Scriptapalooza Celebrates 20 Years
Scriptapalooza is one of the longest-running contests on MovieBytes. We caught up with contest founder Mark Andrushko on the occasion of their 20th Anniversary.
How did your contest get started? What was your background in the industry?
Scriptapalooza was born when 2 writers and myself were sitting around a table discussing screenplay competitions and how bad they were. The overall complaint was you never knew who was reading your script and if they were qualified or not. So, we looked at each other and said, let's change this, let's start naming names and so we did, we started naming the producers that would be reading the scripts. That kind of changed everything at that time (20 years ago) ... no one was doing that. The name Scriptapalooza was thought of by my partner Genevieve Cibor ... we were looking for a name that was unforgettable, unique and meant power, I think we got it.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in the early years of the contest?
The biggest obstacle was getting the word out on Scriptapalooza and convincing producers to let us put their names on our website. Our first year we got 600 entries.
How have things changed in terms of the quality of the screenplays you receive?
Honestly, we get incredible scripts every year and we are always impressed that there are great writers all over the world, not just in Los Angeles.
From your perspective as a contest coordinator, what are the most common mistakes that writers make in their contest submissions?
After doing this for 20 years I can honestly say, send us your script when you think it's ready and incredible. Don't send a first draft. There's too much competition. A writer should be clear about their story. They need to know it inside and out. The script is just a vessel to convey that story.
How many judges do you employ, and where do you find them?
Well we don't believe in readers because readers can't do anything with your script. All the reading at Scriptapalooza is done by producers, managers and agents. We go right to the source, that being a producer, manager or agent, these are the people that can set-up a meeting, option your script, take it to the studio or outright buy it.
Are submissions to Scriptapalooza judged by more than one reader?
They are first read by a production company and then after that production company recommends a script, we, Scriptapalooza read those recommends. Producers are looking for great scripts with potential or writers with potential.
Your contest winners (and finalists) are promoted to the industry through the something you call the "Scriptapalooza Network." How does that work, and how are Network participants recruited?
By that we mean, they are promoted to the 125 producers that we have been working with for years. And also, producers and managers email us all the time looking for material.
Do producers ever come to you looking for a particular kind of screenplay, even if it wasn't one of your winners? Are you able to make recommendations like that? Do you maintain a database of all of your submissions?
Yes, we get calls all the time from producers looking for a certain type of script. We kind of act like agents because we pitch and promote the TOP 100 scripts for an entire year. No other competition in the world does that.
What's the difference between your "Fellowship" and your regular Film and TV contests?
The Fellowship is fairly new, we are going into our 4th year. We created it to give writers a chance to go to the Robert McKee seminar, visit LA or NY and have a mentor for 6 months. The Fellowship has been really successful because it provides the recipient with time to focus on their writing, as well as an opportunity to develop a relationship in the industry who can nurture them.
Do you think screenwriting can be taught, or is it a talent you're born with?
I think either one can lead you to a career as a writer. However, the most important thing is to have a desire and dedication to write. What if you are the most talented writer in the world, but never put anything on paper? Similarly, you took dozens of screenwriting classes, went to a top university for screenwriting, studied all the great scripts, but never put anything on paper? Desire and dedication are key.
How many of your contest winners have gone on to production?
Here's a short list of movies made:
- Queensized by Rodney Johnson. (Lifetime)
- The Break-Up Artist, written by Patrick Andrew O'Connor.
- The Dark Woods, written by John Muscarnero.
- Legends of OZ by Adam Balsam.
- Love Addict by Chris Pentzell.
- The Family Holiday by Craig Clyde.
Of your un-produced contest-winners, is there any one in particular that you think would make a great film?
Oh, the question, we have been asked that so many times ... I would have to say every 1st place winner that hasn't been made.
Scriptapalooza has survived and thrived for over 20 years when many other contests have failed. What is it that you've done differently than the contests?
I think it all comes down to working for the undiscovered writer. I honestly enjoy reading the scripts that someone has taken so much time and effort to put it all on paper. Our top scripts are amazing. The movie always plays in my head as I read.