Batten down the hatches - the STORM is upon us! Welcome, friends, to the sixth annual Writers on the Storm Screenplay Competition. It's been a pleasure to bring this contest to you all for the past few years. And last time out, we got our runner-up Jeremy Shipp (Sleight of Hand) and honorable mention Paul Moxham (Vertically Challenged) signed -- to UNITED TALENT AGENCY and MURAVIOV COMPANY respectively.
All submissions must be received by 11:59 PM January 1, 2013 (final/late deadline).
Submitted screenplays must be the unproduced, unoptioned, and original work of the writer(s). There must be no dispute about the ownership of submitted screenplay(s) or the writers' right to submit screenplay(s).
Adaptations of previously published material are acceptable if the material is public domain, or if the writer can provide written proof of his/her right to adapt the material into screenplay form.
Screenplays by more than one writer are eligible, but only one prize will be given per winner, and it will be the writers' responsibility to distribute the prize. If writers of a script are unable to agree on the distribution of a prize, their script will be disqualified.
All writers of submitted scripts must be at least 18 years of age.
Screenplay must be in English, submitted in a standard format such as PDF, .rtf or .doc. Hard copies must be printed single or double-sided 3-hole white paper with the pages numbered, fastened with 2-3 brads and blank cardstock covers. All scripts must have title, name of writer(s) and contact information on the title page. Scripts should be between 90-130 pages and no longer than 150 pages in standard spec screenplay format. Please add an additional $10 for screenplays over 125 pages. Font must be 12-point Courier, Courier New or Courier Final Draft. No other fonts will be accepted.
All submissions must contain eligible screenplay(s), a completed application, entry fee, and, if you want notification that we have received your materials, a self-addressed-stamped postcard. Hard copy submissions sent via USPS or a courier service (UPS, FedEx, etc.) must not require a signature upon delivery.
Judging will be performed by trained readers, industry professionals. The finalists' scripts will be read by Jim Cirile and selected industry professionals. The decisions of the Judges will be final.
Writers On The Storm may substitute alternative prizes of equal or greater value in place of previously announced prizes.
Round one scripts are awarded a grade by our judges for both script and for writer. These grades are: pass, consider with reservations, consider, strong consider, and recommend. Only scripts that receive a 'consider with reservations' for script or better (roughly the top 10% of all submissions) advance to the quarterfinal round. Unfortunately, screenplays that receive a 'consider with reservations' or better for writer will not advance. Thus it is entirely possible that you receive a consider for writer but a pass for script. What this means is that the analyst found the writing craft to be very promising, but the script itself needs more work. This is actually fairly common. While the script will not advance to the quarterfinals, it is validation that the reader felt there was talent on the page.
Entry fees are nonrefundable. Make checks payable to Coverage, Ink.
Questions regarding the Writers on the Storm Screenplay Contest should be directed to Contest Coordinator Julie Connor via the contact address on this site.
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By Jim Cirile
This is one of those articles where the content is pretty obvious by the title. Of course it's wise to be a student of the biz. It's almost akin to saying, ''Breathing is good.'' What is perhaps less obvious is that so few screenwriters actually follow this advice; indeed many of us assiduously and specifically avoid doing so.
We'll start with the basics. Why is it important to be a student of the business? Because it IS a business. Much though we like to think of cinema as an artistic form, which it certain can be, that's not its driving force. Money is the driving force. The movie biz is about selling a commodity -- entertainment. The more you sell, the more successful you are, the more heat you get, the more you can seize the reins and if all goes well, eventually use that leverage to push challenging, quality films that would otherwise not have been made into production (a.k.a. the Clint Eastwood Effect.) Because it is a business, that means you are also trying to sell your product -- screenplays -- to the buyers, which makes you, by definition, a salesperson. Like it or not, how you comport yourself, market and promote your material and handle your business affairs -- as well as the quality of your product -- all figure into being a screenwriter.
All this stuff admittedly falls under the category of "Duh." Yeah, we all know this. But you'd be amazed at how few folks actually DO anything about it. For the last nine years I've written the Agent's Hot Sheet column for Creative Screenwriting magazine. I cover what's going on in the business, what's of interest to agents and managers, all with an eye on giving you the critical intelligence you need to find a way in. And yet I have had more than a few people tell me that while they read the magazine, they avoid my column because it makes them uncomfortable or it's too "businessy." (It's not.) And that's not all. I run a coverage/consulting company called Coverage, Ink, and we have a lot of clients. And while quite a few of them are very sharp about how the business works, many are not. There are way too many writers out there who still think it's perfectly acceptable to write a period piece, a drama, an ensemble script or even something flat-out experimental as a spec -- and then they're stunned when Hollywood does not beat a path to their $750/month 1-bedroom apartment in Van Nuys.
And that brings us to WHY so many people don't like to pay attention to the business side. They think it will somehow hurt their creativity or impose formula or lame, stale Hollywoodness onto their fresh flava. And truthfully, they're partially right. There's also something frankly a bit distasteful about being so analytical about the movie biz. It's that salesy mind-set associated the name-droppers and the wannabes, and frankly it's a little bit ew. We've all met these guys at parties, and we walk away feeling a mixture of jealous, intimidated and a little bit unclean. Nobody really wants to be that guy (although they are out there, and many of them do eventually make it.)
But here's the thing - ignorance is NOT bliss. A certain amount of knowledge is a very good thing. That doesn't mean you need to know the name of every prodco and executive in town and what their slate is. But it does mean that you should have a good idea of how the spec market and assignment game works, what types of material are in favor, and how to come across as a professional. You never know when a key piece of knowledge will help you cinch a deal. I once landed a writing assignment because I knew that the executive I was meeting with was frustrated, unable to get a pet project moving at his studio. "Why not let me have a whack at it, no strings, on spec?," I offered, and he was intrigued. That project never went anywhere, but it did lead to a paid writing assignment with that exec on another project. All because of something I'd read about him somewhere.
Being a student of the business means you have a good idea of what types of material to write (hint: a genre that an agent or manager thinks he can sell.) This shows potential representation that you respect their time and have a clue. It means doing your research and finding out if there are similar projects out there already (try filmtracker.com and trackingb.com for that.) It means listening to feedback from your reps or potential reps, producers and/or assistants you've befriended. They're in the trenches every day and know whereof they speak. It means understanding the importance of set pieces and trailer moments, of franchise and castability potential, of "the hook" (the first scene in the script) and of having a "clean" concept (one that is simple, direct, catchy.) And you'd better understand that spec scripts seldom go out "naked" anymore, but rather, require packaging, a process that can take a year or more. Gulp. Yeah, that's why no one wants to know the truth about the business.
But the most important reason to be a student of the biz is: to avoid making amateurish mistakes. If you understand the way Hollywood really does business nowadays, as opposed to decades ago, you will have a crucial leg up. It could save you a year of your life toiling on a script no one is interested in, or it could provide a valuable way in by targeting a specific exec or company predisposed to like the type of material you're writing. Plus by confidently carrying yourself like someone who knows what's going on, execs, managers and agents relax a bit and feel better about spending time with you because you get it. If they think you're cool, you may even land that cherished post-work hang time. Hey, if you can put back a few beers while watching a UFC match with your manager, rest assured that dude will work way harder for you than for the client who has writing chops but is naive and shows no inclination to learn the way things work.
HOW TO BE A STUDENT OF THE BIZ
An interview with JIM CIRILE regarding the Writers On The Storm Writing Competition.
An interview with screenwriters Brooks Elms & Glenn Sanders regarding the Writers On The Storm Writing Competition.
An interview with screenwriter Matthew Scarsbrook regarding the Writers On The Storm Writing Competition.