Why Competitions Work

Alternatively - Why They Can Work for You 

Competitions can help you in several ways. There are the obvious ways, where you are a winner or place highly in the competition and it brings financial reward or more importantly, access to the industry through an agent, manager or producer contacts.

But what if you aren’t a winner?  Alternatively, you may do well in a competition that is relatively obscure or it is a festival far from Tinseltown. What use is it then? Also, what if you don’t place? Does this mean you’re a terrible writer?

There are several ways you can use competitions to your advantage if you have a purpose and a strategy.

One way is by applying to local competitions and festivals that you can actually be a part of and don’t require you to travel. These festivals are often looking to support local writers and filmmakers and may provide you the opportunity to meet people who have experience in the industry, can become a support network or are simply like minded. Events like this may lead to writers groups or a sharing of information. You might be surprised by the number of people who have left the industry and now work to foster independent writers and filmmakers in their own communities. Some of the best advice I received was at one of these local festivals before I left my hometown and picked up and moved to LA. Many of these people have contacts in the industry and are eager to help those seeking to break in. Almost all of us start off this way if we weren’t born in Beverly Hills, and who knows what great advice or support you may find at these events.

Another way to use competitions to your advantage is as beta readers. Test your material on the smaller, reputable competitions before applying to the huge ones. Are you making the quarterfinals, semifinals or placing? If so, go back to your script and figure out what may be holding it back before applying to the larger competitions. If not then save the money of applying to competitions and either use it for notes, screenwriting books that may help you with your craft, or classes. Sure, you can’t just take one rejection as a final rejection of your script, but figure out a strategy and find the right competitions to test your material on. Some of these competitions may even provide feedback as part of their entry fee that you can use to prep your script for the larger competitions.

This brings us to another way competitions can be useful. All feedback can be helpful, but you must be careful how you take feedback. Many of these are blind reads, so you won’t know or meet the person giving you the feedback and they won’t know you. However, you could enter three small competitions with feedback and search for the common notes from each. If the same issues keep coming up, then you know that it is something you might have to address. This type of feedback may also reveal parts of your script that you were blind to because you have the story so well rehearsed in your mind. Dealing with notes is a difficult skill to master and a whole other topic that we will address in another post. But using competitions as a means of feedback and blind reads could be part of your strategy.

There is something else many of us writers seem to need every now and then. We need confidence in our material and craft. We are with it so much on our own that, at times, every writer gives in to doubts about what they are writing. A few placements in a competition or a win may be what some writers need to keep pushing ahead. There’s nothing wrong with needing that little boost of confidence now and then. Being a writer can be a solitary path where we are stuck in our own heads for long periods of time. Having someone you don’t know read your work and reward you for it may be what some of us need to keep slogging away at our craft.

Finally, besides testing your material and getting notes you may use the smaller contest as a barometer for whether or not you are ready to go for the large competitions. Remember, in many of these large competitions you are up against thousands and sometimes into the tens of thousands of writers. You may be competing for ten spots against thousands of writers who have been at it for years. Why not test your material at the smaller competitions and help prepare it before throwing money after what is essentially a lottery for most. Get your writing to the level it needs to be before you apply to the big competitions.

All of us here at Page Turner have spent thousands of dollars on competitions over the years hoping for that big break. Had we been more strategic like mentioned above, we all would have saved ourselves a load of cash and a lot of time, both of which most writers desperately need. We all learned the hard way, so hopefully you won’t have to.

Be smart. Have a strategy when you enter competitions. Then execute that strategy to save yourself time and money to help you improve your craft.

WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO

Page Turner Screenplays was created by a group of professional screenwriters who believe that honest, sincere feedback and support from other working writers is the best way to help foster new writers.

Why did we decide to do this?

Because we’ve been there.

We’ve done it.

We know the path to becoming a professional writer is wrought with obstacles, traps and scams. And we’re hoping to help you NOT make the same mistakes that we have.

Over drinks or at events we would often meet and commiserate as we struggled to navigate our writing into a career. We would exchanges notes on various schools, books, teachers, gurus and of course, the myriad competitions and film festivals.

There are many… MANY competitions and festivals out there. As writer’s we’ve gone through the process and submitted to every imaginable competition, lab, residency, festival and diversity program.

At the end of it all, WE BELIEVE that writers are getting the short end of the stick from most of these initiatives.

Many of these initiatives are well intentioned but like they say, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Most simply lack the ability to help writers in any meaningful way. There are those who have just grown to big and now have freshmen college students or interns reading scripts from writers who have spent most of their lives writing and studying the craft. Does this seem right or fair? Do they have the knowledge base and ability to truly judge the merit of a script or story? We have worked with and met many of the people who mange these festivals and competitions, and they often complain of being overwhelmed with scripts and the lack of industry level professional readers.

WE BELIEVE this is unfair to both the writers and the readers.

 There are also those competitions that populate the landscape from places far off from the entertainment industry centers. These competitions certainly have a purpose to serve in their local or regional area, and can even be useful to writers a continent away with the right objectives in mind. However, there are those that may not have the interests of the writers in mind at all and are simply looking for ways to line their pockets. Usually that particular set is pretty obvious.

Writers in the entertainment industry depend upon each other. We work together on shows, on pitches and sometimes on features. If we don’t help each other or share information, writing can become a very dark place. There are so many obstacles for writers that can suck away your time and money, but festivals and competitions should not be one of them.

WE BELIEVE we should help each other to avoid these obstacles. Others helped us on our writer’s journey, and we hope to be able to help anyone we can on theirs.

The final reason we are doing this is purely selfish. A great writing teacher many of us had, used to say, that he wanted us to succeed for selfish reasons. He wanted to see better films and television. There is a lot of great stuff out there, but like him, we also want you to succeed for the same selfish reason of wanting to see great TV shows and movies. We hope we can help you tell your stories the best way they can be told.

So, how do we do this?

First, WE BELIEVE that feedback from working writers in the entertainment industry can provide new writers struggling to break in with the most up to date information of how the business really works and the level their writing needs to reach for them to succeed.

We begin by giving sincere honest feedback with competitions judged by professional writers from start to finish. You won’t be judged by anyone who has the ability to read, but by professional writers.

Our readers are Writer’s Guild of America members who have pitched, sold and/or written television and features. We DO NOT believe in having students read your work or random readers outside the industry. ALL of our readers are in New York and Los Angeles working in the entertainment industry and will provide you notes at a professional level.

Second, WE BELIEVE there is more to a contest than being judged, and that is why we created what we believe to be a UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY in SCREENWRITING COMPETITIONS.

We have set ourselves up as a small, limited entry competition with the PAGE TURNER 100. By focusing on the notes process we hope to be able to help you elevate your writing to pursue your goals or to simply improve your craft. It is basically a personalized screenwriting class within a competition.

Our other competitions are still evolving, but with the 100 we feel we have tapped into something special that can greatly speed up the learning process for writers.

Third, WE BELIEVE there are many more great stories waiting to be told. We come from diverse backgrounds, socially and economically. We live in a diverse world. We weren’t born in the right address and probably neither were you, but WE BELIEVE you can get there.

The entertainment industry is more difficult to enter as a writer than it is to become a member of the NFL. The WGA is happy to share this statistic with you when you enter. Every year more people become NFL football players than writers enter the WGA. There are over 70,000 scripts submitted to the WGA every year and growing. But WE BELIEVE you can make it, and we can help you.

As we continue to build out our site and competitions, we hope to find new ways to help writers.

Finally…

WE BELIEVE that your success is our success.

 

Now, let’s get to work and write something great.