For years my Husky football experience was dampened by the man behind me, who I liked to call "The Frustrated High School Football Coach". No matter what the Huskies did, this man was miserable. If they ran they should have passed. If they passed they should have ran. It finally got so bad that one day my friend turned and said, "You know, Dave, it's really too bad there are so few college coaching positions open when there are so many qualified experts just sitting here in the stands". I laughed, he laughed, the section laughed, everybody laughed... well accept the guy behind us. But who cares about him?
The reason I bring this up is because I am going to admit a guilty pleasure. I love to scroll through the comment section of any article or Facebook post that pertains to the screenwriting hot button topics of contests, pitchfests or paid posting sites. The amount of pure hate and anger these topics inspire is jaw-dropping to the point of being must read. Let's take a look at a random sample:
Pitchfests: A recent post on the Final Draft Facebook page asked this one simple question "Pitching events - for or against?". That's all they asked, here are some of the responses:
- Has any screenplay ever been sold as a result?
- I heard they were just for low level producers to do their bosses work that they cant be bothered to do.
- They're a waste of time, dreams, and hope. I've had better times and luck and small (free) industry mixers.
- Mostly scam?
- Against - I've seen well established professionals get suckered into these, paying a lot of money to pitch to "development execs" only to find out the person is an assistant in some random office. Not saying actual development execs don't attend, but does anyone really think pitching to someone hearing 100's of pitches in a day is wise?
- A way to take money away from people who generally do not have money.
Do you notice something missing from most of these posts (which were taken in their entirety)? I see a lot of general assumption not based in actual experience. Let's get a few misconceptions out of the way.
- "Low" Level Producers: A "low" level producer or assistant is looking for one thing in their immediate career, to have the word "low" or "assistant" not be in their title anymore (figuratively speaking with "low"). How do they do that? They go to their boss with an amazing script that they found. So those are some pretty good people to pitch to, they are as hungry as you and they have the ear of the decision maker. Any script they recommend will immediately jump to the top of the pile.
- Has anything ever sold?: No, nothing has ever sold at a pitchfest, that is not what they are designed to do. What do you expect to happen? You think you are going to walk in, pitch your idea and the Exec will yell "That's genius!!! Here's a million dollars"? Pitchfests are there to allow you to meet and start to build a relationship that will hopefully end in a sale or management. That is a process that is going to take several months. If you can't accept that timetable then you have much larger problems than the pitchfest.
We recently attended the Screenwriter's World Conference. We talked to eight Execs, seven requested more info, five requested scripts and two requested to see our short film. I don't feel like a sucker.
Pay to Post Sites: The Blacklist recently opened a site where writers can pay a monthly fee to list their screenplays for Execs. For an additional fee they can also pay to have their script reviewed with well reviewed scripts getting a priority placement. The vitriol that came with the original announcement was undeniable. It was a scam, it was for suckers, it was a ripoff, there was no way it would work, etc... Well this came out today. I'm betting the guy who just signed with CAA doesn't feel like a sucker.
Contests: Another area that brings out the hate is the subject of screenplay contests. I Googled "Industry Insider Contest Worth It". I found some message boards that said:
- Sounded like a good deal... Until they started asking for money to submit. No thanks!
- I agree, folks who ask for entry fees immediately disqualify themselves with me. They aren't interested in the script just the entry fee.
- Hmm... forty bucks is not a lot, but, I dunno, something about this doesn't pass the smell test.
- Why are they hyping the chance to see and possibly meet celebrities? And while I suppose you'll see celebrities at the Chateau Marmont and The Ivy, you're not going to be networking with them. I don't think you can go up to Scorsese and say, "hi, I won the Industry Insider's script competition, here's my cell phone number."
- The premise sounds fit for a Twilight Zone episode, not a full length movie.
Well, we entered the contest, we won it and now we're going to lunch with Randall Wallace and meeting with Benderspink. We don't feel like suckers. It's the same with Scriptapalooza. We have another script that made the top 100 and we have received several read requests and met with potential management out of it. As long as we are on the subject, can anyone tell me who these angels are who offer free screenplay contests?
My point to all of this? Hollywood is a town full of negativity. Everywhere you turn you are going to meet someone who has been rejected one too many times and has gone over the edge of Cynical Cliff. Nothing ever works, the town is against them and everything is a scam. Others want to believe in their talent so much that they have also jumped off the cliff and landed in their own hubris. Everything else is for suckers. If you were great like them you just need to mail in your script and wait for the Execs to dial their phone and scream "Where have you been all of my life?!". Don't listen to the negativity, it will consume you, as evidenced above. Set a realistic plan and stick to it. If you live outside Hollywood and haven't yet developed any contacts then I suggest you use the above methods. These do work, if you have a fantastic script. It always comes back to that. If you don't then it's not the fault of the contest or the pitching event.