format Submitting to Screenplay Contests

When submitting an original screenplay to a contest, exhibition, screenply festival etc. what kind of format are they looking for, a shooting script with detailed setups, a spec script with minimal camera direction, or something in between?
 
To get passed the first round of Readers your script needs to be formatted as a spec, and I mean by-the-book formatted. The first round readers are people hired randomly and given minimal training. They aren't Studio Readers by any means.
After that, you're on your own. But I do have one piece of advice: Every slugline gets a description, even if it's CONTINUOUS or whatever.
 
Nobody is looking for a shooting script... Especially competitions.

A spec script with no camera direction at all is best. Turn whatever camera direction you feel is necessary to the story into action and description. You'll be better off having written it that way. I've been a judge on several screenwriting competitions and from what I've seen and experienced? Screenwriting competitions by and large are much more forgiving than the actual industry when it comes to formatting. Of course, your script needs to actually LOOK like a script but within those confines? As long as what you're writing is clear and concise and makes sense to the reader? You'll be okay. That's NOT an excuse NOT to learn proper format though. Perform your due diligence here and online to learn what a good screenplay needs to look like. Ask questions.
 
To get passed the first round of Readers your script needs to be formatted as a spec, and I mean by-the-book formatted. The first round readers are people hired randomly and given minimal training. They aren't Studio Readers by any means.
After that, you're on your own. But I do have one piece of advice: Every slugline gets a description, even if it's CONTINUOUS or whatever.
Thanks! I can see that, even CONTINUOUS helps the reader to understand the flow of time and events.
 
Nobody is looking for a shooting script... Especially competitions.

A spec script with no camera direction at all is best. Turn whatever camera direction you feel is necessary to the story into action and description. You'll be better off having written it that way. I've been a judge on several screenwriting competitions and from what I've seen and experienced? Screenwriting competitions by and large are much more forgiving than the actual industry when it comes to formatting. Of course, your script needs to actually LOOK like a script but within those confines? As long as what you're writing is clear and concise and makes sense to the reader? You'll be okay. That's NOT an excuse NOT to learn proper format though. Perform your due diligence here and online to learn what a good screenplay needs to look like. Ask questions.
Thanks! I'm used to producing my own short videos, so I can get kind of sloppy when it comes to actually writing a script down. I'll keep in mind that clarity is all-important for someone who has no prior knowledge of the story.
 
When submitting an original screenplay to a contest, exhibition, screenply festival etc. what kind of format are they looking for, a shooting script with detailed setups, a spec script with minimal camera direction, or something in between?
I think they just looking for a good story that could be told by audiovisual means
 
I think they just looking for a good story that could be told by audiovisual means
I'm gonna share my limited experience in entering contests. I'm a Screencraft semi-finalist. At first I too thought that having a good story is all it takes to win in such contests. But the unwritten truth is screenwriting contests are extremely competitive, like applying to Ivy schools competitive. The volume of good stories in these entries is really high, almost everyone who enters has a more or less solid concept/story. And since the position for the grants or other prizes for winners is limited in such contests the judges have no choice but to start nitpicking about stuff that is essentially as not important as the story but is treated with the same level of importance just to be able to sift the scripts for the better ones. Makes sense?

So the rule of thumb for anyone who intends to enter such contests (and by contests I mean the ones that can get you somewhere or at least help with representation if you win) should be: treating every aspect of the script ( format, dialogue, description, voice, story, structure, twist, plot, tone, character, character arc, ..) in a way as if all of them have the same level of importance in producing a good piece.
 
I'm gonna share my limited experience in entering contests. I'm a Screencraft semi-finalist. At first I too thought that having a good story is all it takes to win in such contests. But the unwritten truth is screenwriting contests are extremely competitive, like applying to Ivy schools competitive. The volume of good stories in these entries is really high, almost everyone who enters has a more or less solid concept/story. And since the position for the grants or other prizes for winners is limited in such contests the judges have no choice but to start nitpicking about stuff that is essentially as not important as the story but is treated with the same level of importance just to be able to sift the scripts for the better ones. Makes sense?

So the rule of thumb for anyone who intends to enter such contests (and by contests I mean the ones that can get you somewhere or at least help with representation if you win) should be: treating every aspect of the script ( format, dialogue, description, voice, story, structure, twist, plot, tone, character, character arc, ..) in a way as if all of them have the same level of importance in producing a good piece.
Well this might be your experience but I can assure you it's NOT the usual routine of screenplay competitions. Having been a judge on these things more times than I can count? Time and time again, I have gone with the more marketable screenplay that was well executed i.e., no formatting errors, no typos. Clean. A fast and furious read.

I've had other judges FLAT OUT tell me they don't want to encourage that kind of story/screenplay.

Huh?

I had always thought the IDEA of these competitions were to find new writers who more or less GOT the industry and it was up to US as judges to spot this and usher them forward.

Nope.

I've been a judge on three repuatable screenwriting competitions and I was told quite literally that they aren't looking for the next studio blockbuster... They are almost always looking what would have been known as traditional Indie fare back before the financial meltdown.

And? Even when these "Indie fare" screenplays were not up to snuff -- either formatting or typos-wise?

Didn't matter.

That was a long time ago but by and large? I keep an eye on all the major competitions and competitors and in my humble opinion? Nothing's really changed. Occasionally, The Tracking Board or even Script Pipeline does offer something up that is marketable but again... These are exceptions to the rule in my humble opinion.

And (again), this would all be FINE... I love Indie Fare. That's why I'm here at IndieTalk... Unfortunately, these competitions don't really do anyone any favors because most of the one-shot wonders that become finalists either have nothing else to show potential agents and managers or what they do have to show them simply AIN'T marketable.
 
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Well this might be your experience but I can assure you it's NOT the usual routine of screenplay competitions. Having been a judge on these things more times than I can count? Time and time again, I have gone with the more marketable screenplay that was well executed i.e., no formatting errors, no typos. Clean. A fast and furious read.

I've had other judges FLAT OUT tell me they don't want to encourage that kind of story/screenplay.

Huh?

I had always thought the IDEA of these competitions were to find new writers who more or less GOT the industry and it was up to US as judges to spot this and usher them forward.

Nope.

I've been a judge on three repuatable screenwriting competitions and I was told quite literally that they aren't looking for the next studio blockbuster... They are almost always looking what would have been known as traditional Indie fare back before the financial meltdown.

And? Even when these "Indie fare" screenplays were not up to snuff -- either formatting or typos-wise?

Didn't matter.

That was a long time ago but by and large? I keep an eye on all the major competitions and competitors and in my humble opinion? Nothing's really changed. Occasionally, The Tracking Board or even Script Pipeline does offer something up that is marketable but again... These are exceptions to the rule in my humble opinion.

And (again), this would all be FINE... I love Indie Fare. That's why I'm here at IndieTalk... Unfortunately, these competitions don't really do anyone any favors because most of the one-shot wonders that become finalists either have nothing else to show potential agents and managers or what they do have to show them simply AIN'T marketable.
I agree with many things u said here. But most of the things you said I didn't even mention or refute in my comment. You are making an argument and disagreeing with things I never said. I never said they're looking for blockbusters. Nor did I say anything about the judges looking for writers who "got" the industry.

I don't know the competitions you were part of, but the big contests I've entered ( which is basically the list you made yourself in the other thread) said something differently. They have all given me feedback that says something else about the judging process. More than often they nitpick and emphasize the importance of format and other issues that SHOULD not be as important as other stuff such as story but they treat them with the same level of importance because otherwise they wouldn't be able to sift the scripts for the better ones. In real competitive contests if two writers have equally good stories the one who has better formatting has the edge . That is understandable and fair.

Here, I'll give you an example : In the feedback for the first round of Nicholl fellowship one of the judges wrote 4 lines just expressing their dissatisfaction with how I mistakenly used the word "Laughters" as a plural form of "Laughter" and how it kept throwing them off and took them out of the experience of reading the script. The whole feedback was about two paragraphs and about 30% of that feedback was about me using ONE word wrongly.

Now I don't know what you call that but that is nitpicking. That is a clear example of how formatting is as important as other stuff in a screenplay. at least when it comes to seriously competitive contests.
 
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I agree with many things u said here. But most of the things you said I didn't even mention or refute in my comment. You are making an argument and disagreeing with things I never said. I never said they're looking for blockbusters. Nor did I say anything about the judges looking for writers who "got" the industry.

I don't know the competitions you were part of, but the big contests I've entered ( which is basically the list you made yourself in the other thread) said something differently. They have all given me feedback that says something else about the judging process. More than often they nitpick and emphasize the importance of format and other issues that SHOULD not be as important as other stuff such as story but they treat them with the same level of importance because otherwise they wouldn't be able to sift the scripts for the better ones. In real competitive contests if two writers have equally good stories the one who has better formatting has the edge . That is understandable and fair.

Here, I'll give you an example : In the first round of Nicholl fellowship one of the judges wrote 4 lines just expressing their dissatisfaction with how I mistakenly used the word "Laughters" as a plural form of "Laughter" and how it kept throwing them off and took them out of the experience of reading the script. The whole feedback was about two paragraphs and about 30% of that feedback was about me using ONE word wrongly.

Now I don't know what you call that but that is nitpicking. That is a clear example of how formatting is as important as other stuff in a screenplay. at least when it comes to seriously competitive contests.
I apologize for coming off as if I was arguing with you or trying to create an argument... That was NOT my intention at all.

As for the contests? Yes, I was a judge in three of those contests mentioned in that post you read. Now of course, I have no idea what your story was about and I'm not here to say it wasn't a good story. The only real point I am making is that in my own experience with these competitions is that they are NOT looking for anything that's actually marketable... Not high concept. Not something that is going to put asses in theater seats. In fact? It seems to me like the unwritten rule is that in reality... They want to try and change what the industry is doing when it comes to making movies. Not a bad thing in and of itself... So when well written high concept screenplays get submitted? They are often nitpicked so as to justify why they didn't get a nod.

The entire process of judging is subjective and not simply subjective to an individual judge... Subjective to the competition's overall agenda.
 
I apologize for coming off as if I was arguing with you or trying to create an argument... That was NOT my intention at all.

As for the contests? Yes, I was a judge in three of those contests mentioned in that post you read. Now of course, I have no idea what your story was about and I'm not here to say it wasn't a good story. The only real point I am making is that in my own experience with these competitions is that they are NOT looking for anything that's actually marketable... Not high concept. Not something that is going to put asses in theater seats. In fact? It seems to me like the unwritten rule is that in reality... They want to try and change what the industry is doing when it comes to making movies. Not a bad thing in and of itself... So when well written high concept screenplays get submitted? They are often nitpicked so as to justify why they didn't get a nod.

The entire process of judging is subjective and not simply subjective to an individual judge... Subjective to the competition's overall agenda.
I wasn't offended at all. No need for an apology.
You have an interesting point about these contests' defiance about the industry and how they choose their pool of nominees.

Actually the nitpicking part did not only happen in one contest. The overall emphasis on seemingly insignificant matters like format happens more often than you'd think. And that is quite understandable when you consider the reasons I mentioned above. which in short is the seriously competitive nature of these contests. But the point you made about why they nitpick high concept scripts in the first place is interesting.

And about the irrelevance of a script's commercial appeal: This is the standard chart Screencraft judges use to evaluate a script. You will notice 3 of the items are dedicated to : commercial appeal , current market potential, and casting potential. which has a huge bearing on the overall average score of the script.
 

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I wasn't offended at all. No need for an apology.
You have an interesting point about these contests' defiance about the industry and how they choose their pool of nominees.

Actually the nitpicking part did not only happen in one contest. The overall emphasis on seemingly insignificant matters like format happens more often than you'd think. And that is quite understandable when you consider the reasons I mentioned above. which in short is the seriously competitive nature of these contests.

And about the irrelevance of a script's commercial appeal: This is the standard chart Screencraft judges use to evaluate a script. You will notice 3 of the items are dedicated to : commercial appeal , current market potential, and casting potential. which has a huge bearing on the overall average score of the script.
Again... I get what you're saying but I've also SEEN with my own eyes... The exact OPPOSITE happen. Again... Subjectivity rearing its ugly [sic] head.

I've seen screenplays with plenty to nitpick about become finalists. That's exactly my point. That's why I no longer participate in these competitions. I personally feel they are doing MANY wannabe screenwriters an injustice. LA is literally sprawling with competition finalists who are more bewildered NOW about what to write after having become a finalist. Sure, they got some meetings... Some even get representation and in less than a year end up losing that representation because in the end?

They couldn't come up with a concept their representation could sell.

Which unfortunately... Brings me right back to my point about these competitions... Most screenwriters that do well in these competitions and end up with representation end up losing that representation in less than a year because they just don't get what MARKETABLE or high concept IS or MEANS.

There are some rare exceptions but they are rare...
 
Again... I get what you're saying but I've also SEEN with my own eyes... The exact OPPOSITE happen. Again... Subjectivity rearing its ugly [sic] head.

I've seen screenplays with plenty to nitpick about become finalists. That's exactly my point. That's why I no longer participate in these competitions. I personally feel they are doing MANY wannabe screenwriters an injustice. LA is literally sprawling with competition finalists who are more bewildered NOW about what to write after having become a finalist. Sure, they got some meetings... Some even get representation and in less than a year end up losing that representation because in the end?

They couldn't come up with a concept their representation could sell.

Which unfortunately... Brings me right back to my point about these competitions... Most screenwriters that do well in these competitions and end up with representation end up losing that representation in less than a year because they just don't get what MARKETABLE or high concept IS or MEANS.

There are some rare exceptions but they are rare...
Seems to me the problem is the writer not the contest. The contests are holding up their end of the bargain which is representation. Now if the said winner can't come up with anymore ideas or high concepts after the representation, is their own problem not the contest.
 
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Seems to me the problem is the writer not the contest. The contests are holding up their end of the bargain which is representation. Now if the said winner can't come up with anymore ideas or high concepts after the representation is their own problem not the contest.
LOL. That is ONE way to look at it...

My look however... Is quite different because of what I've seen and experienced first hand i.e., these competitions selecting finalists and winners from screenplays that are not high concept -- not marketable -- over well executed screenplays that are high concept and marketable.

In other words... It's almost like trying to bang a square peg into a round hole. The overall attitude I experienced when I was a judge was that they want to promote anything but high concept, marketable screenplays. So the screenplays that are not high concept and marketable get the nod. So of course, the screenwriter has now been validated as to what they think works when it comes to the industry when in reality? What they wrote doesn't work at all.

There are plenty of well executed, high concept, marketable screenplays submitted to these competitions that have very little flaws but they just do not get the nod. In my humble opinion, the ones that do get the nod are not better writers. From much of what I've seen and experienced... The writing of both is at a very decent level.

So if this is true? Why not usher the screenwriter who writes high concept, marketable screenplays forward? They don't because they really do not want to encourage that kind of screenwriting overall... Unfortunately, the buck stops as soon as representation is gained and now we're back to banging a square peg into a round hole.

Sure... You can say that now, since the square peg screenwriter has representation... He or she should now see the light and change what they're writing. In some rare cases, that does happen when a square peg writer does in fact see the light. Unfortunately, most do not.

Yes... These competitions hold their end of the bargain when finalists obtain meetings and eventually, representation. That is certainly true but again, in my humble opinion, if these same competitions could point to their winners and finalists and further point out produced movies from these winners and finalists? These competitions would be way more successful and get way more submissions.

Just my two cents.
 
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LOL. That is ONE way to look at it...

My look however... Is quite different because of what I've seen and experienced first hand i.e., these competitions selecting finalists and winners from screenplays that are not high concept -- not marketable -- over well executed screenplays that are high concept and marketable.

In other words... It's almost like trying to bang a square peg into a round hole. The overall attitude I experienced when I was a judge was that they want to promote anything but high concept, marketable screenplays. So the screenplays that are not high concept and marketable get the nod. So of course, the screenwriter has now been validated as to what they think works when it comes to the industry when in reality? What they wrote doesn't work at all.

There are plenty of well executed, high concept, marketable screenplays submitted to these competitions that have very little flaws but they just do not get the nod. In my humble opinion, the ones that do get the nod are not better writers. From much of what I've seen and experienced... The writing of both is at a very decent level.

So if this is true? Why not usher the screenwriter who writes high concept, marketable screenplays forward? They don't because they really do not want to encourage that kind of screenwriting overall... Unfortunately, the buck stops as soon as representation is gained and now we're back to banging a square peg into a round hole.

Sure... You can say that now, since the square peg screenwriter has representation... He or she should now see the light and change what they're writing. In some rare cases, that does happen when a square peg writer does in fact see the light. Unfortunately, most do not.

Yes... These competitions hold their end of the bargain when finalists obtain meetings and eventually, representation. That is certainly true but again, in my humble opinion, if these same competitions could point to their winners and finalists and further point out produced movies from these winners and finalists? These competitions would be way more successful and get way more submissions.

Just my two cents.
Ok I get what you are saying. Basically you are saying competitions are encouraging up and coming writers to get accustomed to certain formats and styles of writing(non-high concepts) that isn't viable in reality. So when they win because of their already flawed script they can't get far in the industry.

But this theory is basing it's foundation on the belief that contests DO NOT choose high concept scripts. Which to be honest I'm a bit skeptical of because of the said examples in my previous comments. Besides you can take a look at the script of many of these winners in contests and decide for yourself. Nicholl fellowship has been uploading the grand finalists' scripts from the 90's all the way to now. I've read some of those scripts and believe it or not they ARE high concept scripts. They are viable, commercially appealing scripts that have the potential to sell really well, maybe not blockbusters, but definitely commercially appealing works in the market. You don't have to take my word for it go and read the scripts for yourself. That is why I'm a bit skeptical of your theory about the contests' defiance about the industry.

I believe the truth is harsher than something people would want to admit : There're just not a lot of talented writers in the world who can produce works of that caliber consistently.
 
Interesting... But the Nicholl is more or less in a world of its own. I'd recommend anyone who writes anything well enough to enter just because of the doors it can open... The rest of the competitions? Not so much. Having said that? I don't remember a whole hell of a lot of the scripts that have won that were high concept... Or? Maybe we have different definitions of what high concept is.

I did go to their site and while I have in fact seen various winners' screenplays available to download and read through the years, I've never seen an actual page on that website that leads to the pdfs of all the previous winners. Maybe I'm getting senile. I can see... With some searching on Google some older, past scripts to read but not a page that lists all the scripts... So that's a bit difficult for me to discuss. However, I have read a lot of the loglines of the winning scripts over the years and rarely see anything that I would personally consider high concept or marketable enough for Hollywood to truly be interested in.

Again... This is NOT to say that these scripts aren't well written. Many of them are but just as many of them are not. When you say commercially appealing... I'm actually wondering what you mean by that because from what I'm seeing thus far, based on just the loglines? I'm not seeing many high concepts at all.

Having said ALL that?

Things are slowly changing because of the streaming services. We may end up seeing quite a few of the most successful streaming services willing to consider the more square peg screenplays I was talking about. If this happens? We could see an re-emergence of the Indie film.

Time will tell.

*EDIT: So while I could not find any of the winning Nicholl scripts to read... Maybe I'm missing something or blind because I've been all through the site and even searched via Google using the site's url... Couldn't find anything but old scripts.

Having said that? This is the list of 2020 Nicholl winners...

The 2020 winners are (listed alphabetically by author):

James Acker, “SadBoi”
Beth Curry, “Lemon”
Vanar Jaddou, “Goodbye, Iraq”
Kate Marks, “The Cow of Queens”
Jane Therese, “Sins of My Father”

So I looked up each script and with the exception of one... I'm not really seeing anything that I'd consider high concept.

James Acker, “SadBoi”

SADBOI is a coming-of-age drama that follows an emotionally-stunted high schooler who, thrown out of the house for being gay, has to revisit old friends and repair some burnt bridges all in the name of finding a couch to crash on.

This is not high concept. I'm sure it's well written but it would be difficult to get producers interested in this as a theatrical release. Streaming definitely.

Beth Curry, “Lemon”

LEMON-When Lemon’s agoraphobic mother dies suddenly, five-year-old Lemon goes outside for the first time in search of her father. Beasts of a Southern Wild meets Room.

Same as above...

Vanar Jaddou, “Goodbye, Iraq”

“Goodbye, Iraq” is an action-adventure thriller about a paranoid ex-soldier who tries to assassinate Saddam Hussein. When he fails, he and his daughter, 13, have to make a nightmarish trek from Iraq to the United States while being hunted by Saddam’s ruthless regime.

I do see this as more high concept than any of the others... Mostly because of the subject matter.

Kate Marks, “The Cow of Queens”

When Sonya and her dying father encounter an escaped slaughterhouse cow running for its life on the streets of Queens, they embark on an adventure to save it. Making the most of their last moments together, they find a way to defy death and make peace with the inevitable prognosis.

Again... To me, this is not high concept. I'd definitely watch it and I've heard the script is amazing. While I could see producers willing to take this on because of the writing? I've talked with enough distributors in my time to wonder if any distributor would be willing to wide-release something like this. Sounds like it could be a great Indie film but it's probably not the kind of film a studio would risk taking on. If this gets made? It will most likely have to rely on a lot of word-of-mouth promotion.

Jane Therese, “Sins of My Father”

A young woman in Ireland grapples with the love she has for her father after bringing charges of abuse against him rocking a country when his sentence is suspended.

Not high concept. Good Indie fare of course. I'd certainly watch it and all the above if they happened to get made. But with the one exception? Nothing I'd call commercially appealing.

Again... I could see all these easily ending up on Netflix or Amazon Prime but except for maybe the one? I can't see any of these ending up with any kind of a wide-release in theaters.

I'm also not saying that any of these writers were trying to write anything high concept or commercially appealing... Maybe they did -- maybe they didn't. I have no idea. Just saying that in order to stay in this business for any real long term success? You eventually have to figure out how to write a marketable script.

NOW.

That might change with all the streaming services... We can only hope.

*EDIT:

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Ok I get what you are saying. Basically you are saying competitions are encouraging up and coming writers to get accustomed to certain formats and styles of writing(non-high concepts) that isn't viable in reality. So when they win because of their already flawed script they can't get far in the industry.

But this theory is basing it's foundation on the belief that contests DO NOT choose high concept scripts. Which to be honest I'm a bit skeptical of because of the said examples in my previous comments. Besides you can take a look at the script of many of these winners in contests and decide for yourself. Nicholl fellowship has been uploading the grand finalists' scripts from the 90's all the way to now. I've read some of those scripts and believe it or not they ARE high concept scripts. They are viable, commercially appealing scripts that have the potential to sell really well, maybe not blockbusters, but definitely commercially appealing works in the market. You don't have to take my word for it go and read the scripts for yourself. That is why I'm a bit skeptical of your theory about the contests' defiance about the industry.

I believe the truth is harsher than something people would want to admit : There're just not a lot of talented writers in the world who can produce works of that caliber consistently.
I'm not saying anyone is writing a flawed script. As I've said... Right now? To succeed in this business, you have to be able to write a marketable script.

Success to me means getting paid to write that spec. I used to think it also meant getting that spec into production and to a degree, that is also true but there are a lot of professional screenwriters who make a very good living and none of their specs have ever been produced. I can easily point to myself on that note. LOL. Additionally... My specs that did sell managed to get me a lot of work... Script doctoring if you will.

Before I ever really knew anything about this business, I just assumed once a script was purchased, it eventually became a movie. Uh... No. LOL. So at least currently... Basic success is probably getting paid while getting both paid and produced is obviously MORE than basic success.

To me, marketable means a spec a producer sees as a story that's going to put asses in theater seats. I'm talking strictly theatrical here.

Duly noted however, is that even as I write THIS? Covid and streaming services are changing the playing field.

Hopefully for the better... I for one will always OPT for well executed Indie fare.
 
This is the link :
Note that all of these scripts have become success stories. Success as in production.

This is the search engine for all the other scripts :

There was a archive section in Margaret Herrick library for all the past winners scripts. Let me do a little bit of digging I'll find it for you.

Depending on how all these scripts are advertised they all have the potential to bring butts to theaters. And don't forget "Goodbye. Iraq" is a more or less high concept script. and this was just 2020. Maybe 2020 was just the year good writings happen to be non-high concepts. I suggest before you jump to conclusions you do a more thorough research on this. Besides even if one winner is high concept it already debunks your theory that contests DO NOT accept high concept scripts. I don't remember the titles for the past winners only one I remember now which is "Arlington road" and as far as I can remember this was a high concept script they changed the title when it went into production but the movie had a theatrical release.

And note this policy is not only limited to Nicholl , as I mentioned the judging process for Screencraft for you too. So no, Nicholl is not a world of it's own.

Another point : you are seeing the success in the form of only theatrical release which I believe should not be the case. Many of the best movies I've watched in my entire life have been on platforms such as Netflix that did not have a theatrical release.

Many of the big names you know today : Like Quentin Tarantino started their career because they won in such contests(Sundance) in this case. Sure he had his script optioned "True romance" prior to that. But what really started his career in terms of blockbusters was his "Reservoir dogs" which was partially owed to Sundance.

Sure some contests may have the bias to reject high-concept scripts but that is definitely not the case for all the contests specially the big ones.

I still believe the reason is the same : There're just not a lot of talented writers in the world who can produce works of that caliber consistently. Because it is tough to accept, we're chucking it up to contests' faults.

Think of it as this way: If the writer is talented and if what you are saying is true ( which I believe is not the case) , then the solution is obvious. Surely a writer who has the talent to write high-concepts is capable of writing non-high concepts since they are easier to write. So they enter their non-high concept in the contest , and after representation bring out all their other high-concept scripts. Seems to me the problem is still the writer not the contest. You are presupposing that the writers can not adapt a new mentality to write high-concepts after representation because the contests that chose them had somehow brainwashed them for the rest of their lives and now they are at a point where they can not adapt a new mentality when it comes to writing! That is kinda far fetched to be honest.

At the end of the day it comes to whether a writer can produce high concept scripts or not, right? If after representation they can't produce high-concepts is their fault as I don't believe in that permanent "brain wash" of contests to write only non-high concepts. If the writer is talented they will have the capacity to come up with high concepts too regardless of whether their first submitted script was a high concept or not. Or the second case is that the writer can not come up with any high-concepts at all which again makes you question the writer not the contest. Either way it's up to the writer not the contest.
 
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For Producers, screenwriter competitions are not as much about finding scripts as they are about finding Writers.
You might conceivably sell a low budget contest winning script to an Indie guy, but it's really about earning a writing assignment. Producers need to know you can handle story, characters, formatting, and budgetary consideration. So stay away from anything too grandiose for a contest. Show your character handling and story telling abilities, not your imagination. That's why a good Love Story beats a Historical Epic in a contest.

Big budget studio films come from IPs or a Producer's idea, not spec scripts. Those days are gone.
 
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