My Black List Experience

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  • sc111
    replied
    Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post
    Bluecat?
    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.

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  • JeffLowell
    replied
    Bluecat?

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  • Bono
    replied
    Jeff speaking of contests -- I was once a reader and had two scripts entered into a big screenwriting contest. I got paid 10 bucks a script to read. I got the job off craigslist. I was fair and if I got my own script I would have rejected it. But I laughed thinking, well if this Top 10 screenplay contest has readers that can also be people competing in the contest as writers well that's a negative.

    I took the job as I thought it would be a great learning experience. And it was. I recall one script being better than mine and I was happy to read it.

    Please don't ask which contest it was unless you want to know because I'd tell you.

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  • Bono
    replied
    As someone that has been dreaming of making a feature film since I was 16 and has failed to do so -- Im stuck in dreaming land. And that's where contest land falls for me. It's easier and safer to only enter contests and never put yourself out there. If you fail at a contest, you can blame the contest. If you fail at getting Hollywood to read your script, that's on the system. But if you get rejected by the people you want to love your spec the most -- that's hard to come back from. And that's the thing most writers are saying even if they are not aware of it. Fear of Success.

    Trust me as someone who has insane anxiety and has panic attacks -- I'm afraid of the unknown too. But you got to try if this is your dream.

    If you just want to write for fun, then you already won. But if you want to see your screenplay become a movie, then you have to actually use all the tools in front of you and enter the real life contest of breaking in.

    And to be clear, I'm not saying it's easy. But it's not impossible either.

    If an idiot like me can get repped many times, so can you.

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  • Bono
    replied
    Joe -- I'm simply encouraging writers like yourself -- ones who have proved they can write by doing well in contests -- to take the next step and also query reps. You can do both if you want. It's your money. But if you ONLY enter contests, you and other writers are not putting your spec in the best position to make yourself a paid writer one day.

    My quick journey since 2004. I made money at one point, but not part of WGA. It's a struggle. I used to enter contests, but haven't done so since 2007

    First Rep -- Query Letter via website (solo writer) Around 2004

    Second Rep (had co writer) -- Query Letter via email (But also at same time I did well in trackingb contest and was offered a rep. Same script did well in contest and with querying direct to reps). Around 2007

    Third Set of Reps (had co writer) -- Referrals. Includes one of the big agencies. Actual made some money and still got fired for being junior writers. Welcome to Hollywood kids. Around 2010

    Fourth Rep (back to solo writer)-- Referral from writer friend of 10 plus years I met on this website. Didn't even tell me he was doing it. A mensch as they say. Around 2019

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  • JeffLowell
    replied
    There was a member here years ago who used to run a consulting business, charging people hundreds of dollars for her wisdom even though she was a failed screenwriter herself. When she decided that wasn't a big enough money maker, she started a contest. Here's how she described her judging process, for her contest and for her work for the Nevada Film Commission. These are LARGELY the people you're sending your money to:

    Succeed at Failing the Quik n Easy Way!

    So at The Script Department, we're still judging scripts for the Silver Screenwriting Competition. Also for the Nevada Film Commission - betcha didn't they had one of those, didja? Well, we are. Several of us are reading. For a few weeks now. And it will continue. It has been an interesting experience; I want every writer to advance in this competition. But alas, not all can. With one keystroke, I can put the writer one step closer to success - or one step backward toward frustration. Heavy weighs the crown. I am the decider.

    But to be perfectly frank, as I lie on my couch with my laptop on my lap judging scripts on this lazy Sunday afternoon, I'm thinking two things: 1) I'd rather be doing something else and 2) I'm getting sleepy. But some writers, bless their hearts, are making it really easy and fast to judge their scripts. It's as if they know I'd rather be doing something else. It's as if they are literally greasing the tracks for me.

    Here are some track-greasing tips for a DO NOT ADVANCE checked box:

    1. Have a really weird, elliptical title that makes no sense
    2. Write really dense, detailed action lines and include some typos.
    3. Describe your characters in way too much detail, including personality traits.
    4. Do not use sluglines
    5. Make sure your script has no point in the first ten pages.
    6. Make sure the tone and genre are impossible to key in on in the first ten pages.
    7. Include a lot of typos and malaprops.
    8. Use a weird font and format that make your pages hard to read.
    9. Take your sweet time with set up; say it don't show it!
    10. Describe your characters in like one or two words. Tell me what they are thinking,
    don't show me through their actions.

    It's so easy to hit "do not advance". It only takes a page or three before I do it. And when you do that a lot, you whiz through scripts. It's the good scripts that give me pause. I want to just go, go, go but I can't - these pages - they are fascinating! What voice! What imagery! What a delightful, playful, engaging read! What an interesting concept! Man, you guys are slowing me WAY down. Didn't you read the list, above? Harumph.
    FWIW, some of the things she dinged scripts for would get an actual professional reader fired if they dinged a script over those issues. So even in her laziness, she was inept.

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  • JeffLowell
    replied

    Jeff, you yourself said in the past to the members to use every route possible to break in. You said, why restrict yourself. On one occasion where you mentioned this happened during a discussion on would it be a waste of time for a member to query a major studio executive. You didn't say use every route possible with the exception of contests because, and I quote: "very few contests that do anything more than give you encouragement for your money."
    As I said, there are a few good contests. Nicholl and Austin are the obvious ones, I'm sure I'm forgetting one or two. Also, fellowships that are affiliated with networks or studios are great if the writer qualifies for them. (Some are part of diversity programs.)

    (By the way, tell this to the people who got representation and sold their scripts because of their advancements in contests.)
    I know it wasn't exhaustive, but you posted a list of six writers from Nicholl going back, what, 25 or 30 years? Hundreds of people get their first job every year in Hollywood. You don't hear about them because no one is trumpeting their name to try to get you to send them an entry fee.

    If you ask managers how they find their writer clients, the number one answer will be referrals, then contests. It happens with a cold query, but it's tough.
    First off, referrals are numbers 1-50 on that list, and contests clock in at 51. (If that's even correct. I would bet more writers get repped by cold queries than contests, but I can't prove it.)

    It's tough to get a representative with a cold query. It really is. It's also a hyper competitive industry with hundreds of thousands of people chasing thousands of jobs. Entering meaningless contests isn't easier, it just feels that way because you know it's getting read. (And most of them are meaningless.)

    And it's not like a writer either has referrals or doesn't. You get referrals by hustling and meeting people. Strike up a friendship with someone on twitter. Join a writers group and get to know people. Figure out which of your friends/family has a connection in the industry. Use your college. Get a job or volunteer with people in the industry. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc.

    There are executives from studios and top production companies, who don't accept queries, but will judge a contest where a writer has a possibility to get his material seen by these people.
    I'm guessing an executive who's low level enough that they're actually judging a contest will take a look at a query letter. Everyone says they won't read scripts through a query letter, but sometimes if you're creative enough or have a great enough logline or work to find a connection, they will.

    Jeff, you and Bono say the following: "I think people's time is better spent trying to get it to people in the industry who can help get it sold or get you a job."
    Easier said then done for the guy sitting at his computer writing scripts in Butte, Montana.
    None of this is easy! It's really hard! It's why it's almost impossible to break in and the average career is less than five years. But again, I *promise* you - the overwhelming majority of people who are writing professionally today didn't break in through a contest. I've worked with literally hundreds of writers, and I can only think of a few who broke in through a contest - and those were all through legit fellowships like Disney or Warner Brothers. (I think the WB one is gone?)

    Yes, for those people who want a writing career your chances are stronger if you move to Hollywood, working somewhere in the industry so you can make connections and relationships to get referrals for your material, but the majority of writers are not able to do this. And for the majority of non-pro writers working in the business in LA, they are still entering scripts into contests.
    Again, there are numerous ways to meet people on-line who can pass your script on. You don't need to move to LA. And yep, people are entering meaningless contests. People are also playing the lottery to solve their financial problems and reading their horoscopes to get life advice.

    Just to be clear in all caps: THERE ARE A FEW CONTESTS/FELLOWSHIPS THAT ARE PROBABLY WORTH ENTERING.

    But none of them are essential. The contest business is largely a money making hustle.
    Last edited by Done Deal Pro; 01-26-2021, 06:58 AM.

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  • JoeNYC
    replied
    Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post

    I'm with Bono 100%.
    Jeff, do you hate me? Okay, I'll stop acting like a drama queen and not make this personal. Let's talk facts.

    Jeff, you yourself said in the past to the members to use every route possible to break in. You said, why restrict yourself. On one occasion where you mentioned this happened during a discussion on would it be a waste of time for a member to query a major studio executive. You didn't say use every route possible with the exception of contests because, and I quote: "very few contests that do anything more than give you encouragement for your money." (By the way, tell this to the people who got representation and sold their scripts because of their advancements in contests.)

    If you ask managers how they find their writer clients, the number one answer will be referrals, then contests. It happens with a cold query, but it's tough.

    There are executives from studios and top production companies, who don't accept queries, but will judge a contest where a writer has a possibility to get his material seen by these people.

    Jeff, you and Bono say the following: "I think people's time is better spent trying to get it to people in the industry who can help get it sold or get you a job."

    Easier said then done for the guy sitting at his computer writing scripts in Butte, Montana.

    Yes, for those people who want a writing career your chances are stronger if you move to Hollywood, working somewhere in the industry so you can make connections and relationships to get referrals for your material, but the majority of writers are not able to do this. And for the majority of non-pro writers working in the business in LA, they are still entering scripts into contests.

    Look, for the writer living outside the movie business district, things like contests and The Black List is part of his referral system.

    I don't get Jeff and Bono's position.

    In my opinion, if practical and financially feasible, use every route possible. Jeff, I am completely dumbfounded. I would think this is all common sense.
    Last edited by JoeNYC; 01-26-2021, 05:08 AM.

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  • JeffLowell
    replied
    I'm with Bono 100%. There are very few contests that do anything more than give you a little encouragement for your money. And worse, a script might hit a reader that doesn't get it and get dinged, and now you're down on a script that might be special.

    I think people's time is better spent trying to get it to people in the industry who can help get it sold or get you a job. A contest feels like it's tangible because it's getting read, where reads are tough to get otherwise... but so few people break in that route vs the "normal" routes.

    And to be a complete bummer: knowing you're in the top 20% of amateur writers when there are fifteen thousand writers in the WGA isn't much of a guide on how you'll do in the marketplace.

    Leave a comment:


  • Bono
    replied
    Originally posted by sc111 View Post

    Hmmm. I disagree. We've discussed at length how subjective contests are generating widely divergent opinions on the quality of the same script.

    Winning a contest may help prove you can write. But bombing out of a contest doesn't mean you can't write. That's something one must determine for themselves with objectivity and self assessment.

    The industry is subjective. Hell all of life is. Writers live in a weird world sometimes where they think things should be as fair as they are in the fake stories we write. But in real life -- it's all subjective and unfair. However....

    If you submit screenplays to contests and never get positive feedback, I think that's pretty clear. If you submit one spec to one contest that's not a good judge. But most of us will submit a script to more than one contest and you will know if you can write. I didn't do so well with my first contests, but I did get some positive feedback to keep trying with the next specs. Eventually i got to the point where I started querying managers directly.

    To the writers that can hear me -- at a certain point you've got to go from contests to trying to reach Hollywood people directly. Because that's your best chance. If you get lucky and a contest does the introducing for you -- you won the lottery.

    Leave a comment:


  • sc111
    replied
    Originally posted by Bono View Post

    Contests to prove you can write. Then once you prove you can, query.
    Hmmm. I disagree. We've discussed at length how subjective contests are generating widely divergent opinions on the quality of the same script.

    Winning a contest may help prove you can write. But bombing out of a contest doesn't mean you can't write. That's something one must determine for themselves with objectivity and self assessment.


    Leave a comment:


  • Bono
    replied
    I did really well in a contest. Same script got me a rep BEFORE contest results were posted. So I proved that literally a "great" script will find a home if you try. But yes, it would have worked out if I only entered that contest to make you feel better Joe. However, that's not the norm.

    Some people ONLY enter contests and NEVER try to find a rep. So to me that's a very slim margin to break in.

    Contests to prove you can write. Then once you prove you can, query.

    Leave a comment:


  • sc111
    replied
    Originally posted by finalact4 View Post

    The reality is, there are extremely talented writers that never make it, let alone make it big. We never see their amazing creative worlds that could blow us away, because someone dictates "what" is worth making. Yes, it's a business. Yes, it's competitive. But there's some amazing **** that we will never see.


    .
    True. At least writers of prose fiction can self publish online, market themselves and gain even a small following. Perhaps even catch the eye of a publisher if you're skilled at social media marketing.

    But contests as a way of breaking in? Thousands and thousands of scripts entered year after year. And only a small percentage of the winners ever get any traction. Of those, a smaller percentage become working writers.

    The Nicholl has been around since -- what?-- the 80s?

    When I look at the list of Nicholl winners who went on to forge careers, it's amazingly short.

    It's a testimony to how competitive the industry is.

    Bono's point is solid: if you're only entering contests for 10 years -- and never winning -- at some point you have to put yourself out directly to the industry gatekeepers by querying. Now that's risking rejection, IMO.

    Losing a contest isn't rejection in my opinion.

    It is sad that far too many awesome writers never get past the gatekeepers.

    What I find even sadder is the thousands of far less than awesome (bad) scripts clogging up the pipeline. And contests encourage this tsunami in my opinion.

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  • sc111
    replied
    Did you read the article I linked? Of course not.

    It doesn't matter. Because the novels you cite don't disprove Bono's point. They actually support his point.

    These authors didn't enter their work in contests for 10 years. Which was Bono's point to you.

    They all submitted their work to publishers for consideration.

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  • JoeNYC
    replied
    Originally posted by sc111 View Post

    Still incorrect.

    The Harper Lee novel that was rejected was titled "Go Set A Watchman" and had the same characters but set 20 years later when Scout was an adult. The publisher that did buy the Watchman version in 1958, gave it to an editor who asked Lee to rewrite it as a story with the same characters 20 years younger.
    Are you denying that “To Kill A Mockingbird” was rejected by 10 publishers because the 11th publisher that bought the manuscript decided to change its title, so technically it wasn’t THE “To Kill A Mockingbird”? In my “rejection” thread, I addressed the work with the editor and the rewrites.

    From two years ago:

    “’To Kill A Mockingbird’s’ manuscript by Harper Lee was turned down by 10 publishers until an editor at J.B. Lippincott Company, Therese von Hohoff Torrey, saw promise in the writer’s voice, where she said in an interview: ‘The spark of the true writer flashed in every line.’ After a lot of work with the editor, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ went on to be a best seller and win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Horton Foote won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.”

    sc111, why are you arguing about these details? The point was about the mantra “write a great script” and about the fact that a great script is not immune to rejection. A writer still needs to market it in as many routes as possible to increase the odds of crossing paths with an industry person that it would resonate with, such as for Harper Lee it was Ms. Torrey at J.B. Lippincott Company.

    Maybe you didn’t like my “To Kill A Mockingbird” example. Fine, how about the following:

    Stephen King’s first novel, “Carrie,” received 30 rejections.
    J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Porter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” 12 rejections.
    John Grisham’s “A Time To Kill,” 28 rejections.
    James Joyce’s first book "Dubliners" took 9 years and 18 rejections.

    Think about how many great works of art, novels or screenplays, that never found a way to get past all the rejections.
    Last edited by JoeNYC; 01-25-2021, 05:12 AM.

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