by Sam Mestman:
Ummm… unlike some of the other sections, there isn’t going to be a ton of advice here. If there was a formula on how to get a script written and sold, the world would know about it. If you listen to the self proclaimed “experts”, they’ll tell you to stick to comedy and horror if you want to get something sold. Stay away from Drama, and stick with genre… or write a spec script if you want to write for tv. That’s really about it on the business end. Been my experience that no one knows a fucking thing when it comes to this stuff, though… I’m not going to pretend to be the first. Whereas in Production, Distribution, and Post Production, there are certain things you HAVE to know to do it well, when it comes to writing, after you’ve taken a class or two on structure, gotten a copy of Final Draft, and have read a few screenplays to see how it’s done… you’re pretty much on your own. We’re not going to pretend to have any answers for you when it comes to writing something worthwhile. That said, we are aware of some of the better screenplay contests out there, and here’s a list of them with a few notes. Keep in mind, winning one of these, or even placing, is like getting into Sundance and winning (you might be better off with a lottery ticket)… but it’s a place to start at least. Some of these places also offer fairly inexpensive coverage services. If you’re trying to sell your screenplay, this is probably worth checking out (it’ll also generally guarantee more than one person actually reads your work, or will have read it at all)… these are more or less the kinds of people who will be reading your work if you can get it to a production company, so it’s probably a good idea to find out what that feedback’ll be before you submit to the real thing. Anyway, before I get to the contests, here are a few writer-centric things to check out:
1st – if you’re a writer or filmmaker in LA go HERE:
The Writers store – (2040 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025) – This place is great. They have a great selection of writer/film related books (not like the bullshit at most Barnes and Nobles or Borders), supplies, a really nice and helpful staff, and they do workshops and classes if you’re into that kind of thing. They also have lots of different writer/film production software.
Software / Sites
Some recommended reading (that isn’t by Syd Field… cause fuck him)
by Lajos Ergi – Great book. 13.59 on Amazon
- The Writer Got Screwed But Didn’t Have to by Brooke A. Wharton- For the business side of being a writer. It’s a little older, but a very necessary read. $11.69 on Amazon.
- Formatting your Screenplay: The Basics – WMM’s own Garrett Robinson was kind enough to give us an excellent rundown of what goes into the writing and formatting of your screenplay.
CHEAP SCRIPT COPIES:
- www.scriptcopier.com – By far the cheapest way to get your script printed, unless you can get away with printing wherever it is you work. 2 cents per page if you don’t mind putting in the brads yourself, and you can do it all online… then either have it shipped to you, or pick it up from the place… and they’re fast, too. Very convenient. Highly recommend. LA local – 6404 Wilshire Blvd. suite 105 Los Angeles CA 90048
- www.scriptkicker.com – WMM founder Tara Samuel offers a great and unique screenplay coverage consultation service.
- Script Kitchen – WMM founder Tara Samuel also teaches a class with WMM member John Sandel called The Script Kitchen. Check it out here.
- Sundance Feature Film Labs – (go under explore programs on the website and click on “feature film”)… let’s put it like this… if you can get in here, you’ve got a real shot at getting your film made and actually retaining some control over it. Plus, if you get into the Director’s lab, they let you shoot a small section of it, and get you some name talent for it. Pretty much an awesome way to get in the door if you can actually get in. A lot of people have gone through this program and gone on to have pretty solid writing/directing careers. Also, you’ve only got to submit 5 pages of your script initially, along with a bunch of other stuff. HERE’S SOMETHING YOU SHOULD NOT DO (I did this, and it was dumb)… I submitted to this randomly a couple of years ago with a movie I had only half written. Astonishingly, I got selected as a semifinalist… only problem was now they wanted a full script, and my movie just wasn’t ready for that. I submitted something half baked and, not surprisingly, I stayed a semifinalist. This script is much better now. I might have gotten in with the current version. Only submit to these guys when you’re actually ready. Seems like common sense now… sigh.
- Nicholl Fellowship – This is the big one. Deadline – May 1st. It’s a $30,000 prize if you win, and they give out as many as 5 of these per year. It’s run by the Oscars. That’s all that really needs to be said. Plus, it’s cheaper than most with only a $30 entry fee. One problem… they get roughly 6000 scripts a year submitted. Your odds of winning are not very good… but what else is new? One small brightspot is they post a lengthy list of semifinalists and quarterfinalists.
- Final Draft Big Break – Another big one that’s run by the people who put out the software that everyone uses to make their screenplays in the first place. Has a larger cash prize than usual $15,000 for first place, as well as cash prizes for second and third. Entry fee is a little higher than most, though. Early deadline (2009) March 2, 2009 – $40 Standard (June 1) – $50 Extended (june 15) – $65. COOL FACT: The first script ever to be workshopped in our “Something To Do On A Wednesday Til You Get Really Famous Night” writer’s workshop,Trigger Mom by Kevin Miller, finished SECOND in the 2010 contest. Congrats Kevin.
- Scriptapalooza – Another big one. Early bird deadline (January 5) – $40 Regular (March 5) – $50 Final deadline (April 15) – $55. Prize – (1st place) $10,000. They offer coverage as well, but it’s expensive ($175).
- Slamdance – Regular deadline for last year (June 15) – $50.00 … prize – $5,000- cool thing about these guys is they offer inexpensive coverage option at $75.00. I tried it and it was actually helpful.
- Austin Screenplay competition – $40 for early deadline, $50 for late deadline (I think it’s sometime in may) – Prize $5,000 – Cool thing is that this contest coincides with the Austin Film Festival, which is an awesome festival. If you win here, they fly you out, and actually the writing competition is a bigger deal than the film festival. Good people here, and it’s a well run organization. Small issue with it is that, unlike most of these contests, it’s all run by snail mail, which means you have to send a hard copy and print out your application and all that… a little behind the times.
- American Zoetrope screenplay contest – This is Francis Ford Coppola’s companies’ contest. Most contests’ deadlines come early in the year. This one is later. Early deadline – August 2nd, Late deadline – September 7th. Prize – $5,000. Entry fee – $35 (early) $50 (late)
- Film Independent – Go to the website, then go under talent development. They offer a Directors, Producers, and Screenwriters lab in LA. $55 bucks to enter if you’re a member… $75 if you’re not.
There are a lot more. Let me know what your experiences have been with some of the others, but these are the ones I have firsthand knowledge of.