Tips & Advice on Conquering the Contest Season, Part 1: The Feedback!
by Geno Scala
Now that the 2012 screenplay contest season is well under way- actually, it really IS a never-ending cycle of contests that run from year to year- there are a few pointers I’d like to share about contests, some helpful sites to share, and some tips to improve your chances of winning. This is part one of those suggestions.
You’ve spent all of 2011 writing, rewriting, perfecting, and rewriting again (several more times) your screenplay. You have visions of awards, accolades and acceptance speeches. Are these delusions of grandeur or apparitions based on real world critiques?
TIP #1: Get feedback.
Two words- get it. Free, if possible; pay for it if necessary. I call it my “cheers, peers, and rocketeers feedback process”.
Your family and BFF’s are in the “Cheer” group. Trust me, my wife and kids and “besties” loved my very first feature screenplay, and I spent over $450 entering contests. The truth was that I actually had no idea about formatting, structure or even about basic writing concepts. Needless to say, when I put this script in the bottom of the bird cage, Sydney, my cockatiel, died from boredom. “Cheers” will love anything you do or say. Don’t believe a word of it.
The next group consists of your “Peers”. These are fellow writers whom you’ve learned to trust, respect and have learned from over time. They may be found within your individual writers groups at home, in your social media network, or a particular creative writing class you attended in junior college- anywhere. They usually do not have any axes to grind, and will actually support you and hope the best for you as a fellow writer. While they may also be your direct competitor in a contest or in selling a script, most of these fellow writers do not even consider this. They always seem to be the most willing helpers. If they are not, you are traveling in the wrong circle of people.
The last group consists of your “Rocketeers”. These are those in positions that can help your career take off like a rocket by virtue of whom they are or who they know. If anyone in this category gives you ANY kind of feedback- perhaps in response to an inquiry or as a personal friend or contact- heed their advice. In all likelihood, they know from what they speak.
So, my first advice regarding entering and preparing for a contest is to obtain multiple feedbacks, as many as you can afford. You will probably receive varying opinions on the structure, characters, genre, etc., of your script, but there IS something that is usually in universal agreement about most scripts- whether it is good or bad. If it’s good, make it great. If it’s not good, hold off on contests for now, and make your screenwriting foundation stronger.
Next week: How and Where to Find a Contest That Best Suits You!
Geno Scala has been writing for over twenty years, and was one of the Executive Directors for the 1999-2000 Academy Awards presentation. He is an optioned screenwriter with nine screenplays to his credit, and is an alumnus of ScreenwritingU. He maintains a business in Hollywood, and resides in beautiful Huntsville, Alabama with his rocket-scientist wife, a daughter in grad school, another daughter in college in CA, and two teen-aged sons.