Thursday 11 September 2014

How to win a screenwriting competition

Gordy Hoffman is a screenwriter, the founder of the BlueCat Screenplay Competition, and the guy who wrote the script for Love Liza, which starred his brother, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.
     The BlueCat Screenplay Competition has been around for about fifteen years. It has seen the number of entries rise from 384, in 1999, to 3391, in 2013. At the same time, total prize money has risen from $2,000 to $43,000. Which is nice, but the big deal is that BlueCat provides written feedback on your screenplay, prepared by experienced professional readers. All for $25. That's hard to beat.
     Gordy has agreed to share some of the many articles he's written over the years with Adelaide Screenwriter readers. Here's one that might help you improve your screenplay.

How to win BlueCat, by Gordy Hoffman

Are you preparing to send in your screenplay to the BlueCat Screenplay Competition before the deadline? What can you do before you enter to increase your chances of advancing, placing and perhaps winning BlueCat?

The first thing you should know is BlueCat is very hard to win. Our readers are incredibly tough on our submissions because I have handpicked them, and my standards are very high. We work very hard, and writers who work as hard as we do stand a chance in the competition.

Maybe you just want our notes on an early draft and have no expectations of winning anything. (You’d be surprised how many people have done very well with new screenplays!) Thank you for using our readers to help you develop your work. We welcome your submissions.

But what if you’ve been diligently working on your screenplay in hopes that you could take our top prize? Well, if you think you’ve gone over it a hundred times, and you’re ready to submit, here’s a list of a few things to consider:

Grocery List
Go through all your description and get rid of all the style and texture and loveliness that calls attention to your wonderful incredible abilities as a Writer. We don’t care what kind of writer you are. All I remember from the scripts that won is what the story was and how much they made me laugh or cry. You know what a grocery list looks like? Make everything simple, straightforward and clean. Grocery list your description. Clarity is the most overlooked element of screenwriting.

Benjamin Franklin
What if someone gave you a hundred dollar bill for every word you removed from your screenplay? I think some of you might be able to buy a house. Go through your screenplay and remove enough words to buy a nice car or boat. You cut words from your script and your chances with BlueCat improve, it’s that simple.

Read Your Writing
When’s the last time you read your script? I know you’ve been looking at it and looking at it, but when’s the last time you read it all the way through? Just read it and reestablish your intimacy with what you wrote. Don’t be a stranger, check everything out again, and watch how all the light bulbs go off again over what it can be. It’s a new day. If you’re going to spend money on a screenplay contest, actually read your screenplay, without stopping to play with it.

Take The Stand
Stop lying to yourself. When we write a screenplay, development is a process of resetting an honest awareness of what we have in front of us. Look for jokes that actually aren’t funny and dialogue that actually doesn’t sound real. For real. Listen to your gut and get honest about what you have in front of you. I often find I’ve left a placeholder piece of dialogue or comedy in there and it became a part of my screenplay. Remove the below average choices you made a long time ago and even if you don’t have something to put in their place, it’s better to cut it and move on. Bad dialogue and bad jokes end your run with BlueCat very quickly.

To the Bone
Even after you’ve taken out all your bad jokes, bad lines and extra words, cut 5 more pages. See if it’s possible. If your script is over 89 pages, it’s very possible. Do it.

Forgive Your People
Do you love your characters? Which ones don’t you have compassion for? If you don’t like some of your characters, they probably aren’t written very well, trust me. With all the extra space, write 10 beats to support your family of characters. I’m not talking about saving animals. I’m talking about adding new moments to your story that come directly from your own admiration and respect for the human dignity in everyone you write about. Think about it. You might hate some of your characters. Shakespeare never did.

Writer not Screenplay
Now stop and set your alarm clock for ten minutes from now and write for ten minutes about a completely different idea just to remind you that after BlueCat and after this screenplay, you are a writer who will write forever and that’s your life, not screenplay contests or one story you made up.

And write tomorrow. I’m gonna try.

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Great advice for all writers.