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Coverfly Inside Look: Your Script Produced

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The first annual 2019 Your Script Produced! Worldwide Screenwriting Competition launched recently, sponsored by Doval Bacall Films, who will fully fund, develop, package and produce the Grand Prize winning film script for $250,000 USD. There is also over $25,000 available in cash prizes for the winner.

Part of Coverfly’s mission is to curate a selective list of screenwriting competitions, and to promote transparency by interviewing the administrators behind screenwriting competitions.

Doval Bacall grew up in the inner city of Detroit, Michigan. His appetite for learning, and burning desire to succeed motivated him to educate himself and learn the foundation and skills necessary to become a successful businessman. He believes that you can never think of yourself as a master of any trade or skill, as it stands in the way of improving yourself.

After a successful run in real estate acquisitions and developments, and creating what is known today as Bacall Capital, Doval Bacall has shifted his attention to the Film & Entertainment Industry, which has always has been his passion.

We interviewed Doval and asked him some questions about Your Script Produced! Competition — See his answers below:

Coverfly: Thanks for doing an interview with us about your inaugural screenwriting competition. Why did you start the Your Script Produced! Screenwriting Competition? 

Doval Bacall: I have always loved films and the business and wanted to produce films. I’ve studied screenwriting and I’ve read hundreds of screenplays. After spending a year researching how films get made, I decided to simply learn by doing. This is why I’m fully financing a feature film. And to find a screenplay, I decided to create an opportunity for up-and-coming talented writers.

This is why “Your Script Produced!” Worldwide Screenwriting Competition was launched.

CF: Who’s judging this inaugural competition and how will you select the winner? 

DB: We have several Hollywood veterans who joined our team to discover and launch writers worldwide including:

  • Sheila Shah (Known for Saw V, Rambo V… 14+ more credits to her name.)
  • Shannon Makhanian (One of Hollywood’s best casting directors for 20+ years with 200+ feature film credits.)
  • Bruno Chatelin (Former film distributor for Sony & UGC Fox, Founder of Filmfestivals.com, Launched 200+ films.)
  • Tim Abell (Known for: Sniper: Special Ops, We Were Soldiers and 150+ credit to his name.)
  • Al Maddin (Music/Film Producer working with Def Jam, Lionsgate and Paramount. Known for working with Jam Master Jay, Mary J Blige, and 50+ more celebrity artists.)
  • Tim Lounibos (Known for: Bosch, Hawaii Five-O, JAG, The West Wing, and 50+ TV/Film Credits to his name.)
  • Mike Beckingham, brother of Simon Pegg (Known for: Subconscious, AMS Secrets, Black Site, and 12+ credits to his name
  • Rob Van Dam, world-famous Wrestler/Hollywood actor (Known for: Sniper: Special Ops, Time Toys, 3-Headed shark attack, and dozen-plus credits to his name.)
  • Angela Harvey (Known for: Teen Wolf – MTV, Salvation – CBS, Station 19 – ABC, and 12+ Film/TV credits to her name.)
  • Genevieve Wong (Known for: Law & Order, Access Hollywood, E! News, and 30+ TV credits to her name.)

The Grand Prize and Category finalists will be selected by our elite jury. I will select the Grand Prize script and produce the film.

CF: Who’s financing the $250,000 budget to produce the winning screenplay? 

DB: I am personally financing the grand prize for a quarter-million dollars. No need to wait for anyone, I want to live up to my promise, and my promise is to discover, develop, fund and produce the grand prize winner and I will guarantee it gets done. There is no catch. This is a dream opportunity for many writers.

CF: Besides seeing their film produced, are there any other things that the winner of this screenplay competition will receive? 

DB: Absolutely! The writer will come on board as a consultant since this is the story they have written, and he/she will experience first hand working with seasoned Hollywood players and learn the process of developing the script (perfecting the story and making it production ready) and throughout pre-production and on set-production. The experience our winners will receive will be priceless. Category finalists will also get a behind-the-scenes look at the development and production process.

CF: Why is there a submission fee? 

DB: Just like any other competition such as Big Break, Austin Film Festival, The Academy Nicholl Fellowships, and many other organizations that charge a fee, we also charge a fee that covers the logistics of operating a large talent-discovery program, including paying script readers, our elite roster of judges, marketing and promoting the competition AND the winners in The Hollywood Reporter, Variety Magazine, Script Magazine, and The Script Lab.

Your Script Produced! Worldwide Screenwriting Competition guarantees to produce the Grand Prize Winner. The category winners will be optioned and we’ll help develop, fund and potentially produce their feature films or TV shows as well.

Our unparalleled cash awards and prizes make our competition worth the entry fee.

CF: Are there any specific types of screenplays that you and your team are looking for in this inaugural competition?

DB: We are looking for what Samuel Goldwyn once had advised, “Give me the same, with a twist.” Well told stories that can entertain the audience and maybe even teach a life lesson or two.


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Coverfly Inside Look: The LAUNCH Million Dollar Collegiate Screenplay Competition

By | Contests, Inside Look, Interview

The LAUNCH is a Million Dollar Screenplay Competition for college students with the mission to inspire the next generation of great screenwriters. The LAUNCH will enable one talented screenwriter to realize their dream by having their screenplay made by Hollywood producers as a feature film, with a budget of at least $1,000,000 USD. Plus, the top eight finalists will be awarded a total of $100,000 USD in education grants and other prizes.

Zachary Green is an entrepreneur, film producer and most importantly, one of the judges and brains behind The LAUNCH. He began his career at the prestigious William Morris Talent Agency in their infamous mailroom and has since had a successful career in brand storytelling, ranging from social media/marketing companies like House Party, to traditional promotional marketing firms like Equity/Pitch (Burger King) and Simon Marketing (McDonald’s, Toys R Us, Warner Bros. Paramount, Artisan Entertainment), to game-changing startups like internet incubator Idealab and others.

We recently had the opportunity to ask Zachary a few questions about The LAUNCH. See his answers below.

Coverfly: What does THE LAUNCH Million Dollar Screenplay Competition offer student screenwriters?

Zachary Green: The mission of The LAUNCH: Million Dollar Screenplay Competition is to find the next generation of amazing collegiate screenwriters from around the world. Through the screenplay competition, The LAUNCH awards $100,000 in education grants to the top eight screenplays, with the top three receiving an offer of representation with APA and Valor Entertainment, and the grand prize winner will have their screenplay produced as a feature film with a budget of approximately $1 million. The competition offers college students an amazing chance to break into the entertainment business.

CF: How did this screenwriting competition come about and who’s involved? 

ZG: Philanthropists Chuck and Marni Bond approached producers Jason Shuman and myself about starting a program to benefit college students in the arts. They wanted to help college students find a way to break into the entertainment business, while helping to offset some of the rising costs of attending school.  After a few different iterations, The LAUNCH: Million Dollar Screenplay Competition was born.

CF: Tell us a little bit about your first year’s winner Stanley Kalu and his screenplay, THE OBITUARY OF TUNDE JOHNSON.

ZG: Stanley Kalu is now 22 years of age, a senior at USC and a screenwriting major.  He is originally from Nigeria, now calls Kenya home and his winning screenplay The Obituary of Tunde Johnson was written his sophomore year and was the first screenplay he ever wrote.

The Obituary of Tunde Johnson is a gripping and emotional drama about a queer, wealthy black teenager stuck in an endless time loop of police brutality until he can come to terms with his sexuality and confront his current toxic relationship.  After reading it, Zachary and Jason knew they had found the perfect screenplay to select for the Grand Prize in the inaugural year of The LAUNCH Million Dollar Screenplay Competition.

CF: What’s one unique piece of advice you’d give to writers who enter your screenplay competition?

ZG: The biggest piece of advice I can give writers entering the competition, is to write about what you know and write from the heart.  The top three screenplays in last year’s competition were all deeply personal screenplays and from just about page one, you could feel each of the writers emotional journey on the page.  If you write about something you’re passionate about, something you’ve lived, something that has deeply affected you, it will come across on the page in ways that will engage the reader on a different level.

CF: What can writers do to be best prepared to capitalize on winning this contest?

ZG: I think the best thing writers can do to prepare themselves in the advent they win and/or place in the competitions is to prepare for a lot of work, collaboration, to have patience, be open to learn and enjoy the ride.  If your screenplay is chosen as the grand prize winning screenplay, you will have to strap in on the rocket ship.  Stanley was about to be a senior at USC when his screenplay was chosen as the winner and in less the three months, his film was in production and his life was changed.  His career was jumpstarted in the most amazing way, going to multiple meetings a week with production companies, other writers, studios, etc., all the while remaining humble and appreciative along the way.


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Coverfly Inside Look: HUMANITAS

By | Contests, Inside Look, Interview

Pictured above: HUMANITAS President Ali LeRoi (Everybody Hates Chris), The Kieser Award Recipient Marta Kauffman (Friends), Gloria Allred, and HUMANITAS Executive Director Cathleen Young.


HUMANITAS has empowered writers for more than 40 years. They’re a non-profit organization with several prestigious screenwriting competitions. On Coverfly, we feature HUMANITAS New Voices, The Carol Mendelsohn College Drama Fellowship and The David and Lynn Angell College Comedy Fellowship. We recently had the opportunity to ask Executive Director Cathleen Young a few questions about HUMANITAS. See her answers below.

Coverfly: Can you tell us a little bit about HUMANITAS New Voices?

Cathleen Young: At HUMANITAS the writer is the star. While film and television are collaborative mediums, the heart and mind of the writer is always the driving creative force. That’s why we honor the vision and voices of gifted film and television writers and help launch the next generation of writers.

CF: Why is your contest valuable to writers?

CY: Do you want to get into “the room?” As in “the writer’s room?” It’s the most valuable piece of creative real estate in Hollywood. And getting that door open is not easy.  HUMANITAS helps opens that door by pairing talented writers with working showrunners. That’s like jumping to the head of the class. We have a very unique program that no one else offers in this town. And it comes with a $7,500 grant to buy you some time to focus on your craft.

CF: Do you think entering contests is a good path for aspiring writers?

CY: I believe every aspiring writer should enter as many contests and competitions as they can. It gets their name out there — and it forces you to sit down and write! Winning a contest or competition is a powerful way to attract the attention of agents, showrunners and executives. Winning can be game-changing for the careers of focused, ambitious writers.

CF: Who are some HUMANITAS NEW VOICES alumni?

CY: SJ Hodges – Showrunner for Awesomeness TV’s Guidance, Mentored by Jason Katims

Martin Zimmerman – Executive Producer/Showrunner on Netflix’s Spanish language series, Puerta 7,  Producer on Netflix’s Ozark, Mentored by Alan Ball

Luisa Leschin – Co-Executive Producer on Amazon’s Just Add Magic, Co-Executive Producer on CBS’ Everybody Hates Chris, Mentored by Ali LeRoi

Will Pascoe  Supervising Producer on Hulu’s Shut Eye, Mentored by Hart Hanson

Greta Heinemann – Producer on CBS’ NCIS: New Orleans, Mentored by Pam Veasey

Damir & Dario Konjicija – Executive Story Editors on CBS’ Young Sheldon – Mentored by Carter Covington

CF: What’s one unique piece of advice you’d give to writers who enter your contest?

CY: I always tell up-and-coming writers to NEVER, EVER forget the 4 most important words when writing. Well, technically it’s 5 words. Here they are: “I’ll fix it later.” Meaning, keep writing. Don’t get stuck endlessly rewriting the first act or the first chapter. Tell a story that is true and authentic to you and KEEP AT IT until you get it right. 

CF: What can writers do to be best prepared for capitalizing on a winning the competition?

CY: A giant red flag for me in judging a potential candidate is when they haven’t written very many scripts. Writers need to write. A real writer WANTS to write. Writers need to write a bunch of BAD scripts so they can learn to write GOOD scripts. If a writer doesn’t have multiple scripts in his or her portfolio, it’s hard for me to take them seriously. Another “skill” that is critical to success is being able to hear a good note. The superpower skill needed for success is the ability to make a good note your own… and to take a bad note and make it a good note that addresses some weakness in your script. 


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Coverfly Inside Look: Sun Valley Film Festival’s Screenwriters Lab

By | Contests, Inside Look, Interview

The mission of Sun Valley Film Festival’s Screenwriters Lab is to connect screenwriters with mentors who can help share their story. Steve Gaghan secured an agent for their first finalist and alter a writing gig. David Seidler helped a finalist get representation and co-wrote a project with him. Will McCormack has mentored a few finalists, and the latest success is the screenplay was made into a film and is at Sundance this year. Recently, Chris Moore helped sell the winning script from the year he was a judge. We recently had the opportunity to ask Emily Granville, the Lab and Fellowship Manager at Sun Valley Film Festival, a few questions. See her answers below.

Coverfly: What’s one unique piece of advice you’d give to writers who enter your contest?

Emily Granville: Less can be more. Let the reader fill in some details. Then they become more invested in your story.

CF: What’s the best thing writers can do if they place in, but don’t win the contest?

EG: All finalists are included in parties and mentored. Take advantage of an intimate and accessible festival that supports the creation of film and celebrates the power of storytelling to challenge our way of seeing the world.

CF: When a writer wins, what can they expect from you and your contest? And what can writers do to be best prepared for capitalizing on a win?

EG: Beyond the mentor connection and inclusion at the festival, I personally am involved with the writers and continue to try and get their script in the hands of someone who will appreciate it. Just last week I sent the pilot that won last year to a studio looking for edgy thrillers. Fingers crossed!

CF: Are there any special elements of the script your readers are looking for that you can share?

EG: I try and pair readers with scripts they might like. Certain readers love Sci-Fi, others don’t. The scripts that tend to rise up do not take too long to get going. Today, attention spans are shorter, so as a writer, keep that in mind. You can develop characters, etc., once you have a reader hooked.

CF: What does your reading process look like and who are your readers?

EG: As I mentioned, I try and match scripts with readers who are interested in the genre. We have a tiered system of readers, writers, journalists, agents and producers. And the script is covered by multiple people. At the end, we meet and fight for the scripts we want in the top three.

CF: Why is your contest valuable to writers?

EG: The experience of the Sun Valley Film Festival – whose goal is to support up and coming filmmakers – is invaluable. I am really proud of the Lab’s success rate for the finalists and winners. In the past 6 years, 7 former finalists and winners have landed a writing job, gained management, or sold a script.

CF: Do you think entering contests is a good path for all aspiring writers?

EG: Yes, but getting out and meeting the community behind film making is so important. Mark Duplass, when he hosted the Lab, urged networking at film festivals. Get together with a filmmaker and make a short.

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Coverfly Inside Look: Shore Scripts

By | Contests, Inside Look, Interview

Shore Scripts‘ main goal is to discover new exciting screenwriting talent and boost careers. They put each year’s best scripts into the hands of their industry roster – all of whom have the experience and means to get your script made. We recently had the opportunity to ask Justine Owens, the Director of Contests at Shore Scripts, a few questions. See her answers below.

Coverfly: What’s the mission of Shore Scripts Contests?

Justine Owens: Simple really. Shore Scripts was founded to kick-start screenwriting careers. We are extremely proud that our screenplay contests have helped 60+ writers gain representation, option, sell, and have their screenplays produced.

CF: What’s one unique piece of advice you’d give to writers who enter your contest?

JO: Writers should not be afraid to get feedback on their script, and this especially applies before submitting to a contest. A second-pair-of-eyes is invaluable in helping a writer hone his/her craft. 

CF: What’s the best thing writers can do if they place in, but don’t win the contest?

JO: Some might say go back to the script and try a rewrite. But personally, I think they should take a moment to celebrate their success. Shout aloud and proud to everyone that will listen. The old saying goes, success breeds success. Advertising your achievements and referencing them in your approaches to new writing opportunities can make all the difference in whether you make the right first impression. It’s also worth noting that we send many QF & SF scripts out to our industry roster, so just because a writer didn’t win, it doesn’t mean their work won’t be sent out.

CF: When a writer wins, what can they expect from you and your contest? And what can writers do to be best prepared for capitalizing on a win?

JO: At Shore Scripts things start happening for writers before they win. Our award-winning Judges read for the final round, which is an amazing opportunity for writers to share their work. Then, once the finalists are announced, we ask their permission to send their script to our amazing roster of 150+ industry professionals: producers, agents, managers, and directors all looking for new voices and new talent to work with. We advise our writers to ensure they know their story back to front, and to be ready to pitch other scripts they’ve completed in case they are asked ‘what else do you have!’ Be accessible and ready to respond when opportunity knocks. We stay in contact too. As our writers’ projects develop, we’re always happy to share their success and help advise if they have any questions. We’re with our writers for the long-haul.

CF: Are there any special elements of the script your readers are looking for that you can share?

JO: Does the writer have an original voice? That’s a huge thing and so hard to master. We are looking for scripts that we can’t put down! Stories with an emotional hook that comes from the writer’s heart. It’s also essential that a writer knows how to format a screenplay correctly. The more ‘white space’ on the page the better! 

CF: What does your reading process look like and who are your readers?

JO: We read for every stage of our competitions – that can be up to four individual assessments. We take our reading process very seriously and welcome resubmissions as we know that writers like to improve their drafts over time. Our readers are extremely experienced. They’ve read for the likes of Universal, Lionsgate, Working Title, Zoetrope, and the BBC, to name but a few. Our Judges read and decide on our overall winners. 

CF: Why is your contest valuable to writers?

JO: Our contest is valuable to writers because we are offering a gateway into the film industry. Placing in our contests offers an outstanding opportunity to get your script into the hands of industry insiders who can make a difference. A look at our Alumni is a testament to that. We also finance short films, which is another avenue to help our writers.

CF: Do you think entering contests is a good path for all aspiring writers?

JO: It’s hard to say if it’s right for every writer. Only they know the answer to that. But by entering a contest like ours, a writer is giving themselves an opportunity to be discovered. If their script connects with us, we have the means of getting it into the hands of over 150 Industry Professionals.

CF: When does your next competition open?

JO: The Shore Scripts Short Film Fund reopens January 15th, 2019, and our FEATURE and TV PILOT contests open 1st March. You can follow Shore Scripts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


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Coverfly Inside Look: Vail Film Festival Screenplay Competition

By | Contests, Inside Look, Interview

The Vail Film Festival Screenplay Competition is a vehicle for aspiring screenwriters to get their script read by established film producers, managers, and agents who are actively working at the top level of the film industry. We recently had the opportunity to ask Sean Cross and Megen Musegades, Directors of the Vail Screenplay Contest, a few questions. See their answers below.

Coverfly: What’s the mission of the Vail Screenplay Contest?

Vail Film Festival: The Vail Screenplay Competition was created by the founders of the Vail Film Festival to help give screenwriters more opportunities, and an additional path, to access the film industry. The Vail Film Festival includes Q&A’s with filmmakers and screenwriters, and one of the most common questions is “How do you get someone in the industry to read your screenplay?” We realized that although there are many screenplay contests out there, we could be another resource, another avenue, for aspiring screenwriters, given the access we have to Hollywood producers, directors, and agents.

CF: What’s one unique piece of advice you’d give to writers who enter your contest?

VFF: Make sure that your script has your specific voice, whether it’s through your lead characters, your story, the setting, etc. If you create something original to you, it will resonate with our readers.

CF: What’s the best thing writers can do if they place in, but don’t win the contest?

VFF: For the writers who place but don’t win, use that as a calling card to get in front of agents and producers. Contests are a great way to get noticed, but whether you win or place, you should always be hustling, networking, and sending your work out. If you have a win or you placed in a contest, that will help convince a decision maker to read your work.

CF: When a writer wins, what can they expect from you and your contest? And what can writers do to be best prepared for capitalizing on a win?

VFF: The winning writers will receive a cash prize ($10K for the feature screenplay winner, and $1500 for the short screenplay winner). The winners will also have their script sent to top producers and agents, and receive recognition in a national press release. In order to fully capitalize on the win, you should be prepared to take meetings and have a strong pitch ready. Additionally, you should have at least one other screenplay or project that you can pitch as your screenplay might be a great writing sample but not the right fit for every producer.

CF: Is there any special elements of the script your readers are looking for that you can share?

VFF: Our readers are looking first and foremost for compelling stories that engage the reader from the outset, and keep the reader interested throughout. Screenplays can be in any genre but the overall story must be engaging, the characters well developed, and each character’s dialogue must be believable and true to their character.

CF: What does your reading process look like and who are your readers?

VFF: The screenplays are evaluated by several readers and rated on a 10 point scale. The ratings include overall structure, dialogue, pacing, character development, is there a consistent tone, and a compelling, engaging story. The top rated screenplays make it to the next round where the process begins again. Our readers are film industry professionals and veteran screenwriters.

CF: Why is your contest valuable to writers?

VFF: The Vail Screenplay Contest is part of the Vail Film Festival and is a well-recognized contest, known to leading film producers, production companies, and agents. Whether you win or place, the contest will give you the opportunity to use that as a calling card when sending your script out. If you win, your screenplay will be recommended to Hollywood decision-makers.

CF: Do you think entering contests is a good path for all aspiring writers?

VFF: Screenplay contests are a valuable path for many writers, giving them access that they otherwise wouldn’t get. In addition to contests, screenwriters should network as much as possible, attend film festivals and industry events, and send their screenplays to independent producers. There is no one path to success as a screenwriter, and the more opportunities you create for yourself the better.


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Coverfly Inside Look: Scriptapalooza

By | Contests, Inside Look, Interview

Founded in 1998, the Scriptapalooza screenwriting competition has become one of the most relevant screenwriting competitions in the industry. In the last 20 years, the company has developed several departments to nurture talent and create career opportunities. They also have a TV writing competition, coverage service and a fellowship. They believe that storytellers come from all over the world and from all walks of life, because of the simple fact that everyone has a story. Scriptapalooza has maintained its goal of helping as many writers as possible each year. This includes scripts being optioned and sold, writers acquiring literary representation and mentorship.

We had the opportunity to ask Mark Andrushko, Founder and President of Scriptapalooza, a few questions. His answers are below.

Coverfly: What’s the mission of Scriptapalooza?

Mark Andrushko: Our mission every day is to get your script into the hands of people that can either buy it, option it, or make the movie. That being said, our biggest priority is to always have the best producers reading all the screenplays, because that’s the most important thing. That’s what a screenplay competition should be doing. We have over 125 producers involved with reading all the entries that are entered.

CF: What’s one unique piece of advice you’d give to writers who enter your contest?

MA: Don’t rush it.  Make sure you submit the best script you can. Don’t worry, we’ll be here next year.

CF: What’s the best thing writers can do if they place in, but don’t win the contest?

MA: Writers should always be writing and have other material ready. Also, they should market themselves, as in contacting local papers and mentioning that they won Scriptapalooza. Just getting the word out there is important.

CF: When a writer wins, what can they expect from you and your contest? And what can writers do to be best prepared for capitalizing on a win?

MA: If the writer gets to be a Semifinalist or higher, they will be promoted for an entire year by Scriptaplaooza. What that means is we will pitch/call producers on their behalf about their script. No other competition in the world does that.

CF: Are there any special elements of the script your readers are looking for that you can share?

MA: Well, we don’t believe in readers because readers can’t do anything with your script. All the reading at Scriptapalooza is done by producers, managers and agents. We go right to the source, that being a producer, manager or agent, these are the people that can set-up a meeting, option your script, take it to the studio or outright buy it.

CF: Why is your contest valuable to writers?

MA: When we started in 1998, there were a few competitions that mattered and about 50 that didn’t. Now, they are still a few that matter and hundreds that don’t. I feel it’s difficult for new writers to navigate through these competitions and pick the right ones to submit to. Writers are constantly inundated with false and misleading ads, quotes and websites that give the illusion that these new competitions have connections to the industry. Well, most don’t. And after doing this for 20 years, we can say that. The value in submitting to Scriptapalooza is that you have 20 years of experience, connections and relationships that we have built in order to get you through the door.

CF: Do you think entering contests is a good path for all aspiring writers?

MA: Absolutely. All you have to do is visit our website and click on HEADLINES, you will see 20 years of writers getting jobs, meetings, agents, their script optioned or even sold.


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Coverfly Inside Look: Fresh Voices

By | Contests, Inside Look, Interview

Since 2009, Fresh Voices has distinguished itself as a screenplay competition designed to discover, empower and promote the next generation of storytellers, writers and filmmakers. As the name would suggest, Fresh Voices has done this by identifying writers with a unique and memorable voice that demands to be read. Now in their ninth year, they have helped guide dozens of talented screenwriters to secure literary representation, option agreements and other work-for-hire writing assignments that have been the stepping stones to significant careers.

Fresh Voices Advisory Board Member and Primary Sponsor, Joel Mendoza, has spent over 20 years in the industry as an agent, manager and producer. It’s important to him that Fresh Voices be a platform to give the microphone to talented screenwriters that have a story to tell and a voice that deserves to be heard. We had the opportunity to ask Joel a few questions about Fresh Voices. His answers are below.

Coverfly: What’s one unique piece of advice you’d give to writers who enter your contest?

Joel Mendoza: Have a purpose in what you write and why you write. Be a student of life, of people and of the human condition. Those who do are able to connect with their audience in a way that most other writers cannot. 

CF: What’s the best thing writers can do if they place in, but don’t win the contest?

JM: Keep on writing, keep on submitting and keep on getting notes. And write something else. Don’t keep on rewriting the same script. Write something else. Explore your wheelhouse and try your style at different genres. 

CF: When a writer wins, what can they expect from you and your contest? And what can writers do to be best prepared for capitalizing on a win?

JM: I can guarantee unwavering support, engagement and promotion. The hope is that with the tools, guidance and opportunity we offer, our winners are well-equipped to develop a great screenplay and pursue a successful career, however, no one can guarantee success! The best thing a winner can do is be a shameless self-promoter. Be a hustler, pound the pavement and get people to listen. Don’t sit back and have a drink and wait for the offers to come rolling in.

One piece of advice that I think is important for winners is to be ready and armed with another great script to show. Each year, after we announce and promote our winners, we receive a lot of requests to read scripts. And so often, once an executive reads a script that they like, the inevitable response is always, “hey, this is a great script. Do they have anything else we can read?”  And each time I find that it is the writer that has another script, equally as polished, sharp, original and promising as the first, that ends up getting signed or somehow capitalizing quicker and gaining momentum from their win.  

CF: Are there any special elements of the script your readers are looking for that you can share?

JM: We judge each screenplay on a 15-point scorecard that includes such things as tone, structure, pacing, characters and dialogue, as well as format, commerciality and the even the writer’s voice; the style and personality with which you write. It is after all, why we are called Fresh Voices.

As such, our scoring system is weighted to give the writers voice a higher importance to all the other elements. What this means in practice is even if your script is not a highly commercial prospect or perhaps you are new to screenwriting and you don’t know exactly how to format a script, if you’ve got a strong authorial voice, your script still has a chance to get noticed and to advance. 

It is one of the things that make Fresh Voices unique and how we often discover winners other competitions may have overlooked. 

CF: What does your reading process look like and who are your readers?

JM: All of our readers have industry experience reading scripts for production companies, talent agencies, management companies as well as for the studios and networks. Some have prior experience working as executive assistants, creative executives, developments executives and many are writers themselves. Our readers have worked as the gatekeepers of Hollywood, and now they do the same for us.

There are four rounds to the judging, and no judge reads the same screenplay more than once after the first round. In our first round, we offer all contestants the opportunity to receive their judge’s notes and scorecard. This is an invaluable tool to see how your script stacks up. I highly recommend taking advantage of any competition that offers constructive script feedback.

CF: Why is your contest valuable to writers?

JM: Aside from the value, all good, well-run screenplay competitions offer such as deadlines, script feedback, and that sense of validation all those who place in a competition can feel, our winners receive beneficial prize packages from our generous sponsors and upwards of $20,000 in cash and prizes. 

But more importantly, Fresh Voices has been around for 10 years now and has become one of the most highly anticipated screenplay competitions of the year by screenwriters and by the industry alike. We often field calls and queries from producers and managers seeking new writers and new material. We have long-term industry relationships that go back years and allow us to target specific companies and put winning material directly into the hands of producers, managers and executives looking for their next project!  

CF: Do you think entering contests is a good path for all aspiring writers?

JM: There is a lot of value in entering screenplay competitions for a lot of writers, but not necessarily all. So really depends on the writer and what they write. 

Contests that offer constructive notes and feedback can prove to be particularly valuable for writer’s who are not based in LA or in the US even. Contests that do provide judge’s notes can really give a writer far from Hollywood a very useful and productive sense of how your work is seen by those in Hollywood so that even if you don’t win, there is still a lot to gain.


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Coverfly Inside Look: Los Angeles International Screenplay Awards

By | Contests, Inside Look, Interview

LAISA is run by a consortium of Hollywood Professionals: working writers, producers, directors, agents collectively representing more than a century of television, feature film, and theater award-winning success. Their mission is to discover, encourage, promote and connect the best writers and their material to professionals looking to utilize their skillset. We had the opportunity to ask the Senior Judge, Robert L. McCullough, a few questions about the Los Angeles International Screenplay Awards. His answers are below.

Coverfly: What’s one unique piece of advice you’d give to writers who enter your contest?

Robert L. McCullough: Study character development! Then read as many good scripts as you can. Study each script carefully. Then write as many good scripts as you can and don’t stop.

CF: When a writer wins, what can they expect from you and your contest? And what can writers do to be best prepared for capitalizing on a win?

RLM: Our winning writers will get exposure to working Hollywood professionals and an opportunity to option their material for pre-production development. All winning screenwriters must be prepared to put their best foot forward. It’s all about first impressions. If you win then you clearly have talent. Now it’s all about working efficiently, communicating well, and putting your best foot forward and proving you can work at the highest level.

CF: Are there any special elements of the script your readers are looking for that you can share?

RLM: Character development. As professionals who have reached the heights of success, we know that a great screenplay is driven by character goals, needs, and motivations. To a writer, there should be no such thing as a “plot-driven” script. Go ahead and hit your plot-points, but understand that the heart of the story’s conflict must arise from character goals and motivations. And make sure your first 10 pages are killer.

CF: What does your reading process look like and who are your readers?

RLM: Our scripts are all given a thorough word-by-word analysis. Click this link to read more about it.

CF: Why is your contest valuable to writers?

RLM: Because our judges have major reputations in the business and stand for excellence. When our judges approve a script, it means something.

CF: Do you think entering contests is a good path for all aspiring writers?

RLM: Yes! With the over-saturation of scripts in the marketplace, doing well in a respected competition like the LA International Screenplay Awards is a critical step in having your material stand out in today’s film and television market .


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Coverfly Inside Look: CineStory

By | Contests, Inside Look, Interview

Founded in 1995, CineStory Foundation is a non-profit, educational screenwriting organization. It is dedicated to nurturing new screenwriting talent through its annual screenwriting contest, retreat, and fellowship. These programs are aimed at writers with a high level of craft who are ready to enter the industry.

CineStory Foundation is based in Los Angeles with a retreat center in Idyllwild, California, but the contest and retreat are open to international screenwriters.

We had the opportunity to ask the Co-Executive Directors, Leslie Dallas and Carlo Martinelli, a few questions about the CineStory Foundation. Their answers are below.

Coverfly: When a writer wins, what can they expect from you and your contest? And what can writers do to be best prepared for capitalizing on a win?

CineStory: Attending CineStory programs allows writers unparalleled access to Hollywood decision-makers. The aim is to provide a supportive environment in which screenwriters can push their creative boundaries while discovering practical steps needed to elevate their skills to a professional level and become a working writer.

Whether a story explores dark indie fare or dishes out blockbuster action, at CineStory Foundation, the primary focus is always on the craft of screenwriting. To this end, selected screenwriters are paired with working executives, writers, directors, producers, agents and managers who share their interests and sensibilities.

The semifinalists, finalists and winners of each year’s feature & television competition are invited to the exclusive CineStory Writers’ Retreat, a four-day intensive program held in the spring & fall where writers work one-on-one with Hollywood producers, writers, agents, managers and development executives.

  • Grand Prize for the feature contest winner is a $10,000 cash prize and a 12-month mentoring fellowship (valued at $9000), free tuition & lodging for the feature retreat, with total prizes worth over $20,000.
  • Grand Prize for the television contest winner is a $1000 cash prize and a 12-month mentoring fellowship (valued at $9000), free tuition & lodging for the feature retreat, with total prizes worth over $15,000.

Top scripts are requested by numerous companies including: Paradigm, Benderspink, Energy Entertainment, FilmEngine, Symmetry Media, Mosaic Media Group, Kersey Management, House of Scribes,  Management 360, Foremost Films, Underground Films and Management and Grade A Entertainment.

An important part of winning the Grand Prizes of either our tv & feature screenwriting competitions is being named the CineStory Fellow. The fellowship includes a 12-month mentorship program.

During this time, the winner works with two Hollywood professionals hand-picked to help that writer advance his/her craft and career. Each fellow also receives a cash award, free tuition, meals and accommodation at the CineStory Writers’ Retreat, along with other prizes.

At the retreat, fellows also meet one-on-one with three mentors to discuss their work as well as their career advancement.  In addition, the fellow has a group meeting with all of the attending mentors, to assist him/her with the next steps.

Just as each writer is unique, each fellow has different needs. So every fellowship is tailored specifically to maximize the experience for that year’s winner. Depending on individual circumstances, fellows receive:

  • script/story notes from one or both mentors
  • assistance in circulating material to the wider industry
  • direction regarding which project to pursue next
  • general advice and support

Throughout the year, fellows meet with their mentors in person when possible, as well as corresponding via email and phone.

CF: Are there any special elements of the script your readers are looking for that you can share?

CS: As mentioned earlier, whether a story explores dark indie fare or dishes out blockbuster action, at CineStory Foundation, the primary focus is always on the craft of screenwriting. As such, elements which stand out tend to be a writer’s unique voice, and command of storytelling. 

CF: What does your reading process look like and who are your readers?

CS: Every script is read cover to cover at least once. Our readers are a mixture of industry professionals who volunteer their precious time to participate as judges in the CineStory contests and experienced and trusted judges who have been participating in the contests for a while. 

CF: What’s one unique piece of advice you’d give to writers who enter your contest?

CS: Make sure you submit a script that truly represents your voice and the type of material you want to create as a writer.

CF: Why is your contest valuable to writers?

CS: For one, the cash prize and fellowship stack up against any other writing contest out there. Our industry mentors are the best in the business. Second, the track record of success by CineStory fellows speaks for itself. 

CF: Do you think entering contests is a good path for all aspiring writers?

CS: Writing contests are a good path for aspiring writers, but they shouldn’t be the only path. Joining a writer’s group, expanding one’s network of contacts, and constantly improving one’s craft are all useful resources to draw upon. In addition to contests, there are now a myriad of options for aspiring writers to get their work read and seen.


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