Sunday, 19 September 2010

Competition Caution

There was an interesting blog on the Writers' Guild website the other day, generally speaking about script competitions, and more specifically about the ones run by Kaos Films.

What was particularly interesting is that it came after a reader of this blog had emailed me, during the period where the Kaos website was down and their emails were on the blink, to ask whether I'd heard anything about what was going on. I hadn't at that stage but we both did a little digging and then Kaos was suddenly up and running again with an apology and explanation as to what had happened.

In the comments section the subject of the somewhat AWOL Rise Summer Challenge was raised, as well some other interesting points that are worth checking out.

I should say clearly that as far as I'm aware, and as far as the general consensus seems to be, Kaos have always been true to their word, and although I don't know any of them personally, I don't have a bad word to say about them.

But the question of Script Competitions is certainly worth giving some thought. For example I know there are some that are dead against any of them. The theory being that if your script is good enough to win a competition, it's good enough to be picked up by a producer where you'll get a better deal anyway and not be locked into the competition company and rules.

The trouble is, it's increasingly hard to find people willing to read unsolicited scripts if you haven't got an agent, and when you're starting out, you're not going to have one. So competitions can provide both motivation, and an outlet for your work.

Is there a difference between competitions that charge an entry fee and those that don't? The fact is script competitions are a lot of work to run, never mind about what the prize on offer might be. So I don't think an entry fee is unreasonable. Three of the most established and respected, The Nicoll Fellowships, Blue Cat and Scriptapalooza, all require an entry fee. Then again, the biggest ones in this country, The BBC Writers' Academy and The Red Planet Prize, don't. The Sir Peter Ustinov Award also doesn't. There may be other stipulations, but that is a different issue. Kaos did require an entry fee, Rise didn't. But Kaos keep delivering films from their winning scripts, and Rise has disappeared without a trace.

So I think the most important thing for me is credibility. My own philosophy is that if I'm going to enter a competition with an entry fee, I decide first whether I can afford it! And then what is the track record? If it doesn't have one, if I haven't heard of any of the people involved, I will probably think twice. If it's free, then I might just bung it anyway cos what's to lose?

Unsurprisingly, my experiences with The International Emmys and Red Planet mean I am mostly in favour of script competitions. But it's definitely worth being cautious, especially with those who charge a fee.


WazMan said...

I'm generally in favour of competitions because, as you say, they provide motivation and some encouragement for you to carry on going if you get anywhere.

The only problem I've had with any competition is with the Writers' International Premier Screen Talent (Wipst) run by Vibe TV in Swansea. I won their 2009 competition with my romantic comedy script, 'Table for Two' but have yet to see any of my prizes - a chance to talk to the judges and Vibe turning my script into a short film. They told me that the film was in the editing suite two months ago but since then I've heard nothing and they don't respond to calls or email. I guess I'll have to accept that they've conned me on this one (£18 entry fee per script) but I live in hope that they'll come good.

Incidentally, I entered the BSSC run by Kaos and all three of my entries have qualified for the First Round. So I'm happy about that...

Jez Freedman said...

that's terrible about Wipst. I don't understand why an organisation or company, who have picked a winner, would not want to build a relationship with that writer, as opposed to blank them. It's crazy and self-defeating. If the comp is still running maybe it's worth informaing the Writers' Guild about their behaviour?

anyway, thanks for letting us know about your experiences. If anyone else has any experiences with script competitions - good or bad -let us know

and congrats warren on the BSSC qualification!

Cindy said...

Many thanks Jez for your informative blog! As a Canadian, it is difficult to keep a hand on the "pulse" of screenwriting competitions in England, so these comments have been so helpful! I have tremendous respect for movies written/produced/directed in England, and it is exciting to see competitions offered "across the pond".
There are only a handful of reputable competitions offered in Canada, yet there seems to be an abundance offered in the U.S.A. (surprise! surprise!). As an FYI, I entered the Blue Cat competition that you spoke of - the cost is reasonable and they do offer feedback to every contestant for free, which is quite rare. This last year, they actually added some extra prizes for writers who submit outside of U.S.A./Canada, so I would strongly encourage writers from the U.K. to consider entering!
Good luck and keep writing!

Jez Freedman said...

hi cindy

thanks for that. and nice to hear about things in canada. good luck to you too and keep us posted on the screenwriting scene over there