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by David Santo
Join me now as we travel to a film industry meet-n-greet inside a hotel in Detroit, where a drunk screenwriter checks his emails then smashes his drink on the floor in response to what he just read. His glass shatters into a million little pieces like a clichéd screenwriting metaphor for his shattered life. Then he turns to me and says...
"Step #1: You send your script and your money into a contest. Step #2: Nothing. Happens. Ever. The End."
Turns out this guy entered yet another screenwriting contest and realized, once again, he just threw his money away (and his hope) into a black hole - a sucking, swirling, eddy of despair type of black hole that leads to the impossibly uncompassionate and grisly alternate world of screenwriting contests.
This particular contest was supposed to announce who won but there was no announcement at all just another delivery status notification failure kicked back to his inbox when he inquired about the results. Fellow moviebyters - sound familiar?
This guy pressed on: "So what should I do?" I was perplexed. I wanted to answer him but I have a rule - actually, I have lots of rules - but this one is important - I do not talk to drunk angry dudes in Detroit. In the pantheon of bad ideas this is a very bad one.
But I do have a strategy for screenwriting contests: pick 'em cheap, pick 'em fast, enter them with the vim and vigor of a mutant gerbil on shore leave, and make sure they have a proven history of reporting results so you can build your resume ASAP if you win. So where do you start?
Gordon Rogerson, is the creator and coordinator of this contest and it is featured right here on moviebytes.com. Gordon is also an accomplished writer who has won or been a finalist in other screenwriting contests. I recently sat down with Gordon via email and asked him a few questions.
Q: Your monthly contest is inexpensive - $10. Why did you adopt this price and timeframe?
A: I chose the monthly format because I like entering my own work into contests. It's a quick turn around and it's a nice way to get some feedback and gauge where your script is at as far as polishing it. The $10 helps pay for the administration fees for the website and allows me to give a little something to the judges (and by little, I mean, a couple of pints when we meet to discuss the results). The fee also helps by weeding out the spammers who are submitting other people's work i.e. I once received a copy of a well-known Oscar winning screenplay as an entry and another one that simply read "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." - All 123 pgs.
Q: What do you look for on page 1 of a screenplay that tips you off the script is good?
A: Something exciting or eye catching! Not every script is going to explode off the page, but there's subtle ways to grab someone, hook 'em, then spend the next 110 pgs reeling them in. I look for well written descriptions that really make the scene feel real to me. I also look for typos, incorrect formatting, typeface, grammar, spelling and punctuation. A friend, and professional script doctor, drilled it into my head that if I couldn't take the time to make sure my work was polished, well-crafted and typo free, why should anyone else waste their time on it? So, at times, I'm a little bit harsh in that regard. The real kicker for me though - the thing that stands out the most for me is dialogue! I want characters to sound like people not robots or English professors (unless they happen to be an English professor or a robot). Dialogue shouldn't dwell on the boring back and forth real people drone on about but still feel like its natural. If you want to know what good dialogue sounds like watch a Kevin Smith movie or an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It's as much delivery as the writing in some cases, but in both these examples the dialogue has a smooth back and forth that's rhythmical and natural sounding.
Q: What's the biggest surprise you've experienced since you created The-Greenlight?
A: The quality of untapped talent out there. We've had a number of our writers signed over the last few years, and some of them have gone on to get optioned and sold. But I am constantly impressed with the caliber and quantity of creativity that still hasn't been brought to Hollywood. I'm also surprised by the number of people who have what we've dubbed "American Idol Syndrome". I've had some pretty angry emails from writers who have submitted their work and have not been selected as the winner, or who have asked for notes and haven't been pleased with what the judges had to say about their scripts.
Q: Deep down inside where it really counts does genre matter to a script reader?
A: I'm a sci-fi geek. I love a good (intelligent) science fiction story; I also enjoy really bad B-movie sci-fi films. If it has aliens, creatures, laser weapons or anything of the kind, I'm probably down for it. I think I'm a little harder on sci-fi\horror writers for that reason. I think it's an underrated genre that deserves far more respect than it actually garners. That said, a good story is a good story. If the writing is good, the characters are well developed, and the dialogue is realistic then naturally you can't go wrong.
Q: Naomi Lamont was the most recent winner of your annual script contest with her screenplay entitled "The Touch". What was that about and why did it win?
A: Naomi has an elegance about her writing, her stories are well crafted, the characters are interesting and she gets it! She understands that some of the loudest conversations are whispered. It was no surprise to hear that she got picked up by an agency.
Q: Your website is excellent: clean, fast, efficient, and pleasing to the eyes. Did you do that? How hard was it to put together?
A: Thank you! Yup. I'm the web guy. I work as a systems administrator during the day so it kind of comes naturally, but, I will admit, I use a wonderfully easy software program to build and design the pages. Most of my quick edits take a half-hour at the most.
THE-GREENLIGHT TOP 3
An interview with screenwriter Justin Sloan regarding the The-GreenLight.com Monthly Writing Competition.
An interview with screenwriter Dana Garrity regarding the The-GreenLight.com Monthly Writing Competition.