October 13, 2014 at 7:12PM

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Original Screenplay: Submit to Contest or Try to Sell Them?

I believe that I'm in possession of 2 sellable, if not masterful, screenplays, with a potential third in the works.

Is the best option to submit one, both or all to a contest? Should I try to find representation and sell them?

I should say that beyond writing, I also want to direct and have yet to figure out a tenable means to gather 'real world' steam in either area.

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If you are looking for representation as a screenwriter then you'll probably need more that a couple of scripts, plus they will need to be fantastically good - full of your voice, your ideas, your energy. 'Sellability' is important, but spec script sales are pretty rare at the moment so they are more likely a means to getting recognised, in turn leading to general meetings about existing material. You may have written a couple of absolute barnstorming scripts in which case - great, you'll sell them. But that's a lottery win situation.

I think there are a couple of contests that have some traction in the wider industry. The Nicholl Fellowship is one; Austin is another. Beyond that you're starting to get into '10m Swimming Certificate' territory - i.e. who gives a sh*t? There is also a certain type of script that wins these contests - the organisers will always say that they accept all genres etc because that means more entrants and more cash. But if you look at the scripts that have won over previous years you get a good idea of the type of stuff that pops up again and again. Issue-driven dramas do well; speculative biography seems really popular (e.g. Nixon's childhood, Bill Gates' school days, Einstein's first girlfriend..)

If you don't already, take a look at the message boards on Done Deal Pro, where contests are frequently discussed by writers, including some pretty experienced pros. Sometimes it's worth entering a couple if you can spare the money and just fancy getting a sense of whether or not you have a decent skill level. You maybe make the quarters of some national contest - great, you know you don't suck. But then use that as an incentive to write more, rather than expect the world to come knocking.

As for wanting to be a writer-director, well that's the easiest advice to give - write something then direct it... Ideally have it from the same 'place' as your feature scripts (so if you've written a couple of wildly expensive sci-fi features, do a cool sci-fi short that's heavy on smart ideas, like PRIMER, ANOTHER EARTH, COHERENCE - all of which were very low budget).

Hope that helps.

March 23, 2015 at 9:53PM, Edited March 23, 9:53PM

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Jon Mills
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