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CS/Expo responded to my recent letter (in the previous post, but I'll also post it at the bottom of this). I won't even comment as not to bias you, but tell me what you honestly think:
Thank you very much for taking the time to write. I agree that the Expo Screenplay Competition can certainly be improved. Improvements are in the works. We will announce them when ready. I also agree, very strongly, as does the contest manager, Pasha McKenley, that the contest should have been started and ended earlier. Events beyond our control caused delays in the start and end this year.
However, the rest of your criticism is simply incorrect or based on faulty assumptions.
First, regarding the message boards: It is very easy -- and quite cowardly -- to disparage under the cloak of anonymity. When one responds, they gang up in ways that they wouldn't dare do if they had the post their names. Also, have you ever seen one of the anonymous disparagers post, "I sold a script!"? I haven't.
Our contests and pitch fest, to the contrary, have had many success stories -- in fact, many more than we have publicly bragged about.
You wrote: "...you are not giving what was promised ... I think most serious writers would agree that they entered because of the promise of industry connections at the Expo...You did not give Semifinalists and Finalists (or even Quarterfinalists) a chance to make use of this exposure at the Expo, as you promised."
I am truly puzzled as to how you got this so dead wrong. Here are the promises we make to contest entrants with regard to industry access:
1. We promise that we will send winning scripts and finalists' log lines and synopses to 300+ production companies, agents, and managers. We have delivered on that promise each year (and will this year).
2. We promised that we would publish articles about winners. We have done so each year and will for this year's winners.
3. We promised additional publicity. The press release about this year's winners has either already gone out, and the winners will be posted at the Expo web site in a day or two. That information will stay there for years, fully searchable.
4. We offer the chance to participate in the Golden Pitch Fest under the terms discussed below, which are not the terms you seem to imagine we offered. Promise kept.
5. This year, we promised to announce winners the night before the Expo started. Promise kept.
We have made no other promise of "industry connections" or "a chance to use this exposure at the Expo."
In addition, behind the scenes, our remarkable contest manager, Pasha McKenley -- the best contest manager the Creative Screenwriting enterprise has ever had, by far -- is in constant contact with development executives and production companies, quietly passing along contestants' scripts behind the scenes.
Have you written to Pasha for help, ideas, or to just get a little attention for your work? Or to ask if any executives are interested in the screenplays you entered in our contests? No? Yet here you are, crabbing at us.
You chose not to come to the Expo --apparently because you wanted to see your contest status before you registered. You do not seem to understand the process for obtaining pitch tickets. It is the same now as it was in 2006: those who sign up for the Expo early --in June and early July, months before the contest is judged -- get the best access to pitch tickets. Everyone gets to buy tickets in the order he/she registered for the Expo. Waiting for a contest announcement before deciding to attend the Screenwriting Expo means that if you did attend and seek pitch tickets, you would be browsing through the leftover tickets by the time the link to buy tickets is sent to you.
It always was that way (including 2006), and we are not going to change that. The Screenwriting Expo is a costly, financially risky event. Many big bills come due well in advance. We intentionally reward those who help us reduce the financial risks giving them the best access to pitch tickets.
You seem to imply that the main or only reason for attending the Screenwriting Expo would have been just to pitch. Your criticisms imply that your scripts are great and your failure to sell is our fault.
We had four sessions at the Expo this year specifically aimed at you -- yes, you personally, and others similarly situated. Two of them were writers who have managed to sell from afar, giving their how-to. The third was a panel of contest winners, headed by 2008 AAA contest winner Chris Canole*, on strategies to leverage contest victories into career progress as a screenwriter. The fourth was another panel Chris put together of contest managers on how to use their (including our) contests to further your writing career. You chose not to come to the Expo and attend them.
* By the way: guess who was among the first to register for the Expo and was THE first to buy pitch tickets this year: Chris Canole. And he told me after the pitchfest that he had a lot of industry inquiries. You, with multiple contest victories, stayed home. I fail to see why that fact is the fault of the Expo Screenplay Competition.
I spent some time at the Expo listening to William Goldman, John Cleese, and Mike Medavoy discussing the state of the industry, how to succeed, and what is selling these days in Hollywood. You missed it.
Regarding Suzanne's Prize: yes, we delayed announcing it until the closing ceremony. But the semifinalists were announced in advance, and the five finalists were announced the evening before the Expo.
Also, this prize is not only an extra benefit, but it is MY prize, given in honor of my deceased wife. You show an extraordinary lack of sensitivity in presuming to complain about a prize that I am giving as an extra benefit at my company's sole expense (and at the expense of my and Suzanne's daughter's time), and which is so personal to me. The candidates for that prize did not complain. So rather than personally insult me, what do you think about showing just a bit more tact on that one?
You also wrote:
"Another bad decision was when the Expo Comp extended its deadline after it had passed. This was unfair to those who submitted on the final day. Was this just an attempt to bring in more money? It sure seems like it. And it was done at the expense of the future Finalists."
Wholly untrue. We stated quite clearly and emphatically what the deadlines were, and that the contest might be extended past the announced deadline at a higher price. Then, we did exactly as stated-- we extended at a higher price. There is nothing "unfair" to you or anyone about our stating the terms and then following them. You could have taken the risk that we might not extend the contest, and paid a higher price to submit later, as many others did.
It is also a fact that most screenwriting contests similarly extend deadlines at higher prices. But you seem to be singling us out for complaint on this point. In fact, in 2006 -- the year you seem to glorify as the golden age of the Expo Screenplay Competition --the former contest management did not state in the instructions and rules that the contest would be extended, then repeatedly promoted the deadline as if it were final -- and then extended at no penalty for latecomers. You snipe at us for an honest, stated extension and claim that a year in which the deadline and extension were dishonestly manipulated was somehow better. Please get your facts right.
Also, hundreds of entries are submitted each year in the final days of the extended deadline, at those higher prices. I imagine that this is true of other contests as well. (Else why would they do these extensions?) Why do writers take that risk and pay more? Quit carping at us and ask them.
As for our motives: we have two. One is to provide those writers with those last-minute habits an opportunity to enter, and pay that 7-11 premium over supermarket prices. The other is to help us pay the bills. You seem to think there is something impure or immoral about making enough money to pay the bills here. I don't.
Regarding your proposed schedule, thank you for trying. I won't go into detail about why it won't work, but as stated earlier. I do agree with your point that we need to start and conclude the contest a bit earlier.
Regarding the timing of pitch ticket sales: they will continue to go on sale the week before the Expo because that is the only rational way to run a pitch fest which is structured like ours. Presumably you have never attempted to run a pitch fest. Ours is very effective and well organized. So I think you need to leave the decisions on the timing of pitch ticket sales to us.
In closing, I have this to say regarding "taking the Expo off my list.." --
I have the same answer to you as I had in the magazine for "Betty" who wrote that our contests are bogus and our other products aren't helping her: Yes, OF COURSE, try something else if our offerings aren't helping you. Shop around, try other contests, other services and products, other opportunities, other approaches. If they work for you, wonderful. If not, re-examine.
Good luck to you. But do take responsibility for your choices.
Bill Donovan Editor and Publisher Creative Screenwriting Magazine
irin evers wrote: > How to save the Expo Screenwriting Competition&
> The title above may be throwing you off. You may not think the Expo Screenwriting Competition needs saving. But trust me, the word of mouth via email and on the boards (moviebytes, done deal pro, etc.) has been scathing. I'm only taking the time to write this out of disappointment on what the contest was and can be.
> I was a Quarterfinalist in 2006 and attended the Expo. I was also a Quarterfinalist this year. If you asked me just two years ago to name the top 5 contests I'd want to place at the top of, Expo would've been one of those. But now, I'm taking the Expo off my list and don't plan to enter again unless huge changes are made.
> The Expo Screenwriting Comp has the unique ability to really help up-and-coming writers at the Expo events (such as the Golden Pitch). When I pitched in 2006, it was a big plus to mention that I was a Quarterfinalist in the contest.
> How things have changed: This year (and in other recent years), the Expo Comp contest placements were not announced on time or with enough notice for out-of-towners to attend. This year, the Quarterfinalists were announced 8 days before the Expo. The Semifinalists were announced the day of the Expo (and by email, the day after). And the Finalists were announced 2 days before the Expo. I've also been told that Suzanne's Prize was not even awarded at the award ceremony and still has to be decided. This is embarrassing. This competition has been around for many years and you should know the approximate amount of submissions, and how long it will take to review them and decide on the winners.
> More importantly, you are not giving what was promised — and the most important thing of all. I would love to deposit $20,000 in my bank account, but I think most serious writers would agree that they entered because of the promise of industry connections at the Expo, not the $20K. You did not give Semifinalists and Finalists (or even Quarterfinalists) a chance to make use of this exposure at the Expo, as you promised.
> There are many festivals and awards ceremonies and it's difficult to have the time and money for all of them. Many writers wait to see how they place before deciding to attend. But that wasn't possible with the Expo. How many Semifinalists and Finalists attended the awards and the Expo this year? How many that live outside of LA? Were they able to buy pitch tickets after they found out that they had placed in the Expo Comp?
> Another bad decision was when the Expo Comp extended its deadline after it had passed. This was unfair to those who submitted on the final day. Was this just an attempt to bring in more money? It sure seems like it. And it was done at the expense of the future Finalists.
> The rushing of the contest makes writers fear that the decisions were made quickly and that many scripts didn't get a fair read. This rushing can also be seen in the sloppiness of typos both on the Expo website and in emails about the Comp (notice the 2008 logo on all 2009 emails, for example).
> Here's what I would do if I were running the Expo Comp (and what should be done):
> 1. The main deadline would be moved up to May 1st. Let's face it — most writers are looking at one deadline all year: the Nicholl May 1st deadline. So May 1st isn't a stretch. There are never any extensions to the Nicholl and writers have all year to work toward it.
> 2. There would be a late and FINAL deadline of June 1st - period. This deadline would be posted from the beginning, have a higher fee and would not be extended for any reason whatsoever. If the Expo Comp is worried about not getting enough entries to pay the $20K prize, then that prize should be lower — maybe post a $10K winner prize and $2K genre winners prizes, and these can always be raised later (no one would complain about that). But the main thing is the announcement of Finalists one month prior to the Expo and nothing should stop that from happening.
> 3. Announcements: The Quarterfinalists would be announced (emails and on the website) on August 1st. Semifinalists on August 21st. And Finalists on September 15th — one month prior to the Expo. These would be done on time or early. Give yourself more time than you think you need. If these are dates not possible (you know better than me and the summer may be a difficult time), then there should be an earlier final deadline to submit, NOT a later announcement. The Finalists would have one month to plan for the Expo. Golden Pitch tickets would go on sale at least one week after that September 15th announcement so that they would have time to buy tickets.
> 4. I would take a close look at similar festivals/contests that pull this off and see how they do it so well — like the Austin Film Festival Screenplay Competition.
> Thanks for your time and good luck with the Expo Screenplay Competition.
> -irin evers > www.neuroticboyproductions.com > > >
I just skimmed the letter...is there an explanation for the delay in notifying quarterfinalists? They CLAIMED to have the list on a Friday, but didn't post it on their website or send out an e-mail until Wednesday (give or take a few days here; the point being, you have the list, you post it that day -- how hard is that, after all?).
While I have no doubt the winning scripts are great scripts, I have huge doubt all the scripts were read. All you can ask for is a fair chance; I doubt everyone got one. Just my opinion, of course.
I won't be wasting my time and money with them in the future.
Looks like your letter got under his skin.
As far as I'm concerned....
INSIDE INFORMATION GROUP, LTD. aka Creative Screenwriting .com aka Screenwriting Expo
As far as I'm concerned -- they're a scam.
And Bill Donovan is an asshole!
ill Donovan Editor and Publisher Creative Screenwriting Magazine
Dan, possibly your best post yet - lol.
Seriously, I took offense to Bill's reply because I felt that he attacked and insulted me and my work ethic, writing things about me that are untrue instead. Anyway, here's the letter I sent back:
I don't think I've ever received a more insulting, condescending letter. It's fine if you disagree with these opinions on the Expo. But to insult my character is unbelievable. You've written things about me in this letter as if you think you know me, but you do not. Is this how you treat all opinions?
I only took the time to write about the Expo Comp out of disappointment and concern. I've been a subscriber to CS for around 11 years and read all of those issues cover to cover (they are on my bookshelf). I attended the Expo in 2006 (no, I don't think of 2006 as the glory days, and yes, I did a lot more than pitch at that Expo). But I've been disappointed in recent years and screenwriters on the boards, as well as friends of mine have expressed the same opinions (including writers who placed highly this year). Believe me, I wouldn't have taken time away from my family and my writing to send a letter if I didn't care, I would've just not entered again.
Instead, you attack me as a person. But you've never met me. You don't know anything about my work ethic. If you want to know about me, ask Chris Canole. Ask Michelle Muldoon, who spoke on one of his panels. Ask Heather Hughes, who spoke on a panel. Ask Pilar Alessandra, perennial Expo speaker. Ask Alex McPhail, Austin Film Festival Screenplay Coordinator. Ask Gordy Hoffman, BlueCat Screenplay Comp Coordinator. Ask Jennifer Berg or Zoe Simmons of the PAGE International. Ask Suzanne DeLaurentiis of the Cinema City Film Festival. Ask anyone who knows me.
Or feel free to read any of my posts on the screenwriting boards. On the message boards, my name is simply ''irin evers.'' I state my opinions and do my best to help others. I take responsibility for all my choices. My name is not ''anonymous.'' But that doesn't mean that anonymous postings aren't helpful or honest. Many do post their names. Many don't for fear of a contest or industry writing them off. My name is not ''Betty'' either.
Posters don't post ''I sold a script.'' Neither do I. I haven't sold one. Is this a requirement to send a letter? Is this a requirement to subscribe to CS? Is this a requirement to have a valid opinion on screenwriting?
You have accused me of merely ''crabbing'' and ''carping'' (the first time I've ever been called either of these) rather than trying to make a go at this business. Without knowing me, you make untrue assumptions. I have spent countless hours working on my craft, submitting, networking, reading books and magazines, reading scripts for fun and as a prodco reader, attending festivals with films and scripts (and won awards for both), and supporting indie film.
You say I ''chose not to come to Expo'' as if this is just a mere choice. Here are some possible reasons to miss the Expo: the cost of a trip from NY, missed work, a wife who's about to give birth, a 14 month old baby. Yes, all of these apply. I chose to attend Austin over the Expo last year and am happy I did. I had an incredible time and it led to me signing with an agent.
''Your criticisms imply that your scripts are great and your failure to sell is our fault.'' I've said or implied nothing of this sort. I don't even mention my scripts in my letter. Nor do I mention about selling them. This is incredibly offensive.
One thing is for certain, Erik Bauer surely wouldn't have written such an insulting, unprofessional letter. Best of luck to you.
What an insulting and self serving letter. He couldn't have attacked a more professional, hardworking, giving, postive (non-carping), talented writer than you, Irin.
I'ts amazing and shocking that he threw insults around so freely... and so inaccuratly.
They're all so shocking that I don't know where to start.
Why would he assume you post anonymously? We met each other last year at Austin because you don't post anonymously. We recognized each other by our names. Our real names.
He just flat out wrong that most contests extend their deadlines at a higher price. Not true. They often have a later deadline at a higher price to begin with, but don't extend them on the day of the last deadline.
I won't go point by point, but I cannot believe he was so scathing.
SO, sorry that you were treated like this.
Heather... er... "Betty"
Thanks Heather. But you had to say something nice, since I mentioned your name - lol!
Hope you're having a blast in Austin. Remember to look for Steven Arvanites.
For some reason every time I make a new account, it quickly gets deleted. ;-)
Do you like my new name?
Thank you for nailing Expo.
I Am Dan, Dan I Am
Can anyone tell me what "Austin" refers to (I'll stop the smartasses now by saying 'other than the city')? Is this a festival of some sorts? Can I get a link?
Here's the link:
The Austin Film Festival has one of the top screenplay competitions. The festival itself the best one out there for screenwriters (there are seminars, panels, roundtables, parties, etc.) and they show great films as well.
Irin, you're faster than google! ;)
Thanks for the info. I'll check it out. I guess it's a toss-up between that and expo. I'd ask for opinions, but I think the consensus on these boards is pretty clear...
It's not a toss up. It's Austin.
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