impact on their career, and still struggle to get their material read.
In all honesty, the sheen of contests is starting to wear a bit thin for me. I’ll probably still enter the western again next year, along with two other scripts I’m hoping to complete, but I’d rather focus on getting my material sold or produced, or at least using my scripts as strong calling cards and writing samples to get assignment work. I’m not picky. Whatever it takes.
There are a lot of ways to break in and become a working writer. Contests are one, but definitely not the only one.