When Martin Scorsese revealed his scariest movies of all time list in 2015, I'm sure there were a lot of people who cocked their heads to the side inquisitively and wondered 'really?' I wasn't one of them. Of the 11 on the list, I've seen all but four: 'Isle of the Dead, 'Uninvited', 'Dead of Night' and 'Night of the Demon' - all of them early 20th century British black and white films. It's strange because those films have all of my favorite elements. Some of those 11 films have made it onto my list.
It's important to point out here that Scorsese's list is of the 'scariest' - not the bloodiest. I don't consider the films on his list to be classified as typical horror films. Most of them are meant to be scary - through sight, sound (or the absence of such) and atmosphere. Most of them are actually forerunners of contemporary horror and thrillers. These are the films that are the blueprints for all of the formulaic horrors and thrillers that arrived in the late 1970s and that over-populated the film universe in the 1980s. As the trend tired itself out, the 1990s saw a resurgence of a more cerebral-style, back-to-basics horror/thriller - until once again, the genre did itself a disservice by cranking out way too many bland, run-of-the-mill copycats. Both of those eras still owe a great deal of gratitude to the films on Scorsese's list (and my list).
Here is a list of some of the most popular screenplay contests available for screenwriters to enter – as of 2015.
I do not endorse any of these contests. The list is simply a list in alphabetical order. When I am familiar with the contest, or have entered it, I will write a brief blurb about it.
Do your own research and make your own decision based on your own situation, levelheadedness and gut feeling.
Some general comments:
– Small contests are a great way to test the waters for beginning screenwriters. The biggies (Bluecat, Nicholl, Page) usually contain seasoned veterans of the contest “circuit” and are incredibly difficult to place in for beginning screenwriters. Discouragement and despair are killers for a beginning screenwriter. Avoid these career killers at all costs.
– For the beginning screenwriter, avoid those contests that allow already-optioned, professional screenwriters into the mix. It’s not a fair fight. Do your research.
– Screenplay contests come and go. Back in 2008 when I entered my first screenplay contest (and made it past the first round – surprise) the list was lengthy. I saved a website dedicated to listing these contests to ‘My Favourites’. Recently, when researching this article, I went back to that list and found that many of these contests had gone belly up.
– Some screenplay contests appear and are legitimate, with the people running them genuinely interested in finding new talent. Others are… just the opposite and it would appear that the only goal is to make money out of desperate spec screenwriters. Sometimes, contests don’t catch on or just can’t continue financially. In the end, it should be a priority for the screenwriter to do due diligence on any screenplay contest before they enter. Contests that are in their 10th or 15th year are usually a safe bet. Those with a slipshod website, no (or impossible) contact information, no person (or people) publicly named behind the contest, cash only, non-secure (http, not https) upload/transaction page, and a website that hasn’t been updated in months/years should be dissected with a CSI kit. Personally, I would avoid them.
For your convenience, each contest is a link to the contest’s web page.
American Gem Short Screenplay
Austin Film Festival
Creative World Awards
Fade In Awards
Final Draft Big Break
Mile High Horror
Nashville Film Festival
Nickelodeon Writing Program
SoCal Film Festival
Stage 32 Happy Writers
Zed Fest Horror
I don’t like what’s going on in the bowels of Hollywood at the moment. I am quite sure there are a ton of talented, exceptional writers working at the moment, but their creative juices are being sucked up by the latest fad of the reboot/remake/franchise being forced upon audiences at the moment. This fad is nothing new – it’s been building for a long time. I’ve found myself turning to independent studios and small production companies to not only flog my wares, but to be a fan of what they are turning out.
Whenever I hear of the latest prequel/sequel/reboot/remake, 99% of the time I end up rolling my eyes. The latest time occurred not too long ago when I heard that there was a serious effort on to sequel Dumb and Dumber. The absolutely horrible prequel Dumb and Dumberer (without Jim Carrey) was quite enough thank you very much. Don’t he and Jeff Daniels have enough money to even bother with a sequel? But that’s just it – the whole point of all these unimaginative sequels/prequels/reboots/remakes/franchises is money – the studios are as scared as %!@& to part with it/lose it and they see familiarity with a brand as the solution to not only not lose money, but to make more of it. So again, I come back to my original question: where is the originality and creativity in this?
If a movie studio was interested at all in making money (instead of being scared to lose it) they’d be very surprised to hear what the general movie-going public wants. Personally, I think audiences are tired of the whole reboot/remake/sequel/prequel/franchise fad. I am and I know many other people are. We’re all rebooted out and Hollywood is not listening. They need to listen to actual audiences instead of focusing on focus groups run by marketing companies. Unfortunately, Hollywood has committed a vast amount of dollars to their upcoming fads. They have to buzz saw their way through those first before they can even think of getting something out there with originality and creativity. I look at the domestic failure of the latest Will Smith nepotism vehicle or The Lone Ranger and say ‘wake up. This is not what audiences want. Are you listening to us?’
I miss the days of early film where studios cranked out not monster sized, over-inflated summer blockbusters, reboots, and sequels – but smaller, original, creative films that used the full imagination and creativity of the screenwriter. The studios still had to green light them, but at least they were original ideas or culled from short stories or novels – not a remake of anything seen before. From the 1930s straight through the 1970s, there was barely a remake/reboot/franchise to be seen. Sure there were sequels (The Godfather, Star Wars, Star Trek) but they didn’t seem to take over the film industry. There were still plenty of original films being made. However, slowly but surely in the 1980s and with every passing decade, the reboot/remake/sequel/prequel/franchise phenomenon started to push original films out of the way and take over the big screen.
Along with the previous noted films, there was suddenly Superman, Batman, Spiderman (hmmmm, do you see a theme happening here?) franchises and sequel/prequels that belonged in the biggest trash compactor ever made (American Pie, any horror franchise). You would think that Hollywood would stop at the first franchise of a super hero – but no, we are into the second Superman, the second Spiderman and probably a third Batman franchise. These are franchises of franchises. It’s McHollywood.
The solution to all this of course is to offer what smaller studios and independent production companies have been doing to fill the void for years: original, creative storytelling based on financially sound budgets. If Hollywood would wake up from their induced slumber to realize what an opportunity they have to not only introduce a new era of film with original, creative screenwriting but to also make money, the film industry would be the envy of any major corporation and a new film renaissance would begin.
I consistently and constantly hear actors, agents and film executives say ‘i’d like to do that, but I need to see a quality script first’ or ‘it’s hard to find a good script these days’. Well, flippin’ hell, how many more years do people have to continue to say this? I refuse to believe that the best that Hollywood has to offer in screenwriting has been reduced to sequels/prequels/reboots/remakes/franchises. If that’s the most original that Hollywood can get out of their screenwriters, then something is horribly wrong with the system. Again, change has to come from the top. It is going to take a visionary film executive to make this change. I’m convinced that if they would peek their heads out of the bubble they live in that a new era in film would begin.
Film is storytelling. The best storytelling is creative and original. To all the screenwriters who have written all the sequels/prequels/reboots/remakes/franchises – you’re all very talented and I’m sure you all did the best you could with the material you were given and the guidelines under which the studio set. However, didn’t you at least once think while you were writing that sequel/prequel/reboot/remake/franchise about that great original screenplay of yours that lies hidden unoptioned or sold in a pile of other original screenplays that some film executive refuses to take a chance on because it’s just too original?
I can hear the film executive talking now… “We can’t make this. It’s too original and creative. This might make money. Instead, let’s green light the remake of Heaven’s Gate…”
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