Put the Round Peg in the Round Hole

Published on: August 17, 2015

Filled Under: Efficient Work

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Having trouble matching your screenplay to an upcoming contest?  Not everything is “one size fits all” in the realm of screenwriting.  If you aren’t winning, or even getting a spot as a finalist in a script contest, it could be time to rethink your strategy.

The larger contests accept every genre of scripts that are out there.  Because of the large volume of material that has to be culled, your odds of winning decrease in relation to the number of entries.  How can you tip the scales in your favor?  Put the round peg in the round hole; find the contest that is a perfect match for your screenplay.

Several years ago, I read for a contest that revolved only around horror scripts.  Right away, that eliminated dramas, comedy scripts, westerns – you get the idea.  If you had written a solid horror screenplay and entered it in that contest, you would’ve had a better chance of winning than if you had cast your dice in a contest that accepts all genres.

Does this mean you have to go out and write a specific script for such a contest?  Absolutely not.  There are contests that require the story to take place in a specific location; a city, state or environment.  Why not change your screenplay to  fit the contest?

Think about it.  Let’s say you have story that takes place in a city, maybe it’s a police-drama.  You read about a contest where at least 75% of the story has to take place in Chicago.  Why not change the location so you can get it into that contest?  If your original story takes place in Washington DC, ask yourself; is it a police-drama with a political slant that simply has to take place in the nation’s capital?  Could it work in Chicago?

With all the screenwriting and word processing software programs available, performing a global change on a word is as simple as a few mouse clicks.  It’s up to you to decide if you want to make these changes.  The big question you have to ask yourself is, “What do I have to lose?”

Assume, for a moment, that you make the relevant changes.  Once you conquer the contest, and you have your meetings with different production companies and agencies, it won’t really matter.  You could even present to them the original script, before the changes.  They may be more interested in another script you’ve written, or you could get a writing assignment.

The point is, your goal shouldn’t be focused only on winning the contest, it’s about getting your script and writing skills noticed.  Is it worth taking the time to alter your script to increase your odds of winning?  Remember, you can have more than one version of your script!

The same mindset goes for meeting industry people.  Chances are, Ron Howard isn’t looking to direct a comedy with a lead role written for Will Ferrell.  That high-octane action script that you are polishing up might work better with Jan de Bont instead of Tom Hanks’ production company.   It’s all about finding the right fit for your material.

There are hundreds of screenwriting contests every year.  If you are willing to make minor changes to your story, location or characters you stand a better chance of having your material rise to the top.  Your willingness to change and think outside the box can mean the difference between winning, or having your script dumped into the recycling bin.

It’s not about altering your vision.  It’s about making relatively insignificant changes to your screenplay so that you can advance your career forward.

The choice is yours.

Having a hard time recognizing if your writing is effective?  Why not try your hand and shooting some of it, and seeing how people react.  New Media Part 1 – Dead End or Inside Track?  With new technologies and inexpensive ways to produce a few scenes from your script, you can increase your odds of winning a contest.  Here’s a new way to polish your script with feedback from the people who will most likely be watching your movie!

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