Last year I entered lots of screenwriting contests, in essence to try them out and see which ones felt like they were run properly and had value. Of the five or six I entered, I only really liked the PAGE Screenwriting Awards and the Austin Film Festival Screenwriting Contest. The others were too sloppy (1998 called, it wants its web design back) or, in the case of the Nichols Fellowship and Zoetrope contest, not a good fit for the kind of scripts I write.
This year I wanted to enter new scripts into PAGE and AFF, and also try and branch out into entering the TV Writing Fellowships, namely the WB Writer’s Workshop, NBC Writer’s On The Verge and the Disney | ABC Fellowship. These are a little different than regular contests in that the are aimed at propelling you into a job in the television industry. If you get selected, you will be working with them for a year trying to achieve that goal.
To enter, you need to write a TV spec that is currently on the air and has been around for at least two seasons. I wrote a spec for THE SIMPSONS, partly because I wanted to do comedy, and partly because I can use it as a sample in the animation industry, where I have some contacts. There aren’t many sample Simpsons scripts out there (only transcripts, which aren’t helpful) but I managed to find an outline by Bill Oakley for an episode, and I followed that format. Wrote the outline in a day, and the first draft in under a week. I came out twenty pages short, so I had to go back to the outline and add in a nice chunk of second act business, then go back to the script and fill it out. I think it came out great, and it seems fresh to me, which I what I was aiming for.
Because all the fellowships have deadlines on basically the same day (end of May), there wasn’t much time left to perfect things. I just had to trust it was funny and submit it. Here’s where things get interesting. The fellowships have an additional requirement than screenwriting contests to enter – they want to know who you are and why we have a unique perspective on things. I entered the NBC WOTV first, and I kinda didn’t take it seriously. Although every word I wrote in my bio is true (I really did work with the director of Demolition Man on a shampoo commercial), as soon as I hit submit, I started thinking it might be too flippant for them. We’ll see.
For the WB Workshop, I cleaned up my act and submitted a bio I was really happy with. That one felt like it has a good chance. Lastly, the Disney Fellowship. Be prepared for this one, because they ask for a bunch of extra stuff, such as letters of recommendation from writing professionals, and they wanted it mailed to them on two CDs. If I knew I would have to take a trip to Office Max to buy obsolete media, I might have started on that one first. Anyway, I didn’t enter. It’s a shame because I could have got the two letters lined up and just about squeezed in the deadline (assuming everything went smoothly), but it’s a lot of stress for such a huge long shot. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Overall, I’m excited about what I submitted. It always feels like progress when you’re sending finished work out the door, using the deadlines to get new work created. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.