Archive for August 2013

Perseverance

August 2, 2013

“Congratulations!”

That’s the first word I saw when I clicked on the email that said “Academy Nicholl Fellowships Notification.” I had been so busy this week with my Career Changers TV show and other video projects, it had completely slipped my mind that the quarter-finalists were being announced. In prior years when I felt I had a good chance of making the first cut, I would anxiously check my mailbox each day before they switched over to emails.

Call me old-fashioned, but I preferred getting the news via U.S. mail. Picking up the envelope, feeling the weight (rejections were one page, advancing scripts had extra pages of info), opening the envelope… there was more drama than clicking an email. Still, I was pretty happy to see that out of 7,251 entries, my script was one of the 372 that scored high enough with two out of three readers to make the quarter-finals list.

It’s been a long time between placing in the Nicholl Fellowships for me. The prior two times with two different scripts, I didn’t get any farther in the competition, and making QF did not change my life. I’ve blogged about realistic expectations related to contests such as this one before, and noticed in the past couple of days there have been a lot of views of that old post.

The reason I wanted to share this year’s news is I blogged about the script I entered back in April, when I wrote about the Black List ratings service. Here’s a link to that piece. My “Lost in the Supermarket” script was an old coming of age drama/comedy that was semi-autobiographical. Some might call it a “soft” script with no commercial hook — not the type of thing that is likely to get interest from agents, managers or producers. There are script “consultants” out there who would tell you not to write this kind of story, unless you’re doing it for yourself.

And there’s some truth to that. I’ve pitched this script to my former manager, put it on InkTip, entered it in contests — including the Nicholl years ago — and didn’t get much love for it. But they say if you have a well written script, it’s often a matter of finding the right reader(s) at the right time. It takes a little luck.

I tweaked the script and revised a bit here and there over the years, while writing new stuff — specs I thought were more commercial (and got more requests from managers, prodcos too). Yet I never completely gave up on my Lost script because I knew the writing was good. The dialogue for each character was spot on — they each had their own voice. I also had a feeling that it had a better chance in the Nicholl because more and more writers are trying too hard to write the kind of movies that are being made… and dying at the box office because they lack soul and heart.

So what it means is at least two of three Nicholl readers in the first round really liked my script a lot for one reason or another. I got lucky — if they had been the Black List readers or some inexperienced reader, like the ones that do early round judging for other contests, I wouldn’t have made the cut. If you didn’t make it this year, don’t give up. Keep writing, don’t try to guess what readers are looking for… write something you can pick up years from now and still be proud of. Write something that is built to last.

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