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John Rhodes

Goodbye Withoutabox

By | Announcements

After more than 10 years, film festival submission platform Withoutabox is shutting down, according to emails from the company to festival administrators today.  The company announced:

“After more than 10 years operating the Withoutabox film festival submission service, we have decided to phase out the service over the next year.

We are working with current film festival customers to fulfill Withoutabox’s commitments through October 30, 2019 and are working with filmmakers to ensure their submissions are properly processed during this transition. We are grateful to all the filmmakers who have shared their stories through Withoutabox and the film festivals who have discovered talented artists around the world using our service.

Why are you disabling the service?

After extensive consideration, we have decided to phase out the service over the next year. We are working with current film festival customers to fulfill Withoutabox’s commitments through October 30, 2019 and are working with filmmakers to ensure their submissions are properly processed in this transition phase. We are grateful to all the filmmakers who have shared their stories through Withoutabox and the film festivals who have discovered talented artists around the world using our service.”

The website pioneered online submissions for film festivals, and quickly grew to be the largest platform for submitting independent films for consideration by festivals. The company was launched in January 2000 by founders David Straus, Joe Neulight and Charles Neulight which allowed filmmakers to distribute their films to festivals. In January 2008, Withoutabox was acquired by IMDb, a subsidiary of Amazon. At its peak, Withoutabox hosted over 3000 film festivals on five continents, including such world-renowned festivals such as Sundance and the Toronto International Film Festival.

The company earned revenue by charging a commission on festival submission fees, as well as by selling advertising to film festival administrators to promote their call for entries.

While the service was a breath of fresh air for filmmakers initially, who prior to Withoutabox had to submit their film 35mm prints and VHS tapes literally in a box to film festivals with a check for payment, the tide of public opinion began to turn.

After growing quickly to dominate the marketplace of film festival submissions, Withoutabox began to encounter criticism from festivals and filmmakers for charging to much money for their service and for having an unstable technical platform that was difficult to navigate.

Controversies

“The honeymoon was over for festivals,” as industry analyst Stephen Follows wrote in a piece titled The seismic shift in the world of film festivals.

Even before Amazon’s acquisition of the platform, anger and discontent about the service began to grow, as Withoutabox was blamed for a buggy site, high upfront fees for film festivals, high commission fees, anti-competitive practices and litigious behavior against upstart competitors, claiming unnecessary rights from filmmakers, and poor customer service. Additionally, Withoutabox claimed a patent on their submission platform which they wielded against would-be competitors.

A Facebook group called Filmmakers and Festivals Against Withoutabox was formed, and now has over 6,000 members.

Withoutabox came under fire for paying top film festivals to exclusively use their platform. As recently as this year, Withoutabox negotiated a 3-year exclusive deal with Sundance. It remains to be seen what will come of this deal in light of today’s news of Withoutabox’s demise.

As recently as last year (April 2017), Withoutabox crashed under the huge volume of of HBO Access screenplay submissions.

FilmFreeway’s debut in 2013 quickly supplanted Withoutabox as the preferred submission platform by many festivals and filmmakers.

Today there are several industry-leading submission platforms for films and screenplays, notably:

  • Coverfly (specializing in curated screenplay competition submissions management)
  • FilmFreeway (specializing in film and script submissions, and event ticketing)
  • Submittable (specializing in multi-format submissions including film, books, essays and applications)

Coverfly has quickly grown to be the leading submissions management platform specializing in screenwriting competitions, fellowships and writing labs. Open only to top screenwriting competitions with proven reputations, Coverfly offers festival and contest administrators robust features for managing their contest’s submissions.

 

Coverfly Partner Contest Criteria

By | Uncategorized

At Coverfly we believe that screenwriting competitions can be effective and valuable avenues to early career success for emerging writers.  That said, there are contests out there with less-than honest claims and dubious track records. All writing competitions, fellowships, labs and festivals on Coverfly are held to strict quality standards and must adhere to the criteria below.

As a service to writers, Coverfly carefully considers a screenwriting competition’s merits before allowing a competition to be listed on Coverfly.

A screenplay contest, fellowship, lab or writing program on Coverfly must adhere to the following criteria:

  1. Ethical Marketing: a Coverfly partner must make no false claims in marketing material or on its website, including email marketing, social media marketing and Google search marketing. Every claim must be truthful and transparently communicated on the competition website.
  2. Ethical Judging: a Coverfly partner must clearly state its evaluation process and carefully review each submission. The people reviewing submissions must be qualified to evaluate screenplays, and must have requisite industry experience. The evaluation process must include multiple rounds of evaluation, and the competition must publicly announce the winner(s).
  3. Transparent Industry Reach: a Coverfly partner must provide genuine entertainment industry access, exposure and/or mentorship, by offering at least one of the following:
    • a) One or more specifically named judge(s) on the contest page who is/are industry professional(s), as defined below.
    • b) One or more specifically named mentor(s) who who is/are industry professional(s), as defined below.
    • c) A verified track record of past competition winners who have gone on to achieve industry career momentum by either signing with a reputable manager and/or agent, and/or earning money for professional writing services.

We define “industry professional” as a person who has on-screen credits on at least one theatrically released feature film and/or at least one publicly released television episode, or who is an agent or manager with clients who a have on-screen credits as writers or directors, or who is an executive at a company with theatrical film and/or TV credits.

If you have any questions or concerns about any competition that is listed on Coverfly, please feel free to email us directly: support@coverfly.com. We will respond to you promptly.

 

Screenwriter Patrick Byrne Signs with Literary Manager via Coverfly

By | Announcements, Success Stories

We’ve got another writer to congratulate: Patrick Byrne was discovered by literary manager Gavin Dorman via Coverfly! In the past couple years Patrick has received accolades from PAGE International Screenwriting Awards, WeScreenplay, ScreenCraft and the Nashville Film Festival.

Two of Patrick’s screenplays have been featured recently as top projects on The Red List – most notably, his feature screenplay The 405.

Patrick Byrne was born in St. Paul, Minnesota. For the last ten years he worked in TV and film (LOST as a production assistant for four seasons, and on the movies BATTLESHIP and INCURSION). He is a screenwriter and teacher. He currently lives in Japan with his wife and son.

Gavin Dorman signed Patrick after discovering him via Coverfly. Gavin is an independent producer/manager based in Los Angeles, CA. Previously, he worked for several years as a development executive at Vertigo Entertainment, where he helped craft a multitude of film projects, including: The Lego Movie (the 2014 blockbuster based on the toy line), Poltergeist (a remake of the horror classic), Run All Night (the Liam Neeson mob-thriller), The Stand (based on Stephen King’s esteemed novel), Deus Ex (based on the popular video game franchise).

This good news is on the heels of another recent Coverfly success story just a few weeks ago: Colin Dalvit & Andrew Lahmann Sign with Manager Josh Dove at IPG via Coverfly