My Black List Experience

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  • Bono
    replied
    Listen, I'm just using that as an example of how little most contests mean to reps vs referrals. Even if they read every Nicholl Finalist, still low odds of that being you or me. So it's a little hyperbole on my end to make my point.

    My current rep read 2 things I wrote and wanted to write something new together as he liked my voice. So sometimes it's about the next idea.

    But yes that's why Jeff and I also said (and others) that high concept ideas help you in every way. At every point in scriptland, it's about the idea.

    Anyway -- I feel you're looking for reasons not to query at this time. So no matter what anyone says, that will be your conclusion that it doesn't work for you even though you are literally rewriting a romantic comedy, one of the most popular genres ever.

    I guess my question would be, what's the harm? You send out 100 queries and see what happens?

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  • JoeNYC
    replied
    Originally posted by Bono View Post

    Plenty of managers/agents have said they barely look at Nicholl finalists or care. That's how little some of these top contests mean to the Hollywood Players.
    This is not the take I get from managers/agents, but if it is true, then I'm screwed.

    Bono, you keep pushing queries. The concept/logline is the king/heart of the query letter. For a great majority of industry professionals looking at query letters, they are looking for a unique high concept pitch. Anything less, especially without being vetted, does not interest them. Developing a writer is expensive and takes up a lot of their resources. It takes away their time and energy toward the writer clients they already have. So, for them to take on another writer, first the concept must be an eye opener, and then the requested script must be executed well.

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  • Bono
    replied
    You don't get heat from a script contest except a small few may help. Plenty of managers/agents have said they barely look at Nicholl finalists or care. That's how little some of these top contests mean to the Hollywood Players. They frame it like everyone cares, but that's not true.

    You've got to generate your own heat. That's the key to this argument.

    Actually what first helped me was I queried my spec on a Sunday to a producer we all heard of and he responded in one hour and wanted to make the movie. So of course that never happened and didn't get option money -- long story -- but his name opened a lot of doors in my query letters. Not all doors. Mostly it gave me confidence to keep pushing the script.

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  • JoeNYC
    replied
    Originally posted by Bono View Post

    If Mickey Fisher had listened to Joe's advice and only entered the top 5 contests Joe listed in post #95, he never would have won Trackingb Contest and launched his career. See I can play this game too Joe!

    I think you should query one of those scripts to reps.
    When I mentioned those 5 top contests, I'm not saying those are the contests to enter. Previously, I mentioned that a writer must research contests to see which one is best for the screenplay he has. For example, some contests are good for high concept scripts and not low concept, and vice versa. Part of my research and the thread on contests would have gone over this aspect, but I lost the enthusiasm for that contest topic.

    Jeff also mentioned that I should at least query while I enter contests. In fact, finalact4 also suggested this is what I should do, but I'm trying to be patient. My teen romantic comedy concept is not high concept, so it would be tough to garner interest from an industry person through a cold query letter. I would like to have some heat attached to the script and query letter, such as an advancement in a respectable and credible big contest.

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  • Bono
    replied
    Joe -- You can talk to me directly if you want too, but I think Jeff is a good PR man for me.

    If Mickey Fisher had listened to Joe's advice and only entered the top 5 contests Joe listed in post #95, he never would have won Trackingb Contest and launched his career. See I can play this game too Joe!

    I'm just trying to encourage all writers to push themselves. That's all. Enter all the contests you like Joe. You call it "harsh" I call it "tough love". I think you should query one of those scripts to reps. Or the next one you finish. You've gotten enough feedback to prove you should take that next step. If you want to do contests AND query, go for it. But I'm simply saying, I want you and others to make it. And to make it, you have to try all avenues. Not just one. And contests are only one way in. And a way I don't think is the best way.

    But honestly you are going to do what you want. I'm really talking to the other writers reading this post that haven't made up their mind or become a pro writer already like Jeff.

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  • JoeNYC
    replied
    Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post

    Neither Bono nor I said never to enter a contest.

    You sent your teen romcom out to multiple professional readers, then paid for three evaluations from the blacklist, and now you're going to nine contests. IMO, that's a waste of money and time.
    What does the following statement from Bono imply: "I get sad when writers of 10 plus year experience are still entering Nicholl or any contest over and over again... I just don't think that's the way in."

    Jeff, you said you agree with this statement 100%. 100% means fully, not partly with later stating, well there are a few contests worth entering. I showed with Dues, Wenonah and I'm sure there are others that this statement is bunk. Sorry, Bono, I do get the spirit of your post, but as articulated, it seemed harsh to the 10 plus year writers.

    Jeff, you bring up entering 9 contests as a waste of money. You know that I mentioned in previous posts it was only to do research on contests to write a thread at the end of the 2021 contest season. You don't have to worry about me financially. I have the money. I've never entered a screenplay in more than 3 to 5 contests. Last year I entered my "American Slaves" screenplay in 4 contests. With the negativity from sc111, I'm not going to do a thread on contests, so I won't be entering 9 contests.

    You bring up the Black List as added with other things like contests and professional reviews that it was a waste of money. Using the Black List wasn't for feedback. I believe using the Black List for feedback is a waste. I used the Black List to market my screenplay, but it failed to garner the needed overall average score of 8 to go out on the e-mail list to the industry professionals. This is what you and Bono advocate, didn't you? Be active.

    As for the professional readers, I posted in the ANNOUCEMENT forum for three comedy writers to swap feedback with for my teen romantic comedy. I had 100 views, but not one member asked to swap feedback, so I was forced to pay for professional feedback. When I posted my action adventure for feedback, there were 300 views, but only one gave me feedback. Cyfress was gracious to volunteer his time and energy to give me in-depth, thought out notes. Thank you, Cyfress.

    Edited to add: trackingb contest is not one of the top three. It's one of the top 10, but not 3.

    In my opinion, the top 5 contests are: Nicholl, Austin, Page, Launch Pad and Final Draft.

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  • JeffLowell
    replied
    Originally posted by JoeNYC View Post
    Okay then. You were mistaken. You don’t agree with Bono 100%.
    Neither Bono nor I said never to enter a contest. I agree with his analysis of the relative worth of contests as a way of breaking in.

    You sent your teen romcom out to multiple professional readers, then paid for three evaluations from the blacklist, and now you're going to nine contests. IMO, that's a waste of money and time. If you had a screenplay you loved and were sending it in to Nicholl, Austin and trackingb while you were also trying to get it to agents, managers, producers and executives, no rational person would say "boo."

    And it looks like Bono was ahead of the curve with Wenonah Wilms's story. It looks like she had at least five short films produced before her win with Nicholl. That's not someone who sits behind her desk and fires scripts into contests. That's someone who's hustling and busting her ass to break in.

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  • Bono
    replied
    I bet Wenonah was ALSO writing query letters AND entering contests...

    https://www.wenonahwrites.com/

    According to this she won many contests and had many things produced, so this doesn't really hold up as Nicholl was reason she was "discovered" since she had success long before 2018.

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  • Bono
    replied
    For everyone else that can hear me -- I'm literally encouraging writers to believe in themselves and not just do contests forever -- and that is upsetting to some members.

    I didn't say NEVER enter a contest. But it's easy to hear what you want to hear.

    I don't think you can find a many pro screenwriters who never entered a contest. But they didn't become pros because of those contests.

    I don't know why some members try so hard to not get simple points.

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  • JoeNYC
    replied
    Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post

    Just to be clear in all caps: THERE ARE A FEW CONTESTS/FELLOWSHIPS THAT ARE PROBABLY WORTH ENTERING.
    Okay then. You were mistaken. You don’t agree with Bono 100%.

    Yes, there are contests that are not worth entering. This is why a writer needs to do research before entering a contest. Nicholl and Austin are the top contests, but there are other contests that have been valuable to writers. Done Deal member slupo obtain representation from winning the trackingb competition. There are other members who have obtained representation from contests other than the top 3.

    Yes, the majority of working writers didn’t break in through contests, though there is no doubt some did, so why discourage a writer from taking that route if he doesn’t solely rely on contests?

    Jeff, I’m surprised you knocked my list of Nicholl winners because they were, as you said, “going back, what, 25 or 30 years?”

    You know there are some Nicholl Fellowship winners who are obtaining representation and work to this day.

    For example, take Done Deal member Wenonah Wilms. In 2001, she was a 30 year-old stay-at-home mom raising 3 young boys in Minneapolis when she got inspired to write screenplays. Over 17 years she wrote 22 screenplays. For the first 16 years, she entered 12 screenplays into the Nicholl and other contests.

    This is the type of writer Bono was talking about feeling sad for, who entered contests over and over again, but her persistence and her belief in herself paid off where she was a 2018 Nicholl Fellowship winner for her script titled: “Horsehead Girls.” She received $35,000 and an agent at UTA.

    After her win and receiving top representation, and now that her boys are all grown up, she was thinking of moving to LA for her screenwriting career.

    Sure, for the majority of the 5,000 to 8,000 writers entering contests, only a small amount will turn that quarterfinals and higher advancement into obtaining representation and work. So, this is why it’s suggested to writers to use as many routes as possible to break in.

    If Wenonah was discourage from entering contests, she may well be still sitting in Minneapolis writing query letters.
    Last edited by JoeNYC; 01-26-2021, 11:48 AM.

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  • Cyfress
    replied
    Can't your A list writer connection give it to an Agent or Manager? Seems like you have something people would kill for at your fingertips. Especially since he seemed to like the script the most. I say this because you say you are looking for an in to the industry which we all know can be quite difficult to do. Maybe a referral from the pro you know can get it in the hands of a decision maker.

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  • Bono
    replied
    I think creative people often misjudge their own talent. Especially today, everyone thinks they are a star. Just check out TikTok and the like. We encourage kids -- sometimes to a fault. I grew up in the 80s and you were more likely to hear "you suck" then "keep trying" during any activity. And usually from family and friends.

    But yeah I think I knew I had writing ability in 1st grade when I wrote a poem and I got sent to principal to read it -- and got a giant sticker. I still remember it. It was first time I noticed I had something.

    And I always did well in creative writing.

    Still that's different than writing a screenplay that is good. My first few were terrible. So feedback is very helpful.

    I think showing your work to a stranger and getting positive vibes is a great way to see if you have talent.

    If you get 3 out of 10 people who read it to say "this is pretty good" I'd take that as a positive.

    Originally posted by sc111 View Post


    This is the point I'm getting hung up on. I think people know whether or not they're above-average writers. It's not a mystery -- compare one's work to the work of a pro writer in the genre you prefer and figure out the quality gap between the two.



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  • Bono
    replied
    Originally posted by sc111 View Post

    Ha! That was the only contest I entered. With the my first script which I never sent anywhere else because it was definitely indie fare. And when I received polar opposite notes from two readers -- it's great, it sucks -- I decided contests were a waste of my time.
    Sorry one of them might have been my review.



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  • Bono
    replied
    Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post
    Bluecat?
    Winner.

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  • sc111
    replied
    Originally posted by Bono View Post

    ...But most of us will submit a script to more than one contest and you will know if you can write....

    This is the point I'm getting hung up on. I think people know whether or not they're above-average writers. It's not a mystery -- compare one's work to the work of a pro writer in the genre you prefer and figure out the quality gap between the two.

    Then do some soul searching and decide if your talent is at a level where you can further develop your skills to close that gap. And be honest with yourself about the odds of that happening.

    When it comes to art, people have no problem figuring out if their work is comparable to a professional artist. Why should it be any different with writers?

    Will posted some quotes by Fran Lebowitz in the business section that address my point (boldface, mine):

    Originally posted by Done Deal Pro View Post

    Most people who love to write are horrible writers. So of course, they love to write. I love to sing by the way; I’m a horrible singer. So if you love to do something you’re really bad at, that’s not surprising. Here’s the thing. You can do a lot of things that are not good, and there is nothing wrong with doing things ineptly, or badly or horrifyingly. But keep it to yourself. Do not share this. I think people have an obligation to show to the world things that are — not great, most people are not capable of that — but better than most things people show to the world. Now people show every thing.” Fran Lebowtiz

    “The main thing writers need, and painters or any other kind of artist, is talent. And the great thing about talent it’s that it’s the one thing — it’s the only thing I can think of - that is absolutely randomly distributed throughout the population of world. It has nothing to do with anything. You cannot buy it. You cannot learn it. You cannot inherit it. It’s not genetic. It’s sprinkled like sand around the world… It’s probably the reason why so many, especially in this country, are looking for explanations for success of a book — when I say success I mean commercial success — other than talent, because it’s infuriating to people.” Fran Lebowtiz
    Talent is a challenging topic to discuss. No one wants to say to others, or hear from someone else about oneself: "You don't have talent."

    I believe talent exists on a spectrum -- from slightly above average talent all the way to OMG freaking amazing savant talent.

    As Jeff said above, this is a brutally competitive industry. It's up to each of us to determine where we fall on the spectrum because there's no room for those of us on the low end. And I do not believe contests are an accurate measure of that spectrum save for people who consistently win contests. And I'm quite sure they had figured out their talent level long before ever entering.


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