Tuesday, August 12, 2008

(Belated) Competition Re-cap

Since this site is about our climb up the screenwriting ladder, from the ground up, it's only fair that we document our lack of success, as well as our successes. As you have probably read, most of us tried our hands at the competition circuit this year. Three of us entered the Scriptapalooza Screenplay Competition, and four of us entered the PAGE International Screenplay Competition. While scriptapalooza is a lump competition, PAGE is divided into genres; Onyx submitted his historical script; Zombie sent into the comedy category; DOA entered her thriller, and I was Mr. Action/Adventure. July and August was results months.

The first round of results brought good news; all four of us in PAGE advanced to the quarter-finals. Of 3,865 scripts, we had all made the top 25% - impressive, but to be honest, I think we all felt entitled to that. We didn't want to jinx ourselves, but after our four years of formal training and our continued writing since, I don't think any of us saw the results as a surprise.

Next, though, came a big hit. Not one of us advanced in Scriptapalooza. Before I go on, I should mention that we had a feeling (correctly, it turns out) that Scriptapalooza, without its genre breakdowns, would be more of an uphill battle. Of nearly 4,400 scripts, just barely the top 9% advanced. OK - we weren't in the top 9%. Unfortunately, we had no way of knowing where we stood. Were we in the top 15? The top 25? No way to tell. Good thing we were still in PAGE, at least.

For a bit. PAGE announced their semi-finalists not long after Scriptapalooza's news came out. Onyx and I were actually on our way to D.C. that weekend. We both got out of work early and were hoping to catch a 4PM bus. I'd asked Zombie to text me if word came in after 3PM, when Onyx and I left for the bus. At 3:06, my phone dinged. Results were in. After bumbling on the sidewalk for a minute, trying to decide whether we had to know right then or if we could wait an entire bus ride from NYC to D.C., Onyx and I decided to head back to my office and see if we'd made it. Again, disappointment across the board. Not one familiar name popped up. C'est la vie.

While we were on the bus, Zombie actually shot me another message, saying that one of the guys who had advanced in Onyx's historical category had actually won first place in another competition a year earlier. That got me thinking: what do the competitions accomplish? In theory, they can earn a writer representation or a deal. In practice, it seems that so few of the winners get anywhere with their scripts because of the competitions, and those that do most often find success with small companies based in Europe or elsewhere. I know I have no right to be picky at this point, but the truth is that the magnitude of the script I'd submitted was such that I don't think I would have felt comfortable with a small, Eastern European company I'd never heard of producing it for a couple million dollars. I'd submitted a blockbuster, a behemoth of an action movie the likes of something Warner Brothers would do.

We ended the competitions feeling a bit down, a bit turned off to the whole process. Then, came one last email. PAGE informed all contestants that the competition was extremely close this year, and a tie-breaker round had been used. Ok, fine. Well, it turns out that DOA, Onyx, and I had made it to that round, and though we didn't advance, we were informed of the strength of our scripts and urged to refine and keep submitting them places. It actually took me some time to decide how I felt about knowing that. One the one hand, it was solid reassurance that the script I'd worked on for a year and a half was not complete crap. On the other hand, the script wasn't good enough to move forward, and I wanted to know why. Of course, that information didn't come.

In the end, I decided to feel good about my script, rather than ruin myself wondering why it didn't go further. Success in the competition circuit, much like finding an agent or a producer, is probably dependent upon luck - at least after a certain point. Maybe we got a judge who just wasn't into our stuff, or not digging it that day, or just in a foul mood. Maybe we had one typo, whereas the competition had zero. Maybe it just wasn't our day. Maybe we have work yet to do. At the end of the day, though I didn't win either competition, I wouldn't say I failed. I don't think any of us did. And we're certainly not giving up. The climb continues.

1 comment:

Onyx said...

I think the results were good, although we'd all like them to be better. Everyone who submitted to PAGE advanced a round and made it to the top 25% of their category. I'd like to think that the first round is where they separate the people who have an average to exceptional understanding of screenwriting, from the people who have a below average understanding of screenwriting. In the end we didn't win, but we all beat out hundreds of other writers, many of whom have probably been doing this a lot longer than us. On that note, many of the people who beat us have been doing it a lot longer than us, and in some cases IMDB confirms that. I value our formal training, but in the end it holds little weight without experience. A professor told me that with each new script that you write you gain a little more experience, learn a little more about your craft, improve just a little more. I think we're on the right track. All we have to do is keep writing.