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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?
 
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.
I never said nothing but Indie fare ever wins or becomes a finalist... Occasionally, a high concept script does get through but I really don't think it's that often. I never said nor implied it was one way or the other. It's just my experience that they are -- generally speaking -- not really looking for marketable, high concept screenplays.

And? While I certainly cannot say the "losers" wrote better screenplays than the winners, I can say, based on my experience that there were some very good marketable, high concept scripts that never got a nod to move forward in the competition. I will stick to my opinion that this is because overall? The competitions simply aren't looking for these kinds of screenplays. Hell, I've seen judges pick great scripts apart simply because the subject matter wasn't their cup of tea or there were too many curse words.

Again... Subjective as hell.

I used the search page you gave me but I couldn't find ANY of the 2020 winners listed for reading or download.

And I reserve my right to disagree with you about the marketability of these scripts if any were produced to bring butts into theater seats. Except for GOODBYE, IRAQ (which I did say was the most high concept script in the list), I don't even think a distributor would know HOW to advertise the films and when they don't know how to advertise a movie? They don't even want to distribute it.

I said the Nicholl was in a world of its own because it's the best of the best of competitions. LOL. If someone wants to enter screenplay competitions, I would always say to enter the Nicholl no matter what and I don't say that about any other competition and I say that strictly for the doors the Nicholl can open for you. It's always worth the shot. Screencraft? LOL. Sorry but I don't really care what any of their rubrics say. They all have to have more or less the same rubrics to judge by but that doesn't mean every judge adheres to the rubric.

I see theatrical (right now) as the measurement of success only because I've been in this business for a very long time... I completely acknowledge streaming is catching up fast... And? Will most likely end up being the measure at some point. Quentin Tarantino is in my humble opinion... A GENIUS on a lot of different levels but even a genius gets lucky from time to time. When he made RD, Indie Films played in theaters all the time. Now? That is not the case. There are a lot of well made Indie films sitting on shelves right now.

I also never said any of the competitions flat out reject marketable, high concept screenplays... They take anyone's money who's willing to pay and submit. But judges are people and people are the ones that make the decisions and all I'm saying is that based on what actually wins these competitions? Very few and I do mean a very few that ever win are the kinds of scripts that a producer can turn into a production because distribution simply won't know and or understand how to market the movie and to whom.

When I became a judge is when I finally figured out that most of the time? What I would deem to be marketable, high concept screenplays simply get -- as you call it -- nitpicked to death in favor of more Indie-type fare. I still stand by that. The list of resources you gave me in your reply are mostly old screenplays and nothing new... Back when on any given weekend, you could find Indies playing all over town.

It ain't that way anymore... But as I said... Hopefully streaming services will bring the Indie back.

I'm also not presupposing anything... I've followed up on MANY a competition winner's career and based on the amount of winners there have been? There's not a lot of successful careers. I've also known more than a handful of winners and finalists who have decided to go back to working in their old career because once they were told by representation they needed to write something more marketable and high concept? They couldn't deliver. They tried of course. But in the end? They just didn't come up with something their representation thought could be sold.

Not to mention the fact that I know both agents, managers, and producers who I've had this same discussion with many times over... LOL. Having said that? Everyone still wants to read the winners if for no other reason than to see (if they did NOT write a marketable screenplay) if they can write a marketable screenplay because if they can? That's a client they want to keep.

I've done this a long time ago... Not going to do it again but yes... A long time ago, I wrote all this up and supplied names and numbers. This was a project I did for the production company I was working with at the time. The numbers just don't add up when it comes to winners and careers. Sure, there could be all kinds of reasons for this... I acknowledge that.

Bottom line? As far as I'm concerned and remain convinced... Screenplay competitions are too subjective and seem to be more biased against high concept in the long run. If it were me and I was trying to break in today and wanted to enter any of the aforementioned competitions? I'd write a real passion piece with an Indie fare vibe to it over anything high concept but I'd also hip-pocket 3 to 5 high concept screenplays so when I'm asked the eventual, "What else ya got?"

I'd be ready.

*EDIT: And no sooner did I post this reply I got this story in an email: Amazon Prime Video Says “NO” to Independent Filmmakers
 
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I never said nothing but Indie fare ever wins or becomes a finalist... Occasionally, a high concept script does get through but I really don't think it's that often. I never said nor implied it was one way or the other. It's just my experience that they are -- generally speaking -- not really looking for marketable, high concept screenplays.

And? While I certainly cannot say the "losers" wrote better screenplays than the winners, I can say, based on my experience that there were some very good marketable, high concept scripts that never got a nod to move forward in the competition. I will stick to my opinion that this is because overall? The competitions simply aren't looking for these kinds of screenplays. Hell, I've seen judges pick great scripts apart simply because the subject matter wasn't their cup of tea or there were too many curse words.

Again... Subjective as hell.

I used the search page you gave me but I couldn't find ANY of the 2020 winners listed for reading or download.

And I reserve my right to disagree with you about the marketability of these scripts if any were produced to bring butts into theater seats. Except for GOODBYE, IRAQ (which I did say was the most high concept script in the list), I don't even think a distributor would know HOW to advertise the films and when they don't know how to advertise a movie? They don't even want to distribute it.

I said the Nicholl was in a world of its own because it's the best of the best of competitions. LOL. If someone wants to enter screenplay competitions, I would always say to enter the Nicholl no matter what and I don't say that about any other competition and I say that strictly for the doors the Nicholl can open for you. It's always worth the shot. Screencraft? LOL. Sorry but I don't really care what any of their rubrics say. They all have to have more or less the same rubrics to judge by but that doesn't mean every judge adheres to the rubric.

I see theatrical (right now) as the measurement of success only because I've been in this business for a very long time... I completely acknowledge streaming is catching up fast... And? Will most likely end up being the measure at some point. Quentin Tarantino is in my humble opinion... A GENIUS on a lot of different levels but even a genius gets lucky from time to time. When he made RD, Indie Films played in theaters all the time. Now? That is not the case. There are a lot of well made Indie films sitting on shelves right now.

I also never said any of the competitions flat out reject marketable, high concept screenplays... They take anyone's money who's willing to pay and submit. But judges are people and people are the ones that make the decisions and all I'm saying is that based on what actually wins these competitions? Very few and I do mean a very few that ever win are the kinds of scripts that a producer can turn into a production because distribution simply won't know and or understand how to market the movie and to whom.

When I became a judge is when I finally figured out that most of the time? What I would deem to be marketable, high concept screenplays simply get -- as you call it -- nitpicked to death in favor of more Indie-type fare. I still stand by that. The list of resources you gave me in your reply are mostly old screenplays and nothing new... Back when on any given weekend, you could find Indies playing all over town.

It ain't that way anymore... But as I said... Hopefully streaming services will bring the Indie back.

I'm also not presupposing anything... I've followed up on MANY a competition winner's career and based on the amount of winners there have been? There's not a lot of successful careers. I've also known more than a handful of winners and finalists who have decided to go back to working in their old career because once they were told by representation they needed to write something more marketable and high concept? They couldn't deliver. They tried of course. But in the end? They just didn't come up with something their representation thought could be sold.

Not to mention the fact that I know both agents, managers, and producers who I've had this same discussion with many times over... LOL. Having said that? Everyone still wants to read the winners if for no other reason than to see (if they did NOT write a marketable screenplay) if they can write a marketable screenplay because if they can? That's a client they want to keep.

I've done this a long time ago... Not going to do it again but yes... A long time ago, I wrote all this up and supplied names and numbers. This was a project I did for the production company I was working with at the time. The numbers just don't add up when it comes to winners and careers. Sure, there could be all kinds of reasons for this... I acknowledge that.

Bottom line? As far as I'm concerned and remain convinced... Screenplay competitions are too subjective and seem to be more biased against high concept in the long run. If it were me and I was trying to break in today and wanted to enter any of the aforementioned competitions? I'd write a real passion piece with an Indie fare vibe to it over anything high concept but I'd also hip-pocket 3 to 5 high concept screenplays so when I'm asked the eventual, "What else ya got?"

I'd be ready.

*EDIT: And no sooner did I post this reply I got this story in an email: Amazon Prime Video Says “NO” to Independent Filmmakers
Have you ever considered the reason behind the lack of high concept scripts in the grand finalists' pool could be that not a lot of people can write high concept scripts like that and it has nothing to do with the contest's rubrics?
 
I read the article you sent. Look at this part :
Customers are our number one priority and our goal is to ensure all content published to Prime Video continues to meet the same high standards. We look for content that delights and engages our customers, improves our curated catalog, and elevates our service (this assessment varies over time and by country/region and offer type).
what does it point to? It's basically saying most of the independent films submitted to amazon are sh**. Further proving my point about the scarcity of talent in the world. It has nothing to do with the contests.
 
Have you ever considered the reason behind the lack of high concept scripts in the grand finalists' pool could be that not a lot of people can write high concept scripts like that and it has nothing to do with the contest's rubrics?
Sure... And I'm sure it happens all the time. Not saying it doesn't. I can't go into details but I know a good script when I read one. That's my business. When I was a judge? None of the screenplays I thought should move up in the competition ever did and? Nobody wanted to talk about it either although I certainly got comments that led me to believe nobody wanted promote screenplays like that. Later on? Those comments led to discussions that cemented my opinion even more.

But? Every once in awhile a spec comes along that nobody can kick to the curb... LOL. It happens. People get lucky. I've also seen some screenplays get kicked to the curb in one contest and become a winner or finalist in others.

Again... Quality is subjective. There is absolutely no way every judge is on the same page. No way. No how.

Which is why IF I were going to tell anyone to actually submit to a competition, keep it strictly to the ones I've mentioned in a previous post and I stand by the strategy of writing that passion piece... That material that in your mind has GOT to be written. Hopefully, your passion shines and your execution follows.

Then if you win or become a finalist? Be sure to have some marketable ideas at the very least... It would be better to have marketable scripts instead because those can be immediately read and covered.

Unfortunately? Not everyone truly understands what marketable or high concept is. It's not that a good writer can't write them. I think a good writer can write anything if they put their mind to it... I've seen that over and over and over again. It's the concept that takes work.

Most work I've seen overall is derivative... Even work from professionals. If you read a spec and immediately think of one or more movies it's like? It's pretty much dead in the water these days. The envelope has got to be pushed with every new movie released.

A lot of writers simply have a difficult time thinking of concepts that are truly marketable. And? That's just the way it is. As you say? That's ultimately THEIR problem. The writers that get nitpicked... The writers that write marketable, high concept specs? The writers that keep pushing the envelope and thinking out of the box without being derivative?

They succeed just fine.
 
I read the article you sent. Look at this part :

what does it point to? It's basically saying most of the independent films submitted to amazon are sh**. Further proving my point about the scarcity of talent in the world. It has nothing to do with the contests.
I didn't include that link because of contests... LOL. I included it because of what I said about streaming saving the Indie film.

But let's face facts... Both Netflix and Amazon Prime are full of SHIT films. Which proves to me that when they first became a THING? All they were thinking was that CONTENT is king.

Now they're backtracking. Changing the rules on filmmakers which of course, they have every right to do since it's their platform. But it does make me wonder if eventually, streaming is going to end up becoming somewhat like theatrical when it comes to WHAT they plan to show. Hopefully, they'll strive to keep GOOD Indies.

Time will tell.
 
Again... Quality is subjective. There is absolutely no way every judge is on the same page. No way. No how.
Is it possible to apply this rationale to the judges' overall bias towards non- high concept scripts? So it's not a cemented rule for every contest to reject high concept scripts?
Which is why IF I were going to tell anyone to actually submit to a competition, keep it strictly to the ones I've mentioned in a previous post and I stand by the strategy of writing that passion piece... That material that in your mind has GOT to be written. Hopefully, your passion shines and your execution follows.
What happens if that "passion piece" is also a high concept?
Then if you win or become a finalist? Be sure to have some marketable ideas at the very least... It would be better to have marketable scripts instead because those can be immediately read and covered.
This is basically what I said. If a writer is malleable enough to be able to write both high concepts or non-high concepts, success is inevitable. Either way it is ultimately the writer's problem not the contest. That's what I'm trying to say.
Unfortunately? Not everyone truly understands what marketable or high concept is. It's not that a good writer can't write them. I think a good writer can write anything if they put their mind to it... I've seen that over and over and over again. It's the concept that takes work.
Potato potato . Same thing. The talent is what makes that concept high concept. Not a clear understanding of marketability. If that was the case all producers are genius writers. Again it's the writer's problem for not knowing what high concept means not the contest.
Most work I've seen overall is derivative... Even work from professionals. If you read a spec and immediately think of one or more movies it's like?
Again, the writer's problem not the contest.
A lot of writers simply have a difficult time thinking of concepts that are truly marketable. And? That's just the way it is. As you say? That's ultimately THEIR problem. The writers that get nitpicked... The writers that write marketable, high concept specs? The writers that keep pushing the envelope and thinking out of the box without being derivative?

They succeed just fine.
That is my entire point.
 
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Is it possible to apply this rationale to the judges' overall bias towards non- high concept scripts? So it's not a cemented rule for every contest to reject high concept scripts?

What happens if that "passion piece" is also a high concept?

This is basically what I said. If a writer is malleable enough to be able to write both high concepts or non-high concepts, success is inevitable. Either way it is ultimately the writer's problem not the contest. That's what I'm trying to say.

Potato potato . Same thing. The talent is what makes that concept high concept. Not a clear understanding of marketability. If that was the case all producers are genius writers. Again it's the writer's problem for not knowing what high concept means not the contest.

Again, the writer's problem not the contest.

That is my entire point.
Of course it is... Just in my humble opinion? Based on having been a judge and from what I've seen from winners and finalists? Most of the winning scripts are what I would call Indie fare... Not high concept. It is what it is. You're not going to change my mind and you certainly don't have to believe me. I'm not trying to convince you. This is all just my own opinion and I'm approached all the time by people wanting to become screenwriters and ask me about my opinion when it comes to contests.

If that passion piece is high concept? I'd say overall? Unless the execution is really amazing, it's probably not going to make it but even having said that? ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN so why not submit it if that's what you got? I'm not trying to tell anyone reading any of this to write ONE thing or the OTHER. I've shared what I think a decent strategy might be but ultimately? You've gotta write what you want to write. If you're writing more Indie-type stories? I happen to think contests are a great way to get noticed. If you're writing high concept material? I'd say go ahead and enter anyway because anyone can get lucky but in most cases? I would be surprised to see a high concept win any of these competitions. Having said that? I'd also LOVE to be surprised!

I'm also just stating what I've seen works in this industry i.e., that if you do win or become a finalist with an Indie-type story, be prepared to get asked the proverbial, "What else ya got?" question because Agents and managers have to be able to sell screenplays. Right NOW? That marketability leans way more toward high concept screenplays. It is what it is. Then when you do get asked that question? Be prepared to pitch at least 3 to 5 high concept ideas or hopefully... Completed screenplays. The occasional agent or manager may see something in your writing that gives them a lot of confidence that you can deliver but in the end? If you can't? You'll be done with that agent or manager.

I know what you're TRYING to say... LOL. You've said it.

And you know what I'm saying because I've said it. I think this is a decent discussion and I also think others can benefit from having read it. In the end however, we disagree. It seems like you're saying that all these contests do exactly what they say they'll do. Cut and dried. That's fine. In any case? Stick with the best competitions. I'm saying that I think there's a bias against high concept screenplays. It's OKAY if we disagree. In the end? I'm not trying to persuade anyone NOT to enter. LOL. Just know what you're entering. Have all the information. Don't be surprised if you submit a high concept screenplay and it doesn't do well. Don't take that as some kind of failure of your writing.

Anything wrong with that? I don't think so. I think it's always a good thing to know what you're getting into.
 
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Yes, I believe this was a good discussion. It's been dragged way too long so I'm just gonna wrap it up by saying this belief could introduce the mentality to new writers that if their script didn't win in a contest then it is definitely a good high concept script. I hope any aspiring writer who read this discussions doesn't use this point to somehow delude themselves into believing that just because their bad script couldn't win it is definitely a good one. That's not always the case. You need to be more self aware of your work before jumping to that conclusion. Otherwise it's only going to lead to frustration.

Another reason that I am defending contests this much is, except for a few lucky people who happen to have friends and families in the industry, or happen to live nearby the industry, contests and festivals are kinda the only hope an aspiring writer or filmmaker has to break into the industry. Sure they can self market self publish but that usually doesn't work considering most up and coming filmmakers or writers don't have the money to market their work around or create high quality movies on their own, even if their ideas are dope high concept ones. Don't want that hope to shatter for people.
 
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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'
Now that's an interesting point, one I've run into in other creative fields. If you have a work that attract attention, you really should have at least a few additional projects either finished or in development to demonstrate that you're a good long-term investment as a creative.
 
Of course it is... Just in my humble opinion? Based on having been a judge and from what I've seen from winners and finalists? Most of the winning scripts are what I would call Indie fare... Not high concept. It is what it is. You're not going to change my mind and you certainly don't have to believe me. I'm not trying to convince you. This is all just my own opinion and I'm approached all the time by people wanting to become screenwriters and ask me about my opinion when it comes to contests.

If that passion piece is high concept? I'd say overall? Unless the execution is really amazing, it's probably not going to make it but even having said that? ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN so why not submit it if that's what you got? I'm not trying to tell anyone reading any of this to write ONE thing or the OTHER. I've shared what I think a decent strategy might be but ultimately? You've gotta write what you want to write. If you're writing more Indie-type stories? I happen to think contests are a great way to get noticed. If you're writing high concept material? I'd say go ahead and enter anyway because anyone can get lucky but in most cases? I would be surprised to see a high concept win any of these competitions. Having said that? I'd also LOVE to be surprised!

I'm also just stating what I've seen works in this industry i.e., that if you do win or become a finalist with an Indie-type story, be prepared to get asked the proverbial, "What else ya got?" question because Agents and managers have to be able to sell screenplays. Right NOW? That marketability leans way more toward high concept screenplays. It is what it is. Then when you do get asked that question? Be prepared to pitch at least 3 to 5 high concept ideas or hopefully... Completed screenplays. The occasional agent or manager may see something in your writing that gives them a lot of confidence that you can deliver but in the end? If you can't? You'll be done with that agent or manager.

I know what you're TRYING to say... LOL. You've said it.

And you know what I'm saying because I've said it. I think this is a decent discussion and I also think others can benefit from having read it. In the end however, we disagree. It seems like you're saying that all these contests do exactly what they say they'll do. Cut and dried. That's fine. In any case? Stick with the best competitions. I'm saying that I think there's a bias against high concept screenplays. It's OKAY if we disagree. In the end? I'm not trying to persuade anyone NOT to enter. LOL. Just know what you're entering. Have all the information. Don't be surprised if you submit a high concept screenplay and it doesn't do well. Don't take that as some kind of failure of your writing.

Anything wrong with that? I don't think so. I think it's always a good thing to know what you're getting into.
How do you define "high concept?" Based on the thread, it sounds more like you mean "big budget" but I'm certain that you mean more than that. Thoughts?
 
Well... Rather than try to explain it all right here because that would literally take me an hour? Here's two articles I wrote about HIGH CONCEPT. By the way... I'm told that these two articles are the most visited articles on the website... BY FAR.

High Concept Could Make You Rich

Cracking the High Concept Code

I ended up writing the second article because there were so many questions screenwriters sent me about the first article.
 
Well... Rather than try to explain it all right here because that would literally take me an hour? Here's two articles I wrote about HIGH CONCEPT. By the way... I'm told that these two articles are the most visited articles on the website... BY FAR.

High Concept Could Make You Rich

Cracking the High Concept Code

I ended up writing the second article because there were so many questions screenwriters sent me about the first article.
A fascinating read! It got me to thinking, the criteria that you lay out — universal appeal, a unique twist, story-driven, conflict and emotion — basically describes the classic folk tale. Myths, legends, fairy tales, tall tales, they survive through the generations because they discuss fundamental aspects of the human experience that everyone can appreciate, are told and re-told a little differently each time, and are fun to listen to.

Also, I have to say, I work in marketing and your pages read extremely well for generating leads.
 
Well... Rather than try to explain it all right here because that would literally take me an hour? Here's two articles I wrote about HIGH CONCEPT. By the way... I'm told that these two articles are the most visited articles on the website... BY FAR.

High Concept Could Make You Rich

Cracking the High Concept Code

I ended up writing the second article because there were so many questions screenwriters sent me about the first article.

Thanks for the invaluable resource! I greatly enjoyed the reading, it is a great example of brainstorming for scripters :)
 
A fascinating read! It got me to thinking, the criteria that you lay out — universal appeal, a unique twist, story-driven, conflict and emotion — basically describes the classic folk tale. Myths, legends, fairy tales, tall tales, they survive through the generations because they discuss fundamental aspects of the human experience that everyone can appreciate, are told and re-told a little differently each time, and are fun to listen to.

Also, I have to say, I work in marketing and your pages read extremely well for generating leads.

Thanks for the invaluable resource! I greatly enjoyed the reading, it is a great example of brainstorming for scripters :)
I appreciate that and my pleasure. All I can tell you from personal experience? Switching to writing high concept made ALL THE DIFFERENCE in my career.

All the difference.
 
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