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Let Writer/Producer Richard Kahan Explain the Importance of Script Notes

Let Writer/Producer Richard Kahan Explain the Importance of Script Notes

By About Coverfly, Interview

Screenwriters, like all artists, are always looking for ways to improve their work. One of the best ways to do this is by getting script notes from someone who not only knows a good screenplay when they see one but who also knows the film industry.

Producer, writer, and actor Richard Kahan (Beacon 23, Outlander) is one of the high-level industry professionals that offers coverage through Coverfly Industry-Direct Notes. Coverfly recently got the chance to speak with him about the benefits of getting feedback on your script from a fellow screenwriter, as well as the importance of being a part of a writing community.

Check out the interview below and continue on to read our favorite takeaways.

Don't Be Afraid of Receiving Script Notes

First and foremost, be open to feedback. It can be difficult to hear negative things about your work, but it's important to remember that the goal is to make your screenplay the best it can be.

Kahan says:

I think it's very natural to have that immediate reaction of like, "Oh, no, no! Don't change." If you don't care about what you're writing, you wouldn't have that reaction. So, I think that speaks to passion. And that's totally normal — I get that; everyone I know gets that. That being said, you know, your mind works differently than mine. Your life experience is different than mine. That's the beauty. In a TV writers room, when it's working well, it should be — everyone has different ages, different ethnicities, different backgrounds, different life experiences. You bring that to the page.

No screenplay is perfect and having other people read it, especially a professional, will open your eyes to its real potential. It's better to have a flawed screenplay that you're willing to revise than a "perfect" one that no one will ever read.

Should You Get Script Notes from a Fellow Screenwriter?

When writers consider receiving script notes, they naturally think of script consultants and professional script readers to send their work to. But, should they send their scripts to fellow screenwriters? Yes. Why? Because they not only understand story structure, character development, and other story elements but also the arduous experience of sitting down and actually crafting a story from a blank page. Kahan explains:

Working with other writers and getting notes from other writers, I think you're gonna get specificity. And that makes the job easier. Again, not to say the managers and execs can't give great notes, but I think when you are used to sitting down at the typewriter and bleeding, as the saying goes, you know — you're in it, you know what that's like — you're gonna give actionable notes.

The Value of Being in a Writing Community

There are many reasons to be a part of a writing community. For one, it can provide you with support and motivation when you need it most. Additionally, being part of a community can provide you with valuable feedback on your work so you can improve your craft and become a better writer. Kahan shares his experience of working with his own community of writers:

It's hugely have that core group...especially when you're working in features, because you don't have that in a writers room. So to have that, from just a technical note standpoint, is huge. It's also's that support system. It's that group that can give you notes that you trust that you know have a different lived experience than you. 



Stand-Up Comedian Abby Govindan on How to Write Relatable Comedy

Stand-Up Comedian Abby Govindan on How to Write Relatable Comedy

By Interview

What does it take to be a great comedy writer? Just ask stand-up comedian Abby Govindan. 


Houston-native Abby Govindan is a writer and stand-up comedian whose career is taking off like a rocket. Since making her comedic debut at Caroline's on Broadway in New York City in 2017, she's gone viral online, performed all over the country, and has opened for some of the biggest names in stand-up, including Hasan Minhaj, Daniel Sloss, and Russell Peters.

Coverfly had the pleasure of sitting down with Abby to learn about her comedy career, the evolution of her comedy, and how she writes relatable jokes. Check out our interview below!

Learn more about Abby by heading over to her website. Also, if you're interested in seeing her show, be sure to check out her tour dates.

Coverfly Matches Emerging Screenwriter with First OWA

By Interview, Success Stories

We're excited to get the opportunity to interview Jennifer Cooney - an incredibly talented writer who is making big waves in the industry. Her script Winter Jasmine rose near the top of The Red List and was noticed by a Coverfly Writer Advocate. Since then, she has signed with top management and was hired for an Open Writing Assignment!

Jennifer heads her own production company, HalfJack Generations, has one film in post-production (Rain Beau’s End), one in the process of being optioned (Winter Jasmine), and several projects in various stages of development. She is currently repped by The|Machine in Los Angeles and intends to produce and direct her own scripts while living blissfully with her wife and their two dogs, Marlon Brando and Humphrey Bogart.

Coverfly: So, what was the process of finding a manager like?

Jennifer Cooney: It wasn’t your “typical” process. Thanks to Coverfly and their Writer Advocate program, I was paired with a Writer Advocate (Kyle) who really loved and believed in my work. Kyle not only matched me to a wonderful manager and got me two stellar writing gigs (one I passed on), but he will soon be signed on as a Producer for my spec script, Winter Jasmine. I really owe the propulsion of my career largely to Coverfly and their matchmaking. Kyle and I are destined to make movie magic together.

CF: How has working with a manager changed the way you write or approach the industry? Anything you wish you would've known?

JC: My manager, Kevin at The|Machine, understands who I am insomuch as he supports my unwavering commitment to following my heart. He knows that I have stories I want to tell and that I’m going to tell them authentically. He knows that I am not going to alter my creations without a heart-driven reason. This is why I signed with him. He supports my growth and my expansion as a writer, not ballooning trends. So, to answer the question, working with my manager has given me a level up with my confidence, knowing he believes in my vision and my authentic brand of characters and stories. 

What do I wish I would have known? That screenwriting doesn’t have to be hard. That it should be fun. That there are a ton of “pros” out there telling writers how to write and where to put what and on which page. I don’t regret the path I took to get where I am, but I can say with confidence that storytelling is highly intuitive, so anything that demands exact elements on exact pages is using fear to sell how-to books. Tune into your highest creative self and learn to listen to your inner nudges. The stories are all in the ether, you just need to learn to align with them so you can receive them. Make friends with your muses. 

CF: Congrats on landing your first OWA! What does landing an OWA job look like?

JC: My Coverfly Writer Advocate paired me up with a Producer I really clicked with. He read my spec script as a sample of my writing and loved it. We worked together a bit on a concept he was molding. I gave him notes and we further solidified our compatibility as creatives. A few months later he had a one-sheet for a feature he wants to produce and direct and I really loved the idea. I pitched him on what I’d do with the story and the characters and he loved my take. I told him to marinate for a week and make sure I was the writer for him. A week later we were working together. I’m very fortunate in that he was willing to mold our contract based on my method of story and character development and with my organic production of drafts. I’m in the middle of development now and can’t wait to see this thing onscreen.

CF: What is the OWA experience like so far?

JC: It’s amazing because I’m working with a Producer that I immediately clicked with. The first conversation we had, I knew in my gut that we’d be working together. We not only complement each other creatively, but we also respect one another beyond our creative commitments. Having worked with producers in the past that were neither of these things, I know creative and personal respect between writer and producer are of paramount importance to me. There’s some advice to new writers: When it feels upstream, drop the oars. Your boat will turn around and you’ll flow right towards your best case scenario (and away from what’s not serving your highest good). Have faith in the Universe taking care of you and it always will.

CF: How did you get started in screenwriting and what got you interested in the first place?

JC: Five years ago, I was working a full-time desk job and living for the weekends when I would inevitably sleep late and dread the impending Mondays. It became abundantly clear to me that I was living an inauthentic life, creatively speaking, and was extremely unfulfilled with the “fruits” of my time on earth. I had pressed my then girlfriend, now wife, to paint full time and to only do pieces that were original... no more for-hire commissions, two years prior. One night she looked at me. We were on the couch after dinner. I could barely hold up my towering glass of wine due to both physical and spiritual exhaustion. And she said, “What do you think about?” She explained that she was always thinking about paintings and colors and drawings—creations—and wondered what I thought about. My answer startled me. “Nothing, I guess.” She couldn’t fathom my answer. And as a creative spirit, or rather so I fancied myself, that answer turned my stomach. She pressed on, asking what I wanted to do. Growing up being groomed to take over a successful family business, I hadn’t thought of doing much else since graduating college. But I humored her and let the answer come to me. “I’ve always wanted to write a movie.” Five years and countless hours of study, practice, and self-discovery later, I have one feature film in post-production (Rain Beau’s End), one in the process of being optioned (Winter Jasmine), and have been hired to write another. And I’ve also adapted a stage play to a short script, which I’ll be directing later this year. Life is good.

CF: What kinds of stories or characters do you like to write?

JC: Literally all kinds. I will never be constricted to a particular genre. With one caveat, I really love writing lesbian characters and storylines. Lesbians always make their way into my stories. When I was in college, I owned every lesbian feature film ever made on DVD… and they barely took up a foot of space on my shelf. I know now that the craving of seeing oneself represented onscreen goes much deeper than meets the eye. It’s about experiencing a greater scope of life through a perspective similar to your own via characters you can identify with. And that craving truly fueled and still fuels my creative vision. I’m thrilled to see lesbian characters popping up everywhere and being played by big-name talent. I’m excited to have my stories and characters amongst them one day soon.

CF: What's one screenplay that every screenwriter should read and why?

JC: When you’re trying to accomplish something on the page, whether it be an action or a sequencing description, find a movie that’s done it or something similar and consult the script. Then you can see how to convey it on paper. As far as necessary reading, I’ve read scripts of films I admired like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Arrival, and enjoyed them. Just follow your bliss. If that doesn’t lead you to read any scripts, who cares?

CF: What's one piece of advice you wish you would have known when you were starting out?

JC: In no particular order of importance or continuity: You can be, do, or have anything you want. Life is supposed to be easy. Nothing you truly want is upstream. Follow your bliss. You are ever that which you are aware of being. If you haven’t let go of the need for the outcome, you can’t get there from there. Be easy about it all. Be gentle with yourself. The intellect is meant to serve the intuition. You deserve it all. Dream huge. And when people tell you why “life is hard,” send them love, and know that your beliefs determine your reality… their beliefs don’t have to unless you let them. And always, always believe in yourself. You are magic.

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

Coverfly Inside Look: Your Script Produced

By Contests, Inside Look, Interview

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, 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.

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

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.

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

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. 

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

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.

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

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.

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

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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Discovered by Coverfly: Interview with Ellen Winburn

By Interview, Success Stories

Ellen Winburn recently signed her first shopping agreement with HG5 Entertainment for her feature The Least of These through an introduction made by Coverfly. Scripts like The Least of These are hosted for free on Coverfly and not only live there for the duration of the contest in which they are entered, but as long as writers choose to make their projects public, industry professionals can discover them.

When searching for a script that met what HG5 Entertainment was looking for, the Coverfly team came across The Least of These, which had placed as a semifinalist in the 2017 ScreenCraft Family Screenplay Contest. Inspired by the true experiences of her son, The Least of These follows a teenager with cerebral palsy who dreams of having a girlfriend and forms an unlikely friendship with a troubled girl with a difficult home life.

To learn more about Ellen and see what other projects she has available, visit her Coverfly writer profile here.

1. Where are you from and how did you get into writing? 

I was born in the Nascar capital of Darlington SC and grew up listening to the races from my backyard. There were no children my age near me, so I entertained myself with stories. Once I realized I could write those stories down and that others liked them, I was hooked. I’ve performed on stage and directed. But real life and the birth of a special needs child meant all of that went on a back burner. Still, I entertained my son and husband with stories all the time. Then one day my husband gave me scriptwriting software and said: “I don’t want to hear it, I want to read it.”  

2. How did your personal experiences shape the story of The Least of Us These?

My son, Duncan, is very bright but his physical disability has kept him at a place where he sees the world, but doesn’t get to interact with it very often. This created such a unique perspective that I knew I wanted to write something that would capture his personality. I watched him learn about human trafficking, the abuses of children in foster care, suicide, and his hurt after he tried to befriend a girl who was experiencing challenges and her rejection of him. Very quickly, he went from shy and timid to stepping up and leading missions and speaking out in public venues. My reactions were typical, his were not. He saw hope and could not understand why someone wasn’t doing something about all these things. I explained that many people are trying to help and his answer:  then why isn’t it fixed yet? In the midst of all of this, The Least of These was born.  

3. What inspired you to start submitting to screenwriting contests?

My family and friends were tired of me asking them to read my stuff.  Of course, in those early stages, the writing wasn’t very good. Prior to screenwriting, I had written stories and plays, but the screen is totally different. My husband found a screenwriting contest online and paid for me to submit and get feedback.  It was not good, not at all, but I was having too much fun to stop. No more friend abuse!

4. How have you found screenwriting contests to be beneficial to you?

I like to write, and I want someone to read my work. Contests allow that. ALL feedback is useful, and I consider every change very carefully and use if it makes sense. Hearing someone else’s perspective, even if I don’t agree, helps make the story stronger. Of course, getting a good score on Coverfly and getting some little trophies under the title is just so cool.

5. How did you come across Coverfly and how has it helped you?

Actually, I was submitting The Least of These to the 2017 ScreenCraft Family Screenplay Contest and at that point, the website asked me if I wanted to join Coverfly. I’ve registered with a couple of others, and nothing came of it. But Coverfly seemed so straightforward, clear, uncluttered, I decided to do it. Coverfly quickly became my go-to first website because it is so easy and fast to use. And I must not be alone since a producer was able to find my script!

6. What is the next step for your project and your career as a writer? What are you looking forward to the most?

While I’m thrilled such a personal story of mine is now in a shopping agreement, that process can take a really long time. There are so many other stories to tell! I have a monthly budget for script submissions (must feed my family first!) and I use every penny. We’ve also adopted a boy who has a very vivid imagination and he is helping me with an urban fantasy – a genre I’ve always wanted to play in! I’m also looking for filmmakers that like doing their own thing, that have an idea for a film, but haven’t written it. My best stories are the ones that were inspired by others. I’d like to help that filmmaker bring their idea to life.  

7. Any words of wisdom or inspiration for other aspiring writers, particularly those outside of Southern California?

There was a time when the people making the movies were in Southern California, so it made sense to write there. Now some of the best film and TV is coming from other places, like Atlanta and Charlotte. Our world is becoming more global daily, and I don’t see being on the other coast as a roadblock.  

And listen, if you want to take screenwriting classes, take them.  If you want to read, watch films, do it.  All of those things are great. But the number one most important thing you must do if you want to be a better writer is WRITE. Pay attention to the world around you then sit your butt down and write. Many things can help you get better, but fingers flying over a keyboard as your mind creates a world and you make new best friends there cannot be replaced. When time is limited, and it always is, choose to write.

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