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Contests

Managing Expectations: Lessons From a Former Screenplay Competition Director

By Contests, Success Stories

Once upon a time before becoming a literary manager, I was the Director of Script Competitions at Austin Film Festival and I was fortunate to interact with countless wonderful writers – reading their scripts, sharing in their excitement if they advanced, connecting them to industry professionals, and perhaps seeing them get one step closer to making their dreams come true. Seeing all the hope that screenplay competitions can provide led me to pursue management as a way to further help writers thrive in the real COMPETITION presented in Hollywood. And, as in the nature of that word, many will enter and few will win. As a former screenplay competition director turned literary manager, I am here to share some key lessons I’ve observed from being on both sides that could be helpful to writers looking to competitions as a way to launch a writing career.

LESSON #1: KNOW WHERE TO SUBMIT

Before shelling out money on entry fees, do your due diligence and review the program’s track record and see if what they’re offering is worthwhile for you. The Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting is widely considered the gold standard – they receive more feature script submissions than any other program so keep that in mind before submitting but a win there provides invaluable widespread industry attention. Similarly regarded is Austin Film Festival (yes, I’m biased but also a true believer) which is, along with the Nicholl, one of the longest running OG screenplay competitions around and has the added incentive of providing advancing writers special opportunities at their Writers Conference. And I would undoubtedly vouch for ScreenCraft‘s programs, which has an a la carte menu of genre-specific writing competitions to enter throughout the year and has a great track record with writers. To help with your research, check out Coverfly.com (you’re here!) and Moviebytes.com as it has perhaps the most comprehensive listing of screenplay competitions out there with reviews and ratings.

LESSON #2: WINNING/PLACING DOESN’T GUARANTEE ANYTHING

Well, aside from the guaranteed prize amount which you also might be guaranteed to pay tax for, there is no guarantee that winning a competition will land you your dream manager or sell your script. Competitions are invested in the success of their top writers, so take full advantage of the opportunities they provide but that can only go so far. Ultimately, you’re steering the ship and it’s really about the work YOU do with leveraging your win/placement. What that recognition represents at the very least is that you’ve been vetted and have people who can vouch for you. If you’re inbox isn’t blowing up with requests to read your script, it’s up to you to put yourself out there and strike while the iron is hot. Send query e-mails to promote your recognition if you need to but be smart about whom you send them to and how you write them. Even winning is still the result of the subjective opinion from a set group of individuals so not everyone may end up vibing with your winning script so it’s important to be prepared for the inevitable question of “what else you got???” which brings us to…

LESSON #3: YOU ARE ONLY AS GOOD AS YOUR NEXT SCRIPT

You may have received recognition from a major competition but, if that script is the only thing of note you can share, it’s likely going to be a red flag for a rep. Talent, consistency, and longevity are traits of successful professional writers. Winning a competition gives you a great platform but it’s not the main stage just yet – it’s more of a dress rehearsal to see if you have the mettle to be a working writer and consistently generate material. Even if you’re in the middle of writing your follow-up script and not ready to share it just yet, at least be ready to talk about it as well as your slate of ideas for new projects.

LESSON #4: BE SMART AND KNOW YOUR WORTH

I have seen many writers sign with the first and only manager that reached out to them after a top placement without even doing their due diligence. Not all managers are created equal so ask questions and make sure the person is a perfect match for you creatively. You need to find the right creative partner who understands your voice and will always have your best interests in mind. If you only received interest from one manager and that person isn’t a right fit, don’t settle. It’s like dating so would you really want to get married after the first date? As one of my colleagues always says, “Be hungry, not thirsty.” Just be smart about it.

It’s also important to know your worth, who you are as a writer, and what you bring to the table. It really is essential to recognize what your unique super power is among many other talented writers because, at the end of the day, that is what reps are also going to be asking themselves about you. The better you know yourself as a storyteller, the easier it will be for you to know who the right rep is for you.

There are endless lessons to be learned and as William Goldman once said, “Nobody knows anything.” As frustrating as that may sound, it’s also incredibly freeing to know you can set your own path. What may or may not have worked for another writer may not even apply to you. Ultimately, it’s always going to be about trying, not giving up, and learning as much as you can along the way. Because after all, you can’t win if you don’t submit.

 

Matt Dy is a Literary Manager at Lit Entertainment Group. Formerly Matt ran the Austin Film Festival’s Screenwriting Competition. Lit Entertainment was founded by manager-producer Adam Kolbrenner who produced the Oscar-nominated film, Prisoners, for Warner Bros/Alcon Entertainment, written by Lit client Aaron Guzikowski. Lit Entertainment’s next film is Fox’s Free Guy, along with Greg Berlanti and Sarah Schechter. The film, starring Ryan Reynolds and directed by Shawn Levy, is an original spec from Lit client Matt Lieberman.

Coverfly Pitch Week: My Journey to Getting Signed

By Contests, Screenwriting 101

I’m LeLe Park, and I’m a screenwriter who went from being un-repped to being repped in just over a year.  

It was October 2018; my ego was firmly against the wall of “no, thanks.”  I didn’t know where to go next. I was fully prepared to hunt the globe for talent representation, permanently.  I’d written my drama series pilot and poured all my emotional octane into it and physically pushed myself — sleeping only 3-4 hours a night for over a year.   Now, I was running on fumes.   

Then one day a friend-of-a-friend suggested I compete to stir up some legitimacy around my efforts. After gaining the traction I’d hoped for from competing, Coverfly’s Pitch Week selected me in their new opportunity offering!   

Part of the reason I was exceptionally excited was because Coverfly is so unique.  Its efforts to ensure that competitions and festivals are both credible and following best practices is truly a credit to its care for the participants and the reality that new writers can be preyed upon.  Coverfly’s also so well-respected and trusted that it cuts right through the concerns of even accomplished writers.  Add to it a platform as tidy and concise as this one: creating its own Pitch Week and harvesting through its massive database of talent… it organically lends a selected writer credibility, opportunity, and recognition worth noting.  

Are you a writer with a few completed screenplays under your belt?
Apply to Coverfly Pitch Week for FREE to connect with agents, managers and producers.

When I was notified I’d made Coverfly’s Pitch Week, there was a sliver of hope that representation was near!  This mythical unobtainable marker in a writer’s journey is ripe with such a variance of avenues and conditions… and now it was possible.  The ability to possibly be in front of talent management and producers in the hopes of connecting or becoming represented, that’s always enticing!  It’s hard enough to get signed as a writer when you live in Los Angeles full-time.  For me, a working mother of two small boys going between LA-and-Chicago and new to the process — it felt as fanciful as it did unlikely.  

A calendar invite was sent my way and days later the online meeting began.  I was ready to answer questions about my lead character’s journey, ready to discuss my vision, was excited to discuss character development and hopes for the project.   But, then the first question was, “So, can you tell me about yourself and how you got here?”  

The moment that question came out, I started blathering.  I was fumbling through it like the kid who hadn’t wanted to catch the ball, and I was just hoping I didn’t mess it up so bad that I’d blown the opportunity.  I realized I need to be completely comfortable answering questions. Having great answers is lovely but how they’re answered is just as important.  I had to embrace sharing my journey and how my projects had marinated  — a teachable moment brought my way, thanks to Coverfly’s Pitch Week.  

Despite my blathering and worry,  I was selected and signed by Eric Borja at Alldayeveryday!

From that point on, my manager and I spent time building a “two-pager” for my drama series, The Bliss Killer.  We spent time retooling and better preparing me for wider discussions about the project — to speak about my show’s message, genesis, and trajectory — the benefits of signing with someone who enjoys developing writers!  Even today, we’re still discussing, fine-tuning, and preparing materials for my drama series and soon will be preparing my other projects as I currently wrap my limited series, Night vs Day and have begun sharing my latest feature film, Visceral Fatherland.

Having a manager has opened doors.  It’s allowed me to participate in query submissions that widely prefer receiving materials from a manger/agent.  And it’s added validity to my abilities as a fresh member to the community.  I still work my hustle and focus on listening and connecting to those that carry more experience.  I look for opportunities to ask for help from advocates of my projects — and that’s also part of the process of working with a talent manager — they’re there for you, but you still have to be there for yourself.  They’re the additional engine to your hustle, not the end of your hustle.

Coverfly’s Pitch Week brought me to another level; first by selecting me, then by creating the opportunity to be seen and heard by a talent manager who enjoys writer development, and from there lifting my credibility game once signed by the manager.

If you have the opportunity to submit your work for consideration via Coverfly’s Pitch Week, I highly recommend it… you never know what the game-changer will be.


LeLe Park is a Chicago based screenwriter. Her original pilot “The Bliss Killer” has won/placed in over 40 competitions including Screencraft, Final Draft, Scriptation Showcase, Cinequest, Script Summit, and Shore Scripts. Her short screenplay, “ACHE”, has won/placed in 30 screenwriting competitions including Austin Film Festival, Oaxaca Film festival, Rhode Island International Film Festival (RIFF), and The Richmond International Film Festival. She was “staff pick” at ScriptD, a guest speaker at Bucknell University, and pitch choice at Coverfly. She recently finished her highly-anticipated feature script, “Visceral Fatherland” and is currently wrapping up her second feature “Topt” and her limited series “Night vs Day”. She is represented by Eric Borja at Alldayeveryday (Los Angeles). https://lelepark05.wixsite.com/lelepark

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Calling All Writers! Weekly Screenwriting Contest Roundup — 1/13/20

By Contests

Screenwriting competitions are tried and true when it comes to planting a foot firmly in the appropriate door. Here are five of the hottest contests that are wrapping up soon.


JANUARY 15 — CINESTORY FEATURE RETREAT AND FELLOWSHIP COMPETITION — Early Deadline — $60


JANUARY 19 — PAGE INTERNATIONAL SCREENWRITING AWARDS — Early Deadline — $40+


JANUARY 20 — APPLICATION FOR STOWE STORY LABS NARRATIVE LABS AND WRITERS’ RETREATS, FELLOWSHIPS AND PARTIAL SCHOLARSHIPS — Regular Deadline — $45


JANUARY 21 — CREATIVE SCREENWRITING UNIQUE VOICES SCREENPLAY COMPETITION — Early Deadline — $29


JANUARY 31 — SCREENCRAFT SCREENWRITING FELLOWSHIP — Regular Deadline — $69


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Calling All Writers! Weekly Screenwriting Contest Roundup — 1/6/20

By Contests

Screenwriting competitions are tried and true when it comes to planting a foot firmly in the appropriate door. Here are five of the hottest contests that are wrapping up soon.


JANUARY 9 — LAUNCH PAD MANUSCRIPT COMPETITION — Final Deadline — $95


JANUARY 10 — NANTUCKET FILM FESTIVAL SHOWTIME®TONY COX SCREENPLAY COMPETITION — Regular Deadline — $65


JANUARY 15 — FILM PIPELINE SCREENPLAY COMPETITION — Exclusive Deadline — $20

 


JANUARY 15 — CINESTORY FEATURE RETREAT AND FELLOWSHIP COMPETITION — Early Deadline — $60


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Screenwriting 101: How to Get an Agent

By Contests, Screenwriting 101

It takes a lot of effort, time and possibly even a good amount of sweat and tears to write a kick-ass screenplay. Some of us have been at it for years. There are plenty of classes and books to help you along the way as you craft your story for the screen, but the one thing most people don’t mention is what to do after you have a screenplay that’s ready for the marketplace. 

Screenplays are products and to sell one, you need a literary agent. Some writers get by with just lawyers, but if you’re a new writer, you’ll likely want to start by getting a manager. A manager who believes in you will be able to refer you to agents with whom they have relationships. Agents, on the other hand, are most useful when you’re at the point where studios and/or producers are interested in one of your screenplays and can negotiate a deal. Most industry professionals recommend getting both a manager and an agent to set up your career with the best odds of success. 

If you don’t have any of the above, the first thing you’ll want to do on your quest for an agent is to get your screenplay read by industry professionals. Here are the best ways we’ve determined to get your script in front of Hollywood eyeballs and move your career to the next level. 

1. Make Query Phone Calls

It used to be common to send query letters, then emails. Finding an agent’s assistant’s email address is easy and there’s very little stress clicking the send button. But it’s just as easy to find that assistant’s office phone number, too. Very few people make phone calls anymore so this is a chance for you to stand out. Most likely, you won’t be able to get the assistant on the phone your first try so try a few times (1:00 PM to 2:00 PM PST is the industry standard lunch break, so avoid calling then).

If you do get them on the phone or are forced to leave a message, the secret is expressing your passion for your project while sounding like a sane adult. If you can make an argument as to why the story in your screenplay is the most gripping, relevant or funniest story of the year, you may get some interest. If you’re leaving a message, leave your phone number AND your email address, as they are more likely to email you back. But be smart about who you contact. If you know a manager represents primarily comedy writers, there’s no need to waste your time calling them about your post-apocalyptic sci-fi epic.

2. Attend Screenwriting Conferences and Summits

Some of the better conferences like Story Expo (held in New York and Los Angeles six months apart), Toronto Screenwriting Conference and ScreenCraft Writers Summit, invite successful screenwriters, literary agents and managers to give talks and be available to answer questions. These events are set in a much more casual environment than most industry events, so the odds of walking up and introducing yourself to a literary manager at one of the social mixes are in your favor.

3. Send Your Script to Screenwriting Competitions

Most of us have heard stories about doors opening for a screenwriter after winning a screenwriting competition. At the very least, many managers will request to read the winning script and that’s a good thing. But do your homework. Screenwriting competitions can get expensive so you need to target the competitions you enter. The likelihood of a raunchy comedy winning the Nicholl competition is pretty low, so send them your best dramatic screenplay. If you write horror, focus on The Bloodlist. Austin Film Festival has a great competition and their conference is very writer-friendly. There are several good competitions out there that can open doors for new writers.

4. Go to Film Festivals

Even if you don’t live in Los Angeles or New York, you can still go to film festivals like Sundance, Slamdance or South by Southwest and meet other filmmakers, producers, agents and managers. Bring a stack of postcards or business cards that have the name of your screenplay or web series, the logline, your website/blog and your email address. 

5. Get a Job as an Assistant 

If you’re in Los Angeles or New York, or even some of the cities where a lot of filming takes place like Vancouver or Atlanta, there are plenty of film companies and production studios looking to hire that amazing assistant. It’s a great way to learn the business and to make contacts. If you’re nice, professional and helpful, someone will certainly be willing to read your script. 

6. Stunt Marketing

What is stunt marketing? It’s promoting your script in a clever way that hasn’t been done before. Billy Domineau wrote a Seinfeld spec called “Twin Towers” about 9/11 that went viral and landed him a job on Family Guy. Henry C. King purchased billboards near Sony in Culver City and in Studio City near Universal Studios directing anyone interested to look up his script on blcklst.com. These methods are unconventional so do your research before spending any money.

Here is the Writers Guild of America’s list of accredited agents. Be sure to let us know if you have any success!


ShaneeEdwards graduated from UCLA Film School with an MFA in Screenwriting and is currently the film critic for SheKnows.com. She recently won the Next MacGyver television writing competition to create a TV show about a female engineer. Her pilot, Ada and the Machine, is currently in development with America Ferrera’s Take Fountain Productions. You can follow her on Twitter: @ShaneeEdwards


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Calling All Writers! Weekly Screenwriting Contest Roundup — 12/16/19

By Contests

Screenwriting competitions are tried and true when it comes to planting a foot firmly in the appropriate door. Here are five of the hottest contests that are wrapping up soon. Keep up to date with all of 2019’s top competition, fellowship and lab deadlines here.


DECEMBER 22 — SCRIPT PIPELINE GREAT IDEA CONTEST — Late Deadline — $40



DECEMBER 31 — THE CAROL MENDELSOHN COLLEGE DRAMA FELLOWSHIP
 — Early Deadline — $40


DECEMBER 31 — INROADS SCREENWRITING FELLOWSHIP — Early Deadline — $20+


JANUARY 3 — NEW MEDIA FILM FESTIVAL SCREENWRITING CONTEST — Late Deadline — $64


JANUARY 3 — SCREENCRAFT ANIMATION SCREENPLAY COMPETITION — Early Deadline — $49


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Calling All Writers! Weekly Screenwriting Contest Roundup — 12/9/19

By Contests

Screenwriting competitions are tried and true when it comes to planting a foot firmly in the appropriate door. Here are five of the hottest contests that are wrapping up soon. Keep up to date with all of 2019’s top competition, fellowship and lab deadlines here.



DECEMBER 14 — SCRIPT SUMMIT
 — Early Deadline — $20


DECEMBER 15 — WESCREENPLAY FEATURE CONTEST — Final Deadline — $79


DECEMBER 15 — SCRIPT PIPELINE GREAT IDEA CONTEST — Regular Deadline — $35


DECEMBER 16 — STOWE STORY LABS AND WRITERS’ RETREATS, FELLOWSHIPS AND PARTIAL SCHOLARSHIPS — Early Bird Deadline — $38


DECEMBER 18 — SCREENCRAFT FAMILY SCREENPLAY COMPETITION — Final Deadline — $69


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Calling All Writers! Weekly Screenwriting Contest Roundup — 12/2/19

By Contests

Screenwriting competitions are tried and true when it comes to planting a foot firmly in the appropriate door. Here are five of the hottest contests that are wrapping up soon. Keep up to date with all of 2019’s top competition, fellowship and lab deadlines here.


DECEMBER 10 — SHOOT YOUR SIZZLE SCREENPLAY COMPETITION — Final Deadline — $65


DECEMBER 10 — LOS ANGELES INTERNATIONAL SCREENPLAY AWARDS — Late Deadline — $39+



DECEMBER 14 — SCRIPT SUMMIT
 — Early Deadline — $20


DECEMBER 15 — WESCREENPLAY FEATURE CONTEST — Final Deadline — $79


DECEMBER 15 — SCRIPT PIPELINE GREAT IDEA CONTEST — Regular Deadline — $35


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Calling All Writers! Weekly Screenwriting Contest Roundup — 11/11/19

By Contests

Screenwriting competitions are tried and true when it comes to planting a foot firmly in the appropriate door. Here are five of the hottest contests that are wrapping up soon. – Some with deadlines this week! Keep up to date with all of 2019’s top competition, fellowship and lab deadlines here.


NOVEMBER 15 — WESCREENPLAY FEATURE CONTEST — Regular Deadline — $69


NOVEMBER 15 — BOOK PIPELINE FICTION CONTEST — Regular Deadline — $60




NOVEMBER 15 — FILMLABTV
 — Regular Deadline — $30+


NOVEMBER 15 — KILLER SHORTS — Regular Deadline — $20


NOVEMBER 21 — LAUNCH PAD MANUSCRIPT COMPETITION — Regular Deadline — $75


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Calling All Writers! Weekly Screenwriting Contest Roundup — 11/4/19

By Contests

Screenwriting competitions are tried and true when it comes to planting a foot firmly in the appropriate door. Here are five of the hottest contests that are wrapping up soon. – Some with deadlines this week! Keep up to date with all of 2019’s top competition, fellowship and lab deadlines here.


NOVEMBER 7 — FRESH VOICES — Final Deadline — $60+


NOVEMBER 15 — ATLANTA FILM FESTIVAL SCREENPLAY COMPETITION — Extended Deadline — $50+


NOVEMBER 15 — WESCREENPLAY FEATURE CONTEST — Regular Deadline — $69


NOVEMBER 15 — BOOK PIPELINE FICTION CONTEST — Regular Deadline — $60


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