Screenwriting is one tough gig! Not only does a writer need to understand screenwriting structure well enough to create a compelling storyline with interesting characters, but the writer must also weave all major critical decisions, plot points and twists into the story while staying within the confining page requirements of ninety and one hundred-twenty pages, depending on the story’s genre. In addition, once the masterpiece undergoes numerous edits and rewrites, then the writer needs to strategize a plan to get the screenplay read amongst the thousands of scripts that are stacked sky high in the offices of underpaid, overworked Hollywood readers.
Take, for example, my first ever screenwriting workshop hosted by Hollywood writer and teacher, David Freeman at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) in New York City, nearly seven years ago. After introducing himself, David invited everyone to look around the auditorium. As I glanced the room from end to end, I’d estimate that there were at least five hundred of us wanna-be screenwriters, if not more, all eagerly staring back at one another. After a few moments, David nicely informed us that we were looking at our competition. Once the melodious sighs of the audience members dwindled, he then added that we were a small group and to keep in mind that at that very moment, every Starbucks in Los Angeles was filled with writers pounding on their keyboards, hoping to create the next Hollywood blockbuster. Talk about discouraging!
In order to have an edge, screenwriters may want to seriously consider entering screenwriting contests. Contests offer writers exposure, and exposure is a very good thing because contestants never know exactly who’s reading their script and to whom their reader may be connected. Every year, screenplay competitions help launch the careers of many screenwriters due to the fact that contest sponsors not only give away monetary prizes, but also opportunities to shop the winning scripts around to various production companies.
Here in Nashville, the Tennessee Screenwriters Association‘s annual screenwriting contest is already underway. This non-profit organization has been supporting and promoting screenwriters since 1988 through their weekly meetings, networking opportunities and of course, through their annual screenwriting competition, which is in its tenth year.
Winners of first, second and third place will all receive cash awards, but the first place winner will also have his/her script sent to a healthy selection of established and successful production companies. Visit the TSA website at http://www.tennscreen.com for a complete listing, as well as official rules and registration information.
The deadline for submissions is February 1, 2011 which means that there’s still plenty of time to dust off the screenplay that you started a few weeks, months or even years ago, to find a cozy spot at a local Starbucks, my personal favorite being the Starbucks on 21st Avenue, and to write that next Hollywood blockbuster. Who knows? This could be the one contest which launches the screenwriting career that you’ve long been dreaming about!