Ever wonder what it's like to win a screenwriting contest? Would it be life-changing? Wallet-changing?
We advertised SoCreate's screenplay contest and thousands of people entered for free. Now we got a chance to hear from the winner about how having his bills paid for three months allowed him to finish a spec and what he plans on doing next.
Check out what Zach had to say below!
Living Life As A Paid Screenwriter For Three Months - Zachary Rowell in his own words...
As kids, we all have dreams. You were going to be an astronaut, your best friend was going to be a basketball player, and the weird neighbor kid was going to be a live mannequin. When you’re a kid, everything seems possible.
But that changes once you hit high school. Life starts to tap you on the shoulder to give you not-so-gentle reminders, “Hey, bud. You have to go to college to be an astronaut. How are you paying for that? Also, remember when you cried at the county fair two years ago while riding The Scrambler? How will you make it in space?”
Life gets in the way of dreams. Bills get in the way of dreams. A worried mind gets in the way of dreams. The stress of just trying to survive in this bizarre world gets in the way. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve had the thought, “How am I supposed to focus on writing this script when I can’t even afford health insurance?”
Sometimes a thick layer of guilt hangs over my head. I feel like all my time should be spent making money, and anything that’s not making me money (currently) is a waste of time. That’s what life teaches most of us. You work, pay your bills, start a family, and then hope you have enough to retire before you’re confined to a wheelchair.
But for the past three months, I was able to experience what stress-free writing feels like, thanks to winning SoCreate’s 90-Day Screenplay Challenge. For three months, the fine folks at SoCreate paid me $3,000 monthly so I could focus on completing a feature-length screenplay.
That’s three months of not worrying about bills. Before the three months, I was working 20-30 hours as a freelance writer and then another 10-20 hours doing Postmates. And that was just to survive. To cover the bills and daily life in Los Angeles. Living paycheck to paycheck means worrying every single day, specifically around the first of the month. It means driving by a nice restaurant and thinking, “Ah. Someday.” It means eating beans, rice, and pasta for almost every meal.
It’s extremely difficult to focus on a "dream" when real life is yelling at you every single day to give it up. But what if you didn’t have to worry about all that extra waste? What if you were a kid again and didn’t have to worry about bills? I’m willing to bet you’d make great progress in whatever field you are pursuing. The past three months have been a blessing for me. I stopped doing Postmates and had so much free time to just live in my script.
Instead of getting lost in thoughts of worry, I was able to lose myself in the world of my screenplay. I was able to have conversations with my characters. It was so nice to have all the drama confined to the page instead of real life. I wrote almost every single day, and even on the rare days I didn’t write, I was still thinking about the script constantly.
I completed the first draft of the screenplay in just a little over two months and was able to spend the next 3-4 weeks rewriting. I’ve been chasing this screenwriting dream for several years. I’ve completed at least 15 scripts (pilots and features) in total, and this was by far the best experience. There is honestly nothing better than waking up every morning and remembering, “Oh, hey. I’m getting paid to write a freaking screenplay today!”
Of course, it wasn’t all sunshine and unicorns. There were days I didn’t feel like writing. There were days where I’d sit down for three hours and only write one page. That’s always going to be there, even if you are living your dream. There will be days astronauts want to go home, days a basketball player wants to play football, and there will be days where the weird neighbor kid just can’t stand still.
But it’s all worth it because at the end of the day you are living YOUR dream. You are doing something you love and believe in. There aren’t many people who can say that, and I know there are hundreds of motivational speakers on YouTube who would say, “Those people obviously didn’t want it enough!!!” It’s just not that simple though.
Life can’t be compressed into a motivational quote. There are too many variables at play. The past three months, I had one huge threat neutralized, and it gave me a glimpse of what life might look like if I achieve my dreams. That feeling was more impactful than the $9,000. I hope everyone has that feeling at least once. I hope one day life gives you a break just like it gave me.
I’ll be chasing that feeling of freedom for the rest of my life. I don’t know if SoCreate is planning on doing another one of these challenges, but if they do, throw your hat in the ring. Throw your hat in all the rings. You never know who might pick it up.
If you’d like to read the script I wrote during the past 90 days, click on the link below. The logline can also be found below.
Logline: The owner of a used car dealership descends into a state of crazed paranoia after his young daughter tells him she saw mommy kissing Santa Claus.