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.