Tag Archives: writing contest

Training for the CyberSpace Open: A script per day!

When I started my 10 day screenwriting challenge the other day, little did I realize how this might get me in shape for one of the most interesting screenwriting contests I’ve seen:  Screenwriting Expo’s CyberSpace Open.

The contest is set up in round-robin (elimination) style. Each round the participants must write a five page short script around a specific premise. You can write from anywhere. To win you need to survive 3 rounds, each with a tighter deadline than the last.

In the final round, the top 10 writers have only 90 minutes to write a 5-page script. Whew!

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I’ve been writing a short script per day for the past 7 days. I missed one day, so I only have 6 scripts. I was hoping to write 2 today, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.

I may actually keep doing it for 2 weeks. We’ll see if I run out of steam.

I will post my favourite script of the 10 (or 14) right on this site. :-)

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G.A. Pitchfest Part 2

The Do’s, Don’ts, Myths, Facts (around the industry, pitchfests, and pitching)

This post is a collection of things heard straight from the pros mouths and from my own observations of what I consider “bad behavior” – meaning things that will  make you annoying and appear difficult or amateur.

The last thing you want to do is appear difficult to work with or ignorant of the industry. I don’t care how good your script is, if people decide off the bat that you are going to be a pain in the ass, you’ll never get your brilliant script read. You are asking them to invest precious time, energy, and money in your project, working with you for many months, even years… if you don’t sell yourself first, you certainly won’t sell your script.

reel scrpt

Do NOT…
… pester executives / decision makers at networking parties. The first thing out of your mouth when you meet someone at an industry event should not be a pitch. How do you know you even want to work with this person if you don’t get to know them?
… carry the DVD of a movie you made around with you trying to show it to everyone you meet.
… go to a pitchfest if you are not a serious screenwriter. Serious screenwriters have more than one script and many more in their heads. Serious screenwriters have spent time on their craft. They know how to edit and they know how to take criticism. They understand that filmmaking is a collaborative process. If you aren’t in it for the long haul (and it is a haul), you’ll be wasting everyone’s time.

reel scrpt

Myths

-NO ONE IS GOING TO STEAL YOUR IDEA. If you are afraid to pitch to an executive because you think they’re going to steal your idea you need to get over it. First off, they are professionals. If they got caught stealing ideas, their reputations would suffer. But even more practical than that… the portion of the budget that goes into the script/writing is minimal. It makes more financial sense for them to buy your idea from you than risk going to court.

(BTW – When I was teaching a screenwriting course, one of my students didn’t want to share her story with the rest of the class because she thought they might steal it. First of all, if you took that idea and gave it to 10 people, they’d end up with 10 different scripts. Second, after they wrote it, they’d have to spend months/years polishing it and pitching it and somehow get someone to produce it (where it would be changed again). Sounds like a lot of effort to me towards someone else’s idea. But also – you’ll never get the feedback you need if you don’t share your script.)

-Whoever has said your script won’t get read/made if over 100 pages is misinformed. Keeping it tight is a must (i.e. 130 page scripts tend to put people off), but if it’s a tight script at 115 pages, and it’s a great script of course, people won’t care. A great script is a great script.

-Big agencies are not always better. They could be too big for you. They might not have the time to really work with you. They are really looking for the NEXT BIG SCRIPT. You may be better off with a boutique agency.

reel scrpt

DO!

-Network!  Get to know people and get to know the people that you know. You don’t have to know a lot of executives to get assistance in the industry. Start with the people you know already. If you have a friend who is an assistant director, take them out to lunch and ask them for advice. People are suprisingly more helpful than you might think. You just need to ask.

-Take chances and be flexible!  Don’t be married to your ideas (could the protagonist be the magician rather than the orphan?) or with your vision of what your career looks like. If someone asks you to write a commercial for a petstore and you think this is beneath you, you could be missing the opportunity to make a good impression on people who might offer you more work.

-Love what you write. Whether high concept or art film, it’s going to be with you for a long while. Everyone can smell inauthenticity in a script written simply because you thought you were following some formula for a blockbuster.

-Enter reputable contests. Although not the “golden key” to production, they will get you noticed and management companies do care. BE CAREFUL of scammy contests with no professional merit or valuable offering for the winner. The Reel Breakthrough panelists all mentioned Cinestory, Fade In, and the Nicholl Fellowship. One panelist said she entered a contest and didn’t win, but one of the judges optioned her script.

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G.A. Pitchfest Part 1

There’s so much to tell about the Great American Pitchfest that I need to break my posts down into bite-size nuggets.

Right off the top I have to say the whole thing is worth the price of admission. If you are serious about screenwriting and ready to take yourself to the next level, it is definitely the place to be. If nothing else, it will give you a crash course in pitch practice, something that every screenwriter must learn to do (no matter how much we detest it).

(I have only been to the FTX Pitchfest in Vancouver and to this one, but there is also the Hollywood Pitch Festival in August, which is even larger)

Saturday consisted of FREE workshops and panels that anyone could attend, even if they weren’t signed up to pitch on Sunday. I’ve attended so many workshops and panels on screenwriting that much of the material was redundant. But for those who have been writing in a vacuum, there was a great deal of value.

There were workshops aimed towards writing such as “megahit movie climaxes,” “mastering the creative process,” “writing great endings,” and Dara Marks “Inside Story” workshop on personal themes. There were also workshops on how to pitch, how to network, legal tips, and working with agents.

There were panels of action movie screenwriters, comedy screenwriters, executives giving advice on what they’re looking for in a pitch, and my favourite panel: Reel Breakthroughs.

Reel Breakthroughs was a panel of screenwriters who were just a step or two ahead of us, the ones who had recently gotten feature scripts optioned/bought. I liked it because it was very authentic and encouraging. It was personal stories from people I could relate to. The message to me was simply keep doing what I’m doing. There is no one way to make it, you just have to persevere and ride the ups and downs. They had taken courses, entered the right contests, and networked. (hands down they all said the CINESTORY and FADE IN contests were the most useful)

And of course, they kept writing… and writing… and writing.

(UP NEXT: do’s, don’ts, myths, and facts)

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Blake Snyder’s Logline Contest

And speaking of Blake Snyder and loglines… he’s having a contest on his blog. The deadline is Feb 18.

The idea is that you have to change one letter in the title of a famous movie, and write the logline for that film.

For Example:

GONE WITH THE WINE — Scarlett “Merlot” O’Hara is a southern belle and lightweight drinker, whose fierce ambition to save her ante-bellum home changes to a mumbled “fiddle-dee-dee” whenever she has more than one glass of “Tara-ble” table wine.

One of his readers named Gary has come up with some good ones:

Nightmare on Elf Street – A killer is targeting the happy helpers of the North Pole threatening to kill Christmas. Ho, ho horror.

and

The Fridges of Madison County – When called to fix an ice maker a Maytag repairman falls in love with a married woman.

Here are my entries:

AMERICAN PIG
Four young hogs make a pact to sew their wild oats before they become breakfast sausages.

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD YEN
A hunter is pursued by Yakuza after he stumbles across a pile of heroin and Japanese cash.

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