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Top 10 Myths About Entering Screenplay Competitions Demystified

By Expert Author: Roger Jenkins

We all wonder what really happens when we put our script out there to be judged in a competition. And then we wonder: what if we could just understand the process a little better to make my entry stand out from the heaps of other submissions.
Is there anything you can do to better your odds of coming out on top? Or, at least making it to the 2nd round?
Here's ten myths to pay attention to the next time you consider entering a script contest:
10) MYTH: Genre-specific categories/restrictions only apply to other people's scripts; My script is so great it transcends all genres.
DC: That may very well be the truth, but it's also likely that your zombie script has just been disqualified from the romantic comedy competition and you might as well have chain-sawed through your entry fee, 'cause it's gone.
9) MYTH: Organizers like being presented with alternate endings. It's like Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books, people like to be able to choose their own endings.
DC: No. Organizers just want to choose a winning screenplay. Stick to one story. Your story. That means, no blue, gold, pink pages, rewrites, alternative endings, or You choose to go left, turn to page 16 endings. None. Period.
8) MYTH: Binding, bounding and special covers on my script makes it stand out.
DC: True. But it also makes it much more difficult on the reader and could negatively impact your score. Or, worse yet, disqualify your entry. I read every script that comes through the CSSC. Now imagine a stack of hundreds of scripts and one of them somewhere stuffed in the middle (likely nearer the bottom) has a slippery plastic cover on it. Mid-way through my evening of scoring scripts they all come crashing down due to... you guessed it, your script. As well, many bindings don't allow a reader to lay the script flat, open it properly or insert our scoring sheet. My advice is stick to 1 or 2 brass brads. That' s it. And they work every time.
7) MYTH: They don't need my contact information on my script too, it's already on my registration form.
DC: Not true. Competitions receive hundreds, if not thousands of entries from all across the world. They each have their own filing system and ways to keep track of your script and entry. If they can't pair your perfectly scored script sans title page to a registration form, let alone a name, you likely won't be seeing the winners podium, let alone the 2nd round of judging. That said, each competition has their own rules regarding identifying information and title pages. Best to read the rules and follow their lead.
6) MYTH: I don't know anyone at the competition office so my script will never win.
DC: Maybe the rest of the film industry works on who you know and who knows you, but that is the beauty of entering a screenplay contest. Most are usually blind-scored and are based almost entirely on talented story-telling (formatting aside), versus your uncle being one of the producers on TWILIGHT or your ability to attach Matt Damon and George Clooney for financing. Although, this would be great information to share with producers AFTER your script wins a competition. Especially one where they make the winning entry, like the CSSC.
5) MYTH: The rules state "no more than 'x' pages in length", mine is only 2 pages over, it won't matter.
DC: Unfortunately, yes it will. A 10, 15, 20 or whatever page maximum is a rule. And a rule is a rule. Try to find a way to either distill your script down further to tell the same story with fewer words, scenes, locations or dialogue. Or, if you've tried everything and it's just not possible to reduce it any further to meet the limit, maybe it's time to either A) find a different competition to enter, or B) write a new script that falls within this competition's guidelines. Otherwise, it will either cost you points, a disqualifications and your entry fee. Remember: Short.Is.Better. Write it down and repeat that every time to write. I find it helps you to craft and hone your scripts down to the very essence of the story.
4) MYTH: I don't like standard screenplay formatting, or can't seem to get the hang of it. Someone at the contest can/should fix it for me.
DC: Nope. That's supposed to be your job. Remember, you are trying to break out in this industry as a bonafide screenwriter. If you don't know basic script formatting, it's time to hit the library and the internet and find some examples of screenplays, take a class, go to school or ask for help from a friend who knows what you should be doing. Which might be finding a new profession...
3) MYTH: I'm putting together my own short film and am falling short on the financing, the screenplay competition can help me out with extra funds, right?
DC: Highly unlikely. Competitions have their own mandates and budgets. And allowing someone to skip the competition factor and jump right into the production queue isn't likely to be a part of their business plan. This actually happens more than you would think. It is unprofessional and likely to get you remembered, for all the wrong reasons.
2) MYTH: My question is so special that its answer won't be found anywhere on the website, in the rules or FAQ's.
DC: Well, they're all there for a reason. And for good reasons at that. It's doubtful that your answer doesn't exist, as they have likely already been asked at some point. Always check these places first to make sure your question still needs asking. If you still can't find it, by all means drop an email or call if they have a number. But make it brief and always remember to be courteous and appreciative for the assistance.

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