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!
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.
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.