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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Great Competition Results - Now What?

The other day we talked about what to do next if this competition season yielded zero results for you. How do you handle that disappointment and put it in perspective?

On the other hand, what if a script you've written placed in a competition? What if people start calling you? It's a great problem to have, right? I have already had three managers email me and ask to see the top five scripts in the Silver Screenwriting Competition. And we haven't even announced the winner(s) yet. That's tomorrow.

First of all, a quarterfinalist placement is not likely to garner any phone calls or interest. You'll need to have placed as at least a semi-finalist. And it depends on the industry relationships going on with the competition you entered.

If your script did well in a competition, first of all, congratulations. That means your script was more original and better executed than the majority of other scripts in the same competition. This puts you in the top percentages. And that's something to be very proud of. But what happens next? Is your phone going to start to ring? And if it does - what can you expect? Does this mean success is knocking at your door? It might. But proceed with caution.

Two things to think about:

One: Please be measured and thoughtful in your response to those who may contact you asking to see the script. Don't freak out with joy and promise them exclusive rights to your script, all future scripts or your first born child. Don't make a $1 option agreement with the first joker who calls. Don't be overly flattered; be cool, man. Be cool and do a little research. Look up the person on IMDB Pro. What are his or her credits and professional credentials? Where is their office located? This may be a new company which has no credits, but click on the names of the principals; at a different company they probably do have credits of some kind. One would hope. Be careful. In fact, if you are in doubt, contact me and I might be able to shed some light on the reputation and track record of the rep in question.

Two: You do have an arsenal, right? More than the one or two scripts you entered this year? Are you writing within the same genre? I hope so. You want to establish yourself as an expert in one genre. Many writers feel (and I used to too until it got me nowhere) that they should write in many genres to prove that they have flexible chops. Don't do this. It won't prove anything, it just makes you less marketable. Line up your arsenal and have a look. Do you have another sample ready to send out if requested? Is it in great shape? Now is the time to get some feedback and assurance on your other scripts. A rep who calls and asks for more samples will be greatly turned off if it turns out the competition winning (or placing) script was your best work and that, in other words, you do not have "legs" as a writer. Nobody wants to rep a one-off.

So let's say it's the worst case scenario. You placed well in a competition, the phone rings and you really don't have any other samples ready to go. While it's not the ideal, it's not the end of the world, necessarily, either. A stop-gap would be to have a list of what you're working on handy, and where each project is in it's completion. Have a list of premise lines, in other words, and be able to say: this one is in outline form, this one is halfway written, this one is just an idea. You should have this anyway, Wavers - at all times - your Inventory List.

Whether you placed this year or not, now is the time to review your inventory of scripts and take stock. Do you have an offering of several scripts in the same genre? Scripts which showcase your voice, your particular point of view and your strengths? Scripts that are read-ready right now, sans structural, thematic and pacing problems?

If the answer is uh - not really then it is possible that your placement this year will not yield you the results you'd hoped for. And there's always next competition season to work on that. Wavers, I cannot stress enough how important having an arsenal of scripts stacked up is. I had one client who placed well at a very big deal competition call me in a bit of a panic. She doesn't have anything else ready to go. Not a terrific situation to be in. I know that every time I talk to a potential rep about one of my clients, the FIRST thing they ask is what else the writer has. Again - one-off = no good. Reps want to know that you have more where that great script came from. That you can consistently write salable material, in other words.

Become a member of new The Rouge Wave II. Create your own page. Network. Socialize. Discuss stuff. It's free and it's fun. Find out how other Wavers fared in competitions. Discuss your experiences with various reps. Share. Be friends.

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Anthony Peterson said...

Would you recommend writing several scripts before you even bother entering one in a screenplay competition?

Luzid said...

"How do you handle that disappointment and put it in perspective?"

As one of the disappointed, allow to share my findings with others like me - as Julie said in a prior post, it's not always about the quality of the work when you don't advance.

Case in point: the same script I submitted to the SSC, which didn't place at all, received very high marks (overall, 52 out of 60, mostly 9 out of 10, including perfect scores on compelling main character and his arc) in Script Savvy's August contest (final results not yet posted).

Clearly, as I already knew, the work is solid. This demonstrates that contests are a very subjective thing, and writers should be careful not to live and die by them (even when the results are positive).

Julie Gray said...

Hi Anthony - I really do recommend honing your craft on a few scripts before submitting. Either that (or in combination with) getting some great feedback on your script before submitting. It's one thing to be better than the majority (as in a quarterfinalist) but it's quite another to be a semi-finalist or finalist.

E.C. Henry said...

Why did you even bother doing Rouge Wave II? If people are interested in chatting can't they do that through your regular posts? And IF they connect they can always e-mail or chat with each other. Guess I'm not seeing the need, or real benefit...

Gotta admit though, Emily Blake's picture ROCKS. Someone somewhere said she only had ONE good picture. Now, having seen a couple pictures of her, I'm prone to believe ALL of her pictures rock! If the screenwriting/producer thing doesn't work out, she should go into acting/modeling.

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

Julie Gray said...

You are probably the chattiest Rouge Waver I have ever had, EC and I think you could benefit from and have a lot of fun on the RWII because you can chat and add posts to the forum, etc. I can't reply to every comment here and there is a time delay. I added the RWII to facilitate community and communication. I'm surprised you of all people would have a bone to pick with that, mister chattypants :)