Close But No Cigar

Contest update: I had two scripts that were still in the running for the Page Awards and Julie Gray’s Silver Contest, which was the subject of some controversy because of a former contest judges’s blog comments. THE DOLL was among the Silver finalists, but wasn’t one of the three prize winners. Since my suspense/thriller had beaten out over 900 scripts to make the Top 10 list, I was pleased to make it that far… but, man, it hurts a little every time you get so close you can practically visualize the check in your hand.

For all the complaining about the Silver judging process, it should be noted that the winning script this year has also won or placed in other contests too. I suspect most of the finalists and semifinalists have had similar success. As I said before, regardless of who is judging or what protocols are followed (or not), the cream usually rises to the top. Not always, but good scripts are hard to put down no matter who is reading them.

As for my LEGENDS OF THE MENEHUNE spec, which had advanced to the Top 25 semifinalist round of the Page Awards in the family feature film category, I didn’t make the finalists cut. That was a little more disappointing. Then I got a personal email from Jennifer, the contest director:

Dear Rich,

I just wanted to write you a quick note to tell you that, although LEGENDS OF THE MENEHUNE didn’t advance to the Finals this year, the Judges liked your script very much, and you just missed advancing to the Final Round by a hair.  This was such a competitive category this year, and each of the Judges had their favorite scripts, including yours!  Score-wise, your script landed within just a few points of making the cut, and we would have loved to move it into the Finals — but unfortunately, we set that cut-off point at 10, so we have to abide by our own rules.

Please just know that you’ve written a terrific screenplay, and you should in no way be discouraged by not making this particular cut. In the end, any judging process is quite subjective.  And although we have to go by the numbers on the scorecards to determine who advances and wins prizes, in reality, this business is never an “exact science.”

So thank you again for allowing our Judges to read your wonderful screenplay.  We wish you the very best of luck with it!!

To tell you the truth, I had mixed feelings about getting that note. I had already accepted that I didn’t make the finals, and let it go at that. Then I get Jen’s email, and I started thinking about how close I was to getting read by industry people — possibly agents or producers who are judging the finals. That’s the most important thing to me about contests. It’s not really the money or prizes. It’s about who is reading your script in the later rounds. If those judges don’t have any pull in the movie biz, what’s the point? With the exception of the Nicholl Fellowship and possibly the Austin Film Festival, making the finals of most contests means nothing to agents or producers in Hollywood.

When I thanked Jen for the note and told her I appreciated knowing my script was that close, she replied that she too had mixed feelings about telling writers such bittersweet news. Some writers didn’t take it so well, apparently. But I believe you should try to turn lemons into lemonade. I copied her email and sent it to one of the judges in the Silver contest, who is a manager. Since I hadn’t been contacted by that manager, I presumed they weren’t interested in THE DOLL and thought perhaps a script in a totally different genre might pique their interest. Why not pitch my family-friendly big budget spec? The manager’s assistant said she’d like to take a look at it. So maybe my “losses” in those two contests will still result in positive developments down the road.

For me, contest season is “pau” — Hawaiian for done or finished. And this is probably my last go-round with the contests. I’ve had just as much success getting read through sending out mass  e-query mailings at less cost than entering competitions — yeah, you’ve probably read on other screenwriting message boards that those e-query services are a waste of money. Not true… that is, IF you can write a dynamite query or pitch. More on that in a future blog post.

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