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Friday, June 6, 2014

Notes from a Veteran Writer – A Million Ways to Lose Money as a Writer – Part Three* (P.J. McNeill) - post author P. J. McNeill

A Million Ways to Lose Money as a Writer – Part Three


When I first got to LA, I wanted to be a writer/director. I would later talk to a true-blue professional writer who would find that idea laughable. This guy, who was a staff writer on a popular TV show, was having a hard time convincing his agent that HE could be a writer/director. His agent had told him to “Pick a lane”; and this was a guy who had already made it. Well, I came to LA ready to drive on the median: I was going to do it all.

At the time, I had a short film I was sending around that I had written, produced, edited, and directed. It was doing well, but when I got to LA, I launched a BIG (and costly) effort to put it in some glitzy LA festivals. If you’ve ever entered film festivals (for screenwriting or otherwise), you know that it doesn’t take long for the entry fees to start piling up. Even if you do it smart and get all the early bird deadlines, it’s still usually 30 bucks a pop.

So, a couple hundred dollars later (not counting that in my loss), the film was entered in a handful of festivals in the LA area. THE. NEXT. DAY. I got a call from the head of one of the film festivals. The HEAD. This was the big time. I’d made it. I was talking to the HEAD of a film festival in LA. And LA = success, right? RIGHT!

She was downright hyperbolic in her praise of my short. She said it was “one of the best short films she’d ever seen”, and went on to tell me that I had made it into the festival. I was beaming. She went on to tell me about how the films would be shown at the AMC at City Walk, that there’d be a red carpet (with interviews!), and an awards ceremony. She told me I had to go to the awards ceremony, heavily implying that I was going to win an award. (Her assistant would later tell me “(The head) REALLY wants YOU in particular to go.”) And I could go: all for the low, low price of $200. Wait, what? I had to PAY to go to the awards ceremony? Is that how things worked in LA?

I asked if I could get a ticket on the house. “We can knock it down to $100for you. (The head) really wants YOU to be there.”, they explained again. Something just didn’t feel right about all of this, so I declined the ticket, really bummed out and unbelievably still thinking I was missing out on accepting my award. (Spoiler alert: I didn’t win the award.)

But this was going to be a fancy movie premiere at AMC, so I did spend money on a new outfit, a graphic designer to design a poster for the film, the poster itself (printed full size), and postcards of the poster to hand out (a total value of roughly $400). Not to mention, I lost a job offer because I told them I had to attend the premiere. (They just didn’t get it. This was an LA film festival! At a movie theater! You can’t just RENT those!)

After attending the film festival, I learned a new term:

Vanity film festival (n.): 1. a festival concerned more with glitz and glamour than the film itself   2. An absolute waste time 3. The Cinema City International Film Festival

The only people who attended the film festival were the other filmmakers. Everyone was there for themselves. And so when it came time for my film (which played dead last and started with no sound for the first 30 seconds), the theater was maybe ¼ full (originally packed). Everyone left early to get down to the red carpet to be interviewed (by YouTube’s “elite”). Everyone was just grasping for that feeling of what it must feel like to have “made it.” You see these kinds of festivals in screenwriting too, and you should avoid them like the plague. If a film festival’s justification for you entering is “But we’ve got a shiny award and a red carpet!”: Run.

I later found out that I was one of the only filmmakers who didn’t purchase a ticket to the awards ceremony. I had been smart and didn’t give them my money. I gave it to The Gap instead. And when I was on the red carpet, my interviewer – who didn’t know a single thing about my film- did say I was sharply dressed. So in the end, I…won?

About the writer: A talented writer and 10 year veteran of the industry, “P.J. McNeill” has seen it all (and he’s ready to kiss and tell.) Got a question, a comment or just general bile /praise you want to spew?  Email PJ at New to P.J. readership?  Click here for more articles!

** STILL not related to Seth MacFarlane in any way, shape or form.  Pinkie swear!!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

2015 BlueCat Screenplay Competition – Deadline November 15th - post author Don

2015 BlueCat Screenplay Competition Call for Entries

Since 1998, the BlueCat Screenplay Competition has provided a community for the unknown screenwriter to develop their work, giving undiscovered talent a path to professional success.

BlueCat accepts both feature length and short screenplays, and in keeping with our longstanding tradition, every screenplay will receive one written analysis, with our best screenplays receiving over $40,000 in cash prizes.

All submissions received by June 15th will receive their written analysi by July 1st.

Students will be eligible to submit their short screenplay at a special rate of $35.

The final deadline for the competition is November 15th, 2014.

We look forward to working with you!


$15,000 Best Feature Screenplay
$2500 Four Feature Finalists

$10,000 Best Short Screenplay
$1500 Three Short Finalists

$1500 The Cordelia Prize
Best Feature Screenplay from the UK

$1500 Joplin Award Prize
Best Feature Screenplay from outside the USA, Canada or the UK

Movie Title Contest: Three Winners $250 each
All screenplays entered by August 1st are eligible

Claudia Summerfield

BlueCat Screenplay Competition
PO Box 2635
Los Angeles, CA 90078



* before entering any screenwriting contest, I encourage you, the writer, to check out which features a comprehensive database and reviews of screenwriting contests and competitions. This site will help you make an informed decision before entering any contest.

Interview with Nick Horwood – Grand Prize winner of Final Draft Big Break 2013! - post author Anthony Cawood

Interview with Nick Horwood

Grand Prize winner of Final Draft Big Break 2013

Article written by Marnie Mitchell-Lister

You know the drill, you get the email; “Page”, “BlueCat”, “Joe Shmoe’s We Have Hollywood Connections Screenplay Contest” has announced their finalists! You scour the list of names, looking for someone, anyone you know. And the grand prize winner, well it’s someone you’ve never heard of. How is that possible? Where did they come from? Are they one hit wonders? Phantoms? Or just lucky bastards?

When Final Draft announced Nick Horwood’s feature “Lancelot”, as their grand prize winner this past January, all my questions were put to rest. I actually know Nick! I’ve even read some of his work. And I can assure you, while Nick may get lucky on occasion, luck had nothing to do with his Final Draft win. He’s worked very hard for this, for many years. He’s definitely no “one hit wonder”.

MML: Hey, Nick. Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions.

NH: No problem. Thanks for asking!

MML: While we’re all interested in your experience with Final Draft, I really want to focus on what got you there. When did you start writing screenplays? What got you started?

NH: I started about 15 years ago. I had tried various creative pursuits such as cartooning and writing stories for children, but that never really went anywhere and my enthusiasm waned. It wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that I decided to try my hand at writing a film. This was back before the whole ‘How to be a screenwriter’ industry that exists today, so there were very few blogs and websites dedicated to screenwriting – in fact I didn’t even own a computer! I had to use my local library or borrow a friend’s PC to type up my longhand scribblings.

None of the agents or producers I was contacting were interested in reading my work, so I had literally nobody to give me feedback or tell me if my writing was any good. Then I heard a radio interview with Kevin Spacey where he mentioned his newly launched website Finally I had somewhere where I could display my work for others to read, so I nervously uploaded a comedy called JOURNEY TO THE LOST ISLAND OF KILLER DINOSAURS! To my delight the script was very well received, eventually receiving a ‘Screenplay of the Month’ nomination. I had finally found my talent, as well as my passion.

MML: I know you attended your first “webinar” recently. What other workshops, books, lessons or websites do you think helped improve your writing over the years?

NH: Well, blogs and forums were a useful source of hints and tips, but I mostly just learnt as I went along. I think you can fill up the right hemisphere with as much theory as you like, but it’s what you have in the left, creative side of your brain that shows up mostly on the page. For me 90% of learning to write is practice, but each writer has to find what works best for them.

I did attend a Save The Cat workshop in London a few years back, which was fun, and I also attended Robert MacKee’s ‘Story’ seminar recently, which was very interesting. I’m not sure either helped with my writing… but at least they got me out of my cave!

MML: Your contest track record is ridiculously impressive. Your name has been at the top of “Page” and “Final Draft”, as well as many other contests since 2007. What do you think it is about “Lancelot” that made it “Grand Prize” worthy?

NH: I wrote a version of the script in 2008 and it made the top 10 in Big Break, but it was a very different version of the script, more of a fantasy action/adventure, with a meandering story and many flashbacks. But I kept working on it, trimming the fantasy element away and focusing on the central narrative of Lancelot returning to Britain after the death of King Arthur. I worked on it for several years until it became what it is today, so I would say a big part of its success is just that it’s very well developed. I entered a lot of my scripts into various contests, but LANCELOT is the most successful.

MML: Now, because we’re friends, I’m familiar with your frustrations. I’m frustrated for you. You’ve more than proven yourself over and over as a high quality writer. With this recent success, do you feel like you’re any closer to a paid writing gig, or maybe a serious option of one of your features?

NH: *sigh* Yes, and I know I haven’t always been shy about sharing my frustrations. It’s a long road for any writer. I have optioned and sold a couple of scripts, and been commissioned to write a feature in the UK, but I’ve yet to strike it big. Luck has a large part to play in it, and also managing to successfully combine telling a story that you’re passionate about, but which is also deemed ‘marketable’, that’s the challenge!

MML: I read some of your work on Triggerstreet many years ago Nick, and even back then I knew you were someone to watch. Hopefully soon, we’ll all be watching one of your screenplays on the big screen. Thanks Nick!

You can find a list of Nick’s screenplays along with his long list of awards on his website:

About the reviewer: An award winning writer AND photographer, Marnie Mitchell Lister’s website is available at Marnie’s had 5 shorts produced (so far) and placed Semi-final with her features in Bluecat.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Original Script Sunday and Movie Poet winners - post author Don

Over on the Unproduced Scripts page are twenty three original scripts for your reading pleasure.

and is proud to announce the Finalists for their Annual Feature Length Contest.

First Place: Michael Berg

Second Place: Rick Hansberry

Third Place: Kelley Allen

Honorable Mention: Margaret Ricke ~ Michael E. Bierman ~ Tim Westland

Top 10: Byron Matthews ~ Fred Koszewnik ~ Kirk White ~ Zach Jansen

These ten finalists will compete in the final round of the Feature Length Contest this August.

– Don

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