My Black List Experience

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  • #76
    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.

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    • #77
      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.

      Comment


      • #78
        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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        • #79

          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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          • #80
            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.

            Comment


            • #81
              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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              • #82
                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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                • #83
                  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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                  • #84
                    Bluecat?

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                    • #85
                      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.
                      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


                      • #86
                        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.


                        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.-

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                        • #87
                          Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post
                          Bluecat?
                          Winner.

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                          • #88
                            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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                            • #89
                              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.



                              Comment


                              • #90
                                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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