Another Doubtful ContestComplications Ensue
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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Q. This contest makes some enticing promises, but I'm not sure it's worth a $40 ENTRY FEE ...
There are very few contests I'd consider legit. The Nicholls, the ABC Fellowship ... competitions sponsored by major showbiz organizations (AMPTP, DGA, WGA), or networks, or studios. Agents take the winners seriously. The fellowships practically set you up with a career.

The rest are, I feel, junk. The economics of script competitions are just too good for the people organizing them. With a $40 entry fees and awards in the low thousands, how many entries do you need to break even? How much does it cost to get someone to skim a script and decide it's not going on the short list? I think a lot of people are organizing script competitions to make money.

I also find script competitions suspicious in general because what's the point? There already is a script competition. It's called "getting your movie made." There are no entry fees to this competition, and the prize is, you get your movie made. (That should mean at least $100,000 in cash and offers to write other stuff, not to mention you get your movie made.) Producers deciding whether to invest two years in getting your movie made are making a hard, honest judgment. Juries are deciding, in the abstract, which are the "best" or "best-written" scripts. That's not an honest judgment.

Competitions have all these "quarterfinals" and "semi-finals" so the max number of competitors have something to put on their resumes. It's like getting three out of four strawberries on a one-armed bandit. It gets your hopes up, but it doesn't get you where you want to be.

I suppose getting an award at a competition gives your script a bit of an advantage if it's something that's hard to describe in a few words. An agent might be more willing to read your script if it's a finalist somewhere. But how many winning scripts would have got picked up anyway, without winning a contest?

But I'd rather you focus your energies on coming up with great hooks. Any agent, and any good producer, will read a script with a great hook, for free.



It was this same skepticism that led me to conceive of the Cowrite contest,

I wanted to create a contest that was both cost effective to join ($10 per 10 page entry) and whose ultimate goal was to actually get the community-sourced screenplay sold and produced.

Partnering with Benderspink also allows the winning writers to potentially further their own careers.

I hope you'll check it out. Thanks.

By Blogger toddsoffian, at 10:06 PM  

So, most contest are out there for money. One thing I've been particularly interested in is Script Coverage (ex. "ScriptXpert").

They push it like crazy in the magazines and at the Expo, but is it actually worth dishing out $200 to get someone to read your script?

By Blogger Adriano Ariganello, at 2:03 AM  

Depends on who's giving you comments. Delivering notes is a skill and a talent like writing scripts. There's a wide range in performance.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 8:02 AM  

Might it be different for TV writing competitions as opposed to movie screenplay competitions? With one, you're trying to sell yourself, gain a rep; the other, you're just trying to sell your script. Surely any tiny credit to a spec pilot or series spec would stand the budding TV writer in good stead. Or am I just being naive?

By Blogger Unknown, at 7:23 PM  

Awhile ago, I read an interesting thread of blog entries about science fiction/genre contests and awards working to legitimize/receive recognition for a genre. Another interesting aspect of that thread was the guidelines and the merits of the winners worked to get legitimation (sp?).

Just another viewpoint, even though TV and movie writing certainly have legitimacy, but what genres of the writing. And, of course, winning or placing in a prestigious contest would certainly help to catch the eye of someone that takes the contest seriously.

By Blogger The_Lex, at 10:51 PM  

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