Category

Inside Look

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.

What’s the mission of the Vail Screenplay Contest?

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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?

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.

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

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.

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

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.

Why is your contest valuable to writers?

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.

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

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.


For all the latest from Coverfly, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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.

What’s the mission of Scriptapalooza?

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.

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

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

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

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.

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?

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.

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

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.

Why is your contest valuable to writers?

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.

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

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.


For all the latest from Coverfly, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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.

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

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. 

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

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. 

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?

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.  

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

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. 

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

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.

Why is your contest valuable to writers?

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!  

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

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.


For all the latest from Coverfly, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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.

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

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.

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?

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.

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

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.

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

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

Why is your contest valuable to writers?

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

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

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 .


For all the latest from Coverfly, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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.

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?

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.

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

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. 

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

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. 

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

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

Why is your contest valuable to writers?

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. 

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

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.


For all the latest from Coverfly, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.