The Rogue Knight of Cinema: Why Screenplay Contests Matter

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  • The Rogue Knight of Cinema: Why Screenplay Contests Matter

    The Rogue Knight of Cinema: Why Screenplay Contests Matter

    Screenplay contests are changing cinema. Coming from a person who runs one, your first reaction to this statement is most likely, "The only reason you're saying that is you want me to enter yours.-

    Or more frankly, "You just want my money.-

    Well, coming from one who runs one, I'll say you're right. Sorta.

    I want you to enter any contest. If you are an unknown, amateur writer, one who's had a taste of success, or even the millionaire living in hills of Silver Lake, your entry to a screenplay competition stirs a monster.

    And while I'm sure my partner in my competition would hate for me to saying this, you don't even have to enter ours. Enter any contest. The more entries contests receive, the the louder the miracle in the picture business today. Does that sound crazy? Is it sane to enter screenplay contests? How do they help?

    When I was entering contests, before starting BlueCat in 1998, they served a very, conventional function: they gave me a deadline. If I knew I had to mail something on June 10th, it gave me structure. For me, it usually forced me to finish a first draft. Without a contest deadline, I'm not sure if I would've finished my first screenplay or not, but I do know that with the deadline of a screenplay contest, I did eventually finish one. BlueCat receives tons of first screenplays from writers, and even when the feedback we give them reflects how far they are from a genuinely, developed screenplay, these entrants are usually the most grateful because they finished, finally, their first script.

    Entering a screenplay competition is a commitment, and this commitment changes how we view ourselves as writers. When I printed out the screenplay, and got together the money I didn't have for the entry fee, and went to the post office, I felt more like a writer in action, as opposed to one scribbling on napkins or musing on movie ideas in traffic. By mailing in my draft, I felt a part of a community of writers doing something to force their lot. I look back on those days ten years ago and I still remember the difference I felt.

    What if you've entered 50 contests and the buzz of submission has worn off? How can contests serve the jaded entrant? These days, many contests offer some form of feedback. While your neighbor in the next cubicle might think your work is perfect, it's only going to help getting a reaction from an objective source, regardless if the reader is an idiot or not. Receiving notes is a subject for a whole other discussion, but it's important to recognize that having people read your work and getting a chance to hear what they felt about it is vital to growth as a screenwriter. While peer review sites have proved to be widely successful and encouraging, agendas persist in these arenas. Private consultants are expensive and can be accused of motive as well. Screenplay contests offer a detached opinion. This is crucial.

    Submitting your screenplay to contests helps us let go of a screenplay. As screenwriters, we need to keep screenwriting. This implies writing more than one script. Through the feedback of contests, or simply by not placing, we come to terms with the limitations of a particular piece of work. We see the bad idea. We can say goodbye, and clear space for fresh inspiration. What we thought was a home run might be a dramatic out. Getting the reaction through competing in this process aids us in starting anew.

    Obviously, winning or placing in the contest is encouraging. Many contests have giant lists of quarterfinalists, semi-finalists and finalists, and seeing the title of your screenplay on one of the roll calls is terrific validation. We've never named quarterfinalists at BlueCat, and only recently did we elect to name a very small number of semi-finalists, choosing to focus our energy on the written analysis we provide to every one who enters. But several major contests do name large lists of writers who place, and as a writer who has won an award for writing, I have to say it changes your life. Writing to become a quarterfinalist in a screenplay contest is not the objective, but being acknowledged publicly does help us re-commit to our dream.

    Which leads me to what screenplay contests are doing for the motion picture industry today. We have seen how singing competitions have discovered artists, and the success they've had. Quietly this has been happening in the world of screenwriting competitions for a few years now, and it's about to get louder. With the recent production of a BlueCat winner, alongside the acclaim winners of other contests have received, the myth that real agents and productions companies don't pay attention to screenplay contests is withering and fast. It's time for writers to embrace this shift in attitude in the industry and compete.

    I have personally seen the quality of screenplays explode. The sharp, courageous voices are arriving, from the plains of Nebraska, the coffee shops of Echo Park, the ex-pats of MFA Writing programs. Women screenwriters are blowing doors off. Minorities are telling the truth like a firm hand coming for the heart. How are we to find these stories? I know where, for I have found a few myself.

    You can ignore this, and you can ignore your belief in yourself. But if you are audacious enough to believe you are the one, that you have your hands on the throat of something the world has not seen, it's time to stop re-reading what the reviewer of the month has to say. Send it to a contest and let the pain and exhilaration begin, and your maturity continue. One day the winner of a screenplay competition is going to win the Academy Award for Best Screenplay, and there will be one question left.

    What will you have done?



    About the Author
    Winner of the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the Sundance Film Festival for LOVE LIZA, Gordy Hoffman has written and directed three digital shorts for Fox Searchlight. He made his feature directorial debut with his script, A COAT OF SNOW, which world premiered at the 2005 Locarno Intl Film Festival. A COAT OF SNOW made its North American Premiere at the Arclight in Hollywood, going on to screen at the Milan Film Festival and the historic George Eastman House. Recently, the movie won the 2006 Domani Vision Award at VisionFest, held at the Tribeca Cinemas in NY. A professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, Gordy is the founder and judge of BlueCat Screenplay Competition. Dedicated to develop and celebrate the undiscovered screenwriter, BlueCat provides written script analysis on every script entered. In addition, Gordy acts as a script consultant for screenwriters, offering personalized feedback on their scripts through his consultation service, www.screenplaynotes.com.

    For more articles by Gordy on screenwriting, visit:
    www.bluecatscreenplay.com.

  • #2
    Re: The Rogue Knight of Cinema: Why Screenplay Contests Matter

    Originally posted by sc111

    The only reason I hesitate to enter this year is the genre of my completed scripts: comedy.

    It seems to me drama is a better bet for contests. Yes? No?
    I assure you "Gary the Tennis Coach" is no drama.


    (Although I'm blanking on the title it won Bluecat under.)

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: The Rogue Knight of Cinema: Why Screenplay Contests Matter

      Oh - right. Tennis Coach won. And Hamboogul - an Done Dealer - won last year.

      What the heck - I'll enter.
      Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: The Rogue Knight of Cinema: Why Screenplay Contests Matter

        That's ninety bucks I'll never see again!

        -Derek

        Nobody knows nothing, and I'm nobody.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: The Rogue Knight of Cinema: Why Screenplay Contests Matter

          It is rather discouraging to see the lack of comedies that place in this contest. I think there are almost 4000 entries this year.... with only fifteen scripts placing---- not very good odds.


          The thing I wonder about is whether any big budget films ever place in Bluecat. Seems like a great contest, but if I were running a contest, I would tend to pick screenplays that had a better chance of being made by indy producers. Then I could say -- "hey one of my contest winners was made into a film"
          "Take the thing you love, and make it your life"--Californication. [email protected]

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: The Rogue Knight of Cinema: Why Screenplay Contests Matter

            Originally posted by sc111
            Loved your film - Love, Lisa.
            Love Liza?
            http://confoundedfilms.com

            http://www.myspace.com/confoundedfilms

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: The Rogue Knight of Cinema: Why Screenplay Contests Matter

              Originally posted by ylekot43 View Post
              It is rather discouraging to see the lack of comedies that place in this contest.
              What makes you say that? I won in 2002 with a teen comedy. The 2005 winner was a comedy. I actually think BlueCat is kinder to comedies than a lot of other competitions.

              Originally posted by ylekot43 View Post
              Seems like a great contest, but if I were running a contest, I would tend to pick screenplays that had a better chance of being made by indy producers. Then I could say -- "hey one of my contest winners was made into a film"
              Well, "Gary the Tennis Coach" got made. Boog is getting his script made....

              And 1:4000 are not such bad odds -- compared to the odds of ever selling a script.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: The Rogue Knight of Cinema: Why Screenplay Contests Matter

                Originally posted by cyberian exile View Post
                What makes you say that? I won in 2002 with a teen comedy. The 2005 winner was a comedy. I actually think BlueCat is kinder to comedies than a lot of other competitions.



                Well, "Gary the Tennis Coach" got made. Boog is getting his script made....

                And 1:4000 are not such bad odds -- compared to the odds of ever selling a script.
                Right -- the winning scripts had a good chance of being made -- I was pontificating as to whether that might ultimately swing the judging towards the smaller scripts in this particular competition. Thus leaving the big budget scripts out in the cold.


                As far as the comdies go -- I saw very few in the loglines section.
                "Take the thing you love, and make it your life"--Californication. [email protected]

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: The Rogue Knight of Cinema: Why Screenplay Contests Matter

                  I do think you're right that indie-type scripts tend to win this competition, but I can't speculate whether that's simply a matter of taste. It could be that, like Sundance, they're trying to recognize scripts that Hollywood usually overlooks. Or, as you suggest, they could be trying to get their winners made, which is after all the ultimate goal of writing a script and entering a contest.

                  Overall, I would say this particular contest skews toward scripts with well-defined characters, regardless of the script's genre.

                  There's always a market for good comedies, however, so if your script is really funny I think you'll do fine, contests or not.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: The Rogue Knight of Cinema: Why Screenplay Contests Matter

                    Originally posted by R.D. Wright
                    and this post might sound like I'm kissing up to BlueCat.

                    I think SC111 covered that for you, though Gordy may take umbrage to the typo Hairy pointed out.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: The Rogue Knight of Cinema: Why Screenplay Contests Matter

                      Cyberian - I have read for Gordy and the competition does not skew toward anything but good writing.

                      There were almost 5,000 entries this year, I believe. That's a rough estimate. The submissions have risen as Blue Cat has gained a higher profile.

                      And Ylekot - the ratio of finalists to entrants is reflective not of Blue Cat skewing or in any way profiling by genre, etc. but rather is reflective of the high number of really bad, amateurish scripts that get submitted. It's just a fact and I know it from personal experience.

                      Gordy doesn't need his ass kissed. He is a cinemafile, a smart and savvy guy and really does have a mission to help writers out. Why would he conceivably need to capitalize on a relative? It has nothing to do with it.

                      Worries about genre skewing or character driven work placing higher need to be put to bed as do concerns about the ratio of finalists.

                      Julie Gray



                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: The Rogue Knight of Cinema: Why Screenplay Contests Matter

                        BigLips:

                        I'm delighted when Hairy points out my typos, it reconfirms my opinion of him.

                        I did enjoy Gordy's film. How that qualifies as a$$-kissing, I have no idea.
                        Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: The Rogue Knight of Cinema: Why Screenplay Contests Matter

                          When you're complimenting someone on a film you should probably spell the title correctly and get the punctuation down too. If that expectation somehow reflects a character flaw on my part, then so be it.
                          http://confoundedfilms.com

                          http://www.myspace.com/confoundedfilms

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: The Rogue Knight of Cinema: Why Screenplay Contests Matter

                            HAIRY - don't be an unpleasant stickler. It's quite unpleasant. Now get back to work. Consider yourself Femme-smacked

                            Julie Gray



                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: The Rogue Knight of Cinema: Why Screenplay Contests Matter

                              Originally posted by La Femme Joyeuse View Post
                              HAIRY - don't be an unpleasant stickler. It's quite unpleasant.
                              Your writing partner taught me everything I know about stickling.
                              http://confoundedfilms.com

                              http://www.myspace.com/confoundedfilms

                              Comment

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