Screenwriting competitions are a dime a dozen – or at least writers wish that was how much they cost. The fact of the matter is that there are hundreds of screenwriting contests out there, each promising to launch the winner to ‘professional screenwriter’ status, and each with a hefty entry fee.
But which contests can really deliver? And which ones are worth the (often substantial) cost of entry? How do writers separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to this potential avenue to screenwriting success?
I recently spoke with David Outram, Head of Administration at the Shore Scripts Screenwriting Competition, a UK-based contest with the goal of getting the best screenplays into the hands of the producers and production companies that have the means to get them made.
Looking over the Shore Scripts website, it quickly became apparent to me that Shore is a different kind of screenwriting competition – even before the competition is completed, the contest promises to pass along the best scripts to people who can get them made (after obtaining the writer’s consent).
Here’s what David had to say about choosing screenwriting competitions that can actually deliver on their promises.
LA Screenwriter (LA): With so many screenwriting contests out there for writers to choose from, how can writers determine whether a contest is everything it claims to be?
David Outram (DO): A writer should look at not only the monetary prizes offered but the people and companies involved in the process. A good set of producers, industry judges, and production companies connected with a contest will really help a writer get his or her work out there. These connections should be the main reason for entering a competition. If you have questions about the contest or concerns about its legitimacy, you should always contact the contest before entering. If your query goes unanswered for more than a week, that’s probably not a good sign.
LA: How important do you think contests are to launching a screenwriter’s career?
DO: It’s extremely tough for talented screenwriters to get their work read by people in the industry. If they don’t already have connections or an agent, then their unsolicited work will go unread. That’s where contests like ours come in.
We work as a platform for writers, and as a free service for producers, production companies, and agents. We find the best scripts and then pass them onto industry folk with our judges’ full backing. This won’t guarantee a sale or representation, but it will ensure that the script is read by someone who can actually do something with it if it piques their interest.
LA: Your contest promises to send great scripts along to producers even before the contest finishes. This seems like a rather novel concept for a screenwriting contest.
DO: Why wait until the competition is over? A producer or production company might be looking for their next project now, and if we feel it’s there sitting in-front of us, why wait? The chance might go.
We will always consult the writer before any script is sent out. If interest arises, we put them directly in touch with that person. We never have any rights over the material.
LA: Do you think it makes sense for writers who are trying to find success in Los Angeles or New York to apply to contests based out of other countries?
DO: Absolutely. We are based in the UK but have already received scripts from over ten countries. The industry is full of co-productions, multiple producers, and executives on one feature. It’s all about getting the budget in place, and that always comes from many sources and countries. Producers in the UK work with US producers on productions all the time. Just look at the producers who have teamed up with us to judge the Shore Scripts Screenwriting Competition. They have produced features all over the world, especially in the USA.
A great script can come from anywhere, that’s the beauty of it. The writer of Drive is from Iran.
LA: How would you characterize the state of the UK’s film industry? Are international writers finding success there?
DO: The UK film industry is thriving. Cinema attendance figures are increasing each year, which helps investment. The various tax breaks in the UK help bring in a sufficient number of international productions. Writers from all sorts of countries are working in the industry, and that will only increase as more films go into production each year.
Learn more about the Shore Scripts competition on their website, www.shorescripts.com.