Friday, July 20, 2012

Entering Screenplay Contests

When you take screenwriting classes, the teachers claim that it’s easy to tell a good screenplay from a poor one, and to recognize an outstanding screenplay on the rare occasion when you see one.

My friend Jean and I have co-written several screenplays.  One in particular has received high praise from friends and family.  We thought it was time to get professional opinions that might help us bring this script to market.  

We sent it to professional evaluators.  Again, we got high praise and that coveted Recommend rating.  But our evaluators didn’t have contacts with producers who could get our screenplay made into a movie.

So, we decided to send it to contests that advertise the names of professional movie making companies that will look at the winners.  We tried Scriptapalooza.  The reviewer said many complimentary things about our screenplay, but then noticed the page count was under 100 (which is typical for family films), and gave us a Poor rating.  This rating came with a cover letter telling us that if we wanted to we could do a rewrite and submit again (for more money) and possibly get a higher rating.  

They have to be kidding. That letter made the whole contest look like it can only be won by people who pay multiple entry fees.  

We decided to enter Worldfest, which has a family film category.  Worldfest is one of the oldest screenplay festivals in the US. It is where Spielberg won his first contest.  The woman I spoke with on the phone (this contest has real humans you can talk to) said that the family category was one of the most popular this year.  Our screenplay won the Gold Remi for Family Film Scripts. 
A far cry from the Poor rating.

But we still don’t have a producer.  Several people we met at Worldfest said they knew producers who worked with Hallmark. We have emailed these people to ask about introductions.  So far no responses.

My conclusion from all this is that there is not a clear general perception of what constitutes a good or outstanding screenplay.  And even once you’ve written one, getting it in front of people who can produce it is possibly even more difficult than writing it.  

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