Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Musings on Screenplay Contests

Screenplay writing contest season is upon us. From (hopefully) making the early bird deadline to (again, hopefully) being a finalist and even a winner, the months are filled with anticipation, excitement, and even a little dread.

This weekend, the quarter-finalists for the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards will be announced. My fingers are crossed. I recently received notification The Indie Gathering International Film Festival has awarded my short screenplay "Cemetery" an honorable mention. And my full-length crime drama Final Curtain is a finalist in Action on Film Festival (AOF). Winners will be announced in August.

Winning awards for my writing is great. I won't deny that. It's a validation for those times when I don't win. Like publishers, contests are subjective. Just because one contest didn't accept my screenplay, doesn't mean it's bad. Now, if all contests reject it, well, then, obviously something's wrong. :-) It also depends on the contest and the number of entries. Austin Film Festival? If I'm ever lucky enough to semi-final in that one, you can guess I'll be celebrating. However, I tend to be pragmatic.

One thing I've learned about submitting screenplays to contests is when I final or even win, I set the bar higher for myself, especially if I enter the film festival's competition a second or even third time. There's a level of consistency  they expect and I need to make sure I deliver. And because screenplays have a specific format and rely on what can be seen and heard, certain novel conventions can't be used, such as inner thoughts. That means when I adapt my books into screenplays, I have to change scenes that wouldn't translate well to the screen. If you're wondering why the book and movie can be so different, that's one of the reasons why. And writing a work of fiction (novel, short story, etc.) from a screenplay also comes with its challenges.

But it's worth it.

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